eCommerce wars: Magento vs osCommerce

We are undoubtedly in times of fiscal ruin. Whole countries are going bust (how does that even happen?) and there is an impending sense of stagflation, or worse, deflation in the air…or even relegation if you are George Dub-ya.

“…Let’s stick to what we know, then, and make cut backs: no investment for a while, let’s just ride it out…” might say a chief decision maker whom, in doing so, will ensure his business only treads water for the foreseeable future.

There’s no need to be so afraid: online sales have allegedly grown this year, as reported over at the Office for National Statistics.

‘…The volume of retail sales increased by 0.9% in October, higher than analysts’ predictions of 0.3%. This represents the biggest monthly rise since November last year.

The highest three-monthly growth was in non-store retailing, which grew by 3.3% from August to October. According to the ONS, this reflects increased sales growth by internet retailers…’

Tapping into that market in the UK is one thing, and is to be commended in the current clime, but shoving open your cyber door to international sales is the really cute move. And, what’s more, it requires only marginally more effort and financial outlay to do so than for solely a UK market.

There are many off-the-shelf ecommerce packages available, but for large and heavily stocked online sites, we at Web-Translations have tended to use Open Source applications, specifically osCommerce and new code on the block, Magento. But which is the best? Well, we have finally mined our way to the core of this blog post, so let’s begin…

I reason the easiest way to do this is with a comparative table, so here it comes:

Consideration
Weighting (0-10)
OS Commerce
Magento
Support for languages
10
9
8
Features
9
5
9
Look & feel
8
4
9
Ease of maintenance
7
7
6
Modules & contributions
6
8
4
Forum activity
5
8
8
Maturity
4
7
3
Flexibility
3
8
5
Compat. w/ payment gateways
2
8
6
Compat. w/ shipping & couriers
2
7
5
Integration w/ fulfilment systems
2
9
3
Total (score x weighting)
n/a
394
394

osCommerce….

osCommerce has been around a while and, as such, there is a very well established community whom are fairly responsive to any unfathomable problems you may have, should you post within their forums.

There are also innumerable ‘contributions’ or ‘modules’ to be found on the OS site. These are invaluable and mean your site can be as tailored to your needs as you wish and, importantly, are easy to add owing to osCommerce’s flexibility.

Need a CMS on your site? It’s there. Need to make and dispatch money off coupons? Sorted. Want the increasingly popular lightbox effect on your images? All doable. The modules come with clear instructions and, on the whole, are regularly updated with bug fixes so if you get one that’s a few months old, chances are it’ll work just fine.

But the real beauty of osCommerce is in its palpable willingness to be translated and localised into any language. The structure of the site, written in php and using definitions, means all the text you see on an (unhacked!) osCommerce site is handily stored in reference files which contain only plain text for translation, thus minimising the risk of file corruption by an inexperienced web page translator.

Magento

This new and trail blazing package scores highest for its look and feel, features, and ‘translatability’. The back-end is well organised and most bases are thoroughly covered (as against osCommerce which is fairly basic until modules are added) including re-writable URLs which are a must for a well optimised online store.

There is a great range of user experience enhancing features such as ‘related products’, ‘add to wishlist’ and ‘compare products’. In turn, these also benfit the store owner as the time a consumer spends on your site is proportional to the amount they spend. These such functions are all well administrated from the back-end, with cross referencing being much easier than in osCommerce owing to the emphasis placed on SKU numbers.

Magento, too, has something called ‘Store View’ which, although difficult to get ones head around, affords online shop keepers the ability to set up multiple stores, with the same products, at different prices, and even in different languages, all from one admin area.

As for translating a Magento store – many language packs are already available, meaning all the hard coded static content and navigation (add to basket, subscribe to newsletter, invoices, checkout, my basket etc) is good to go at the click of a button (thankfully, all the while keeping the admin area in your native language).

So, if all that wasn’t enough to at least prick your ears up to the fiscal punch you could be packing with a multilingual eCommerce site, then consider this…

As a nation, we spend more on foreign soil – or in foreign cyber space at least – than any other country: an eye watering £2.3 billion in fact. France and Germany are but mere spots on the horizon in comparison, with overseas sales totalling a meagre £857 million. That gap is expected to close so what’s stopping you from becoming a gleeful recipient of that increased foreign spend?

Nothing. Exactly.

This is, by no means, a comprehensive analysis of the different packages out there, rather a discussion of the ones we are most familiar with and have used extensively. I will be sure to add to this as our experiences grow.

In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about Magento or osCommerce, leave a comment below and I promise I’ll get back to you!

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