January 22, 2020 by Ben Chafetz

Magento vs Wordpress: What's the difference?

Both Magento and WordPress are widely used platforms with millions of eCommerce sites powered between the two. Launching an online storefront on one of these platforms means you’ll be in the company of brands like Nike, Sony Music, and even Christian Louboutin!

Ok, so you’re going to go with one of these two to build the foundation of your digital presence, but what’s the difference? In this article we’ll go into depth about the main differences that set Magento and WordPress apart in order to help you make the right decision for your own situation.

Let’s get right into it!

Two Very Different Cores

Magento: The King of eCommerce

At their core, Magento and WordPress are fundamentally built for different purposes—WordPress grew from a simple blog site in the early 2000s to a robust Content Management System (CMS) with various plugins, add-ons, and integrations, while Magento began as an open-source, fully customizable eCommerce platform.

Over time, both platforms have evolved into systems that are capable of both CMS and eCommerce. Although, their foundations still represent each platform’s strength and focus. 

Magento is an amazingly powerful tool for building your eCommerce presence. It’s not just for large companies either. Since there are two versions, Magento Commerce (paid) and Magento Open Source (free), either can be tailored to fit your company’s size and needs.

Overall, Magento can provide pretty much everything you would need to run an online store, including:

  • Responsive design
  • Stable website performance
  • Product reviews
  • Wish lists
  • Quantity discount options
  • User-friendly interface panel
  • Built-in analytics and reporting tools

WordPress: The Star CMS

Although it is most often associated as a blogging platform, this system has developed and grown a lot since its start in 2003. It is now the top website platform across the globe since it’s free and open-source. The themes, plug-ins and architecture are user-friendly and you don’t need to be too technical to pick it up and build a site.

Being the premiere CMS platform, it supports all sorts of page content, including:

  • Mailing list
  • Forums
  • Media galleries
  • Blogging
  • External integration

That being said, it’s important to note that once you start needing eCommerce catalogs it can become a pain. This is because WordPress isn’t built to support large catalogs making it difficult to manage and run if you have more than four products. To reiterate, what WordPress does not have natively, is any kind of eCommerce infrastructure. In order to conduct online sales via WordPress, you’ll need to use a third-party plug-in like Woocommerce.

The Common Ground

Although Magento and WordPress evolved from two very different purposes, an online sales solution and blogging platform respectively, they have both expanded to fill the areas where they were historically weaker. Today, they have a lot of similarities, including:

  • Open-source platforms
  • Highly customizable to suit various purposes
  • SEO and mobile-friendly
  • Large selection of free and paid themes to choose from
  • Various plug-ins to expand the functionality
  • Content Management Systems
  • Strong communities that will help with any troubleshooting or setup

That being said, the difference between the two is still significant and deciding which one is for you really comes down to your business goals. 

Website Purpose

What exactly is the kind of online store you want to build here? Figuring this out will be the main deciding factor in making your choice between Magento and WordPress.

  • Selling Physical Products

Both platforms can handle sales of physical products. However, the most basic distinction between these two when it comes to eCommerce stores is volume. Magento stores can scale much better than WordPress’s third-party applications, like WooCommerce. As a rule of thumb, if your store is going to have more than 500 products, you’re going to be better off with a Magento website.  Even if you’re not there at the moment, you want to be thinking 3-5 years ahead.

Once you launch your store on one platform, you’re going to want to avoid the major headache that is switching down the road. If you plan to grow your inventory, have higher traffic on your site, and expand over time, you’re not going to want to limit yourself with a platform geared towards small businesses. If you think you might outgrow the capabilities of a WordPress site, preempt this and just start with a Magento site.

  • Selling Virtual Products or Services

Virtual products, such as memberships or subscriptions, are a lot simpler to handle in terms of eCommerce than physical ones. You don’t have inventory store management, order tracking, or shipping to worry about. This can be done on Magento, but it might be overkill. 

However, services might be a bit different. If you need scheduling, complex questionnaires and other additions, Magento may be better equipped to handle these. WordPress does provide an array of plug-ins, but the process wouldn’t be straightforward and would require the use of multiple ones.

  • Setting up a Multi-Vendor Marketplace

Although WordPress has some workaround solutions, if you want to be making something as complex as a Marketplace with various sellers able to list products, you’re definitely going to want to go with Magento. You’ll need memberships, payments, commission, order management for multiple companies and users, and a lot more! You need a platform that can handle all these constantly moving parts and keep them all running smoothly. 

Cost

The other main consideration, of course, is going to be the cost. You’re going to have initial costs of web development of the site and then the ongoing costs of maintenance and hosting. Although you may only be starting out with your online store, you will need to think a bit down the line in order to determine which option would be best for your situation in terms of cost.

Both Magento and WordPress are open source platforms, meaning they are free to use and can be fully customized. Magento has another version of the platform that is paid, but does require a bit more maintenance and technical expertise. The cost depends on your sales, as they take a percentage of your revenue. Regardless of which option you choose, you will still have to host your site for an annual fee.

Magento is generally a bit more cumbersome to set up, so you would want to look into a specialist agency, like 121eCommerce, to help you get started. Once you have the page set up right, you’ll be able to manage it and make minor changes with your in-house team. 

Although you can get WordPress set up for a much lower startup cost, you do want to consider if your needs will outgrow the capabilities of the platform in the future. If you have a bit more time and startup capital to make a really great site that is capable of handling a higher volume, you won’t have to worry down the road about being too successful for your own site to handle!

The Hybrid Option

Of course, there is always the option of going with both. You can use Magento to power the eCommerce side of your store and WordPress to handle the content management. One of the main features missing from Magento is a native blog, so many companies choose to integrate with WordPress to have this function too. 

While this may be the ideal solution for some, you’re essentially doubling the time needed to train your staff on both platforms. Magento does have an extension that can enable a blog, however, many companies do choose to go with the WordPress option due to people’s familiarity with using the platform.

The Decision

So now you know the main differences between the two: Magento is much more robust and powerful, think a pickup truck for eCommerce functionality. Whereas WordPress is easier to set up suitable for a variety of purposes, think a standard sedan as a platform. 

You might not need all the bells and whistles or horsepower of the truck, so you’ll go for the sedan. That will definitely be the right choice for some companies, especially very new ones that have yet to establish a presence and turn a profit.

However, if you think your business will be big, with over 500 products, in the foreseeable future, you would be wise to go with the pickup to be able to do the heavy lifting when the time comes. 

If you’re still unsure of which platform will suit your needs best, here are some questions that will help guide your thinking:

  • Do you need to build an online marketplace with multiple vendors?
  • Are you expecting high traffic and a lot of products within the first few years?
  • Do you have your own Point of Sale system you need to integrate into the platform?

If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, then you clearly need the Magento solution.

  • Do you have a lot of content to put on your site (things like media, blogs, or social media integration)?
  • Do you have a limited starting budget and are tight on time?
  • Do you want to spend little time customizing your theme? 

If these all seem like yes answers, then you’re more suited for WordPress at this time.

In summary, you have two great options in front of you and it really comes down to what you think you’ll need down the line: a pickup truck or a sedan. Think carefully, you don’t want to pick one and then realize down the line your needs have actually changed. Now your trunk is too full and you can’t carry all that extra weight!

Get the latest eCommerce updates and resources.

Let's get started

Call 216.586.6656