What’s the Difference Between WooCommerce and Magento? With Avi Kumar of KUWARE

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Avi KumarAvi Kumar is an expert in PPC and digital marketing. As the Founder and CEO of KUWARE, a digital marketing agency, he focuses on customer acquisition through SEM, SEO, web design, email, and other tools. He spent eight years at Intel at the beginning of his career and recently became the CEO at InvisiblePPC.

With over two decades of experience, Avi is a powerhouse of talent. It’s rare to come across a person who understands the finer nuances of business and technology at the same time. He has a BS, a BSEE, an MSEE in computer engineering, and an MBA in Entrepreneurship. In his free time, Avi mentors youngsters or reads books, blogs, and magazines.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Avi Kumar’s journey into entrepreneurship
  • The distinct advantages of WooCommerce versus Magento
  • Using freelancers to get more out of your ecommerce platform
  • Which platform suits smaller businesses the best
  • The security issues that you need to know
  • Optimizing the speed of your platform when adding new apps
  • Which platform is better when accommodating corporate structure?
  • Why lower-priced platforms may not be worth it

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In this episode of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast

When choosing the right ecommerce platform, there are hundreds of complications that can be hard to predict. Online businesses each have their own needs, which cannot always be met by choosing the most popular platform. It helps to have unbiased experts who can guide entrepreneurs to the best fit for their company.

Avi Kumar has deep experience with multiple ecommerce platforms, including WooCommerce. He knows the unique advantages and limitations and helps his clients use the service efficiently. However, there are plenty of other platforms to choose from, including powerful options like Magento. So what exactly makes WooCommerce and Magento different from the rest?

Guillaume Le Tual interviews Avi Kumar, the Founder and CEO of KUWARE, to learn about the differences between WooCommerce, Magento, and other popular ecommerce platforms. They start with Avi’s entrepreneurial journey and his experience in this complex field. They go through topics such as security, why the size of your platform matters, scalability, using freelancers, and much more. Hear it all on this episode of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast!

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode...

This episode is brought to you by MageMontreal.

MageMontreal is a Magento-certified ecommerce agency based in Montreal, Canada. MageMontreal specializes in and works exclusively with the Adobe Magento ecommerce platform, and is among only a handful of certified Adobe Magento companies in Canada.

Why Magento? Mage Montreal wholeheartedly believes that Magento is the best open source ecommerce platform on the market–whether you are looking to tweak your current website or build an entirely new website from scratch.

MageMontreal offers a wide range of services, including Magento website design and development, Magento maintenance and support, integration of Magento with third-party software, and so much more! They have been creating and maintaining top-notch ecommerce stores for over a decade — so you know you can trust their robust expertise, involved support, and efficient methodology.

So, if your business wants to create a powerful ecommerce store that will boost sales, move dormant inventory to free up cash reserves, or automate business processes to gain efficiency and reduce human processing errors, MageMontreal is here to help!

What are you waiting for? Contact MageMontreal today! Visit magemontreal.com or call 450.628.0690 to chat with the MageMontreal team about creating your dream ecommerce store and transforming your business.

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Episode Transcript

Guillaume: Hello everyone. Guillaume Le Tual here, host of the E-commerce Wizards Podcast, where I feature leaders in business and e-commerce. Today’s guest is Avi Kumar, CEO of kuware.com, a full service agency with a focus on marketing and implementation. It’s always fun for me to speak with another fellow agency owner where we have so much to talk about. Recently, they acquired another agency called White Label PPC agency where they offer white label pay per click management services to other agencies. Today we’ll be talking about Magento versus WooCommerce and maybe not so much in a confrontational way but more like comparing both platforms, strengths and weaknesses and so on, to help people make a decision which one is best for their businesses.

So before we get started, we have a sponsorship message. This episode is brought to you by Mage Montreal. If a business wants a powerful e-commerce online store that will increase their sales or to move piled up dormant inventory to free up cash reserves or to automate business processes to gain efficiency and reduce human processing errors, our company Mage Montreal can do that. We’ve been helping e-commerce stores for over a decade. Here’s the catch, we’re specialized in and only work on the Adobe Magento e-commerce platform, we do everything Magento. If you know someone who needs design, development, maintenance, training support, we’ve got their back. Email our team, [email protected] or go to magemontreal.com.

All right, Avi, thanks for being here today.

Avi: Hello, thanks for having me here.

Guillaume: Before we dive into the main topic, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey as an entrepreneur?

Avi: Sure. This current agency, I have owned it for around 14 years. We started out purely as an e-commerce agency, first building e-commerce stores and all. Believe it or not, we have even built things like the carts and stuff like that in the early days. And then Drupal Commerce and many other things which have fallen by the wayside now. But slowly, we evolved into a full service agency, we still do e-commerce but we also do the advertising and marketing for e-commerce. We also build e-commerce stores, and do B2B services as well, so we have kind of evolved to become a larger agency. Now with this new acquisition, which is Invisible PPC, we are offering white label PPC services for other agencies as well. So that’s more of a down market where a lot of local PPC is important, offering that to other agencies as a service. But our main agency business and what we’re talking about here is about e-commerce. It is very much focused on doing full consulting for e-commerce all the way from marketing, advertising, building on different platforms, less so on Magento. So we are doing less on Magento and more on WooCommerce. And that’s why we are having this discussion in the first place.

Guillaume: Yeah, exactly. So I’m a Magento expert and Avi is a WordPress WooCommerce expert. So, let’s start talking about it. When do you think it’s the right choice for a merchant who’s building a new site to say, I should deal with WooCommerce instead of Magento?

Avi: First thing I will say this outright, five years ago I would have laughed at the question if somebody said Magento was WooCommerce. I would have said, what are you talking about? It’s like apples and oranges completely. But over the years, WooCommerce kept on evolving to add more and more functionalities and still stayed on the lower end. So now, yes, this discussion can be had but there are certainly very clear situations where you do not want to just build on WooCommerce. The major one is scalability. If you’re talking about a store which needs to scale into a large store very quickly, then WooCommerce might be a problem. The reason for that is primarily it can be scaled but now you have to jump through many hoops, you have to partition your database and you have to worry about all those technical details which probably as an e-commerce software builder you don’t want to deal with. So that will be required and that effort will be so much that you might as well be on Magento at that point.

Having said that, there are a lot of complex situations which could not be done earlier on Magento, for example, you wanted a multi-language store or a multi-country store, either with the same inventory or common inventory shared between them, that was not possible earlier. The only way was to go to something like Magento. But now WooCommerce does support that. If you have a store which is first starting out, even if it is in multi-countries and overall the volume is not that high yet, then WooCommerce is a supremely good platform, very versatile, and will still allow you to do a lot of things which only come with the higher end platform. So that will be my general two-minute version of how you will pick between the two.

Guillaume: I’ll elaborate a bit on this. First of all, we can say WooMagento is not a startup for a mom-and-pop shop and don’t be fooled by the fact that you can buy a $99 template or team from Magento the same way as WooCommerce. This might make you think that they’re really competitors. In many cases they are not, sometimes they are, yes, but in many cases are not. So the more complex use cases are the larger merchants, if a company is not yet making at least $1 million of sales online or offline, I would not recommend Magento to that company. It’s made for bigger merchants, it’s made for the midsize enterprise. And since Adobe purchased Magento three years ago, it’s just getting pulled more and more upmarket towards the larger mid-sized merchants you know, the 25 to $100 million company. The small enterprise is getting pulled there to be one of the many software’s in the Adobe enterprise suite that you have the Adobe Analytics, you have the Adobe Commerce, which is the name of Magento under the Adobe paid license version, Adobe Commerce, formerly known as Magento Enterprise, and you have all those other Adobe solutions for the large companies. They’ve recently posted a huge case study of integrating all the Marriott hotels on a long list of Adobe softwares like this. So Adobe is pulling Magento more and more upmarket.

So right away, if you’re a small business, a startup, or something like that, Magento is the wrong choice. Magento is the stronger and bigger platform of the two but that comes at a cost, it comes at the cost of complexity, it’s heavier and there are some downsides to this. Development will tend to be more expensive on Magento. So you need to justify why you need the bigger, stronger machine. Can you get away with a smaller machine and still get the job done, and save on money and complexity and so on. So somebody should be looking at Magento if they have a very complex use case. Sometimes it can be a small or medium business that has a complex use case, for example, you have multiple warehouses, multiple stores, you sell in multiple countries, you have to handle all the logistics for all that stuff. Then you have a multi-device, so you sell in many currencies, and then have the multilingual. So when you have a very complex use case, the more complex the use case the more Magento will win. And the more simple the use case the more favorable it will be for WordPress and WooCommerce. So if you have one store or you have just one warehouse, then you don’t need to ship across multiple countries and so on, this kind of simpler use case will tend to favor WordPress.

Avi: I mean, in general I agree with you Guillaume. But the part where I would see it differently is, let’s talk about just the revenue side. We have managed clients selling $50 million on WooCommerce, which would be unthinkable earlier. The difference is that it is still a simpler use case if you’re selling that much. Then we have clients selling in Hong Kong, France, US, Canada, different stores all on one WooCommerce, this is $20 million or francs. Even that would have been unthinkable five years back. Then we have article clients where a very complex shopping experience is required, where you have to go get the prescription. We built that on Magento first, then we built it a bit simpler on Drupal Commerce and now we have the same plant running on WooCommerce. So there is a tip on many complex scenarios which comes in. So I think it’s becoming a bit more of a gray area where the line needs to be drawn. That is something to consider. But if you’re a corporate client with 50 million or 20 million and up, you should seriously look at a much more robust solution, no doubt. Not just the startup, even if you are at 10 million or 20 million you could be fine working with WooCommerce, and be okay. You’ve got to look at it on a case by case basis.

The other thing to consider as you pointed out is the cost of development for Magento is very high. Because it is very specialized, it does require a team like yours to be able to support it. WooCommerce, even though we do that and many agencies do that, it is not that difficult to find freelancers who can help you in that area. If there are minor changes you want to get done on WooCommerce you can get away with freelancers. In Magento, it cannot just be anybody who just decides, ‘Oh, I will learn it on the job’. It doesn’t work like that. So there is that aspect of it. But that also brings out the advantage of Magento where anybody who has worked on Magento is a professional and knows exactly what it is. In WooCommerce space, once in a while, some customers we worked with have had a very bad experience working with some freelancers who messed up the store, but that’s a rare thing at Magento space because it becomes complex. The point I’m making is that that line, what volume and how complex it is, is getting blurrier as it’s moving up with WooCommerce, and especially in the last five years.

Guillaume: That is true. And for freelancers, that is true as well. You’ll have to look for certified staff or certified agencies, otherwise you’ll have the same problem on both platforms, Magento and WooCommerce, of having people with questionable skill levels. It’s also important to remember that both Magento and WooCommerce are in the same general category of e-commerce software, that is, they are both open source software. Yes, if you buy the paid version of Magento, formerly Magento Enterprise and now called Adobe Commerce, it is a closed source if you wish, but there’s still a whole community developing modules for this. So it is more or less still in the open source category and that means that the programmer has full access under the hood and can do anything they want, unlike for example, the other SAS systems such as Shopify, BigCommerce, etc.

So you’re generally shopping in the same category but they position differently, one is more for the lower market that is moving up. It’s true that the line is becoming more and more gray especially at the bottom, where one will be like, is that a Magento or WooCommerce website? The gray zone is getting larger but it’s more at the bottom, that’s the smaller clients moving up and WooCommerce adding more and more functionalities all the time. So for example, if you start doing some comparison between Magento and WooCommerce based purely on features, whatever we say today might be true today but might not be true in six months. But as it stands today, it is still a very interesting choice for both of those because you’ll have more flexibility and ability to change things on your project to design a unique custom user-experience especially on a SAS software system like Shopify, where for example, you cannot even edit at all and the checkout on Shopify is forbidden unless you go with Shopify Plus. So you have additional flexibility there. Our experience back in the day many years ago when we were doing WordPress stuff as well, it was always more of a cookie cutter. If you were trying to deviate too much from how WordPress is built. It was just not built to deviate too much and it was becoming a huge developers’ burden and the scalability was not there for more complex use cases. It was scalable like you said in a simple use case. If you’re selling T-shirts, red, green, blue, small, medium, large, you can do $20, $50 million, $100 million of sales with this. That’s not a problem because it’s such a simple use case. So it’s more on the complex use case where Magento will gain points.

If you’re, again, like I said before, a super small company, don’t even look at Magento, my advice is very clear to you, don’t pick it. It’s more for the mid size, or at least a million dollar and up in revenue companies to have the financial capability of developing on this platform. Typically, those that are 3 million and up will be a good fit for Magento, but at least 1 million and up. If you look at the whole ecosystem, especially with the paid version of Magento and WooCommerce, then you add another layer of very advanced feature and technology that is absolutely not existent on WooCommerce and when you look at, and I’ll talk a bit about that in just a moment, but If you look, for example, at the most prestigious independent studies like the Gartner Magic Quadrant report, WooCommerce is not even making the list. And then let’s say Adobe, we’re Adobe partners, does not even give me any kind of battle cards against WooCommerce. So they’ll give me Shopify battle cards and stuff like that, but they don’t even consider WooCommerce as being enough to even give their partners battle cards against WooCommerce.

So that’s how they see it. They’ll say, yeah, they will nibble at the bottom of the funnel a little bit, we will lose a bit of the small clients sometimes to Woocommerce. It’s more like an opportunistic approach to that, but they’re not really targeting it. And just to finish that point, I was talking about what kind of very advanced tech used, and I’m talking especially about artificial intelligence. So you have the Adobe Sensei, an artificial intelligence module that is then applied to all the other Adobe products, such as Adobe commerce. So you will have the Adobe live search which is a search module but with artificial intelligence to help you improve search results, bringing it to another level.

You also have product recommendations with AI. So that goes further than classic product recommendation that you can have on any platform, Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, the free Magento version, where you would just say, if you’re shopping for let’s say, cameras, they’ll also show in the suggested product, accessories such as batteries, and bags, and so on. This is just a basic product recommendation. When you get to AI, you will have automatic multi-version testing to optimize checkout. So let’s say you have a large catalog of 40,000 products, then all your product recommendations will get changed all the time, in real time to optimize conversion as to what do people actually add to cart and do checkout with while they’re browsing those products. So you have something really powerful for your AI or your product recommendation.

Avi: Yeah, certainly. But what we’ve got to also keep in mind though, it’s Adobe, so they’re integrating everything. WooCommerce is truly an open source system. The way integration works there is, you just connect to any AI system you want but you might have a latency issue now, because it’s not embedded. So that is the challenge about what I was talking about, scalability. When it comes to getting functionality it’s not a problem. But when you have to go to a third party to get the functionality, you might have latency issues if it is really a large store. In a smaller store you will not notice that latency and you can get away with integrating with anything that comes out of the box. So the ecosystem for Magento is that now Adobe is built in such a way that everything is now with them.

On WooCommerce everything is add on and it’s the same thing with Shopify, actually. Shopify platform itself, it scales internally but all the functionality comes through the app and not from Shopify. And when you’re talking about giving the battle cards against Shopify, it’s completely understandable because the greatest thing about Shopify is, it is actually very interesting if you’re selling $50 million worth of T-shirts, it’s very simple. You’re selling so much that you need that scalability, that timing, everything needs to work, the checkout needs to happen fast. And that’s where Magento will come, even though the overall model is very simple, but that’s where Magento and Shopify will compete. Now, if you’re talking numbers, we did a little study on LinkedIn and we asked, how many businesses can we find that have stores on Shopify versus how many say they use WooCommerce? So there were 2960 people on LinkedIn who said Shopify, and there were 12,604 people on LinkedIn. I did not do Magento but we can run it through, my bet would be the number of Magento will be actually lower than Shopify.

Guillaume: For sure, again, it means nothing because Shopify and WooCommerce are going after the smaller merchants, so of course, the volume is huge. For example, just in general business, it’s surprising, you have less than 7% of companies in the world who make a million dollars a year or more of top line revenue. And we know there are some multi-billionaire and trillionaire companies out there in the stock market, but it says just 7% of companies make a million or more. And then depending on the country, then companies making 10 million or more are more or less 0.4% of the companies. So right away, you’re eliminating anywhere between 93 and 99.6% of the potential enterprises that could use the platform when they decide to niche higher up in the market as a small enterprise. So for sure the volume where Adobe Commerce will win is top 1000 internet retailers. That’s the one segment that they’ll say Magento is the one that has the most merchants in the world with 121 merchants out of the top 1000 internet retailers that are online, that’s where they’ll shine. But of course, if you go lower in the marketplace, Magento will not win there. It’s actually losing market share, year after year, because it’s deciding to move up.

Avi: Yeah, absolutely right. So even on those numbers, zero to 1 million there are 10,000 on WooCommerce versus on Shopify. But as you jump up to one to two, the number drops to 400 on WooCommerce and 106 on Shopify. So you’re right, as you go up, those numbers change quite a lot. But the part that I found interesting when we looked at it is, especially, when we’re talking about WooCommerce, that even when you reach nine to 10 billion, the number is 269 while Shopify was only 71 at that point. So what that is saying is that as you’re going higher end you want some complexity in your checkout process, etc. It’s not just a checkout process. Sometimes the configuration process of a product is much more complex than just picking colors, and that requires a lot of custom coding and Shopify just doesn’t work for that. We had a client, which has a 14 step configuration process. The product is for B2B but it is a physically configured architectural piece. That could not be done on Shopify. So that’s where Magento and WooCommerce are similar, if you will, because you want the complete process to be very very custom. That’s when you’ll need to go to something like that. If scalability is an issue then you need to go to Magento for sure when you reach that point and that does become a concern.

Guillaume: Another point will be security. All the commerce platforms, for example, Magento 2, had issues with security in the last a dozen years or so. But for me, it’s a hands down win for Magento, like the WordPress security problems are just so frequent.

Avi: Guillaume, I’ll give you Apple and Apple ecosystem macOS versus Windows. It’s presumed that macOS is more secure but the reality is different. I’ll come from Windows and Intel world so pay attention to this and see if you agree that most hackers focus on highest volume wins. So the hacking community is working much more on the Windows platform than on Mac because it has a smaller percentage of the ecosystem. It’s exactly the same, that when you are hacking and you want quick transactions, you will go after open source WordPress and others because once you figure out how to get in, you can break into so many more sites as compared to if you go for Magento whereby all that effort will only get you into two or three big stores. So I would not say that these complex systems are inherently not more secure, but that comparison of how often people break into, I think, is not fair. Because all the effort of hacking always goes towards the highest volume services.

Guillaume: I believe I partially agree. So I believe it’s a valid argument and it is true from if you analyze the statistics, and of course, it’s more compelling for hacker wants to do maximum damage and with some sort of terrorist mindset there to go after Windows instead of going after macOS. I still believe that both platforms are inherently more secure and as a customer in the end you also win. For whatever the reason, there were fewer hackers who decided to try to hack macOS and so in the end as a macOS user from a security point of view, you still win.

Avi: I would not disagree.

Guillaume: For example, you have the Android versus the iOS for your phone. Let’s take the iPhone, with the iOS system being closed and every single app being reviewed by Apple themselves to make sure that there’s no virus, of course, you’re naturally creating a safer environment that it will be very rare for an app to come in and hack anything. But on the Android side with the open market that it is, it can happen all the time.

Avi: I do not disagree with you on that. So that aspect is there. And WooCommerce is a much lesser controlled environment, for sure. Because there is an organization behind it but there is no Adobe-like situation where someone’s really focused on that. Because on the whole Adobe is interesting, I guess the model I’m assuming it is still the same, used to be the community edition of Magento. It is just one or two releases behind but it keeps coming down, keeps water falling down from their paid versus the other. So they will keep making the paid version better and you will keep getting the advantage of the company.

Guillaume: Yeah, you often have the features delayed like the ads or the Page Builder exclusive for the commerce version for a while then now they gave it to the open source version. But for everything else like security they update at the same time for both, which is an important thing. Because their business model is very simple, it’s a freemium model. It’s like Magento for free. If you want something even more powerful, by the way, you can upgrade to the paid version.

Avi: Talking about Magento and WooCommerce and we also faced the same problem in Shopify. At least in the world of WooCommerce and Shopify, they will not admit it but it is the case that as you add more functionality by adding more apps on Shopify or plugins in case of WooCommerce, the site becomes slow and things start getting worse and worse. To optimize those, one of the things we do is we work on optimizing the sites. Many times you’ll find after all optimizations there are two or three apps on Shopify or plugins on a WooCommerce site which are essential to that store. It could be for free shipping or it has some special connection to inventory but it slows the thing down. So at some point you say I can’t do anything unless we change this. So what is the situation in the Magento world as you keep adding these extensions? Do you also face that issue? The store gets heavier and heavier to get functionality and then you have a slowdown.

Guillaume: I think it’s pretty much universal regardless of if you build on WooCommerce, Magento, or Shopify, you’ll want to keep the extension count as low as possible and if you stop using a certain feature just don’t let it there, remove it. Just do the general upkeep. The benefit would be, if it’s worth the investment, to always do your own custom extension that has a higher performance than the one you purchase on the marketplace. Let’s say you purchased a $300 extension on the marketplace and it had some bad programming practices that makes the whole thing load slower, you can always ask a team to build it, but it may cost you $20,000 to get it custom built with a specific focus on performance. Because you have to know that the extension makers have a certain experience in their career that maybe they designed it for small sites, and they have always been working with small sites, but then you grow to a very high volume high transaction site and maybe that becomes impossible to work on those scales.

It’s supposed to be tested because that’s the nature of an open source market. You’ll never know who built that plugin, he could have been in his basement and so you don’t know where in the world. It’s a free plugin or extension and you can just add it to your store and some are paid. Of course, you might have some companies out there, let’s say on the Magento side, MST and a few others that are very well established and they upkeep, let’s say over 250 extensions to give some level of quality. Shopify extensions are often believed to be of higher quality or cause fewer problems, which I don’t believe is exactly a fair comparison when you compare it to either WooCommerce or Magento, for the simple reason that they cannot modify anything. So yes, out of the box, it also works on Magento. They say, look, you just put it there and out of the box, it works.

Avi: No. I can tell you, we manage a lot of Shopify sites, apps on Shopify have worse problems and you cannot do anything. And in the Shopify world, there are some apps you cannot live without because you need that functionality. Out of those you just have to pick just three and then start, you cannot do anything. So Shopify, from a limitations point of view it’s much more, so we go the other route that you were talking about. We have at times, even some basic basic apps, built our own because it was such a pain to use whatever was available on Shopify. This made such a big difference for our customers. So if customers are willing to pay, just build it. Because the problem with the apps and extensions is that they try to generalize. They want to leave every configuration and every situation in and that’s what makes it bloated. Most clients need one specific functionality, and that can be coded with a custom app. But when customers have their own problems, somebody has to maintain it. I mean, there’s a code to maintain, whatever, as things change. So it’s a challenge and I think it’s a challenge on every platform in one way or the other.

Guillaume: That is true, you do need to upkeep it and keep it compatible with new versions and do some debugging. So WooCommerce is becoming more and more powerful, more and more capable over time. It’s an interesting platform, especially for small merchants. There’s a reason why it’s so popular, there’s a strategic space, its positioning in the marketplace totally makes sense to me.

Avi: But I think it does have a ceiling, the support part has a ceiling unless they decide to redo the whole infrastructure underneath again from WordPress, the scalability will remain a problem. And it’s possible as they might say we’re re-doing everything on the platform underneath to support the larger ones. Right now it reaches a ceiling where it can’t scale.

Guillaume: So to talk about that, for example, they may add a feature in the future. But as we are recording this, let’s say in Magento, you’re a multinational or just a large midsized company and you have dozens upon dozens of stores and warehouses selling in a few countries, you could have a different shipping method for each of those countries and each of those stores with a different preferred vendor for the shipment because this is West America and East of America or whichever country, each store could have its own shipping carrier even if you wanted to. Some could even have their own payment carrier if you wanted to, tax rates will all be handled for all the multinational aspects. Magento will even connect to Google Maps API to know which warehouse to ship from, based on the customer’s shipping destination and it will automate the optimization of warehouse management and how to prepare the shipment. What about combined shipment? Let’s say I have enough stock but I need shipment from warehouse one into warehouse two to be able to fulfill the kind of rules that are allowed in terms of stock management and do we charge a second shipment to the customer or it will be handled internally? So you can go really far in this kind of corporate structure with Magento than you’d do with WooCommerce as at the time of this recording.

Avi: Yeah, I have a very specific case scenario to support your case. I know you’re not arguing on Magento’s side, but you’re a Magento expert. So we built a WooCommerce site, the master site to serve 450 other sites. So the 450 are like resellers who actually talk to the master site and the master site was the supplier of these products, and everybody bought from them. So basically, the owner said you can have your own store, your front and your everything and you connect to us and we will do the fulfillment and everything for you. So the master site, when we used to go in and look at the inventory, it used to take four or five minutes for the cheat to refresh after we made a change. Because the database was so overwhelmed with the connections to all sites.

So I was saying, this is the reason I want to go back to Magento or something. But the thing was that the whole project was hundreds of 1000s of dollars, by the way, so it was not cheap. But overall, each store had to be cheap because they were charging for it. So that’s why with the budget I could not build 450 Magento stores for them for that price. That would have not happened. So that was actually the time we moved on. But something like Shopify with the scalability built in, might have worked or Magento would have been amazingly good for that. At least for the master and just do maybe the headless kind of store thing. Then do Magento behind and just do all the heads for different stores. But that to me was like, this is a case of architectural problems with the system. It just can’t handle all these other stores trying to talk to it and updating the inventory at the common place.

Guillaume: And when you are talking about 450 stores, even in Magento, you will need to have some serious architectural and software engineering, planning and hosting capacity planning and all that, because that’s a huge number of stores.

Avi: Yeah, with hardware, we were doing all that, but even there, you had to do quite a lot. And so you could tell that everything was grinding too hard with so much there. But I loved the project, just the complexity and seeing how things happen was a lot of fun.

Guillaume: Yeah, because there you separate each aspect. You should go headless like you are saying. They’re talking a lot about the PWA progressive web apps, or headless which is not exactly the same but we typically combine both. So that you have a back end system like Magento running all the data, the logic and the processing, that’s why they call it headless and then sending it to the head which is simply a front end display. It’s completely decoupled. So you can then display this in whatever you want. It could be a React, a JavaScript front end like Facebook, or whatever you want it to be. That would be a good approach. Then you’ll have your database maybe separated also in different hosting instances and so on. You might need to do database sharding if the database is that big, and you have 450 stores.

Avi: Yeah, absolutely. So while we are geeking out on this, I do want to emphasize that at least our part of the work is just not the technical stores only, the majority of the work is marketing and advertising for our e-commerce customers. In fact, if somebody came to us with a Magento store now, we will probably say to you, build the store and we will do the marketing. If it is that big, we’re going to move away from that. But if everything can be done here, we will do it. But if the e-commerce part is such a big project, then we’ll just go to somebody who will build the store while we focus on marketing and advertising, just making more money for clients by doing the selling.

Guillaume: I totally agree, because there’s always more and more specialization as more and more technologies come out. So you’re positioning yourself as a full service agency but even that has its cap because there are some cases like you’re saying, what if it’s a mega Magento store or Adobe Commerce? You’ll say, let me go to some specialized shop and do the same for some specific points. Let’s say an ERP integration, enterprise resource planning software integration, with the SAP or with Epicor or NetSuite will partner up with some other companies specialized in ERP, because we don’t want to jump into an ERP integration without an expert of that platform in the mix. So we’ll bring in a specialized partner to do that project. So it’s the same idea.

Avi: Yeah, totally.

Guillaume: Do you have any other high level ideas to differentiate both platforms or help a merchant to make a choice between the two?

Avi: Yeah, the first thing I would say is, if you are over 20 million already then don’t start with WooCommerce. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling and how simple it is. Now, if only selling a very simple configuration is the main issue and after that it’s not going to be high volume but a high value item, you could still do WooCommerce. Because each product sells for so but the configuration is very complex and the frequency of sales is low, you could do WooCommerce. Otherwise, that’s the first guidance, if you go there, look at other platforms. Then the other thing that I would say is, especially when we’re going with hosted platforms, don’t get fooled by the low starting price. Because you will end up paying for so many plugins and so many other things, the price quickly goes up very high. So many times, just building with open source. Because a lot of apps on Shopify world, etc, have monthly payments.

And in the open source world, many of them you just buy the license for a year and you’re done. So each case has to be analyzed and many times even at the lower end, you will think, I’m going to go really low because everything is ready for me but it might not be. You will still benefit from some custom software in WooCommerce, or any other platform like that. That is what I would say. Just don’t assume immediately that I’m really low so I’m going to go very simple on Shopify and I don’t even need customization. Or I’m at 20, so I’m going immediately Magento, maybe it’s just a coding configuration, you don’t have that much frequency and scaling is not something you want, then you might be okay with WooCommerce. But on the other hand, we do have that scaling issue, you’re going to be in so many countries with so many stores, then absolutely look at Magento.

Guillaume: From a general point of view, of course, your maintenance costs will tend to be lower when the software is a service platform like Shopify and BigCommerce. This can be a good place to start to look and if you need additional horsepower and customization and so on, then you sort of say, is this a WooCommerce case or a Magento case? Obviously, here we only sell Magento but Magento is not for everybody in every company, it can be a good idea to have an independent technical advisor that can help a merchant to choose the right platform. Of course, that technical adviser cannot quote on the project for integrity reasons, but that can be a good idea. So the lowest cost of maintenance would be the SAS system, software as a service like Shopify, Bigcommerce and their equivalent. A higher cost of maintenance would be, of course, WooCommerce and Magento, but you have so much more possibilities that you can do. So for many businesses, it’s totally right to say that this is the right machine to grow my business, to offer unique customer experiences, to automate the processes to way higher levels.

Sometimes when you talk especially about the Shopify stuff, you may hear, ‘Oh, I have a simple business, it’s going to fit on Shopify’, and often it doesn’t. We had many migrations from Shopify to Magento because a guy finally realized no, my business is not that simple. He said, ‘I’m just running that’. I’m not going to say what type of furniture shop it is, ‘I have a very simple business’. But it was not simple at all. There was some stock, there was some made-to-order, then there were some containers and shipments on the sea and then you had to forecast when the next set of shipments would come back in, when there will be stock , and then there’s automated fulfillment. There was nothing simple about his business, it was actually quite complicated when you actually start listing everything. But he was under the impression that he was running a simple business when in reality it was quite complex. That was a perfect Magento use case, actually.

Avi: I absolutely agree, and it needs to be analyzed. Our strategy side of the house, that’s what we do when we get a client. First, we analyze and tell them which platform? Where? And if their existing platform is serving them well, or do they need to change? So that’s the first step when we engage in marketing. You just kind of figured out where they need to be, instead of saying, ‘Oh, it’s just here, build it’, but we do get clients, by the way, who have strong opinions. They’ll come and say, ‘No, we got to do this’, ‘It has to be this platform’. So we have to convince them not to decide that quickly.

Guillaume: Well we need to ask them why? Why do you want that platform? Why do you think that’s the right choice for you? To revalidate even if they say Magento. I turned down a client with a $150,000 project who wanted Magento. I said, ‘You guys are shopping in the wrong category’. They needed the LMS system, learning management software, that had e-commerce capabilities and not an e-commerce system, and then built a whole LMS world around it with course management and all that.

Avi: Which can be great.

Guillaume: Yeah, but it was the wrong way around. They needed all the software and course management and all that with e-commerce, not the other way around. So yeah, that’s it. So we’re coming on the top of the hour, anything else you wanted to add for this discussion?

Avi: Oh, no. This is great, I’m glad we talked. My pet area that maybe we’ll catch up on sometimes is the conversion, CRO, on e-commerce.

Guillaume: Yeah, we can do a second episode about conversion rate, optimization.

Avi: Especially on e-commerce, it makes so much difference. And that these platforms just come in that hey, from Magento and WooCommerce you can do anything, or whatever you want to test. In Shopify, you will be limited as to what you can test and what you can try because the platform limits it. So CRO is interesting for me.

Guillaume: You can do it on any platform, but some will allow you to go further. That’s totally the case. Alright, Avi, so if people want to get in touch with you, how do they find you?

Avi: Yeah, the best is to just email me or LinkedIn. The email is [email protected]. And I’m quite active on LinkedIn, you can find me Avi Kumar, it should not be that difficult to find. And I think I have my red glasses everywhere in my profile, so that should make it easy to find the guy with red glasses.

Guillaume: Yeah. Such golden style of marketers’ glasses.

Avi: Yeah.

Guillaume: All right. Well, thank you for being here today, Avi.

Avi: Thank you, Guillaume. It was fun.

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