Establishing an online shop is no small feat, with a lot of groundwork to lay before your shop goes live. Making the right decisions from the get-go is bound to be a top priority; after all, nobody likes having to do things twice!  With your soon-to-be e-Shop in mind, choosing the perfect e-Commerce platform can be a little confusing. To guide you in this endeavour, here we explore some of the pros and cons of WooCommerce and Prestashop – two market leaders with established reputations, in order to establish what might steer you into one direction or the other at this crucial early stage.


First, Lets Cover The Basics

Before weighing up the differing functionality of the two platforms, it’s best to begin by understanding that they are not exactly two sides of the same coin. As self-hosted platforms, both WooCommerce and PrestaShop are open source software, meaning that the basic form is totally free, and payments are only required for optional features that you add on, in order to create the store you want, (in addition to costs associated with the hosting behind your domain).

What sets the two platforms apart is that PrestaShop is a stand-alone, feature-rich, dedicated e-Commerce platform, while WooCommerce is a plugin that can be added to, and is owned by, the world-renowned WordPress CMS. The French-made PrestaShop is all about e-Commerce, while WordPress can be used to build any website. WooCommerce can be used to transform WordPress into an e-Commerce platform or to create a beautiful website that also has an attached e-shop. If e-Commerce is your primary goal, the distinction is not so great, but this is certainly something to be aware of!


The Importance Of Hosting

A stumbling point that can easily be side stepped is in choosing the right host for your e-Commerce platform. Depending on the size of your anticipated e-Shop and the volume of site visitors you’re aiming for, choosing the right host means the difference between a speedy, smooth operating site, and a whole host of problems, (if you will pardon the pun!)

Many web hosts specialise in either Prestashop or WooCommerce, and opting for one of these is beneficial. In addition to being well equipped to keep your e-Shop at its speedy best, they may also have the advantage of being able to pre-load the CMS for you, saving you the technical hurdle of setting it up yourself, or hiring someone else to do it.


Out Of The Box

Upon installing WooCommerce, you will find a very solid, basic level of features for your online shop, including; a variety of shipping and payment options; product categories, tags and filters; a capable order management system; marketing tools and analytics reports. Because it functions on top of WordPress, you will also be able to take advantage of the CMS’s great capability for building showcases and blogging, should you so wish.

Prestashop also offers the high standard of basic functionality that you would expect from such a platform, with the capacity to configure categories and sub categories, and to modify the search function, with a variety of payment options, SEO tools, and the capacity to add suppliers and manufacturers as part of your stock management. Interestingly, Prestashop alone can run multiple stores from the same back office.

WooCommerce is visually more adaptable for those without coding knowledge, however, with a trove of themes and plugins available for both platforms, there is a solution to pretty much any aspiration you may have for your e-Shop, limited only by your budget and capacity to track down what you need!


A Module Or A Plugin?

Both PrestaShop and WooCommerce are designed to be built upon with a variety of add-ons, which are referred to as modules in the world of PrestaShop, and plugins in WordPress speak. The foundational software is open source, so this is where these companies are able to make their bread and butter. Both platforms have free add-ons within their marketplaces, but many come with a price tag. For all kinds of add-ons, WooCommerce generally averages as the cheaper of the two.

Outside of the official marketplaces, there are reputable and trustworthy online repositories of add-ons to be found, such as codecanyon.net, but be wary if purchasing themes, modules or plugins from any old place, as defunct add-ons may contain malware or post a variety of security threats, and this is not a risk you want to take.

Due to the sheer scale of the WordPress repertoire, the compatibility of plugins is reasonably reliable, although looking for those that are designed to work alongside WooCommerce is the place to start. Prestashop also performs well in this area but is not quite as reliable when it comes to modules disagreeing with each other, so a little homework prior to adding modules is always a good call.


Themes, Themes, Themes!

The right theme will make your e-Shop stand out from the crowd. PrestaShop offer a wide selection of themes, categorised by business type to help you find a perfect fit. It is worth noting that on PrestaShop, you are likely to need help from someone who can code to get a new theme up and running When it comes to WordPress, picking a theme that is specifically designed for WooCommerce is a clever move with no coding required, although other themes can modified with some technical support. WooCommerce actually comes with its own free theme called Storefront as standard, and a pretty impressive choice of themes are available. Take a look at sites such as themeforest.net and the huge pool of choice is sure to inspire you.


Technical Support

Both open-source platforms have an active forum for those seeking support. These are frequented by generously spirited developers who are happy to advise. WooCommerce certainly offers superior documentation when it comes to tracking down solutions to any issue you may face, while PrestaShop offers paid support packages and training programs. Always keep in mind that themes, modules and plugins may not have been developed by the CMS itself, and so the place to go for help in these areas is best found with the maker of the add-on, rather than via PrestaShop or WordPress. Freelance support, or help from your developer, may be the best option if you hit a brick wall with either platform.


Store Management

PrestaShop arrives with ready to go language and currency capabilities, although you will need a module if you want your e-Shop to automatically detect where a shopper is visiting from. WooCommerce requires plugins for language packs and various currencies, but ultimately the same potential can be found on both platforms. WooCommerce offers instant product review capability, while PrestaShop needs a module to get this going, and this feature can be jazzed up in both by exploring the various add-on options.

Prestashop has an advanced stock management system built in that allows for inventory in multiple warehouses. WooCommerce does not offer this kind of stock management off the bat, but this can easily be resolved with plugins that integrate with stock management software. When it comes to payment methods, shipping set up, and accounting, both platforms offer excellent add-ons that will relegate old-school limitations and frustrations to the past!


Search Engine Optimisation

Both PrestaShop and WordPress offer great SEO tools to make your e-Shop Google friendly, and both offer responsive themes that will make your site accessible on any device or screen size. SEO can be maximised by ensuring that you are using the latest version of PrestaShop, if that’s your platform, using Google Analytics to keep tabs on your site, and installing Yoast on your WordPress site if WooCommerce wins the prize!


Performance And Security

PrestaShop can handle tens of thousands of products. WooCommerce starts to run into trouble at this point, with the product admin area specifically losing functionality. For most business owner’s e-Commerce ambitions, these five-digit numbers won’t be something to worry about, but for those aiming for a substantial number of products, this may throw PrestaShop into the lead!

When it comes to security, both platforms take things very seriously and are SSL ready, which is essential. It is crucial to make sure that you are always running recent and trusted versions of all add-ons, as well as keeping the CMS up to date itself. Many great security modules and plugins are on hand to add extra layers of protection for both you and your customers.


So Where Does That Leave Us?

It may not be what you want to hear, but in reality, both e-Commerce platforms are at the top of their game and can certainly facilitate a successful e-Shop. For those of you that are already acquainted with WordPress, WooCommerce may steal your heart as an organic extension of a CMS that you already know your way around. For smaller businesses, WooCommerce may come in slightly cheaper when it comes to creating your exact vision, while for larger businesses aspiring to multiple store fronts, with complex supply structures and big product ranges, PrestaShop could be the more capable vehicle to match your ambition!

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