eCommerce Shopping Carts

Shopping Carts and eCommerce plugins are a subject of massive debate among developers. In our view at iBusinessLogic there is no one real pat answer to the question “which Shopping cart software should I user for my online store? ”

We think a shopping cart should be what the user/client wants it to be and each solution has different advantages and disadvantages. Lets identify some of the options and then discuss what you need your cart to do for you in person.


is robust, professional grade e-Commerce shopping cart. In the back end, you will use a full featured back end to manage your inventory, orders, shipping, and customers in real time. Your customer’s payments are sent directly to your commercial bank account using the latest security technology.
is an open source PHP based online shopping cart system. OpenCart is easy to use and is SEO optimized with a very nice interface. A great feature of OpenCart is that customers can write their own reviews of the products.
is a professional open-source e-Commerce solution offering unprecedented flexibility and control. Magento is awesome, I would never believe it is an open-source project. It features clean urls and SEO from the start. Everything is designed in a clean and simple way. Magento also features: Unlimited flexibility, Completely Scalable Architecture, Professional and Community Support, and Smooth Integration with 3rd party apps. Website:
Magento is one of the newer shopping carts on the block but has already attracted a large following. The coding is based on the latest PHP 5 object oriented coding standards and the Zend framework.

Advantages +
+ Varian the company who backs the cart is very active in updating the code and fixing bugs
+ Multi-Store Capable
+ Nice default template

Disadvantages –
Heavily layered and overly complicated coding style and thousands of files requires a lot of time to learn and do customizations. Estimate about 2 – 5 x more for your budget for customizing it vs. other carts
Right now the technical documentation is very limited, making it difficult to customize and modify the programming of Magento beyond doing graphical changes.
Runs fairly slow. Plan on spending at least $25/month for a 1000 product store, or $50 – $100 month for stores with over that.
is very popular shopping cart. CubeCart V3 is free, with the exception that you leave their copyright notice in your footer. CubeCart has a large amount of payment gateways and shipping gateways. Their support forums are lively and many people contribute plugins to the cart. To use CubeCart V4 you must pay but it has many features that V3 doesn’t have.
is another very popular online shopping cart, written in Perl/MySQL. It features a css manager so you can edit the look of your cart online. AgoraCart also features unlimited product options, up to 4 different tax zones at the same time, tons of shipping and payment gateways/options. The setup options range from a simple template based store to the integration of a complex visual design and support for program modification.
is a user friendly, open source shopping cart. Zen Cart focuses on the merchants and shoppers instead of the developers. Zen Cart also supports multiple payment and shipping options, quantity discounts and coupons. website:
Zen Cart has a very nice wide array of features based on Oscommerce but has gone its own path. You can not install contributions directly from the Oscommerce web site onto Zen Cart. Some of the nice features include product attributes managers, template system, html editor for regular web page contents, built in coupon code system, ability to select what credit cards you accept, and more. An issue with Zen Cart right now is the Easy Populate contribution which would let you import products from an Excel sheet does not work yet. So if you need this feature we recommend the other shopping carts.

Advantages +
+ No licensing fees
+ Stable
+ Many contributions from Oscommerce already installed

Disadvantages –
– not possible to use Oscommerce contributions, they must be converted to Zen Cart
– Admin interface is a little messy in certain areas because there are so many contributions installed
is an online shopping cart that offers a wide range of features that allows online stores to be setup fairly quickly. osCommerce is backed by a great and active community. It also supports multiple currencies, allows customers to print invoices from the order screen, and has an easy database backup system. website:
Oscommerce is the basis for both Zen Cart and CRE Loaded. As such is it is simpler and does not have all of the contributions already added that Zen Cart and CRE Loaded do. It runs well though and is a good back to basics shopping cart.

Advantages +
+ Has the most available number of contributions and modifications
+ Recent security update brings it up to date with MySQL 5 and PHP 5

Disadvantages –
– It can take a lot of time and money to install all the contributions you want (add-ons)
– No graphic template system meaning it is harder to modify the design
CRE Loaded PCI B2B 6.4

CRE Loaded Chain Reaction Edition of Oscommerce

CRE Loaded is like Oscommerce but with many more contributions installed. Some of the nice contributions it has are Easy Populate which lets you populate your database from an Excel file, coupon codes, administrator access levels, template system, and an affiliate manager. CRE Loaded also has one of the Oscommerce templating systems installed which allows you to more easily integrate a design into the system and control which information boxes show on the left and right columns.

Advantages +
+ Many contributions from Oscommerce already installed

Disadvantages –
– Contributions from can be more difficult to install, but CRE Loaded has many of its own already converted
– Buggy code for some modules like multi vendor shipping

Additional Information
CRE Loaded comes in 3 verisons. The regular version is free. The Pro version adds better product attribute support and credit card encryption, and the B2B version adds seperate pricing level support.

Click for Website:

Start online business with X-Cart ecommerce shopping cart.

X-Cart is a commercial package, but one of the most competitively priced and easy to modify.

Advantages +
+ Commercially supported and has very few if any bugs
+ Uses Smarty Templates system which many programmers like to work with for laying out the web site

Disadvantages –
– Licensing fees for system


OSC Max is an excellent version of Oscommerce that has many useful contributions installed. It is just as easy to use in the admin as the default Oscommerce installation.

Advantages +
+ No licensing fees
+ The contributions installed are very useful
+ Has wholesale/Reseller pricing module already installed
+ Well-documented

Disadvantages –
– Personal preference – I don’t like the mopics image module, you have to separately upload small and large images, but easily fixed by installing on the fly thumbnails module



HikaShop is a Joomla Extension released in 3 different editions : HikaShop Starter, HikaShop Essential and HikaShop Business.

HikaShop enables you to manage your shop’s content (categories, products, etc), handle advanced prices management, heavily personalize your store by providing an easy interface to customize all the HikaShop views. You can also easily manage custom fields for users, their addresses and products, manage an affiliate program, easily handle the translation of the shop’s content in multiple languages, show statistics and so much more…

Features Starter
HikaShop Starter
HikaShop Essential
HikaShop Business
Create Products Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Efficient Product Management Yes Yes Yes
Several categories possible for a product Yes Yes Yes
Several images possible for a product Yes Yes Yes
Related products
Yes Yes Yes
Products variants
Yes Yes Yes
Product files
Yes Yes Yes
Custom fields for products
Yes Yes
Product prices in several currencies
Yes Yes Yes
Manage tax rules
Yes Yes Yes
Prices auto calculated based on currency rates
Yes Yes Yes
Currency rates auto update
No limit on the number of orders Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Manage orders efficiently Yes Yes Yes
History of orders modifications Yes Yes Yes
Invoices display & print
star starstar starstar
Totally customizable checkout process
star starstar starstar
Manual shipping methods management
Yes Yes Yes
Paypal payment plugin
Yes Yes Yes payment plugin
Yes Yes Yes
Moneybookers payment plugin
Yes Yes Yes
Bluepaid payment plugin
Yes Yes Yes
Bank transfer payment plugin
Yes Yes Yes
Check payment plugin
Yes Yes Yes
Collect on Delivery payment plugin
Yes Yes Yes
Integration with Joomla search with a plugin Yes Yes Yes
Geolocation plugin
Yes Yes Yes
Custom fields for addresses and user information
star starstar starstar
Easily customize your HikaShop emails
star star starstar
Integration with AcyMailing for marketing campaigns
Yes Yes
Discounts and coupons
Yes Yes Yes
Restrictions on discounts and coupons
Yes Yes
Affiliate program
Powerful dashboard star starstar starstarstar
Gauge and pie chart on sales Yes Yes
Heat map of sales per country Yes
Tracking of affiliates clicks/leads/sales Yes
Help & Support
Integrated Documentation Yes Yes Yes
Online Documentation Yes Yes Yes
Forum Yes Yes Yes
Personal support via e-mail Yes Yes
Joomla MVC Model
Yes Yes Yes
No advertisement in emails
Yes Yes Yes
Remove component advertisement Yes Yes Yes
Multiple languages edition interface Yes Yes
Compatibility Joomla 1.5 Native
Joomla 1.6 Native
Joomla 1.5 Native
Joomla 1.6 Native
Joomla 1.5 Native
Joomla 1.6 Native


Installing and configuring Joomla & Virtuemart together was a snap. On the Virtuemart website they have a combined installer that installs Virtuemart with Joomla. This is the solution you would want if you have to have your CMS (Content Management System) combined with your shopping cart. Joomla we feel is the best CMS out there, but Virtuemart on the other hand is not the best shopping cart system. It is not a bad one though, it is just not as fully featured as the other solutions.

Overall we would say that Virtuemart is about equal with default Oscommerce, but not the loaded versions of Oscommerce: Zen Cart & CRE Loaded.

Advantages +

+ Easy to install
+ Combines well with the best CMS Joomla
+ Has the basic shopping cart features

Disadvantages –
– Lacks a lot of high-end shopping cart features
– Not as many add-on modules available

We do not recommend Virtuemart for business use.

Stand Alone (Non CMS) Shopping Cart Feature Comparison Chart 

This feature comparison chart compares the out of the box features of each cart. Sometimes a cart will have an available add-on module to install the feature listed.

Magento Oscommerce CRE Loaded Zen Cart X-Cart OSCMax VirtueMart
Free Yes Yes Yes, but has pay versions Yes No Yes Yes
Unlimited Products Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Supports SSL Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Edit Products Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Edit Customers Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Admin Can Edit Products In Order Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Spreadsheet Database Upload Yes No Yes No Yes Yes No
Product Attributes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Multiple Product Images Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Coupons Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Different Pricing Per Customer Groups Yes No Costs Extra Yes Yes Yes Yes
Graphic Template System Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Live Shipping Quotes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Google Checkout Pre-installed Yes No No No Yes Yes No
Paypal Yes Yes, but not IPN Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Paypal Pro Yes No No Yes Yes No No
Content Management System for Informational Pages Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
SEO Tools for meta tags and URLs Yes No Yes, URLs cost extra Yes Yes Yes No
One Page Checkout Yes No No No Yes No No
Multi-Lingual Support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Multi-Currency Support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Multi-Store Support Yes No No No Cost Extra No No
Web Hosting Requirements Semi Dedicated $25/m – $100/m Shared Hosting Shared Hosting Shared Hosting Shared Hosting Shared Hosting Shared Hosting
Our Overall Opinion from 1 – 10 7 7 8 8 8 8.5 7

WordPress CMS

WordPress Shopping Carts

WordPress plugin shopping carts are being developed all over the world and some of the best and most reliable are the free versions of these open source scripts.  WordPress itself is a feature rich platform to build a website upon, adding eCommerce seems to be a logical progression from a client ease of use standpoint. Unfortunately some of the early versions of eCommerce software for WordPress have been less than stellar.

We recommend the following strong contenders in this area with the caveat that your needs should fit with the capabilities of the solution.


This is a free but constantly updated and easy shopping cart to implement into a WordPress website.  Creating products is as easy as creating a post and selecting the product SKU, Title and quantity available. There is stock management and a simple interface but this would not be a solution for thousand of products.  Very good for a small business or a services business who may also sell digital downloads.

  • Utilizes WordPress pages or posts, and custom post types, to create products
  • enhanced for WP3.0 users – customers can sign up to your site (settable option)
  • Various methods available for listing products
  • Products can have multiple options
  • Upload downloadable products
  • Basic Statistics
  • Download sales data
  • Various shipping options, including by weight.
  • Admin has access to an Order handling section
  • Automatic emails on successful purchase
  • User configurable email templates.
  • Configurable Out of Stock message.
  • Basic Stock Control
  • Google Base Data creation
  • Uninstall available within the plugin
  • Various discount options
  • WPMU, Multisite compatible.
  • Merchant, Paypal, Payson, eProcessingNetwork, Webtopay, iDEAL and Cash/Cheque!
  • Now compatible with WP Affiliate for affiliates – see wiki.
  • able to be used as a product catalogue with no sales.

We have just started using this shopping cart but find that it’s flexibility and ease of use make it a great candidate for most small business users. Products may be inserted virtually anywhere on a WordPress website and the shopping cart checkout is seamless.  There are currently some limitation with payment processing but the team at PHPurchase say they will be adding new payment processing options in the near future.

Our biggest excitement about this plugin is the obvious advantages of their integration with Gravity Forms.  This feature allows for an unlimited customization of the checkout and product purchase process by creating logical customization (upsell) of products by the buyer.  Great for custom embroidery, sign making, and other service businesses.

Gravity Forms Integration from Lee Blue on Vimeo.

Using PHPurchase with many of the other available WordPress plugins including MailChimp and Gravity Forms could make the ultimately customizable shopping site idea work.  The client is not locked into pre-determined shopping cart styles or forms and can pretty much create the layout and style of the site in a way that suits them. One product per page or 100, it is all up to the user. The sidebar shopping cart widget auto updating with each click to purchase.

PHPurchase Features Standard Professional
UPS Real Time Shipping Rates Check Check
Track Inventory Check Check
Sell physical products Check Check
Sell digital products Check Check
Sell services Check Check
Manage orders Check Check
PCI Compliant Check Check
Promotions Check Check
Tax by state or zip code Check Check
Multiple shipping options Check Check
Custom fields for products Check Check
WordPress Affiliate Platform integration Check Check
Products on any page or post Check Check
Product Variations that change the product price Check Check
PayPal Website Payments Standard Check Check
PayPal Website Payments Professional Check Check
PayPal Express Checkout Check Check
eProcessing Network Check Check
Quantum Gateway Check Check Check Check
Offline Payments Check Check
Professional Features
Memberships with private content Check
Members only pages Check
Members only sections of pages Check
Subscriptions/Recurring payments Check
Sell unlimited numbers of subscriptions Check
My Account page listing all subscriptions Check
Fixed number of recurring payments Check
Unlimited number of recurring payments Check
Set up free trials Check
Gravity forms integration* Check

There are more WordPress based shopping cart solutions available and we will be adding a few here in the near future please call or contact us if you have any questions about a specific cart that you have been looking at.

Final Thoughts

Much of your decision will be based upon the type of website you have chosen to develop. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or simply a shopping cart only site with no content management capabilities. We prefer that our clients use a CMS to allow them the opportunity to build a SEO friendly and dynamic website. Joomla and WordPress are our favorite platforms for CMS. Fortunately each has choices in the shopping cart realm. Ease of use and simplicity is where WordPress shines. Depth and robustness with a capability to create a complex site is more of the Joomla game.

If you decide to go with an Oscommerce based shopping cart, we recommend that you start with one of the loaded versions – Zencart, CRE Loaded, or OSCmax – in order to save you lots of money on installing additional modules to the plain Oscommerce version. You can then use your development money to put in your own custom modifications, design, etc. rather than installing all of the basics.

We can not recommend Magento unless you like the default features and layout because it is way overly complicated to customize efficiently (with a normal budget). If you decide to go with Magento, make sure to chose a fast enough web host. As we mentioned, it does not run fast enough on most shared hosting plans.

Small businesses should look hard at a WordPress solution, the cost savings alone will put you far ahead of other choices.