Shopify vs Magento: A Side By Side Comparison
Written by Luke Haslett
Written by Luke Haslett
Whether you’re a startup or an enterprise brand exploring new options, choosing the right E-commerce platform isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. The two most popular players in the space are Shopify & Magento. Each platform boasts a number of notable benefits & choosing the right platform for your business will depend upon your objectives & the resources you have at your disposal.
Magento began as an open source platform & has traditionally been used by larger businesses due to the ongoing development required to harness its true functionality. Magento offers on-premise & cloud-hosted options, but many businesses are now seeing the value of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) models as they provide continuous updates, including security patches. Updates to Magento require merchants to migrate their stores, such as moving from Magento 1 to Magento 2 (or another E-commerce option). Shopify on the other hand are the leaders in the SaaS E-commerce space. The Shopify platform is renowned for its ease of use & app store plugins that have been the driving force behind the platform's success. In this article, we’ll walk through a side-by-side comparison of both platforms.
The pricing of Magento & Shopify varies significantly & it’s important to factor in the initial cost of setting up the system, ongoing maintenance, security & hosting into your total cost of ownership.
The cost to license Magento software varies based upon what product you use. Magento Open Source (formerly Community Edition) is technically free to download from their website, however you have to cover the cost of hosting, security, development & design. Additionally, this option doesn’t come with any support. Magento Enterprise Edition, which does have a support package is significantly more expensive. Quotes will vary depending upon the size & complexity of your business, but annual fees will stereotypically range from £17,000 to £125,000. Magento also offers the cloud-hosted Magento Cloud Edition. It has a Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS) model, which has some but not all of the advantages of a SaaS platform. The Cloud Edition is more expensive & prices start from £28,000.
Shopify also offers a number of pricing models. A Basic Shopify Plan starts at $29 per month, although this plan has the fewest features. More advanced plans range from $79-299 per month & Shopify Plus, which is designed for larger enterprises starts at $2,000 per month.
Another key component to consider when exploring which platform is right for you is ease of use. Your team needs to be able to make full use of the system's functionality & features to unlock its true value.
Magento: Highly complex
Magento will inevitably require a developer to build your site, find a hosting partner & integrate your technology stack. Once you’re set up, Magento has a steep learning curve. The platform’s flexibility can also be its biggest pain point particularly for new users who often find it challenging to navigate the complexities of the platform without considerable difficulty.
Shopify has been designed for ease of use, with a particular focus on helping those without a background in development to launch an online store. The platform has a range of drag & drop areas, making it easy to build a site from scratch. For more advanced features, you’ll need to deploy additional apps or employ custom coding. Where ease of use is concerned, even Magento developers will admit that Shopify is the clear cut winner.
Your site needs to be clean, functional, fast & an extension of your brand. Choosing the right theme is inevitably one of the most critical decisions for design conscious brands.
Magento: None on-site
Magento doesn’t provide any themes as part of the native software. Nor do they offer a selection of themes for customers to choose from. Instead, businesses must purchase their theme from third-party sites like ThemeForest or pay a developer to build one.
Shopify offers hundreds of beautifully designed, highly customisable themes that are either free or available to purchase. Each theme is mobile optimised & easy to integrate into your store.
One of the core differentiating factors between both platforms is how they are hosted. It’s important to consider whether or not you plan on hosting the software on-premise or in the cloud.
Magento: On-premise, third-party or cloud based
As we mentioned earlier, there are different Magento products available, & Magento can be hosted on-premise, through a third-party, or in the cloud. Magento’s hosting abilities depend upon how you use the platform, & you’re entirely responsible for finding a hosting service to use. After all, Magento is a PaaS, not a SaaS - there won’t be a whole lot they will handle on your behalf.
Shopify is completely cloud-based & hosting is included with your subscription. You won’t have to hunt for a third-party hosting provider or deal with the challenges of managing it.
E-commerce sites can’t afford to be vulnerable to attacks that put customer data at risk & destroy faith in your brand. Both platforms vary significantly in how much of the security burden they expect you to take ownership of.
Magento: Dependent upon your standards
How secure you make your Magento site is entirely up to your development team (Even simple tasks such as deploying & maintaining an SSL certificate). Whilst Magento will create patches for known security vulnerabilities, it’s your team’s responsibility to keep your site updated.
One of the primary advantages of a SaaS solution is that the security is included. Shopify meets all six categories of PCI standards & includes SSL certificates on their hosted sites.
All businesses have different needs & priorities. If you’re a B2B seller, you might require options for different customer groups or, depending on your industry, you might need to offer multiple payment gateways or shipping options to keep up with competitors. We can’t go into a full list of all the available features for these platforms here, but here’s a quick rundown.
Magento has a wide selection of features, including its support for large product catalogs with lots of variants, native product bundles & groups, & cross-selling & upselling features. Users also have access to extensions & add-ons. When considering Magento, you can customise your E-commerce store with almost anything you need, provided you have the development capabilities to do so.
Shopify: Some native features
Shopify has some native features as well, & other functionality can be achieved through third-party apps that can be purchased through their app store. It’s important to be aware of which features you require & to calculate the cost of the apps you deploy to have complete visibility of your total cost of ownership. Also it’s worth nothing that Shopify penalises businesses by charging transaction fees for not using their payment gateway.
There’s no one-size-fits-all E-commerce platform. Our general train of thought is that if you’re an enterprise-level business with unlimited resources, Magento may be the better choice due to the level of customisation the platform offers. On the flip side, if you’re a small business or startup that values agility, speed & support, Shopify is likely the better fit of the two.