The Good – PrestaShop is a little different animal compared to most eCom solutions. It’s free software you download and install on your own server and includes enough features for any mid-size to large business to get their store up and running. And since you’re hosting it yourself, it gives you absolute control of your store. It also has a very established developer base and tons of add-ons to increase the functionality of your store.
The Bad – You’ll need to install it yourself or pay them (or someone you know) to install it for you. (Many hosting companies will auto-install the platform for free.) As can be expected, many of the features are paid add-ons. The control panel and set-up process could be a little intimating for the novice or first time business owner. Being open-source, you need to watch out for bugs and conflicts when installing modules.
Cool Features – It’s app store. This thing literally has thousands of add-ons and templates and you can pretty much find any design you want and/or “app” to customize your online store with the exact features you want.
Store Set-Up and Design
Setting up your store is a little different with PrestaShop. Within the cart they provide you access to some very modern and well designed (responsive, HTML 5) themes. You can purchase one of their featured themes, visit their app store to purchase a standard theme or purchase one through a third-party vendor like themeforest.net. Believe us, you won’t be lacking in choices here. The theme typically comes in a .zip file that can be easily uploaded through the control panel. Once you have uploaded your theme, you can begin the customization process.
NOTE: Be sure to use themes from well-established vendors who have a proven track record of creating bug-free themes and provide customer support. We’ve come across a number of less than satisfied users who ended up trashing PrestaShop simply because they used a buggy theme.
The customization tools they provide you are very robust. You can really make any change to the site you want. Seriously… any. change. And you can make these changes in multiple ways. If you’re more comfortable with “point and click” environments, use the “Live Configurator” or “Live Edit”. For our purposes, we found the standard tools to be enough for us to customize it to the look and feel we wanted. Additionally, they provide tools that allow you to customize your mobile site and even make customization by language. Add logos, icons, favicons, change colors, add / remove side bars, change invoice logos and more.
PrestaShop has a couple of features that the advanced eCommerce store builder will really appreciate. One is something called “Hooks”. According to their documentation “Hooks are a way to associate your code to some specific PrestaShop events. Most of the time, they are used to insert content in a page.” And while we don’t want to oversimplify the power of this tool, getting into too much detail is outside of the scope of this review. That said, “Hooks” can really help you customize your store in many different ways.
Overall, PrestaShop has some of the most powerful design tools we’ve seen within a shopping cart software. Learning the intricacies of their tools can be daunting, but serious store owners will appreciate the flexibility they provide.
The base tools that PrestaShop provides from a marketing perspective are fairly robust, but you can really pump-up and customize your features using their add-ons (they call them Modules). With the base cart you can find popular tools like coupons, and quantity discounts… along with a few others. But if you really want to turn your store into a marketing powerhouse, head to their marketplace. Here you’ll find modules like product reviews, product comments, customer follow-ups, newsletters, affiliate program, abandon cart reminders, Google remarketing, loyalty programs, Geo IP mapping, maps, social sharing, social reviews, advanced SEO tools, banner ads, POS and more. Additionally if you can’t find it in their marketing place, odds are you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for by doing a simple Google search. Many companies (including PrestaShop) have developer modules for the cart and odds are you’ll find what you need for your business.
Keep in mind most of these are paid modules so while you’ll be able to customize the cart to meet your needs, you’ll be paying up front to purchase these customizations.
Do you plan to market to customer overseas? PrestaShop provides one of the most robust localization modules we’ve seen. You can download localization packs for just about every country and configure those packs are you like. They also offer a number of different modules (Including Google Translate) for localizing to different countries. The ZippyCart team considers this a huge advantage in today’s growing global economy.
Since PrestaShop is hosted on your servers, becoming PCI compliant is your responsibility. Please do not skip this important, mandatory security step. We looked in their forums for information regarding compliance and it most of the comments referred business to third-party compliance companies for certification. For the most part, getting certified through a third-party isn’t a big deal, but it should be noted and taken care of immediately.
Additionally, since you’ll be hosting PrestaShop, you’ll be required to purchase your own SSL through your hosting company or through a SSL vendor. All of these costs add up!
PrestaShop is feature rich as it gets and will give you all you need to successfully manage your products. It really does provide you everything including product variations, inventory by variant, product combinations, sale pricing, multiple images, customizations, supplier and much more. And while the beginner will have a bit of a learning curve, the experience user be happy with what they provide.
As with most areas of within PrestaShop, you can improve and automate product manage through their marketplace. Some interesting modules we found include: advanced search, mass product edit tools, mass order update, bar code generator, Amazon bulk import and much more.
Have a lot of products in your store? You’ll really want to consider using one of the many mass import/export/edit product tools they offer. The ZippyCart team has personally worked with a number of them and we feel this tool can really take quite a bit of work off your plate.
Customer support is forum-based unless you upgrade to one of their paid support plans. We found the user manual to be very good and the community based forums to have decent participation from both users and the PrestaShop staff. Prefer videos? Just do a quick search on YouTube and you should be able to find what you’re looking for.
PrestaShop has a very large user base and you’ll find a lot of feedback about the application by doing a quick search on Google. While generally the reviews have been very positive, we’ve notice a couple consist complaints in the negative reviews that should be noted.
- It’s Buggy – While we didn’t notice any glaring bugs in our review, we only looked at the core product and didn’t download any templates. Many of the modules and templates are written by third-party developers who may have sketchy testing procedures. Additionally, it’s almost impossible to test for every module combination. Our recommendation is to build your store slowly and run a testing environment in parallel with your live store.
- It’s Complex – As outlined in our review, we don’t recommend PrestaShop for the eCommerce start-up. While we believe they’ve done a good job laying out and explaining the features, some of them really are complex. Our recommendation is to try the free demo they have on the site and drawn your own conclusions.
- Issues With Modules – While we can assume PrestaShop thoroughly tests the modules they develop, you need to be cautious of the ones developed by third-party developers. And be especially careful when adding modules to your store. As mentioned above, it would be virtually impossible to test for every scenario with PrestaShop, so make sure you have a testing environment before adding new ones.
Have a little bit of eCommerce experience under your belt and ready to move to the next level? Then PrestaShop is a solid choice. While its out-of-the-box features are impressive, the modules allow you to customize your store to a whole new level. This software is not for beginners and we recommend it for mid-size to large stores. Additionally, we advice planning out which modules you’ll be taking advantage of to get the true cost of your store.