One of the hurdles new entrepreneurs face is deciding on a platform to build their eCommerce business. With so many options to choose from it’s a pretty daunting task to sort thru each platforms features and which platform does what feature best. There are plenty of resources online that breaks down individual features so I’m going to stray away from that and talk about the platforms as a whole and the ROI of each.

In my experience the top 3 platform contenders are Magento, WordPress; & WooCommerce or Shopify.

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I’ve built small WordPress & Shopify websites and I’ve built enterprise level Magento websites doing millions in revenue a year – so here’s my take on it.

Magento – Self Hosted Open source enterprise level platform.

Right from the start I’ll say this. Magento is one of the most flexible eCommerce platforms available.. ever. That flexibility tho, comes at a price. Magento requires a higher development and overhead cost to operate. Magento has the greater ability to scale from small, medium, large all the way to a enterprise level eCommerce platform. As in, Magento can handle two products and can handle 250,000 products. It’s a great eCommerce platform if you need custom functionality & development that’s not offered by commercial extensions or other eCommerce website platforms.

One of the major drawbacks of Magento is it’s not user or admin friendly. It consist of a very large technology stack which in return can cause development and upkeep cost to soar. Its also very resource heavy and requires a decent hosting environment to obtain decent performance and page speeds.

Only go Magento if you expect large growth, need extremely custom functionality and have the budget to cover the overhead cost. I’ve had clients that got sold by other devs and agencies on Magento when they had no business nor the budget to be on the platform. As much as it hurts myself, I did what was best for my clients and recommend they transfer over to Shopify/WooCommerce which are much more user friendly.

I dont get as much work from these stores now as they are able to do a lot of things on their own on via the user friendliness of Shopify/Wordpress but the switch has paid off pretty well for them on the overhead cost front.

For smaller stores, The overhead cost of Magento when compared to a SaaS like Shopify doesnt really justify the investment. The money saved on your development budget (by not choosing Magento) is better spent on marketing and SEO.

Also take note. At the time of writing this. Magento 1.X is being phased out. Magento 2 is definitely targeted at enterprise level websites. The overhead cost of running Magento 2 is even higher than Magento 1.X.

WordPress – Self hosted open source blogging platform with eCommerce functionality provided by WooCommerce

WordPress is the most widely used blogging and general use website platform on the internet today. That exposure and large community provides a lower cost of development and overhead. WordPress & WooCommerce are extremely user friendly and offer website owners the ability to make minor changes to their website without having to hire a developer. With it being user friendly site owners can save on development cost and handle some of the content updates and mundane daily task of a eCommerce website on their own. WordPress also has a vast selection of modules and extensions that provide almost any functionality imaginable. The platform scales pretty well from small to medium sized eCommerce businesses.

The downside of WordPress is the lesser ability to scale than a platform like Magento. As in there’s a limit to how many products the database structure of the platform can realistically handle. The largest WordPress WooCommerce eCommerce website I’ve came across had around 10,000 products. WordPress was originally developed to be a blogging platform and not really intended or built for large scale or high traffic eCommerce, so it’s important to keep that in mind.

Shopify – SaaS small to medium scale platform.

Shopify is the leading platform when it comes to SaaS solutions. (Software as a service). What this means is Shopify handles the hosting of your website. As in, as the websites owner – you are never really in FULL control of your website. Shopify retains ownership of the backend database and core files of the platform. If Shopify goes out of business or closes shop– You have to start from scratch on a new platform or go out of business yourself. Don’t let that scare you off tho. Shopify is doing great!

Shopify provides a very friendly user interface and excellent support for all of its eCommerce packages. The community is growing and there is a large number of growing modules which extend the some what limited default functionality of the platform. The overhead cost to get started on the platform is very low and only requires (at the time of writing this) a $30 payment and a little time to set things up. That isn’t to say that’s all you need to do. A large mistake I see Shopify owners making is thinking they can get a eCommerce business up and running with no professional help. See my other blog post about this here..

That said. It’s a great platform for low budget new comers to eCommerce and provides a great user friendly solution to build on as you go.

Like everything else. It always comes down to money. Marketing and SEO efforts will ALWAYS provide a higher return on investment than base platform functionality. Don’t bite off more platform than you need and use the reduced overhead cost to give your marketing and SEO a boost!

Obviously there’s a lot more to take into consideration when deciding on a eCommerce platform for your website. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me and I’d be glad to help!