What’s Better – Magento 2 or Shopify

by Fayyaz Khattak  October 30, 2017

The most important aspect of every ecommerce store is the application that runs the website. If not chosen wisely, an inadequately powered platform will limit future growth and success of an online store.  This is why researching your options thoroughly is extremely important. Interestingly, you’ll find that Magento 2 vs Shopify is a oft-debated topic in the ecommerce industry.

Magento 2 vs Shopify

Probably the most brewed misconception about Magento 2 and Shopify is that the two platforms are very similar. In fact, the truth is that even though they both serve the same purpose, these two platforms are drastically different in almost every aspect. This includes their core structure, payment options, the way they handle extensions, and much more functionalities and capabilities. To make a clear distinction between the two and find out which one best suits your needs, we’ll compare all the integral aspects and offerings of Magento 2 and Shopify. Let’s find out how the two most prominent ecommerce platform fare when compared.

Magento 2 Vs. Shopify: Differences & Similarities

Popularity

There is no doubt that both Magento 2 and Shopify are extremely popular in the realm of ecommerce platforms. A recently released report on the current state of the ecommerce industry revealed that there are around 240,000 registered domains on Shopify. On the other hand, close to 160,000 websites are powered by Magento. However, what really matters is a clear distinction between the kinds of websites that use these platforms.

In general, small online stores are more inclined towards Shopify. That’s because of its ease of use (often marketed feature) is attractive to new and inexperienced online store owners. When it comes to Magento 2, a general perception is that the platform is most preferred by medium and large-sized online stores. But the fact is that Magento 2 can be an excellent choice for small online stores that want to prepare for effortless scalability in the future.

Capabilities & Features

Although the statistics about the popularity of Magento or Shopify provide interesting bits of data, there’s still a lot to be uncovered.

With Shopify, many of its users boast about the ease of use of the platform. The platform doesn’t have a steep learning curve since it is designed for inexperienced users. You can choose from different themes that are often professionally designed and then make different kinds of adjustments. This type of drag-and-drop philosophy is what many users love. Still, this means that you don’t have full control over your online store’s design and functionality. This obstacle is somewhat blurred by apps and extensions that expand Shopify’s capabilities.

Magento 2, on the other hand, brings unparalleled flexibility. Almost every aspect of an online store’s appearance and functionality can be altered. This means that you have complete freedom over how your online shop interacts with visitors and potential customers. Still, you’ll often find yourself needing help from an experienced developer. Even though you have a lot of freedom, this is not the easiest platform to use.

Design & Customization

Having access to themes can be a life-saver. Themes and templates can speed up the development process and build the store that you really want. This is why it’s important to know what kinds of themes both Magento 2 and Shopify offer.

Both of these platforms allow you to build your website from scratch with the offering of various free and premium themes. In general, these themes take full advantage of features specific to each of these platforms and come with responsive design. These can be found at various online marketplaces and are often affordably priced.

This is where we come to the ease of use once again. Shopify is based on a drag & drop philosophy, which makes it easy to customize a theme. Magento, however, brings more capable customization options, making it easy to produce a uniquely designed website. While this previously required a developer’s expertise, Magento recently acquired Bluefoot, a CMS and Page Builder module that specializes in drag & drop functionality, bringing more robust functionality to Magento that is better than Shopify. It is intuitive, extensible, and allows for creativity when designing your store!

Inventory Management

Each platform offers its personalized take on inventory management. Even though both Magento 2 and Shopify will cater to your needs, you need to pick the one that will help you do more in less time. Among standard features, you can find inventory importing, categorizing and filtering, as well as product and pricing variations.

Shopify isn’t made for large online stores which is obvious once you look at its inventory management. This platform brings a simple and straightforward interface, where you can take control of your inventory. Several capable extensions bring advanced features like promotional flash sales, discounts for registered users, and more.

Magento comes with a basic inventory upload out-of-the-box, just like Shopify. However, this platform stands out when it comes to advanced features. For example, there are many different variation possibilities (like product sizes and colors) and plenty of third-party services for integrating a broader distribution network. This may require more work but pays off in the long term.

Magento 2 Category

Marketing & SEO

You don’t want all your efforts on the online store to go to waste by not employing powerful SEO techniques. You need to make sure that your ecommerce platform of choice allows profound SEO principles to be applied.

Shopify brings a basic set of SEO options. For example, you can edit meta tags and optimize inventory and product pages in SEO-friendly ways. Furthermore, this platform allows for in-depth optimization that involves modifying the file structure that makes it easier for search crawlers to do their job. The most prominent limitation is that Shopify stores are self-hosted, which means that you can’t make any server-level configurations.

Magento is an open-source solution that provides full freedom over every single aspect of your online store. This applies to SEO as well. You can fine-tune permalinks for inventory items, as well as meta content. More importantly, Magento takes full advantage of nofollow links, redirects, and canonical tags. These make it much easier for search engines to index ecommerce websites and understand their structure.

Speed & Performance

Speed and performance are correlated with the success of every ecommerce store. Users don’t like to wait too long for a website to load. This applies to loading online stores, browsing through the products and making a purchase. If an online store shows weakness in any of these areas, a user is less likely to return for a second purchase or even convert in the first instance.

What’s important to understand is that Shopify is a hosted solution, while Magento 2 can be but isn’t guaranteed to be. Users of Shopify don’t have to worry about servers and website performance since this company is responsible for all those things. In general, this platform provides a very reliable and highly-optimized performance that doesn’t require any maintenance.

When using Magento, you have two options: Open Source (formerly Community Edition) and Commerce Cloud. With Open Source, the onus is on you, the owner and the operator to host your own store. Open Source does allow for you to “meet the basic commerce needs of business today,” as per Magento, but this does not mean that you’re on the hook for keeping the site online. However, Magento Commerce Cloud hosts your store for you, hence the word Cloud in the title, giving you the stability and assurance that your site will always be live. This, of course, will cost you more but can prove to be extremely helpful if hosting, web support, and e-commerce functionality aren’t in your skillset; Magento can take care of it for you.   

Costs & Expenses

Shopify has a subscription-based model. You can start out with a free trial, but you’ll soon have to pay for it. The most affordable option is priced at $29 per month, but that price goes up to $299 for the Advanced Shopify plan. By paying more, you get access to a more extensive set of features like advanced statistics, gift cards, and more. Additionally, themes and extensions can be premium-priced as well.

When it comes to ‘hidden fees,’ you need to know that Shopify charges transaction fees for payments made via external payment gateways. These include PayPal, Braintree, and others.

If you’re using Magento Open Source, then the cost of hosting will depend on where you choose to host. With Magento’s Commerce Cloud and Magento in general, there isn’t a fixed price as everything is custom to your store and your needs. Magento provides a more robust platform than Shopify and can charge more for that premium experience, but you won’t know the exact price until you speak with a Magento Partner or Team Magento themselves and outline your needs and goals.

Conclusion

The functionalities and capabilities of both Magento 2 and Shopify warrant success of your online store. But in essence, your decision boils down to the one that best suits your needs.

Shopify comes with lower monthly costs and easy installation. You can have your online store up and running in a couple of days. However, it lacks freedom of customization and fine-tuning.

Magento 2 might still be a significant investment, even though it doesn’t come with a monthly subscription. More importantly, it offers incredibly powerful features and complete freedom of customization as well as the scalability needed to grow in the future.

With all this in mind, I recommend Magento 2 over Shopify. Irrespective of the size of your ecommerce store, with Magento 2 you are always sure about the future.  If you’re still confused, you can seek help from experts of these platforms, keeping in mind the goals of your business.


About Author: Uwe Weinkauf is the CEO of MW2 Consulting, experts in Enterprise Application Development, eCommerce, IT Outsourcing, and IT Operations that deliver valuable solutions for global business needs.

You can learn more about MW2 here, and follow Uwe on LinkedIn.

**Disclaimer: This is the guest post written by an external author. The views expressed in this article are author’s and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Cloudways!

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About Fayyaz Khattak

Fayyaz is a Magento Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed Magento Hosting Platform. His objective is to learn & share about PHP & Magento Development in Community. Fayyaz is a food lover and enjoys driving. You can email him at m.fayyaz@cloudways.com

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