When starting out on an ecommerce project, one question that clients always ask us at Foundry Digital is “which ecommerce platform should I build my website with?”. With over 6 years of ecommerce experience, our response to this has had plenty of time to be refined.
So to help start ups and small businesses along their ecommerce journey we’ve put together a comparison of ecommerce platforms: should you go for Magento, WooCommerce or Shopify?
Each ecommerce website will have different needs and priorities, which is why choosing the right platform can be tough because each offers different features. When choosing the right ecommerce platform for your business, one provider can meet the needs of many e-merchants, whilst the same functions could be useless and a potential burden to other ecommerce store owners.
It’s important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each platform so that you can arrive at an informed conclusion, and one that will best suit your business. That’s what we help our clients to do during our initial discovery phase, but today we’ve put that phase into article form.
To help you not to feel overwhelmed by the abundance of possibilities, Foundry Digital’s ecommerce experts have completed an investigation of the pros and cons of a few of the best ecommerce platforms out there – WooCommerce, Magento and Shopify.
As we have discussed in previous articles, WooCommerce is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms. Indeed, it currently powers 30% of online stores with its appealing user-friendly set up. Unlike Shopify that has control of your store, WooCommerce gives you a choice of your hosting provider, domain, therefore ultimately letting you decide on your ecommerce identity. Furthermore, its WordPress foundation can be appealing as design is simple and flexible. Its templates and layout flexibility offer efficient and attractive design set up and also allows a blog to accompany your shop, meaning that you can extend your audience.
Whilst this vast array of features has huge potential to make WooCommerce a long-term monopoliser of ecommerce website plugins, for larger businesses Woo may not be the right fit. Whilst products are not limited, it somewhat lacks high-end features that would be appropriate for big business. WordPress is undeniably simple to use, but can it communicate everything a giant corporation wants to communicate? Big companies may be deterred from using it for fear of feeling limited by its weakness in handling big orders.
Therefore, it may be large companies that need to think more carefully before selecting WooCommerce. However, whilst it may have its set backs for ecommerce giants, there are pros including analytics and fast loading time that will attract small businesses who are interested in seeing their business grow, and in keeping impatient ecommerce customers happy.
Pros of WooCommerce
- It can sell an unlimited number of products
- There are hundreds of design themes available
- Both shipping and payment options can be changed and/or expanded to adopt to the business’s needs
- It allows you to edit product and advanced order settings so that you can tailor your management system
- Its WordPress base, and therefore SEO friendliness, means it helps your site rank highly in Google and search engines
- Its WordPress basis allows for blogging which can be used to advertise the business and expand your potential customer network
- It is an open source plug in, so is very easily installed
- You can chose your hosting provider and domain, allowing you to enhance your identity. You have control of your shop, rather than a 3rd party such as with Shopify.
- The store management and blog is all operated through one WordPress area. So minimal effort and an easy admin panel
- It has Analytics as default
- It is a relatively small app so is a quicker server
- Its templates and layout structuring provide efficiency in tailoring gateway
- You can sell physical and digital goods of all shapes and sizes of any price
Cons of WooCommerce
- It lacks highend features
- It works out overall at medium cost because of the add-ons that have to be bought for a good site
- There are limits to WordPress
- It struggles to handle big orders so large companies may feel limited
As far as numbers are concerned, Magento is a top dog of ecommerce providers. They host over 200,000 live stores, attracting companies with their unlimited flexibility and the opportunities for customisation. Magento can help you get the highest rankings on search engines through its advanced SEO features, something that can determine who becomes the leading ecommerce business within a certain industry.
Indeed, their benefits do seem appealing to larger companies, with its limitless number of products, and its multi-store management and expansion possibilities. However, such features will not necessarily be of interest to smaller ecommerce websites.
In fact, smaller stores should think before being drawn in by Magento, as whilst the fully responsive design templates they offer sound great in theory these can be expensive to execute. Indeed, a lot of technical skill is needed to develop design with Magento, typically making employment of a skilled programmer or developer necessary to make the most of its features. Whilst employing such individuals is worth the benefit of impressive design for big brands, for smaller businesses this can be an unaffordable and therefore illogical solution.
Therefore, whilst Magento’s features have resulted it being the ecommerce solution for the big boys of online shopping, the perks should be carefully weighed up with the cons before smaller businesses commit.
- The community edition is completely free to download
- It is an open source solution, meaning it is compatible with any hosting platform
- It offers fully responsive and customizable templates no limit to the number of products that can be sold
- You can add any shipping options
- It has multi store management and expansion possibilities
- It has loads of order management and product features as default
- The marketing options enable you to complete promo campaigns to advertise your customer network
- It can integrate with WordPress, so you can keep a blog to spread the word about your company in an easily consumable format
- Its advanced SEO will improve your search engine rankings
- It’s accessible only to highly skilled programmers as a lot of skill is needed to edit and manage the templates
- The need for development means it takes longer to create an attractive site and typically involves employing the services of developers
- Its complex interface can look less attractive
- The number of features can make the site heavy and therefore slow to load
Finally, Shopify is the smallest of providers investigated here. But just because this ecommerce platform is small, doesn’t mean it should be disregarded. It powers about 4% of ecommerce sites in comparison to the 30% that WooCommerce have been chosen for but it certainly has its selling points.
Shopify offers an all-in-one package which is ideal for small ecommerce businesses. As a third party platform, it takes control of your store, setting up the domain and hosting details for you. This is a sensible option for individuals who consider such tasks mundane, and ones that they’d rather hand over to somebody else. Similarly, the product and order management are both included, and the preset popular payment options make Shopify appear a provider that offers ease. Indeed, it doesn’t demand technical skill in the way that Magento does, but its attractive interface and hundreds of mobile responsive design themes still ensure you have a professional and eye-catching site.
As each ecommerce business owner has their own vision of what an ecommerce solution provider should offer, for some stores Shopify is not the right fit. For instance, Shopify’s ownership of your store may not give you as much control as you want over how your business reaches your audience. Its limited compatibility with payment hosts may also deter companies from selecting Shopify if the host they prefer cannot be integrated.
So, all features of Shopify’s all-in-one, ready-made package should be considered before deciding whether they are suited to your store’s needs.
- It includes domain name and hosting, so getting these essential features set up is no extra effort
- There is no limitation on number of products sold
- It has over 100 mobile responsive design themes
- It has the most popular payment and shopping options are preset
- The product and order management makes the day to day running of the store easier
- There are some marketing features built in
- The SEO options means that your ranking on Google is not a concern
- It can be integrated with WordPress
- There are extensions that can be bought via app store
- Merchants can get high priority customer support in times of need
- It has an attractive interface
- The set up is less technical- it doesn’t have to be done by a developer
- It comes with Analytics, so you can view how your business is doing.
- It offers both simple and complex management
- It has control of your store, acting as a 3rd party
- It includes a domain name and hosting, so you are not in control of this part of your site’s identity.
- It can get costly as you improve functionality e.g. Basic shipping is included, but expansion requires apps to be bought.
- It is a closed platform. It is not compatible with many hosts.
What have we learnt?
Well first and foremost, it is important to recognise that there are pros and cons to every ecommerce platform out there. What seems the ideal provider to one business can be a poor fit to another, so don’t follow the crowd when making your choice.
Comparing the features of the available solutions will give you a clear view of which platform is best suited to your ecommerce store’s needs. Magento, Shopify and WooCommerce can each be reliable solutions when paired with the right business. This investigation has highlighted the differences in technical ability that ecommerce solutions can require, with Magento needing programming expertise and Shopify being very easy to use. Therefore, your tech ability, and whether you will be employing someone specifically to develop the store, should be a key concern.
Whilst Foundry Digital’s team of ecommerce experts recommend that you do your research into the best ecommerce solution for you before choosing a provider, remember you can easily change platform if your business needs change, or you find that the one you select turns out not to be a perfect match.