When you’re researching the best open source ecommerce platforms, all roads don’t necessarily lead to Rome. But they do lead to two options that you’ll frequently hear about.
WooCommerce and Magento.
They might seem like they’re options on the opposite ends of the same spectrum. On one hand, you have WooCommerce: built on (free) WordPress, charging you nothing to use its services. On the other hand, you have Magento: built for large enterprises, people with big budgets, and large development teams.
But since these are not only two of the top open source options but two of the top ecommerce platforms period, it’s worth taking the time to compare the two. Comparing on price will be easy. And we’ll talk about that. But what about everything else that goes into picking up an ecommerce platform and starting your next store?
- WooCommerce vs. Magento: the Essential Rundown
- Breaking WooCommerce vs. Magento Down, Feature by Feature
- Magento vs. WooCommerce Pricing
- Ease of Use
- Customer Support
- Apps and Plugins
- Payments, Checkouts, and Other Cart Features
- Dropshipping Capabilities
- The Pros and Cons of Magento and WooCommerce
- Examples of Sites Using Each Platform
- Links for Getting Started on Each Platform
WooCommerce vs. Magento: the Essential Rundown
You already know that these two options are open source. But does that really define what they are, and how people use them as ecommerce platforms?
To some extent, yes. Other options you might read about, like BigCommerce, Big Cartel, and Shopify, often work from prebuilt templates and a list of features that come right out of the box. With open source platforms such as WooCommerce and Magento, your experience is going to be a little different.
WooCommerce, for starters, is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms out there. Estimates suggest it’s still downloaded as many as 13,000 times per day. Magento’s higher barrier-to-entry might make it a less popular option, but it’s still used by some of the top retailers who want to make full use of its open source, feature-rich goodness.
The bottom line? Think of both of these options as being robust ways to start a store. The difference is that WooCommerce is built on the budget-friendly platform of WordPress, while Magento is essentially a world all its own. What you choose will ultimately come down to your budget, your priorities, and even the size of your company.
Breaking WooCommerce vs. Magento Down, Feature by Feature
Given that these platforms are open source, the correct answer to the amount of features you can have through them is: all of them. All of the features. If we were comparing WooCommerce to, say, Shopify, it might be easier to point out what Shopify includes with its basic plan, what it includes with its more advanced plans, and see how that stacks up against WooCommerce.
But in this case, we’re going to need to zoom out. How do these two options compare when it comes to issues like pricing? Ease of use? How easy is it to scale something up on Magento vs. using WooCommerce?
They may seem like minor details at first, but as you dig into which platform actually meets your needs, you’ll find out that it can be one of these features that makes one stand out over the other. Let’s try to run as comprehensive a comparison as we can.
Magento vs. WooCommerce Pricing
This is the easiest comparison on the list.
WooCommerce costs you nothing. It’s built on a platform (WordPress) that costs you nothing. Although it’s a self-hosted option, which means that you’ll have to pay for your own website, those costs are so negligible these days that it will barely register in the overall context of building a robust ecommerce store.
Since there’s almost nothing to talk about here, there is one issue that we should address. Hosting. You’re signing up for your WooCommerce store, after all, and if you’ve been attracted to the pricing, you may not be too pleased by what you will have to pay after you’ve been told the option is free. So what’s going on here?
- Hosting. You need somewhere to put your WooCommerce site. WooCommerce itself estimates that you can expect about $120 in hosting costs per year, or about $10 per month. Negligible, sure. But when you compare it to the bottom tiers of options like Shopify or BigCommerce, which can cost $30/month, suddenly you see that the platforms aren’t too far off. And since Shopify and BigCommerce both supply customer support as part of their package and WooCommerce does not, it helps explain why someone might consider them over WooCommerce.
- Paid themes. Maybe you’ve signed up for a free version of software before, only to be disappointed when you saw you didn’t get full functionality. WooCommerce does give you full functionality, of course, but it sometimes depends on paid content if you want to upgrade your store. The most obvious area here is in paid themes. WooCommerce allows both free and paid themes. And don’t be surprised if you see that some of your favorite-looking store themes require money. After all, quality does cost money.
Magento, on the other hand? If you’ve done a lot of research into software pricing, you’ve probably noticed that some pricing tiers are known as “enterprise,” and the company doesn’t tell you how much this will cost. You have to negotiate it directly with them, and get yourself a quote. Magento is a platform that works exclusively on this model. To put that in perspective, the only link you’ll see on Magento’s pricing page is “Contact sales.”
That isn’t to say we’re totally clueless. We’ve done the research. According to Graybox.co, the pricing tiers at Magento look something like this:
- Gross sales revenue of under $1 million: ~$22,000.
- $1 million to $5 million: ~$32,000.
- $5 million to $10 million: ~$49,000.
- $10 million to $25 million: ~$75,000.
That isn’t to say that your store will certainly cost you $22,000 just because you have $100,000 in revenue and not $1 million so far. But it does give you an idea of what you’re looking at to keep the infrastructure intact.
With WooCommerce, the price is what you pay for hosting.
Does that mean one wins out over the other? Not necessarily. It also comes down to what you can get out of them.
Ease of Use
Whenever we compare Magento to another platform, it’s clear who the winner’s going to be. And it’s not going to be Magento. Considering that WooCommerce is one of the easiest to set up in the entire world of open source ecommerce platforms, this feature isn’t a contest. WooCommerce wins by a mile.
But let’s also consider what goes into a concept as vague as “ease of use.” With WooCommerce, you’ll have to sign up for your own website and install WordPress—not a problem in this day and age, when most website hosting platforms are more than happy to charge you a fee to do that themselves. And considering how low these fees can be, it’s really not much of an issue.
From there, you can, for lack of a better term, plug into WooCommerce’s various plugins. WooCommerce is itself based off of WordPress, so setting it up is as easy as clicking a few buttons, clicking a few more buttons to add your first product, and voila. You’re off to the races.
Magento, on the other hand, has plenty of features. It even has themes to help you get started. But it’s really designed for larger teams with more resources available to them. You can customize Magento to your heart’s content, which may be a little more difficult with WooCommerce if you’re not familiar with the WordPress platform.
But all in all, the speed at which you can get a WooCommerce site up and running is blazing fast. If you were to stop reading this at 2 p.m. with the goal of having a store up and running by the end of the afternoon, we wouldn’t call you crazy if you thought you could do it.
Magento’s the master of ecommerce complexity, which is why it wins the day when it comes to scaling your store. WooCommerce is easy to get up and running, but there’s a reason big-time retailers trust Magento for building an infrastructure that can handle lots of customers, lots of products, and lots of featured products. It does scale very, very well.
But let’s get specific. What exactly is it about Magento that lets you scale up to the size of a monstrous retailer, with all the features that come with it? Here are a few selections:
- Product recommendations. The better your store is at making product recommendations to customers, the more it will sell. Magento’s page builder has product recommendation features built right in, which is actually a point in its favor for ease of use, as well. But ultimately, it wins Magento top billing under “scalability.”
- Customer segmentation. There may be no other ecommerce solution on the planet that does it quite like Magento. What’s the point of customer segmentation? After all, isn’t that sort of scaling down rather than scaling up? What customer segmentation allows you to do is narrow the focus of your offerings en masse. This creates the customized feel of a small business store, but does it at scale. Scalability. It can help you make sales.
This isn’t to say you can’t accomplish the same without WooCommerce. But with Magento, these features are often built right into the platform, whereas with WooCommerce, you may find yourself working around different issues like adding new plugins until you get everything working just right.
This one is easy: it’s a wash. Because both platforms are so popular, you will find that there are agencies out there willing to offer you customer support as a service. This will cost you additional money, which means that this can also affect the overall price associated with building a new store from an open source platform.
It’s possible that you’ll have an easier time with WooCommerce. Not only is it the simpler of the two solutions, but it’s popular enough and built off another popular platform (WordPress) that you should be able to find your solutions more readily than you might with Magento. As with everything for Magento, it’s simply a matter of how much money you’re willing to plunk down to solve your problem.
Apps and Plugins
WooCommerce is the undisputed heavyweight champion, at least when you look at how many WooCommerce plugins there are compared to other platforms.
Magento does have its own extensions marketplace, of course. But considering WooCommerce is reportedly used by some 7% of all websites—yeah, you read that right—it’s only fair to say that it’s going to have a substantially more robust plugin market.
Let’s look at one specifically to get an idea of how it all works. The WooCommerce shipping extension is an extension that lets you print off USPS labels from your WooCommerce site. The plugin costs nothing, it’s easy to add to the platform, and you can get it up and running within seconds. What more do you want?
It’s possible that every plugin will take some poking and prodding to figure things out as you’re in your WooCommerce/WordPress dashboard. But if you’re comfortable with that, and you take these plugins one at a time, it won’t be a problem, even for most beginners.
Let’s look at some other popular WooCommerce plugins so you can get a sense of what you can accomplish by incorporating these into your store:
- OptinMonster. This is a plugin designed to make your store “stickier” in that it keeps customers poking around rather than hitting “back “on their browser. Concepts like cart abandonment features and a top-of-the-page bar offering discounts are neat little incentives to squeeze as much possible juice as you can from every customer interaction—all while avoiding being too pushy.
- All in One SEO. You might notice that if you browse Shopify’s features list, for example, you’ll see the SEO features included with the package. This is a good example of how you can add many of those features to your own WooCommerce site without having to pay for that kind of pricing tier. With All in One SEO (which includes WooCommerce SEO), you’ll find it easy to create Google-friendly pages and product categories that attract more organic traffic.
- Advanced Coupons. If you want to offer a unique pricing deal because it’s the holidays, or if you simply want to run a promotion, using a more advanced coupons plugin can be a great way to get creative with your sales. You can also use this plugin to create a loyalty program, which in turn helps assist with the scalability of a store as you look to capture more of your customers for long-term customer retention.
Payments, Checkouts, and Other Cart Features
This all sounds well and good. But how do these platforms perform at the point of sale, the most important touchpoint in all of ecommerce?
This one is difficult to read. When Magento upgraded to Magento 2, it also added all sorts of features designed to improve this aspect of their experience. Cross-selling, up-selling…it’s all part of the overall landscape of Magento now, which means that you’ll find plenty of ways to keep customers around and buying more if you’ve got them through a Magento store.
For WooCommerce’s part, you’ll likely have to fall back on plugins to determine how you make sales at the cart itself. This might mean a little bit of testing on your own until you find the right combination of plugins that works for your store.
Overall, we have to give a slight nod to Magento here. It wouldn’t be Magento if it didn’t perform well with its carts and payment features at scale. Retailers who have a lot of products to add often look to optimize every little nook and cranny at the online shopping cart. With Magento, it’s easy to customize this to fit your needs and make sure more customers can handle payments—and even buy more than they initially planned.
Approximately even. Yes, it’s very easy to get started on WooCommerce and a dropshipping plugin to begin selling even before you’ve ever made a product. And there’s nothing wrong with that. For many people, the goal is expressly to start dropshipping as soon as possible. This means that you can test out new ideas, new audiences, and new features—all without having to take the trouble to build your own products.
But Magento is a comprehensive platform, which means they’re not ignorant of the dropshipping world. Dropshipping with Magento is about using the storefront you have and coding things on the back end so that the fulfillment happens through the dropshipping service of your choice. The problem is that many store owners don’t often use Magento for dropshipping; they want a quick and dirty store to set up, in many cases, and that means relying on tried-and-true templates for dropshipping like WooCommerce and Shopify.
Overall, you’re probably going to lean toward WooCommerce if you’re in the ecommerce platform game for dropshipping features. It’s simpler, cheaper, and easy to get up and running without having a big team behind you. And for many people, that’s exactly what they need if they’re getting a dropshipping site set up in a hurry.
The Pros and Cons of Magento and WooCommerce
Enough of the nitty-gritty details; let’s zoom out again and take a bird’s-eye view of what these two platforms look like against each other.
- You can’t find a feature Magento doesn’t have. It has extensions, an open source platform, and many templates that will feed right into your desire to build a mega-store with all sorts of capabilities
- Scaling. Magento is one of the best platforms around for scaling features like customer segmentation and taking those offerings to the next level
- Customization is almost endlessly limited, which means if you have a developer who can do it, you can turn Magento into just about any iteration of your store you’d like to create
- Price is far more expensive, so it’s not even a contest if you’re on a budget. Magento’s “enterprise-level” pricing system means you’re going to have to pay for all that quality
- Not great for dropshipping, at least if you want to create a quick store to begin selling a product and test a new audience
- Lack of customer support and newbie-friendly features mean you’re probably going to want to use Magento as a large company and not as a one-person dropshipping operation
- Pricing is among the best “bang for the buck” in the entire world of ecommerce. Heck, we’ll just say it: it’s the best bang for the buck in the entire world of ecommerce, and the main reason it’s so popular
- Large plug-in industry means you can add just about any feature you want, often for free, and customize your store to your heart’s content
- Very easy to set up, install, and begin things like dropshipping, which puts you in the position of being able to test new ideas without a large financial commitment
- You’re going to have to poke around WooCommerce yourself, which is especially a potential turnoff for people who want a quick and easy way to enter the market
- The limited amount of free templates means that if you want your store to look a certain way, your options are going to be few and far between, especially if you don’t want to pay extra
- Relies upon WordPress, which can be frustrating for people unfamiliar with the platform
Examples of Sites Using Each Platform
Links for Getting Started on Each Platform
Ready to pick the option you think is best for you? There’s no reason to delay the inevitable. Let’s look at some of the key links that will help introduce you to the new open source platform you’ve chosen for your new ecommerce adventure.