In today's world, it's highly likely that your e-commerce store is your most important source of revenue. You should think carefully when it comes to choosing the right platform for your needs. If you don't consider this now, it may cost you dearly when you quickly outgrow your system or find it doesn't give you the flexibility you need.
We've done the hard work for you by comparing two of the most popular e-commerce platforms, breaking it down into key areas. We will be comparing Magento 2 Open Source with the features available in Shopify and Shopify Plus.
Both Magento and Shopify provide the "basic" features out of the box to allow customers to buy your products online - category pages (or 'collections' in Shopify), product pages, shopping cart, checkout, promotions and discount codes etc.
Inventory and stock management
Both platforms allow an unlimited number of products and support stock management. Support for multiple warehouse locations has also become available in recent version of both Magento and Shopify too, allowing better native support for shipping items and managing stock from multiple warehouses.
Multiple languages & currencies
Magento and Shopify both support multilingual stores and multiple currencies. However, Shopify only offers the multi-currency feature if using their own "Shopify Payments" payment method. For more information on Shopify Payments, go to the Payment options section.
Both allow you to create discounts that are either applied to the cart automatically or applied using a discount code. Magento probably allows you to create slightly more flexible discount conditions and also allows you to bulk generate discount codes. But otherwise, Shopify does handle almost every everyday scenario when it comes to discount codes.
Magento also allows you to add "Catalog Price Rules" which applies blanket discounts to a range of products based on the conditions you specify, such as products within a certain category or a particular brand. This is really for those Black Friday sales or if you have a "Sale" category where you want to automatically apply a 10% discount to all products that are within it.
Magento really stands out when it comes to running multiple stores from a single admin interface. This is a feature that Shopify
lacks but Magento will allow you to create any number of additional storefronts. This can be really useful.
Let's say you run a store called `mydepartmentstore.com` which sells a range of products including clothing, toys, TVs and
appliances. To maximise your chances of selling your products you decide to launch a couple of new websites called `myclothingstore.com` and
myappliancestore.com. This website will sell only clothing and appliances respectively, although they will sell the same
products that are available on `mydepartmentstore.com` and be managed by the same team. Magento can be easily set up to run these three stores
on the same Magento installation but to the customer appear to be completely different brands, and with their own completely unique designs.
One huge benefit of this as opposed to running the sites on separate installations/accounts is that your stock levels are shared across all of your websites.
At the time of writing this article, Shopify does not support multiple storefronts from a single account.
Community & support
Magento and Shopify both have large communities with plenty of support and expert advice being available either online or via a specialist agency.
A plus point for Shopify users is that customers get 24/7 technical support direct from Shopify, whereas Magento Open Source users rely on themselves, their web agency or the online community to find solutions to problems.
Customisations and extendibility
Both Magento and Shopify have a large number of extensions (in Magento terms) or apps (in Shopify terms) available to offer further functionality for your store.
Although many of the quality Magento extensions require you to buy a license, these are generally all one-off purchases. Many Shopify apps that offer additional functionality are pay monthly, which could quickly add up.
For those looking for a DIY solution, Shopify does have more built-in templates than Magento but both have a wide range of plug-and-play themes available to help you get an ecommerce website up and running quickly. Whilst you can build custom themes for Shopify, you are still somewhat restricted and have to stick within certain limitations, upgrading to Shopify Plus will allow you to make further customisations though, such as within the checkout.
With Magento, you do have full control over all aspects of the design and layout. There are best practices that should be followed though, (more on that in a future post) so make sure you have expreienced Magento developers working on your site. A good Magento agency will be able to build heavily optimised UX experiences into your bespoke theme.
Magento is built to be flexible and customisable so almost anything is possible - not only on the frontend but also in the admin. Many bespoke admin features can be build to meet your requirements, from managing bespoke frontend features/customer product builders to custom order processing and production workflows. If this is the kind of flexibility you need you should definitely be considering Magento. This side of Shopify is mostly limited to adding custom meta fields for storing additional data that can be pulled through into your theme.
Magento allows you to accept payment from almost any payment provider/gateway that you like. For US users, Magento has a native Authorize.net integration and PayPal and Braintree can be set up within minutes straight out of the box. There are also officially supported modules for most, if not all common payment providers such as Stripe, SagePay, WorldPay, as well as integrations with finance providers (useful for expensive purchases) such as Klarna, Hitachi Finance and V12 Retail Finance.
Shopify also has integrations with a lot of the popular payment providers, including Stripe, PayPal and SagePay. In terms of offering customers a finance option, it doesn't look like there is much support for this, besides Klarna.
Shopify only supports multiple currencies if using their own "Shopify Payments" solution. The downside of this is that they charge 2.2% + 20p per transaction (on the basic plan, and 1.9% or 1.6% + 20p on their advanced plans). Whereas other payment options such as Stripe charge a flat fee of 1.4% + 20p.
Hosting & stability
Shopify will be a fairly safe bet for stability. Being a hosted solution you don't get to choose where you host your website. For many this will be beneficial as your website will always be running on Shopify's own hosting platform that is maintained and optimised by themselves to suit their platform. Shopify allows unlimited storage and traffic to your site. The biggest downside to this setup is that if there is a DDOS attack or other performance issues on another site using their platform, it may have a significant impact on the performance of your own website.
With Magento, you (or your web agency) are responsible for deciding where to host your website and which package is right for you. The problem with this is that for those who are not familiar with Magento's requirements may end up with a poorly performing website if they are mis-sold a sub-standard hosting package. There are lots of hosting companies claiming to offer quality, low cost "Magento hosting" but more often than not it's just cheap shared-hosting and doesn't perform well.
Having said that, the benefit of having full control over your hosting options is that you can decide or take advice on the best solution for you. Whether it be a shared, cloud or dedicated platform, Magento will perform in any these environments if chosen correctly. Our preferred Magento hosting provider is Nexcess.
Build and running costs
The cost of building and launching a Magento or Shopify website are likely to be comparable and can vary depending on many factors here are some considerations to consider:
- Do you require a bespoke design or are you going to use an off the shelf template?
- Do you just require the basic e-commerce functionality or do features that require bespoke development?
- Are you planning to use third-party extensions to gain additional functionality?
- Are you looking for a freelancer to build your website or do you need the additional support and quality of build offered by a web agency?
For the basic, entry-level website that's built by a freelancer using a purchased theme, you could have a website built on either platform for a couple of thousand pounds or dollars. Equally, for an enterprise-ready platform built by an experienced agency you could be looking at anything from £15k - £20k upwards on either platform too.
Ongoing running costs is probably where the two platforms start to differ. On the face of things, Shopify looks like a fairly cost-effective option. Shopify Basic is charged at a set fee of $29 USD per month, whereas the basic running cost of Magento will vary depending on your hosting plan. Whilst you may find budget hosting for as little as $15 USD per month, we would recommend Nexcess who's hosting starts at $49 USD per month. That said, Shopify also takes a fee of at least 2% of all transactions even if you don't use their payment gateway, so depending on your sales figures, this may quickly add up.
If you opt for Shopify Plus, be aware that you will be charged a monthly license fee of $2,000 USD. This alone is enough to cover a top-spec Magento hosting package and one of our Magento support plans with money to spare.
Magento and Shopify are both great platforms and definitely both have their place in the market. For the startup or businesses where online retail is not your main focus, Shopify provides a great solution to get a decent looking store up and running quickly and with minimal financial investment - be aware though of the higher cost per transaction and the additional monthly fees for many of the apps if you need the additional functionality. It could quickly add up.
Shopify Plus does offer a lot more but the monthly fee of $2000 USD per month would easily cover a Magento Support Plan, a high spec hosting package and enough change to pay for a motivational team day out!
Ultimately, I believe Shopify is a good option for a non-technical startup or sole trader to start building a presence on the web. If you are an established online retailer and are trying to push your business to the next level, or just want to make sure you start on a platform that will see you through rapid growth without having later to re-invest in a new platform then Magento is your best option and will allow plenty of room for future growth.
|Feature||Magento Open Source||Shopify Basic||Shopify Plus|
|Price||FREE||$29 USD p/mo||$2000 USD p/mo|
|Hosting costs||From $49 USD p/mo*||Included||Included|
|Multi language support||Y||Y||Y|
|Self hosted option||Y||N||N|
|Hosting costs||From $49 USD p/mo||Included||Included|
|Gift Cards||With extension||N||Y|
|Transaction Fees||None||From 2%||1.6% + £0.20|
* Magento hosting prices from our trusted provider, Nexcess