When you're deciding on an online sales channel, how do you choose between these two titans of ecommerce?
Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so let's take a look and compare them.
An overview of Magento
Magento is a flexible and feature-rich open-source ecommerce solution used by over 200,000 retailers.
There are two different Magento platforms available:
- Magento Community Edition, which allows anyone to modify the core system to extend functionality and add plug-in modules.
- Magento Enterprise Edition, which has the same core files as community, but has more features and functionality. This is designed for large businesses requiring tech support, installation, configuration and troubleshooting, and therefore costs a fair amount.
Advantages of Magento
- Multi-store allows you to operate more than one store from a single platform, for example if you wanted to run a UK store and a US store. A great saver of time and effort.
- Easy payment gateway setup as Magento is already integrated with PayPal, Google Checkout, SagePay and more, but you can also add your own payment option.
- Analytics and reporting help improve your business intelligence. Assess your statistics, sales reports, product popularity and other business facts.
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) features including SEO friendly URLs and customised meta-descriptions for each product.
- Mobile optimisation ensures that the store translates well to smaller screens.
- Magento is rich in features, including ones not widely available on other channels, for example you can manage more than one storefront, and it supports multi-currency and multi-language.
- It's incredibly user-friendly with a simplistic backend, nicely organised store management features and easy navigation.
- There's a free version in the form of Magento Community, with the option to upgrade to its more powerful big brother - but at a high cost. The free version is perfectly fine for most sellers though.
- There's a large community of users there to help and support you. They also develop extensions and plugins (of which there are many available - another pro for Magento) including ones for CRM, inventory management, accounting, Magento eBay integration and so many more.
- Its architecture has flexibility, allowing you to customise almost anything, so you can design your store to look exactly how you want it to.
- It's incredibly powerful (yes, even the free version) and can easily handle 10,000 products and more.
Disadvantages of Magento
- While the community version is free, the Enterprise version is very much not - it can cost upwards of $10,000, which is well out of reach for the casual seller.
- It can be incredibly hard to source decent Magento developers because of its huge and complicated codebase.
- Because of its complexity (which is necessary to make Magento so flexible), making customisations can take a lot of time - usually more than it would with other platforms.
An overview of WooCommerce
WooCommerce is a toolkit for turning your existing WordPress site into a fully functional store. It's free and it's WordPress's most popular e-commerce plugin.
You can use WooCommerce to sell anything, including downloadable content (eBooks, MP3's, video content), and it's easy to customize with plenty of great-looking storefront templates to choose from, as well as the option to create your own unique designs so you can get your branding across. It also has a range of free and commercial extensions, so you can optimise your shop however you want.
Advantages of WooCommerce
- WooCommerce is built to integrate with WordPress, which means it's a great option for those who are already using WordPress and are looking to build a webstore.
- If you're serious about a WooCommerce store, check out this guide to creating consistent, high-quality WooCommerce products.
- It's expandable, so you can add whatever features you want onto your store.
- You're granted full control of your content and store.
- WooCommerce has strong SEO capabilities thanks to WordPress, plus the dozens of SEO plugins available, so you can make your store more visible in search engines.
- There are plenty of existing themes to choose from, many of which look sleek and professional.
- A wide catalogue of extensions to choose from, including customer support, integration with Amazon's store, subscriptions, booking and more.
- The number of products and categories is not limited.
- There is a large number of users and support groups who are willing to help other users out.
Disadvantages of WooCommerce
- The "free" price tag seems too good to be true - and can be. While WooCommerce is free, many of the other plugins aren't, and these are needed if you want to make a store that goes beyond the basics.
- WooCommerce doesn't offer a hosted solution yet, which means you'll need to take care of security and other hosting issues yourself, or find a partner.
Which one is best for you?
If you want to learn Magento, read Magento Explained.
Magento and WooCommerce offer similar features and functionality, so it's going to be a tough decision.
Both platforms are free, but they're both so basic that you'd need to jazz them up with a variety of extensions and plugins to create a serious online store. Magento offers more powerful stores for much larger businesses, but these cost a lot more than it would to simply throw a few extensions on a WooCommerce store.
Both are highly flexible and customisable options when it comes down to design, but Magento is slightly more powerful than WooCommerce, and is great if you're a developer who has the skill to create truly individual and beautiful stores. It's also far more expensive to find a Magento developer because they need to know the highly complex system really well.
Neither platform offers free support. The official Magento community is a great source for finding help with issues. WooCommerce lacks an equivalent alternative, although there are many WordPress and WooCommerce-centric forums out there where you could search for solutions to any issues.
Ultimately it comes down to your own personal circumstances, budget and experience. If you're a serious seller looking for a highly powerful store, have the money to pay developers or have the skill to do it yourself, and are looking to expand massively, then Magento is probably better for you. If you're a newer seller or if you already uses WordPress, then WooCommerce is probably a better option.