Just a few short years ago, merchants had few acceptable options for selling their products online. Many sellers chose to pay for custom software instead of trudging through the giant list of poorly performing, expensive commercial offerings. It was not uncommon to find a site where the merchant simply asks potential buyers to send an email specifying their order.
Fortunately, the landscape has improved dramatically in recent years. Many competing products offer professional-grade performance at reasonably prices. Two of the most popular solutions are Magento and ErainCart.
Magento was first released in 2007. It is based on the Zend application framework and is backed by a unique database designed with ecommerce in mind. Magento appears to be the most commonly used ecommerce platform; it is therefore no surprise that eBay bought Magento in June 2011.
ErainCart is considerably younger. Based on the CS-Cart platform, ErainCart has boldly entered the ecommerce arena and has had some early success.
It is probably fair to say that Magento and ErainCart have more similarities than differences. Each can support multiple languages, one page checkout, product comparisons and sophisticated bulk pricing. With each platform, sellers can handle returns, run affiliate programs and offer promotions. And each can handle the hassles of calculating shipping and interfacing with dozens of credit card authorization platforms.
But there are a few differences. And as all sellers know, look-and-feel is crucially important. Below are a few sites that use these platforms:
Something that bears mention is that each of these sites uses a different theme. While the particular ecommerce platform used affects the site’s appearance, themes offer radically different variations to the base model.
Magento bills itself as an “open-source” ecommerce solution. While it does offer some free software, many of its features are only available as extensions that can often drive the price up substantially. By comparison, ErainCart’s pricing model is much more straightforward and requires less research into which particular version will work best.
And while Magento does offer more features than ErainCart both out-of-the-box and through extensions, many of these features are unlikely to be useful for buyers or sellers. Magento boasts thousands of extensions, but very few provide much value beyond a few basic extensions that are necessary for any site.
ErainCart is easier to use than Magento. Its back-end interface is more intuitive and straight-forward. While it would not be fair to categorize Magento as particularly difficult to use, its learning curve is a bit steeper.
Online vendors have a much more palatable selection of software than ever before. With a small investment and a bit of work, even the smallest of sellers can develop an online storefront comparable to the world’s largest retailers. As can be seen from the sites listed above, a truly profession-grade site is attainable for every business.