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Businesses looking to introduce an internet-facing storefront need to choose an e-commerce tool that offers customers a way to browse products and make purchases online, and many benefit from open source e-commerce products.
However, open source e-commerce platforms are not right for every company, and choosing to implement one should involve careful consideration of all the pros and cons.
Pros of open source e-commerce
The most notable benefit of open source e-commerce is the availability of free or low-cost products. Open source e-commerce tools such as Reaction Commerce and OpenCart are shopping cart systems that businesses can integrate with e-commerce websites and are available for free. Open source platforms enable organizations to customize e-commerce capabilities to fit their needs -- something a commercial tool may not offer.
Another benefit of open source platforms is flexible e-commerce hosting. This enables businesses to select where to host a platform and who manages it. For example, a company can designate its internal IT or web team to support the entire platform in any hosting organization they choose, such as A2 Hosting.
Open source is also beneficial to organizations with a need to integrate an existing ERP platform such as SAP. Commercial products often don't offer the option to customize the connector between ERP and e-commerce, and open source enables developers to create custom connectors.
Cons of open source e-commerce
However, there are also downsides to using open source products.
Finding support for the different free e-commerce platforms can be challenging and ultimately affect customer service. For most open source tools, support is available through community-based forums, where developers post issues and contributors provide input about possible solutions. However, if there is a bug in the system, there may not be a service team to support businesses, and customers will not be able to complete purchases.
Moreover, open source tools are often the result developers collaborating and contributing their free time to build the product. When working on this type of project, developers may rely on the end users to essentially be the product testers, using their code in various scenarios.
Companies must also understand security risks when considering an open source platform. With the full source code available online, hackers can easily identify potential exploits and use them to target clients, which puts them at a much higher risk for data breaches.