Nowadays more and more people want to build their own AliExpress or Amazon. And everyday developers make it easier. Somebody starts with SaaS or free solutions. However, avowed leaders of eCommerce are licensed shopping cart software products.
Today I will try to take a look at two multi-vendor products to find out what’s the difference. Here are our participants: CS-Cart Multi-Vendor and X-Cart Multivendor.
And before we start, I have to notify you. Yes, this article was written by the CS-Cart team member and placed on their site. And yes, you probably can just skip it as a nasty advertisement. However, I am a person who tried to write this overview so honestly as possible. So here you will not find any kind of praises or marketing tricks.
In this article, you can find the information from independent and authoritative resources and answers provided to me by X-Cart consultants. So you can check literally every word by yourself.
One more thing – this overview was written in the March of 2018. So it can become not so accurate in a couple of years, however, I am sure that the key features of both multi vendor marketplace platforms will be the same.
Long story short – both multi vendor ecommerce solutions have much in common. So if you do not want to read the whole article, you can just jump to the key differences.
It’s time to make your bets!
- General information
- History and experience
- Marketing tools
- Vendor management system
- Payout system
- Mobile Friendliness
- Design tools
- Tech support
- Guides and tutorials
- Starting expenses
First of all, let me notice – here we have two professionals. Both online marketplace website builders are specialized downloadable eCommerce solutions. Both have a long history and a lot of clients.
What does it mean? Well, as usual with licensed solutions, all you pay is a one-time licensing fee. No fee for transactions, no large monthly fees, no sneaky add-on fees like you get with “free” eCommerce software.
Both platforms have an open source code. It will allow you to modify your own project literally any way you want.
Also, due to the large experience, both platforms have a clean and well-structured source code. They have coding standards and detailed documentation:
It allows any web-studios or third-party developers customize it faster. As a result, your expenses for customization will be drastically reduced.
Considering the experience. X-Cart has been created in 2001 and was the first downloadable PHP/MySQL shopping cart platform in the world. Now there are more than 33.000 online stores. Unfortunately, there is no information on the number of online marketplaces made with it.
Let’s check this info in the builtwith.com service
The statistics tell that there are 21,919 websites using X-Cart which includes location information, hosting data, contact details. 10,747 currently live websites and 11,172 sites that used this technology previously. Probably, some of them are closed for maintenance or for testing and that is why count as “used previously”. Anyway, unfortunately, on their site, we got the wrong information.
CS-Cart was founded in 2005. Our Multi-Vendor went off in November 2010. So it is running for 8 years already. On our site, you can see that there are more than 35.000 online stores and 1.300 online marketplaces built with CS-Cart Multi-Vendor, so it makes this product the most popular solution for online malls in the world.
The BuiltWith statistics tell there are 40,457 websites using CS-Cart – 17,237 currently live websites (plus some on maintenance or testing) and 23,220 sites that used this technology previously.
Well, in both cases we see, that many projects built with these shopping mall platforms are closed or moved to another software. However, CS-Cart almost twice as popular as X-Cart. Both products have the majority of their
clients in the United States, Europe in the
And one more thing that becomes a surprise to me – migration statistics:
BAM! As you can see, a huge percentage of the CS-Cart customers comes from the X-Cart. Moreover, each year their number just grows. And you can see that almost nobody migrates back – only 23 people for 5 years!
However, both online market platforms lose their customers to the SaaS solutions – and it is normal. But let me notice – here we talk about all CS-Cart and X-Cart products, not only the multi-vendor ones.
So, let’s take a look at projects implemented with each of these multi vendor ecommerce solutions. I believe, that the viability of any eCommerce software can be measured by the success of their clients. Why do I think so?
The thing is, if many online stores built with the same platform are successful, we can be sure that this software has good stability and performance; has great SEO tools; has an intuitive and user-friendly interface, and good integration with shipment and payment services.
I went to the X-Cart site x-cart.com and I was confused. There are no examples of their Multivendor projects at all. There are 40 examples of regular online stores (not marketplaces) – not very popular ones though (just check them with the Alexa if you wish).
However, surfing through this list I can find one multivendor site bfc-creations.com. So this is the only marketplace success story on their site. Let’s use the Amazon-owned service alexa.com/siteinfo to find out how popular is it.
Global rating is 772.104 (the lower is better), and 254.899 in the US. Not very impressive.
Then I wrote to them via a Contact us form to ask them to send me some more examples of successful online X-Cart marketplaces. First of all, they respond to me in 35 hours. 35 hours during the working days. Not very fast. However, all consecutive replies were within one working day of my emails.
After the second time, I asked, the consultant sent me one more example – terrysfabrics.co.uk. Let’s see the popularity of this one.
Global rating is 214.112 and 16.216 in
the UK. This one is much better.
Well, let us see the CS-Cart Multi-Vendor success stories. By the way, here we have two branches on our site cs-cart.com – one for regular online stores and one for Multi-Vendor ones. There are more than 30 examples of different virtual marketplaces from the whole world. One more thing – we have video testimonials from our clients.
But let’s take a look at our clients “Success stories”. The first one – shopclues.com.
Global rating is 2.035 and 140 in India.
And as you can see, it was much more popular a year ago.
However, this is a top one. Let take a look at the bottom of this page – online marketplace forthemanilove.com.
And it is still has a Global rating of 7.049.157. Not so popular, however, it is not bad at all for the shaving gifts, isn’t it?
Both competitors are downloadable online marketplace website builders, so both should be installed into hosting. The process is pretty similar to X-Cart Multivendor and CS-Cart Multi-Vendor. To be precise:
Both platforms have guides for the installation process. Couple of moments I want to point you on. You can find CS-Cart Multi-Vendor documentation easier. However, X-Cart one is more detailed and there described the issues you can face during the installation.
But the CS-Cart has video tutorials – and this is a major advantage.
One more thing I have to mention – the CS-Cart Multi-Vendor team offers to install the software for you if you find it difficult. It is pretty nice.
Also, X-Cart can provide you with their own hosting:
CS-Cart has only the list of recommended hostings instead:
Anyway, you probably can handle the installation by yourself without any kind of technical skills needed.
But all you can see above – is just lyrics. Let us try both products, see how comfortable and convenient they are for their owner, their vendors, and customers.
And here we will see the really huge difference between these two products. The thing is, when I started to write this overview, I was sure that my work will be pointless. Let me explain. Both products are the same type (licensed downloadable with open source code), same cost ($1450 vs $1495), both made in Russia, and have a long history.
That is why I was sure that they are almost the same. And it was so to this point.
There are two totally different products when you are trying to compare CS-Cart Multi-Vendor and X-Cart Multivendor out-of-the-box.
Promotions, discounts, loyalty programs, abandoned carts reminders, and more.
For example, both Carts allow creating promotions. However, in X-Cart they are presented by discounts, while CS-Cart lets you add not only discounts on products and orders but also free shipping, gift certificates, free products, etc.
Many marketing tools and features are present in the CS-Cart Multi-Vendor and are not presented in X-Cart Multivendor. It is available only in the X-Cart Ultimate version ($5,995) or via add-ons.
The CS-Cart multi vendor script includes such features as Loyalty Program, Abandoned Carts Reminder, Product Feeds, Banner system, Call for price, Wishlists, and etc.
X-Cart has only in the Ultimate edition which costs $5,995 or via add-ons:
You can just take a look at the X-Cart demo and their Marketplace to get an idea of total budget you need to start your own project.
So many CS-Cart Multi-Vendor features ($1450) are not available in X-Cart Multivendor ($1,495). The same solution is presented only in the Ultimate version which costs $5,995.
I will tell you one more thing. I mentioned promotions earlier. And here is the catch. If you want to get the promotions tool in the X-Cart Multivendor you have to pay $99 for each kind of them! For example, you want to give a discount if a client buys product A and product B at the same time. Pay $99 for an add-on. Or you want to give VIP status to the person who purchased many times from you. Pay another $99 for an add-on. You want to sell the product X with a discount for a couple of days (Black Friday, for example). Pay $99 for… well, you get the point.
This way X-Cart forcing you to purchase X-Cart Ultimate or limit your own marketplace marketing tools and, as a result, cut your profit off.
Vendor management system
Set commissions, fees for transactions for each vendor.
Also, there is a vendor management system. And I must admit, they are pretty the same in both Carts. You can set commissions, fees for transactions for each vendor.
And here are some difference again. Let me post replies from the consultants below:
…You can manage your vendor policy using our built-in Vendor plans feature. It will allow you to create subscription plans for vendors with different conditions and limitations to get transaction commissions and fees for the membership.
Apart from commissions (which can not be taken due to your project payment method), it allows you to take a monthly fee from vendors for selling in your marketplace. You can adjust these fees according to your project requirements.
Second, with vendor plans, expenses are pre-set for each plan and a new vendor just picks the most suitable option. This way you will be able to create different transaction fee rates for different vendors.
It is also possible to set the following restrictions:
1. Max. products — the maximum number of products a vendor can have on this plan at a single time.
2. Revenue up to — the maximum amount of revenue a vendor can get per month.
3. Vendor microstore — allows vendors to have a micro-store. It is a section of the store that includes only the products, categories, and filters of a specific vendor. The search in that section is also limited to the assets of a specific vendor.
To set a vendor plan in the admin panel please go to Vendors->Vendors plans.
Information on how to work with Vendor plans can be found in the User Guide:
…All vendor configurations can be found in your admin area Users>Users list.
Just choose any vendor you would like to give a special commission rate and go to Company details. You can give a global rate or a special rate.
Well, as you can see, X-Cart Multivendor does not have a tool to manage a lot of vendors at once. Here you can have only the general settings. And adjust fees and commissions for individual vendors. With CS-Cart Multi-Vendor you can split all your vendors into several wide categories with different fees, rights, and privileges. It means that you will not have to do more routine with the development of your marketplace and this is great!
One more thing I want to focus your attention on is a product confirmation. There is no doubt, that vendors are the people, who build the image of your virtual online shopping mall. The way your customers interact with vendors has a big impact on the probability that this customer will come back to you in the future.
So it is crucial to have an ability to control the work of your vendors. For example, in
CS-Cart Multi-Vendor, you can approve or disapprove any product your vendors add to the marketplace. This way you can be sure that you will not have inappropriate products in your store.
In X-Cart Multivendor you do not have such a tool. Moreover, I did not even find a way to set e-mail notifications for an administrator that an order being placed.
So to control the proper work of your vendors you will have to constantly check your admin panel. Not very convenient and very time-consuming.
The most significant part of every online marketplace.One more key feature of the multi-vendor project – payout system.
The way your customers pay you and your vendors will determine the way your marketplace works. Automate payouts to vendors can save 90% of your time. Payments management is the most significant part of every online marketplace. You will have to deal with commissions and distribution of payments between vendors every day.
I have asked X-Cart consultants about this and here is the reply:
Right now our developers are working on split payments integrations like PayPal for Marketplaces. The administrator can set different commission rates for each vendor or a common one for everyone.
The payout should be made manually until the parallel payments module is released. Or if you already have a PayPal Adaptive account approved by PayPal, you can use it.
In Multi-Vendor, you can use automatic or manual vendor payouts.
Automatic payouts are carried out via a built-in PayPal Adaptive payments or Stripe Connect functionality. It distributes the payment between vendors and sends commissions to your account.
A customer is offered to pay by either of the options and the payouts are processed automatically by the chosen payment gateway.
The add-on distributes the payment between vendors and sends commissions to your account. It means you do not have to invoice your vendors manually. The system does everything for you.
We have a detailed description of the process and the setup instructions in the User Guide:
If you want to use PayPal, please contact our technical support to start using PayPal Adaptive Payments.
And here I was surprised again. As you probably know, PayPal does not provide new user accounts for their PayPal Adaptive service. However, CS-Cart team will create a new one for you so you can use PayPal and its automatic payouts. Our competitors do not know how we are managed to do it, however, it really works.
To be honest, I did not inspect every feature of both products. My concerns were only about the tools and features I find crucial for an online marketplace.
So, as you can see, X-Cart Multivendor does not have all (actually, any) necessary tools for vendors, sales, promotions, regular customers, administrators. Even in the Ultimate version, it does not have any way to make automated payouts or manage a lot of vendors, so you will have to do it manually. That is why I am sure you can not make a big project with it.
CS-Cart Multi-Vendor not only beats its opponent in the number of built-in tools but in their quality and service too.
Comparative list of key multi-vendor features
If you want to know more about both products, please, consult the chart below.
|Features out-of-the-box||CS-Cart Multi-Vendor||X-Cart Multivendor|
|Comments and reviews||✅||✅|
|Membership only products/categories||✅||⛔️|
|Product lists (featured, related, recommended products)||✅||✅|
|Vendor management tools|
|Automatic vendor approval||⛔️|
|Manual vendor approval||✅||✅|
|Unlimited vendors and products||✅||✅|
|Manual product approval||✅||⛔️|
|Automatic product approval||✅||✅|
|Inner messaging system||✅||⛔️|
|Vendor invitations sendout||✅||⛔️|
|Order email notifications||✅||✅|
|Terms & cond. for new vendors||✅||⛔️|
|Diff. vendor products in 1 order||✅||⛔️|
|Advanced search by vendors, products, orders, users||✅||✅|
|Vendor specific categories||✅||⛔️|
|Different design for vendor’s micro-stores||✅||⛔️|
|Refunds management system||✅||⛔️|
The possibilities of the platform can easily be expanded by ready-to-use add-ons.
The set of tools and possibilities of both multi vendor marketplace platforms can easily be expanded by a number of ready-to-use add-ons from their Marketplaces. There you can find a lot of solutions – from delivery methods to design themes.
Also, both products will allow you to modify their source code. So you can ask developers, their partners, or some third-party developers to customize a platform for your needs if you need to.
So, any questions here? Let’s move on.
Let’s check the performance of both multi vendor ecommerce solutions. X-Cart Multivendor and CS-Cart Multi-Vendor tell about high optimization and can send a list of technologies they used to increase the performance of their platforms.
No doubt, performance is very important. It does not only allow your customers to find the desired product and pay for it fast but also has an impact on the indexation of your virtual marketplace. As a result – the better performance – more customers – bigger profit.
I used a Google Page speed service to check a couple of online marketplaces built with both products.
Let’s start with an X-Cart and two of their marketplaces we have look at earlier:
81 for a desktop computer and Unavailable for a mobile test at all
This web marketplace is pretty fast and well-optimized. Let’s take a look at another one.
72 for desktop and 61 for mobile
But it is still ok.
Now it is time to test CS-Cart Multi-Vendor projects. We promise the highest performance and 92 out of 100 on Google Page speed out-of-the-box. Fortunately, we have a lot of examples in our Success stories, so let’s pick a few at random.
73 for the desktop
Pretty solid, but not the 92 we heard about. One more.
74 for desktop and 61 for mobile
Ouch, some of your customers will have to wait in case they want to purchase something via mobile phone. And the last one.
75 for desktop and 73 for mobiles
Well, as you can see, both online market platforms have pretty similar performance. Minor differences probably caused by the design, amount of products and final optimization.
X-Cart Multivendor is a mobile-friendly software and adapts itself to different types of gadgets and sizes of a browser.
CS-Cart Multi-Vendor has a built-in responsive theme too. It will adapt any template for a user’s device. Also, you can easily change the design by yourself.
Currently, CS-Cart Multi-Vendor has a Mobile Admin app for the administration panel. It has very limited functionality, but it is totally free and goes out-of-the-box.
And one more thing to mention – a mobile app for customers. We’ve almost finished the development of the mobile app for Multi-Vendor, check it out:
The official pricing has not been set yet, but we expect it to be around $400–$600.
The price includes the configuration of the mobile app and making it live on Android Play Store and Apple App Store.
Speaking about X-Cart Multivendor mobile application, the developers themselves are providing the mobile application development as a service with an annual fee of $2500/year. For this price, they will create and maintain Google Play and AppStore developer accounts and will update and support the application whenever it is bugs or new features, or new system releases.
Alternatively, you can purchase the application for a one-time fee of $8500, it includes the source code. They will help you with the initial release but the maintenance of the application will be your responsibility and any consecutive upgrades will require additional fees. X-Cart also able to fully customize the application for your needs if there is ever a need for that or you can get an access to the code to make customizations with the help of the developers of your choice.
So, as a result of our mobile app comparison, we have two options:
And again, I don’t get the reason for such a terrible cost difference. Same tool, same functionality, and pretty similar service. Well, it is just an overview, so the final decision is up to you.
Multiple ready-to-use design themes in marketplaces.
As for design, both carts include some color schemes by default. But CS-Cart Multi-Vendor is more flexible: it has a built-in theme and layout editors which are simple to use even if you do not have enough skills in programming.Please have a look at the CS-Cart layout editor where you can replace any block or add a new one via drag and drop:
X-Cart allows you just to choose one of 4 layout types:
One more thing, I will just briefly mention that both multi vendor eCommerce solutions have detailed developer documentation. So it will allow any third-party developer to create a custom design for your project in case you wish so.
Both shopping mall platforms have multiple ready-to-use design themes
in their marketplaces. So you can find something there and save your budget on custom development.
From security and performance through to search engine optimization.
Both platforms are constantly developed and elaborated. And regularly release multi vendor script updates that offer a range of improvements addressing everything from security and performance to search engine optimization enhancements.
Updates are thoroughly tested and quality controlled providing you with stable, tested performance enhancements that continually decrease your long-term total cost of ownership. Moreover, with updates, you get new features delivered to your Internet store.
Owning a CS-Cart Multi-Vendor or X-Cart Multivendor license grants you the right to run the software on a server for an unlimited amount of time. And being a holder of this license type, you are entitled to free access to all updates, whether minor or major, for a period of one year from the date of purchase.
|Special lower rate|
You can prolong this access by purchasing a one-year upgrade subscription plan on the Licenses page in your personal account. A special lower rate is available within one month after the expiration of your access to upgrades, after that, a regular rate applies. If you don’t subscribe to the upgrades, you may still use your lifetime license as long as you need, however, the store will be «frozen» in its current state.
You can compare the price of upgrade subscriptions in the pictures below:
The one above is for X-Cart Multivendor, and the one below is for CS-Cart Multi-Vendor.
With updates, you get new features delivered to your Internet store.
Monthly-based or issue-based support.
Here the things go more interesting. We have two totally different support policies here. Let’s take a closer look at our options.
X-Cart offers monthly-based tech support. It will cost you from $179 per month. So as long as you have a subscription to this service, your issues will be solved no matter what is it.
This service includes hosting and answers within 8 hours. Also, there is a premium support option with a response of up to 30 minutes, an SEO audit, and an ability to contact the X-Cart team by phone.
It’s cost. You can pay $2148 in advance for one year ($179 per month) or just pay a flat $199 every month. Premium support will cost you $299 monthly. So your expenses on tech support will overcome the cost of the license in the 7th month of using it. Ouch!
One more service – Urgent help. Yes, $99 for a single question. Nice.
Let’s take a look at CS-Cart. We provide issue-based support – when consultations of our technical support specialists are assessed in credits that are deducted from your credit account. Credits are used up depending on the work required to answer your question, resolve the issue, and have no time limit.
Issue-based. What does it mean? You do not pay for tech support at all until you really need it. In case you run out of credits – just get some more. Considering their cost, on average, you will pay $7–$30 for a technical question, depending on its complexity. Also, the average time of response is just 2 hours. Not bad at all.
No way to contact tech support via phone or Skype. This may seem uncomfortable, but do you really want to dictate your settings and configuration to the tech specialist by phone instead of just send them an access data? Probably, not.
One more thing – it is a maximum time of response – up to 24 hours. I can not complain here – all my questions were answered fast – in 30 minutes sometimes, – but be aware of this.
Live forum, where their users can share some experience.
Both eCommerce platforms have a live forum, where their users can share some experience or find help in the form of advice or developer service.
Unfortunately, I can not find any information about the popularity of the X-Cart forum. However, the day I wrote this article, only three threads in the whole forum were alive:
Let’s go to CS-Cart forum. Well, here we got a visitor’s statistics:
As you can see, there are more than 500 different users visit a forum for the last hour!
I am not sure about X-Cart, but I believe that 500 people will discuss their questions in much more than three threads for two days. However, I can not be 100% precise here. So it is only my thoughts.
Both virtual online shopping mall platforms have a live community which can help.
Looking for the developer is much easier when there are a ton of developers.
Speaking of custom development, the X-Cart consultant advised me to find 3rd party specialists experienced in working with X-Cart here:
There are 32 companies, 12 of them have ratings for their projects. However, 8 of them are hostings, four more – advertising and marketing agents, and only 20 developers. Probably you will find it difficult to find a developer for a reasonable price.
CS-Cart has 365 authorized partners and 248 of them are developers. Moreover, 121 companies can provide you with a turnkey website.
Also, there are 106 resellers worldwide. Many of them offering country-based repacks with additional built-in tools for that region or country.
And here CS-Cart Multi-Vendor beats X-Cart Multivendor again. Looking for the developer at an affordable price is much easier when there are a ton of such developers. However, as I mentioned before, X-Cart can make custom modifications by themselves and CS-Cart relies on our partners.
Guides and tutorials
Only one tool, which will be available for 24 hours 7 days in a week.
As you probably know, any CMS is a pretty complex system. So it can take a while for you and your vendors to get familiar with it and start working efficiently. And there is only one tool which will be available to you for 24 hours 7 days in a week – guides. So, let’s compare guides and tutorials for X-Cart Multivendor and CS-Cart Multi-Vendor.
X-Cart has an open Knowledge Base and Developer documentation. Both have a lot of articles with pictures and detailed descriptions. So there you can find a lot of answers to your questions.
However, I can say the same about CS-Cart. On our site, you can find documentation and – very convenient – video tutorials.
They are not very detailed, but they can become a very good assistant for your vendors.
Just raw numbers from the site of CMS developers.
Let’s make some calculations.
To launch your own marketplace built with a CS-Cart Multi-Vendor, you need to find a suitable hosting ($3–$450 monthly, but usually $6 or $10 per month), SSL certificate for it ($70 yearly on average) get a license ($1450 once), probably get some custom design theme from Marketplace ($50 – $200), another $599 for the mobile app. That is all. You can invest the rest of your budget into advertising, for example.
So the total will be around $1600 plus a hosting with SSL – another $15 every month. This way you will get three months of tech support and a year of free upgrades for your project.
Let me try to make X-Cart calculations for you. They can provide hosting with an SSL for you, so you do not have to look for it ($199 or $399 monthly). Then purchase a license ($1495), some marketing add-ons ($270 at a minimum, and another $900 to get many viable tools CS-Cart Multi-Vendor already has), design theme ($130 on average), and $2500 yearly for a mobile app.
So the total will be around $2000 – $3000 plus $400 (hosting and app) every month. And regular tech support and a year of free upgrades will be included.
So the expenses for the first year of using CS-Cart Multi-Vendor will be around $1800. And $180–$600 in every consecutive year depending on the usage of tech support and upgrades.
And with X-Cart Multivendor you will have to spend $7000 in the first year. Another $4800–$5500 in every consecutive year depending on the upgrade subscription. Yes, you can go to the third-party hosting like with CS-Cart, but then you will have no access to the tech support except the Urgent help.
I won’t tell you everything. Just raw numbers from the site of CMS developers.
|Find a suitable hosting|
|Purchase a license|
|Some marketing add-ons|
|Get a license|
|Get many viable tools|
|Get some custom design theme from Marketplace|
~$180–600 for tech support and upgrades
~$7000 in the first year
~$4800–5500 in every consecutive year
|Get three months of tech support and a year of free upgrades|
Greetings to those of you who reached this paragraph. Yes, this is the conclusion of this review.
As a result, we have two pretty similar platforms, but. With CS-Cart Multi-Vendor you pay only $1450 once and will have some humble expenses in the future.
With X-Cart Multivendor you pay $1495 once, and then $99 more, and then $120 more, and more, and more, and more to get EXACTLY the same you will get with CS-Cart Multi-Vendor out-of-the-box. That’s all the difference.
If you want to compare some of the expenses in more detail, refer to the following sections of this review:
- A marketplace management tools out-of-the-box
- Mobile Friendliness
- Tech Support
- Starting expenses (looks like just the whole overview)
If you find any mistakes or inaccuracies here, please, contact me.
Thank you for your time!
Have a nice day and good luck with your project!