Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Shopify Vs OpenCart 2018 Update

I love when eCommerce companies aim at different sects of the market. It makes it far easier to call one option better than the other, while still mentioning the benefits of the loser. OpenCart is very similar to Magento, in that it is free to use and open source. It is currently used by a wide variety of companies. Due to its open source nature it requires a significant amount of technical knowledge to get it going, and you’ll likely be paying maintenance fees to whomever you hire to build your site for years to come. What you lose in ease of use you make up in customization, and likely in long-term value.

Shopify, by contrast, is an all in one eCommerce Solution. Buying the Basic package give you everything you need to set up shop and start selling. It’s their ease of use that makes them so appealing. While Shopify have plenty of options available in terms of customization, they cannot match OpenCart here. Shopify sells on versatility, and having dedicated support when running a store is extremely valuable.

Today I’ll be taking an in-depth look at both companies, weighing the pros and cons and giving recommendations. So let’s see which of these two companies is right for you.

Shopify Vs OpenCart – Appearance, Professionalism, & Overall Look

When a customer clicks on your site you are going to need to wow them. An attractive front end can make all the difference. If your site is unwieldy or difficult to navigate it can destroy your chances at making a sale. When setting up an eCommerce store you’ll find an awful lot of themes and templates to choose from, with each of them offering a variety of customization options, be sure to pick one that feels good to use and is appropriate for what you are selling. Let’s take a look at the option available from Shopify and OpenCart.


OpencartthemesOpenCart are not an all in one solution. This means that all you get is the code for running the store. You don’t get a theme library, you don’t get a site, or hosting or any of the core features present in other eCommerce solutions. What you do get is freedom. You can create your own bespoke site, customize all aspects of the site and really make it your own. The downside is if you can’t program you can’t do any of that and will have to look for third party themes. And that usually means paying a premium.

Not all the time though, looking through the OpenCart store will show you that quite a few of the themes are free. Some of them are nice, though most of them lack the flair you see in the paid solutions. If you’re looking to save a bit of cash though they can be a good interim option. The paid themes are a bit of a mixed bag, some are great and some are terrible, and they call cost money. I have found a fair few third party sites selling some lovely templates, for as little as $10 too.

If you decide to go with OpenCart you will either need to hire a programmer and designer, if you lack those skills, or fork out the cash for a good theme, bear in mind these costs when you start.


shopify-themesShopify pride themselves on their ease of use. Everything on their theme store is high quality, professionally designed, customizable and varied. You can find your elegant boutique-esque themes sitting next to the more amazon-like product list templates. Finding a free, appropriate theme is easy, there are about a hundred of them, so you don’t need to worry about the cost. They do have a variety of premium themes on offer too, but unless you can’t live without one of them you don’t need to worry.

A major benefit to the themes that Shopify offer is their ability to work with a variety of screen sizes, seen as a lot of people are shopping on the tablets and phones it is a must have feature. If you do decide that a premium theme is right for you, you will find the prices sitting somewhere between $80 and $200, considering I’ve seen some people try to sell their designs for near a grand on other platforms that is a good price.

Between the two it’s fairly even. OpenCart has more themes, that is one of the benefits of being open source, but Shopify have professionally designed themes, that are free. I prefer the ease of use offered by Shopify, but the freedom of choice offered by OpenCart counters that well. If you have the technical knowledge OpenCart may be the better option, if you don’t go for Shopify.

Winner – Draw

Shopify Vs OpenCart – Features & Integrations

There are a few features that are standard across the board for eCommerce solutions. You can list and sell products, integrate with some kind of social media and customize your SEO options in the back-end. But when it comes to running a store you are going to want a lot more than that. Let’s compare the feature list from OpenCart and Shopify.


Much like Magento this section could just be left with “All of them”. OpenCart is an open source eCommerce solution, so while it lacks the safety net offered by all in one options, they offer the freedom to add every feature imaginable. At its core it is a shopping software, and out of the box you can list unlimited products, unlimited images per product, have a variety of languages, currencies, sell digital items and set your SEO details on every page. Outside of the core features we have extensions and apps.

Being an open source solution means that anyone can develop for OpenCart. It can be a bit of a mixed bag, with themes not fitting right, apps being poorly optimized or just not working, and the vast majority costing money. When it’s set up right though it is a thing of beauty. You have more apps and options here than with Shopify, including the ever important blogging and social media features, but you can even find the advanced report tools offered on Shopify’s more expensive packages here at bargain bin prices. Again, bear in mind that not all of the apps are optimized to run together, so you’ll need a little coding know how to get the most out of it.


Again a section where Shopify can boast of its simplicity. At it’s core it has many of the same features that are offered with OpenCart, but some of them are locked behind the more expensive packages. For a good reason though, the features in the higher package are tailor-made for larger businesses. If you’re selling a few dozen items a month then you’re not going to need advanced reports, but the option is there when your business grows. The other major benefit is that all the apps and features are professionally integrated from the get go, meaning getting them to work is a simple matter of clicking a button. Shopify cannot match OpenCart in terms of language implementation, but I’m sure it’s being worked on.

Shopify does have one feature not offered, or at least harder to jury rig together yourself, by OpenCart. Shopify POS. It’s an offline integration system that bridges the gap between eCommerce and plain old commerce. If you have a brick and mortar store, or you like to sell at the conventions and festivals, Shopify POS is a wonderful little tool. You can track inventory, take payments and even manage your staff. It does cost a fair bit extra, so perhaps not the best for smaller businesses, but it is undeniably useful.

This is another hard one to call, on one hand you have the streamlined nature of Shopify, with all the same features made available for the layperson. And on the other hand you have boundless freedom offered by OpenCart. I have to call this one for OpenCart, they have more features, even if they aren’t as well-integrated, and offers more design freedom.

Winner – OpenCart

Shopify Vs OpenCart – Dropshipping

Dropshipping is an easy way to fill a storefront with appropriate items. I have written on the topic before, both in these eCommerce articles, and in its own dedicated article. The benefits are many, and integrating the products is easier today than it has ever been. At its core it is essentially adding products from a warehouse store directly into your product line. The warehouse holds the time, and your customers buy from you. The most popular sites are Alibaba and Aliexpress, for the large or smaller re seller. There are many ways to use these sites, and others like them, the supplementary user and the dedicated user. I fall into the former camp, supplementing my product line with items from Aliexpress, to make my product range suit my consumers. In the old days you had to write everything out by hand, but know there are many options that allow a one click solution to the issue. Shopify have several in their app store, OpenCart are a bit more complicated, and I feel it leaves them at a disadvantage. Let’s take a closer look at what’s out there.

In the Shopify space there are two key players to consider, well there are way more than that, but for me the best two are Shopified and Oberlo. I prefer Oberlo, easy to use, and it does what I need it to, at an amazing price. Shopified is the more complicated, less optimized, but far larger and robust option. With The Shopified App you can add items from pretty much any store to yours. From the warehouse sellers over at Alibaba to itself. Not as useful, but as I said, there is an art to constructing a storefront, and part of that is maybe not making a profit on everything  sold to retain a consumer base. Oberlo is the more focused product specializing in adding items from Aliexpress to your product range, in a simple one click style. Better I think for those starting out or for those who know what they want out of their store.

With Opencart you are limited to the few apps on their site. Set up takes a very long time, and there is nothing that directly compares to either Oberlo or the Shopified app. With some jury rigging, and a little programming knowledge, it is possible to get a set up on par with ether, but that is not an option available to most users. it limits the utility in my mind, not to say that it is a terrible option, but it could be better.

Gotta love it when the answer is obvious. OpenCart is a lighter option on the whole anyway, so users looking for a core experience like that aren’t going to be swayed by this section regardless, but for those who want a full fledged option, Shopify is where it is at. The Added utility of its drop shipping software allows you to tailor your product range to any consumer base.

Winner – Shopify

Shopify Vs OpenCart – Flexibility, Ease of Use, & Scalability

You would be hard pressed to find a more flexible system than OpenCart. It’s open source software, meaning that it is limited only by your talents. If you don’t have the tech skills then it is nothing, but if you hire the right person they can have this program doing whatever you please. Shopify is no slouch, they allow custom code injections, and have a wide variety of prefabs available, but in terms of raw figures, OpenCart has them beat.

Not true of ease of use though. Setting up an OpenCart based site requires a lot of technical skill, you must know how to program or hire someone who does. Once the site is up and running how easy it is to use is depends entirely on the skill of the person you hired to build it. That variability is a big downside in this section. Shopify is extremely easy to set up, even for those without the technical or design skills, and running it is a streamlined process.

Scalability is a harder one to call. Both solutions can scale to any size of business quite easily. With Shopify you buy a new package and with OpenCart you bring back your tech guy and add new features. It makes them pretty much equal in this field, but with Shopify being easier to scale, and only slight less flexible, I think they have the edge overall.

Winner – Shopify

Shopify Vs OpenCart – Cost & Value

Opencart forumThis is an interesting one. OpenCart is technically free, meaning if you know how to design and site and program you can have everything up and running for the cost of an SSL certificate and hosting fees. If you don’t know how to do that then the fees begin to pile up.

First you need to hire a designer/programmer. And they need to be good, nothing worse than having an unfinished or, worse, an unsightly online store. Then you’ll need to buy a domain name and pay for site hosting, which will cost anywhere from $10 to $100 per year. You’ll then need to buy a few apps, and depending on your needs they can be quite pricey. Finally you’ll need your SSL, site security. Prices vary, I’ve seen as low as $7 and as high as a few hundred per year. The you have to budget for long-term maintenance and business growth. There is a lot of micromanagement and a sizable start-up fee. But in the long run you might save yourself some money.

shopify-pricing-2016With Shopify you buy your package and they take care of the rest. The cheapest package that comes with all the features you’ll need is $29. As your business grows you may want to upgrade that, for added features. The Pro Package is $79 and the Unlimited Package is $179. You can get most of the apps you need for free, including a blog and social media integration, so beyond the monthly fee you’re in the clear.

Which of the two is more expensive depends on how long your business lasts. In the long run Shopify may be more expensive, but the perks of going with an all in one solution may offset the price for you. I prefer the easier to use Shopify though, there are too many things left to chance with the OpenCart pricing.

Winner – Shopify

FREE TRIAL LINK: If you want to take advantage of a no obligation, free trial of Shopify you can click here to automatically apply a free 14 day trial when you sign up. 

Shopify Vs OpenCart – Recap & Review

Shopify Pros:

  • All in One Solution
  • Excellent array of themes
  • Shopify POS
  • Easier to use
  • Quicker to set up
  • Lower costs in the short-term
  • All apps expertly integrated

Shopify Cons:

  • Fewer overall options
  • Possibly more expensive in the long run.

OpenCart Pros:

  • Open Source software is more versatile
  • If you pay the right person you have more features
  • Infinite options in their app store

OpenCart Cons:

  • If you lack the skills setting it up can be expensive
  • Many of the apps require extra work to play well together
  • The cost of hosting and SSL are on the end-user

These two firms aim at two very different parts of the market. OpenCart is for the tech savvy, or those who have the cash and want a truly unique storefront. I am not a programmer though, nor do I have a lot of money, so I am drawn to the simplicity of Shopify. An all in one solution with a myriad of options and excellent scaling is perfect for myself, and the vast majority of folk looking to make it in the world of eCommerce. OpenCart is great if you know how to use it, for the rest of us there is Shopify.

With these two solutions aiming at two different markets it makes it harder to call an outright winner. I am not a programmer ergo I am drawn to Shopify. It offers an all in one solution with easy to see scaling options at an excellent price. OpenCart is great if you know how to use it, or you know someone who does. It is more versatile and has an infinite amount of options. Overall I would still call this in favor of Shopify.

FREE TRIAL LINK: If you want to take advantage of a no obligation, free trial of Shopify you can click here to automatically apply a free 14 day trial when you sign up. 

Barry W Stanton
Irish born writer who drinks too much caffeine and reads too much Terry Pratchett. I enjoy long walks on the server and Korean cuisine.


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