Magento and WooCommerce are two among a handful of the most popular and widely used eCommerce platforms around the world today. Choosing one over the other is not necessarily a straightforward task for a business owner.
We are here to help you put things in perspective and focus on the aspects of the two eCommerce platforms that are relevant to your business. Let’s first clear the air and start by discussing some of the reasons why this dilemma is of any relevance.
Magento vs WooCommerce – why these two platforms?
While eCommerce has seen significant growth in recent years, 2020 was the year when things really started to get interesting. Due to the restrictions imposed on conventional retail, numerous businesses have refocused on online sales. As a result, the eCommerce industry has exploded with countless new online stores by online first-timers, businesses that are just getting started with their online journeys.
At the same time, many eCommerce veterans, sensing the pressure put on them by the market are finding ways to solidify their online presence and secure their niche.
This has led to an extremely turbulent environment, where businesses are constantly looking to expand, optimize, migrate between platforms, upgrade their online stores with new features and extensions, cut costs or invest more to claim new market segments and wider audiences to accommodate for their high aspirations for eCommerce.
Additionally, with the upsurge in eCommerce and a decline in other industries, there is an increase in both demand and supply of competent and certified professionals able take on platform-specific development, help install and set up plugins and third-party extensions, assist merchants with planning their eCommerce efforts, and provide adequate and reliable support services.
Choosing the right eCommerce platform is a strategic task that will prove definitive for many aspects of your business flow. Right now the market is already overflowing with eCommerce solutions promising to satisfy every imaginable business need. From free and open source projects to high dollar proprietary platforms; aimed at small businesses and huge multinational marketplaces; from basic to offering advanced security, functionality, and virtually unlimited features.
When choosing an eCommerce platform to launch a new online store or to migrate an existing one, every business has a specific set of requirements and expectations.
Unless you are looking to build a highly specialized website, the general rule is to go with an eCommerce solution that is widely adopted and well tested. The reason is, a well-established eCommerce solution by default implies a number of features that will save your business a lot of time and headache further down the road. Specifically, some of the features to look out for are relevant features, stability, scalability, advanced security measures, developer availability, etc.
Magento vs WooCommerce – an overview
And this is where we loop back to our today’s contenders: Magento and WooCommerce. Each of the platforms has a massive user base with hundreds of thousands of eCommerce websites under their belt. The two platforms combined power roughly half of all websites across the entire industry.
This is a clear indicator that each platform is dependable enough to have won the preference of merchants and users alike all over the globe. OK. But the question you are most likely looking to answer is whether or not either of these eCommerce platforms will work for your business needs.
To help inform your decision, let’s go over some of their most notable features.
A brief comparison of the two platforms
Both Magento and WooCommerce are well-established eCommerce platforms. Both serve, essentially, the same purpose – helping businesses connect with their customers online.
There are, however, important differences between the two, making each suitable for a specific range of business scenarios.
To see the distinction between Magento vs WooCommerce it is important to understand that the two platforms are built very differently, each with a slightly different purpose in mind.
Magento, at its core, is a standalone open-source CMS platform built specifically to accommodate the purposes of eCommerce. A one-stop-shop for all your online business needs, it is suitable for both B2B and B2C, and powers thousands of online stores ranging from small startups to medium businesses, to major multi-million dollar brands, including Helly Hansen, Ford, and Landrover, to name a few.
Similar to Magento, WooCommerce is an open-source purpose-built eCommerce solution. The principal difference between the two platforms is that WooCommerce is built as an eCommerce plugin for WordPress, a ubiquitous blogging CMS. Thus, as a WordPress plugin, WooCommerce takes advantage of certain features of its host platform, appealing more to the merchants looking for a straightforward UI and an emphasis on content marketing. WooCommerce tends to suit primarily the needs of smaller B2C businesses.
WooCommerce vs Magento: let’s dig deeper
Now that we have discussed the basic difference between Magento and WooCommerce, we are ready to explore and compare the main features of both solutions.
Since both eCommerce platforms are aiming to deliver similar basic functionality, a number of their features will naturally coincide. However, as you will see below, each platform approaches conducting online business from a different angle, bringing its own unique take on eCommerce to the table.
Regardless of your perspective – whether a user, a business owner, or a developer, make sure to use your own judgment to evaluate how suitable either of the platforms is to your current and projected needs.
Magento and WooCommerce: feature overview
Features are an important surface-level element of any eCommerce platform – they are indicative of the convenience, the flexibility, the ease-of-use, and the application area of a platform.
At the same time, they can give you an idea of the onboarding process in case you decide to recruit a third party agency or manage your website yourself.
Magento: basic features
Magento, being a dedicated eCommerce platform, out-of-the-box offers a number of important features that cover most basic use cases. These include but are not limited to:
- Multi-store capability. This allows you to have multiple online stores with a single Magento installation, manage them all from the same admin panel, and run them all on the same hosting plan. Every store can be configured differently and set up on its own domain. This can be useful if you are offering a different product catalog, use different base currencies, have different design themes, etc. per store.
- Multi-language option. This allows you to easily set up a site offering different language versions. Great for businesses targeting markets in specific regions, or operating globally.
- Multiple configurable product options. Configurable products are items that require customers to choose one or several options before purchasing, such as shoe size and color. This feature further allows businesses to offer items with different selected options at different price points.
- Layered navigation. Essentially, this is a miniature version of a sitemap with filters and search capabilities that allows your customers to navigate your product catalog more easily, and follow through with their purchase in a more streamlined fashion. Magento 2 currently features the most updated version of this tool that is a recognized industry standard.
The upside is that with a basic Magento installation you get a full working package that will allow you to launch and maintain your store.
The downside is that a Magento store will initially be heavier compared to WooCommerce. Depending on your setup, this may reflect on your website’s overall performance being a bit clunkier and hosting fees slightly higher.
WooCommerce: basic features
As discussed above, WooCommerce is different from Magento in that it is not a standalone eCommerce platform but rather an eCommerce plugin for WordPress – a dedicated blogging platform. This, in many ways, defines the features that it offers out-of-the-box.
As a WordPress plugin, WooCommerce places a great emphasis on integration with content. This comes in handy for online businesses and merchants alike whose strategy relies heavily on content marketing.
As far as the actual eCommerce-related functionality goes, WooCommerce, initially, prefers to keep it light and abide by a modular approach. In practice, this means that any features are only made available by means of adding them as plugins and extensions.
The upside is that you can mix and match any features that are available with the platform-compatible plugins for an end result that uniquely suits your business needs.
The downside, however, is that no matter how basic your requirements are, you still need to reach out for an extension to get things to work. This has certain drawbacks that businesses should be aware of in advance.
- If not managed carefully, the store may quickly change from agile and lightweight to complex and riddled with a web of plugins, extensions, and third-party integrations. This can considerably slow down the operation of your website, taking a toll on customer experience and affecting sales.
- Adding external components to your online store invariably exposes it to potential security risks, making your site susceptible to exploits and hacker attacks. Of course, there are tools to boost your WooCommerce store’s security, but those come as external add-ons too!
- Another thing to mention is that many of the extensions will have a price attached. Depending on your ambition and business needs, the cost of WooCommerce site maintenance may quickly escalate.
Magento vs WooCommerce features: the bottom line
Magento delivers a more complete eCommerce package and offers more advanced features out-of-the-box. This makes it a good option for merchants who need a solid comprehensive eCommerce setup that just works from day one.
WooCommerce, on the other hand, is initially much lighter on its feet, allowing for swift performance and more accessible hosting. Its focus on content delivery and modular approach to add-ons make it a good option for merchants with a strong content marketing game, willing to tinker with plugins to tailor the website to their specific needs.
Each platform offers an extensive library of plugins, extensions, and themes – both proprietary and third-party, free and paid.
Importantly, both platforms are open source, which means that their source code is readily available for any further enhancements and customization.
Ease of use
Magento: ease of use
Being the more complete and feature-rich of the two platforms, Magento is inevitably going to be the more complex one to handle. With a highly interconnected codebase, it is more complicated, from a development standpoint, and implies a rather steep learning curve.
With a higher level of complexity, plugins and extensions typically take a developer or a tech-savvy user to install and set up. For many business owners, however, the few extra steps needed to adjust their online stores are well worth the effort, since, as a result, they end up with a website that is optimized for their exact specifications.
From the standpoint of an admin panel user though, Magento is fairly straightforward. While it may take some getting used to when you get started with the platform, the interface is intuitive and can easily be handled without any prior technical background.
WooCommerce: ease of use
In terms of ease-of-use, WooCommerce has inherited from WordPress the intuitive admin panel design layout, clear navigation, and product management. Anyone who is used to working with WordPress will find WooCommerce instantly familiar.
Just like Magento, WooCommerce is an open-source platform, which makes it open for deep customization, but you’ll likely need a developer’s assistance.
Plugins and extensions are often easy enough to install, though it is advised that the setup of critical add ons (e.g., payment gateways) is handled by professionals. To this note, third party extensions may not always be compatible among themselves, which also requires developer involvement to resolve.
Magento vs WooCommerce ease of use: the bottom line
Magento is more geared towards merchants that are looking to hire a developer team to handle their website setup and customization, and setting up Magento extensions will take either a developer or a tech-savvy user.
However, the efforts will pay off, and site management via Magento admin panel won’t cause trouble even to technically inexperienced users.
Like Magento, WooCommerce offers good potential for customization. The interface needs no introduction to anyone used to working with WordPress, and users are able to accomplish multiple tasks by themselves.
However, developer assistance is still necessary for more advanced and responsible jobs, and the unavoidable abundance of extensions and add ons may cause some compatibility issues.
Both Magento and WooCommerce are available as free of charge solutions. While WooCommerce is only available as a free version, Magento offers both free and paid options – with Magento Community Edition and Commerce Edition, correspondingly.
However, even though each platform claims to offer a ”free” version, don’t let it fool you: at the end of the day, there is still a price tag attached.
As mentioned above, both free and paid versions are suited to businesses of every budget and scope. With numerous options available with both versions, the free Community Edition is sure to satisfy the needs of any small to medium-sized business, and the Commerce Edition is aimed at larger merchants, easily reaching into the enterprise territory. The pricing of their premium versions is revealed on request and will depend on your particular business specifics.
The free Magento Community Edition as such is still a sophisticated self-sufficient eCommerce platform, able to run a wide range of online stores and deliver high levels of performance. It is important to note, however, that the free version will get you equipped with the most basic working online store setup. Many further customizations will involve additional fees – be it in the form of paid add-ons or development costs.
On top of that, there is a hosting fee that needs to be taken into account. As discussed above, Magento is the bulkier of the two platforms, thus, it is advised that hosting expenses are planned in advance. The price may vary within a wide margin, and will ultimately depend on your choice of hosting provider.
Even though WooCommerce is claimed to be completely free of charge, the reality is, as usual, more prosaic. Yes, the starter package is free, BUT it won’t get you very far. To add any substance and functionality to your WooCommerce store, you will need extensions. And – those come at a price. Free WooCommerce extensions are widely available, but many still will cost you money.
Of course, any development work won’t be free of charge either, although the price point for developers does tend to be more affordable than that for Magento.
Hosting-wise, WooCommerce is more affordable too, due to its lightweight size. The final price here, again, will vary depending on the offer you manage to get out of your hosting provider.
Magento vs WooCommerce pricing: the bottom line
Magento is the only one of the two platforms offering both free and paid versions. The free Community Edition will suit small to medium-sized businesses, and the paid Commerce Edition will find its users among larger companies with upwards of $10M in online revenue. The free version will most likely involve additional costs in the form of paid add-ons, development, and hosting fees.
With a single “free” plan, WooCommerce proves to be more affordable, yet, still, not entirely free. Adding any functionality to the basic package will require additional extensions; many of these are paid. Moreover, hosting and additional development will involve further spending.
Magento vs WooCommerce: what’s the conclusion?
So, considering all of the above, what is the verdict? Which is better – WooCommerce or Magento? Ultimately these are two solid choices worth considering when selecting an eCommerce platform. And the question you should be asking instead is: Which of the two platforms is more suitable for my needs?
Both platforms are self-hosted and highly scalable. Both offer free versions, and each boasts a massive marketplace of plugins and extensions to suit any imaginable business need. Both are open-source, which opens great optimization possibilities to those merchants who are ready to pay an extra development fee.
However, there are significant differences between the two. As such, Magento is a standalone CMS platform built specifically for eCommerce purposes. With even the most basic installation it is sufficient to set up a store and start selling. This makes it more robust and secure, yet also heavier on the server resources and more complex to operate.
WooCommerce is, initially, much lighter and agile, though its basic installation will have to be upgraded via plugins and extensions to add any coherent functionality to the arsenal. It is easier to onboard, but may still require some developer assistance further down the road.
The choice boils down to your expectation of an eCommerce platform, how robust and reliable you need it to be, whether or not you are willing to spend an extra for additional features, stability, and security.
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