Choosing what presents to buy for the holidays is often very hard, but it also finds a way of working out, too, so that everyone’s happy in the end. In preparations for this year’s holiday season, we wanted to know what eCommerce platform is the best for the task, so we pitted the heavyweight champion Magento against the not-so-new challenger WooCommerce, to try and find out who the real winner is.
We’ve also taken to the experts that use both Magento and WooCommerce, and asked them for advice on optimizing a webshop on their respective platform, and if you haven’t read our guides for Magento and WooCommerce, make sure you do so right now.
The experts we’ve contacted were Vanja Bunjevac from the Magento eCommerce agency Inchoo, and Tomislav Končić from the digital design, web, and mobile development agency Neuralab. Both really knowledgeable people, and both eCommerce experts in their own right, with the only difference being the platform that they use to make their magic happen.
Getting To Know Them
Before going deep into the pros and cons of each platform, we need to get to know them for what they really are.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, developed by WooThemes in 2011. It’s designed to basically transform your WordPress page into a full-fledged webshop, something that has earned WooCommerce the title of one of the most popular WordPress plugins ever made. It’s open-source, which means anyone can add functionality to it, and it’s completely free and flexible, with a range of WordPress-only features that exploit its link to the world’s most popular CMS system in the best way.
Magento is a complete CMS system (like WordPress or Joomla), rather than a plugin for an existing system. It’s a system that is designed for eCommerce from the ground up, making it the ideal platform for larger eCommerce websites and the management of multiple stores. Magento is also open source, in a way. It has two editions, called Community and Enterprise, with the latter being a paid service. It has a huge range of features designed explicitly for e Commerce, which makes it a really important player in the business.
So, with the basics covered, let’s talk a bit about the differences between these two platforms. They both allow you to have a webshop up and running, but with a few key differences:
- WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, and Magento is a standalone CMS
This is perhaps the biggest difference between the two, with both strengths and weaknesses for each platform. On one hand, WooCommerce has the known versatility of WordPress behind it, meaning that it’s much easier to make a great-looking website around your webshop, and it requires less CMS knowledge to do so. It’s also very familiar and everyone who’s ever used WordPress will know their way around it, something that makes it ideal for smaller webshops and websites.
Magento, on the other hand, is an eCommerce CMS built from the ground up to be as good as it can be. That means it’s absolutely packed with features, but the downside is that there’s a niche of developers that specialize in it. There’s a lot more work in Magento than there is in WooCommerce, simply because it’s not designed to be easy to learn, but rather to be extremely well at building webshops.
- Magento is more “hardcore”, WooCommerce is more “laid back”
Don’t get us wrong, this doesn’t mean that WooCommerce is bad by any means, it just means that Magento has an overwhelming amount of features that WooCommerce simply doesn’t. This includes comparison of products, discount codes, filters, cross-selling and more. It’s more focused on the industry, which makes it ideal if you’re really into the business of making a large webshop, like the one Inchoo has built for Bauhaus Croatia.
WooCommerce, on the other hand, makes use of the incredible amount of WordPress plugins that are available online. Being a plugin, it works well with most other plugins that are used in webshops, and you can quickly find most of the things you need for your first webshop. WooCommerce also makes it a lot easier to write a blog than Magento, courtesy of its WordPress roots.
- Think in gigabytes
You see, you might not even know how much space you need for your webshop before you actually start developing it. This might be a problem for a lot of users, because starting out with a big Magento webshop can really eat your hosting plan for breakfast. This is of course due to the sheer number of things you can do with it, and all of those things take up space on the servers.
WooCommerce is easier on your hosting, as it’s a small, light plugin instead of a full-blown CMS system. It’s much easier to make a fast website on WooCommerce than to do the same on Magento, and that’s something you should take into account, too.
- Devs are gold
To find a person or an agency to make your Magento webshop shine is not a hard feat, but it’s considerably harder than finding someone to build you a WooCommerce site. That’s because Magento developers need to know the ins and outs of this CMS, whereas WordPress developers can glide around WooCommerce with relative ease.
There’re even some great tips online on how to find a great Magento developer, and they’re worth your time if you’re hunting for that special person. Of course, we’d advise starting from your own network and working your way from there, and deciding a budget before you start any hunting!
Of course, that doesn’t mean that any person who has ever blogged on WordPress knows how to builds a webshop, but it’s much easier to find someone who knows WordPress, and in turn, WooCommerce, than it is to find someone who knows a lot about Magento. Did we mention that Magento developers cost more, too?
The Experts Agree – Or Do They?
Now that you have a little more insight into what’s what, you probably know what’s the best thing for you, especially for the upcoming holiday season. It’s pretty easy: Magento for large-scale eCommerce and WooCommerce for small and medium-sized webshops.
Our guests Vanja and Krešimir mostly agreed on the basic things you need to do to make your webshop the best it can be during the holidays, with a few differences in opinion. You’ll probably understand Vanja’s leaning toward good-quality servers now that you know how big of a toll Magento can take on your server space, and you’ll understand why Krešimir puts an accent on content quality, because WooCommerce doesn’t eat your servers alive.
Next up, Vanja advised all Magento webshop owners to pay more attention to delivery prices, as a lot of people don’t want to pay all that much for delivery, and high delivery prices might make them leave your site altogether. The number of shoppers who prefer free delivery is quite large, 77% percent to be exact, as claimed by UPS in 2015.
David Vs. Goliath
Krešimir, on the other hand, put his efforts towards creativity, and encouraged webshop owners to take control over the things they can, most notably their metrics and content, so they get better insights from their own customers. This also shows the shift towards creativity that WooCommerce developers have, simply because WooCommerce shops are often integrated into existing sites, whereas Magento ones are more often standalone sites built only for eCommerce.
Both of our guests agreed on the need to keep the sites updated year-round, and not to expect to live off the spoils won in the last months of the year. A webshop needs to be as updated as often as possible, and must never feel “surprised” by the influx of buyers.
One of the main differences between these platforms manifested itself in the reasons why the platform they work with is better than the others when it comes to the holiday season. Vanja was quick to point out a whole range of plugins available on the Magento Connect site, that can be used to make anything possible on a Magento webshop, but also advised us not to get carried away with them as they can make the site slow and undesirable.
WooCommerce: A Platform For Shopping AND Content
Krešimir noted that the connection of articles, users, blogs, campaigns and similar things is one of the key advantages of WooCommerce over its competitors. WooCommerce is also the only platform that goes hand in hand with the famous phrase “content is king”, as its integrations allow for all sorts of connections with the great content you might produce on your site, something Magento is currently lacking. WooCommerce is also called “a way to democratize content”, and bridge the divide for small and medium-sized businesses.
Our experts mostly agreed on all fronts, noting that the importance of a well-built and maintained webshop trumps any other advantages or disadvantages, and the need to keep your site updated is more important than any plugin or theme you might install on it.
One last advice from our experts, and us at .ME is to take it easy with the Christmas decorations so that they don’t feel too overwhelming to the regular users, as well as the new ones. We all know that you love Christmas as much as we do, but keep in mind that sometimes less is more.
In the end, make sure your webshop has a great domain, regardless of the platform. It’s the domain that is public after all, and if your webshop has a great domain name like .ME of course, it’s unique and thus more memorable, in a world where every click counts!
This concludes our comparison of Magento and WooCommerce, and brings us to a simple conclusion. If you’re starting a full-blown webshop with a lot of products and need a lot of features, Magento is the one for you. If, on the other hand, you want a webshop integrated to your existing WordPress site, seek no further than WooCommerce. It all depends on what you need, and even though both of these platforms can do practically anything, it’s when they’re used properly that they can fully shine.