In the following we will go through in detail the differences between the two systems: what functions they have, how can they be used, how much can they be developed and who are they ideal for?
- The fundamental differences: content vs. ecommerce
- Drupal Commerce and ÜberCart
- Magento and Drupal: the specific differences
- Appearance, design
- Administrative interface
- Developer community
- Which one do the online stores use?
- Summary – the final verdict
First of all, it is worth clarifying how much the fundamentals of Drupal and Magento are different. Drupal is intended to be a Content Management System (CMS), while Magento is an online store engine deliberately developed for carrying out ecommerce tasks. Both systems possess such basic functionalities that make them capable of performing well in their role.
The fundamental differences: content vs. ecommerce
This means that if you want to offer for example a subscription type content, or perhaps to build a system where the users have access to different pieces of content depending on the different subscription levels or packages, Drupal will completely satisfy your needs.
At the same time, Drupal Commerce is less suitable for selling more traditional types of products because there is a good chance that you will need a more complex category system and also several product groups to which lots of different attributes can be associated.
On the other hand, the Magento engine was developed specifically for the online sale of the more traditional types of products: thanks to it you will get an online store suitable to reach both retail and wholesale objectives that also supports, if needed, the commerce of digital products, too, of course.
Magento is at a disadvantage right where Drupal is stronger: it is not very strong in content provision, it offers few options.
If one wants to build an ecommerce site where he or she can provide content and do online commerce in one place, the most suitable system for that objective may be WordPress, as sort of a compromise solution. That is because learning to handle WordPress is quite simple, it can be considered strong in content management, it is good at search engine optimization, it can be easily integrated in social media campaigns and in addition, it can be extended with an online store module that has appropriate basic functionality thanks to WooCommerce (although this is a simpler solution than Magento would be).
Drupal Commerce and ÜberCart
ÜberCart was the very first such module that was made for Drupal 6, and it of course developed a lot during the years in functionality and operation. All in all, it became much more user friendly. Experiences show that it integrates without problems into Drupal pages, it has a built-in payment processing option and the ecommerce store can be easily installed thanks to it.
A weakness of ÜberCart is that it handles each and every product as a content node, which means that all information, all attributes are tied to the given product, which may sometimes cause errors at delivery or invoicing. For this very reason its use is simpler in case of products where there is no need to indicate variants: for example books may be like that. In case you want to upload pants for example that are sold in various sizes and colours, the different variations will go under the node “pants”, which – due to the structure of the system – can be a bit troublesome if you have a large number of products.
In case of Drupal Commerce, on the other hand, each product variant is present as a separate entity and not as a branch of the original product. In order to display the different variants in one place (for example all the colours and sizes on the page for the given pants type), you have to create a separate node (which will be the display node). This system’s basic features are more complex ÜberCart’s, but its product administration is more “traditional”.
The payment system is not part of Drupal Commerce, you have to install additional modules to be able to use these functions – at the same time payment and delivery modules can be installed optionally by default in case of ÜberCart.
Installation of both versions is relatively simple, you will end up with a well functioning ecommerce store by using the default settings. Administration of the two systems is not very different, at least regarding the front end. Also, the online stores are completely customizable. Although learning the handling of Drupal Commerce takes more time, both ÜberCart and the more recent Drupal commercial module are relatively easy to learn.
Magento and Drupal: the specific differences
In the following, for the sake of simplicity, we will compare the capabilities of Drupal Commerce, the more recent module of Drupal that is used by more people with the capacities of Magento CE, namely the open source code, free of charge variant of Magento.
The first more significant difference shows already at installation. Installation of Magento is an extremely simple process, it can be done in approximately ten minutes – you will come across complexity only later in case of Magento. The creation of an online store here is almost effortless.
In case of Drupal, however, users with basic knowledge may already run into problems. A separate Commerce Kickstart application is offered on the official website, which allows you to “skip a few weeks’ configuration when building your ecommerce site in the Drupal Commerce framework system”.
Kickstart finishes relatively quickly and as a result, you will end up with an ideally completely operational demo store with theme, catalogue, search features and with a back office interface, obviously without fine-tuning on the other hand – but if you are building your first store, this does not represent a significant problem.
The interface of Magento is a very mature, well-tried platform that is actually easy to discover, at least when handling is considered. However, the large number of different options may be troublesome for the users who are beginners at using Magento: it is not easy to find your way around among the great deal of menus, options, possible settings; learning definitely takes time. On the other hand, several training videos, descriptions, courses are available online, which can help making the use of the basics smooth – and you can pick up later how those parts of the system work that feature more complex settings.
It also takes more time in the case of Drupal as well, to learn how exactly things work and where you can find the important stuff. At the same time, the newer versions of the content management system are much easier to handle than their predecessors were. Regarding handling it may also be an advantage that you can display the administrative module on the website as well, which means you can modify certain things more quickly this way.
Being a system originally planned to be an online store, Magento offers such additional functions that you would look for in vain in case of Drupal. We will describe some of those in detail below.
A great strength of Magento, compared to other ecommerce platforms, is that it allows narrow-down search that provides a comfortable and effective method for the users to find even among several thousands of products the one that meets most their needs.
With narrow-down search you can initiate a search based on categories, price range, brand, colour or any other variable. This is extremely important also because Magento offers unique possibilities to customize product attributes in the database. You can enter practically any kind of variable, which means that the users will be able to use the ecommerce store really comfortably only if they have the chance to search on everything. Therefore this also represents an advantage for the ecommerce stores that operate with a large number of products and also with diversified products.
Magento offers a great deal of built-in promotional options as well, which are ideal for the conversion of the visitors, for the increase of the purchase value, for the reduction of cart abandonment rate or even for the reactivation of your previous customers.
You can launch coupon sales, you can offer individual discounts on certain product groups or for given user groups (for example you can grant discounts to returning customers), you have the possibility to launch cross-sell and up-sell promotions and so on.
You can also build in a product recommending module in order to take the most out of the possibilities just mentioned. You can place CTAs that encourage the customer at a certain point of the purchasing process to order more or bigger of the given product (e.g. save money by ordering in advance the necessary quantity of a product, you can even offer discounts on that), or to add the product to the cart together with another one that other users frequently buy with it (e.g. you can offer additional storage capacity with a laptop).
The Community Edition system does not contain by default a loyalty system, the handling of loyalty points granting system, however, you can extend your ecommerce store with such functionalities as well by buying or developing such a module. You can run complex campaigns even including e-mail sending or setting up user groups. The set of tools to increase the customer lifetime value of a user to the highest possible level is at your disposal.
Drupal is rich in customizing possibilities concerning its appearance and you can modify a lot of factors within the available themes as well, so you can relatively easily make your site completely unique.
Of course there are available designs both free of charge and commercial ones also in case of Magento, but it goes without saying that it is giving a totally individual appearance to your online store what you will benefit the most from. In this latter case, if you have a bit bigger budget, you can create a really unique and special appearance with the assistance of the appropriate professionals. The system of Magento is quite complex and delicate though, so it is not advisable for any amateur to start experimenting with a major redesign.
Both systems are basically good in search engine optimization, but Drupal has an advantage in this field regarding that it operates as a content management system by default. Nevertheless, you do not need to give up on ranking high on the hit lists in case of Magento either, the system, as a whole, is very well optimized. On the other hand, experiences show that you may run into difficulties in case of certain issues (that is why it may be more practical and at the same time more expensive and more time-consuming to use your own developments with the help of professionals).
The advantage is clearly at Magento in this respect. It is not by chance that the ecommerce stores selling a lot of products and lots of their variants are built rather on this system and rarely on Drupal. As we already discussed it, the strength of Drupal is content and it is especially ideal when you want to sell a low number of products with a few different attributes, like books.
Magento is capable of handling several thousands of products practically without problems. You can assign loads of different (even completely unique) attributes to these, which are also easily searchable. So if you are ambitious, wanting to sell the complete product range of a large company, or you are building such an online store where you sell a large number of products by default, the balance tips in favour of Magento.
There is a strong and active international community behind both systems who carry out creative developments on them. The direction of these developments is fundamentally different though: while ecommerce functionality is in the focus in case of Magento, the developers dealing with Drupal are typically broadening, fine-tuning or rethinking CMS functions – therefore few of them deal with the ecommerce modules.
Which one do the online stores use?
Magento has been one of the most popular online store engines for years, according to the surveys, only the WordPress system WooCommerce can outstrip its share in ecommerce. Websites with a high number of visitors and the large companies mainly use the system of Magento.
Based on the latest data, approximately one fourth of all ecommerce stores worldwide use Magento, while the share of Drupal Commerce and ÜberCart is almost unmeasurable – they do not even figure in most of the surveys or are included in the “other” category.
If you want to build a website where you promote a lower number of products primarily with content marketing tools, Drupal operating as a content management system may be a better solution. However, if content is secondary, so for example you only want to write a blog on the site, and in the meantime you offer a significant product range and you need more complex ecommerce store functionality, Magento is the more optimal choice.
For beginners, it is also Drupal that is recommended, as it is simpler and not least cheaper to customize, to shape – although major redesign is not advisable for amateurs here either. In case of Magento though, you will definitely need the assistance of a developer.
Large companies, major commercial chains selling their products on the Internet, so the ones with greater needs, will surely find that it is worth investing in the creation of a properly optimized Magento site.