Which Shopping Cart to Use – Magento or Zen Cart?

Many ecommerce businessmen query which shopping cart software is the best for their business. It seems to be an easy enough question, but the right answer is actually dependent upon their business and requirements. At the outset, it is important for everyone interested in knowing about shopping carts and which shopping cart to use, the shopping cart features mentioned below should be common between all.

  • Customer and product management
  • A range of payment and shipping modules
  • Ability to use secure SSL for the ordering process
  • Order receipt emails

However, the following aspects vary in most shopping carts

  • The time take to modify the shopping cart and make it look like a current webpage
  • WYSIWYG ability
  • Import/Export from Excel spreadsheet
  • Pricing for wholesalers/reseller

Two of the most popular shopping carts available in the market are Zen Cart and Magento. The best way forward is to compare the features of both the carts. We begin by providing a short description of Magento.

Launched by Varien in 2007, Magento (community edition) is a free open source shopping cart that is best suited for companies big or small that require a professional online presence. It offers an opportunity to ecommerce merchants and store owners to fulfill their business goals at a fraction of a cost.

Magento is a direct response to the emerging needs of the ecommerce generation of today. It is a feature rich and professional open source ecommerce platform that provides store merchants the complete flexibility over their online operations. Ecommerce merchants complete control over the look, content, and functionality for their ecommerce store.

Magento offers a brilliant range of features that allow it to enjoy unprecedented support from the ecommerce community the world over

  • Multi store facilities – ability to manage multiple stores from a centralized admin panel
  • One page checkout
  • Integration with more than 50 popular gateways
  • SEO friendly structure
  • Ability to integrate 3rd party tools with the help of web service API
  • Ability to integrate various CMS like Joomla, WordPress and Drupal
  • Multi tier pricing
  • Integration with USPS, FedEx, and UPS for real time rate quotes.

Some owners criticize Magento for being too complex and hogging on server resources. Though these comments are fair enough, one must not give up on the benefits of using this advanced open source technology. The advantages that Magento has are that it has a high end hosting environment coupled with the right developers on board. Additionally, it can offer extensive functionality at open source level.

When we look at Zen Cart, it may initially look as if it has been inspired by OS Commerce. However, it has gone on its own way. Some of the features about Zen Cart that are commendable are

  • Product attributes manager
  • Template system
  • HTML Editor for regular web page contents
  • Built in coupon code systems
  • Ability to select credit cards you want to accept
  • The template and PHP structure is easy to understand
  • It has a light footprint thereby making it accessible for shared hosting environments
  • Zen Cart has a friendly forum and an extremely active development team.

Zen Cart’s website describes it as a state of the art, free and user friendly open source shopping cart software developed by a group of like-minded shop owners, programmers, designers, and consultants. T According to the developers of Zen Cart, some shopping cart solutions seem to be complicated, but the actual need is to put the need of the users of the shopping cart software first.

The following table takes a quick look at various advantages and disadvantages of Magento vis-à-vis Zen Cart.


Zen Cart

  • Multi-Store Capable
  • Nice default template
  • Coding based on latest PHP 5 Object oriented coding standards
  • Has no licensing fees
  • Stable version
  • Can be installed and set-up by anyone with the most basic web site building and computer skills.
  • Already carries many contributions from OSCommerce
  • Heavy layering with overly complicated coding style
  • Estimate of 2 – 5 x more burden on budget for customization comparing it with other carts
  • Limited technical documentation
  • OSCommerce contributions must be converted to Zen Cart first
  • Some people complain that Zen Cart has a Cumbersome Admin interface

Therefore, which shopping cart software to use is finally up to the user. Both are strong in some areas, but weak in others. As an ecommerce businessman, the choice of the final shopping cart solution depends upon the type of business you run and the market you wish to serve. A lot also depends upon whether you are an entrepreneur wishing to target a specific market or a major business with wider plans.

Harshal Mazmudar

Harshal is working as a digital marketing manager at Krish Technolabs, uses the web to drive online visibility and generate leads that have resulted in huge ecommerce success. His incessant hunger to outperform is the real drive that keeps him competitive in the online hemisphere.

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