Choosing an ecommerce platform
As ecommerce specialists we’re frequently asked the question, “What ecommerce platform should I use?”
The answer is inevitably, “it depends”, but when we get under the surface of your requirements, the decision is often a little more easier to make.
The Contenders: Shopify vs Magento vs WooCommerce
Few would argue against any of these being on your shortlist of ecommerce platforms to use, and G&V have used each of them extensively. We trust in them, appreciate their subtle (and not so subtle) nuances, and have become trusted partners to brands such as Dyson, Stila and T3 in the process of using them. The choice can feel bewildering at times but in these three platforms, we can cover the widest range of business cases without spreading our knowledge in each platform too thinly.
Shopify: Lean, Lightweight, SaaS
Shopify is unrivalled in its ability to get you to market quickly, cost-effectively, with few overheads and headaches. It offers a best in class user experience on the backend, making stock management and order fulfilment a breeze. Its checkout experience (especially when utilising Shopify’s payments system) is about as frictionless as you could hope for from a consumers’ perspective too.
Shopify is perfect for start-up shops and large-scale retailers alike where the selling requirements are straightforward and to the point. It’s also great when integrations to back-office systems are minimal, straightforward, or supported by established plugins.
Operating on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model there’s no software and infrastructure maintenance to worry about. The flip side to this is that your entire business is beholden to the existence and continued operation of Shopify, and any future pricing, privacy and terms & conditions changes you may or may not approve of. Essentially you never truly own your store.
Choose if: you want an easy life with minimal ongoing costs and your requirements are straightforward. Best for ease and speed.
Magento: Big, Enterprise-ready, Open-source
Magento is available in free/open-source and licensed ‘enterprise’ flavours. The open-source version can result in significant cost savings but the enterprise version has some key features exclusive to it that make it essential for some businesses.
It’s fair to say Magento is generally more complex and harder to work with, but this is just a symptom of its flexibility and scalability. It’s earned a reputation as a class leader in the enterprise ecommerce space with good reason and this is simply one of the accepted trade-offs.
Magento comes into its own when the business requirements become more complex. Whether it’s multi-language, multi-currency, high volumes of SKUs, complex variations between SKUs, multiple/complex back-office integrations, or bespoke application development on top of the platform, Magento is best placed to support this.
While Magento has a higher maintenance and support overhead, you also have a far more ownership over your platform and where it’s hosted, and who maintains it.
Choose if: you do high volume/have many SKUs and your requirements are less than straightforward with customisation being important to you. Best for Big/Complex sellers.
WooCommerce: Content-first Ecommerce, Light-weight, Great developer support
If you’ve not heard of WooCommerce, you’ve probably heard of WordPress. With 60% market share of CMS powered websites globally, WordPress is by far the most prevalent CMS platform there is.
WordPress is open-source/free, light-weight, and incredibly easy to work with. WooCommerce then, is the main ecommerce plugin for WordPress. Calling it a plugin undersells it a bit as it turns WordPress into a fully fledged ecommerce platform worthy of any ecommerce shortlist.
WooCommerce sits between Shopify and Magento in terms of maintenance overhead as it’s self-hosted, as opposed to being SaaS like Shopify, but it’s not nearly as heavy to work with as Magento and developer support is huge – you’ll always find someone who can work on your store.
It’s also capable of complex integrations and customisation (much more so than Shopify), but it’s still ultimately a CMS first and an ecommerce platform second.
Where it really excels is when your ecommerce strategy is built around rich supporting content and high-engagement product pages. Here WooCommerce can leverage the full power of WordPress to offer a beautiful and tailored shopping experience that can be extremely difficult and frustrating to implement on Magento or Shopify.
Choose if: your business requirements aren’t insanely complex but your brand, content and user journey requirements are. Best for high-engagement retailing with longer sales journeys.
Making the right choice
As you can see, there is no one outright winner and it all boils down to documenting and analysing your business requirements to pick the right tool for the job. G&V are here to help make sense of it all and if you’d like to learn more about the above platforms and what might be right for you, feel free to get in touch.