PrestaShop vs Snipcart: Full E-Commerce Platforms ReviewOctober 20, 2016
Products. Inventory. Shopping cart. Shipping. Hosting. Design. Performance. SEO. Payments. Security. Support. Pricing. Marketing.
Modern e-commerce is a multifaceted beast.
And for many, the beast is hard to tame.
I know it for a fact: I've spoken with dozens of developers and merchants running all sorts of e-commerce sites. From turnkey Shopify enthusiasts to custom e-commerce mavericks, I've heard quite a colourful range of speeches regarding e-commerce platforms.
The latest one to get on my review radar? PrestaShop.
I had heard about it a while back, when we had just launched Snipcart. I remember being quite impressed at the big FREE label strapped on their site. Back then, a European-Canadian dev shop wanted to migrate hundreds of PrestaShop sites to Snipcart. Quite a feat, considering how fundamentally different both solutions are.
More recently though, I met a few developers with in-depth experience with PrestaShop. So I stole some of their precious time to talk about it. My goal? Answer two questions:
"How does PrestaShop compare with Snipcart? And when exactly should you use each one?"
After a few hours of discussion and research, I had enough content to craft a valuable answer to these questions.
In this post, I'm going to be discussing how PrestaShop differs from Snipcart, and which use cases are best suited for both.
Disclaimer: The web developers I interviewed had years of experience with PrestaShop, and were in no way affiliated with Snipcart.
What is PrestaShop?
A free, PHP open source e-commerce solution. That's what PrestaShop is. It was launched in 2005, in Paris, France. Today, hundreds of thousands of merchants use it to run their e-commerce. While it required developers to host the software themselves at first, it also offers a hosted version through a close partnership with 1&1. PrestaShop also runs an extensive, paid addons marketplace filled with modules, themes & services.
PrestaShop could be called an "all-in-one" solution: it acts as a site-builder, shopping cart, and e-commerce back-office.
What is Snipcart?
See the live demo for this shopping cart customization.
How much do PrestaShop & Snipcart cost?
Free + payment gateway fees + hosting + paid addons
At its simplest form, the software itself is free. But you'll still need to host your e-commerce site somewhere for the whole thing to work. Hosting fees for a PrestaShop site can vary: 1&1, their promoted hosting partner, charges from 8 to 15$/month. You can also deploy it on your own with any other server or service.
To extend your store, you'll most likely purchase paid licenses for all sorts of PrestaShop addons. While building and customizing their e-commerce site with these, merchants will probably need the help of developers at some point. We'll discuss this further down.
Merchants also need to pay payment gateway fees on all transactions, and sometimes purchase modules for payment options not offered in the core solution.
2% + payment gateway fees
Using Snipcart's standard pricing, you pay 2% of monthly transactions, plus payment gateway fees. If you used Stripe as a gateway for your store, for instance, you'd get a total of 4.9% + 30 cents/tx. Here are the gateways we support.
A really basic integration of Snipcart doesn't require much (if any) coding knowledge. You just need to be able to follow instructions and tutorials! Still, customizing your cart, products, and on-site shopping experience will require programming skills. So, like with PrestaShop, merchants will need to work with developers when using Snipcart.
Snipcart & Prestashop review: use cases both solutions handle
Snipcart & PrestaShop are fundamentally different products. Still, like many e-commerce solutions, they share similarities. We'll focus on the out-of-the-box possibilities here.
First, both solutions offer a comprehensive admin section to manage e-commerce.
In that sense, they give decent post-development autonomy to merchants and non-technical users. This is especially true when Snipcart is deeply integrated into a CMS, like WordPress, for instance.
Both solutions also support:
- Abandoned carts retrieval
- Products with lots of options
- Discounts & promo codes system
- E-commerce & sales analytics
- Multi-users accounts
- Inventory management
- Multiple shipping providers
PrestaShop vs Snipcart: review of key differences
First, the most important difference:
PrestaShop acts as CMS: you use it to build your e-commerce site AND run it.
Snipcart is a shopping cart platform: you add it ON a site you created, to enable e-commerce.
Two very different things, right?
The second key difference between them is support:
With PrestaShop, you either use community forums or pay for a support plan to get help. However, most paid addons in PrestaShop come with support from the developers behind them.
With Snipcart, you get direct one-on-one access to experienced developers via email & tickets before and after you sign up.
Editor's note: At Snipcart, we created an independent, scalable layer of e-commerce so developers and merchants could benefit from the best-of-breed model we're in, and not get stuck into closed a ecosystem. In other words, we believe in using the right tools for the right job.
Now, PrestaShop has been running an "all-in-one" e-commerce solution since 2005. So, of course, they offer more built-in features than Snipcart (310+). And yes, their impressive marketplaces has merchants covered for a LOT of different scenarios.
But the two solutions create very different e-commerce realities for merchants & developers. Let's dig in.
Native features & extending the platforms
There are a few things you can do natively with Snipcart that require paid addons with PrestaShop:
- Advanced discount scenarios
- Multi-currency display & transactions
- Recurring payments & subscriptions
On the other hand, things like digital products, mass inventory management (high # of SKUs & categories), and multi-stores are all handled natively with PrestaShop. Not with Snipcart.
Pushing Snipcart further will mean leveraging its powerful API & webhooks, and your own tools & coding knowledge.
Pushing PrestaShop further will mean either buying addons, or coding modules yourself.
Design & customization: PrestaShop themes vs creative freedom
The visual customization PrestaShop offers is closely linked to the chosen theme (a bit like WooCommerce). PrestaShop themes are usually packed with a lot of stuff, both on the frontend and backend. Most examples I came across were very loaded visually. But with a few lines of code, lots of elements, sections & pages are overridable.
The shopping experience and cart checkout will strongly rely on the chosen theme. Generally, the checkout flow is either on one long, heavy page, or in multiple steps pages.
I'd really suggest having a look for yourself at the different shopping and checkout experiences in the PrestaShop sites showcase list. You can get a feel of what experiences are possible (and how much it costs) with their PrestaShop themes listing too.
No templates imposed with Snipcart. You use any site building tool and design your e-commerce site however you want. Want to use a WordPress theme? Want to hard-code a lean, static HTML/CSS/JS site deployed via a static site generator? Want to use a popular, non-techie tool like SquareSpace or HubSpot? Want to use a blogging platform? Whatever floats your boat: they all work.
Snipcart itself comes afterward, when it's time to create products and inject a light shopping cart on your site. The cart itself if fully customizable. Developers can modify the base theme with a solid SASS & BEM-centric workflow. Or override all of it in CSS & JS. It's really up to you:
To get an idea of what custom e-commerce experiences developers have created with Snipcart, check out our case studies.
Integration & technical differences
With 10+ years in the biz, PrestaShop has a strong foundation. Developers can extend it with many addons, or modules of their own. While PrestaShop's API isn't the most flexible, developers fluent in PHP can leverage it: all objects in the software have associated hooks.
More picky frontend developers using the base PrestaShop Bootstrap theme might need to do a few behind the scenes tweaks to make it to their liking. Here are a few pains that were mentioned among the developers we interviewed:
- Lack of code thoroughness (hard-coded requests, same objects with different names, security vulnerabilities)
- Corrections often needed for base theme
- Query builder not available
- Difficult database migrations
- Incongruences in tax calculations
- Room for performance improvements
- Hard work creating custom themes
- Lack of well-maintained official documentation
Setting up a full e-commerce site with PrestaShop can take from 4-15 days for experienced developers. That is, depending on the customization & modules to integrate.
Also, PrestaShop offers a good base for managing Europe-specific taxes and customs (which are often a nightmare).
To drive meaningful search engine results with PrestaShop, you're going to need to use, synchronize, and maintain various paid SEO modules. Because of the heavy stack behind PrestaShop, site performance might be an issue here too.
Snipcart has virtually no impact on your SEO: all of this is handled on your own site. You're in control of meta tags, URLs, title tags, link/navigation structure, etc. If the developer (or platform) you're working with excels at SEO, you'll be just fine.
Conclusion: PrestaShop vs Snipcart review
If they're comfortable with the kind of shopping experiences PrestaShop offers, I think merchants with bigger inventories, many staff members, and steady development budget might appreciate using PrestaShop. However, I feel it's worth mentioning that it won't be free. You'll need to spend development dollars on installation, customization, and updates maintenance. You might also need to spend on paid technical support.
For developers, it's important to note that development and customization on PrestaShop is mostly handled in PHP & MySQL. If you enjoy working with these tools, then this won't come as a pain. Like with WordPress/WooCommerce, you need to take into account cross-modules synchronization and modules/platform updates in your workload.
However, if you'd like to code in another language, or use other types of set-ups (like modern static web tech), you're out of luck. Same thing goes if you want to use a modular, API-driven approach for e-commerce.
It's safe to say Snipcart allows more creative flexibility for project visuals. No full or multiple pages checkout, no heavy PrestaShop themes as a base. More control over your site & cart's looks and behaviour. And Snipcart's lean HTML/JS base opens the door to exciting approaches for merchants & developers alike: totally custom checkout flows, API-centric omnichannel e-commerce set up, serverless, fast online stores with a static site generator, and more.
If this level of customization and freedom sounds appealing to you, I'd say take Snipcart for a spin.
And if the long-lasting product & community, time-proven tech stack, and "one-stop-shop" offering of PrestaShop fits your needs, then go for it!
Here's hoping this review gave you enough information to make a smart decision. :)
I hope this review helped clarify the positioning of PrestaShop vs Snipcart. If you enjoyed it and found it valuable, go ahead and share it on Twitter. And if you believe I missed some key points, by all means, let me know! We'd also love to know your thoughts on either PrestaShop or our own product below.