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Choosing an eCommerce Platform: PayPal, WooCommerce, Magento

Setting up an online store, or augmenting a brick and mortar business with online sales, is a process filled with challenges and choices. Whether you tackle the work on your own or opt to work with a web designer, finding the best platform for your eCommerce site can be one more challenge in the litany of to-do’s. With hundreds of eCommerce platforms available, we’ve outlined three of our favorites: PayPal, WooCommerce, and Magento.

PayPal’s Shopping-Cart: A Basic eCommerce Option

PayPal Shopping Cart SolutionIf you already have a website and simply want to add a few buy buttons with product images, the quickest option for selling goods and services online is PayPal’s shopping-cart solution. PayPal’s very basic functionality is perfect for business models with limited sales options and storefronts with only a few products. Additionally, PayPal is a great tool for receiving basic payments for charitable donations, recurring payments, etc.

WooCommerce: Add Shopping to Your WordPress Site

woocommerce ecommerceWooCommerce is perfect if you already have a WordPress site. This free, open source option is ideal for basic eCommerce sites that don’t require extensive features and small businesses looking for basic shopping capabilities. Plus, WooCommerce is customizable so you, or your web developer, can create a specific look and feel for your business.

As features go, WooCommerce, as with Magento, allows you to upload and categorize unlimited products. It also lets you feature best sellers, spotlight sale items, and let your customers rate products. The navigation for WooCommerce is fairly sophisticated, but only allows you to filter by one attribute. Furthermore, WooCommerce is extremely easy to setup for anyone familiar with WordPress.

WooCommerce - Add Product admin interface
The WooCommerce admin interface for adding a product.

Magento: Robust eCommerce

magento ecommerceMagento is by far the most robust option of the three compared here. As an incredibly scalable and elastic ecommerce platform, Magento offers a huge variety of features. Because it is completely customizable, your site design can remain elegant and simple while providing complex functionality.

Magento features include all of the basics included with WooCommerce. Additionally, Magento lets you cross-sell or up-sell your products, compare products, add discount codes, and lets your customers use an advanced filter to navigate your products. Another perk from Magento is that it is great for managing multiple store fronts on multiple websites from one admin panel. This makes it an ideal solution for larger companies.

Magento - Add Product admin interface
The Magento admin interface for adding a product.

Consider the Costs


While all three of these options are good, your short and long-term budget should be considered. No matter which platform you use, there will be fees associated with processing credit cards. The least expensive option is PayPal’s Shopping Cart. The only expense lies in the fees they charge based on transaction percentages. You’ll be paying a credit card transaction fee regardless of the platform, although as your transactions increase, it may be more cost effective to use a different merchant account.

Both WooCommerce and Magento are open source products with original code that is free to anyone who can build on it or modify it. The idea that these platforms are completely “free” is a bit misleading. With both WooCommerce and Magento, you’ll likely have expenses like paying for 3rd party extensions and/or a developer and their support as needed. For example, customizing the branding of your website costs you – either by way of purchasing premium themes/plugins/extensions or paying for a web developer’s time.

Setting up and maintaining your eCommerce site adds to your overall budget. Because WooCommerce is easy to add to a WordPress site, many business owners can navigate their own way through the process. If that’s not you, web professionals with experience designing and developing with WordPress are easy to find. Magento is more complicated; you need to find an experienced Magento developer to install the extensions properly. As a result, this is another cost to consider. Additionally, plan for hosting expenses. You can use your existing WordPress host with WooCommerce. Alternately, you’ll need more server resources for Magento. At a minimum, you will need a Virtual Private Server (VPS).  While you don’t necessarily need a VPS for WooCommerce, we strongly recommend it to enhance security, reliability, and page speed.

Most importantly, consider the user experience of your customers. Saving a few dollars here and there may look great as you get things going. Losing dollars, though, due to a limited, slow, or problematic shopping experience could cost you much more in the long run.

To conclude, PayPal’s Shopping Cart is the least expensive to implement and use and is best suited for minimal online sales and smaller budgets. WooCommerce is perfect for smaller businesses with moderate budgets. Magento, being the most robust and scalable, is ideal for businesses with large-scale plans and existing, successful online stores with larger budgets.

You may also be interested in these articles:

eCommerce Templates vs. Custom Sites

7 Ways to Keep Your E-Commerce Customers Coming Back for More

How to Take Advantage of Shopping Cart Abandonment


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