OpenCart vs Magento - Create an Online Store that Fits Your Business

In this comparison, we will try to explain how OpenCart and Magento differ in terms of architecture, functionality, performance and cost. This is written for entrepreneurs who want to build an E-Commerce store and are choosing between the two open-source shopping carts.

OpenCart vs Magento Overview

Both E-Commerce platforms have a lot of basic similarities:

  • Free to Download

  • Open-Source Structure

  • Written in PHP

  • Extension Marketplaces

  • Custom Themes

  • Support Communities

The main differences are in their core structure and the way each of them works in the back end.

OpenCart has a simpler core and built-in functionality that has the most important features for an E-Commerce store to run and the ability to install additional functionalities in the form of extensions.

On the other hand, Magento comes with a lot more features and by design. Also, there are two versions of Magento, one of which is a paid solution, and the other is a free stand-alone version.

In this comparison, we will be looking at the free community edition of Magento and OpenCart.

So, what are the differences in running a store on either of the platforms?

Which platform should you pick for your new online business?

Let’s try to figure this out. Our comparison will include:

  1. Installation Difficulty

  2. System Requirements

  3. Features

  4. Costs

Installation Difficulty

Not all owners of E-Commerce businesses are fluent in code, which means that the easier the platform is for non tech-savvy users, the better. If OpenCart and Magento have to be compared in terms of installation, it’s easy to spot the simplest of the two solutions.

OpenCart

(Source: OpenCart Documentation)

After downloading OpenCart for free, following the installation instructions in the documentation will lead you to an effortless 4-step installation after which you are completely finished. The only thing you need to watch out for is the hosting server of your choice since not every web host is best suited for the platform.

Magento

(Source: Magento Documentation)

As for Magento, the more complex structure of the platform and its additional features make it a bit more complicated to finish the installation.

Even though they have it all explained in their installation instructions, installing the platform depends on the version you are going for, as well as the hosting server you have picked.

The resources and disk space that the platform take up are significantly bigger compared to OpenCart, which makes the installation process takes up more time and tinkering.

Talking about hosting plans, this is where the performance and speed of the two shopping carts is determined. Let’s explain more about this in the next subject.

System Requirements

Both OpenCart and Magento (Community Edition) require you to subscribe for a hosting plan and setup your server before you begin. We already mentioned that not every web host is suitable for both platforms.

Ultimately, you will need to make sure that the hosting you choose supports the setup of the platform you are planning on using for your E-Commerce website.

OpenCart

Basic system requirements for OpenCart:

  • Web Server (Apache suggested)

  • PHP 5.3+(1.5.x at least 5.2+)

  • Database (MySQLi suggested)

OpenCart does not require the most expensive hosting plans to run smoothly and load pages fast. The system does not come with any excessive features that often put strain on the server and take up a lot of resources.

OpenCart does come with some limitations in regards to features, such as a customizable checkout or cache management, but makes up for that by being an easy-to-use and easily customize template.

It’s a perfect match for users who want the freedom to develop a smooth-running E-Commerce store with exactly what they need, the way they need it to work.

All of that means that OpenCart is less expensive to setup, build and run with its lightweight architecture, which makes it a reliable choice for businesses with smaller budgets or ones that want to save from startup costs and invest in design, development and marketing.

Magento

Basic system requirements for Magento:

  • Web Servers (Apache 2.2 or 2.4; nginx 1.8, or latest mainline version)

  • Database (MySQL 5.6)

  • PHP (5.6.x; 5.5.x, where x is 22 or greater; 7.0.2, 7.0.6–7.0.x)

Both platforms are written on PHP and are open-source, which means you have full access to the code. However, the Magento architecture is very complex and this adds another level of difficulty for further development and customization.

Research documented by Willows Consulting found that an OpenCart setup with 1 million products had a loading time of 1.5 seconds versus a Magento setup that scored 9.6 seconds with the same amount of products.

E-Commerce Features

It’s all about the features. This is where both OpenCart and Magento have their strengths and weaknesses and it’s what determines what type of store you want to be running. We will list some of the most essential features every E-Commerce store should have to be running a profitable digital business.

Marketing

Source

OpenCart

You get a pretty good marketer’s starter pack with the default OpenCart features for running & tracking campaigns, creating special promotions, discounts and getting more sales via the built-in affiliate system.

Customer groups allow you to separate your campaigns and preferential pricing for specific users with limited time offers and incentives.

* * *

Magento

What Magento has besides the features we mentioned for OpenCart includes the ability to bundle products together for a discounted price, setup custom category landing pages, as well as free shipping options, and multi-tier pricing for quantity discounts.

Furthermore, the system for showing related, recently viewed and compared products is a bit more comprehensive and allows cross-selling and upselling.

SEO

Source

There are many arguments that the search engine optimization capabilities in OpenCart are supposedly inferior when compared to other platforms. Let’s see if this is really the case.

OpenCart

You can enter metadata with key phrases using the titles, descriptions and SEO keywords, when creating your products, categories and other information pages.

Apart from the built-in sitemap configuration, you can start creating custom SEO-friendly URLs after a quick and simple tweak in your server settings.

* * *

Magento

The SEO features that come with Magento are not much different - you have a sitemap, URL rewrites, metadata configuration for content pages, categories and products.

The only difference is that the SEO-friendly URLs can be customized without any server-level interference (if your initial Magento setup has gone successfully, which is a challenge in itself).

Shipping & Payment

Source

OpenCart

Your customers will be able to use some of the most recognized shipping methods such as UPS, FedEx, USPS, Royal Mail, Australia Post, Citylink, Parcelforce and many more. The marketplace offers extensions not only for additional shipping methods, but for complete shipping management systems as well.

Out-of-the-box, you can accept payments from 36 popular methods including PayPal, Authorize.Net, Amazon Payments, Klarna, Skrill and a multitude of extensions you can get from the marketplace.

* * *

Magento

Shipping and payment get more comprehensive in Magento again. The platform does not only support a ton of methods for delivery and accepting payments (UPS, UPS XML, FedEx, USPS, and DHL) that customers from different areas can use.

It also offers some neat features such as shipping to multiple addresses from a single order and on-site tracking of orders from customer accounts.

Reports & Analytics

Source

OpenCart

To run a profitable online store, you need to know what’s happening with your sales, orders and customers at all times. What OpenCart offers as a reporting system aside from support for Google Analytics includes four main sections:

Sales

Orders, Tax, Shipping, Returns, Coupons

Products

Viewed, Purchased

Customers

Customers Online, Customer Activity, Customer Searches, Orders, Reward Points, Credit

Marketing

Marketing Campaigns, Affiliates, Affiliate Activity

* * *

Magento

In Magento, you also have support for integrating Google Analytics into your store and each report section is categorized and organized in the admin panel. There are differences between the two platforms here like the built-in abandoned cart report:

Marketing

Products in Cart, Search Terms, Abandoned Carts, Newsletter Problem Reports

Sales

Orders, Tax, Invoiced, Shipping, Refunds, Coupons, PayPal Settlement

Products

Views, Bestsellers, Low Stock, Ordered, Downloads

Customers

Order Total, Order Count, New

Reviews

By Customers, By Products

Multi-store, Multi-language

Source

Selling online means that you can go beyond the confines of your local area and reach a global audience. This is why it’s very important for your E-Commerce platform to have built-in functionality to run multiple stores from a single primary installation.

Respectively, having your stores in multiple languages is also a necessity if you want to sell to customers from different countries.

This is yet another instance where both platforms offer a similar level of functionality that can serve your business on an international scale.

OpenCart

Creating multiple stores in OpenCart takes just a few minutes. You can get an idea of the process in this video tutorial.

* * *

Magento

Magento also supports building a multi-store setup. Take a look at this video tutorial to see how it’s done.

Costs

Although this comparison is for free platforms, that doesn’t mean you can get away with running an entire online business without spending a single dime on your digital properties.

In this subject, we will discuss the initial costs of building your E-Commerce store as well as making further developments and improvements to the functionality and design.

Hopefully, you will get a better idea of how to prioritize your budget before going for either OpenCart or Magento.

Costs of Hosting Plans

OpenCart

As we concluded in the beginning, OpenCart is much lighter as an E-Commerce solution, which means you can have satisfying performance using cheaper hosting plans at about $3 - $4 per month. The installation will require around 30mb of space.

As a result of this, you can gradually upgrade your hosting plan, while your store is growing so it can take the load without suffering performance drawbacks.

* * *

Magento

As for Magento, it’s clearly a more extensive platform and is packed with more power under the hood. This of course comes at a price because the hosting plan you choose will have to accommodate a platform requiring around 300mb of space.

The results are that you will have to start with a more advanced hosting plan from the very beginning. Not necessarily because of the required space. The main differences between hosting plans are in the hardware power that supports each of them, and cheaper plans come with less processing power and RAM.

This tends to affect the performance of heavy platforms such as Magento.

Costs of Extensions

Customizing your E-Commerce site is one of the most important and often costly steps. That doesn’t make it less exciting though.

OpenCart

The OpenCart marketplace is home to more than 13,000 free & premium extensions that you can use to build a custom setup with exactly what you need and want for your store. The cost of the paid modules goes from $10 to $489.

What’s cool about the free modules is they add a lot of basic functionalities that are missing from the default OpenCart template. This makes up for the lack of hundreds of built-in features because it keeps your online store clean and free of bloatware you won’t use.

* * *

Magento

Although the marketplace for themes and extensions at Magento is much smaller, you can still find enough of a variety. The costs are a bit bigger than those of the OpenCart marketplace going from $9,99 - $999 and what’s interesting is that the support is not included in that price. You need to pay extra.

Costs of Themes

An online store with poor design is less likely to generate enough traffic, customer retention and sales. In case you don’t feel like spending on custom design, there’s always the option to get a theme.

OpenCart

Themes can be found within the OpenCart marketplace, as well as other marketplaces around the web. The average costs for themes starts at $16 to $99. It’s a reasonable price considering that most of the themes come with additional functionality extensions, so it’s not just the storefront that’s changing.

* * *

Magento

As for Magento, prices are still much higher than the ones on the OpenCart side, starting from $29 to $299 for a single theme. This is a bit much considering all of the costs we have already mentioned up to this moment.

Cost Summary

However, there’s a reason for the higher prices for extensions that Magento store owners have to accept. Since the platform’s architecture is much bigger and more complex, developing those extensions and themes takes a lot more effort. So, the higher prices are not that much of a surprise.

This is where the real potential behind OpenCart begins to shine. The lower startup costs, the lower prices of themes and extensions, the more simple and lightweight architecture allow you to prioritize your budget in a more efficient way.

For instance, enhancing the user experience that encourages users to stay on your site, the SEO and marketing tactics that will expand the reach of your store, and much more.

Distributing your budget for further improvements instead of investing most of it in the building blocks of your E-Commerce site is a more profitable strategy for many online stores.

To wrap up...

In the end, both OpenCart and Magento are suitable for different types of entrepreneurs and their business types. We cannot say exactly if one of them is more suitable for bigger or smaller businesses since there are too many variables in that equation. It’s more about what type of user you are and what you prefer.

OpenCart is a faster, lightweight solution that works well without a large budget and can sustain small as well as large businesses. Magento is a more feature-rich and demanding platform overflowing with features that even large stores might struggle to utilize to the fullest.

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