open source vs

Here is something you might not be fully aware of: the terms 'shopping cart' and 'e-commerce platform' are used interchangeably online. There are article titles that indicate shopping carts will be compared, and then the writer jumps right in and writes about e-commerce platforms.

I am sure you will agree with me that they are not the same. Shopping carts are software that enables buying and paying; e-commerce platforms are more comprehensive, enabling a shopping experience, markets, product displays, data analytics, and much more.

In this article, we will focus on shopping carts, what they are and why online merchants need them. Then we will go into the difference between hosted and open-source solutions.

What is a website shopping cart?

A shopping cart is a software that facilitates selling and shopping. Integrated into a website, the software allows shoppers and website visitors to select items for purchase on the front side and allows businesses to sell and bill for those products on the back end.

The software acts as a digital storefront, complete with an image of a shopping cart where shoppers can put their purchases. But the software does much more than that. It arranges everything to do with orders, billing, payments, and shipping.

Essentially, you can't run an online store without a shopping cart.

Shoppers put their chosen items in the shopping cart, and the shopping cart will hold and save all their choices, and prompt them to follow the steps to complete the purchase.

A shopping cart displays information like

  • Product image
  • Price
  • Quantity
  • Size
  • Delivery and return information
  • Payment options

The role of an online shopping cart

The purpose of a shopping cart is to enable sales on a website. A shopping cart comprises front-end and back-end functionalities. The front end is what customers see. It should be visually appealing and easy to navigate, so a customer knows exactly what to do to make a purchase.

On the back end, the shopping cart features enable selling by storing products, data, and order details, accepting payments, calculating tax and shipping costs, and handling order fulfilment.

A website shopping cart is one aspect of an e-commerce store with specific features and functions to enable buying and selling. A website shopping cart is either add-on software or comes integrated with an e-commerce platform. For instance, the Shopify platform has its own shopping carts, so many people refer to Shopify as a shopping card, but it's much more than a shopping cart.

Shopify is an e-commerce platform, not just a shopping cart.

An e-commerce platform fulfils many more functions, including marketing campaigns. So, if you want to run an online store, it's important to understand that there's a distinction between basic shopping carts and e-commerce platforms.

Open-source vs hosted shopping carts

There are two main types of e-commerce shopping carts, namely hosted shopping cart solutions and open-source shopping cart systems.

Open-source shopping cart

An open-source shopping cart is a software for which the original source code is freely available to modify. With an open-source shopping cart, store owners don’t have to pay a licensing fee, yet they have complete control of their website by being able to work with the source code.

Open-source shopping carts are completely customizable. Website owners have more control over the functionality and design of the shopping cart, but this freedom comes with the need for more technical resources to implement and maintain the site. Some open-source e-commerce solutions are Magento, OpenCart, WooCommerce, and PrestaShop.


Hosted shopping cart

On the other hand, a hosted shopping cart is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. These are shopping cart or e-commerce platform solutions hosted and maintained by a third party. Shopify is a good example. Shopify store owners don't have to download a separate plugin; the shopping cart is integrated into the e-commerce platform and available on the cloud, the same as the rest of the store.

The shop owner is not responsible for data security, server backups, maintenance, or upgrades – the SaaS provider provides these. This is the reason why a hosted shopping cart is very popular with people who don't want to be bothered by these issues.

Some hosted e-commerce solutions are Shopify, 3DCart, BigCommerce, and Squarespace.

Open-source vs hosted shopping carts – the pros & cons

Open-source shopping cart software


Open-source shopping cart software is popular because it

  • Allows users to make an adjustment to their website without paying for it.
  • Gives store owners the ability to create a custom shopping cart to match the look of their e-commerce site.
  • Enables store owners with limited funds to run an e-commerce site with a shopping cart.
  • Most open-source solutions offer an extensive support system and resources.
  • The software is free.


For the full picture, consider

  • To run an open-source shopping cart, you need to be a programmer with the patience and knowledge to deal with the CSS and HTML.
  • If you don't have the necessary skills, you must be able to afford the services of developers.
  • You will be responsible for the security and data safety of your website.
  • Even though the software is free, you will find yourself needing and paying for upgrades and additional features, which can all add up.

Hosted shopping cart software


Hosted shopping car software is popular because it

  • Includes hosting, automatic upgrades, and security upgrades.
  • You don't require servers.
  • The host will take care of security concerns.
  • Requires no technical or specialized web development skills.
  • Comes with full technical support.
  • Is user-friendly.


For the full picture, consider:

  • The custom features are limited.
  • You can't add a custom or non-standard enhancement.
  • You'll be reliant on technology and customer support.
  • Not suitable for non-standard stores.
  • It may end up being expensive as there are a lot of indirect costs.

Which framework is best for your shopping cart?

Basically, when you have to choose between a hosted and an open-source shopping cart solution, you are choosing between solutions that are either easy to use but limiting or customizable but too complex.

The choice will depend on your goals, your skills, and your budget. If you want a basic store with a few products that can work with an integrated shopping cart, then you should go for a hosted solution, especially if you have a limited budget.


If you plan to have a big online store selling many products, and you can afford to employ technical staff, you might get more satisfaction from an open-source solution.


Making the right choice between a hosted shopping cart solution and an open-source solution is important because it will make a difference to your store and customers. The right shopping cart solution will make the shopping cart experience seamless for customers, leading to more sales.

Also, the right software will prevent shopping cart abandonment, which affects the store's bottom line.

If you are planning to migrate your store to another platform, you can make use of the e-commerce migration services of Cart2Cart. Cart2Cart is an automated shopping cart migration service that follows a sound e-commerce migration strategy to ensure safe and secure data migration for online store owners.