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Thoughts on Cart Comparison

I’m a Zen Cart guy, but no one solution is perfect for all situations.

Zen Cart’s key strength is that since it’s open source, I can add any kind of business logic you require. If you have a lot of rules around checkout, product fulfillment, inventory management, or other ares of online retailing, you’ll be better off with an open source cart, which will be much more customizable.

But if you don’t have these requirements, here are the advantages of BigCommerce over Zen Cart:
  • BigCommerce is a hosted product, which means that your monthly subscription fee (starting at $30) pays for all the maintenance and upgrades of your shopping cart software. This can be much less expensive than paying me $100/hr to do the same thing.
  • Zen Cart provides for product variants (attributes set by the customer to select product size, color, etc.), but doesn't have built-in tracking of these variants for inventory tracking or SKU assignment. BigCommerce does, and handles product options very nicely. Shopify, by contrast, has a lot of restrictions in the area of product variants.

BigCommerce vs Shopify

Shopify and BigCommerce are both SaaS (software as a service) products which allow you to build an online shopping cart. They are both excellent products, but I give BigCommerce a slight edge for many situations for the following reasons:
  • BigCommerce has true hierarchical product categories (show picture). Shopify only allows products to be grouped in collections, which have only one level.
  • BigCommerce has a *lot* of built in features that are add-ons in the Shopify ecosystem.
    • Many of the most common discounting options I have built for Zen Cart are built-in to BigCommerce.
    • BigCommerce has a built-in mechanism to add product fields. This can only be done by an add-on with a monthly subscription cost in Shopify.
  • BigCommerce allows you to “bring your own payment gateway” at no additional cost, with full support for all major providers. Shopify charges you for using any system other than Shopify Payments.
  • BigCommerce has excellent support for product variants (attributes set by the customer to select product size, color, etc.), with no real limitations. Shopify limits products to three attributes, which is an unacceptable constraint for some vendors.