OpenCart v WooCommerce: How Do They Line Up When It Comes To Customer Safety?

Posted by RodneyLaws on August 26, 2021

If you’re looking for a self-hosted ecommerce solution, you’ll undoubtedly encounter both OpenCart and WooCommerce during your research: two platforms that offer tried-and-tested systems for creating and maintaining successful online stores. They’re both free to use and modular in nature, the former supporting extension and the latter itself being an extension to the ever-popular WordPress CMS — and they’re both perfectly viable options.

Given this, how do you determine which you should choose? There are many areas in which you could compare them, but this post will focus on one in particular: customer safety. So then, how do OpenCart and WooCommerce fare when it comes to keeping customer details and transactions safe? Let’s review the importance of this, and get into the details of this matchup:

Why safety is such a concern

A brand that fails to keep customer data and finances safe can cause immense damage to its public image, leaving it struggling to redeem itself over months or even years. But what does that safety involve? Well, it depends on both circumstances and perception. The most obvious way in which you can fail to keep customer data safe is by allowing it (however unintentionally) to be accessed in unauthorized ways and used for nefarious purposes.

Think of fraudsters getting into the back end of your system and taking customer order histories to sell to rival merchants or use for their own advertising. Depending on what you sell, that information could also be used to blackmail your customers, threatening to release the order history of anyone who doesn’t pay a certain amount.

Perception is also a problem, though, with merchants needing to be seen to offer safety. If someone doesn’t believe in the security of your system (regardless of its actual technical flaws or merits), they might well choose to stay away from your site just to be careful. Why take any necessary risks when there are plenty of trusted stores out there? Amazon isn’t exactly the most likeable company, but it is undeniably reliable and sets a formidable precedent.

Comparing OpenCart and WooCommerce

Having noted that, we can get to the heart of the piece: seeing how these popular ecommerce platforms fare. In truth, they’re similar in many ways, with comparable strengths and weaknesses. How far does the similarity go? There are two huge core similarities:

  • Intuitive controls. Each platform is fairly straightforward to install and use, with a logical dashboard and plenty of information available to explain what different options do. Other platforms are flashier and conceal more information from their users.
  • Great flexibility. Each platform can be heavily customised, and is compatible with a huge range of free or paid extensions. This is good for security because it allows the use of security plugins, but also bad unless you’re very careful about the plugins you choose.

WooCommerce is updated more frequently, but the leaps are less substantial. Both platforms rely on additional support in the form of SSL certification and third-party payment gateways. WooCommerce supports more payment gateways, but that has little bearing on safety because all those supported by either system are mainstream options: given its popularity, it bears noting that PayPal alone can prove sufficient for a store of modest size.

Each platform comes with the useful feature to disable the password recovery process, though it’s handled differently. OpenCart offers a straightforward toggle, while WooCommerce tasks you with removing the address to disable the endpoint. And while WooCommerce now features more robust options concerning GDPR guidelines, it’s easy enough to implement them in OpenCart through the GDPR Compliance extension.

Overall, it’s really hard to choose between these two platforms when it comes to safety features. They’re very evenly matched, making them both great choices. But if you have to pick just one, which should you go with? Well, there’s one more factor we need to think about.

The perils of popularity

WordPress is the most widely-used CMS in the world, and this confers both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are obvious. There’s a huge community around it, so there’s always support when you need it. It’s extremely reliable with so many people to point out bugs. It’s also very easy to justify at the business level because it’s so recognisable.

But it’s the disadvantages that really matter here, and there’s one particular disadvantage that makes it a slightly tougher sell for ecommerce merchants: it’s a glaring target for scammers. Updates have to be speedy because one identified weakness can make countless high-profile websites vulnerable in the blink of an eye.

You can relate this to the disparity in viruses between Windows and MacOS: while the latter is more secure in some ways, it has the huge advantage of being a relatively small target. (Note that there are antivirus solutions for MacOS, but they’re far less prominent than those for Windows.) If you’re going to work on hacks, it makes sense to play the numbers.

Due to this, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that OpenCart presents a slightly safer option for customers. When scammers go for ecommerce sites, they tend to go for huge retailers or aim to exploit weaknesses in the most commonly used platforms, allowing OpenCart sites to fly under the radar, so to speak. In the end, though, either platform — if used correctly — can provide a respectable level of safety, so you’ll be fine whatever you pick.

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