The best e-commerce platform: A comprehensive analysisFlavours
Puck, 20 December 2021
Are you starting a webshop? Then you must have wondered what the best e-commerce platform is for your business. The answer to this question depends on several factors, such as: size of the company, budget and whether technical knowledge is already available. Based on these elements we compare the largest e-commerce platforms in this blog article to get a clear overview of the differences at a glance.
We will be looking at the most used and most popular e-commerce platforms among the busiest webshops in the Netherlands and our customers:
Magento is an open-source platform and is known for its scalability and endless possibilities thanks to the many plug-ins. It is especially popular among large webshops. At present, Magento has built up a community of 100,000+ members. Thanks to this community, there is always a right solution to a problem.
Shopware is increasingly gaining popularity in the Dutch market and has already become a nice competitor to Magento. This platform is particularly popular with medium-sized to large webshops. Shopware is known to be quite flexible in its functions and has meanwhile built up a reasonable community.
WooCommerce is a plug-in for WordPress websites. Thanks to this plug-in, you can easily turn your WordPress website into a webshop and make use of the very large WordPress community. WooCommerce is mainly popular with small to medium-sized webshops.
Shopify is in contrast to the above platforms a closed source e-commerce solution. This means that your shop is kept running for a fixed monthly fee. An advantage of this is that hosting and domain registration is also taken care of. Shopify is, next to WooCommerce, the most used platform among Dutch webshops and is mainly popular among starting entrepreneurs and small to medium-sized webshops.
To compare the platforms, we tested them on a number of important components: flexibility, user-friendliness, personalisation, size of the web shop, support and price. For this comparison, we looked at the most used version of each platform.
Flexibility is a broad term, but for this comparison we will look at the following elements: scalability, migration options and website management.
Scalability of a platform is important for business growth. The platform that is known for this and is also the number one on our list is: Magento. With Magento, it is very easy to let your webshop grow along with the size of your company. In addition, you can link multiple webshops. Platform number two is Shopware, which, like Magento, has recently been responding well to the scalability of the platform.
WooCommerce is at number three, because it is not the most flexible platform when it comes to scalability. The reason for this is that it is a WordPress plug-in, which makes it difficult to link multiple sites for a while. Expanding WooCommerce for large shops often requires new plug-ins, which means that plug-ins are placed in other plug-ins. This makes the whole thing a lot less manageable and therefore less flexible.
Shopify comes last in the list, because it is a closed-source platform which means you have no overview of the software and its possibilities. When you want to scale up, you will therefore always have to switch to Shopify. In addition, there are extra costs involved in connecting multiple sites to the existing shop.
With migration possibilities, we look at how easy it is to transfer your existing webshop to a new platform. Here we take the degree of difficulty of the webshop into account. Number 1 is WooCommerce because this is one of the easiest and best-known software. It can be transferred quite easily to a new platform, but of course this requires the right knowledge.
In the second and third place are Shopware and Magento. Both programs are quite difficult, which makes it harder to switch over. In last place we have Shopify. It is a very complicated platform to change over and that has mainly to do with the following point: management.
Webshop owners with a shop at Shopify are technically not the administrator of their own webshop, Shopify is. Packing and moving your “own” shop is therefore not easy. The data of the shop is yours and you can take it to a new platform. If you choose to migrate your shop anyway, then you should consider rebuilding the site.
On the other platforms, you are the owner and you can therefore also choose to migrate. Of course, the easier the platform, the more you can change it yourself, the more you are in control.
For usability, we look at how easy a site is to modify. Can you easily do this yourself? If so, how fast does everything work?
The most user-friendly platform is Shopify, you can adjust the look of your webshop and add content all by yourself. This without any knowledge of web design. It must be said that the possibilities are limited, but it is very simple and it goes very fast.
In second place we have Shopware. Shopware has a slightly more complicated software compared to Shopify but is still quite easy to customise. With the help of a drag & drop system, you can easily change the look of your webshop. For the technical adjustments more knowledge is needed, but this is relatively easy.
WooCommerce comes in third. WordPress in itself is quite easy to use, but it also has disadvantages that WooCommerce works as a plug-in. As described before, you have to install other plug-ins to expand your shop. This makes it more complicated and more challenging to customise the site. You can do it, but it is a bit complicated, especially for large webshops.
We just talked about user-friendliness, but to what extent can you personalise and expand your site? Here we look at the different options and how well the site works with different plug-ins.
When it comes to plug-ins, Magento is number one. Thanks to the large and technical community, more and more plug-ins are being created. Due to the complexity of the programme, these are tested very regularly and are therefore very reliable. The quantity of plug-ins ensures that a website can be personalised very well.
Shopware is growing ever faster in the e-commerce world and is already starting to build up a nice community. That is why they are number 2. There are many options available, but in quantity they still lag behind Magento and WooCommerce. However, the plug-ins they have are very well tested and very reliable.
At a slight disadvantage, WooCommerce is number three. Although WooCommerce has more plug-ins than even Magento, the reliability is lower. Due to the enormous number of plug-ins, it is difficult to recognise whether they work. In addition, it is quickly necessary to install multiple plug-ins to customize a WooCommerce site. This can quickly lead to clutter and chaos in the back-end. So always check if the plug-ins work properly in a test environment and keep the website as simple and organized as possible.
Shopify is the last one on the list, because it is a closed-source platform that requires all plug-ins to be tested extensively by Shopify itself. Shopify does have very reliable plug-ins to expand a shop, but these are often available late.
When we look at web design, we look at the possibilities that are available to customise a site in terms of appearance and User Experience.
Shopware is at the top when it comes to web design. Although they lag behind in terms of plug-ins, the platform is optimised for web shops. It is possible to create a lot of content quickly. In addition, they are focused on “story-telling”.
The same also applies to number two on the list: WooCommerce. Because WooCommerce has WordPress as a base, the focus for this platform is also to create content. In addition, in terms of web designs, you can choose from many options and themes that are easy to implement.
Magento comes in third, partly thanks to the many plug-ins but also because of the possibility to adjust every little detail. Magento is very customisable and the options are endless. Yet there is a reason why Magento is in third place. This is mainly because Magento – compared to the number one and two – is a lot less focused on storytelling. On Magento it’s less suitable to place content, with some detours it’s possible, but it’s not integrated by default.
In last place is Shopify. Although the platform is very user-friendly, there are limitations in the options regarding themes and plug-ins. The plug-ins that are available are not customisable and the choice is also limited. However, an advantage of Shopify is that it is better set up for placing content than Magento. This is advantageous for starting webshops that mainly want to build a brand through story-telling.
Here we look at the number of products, the number of countries in which a webshop sells products and the complexity of the products it sells.
In general, Magento is by far the best in this test. It is possible to run a webshop in multiple languages and in multiple countries without having different back-ends. In addition, Magento is a good choice if you have an extensive assortment with different products in different categories.
After Magento, Shopware scores the highest because it is possible to install several languages and offer the product in several countries. Moreover, it is possible to build up an extensive assortment. Shopware scores less well than Magento, because the platform does not work as well when it comes to more complex products.
Shopify is at number three because it is not easy to offer a webshop in multiple languages and in multiple countries. Shopify does offer the possibility to offer translations of web pages, but a fully translated webshop is less easy. To achieve this, it is possible to switch to a more expensive subscription. In addition, unlike number one and two, you can place fewer products on Shopify and you are usually forced to switch to Shopify in advance to implement more complex products.
Then in last place is WooCommerce. Compared to its competitors, WooCommerce does not seem very suitable for maintaining a large shop with many products. The WordPress platform was not created on an e-commerce basis. There are plug-ins for offering more complex products, but they are not easy to use. Unfortunately, it is also not possible to set up a webshop in multiple languages. Translating a site yourself can be done but creating products in several languages is a different matter.
Of course, we also need to measure how easy it is to get help from the platforms, how large the community is and how reliable it is.
Number one on this list is Magento. Thanks to the large community, several community pages have been created where it is very easy and quick to solve problems. If there is incorrect information on the pages, the reliable community generally acts quickly.
Number two on this list is Shopware. The community is growing rapidly and is seen as reliable. When users encounter problems, advice is provided quickly. In addition, Shopware’s support team offers reasonably quick help.
WooCommerce comes in at number three. The WordPress community is the largest, but there is a lot of speculation as to whether the support from this community is entirely reliable. In addition, WordPress support is not as quick as Shopware and Magento.
The last one on this list is Shopify. In general, especially in the Netherlands, fewer positive things are said about Shopify’s support team. This may have something to do with the fact that the platform is originally Canadian and therefore the support is not yet focused on the Netherlands. This is especially disadvantageous, as for complex issues you often need the help of Shopify itself.
Finally, we look at price and include several factors to the comparison: price per month, price for building the site and price for maintenance.
Price per month
Only Shopify has a standard monthly subscription fee. In return, the hosting and domain name registration are already taken care of.
Shopify is very attractive for starting entrepreneurs, because it is cheap and easy to set up. With Magento, Shopware and WooCommerce you do not pay monthly, and the rule is: the more knowledge is needed, the more expensive the programme is in general in construction and maintenance.
WooCommerce comes in second. Most companies are familiar with WordPress and already have this knowledge. This makes it easier to set up a webshop with a WooCommerce plug-in, which ultimately means it is cheaper to build.
Shopware comes in third. The programme is still relatively unknown, which makes it more complicated to set up a webshop. That is why it is often outsourced in the first place, because not all knowledge is present.
Magento comes in last, and this has everything to do with the complexity of the programme. Magento is a heavy programme, made for heavy web shops and is therefore more complicated to make. Here too, the construction is often outsourced and is more expensive than average.
Given the fact that the construction of Magento and Shopware is often outsourced, the maintenance is also often outsourced. In this way, the company is relieved of all worries and there is little need to look after the technology. Here it applies that you as an owner must arrange the hosting and domain registration, this also applies to WooCommerce.
When it comes to maintenance in terms of cost, WooCommerce is number one. This is because it is a plug-in to the existing WordPress website. The costs associated with maintenance are often the same as the costs you already spend on the website. It may be that the cost of good hosting goes up a little, but generally this does not make much difference.
Shopify is number two in this respect, because subscription fees for maintenance are included in the monthly price. In addition, Shopify asks for a percentage of the income from your webshop if you do not use the standard payment options. This makes options like PayPal or AfterPay more expensive for you as a shop owner. The better the shop sells, the more you have to pay. Of course, you can also choose to make use of all functions, but that also costs a lot more.
We cannot say which platform is better than the other. However, we can establish a few things you can look out for when choosing a platform, based on data.
- Are you a starting entrepreneur with a small shop and a small budget? Then Shopify or WooCommerce might be interesting for you. These shops are easy to set up and maintain, so they are also the cheapest. Please note that it is difficult to switch to another platform with Shopify. Also, WooCommerce is less suitable for many and complex products.
- Do you have a small shop with a reasonable budget? Then look at Shopware or WooCommerce. Shopware is interesting if you have technical knowledge or if you want to outsource it completely. With less knowledge or if you already have a website on WordPress, you can choose WooCommerce.
- Do you have a medium-sized webshop with a reasonable budget and do you want the opportunity to grow? Then look at Shopware or Magento. Magento may require more knowledge, but this programme is extremely suitable for growing with your company. It is also very well-known and therefore not difficult to find a company or team that can help you.
- Do you have a medium to large webshop with a big budget? Or do you have complex or many products in your range? Then Magento is the most interesting thing to investigate. Magento is extremely suitable for growing with a company. It can also handle many products and complex products.