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October 16, 2019

Magento vs. WooCommerce: How To Make The Right Choice

Magento vs. WooCommerce: Which Is Best For E-Commerce?

Magento and WooCommerce are two of the most widely used ecommerce platforms around. If you’re interested in becoming an online merchant, how do you choose between these two platforms for your ecommerce store?

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably read or will be reading more on the topic. Be wary of any article that picks a clear winner. Magento and WooCommerce are both excellent choices for online stores. The best one for you will depend on your unique circumstances.

In this article, I’ll go over things to consider when deciding between WooCommerce and Magento. When you’re done reading, you should know which platform is best for you.

What is Magento?

Magento made its debut on August 13, 2007, and was built from the ground up as an e-commerce platform. There are three versions of Magento: Magento Open Source (formerly Magento Community Edition), Magento Commerce (formerly Magento Enterprise Edition), and Magento Cloud.

Magento Open Source is a free, open source version of Magento. The other two versions, Magento Commerce and Magento Cloud, are not free.

Because Magento was built as an e-commerce platform, it has many out-of-the-box features that can be important to online merchants. Magento extensions (mini-applications) can be installed to extend the functionality of Magento stores when the built-in features aren’t sufficient.

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommere is a Wordpress plugin. Wordpress was first released on May 27, 2003, as a blogging tool. It quickly evolved to become the world’s most popular content management system (CMS). Wordpress is used by 60.8% of all websites worldwide whose CMS is known, and 27.5% of the top 10 million.

Woocommerce was first released on September 27, 2011, and enables Wordpress as a fully functioning e-commerce platform. Wordpress plugins extend the functionality of Wordpress, the same way that Magento extensions extend the functionality of Magento. Woocommerce has over 5 million active installations and although it isn’t the only e-commerce plugin for Wordpress, it is by far the most popular.

Like Wordpress, WooCommerce is a free and open source platform.

Market Shares of WooCommerce and Magento

According to Datanyze, WooCommerce holds the top spot of e-commerce websites with more than 29.3% of the market share worldwide. Magento’s 4.2% market share puts it in fifth place. Don’t confuse these statistics with those I shared earlier about Wordpress. These statistics are specific to e-commerce platforms, while the Wordpress statistics were for content management systems.

How important should market share be to you? Well, it’s a clear indication of what others have decided when faced with a similar choice. While it’s more likely that WooCommerce will be a better fit, your unique circumstances may indicate otherwise.

The market shares of WooCommerce and Magento can vary quite a bit by country. WooCommerce doesn’t always have top honors, but it consistently ranks higher than Magento. For example, in the United States WooCommerce drops to the 2nd spot with 23.9% market share, and Magento drops to the 6th spot with 3.0%.

The gap between WooCommerce and Magento may narrow significantly depending on where you’re located. This may be explained by the availability of platform related resources in your country of operation.

Which is Cheaper, Magento or WooCommerce?

Magento has free and paid versions of its platform. Magento Commerce (formerly Magento Enterprise Edition) and Magento Cloud require paid licenses. Unfortunately, Magento isn’t transparent about its pricing for these two solutions.

You won’t find a “Pricing” link in the main navigation menu on Magento.com. Nor can you locate a helpful resource by typing “pricing” into Magento.com’s search field. In a world that increasingly values transparency, Magento’s approach to pricing is disappointing.

It’s even difficult to find up-to-date unofficial information about the cost of Magento. One of the best explanations of Magento’s pricing is found in an article on Grey Box dated June 5, 2017. Despite its age, more current (but not as clearly written) articles indicate that nothing has changed for 2019.

The Grey Box article says the starting annual licensing cost for Magento Commerce is $22,000, and $40,000 for Magento Cloud. Depending on your needs, the annual licensing costs can get as high as $125,000 and $190,000 respectively. These figures are prior to any negotiated discounts. Regardless, the cost will be out of reach for most e-commerce businesses.

Magento Open Source (formerly Magento Community Edition) is the free, open source version of Magento. You’ll have to bear the expense of hosting it on your own server or with a hosting company, but you can do so for much less than the cost of the Commerce and Cloud versions.

You can find bare bones hosting plans that claim to be suitable for Magento for less than $10 a month. But, realistically, expect to pay between $150 and $350 per month for a suitably configured server environment once the new account promotions expire. How powerful a server you’ll need will depend on the size of your store, and the profile of your daily order volume. If you already have thousands of products and a thousand orders each day, expect to pay your hosting provider much more.

If you’re seriously considering Magento Open Source, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re getting the same thing as Magento Commerce or Magento Cloud. Magento Open Source is a scaled down version of the other two options. To achieve the same level of capability, you’d need to install approximately 65 Magento extensions, most of which aren’t free. You’d also have to upgrade your server.

WooCommerce is an open source platform and is free. Like Magento Open Source, you’ll need to host it yourself or have it hosted with a web hosting company. AWS, GoDaddy, HostGator, and WP Engine are a few of the most recognizable hosting company names, but there are many others worthy of consideration. The server resource requirements won’t be as significant for WooCommerce, so you can pick a slightly less expensive hosting package.

In addition to hosting, you can expect to incur expenses extending the functionality of both platforms through the purchase of extensions (in the case of Magento) or plugins (in the case of WooCommerce). How much you’ll spend will depend on the features you want for your store. WooCommerce plugins are typically less expensive than Magento extensions, although you’ll need more of them to get the same feature set.

To learn more about the cost of extensions and plugins, visit the Magento Marketplace and the Wordpress Plugin Directory. Application developers don’t publish all of their extensions and plugins at these two sites, but they are excellent places to conduct some research.

Scalability

WooCommerce can support an unlimited number of products and process an unlimited number of orders. The same is true for Magento, but you’ll need to be on Magento Commerce or Magento Cloud to do so.

So when does Magento Open Source begin to have trouble scaling? Magento doesn’t publish any data related to this question. And you won’t find any hard and fast numbers while searching the internet.

The paid versions of Magento are routinely given credit for being the most highly scalable e-commerce platforms available. That’s not to say that WooCommerce can’t be scaled, but it is more difficult. You’ll need to be among the very largest of e-commerce merchants before the scalability of WooCommerce becomes a concern.

Performance

Page speed is very important. It weighs heavily in Google’s ranking algorithm and can have a profound impact on your sales if visitors perceive your website to be slow. The performance of your site won’t be determined by the choice you make between WooCommerce and Magento. The server you’re using, how well optimized your webpages are, and whether or not you’re using a content delivery network (CDN) will determine how well your website performs.

Features

Magento is packed with features. Which features you have access to will depend on whether you’re using the free version, Magento Open Source, or one of the paid versions. Many of the features are e-commerce specific, which speaks to Magento’s lineage as a platform built from the ground up for e-commerce. If your needs aren’t fully met with the built-in features, you’ll likely find a solution through an extension from a third-party developer.

In contrast, out-of-the-box WooCommerce is a basic e-commerce solution. It relies on WooCommerce plugins (“extensions” in the Magento universe) to extend its capabilities. Some of these plugins are published by WooCommerce. Many are published by other, third-party developers.

So which approach is best?

Magento advocates will point to the reduced need to install extensions. Extensions and plugins can be contributors to poor website performance when they aren’t well optimized. There’s also the potential for code conflicts between offerings from different third-party developers.

WooCommerce advocates will boast about the flexibility that more than 54,000 plugins provide to address nearly any need. Furthermore, they’ll say, by installing only what you need you can avoid the complexity of Magento and keep your website more efficient and manageable.

Ultimately both of these platforms are extremely feature rich, although they accomplish it in different ways. If you’re worried about features, you’ll find pockets where one platform is a clear winner over the other. But in general, both are excellent choices. You’ll do well to document your specific needs, and then investigate how those needs are met by each platform.

Usability

If you’re intent on setting up and managing your online store yourself, and you don’t have a lot of technical experience, you’ll find WooCommerce the better choice. Compared to Magento, it’s more beginner friendly and doesn’t require as steep of a learning curve.

I interact with WooCommerce and Magento e-commerce merchants on a daily basis. When I’m dealing with a WooCommerce store, more than half the time I’m interacting with a third-party web developer to whom the work has been outsourced. Other times I’m dealing with an employee who’s been hired to manage the website. In only about 20% of cases is the owner of the online store the same person who is setting up and managing the e-commerce platform.

In contrast, when I’m assisting Magento stores, it’s extremely rare for the person I’m dealing with to be the business owner. Usually, the individual is a third-party web developer with extensive Magento experience who’s been retained to set up, manage and maintain the website. When the company is medium to large in size, the resources are sometimes in-house resources.

So what does this have to do with usability?

Most owners of e-commerce stores aren’t setting up and managing their stores. Unless you plan to do so, usability probably shouldn’t be a high ranking factor when choosing between these two platforms. You’ll be able to find people or agencies to hire who are comfortable with either platform. Their perspective on usability and preference for one platform over the other will have been formed by their work history.

But if you’re a beginner who intends to set up and manage the store yourself, you’ll find WooCommerce easier to understand, implement, and use.

Customization

If you need a feature that can’t be addressed by any of the thousands of extensions and plugins that are available, you’re a candidate for custom programming. WooCommerce and Magento are both built with the PHP programming language. PHP is one of the most common and widely used programming languages in use.

Due to the comparative size of the Wordpress community, finding a programmer to add a customized feature to WooCommerce is easier than finding one for Magento. They also tend to be less expensive.

Magento has three levels of Technology Partners. Developers participating in the top two levels pay a fee of either $10,000 or $20,000 each year. Magento also offers a curriculum of certification courses. While a few are free, most aren’t and range in cost from $159 to $7,950. Magento also charges between $195 to $295 to take each of its eight certification exams.

Developers that participate in these partner programs, go through the curriculum and pay to take the certification exams recover these costs by charging higher rates. Therefore the cost of Magento development tends to be more expensive.

The complexity of Magento also makes it trickier to work with. It will usually take longer to introduce a given custom feature for Magento than it will for WooCommerce. Regardless, both platforms are very flexible and adapt well to custom programming. Don’t be concerned about the ability to add custom programming to either platform.

Security

Hackers relentlessly search for new ways to exploit the vulnerabilities of online stores. Your customers expect you to protect their information, so you need to be concerned about security. To a large degree, good security is up to you. Make sure you are actively following good security practices.

Since WooCommerce is a Wordpress plugin, when evaluating security you need to compare Wordpress to Magento. Both platforms will allow you to implement advanced security measures. Magento has the advantage of having many advanced security features built-in. Wordpress’s built in security is more basic and you’ll need to install plugins to implement more advanced security measures.

One of the most important things you can do is to keep your e-commerce platform updated with the most recent version. This includes keeping any extensions and plugins updated. Updates often include code to address newly discovered vulnerabilities.

Magento receives kudos for publishing dedicated security patches. However, many find applying the security patches difficult and don’t implement them right away. If you elect to use Magento for your online store, you need to remain committed to applying the security patches when they are released. Otherwise, your store will be out-of-date and your customers at risk.

One way hackers succeed is by using extensions or plugins as trojan horses. While free extensions and plugins may be tempting, be cautious. Favor ones that are routinely updated and well supported. Usually you’ll have to pay for these.

Consider making a quick phone call or opening a support ticket to make sure the developer is reputable.

Content Management

To achieve success as an online merchant, you’ll want to use digital marketing to attract site visitors and shepherd them through the buying process. Digital marketers accomplish this in a variety of ways. One important way is with an effective content marketing strategy.

Since Wordpress is a Content Management System (CMS), it really shines in this regard. Magento Open Source pales in comparison. And while Magento Commerce and Magento Cloud improve greatly on the CMS that’s available in their free counterpart, they still fall well short of Wordpress’s capabilities.

To gain CMS parity, Magento users will have to integrate a full-fledged CMS with their Magento store. Perhaps even Wordpress through the use of a Magento extension offered by a third-party developer.

Which One Should You Choose, Magento or WooCommerce?

Most e-commerce merchants will do better with WooCommerce. It's less complicated, highly extensible, less expensive, and has a larger pool of 3rd party resources. And although Magento Open Source is also free, it’s burdened with more complexity and greater likelihood that you’ll need to pay for (more expensive) outside help. Most medium and small businesses can’t afford the paid versions of Magento and don’t need the advantages they offer.

So when do the scales tip in favor of Magento?

Magento is a better choice for high-volume merchants who can afford Magento Commerce or Magento Cloud. This also explains why most e-commerce merchants will decide in favor of WooCommerce. Most e-commerce merchants don't start out as high-volume stores with pockets deep enough to afford Magento Commerce or Magento Cloud.

If you’re fortunate enough to be an existing business that already has impressive sales or a very well funded startup, the paid versions of Magento are deservedly the choice du jour. If you’re not, Magento may still be your best choice if it has specific features that are a better fit for your unique circumstances. But for most aspiring e-commerce merchants, WooCommerce will be the better option.

About Eniture Technology

Eniture Technology specializes in helping e-Commerce merchants grow by providing useful information, digital marketing services, off-the-shelf apps that solve common problems, and custom programming services. Please contact us if you need help growing your online business or implementing the concepts presented in this blog post.

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