Magento vs WooCommerce: Self-Hosted eCommerce Duel


Bart Keating


2019 August 13th


When it comes to self-hosted eCommerce solutions, Magento and WooCommerce are leading the industry. Both of them are open-source and free to use but aimed at different audiences: Magento targets larger stores, while WooCommerce is perfect for small businesses.

Both of them offer an attractive and comprehensive set of functionalities. So before deciding which one is best for your eCommerce project, consider whether they satisfy your store's needs - are they customizable, affordable, and scalable enough for you?

This article compares Magento vs WooCommerce head to head in terms of pricing, user experience, extensions and integrations, security, and scalability.

What Is Magento?

Magento is an open-source solution designed specifically for eCommerce. This platform, now owned by Adobe and integrated into Adobe Experience Cloud, is one of the leaders of the store-building and merchandising field because of its vast customization capabilities and robustness.

magento homepage

Because Magento isn't a simple drag-and-drop editor like many available in the market, it takes some coding skills to set up. Therefore Magento is best for experienced users, developers, or managers of medium to large shops who have the resources to use a developer's services.

What Is WooCommerce?

Rather than acting as a standalone eCommerce platform, WooCommerce is a plugin that you can add to your WordPress website to turn it into an online store. WooCommerce is very easy to use and integrates with the majority of WordPress features and themes.

woocommerce homepage

To use WooCommerce, you need a self-hosted WordPress website. But once you integrate the solution, you will benefit from the convenience of WordPress's many features and capabilities. In comparison to Magento, WooCommerce is much less complicated and suitable for small-to-medium businesses as well as personal ventures.

Magento vs WooCommerce: The Rundown on Features

While they are both eCommerce-oriented solutions, Magento and WooCommerce have their differences. Magento is a corporate-level solution that can be expensive and harder to use, while WooCommerce aims to help small businesses or individual users build their eCommerce store on a budget and without programming skills.

So we looked at what Magento and WooCommerce offer in terms of prices, ease of use, features, and security, to find out which particular users and purposes they may be good for.

Magento vs WooCommerce: Pricing

The Magento Open Source version and the WooCommerce plugin are free to use. But since both WordPress and Magento are self-hosted, users have to buy hosting services, which start at as low as $0.80/month.

Magento's free community version is used by most of its clients. It is fully sufficient for most stores and you can add extensions if you need any additional features. Some of these extensions are free while others can go up to as much as $10,000.

In case your store is growing and you need advanced capabilities, there's also a premium Magento Commerce version. It doesn't require separate hosting and includes 24/7 technical support, among other added benefits. However, the premium version comes at a much larger cost: according to the Magento community, the price for the Commerce edition can vary from $15,000-$20,000 a year. In some cases, it can even go all the way up to $100,000/year.

If you're eager to know how much exactly these premium services would cost in your particular situation, you’ll have to sign up for a live demo and schedule a chat with the customer support team.

As for WooCommerce cost, it is completely free. Again, you'll have to take care of the hosting expenses and maybe pay for extensions if you need to purchase any. But since WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, you’ll also be able to use other WordPress plugins. Many of them are free and you may even find that you don’t have to buy any to create your dream store.

Both Magento and WooCommerce are free, but costs can pile up if you buy lots of extensions thoughtlessly. First set up your store and then carefully consider what features you really need.

Magento vs WooCommerce: Ease of Use

Because Magento is designed for developers, it is much more difficult to set up and use than WordPress with the WooCommerce plugin. WooCommerce's installation is simple and straightforward and it's easy to use, especially to those already familiar with WordPress.

First of all, you cannot simply install Magento through a one-click process in your hosting panel. You have to know how to properly upload package files into your account, how to add and configure databases, and so on.

And even once your account is set up, you’ll also have to invest time into learning the basics.

magento admin panel

However, a lot of information is available online to help you learn how to use Magento, like the Magento Resources Library. Besides, you can always rely on a huge and knowledgeable Magento community. It may answer your questions even faster than the customer support team and help you with site-building and maintenance.

With WooCommerce, the installation process is straightforward. While you do have to install WordPress first, the majority of hosting providers have a one-click installation process. And if you already have WordPress, WooCommerce is just a few clicks away - you can easily install and activate it from your WordPress dashboard.

woocommerce installation wizard

Once activated, WooCommerce offers a setup wizard which will help you get started. This will allow you to create individual pages, choose your preferred currency, set up your desired payment options, and decide which shipping methods you want to offer.

These considerations are important because when it comes to choosing an open-source, self-hosted eCommerce platform, usability should be one of your main concerns. A store-building solution needs to be easy enough to use and also offer good functionality.

WooCommerce is way more user-friendly - you don't need coding knowledge as with Magento. This is especially helpful if you're just starting out with your website-building efforts.

Magento vs WooCommerce: Customization

In terms of customization, both Magento and WooCommerce allow tailoring every aspect of your site. Both platforms offer free and paid themes as well as the ability to upload your own, and huge extension marketplaces.

Magento is backed by a community of designers, freelancers, and agencies who add new integrations to the marketplace on a daily basis. Therefore, today Magento has 5,000+ free and paid themes and extensions that offer you the chance to integrate new functions, tools, and services to your online store. This is great considering that Magento's already has a lot of useful core functionalities.

magento themes

WooCommerce doesn't fall short in terms of expandability. First of all, it supports nearly all of the WordPress themes and you can add your own.

Apart from other easy-to-use themes, WooCommerce offers its own official eCommerce theme called Storefront. It is specifically designed for online stores and is fully integrated with WooCommerce. The theme is also SEO-optimized and allows adding extensions if anything important is missing.

If Storefront isn't for you, WordPress also gives you a broad selection of ready-made templates to choose from. From the WordPress website, you can filter your search for eCommerce specific options and upload your final choice directly to your site. Finally, you can also decide to upload your own theme.

Also, WooCommerce can be used with other WordPress plugins. WordPress platform has a stunning 55,000+ plugins that you can add to your store. These plugins allow you to do everything from adding a layer of security to your site to tracking visitors and even generating new leads for your business. If your site grows, there are plugins for site speed optimization and customer support (like the popular Zendesk).

In addition to WordPress plugins, WooCommerce has its own extensions specifically designed for online store owners. Together with store management integrations, you can choose from marketing, payment, product, subscriptions, and various other types of third-party extensions. Many of these extensions are free to install and use.

woocommerce extensions

Magento offers 5,000+ paid and free extensions and themes. WooCommerce itself is a plugin of WordPress which has 55,000+ extensions for vast customization capabilities.

Magento vs WooCommerce: Security

Both Magento and WooCommerce are reliable in terms of security. It is implemented differently, though: Magento offers an advanced solution of dedicated security patches, while WooCommerce is constantly updated to fix problems and bugs. Both platforms also offer security extensions to further protect websites.

They have a good reason to apply strict security measures: according to Sucuri's report, as much as 90% of all CMS sites hacked in 2018 were WordPress websites. Coincidentally, Magento comes in second but with much lower stats.

This shouldn't discourage you. What this report shows more than anything is that WordPress and Magento are the most popular platforms in the market. Add this to the fact that they're both open-source and it becomes obvious that both Magento and WooCommerce are more likely to suffer malicious attacks. The most important question is how they're attempting to resolve these issues.

Magento's advanced dedicated security patches are created by a team of developers with the help of the community. With these measures, Magento provides security enhancements that help address vulnerabilities.

magento security center

The possible drawback of Magento's security patches is that they're not simple to apply. Less-experienced users might find it difficult to use the patches, which means that their Magento site will not be up-to-date and more vulnerable to attacks.

WordPress's users shouldn't worry, either: WooCommerce provides built-in security features and additional security extensions. Also, WooCommerce is constantly updated to fix problems and bugs to ensure adequate protection. Because of this and the available WordPress security extensions, you can keep your and your customers' information safe.

wordpress security plugins

Remember, however, that your website's security starts with your host. To protect your site, research how your hosting provider ensures security. For example, you can look into these secure web hosting providers.

Also, when running an eCommerce project, you have to ensure the safety of your customer payment information. To do that, pick a hosting provider that complies with the Payment card industry (PCI) standards. Take a look at our picks of top 5 PCI compliant hosting providers.

Both Magento and WooCommerce ensure security but by different means. Magento provides dedicated security patches, while WooCommerce is continually updated to address bugs and issues. For added protection, both platforms also have security extensions.

Magento vs WooCommerce: Performance

Magento tends to be slower than WooCommerce, although a lot depends on how the store is set up and maintained. For example, hosting provider's speed and uptime have a great impact on the store's performance, and the misuse of plugins can slow down the load times.

While many factors that affect the store's performance do not depend upon the platform itself, I tried to test the speed of a site I created with Magento and WooCommerce. Here's the result:

Magento WooCommerce
woocommerce performance score

WooCommerce site performed really well and slightly better than Magento's. However, I tested very basic sites with minimum functionality. In time, site speed can decrease, and the solution it is based on will not be entirely at fault: a lot depends on you.

For starters, you have to choose a quick and reliable hosting provider. Don't pick your provider based on the price only - look for an adequate amount of bandwidth and storage space as well as good uptime.

If you need help choosing, check out our lists of best Magento hosting options or, if you are leaning more towards WordPress, the best hosting providers for WooCommerce. These providers are reliable and also won't break your bank.

But that's not all. Even the fastest and most reliable server won't save you if your code is no good or your site is crammed with heavy plugins that delay your response.

So be sure to start small, especially if your store isn't large-scale: first of all, explore the built-in features. After all, the core functionalities of both Magento and WooCommerce allow you to start a fully-featured website.

To avoid slowing your website down, first try out the default themes of Magento or WooCommerce as they are likely to perform best. Also, add extensions only when necessary or when your business growth demands upgrading your site. That way, you can make sure that your site's speed isn't negatively affected - and avoid additional expenses, for that matter.

In a test of two similarly-built sites, WooCommerce performs faster than Magento. However, performance mainly depends on your chosen hosting provider, the quality of your website's code, and added plugins that can affect response time.

Magento vs WooCommerce: Scalability

The scalability of a platform is its ability to adapt to growing business needs. Even if you're starting out small, think about what happens if your business and store grow - will the platform provide enough resources and advanced capabilities? Will you be able to handle the increased traffic without your site slowing down?

Aimed at larger businesses, Magento is created with scalability in mind and seems to be the wiser choice. Magento is designed to host thousands of products (in fact, hundreds of thousands), you can access the marketplace and choose extensions according to your growing needs, use built-in analytics as well as third-party tools, like Google Analytics.

That said, Magento is resource-intensive so scaling costs can skyrocket. You might need to upgrade your hosting from a shared plan to, for example, a dedicated server. You may even need to hire a developer or a consultant if the system proves too difficult for you to handle.

Actually, WooCommerce is not a bad choice for large stores. For example, WooCommerce allows you to host unlimited products and you can improve WordPress performance even if you're a beginner. Some solutions, like extensions for site optimization, do not require coding. And even if there's a need to hire professionals, you're more likely to find an affordable developer and/or manager services for WordPress than for Magento.

While Magento is built to host large stores, WooCommerce is a better choice in terms of scaling. This is simply because you won't see over-inflated costs - if you don't spend your entire budget on costly extensions, of course.

Magento vs WooCommerce: The Verdict

Both Magento and WooCommerce are self-hosted open-source solutions for eCommerce. Magento is an independent eCommerce platform, while WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin for eCommerce. They are both great in terms of features and scalability but Magento is oriented towards larger businesses and more advanced users, while WooCommerce suits small enterprises and is easier to use.

Here's a breakdown of the key features of Magento and WooCommerce:

Self-hosted Free version Beginner-friendly Security Product Count Analytics Expected scalability costs
Magento Yes (premium edition includes hosting) Yes No Advanced (dedicated security patches) Unlimited Integrated + 3rd party support High
WooCommerce Yes (premium edition includes hosting) Yes Yes Built-in + security plugins Unlimited Supported through plugins Low to medium

It all can be concluded like this: Magento is more advanced and suitable for either web developers or large stores that use a developer's services, while WooCommerce is super easy to use even for beginners and fully integrates with the already-familiar WordPress structure.

When deciding between the two self-hosted open-source eCommerce solutions, WooCommerce is the winner.

Magento is best suited for users with coding knowledge and large stores, while WordPress with the WooCommerce plugin is good for beginners and businesses of any size

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User comments

Jack picture

2020 April 16th

The post is very informative. Thank you so much for making it so simple. I really liked your crispy writing style and the way you have presented the information.

The post is very informative. Thank you so much for making it so simple. I really liked your crispy writing style and the way you have presented the information.

Milly picture

2019 September 27th

Wow! This is one of the best reviews on these platforms. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful study!

Wow! This is one of the best reviews on these platforms. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful study!