Magento and WordPress are two of the most popular platforms upon which ecommerce websites are built, but in many ways they couldn’t be more different. That’s not to say one is better or worse than the other, only that their respective strengths and weaknesses make them incredibly distinct from one another.
We’ve gone over what makes Magento stand out quite a lot recently but for those who aren’t familiar with it, here is a quick run-down. Magento is a dedicated ecommerce platform that offers a wide range of features and functionality, including product management, payment processing, shipping integration, and customer relationship management (CRM). Magento is highly customisable and scalable, making it a good choice for businesses of all sizes, from small businesses with big aspirations to large, multi-facetted enterprises. However, Magento can be more difficult to use and is more expensive than WordPress, plus it requires more technical expertise to set up and maintain.
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that can be used to create any type of website, including ecommerce stores. You will likely hear or have heard ‘CMS’ used when talking about any framework used to build websites around, but WordPress is a CMS in the truest sense. This is to say that it allows users to create, manage, and modify content on a website without requiring any technical knowledge, however, the ecommerce aspects are not part of its base functionalities. To turn WordPress websites into ecommerce stores, you need to use ‘plugins’ such as WooCommerce, BigCommerce for WordPress, Shopify for WordPress, or one of they many other ecommerce plugins for WordPress out there.
Getting back on track, WordPress is easier to use and less expensive than Magento, and it has a large community of developers and users who can provide support. This shouldn’t come as a surprise seeing as how approximately 42% of websites are WordPress sites as of 2023, but this isn’t to say that they are always the ideal option. Due to it not being an Ecommerce Platform by design, WordPress does not have as many built-in ecommerce features as Magento. What’s more, while plugins can generally be used to attain whatever ecommerce functions you might want, relying on too many plugins can make websites incredibly fragile, especially if their developers don’t continue to maintain and update them.
Magento Vs WordPress
Realistically, there isn’t much competition between Magento and WordPress as they occupy such different positions within the market. While both are open source platforms that boast exceptional scope for customisaton, WordPress is typically used by smaller organisations, organisations with concise product offerings, or by businesses that are only just beginning to explore selling online. Magento, on the other hand, is both a statement and an investment. No one dips their toe into the ecommerce pool using a Magento website and by having one, you’d be making clear that your business is looking to grow and is taking its digital channels seriously. This isn’t to say that WordPress stores are not serious about selling online, only that WordPress doesn’t have the same gravitas.
So, if you are looking for a dedicated ecommerce platform that is highly customisable and scalable to list hundreds or even thousands of products, chances are Magento is the ideal choice for you. However, Magento is more difficult to use and more expensive than WordPress, so if your product catalogue is relatively small and you don’t intend to set up multiple stores or sell into other countries, WordPress ought to do the trick.
We have included a brief overview of the two platforms below so that you can get a good sense of what each brings to the table.
With all that said, even these two very different platforms have some crossover in terms of mutual appeal. In fact, we’ve had the ‘Magento Vs WordPress’ conversation with more clients and potential clients than we ever thought we would. So, if you’re wondering the same thing and are genuinely torn between the two, here are some other factors to consider when weighing up their respective pros and cons.
The Products You’re Selling
What you intend to sell through your online store will have a significant impact on whether you should choose WordPress or Magento for your ecommerce store. Here are a few things to consider:
Number of products
The number of products you’ll be offering through your ecommerce website is one of the most important factors to consider, along with how they are going to be categorised and presented. WordPress is great for small stores with a few hundred products or less, however, as the number of products increases past this point, the performance will inevitably decline. The same goes for how those products are categorised, as WordPress sites can start to crack under the weight of advanced category structures.
Magento, on the other hand, is the ideal choice for larger ecommerce stores with thousands or even millions of SKUs, as it has been designed to handle high volumes of products and transactions. This makes Magento ideal for businesses that dropship some or all of their products, as well as those that rely on complex category structures in order to accommodate for different customer journeys. Magento also has native features for managing product inventory, tracking orders, and processing payments.
The only thing to be aware of is that because of all these native features and its innate capacity, Magento is more expensive than WordPress both in terms of the cost of the platform itself and the cost of hosting. This isn’t an issue for established sellers but is something newer businesses ought to take into account.
Just as the number of products ought to be factored in, so too should the type of product. You see, what you might consider to be one product with 5 possible widths, 5 possible depths and 5 possible heights is in fact 125 products, so you need a platform that can not only accommodate the possible combinations but do so countless times without requiring hands-on intervention or endless data entry.
If you sell a modest number of simple products, such as books, household electronics, or jewellery, then chances are WordPress will more than suffice. However, if you sell complex products, such as cut-to-size materials, golfing equipment, or clothes, then Magento is the better choice. The reason simply being that Magento has features for managing complex products incorporated into it, such as product attributes, custom options, and configurable products.
Another important thing to factor in is the target audience for your ecommerce store. B2C websites are typically straight-forward as consumers are typically looking for little more than a user-friendly shopping experience. So long as they can find what they want quickly and easily then checkout securely through a familiar payment process, you will generally find they’re happy. B2B websites, on the other hand, will likely have more complex needs. They might require additional features such as customer groups, tiered pricing, and quote requests, plus they may also need their ecommerce store to integrate with a 3rd party ERP or CRM system.
As it is easy to use and there are a wide range of themes and plugins available to customise its look and feel, WordPress is often seen as a good choice for ecommerce stores that target consumers. On the flip side, Magento is perceived as being the go-to choice for ecommerce stores that target businesses, being as they are more powerful and scalable.
Unfortunately - while there is a kernel of truth to this - it’s not quite this straightforward and you will likely have to take product number, type and target audience into consideration when making a choice between Magento and WordPress. If you’re stuck and can’t decide which platform the combination of these factors is pointing toward, feel free to get in touch and a member of the Wind & Kite team will happily advise (we promise to be impartial).
Volume Of Traffic & Transactions
Theoretically, a WordPress website is capable of handling high volumes of traffic, however, whether or not the can depends on a number of factors. The hosting provider of the site is undoubtedly one of the most important, as a site without sufficient server-side resources will struggle to accommodate all visitors and will frequently crash, resulting in 500 errors. Another consideration is how optimised the website is in terms of speed, but even this can be a double-edged sword since many of the Plugins used to help optimise site speed can contribute to issues down the line.
The difference between Magento and WordPress when it comes to volume is simply that the latter has been designed to accommodate for everyone and when you are going for mass appeal, you only build in what is absolutely necessary. Most websites, unfortunately, don’t receive high volumes of traffic and so WordPress doesn’t have the infrastructure required to deal with it by default. On the other hand, as a dedicated ecommerce platform, Magento needs to have the ability to handle swaths of simultaneous visitors as standard.
Magento doesn’t only stand out when it comes to high volumes of traffic, but high volumes of transactions too. It does this by making use of various performance optimisation techniques that ensure fast response times, even during busy period. These include built-in caching mechanisms, support for Varnish caching, and integration with content delivery networks (CDNs), all of which minimise server load and accelerate page loading times.Not only this, but it also contains features such as fraud detection and prevention tools, which helps to insulate businesses selling online from being caught out by scams.
It’s only fair to point out that WordPress can handle a moderate volume of transactions, but its ability to do so depends on the right plugins to optimise the checkout process. This makes Magento the better choice for businesses with high turnover or lofty aspirations, while WordPress is a good choice for businesses that are simply in need of a web-presence or are constrained by budget.
When considering whether to invest in either WordPress and Magento, budget commonly plays a role in which platform is eventually chosen. Magento is generally the more costly of the two, but it’s not as cut and dry as many believe. To highlight this, we’re going to break down the various build costs so that you can see them for yourself.
WordPress itself is free and open-source, however, you'll need to invest in an e-commerce plugin or solution like WooCommerce to turn it into a sales platform. While the base WooCommerce plugin is free, you may need to spend on extensions, themes, and premium support depending on your specific requirements.
Magento offers two editions, a Community Edition (CE) and a Enterprise Edition (EE), commonly referred to as ‘Magento Open Source’ and ‘Adobe Commerce’ respectively. While both share the same core functionalities, the Enterprise Edition comes with a dizzying suite of features but has a significant licensing cost. The Community Edition is free and open source, making it much more similar to WordPress. It offers the same fundamental ecommerce features as Adobe Commerce while allowing store owners to design a website that’s exactly how they want it to be.
So, as of yet there’s no real difference in cost between Magento and WordPress. You can pay for he Adobe Commerce platform if it’s the right fit for you, otherwise both platforms are available at no cost. Let’s move on to Hosting Costs next.
Hosting costs for WordPress can vary significantly and are usually dictated by the business’ needs. Shared hosting is a cost-effective solution for new websites, but sharing hosting resources between several websites means that if one site is busy, it can negatively affect the performance of the others. For an e-commerce platform, either managed hosting or VPS (virtual private server) hosting are strongly recommended, but these come at a higher cost. It’s not uncommon to see businesses paying as little as $15 a month for WordPress hosting, but many of these won’t be ecommerce sites and they certainly won’t be big or successful ecommerce sites. Around $40 is what you’d expect to pay for a somewhat popular WordPress store, but you can end up paying hundreds a month once you reach a certain size.
Due to its resource-intensive nature, Magento’s base hosting requirements are higher than WordPress’. These resource requirements include a certain amount of RAM, CPU power, and disk space so shared hosting really isn’t an option. It also has certain software requirements, such as specific versions of PHP, Apache, and MySQL. What this basically means is that Magento websites almost always demand a dedicated server or cloud-based hosting to ensure optimal performance. The cost of these can start from as low as $10pcm but on average you’ll be looking at between $200 to $400 a month (especially if you're using the Adobe Commerce).
There is a clear difference in hosting costs between the two, but this cost is a direct correlation to the features that both platforms offer. If through plugins and custom coding you built a WordPress site with the same functionality, power and scope as a Magento one, you’d be looking at paying around the same. Speaking of coding, let’s now look at development and customisation costs.
Development & Customisation Costs
WordPress is known for its ease of use and wide availability of themes and plugins. Development and customisation costs can vary, but they are often more affordable than Magento and you can find many affordable developers and designers with WordPress expertise. Because it’s less lucrative, however, WordPress developers tend to be less proficient than Mangento developers and it can take them longer to accomplish tasks that are outside of the ordinary. It’s important to remember that many development houses charge based on time and it’s not uncommon for clients to be charged for the time it takes for their devs to learn and test their new knowledge.
Because of this, a lot of WordPress developers out there are turn into something more like Plugin Engineers than actual Developers. This is to say that they mostly just put pre-existing extensions together in order to meet their client’s brief. The result may be cohesive at the time the site is delivered, but it will become disjointed over time if the plugins aren’t updated or their respective developers don’t maintain them. This can happen over the course of months or even years, but sites built on Plugins will eventually degrade.
Magento is more complex and requires a higher level of development expertise. This can lead to higher development costs but the upfront quotes you’re given tend to be more accurate. This alone make Magento the more attractive option for some larger enterprises, as they place a high value on being able to rely on their cashflow forecasts and budget effectively.
WordPress development is quick and cheap but the second you go off-piste, the costs in terms of time and money can quickly creep upwards. The alternative is a site that does exactly what you need it to do on day 1 but will almost certainly struggle to meet those same demands on day 1000. Conversely, Magento sites are more stable post-launch as their ecommerce functionality is part of the core structure. There are 3rd and 1st party modules available, of course, but they are there to provide wants rather than needs.
Short-Term Saving Or Long-Term Investment
What it basically comes down to is priorities and disposable income. If a business is in the position to invest in their ecommerce infrastructure then Magento is almost always the preferable choice. On the otherhand, some businesses simply don’t have the financial breathing room necessary to take a long term view of things. If this is the case then we would still recommend getting in touch with us as the costs of Magento open source can be mitigated for a time while online activities spool up.
Both Magento and WordPress require different levels of technical expertise for site setup, customisation, and maintenance. The choice between the two platforms may come down to the technical capabilities you have access to as well as the level of complexity required to build and maintain your site. We are going to provide an overview of these below and while we have had to cover some of the points we’ve already discussed again, this time we will be looking at them from a purely technical perspective.
Technical Expertise for WordPress Sites
Technical Expertise for Magento Sites
While WordPress is the more accessible platform for individuals and small businesses with limited technical expertise, anything more advanced than the most basic customisation will require a deeper understanding of web development. Magento, on the other hand, is better suited for businesses with a clear understanding of requirements and somewhat advanced ecommerce-needs. If you feel like your current level of understanding isn’t where it needs to be in order to properly map out your website’s form and functionalities, a member of the Wind & Kite team would be pleased to help you.
Other Business Requirements
Sorry to bring this up now but sometimes you think you have a choice when really you don’t. Everything is pointing you toward one platform but there’s just one thing - albeit an essential thing - that makes the other platform the only right choice.
One example we touched on above was whether you need an ecommerce platform that can seamlessly integrate with your existing ERP or CRM system, but this is only of countless other considerations. Do you have seasonal or limited product lines so new listings are constantly coming and going? Does your site need to pull in data from multiple sources throughout the day, every day? Do you have multiple warehouses or storage facilities that you pull stock from? Do you have to worry about a number of different tax rules or integrations with multiple shipping APIs?
If the answer to any of these is ‘yes’, the choice of which ecommerce platform is right for you has already been made. That said, a move to Magento isn’t something you want to undertake quickly or carelessly, but we’d be more than happy to help guide you through the process at whatever pace best suits you.