How to choose an ecommerce platform that will help your business scale.
If you’re a small ecommerce business ready to grow into a medium (or large!) business, choosing the right platform to support your growth can be an exciting but also intimidating process. On the one hand: your business is doing well, and you have some budget to invest to help it grow further. Congratulations! On the other hand: with more to gain (and lose), the stakes are high. How do you choose the ecommerce platform that will position your business for success?
If you’ve done your research, you’ve probably heard of both WooCommerce and Magento. They’re two of the most popular e-commerce platforms on the market, and both have a strong record of success. That said, we’re going to be upfront that, as a WordPress business, we prefer WooCommerce. Magento isn’t a bad platform, and if that’s what you’re on (or what you decide to go with), you’ll probably do fine. But if you’re on the fence, we believe there are some strong reasons you should pick WooCommerce instead.
We’ll get into their differences in a minute, but first, let’s begin with what they have in common.
WooCommerce & Magento: freemium, self-hosted, open-source, plugin-friendly.
We’ve been critical in the past of closed-source, hosted e-commerce platforms such as Shopify or Squarespace. We get why they’re popular, but for us, not having full control over your website—and therefore your business—is a deal breaker.
The good news is that with both WooCommerce and Magento, this issue isn’t a concern. Both are open-source, meaning you won’t be relinquishing control of your content or data, or tying yourself down to a closed system.
Both platforms also have free-to-minimal start-up costs, making them budget friendly. Both support a wide range of payment options, as well as unlimited products. And if you want additional functionality, each comes with a wide array of plugins to help you quickly add functionality. Neither of these platforms is going to be a bad choice; the main question is: which is better?
More developers know WordPress—and by extension, WooCommerce.
One of the key differences between these two platforms is that while WooCommerce runs on WordPress, Magento is its own thing. Now, to make the most of your budget with either platform, you’re going to need to work with a developer. And this is where Magento might hold you back.
See, WordPress is a hugely popular platform. Approximately a quarter of the Internet runs on WordPress, and this means there are a lot of highly-skilled developers who know how to take full advantage of its capabilities. And as the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, familiarity with WooCommerce comes with the territory.
Magento also has its fair share of qualified developers, but there are fewer of them. That means you may have to work harder to find a good developer, and that will limit your flexibility to some extent.
WooCommerce: Painless startup, user-friendly interface.
Because WooCommerce is built as a WordPress plugin, it has a sparkling reputation for ease-of-use. WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world, largely because of its ease of use. Because WooCommerce is built to run with it, it essentially adds ecommerce to an already powerful CMS.
WooCommerce also prioritizes ease-of-use in its setup process. As a lightweight program with fewer built-in features, setting it up and getting it running could hardly be easier. If you find you need more functionality later, there are a multitude of plugins to choose from.
Magento: Lots of built-in features, but weak as a CMS.
On the other hand, Magento is a CMS purpose-built for ecommerce. This may sound great, but the downside is that its actual CMS capabilities are limited. You will have fewer content types, and if you want to increase your content publishing capabilities, you may need to devote more budget to custom developing them yourself.
Furthermore, with so many built-in features, the learning curve is steep. Since you’re already working with a developer, this is probably less of a concern. But it will mean more for you to learn as you manage your products.
How well does WooCommerce satisfy the needs of enterprise clients?
OK, so after all this, there is one elephant in the room we should look at: is WooCommerce enough for large businesses?
Magento has certainly gone out of its way to establish itself as an enterprise-oriented brand. All those built-in features we talked about that add to the learning curve? Many of those are designed with enterprise in mind. They want you to know that they can handle the ecommerce needs of big business, and a lot of people feel that they scale more smoothly than WooCommerce.
That said, WooCommerce can and does serve enterprise clients. While the basic WooCommerce package is stripped down to aid the onboarding process, it can offer all the features and functionality of Magento with the aid of the right plugins. In the hands of a capable developer, it is fully capable scaling to serve the needs of your business without a hitch.
Bottom line: Magento is powerful, but WooCommerce will give you more flexibility.
There’s nothing Magento can do that WooCommerce can’t. And with WooCommerce, you have the added advantages of ease of use, a large community of developers, more plugins at your disposal, and all the benefits of the most popular CMS in the world.
Magento will serve your e-commerce store well, but not better than WooCommerce. And the tradeoff you will make for having fewer plugins to manage will come at the expense of your developer pool and your content management capabilities.
We said at the beginning that we preferred WooCommerce. In our opinion, if you want to position your business for success, you can’t do better.