You’re either here for the sheer entertainment of reading about the battle of ecommerce platforms and the long-standing debate of Magento Vs Shopify.
Or, you’re here to really make a decision for your future success.
In either case, if you want to enjoy a good debate, and form an informed opinion, I recommend you take a seat. If you’re already a fan of either one, no problem. All I ask is please don’t judge till 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 obviously the potential success. In this scenario, you can’t make a “leap of faith”. You have to be more opinionated and informed, without falling into the traps spread out by marketers. 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.
There are many factors that should be considered when choosing a platform. I conducted a survey and asked industry influencers and ecommerce experts about the common concerns of store owners. Majority of the participants responded with Store Performance and UX. Here’s what the responses were:
In order 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, Magento vs WooCommerce and many more. The real deal, however, is narrowing down your scope to the two ultimate solutions that have long dominated the industry.
Let’s start by comprehending what really qualifies Magento and Shopify to be considered as options in the first place and if they really address the woes of ecommerce store owners.
Magento VS Shopify
Probably the most brewed misconception about Magento 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.
Magento is one of the world’s most popular ecommerce platform. A self-hosted platform that powers thousands of stores, its exceptionally large user base include 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 known for being flexible with unlimited possibilities to aid the customization of an online store.
Shopify, a hosted solution, also has a growing user base and focuses on serving the needs of retailers that aren’t too much concerned with the technical aspect of things. To use Shopify, you will have to pay for its monthly subscription fees in return for a shared hosting infrastructure. The ecommerce builder makes it easy to build dynamic online stores within minutes.
Just by looking at some of these statistics, I am sure that Magento and Shopify are amongst the most popular ecommerce platforms and there has to be a reason for this kind of fan following.
Now that I have established the standing of the two ecommerce platforms, I can now draw a fair comparison. 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 globe.
Magento VS Shopify – The Common Ground
Setting aside the fundamental differences for now, here are the comparison points upon which I could compare Magento and Shopify. Both platforms offer a wide range of features and functionalities that facilitate smooth sailing for an online store. And if you’ve had any experience of working with either, you’ll know that these functions are pretty powerful.
Similarly, with these robust ecommerce platforms, you have the satisfaction of getting a well-constructed user interface that is both powerful and easy to use. Finally, when it comes to scaling your ecommerce store, both Magento and Shopify have the capability to 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 beyond the charts. Comparing the two bests makes perfect sense. All that’s left now is to decide which of the two would be the best for you!
Magento VS Shopify – Where They Part Ways
One platform can’t be a jack of all trades, and thus, there can’t always be just one winner in every situation. So, before we delve into the comparison game, keep an open mind and always, always put the needs of your business first.
Your decision can’t be influenced by just one factor, such as the fanciness of the solution or its price tag. Check out the following attributes and unique selling points, bearing in mind the needs of your business and areas where you really need support.
There is no doubt that both Magento 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, 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 to prepare for effortless scalability in the future.
Control and Customization
Hosting and control are one of the most prominent and fundamental differences between Magento VS Shopify. Magento is self-hosted, which means you have full control over your choice of servers and hosting. Combined with its open source nature, you get endless customization possibilities along with complete control over the looks and feel of your store. Update and customize the store at your discretion without being restricted to a certain level of technology or integrations.
Shopify is a hosted solution and you don’t require a high level of development expertise. This means that while you don’t have to go through the troubles of configuration and hosting hassles, you are also unable to access the source code, limiting your options of store level customizations.
To make up for all the restrictions in customizability, Shopify provides easiness and user-friendliness in the platform. Shopify allows you to easily modify the basic attributes of the store with its easy-to-use tools and drag-and-drop interface.
Magento’s learning curve is known to be a bit steep, but that’s only because it is designed to facilitate flexibility and accommodate a wide range of customization scenarios. Magento is very flexible at the expense of user-friendliness. On the upside, however, there’s so much that can be done with the platform. So, if you are a large store owner and you’ve got the necessary Magento development skills, user-friendliness shouldn’t be an issue.
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 load 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. 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, since its a hosted solution, you have almost no control over your hosting environment and server level adjustments.
On the other hand, tying in with the control and hosting flexibility, Magento is known for its robust performance and unique performance oriented tweaks. Additionally, since its a self-hosted platform, you have the option to choose your own server and make all the necessary adjustments to boost the performance metrics. This even involves making use of managed hosting with advanced technologies such as caching mechanism and CDN.
When using Magento, you have 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 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 hosts your store for you on their Cloud project, hence the word Cloud is 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.
Payment Gateway Options
Payment gateway option is one of the most important things when you think about the end user. Shopify offers ease of payments with the integration of a custom solution and other popular payment options.
Magento also offers similar selling options to extend the capabilities of your ecommerce store, but with the help of modules. You can find various modules and add-ons for configuring and setting up different payment options.
Themes and Templates
Both Magento and Shopify have a huge collection of themes. And while both the ecommerce platforms offer free and paid themes, Magento has a vast collection to choose from. With Magento, you can choose from premium themes that are still cheap and with 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, Magento and Shopify have customizable themes, though it’s relatively easy to install and modify Shopify themes. Magento, on the other hand, offers complex customization but with enough room for flexibility and customization.
Each platform offers its personalized take on inventory management. Even though both Magento 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 offers a much bigger collection of add-ons that integrate smoothly with the Magento backend. With Magento, thanks to its huge community, there are hundreds of vetted extensions that extend the out-of-the-box features and functionalities. With the help of these add-ons and extensions, you can enhance the functionalities of your ecommerce store without worrying about writing code.
Shopify, on the other hand, has a small repository of add-ons. On the plus side, however, Shopify offers a simpler installation process and helps in improving the functionality of your store.
SEO and Marketing
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.
From the SEO and marketing perspective, both Magento and Shopify offer various functionalities and integration with marketing tools to maximize the ROI of your efforts. Both platforms allow basic functionalities to optimize the store level content to ensure higher SERP positions that directly translates into revenue for the store.
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.
However, Magento has the ability to integrate and implement your custom SEO and digital marketing strategies without any major hassles. It allows you to customize and tweak both the store design and the SEO strategy for maximum output. And its non-hosted, open source nature makes all this accessible through API and extension integration. Magento offers out-of-the-box tools that you might not be able to readily find in Shopify.
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 make it much easier for search engines to index ecommerce websites and understand their structure.
Shopify comes with dedicated customer service and support. Magento, on the other hand, offers dedicated community-based support that includes a range of experts including Magento certified individuals, backend and frontend developers. In fact, 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 turn to Magento forums and discuss with the community. At the same time, you can even get support from a Magento partner agency that helps with everything from store creation, setup, and management.
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.
Magento VS Shopify: What’s The Dealbreaker For You?
As I’ve said before, there’s not really a winner in this situation because just one platform can’t have all the perks. Both Magento and Shopify have their own strong points and unique features. You just have to decide which one best fits your business model.
While Shopify is hosted and can be easy to use, 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 really 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 has the capability to 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 really 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 are 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
I prefer Magento as it’s more customizable and more scalable for bigger enterprises.
– Will Brammer, Magento Support Manager at TwoJay
After hearing both sides of the story, I wanted to get some insight on the problems that people face with Magento 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 more stronger platform. My clients who have started with Magento have better growth rates compared to other platforms…..With Magento, possibilities are unlimited. You can do everything and scale to any limit. The community is really strong on both 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.”
“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.”
It’s not what people say, you can only learn from their experiences. It’s really what your business needs. The decision is yours!
The functionalities and capabilities of both Magento and Shopify warrant the 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 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 over Shopify. 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, keeping in mind the goals of your business.
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