Magento and WooCommerce are two popular ecommerce options with a lot of similarities, but two quite different objectives:
Magento is designed for big, global ecommerce stores, and counts global brands like Canon and Hermès among its users.
WooCommerce is more user-friendly and affordable, while still offering lots of resources to grow and scale your business.
We put both platforms through our extensive research process, scoring them for ease of use, cost, features and more. WooCommerce came out on top, because it will be the better option for most stores, while Magento will still be perfect for others. This post will compare both platforms in the areas that matter most to ecommerce businesses, so you’ll gain a clear understanding of which one is right for you.
Magento and WooCommerce are both open-source ecommerce solutions, but they work slightly differently.
What is Magento?
Magento comes in a few different forms:
- Magento Community – this is a free, open-source version of Magento which anyone can download and set up (although, as we’ll explain, this isn’t a very simple process)
- Magento Commerce – this is a self-hosted, suped-up, all-inclusive version of the community version, with the price tag to match
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is a plugin designed to bring ecommerce functionality to any website built on WordPress. It is also free.
In this post, we’ll be focusing on Magento Community rather than Magento Commerce, because Community is the most directly comparable product to WooCommerce – and the more popular of the two Magento versions. And because WooCommerce can’t work on its own in the same way Magento Community can, we will be pitting it against the combination of WooCommerce and WordPress.
By looking at Magento and WooCommerce side by side, you’ll quickly get a picture of which one will be best suited to your ecommerce store:
|Tricky to set up – Installing Magento is difficult, although the platform itself is relatively intuitive||Easier to set up and use – As open source ecommerce solutions go, the WordPress and WooCommerce combo is the simplest|
|Expensive – Magento may be free to download, but other costs (many necessary, some nice to have) can quickly reach the thousands||Doesn’t have to cost much – There are some costs involved for WooCommerce, but it’ll likely end up much cheaper than Magento|
|Powerful features – Magento is used by a number of global brands because it has all the tools the biggest online stores could need||Scalable, but less powerful – WooCommerce’s features will help smaller brands grow into bigger ones, but of the two, it’s not what we’d recommend for very large brands|
|Equipped to comfortably handle thousands of products – Great inventory management makes it easy for you (and your customers) to filter and segment||Equipped to handle hundreds of products – Less emphasis placed on sorting through large inventories, and more placed on user-friendliness|
Installation and setup
As open-source software, both Magento and WooCommerce require you to set up with a hosting provider first.
Loads of providers are equipped with special features to make life easy for WordPress users – namely, one-click WordPress installation. From there, adding WooCommerce is just another couple of clicks, and you’ll be walked through the WooCommerce setup wizard. All in all, there’s a lot of hand holding throughout the process.
With Magento, not so much. We had to write a whole guide on how to install Magento at all, because this isn’t something you’ll get a lot of help with from your hosting provider (although Siteground, the hosting provider we recommend for Magento sites, scores better than most in this area).
Finding your way around
Once you’re past the installation stage, things are a little more evenly matched. But Magento definitely feels like ‘developer territory’ when, for example, you start to add extensions. WooCommerce makes life altogether a lot easier.
Both Magento and WooCommerce make running your store on a day to day basis pretty simple. Both dashboards are intuitive.
In fact, we’d have to give the edge to Magento here, particularly for very large inventories – it’s really easy to sift and sort through products, and delve into analytics. It’s just likely that you’ll find some components overkill if your store is on the small side.
Magento Vs WooCommerce: Ease of Use – Verdict
WooCommerce is easier to use than Magento, and scored 3.5/5 for ease of use in our testing, versus Magento’s 2.5/5. Both make running an online store pretty simple, but the installation, setup and customization stages can be tricky (and costly), particularly with Magento.
Themes are the springboards for your website’s design. Both Magento and WooCommerce have a theme ‘marketplace’, where you can pick from approved themes and add them directly to your store.
Since both are such popular ecommerce options, there are also loads of themes available via third-party websites, which you can download and install. Just make sure you keep an eye on the quality, as these won’t have been vetted by each platform.
Choosing a theme
WooCommerce has around 20 themes to choose from, of which it identifies 13 as being responsive (we wouldn’t recommend choosing a non-responsive theme). It’s a small range but a lot of industries are covered, with specific features for each.
WooCommerce offers three free themes, with the rest costing between $39 and $79. You can ‘live demo’ each one before adding it to your cart.
Magento has a slightly smaller selection of 10 themes in its marketplace. These cost anywhere between $17 and $399, with the average sitting around the $100 mark. It’s definitely harder to visualize how your store will look, because you don’t have the same live demo option. And again, the language here is very developer-oriented, and isn’t going to resonate with the average person.
Making basic changes to your WooCommerce theme should be simple enough (subbing in your own content, adjusting the number of products displayed etc), but anything much beyond that will require editing your theme’s code, which you may not feel comfortable doing. It’s not easy to make a WooCommerce theme look exactly how you want it to, but it’s easy enough to get it looking good.
Magento themes are a lot harder to customize, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get very far without help from a developer. Expect to pay around $400-$600 for theme adaptation, or $600-$25,000 for a custom theme, with the average sitting at around $5,000. You won’t be able to make many alterations to your Magento theme yourself unless you have coding experience.
Magento Vs WooCommerce: Themes and Design – Verdict
WooCommerce has a more diverse selection of themes, and makes choosing and editing one a lot easier. Magento’s themes are feature-packed (we’ll talk more about features in the next section), but you’ll need development help to bring them to life. It’s hard to pick one over the other here.
Something WooCommerce and Magento have in common is that you can extend and add to the core software in pretty much any way you want. For now, we wanted to focus on what you get straight out the box – or rather, what’s missing.
When it comes to dealing with large inventories, Magento comes ready with more features than WooCommerce. These include customer logins, product comparisons, anchor menus, wish lists, gift card payments and staff logins.
Magento also automatically enables sales of all major product types.
With WooCommerce, however, some types will cost you extra:
- Subscriptions – $199/year
- Memberships – $199/year
- Composite products (for creating ‘product kits’, where the buyer chooses from different variables) – $79/year
- Bookings (for appointments, renting equipment, or making reservations) – $249/year
Magento’s analytics are much more advanced than WooCommerce’s analytics, which are more about giving a superficial overview than a really in-depth data dive. You can integrate Google Analytics for free with both platforms for complementary analysis.
Both Magento and WooCommerce come with the core SEO features we’d expect for helping your brand climb Google’s rankings, including:
- Mobile-responsive themes (with WooCommerce, make sure you only look for themes tagged ‘responsive’)
- Ability to create custom URLs and meta titles
- Ability to add image alt tags
- SEO guides and prompts
Plus, you can up your game even further by adding SEO plugins.
Magento has better inbuilt features than WooCommerce, earning it a score of 4.2/5 for features in our testing, versus WooCommerce’s 3.9/5. Magento’s out-of-the-box freebies gave it the edge here.
Magento payment methods and gateways
Magento supports payment via these five methods (alongside regular online card payments):
- Check/money order
- Cash on delivery
- Bank transfer
- Purchase order
- Zero subtotal checkout (e.g. when an offer code takes the price to zero, but tax still needs to be calculated)
It comes with the following payment gateways pre-installed
You can add many more payment gateways (Stripe, Square, Amazon Pay) as extensions, which range from free to $100+ dollars. Apple Pay isn’t currently supported.
WooCommerce payment options and gateways
WooCommerce lets you accept payments via the following methods (as well as regular card payments):
- Check payments
- Cash on delivery
- Direct Bank Transfer (BACS)
You’ll notice it lacks a few of the extra options you have with Magento.
WooCommerce comes with the following payment gateways pre-installed:
- WooCommerce Payments
And again, it’s really easy to add other payment gateways (there’s a section for this in the setup wizard), and many are free with WooCommerce. WooCommerce also supports Apple Pay, which Magento currently does not.
Neither WooCommerce nor Magento takes transaction fees. Any transaction fees you incur will come straight from your payment gateway.
Magento Vs WooCommerce: Payments – Verdict
Magento and WooCommerce are pretty evenly matched in the payments department. Magento allows for more payment methods, but doesn’t have an Apple Pay extension. WooCommerce is more helpful (and cheaper) when it comes to adding extra payment gateways.
There’s little to compare when it comes to plugins and extensions, because this is an area both platforms score really well in. WooCommerce doesn’t have as many plugins as Magento has extensions, but when you consider that you’ve also got access to all the plugins in the WordPress library, things are a lot more even.
The real disparity is in the price of these extensions, and Magento typically comes out more expensive (although it does have over 1900 free extensions).
For example, if you want to sell through social media and other channels, you’ll be paying very different prices for a multi-channel integration plugin with WooComerce versus Magento:
Again, this is a result of Magento being built to handle a higher volume of products and orders, but you can see how the costs would quickly stack up.
Magento Vs WooCommerce: Plugins and Extensions – Verdict
Magento and WooCommerce both have a perfect score in this area. Magento’s extensions are more expensive, but this is proportional to the size of the websites they’re equipped to deal with.
As we’ve already mentioned, both platforms are open-source software, which means they’re free to download and use – but unfortunately, it’s not as easy as calling it a draw and moving onto the next section!
That’s because both platforms come with a selection of extra costs, many of which we’ve touched on already. Some are essential for getting your website off the ground, and some are just nice to have – either way, a pretty big chasm starts to appear pretty quickly between the two platforms.
A WooCommerce website will cost you roughly between $110 and $1,500+ per year depending on the size of your site, and the work you choose to have.
For a Magento site, expect this to quickly creep into the thousands. It’s not unreasonable to expect a fully-fledged Magento store to set you back $15,000+ per year. Remember, it is designed for stores with a turnover that makes $15,000 seem reasonable, not for those looking to build something cheaply.
Magento Vs WooCommerce: Plugins and Extensions – Verdict
WooCommerce has to win here because its pricing is considerably more accessible. That said, Magento’s features, scalability and capabilities make it good value for the right kind of business.
WooCommerce as a plugin is not PCI compliant, although you can make it so by adding a payment gateway that is (e.g. WooCommerce Payments). It also doesn’t come with two-factor authentication, although this can be added with a WordPress plugin.
To give your WooCommerce store the best chance of remaining secure, you’ll want to pick a good hosting provider (we’ll get onto that in a second), add some extra plugins, and also look out for any updates to either the WooCommerce plugin or WordPress, which will show up in your WordPress dashboard.
Bluehost is our number one recommended hosting provider for WooCommerce websites. It comes with its own WooCommerce-specific plans, and a lot of support in the setup stage and beyond. Here are the extra security features you’ll get from your Bluehost plan:
- Free SSL certificate
- Daily automated backups (on the Pro and Plus plans) – prevention is better than cure, but it’s good to have a recent backup of your site ready to go if something does go wrong
When it comes to safeguarding your ecommerce store, safety features will come from:
- Magento or WordPress/WooCommerce directly
- Your hosting provider
- Any additional plugins/extensions you add
We’ll focus here on what you get via each platform and hosting provider to make it a fair comparison:
Magento is pretty much as secure a platform as you can get. Especially the latest version, Magento 2, which comes with features like two-factor authentication as standard. Magento is also automatically PCI compliant, provided you don’t store any customer credit card details.
Magento regularly releases ‘security patches’, which are software updates you’ll need to keep on top of to make sure you always have the highest level of security, and aren’t leaving your site exposed. If in doubt, Magento has its own ‘site security scanner’ which will find any problems and give you recommendations on how to fix them.
Siteground is the hosting provider we’d most recommend for hosting a Magento site. It scores well for security, has large powerful plans, and is more helpful than most when it comes to actually installing Magento.
Here are the extra security features you’ll get with your Siteground plan:
- Free SSL certificate – handy, as this is something you’d definitely need to buy otherwise
- 24/7 server monitoring – Siteground keeps eyes on your website all day and all night
- Intrusion Prevention System – disables access for any IP address caught trying to bruteforce your passwords
Magento Vs WooCommerce: Plugins and Extensions – Verdict
Magento has better inbuilt security than WooCommerce, which is unsurprising for such a large platform. That doesn’t make WooCommerce ‘unsecure’, though – it just means you’ll need to add plugins for that extra layer of safety.
Neither Magento nor WordPress has its own contactable support team to help with any issues you run into. WooCommerce, however, does allow you to submit tickets with issues, which is very rare for a free plugin. Aside from this, you’ll get your support for either platform from online resources, forums, and via your hosting provider.
Online resources and forums
Magento and WooCommerce both have excellent online resources and guides to help build and develop your online store. Magento has more in the way of video content, but WooCommerce’s guides are no less comprehensive – it’s all down to preference.
Because so many websites are built with Magento and WooCommerce, you’ll also find a really engaged user forum for each, with lots of experienced developers happy to wade in on your queries.
Bluehost and Siteground both offer around-the-clock support, but it was Bluehost that really excelled in our testing, exceeding our expectations of ‘good’ help and support by 9%.
Magento vs WooCommerce: Help and Support – Verdict
WooCommerce has better help and support than Magento. The ability to submit tickets for review, plus exemplary help and support via Bluehost, is a winning combination.
As we’ve seen, Magento and WooCommerce are pretty evenly matched in the sense that trying to compare them often feels like comparing apples and oranges; each has its own clear strengths and USP, so it’s not really about one being a whole lot ‘better’ than the other one.
You should use Magento if…
- You have thousands of products in your catalog
- You have developers in-house, or are happy to pay for some work
- You have a global, enterprise-level business
You should use WooCommerce if…
- You’re setting up your store yourself
- You’re a new business with big growth plans
- You will have hundreds of products in your catalog
Thanks for reading our comparison of both platforms. If there’s anything we missed, please pop a comment below!