March 7, 2021

What platform is best for ecommerce - Woo, Shopify or Magento?

Dr Peter Mowforth

In terms of both keyword frequency with Google trends, builtwith statistics and figures for estimated installed systems, the three most popular platforms used by people selling things online are Woo Commerce, Shopify and Magento.There may be a few people reading this that are toying with using something else. Once popular platforms such as OpenCart, Volusion, Prestashop and a host of other frameworks are still used by a lot by legacy businesses but few new projects use these older platforms. The man reason is that ecommerce is evolving at a very rapid pace. Without the massive resources needed by large teams of developers they have been out-paced. For example, Magento claim to have over 5,000 certified developers that help push the capability envelope for functionality and capability (ref) A few years ago, some businesses designed and built their own end-to-end ecommerce platforms from scratch. Not surprisingly, this DIY approach to ecommerce has disappeared in much the same way that people wanting to buy a car now purchase a product from a major car manufacturer rather than from an engineering company or a blacksmith.Before writing this blog post I spent a lot of time researching what others had said about the relative merits of Magento v Shopify v WooCommerce (Wordpress plugin). It wasn’t hard to find articles that would strongly support one in favour of the other two. Authors made claims that one platform ran faster than another, that they were quicker and easier to develop, support costs were less or that they had greater flexibility or options. After reading around 20 posts and articles I just came to the conclusion that each author will be associated with a particular project based on one of the platforms and wanted to write something to post-justify their choice.The bottom line is that all three platforms are good and each has been responsible for many fantastic success stories.Which one is right for you depends on the size and aspiration for the business.WordPress completely dominates the marketplace for simple brochure-style websites. It’s quick and easy to setup, intuitive to use and flexible. It’s the default choice for small companies that have a limited budget and want a small website that they can control themselves. WooCommerce is the ecommerce add-on theme for WordPress that extends the simplicity of WordPress to allow small businesses to sell their products online.Shopify is a proprietary managed cloud-based solution that is again designed for smaller businesses. Because it’s a complete managed solution it’s designed for businesses that are usually looking for a reasonably standard solution.Magento is the world's most popular platform for the more successful ecommerce businesses. Looking at the 10,000 largest ecommerce sites, 14% use Magento while only 6% use shopify (ref). It’s been estimated that Magento sites generate (on average) around five times the turnover of Shopify sites (ref). While the majority of Magento websites available today, almost all are running Magento 1 though many new projects are using the newer Magento 2. Magento is available is in both the Community Edition version (free) and the Enterprise (£15k+ a year) versions. In practice, if setup and used correctly, there is little to pick between the two. Although Magento is by far the most scaleable of the three platforms and offers a much richer framework for digital marketing, the main downside is that it is complicated and will require experienced programmers/developers to build and maintain the system. While Magento can be suitable for ambitious start-ups, the support and maintenance costs mean that it really only makes financial sense once annual ecommerce sales are at least £450k (ref).WooCommerce is hugely popular, quick to setup and easy to use. Most small businesses already use WordPress for their ‘brochure’ website so Woo makes the obvious choice for those with limited budgets. While WooCommerce is the most limited of the three, ‘limited’ means ‘simple’ and this in itself reduces the task complexity for whoever has to look after the website. When considering this option, the more obvious comparisons might be with setting up your own store on eBay or Amazon. With these marketplaces, the charges can be high (around 15%) but the advantage is that some of the marketing is done for you.Shopify is very much the DIY leader and has quickly become a major force in ecommerce because of a great range of templates and technology that allows small businesses to put together great looking trading websites with a good range of capabilities. With Shopify, companies do not need to use third party agencies and can keep their operations in-house. Hosting is included. The downsides of Shopify are that, in practice, you have to fit within the range of standard functionality and templates offered. Also, whilst it can be quick and low-cost to get trading, once trading, costs can be high. For example, credit card charges vary between 2.4% and 2.9% +$0.3 per transaction. With systems like Magento, businesses with good sales have charges that can be as little as a quarter of this.At INDEZ, our view is that, provided you are ambitious, can afford the initial costs and are looking to have a large, international and scalable business then Magento is the right choice. Two pragmatic business points that support this are that:

  • It’s hard to find any Shopify websites that have a turnover in excess of £10m while there are plenty of Magento sites that turnover more than £100m (e.g. Nike, NorthFace, Ford, Samsung, Olympus).
  • If a business is either looking for investment or exit then the way you own and operate ecommerce will be scrutinised. With a Magento website you have total control. You can put it on whatever web-server you want and there are plenty of specialist agencies around the world that will support and develop what you have. With Shopify, you don’t actually own the ecommerce site. It’s the difference between having your own car and using a taxi.

Latest Posts from the Ecommerce Excellence blog

Want to be informed of upcoming webinars & events?