In our continuing series of e-commerce platform comparisons, we now look at CS-Cart vs. Shopify.
Many merchants who got started with e-commerce more than 3-5 years ago were likely to be choosing amongst platforms such as Magento, Yahoo Stores, nopCommerce, osCommerce, Prestashop and CS-Cart, along with upstarts like BigCommerce and Shopify.
At that time, going with a relatively new and untested platform like Shopify was a bit of a risk. How times have changed! Shopify is now firmly established as a leader in the e-commerce space and has become a public company, recently valued at a market capitalization of roughly US$11 billion.
If you’re a small- to mid-sized e-commerce merchant and are looking to update your e-commerce website, what are the best options in 2018?
CS-Cart vs Shopify
The first point to make is that CS-Cart is an open-source, self-hosted solution and has more in common with WooCommerce or Prestashop in this regard, than with a hosted solution like Shopify.
These are the commercial and technical implications:
Monthly vs fixed fees: With CS-Cart you pay an one-time licence fee and it’s up to you to opt-in for (paid) future upgrades. Shopify’s monthly fee starts at $29 and they also charge a transaction-based fee of 0.5%-2% depending on your monthly service package.
Payment processing and fees: With CS-Cart, you’re on your own to select and integrate a credit card payment processor, and pay their fees, which generally consist of a fixed monthly and transaction-based fee. With Shopify, depending on where your company is located, you can opt for Shopify Payments which includes a seamless payment solution. PayPal is supported by both CS-Cart and Shopify.
Upgrade cycle: CS-Cart updates their software every few months and includes not only additional features but, importantly, security fixes. As a user, you need to decide each time a new release is issued, whether it’s worth it. The costs to upgrade include not only the licence fee but also the technical assistance needed to update the codebase (backup/versioning, installing the new version on a staging server, de-bugging for any incompatible fixes you may have made in the prior codebase, final acceptance, migrating to the production server and final round of testing). This requires not only technical resources but management time and attention at both the testing and commissioning stages. As a SaaS-based platform, Shopify’s code updates are pushed out to its servers and are generally transparent to their users. This translates into a significant business advantage, as new features are developed by Shopify’s technical team and made available to their customers. With the rapid pace of innovation in areas like payment options (e.g. Apple Pay) and social commerce (e.g. Shoppable Pins on Pinterest), Shopify’s customers have rapid access to the latest e-commerce features. It’s like having access to a top-tier development team.
Hosting: With CS-Cart you have complete flexibility to choose your own hosting service. The downside of this is that hosting is a separate function to manage (and pay for) and a detailed understanding of web hosting is not generally within the expertise of a small business merchant. Moreover, you’ll also need to buy and maintain an SSL certificate for your website. Shopify includes hosting and SSL. As a specialist in e-commerce, they are also focused on protecting their servers against common intrusion attempts. Their servers are located in various parts of the world and are typically faster than a low-level hosting service in a fixed location.
Technical support: CS-Cart offers technical support on a paid basis with a traditional support ticket-based system, whereas Shopify offers fantastic 24/7 technical support via email, chat, or phone. Being an open-source system, the user need not depend on CS-Cart’s engineers for technical support. Shopify’s technical support is included in the monthly fee.
Customization: Being an open-source solution, CS-Cart offers the ability to modify the code base at will. While it’s great to have this flexibility, it also means that you’ll need access to a technical team to maintain the customized code. Shopify also offers the ability to create custom themes or modify existing ones, but these are limited to non-core front-end tweaks rather than the core e-commerce functionality. In the area of apps and add-ons, both CS-Cart and Shopify have listings of third-party apps which extend the core functionality of the platforms. Shopify’s ecosystem of apps is far more extensive than CS-Cart’s.
Language support: CS-Cart has numerous language packages available, which effectively translate most of the standard terms (primarily, this involves the default text for the checkout process). However, if you have text embedded in graphic images, you will need to translate those manually. Shopify supports only 1 language without some additional coding modifications or opting for a specific multi-language app which will involve a separate monthly fee.
Basically, CS-Cart involves a great deal more overhead to run than Shopify. A typical merchant would need access to a technical team, whether that’s in-house or outsourced. For most SMEs, this introduces a layer of dependency which can be slow and is certainly costly. Merchants running CS-Cart also have to select and maintain a suitable web hosting service, SSL certificate, and payment processor. There are just a lot more moving pieces to manage with CS-Cart or similar non-SaaS e-commerce solutions. What you get for that additional overhead is CS-Cart’s more flexible and extensible codebase, and the ability to run multiple stores using the same back end.
For the vast majority of SME e-commerce merchants (under $10 million in annual revenues), Shopify will be a far superior solution that lets you focus on your business rather than the technical issues in running an e-commerce system. Moreover, Shopify has different service packages including Shopify Plus which is aimed at enterprise clients, so Shopify can grow with your business.
If you’re currently using CS-Cart for e-commerce and would like to migrate to Shopify, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you get started. We’ve worked with other merchants doing such a transition and have mapped out a reliable checklist which makes the process efficient and accurate.