eCommerce platforms are being commoditized. Enterprise level solutions are coming down in price and new open source solutions are being made available to anyone with an internet connection for free.
The most robust of these open source solutions is OS Commerce (OSC) – a community driven eCommerce solution that is flexible, scalable, and user friendly. As eCommerce becomes even more a part of mainstream retail, OSC will provide businesses of all shapes and sizes with the functionality and capabilities of the big boys. This brief examines some of the advantages of OS Commerce and provides insights into how it can help your business.
There is no such thing as a free lunch.
Maybe so, but you CAN get an eCommerce platform for nothing. Offered for free at http://www.oscommerce.com, this eCommerce solution provides tons of bells and whistles and provides a user friendly interface to manage the administrative portions of the store. The code is based in the PHP scripting language and runs on the Apache web server – a user also needs access to a SQL database to initially upload the files that manage the categories and products within the admin section.
Now that sounds complicated, but really anyone can do it with some concentrated effort. Much of the documentation online regarding OS is very thorough and provides step by step plans on how to get your store up and running. Any newbie to this type of work will likely come across some roadblocks, but the OS Commerce community forums are only a click away to start trouble shooting.
The solution is community driven, meaning that like minded OSCers are ready to help out their peers with answers to posted questions. Yes, at times this can be extremely frustrating waiting for an answer, but it is very rewarding to overcome a technology bug on your own.
Contribute to the Cause
The best part of OSC is the number of contributions that can be added to your site at any time. Again, there is no cost for these enhancements and upgrades – just the need to be patient in your installations. In most cases, contributions are located on the OS commerce community section and are downloadable via zip files. After opening the file, read the “read me” file which will walk you through the file additions, subtractions, and code changes needed to make your enhancement work properly. If you explore the OS platform be sure to upgrade with the following contributions.
Ultimate SEO URL’s by Chemo
This cool contribution allows the site owner to create static URL’s out of a database driven site. This will dramatically help in search saturation as more pages are able to be indexed. Its no secret that search spiders like traditional urls better than ones that are dynamic and this contribution helps achieve that.
No need to input product data manually, this contribution allows you to import data from a basic excel file into your store. A true timesaver!
If you have an ecommerce store – certain products are more attractive to sell than others. This contribution allows you to tailor the featured products that you want to showcase within both your home and category pages.
Final Thoughts on OSC
Myself, I am a marketer. But after learning OS I really feel like I have some programmer blood in me! This platform is easy to use and perfect for a small to medium size business in getting online. Yes, there will be headaches along the way but stay with it and you will overcome them and soon have an ecommerce store to bring you in a new revenue stream.
Craig Smith is the founder of Trinity Insight LLC – a management consulting firm for the E-Commerce sector.