WooCommerce vs. Magento

Online shopping now accounts for about 14 percent of all retail sales worldwide, and the increasing number of eCommerce platforms and tools makes it easy for eCommerce entrepreneurs of all kinds to build a presence in this growing global market. WooCommerce and Magento are two of the Internet’s most popular store builders, but they work very differently. Which is best for your business? That depends largely on your technical skills and your plans for the future of your eCommerce venture. Below, this article will highlight the differences between WooCommerce vs Magento so you can make an informed decision on which one is right for your website. 

Essentials for Every Online Store

Whether you’re just starting out or are an established business looking to expand, your online storefront needs a set of core components in order to flourish on the web. Regardless of your niche or field of expertise, your store needs a way to display your products or services and a mechanism for visitors to select and pay for them. Your store also needs robust security to keep transactions safe and protect customer information, as well as being reliable and having technical support. Along with those features, you’ll also want to be able to customize your store to reflect your brand and to scale your business as it grows.

The most popular online store builders and hosting platforms provide these essential features, along with a wide range of other options that can be added in the form of apps and extensions. WooCommerce and Magento both offer a complete set of free and open source tools for creating a fully functioning, customizable online storefront, but these two powerful eCommerce favorites differ significantly in terms of their integration, ease of use, and pricing.

WooCommerce: Flexible and User-Friendly

Ready to get started with WooCommerce? WooCommerce drives nearly a third of all retail sites worldwide, including major retailers such as Singer and Airstream. WooCommerce isn’t a standalone platform, though. It’s a free plugin for WordPress that works on self-hosted websites. WooCommerce makes it very easy for beginners to integrate this plugin into their site and start a brand new online storefront within minutes.

Learning how to use WooCommerce is easy and fast for both novices and pros alike. To use it, you’ll need your own domain name and a reliable web host where you can install the free, open source WordPress core code. Once WordPress is active, WooCommerce can be installed from the WordPress Plugin Directory or from the WooCommerce home site.

The basic WooCommerce plugin for WordPress has all the essential features needed to set up and customize an eCommerce site, including product pages, templates, and showcases, a full range of shopping cart functions, and several built-in payment gateway options. WooCommerce also includes the tools for customizing the look of your store from your WordPress admin site, no coding experience required. WooCommerce also works with most WordPress themes, and some themes have been designed specifically to work with WooCommerce’s many features.

Magento: Scalable Solutions for Growing Businesses

Ever asked yourself, “What is Magento and how can it help my online store?” Like WooCommerce, Magento has a free and open source version called “Community” that can be installed on just about any self-hosted website. Magento has the largest built-in feature set of all major eCommerce platforms, and more functions can be added with the hundreds of free and premium Magento extensions.

These Magento features include catalog management tools, flexible shopping cart options, and a range of SEO and marketing functions. Magento also has a premium version, called “Magento Commerce,” which includes hosting service and advanced features and support for mid- to large-size businesses.

To run Magento’s free version, you’ll need a domain and hosting provider. Magento can be downloaded and installed directly into your site’s core files, and some hosts offer a “one click” install with basic hosting plans. Like WooCommerce for WordPress, Magento is theme-based, with a variety of theme options available for different business types. Magento has more than 50 built-in payment gateways, including leading gateways such as PayPal, Authorize.net, and Braintree.

With these general features in mind, here’s a look at how WooCommerce and Magento compare in terms of usability, cost, and scalability.

Installation and Store Setup

Both WooCommerce and Magento’s free version can be installed on self-hosted websites using a variety of hosting providers. Although WooCommerce was designed as a plugin for adding eCommerce capabilities to sites run exclusively on WordPress, Magento can be installed on any platform. But WooCommerce can be configured from the site’s admin dashboard, with no experience in coding or web development required. That makes it an easy-to-use option for anyone without web design experience, and the plug-in’s code and style sheets can still be customized directly by users with development skills.

Getting up and running with Magento does require some web development skills, since the system must be installed in the site’s function files directly and a number of its higher level customization options require some knowledge of coding and style sheet structure. Because Magento isn’t integrated with an existing platform, it has to be configured and customized within the site’s chosen Magento theme.

Both WooCommerce and Magento provide the essentials for setting up and customizing an online store, but Magento’s basic setup includes a range of higher-level features such as advanced security and analytics that would require separate extensions in WooCommerce.

Plans, Pricing, and Ongoing Costs

Although the core versions of both WooCommerce and Magento are free, other costs for setting up and running your store can vary widely. Those include purchasing and registering a domain and setting up a web hosting plan that offers the essential support and services you need. And because each store has unique needs, you might need to add some extensions to either platform to get the right mix of features for your site.

Although many extensions are free, both WooCommerce and Magento users can also purchase a number of premium extensions from third-party developers around the world. WooCommerce doesn’t have a paid version, but Magento users with larger businesses, or those expecting to scale in a major way, can also opt for the premium Magento Commerce plan, which includes full hosting, advanced security, and other features for large and high-traffic stores.

Scalability and Support

WooCommerce and Magento both offer features that support business growth, with multiple extensions and options for expanding store offerings and services. But while WooCommerce can also be an attractive and inexpensive option for first-time entrepreneurs, creative entrepreneurs, and other small entrepreneurs — as well as for stores mid-range and larger — Magento’s many features are designed to support eCommerce ventures with a large inventory of products and increasing traffic.

Both WooCommerce and Magento users have access to hundreds of tutorials and forums as well as technical support from the developers themselves. Because the free versions of these platforms are installed on self-hosted sites, the hosting provider can also provide basic technical support. The fully hosted Commerce version of Magento offers more robust support services included with the plan.

Which Powerful Platform Is Right for Your Site?

WooCommerce and Magento share many essential features, including being free. While there are pros and cons of each, they both are easy to download and integrate into a website. But they’re designed for different kinds of users. Quick to install and easy to customize without knowing a single line of code, WooCommerce can work for users ranging from complete beginners to relatively advanced developers.

But Magento requires some technical expertise for installing and managing the platform’s features, and eCommerce experts point out that this platform may be best for mid-range or larger sites expecting to grow. WooCommerce is scalable as your site expands, too. But Magento’s security solutions and scalable product and payment management tools are aimed at larger companies.

Choosing the right platform for your eCommerce store is an important factor in your site’s success. Both WooCommerce and Magento offer essential tools for setting up an online store — but these platforms are designed for different stages of an eCommerce venture’s online life.

Desiree Johnson
Desiree Johnson | Content Specialist
Desiree Johnson is a Content Specialist at Bluehost where she writes helpful guides and articles, teaches webinars and assists with other marketing and WordPress community work.

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