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- Date Established
- Yaroslavl, Russia
- Free to download
- Impressive feature set
- Highly customizable
- Strong user community
- Well-designed UI
- Developer skill required
- Basic design tools
- Expensive customer support
eCommerce platforms are typically available in one of two forms: easy-to-use SaaS solutions or feature-rich open-source software. nopCommerce is the latter. Built on Microsoft’s ASP.NET framework and free to download, the platform is available to anyone with the skills to implement it.
The nopCommerce team is headquartered in Yaroslavl, Russia (and if you happen to know what the “nop” prefix might refer to in Russian, please fill us in!). Since its founding in 2008, nopCommerce has been downloaded over 2.5 million times and powers over 50,000 online stores. These stats have increased significantly since our last update, and we’ll be watching to see if the trend continues. Meanwhile, it seems nopCommerce is popular with good reason. The platform comes with loads of features fresh-out-of-the-box, and it’s all available for free.
However, nopCommerce is certainly not for everyone. In order to best use the software, you need a solid understanding of .NET, MS SQL, HTML, and CSS. You also should be generally into Microsoft-based systems, or else you won’t get very far with nopCommerce. If you don’t have these skills or proclivities, you’ll need to hire someone who does.
Keep reading to find out if nopCommerce is the right platform for your online store. (Oh, and in case you were wondering, the “nop” part rhymes with “pop.” I was saying it wrong in my head at first.)
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Table of Contents
Like most open-source platforms, nopCommerce is free to download and use. However, make sure you also budget for web hosting, themes, add-ons, an SSL certificate, and the cost of any custom development you can’t do yourself. Plus, if you haven’t already, you may need to invest in some Microsoft products to use in conjunction with nopCommerce. Read more on system requirements in the Hardware & Software Requirements section below.
If you require significant assistance using nopCommerce, you can spring for a support plan, which can be very pricey. We’ll discuss this further in the Customer Service section of the review.
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
nopCommerce is downloadable software. However, once you find a web host, you can operate your entire platform in the cloud.
Specific Size Of Business
nopCommerce is typically best for mid-size to large businesses. The main reason I say this is because if you don’t have coding experience, you’ll want to be sure you can hire someone who does. Sellers who are just getting off the ground may need to focus their time and resources elsewhere, so they should probably look into simpler store-building platforms.
Hardware & Software Requirements
Instructions and links for downloading nopCommerce are available on the company website, including a one-click install using Microsoft Web Platform Installer (recall that nopCommerce is a Microsoft-oriented product). Meanwhile, the source code is also available on GitHub. For the most current release of nopCommerce at the time of this writing, here are further technology requirements and supported systems:
- Windows 7 or above
- Windows Server 2008 or above
- Internet Information Service (IIS) 7.0 or above
- .NET Core 2.1 runtime
- Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 or above
- Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 and above
- Mozilla Firefox 2.0 and above
- Google Chrome 1.x
- Apple Safari 2.x
- MS Visual Studio 2017 (version 15.7 or above)
- .NET Core SDK (required to edit source code)
nopCommerce has also partnered with several hosting providers, so you’re welcome to compare the hosting deals from these partnerships to those you find on the open market.
Ease Of Use
If you’re prepared with the proper system requirements, nopCommerce is readily available to download, install, and test. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the demo provided on the nopCommerce website, which gives immediate access to a sample admin and separate storefront. The shared site also resets itself once per hour, so don’t get too attached to any of your own modifications.
Here’s the dashboard I found when I signed into the demo admin:
I was pleased to see that all of the most important features are accessible in the sidebar. More advanced features are organized in drop-down lists within those categories.
When I test ecommerce software, my first course of action is always to add a product. I easily located the “Add a new product” page under “Catalog” and went to work.
First, you can choose to add “Basic” or “Advanced” product information. Further streamlining data entry, you also have the ability to control which fields show up on your basic and advanced pages under “Settings.” That extra little piece of customization aside, here’s what I found on the default basic page:
After entering the basic information, I quickly tried adding some product attributes to a T-shirt that was preloaded into the demo. I added color and size as attributes, and chose multiple values for each:
If I wished, I could then auto-generate all the combinations of those attributes and their values (blue small, blue medium, blue large, and so on) in order to manage further details of each item. I eventually even figured out how to add brand new attributes that weren’t preloaded choices (and by “figured out” I mean I finally noticed the paragraph right in front of my eyeballs that told me exactly how to do it!). All in all, this was a very flexible feature.
Next, I played around with the discount engine, adding a simple 10% off coupon:
Discounts may be applied to specific products or categories. Using the “requirements” settings, you can limit discounts to orders that include a specific product. This feature was serviceable, but by then I’d also seen several discount extensions in the app marketplace that would have given me more complex parameters (BOGO deals, for example).
Everything worked pretty smoothly so far, but I was beginning to bump up against the limitations of the shared demo. The main problem is that there is no storefront preview to view changes you make in the demo control panel. You just have to hope that whatever you tried would have actually worked on your storefront. There is a separate storefront demo you can play around with, but all that shows you is how the default theme operates. It runs completely irrespective of the brilliant work you’ve done (or the stuff you’ve totally screwed up) in the admin demo. So, while I felt I was picking up the nopCommerce admin quite quickly, there’s a chance I was only kidding myself with my newfound nopCommerce skills.
Of course, nopCommerce is more than just a demo of nopCommerce. All I’m saying is that if you’re serious about trying nopCommerce, you’ll need to download it to give it a fair shot. From what I explored, the dashboard itself appears fairly well organized and logical, so it’s potentially easy to use once you install it and begin working with your own copy of the software. You can decide if that’s worth your time and resources.
One of the things merchants love most about nopCommerce is its robust feature set. This cart comes with loads of features right out-of-the-box. Here’s my own summary of the most important features:
- Mobile Commerce: Create a mobile-optimized version of your site.
- Multi-store: List your products on multiple sites using one admin.
- Multi-vendor: Create a marketplace or drop shipping platform of your own and let multiple vendors sell their products on your site. Each vendor has access to a separate admin panel. You, the marketplace owner, manually distribute payments to vendors.
- Product Attributes: List as many product options (and combinations of attributes) as you’d like. Create unique SKUs for each attribute and track stock levels by attribute.
- Custom Fields: Provide empty fields or a file upload option to help shoppers customize products.
- Multiple Images Per Product: Additionally, some nopCommerce themes support image zoom and other advanced viewing features.
- Inventory Management: Inventory features include support for multiple warehouses, product attributes, and partial deliveries.
- Pricing Customization: List different prices for different customer groups, keep certain prices hidden, or allow customers to enter their own donation amounts.
- Downloadable Products: Sell digital and physical products on the same site.
- Product Comparison: Display side-by-side summaries of related products.
- Return Management: Process orders and returns more simply.
- Featured & Promoted Products: Choose which products are displayed on the front page of your site.
- Bulk Import/Export: Use CSV files to migrate platforms and to make bulk edits.
Checkout & Customer Service
- One-page Checkout: Streamline the checkout process to boost conversion rates.
- Guest Checkout: Let customers create an account or checkout as guests.
- Multilingual/Multi-currency Support: Sell in multiple languages in multiple currencies.
- Gift Wrap & Personalized Messages: Let customers personalize their purchases.
- Wish Lists: Let customers save and return to your products. Find out which products your customers are considering.
- Live Chat Integration: Provide live chat assistance to your site visitors.
- Rewards Program: Reward customers for their loyalty with redeemable points.
- Related Products: Use up-sell and cross-sell techniques with related products.
- Reviews & Ratings: The best marketing strategy is word of mouth. Establish credibility with future customers through reviews from current customers.
- Discounts & Coupons: The native rules engine creates relatively complex discounts, or add an extension for more options.
- Blog: Build a better sense of brand and boost SEO with a blog.
- Newsletter: Create content and gather subscriptions directly from your site, or integrate with a third-party email marketing service.
- Gift Cards: Sell digital and physical gift cards, and allow card holders to check their balances.
- Price Comparison Services: Google Shopping, Yahoo Shopping, PriceGrabber, and other major comparison feeds are all fully integrated with nopCommerce.
Shipping & Tax
- Shipping Calculator: Estimate shipping based on the product’s weight or dimensions and your customer’s location.
- Integrated With Major Shipping Carriers: Get real-time shipping rates from USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.
- Tax Calculation: Use nopCommerce’s built-in tax calculator or integrate with services like Avalara.
- XML & HTML Sitemaps: Facilitates search engine and customer navigation of your site.
- Manage Keyword Tags & URLs: Or keep the SEO-friendly versions out-of-the-box.
- Customize Meta Data & Rich Snippets: Twitter and Facebook meta tags are also supported.
- Breadcrumbs: Simplify site navigation.
- URL Canonicalization: Reduces indexing of duplicated pages.
- Google Analytics Integration: For tracking transactions and other site data.
In order to use nopCommerce, you’ll need to start with a store template from nopCommerce’s marketplace. You have a choice of 40+ free themes, or you can purchase a theme for approximately $40-$250. As I browsed the marketplace, I noticed that several themes are only compatible with earlier releases of nopCommerce, so keep this in mind as you explore the total collection of over 150 options.
Some of the free themes look outdated and a bit lame, but others are more modern and perfectly respectable. Here’s one example of a free theme:
A couple of developer teams have dedicated websites just for nopCommerce themes. The most prominently featured design partner in the nopCommerce marketplace is Nop Templates (nop-templates.com). There are about 30 themes at this site, and some include a few sub-styles. Although most of the themes from Nop Templates are on the higher end of the cost spectrum ($200-$250), they each come with 10-15 plugins that greatly expand the functionality of your storefront. These extra plugins and advanced features may make the investment worth it to you. What’s more, you can view several testimonials referring to the quality of the themes and satisfaction with Nop Template’s customer support.
Here’s an example of a $250 Nop Templates theme:
I was unable to find any type of theme editor in the nopCommerce admin, which suggests to me that the only way to change the look and feel of your site beyond installing a pre-made theme is by diving into the actual source code. You do have the option to purchase a theme editor plugin in the nopCommerce marketplace for $49, but it’s difficult to say from the description exactly how far this will get you in making significant design changes, nor how easy it will be to use.
Integrations & Add-Ons
nopCommerce has over a thousand integrations available in its marketplace. These integrations cover features like shipping and tax calculation and include connections to marketing services you may already be using. The total also includes translation packages, payment processors, and lots of small extensions for minor features and widgets.
Integrations are priced by nopCommerce or third-party developers. Some integrations are available for free, most cost $20-$250, and some are more expensive. They are all available as one-time purchases.
I especially appreciate that the marketplace is sortable based on which release of nopCommerce you are using. Besides providing a quick way to verify the compatibility of any add-ons you might want, this level of detailed organization gives me confidence that the nopCommerce team has a good handle on its ecosystem of integrations. This is not always a given with open-source solutions.
Taking advantage of this filter-by-version feature of the marketplace, I searched for the most up-to-date integrations at the time of this writing. Here are some of the connections to software I recognized:
Shipping & Fulfillment
- Shipping Easy
Tax, Accounting, & ERP
- Avalara AvaTax
Marketing & SEO
- Google Customer Reviews
- Google AdWords
- Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
- Google Shopping
- Yandex Market
Those are just a few big-name examples, but I’d recommend checking out some of the smaller extensions as well. An abandoned cart recovery plugin priced at $30 caught my eye, for instance. This is a hot-button feature in today’s ecommerce landscape, and one that comes at a premium on some highly-rated SaaS shopping cart builders.
nopCommerce offers over 50 payment methods and gateways, with the notable addition of Square since our last update. Other methods include:
- Cash on delivery
- Pay in store
- Purchase order
- Checks/money order
- Manual gateway for offline processing
- Amazon Payments
If you’re thinking the above sampling is rather North America-biased, check out the complete list over at the nopCommerce website. A wide variety of country and region-specific payment methods are also supported.
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Customer Service & Technical Support
nopCommerce doesn’t offer a lot by way of personal support. If you need guidance, you should first turn to nopCommerce’s documentation, followed by the community forums. Personal assistance is only available via premium support plans, which aren’t cheap.
Here’s a summary of nopCommerce’s support options:
- Documentation: Comprehensive information for users and developers.
- Community Forums: Users are very active in the community forums. Get help from other nopCommerce merchants and developers.
- Events & Webinars: nopCommerce posts upcoming classes, local meet-ups, and annual conference dates. The 4th annual conference is November 8-9, 2018 in Las Vegas.
- Blog: Regular articles featuring selling tips and product updates.
- Professional Services: If you need support with one specific aspect of your site, you can pay for nopCommerce professional services. They include customization services, web design services, installation and upgrade services, usability analysis, and SEO optimization. Obtain a quote through the main website.
- Premium Support: Premium support plans are available for purchase. You can buy three months of assistance for $299.00 and one year for $799.00:
Negatives Reviews & Complaints
I’ve spent a good chunk of time combing through online review sites and complaint boards to find the most commonly voiced comments and recommendations for nopCommerce. Web developers most frequently discuss nopCommerce, whereas not many ecommerce newbies try their hand at the platform without assistance.
Here are a few of the most frequent gripes:
- Cumbersome Upgrades: Developers complain that when new versions of the software are released, it’s difficult to make all your customizations work with the software again. You may have to manually reapply certain changes. I noticed the company’s roadmap includes plans to improve this process.
- Limited Theme Design: If you don’t understand code, you won’t be able to make any changes to your theme. Sure, there are a few “template” features in the backend that let you make minor changes to your content pages, but you can’t make any global changes to the look and feel of your site from the admin.
- Relatively Unknown: Although the platform has gained some market share in the last few years, the fact remains that nopCommerce is “nop” as well-known as other open-source shopping carts. The open-source model greatly depends upon a community of developers who know about the product and decide to contribute.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
I was surprised to find that nopCommerce is the chosen platform for many big name brands, including Lee Jeans, Play It Again Sports, Speedo, and Casio. I did note that some of the stores featured at the Live Shops Showcase are not the primary website for the company, but a country-specific subsidiary or reseller instead. Regardless, I’d recommend checking out some nopCommerce-based store examples; the cosmopolitan list includes shops in around 40 different languages. You can look at a few case studies on the nopCommerce website as well.
It makes sense why several larger businesses would choose nopCommerce. In general, developers seem to really like the platform. Here’s what they talk about most:
- Feature-Rich: nopCommerce comes with lots of useful features built-in. And, you can use the same software to build a multi-store or multi-vendor platform. I was also impressed with all that nopCommerce has to offer, especially since you don’t have to pay for any of it.
- Highly Customizable: If you’ve got the technical know-how, you can change any aspect of your online store. You can develop new features, tweak old features, and change the design of your site.
- Good Community Support: nopCommerce’s user forums are lively. Users are always posting their suggestions, requesting bug fixes, and answering one another’s questions. Developers are continually releasing plugins, translations, and themes in the nopCommerce marketplace.
- Continual Improvement: nopCommerce regularly releases new versions of the software, keeping up with the latest (mostly Microsoft) technology. While this can be a bit of a pain regarding your customizations, it’s good to stay ahead of the curve.
Because nopCommerce is downloadable software, you will be responsible for maintaining your site’s security. You’ll have to obtain an SSL certificate and regularly check for any security patches. That said, nopCommerce claims to have only required one security patch since its the software’s original release in 2008. Color me impressed.
You can enable a few security settings from the nopCommerce backend as well, including CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA, restricting IP addresses that access your admin, and enforcing your SSL certificate on all pages. These settings are all described in nopCommerce’s documentation.
If you’re a developer, a novice developer, or happen to have a Microsoft-friendly developer conveniently stored in your hip pocket, nopCommerce may just be the way to go. It’s a robust and secure platform that, most of the time, seems to work without a hitch. The admin is well organized and daily operations are easy to navigate. Even better, it’s free!
Although I hadn’t heard of nopCommerce before writing this review, I am pleased to see that its user base continues to grow and that the nopCommerce community has been able to support annual conferences around the world for several years running. nopCommerce continues to draw the attention of developers and sellers looking for a flexible, open-source shopping cart solution.
Especially for those developers who are devoted to the ASP.NET framework and other Microsoft-oriented systems, I’m frankly not really sure who is competing for your ecommerce business besides nopCommerce. Meanwhile, if that whole world turns you off, or if you’re looking for an easy-to-use and fully-hosted cart builder, I’d suggest exploring SaaS options like Shopify, Zoey Commerce, or BigCommerce.
Otherwise, why not take nopCommerce for a spin? As long as you’re aware of the limitations of the shared demo, you can at least get a feel for the dashboard before you go to the trouble of downloading and installing nopCommerce. If you’re all set up with the system requirements, however, you might as well jump right in with the download and see what you think.
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