The date of the first e-Commerce transaction is still up for debate. Some claim that it was in 1972 when Stanford students used the Arpanet account in their AI lab to sell marijuana to MIT students. But others claim that it wasn’t until 1994 when two friends exchanged a Sting CD for money in an online transaction.
In 1995, Amazon arrived on the scene, introducing product ratings for the first time. In 1998, PayPal arrived and simplified the online payment process, giving us access to digital wallets that could send, receive and hold funds in 24 currencies. And in 2010, payment portal Square launched, giving small business owners the chance to accept mobile payments on credit and debit cards.
Where do all of these developments leave us today? Global e-commerce sales are expected to top $4.2 trillion in 2020. And an estimated 1.8 billion people shop online.
Selling online is no doubt big business. If you have a product you want to share with the world, creating an online storefront is the first place to start. But which platform should you be using? In this article, we will look at two of the giants of the e-commerce world, Magento and WooCommerce. By the end of this article, you should have a clearer idea of which one will work best for your business.
What is Magento?
Magento is an open-source e-commerce platform written in PHP. According to technology lookup platform BuiltWith, Magento and Magento 2 power around 250,000 e-commerce websites. The Magento platform allows users to control the look and functionality of their storefront. It also offers a flexible shopping cart system and complex catalogue management tools.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is an open source e-commerce plugin for WordPress. It’s a customisable and flexible option that offers extensions for extra functionality. WooCommerce only works on WordPress websites and is easily managed through the backend. The extensions allow you to only pay for what you need, so you can scale your website as your business grows.
Best for cost
The cost for setting up a Magento website will vary depending on a number of factors. Magento is a free, open-source download, but there are other costs associated with setting up a Magento site. You will need to pay for a domain name, secure hosting, a template website theme or custom build, a developer to build the site and extensions to create your ideal customer experience. Magento extensions range in price from free to $28,700.
WooCommerce is also free to add to your WordPress site, but there are other costs associated with running a WooCommerce site. As above, you will need a domain name, secure hosting, your website theme or a custom design, a developer to build the site and extensions. Extensions range from free to $299 per year.
Both are technically free, so it’s difficult to say for sure which is cheaper. However, the ongoing running costs associated with Magento might be enough to make you run in the opposite direction. Magento often releases security patches and updates which need to be manually installed, so unless you have a full-time Magento developer on staff, this could soon become very costly. WooCommerce extensions are also generally cheaper.
Best for flexibility
When running an online store, you want to be able to optimise the customer experience to generate more sales. Magento offers a customisable shopping cart experience and you can set up complex user behaviour rules in order to optimise for more sales. There are a range of site optimisation and marketing plugins that allow you to make your website more flexible.
Like Magento, WooCommerce offers a completely customisable experience. There are extensions available for everything from dynamic pricing to a review for discounts plugin that allows customers to earn discounts on future purchases.
Both are incredibly flexible, but small to medium sized businesses may feel more comfortable with the user-friendly nature of WooCommerce.
Best for ease of use
While managing and uploading products to Magento might be possible, larger jobs will be best left to a professional. This can lead you to feel out of control of your own website. You can easily update product descriptions, add blogs or update pages, but anything beyond this may need the assistance of a developer.
WooCommerce on the other hand is built to be used by someone with no coding experience. This gives you complete control over your website and storefront. While you might have a developer on hand to complete website maintenance, the majority of the updates will be easily managed in house.
Best for payment options
Both WooCommerce and Magento offer a range of payment options. Magento can process payments with the following payment portals:
- PayPal Payment Methods
- Saved CC
- Check / Money Order
- Zero Subtotal Checkout
- Bank Transfer Payment
- Cash On Delivery Payment
- Purchase Order
- Authorize.net Direct Post
WooCommerce recently made their Stripe integration free, which allows businesses to accept online payments by credit or debit card. WooCommerce also allows you to create custom payment methods, including allowing subscriptions and payment plans. This can be incredibly useful if you offer unique or made-to-order products.
Winner: Both offer comprehensive payment options.
Best for scalability
When you’re building an online business, you always want to think about scalability. Scalability allows you to start with an online product catalogue of just a few items and then scale up to tens of thousands of items with ease. Scaling up could also mean taking your daily sales from 5 to 500.
If you’re looking for a platform that will grow with you, many will turn to Magento. With the right server resources, Magento 2 CE could manage up to 500,000 products. To give you an idea of scale, Amazon offers around 12 million products.
According to WooCommerce, there are stores offering upwards of 100,000 products. But they are quick to point out that it isn’t the number of products you offer, it’s the number of sales the platform can handle that really matters. You could have a site with 1 million products that only generates 1 sale per day. Or you could have a site with 10 products generating 1,000 sales per hour. So rather than looking solely at product number limits, you also need to consider if your site can handle the traffic and volume of orders.
Winner: Both platforms are built to scale.
If you’re looking for ease of use and customisation, then WooCommerce is the way to go. If you don’t mind investing a lot of money into enterprise level solutions, then Magento could be the right option. But it’s worth noting that WooCommerce can do everything that Magento can do, which is why we consider it to be our favourite e-commerce platform.