The growth in eCommerce over the last few years is plain to see, and data suggests that it received a further boost owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data also shows that the amount of money spent online by American consumers increased from around $523 billion in 2018 to over $601 billion in 2019. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that an increasing number of businesses are still hoping to go the eCommerce way.
One of the first aspects that need your attention is choosing the right eCommerce platform. Where things stand as of now, your main alternatives include Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce. Incidentally, each comes with its own share of benefits and drawbacks, and selecting between them requires that you pay close attention to your requirements.
When it comes to sheer numbers, as of 5 Jan 2021, these three platforms account for over 50% of the top one million eCommerce websites.
- WooCommerce – 30% (33,553 websites)
- Shopify – 18% (19,989 websites)
- Magento – 10% (10,609 websites)
In terms of the total number of users, WooCommerce leads the pack with over 2,000,000 users. Shopify accounts for more than 500,000 users, whereas Magento has crossed the 250,000 users mark.
No clear data is available about the revenue that WooCommerce has generated to date. While Magento has generated over $100 billion in revenue, this number stands at over $40 billion for Shopify.
All three platforms bring years of experience to the table. Magento was launched in 2008, Shopify made its debut in the following year, and WooCommerce has been around since 2011.
WooCommerce functions as an open-source WordPress plugin. What this basically means is that you use WordPress as your website and blogging platform, while also using the WooCommerce plugin to have eCommerce capabilities. If you are comfortable using WordPress, figuring out how these plugin works tend to take little time.
Shopify comes in the form of a Software as a Service (SaaS). It doubles up as a hosting platform and a shopping cart solution. Shopify provides a range of solutions for website owners, ranging from hosting alternatives to SSL certificates. It rates highly on the ease of use front. For instance, even novices typically find it easy to navigate through the admin panel.
Written in PHP, Magento makes use of different frameworks such as Symfony and Lamina. As a result, people who don’t have some knowledge about coding might experience problems with user-friendliness. On the other hand, people with some technical know-how can benefit significantly through its plethora of features. This platform works well for small and big businesses alike and offers great scope for scaling up.
Main Features and Advantages
While all three platforms give you the ability to enter the eCommerce world, they don’t function in the same manner. Here are the top features that need your attention.
- Integrated blog
- Over 1,300 themes and 50,000 plugins
- Great CMS capabilities
- Extensive customization capabilities
- Automatic configuration of tax
- No transaction fees
- Options for free and flat rate shipping
- Multiple payment gateways
- Control over the checkout process
- Complete control over code base for customization
- Large open source community contributes to its progress
- Is an eCommerce first platform
- A variety of easy to install add-ons/apps
- Setting up themes is simple
- Ease-of-use makes it ideal for beginners
- Catalog management is simple
- Recovery of abandoned carts
- Real-time shipping calculation
- Multiple payment gateways
- Ability to track user behavior
- Use advanced channels of selling such as Amazon, Facebook, and Pinterest
- Inbuilt SEO features and analytics
- Includes hosting and SSL
- Good inventory management/cataloging
- Offers great flexibility and scalability
- Supports B2B eCommerce
- Responsive layouts for mobile devices
- Email marketing reminders
- Ability to handle large numbers of SKUs
- Multilingual support
- Supports payments in multiple currencies
- Choice of hosting service
- Inbuilt SEO features and analytics
- Allows handling of multiple websites through a single installation
Paying attention to the features on offer is important, no doubt, but you also need to take into account drawbacks that might have adverse effects on your efforts.
- Does not serve as an eCommerce first platform
- Absence of adequate customer support
- Need to pay for hosting
- Requires ongoing software and plugin updates
- Setting up from scratch can be complicated
- Staying secure requires considerable maintenance
- Might need to rely on a developer for maintenance and improvement
- Plugin conflicts can be problematic
- Only 10 free themes from which to choose
- Need to pay a per-transaction fee if you don’t use Shopify Payments
- Scaling up your Shopify version might come with significant fees
- Just three default product attributes
- Catalog scalability can be a challenge for large catalogs
- Does not offer complete flexibility
- Cannot do much beyond its core set of features and app market
- Websites with a lot of content may suffer due to poor CMS capabilities
- Need to get themes and apps from third-party developers
- Need knowledge about coding or need to work with a web developer
- Need to spend on hosting, unless you opt for the cloud version
- The typically high cost of ownership
- Implementation of themes can be problematic
- Comes with a high learning curve
- Requires regular software updates
Different industries tend to favor using one platform over the other because of the features on offer. The corresponding table gives you an indication of which platform might work well for your business based on the industry to which it belongs.
|· Consumer goods
· Jewelry and accessories
· Luxury goods
|· Auto parts
· Food and beverage
· International retail
|· Content heavy websites
· Life sciences
· Lifestyle brands
WooCommerce has found favor with leading names such as The Wall Street Journal, Spectator Shop, Men’s Health, Singer, Cosmos, and Blue Star Coffee.
Popular brands that have used Shopify to good effect include Budweiser, Heinz, The Economist, Penguin, and Tesla.
Some of the top brands that use Magento include Nike, Coca Cola, Christian Louboutin, Ford, Paul Smith, Canon, and Olympus.
Pricing for all three platforms can vary significantly depending on the features you wish to use.
The WooCommerce plugin is free to install. However, that’s just the start. Since WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, you need a WordPress website. As someone who wishes to use the platform for its eCommerce capabilities, you essentially get to choose from:
- WordPress Business – $25 per month
- WordPress eCommerce – $45 per month
Next, you need to account for hosting costs. Depending on aspects such as existing requirements, ease of scalability, security, server uptime, and customer support, this can vary from as little as $5 per month to even $5,000 per month.
Registering your domain usually comes at a nominal cost, unless you wish to buy one from a private seller.
Optional costs come in the form of themes and plugins. Choosing to go with a paid theme can set you back $20 to $100 per year.
WooCommerce provides a basic shipping extension for free. However, more advanced shipping plugins come at added costs. Examples include Table Rate Shipping ($99 per year), Distance Rate Shipping ($79 per year), and ShipStation Integration (from $9 per month).
When it comes to payments:
- There is no setup or monthly fee for using WooCommerce Payments.
- Each debit and credit card payment made in the U.S. attracts a 2.9% + $0.30 fee, and international payments include an added fee of 1%.
- All PayPal payments attract 2.9% + $0.30 as fee (paid to PayPal).
Other costs you might incur can relate to your website’s security, SEO, SSL certificate, and communication.
When it comes to looking at the WooCommerce vs. Shopify pricing comparison, you will notice that the latter aims to keep its pricing model simple by providing all-in-one solutions. The corresponding table illustrates what different Shopify pricing plans have to offer.
|Basic Shopify||Shopify||Advanced Shopify|
|Online card payments||2.9% + $0.30||2.6% + $0.30||2.4% + $0.30|
|In-person card payments||2.7%||2.5%||2.4%|
|Shopify POS Pro||$89 per month||$89 per month||$89 per month|
|Supported locations||Up to four||Up to five||Up to eight|
|Third-party calculated shipping rates||No||No||Yes|
|Manual foreign exchange rates||No||Yes||Yes|
|Sell in multiple languages||No||Up to two||Up to five|
How you much might end up spending depends on which Magento package you select.
- Magento Community – from $15,000 per year
- Magento Commerce – from $22,000 per year
- Magento Commerce Cloud – from $40,000 per year
While you may install Magento Community for free, you need to pay extra for your website’s hosting, domain, security, as well as any web development needs you might have. Magento’s pricing model for its Commerce and Commerce Cloud solutions are based on the annual gross merchandise value (GMV) as well as average order value (AOV).
The corresponding tables indicate how much you might end up paying for Commerce and Commerce Cloud solutions.
|Annual Average Revenue From Sales||Cost Per Year|
|Less than $1,000,000||$22,000|
|$1,000,000 to $5,000,000||$32,000|
|$5,000,000 to $10,000,000||$49,000|
|$10,000,000 to $25,000,000||$75,000|
|More than $25,000,000||$125,000|
Magento Commerce Cloud
|Annual Average Revenue From Sales||Cost Per Year|
|Less than $1,000,000||$40,000|
|$1,000,000 to $5,000,000||$55,000|
|$5,000,000 to $10,000,000||$80,000|
|$10,000,000 to $25,000,000||$120,000|
|More than $25,000,000||$190,000|
Website security is an aspect that requires every website owner’s attention, and it becomes doubly important in the case of eCommerce websites. This is because you will then be responsible for handling sensitive personal and financial information of your customers. Incidentally, WooCommerce, Magento, and Shopify security features vary significantly.
Given that WooCommerce is a plugin and not a platform in itself, security can be a cause for concern. Since WooCommerce does not function as an end-to-end eCommerce solution, you are required to handle some aspects surrounding security on your own. Alternatively, you will need to use the services of third-party vendors.
Typical security threats that WooCommerce users experience surround the use of plugins and themes, as well as web hosting. While WooCommerce provides different resources for its users so they may keep their sites protected, manual intervention from your side is required along the way.
By aiming to serve as a one-stop-shop for businesses wanting to go the eCommerce way, Shopify ups the game in this aspect by handling and eliminating security threats for its customers. Shopify provides a secure shopping environment by implementing different tools and technologies. These include:
- Creating an SSL when any customer sets up a new shop.
- Using the latest TLS protocol.
- Automatically certifies all its stores for Level 1 PCI DSS compliance (which translates to using data encryption, protecting payment transfers, preventing virus attacks on servers, and constant monitoring of all systems).
- Fraud analysis.
Magento continues to work on updating its already robust security system. It provides a best practices guide to its customers so they know what’s required from their end. The recently launched Magento Security Scan tool helps monitor websites for security threats, detects unauthorized access, and also provides updates for malware patches.
While website design and development play a key role in the success of your eCommerce venture, know that selecting the right platform is equally important. You need to consider the size of your business and its expected growth before making a decision, and you need to account for any specific requirements that you have as well. Besides, aspects such as ease-of-use, security, and pricing also need your consideration.
If you are still not sure about which platform might work best for you, you may consider getting advice from a good eCommerce web development agency.