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eCommerce Engines Popularity Trends – Magento vs. osCommerce

It's not a secret to anyone that osCommerce faced with a serious rival over the past couple of years – that is Magento. The stats prove that Magento ecommerce solution is incredibly and orderly growing in its popularity. This shopping cart was downloaded over 2 million times by now and is being used by 30,000 merchants.

Magento draws over more and more customers including world-known companies such as 20th Century Fox, Nestlé Nespresso, Nokia, Olympus,, Samsung, Skype etc. But despite this fact osCommerce doesn't seem to be declining at all. What are the hidden tricks of its success and why do some groups of customers still prefer good old osCommerce?

We've stumbled upon an interesting material - the DoNanza Work-From-Home Market Trends Report, which really is awesome, we suggest you to take a look at it. Anyways, we've traced some common trends of demand for the most desired shopping carts.

First and foremost let's observe the general Google trends statistics regarding osCommerce, Magento, VirtueMart, Prestashop and Zen Cart:

Observing the Google Trends statistics we can see the stable growth of the audience interest towards Magento while OsCommerce and VirtueMart seem to be declining a little bit starting spring 2011. VirtueMart loses its ground systematically but insignificantly. It is quite specific and seems to be more often used by small businesses that are familiar with the Joomla Backend. Zen Cart cannot boast of any boost in customers' activity whatsoever, its position is permanently lower.

It's interesting to observe demand trends for top two rivals in the ecommerce field: osCommerce and Magento.

Demand trends for Magento and osCommerce according to

In the DoNanza report that we've already mentioned we've seen the rivalry among e-Commerce platforms and noticed that Magento is obviously the most popular platform used by ecommerce businesses. And this is not surprising since Magento has taken all best features from osCommerce and included the lacking functionalities, but based it all on other platform.

According to DoNanza data, Magento leads the market with 43% of freelance projects, while osCommerce projects have a 20% share. This number is quite high taking into consideration all its imperfections. Professionals find Magento secure and peerless, while rookies are somewhat hesitant about Magento being too complicated to work with.

Liran Kotzer, DoNanza's CEO states that “Magento project budgets are stable, growing by 12% as the market seems to meet demand for Magento development”.

Magento budgets are larger than osCommerce budgets, as apparently there are less Magento-cart developers than required. According to the statistics provided by DoNanza, osCommerce Developer Demand has demonstrated a 14% growth comparing to the rate of Q4 2010, while Magento developer demand is 26% higher. On the average, Magento projects' budgets are 19% higher than osCommerce projects.

According to Arie Shpanya, CEO of imOnline, an E-Commerce Consultancy, the E-Commerce platform market is typically divided into three: enterprise level solutions, which cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars per site, typically used by sites that have annual sales above $10M, "No touch" platforms used for small retailers, typically sites that sell less than several thousand dollars a year and are based on solutions such as Amazon Webstores, yahoo stores and other. The third platform category is the Small to Mid-Sized Segment, generally considered as retailers selling anything between several hundreds of thousands of dollars and $5M per year.

It's apparent that Magento is more popular among the owners of large stores that need multi-store functionality, extended SEO and Marketing options, multi-language and multi-image support etc. And logically enough, the price for the complex Magento projects will be considerably higher than the price for the “lighter” osCommerce projects.

Demand trends for TemplateMonster E-commerce products

As you know it, we provide a range of eCommerce products - the templates for some of major shopping carts - osCommerce templates, Magento themes, VirtueMart templates, PrestaShop themes and Zen Cart templates. And since using the design themes is an essential part of setting up an eCommerce store, the demand stats are also very useful in terms of understanding the eCommerce engines popularity trends. So we've asked the guys from TemplateMonster Marketing dept. to share some of the sales data.

According to the data of TemplateMonster Marketing Dept, the demand for osCommerce products is set and stable, the number of sales isn't decreasing so vividly. This could be explained by the engine age and reputation. Many customers have simply got used to this familiar shopping cart after years of working with it and that's why they're not very much eager to switch to another platform.

The demand for Magento templates has grown immediately after the launch of this product and keeps growing this spring. The trend is pretty much similar to the popularity trend of the engine itself - it has quickly emerged, gained popularity and keeps on its solid growth.

VirtueMart and PrestaShop are less global than the two giants mentioned above, these next ones are rather niche ecommerce products. The demand for these templates is also constantly increasing because they perfectly suit their specific goals. Often these themes are being used for small stores, while osCommerce and Magento can be applied more widely and are being purchased for building huge stores.

Therefore, demand for VirtueMart and PrestaShop templates is not as imposing as for Magento and osCommerce ones, but still the sales of VirtueMart and Magento themes keep growing.

So, with all that said, we've studied the abovementioned common trends, compared them with TemplateMonster observations and outlined the following factors impacting the demand behavior for two top major shopping carts - Magento and osCommerce:

    1. Hosting and Installation

The warning about the hosting issue is scattered over many eCommerce-related forums and blogs on the net as if it were the fundamental feature allowing to decide what shopping cart to choose. osCommerce is supported on any web hosting package. The only requirements for web server are PHP and MySQL that need to be installed, but these two are present on all kind of hosting. It doesn't matter if you need to host a small or a big business website, any hosting package will meet osCommerce requirements. And this surely meets encouragement from many average customers who are not familiar with its code or other technical nuances and just want to set up their store with affordable hosting.

Magento in its turn requires dedicated servers from particular hosting companies in order to run fast shops. Obviously, recommended Magento hosting would be more expensive. OsCommerce is getting an edge in this case since the shared web hosting account is enough for this shopping cart.

As for installation, some people who got used to osCommerce platform state that it's easier to install. The others argue that Magento is quite user-friendly and is also easy to install. The truth is actually somewhere in the middle: Magento is really effortless to install and manage in case you have an idea of how to do it properly or use some Magento installation tutorials. Some companies even offer auto-installation of Magento directly from their website on your server. What we think is that osCommerce installation and Magento installation may have their own tweaks, and it's just a matter of what you're used to. If you're not used to any of those, we suggest you to start learning the Magento installation peculiarities, this engine kinda looks more prospective.

    1. User-friendliness and Functionality

The features Magento offers differ depending on the free or paid application version. On the whole Magento is proud of some essential features including analytics integration, wish lists, great variety of payment methods, multiple images for products, multi-store functions, advanced product filter search and advanced customer service, helpful promotional tools and much more.

Recently Magento have released the world's first mobile commerce platform:

You can effortlessly follow up the orders, shipment and deliveries, while osCommerce cannot be proud of such features without add-ons and modules.

The major features osCommerce lack in comparison to Magento are spreadsheet database, multiple product images, coupons, graphic template system, different pricing per customer groups, Google Checkout, Paypal Pro, SEO Tools for meta tags and URLs, One Page Checkout, Multi-Store Support etc. Magento makes it possible to operate several online stores through a single administration dashboard. And all these features make osCommerce less functional and popular today. On one hand, that's looks pretty damn bad for osCommerce, but in fact these features only matter if you're running a big store. One of the reasons why it is still so popular is its established community and open source nature, since you may find a great variety of modules for some of these features.

According to the developers reviews osCommerce code is a real mess and the back-end looks like it was coded in the 90's. Other web gurus state that Magento is too set in stone while osCommerce code is quite flexible in case you have some coding skills. Again, that's a matter of individual preferences of every particular store owner/developer.

All Magento stores can be customized according to the user needs and has no parallel in terms of flexibility and user-friendliness. The process of downloading and installation is quick and easy. Since Magento is a comparatively new application, there are not so many good Magento developers. Such developers should combine a rare set of skills such design, client side programming and server side programming, and it's not easy to find a nice combination of all three skills.

    1. Pricing policy and Security. Free vs. Paid Shopping Carts

The major reason why many store owners still opt for osCommerce is because it is a free open source solution (even though Magento is also free for download, osCommerce reputation is better associated with the spirit of open-source). But experienced merchants are aware about the lack of security in free shopping carts, especially if they're as old as osCommerce. Free ecommerce applications are more vulnerable and may face the risk of being hacked. Their credit card numbers are not safe and customers often switch to Magento, which is still considered safer than osCommerce, even though Magento is also free. So Magento is better in case the store owners don't want to bother about workarounds such as a server with Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology which costs a lot. Another feature required for security is PCI compliance which is available only with a special module for osCommerce. So it is apparent that Magento is a winner in the security rivalry.

Magento presents the developer Community version that is free of charge, Enterprise and Professional versions with a yearly cost. These versions include additional features and support.

Among the features that are appreciated by the customers the most, Magento Professional offers high Graphic & Store Optimization, 3 months of free support, up to 10 pages, Flash Work, animations, high W3C Standards and Validations and enhanced data encryption, Reward Points module, Customer Store Credit module, expensive stock images and 3 Custom Payment Gateways. This package is available at the minimal price of $2995/year.

Even though the developer Community version (let's just call it the free one) can't boast of any abovementioned features, this version is still quite fine for 99% of customers which are not going crazy about technical gadgets.

The most sophisticated version is Enterprise edition and includes the medium W3C Standards and Validations as well as other improved features (you may find in details on the Magento official website). This version is obviously oriented towards big stores that require a lot of customization work and extended functionality. So obviously this is the most expensive version - $12,990/year.

So the majority of medium and small businesses find the Community version more than sufficient. But the fact you may build the store based on the free version doesn't mean you will pay less for the website development if you hire a webmaster. There are not so many professional Magento specialists, and this makes the average Magento project price higher if compared with osCommerce.

    1. Community Issue

osCommerce can boast of its innumerable Development Community partners gathered over the years of the engine's presence on the market, and this is the major secret behind the great and stable popularity of this open source ecommerce platform. osCommerce seems to have been specifically designed for merchants, and it's natural for the cart to have a strong community considering its simple framework. It doesn't matter how many customers complain about “spaghetti code” of this platform, the merchants still use it since they don't sell code, they sell goods with their stores. And the large community makes it easy to find the proper modules and plug-ins for the shopping cart.

Magento is also developing its community but it stands to the reason that it is less powerful and authoritative than osCommerce one. Still, at the moment when this article was published there were 1808 online users on their forum, which is quite a great index.

So, what are we saying?

Taking all the aforesaid into consideration, we can summarize that Magento has taken its best from osCommerce and has enhanced its weak sides. Both shopping carts are open source ecommerce solutions but since Magento is a new one, it is regularly updated and improved. Being quite old, osCommerce doesn't offer many new updates. OsCommerce has a huge stable community which supports the users and brings more modules and add-ons every month. But speaking about security terms, Magento is an incontestable leader.

The reason why the majority of new ecommerce companies opt for Magento is that it offers full control of the web store and enables the store owner to set, manage, design and customize the look and feel of the e-store. The interaction between the store and its customers is greatly enhanced, and intuitively clear back-end makes it easier to manage the store. Besides, it offers Marketing and Promotion tools and makes the experienced and sophisticated clients to opt for Magento.

The average project price is higher for Magento, since obviously it is more complicated and there are less Magento professionals, but it is justified by the quality of the shopping cart.

It is expected that old e-stores will remain osCommerce-based, and the community will always bring new not so picky customers, while new IT-educated store owners will eagerly start building their stores with Magento. That is how the rivalry is going to be balanced.

And of course it's always interesting for us to know your thoughts and observations on this issue. Perhaps, you have noticed some other trends in using e-commerce applications? What e-commerce platform would you find more applicable for your needs and why? Let us know in the comments!