WooCommerce or Magento. Choosing the Right eCommerce Solution

WooCommerce vs Magento – Which eCommerce Platform Should You Choose?

Brett MillereCommerce, Web Development, WooCommerce

“Should I use Woocommerce or Magento?  Which is the better eCommerce platform?”  These are polarizing questions that’s been asked over and over again online and offline as business owners discuss eCommerce platforms with their staff and developers. You’ll find thousands of blog posts touting the pros and cons of both of these popular platforms, and plenty of opinions one way and the other.

But I’m going to give you the answer that everyone is afraid to say out loud:

WooCommerce is absolutely the right choice… in most cases.

In fact, my experience has been that, in 90% of cases, WooCommerce is more than up to the task of fulfilling basic eCommerce needs based on its simple and straightforward capabilities.

Of course, I’ll also come right out and tell you that our firm proudly develops Magento eCommerce solutions as well, and it’s a fantastic platform for those 10% of store owners who need the more advanced and complex options.

So, really the question we need to explore is:

How do you choose what’s right for your unique needs?

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is essentially a plugin built on top of the popular WordPress content management system.

This plugin provides all the basic functionality you expect from a web store or shopping cart:

  • Product catalog
  • Pricing functionality
  • Product variations
  • Shipping options
  • Backend organizational tools

In other words, right out of the box you can put up a WordPress website, plug in WooCommerce, and within a short time frame, you can start selling products online.

Its connection to WordPress also means that adding a web store to an already existing WordPress site, or transitioning a content-heavy site into a storefront can be a fairly simple process.

The fact that WooCommerce is built on the WordPress platform means there’s a tremendous number of add-ons available and thousands of knowledgeable developers who work on the open source platform almost exclusively, so there are plenty of resources and a large community to tap into.

These add-ons allow you to extend the basic capabilities of WooCommerce, but there is certainly a point where it makes more sense to select a more robust product like Magento.

What is Magento?

While the incredible popularity of WordPress has given WooCommerce the fastest growth in the space, Magento is still the industry leader. In fact, nearly 30% of all the web stores online run on Magento.

Out of the box, Magento is a far more robust eCommerce solution that offers functionality that WooCommerce simply can’t match without extensive add-ons or custom development:

  • Multisite capability
  • Layered navigation
  • Wholesale Pricing
  • Customer-configurable products
  • Multilanguage options
  • and much more.

Understandably, this higher level of sophistication comes with a price – both in initial development cost and in learning curve.

Still, Magento is the industry leader for a reason: it’s a great platform that can do just about anything any online store owner could want or need.

How do the two platforms compare?

Both WooCommerce and Magento are open source platforms. This is great for the end-user and developer both because it means there’s a large number of talented developers who have already worked hard on plugins, add-ons, and help documentation for the platforms, giving them both incredibly flexible abilities.

It also means you can rely on the large, established communities these open source projects have generated if you have questions or are looking for tips to tweak your site down the road.

From an ongoing management perspective, both platforms perform very well when it comes to making minor content updates, product updates, image updates, and the other day-to-day functions you’ll need to take on as you run your online store.

If you’re already a WordPress user, you’ll feel right at home with the WooCommerce interface. Magento will take longer to get used to it, but it too is intuitive and shouldn’t present a roadblock.

The basic eCommerce necessities are essentially the same on both platforms as well. Both do a thorough job providing:

  • Unlimited product listings
  • Flexible options for branding, look, and feel
  • Social media integration
  • A blog for added communication
  • Support for multiple stores under one user
  • Content editing
  • Image uploading
  • Basic shopping cart functionality (minus SSL, which you’ll have to set up separately.)

That being said, there are some differences you need to be aware of as well.

For one thing, WooCommerce is essentially free and easy to setup for the simplest and most basic eCommerce needs. Most functionality beyond the bare bones basics will require paid plugins, but many of them are very reasonably priced ($49-$79 on average.)

Magento, on the other hand, is also free but has more robust functionality which is more complicated to setup properly (and also carries the risk of an incorrect configuration significantly hurting your page rank and slowing your page load speed).  Additional paid plugins add to that functionality admirably, and most of them are also reasonably priced in the same general range as WooCommerce.

A thorough comparison of the feature lists of both products with your particular needs in mind is the only way to determine if the added up-front development cost and risk is worth it to you.

Hosting is another consideration. Since WooCommerce runs on WordPress, and most hosting options have everything you need for push-button WordPress installation already in place, there are few if any limitations in this regard.

Magento’s self-hosted server requirements are slightly different and notably more complex, although it would be rare to find a host incapable of meeting them the challenge is in making sure the developer has set this up properly.

Why is WooCommerce the winner for most situations?

I like to use the illustration of buying a car.

If you’re looking to buy a car and the decision is down to a 2012 Chevy Impala and a Formula One racer, nearly everyone is going to choose the Chevy for all the right reasons:

  • It’s less expensive.
  • It’s going to get you from point A to point B.
  • You won’t have any trouble gassing up.
  • You won’t have any trouble maintaining it.

Of course, if you’re a Formula One driver and you need to get to point B at 210 miles per hour, your choice is clear.

Similarly, WooCommerce is going to work just fine for nearly everyone (especially if they already have a WordPress website). When a client comes to our development firm looking for an eCommerce solution, we always start with the assumption that WooCommerce is where we’re headed.

It’s only after our discussions with the client confirm that what they want and need is definitely above and beyond what WooCommerce can effectively handle that we switch gears and start gassing up the Formula One racer that is Magento.

The fact is, both platforms are awesome. Both will provide an eCommerce experience you can be proud of, and that can be highly profitable. Our goal in helping you choose is to make sure you’re getting the maximum value from your decision and that you’re not paying for something you don’t need.

If you’re currently looking for guidance in developing your web store, contact us to discuss your options.