what is the difference between free verus paid ecommerce solutions?

Ecommerce Shopping Cart: What is the Difference between Free versus Paid Ecommerce Solutions?

If you’re just starting out your first ecommerce website, you might want to consider using a free ecommerce shopping cart versus a paid one. You would not want to dive in directly and pour much investment on something you have not proven to be worth the value.

But, is this really a free platform? What’s the catch? And why is this even free?

A free ecommerce shopping cart is actually either of the two:

  • Self-hosted – The type of ecommerce website hosting that hosts your entire ecommerce website on your own physical servers. This is only free because you don’t need to pay any provider for the set-up and recurring maintenance of the servers, which is usually a monthly subscription for paid ecommerce platforms. However, you need to put up a big capital, initially, to assemble the infrastructure for the physical servers. This is usually at a minimum of four (4) to five (5) figures at the start. If you’re just starting out, this is absolutely not the free ecommerce solution that you are looking for.
  • Open source – Almost all of the free ecommerce solutions out there are under this category. Open source shopping cart platforms are only free because it does not usually come with many features and functions that you can get from a standard paid platform. And the hosting part, you need to buy it separately from a different provider. Open source shopping carts are basically just the platform itself. But, even with its limited features, you can actually start putting up your own ecommerce website. Ecommerce WordPress

Free Open Source Ecommerce Solutions – What Can I Get? What’s the catch?

To start assembling the design components of your online storefront with the free open source ecommerce solution, all you need is the source code – the software itself. The catch, is that you need to outsource the following from a separate provider:

  • Ecommerce Website Hosting
  • Domain Name Registration
  • Additional Security Features

If you’re opting for a free open source ecommerce solution, you’ll basically get these two advantages:

  • No cost at all since it is free!
  • Full control and customization since it is an open source platform.

While the biggest advantage of choosing a free open source platform for your ecommerce needs, is to be able to tweak every inch of your website store to your heart’s content, it is also its biggest downside. Since you are on your own, you need to have a higher level of technical expertise in website development and programming. Customizing your ecommerce store using an open source software will require an extensive amount of time, more if you’re not familiar with the ins-and-out of the software. Outsourcing this technical task to a skilled professional is also an option, but, that again would require you to spend some funds, which is counter-intuitive if you choose the platform because it is free.

So, who is this free open source ecommerce platform for?

The bottom-line is, free open source ecommerce platform is for:

  • Startups or retail store owners who don’t have the capital yet to fully implement an extensive ecommerce store.
  • Owners or developers who are well-versed in website development and programming.

If you belong to either of the two you, it would be worth your time to consider opting to a free open source ecommerce platform.

To get you started, here are six (6) free open source ecommerce platforms that are available in the industry today:

  • Magento Community Edition
  • osCommerce
  • OpenCart
  • WooCommerce
  • SimpleCart
  • PrestaShop

But, Do I Need a Paid Ecommerce Solutions Provider?

Well, if you want to launch a relatively fully functional ecommerce website with lots of features for your customers to enjoy and you have the funds for it, then go for a paid ecommerce platform. All of the features and functionalities that a paid ecommerce platform offer are streamlined according to your needs.

You don’t need to be a technical expert in website development or a programming geek to launch your first ecommerce website. A paid ecommerce platform can do all of the technical work for you. All you have to do is a few clicks and select what you want – how you want your product to be displayed on the actual ecommerce store, or the theme or design of your storefront. Everything is laid-out on the open for you. The good thing is that there’s also a preview function so you can see how your chosen options would appear on your actual website store.

There are paid ecommerce platforms that offer basic plans, which just costs a few bucks. If you can’t decide which paid-ecommerce-solutions provider to select, you can try out a trial or demo version. With this, you can explore, experiment, and try out the features and functions. This will allow you to make a better decision if you want to continue to a higher pricing plan or move on to another paid platform.

Here’s a list of the widely known and popular paid-ecommerce-solutions providers in the industry:

  • Magento Enterprise Edition – This paid ecommerce platform, however, starts at $15,000/year. With this price tag, it is only suitable for branded and established ecommerce retail stores.
  • Shopify – The basic plan starts at $13/month and up to $107 for the advanced plan. Shopify also offers enterprise-level solutions which costs at a higher price. The price is usually quotation-based, so the price will depend on what you need for your business.
  • BigCartel – This paid-ecommerce-solutions provider has one of the lowest fees for its basic plan. You can have your website store up and running with just $9.99/month. BigCartel’s advanced plan is also just $29.99/month – relatively lower-priced compared to its competitors.
  • Volusion – Volusion offers a basic plan package that starts at $13.50/month. With this basic plan, you can include 100 products in your ecommerce website store and 1GB of bandwidth limit – not bad for a $13.50/month investment for your ecommerce store. The advance plan starts at $67.50/month, a bit lower compared to Shopify’s advance plan. Volusion also offers ecommerce solutions for enterprise level, which has a customized pricing plan depending on how big your ecommerce store is.
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