Choosing a platform that will meet your requirements is vital for your business. Each of them has its pros and cons, which will further determine your success. Moreover, they differ in terms of architecture and scaling possibilities, making a decision even harder.
But don’t worry – reading this article will shed light on some of the eCommerce platforms in order to help you make the right decision and avoid unpleasant surprises. First of all, take a look at some basic information about these three popular eCommerce platforms.
General information about Sylius, Shopware, and WooCommerce
Sylius is an eCommerce platform based on the Symfony framework, available in two versions: Community Edition and Sylius Plus. Both of them give the ability to scale and expand immensely. Sylius is a 100% API-first and Headless platform. Additionally, both editions offer the ability to integrate with external software or eCommerce tools without negatively impacting performance.
Sylius is a platform built by developers for developers. Due to that, it requires programming skills to be able to extend and expand it freely. Unlike Shopware and WooCommerce, the installation of plugins requires programming interference and familiarity with code. This platform is the opposite of the monolithic approach and its high-end performance has attracted many of the largest players in the eCommerce market. Thanks to its unlimited scaling and API-first Sylius approach, it provides a base for building customized eCommerce.
Shopware is a more standard solution that has more out-of-the-box functions, such as built-in PageBuilder and marketing automation tools, among others. Shopware, like Sylius, is based on the Symfony framework, but it’s much more friendly to non-technical people due to an easier interface and the ability to automatically install extensions directly from the Shopware store.
Shopware, similarly to Sylius, is able to handle even the most complex and demanding projects. It also has its commercial versions – Rise, Evolve, and Beyond, which are dedicated to more demanding customers. Shopware is a platform based on the API First approach; as opposed to monolithic platforms it relies on the future-oriented Headless approach, the best example of which is the Shopware PWA solution.
WooCommerce is an open-source plugin for WordPress website. Its undoubted advantage is low implementation cost to start with. It has a large community, thus, further development is relatively cheap in comparison to other platforms. However, it’s not an OOTB solution – while we can configure a sales platform, there are no ready-made solutions such as payment gateways or shipping solutions.
Headless approach – what is it?
Simply speaking, it is the separation of front-end and back-end layers in an eCommerce platform. Such a solution gives companies the freedom and flexibility to implement their ideas without causing any interference on the website. Below you can see some advantages of the headless approach:
- Easier management
- Less risk of regression
- More stable architecture due to the better testing environment
- Ability to use the best tools available on the market in a specific area („best of breed” approach)
- Integration with legacy and modern software in a headless environment
- Significantly better user experience on mobile, search engine, and other interfaces
- Better performance
- Better debugging
When you should start to think about either solution?
Sylius is worth considering if you are focused on dedicated implementations and unconventional solutions. It offers top-notch performance, omnichannel, SLA, and headless approach, creating big B2B/B2C platforms, as well as VODs, marketplaces, or ticket-selling systems. Thanks to the universal Sylius engine, you can connect it to any external system.
Shopware is suitable for any kind of business, either a small/medium one or an enterprise. It is great for marketing-oriented businesses. Shopware has a huge community and easily installed plugins that do not require development resources. Additionally, it is headless, PWA-ready, fashion and dropshipping oriented. Shopware is also well-integrated with the most popular payment gateways and shipping providers. On top of that, it has great scalability.
First of all, this platform is great if you are new in an eCommerce business, especially with limited budget. It is relatively cheap to establish your MVP project and easy to implement tools and plugins to your platform. However, it is not suitable for big companies – a big number of products or orders can cause lower performance.
When each of these solutions has no use?
Sylius is not advisable at the beginning of your journey with eCommerce. It requires a relatively big amount of work to establish your online store and basic implementation might be expensive.
Shopware can be used by beginners but sometimes requires a large budget – some plugins may cost thousands of euros and subscription models can be expensive too. Nonetheless, such price results from great quality and performance of this platform.
WooCommerce is the most suitable solution for beginners and smaller B2C projects. As a platform, it offers a lot of various functionalities, however, the possibility to extend them is pretty much limited. The larger eCommerce grows, the bigger problems with scalability it will cause.
Basic assumptions of each platform
Highly customizable, more lika a framework than a platform, requires developer’s experience, higher implementation cost in comparison to Shopware and WooCommerce
Experience desirable, implementation cost depends on the client’s needs – usually bigger than in case of WooCommerce but still smaller than in case of Sylius.
Popular eCommerce platform open-source based on WordPress dedicated to low needs. Affordable implementation cost and no/little experience required.
Tech stack and architecture
Sylius is built from blocks, where at the very bottom of the architecture exist Components, which are pure PHP libraries, e.g. for a product, for orders, or for payments. These are the kind of libraries that you can adopt to any project in PHP.
A layer above there are Bundles, where all these components are wrapped in Symfony, where you will find all service definitions and Doctrine (a family of PHP libraries ). Such Bundles can be installed to any Symfony project.
Core is the place where a product learns that is has a category, or that it can be purchased during the ordering process, where all Bundles are linked together.
At the very top there are three main segments: Admin Panel, which is connected with User Interface (UI), Shop Panel, and API Panel. Each of these segments can be easily disconnected if you need a headless solution.
Shopware is a platform that has the entire eCommerce architecture at the core. This platform offers a headless approach – which means that every third-party process can be connected externally through REST-API. Moreover, it offers low complexity and great maintainability thanks to the technologies like Symfony and Vue.js.
The Core is the heart of the platform. It contains all workflows and resources essential for eCommerce. Its architecture is modular and the modules are divided into groups and placed in different directories. Shopware is even-driven, which means that actions taken by users are processed by Shopware as events.
In addition to REST-API-based core communication, the Administrator Panel is a Single Page Application (SPA), that offers a comprehensive user experience. Although using Vue.js, it is an interaction-oriented system following the example of the Web component patterns.
WooCommerce is not a separate eCommerce platform but a WordPress plugin. After the installation of this plugin, the website is still a blog. To change that into an eCommerce site it is required to install other plugins to extend its functionalities. Nonetheless, it’s rather easy to do that, even for the beginner. WooCommerce uses REST-API and it is possible to use Twig templates by installing the Timber plugin which enables to create of fully-customized WordPress themes faster with more sustainable code.
WordPress is built on an event-driven (hook) engine. Also, WordPress uses native PHP, and responsibility for standardization is spread across the community. Due to that, it is pretty difficult to manage a project on WooCommerce.
Strong aspects of each platform
Sylius is a headless best-of-breed software with well-written code that results in high performance and doesn’t require much money to start with if you are familiar with Symfony because it has many open-source plugins. What’s more, it’s great for MVM projects due to its flexibility and integration with the most popular payment gateways and shipping providers. In addition, Sylius also allows you to manage multiple stores.
The big advantage of Shopware is its easy configuration for the people taking the first steps in eCommerce. Also, Shopware is strongly focused on technology, using for instance cloud-based solutions and the newest versions of PHP. Shopware offers a built-in CMS (content management system) – Shopware Shopping Experiences, which makes it easier for non-technical people to create and manage content.
WooCommerce, in turn, offers a huge community that supports various initiatives (both open-source and paid ones). Another strong aspect is its price and fairly easy development. Technical issues would not be a problem too due to the support on StackOverflow and Docs.
Weak sides of each platform
- Not UX friendly
- Requires programming skills
- Navigating in admin panel is complicated
- Not suitable for small companies with limited budget that seeks more standard eCommerce solution
- Plugins require installation and programming knowledge
- Lack of Doctrine
- The database requires manual changes
- A relatively low number of free modules and plugins
- Sometimes require knowledge of the German language, for example, to read full Documentation
- Limited scaling
- Bigger projects may negatively impact performance
- Installing plugins is not always safe
- Technical debt
- Low-quality code
Target clients for each platform
- A company that hires a team of developers, SMBs, Enterprises, and startups with dedicated processes and complex IT architectures
- Developers that are familiar with Symfony
- B2C, B2B, MVM basically any websites that need customized online shopping elements
- SMB, Enterprise
- Suitable for developers but doesn’t require much experience
- Companies that have similar eCommerce concepts like Shopware
- SMB in terms of the number of products for eCommerce beginners,
- Companies with limited budget and startups
- Suitable to test MVPs
What are the implementation risks of each solution?
- Small labor market
- A small number of experienced developers
- Small vendor (implementation risk)
- Some of the features require custom implementation
- German market-oriented; however, Shopware opens up for other markets.
- Installing a plugin from a place other than e.g. Shopware Store or another website where plugins are previously tested, may damage the website and shut it down.
- Security related to plugins – everyone has access to the plugin’s code
- Technical debt
Licensing model in those three solutions
Sylius offers a free community version, which can be downloaded as an open-source version and, with PHP/Symfony skills, you can set up the store yourself. In addition, Sylius, offers a paid license of Sylius Plus, which you can get from 14,900 Euros as an annual fee, or buy modularly Sylius Plus – the functionality of Sylius Plus that you need most for your eCommerce.
Shopware offers a Community Edition solution, and just like Sylius, you can download it as an open-source version, although it does not require as much programming skills as Sylius itself. Much of the functionality in the best-of-breed approach can be found in Shopware OOTB. In addition, the installation of plugins does not require programming skills. Currently, Shopware has three paid versions: Shopware Rise, starting from €600/month, Shopware Evolve, which is priced by the vendor individually, and Shopware Beyond, which price is also set individually, based on the client’s requirements.
WooCommerce is based on an open-source GPL License, including paid features and plugins.
Vendors behind Sylius, Shopware and WooCommerce
Sylius is run by a company from Łódź, Poland, with its own ecosystem and developers. Additionally, it is supported by business partners and the community.
Shopware is run by a German company that hires around 400 people, like developers and consultants. Also, various business partners and individuals contribute in maintaining this platform.
WordPress is responsible for WooCommerce. This foundation brings together hundreds of developers that work on WordPress. WordPress itself is managed by Automattic company.
What about Communities?
The Sylius community is still young, but it is rapidly growing. We, as BitBag, are constantly supporting the development of this platform by contributing to the open-sourced free plugins on our GitHub. We have already created more than 35 free plugins and have an open-source department that is constantly working on new extensions.
The Shopware Community is much older than Sylius, due to the fact that the platform itself has been on the market much longer. On the Shopware Community / Shopware 6 channel on Slack, you can find almost six thousand of people who share knowledge and insights about the platform itself. At BitBag, we are working on integrations for Shopware with shipping providers like DHL, DPD, InPost, as well as developing applications for Shopware.
Want to explore the best eCommerce technologies and deep dive into Shopware? Check out our free e-book – A comprehensive guide to choosing the best technologies for eCommerce
WooCommerce has one of the biggest communities among eCommerce platforms with 5 million installations, 17,000 Slack users, 30, 000 questions on Stack Overflow, and 1100 contributors.
So, which platform should you choose?
Sylius is a very powerful tool that will work best for medium and large companies with not non-standard ideas for development, omnichannel, many instances, multi-tenant, etc, and organizations that place a very strong emphasis on performance. Moreover, Sylius is very good for MVM and Enterprise eCommerce websites.
Shopware is ideal for medium-sized companies with a lot of capital that can be invested in expanding their organization. It is an intuitive, very marketing and SEO oriented, with a great UX/UI. Also, programming skills are not required, however, in case of a large development of the platform you will need a team of developers or an external agency that will meet your requirements and do it for you.
WooCommerce offers a huge community, many years on the market, great for new businesses that want to try their hand at the market and has limited budget. Nonetheless, it is a platform with a very large technological debt, which negatively affects the performance and limits your ability to scale your business.
The answer to this question depends on your specific needs and budget. To determine the best platform for you, you should take into account factors such as ease of use, cost, scalability, and support. Additionally, you should assess each platform’s features and compare them to your own requirements. Ultimately, the platform you choose should be the one that best meets your needs and budget. If you are looking for support and guidance in the process of choosing the best platform for your needs, we encourage you to check out our Vision-To-Plan eCommerce workshops or just contact us for more information.