Magento and WooCommerce are two of the most popular eCommerce platforms along with other major platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce. Magento and WooCommerce are most similar in that they both have open source free versions, and are based on the PHP programming language. They also both require hosting packages to run the software such as Nexcess or WPEngine.
Although there are some similarities, Magento is a far more complicated and robust eCommerce platform than WooCommerce, which is really just a plugin on top of the core WordPress software. In a nutshell, despite their similarities, they are also very different and the use cases of both platforms are often fairly different due to their strengths and weaknesses.
So without further ado, let’s look at Magento versus WooCommerce:
Magento is an incredibly powerful software that has both a free open source edition and an even more powerful Enterprise edition that you can either self-host or use as a cloud edition via Magento itself. Magento is by far the most powerful SMB eCommerce platform on the market and powers both small business websites and very large eCommerce websites.
The biggest difference between Magento and WooCommerce is that Magento is feature packed with many eCommerce features that WooCommerce lacks, making it a far more powerful solution. However, due to being such a large application it is often a more costly software to maintain and develop on. The biggest weakness of Magento is that it is not a strong CMS compared to WooCommerce that is built on top of WordPress. Sometimes businesses integrate WordPress into Magento to make up for this issue.
- Enterprise focused with incredible scalability
- Multiple versions with Enterprise, Open Source, Cloud, and other products
- Huge community of quality developers and high-quality agencies
- Large amount of out of the box functionality
- eCommerce first product unlike WordPress with WooCommerce
- MVC framework for scalability
- Strong B2B eCommerce capabilities
- Multistore out of the box
- Strong product data capabilities for large and complex catalogs
- Robust Order Management
- More advanced payment and shipping capabilities
- More robust promotion capabilities
- Typically higher cost of ownership
- Larger learning curve to use
- Weak CMS capabilities for content heavy sites
- Larger application with higher maintenance overhead typically
- Most extensions cost money
- Frontend theming is more complicated
- Hosting is fairly costly
WooCommerce is a great plugin for WordPress and is actually the most used eCommerce platform by sheer numbers. It is a very useful tool because it is actually a plugin to WordPress so that you can use the benefits of WordPress and the additional eCommerce capabilities of WooCommerce. WooCommerce itself is a pretty lightweight eCommerce platform so it’s great for simpler eCommerce sites that also have a large content need.
WooCommerce relies on a lot of plugins in many cases because the core WooCommerce plugin is pretty limited. This is where WooCommerce can become difficult to scale in that you may need many plugins to achieve the desired functionality and eventually maintaining all these plugins together will become quite cumbersome. Additionally, the catalog and order management capabilities of WooCommerce are fairly limited.
- A plugin to WordPress (You get the value of WordPress CMS)
- Typically lower cost of ownership
- Easy to get started with
- Lower learning curve
- Works well with content focused sites that can leverage WordPress CMS capabilities
- Large amount of themes to choose from
- Great for sites selling content like eBooks, podcasts, etc
- Many free plugins available
- Cheaper to host in most cases
- Largest open source community and user base of any platform
- Weak database architecture for high order volume and scalability
- Often requires many additional plugins to achieve ideal functionality that can lead to version conflicts and bugs
- Minimal out of the box features
- Weak product data capabilities for large and complex catalogs
- Only one version of WooCommerce (no enterprise edition)
- Tough to scale for larger sites
- Many bad developers and agencies that build buggy sites
If you are an ambitious eCommerce site that has a large catalog, complex requirements, B2B eCommerce requirements, integration requirements, or any other major custom eCommerce feature, Magento is probably a better fit. For content-heavy sites, WooCommerce might be a better fit, especially if the content is the focus and eCommerce is secondary.
You could spend approximately two times more on Magento development than you will with WooCommerce due to the complexity and overhead associated with managing a larger application. However, if you have a lot of requirements that could actually be the opposite because maintaining many plugins and a lot of functionality in WooCommerce can also get quite expensive.
I would try and do an in deep dive into the features you need now and in the future to determine which platform will best suit your needs in the coming years. It’s not always about what you need today, but more about what you will need in the next three to five years, as re-platforming is an expensive process.