Magento vs. WooCommerce 2017 – How to make the smarter choice!
There is a good number of ecommerce systems, but the two most well-known ones are Magento and WooCommerce. Both have a lot of advantages that raise them above their competitors. Still, the question comes up: how do they perform when compared to each other and how can you decide which to choose for your purposes?
In this article we’re covering the following topics:
Similarities between Magento and WooCommerce Differences between Magento and WooCommerce Usability Costs Functions Analytics Design Themes Content management Security Extensions & Plugins Multi-vendor solutions Dropshipping Which is better? 7 summarizing questions
PODCAST – Listen to the audio version of the article here:
Before making a decision, the best thing to start with is to take a look at your own opportunities, plans and needs.
- Who are your target group?
- How many products do you offer and what would be the traffic of your online store?
- What kind of store do you have in mind?
- Can you support your store with additional infrastructure, such as an ERP system?
- Do you want to have a totally customized online store both in terms of design and functionality and are you willing to pay the extra cost for it?
- Do you need a secure background provided by an experienced developer team or are you OK with a predefined, but limited set of functions that you can control yourself?
You need to answer many questions like these before you choose one over the other.
It is true that trying either system does not cost any money, but you may waste precious time while doing so, and switching later can be quite problematic after you have realized that you have made a bad decision.
So now let’s scan through several points that will help you make a wise decision and thus be able to sell your products successfully.
One of the basic similarities is that both Magento and WooCommerce are open source systems, which means that they can be developed basically by anyone. In both cases a lot of professional developers work on these systems, their numbers are much more than it would be possible with a single company.
The huge benefit of an open source system is flexibility: if you need something that is not included by default, it is likely that someone has already programmed an extension for it, and if it is still not the case, you only have to find someone who will do this for you.
Each platform enjoys the support of a powerful community behind it.
WooCommerce is backed by the mass of WordPress users, while Magento is supported by a dedicated community that constantly develops and checks the code and its members also help each other to find new solutions and opportunities or extend the existing ones within the framework.
It is more useful than a “simple” support service because this way you get much more effective assistance. Instead of having a call centre employee looking up the manual on the other end of the line, you can ask your questions in forums that are read by thousands of users where you can get direct help from experts in the given topic.
More substantially, the two systems have some common features in terms of product management and communication.
Both systems allow you to upload and manage an infinite number of products in one place.
You can run a blog page on both platforms, which is of immense significance considering content marketing and SEO activities.
In Magento, you will need to install an extension for this, while WooCommerce, being WordPress-based, has it by default.
It is worth noting that many times a Store menu is created on the company’s WordPress homepage which has no Woo plugin. Clicking on the Store menu, the customer is redirected to the company’s online shop, e.g. store.mycompany.com, which is a Magento-based store with identical design.
It can be seen that there are many similarities in general. Now let us take a look at the differences.
If you already use a WordPress-based website and you would like to create your online store within it, it is logical that you would choose WooCommerce.
It is simple to handle after you have got familiar with using WordPress and there are numerous video tutorials on the subject.
At the same time, the basics of Magento can be learnt quite easily.
A great number of video tutorials, documentations and a dedicated Wiki site help you to take the first steps and to avoid mistakes as a beginner.
The admin area is remarkably user friendly. The situation gets more complicated only when you start adding extensions to your online store that broaden the field of opportunities within the system framework.
TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.)
If you want a system that completely fulfils your business needs and which can effectively support your flow of income, this notion is particularly true. Fundamentally, both systems are free (in Magento’s case it is the Community Edition).
You need to spend money on them only when you want to expand functionality. For both, you have the possibility to install either free or paid extensions, so there is no big difference in that sense.
If you would like to hire a developer, you will probably find a WooCommerce programmer more easily because it is WordPress-based.
Developing in Magento is more likely to cost more and because it is more robust, while installing custom developments it may “break” here and there, so it is definitely recommended that you choose a Magento developer company which applies strict quality control and a multiple testing processes.
If deadlines are tight, it is wise to assign more developers at the same time when complex functions are to be elaborated.
For this, however, broader infrastructure and capacity, as well as flawless work processes and dedicated project managers are required under one roof.
Sounds sophisticated? It is. Worth it? Most probably.
From a hosting perspective, however, Magento demands more.
WooCommerce can be run by an average hosting service (although, when speaking about several thousands of products and heavy traffic, it can be a challenge).
A Magento-based ecommerce store needs to have the company’s own server or, even better, it is well worth the money to use a cloud based system (we recommend our hosting services for international ecommerce or if heavy traffic is expected) or hiring a dedicated server.
At the same time, thanks to this, you will have a larger capacity at hand. This makes it possible that Magento can manage huge ecommerce networks or more online stores simultaneously due to its scalability.
This consequently requires a dedicated hosting service, with managed hosting, which has its price, but has all the qualities to offer flawless customer service and fully satisfying user experience.
It is a must (at least theoretically) for an ecommerce platform to be able to handle an infinite number of products and to feature a virtual shopping cart.
No problem, both systems can do that.
It is also important, however, to what extent you can customize your product features and functions as well as the whole shopping process.
And this makes Magento the winner here.
Magento lets you exploit a whole bunch of up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, the shoppers can make comparisons between products and can narrow down their searches to find what they really want. One of Magento’s most tempting features is the possibility of narrowing down search results.
Developers mainly focus on special deals and coupons in WooCommerce. The narrowing down search results feature has also shown up here, but Magento is way ahead of it with its complex and versatile search solutions.
And so far we have only talked about consumer benefits…
The “other side”, namely, the Magento admin area, offers a vast array of options that will blow the minds away of those e-merchants who like to fully customize and manage their product pages and features as well as processes based on customer activity.
We believe this applies to basically 100% of e-merchants having at least a little experience in online store management. You have an amazing number of options in the admin panel.
Magento is a remarkably flexible ecommerce system in this respect, which is an enormous advantage because no matter what you sell (china plates, processors or tomatoes), the system can be nicely adjusted to the product characteristics.
In order to manage your online store successfully, you will need detailed statistical databases.
Google Analytics can be integrated with both platforms (in Magento it can also be extended with the Enhance Ecommerce application), so none of them falls short here.
Thanks to this, you will have a lot of information to help you to optimize your store. Additionally, Magento produces statistics on its own about the most viewed, most searched and most popular products.
A number of different sales reports can be created with it and exported in .csv format.
In the case of Magento, functions can be expanded almost without limit.
In the Magento Connect database you can find thousands of extensions (many of them are free), but it is advised to ask an expert to install them.
All things considered in this section, Magento wins by K.O. over WooCommerce.
WooComerce, as a simple WordPress plugin, offers extensions which are easy to use, but have more limitations.
It is obvious that a system which has been dedicated to e-commerce solutions from the start is in a different weight class than a general website engine originally developed to handle blogs, corporate pages, news sites etc. and then expanded with an ecommerce plugin. However, WooCommerce’s advantage over Magento is its state-of-the-art blogging system, to be described later.
Needless to say that if you want to build a more advanced online store, it is well worth the time, energy and money investing in a Magento development project.
It is no coincidence that global companies like Nike, Gant or Samsung use Magento.
Today it is a must that an ecommerce store has a responsive layout.
If it is not displayed perfectly on all devices, from smartphones to PCs, then you simply miss a significant proportion of your potential customers.
WooCommerce can be integrated with WordPress without a hassle, thus responsiveness is usually not a problem.
You can browse among a good number of themes, some are free, but most are paid themes. However, these are still cheaper than to hire frontend and backend developers and graphic artists to create a custom design for every page with a Magento project.
If you are new to ecommerce, it is wiser to invest first in WooCommerce, and then, when you start experiencing huge tides of customers flowing to your online store, switch over to Magento.
In this phase a crystal clear ecommerce model and an ERP (enterprise resource planning) / invoice processing / inventory management system should be implemented with which you will need to connect your Magento store.
Magento has been featuring a responsive design since 2014 (v1.9) and there are loads of free templates available for download, which can further be customized according to your expectations.
Many thousands of different free and paid themes are available for both Magento and WordPress (WooCommerce).
If you decide not to go for custom website development, but to purchase a theme, we recommend choosing a premium theme after studying reviews about it carefully.
For WooCommerce you can either check the official site or ThemeForest.
In the case of Magento, if you have a 1.x version store, you can browse Magento Connect.
It’s better to avoid free themes because they may contain hidden security backdoors or backlinks pointing to the website of the developer, which can harm your search engine ranking performance.
Magento is expressly a system for ecommerce purposes.
Therefore it performs way better than WooCommerce if a number of complex needs have to be satisfied, because WordPress was originally developed for providing content, presenting portfolios, creating corporate websites and news sites.
You can still find basic content creating and editing features in Magento, like starting a blog page, however, content management is a little more problematic.
It still holds true that you will find basically everything within both systems in one way or the other, but differences can be large or small depending on what settings you use, how you build up your system or what extensions you install.
For sending out newsletters, Magento is not a good choice. Although such a solution with basic functions has been programmed into Magento, you will not get very far with it.
There are some extensions for segmentation, but it is still much better to use a world-class e-mail marketing software like MailChimp or GetResponse.
We can hear a lot of stories about the vulnerability of WordPress (WooCommerce) sites.
Unfortunately, if you don’t take special care about protecting your WordPress website there’s a good chance that sooner or later it’ll get hacked.
It’s one of the most attacked type of platforms (e.g. cracking admin accesses by brute-force attacks, whereby a robot is systematically checking a ton of possible user names and passwords).
Another way for attacks is via free or very cheap third party plugins and templates which hide backdoors to be used by hackers. Make sure you get themes and plugins from reliable sources only.
WordPress security can be greatly enhanced by using more sophisticated passwords, high-security hosting, always updating your WordPress version and plugins, and applying security plugins, like Wordfence Security being the most popular.
Magento, on the other hand, is less likely hacked, as it is a dedicated ecommerce platform which has much more built in features without having to take the risk of installing additional extensions.
With Magento it’s recommended installing all security patches and changing the default /admin URL to a custom URL right at the beginning.
It’s also wise to prevent robots visiting some specific pages that are not relevant to users, for example the admin URL page.
Always download your extensions and plugins from reliable sources.
In the case of WooCommerce, their official site and CodeCanyon.net contain quality and code-checked plugins that are most likely safe to use. If you’re about to download free plugins, it may be better to use the ones that have a premium (paid) version as well with good ratings and ongoing support.
For your Magento store, the official sites of Magento Connect and Magento Marketplace are recommended for finding secure and checked extensions.
All recent Magento Community Edition (free) versions and patches are available at the official Magento Tech Resources site.
If you want to try demo versions of Magento 1 in terms of both frontend and admin features, you can take a look here:
Multiple store environment
Magento Community as well as Enterprise Edition, by default, offers the possibility of having as many additional websites, stores, and store views as you wish.
Basically, when you first install Magento, you have
- a main website
- a default store
- a store view
Following this, you can create additional websites, in each website multiple stores can be created, and within each store you can have separate store views. (Store views are mostly used for showing the given store in different languages.)
On top of that, you can manage all your stores from the same Admin, while you can customize each store’s appearance and product range.
To have multiple stores within WooCommerce, probably the best solution is to install the WooCommerce Multistore plugin. “Easily manage multiple web stores keeping only one stock”, says the tagline.
You can virtually manage an unlimited number of WooCommerce stores from a single WordPress Multisite admin dashboard. You can launch and manage products, manage stock and orders as well as export orders.
The plugin’s license fee is $199 for one year including support and updates.
In the case of Magento, there are at least 5 different, quite sophisticated, premium (paid) extensions you can buy with which you can create your own multi-vendor solution for your ecommerce business.
If you want to have a high quality, “general” multi-vendor extension with lots of features and you don’t need any custom developments, we recommend Marketplace Multi Vendor Extension by CreativeMinds.
For WooCommerce we’d choose Product Vendors for turning our store into a multi-vendor marketplace.
Nowadays the popularity of the dropshipping business model is soaring higher and higher. There is a good number of advantages, such as low investment (since you don’t have to keep goods in stock at all), diversity (you can sell a wide range of products) and workload optimization (you don’t necessarily work a lot more if your order numbers get significantly higher).
Needless to say, you’d better start a dropshipping business only after conducting a thorough market research, finding out if there is demand for your products.
Looking at dropshipping solutions for WooCommerce you can easily find WooCommerce Dropshipping on the official website with which you can “Send automated order notification emails to your wholesale dropshippers when new orders arrive via your WooCommerce store.”
Of course, there are some other solutions on the market, like WooCommerce Dropshippers at CodeCanyon, which is rated the highest by the users.
It costs only $25 and extended support for 12 months costs an additional $7.88.
Key functions such as exporting customer & order data and shipping price calculation are available from several sources:
For Magento you there is a bunch of solutions too.
At the moment you can find considerably more modules at Magento Connect than at Magento Marketplace.
Before choosing one, it’s worth taking a look at the popularity scores and the reviews!
Additionally, let us give you a little help with finding your desired products and dropshipping suppliers. Here are some sites where you can browse among well-known and reliable dropshipping partners:
Which one is “normally” chosen?
Magento is used mainly by large enterprises that manage the online stores of their clients and connect them to an ERP system for invoicing or inventory management.
It is an ideal solution for those who “think big” or “dream big” and also for those who already have a popular e-store, but want more than the existing system can offer.
WooCommerce is widespread among small firms that have got familiar with WordPress.
It is never to be forgotten that Magento has been developed deliberately for ecommerce purposes. It is not an extension of WordPress, but a sophisticated system framework in which, with just a little exaggeration, you can have everything that you need for your online store.
The main search trends in Google for the 5 most popular ecommerce platforms
Trend over the past year:
Let’s see the numbers!
During the summer of 2015 AheadWorks made an overall study in which they primarily examined the popularity of Magento and WooCommerce in different market segments.
First, it is worth noting the proportion of usage of the two systems. The Alexa 1 million top websites were taken into account using a sample size of 1% of randomly chosen websites.
The data show that Magento is used by companies mainly in the group of Alexa ranks of 100-300k, while WooCommerce users are mostly in the 900k position area.
Drawing serious consequences solely from this information would not make a lot of sense, but it can be said with confidence that Magento-based websites are generally more popular than WooCommerce-based sites.
Probably the most interesting finding is on distribution by product categories.
WooCommerce is mostly used for selling software and information products, consulting services and grocery items.
Magento is notably preferred within categories of clothing and accessories, furniture, jewellery and gifts.
Here is a statistics chart by one of the most popular CMS detector plugin: Wappalyzer. (April 2017)
For the top 10k sites, BuiltWith data show the following market share figures:
If we take a look at different geographical locations, the popularity of the two systems varies region by region (BuiltWith data):
Famous brands that use WooCommerce
WooCommerce is used by a great number of brands out of which there are some big names. However, to tell the truth, we could find only a few of these, e.g. Men’s Health Box, Duracell Lighting, and Airstream, featured on WooCommerce’s Showcase page.
Please note this does not mean that WordPress itself is not preferred as a CMS with famous brands. TechCrunch, Sony Music, BBC America and many others run WP for their content publication.
But it seems, when doing ecommerce, the big boys go for other platforms. One of these is Magento.
Top brands that use Magento Commerce
Ford Motor Co. (accessories), Olympus, Bulgari or Monin, to name a few, have built their ecommerce sites on Magento.
No matter whether B2C or B2B solutions are needed in different industries, Magento is capable of providing merchants all around the world with custom features, tools, and services to help them achieve their business objectives.
Some other popular brands having Magento ecommerce websites:
- Sana Safinaz (Fashion)
- Loake (Shoes)
- Bauhaus (Home Improvement)
- Devlyn (Eyewear)
- Tom Dixon (Furniture)
- Sass & Bide (Fashion)
- Mr Price (Fashion)
- Liebherr (Machinery)
- Photospecialist (Photo Equipment)
- Heidelberg (Printing)
There is no definite answer to that.
Each system is ideal for different groups.
For those, however, who want to build a comprehensive online store, the choice is obvious: MAGENTO.
What can Magento offer?
For years, Magento has been one of the most powerful, self-hosted players on the market, dedicated to ecommerce solutions.
It is rich in functionalities and options, it can be very fast if served by the appropriate infrastructure, it can manage more online stores simultaneously and can be effortlessly optimized for search engines.
It can also be conveniently localized (e.g. currency settings) so it is great for international ecommerce. But, since it is a complex solution, it takes more time to be able to exploit its full potential and learn its ins and outs.
What can WooCommerce offer?
WooCommerce can be nicely integrated into WordPress websites and it is easy to handle. Its scope of functionality is narrower, it is suitable for mostly smaller e-stores with a rather limited set of needs.
It is perfect for beginners, niche marketers or testers who sell only a slim range of products.
For those who plan to grow bigger or would manage more stores in the future with thousands products and would want to have the choice to fully customize their online store, Magento is the option to go for.
To sum up very briefly, here are the basic advantages that one system has over the other:
Magento vs. WooCommerce: Pros and Benefits
Magento Pros over WooCommerce:
- Fully customizable: whatever ecommerce solution you need (advanced search, checkout, promotions, categories, product attributes, etc.), it can be developed in Magento
- More secure, little chance to get hacked
- High-end admin area
- Sophisticated statistics and reports for data driven decision making
- Multiple stores and store views as free default features
- Advanced ERP integration
- Better for “Think Big” companies
WooCommerce pros over Magento:
- Easy to handle
- Much cheaper
- Finding a WooCommerce developer is easier
- Less robust and resource intensive
- Can be set up and launched faster than Magento
- Demands less hosting capacity
- More free and paid themes
- Better content management platform
Strengths of both Magento and WooCommerce:
- Flexibility: open source systems, a huge number of various plugins, themes, and extensions
- Theoretically, can handle an infinite number of products
- Dedicated developer community, fast and effective support
- Free versions to download
- Responsive design
1) Do you want an online store with standard functions built on a theme or a fully customized shop having a wide array of features appearing on frontend as well?
There are tons of themes for WooCommerce that you can build up on your store relatively easily.
But if you need a sophisticated ecommerce solution to be tailored your specific needs, Magento may be the right choice.
2) How many products do you wish to sell? Up to a few hundred or up to tens of thousands?
Theoretically, both systems can handle an infinite number of products, but if you have a lot of items, you need advanced hosting capacities.
Leading cloud hosting infrastructure providers, like AWS or Azure, can be good options. Involving experts for managing and optimizing such hosting solutions will most probably be needed.
3) When do you want to launch your store?
If you have a tight deadline set in stone, it’s better to go for WooCommerce: you can create your store faster without the need for a developer.
On the other hand, if you are not in a rush, a state-of-the art, robust Magento store can be created taking a couple of months to develop.
4) Can product attributes, prices, images and inventory data be uploaded to the store only manually or is there a way to import them from an external ERP system directly?
Either way, Magento gives you smart solutions. For enterprise needs, such as SAP or Microsoft Dynamics integration, data connections can be built based on the out-of-the-box Magento API.
For WooCommerce there are also a number of ERP solutions, e.g. Odoo (used to be OpenERP), which is free for less than 50 users, above that, it costs $15 per user per month.
5) Do you want to build a new store or replace an existing one that already has a customer base?
If you already have several years of experience in ecommerce, and your new store is likely to get a lot of traffic right away, and you now have special needs and want to have more sophisticated custom features in your store (e.g. advanced coupon offers, customer management), Magento is the better choice since it’s unmatched in that respect.
If you have basically zero experience or want to switch from Amazon or add your own store on top of it, you can set up a WooCommerce store quite fast to see how you can build up your ecommerce expertise.
6) Is it a small budget or a larger, long-term business project?
The development of even the simplest Magento store costs several thousands of dollars. It is not a system which was designed for basic ecommerce functionalities, but a platform that has the potential to serve every single need the e-merchant has in mind.
Simple WooCommerce stores, however, can be created with a limited budget, as no programming skills are necessary for that.
7) Is there a marketing strategy already at hand (including e.g. content marketing, SEO, social media, promotional campaigns) or you just want to measure up the needs of your potential market?
If you don’t regard your ecommerce business as a serious undertaking, you just want to have a “hobby shop” or test the market, it’s enough to set up a simple WooCommerce shop.
On the contrary, if you have serious plans about being a larger ecommerce player and wish to back it with considerable marketing efforts, a thorough Magento solution may be better for that purpose.
If you think this article can be useful to other readers as well, please share it. You can also write your comments below. So if you have any questions or queries, don’t hesitate to comment!
Digital Marketing Manager
Gábor started working for AionHill as a Magento eCommerce project manager. After 6 years, he joined the restructured Marketing Team. His main responsibilities are content strategy and communications partnership management. Gábor has two kids, likes cooking traditional Hungarian meals and playing strategy and online role playing games.