There have never been more options for building an ecommerce store. Through convenient CMS platforms, you can get up and running in a fraction of the time it would take to work from scratch, all backed by responsive templates running on tried-and-tested technologies.
Two of the leading contenders in the ecommerce CMS world are WooCommerce and Magento. Each one has carved out a decent space in the online marketplace, and has fans who’ll swear by it as the best option out there. But how do they really compare?
Let’s quickly cover the basics of these platforms, then put them head-to-head on some key factors to see which one emerges the victor.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce extension for WordPress, itself the most popular general CMS in the world. Because of this, it’s no surprise that it makes up 35% of all ecommerce sites worldwide. It’s praised and appreciated for being relatively cheap and intuitive.
What is Magento?
Magento is an open-source ecommerce CMS that accounts for 4% market share. Originally fully self-hosted, Magento 2 is now also available as a cloud solution. Businesses that choose Magento tend to cite its incredible range of functions and flexibility as reasons.
Best for Security: Magento
Security is hugely important to any ecommerce site because there are large sums of money and private customer data involved, and ecommerce platforms can differ quite drastically when it comes to security.
When you’re looking to spend as little as possible, WooCommerce and Magento have similar prospects for security. You can get security extensions for each, and there are security patches for Magento, but they’re not very helpful if you don’t know how to install them.
If you raise the budget, however, Magento comes to stand out when it comes to security. Not only does Magento cloud hosting provide a vastly-improved level of security in its infrastructure, but you can also count on regular updates being handled for you.
You can get high-quality hosting for WooCommerce, but since there isn’t that official tie-in, it won’t be quite as good a package overall. Add in the popularity of WooCommerce making it a bigger security target and you have to view Magento as the winner here.
Best for Usability: WooCommerce
It’s no use having a great ecommerce CMS if you haven’t work out how to use it effectively, so usability is a massive factor, especially for entrepreneurs or small businesses lacking the expertise to handle a lot of complexity or the budget to hire someone to do it for them.
If you’re not very tech-savvy and you’re just looking to get a solid store built with minimal fuss, WooCommerce is by far the superior choice. Anyone with some understanding of WordPress will have a solid foundation to build on, and everything is simple and accessible enough for the average user to get by.
Magento isn’t the most awkward system, but it is aimed squarely at the enterprise level, with features that demand a high level of expertise to use fully. If you have a great understanding of how it works, you can achieve great things with the platform, but even then it can’t honestly be said that the design is the clearest.
WooCommerce takes this category at a canter, for beginners and experts alike. With the breadth and availability of the WordPress community and a design that’s considerably more intuitive, it was never even close.
Best for Features: Magento
Having a store that’s content-complete and capable of all the basic functions is just a starting point. Down the line, you’re going to want to try new things, whether you’re looking to boost your marketing, increase your efficiency, or win more conversions, and the best platforms make it easy to implement new features.
WooCommerce and Magento are very similar in their options, in principle. Each has a store of extensions (some free, some paid) that can easily be installed and tested (more easily in the case of WooCommerce). Each is open-source at heart and can be modified manually at the user’s leisure, allowing for practically unlimited alteration.
Where they really differ, though, is in what they offer out of the box (so to speak). WooCommerce is a fairly bare-bones solution, covering only what is required and needing extensions or development to do anything more, whereas Magento is far more comprehensive by default— and Magento Commerce tiers provide hosting and official support.
Because it takes it possible to get so much more done without delving into extensions, Magento gets the nod for features, though the disparity isn’t that massive.
Best for SEO: WooCommerce
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of tweaking online content to improve its chances of being ranked highly in search engines, which is extremely important for driving traffic to a website so it can yield more sales. For a CMS to be good for SEO, it must make it straightforward for a user to keep their content as search-friendly as possible.
Magento provides the core SEO elements from the outset, including page metadata, automated rich snippets microdata, and canonical linking. WooCommerce does not, but it can easily make use of the highly-regarded Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress which gives it an extensive array of options including all of the above.
Both platforms are solid choices for SEO, and neither has any major issue that stands to cause problems down the line, but since it’s somewhat easier to optimize a page through WooCommerce than through Magento, I’ll point to WooCommerce as the better SEO option for non-enterprise users. Find out more about ecommerce platform SEO here.
Best for Performance: Draw
Performance, largely meaning consistency of uptime, page loading speed, and scalability, becomes more of an issue the larger a business gets. Customers expect pages to load quickly and smoothly, and giving them a poor experience will probably drive them away.
As self-hosted solutions, WooCommerce and Magento are roughly on par. Magento is viewed as a fantastic option for high-level scaling, but WooCommerce is no slouch, and on a decent hosting platform you’ll get on well with either of the two.
Magento’s cloud hosting is a fine option, but it can’t be compared to that of WooCommerce because there isn’t an equivalent offering. If you spent as much on WooCommerce hosting as you would need to spend on a hosted Magento store, you would likely get similar performance.
Because neither CMS has any major edge over the other, I’ll rate this a draw. As long as you get decent hosting (and use extensions very carefully), you’ll be happy no matter which you pick.
If you’ve narrowed your ecommerce CMS options down to WooCommerce and Magento, then which one you should choose will come down to what kind of business you’re running.
If you’re looking to invest heavily in the store to customize it extensively and get professional development involved with the goal of reaching the high-end enterprise level, go with Magento. There are some exciting updates in the pipeline, and you’ll be thrilled with the sheer power you can achieve with the platform.
If you’re looking for a pain-free experience that will give you all the functionality you need without causing undue stress or requiring much expertise, choose WooCommerce. It’s plenty powerful enough to support your business even when it hits the big time, and you’ll never struggle to find straightforward advice from the huge global community.
So there you have it! Two excellent options, available entirely for free. Figure out which one is better in your case, and go with it— you won’t regret it.