WooCommerce is an ecommerce platform popular with small to medium-sized businesses. Although just a plug-in (it runs on WordPress) it has many advocates and its user base is rapidly growing. But, compared to a standalone commerce platform that runs on its code, like Magento, how does it stack up? Can it run large numbers of SKUs? Is it suitable for larger organisations seeking extended flexibility and control? In this article, we cover all these points and more.
Before we dig into the features of these two platforms however, try answering some of the following questions:
Questions to ask:
- What is my target market?
- How many SKUs do I expect to sell?
- How much traffic do I expect my site to get?
- Do I need to integrate my existing store or inventory?
- Does my store need to be custom-made, or will a template-based platform do?
- Is the security of the platform for my website important to me?
What is my overall budget?
The key thing to bear in mind is the scale (and scalability) of your project. Large projects will require a platform that is highly flexible, can be customised according and expanded according to your needs. For smaller projects, these features would be overkill: a simple template-based platform should be fine.
That said, let’s now look at each platform separately.
WooCommerce is a beginner friendly platform aimed at small businesses and medium sized companies. Founded in 2011 by Woothemes, the platform is a WordPress plugin comprised of open source code. According to their own website, about one-third of all online stores are powered by their CMS.
Its main features include:
- Access to all features via WP-Admin dashboard of your site.
- Support for marketing campaigns such as discounts, coupon codes and usage limitations.
- Advanced reporting of sales income, inventory level, product and customer reviews.
- Ability to add unlimited number of products to catalogue.
- Supports payment gateways like Paypal, Cash on delivery and Stripe.
- Allows report-generation for insight into store performance.
- Online resources and documentation to help in store design and maintenance.
- Capabilities to set free or flat rate shipping.
- Full control over code base customisation.
- Easy to use & learn.
Magento is a fully customisable platform aimed to at medium to large enterprises. Released 11 years ago, it is acclaimed for its top to bottom flexibility. Users include renowned brands such as Coca-Cola, Burger King and Ford. In addition to its impressive client-list, its features include the ability to run multiple Magento stores at once, and an admin panel with advanced security settings.
Its main features include:
- Ability to perform target marketing, customer segmentation and merchandising.
- One-step checkout with nearly 100% of payment types accepted such as Paypal, Authorize.net and Stripe.
- Catalog promotional pricing with the ability to restrict to stores, categories or products.
- Ability to run multi-website/multi-store on same installation.
- Marketplace with access to over 5,000 extensions for your site.
- Detailed analytics including abandoned shopping cart reports and most viewed products.
- Full integration with Amazon and eBay marketplace.
- Layered / Faceted Navigation for filtering of products in categories.
- Support for multiple languages and currencies.
- Scalable database / flexible product management.
In addition, unlike WooCommerce, Magento boasts different versions of its platform according to your needs. These are: Magento Community Edition, Magento Enterprise Edition and Magento Cloud Commerce. This makes Magento a far more comprehensive product, with each version tailored to a specific use, and with the Community version – as open source – enabling you to ‘try before you buy’. To find out about the differences between each platform, please see our article here.
Before we go into more detail contrasting the main differences between the two products, please see the table below for a quick and easy side by side comparison.
|Cost||Free version as well as premium paid versions available.||Free platform based on WordPress. Extensions must be purchased.|
|Software||UI-UX platform. Can be customised from within the core platform or with add-ons.||CMS provides interface to build stores. Advanced options available via extensions.|
|Web Hosting||Hosting is provided by the user via a dedicated server or via Commerce Cloud Edition which includes hosting as standard.||Hosting must be provided by the user.|
|Customer base||Can be used for small businesses. Perfect for medium to large scale enterprises.||Suitable for small to medium-sized businesses.|
|Security||Advanced security features as well as regular security patches to close potential vulnerabilities.||Includes basic security features to protect your store.|
|User level||Requires a developer or agency to get the most out of its features.||Entry level. Simple interface makes it easy to set up.|
|Support||Comes with 24/7 support for premium users, plus the Magento Community for all users.||Comes without support. This must be paid for separately, or accessed via purchased theme.|
Magento and WooCommerce: the Full Comparison
Comparing the two platforms side by side like this, it should be clear that both platforms are evenly matched. Which package you chose will largely depend on the scale of your business.
For entry-level merchants, running a WooCommerce store is undoubtedly the easier option. The software is relatively simple to use, making it easy to get a site off the ground. Nonetheless, even though Magento is somewhat harder to use, it is based on PHP, like WooCommerce. So, if WooCommerce doesn’t work for you, there shouldn’t be too steep a learning curve in switching over.
Scalability & Speed
Here, WooCommerce’s strength is also its weakness. For a medium to large scale vendor, the platform’s simplicity may not be appropriate for the large numbers of products it is hoped will sell. Ultimately WooCommerce is just a plugin. It is limited in scalability, speed (where it comes to running large backend inventories), and you do not have the ability to run multiple stores under a single installation.
With Magento on the other hand, while its learning curve is steep, it is much more stable and secure. As a dedicated ecommerce platform, it is unlikely you will need any additional plugins. By comparison, WordPress usually requires a handful of plugins to make it secure. If you want to turn a WordPress website into a stable ecommerce store, you will need to find a high-quality ecommerce plugin to do so.
To sum up: which platform is right for you will largely depend on the scale of your business. As a rule of thumb, for medium to large scale enterprises (particularly where integrations with existing systems are required) we recommend Magento. On the other hand, if you are a small to medium sized business looking to get started in the world of ecommerce with minimal setup costs and a simple but limited platform, we recommend WooCommerce. As ever, the choice ultimately lies with you. But we hope, in laying out their features side-by-side, we’ve made the decision a little easier.
Want to find out more about Magento? Please see our Complete Magento Ecommerce Guide for more details.