Practical Ecommerce

From Magento to WooCommerce, part 1

Every three years I conduct a major review of my ecommerce sites. This is typically more than my annual review; everything is under consideration. In previous major reviews I have changed design and even changed platforms — going for bigger and better carts. Currently I am using Magento, with its multisite option, to run all my sites.

I do these major reviews as it is important to stay ahead and keep my sites current. I emphasize fundamentals. I look at my basic requirements and see if they have changed and if Magento remains the best fit for my needs. I also look to see what problems Magento brings and what compromises I have to assume.

I initially selected Magento because I had the following requirements.

  • Single back-end administration running four different web stores on separate URLs.
  • Single merchant account that allowed collection of credit card payments from each of the stores.
  • Single IP address, and thus a single SSL certificate.
  • Ability to do layered navigation, to better list my complex product range.
  • Good options for search engine optimization.
  • A decent support network.
  • Availability of good extensions.
  • A cart that was still being developed and improved.

Over the years my product range has changed. Moreover, the rate of change of those products has doubled. With Magento, it takes too long to create products. Thus, it takes significant man time to keep the sites current.

In the years since I started using Magento, I have also started selling on other channels, including Ebay and four Amazon stores. To do this, I have moved inventory control and order management into a single cloud application, Linnworks. It is one of many order management providers. But it’s my preference and it currently suits me well. Having a central order management system means I no longer need the single back-end administration.

A growing trend on my sites has been that customers pay with PayPal and Checkout by Amazon, rather than credit cards. I ran several surveys and also tested various checkout scenarios. All results came to the same conclusion: My customers tend to be Internet savvy, use Ebay for buying and selling collectibles, and are lazy.

They preferred to use a checkout method that did not rely on them having to type in their credit card details every time. Hence, they select Checkout by Amazon or PayPal. It came to the point that less than 5 percent of my orders utilized my own merchant account. The growing costs of PCI compliance, the growing bureaucracy associated with PCI, and the numerous charges that appeared on my merchant account statement meant that it was actually costing me more to collect this money than the estimated loss of profit if I dropped the card processing.

So I closed my Internet merchant account.

For some time now it has been possible to set up several SSL certificates for separate domains that all share one IP address. This is done using Server Name Indication (SNI). With the demise of Windows XP, the percentage of my visitors using old browsers that do not support SNI is close to zero. So I no longer need to route all my checkouts through a single Magento checkout. I can let each Magento store have its own SSL certificate and still have a single IP address.

Further Google has started to say that it will give ranking preference to sites that run entirely under SSL encryption. With SNI, I can do this and still have a single IP address and thus a single cPanel hosting plan.

Analyzing the visitor navigation through my site, I have determined that the layered navigation is too complex. It has not kept up with my changing product range and needs to be drastically trimmed.

Taking all things into consideration, Magento is no longer a good fit for my needs. It has many, many features. But most I do not need.

So I am now considering moving to a new cart. By way of testing, I have decided to split off a small part of my inventory and set up a new site.

I have always been critical of WooCommerce as it is an ecommerce extension to WordPress, a blogging solution. But I have never actually tried WooCommerce. However, many others have tried it successfully. Plus, it claims to have links to Linnworks and Ebay — both of which I need. So I am going to set up this new site in WooCommerce and see how it goes. If it fails, I will then try OpenCart.

In my next post, I will report on my adventures with WooCommerce.

See “From Magento to WooCommerce, part 2.”

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  1. Joe January 30, 2015 Reply

    Interesting story, excited to hear part 2! I’ve learned Magento recently, but it is a much more complicated and different beast compared to WooCommerce.

  2. Bret Williams January 30, 2015 Reply

    You’ll find WooCommerce to be quite impressive in it’s own way. We use both Magento and WooCommerce depending on the customer needs. Generally, we look at three initial considerations when deciding which way to go: 1) What are the capabilities of the store owner. In some ways, Magento is easier to manage for things like orders, product information, etc.; 2) what degree of complexity will be required to build, operate and expand the store? Are their integrations needed? Multi-store fronts? We like a lot of what WooCommerce can do, but when we need true extendability, we have to turn to Magento; and 3) budget. It’s less expensive to build a WooCommerce store, in general, and takes less time. However, cost is still a function of complexity.

    I will be interested in reading your opinion of WC in comparison to Magento. We’re so close to both, it would be nice to see a WC “Newbie” who has prior e-commerce experience.

    Good luck!

  3. Ken Tippens January 31, 2015 Reply

    I have not tried WooCommerce but I want to know if it truly is as great as it is claimed to be.

    I suggest giving Drupal Commerce a try. It essentially what WooCommerce is to WordPress but to Drupal. It’s powerful, feature rich, and user/admin friendly. There is even a partnership between Drupal and Open Cart if that is your preferred cart.

  4. Prashant Telang January 31, 2015 Reply

    For recommending which e-commerce platform to use we have simple guidelines based on our client’s tech preparedness
    1) If the client has a dedicated IT professional to manage data and is well organized with its content we suggest : Magento
    2) Client has IT professional with basic level of data management and conversant with ecommerce carts : suggest Opencart
    3) Smaller e-store and plans to self manage suggest Woocommerce

    • Richard stubbings January 31, 2015 Reply

      Rather than select a tool on IT criteria, is it not better to select a tool based on the actual real world requirements?

      Why on Earth would you recommend Magento to a business that has a simple product base and simple requirements?

      Your clients would be better served with a tool fit for purpose rather than a sledgehammer just because they have the muscle to lift it.

    • Leo February 12, 2015 Reply

      What nonsense. If they’re truly enterprise level customers, they should go for enterprise solutions like Hybris and Demandware.

      However, if their turnover is below USD 5 mil, WooCommerce is much better than Magento :)

      • Richard Stubbings February 12, 2015 Reply

        I still say that the choice of cart depends on what they are selling, who they are selling to, what volume of traffic they expect, what they want to interface to, what other features and functions they need, and what their future plans are.

        Any recommendation without these details is flawed.

  5. Paul Ryazanov February 1, 2015 Reply

    Richard

    I understand that you want to move to Woocommerce but i think Magento has some advantages too

    We understand that this is complex – and we developed magecloud.net that help merchants like you build a new store in 10 min.

    Note its still with magento but have 100+ themes and extensions that you can use for free.

    We can help also migrate from other platforms.

    You may also consider orocrm.com to manage everything instead of linnworks!

    • Richard Stubbings February 1, 2015 Reply

      You completely miss the point. I know how to build Magento sites, I have built four. I have redesigned three and re built them. I know Magento very well. It is too big for my current needs. Likewise I am happy with linnworks and have no intention of even considering orocrm as linnworks interfaces with all my other program’s and processes and third party postal services etc etc.

      I suspect you just posted here simply to advertise.

      • Paul March 3, 2015 Reply

        Richard, I do agree that magento is most complex and for example shopify platform is totally ok for the new and small stores. I’m just thinking for the future.

        Again we are here to help retailers – so what you did with woocommerce (from part 2) is good option.

        again its good for you as u know basic coding etc.

        for the retailer that not that familiar with php etc i feel it might be a problem.

        Just want to know why woocommerce and not a shopify – yes you said about SaaS here https://www.practicalecommerce.com/columns/the-view-from-england/70431-Magento-Go-going-going-gone

        So i just think having different options makes sense.

        Thanks
        Paul

  6. Angus February 1, 2015 Reply

    Other than your scenario of “Single back-end administration running four different web stores on separate URLs” I wouldn’t recommend Magento to anyone. Don’t know why people still start sites with it. Looking forward to seeing what you think of Woo. Any reason why you didn’t look at Shopify or BigCommerce. I just think with Woo its a bit like Magento where you spend your life tweaking the code and plugins not your products…

    • Richard Stubbings February 2, 2015 Reply

      At the time I moved to Magento, some years ago, it was the only major solution available that was undergoing development. It was ahead in almost every way. Now the pack has caught up and the multi site administration is one of the few remaining benefits.

  7. Jayne Reddyhoff February 2, 2015 Reply

    Also looking forward to hearing the results of your tests.

    I recently moved my sister’s start up Ecommerce site from Magento to Shopify. I considered Woo Commerce, but as I was familiar with Shopify it was quicker.

    My reasons were that Magento was far too complex for her (or me!) to understand & she doesn’t need most of what it offers.

    I’ll be interested to see if it’s worth my while learning about Woo Commerce.

  8. Mike Fennemore February 3, 2015 Reply

    In terms of simplicity WooCommerce certainly makes setup a lot simpler. The tweaking WooCommerce is also relatively simple thanks to its easy to use API. When I initially looked at Magento in comparison it seemed to have a good community behind it and solid documentation. However tweaking it to customer needs seemed to need a lot more work to get the required result. It also seemed a lot more resource hungry from a hosting point of view.

    I have to agree with Prashant in terms of handing a store over to a client, WooCommerce tends to have a lot less come backs because of its ease of use.

  9. Chuck Choukalos February 4, 2015 Reply

    What would Magento have to change to make it a hard decision (between Woo Commerce & Magento)?

    So far I’m hearing we need to change:
    – Simple, Intuitive UX [ We’re working on that for Magento 2 ]
    – Simple on-boarding flow [ Pixify.com has a simplified on-boarding dashboard; basically SAAS Magento w/some bundled extensions, etc ]
    – ?Make the store easier to manage/maintain [? What specifically should we do to address this point? ]
    – ?Make the store less complex [ FYI in Magento 2 you can disable/remove some of the functionality. We envision this would let you create a simpler store in Magento 2 – is that what you’re looking for? ]

    Thanks for the feedback!

    -Chuck (eBay)

    • Richard Stubbings February 7, 2015 Reply

      The problem I have with Magento is that it is a sledgehammer. It does so much that it cannot help but be complex. It cannot help but be resource hungry. Sometimes you just need a small tool for a small job and the big all singing and all dancing mega tool can do the job, but not as easily.

  10. justin Hospie February 5, 2015 Reply

    Might I recommend looking into the platform Magento recommended when they exited the SaaS market?

    Bigcommerce is a rapidly expanding alternative to the pains of hosting, managing PCI compliance and the concerns of who to turn to when support is needed amongst many others.

  11. Ashish @ MagikCommerce February 9, 2015 Reply

    WooCommerce is great but i don’t even dare to compare it with Magento. Magento is a full fledged eCommerce system which is pretty complex (thanks to JAVA turned PHP developers) whereas WooCommerce is quite simple.

    Also invest your 10 minutes on Cart66 Cloud which is also a WooCommerce like solution built on top of WordPress.

  12. Lori February 17, 2015 Reply

    I am wondering why you don’t mention having considered a SAAS cart? I’ve done quite a few smaller (under $10M) ecommerce installations and have worked with many. I love BigCommerce as it takes hours to set up a store and what it doesn’t do natively can be done quickly with a plug-in. I can also use their SSL if I choose and not sweat managing PCI compliance in house. I can also suffice with a designer and don’t have to payroll a developer.

    I’m sure you have your reasons, but would love to hear them. Even with 4 stores I can run BigCommerce for a lot lower cost than Magento.

    Have you considered this option?

  13. Deric February 19, 2015 Reply

    Isn’t it exciting to have options for shopping cart providers again?

    A few years ago, it seemed like Magento was the only reasonable player for the smaller volume guys. Instead of capitalizing on this, they let their code base rot and made little forward progress. Possibly ebay’s fault.

    Now the Magento team are finally off their butts and pushing for 2.0 to keep us all from flocking to Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce and some others.

    I really hope Magento gets it together for version 2.0 and delivers a solid and performant product. The recent 1.9.1 release shows some promise.

  14. Rachel Gillevet March 23, 2015 Reply

    Very informative Richard. I wanted to let you know that I included your article in our roundup of February’s best CMS articles: https://www.wiredtree.com/blog/the-best-web-design-cms-and-security-content-from-around-the-web/

  15. Ray March 25, 2015 Reply

    Just wondering if you’ve heard of a hosted solution called “Pixafy” which appears to be an easy-to-use eCommerce platform built on Magento. It’s a fully supported, hosted solution akin to Shopify and BigCommerce — but claims to be significantly better, with more features and a lower price tag. Any thoughts?

    • Richard Stubbings March 30, 2015 Reply

      “any thoughts?” well, what first springs to mind is you have not read my reply to the general question have I considered SAAS solutions. See my post Magento Go, Going Going Gone. My second thought is this comment is just an advert.

      • Ray April 4, 2015 Reply

        Definitely not an “advert” — I am researching shopping cart solutions for my own website and simply wanted to know if you (or readers) have any opinions about the specific carts I noted. As a merchant first and foremost, posting questions to those with technical skills and experience is simply part of my learning process. I was particularly interested in comments about using Pixafy as a Magento solution for small to mid-size businesses.

  16. Fred September 3, 2015 Reply

    Great story.

    If you want to migrate Magento to WooCommerce easily, you can use this free plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/fg-magento-to-woocommerce/

  17. Frederic November 9, 2015 Reply

    Shopify, bigcommerce and other SaaS solutions may be great but be aware of an important *limitation* that may bite you at what time or another.
    Many of them will make you have a hard time implementing a multi lingual site and mostly all of them will only only allow your customer to checkout in a base currency.
    Want to support payments in USD and EUR (which make sense)? No way… Was really surprised but that’s how it is.

    This limitation just bite me :)

    Haven’t yet tried but it looks like both woocommerce and magento have support for multi-currency payments at least through some plugin for woocommerce. Not sure for Magento if it’s out of the box.

    That’s a shame because, indeed a solution like shopify could really make sense…

  18. Jim January 1, 2016 Reply

    Firstly, thanks for the informative and cogent articles, Richard.

    I am currently trying to choose the optimal ECommerce platform for my business. I have multiple products and vendors (over 300,000 products from over two dozen manufacturers), and this will continue to grow- so scalability is imperative.

    I’ve received bids from several companies- most of them think that I need Magento to accommodate this product volume. I’d prefer something more user-friendly and less complicated like WooCommerce, but I’m concerned that Woo will not meet all my requirements. Where can I get an objective answer that will allow me to make the right choice here? I sincerely appreciate your help.

  19. Steven Morris March 31, 2016 Reply

    Woocommerce is improving all the time I am looking at a project that will move a cs cart store with 5k products. My thinking is woocommerce will handle this amount of simple products but I am being guided to magento by our developers. I am looking for something with an easy learning curve for non technical staff. and easy to manage. I was also looking at hosting on a NGINX server to further increase the speed.