Building a retail company

Updated: 2013-12-12

How do you build a company in a PHP hotel with possibly SaaS connections?

It would be nice to get an overview of what kind of SW could be relevant.

This list is divided in three levels:

  • Retail
    • Sales
      • POS //physical sales
      • eCommerce //web sales
  • Manufactoring
  • Customer Services
    • Customers (subscriptions), Suppliers, Marketing, Social Media
      • CMS //Public internet
      • CRM //Frontoffice
      • HelpDesk
  • Distribution
    • Inventory, Shipping, Accounting (invoices. billing)
      • ERP //Backoffice
  • Coworking
    • Collaboration
      • Groupware


It is important that the systems have integrators for multiple interfaces, so the systems should rather be old and popular rather than new or too simple.

The list is based on PHP SW and SaaS services. My webhotel, Meebox, provides most of this SW as on-click PHP app installs from SoftAculous, which makes installing the SW close to a no-brainer.


  • Open Source Point of Sale

eCommerse – Webshops

eCommerse – subscriptions

  • WHMC S //VM/SaaS
  • The HostingTool

eCommerse – Payment Gateways

eCommerse / ERP – Billing

  • BoxBilling
  • phpCOIN //Includes helpdesk
  • Blesta
  • Simple Invoices

eCommerse / ERP – Shipping



  • EGroupware


  • Hesk
  • Open Web Messenger //Chat button
  • Help Center Live
  • phpOnline
  • Crafty Syntax Live Help
  • Trellis Desk
  • ExoPHPDesk
  • iQDesk //Targeted small
  • phpMyFAQ
  • Vision Helpdesk
  • Maian Support
  • HelpDEZk
  • Support Incident Tracker
  • UseResponse – Build on SingularCore

Business Frameworks


These conclusions has made without having made any PoC’s, so it is close to being guesswork.

Shopping cart selection: Magneto and PrestaShop both has nice eBooks for getting started, but OpenCart seems to have the best integrations (with 2 way sync of a lot) to FrontAccounting, SugerCRM and VtigerCRM for as little as $99. PrestaShop seems to loose on integration price. Magento looses on limited integration, so the winner must be Opencart, which also leaves the competition between CRM / ERP open.

CRM / ERP selection: SugarCRM has nice eBooks. But for SugarCRM and VtigerCRM you need extensions for covering ERP.
You could opt for Magenta with Embedded ERP extesion (expensive), but then you don’t find good CRM connectors to Sugar or Vtiger.

So instead the choice stands between FrontAccounting and Dolibarr and maybe EPESI, which all provides both ERP and CRM. For OpenCart there is a great extension (OpenCart Accounting – and one more) for FrontAccounting, which also gives a great mobile GUI, so this that will be the winner.

In this article FrontAccounting also comes out as the winner.

Since the chosen SW is PHP on MySQL, then there is a large choice of cloud hosts, that can host these technologies, when you need to scale out.

If you look at specialized SaaS SW like Shopify (eCommerce), SalesForce (CRM) and e-conomic (ERP) , then you end up paying a lot in subscriptions and integration’s. You would be bettor off with cloud-hosting the above PHP OpenSource solutions, since you get the same possibility for scaling out – and you can even get servers around the globe from providers like Amazon and Azure. Before scaling out, you just start on a small webhotel, which also is a fine place to have your test environment.
The SaaS providers does have benefits though – like upgrade-to-new versions without you having to care about other things than your integration-glue that might not like upgrade. This gives you much freer hands to care about your business.

Maybe another alternative: Drupal Commerce Kickstart, which can be extended with free modules for POS, invoices, inventory, reporting, social features, workflow and a lot other. But how about ERP and CRM?
There is a Drupal CRM installation called RedHen (and yet one buiding on redhen called OutReach), but how does that integrate with Commerce Kickstart?
Other Drupal CRM modules and installations:
ERP? Not so impressing. Just sending an PDF invoice using ERPAL is just a PoC.
In this article someone is trying to find an all-in-one package for Commerce, ERP, CRM like in this one.


A side note:
If you can host Java, then OpenBravo ERP seems like a great ERP choice seen with design related glasses. It uses a jQueryMobile-lish library called EnyoJs for creating a great modern mobile (and desktop) experience.  It has also a sister project OpenBravo POS. The company behind offers OpenBravo cloud services.

Yet a note:
SSO (Single Sign On) should probably be considered as an important feature when integrating systems. You could – as a small company – consider Google, Facebook or Windows Live OAuth Identity providers. You will probably find a plugin for each system (Cart, CRM, ERP), which covers at least one of the three Identity providers.

A Tip: Use Drupal Open Atrium for Intranet. eBook.

And one more note:

I saw this poster of integrations in this Drupal keynote from May 2013. Currently companies rather want to go for best-of-breed = integrations instead of all-in-one. This makes sense to me, when I think of SharePoint trying to be all-in-one. This makes SP difficult to administrate and develop.

marketing technology landscape


The End.


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