I’ll frankly admit it. I hadn’t heard about PrestaShop before. Though this endeavor got started in 2007 already and even won prices for Best Open-source Business Application in 2010 and 2011, it managed to fly under my radar for all these years. Which is a pity, because had I known PrestaShop earlier, I wouldn’t have broken my wings trying to make a row of competitors work to my satisfaction. But as we all know, it’s never too late. Let me show you that creating an online store in 2015 has never been easier. Learn from my example and look at PrestaShop now, not in a few years. Here’s what makes it stand out from the crowd…
PrestaShop: Where Free Doesn’t Mean Free Teaser
We’ve all been there before. Someone claims something to be free. Then you take a closer look only to find out that what’s free in it is so little that as a product it isn’t fully usable. These free teasers are quite common in the software industry. Even with Open Source that has business models attached, oftentimes the free parts of the solution are too little to fully manage the task intended. Of course could you buy the additional features. But in my humble opinion, a free solution should always be as free enough as to be able to accomplish the tasks it promises to accomplish without having to buy additional offerings.
PrestaShop is one of these rather rare specimen who actually do. With PrestaShop, you can run a complete online shop with all vital functionality without shelling out a single cent. Of course, does the company behind PrestaShop hope you’ll want your online shop to be able to do more things than just reliably sell your goods to the customer.
Should you need more than the most common ways of payment, should you want to use your shop for customer relationship, with awards, coupons, blogs and more, then you’ll be the kind of customer that makes PrestaShop a living. The same is true should you need a professional theme for your shop or professional guidance in the form of video trainings and other. PrestaShop’s App Store bundles all the free and non-free additions to your PrestaShop experience under one single website, giving you access to over 5,000 modules and themes.
Looking at the number 5,000 might leave you skeptical as to what I said earlier. But as soon as you actually scroll through the thousands of modules, you’ll find assurance that the concept is just right. Do you need a module for ISBN products? Buy it. Do you want to integrate with Amazon Marketplace? Buy the module. Do you want to be able to remind your potential customers that they abandoned their shopping carts? There’s a module for that.
This module-based construction kit allows you to tailor your individual online shop feature set to what you dream your online shop to be able to do while the core functionality stays solid and sufficient. Compare the shop around the corner to the city center mall. Both sell goods, but the shop around the corner needs no moving staircase that is vital for the mall. Thus, the mall pays for it; the shop around the corner doesn’t. While this example might be a bit slope, the essence of it should become clear.
PrestaShop: Download or Cloud
In the past, using PrestaShop came with a twist (to some). It was free, but it was only available as a download, needing to get reuploaded to your webspace and be installed from there. If you were not the technically savvy kind, you’d at least have to hire someone able to do all the necessary things to get your online shop up and running. Thus, the free model wasn’t actually for everyone.
Today you can still download the complete script for free and have it running on your webspace. But, you could also opt for the cloud-based PrestaShop. PrestaShop in the cloud is an online shop completely preinstalled and hosted on PrestaShop’s servers. All you have to do is to customize the design and other parameters, add your products and be up and running – no technical service providers needed.
Unbelievably the cloud-based iteration of PrestaShop is as free as the download variant is. Compared to the self-hosted version there are only two downsides. You’ll have no access to the source code, and you’ll have no SQL access to the database. I refuse to call those downsides even, as these are intrinsic to the concept. Having PrestaShop preinstalled and ready to run without any fiddling with technology is a big advantage to the average shop owner.
Switching between the two variants is not possible though. If you decide to go with one of them, there is no easy path to change that decision. It’s more a question of philosophy and your personal feeling of security. If you keep your money below the sheets instead of leaving it in your bank account, the cloud version will not be your choice. Legal reasons might also push you to use the self-hosted solution. Check the laws in your country to make sure you don’t run into problems just because you made the wrong choice. Look at this decision helper over at PrestaShop.
You should keep in mind that a lot but not all offers from the App Store will also be available to use with the cloud-based PrestaShop. Having checked legal compliance, the next step would be curating your mandatory individual modules that are inevitable to omit. If all that fits, there’s no one holding you back from setting up your cloud store with PrestaShop.
PrestaShop’s Large Feature Set in a Nutshell
As I already mentioned, PrestaShop is actually free and not just a free teaser. You can use it internationally with its support for 65 languages and its possibility to customize currencies, taxes, units, shipping rates, preferred carriers and even specific warehouses chosen according to customized zones. The shop software comes with more than 310 built-in features. This broad feature set not only includes basic features for selling goods online, but also key features to help optimize conversion rates, maximize productivity and more.
As PrestaShop is open for developers, you as a savvy developer are able to create whichever seamlessly integrable module you or your customers might need atop the PrestaShop foundation.
PrestaShop comes with a modern design line of themes and is prepared to function great on mobile devices. Whether you want to highlight sales, marketing campaigns or give customers a quick glimpse of the product on hover, all this doesn’t mean additional effort.
Vital to the success of each online store are two features where PrestaShop really shines: Search and Navigation. PrestaShop allows you to create an accessible, professional navigation menu that leaves nothing to be desired. The search and filter feature helps your customers effectively search your product base, then filter the results down by customizable attributes such as price, color, manufacturer or whatever parameter you might come up with.
While presenting a competitive store front is important and vital to the success on the customer side of your shop, offering a powerful and modern backend to help you conduct your business from is not less crucial. PrestaShop also scintillates in this regard. Its backend is hands down the most comprehensible and intuitive dashboard I have ever been able to get ahold of. Whether you want to manage products, orders, customers and more, or you are keen to see the brilliant analytics PrestaShop delivers, the back office also leaves nothing to be desired.
More than 200,000 shop owners have already turned to PrestaShop. Customer satisfaction is extremely high. I have seen very few complaints throughout the web, most of which were related to some personal misperception and not connected to actual software flaws.
If you are thinking about starting an online shop or switching to a different solution PrestaShop is definitely worth evaluating. Try it and judge for yourself!
Dieter Petereit is a veteran of the web with over 25 years of experience in the world of IT. As soon as Netscape became available he started to do what already at that time was called web design and has carried on ever since. Two decades ago he started writing for several online publications, some well, some lesser known. You can meet him over on Google+.