PrestaShop E-commerce & Site Builder: For the Heavy Hitters
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Last Updated on August 3, 2019
Monetization of a website isn’t easy, especially if you’re working with a content management system or basic design template not explicitly built for e-commerce. Sometimes it requires a bit of extra work to find the right themes and plugins to bring all that functionality into your site.
If your main goal in blogging is to generate revenue, however, your best bet is to start with a software built specifically for e-commerce. The PrestaShop e-commerce software is a useful option if you want to build an online store around your blog.
About the PrestaShop E-commerce Software
Founded in 2007 by Bruno Lévêque and Igor Schlumberger, the team behind PrestaShop has maintained the same mission for over a decade: to make it possible for anyone and everyone to build an e-commerce website. By offering a free e-commerce software — one that is continuously managed and upgraded thanks to the open-source platform — the company has done a good job of removing the first obstacle many people face.
Of course, no website builder tool is without its drawbacks, and PrestaShop is no different. So, let’s take a look at what makes this e-commerce site builder worthy of consideration and what may make it one to bookmark for future review.
Is PrestaShop Really Free?
That is the promise you’ll find on the PrestaShop website: that it is 100% free. While that is true — you can download the software for free and there are about a couple dozen modules (plugins) available for free – that’s where the frugality of the platform ends.
PrestaShop is much like WordPress in that regard. You have an incredibly powerful, open-source software that makes building a site and managing your content a cinch. However, the “free” promise isn’t a totally accurate one. Consider the costs of:
- Web hosting
- SSL certificate (if you’re selling anything on your site, this is necessary)
- Design template
- Premium modules
And the cost of PrestaShop’s tools is steep.
What are the PrestaShop Templates and Modules?
As with other website and e-commerce builder tools, PrestaShop offers its own marketplace of design templates and module add-ons. Here is what you need to know:
You’d be hard-pressed to find a template from PrestaShop that isn’t modern-looking or beautifully-designed. And because this is an e-commerce software, they all come with layouts, page templates, and features meant specifically for online stores.
There are a couple caveats though:
The first is the price. PrestaShop does not offer any free templates. The cheapest template costs more than the average premium WordPress theme. The highest-priced template can run you a few hundred dollars.
The second thing to think about is that these templates are clearly built for online stores with massive physical inventory. If you’re a blogger who simply wants to sell e-books, white papers, or some promotional branded clothing, these templates may seem excessive.
PrestaShop currently offers thousands of module add-ons. You can accomplish a number of things with these modules, including sending abandoned cart reminders to visitors, building a professional blog, adding advanced search for products, integrating with an Amazon marketplace, and integrating with a variety of payment gateways.
You can also:
- Create newsletters
- Review your site’s e-commerce stats
- Add further product customization
- And more
That said, the majority of those modules are not free. The good news, however, is that if you’re a blogger simply looking to monetize your digital goods or physical inventory, most of the essential modules you’d need are free. The most important ones being the payment provider gateways, like:
- Amazon Pay
- Simplify Commerce by MasterCard
Again, if you’re looking for more features than these, just pay close attention to the cost of the tools you need before committing to this software.
What Sort of E-Commerce Site Can You Build with PrestaShop?
Although PrestaShop lists out an impressive and lengthy list of its software features on the website, as mentioned above, many of them aren’t available unless you opt into a premium module. So, to understand what you truly get with PrestaShop right out of the box, let’s take a look at the backend builder.
The PrestaShop admin “back office” looks similar to WordPress: very clean in layout, simplified structure, clearly labeled. So, navigation around this dashboard and admin area will be easy for users of all experience levels.
As you will see from each of the menu options, the central focus of this site builder is e-commerce so you won’t find an area explicitly for your blog. Here is what you will see instead:
The “Sell” section is front and center. This is where you’ll manage everything related to your online store:
- Customer Service
Within this section, you can control, manage, and review everything related to the ordering process from start to finish.
The first two parts of the “Improve” section are your Modules and Design. You can find, add, or purchase new Modules here. You can also add a new template, upload a logo, create and manage your site’s pages, and choose a unique layout for each page.
Shipping, Payment, and International are also included under this section.
Shipping is where you will set your shipment carrier preferences (if you’re selling physical goods). You can also manage shipping costs and fees here as well.
Payment is where you will set your payment method options. All of the free modules mentioned above will already be included on this page; it’s simply up to you to activate them. Anything outside of those, you’ll have to buy. You can also manage how payments are handled, currencies accepted, set country restrictions, and more here.
The International section is where you control everything related to localizing your e-commerce site for other countries. This includes setting up translations, currencies, taxes, and target locations.
This part of the admin is where you can handle pretty much everything else. Shop Parameters give you granular control over various settings and automation for your site. Advanced Parameters is where you can manage things like caching, users, SQL, and other more developer-friendly features.
What About Customer Support?
Again, this is where we have to draw comparisons to WordPress, as PrestaShop has a large community and partners surrounding it that would make this an appealing choice for bloggers who don’t want to go it alone and have some discretionary funds to throw around.
Here are some of the ways PrestaShop supports its customers:
- In-person training sessions and events
- Digital guides
- Developer documentation
- Limited assistance via phone, Monday through Friday, 1 to 5 p.m. EST
PrestaShop also has premium support options. For customers that want more assistance, they can buy a support plan through PrestaShop. Or, if they have more specific needs (like content management, mobile optimization, design, custom development), they can reach out to one of PrestaShop’s partner agencies and procure services through them.
Is PrestaShop the Right E-Commerce Site Builder for Bloggers?
Overall, PrestaShop is a great site builder tool if your primary focus is building an online store around your blog — one that is extensive in offerings and comprehensive in functionality and features. The back office admin area makes the management of an online store very easy to use; however, there is a lot going on here — from the predefined template layouts to a number of settings you have to control.
And, so, this may prove to be too much for bloggers simply wanting to monetize a handful of digital goods.