Magento vs Shopify: a Side-by-Side Comparison

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Magento and Shopify, Capuleti and Montecchi. The two sides that always seem to compete, causing e-commerce observers to write the never-ending guides on choosing between the two.

Even though Magento and Shopify serve slightly different needs, entrepreneurs still manage to hesitate between the two. In this article, we will have a closer look at each and see their pros and cons.

A quick overview of the platforms

The numbers say that Magento powers 315,000 sites vs 820,000 sites that are powered by Shopify. Oops.

But let’s dig deeper.

If we take a closer look at these numbers, we’ll learn that Magento powers 70 companies from the Internet Retailer Top B2C eCommerce 500 list while Shopify powers only 10 from the same list.

The reason for that is that Magento is preferred by larger companies and works well for both B2B and B2C. Shopify is a good choice for small online stores but as soon as your business grows bigger, you will need a more scalable and advanced solution which is Magento. 

Magento pros:

  • high level of customization,
  • big community,
  • free Magento Community Edition.

Magento cons:

  • demands good knowledge of coding,
  • maybe expensive in terms of hosting,

Shopify pros:

  • easier to set-up,
  • does not require coding knowledge,

Shopify cons:

  • not very customizable,
  • lots of hidden costs,
  • limited default functionality.

Magento is a complex and scalable solution with great functionality while Shopify is a better option for small stores that do not demand lots of fancy features. Let’s see each store in more detail.

Price

This is one of the most burning questions for many online merchants.

Magento and Shopify are really different in terms of pricing. Magento has an open-source and free version while Shopify charges a certain fee per every transaction. But is it really that simple?

There are many hidden rocks with both platforms. In order to decide which one is more cost-saving, you need to know the pricing intricacies of both.

Magento

Magento offers two versions: free Community Edition and premium Enterprise Edition. The cost of the CE version is $0 – you just download and install it. The cost of an EE will depend on your store but on average, the license fee starts from $20K/year.

The additional price will come with hosting. Because Magento is quite a complex platform, you will need a powerful hosting solution.

Other expenses would be store customization, theme development (or purchase), and maintenance. Magento’s strong suit is its high level of customization – but you will have to pay for it. And for that, you will need to hire Magento 2 developers because the platform requires solid coding skills.

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And don’t forget about the third-party extensions! There are over 3,600 extensions in Magento Marketplace that come at affordable prices. The best thing about them is that once you buy an extension, it stays with you forever and there will be no additional fees for using them.

Summary: in the case of Magento, the most of your budget will be spent on hosting provider and store optimization. However, once you optimize the store, you won’t have to worry about anything in the future.

Shopify

Unlike Magento, Shopify does not have a free version but provides a 2-week trial so you can see whether the platform is suitable for you. After the trial, you can choose one of the monthly plans:

  • Shopify Lite: $9/month,
  • Basic Shopify: $29/month,
  • Shopify: $79/month,
  • Advanced Shopify: $299/month.

The plans vary by functionality and perks: for example, a Lite plan will have a different fee per transaction than an Advanced plan.

The good news about Shopify pricing – the platform is self-hosted so you won’t have to worry about it. As well, every Shopify plan comes with a free SSL certificate which is a nice add-on.

The bad news about Shopify pricing – the platform charges a certain fee per transaction and a monthly fee for using a third-party extension. And don’t forget the themes – if you don’t like the free one, you will have to pay for a premium theme that may not even have all the required functionality.

Summary: Shopify may seem cheaper than Magento but think about all the “hidden costs” – Magento may eventually be more cost-saving in the long run.

Performance

Many store owners claim Shopify is lightning-fast compared to Magento.

The reason for that is the limited amount of features that Shopify has. This platform is not suitable for B2B and does not have such an extended functionality that Magento offers. So it might seem faster but does not deliver half the results that Magento does.

Magento, in turn, combines rich functionality and a high level of customization with excellent performance. It does demand fine-tuning from knowledgeable experts – but once you do it, you won’t have to worry about any lags in the future.

Magento

Magento is incredibly scalable which is a great advantage for the merchants. As well, its global cloud infrastructure serves as a guarantee of the operational uptime. An additional benefit – Magento Commerce runs on AWS, which is known for its quality.

Shopify

On one hand, Shopify is cloud-based and self-hosted which means merchants won’t have to worry about any updates or maintenance – Shopify will take care of everything.

On the other hand, Shopify constrains the data exchange between the core app and add-ons extensions. This will lead to slower performance and can hurt your conversions badly. And don’t forget about the platform’s multi-tenant architecture, meaning, if one store has a peak demand, it may harm the performance of your specific store.

Default functionality

Even though both platforms have pretty good default functionality, Magento is a clear winner here. Its built-in features are more advanced than the ones Shopify has: 

  • Promotions engine: helps create promotions and discount coupons. Even though the engine is comprehensive enough, it is recommended to improve its quality with third-party extensions for better performance.
  • Product management: Magento allows for easy product bundling, group products, and product download. 
  • Multi-currency: Magento by default supports different currencies which is a great advantage for international stores.
  • Wishlists: Magento has a built-in wishlist option that lets customers save products for later and contributes to increasing the retention rate.

As we can see, Magento is aimed at providing a great user experience from the start while Shopify demands a fair amount of optimization if you all these features.

In the case of Shopify, you cannot even optimize the checkout and will have to choose a third-party extension if you are not satisfied with the default one. As well, Shopify has certain limits for product attributes and catalog sizes, which is a major flaw for the merchants with big product sets.

One important feature that Magento and Shopify have in common is the unlimited number of products in the inventory. And here the Magento owners need to pay attention: if you have a poor hosting solution, too many products in the inventory may affect the site load speed and hurt the performance.

Third-party extensions

Customization is Magento’s strong suit, period.

While Shopify has a limited number of third-party integrations and limited customization options, Magento can boast more than 3,600 extensions in the Marketplace and endless opportunities for store customization.

Magento

Magento is open-source so customers can customize the code as they need which is definitely a plus. In addition, the backend of Magento runs on PHP so business owners will always be able to find a knowledgeable developer to help them.

As well, a Magento user can always choose between an available extension and a custom one – and either option will require less effort than customizing Shopify.

Shopify

Shopify has about 2,400 free and paid extensions which are not bad. However, the integration of these extensions may become a painful process as they may not be supported by the platform or the browser. 

As well, the Shopify customization demands lots of time and is overall quite a bulky process. And remember what we said about the price? Each extension comes with a monthly fee for using it which can result in a significant amount of cash.

Themes

The theme of your store is one of the primary factors behind conversions. It should be user-friendly in terms of navigation and interactive elements and have an appealing layout that would correspond to your brand’s identity.

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Both Magento and Shopify have quite a good choice of free and premium themes.  Shopify has about 100 free and paid themes while Magento offers more than 500 themes, both free and paid. On top of that, paid Shopify themes start from $80 while Magento premium themes start from $1. Woah. 

On the contrary, all Magento themes are highly customizable and can be tweaked as you want it. Shopify does not offer such flexibility so you will have to stick with what’s available. As well, the biggest problem with Shopify themes is that you can immediately recognize one – because almost all of them look the same due to a standard set of templates.

Payment processors

Every e-commerce store needs a secure payment process to work with transactions. Both Magento and Shopify support different payment processors that can be easily integrated.

Magento

You can find a suitable payment processor in the Magento Marketplace.

Magento supports leading providers like PayPal and AmazonPay and has about 150 extensions for processor integration. A strong point of Magento is the support of multiple currencies and multiple languages which is perfect for the brands that want to sell worldwide.

Shopify

Shopify has a native payment processor called Shopify Payments and also supports major providers.

The pitfall is that if you use another payment processor than Shopify Payments, you will have to pay a fee for every transaction (the amount of the fee will depend on your plan). And this may result in major money losses in the long run.

Analytics

Every e-commerce store owner needs to track the store analytics to know how shoppers behave, what products are in the most demand, and which areas of the store call for optimization.

Both Magento and Shopify have built-in reports, which are quite OK. However, it’s highly recommended to use Google Analytics or another similar tool together with the native report tool for more meaningful insights.

Magento

Magento has built-in Magento Reports which are a good start for getting insights on how your store performs.

The Reports’ interface is clear and you can easily understand what are your most popular products and what are the most popular searches among the shoppers.

In order to remain competitive in terms of analytics, in 2016, Adobe acquired RJMetrics. This gave Magento another analytics tool which is Magento Business Intelligence (former RJMetrics).

Magento BI is a business intelligence tool that provides advanced analytics and comes for free for Magento Enterprise owners or at a $100/month for the users of Community Edition (the price depends on your GMV).

This tool offers incredibly detailed reports and allows users to load the data from other sources, which makes Magento BI even more powerful. 

Shopify

Shopify also has a built-in reporting tool. The biggest problem is that the number of available reports depends on your Shopify plan. In case you use Shopify Lite or Basic, you may be missing out on some valuable data.

For Shopify owners, the best solution would probably be using Google Analytics as it’s incredibly comprehensive and comes for free.

Community

The size of the platform’s community is actually important when choosing a platform. It impacts how easily you can find developers, get help and support and thus, resolve the issues.

Magento

Magento has a 60,000+ developers’ community and more than 300 Solution Partners. Together, they help Magento constantly improve and deliver the top-notch experience to the users. 

As well, chances are high you can find a knowledgeable PHP developer to optimize the store the way you need it.

Shopify

In comparison, Shopify’s community is much smaller and is located mainly in North America. As well, Shopify runs on the Liquid programming language which is not so popular as PHP. So chances for finding a savvy Liquid developer are lower than finding a PHP expert.

Conclusion

So what should you choose in a battle Shopify vs Magento?

The thing is, you cannot say which platform is better simply because they serve different purposes.

Shopify is a good choice for small and medium-sized companies that do not want to invest much in their e-commerce platform and cannot hire a team of developers for platform customization. Shopify is a good starting point when you just need to launch your store and get an idea of how to run it. 

Magento, on the other hand, is complex and can bring you quite a few challenges but in return, it will reward you with limitless customization options, excellent customer experience and will grow together with your business. And that’s what any professional e-commerce entrepreneur aims for, isn’t it?

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