Choosing an ecommerce platform: Woocommerce vs. Magento

25th January 2021

Electronic commerce / e-commerce / eCommerce – however you write it, it’s a term that’s not going away anytime soon.

Ecommerce was already on the up in a big way pre-2020. Then Covid-19 struck and things changed dramatically. Many businesses that weren’t selling or promoting their products online had to shift to online, and fast.

In the past year, we have seen a sharp rise in the use of ecommerce. Reports from the US suggested that 2020 Black Friday sales online had risen by 20-40% on 2019.

So if you haven’t made the switch yet, here’s a good place to start.

e commerce road sign and traffic lights on green

But why would a business need an ecommerce platform?

Ecommerce is a business model that lets your business buy and sell products over the internet.

Sounds simple, right? But think about what that involves.

Just the sale of a simple t-shirt requires a system that is able to…

  • process electronic payments
  • organise shipping
  • transfer personal data securely
  • apply special promotions

That’s a lot to consider. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Choosing the best ecommerce platform for your business

We’re not going to lie. There are some good options out there but we’re going to look at two of the established big players – Woocommerce and Magento.

At first glance, they both seem to be offering the same thing…

  • take electronic payments *tick*
  • inventory management *tick*
  • online support *tick*
  • open-source platforms *tick*
  • free to install *tick*
  • fully customisable *tick*

WAIT A MINUTE – what does open-source mean? Open-source software means that the code is publically available and accessible to its users. It also means that, technically, it’s free!

Speaking of code, both Woocommerce and Magento are written in PHP, so if you did need to modify the code in any way, make sure you get a developer experienced in PHP, who ideally has previous experience with these platforms.

But how do they compare when it comes down to the nitty-gritty?

via GIPHY

Key features & differences to understand

Plugins

If you don’t know what a plugin is, don’t worry. It basically means that you can add extra bits to the platform that will give it extra functionality but only if your business requires it. This means you will only pay for functionality you actually need, rather than pay for a super-duper all singing and dancing platform that you only need the basic features of.

Woocommerce vs. Magento: both offer various plugins that are flexible to add, as and when your business needs them.

Third-party Integrations

How well will the new platform talk to your existing systems? For example, are you able to integrate it with your email marketing? Your financial reporting? Even Analytics and business intelligence tools.

Woocommerce vs. Magento: both offer a wide variety of third-party extensions, such as Google Analytics, Mailchimp, Stripe or even live chat. Most of the more common ones can be added for free too.

Online Payments

As mentioned above, there is the option to add a third-party integration here but it is vital that you ensure you are PCI compliant.

Woocommerce vs. Magento: Magento is a powerful tool when it comes to payment integrations and flexible pricing structures.

Hosting

Wait, hosting? Yep, that’s right. You’re going to need some space on the web for your platform to live.

Woocommerce vs. Magento: Magento hosting is a very specialised task and should be undertaken by an experienced developer. WordPress, on the other hand, has some security implications and needs a bit more work to get it secured properly.

What do developers think?

Magento has a very steep learning curve for new developers, whereas WordPress is very easy to get going.

However, WordPress can become a bit of a “spaghetti coding” mess if it’s not properly managed. Magento follows proper coding standards and strict structures (depending on your take on things, a dream or nightmare for developers!).

Understanding which ecommerce platform is best for you

Here at Telescopic, we are integration specialists and have worked with our clients to implement the best technology that works for their business.

So let me talk you through the questions you need to be asking and what I believe will be the best option for your business.

  • First of all, what’s the key purpose of the website?
  • Is it ecommerce first and foremost? Do you have 1000s of products? Maybe even complex functionality like Marketplaces. Go with Magento.
  • Do you need intricate custom pages? Is the shop a lovely additional extra to your site? Is your shopping experience relatively straightforward (e.g. downloads or physical products)? Go with WordPress.

Sometimes it might even make sense to use both. WordPress for the marketing side of things and Magento for all shop-related tasks.

via GIPHY

I would recommend both platforms for the mid-sized business. If you are a new small business, we’d always recommend starting small and easy by using out of the box platforms like Shopify or Wix.

Finally, we are going to need to consider the budget of course. It really depends if you want to go with fully hosted solutions or if you’re going to have custom development done. Magento is bound to be more expensive in terms of hosting and developer resources but that additional cost may just be worth it in the long run.

The final verdict

So when it comes to Woocommerce vs. Magento – which is the best? The answer is… *drumroll* it depends. Sorry, but it really does.

Unless you are a small business with a fairly simple product line, your best bet is to speak to an expert. They can assess your objectives and it will save a lot of time, sweat and tears down the line. It can be very overwhelming trying to figure it out for yourself.

Plus, you’re going to need the help of a developer at some point to set it up for you.

They’ll be able to guide you through the process and help you ask the right questions so you can get the best solution in place.

Want to know more? I recently appeared on the Re:Platform podcast, where we talk about all things ecommerce, Telescopic’s key criteria for selecting the best-fit technology for our clients and looked back at some of our most complex projects.

For any other questions or comments, feel free to get in touch.

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