An Interview with Daniel Kerr, Owner, OpenCart
When I first hear “shopping cart” I tend to think about an add-on to an existing web site to handle online purchases. But that is not the case with OpenCart, which is a comprehensive eCommerce platform capable of handling large product catalogs. It is also open source and free software, so you can modify it to meet your specific needs. Although, the truth is, you made not have to make many changes to the code because there are over 14,000 extensions available to add all types of functionality to the base product.
HostAdvice: Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
I am 39 years old, married, and have two kids. I am originally from England, but I met my wife in college and she drew me over to Hong Kong.
HostAdvice: Please tell me a little bit about the history of OpenCart.
I started the company in 2005. At that time, the only comparable product that was available was osCommerce which wasn’t suitable for a lot of web sites – it didn’t really meet their need.
HostAdvice: Before we get into details, I want to make sure our readers are clear on what type of product OpenCart is. At first glance, I would think that it is a shopping cart plugin or add-on for a web site, but that is not the case – correct?
Yes, that is absolutely correct. OpenCart is a complete, stand-alone eCommerce and shopping cart platform. If it were just a plugin, it would not be able to run very large online retail shops. WordPress, for example, slows down once you have something like 300 pages.
HostAdvice: OK – now you can give me some more of the details about OpenCart.
OpenCart is the most popular eCommerce supplier in the world in terms of actual number of users. We currently have about 317,000 live OpenCart sites, which is significantly more than Shopify or Magento. Note that when we report our numbers it is only the number of current users and does not include sites that were customers at some point in the past.
HostAdvice: One of the things that you emphasize on your website is that OpenCart is open source and free. So what exactly is your business model?
Yes, the OpenCart platform is open source and free. The way we make many is by selling extensions for the platform.
HostAdvice: Yes, I saw that your website includes a marketplace for many different types of extensions. Are they all from third-parties or are some of them yours?
We currently have 14,000+ extensions listed in our marketplace. They are all from third party vendors and we just make a commission on the extensions that are sold via our site. We have considered writing some extensions ourselves, but we just don’t have the time.
In the next version of OpenCart, we are going to integrate the extension store into the platform and you will be able to purchase and install extensions directly from within the OpenCart Admin dashboard.
HostAdvice: One of the criticisms of your platform is that it is somewhat complicated to piece together a total solution from all of these different extensions.
That really depends on the experience of the developer. One of the reasons that OpenCart is so popular is because even newbies can understand and modify the code to meet their needs.
HostAdvice: How do you define your market? Who is your specific target audience within that market?
OpenCart is really appropriate for anyone who wants to sell products online. Even if you are an eBay seller, it is useful to have your own OpenCart store. OpenCart can integrate with many other systems so that you can have a single view of inventory, sales, etc.
HostAdvice: How many active customers do you have today? Where are they mainly located?
As I mentioned earlier, we currently have 317,000 live websites running OpenCart. They are located throughout the world, but I can tell you that we have about 180,000 installations in the US.
HostAdvice: Who are some of your biggest customers?
Some of our biggest customers include Ace, Volvo, and the British Red Cross.
HostAdvice: Who do you see as your main competitors?
I’d have to say that at the lower end of the market our competitors are WordPress and Shopify and that at the higher end of the market it is Magento.
HostAdvice: How do you see your platform as different and/or better than theirs?
We have really focused on simplicity of coding – both in terms of our own code so that it is easy to understand and also in terms of making changes to the code to meet specific needs. Also, we make sure not to use extra resources, which is why we don’t require a dedicated server like other systems and you can easily have six (6) installations of OpenCart, each with 100K products, on a single hosting server.
On the other hand, our system supports a lot of advanced features that you won’t see in competing platforms, including:
- Multiple and sophisticated pricing options
- Multiple languages
- Multiple currencies
- Multiple tax rates
HostAdvice: Even though OpenCart is a stand-alone platform, there are a few companies that offer OpenCart integration with WordPress. What is that about? Does it really make sense?
It really depends on your requirements. For example, many customers will integrate with WordPress so that their OpenCart store will include a blog (although there are already blog extensions).
HostAdvice: How do you see eCommerce and eCommerce platforms developing in the next few years?
I actually think that we will see a lot of platform companies slowly failing over time with only the most flexible and most reliable ones surviving.
HostAdvice: What are your future plans for OpenCart?
The next version of OpenCart is going to include both a theme editor and a language editor.
But the really exciting changes coming down the road is OpenCart Cloud. This is major upgrade that we have been working on for a while (and I wish I had decided to move to the cloud sooner). This will be based on the Amazon Web Service cloud platform and will also us to offer our customers to host their web sites for them. While the OpenCart software will remain free, there will be a monthly fee for the hosting service.
Users will have the choice of either hosting OpenCart themselves on their own servers/hosting providers or to have us host and mange it for them in the cloud. This is similar to the two options you have today with WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
We are currently on track to make an early release to developers at the end of March and then a public release at the beginning of May.
HostAdvice: How many employees do you have today? Where are they located?
We currently have 7-8 employees, located in Hong Kong and the UK.
HostAdvice: How many hours a day do you normally work? What do you like to do when you are not working?
It often feels like I am working 24 hours a day…but I probably average more than 12 hours a day on a regular basis. In my free time, I do a lot of cycling. Since I spend so much time every day sitting at a desk behind a computer, I make a real effort to keep relatively healthy.