There are a wide range of eCommerce platforms available to businesses; Shopify and Magento are two of the most popular and widely used solutions worldwide for creating and managing online stores.
If you are looking to launch your own store, or are considering migrating your current store to another platform, you will need to research and understand the best solution for your business site and its goals.
At the most fundamental level there are two key differences between the two platforms:
- Shopify is a commercial platform that will charge you a fee. Magento is free at its most basic level as an open source platform but also offers a commercial Enterprise level option.
- Shopify is a hosted solution whereas Magento requires that you host your eCommerce website yourself. For this reason, many start-ups prefer to opt for a hosted solution like Shopify due to the ease of setup. Self-hosted platforms like Magento will require technical expertise and perhaps even web development skills to setup and configure.
Shopify provides all software and hosting in exchange for a monthly fee. This is most likely faster and more secure than hosting that could be achieved by a small business alone, meaning faster page load times and scalability allowing for spikes in traffic to be dealt with without concern.
Magento software is downloaded and run by you. Hosting maintenance, optimisation and costs rest with your business. This allows you to choose a hosting solution to fit your needs and budget, and offers control and ownership of your store, allowing total customisation which can be beneficial to very unique stores.
Ease of use
Shopify offers a simple way of quickly launching an online store that is doable for everyone. The admin interface is clean and user-friendly and pretty intuitive. Magento’s user interface is fairly simple but due to the nature of it having far more features it’s a bit more complicated than Shopify’s. The actual set up and customisation process is far from easy, requiring advance technical development.
Both platforms offer free and premium mobile responsive themes and templates which are fully customisable. The general consensus is that Shopify themes are more contemporary, however Magento has thousands to choose from versus around 100 Shopify themes.
Apps & Add-ons
Magento offers over 5,000 add-on extensions, compared to over 100 for Shopify, however quantity does not often equal quality – poorly made extensions can affect performance. Magento also comes with more front-end features such as quantity discounts, related products, wishlists, order status modules, and more. Having said that, it’s likely there will be an app available for these or similar features in Shopify, which are simple to install.
Both platforms offer importing of inventory and various categorising and pricing options. Magento leads the way here however with unlimited product attributes and its ability to show inventory at store locations.
Out of the box, Shopify supports dozens of payment gateways while Magento has far fewer although more gateways can be added via third-party add-ons. Shopify also offers its own payment gateway which doesn’t require a merchant account to use, has no transaction fee and lower credit card fees.
Both platforms offer comparable default shipping options. However, most retailers will have shipping rules that will require the services of third parties like ShipperHQ or Ship Theory. Both platforms allow easy integration of these services and others.
This is a big one, as your site will be dealing with a lot of sensitive customer data, not least credit card details which are regulated by PCI compliance. Shopify takes care of this for you by hosting your checkout on their own server which is PCI compliant. For Magento, unless you can integrate a payment gateway that either hosts payments on their own servers or uses direct post API methods to transmit data, you will be responsible for becoming PCI compliant in order to store and transmit credit card data.
Both Magento and Shopify offer the ability to activate SSL certificates for your store. This will encrypt all communication between the browser and the server, ensuring that all data goes through a secure (HTTPS) connection, essential for eCommerce stores. It also brings SEO benefits.
Security updates are periodically released by Magento, but you will need to apply these patches yourself. Shopify automatically applies updates and backups as part of its package.
Shopify is SEO optimised and allows you to create discount codes on the Basic version. Gift vouchers are available at the next level up. The app store gives you access to a wide range of marketing tools including social media integration, product reviews and email marketing. SEO is automatically configured for Magento too (although you can of course change things). Magento offers a much more extensive list of features, including promotional and multi-tier pricing, complex discounting and vouchers, related products, reviews and email marketing.
Because it is a monthly subscription, Shopify offers 24/7 customer support via phone and email included within the cost. There is no customer support for the free Magento Community Edition; you would need to employ the services of a third party, or try searching one of the community support forums. Magento only offers technical support to its paying Enterprise Edition subscribers.
A Basic Shopify site starts at $29 (£23.85) per month, although you can also utilise the services of Shopify Lite ($9/£7.40) which allows you to sell on third party sites such as Facebook. A standard package costs $79 (£64.97), with retail and advanced packages available, including Shopify Plus for larger companies. On top of this you will also need to pay credit card transaction fees plus a fee for using an external gateway (there is no fee for Shopify payments).
It’s worth noting Shopify offer a 14 day free trial.
With Magento Community Edition, there is no monthly fee and no transaction fees other than those charged by the gateway provider that you choose. However, you will need to pay for monthly hosting which can vary widely. As mentioned above, there is a chargeable version of Magento (Enterprise Edition), but unless you’re a huge company it probably isn’t for you, with prices for a license alone starting from $30,000 (£24,677).
(Prices correct as of October 2016 – 1 GBP = 1.216 USD)
If you’re looking for an eCommerce platform, as well as considering the immediate pros and cons of each such as cost, transaction fees and ease of use, ensure you consider the future needs of your site and business too, including scalability and third party integration.
In summary, Shopify’s appeal lies in its setup simplicity; small to medium businesses can be up and running in a matter of hours on a powerful platform that’s easy to use, has in-built marketing tools and no technical worries with regards to hosting.
Larger businesses with sufficient funding, content-heavy sites, very bespoke requirements or a visionary leader could find Shopify a bit restrictive in the long term and may prefer the impressive features, unlimited flexibility, growth potential and control offered by Magento.
Got any questions?
If you have any questions about Shopify or Magento, get in touch with one of our eCommerce experts on 01227 490220 for a chat, or email firstname.lastname@example.org