Popular eCommerce Platforms: WooCommerce Magento or Shopify?
By: Mae Demdam
Which Platform is Appropriate?
Making a successful eCommerce website it no easy task. You need to consider what eCommerce platform works best for your business and and your budget.
With all the choices for eCommerce websites out there, it may be difficult to decide which popular eCommerce platform is right for your business?
At first glance many of these platforms seem similar, but once you take a closer look some major differences begin to emerge. We discuss the pros and cons of each of these popular eCommerce platforms; WooCommerce, Magento, and Shopify.
Most eCommerce website design shops will recommend at least one of these platforms for budgets in the $10,000 – $100,000+ price range with Magento being by far the most expensive.
WooCommerce for WordPress:
WooCommerce is a free, open source eCommerce plugin for the WordPress Content Management System (CMS). The platform is very popular because of WordPress, which is known for its usability and effectivity. It is a popular choice among professional designers and developers because of WordPress’s scalability and ease of customization. WooCommerce uses WordPress as a framework and adds a full suite of eCommerce functionality to a WordPress website.
To start with WooCommerce costs absolutely nothing and better yet, the cart has very few limitations. It is easy to manage because it is tailored to WordPress’s CMS and its probably one of the easiest carts to customize and configure in the eCommerce industry.
In terms of design, there are a variety of WooThemes which have all the tools to create a storefront in its default form. Since WooCommerce is open source designers and developers have full access to the source code which offers unlimited options for design and development customizations.
WooCommerce is fairly new in terms of eCommerce platforms and although you will get the basics of an eCommerce store; shopping cart, database, marketing tools, etc. you may be lacking some 3rd party integration capabilities. For example, if you have inventory management software for your online store, Woocommerce may not have an off the shelf plugin that integrates with your software. The platform will cater to small and medium online businesses, but may not be the best solution for enterprise level stores. Just to qualify, a small to medium size online retailer has revenues from 100k – 5 million in annual sales.
- Open Source
- Easy to Manage
- Integrates with WordPress
- Customizable Designs
- Variety of Themes
- Easy Code Language
- Limited Default Features
- Limited API Extensions
- Additional Features at Cost
- Limited Documentation
- Plugin Updates
WooCommerce seems to be the perfect platform for small to medium or new businesses and for those already familiar with the WordPress CMS. The eCommerce platform is very user friendly and operates with the same style as WordPress, but it does lack some features and functionalities that may be beneficial for enterprise eCommerce sites. Thus if you’re looking for an affordable option WooCommerce may be a great starting point while your business grows.
Magento eCommerce Platform
Magento has quickly made a name for themselves as one of the largest and popular eCommerce platforms on the market today. They have a license-free version called the Community version, which is a flexible and feature-rich, out of the box solution for small businesses. They also have fully supported enterprise edition at a heftier price tag, around 15k annually. Although Magento has been considered one of the most expensive CMS platforms, it may be well worth it for large online businesses with multiple shops.
Magento is built on Zend Framework which uses open source technologies and programming languages allowing for a lot of flexibility for developers and designers. It can easily be modified and expanded at additional costs with the right Magento expert. With that said, the Magento community is quite large with a vast community of users, developers, and customer service providers to assist. Because of this, the platform is constantly growing providing more templates, extensions, modules, and more, which are commercial and free.
Along with all of the add-ons, Magento is a very feature-rich eCommerce platform providing the user with advanced marketing and promotion tools and easy integration with third party services like Google Base, Google Analytics, and Google Optimizer. It also accommodates a variety of payment gateways, inventory management, and dropshipper API’s.
But in order to offer these amazing features Magento’s platform does boast some complexity which ultimately requires a larger budget. The intricacies of the platform require a skilled Magento or website development professional, which in itself may be difficult to find. The platform allows for design and development customization, but it the process can be cumbersome and time consuming, as Magento is unforgiving. These changes may cause an increased budget and longer development time. And Magento needs a very good environment, hosting environment that is. It doesn’t work just anywhere,Magento will need to have proper setup, hosting, and a good server or it will run slow with longer page load times.
Magento is at the foundation of Fortune 500 companies and is the forefront to over 125,000 sites. Despite the popularity, Magento still has it’s pros and cons.
- Feature Rich
- User Friendly
- Community Version is Free
- Large Community
- Great Support
- Large Database
- Multiple Online Stores in One
- Magento Knowledge is Key
- Magento Developers are Difficult to Find
- Less Friendly for Designers
- Cost (Price Points are a la carte)
- Developer Costs
- Slower Site Loading Times
Magento is a great platform for your business if you have the development resources; finances and budget, development time, and development resources, such as PHP and MySQL. If you’re running a smaller business on a fixed budget, Magento is not your best choice for eCommerce platforms because you’ll be spending quite a bit on the external factors aside from the CMS.
Shopify eCommerce Platform
If you need an eCommerce site as quickly as possible you may consider Shopify. It seems to be one of easiest platforms to push live without customizations, of course. Shopify allows you to create a website without a lot of coding knowledge and if you take the site “out of the box” you can have your store up and running on the web in a matter of hours. Shopify also offers easy-to-use templates that give you the option to customize your store without writing any code.
Even with it’s simplicity this platform has been a bit problematic in that customizations are limited throughout the platform. Although you can tweak some HTML and CSS, Shopify created their own programming language called Liquid, for customizing templates. And though they provide a great customer service program for users, working within the Liquid framework has a steep learning curve.
With that said there are also a very limited number of templates in Shopify’s library, under 200. Thus if you are making a drag and drop site without customizations, it’s likely that your site will look like many others. If you wanted originality it may be advantageous to hire a web designer and developer who understands the Liquid language. Shopify is a tiered price platform which means the more you pay the more you get so many of the features are not included in the basic site and add ons can get expensive.
The backend of Shopify is user-friendly with clear cut navigations and categories, but some of the marketing features and reporting tools aren’t as advanced as some of the other platforms. It does include built-in analytics, Google Analytics integration and SEO tools, but again additional features will need to be added from Shopify’s app store.
Although Shopify offers simplicity and quickness in website launching, you may be sacrificing some major factors for your eCommerce site. In a nutshell the pros and cons of Shopify are listed below:
- Easy Setup
- Easy to Minor Customizations
- Great Customer Support
- Quick Launch Times
- Fully Hosted
- Number of plans and price points
- Proprietary Coding Language
- Limited HTML and CSS Customizations
- Limited Functionality Customizations
- Limited Template Library
- Price Points are Higher
- Not good for store with lots of Categories and Sub Categories
- Limited reporting options
Shopify may be the perfect eCommerce platform for users who need an online store right away and cannot wait for development and design time. Although it tends to be very cookie cutter out of the box, it will suffice for small to medium sized business, but doesn’t allow you the opportunity to standout with their limited themes. Shopify isn’t the best for large stores with various product categories and for those who do not understand the Liquid language.