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Magento vs Shopify vs BigCommerce: Ecommerce Face-Off

November 22, 2019

13 Min Read
magento vs shopify vs bigcommerce
Reading Time: 13 minutes

You’re either here for the sheer entertainment of reading about the battle of ecommerce platforms and the long-standing debate surrounding Shopify vs Magento vs BigCommerce.

Or, you’re here to decide on your success in the future.

In any case, if you want to enjoy a good debate, and form an informed opinion, I recommend you take a seat. All I want is that please don’t judge until you’ve read the very last word of this comprehensive post.

When it comes to choosing an ecommerce platform, you’re deciding the fate of your business, the future, and your potential success. You just can’t make a “leap of faith”. You have to be more opinionated and informed, without falling into the trap of marketers. If not chosen wisely, an inadequately powered platform will limit the growth and success of an online store in the future. This is why proactive research on the choice of platform you intend to use is extremely important.

You should consider many factors when choosing a platform. Some of the major concerns that store owners tend to have include store Performance and UX. Check out the graphical representation of the responses received:

Major Concerns of Ecommerce store owners

To ensure that you extract maximum ROI from the ecommerce project, you need to power your ecommerce store with the best platform. The Internet is flooded with bloggers and marketers comparing platforms including Magento vs. Shopify vs. BigCommerce, Magento vs WooCommerce and many more. The real deal, however, is narrowing down your scope to the few ultimate solutions that have long dominated the industry.

Let’s start by understanding what qualifies Magento, Shopify, and BigCommerce as the go-to options in the first place and if they actually address the woes of ecommerce store owners.

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Magento VS Shopify VS BigCommerce

Probably the most brewed misconception about Magento, Shopify and BigCommerce is that these three platforms are very similar. The truth is that even though all three of them serve the same purpose, they are quite different in almost every aspect. This includes their core structure, payment options, the way they handle extensions, and many other functionalities and capabilities.

Magento is one of the world’s most popular ecommerce platforms. A self-hosted platform that powers thousands of stores, its exceptionally large user base includes everyone from individual store owners to some of the biggest brands. Launched in 2007, Magento (being open source) offers a free version (Community) and a premium version (Enterprise). The platform is highly flexible and offers endless possibilities for customizing an online store.

Shopify, a hosted solution, also has a growing user base and serves the needs of retailers who aren’t too concerned about the technical aspect of things. To use Shopify, you will have to pay for its monthly subscription fee so to get the hosting infrastructure. You can build dynamic online stores on Shopify within minutes.

BigCommerce, just like Shopify, is another hosted ecommerce platform. It is for small and mid-sized businesses that are on a budget. BigCommerce comes 9th in the ecommerce industry and its user base is growing steadily.

To use BigCommerce, you must pay for its monthly subscription fee to the hosting infrastructure. Users can use BigCommerce without worrying about any infrastructure-related hassles, although it comes with its share of limitations that we will discuss in the following paragraphs.

Just by looking at some of these facts, I am sure that Magento, Shopify, and BigCommerce are amongst the most popular ecommerce platforms and there has to be a reason for this kind of massive popularity, these three platforms enjoy.

Now that I have established the standing of these ecommerce platforms, I can draw a fair comparison between them. But before that, it is important to understand that there are various similarities between Shopify and Magento that make the two ecommerce solution providers (almost) equally attractive to merchants around the world.

Magento VS Shopify VS BigCommerce – Finding the Common Ground

Setting aside the fundamental differences for now, here are the comparison points upon which I compare these three ecommerce platforms i.e. BigCommerce, Shopify, and Magento. These platforms offer a wide range of features and functionalities that facilitate the smooth flow of operations of an online store.

Magento Vs Shopify - The Common Ground

You have the satisfaction of getting a well-constructed and well-designed user interface that is both powerful and easy-to-use. When it comes to scaling your ecommerce store, Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce can facilitate growth and expansion, (although they follow very different paths in this regard).

It is safe to say that the design aspects, the capacity of these platforms and their strengths simply go through the roof. Comparing these three best ecommerce platforms makes perfect sense.

Magento VS Shopify VS BigCommerce- Where They Part Ways

One platform can’t fulfill all the needs, thus, there can’t always be just one winner in every situation.

Magento Vs Shopify - Where They Part Ways

A single factor can’t influence your decision, such as how complex the solution is or its price tag. Check out the following attributes and unique selling points, keeping in focus the needs of your business and areas where you need support.

Popularity

There is no doubt that all three – Magento, BigCommerce, and Shopify are extremely popular platforms in the realm of ecommerce industry. 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 and BigCommerce powers around 25,000 websites. However, what matters is a clear distinction between the types of websites that use these platforms.

Generally, small online stores are more inclined to using Shopify because of their creative and energetic marketing campaigns. 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, which is a BigCommerce alternative, a general perception is that the platform is most preferred by medium and large-sized online stores. But the fact is that Magento can also be an excellent choice for small online stores that want effortless scalability in the future.

BigCommerce also offers the choice for small and mid-sized businesses to manage their online stores without worrying about hosting hassles. It has different packages, but in most cases, it facilitates hosting for mid-sized businesses with a limited budget.

Control and Customization

Customization and control are two of the most prominent and fundamental differences between Magento vs BigCommerce vs Shopify.

Magento is self-hosted, therefore, you have full control over your choice of servers and hosting. Combined with its open-source nature, you get endless customization possibilities over the design and operations of your store. Update and customize the store at your will, without being restricted to a certain level of integrations.

Shopify is a hosted solution and with it,  you don’t require a high level of development expertise. Meanwhile, you don’t have to go through the troubles of configuration and hosting hassles, you can’t access the source code, limiting your options of store-level customizations.

Another Shopify alternative, BigCommerce also offers a hosted ecommerce solution. You will have to get an account and launch your website with them. This may take away your freedom as it will not allow you any sort of customization. However, the benefit of a hosted platform is that the company will take care of all the hosting issues. So, with BigCommerce, you will have less control, fewer customizations, and fewer worries.

User Friendliness

To make up for all the restrictions in customizability, Shopify provides user-friendliness to its merchants. It allows you to easily modify the basic attributes of the store with its easy-to-use tools and drag-and-drop interface.

BigCommerce is also a beginner-friendly ecommerce platform just like Shopify. You can launch your ecommerce store within minutes. Remember that it doesn’t allow any type of customization. Therefore, if you want to add a pop-in, CTA, or a custom plugin, you can’t, and you will have to find a work around to address the issue.

Magento’s learning curve is a bit steep, but that’s only because it is designed to provide flexibility to the merchants and accommodate a wide range of customization scenarios. Magento is very flexible at the expense of user-friendliness. There’s so much that one can do with the platform. If you are a large online store owner and you’ve got the necessary Magento development skills, user-friendliness shouldn’t be an issue.

Speed & Performance

Speed and performance are essential for the success of every ecommerce store. Users don’t like to wait too long for a website to load. This applies to online stores as well. If an online store is not up to the mark in speed and performance, 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. With Shopify, you don’t have to worry about the page loading speed or the overall performance of the ecommerce store. At the same time, you have almost no control over your hosting environment and server-level adjustments.

Similarly, BigCommerce is also a hosted platform. BuiltWith highlights that BigCommerce uses AWS hosting infrastructure to host its websites and AWS is fast. But, since users will not have the liberty to customize their ecommerce platforms, they will not be able to market their stores freely. This may impact sales in the long-term. That’s why BigCommerce is only suited for beginners who are making an entry into the ecommerce industry.

On the other hand, tying in with the control and hosting flexibility, Magento is known for its robust performance and unique performance-oriented tweaks. Since its a self-hosted platform, you can choose your server and make all the necessary adjustments to boost the performance metrics. This involves making use of managed Magento hosting with advanced technologies such as caching mechanism and CDN.

Magento offers you two options: Open Source (formerly Community Edition) and Commerce (formerly Enterprise Edition). With Open Source, the onus is on you, the owner and the operator to host your store. Open Source does allow 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 hosts your store on the cloud. It gives you the assurance that your site will always be live. 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.

Payment Gateway Options

Offering multiple payment gateway options is one of the most important elements when it comes to facilitating the end-user. Shopify offers ease of payment with the integration of a custom solution and other popular payment options.

The Shopify alternative, BigCommerce also offers multiple payment options including the PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, and other payment gateways like Sage pay, Adyen, etc. .

Magento also offers various payment options to extend the capabilities of your ecommerce store, but with the help of modules. You can find different modules and add-ons for configuring and setting up different payment options.

Themes and Templates

Magento, BigCommerce, and Shopify offer a huge collection of free and paid themes. With Magento, you can choose from premium themes that come with a price-tag, but also provide a lot of options. Similarly, for free ones, you’ll find a large collection of free themes for your ecommerce store.

At the same time, the three major ecommerce platforms have customizable themes.

It is relatively easy to install Shopify and BigCommerce themes. They offer limited customization options. Magento, on the other hand, offers templates that can help you completely change the functionality and the layout of the theme. It has enough room for flexibility and customization.

Inventory Management

Each platform has a customizable inventory management option.  Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce will cater to your needs, you must pick one that will help you streamline your inventory management operation. The standard features include: inventory importing, categorizing and filtering, as well as product and pricing variations.

Shopify isn’t fit for large online stores. This platform provides a simple and straightforward interface, where you can take control of your inventory. There are several extensions available that offer advanced features like promotional flash sales, discounts for registered users, etc.

BigCommerce is also fairly limited in functionality and can only handle mid-sized business inventory at its peak performance. The large enterprises don’t prefer BigCommerce because of its limited hosting infrastructure. As for the inventory, BigCommerce promises unlimited products, but the size of these products varies for each package.

Magento comes with a basic inventory management system, just like Shopify. However, this platform stands out when it comes to advanced features. For example, it offers many possibilities (like product sizes and colors) and a large number of third-party services for integrating a distribution network. This may require more effort but pays off in the long term.

Extensions

Magento offers a comprehensive collection of extensions that integrate smoothly with the Magento backend,, thanks to its vibrant yet user-friendly design, there are hundreds of vetted extensions that extend the out-of-the-box features and functionalities of the CMS. With the help of these extensions, you can enhance the functionality of your ecommerce store without worrying about writing code.

BigCommerce add-ons are not available in the basic version. However, users can upgrade to the premium versions to enjoy multiple features including API access, SSL, cart abandonment tracker, lead generator, etc.

Shopify has a small repository of add-ons. The platform offers a simple installation process and helps in improving the functionality of your store.

SEO and Marketing

When you run an online store, you don’t want all your efforts to go to waste by not employing powerful SEO techniques. From the SEO and marketing perspective, Magento, vs BigCommerce vs Shopify, offers various functionalities and integrations with marketing tools to maximize the ROI of your efforts. These platforms allow basic functionalities to optimize the store level content to ensure higher SERP positions that directly translate into revenue generation for the store.

Shopify offers a basic set of SEO options. For instance, you can edit meta tags and optimize inventory and product pages. .Furthermore, this platform allows in-depth optimization that involves modifying the file structure that facilitates search crawlers in carrying out their job. The most prominent limitation is that Shopify stores are self-hosted, therefore, you can’t make any server-level configurations.

Similarly, BigCommerce brings to the table basic SEO features such as MT, MD, keyword optimization etc. You can optimize the ecommerce store with ease.

On the other hand, Magento can help you integrate and implement your custom SEO and digital marketing strategies without any major hassles. It allows you to customize and tweak store design and SEO strategy for maximum output. The open-source nature of Magento makes it an SEO-friendly platform.

You can fine-tune permalinks for inventory items, as well as meta content. More importantly, Magento takes full advantage of no-follow links, redirects, and canonical tags. These Magento characteristics make it much easier for search engines to index ecommerce websites and understand their structure.

Customer Support

Shopify and BigCommerce both come with dedicated customer service and support. Magento, on the other hand, offers dedicated community-based support, comprising of experts, Magento certified individuals, backend and frontend developers. Magento is known for its huge and helpful community that continues to grow and thrive.

If you have any support-related issues, you can always visit  Magento forums, share and discuss your concerns with the community. You can also get support from a Magento partner agency that helps with everything from store creation, setup, and management, etc.

Pricing

Shopify and BigCommerce both offer a subscription-based model. You can start with a free trial, but you’ll soon have to pay for the service. The most affordable plan starts from $29 per month, but the price goes up to $299 for the Advanced Shopify plan and $245 for the Advanced BigCommerce plan. By paying more, you get access to a more extensive set of features like advanced statistics, gift cards, etc. Additionally, themes and extensions can be premium-priced as well.

When it comes to ‘hidden fee,’ you must know that Shopify charges a transaction fee for payments made via external payment gateways. However, BigCommerce doesn’t charge any fee for transactions. You can use payment gateways such as PayPal, Braintree, etc.

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

Magento VS Shopify VS BigCommerce: What’s The Dealbreaker For You?

As a matter of fact, there’s no winner in this comparison because just one platform can’t have all the perks. All three – Magento, BigCommerce, and Shopify – have their strong points and unique features. You just have to decide which one best fits your business model.

Meanwhile, Shopify is easy to use, but you might want to consider the charges that come with its services and the future potential of scaling the store. Similarly, Magento requires technical expertise but you don’t have to pay for the installation or day-to-day transactions on your store with Magento. You’ll always be at peace knowing that your store can scale with the robust platform.

So, to second your choice (whatever that might be) I reached out to some of the industry influencers, store owners, and developers to see what they think about the two platforms and why.

I recommend Shopify to my customers where they only have a small budget and the operation of the ecommerce is simple (like a regular ecommerce). On the other hand, I strongly recommend Magento when my customer wants to create a whole well-done shopping experience.

– Roberto Carlos Castillo Medina, CEO at Reevolution Consulting Group

I prefer Magento as it’s more customizable and more scalable for bigger enterprises.

– Will Brammer, Magento Support Manager at TwoJay

After hearing stories of various ecommerce store owners, I wanted to get some insights on the problems that people face with Magento, BigCommerce, and Shopify. So I conducted a survey and asked if there was one thing they wished was different in their preferred ecommerce platform

I have used all other platforms listed [major ecommerce platforms] but all of them disappoint at some phase of business and we need to migrate to a stronger platform. My clients who have started with Magento have better growth rates compared to other platforms. With Magento, possibilities are endless. You can do everything and scale to any limit. The community is really strong on both the supply and demand side. Most importantly, it is the most secure eCommerce platform out there for big businesses. What I really like about Magento is its innovation and constant updates. You can think beyond limits if you start with Magento.

Shetul Majithiya Ecommerce Community Manager at Empiro Technologies

Build a scalable, secure, platform that is easy to use without IT’s help that can also be customized. The one problem with Shopify that I see, is that because it’s easy to use, it lacks the customization flexibility that a Magento has. Magento has the opposite problem. While you can use the open-source version, it is so complicated and requires lots of dev assistance to get up and running and managing that the cost at some point, become too much. Some sites will require more flexibility and those store owners will stay with Magento but for the majority, Shopify or something like it will be enough. My experience involves dealing with Store Owners doing $3 million and above in online revenue.

Ramon Vela from Bronto

Conclusion

It’s not all about what people say, but you can only learn from their experiences. It all comes down to  what your business needs. The decision is yours!

Magento Vs Shopify Vs BigCommerce Comparison Table

Features Magento Shopify BigCommerce
Price Free Starts from $29 Starts from $29
Scalability Unlimited Limited Limited
Market share 10% 19% 1%
Customization Unlimited Limited Limited
User Friendliness Yes Yes Yes
Performance Self-hosted Hosted Hosted
Payment Gateway Unlimited Limited Limited
Themes Free & Paid Free & Paid Free & Paid
Addons Free & Paid Paid Paid
SEO/Marketing Yes Yes Yes
Customer Support No Yes Yes
Inventory Management Unlimited Limited Limited

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

Shopify and BigCommerce come with lower monthly costs and easy installation. You can have your online store up and running in a couple of hours. However, both these ecommerce platforms lack freedom of customization. Hence, you may need to move to a self-hosted ecommerce platform once your store starts to get traction.

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

WooCommerce vs Shopify  – Find Out Which One Is Best For Dropshipping

As the situation stands, I recommend Magento over Shopify and BigCommerce. Irrespective of the size of your ecommerce store, with Magento you are always sure about the future. If you’re still confused, you can seek help from experts of these platforms, considering the goals of your online business.

 

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Abdur Rahman

Abdur Rahman is the Magento whizz at Cloudways. He is growth ambitious, and aims to learn & share information about Ecommerce & Magento Development through practice and experimentation. He loves to travel and explore new ideas whenever he finds time. Get in touch with him at abdul.rehman@cloudways.com

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