OpenCart’s extremely useful multi-store feature allows a store owner to manage two different online eCommerce sites from the same dashboard. If anyone is familiar with WordPress networks, and how you can manage multiple blogs from one wordpress admin dashboard, OpenCart multi-store essentially works in the same way. For everyone else, the basic premise is that you set up a second store through your current OpenCart installation effectively running it as a separate entity. You can manage all of the information, products, customers and orders from each of the two stores through the one dashboard.
The really great thing about multi-store is that you can actually use a different template to the original so the two stores can look completely different, customers can interact with them in totally different ways and the core concept is the same: everything is stored together in one admin area.
One thing to note is that I have been saying TWO stores but there is no limit really to the amount of stores you can set up and use. And this is all built in to default OpenCart so no extra downloads or installations to worry about. You will be getting your hands a bit dirty with domain pointing in your web hosting account but follow the steps below and you will be fine!
Setting up your extra OpenCart store
OK, so at this point I’m assuming that you have an OpenCart store set up and ready to go. So, to create your first multi-store you need to login to the admin area then go to System->Settings. On this page you can see the store you have, click on the blue “Insert” link in the top right to set up your new store details.
The next page will look similar to the default store’s Settings page but more stripped down. In the first two boxes you will need to enter the domain name which you would like to use in the extra store you’re creating. Make sure for the first one that you use HTTP at the start and in the second box (despite the typo in the help section) use HTTPS. Remember to add a backslash at the end of the URL or you’ll have trouble later on. I’ve included two links below on what my example store would have in the first two boxes:
Even if you won’t be using an SSL certificate on your new store, enter the HTTPS version just for consistencies sake. If you will be using a subdomain for your new store then you might have something like:
The same rules apply for the HTTPS and blackslash at the end for subdomains!
The next boxes are the generic contact information to be entered for the new store. If they are the same as your default store I’m afraid you’re still going to need to enter them again at this point.
In this section give your store a new title, description and choose which of your installed templates you would like to use. You can also change the default layout for this store but take note that the layout dropdown is alphabetised so you may need to manually set it back to default.
The ‘Local’ Tab
Not sure if this should be Locale now I look at it, maybe someone can correct me there In this section you can set the country, region, language and currency for your new store.
The ‘Option’ Tab
This is very much the same as the default store which allows you to set things like displaying prices with tax, assign available customer groups, guest checkout etc… Just go through and set as to your preference.
The ‘Image’ Tab
Again, this is very similar to before. Add a new store logo and favicon, then adjust image sizes as, and if, needed.
The ‘Server’ Tab
Your default store will manage all of the settings for the OpenCart multi-store so there is just a single option on this tab which allows you to turn on SSL connections if needed.
Important note regarding SSL certificates
If you won’t be using an SSL connection for your store then you can skip this section. Otherwise, read on.
If you will be using a completely different domain name for your new store (i.e. domain1.com and example2.com) then having an SSL certificate on your default store will NOT secure your new domain name, you will need another one completely.
If you are setting up a new store under a subdomain of the original store AND you have a wildcard SSL certificate then you will be able to use SSL correctly. Otherwise, your out of luck.
Simply click Save, and your store is set up and ready to go!
Setting up the domain name
From my experience, this is the point where people say they start getting beads of sweat on their forehead. The idea of messing with domain names in web hosting accounts puts a lot of people off but it is very easy. Follow these steps and you will be fine; you’ve done the hard bit by now anyway!
Login to your web hosting account control panel (in my example I will be using Plesk) and add a new domain to your hosting account. You should see some variation of the form I do below:
At this point, all I need to do is set everything up but at the point where it asks me where I want to point to domain (the document root), I simply enter the folder where my default OpenCart store is installed.
Click save/continue and you’re done. Wait a while and then go to your new domain in a web browser. You should see your new OpenCart store show up as a default installation with the template you specified in the options above. From there will be able to modify any products you have set up (or new ones) to show up in one store or another, simply tick the checkboxes next to the name of each store to include that product in there. You can do the same in categories, customers, customer groups etc.
Hopefully by this stage you’re all set up with OpenCart’s multi-store, you can rinse and repeat these instructions to create more and more stores but remember the extra admin time which is taken up with managing multiple stores and it can easily get confusing. Also note that vqMod files will affect all stores regardless as, at the moment, there is no way to turn them on and off for particular OpenCart stores. Leave me a comment below and let me know how you got on!