Magento vs Shopify: Which Platform to Choose?

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Olga Demidenko
Author, Geomotiv
Published: May 15, 2021

Each eCommerce business has a unique set of goals and objectives and has to select the proper tools to implement them. No matter how far your plans stretch, the initial point tends to be the same. It is necessary to choose the right platform for online business, around which your operations are likely to advance, grow, and mature. 

Again and again, this leads to heated discussions about whether to start with Magento eCommerce development or opt for Shopify development. No doubt, these are the most popular options on the eCom market. However, these are fundamentally different platforms, but do they have similarities? Can they serve the same business purposes? 

At Geomotiv, we consider ourselves a top eCommerce software development company, so we thought we’d share some insights gathered from our experience with these popular platforms. Let us take you on a journey to present the results of our detailed Magento vs Shopify comparison.

Overview

Shopify is a hosted commercial solution, which means that store owners need to pay a monthly fee to access their managed services. The platform uses a proprietary coding language called Liquid that doesn’t modify the built-in functionality. Since its inception in 2006, Shopify has become a famous drag-and-drop website builder offering fully managed services for users of all technical abilities.

Meanwhile, Magento is an open-source product built on top of PHP that anyone can download for creating online stores. However, you need to provide your hosting and go through the configuration procedure to start selling online. As Magento is open-source, its installation and setup may require some technical skills or hiring a qualified Magento developer. This, in turn, opens up significant opportunities for changing a standard setup.

It is necessary to mention here that Adobe has sunset the original version in June 2020. Following the upgrade to Magento 2, the company introduced new features, which target tech-savvy merchants and non-coders alike. 

In light of these differences, Magento and Shopify come out serving distinct business types. When looking to build a simplistic online store that doesn’t require ongoing maintenance, Shopify can be a credible alternative. It is suitable for small and medium businesses with limited technical resources and budgets. eCommerce startups and new companies can move online quickly and without hassle. 

For more sizable businesses, Magento is a more appropriate option. It lets you develop a feature-rich online store with full customization abilities. It serves the needs of growing companies and enterprise-level businesses that need to implement their particular requirements.

Going further, each of the platforms has specific versions to cater to diverse businesses.  As for Magento, it offers three versions. Here’s a glimpse of their core features:

Magento Open-Source Edition (Formerly Community version)Magento Commerce Edition (Previously Enterprise version)Magento Commerce Cloud Edition
Open-source software with a basic set of tools. To extend built-in functionality and access advanced features, merchants can use additional modules and extensionsPaid tailor-made eCommerce solution with rich functionality, a vast number of seamless integrations, and 24/7 customer supportAutomated and fully managed edition with more advanced tools to fit the business requirements. It comes with enterprise-class features, cloud infrastructure hosting, and 24/7 customer support
FreeApprox. $24.000+/year*, based on average gross sales revenue/yearApprox. $32.000+/year*, based on average gross sales revenue/year

*for actual prices, contact Adobe for a quote.

As for Shopify, it uses another model for forming its pricing. Its pricing hierarchy is not that strict and gives freedom to upgrade or downgrade the current one. Here’s an overview of the plans with the pricing:

Shopify LiteBasic ShopifyShopifyAdvanced ShopifyShopify Plus
Offers the tools to set up a POS to sell in-person or embed a buy button to an existing website or a social media page.Lets users access the basic functionality to start selling unlimited products, set up discount codes, and create orders manually.Includes the functionality of the previous tier and adds a Shopify POS, gift cards, abandoned cart recovery, and advanced reporting.Provides unlimited storage capabilities, real-time carrier shipping, and an advanced reporting module.A fully hosted enterprise-level solution that provides vast customization abilities and sophisticated reporting and marketing tools.
$9/mo$29/mo$79/mo$299/moApprox. $2k+/mo*

*for actual pricing, contact Shopify for a quote.

Convenience

When making a  Magento vs Shopify comparison, it is hard to omit each platform’s ease of use. Average beginners without a background in software development require simple steps to create a store. Whereas for a tech-savvy specialist, it is easy to navigate the complexity and derive the most value from rich functionality.

Shopify comes with a wizard mode that enables new users to set up their stores without technical help. Beginners can modify the store’s elements by moving them around the dashboard. And whenever any issue arises, merchants can rely on live operators from 24/7 technical support. This is also noted by this Capterra user:

Opposed to Shopify, Magento has a steep learning curve as it has more complex elements under the hood. Even though the admin panel is not as user-friendly as Shopify, Magento becomes easier with ready-made add-ons. The good news is that extensive user guides and a vast community of contributors can help you navigate the issues. However, it might take a bit of time to come to grips with the platform. Reviews also state that the platform becomes easy-to-use once you’ve learned the basics:

It is a popular misconception that Magento’s users can face significant hurdles when setting up their store. With the advent of Magento 2, the platform introduced changes in an attempt to overcome the drawbacks of Magento 1. The platform received, among other things, drag and drop visual elements and a more user-friendly admin panel. Thus it is becoming more attractive for non-coders and those with no experience in website building.

Who Uses Magento?

Many world-famous brands in a variety of industries are running their online shops on Magento. From Retailers, Apparel & Fashion to Health & Wellness and Automotive companies are turning to the Magento platform to build and promote their online stores. Among them are the following top names:

Who Uses Shopify?

Shopify powers businesses across different industries from one of the largest US-based cosmetics stores to online-only premium clothing companies and household names. We’ve picked some of the biggest brands with a Shopify online store:

Themes

Store design can do wonders for the customer journey and contribute to building a brand’s unique image. Considering this, Shopify vs Magento comparison is getting more interesting as both platforms share similarities and some differences in this respect.

Shopify and Magento have free and paid themes in their offering. Shopify currently has 9 free and 65 paid templates on their website, and Magento 2 offers 11 official templates on their marketplace. As for the pricing, Shopify’s templates are available at between $100 and $180 per unit. The price tag for Magento’s themes starts from $30 and goes up to $499. Both platforms provide mobile-responsive themes, which means that users on any device can browse for products without any friction.

Shopify’s templates are pre-populated, meaning it is easy to swap inventory and start selling without touching a line of code. On the flip side, customization is limited to the basic options, allowing you to change fonts, colors, image uploading, and the wording of features. Extra features like adding new pages or resizing images are available through apps.

However, once you’ve chosen to build your store on Magento, you can unlock the power of the open-source nature of the platform. It is possible to implement your template or choose from thousands of themes developed by Magento development companies or other contributors. With the right expertise, you can access a vast range of customization options to make your online brand stand out in the crowd.

Performance

Since Shopify is a hosted solution, online sellers can be sure about their store’s fast performance or loading speed. Its cloud-based infrastructure can handle unlimited products and has quick response times at peaking traffic times. A Shopify user from the Capterra also notes this. The user praises the platform for its performance despite the high price:

With Magento, however, issues may arise if the platform is not optimized for performance. So, when the number of products starts to grow, the services are likely to fail to meet average requirements. Yet there is always room for improvements with handy guides and some Magento web development help from your technical team. 

Add-Ons and Extensions

Basic functionality can hardly meet the demands of diverse businesses. In this relation, both Shopify and Magento offer an extensive list of free and paid add-ons that help access advanced features. We can find nearly 4500 Shopify add-ons on the official store and almost 4000 extensions on the Magento Marketplace:

The price for Magento extensions starts from $50 per unit and can go up to $2000 for a custom add-on. Some of them require a one-time fee while most of the cost will be allocated to custom Magento software development services

Shopify lets you add product discounts, social buttons, gift items, loyalty points, pop-ups, shipping options, and so on. It enables you to expand your store however you want by paying a monthly fee starting from $4/mo. This Capterra review reaffirms the point:

However, there are limitations in terms of customization and implementation of such applications. In many cases, the necessary apps are just one click away, but you might still require a Shopify developer to adjust them for your store. It is also worth considering that half of the applications in the store are paid, which can undoubtedly affect the costs of the store. One of Capterra users also shares his thoughts on the topic as well:

Magento’s extensions are more powerful than Shopify apps since they allow you to control every aspect of the website. It is easy to add complex inventory management mechanisms or integrate email marketing campaigns. It is also possible to implement extreme customizations through expert Magento development teams. At the same time, numerous extensions are available with a click of a button and don’t require Magento developers to touch any code.

Payments and Transactions

Magento gives total freedom in choosing your payment processors, while Shopify restricts its stores to using their product - Shopify payments. Alternatively, the platform allows you to use a preferred external tool as well. But that means you’ll have to cover each transaction with a percentage fee ranging from 0.5% to 2.0%. As you are working with a fully managed platform, little or no Shopify app development help is required to set up a secure and efficient payment gateway. 

Going back to Magento, the platform presents compelling options when it comes to facilitating transactions. It supports numerous payment gateways, including those targeted at enterprise-level clients. What’s more, you can set up international payment handling mechanisms so that you can sell to clients on a global scale. On the other side, Magento web development help is required to implement the right payment gateway, increasing time-to-market.

Pricing

Although both the platforms have different pricing models, they still require an investment for building a solution. We’ve already discussed the topic above, but let’s consider it in more detail.

The price tag for Magento licensing depends on what edition you are going to use:

Open-SourceCommerceCommerce Cloud
FreeApprox. $24.000+/year*, based on average gross sales revenue/yearApprox. $32.000+/year*, based on average gross sales revenue/year

*for actual prices, contact Adobe for a quote.

Next, you need to factor in all hosting, security, and domain expenses for Open-Source and Commerce editions. The Cloud-based offering includes hosting within its package. We also mentioned the price range for themes and extensions for this platform above. They should also be taken into account when determining the cost of building a Magento store.

Shopify offers a fully hosted eCommerce solution and charges fixed monthly fees ranging from $9 to $299. Shopify Plus, designed for large-scale enterprises, starts at around $2.000/mo fee.

LiteBasicShopifyAdvanced
$9$29$79$299

The platform also charges transaction fees for using third-party payment gateways. By opting for more advanced pricing plan options available for Shopify, the transaction fee hierarchy is as follows:

LiteBasicShopifyAdvanced
2%2%1%0.5%

From first sight, Shopify versus Magento pricing comparison has a winner. Although Shopify’s initial costs look cheaper, you'll also need to pay for apps and templates to extend its limited native functionality.

Features

Magento comes with excellent out-of-the-box features such as abandoned cart recovery, multiple product variants, flexible couponing, total sales and revenue reports, and built-in visitor count. It also offers multilingual support by default and doesn’t require third-party apps to access this functionality. However, Magento’s multi-channel selling options are available only through extensions. For instance, it costs $199 to integrate your online store with Facebook, which is free with Shopify.

Shopify was initially designed as a platform with standard navigation and limited customization potential. It doesn't offer full multilingual capabilities out-of-the-box, for example. However, it solves this issue by providing numerous apps to create fully multilingual stores. Another option is to write custom code for your theme to access multilingual capabilities. But mind that you will most likely have to find Shopify development experts to complete the task.

Support

With Shopify, you get dedicated customer support as part of the monthly subscription. The platform does its utmost to resolve issues via 24/7 live chat, phone, social media, and email. Users also can navigate through an extensive list of community forums, a help center, documentation, and video tutorials. On top of that, you can engage certified Shopify web development experts to get end-to-end support of your store. 

As for Magento, you need to migrate from Open-Source to Commerce edition to gain support service via email or chat. Lack of access to an around-the-clock dedicated support team is not an issue for the platform. Instead, Magento harnesses the power of its active community of contributors. The platform also goes with a comprehensive help center available on their official website.

Magento vs Shopify: Our Summary

Here’s a quick overview of the differences between Shopify and Magento:

AspectMagentoShopify
SummaryOpen-Source eCommerce softwareFully hosted eCommerce platform
Ease of UseComplex installation and setup, simple to intermediate-level interfaceEasy installation and setup, simple interface
IndustriesRetail, Apparel & Fashion Health & Wellness, AutomotiveHome & Garden, Food & Drink, Health & Beauty
Themes11 themes. Virtually unlimited number of third-party themes70+ themes
PerformanceRequires optimizationOptimal performance for eCom stores
Apps and ExtensionsApprox. 4000 extensions, an unlimited number of third-party add-onsApprox. 4500 apps on Shopify store
PaymentA vast number of gateways through third-party apps100+ payment gateways and its direct payment tool
PricingFree to downloadMonthly fees ranging from $9 to $2000
Transaction feesVarying from a vendor to vendor0.5% to 2% penalty for not using Shopify payments
FeaturesIntermediate and advanced featuresLimited functionality, third-party apps
SupportCommunity-backed support24/7 vendor support

To Conclude: Shopify or Magento?

This article shows that Shopify and Magento can be pretty good at different things. While one platform works best for your goals, budget, and expertise, the other will fail to meet these criteria. To decide which might be the right fit for your business, it is necessary to prioritize the essential requirements.

Opt for Shopify when you Need:

  • essential functions and standard navigation;
  • simple, intuitive interface;
  • basic hosting options;
  • optimal load handling;
  • round-the-clock support of the store;
  • diverse built-in sales tools;
  • easy all-in-one payment with limitations.

Opt for Magento when you Need:

  • a feature-rich online store with unique design;
  • complete control over your hosting;
  • total freedom to customize the look and feel of your store through coding;
  • freedom to choose payment gateways;
  • vast multilingual capacities;
  • unlimited opportunities for future growth;
  • a community-backed open-source solution.

We are happy to help! Tell us about your project and we will get back to you shortly.

If you want to get a better idea of which platform is the best fit for your goals, talk to our experts. Our Magento web development company, with extensive experience in creating competitive eCom solutions, is glad to help you realize your next project.

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