CoreCommerce vs ZenCart vs Shopp: Battle of the eCommerce Softwares

If you’re as OCD as me, you find it hard to find really good software with really good code and an equally good interface. Also, if you’re on a budget like me (and who isn’t these days?) you hate paying for software, so you tend to stick with whatever’s free.

I don’t do many eCommerce sites, but when I do they are ALWAYS a pain. I would normally download the newest copy of ZenCart and then proceed to rip out my hair and charge clients double to skin it. I also tried Shopp for WordPress, thinking something that would integrate with WP had to be easy to use. I was wrong.

Six months ago, I had a client who wanted a nice shopping cart that was easy to use. I decided not to go with ZenCart or Shopp this time and to try out a company I’d heard about from a close friend, who make a shopping cart called CoreCommerce. While CoreCommerce isn’t free, it blew my mind so much with it’s awesomeness that I decided to make them my official shopping cart providers from then on. Let’s take a look at what makes ZenCart, Shopp and CoreCommerce so different, and the ups and downs to each.


zc2ZenCart was started in 2003 and is based on osCommerce. Developers tend to have a love/hate relationship with this software. They love this software because:

  • It’s a fully functional shopping cart that has jslust about everything every other cart has – but it’s free.
  • The website has great documentation and even a wiki

Free? We love free right? Wrong. I’m sure every developer who’s worked with ZenCart can tell you how much it makes them want to dump programming for pottery, or something less threatening to the remaining hair left on their head. For the one real good thing about ZenCart, there’s a slew of bad things:

  • The worst of all: the software is majorly BLOATED. There’s a gazillion files to it and it takes years sometimes to figure out where one thing is hidden under 3000 directories.
  • No real tech support since it’s open source
  • Somewhat boggy on the server
  • Takes forever to upload to server


sp2I ran into Shopp for WordPress when a client came to me with it already installed on his website. I couldn’t find any information about the developers or the program itself on their website. So we’ll dive right into the pros:

  • Easy to install since it was a wordpress plugin

Other than that, the software bombed for me. Why?

  • The worst of all: Buggy. Nothing worked right and I had to pay a programmer to fix a bunch of it.
  • Cost $55
  • Crappy documentation. Couldn’t find any basic help files on their site, even after searching forums, which I hate to do. It looks like they updated their site with some support areas now, but it’s still a pain in the rear to find what I’m looking for (like an about section)
  • Not very many customization options in the WordPress backend.
  • Lacks a bunch of basic features.

I’m not sure if ZenCart or Shopp was worse in my experience. I think ZenCart had an excuse since it was free. Shopp however, did not, since I paid a hefty price for it.


cc2CoreCommerce is made by SumEffect, who in 2001 came out with their first cart, digiShop. They’re located south of Nashville, in Franklin, which makes them local to me (not that that really matters – it’s just cool.) I find their prices not too hard to deal with after all their benefits:

  • The best thing: it took me 2 seconds to figure out how to skin the cart. You only see the template files, so you never have to dig through a bunch of junk
  • Free trial for 15 days. I like the fact they let you see if you are going to like the software or not before you spend a chunk of money on it.
  • They host the cart for you on RackSpace.
  • No installation of anything or even FTP uploads, it’s already set up for you.
  • Awesome free phone, email and IM support. They fix bugs quickly and even offer emergency 24 hour support. The guys there are very awesome and helpful.
  • Social media integration.
  • Very zippy between pages.
  • Nice layout, new versions are in very clean, semantic HTML code.
  • All the files are hosted on their servers, so when thy upgrade, it upgrades your cart automatically.
  • You can suggest new features that they sometimes integrate in new versions.

Of course, nothing is perfect and neither are they. There are a few minor things that bug me such as:

  • It’s not free, prices depend on what package you select (yeah so I’m cheap)
  • Since all files are hosted on their server, you can only change template files, therefor no heavy php modification to the actual workings of the cart.
  • Some of their old templates are still in tables – but I’m told they’re busy converting them.
  • Their backend admin can be a bit overwhelming at first look for non-tech savvy clients.

If you’re wanting to do heavy modification to a cart, and/or don’t want to pay a monthly fee or have it hosted for you, SumEffect still offers their first cart called digiShop, starting at $350.

I haven’t tried Volusion or osCommerce, but I’ve heard some nasty things about them. I’ve yet to hear anyone really complain about CoreCommerce and I’ve done several sites with them already. I tell the agencies I work with to check them out, as the price is definitely worth avoiding the headache.

Have you have any experiences with shopping carts? Who were they and how was it?