We don’t mean to brag, but we know the recipe for an eCommerce website that gets results. How to design and build a website that reduces bounce rates, increases engagements, and generates sales. We’ve been doing it for over 25 years – since eCommerce was called ‘that internet thing’.
Because of this, we get asked a lot of questions from our clients about eCommerce best practice, and we hear you. A question we are always asked is, which website platform should I use to power my eCommerce website… Magento, Shopify or WooCommerce? Whilst they are all key players, each has its own strengths and weaknesses. We’ve put together a handy comparison of the three eCommerce platforms to help you decide which is best for your needs.
Your eCommerce questions answered:
- Magento overview, pros and cons
- Shopify overview, pros and cons
- WooCommerce overview, pros and cons
- Which eCommerce platform is best?
- Which eCommerce platform is best for security?
- Which eCommerce platform is best for scalability?
- Which eCommerce platform is best for performance and speed?
- Which eCommerce platform is best for customisation?
- Which eCommerce platform is best for advanced functionality?
- Which eCommerce platform is best for integrations – e.g., with my accounting platform, ERP, marketing systems…?
- Which eCommerce platform is best for upfront cost
- Which eCommerce platform is best for ongoing costs?
- Which eCommerce platform is best if I have a big product catalogue?
- Which eCommerce platform is best for SEO?
- Which eCommerce platform is best for customer experience?
- Which eCommerce platform is best for me to update and manage content?
- Which eCommerce platform is best for analytics?
- Which eCommerce platform should I choose?
Magento overview, pros and cons
Magento stands out as one of the most customisable and scalable eCommerce platforms. It’s certainly a powerful platform, boasting over 500,000 online stores. Magento was originally developed in 2007 as an open-source eCommerce platform to provide a flexible and customisable solution for online merchants. The founders aimed to address the limitations of existing eCommerce platforms and offer a more robust and adaptable option. Now owned by Adobe, Magento continues to release updates and new versions to improve security, performance, and functionality. The platform’s ecosystem is ever-expanding, with a growing number of extensions and integrations available in the Magento Marketplace.
- Customisation: Magento is highly customisable, allowing businesses to create unique and tailored online stores.
- Scalability: It’s suitable for both small businesses and large enterprises, offering scalability as the business grows.
- Advanced Features: Magento provides robust features for catalogue management, SEO, and marketing.
- Open-Source: The open-source version is available for free, making it cost-effective for smaller organisations.
- Complexity: Magento can be challenging to set up and manage for users without technical expertise.
- Costs: While the Community edition is free, the Enterprise edition can be expensive, including hosting and development costs.
- Resource-Intensive: Magento websites can be resource-heavy, requiring powerful hosting solutions.
- Limited Support: Community support is available, but official Magento support can be costly.
- Global Expansion: Magento’s robust features can help businesses expand their reach to international markets.
- Integration: Magento’s expanding range of third-party integrations enhances its capabilities.
- eCommerce Trends: Staying updated with eCommerce trends like mobile shopping and social commerce can lead to growth.
- Competition: Intense competition from other eCommerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce.
- Technical Challenges: Rapid technological advancements may require constant updates and development efforts.
- Security Risks: As a popular platform, Magento can be a target for cyberattacks if not adequately secured.
- Cost Constraints: Smaller businesses may struggle with the costs associated with Magento.
Shopify overview, pros and cons
Shopify has been moving up in the website platform charts over the last 5 years or so. This is due to a big marketing push, plus some good features that make it a strong player in eCommerce nowadays. It has transformed the way businesses operate in the digital marketplace, with leaders like Gymshark being powered by the platform. With its user-friendly interface, robust features, and a vibrant ecosystem of apps and themes, Shopify empowers businesses to establish a strong online presence and effectively reach customers worldwide.
Originally for the one-man-band eCommerce businesses, Shopify was established with the aim of creating an eCommerce platform that simplified the process of selling products online. Now, though, Shopify has expanded its offerings beyond online storefronts. It introduced services like Shopify Payments, Shopify Plus (for larger enterprises), and a robust ecosystem of apps and themes created by third-party developers to enhance its capabilities for eCommerce businesses.
- Ease of Use: Shopify is user-friendly, making it accessible to users with varying technical expertise.
- Hosted Solution: It includes hosting, reducing the burden of server management for businesses.
- App Store: Shopify has a vast app store for adding functionality and customisation.
- Mobile-Friendly: It’s optimised for mobile shopping, catering to the growing mobile commerce market.
- It’s not open source: The core base of Shopify is not accessible to developers, meaning you cannot get ‘under the bonnet’ to build and modify certain features.
- Limited Customisation: As a result, compared to Magento, Shopify offers less extensive customisation.
- Transaction Fees: Shopify charges transaction fees on some plans, affecting profit margins.
- Subscription Costs and Plans: Monthly subscription costs can add up over time, and for bigger eCommerce businesses, the enterprise level plan can become costly.
- Ownership: You rent the store from Shopify and never own it.
- Global Reach: Shopify enables businesses to expand internationally with ease.
- eCommerce Trends: Adapting to emerging trends like drop shipping and omnichannel selling can boost revenue.
- Partnerships: Building partnerships with other eCommerce solutions can enhance the ecosystem.
- Competition: Intense competition with other eCommerce platforms and marketplaces.
- Data Security: Shopify needs to continuously invest in security to protect user data.
- Platform Dependence: Businesses are reliant on Shopify’s infrastructure and policies.
- Market Saturation: The market might become saturated with Shopify stores, making it harder for new entrants.
WooCommerce overview, pros and cons
WooCommerce powers approximately 33% of the global eCommerce landscape, equating to roughly 3 million online stores worldwide! The primary reason behind WooCommerce’s dominance in the market is its user-friendly integration for those who are already familiar with the WordPress platform, simplifying the process of creating an eCommerce store.
The journey for WooCommerce started back in 2011; its aim was to provide WordPress users with a user-friendly, open-source solution to set up and manage online stores seamlessly. It was so powerful that WordPress actually bought the plugin and developed it into its eCommerce add-on. The platform is now constantly updating, and it has kept in line with the ever-changing eCommerce landscape.
- Cost-Effective: WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress, making it budget friendly.
- Flexibility: It allows a high degree of customisation and flexibility for businesses.
- WordPress Integration: Ideal for businesses already using WordPress for content management.
- SEO: As a WordPress add-on, it’s the most SEO friendly platform, being favoured by Google.
- Scalability: While suitable for small to medium-sized businesses, it may face challenges with very large catalogues or high volumes of traffic.
- Hosting and Security: Users need to manage hosting and security independently.
- Development Skills: Customisation may require technical expertise.
- Content Marketing: Leveraging the WordPress integration for content marketing can attract organic traffic.
- Plugin Ecosystem: WooCommerce can grow by integrating with popular plugins.
- Competition: Competition from other eCommerce solutions may limit its growth.
- Technical Challenges: Users need to stay updated with WordPress and WooCommerce updates.
- Security Risks: Self-hosted platforms can be vulnerable to security threats if not properly maintained.
So which eCommerce platform is best?
We believe that there is no right or wrong eCommerce content management system, it’s all about your business needs. All platforms have their strengths and weaknesses so we’ve ranked Magento, Shopify and WooCommerce against key features and elements you might be looking for:
Which eCommerce platform is best for security?
All three platforms ensure your data is secure during and after your website creation. When it comes to Magento, security will not be a problem if you have support developers and hosting services at your disposal. WooCommerce on the other hand, keeps updating to fix any bugs and to ensure general security, but you do need to ensure someone is on hand to implement and test these updates. Lastly, since everything on Shopify is globally hosted, the platform is secure and reliable. Shopify takes care of your server-side maintenance and regulates it.
Platform ranking for security:
Which eCommerce platform is best for scalability?
You want your website to sustain and promote your company growth, so picking the right CMS for your eCommerce website is crucial. Magento is extremely powerful and can easily accommodate thousands and thousands of products along with high website traffic. WooCommerce also allows for scalability, however, if you are inexperienced with code then you may find it difficult to scale. Shopify doesn’t perform as well for scalability compared to the other two platforms as it is limited by the fact that developers cannot access the source code in many areas, meaning you are limited as to what can be built onto your Shopify website.
Platform ranking for scalability:
Which eCommerce platform is best for performance and speed?
This depends on the scale of your product catalogue and website functionality. Magento is a robust system, but this means it can be weightier and require more effort to streamline performance and speed. WooCommerce, being a WordPress plugin, depends on the overall site performance as often WordPress websites require lots of additional plugins which can slow down and hamper performance. Generally, Shopify sites rank well for website performance and speed as they are powered by Shopify’s servers.
Platform ranking for performance and speed:
Which eCommerce platform is best for customisation?
Out of the three, Magento offers the most room for customisations. This is due to there being no limit to how you can change theme features, SEO settings, layouts and more. This platform allows your website to be as unique as you want it to be with the required development. WooCommerce also gives you plenty of options for customisation, so basing your eCommerce store on this platform will also enable your website to have a unique look. With WooCommerce, you are free to add or change the core features of your themes, create your own extensions or plugins, and tweak your website layout as you want. On the other hand, Shopify is not so customisable, so you may be left with the core features of whatever themes you choose.
Platform ranking for customisation:
Which eCommerce platform is best for advanced functionality?
Advanced functionality usually requires customisation, so for that reason our ranking is the same. You may be looking to adapt your promotions modules to work together or offer different prices and content for certain user groups once logged in. Whatever your advanced requirements, Magento is the most adaptable CMS that won’t fall over once you start adding and adapting features.
Platform ranking for advanced functionality:
Which eCommerce platform is best for integrations – e.g., with my accounting platform, ERP, marketing systems…?
For your business to grow, efficiency is key. Your systems should talk to one another to save the need for additional manual work. For instance, when an order is placed your website should tell your ERP that the stock of any items purchased should be reduced and by how many, or when someone signs up for marketing you should be able to send them personalised communications based on their actions on your website. With its vast ecosystem of plugins and connections, Magento is by far the clear winner when it comes to integrations. Magento can be customised and connected so much that it becomes way more than just an eCommerce website – it can be the hub of your digital presence.
Platform ranking for integrations:
Which eCommerce platform is best for upfront cost?
As a hefty content management system, Magento requires more time, resource, and therefore cost to build. WooCommerce lies in the middle for cost – it’s still a robust platform but is cheaper to get up and running than Magento. Shopify on the other hand is the cheapest platform to get started with due to its out of the box nature.
Platform ranking for upfront cost:
Which eCommerce platform is best for ongoing costs?
Like with the costs required to build your website on each content management system, the costs to continue running it rank the same. With Shopify you get the benefit of using Shopify’s own servers which means the ongoing costs are relatively low.
Platform ranking for ongoing costs:
Which eCommerce platform is best if I have a big product catalogue?
Magento is the king when it comes to handling a large number of product SKUs. It can handle complexity and would be recommended if you had a big product range that would drive lots of traffic. WooCommerce can handle lots of SKUs but could become fragile if overwhelmed with data. Similarly, Shopify was initially built for lighter eCommerce businesses so does not fare as well as Magento with lots of products.
Platform ranking for a big product catalogue:
Which eCommerce platform is best for SEO?
Magento provides advanced SEO features such as generating SEO-friendly URLs and meta descriptions, as well as integration with Google sitemaps. WooCommerce has an abundance of plugins and extensions. Thanks to this, it offers a good degree of SEO. You’ll also be able to tweak the settings as you like to suit your website better, and as it’s based on WordPress it’s favoured by Google. Shopify may not be the best option for you if you’re looking to upscale your SEO. The platform doesn’t give much room for SEO customisations. There might be some SEO practices that are specific for your business, but you won’t be able to carry them out if Shopify doesn’t allow you to.
Platform ranking for SEO:
Which eCommerce platform is best for customer experience?
There is no clear winner when it comes to customer experience, this all depends on UI/UX of your front-end website design. With that being said, Magento and WooCommerce are preferable as they offer more customisation options, meaning you can tailor your online shop with eCommerce best practices that may not be available with a Shopify theme
Which eCommerce platform is best for me to update and manage content?
Whilst Magento is technically strong, it loses points for its admin interface and ease of use. So much so that for clients with lots of SKUs and customisation requirements, we utilise an innovative solution that integrates WordPress for content management. Based on WordPress, WooCommerce is simple and very easy to use, but Shopify has the best admin user interface with a clean and clear design.
Platform ranking for admin content management:
Which eCommerce platform is best for analytics?
Despite having some in-built analytics, with both Magento and WooCommerce it’s often the case that additional plugins or connections are required to provide the depth of data you need as an eCommerce merchant. Shopify has its own analytics platform as well as the ability interface with Google Analytics, making data more readily available without any additional development required.
Platform ranking for analytics:
Which eCommerce platform should I choose?
We’ve tried and tested all three platforms and we believe there is no right or wrong eCommerce content management system; it all depends on your business’s needs. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses but that doesn’t make them difficult or bad to use, it’s purely about your business’s goals, objectives, and budget for an eCommerce website. The main thing to remember is your consumer. Make sure to create your eCommerce website with them in mind. The easier the website is to use, the happier the consumer and the more sales you’ll generate.
If you would like to discuss the differences between Magento, Shopify and WooCommerce in more detail, or you have questions about which eCommerce platform would best suit your needs, we’re here to help. We believe in making digital human, so will put all the jargon in simple plain English to help you digest and make the right decision for your business.