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January 06, 2020

Magento vs. WooCommerce: How to Choose the Best Platform

Choosing the right ecommerce content management system (CMS) for your storefront is important. Not only does it influence what you’re able to do, but it also allows you to set expectations in terms of development costs and timeframes. But with CMS choices now more diverse than ever before, picking the right solution can be difficult. 

Two applications you’ll be introduced to early on are Magento and WooCommerce. Both are used by an impressive number of stores: according to BuiltWith, WooCommerce is used by over 3 million stores, while Magento is used by over 200,000. Deciding on Magento or WooCommerce can be a tricky process. Both offer flexible feature sets that can be expanded easily with extensions, and both are backed by supportive communities.

So how do you decide which is the right platform for you? 

As we go through the benefits and capabilities of each platform, keep in mind that both platforms are great for a variety of different stores. Thinking about where you currently stand in your business journey, and what your next steps are, will help you select the right platform for you and your needs.

As you seek to drive revenue and distinguish your store, it’s vital that you pay attention to the customer experience you’re able to provide. Now is the time to drive change within your organization and optimize the commerce experience for your customers. By selecting the right solution for your storefront, you’ll be able to optimize your speed to market and drive revenue quickly

Let’s compare Magento vs. WooCommerce and see which ecommerce platform is best for your store. If you’re a merchant that still needs to make a choice, keep reading to find out more.

What is WooCommerce?

If you’re a new WordPress user, you may be asking, “what is WooCommerce?” WooCommerce is a free, open-source plugin for WordPress sites that adds ecommerce functionality to any WordPress site. 

WordPress began as a simple blogging platform but soon grew into the expansive CMS that is today. Plugins like WooCommerce allow users that didn’t previously have online stores to add ecommerce to their site.

Acquired by WordPress in 2015, WooCommerce has now become one of the most popular solutions for online stores of all sizes.

What is Magento?

Magento is a popular CMS with robust built-in ecommerce capabilities, available in both free ( Magento Open Source) and premium subscription (Magento Commerce) versions. 

Like WooCommerce, Magento can be used to sell both physical and digital goods. While Magento often is billed as more of an enterprise CMS, it maintains a strong community of entrepreneurs as well.

Now that you have a basic understanding of WooCommerce and Magento, let’s take a look at some differences between the CMS platforms.

Is Magento Right For You?

In order to know which CMS platform is better suited for your needs, it’s important to dive into the details of each.

Magento is a powerful ecommerce platform capable of empowering merchants to create storefronts unlike any other. Originally released March 2008, it’s since grown and inspired the release of a new version, Magento 2, in 2015. Several improvements can be seen in Magento 1 vs. Magento 2. This newer version has gone on to become the ideal ecommerce platform for storefronts that have a global reach.

What You’ll Get With Magento

  • A powerful ecommerce platform capable of creating unique, personalized user experiences
  • More customization options than WooCommerce
  • An incredible community of developers that manages to easily hold its own, despite being smaller than the WooCommerce community
  • True hosting optimization through an optimized Magento hosting provider

Consider WooCommerce if You’re Looking For:

  • A fully functioning storefront that doesn’t require a developer
  • A lower cost solution

Is WooCommerce Right For You?

As a plugin for WordPress, WooCommerce comes armed with features that make it great for managing both content and ecommerce. Originally launched in 2011, WooCommerce has grown to become the most used and versatile ecommerce platform available to merchants and agencies alike, with over 3.8 million active installs worldwide.

Now, with Managed WooCommerce hosting from Nexcess, its versatility and ease of use have only improved, with up to $6,000 of integrations available for optimizing site speed, security, scalability, and service.

What You’ll Get With WooCommerce

  • Easy to get started with and use 
  • A wide range of templates and themes available for merchants without any coding knowledge
  • Bundled integrations that provide advanced functionality for analytics, updates, site optimization, and ecommerce delivery
  • A large community of developers
  • Lower costs

Consider Magento If You’re Looking For:

  • Additional customization

  Interested in other ecommerce options available to merchants? See our comparison of the best ecommerce platforms or check out our Magento vs. Shopify showdown. 

Magento Vs. WooCommerce: Performance

Questions about speed and power are usually among the first asked by merchants. Most of the time, merchants need to prioritize one or the other. This is especially true when looking at Magento vs. WooCommerce.

“Speed and power are two different performance metrics and rarely go together.”

While Magento may be more powerful than WooCommerce, it also requires more resources to deliver the same customer experience. On the other hand, because WooCommerce is a very lightweight and fast platform, it lacks a lot of the functionality you’ll find with Magento. 

WooCommerce Is Lightweight

As a lightweight platform, WooCommerce offers the same hardware and resources that can serve more customers than Magento. Take a look at our Managed Magento and Managed WooCommerce plans to see what this means in terms of real numbers. 

MagentoWooCommerce
Daily Visitors5,00010,000

*Based on a SIP 400 server build.

Although being lightweight means a higher daily visitor capacity, WooCommerce has comparatively limited out-of-the-box functionality. Without making modifications, WooCommerce lacks the ability to track user activity through other channels and deliver a personalized customer experience. Magento offers these features by default, but they still require advanced configuration to get the most out of them. 

Bear in mind, while WooCommerce requires additional plugins to add advanced functionality, it will almost always perform better in terms of speed. Add to this the capabilities of managed WooCommerce, and you’ve got an ecommerce platform that provides the best of both worlds. 

You’ll get solid performance from either Magento or WooCommerce. The amount that your performance is optimized depends on your hosting service.

 Get started with Managed WooCommerce hosting from Nexcess.

Magento Requires the Right Host

For Magento, it’s important to host with a provider that offers optimized infrastructure. While several providers state that they offer optimized hosting, the reality is that only a handful truly optimize their infrastructure for Magento. Nexcess is known to offer a truly optimized Magento hosting foundation

In addition to finding the right hosting provider, the quality of code used to create a Magento store can also have a significant impact. Poorly edited code and unoptimized extensions can cause any server-side optimizations to lose their significance. If you’ve implemented multiple speed optimizations and your store is still crawling, it may be a good idea to start a code audit. 

“Poorly edited Magento code and unoptimized extensions can easily cause any server-side optimizations to lose their significance.”

Two Different Performance Bands: Speed and Power

Like much of this comparison, Magento vs. WordPress’ WooCommerce, the analysis splits into two different performance bands. WooCommerce is a lightweight contender, which makes it fast but comparatively less powerful. However, being such a quick and nimble platform means that WooCommerce requires a smaller hosting plan to support the same number of customers — even when functionality is expanded with additional integrations. While Magento has much more power behind it in terms of stock functionality, it can slow down significantly when too many customers are active on your site at the same time.

If you’re looking to test out a new store and want a nimble solution, WooCommerce is a great option. If you’re looking for a robust solution, Magento is your go-to.

Magento Vs. WooCommerce: Functionality

Magento has long been known as the ecommerce king of functionality. Not only does it allow for the creation of unique and personalized user journeys, but its integration capabilities are second to none. 

With that said, a savvy developer can still get a lot of functionality out of WooCommerce. Part of the reason for this is that both applications come with REST application programming interface (API). This means that both platforms are capable of supporting expanded functionality throughout site development. 

The WooCommerce REST API documentation (including hooks, endpoints, filters, and more) can be found here. Similar documentation for Magento can be found here

WooCommerce Requires WordPress

A common myth is that WooCommerce only offers limited functionality. If we’re looking at Magento vs. WordPress’ WooCommerce, the truth is much more complex. When combined with additional plugins, WooCommerce’s capabilities expand significantly. There are over 50,000 unique plugins available for WordPress, offering functionality for both the ecommerce and content sides of your site. 

Beyond plugins and integrations, the REST API means that WooCommerce is also capable of being expanded to suit more advanced functionality requirements through development. This means being able to create unique customer journeys that rival Magento and that scale as your store does.  

For example, Coffeebros.com, a coffee roasting company, has created a storefront with WooCommerce that includes discounts, calls to action, and a clean, easy to understand buying experience. Weber.co.za, the grill provider, has also created an easy-to-use store that integrates both the ecommerce product and content recipe sections seamlessly. These two examples show the range in functionality that WooCommerce store owners can expect from their CMS.

The ability to integrate both commerce and content seamlessly is one of WooCommerce’s strengths.

WooCommerce’s ability to lets merchants integrate the content and ecommerce sections of their site seamlessly is a big pro. Magento does not offer this.

Magento Powers Larger-Scale Global Commerce

One of the more widely known components of the Magento vs. WooCommerce debate is that Magento is often seen as the go-to solution for enterprise level sites. Magento powers some of the biggest ecommerce stores in the world. There’s a reason for this: the immense functionality it offers global retailers. 

Magento allows for Global storefronts with regional differences.

HP, the PC computer pioneer, transformed their selling experience in the Asian Pacific with Magento. They launched five different stores on a single platform, with regional differences and global similarities. This allowed them to meet local requirements for payments, fulfillment, language, and order technicalities, while also optimizing site management with global consistency. 

Rubik’s, the maker of the Rubik’s cube toy, also managed to create a strong global online presence quickly, using Magento to expand worldwide. Magento’s functionality made it easy for them to spin up new regional storefronts and landing pages — something which would have been a lot more complicated with other platforms. 

Not only does Magento allow for easier access to international markets, but it also enables a more in-depth customization of the buyer’s experience. 

If You Want Functionality, Go With: Magento

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that store owners looking for ultimate functionality should go with Magento. Its ability to customize the buyer’s experience and create unique, international storefronts is something you just can’t do in the same way with WooCommerce, unless you invest in development. Moreover, with Adobe’s integrations weaving themselves into the Magento ecosystem, its functionality is only going to improve. 

WooCommerce, however, is a close second in functionality, so smaller store owners won’t lose out on that capability. In many cases, plugins and development work can lead to customer experiences that are just as unique and targeted as Magento’s. It’s just slightly easier to implement them with Magento. 

With that being said, managed WooCommerce solutions bring with them some of the most important ecommerce functionality around, making them accessible out of the box. This makes WooCommerce the better option when it comes to balancing functionality with ease of use. 

Magento Vs. WooCommerce: Security

Security for an ecommerce store is vital. Not only does it help prevent loss of customer Personally Identifiable Information (PII), but it also ensures that merchants remain in compliance with the Payment Card Industry standards (PCI Compliance) needed to sell effectively online. 

While both applications offer environments backed up by security teams and vigilant communities, WooCommerce suffers from one major disadvantage: WordPress. As a plugin, it is vulnerable to the same exploits as its parent application. In 2018, 57% of web application vulnerabilities identified were from WordPress.

This doesn’t mean Magento doesn’t have problems of its own. In research conducted by Securi, 40% of Magento stores have at least one security issue. That’s much lower than the 73% of WooCommerce stores reported by EnableSecurity, but it’s still a sizable portion of live storefronts. And these are not complex vulnerabilities. Most of them could easily be detected using free automated tools. 

So why such large numbers? For many sites, it’s because they are out of date. Clunky security update processes or simply forgetting are two of the biggest reasons for security vulnerabilities across modern CMS. 

One of the most common reasons that storefronts are vulnerable is lack of updated security. 

For this reason, one of the best security features offered is the ability to easily update it. When compared with the WooCommerce security update process, Magento security patches aren’t easy to apply. With a managed WooCommerce solution, not only do updates occur automatically, but they’re set to test any changes in case they break your site before they go live. This makes maintaining an up-to-date site easy and effective. 

Despite this, Magento does have a lot of positive security features going for it, including:

  • Enhanced password management 
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) attack prevention
  • Flexible file ownership and permissions
  • Non-default Magento Admin URL
  • Two-step verification

The Magento 1 End of Life (EOL) Impact on Security

Magento can be split into two versions: Magento 1 and Magento 2. Each is largely unique, in that moving from Magento 1 to Magento 2 requires replatforming. Currently, a large percentage of Magento stores are still on Magento 1

As of June 2020, official security support for the Magento 1 platform has ceased. If you’re a Magento 1 merchant looking for alternatives, we recommend Safe Harbor, reviewing your options and downloading the After M1 guide

Still on Magento 1? Invest in Nexcess Safe Harbor.

Be Aware of Potential Security Compromises

Security is never simple. The nature of vulnerabilities means that every application’s community needs to remain vigilant. WooCommerce offers some great security features for automating the update process and keeping everything up to date. However, it also has a lot more vulnerabilities to begin with due to running on WordPress. 

Magento has better security tools and features, despite patches being hard to implement and take full advantage of. 

However, managed WooCommerce solutions have brought with them a curated selected of security tools and features. From automated updates to an entire security suite capable of managing advanced configurations, WooCommerce comes with all the security features of Magento and adds ease of use. 

Magento Vs. WooCommerce: Design and Templates

Before a site can go live, a merchant needs to decide on a design. Without a design, there is no site (at least, not an attractive one).

With WooCommerce, this is an easy process thanks to a large selection of templates and pre-designed themes. Taking these themes and tweaking them to individual requirements is a quick process, making the time from ideation to creation much faster than with Magento.

Magento does have a limited number of templates. However, these are relatively simple when compared with what Magento can actually do. To make the most of using the platform, most merchants will need to hire a developer to design and code their site. 

Headless Possibilities

Design becomes a lot more complicated when headless implementations are considered. In a nutshell, headless means you can separate the back-end and front-end functions of a content management system (CMS) to create, manage and deliver more unique user experiences to more devices. For Magento merchants, the application’s API makes implementation a relatively simple process. There are several headless Magento sites already using headless architecture to deliver unique user experiences. 

Two examples of headless Magento implementations are the Magento 2 PWA Venia theme and the Magento 2 PWA Tigren theme

Headless architecture allows for stores to utilize an optimized eCommerce API and flexible front-end design.

For examples of live Magento sites currently using PWA, you can take a look at Alaskan Harvest or Soomzone.com. Both of these sites effectively leverage the Magento API to create unique JavaScript front-end experiences.

With WooCommerce already being a plugin, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to use it in a headless implementation. Instead, it may make more sense for merchants looking towards headless WordPress to opt for something like BigCommerce instead.  

Magento Vs. WooCommerce: Look and Feel

WooCommerce, with its huge library of themes, offers a larger number of templates than Magento. And many of the best WooCommerce themes don’t require any additional plugins.. Yet it’s a draw when it comes to design. Both platforms offer an expansive API, provide you with the ability to design a unique storefront, and offer extensive feature sets capable of integrating with your designs.

If you’re getting started with your first store or looking for ease of use, we recommend using WooCommerce and taking advantage of its themes and templates. If you’re a medium-sized store though, deciding on Magento or WooCommerce is going to be a decision made around more than just design.

Magento Vs. WooCommerce: Extensions and Plugins

While an application needs to have great out-of-the-box functionality, it’s also important to be able to expand and customize it with plugins or extensions. Today, almost all CMS offer plugins or extensions in one form or another; WooCommerce and Magento are no exception. 

In terms of numbers, WooCommerce wins due to having access to the WordPress 50,000+ plugin library, including WooCommerce sales plugins, analytics extensions, and much more. Chances are, with a selection that large, the functionality you’re looking for is already there. 

However, bear in mind that WooCommerce and WordPress are different applications, and not all of these WordPress plugins will be optimized to run on your WooCommerce store. 

Magento, on the other hand, has over 3,000 plugins optimized specifically for its ecommerce platform. Not only that, but Magento’s extensions provide a lot of in-depth customization. 

Magento extensions allow for merchants to:

  • Upgrade internal search functionality
  • Build custom checkout experiences
  • Improve sorting and categorization functionality
  • Create up-sell and cross-sell campaigns
  • Customize shipping and fulfillment options

Dedicated WooCommerce extensions, on the other hand, are relatively light. They provide some useful social and payment integrations, some basic enhancements, and a few useful shipping and fulfillment extensions. Overall though, the options are not as powerful or diverse as Magento. 

Managed WooCommerce Bundles up to $6,000 of Plugins

With Nexcess-managed WooCommerce, you don’t have to worry about plugins and extensions. We’ve bundled up to $6,000 worth of integrations for free with all of our managed WooCommerce solutions. These cover everything from image optimization to page building and Woocommerce cart abandonment emails to business analytics. 

With Nexcess, getting started with a WooCommerce store is faster and easier. The ability to easily implement the right technology solutions for every store means taking the guesswork out of platform selection. 

We recommend managed WooCommerce for merchants looking to expand their store. Not only is it more cost-effective, but you’ll also have access to a team of experts to help you keep your store performing at full capacity. 

WooCommerce Vs. Magento: Product Management

Managing an ecommerce store means managing products. That includes how, when, and where they are delivered to customers. Many ecommerce stores today deliver personalized buyer journeys, setting the bar high.

Magento’s advanced functionality shines here. In addition to offering merchants the ability to provide regional deviations in product delivery, it also allows for the creation of unique journeys within a specific location. This includes upsells and cross-sells. While this functionality can be added to with the use of extensions, the default feature is powerful in its own right. 

WooCommerce doesn’t offer the same flexibility. But what it does provide by default are:

  • Categories
  • Attributes
  • Types
  • Taxonomies

Extensions can be added to provide more functionality, but in terms of user journeys, the same level of personalization can’t be reached with a WooCommerce store. For smaller stores with a limited number of SKUs, this is fine. For larger stores with a lot of SKUs, this can lead to a drastically reduced conversion rate. 

Magento Vs. WooCommerce: A Summary

Much has been written about these two platforms, and you can certainly come back to this guide as you are making your decision. But for now, let’s recap a few of the main takeaways.

Magento Is Great for Larger Stores Needing More Functionality

Magento shines when a merchant wants a custom implementation. It allows for an unequaled exploration of the buyer’s journey and creates personalized sales funnels tailored right down to the individual. 

Unfortunately, this level of customization and functionality means that it requires a development team to support its full range of capabilities. Implementing its best features needs to be planned down to specifics. So, while it will likely increase your bottom line and lead to a surge in sales, it requires an investment to get you there.

As a result, we recommend Magento if you have a larger storefront and are looking to invest in growth. If you’re interested in getting started, take a look at our Magento cloud hosting solutions and talk to a member of the Nexcess team today. 

WooCommerce Is Great for Smaller Stores Needing Ease of Use

Alternatively, if you’re running a small or medium-sized storefront and still haven’t decided on which platform to use, we recommend WooCommerce. Not only does it offer much quicker time to market than Magento, but it also makes store management simple and allows for merchants to take advantage of WordPress’ content management tools. 

However, it doesn’t provide the same level of store customization as Magento, which is why we recommend WooCommerce to smaller stores. If that’s what you need, explore our WooCommerce cloud hosting solutions today.