Today, the most important decision a business can make is about what kind of online store they are going to have. This decision will affect how they reach customers, the experience customers have when they’re on their website, and it will affect the day-to-day running of their business.
However, most business owners don’t have a solid background in web development, so it can be pretty overwhelming when they have to choose their business’s ecommerce platform. We’d like to help some readers decide by comparing two of the best ecommerce platforms around: Magento (Magento Community Edition) and Shopify. The ecommerce community has nothing but praise for both of these platforms, but that can make it tricky to choose between them, so we hope this article helps you decide whether Shopify or Magento is right for your business.
“Free” Magento vs Paid Shopify
The first main difference is that you pay for Shopify, whilst Magento Community Edition is free and open source. Shopify is a complete service where your store is hosted by them and you pay monthly, plus, depending on your payment option, a percentage of transaction fees.
Although Magento is lauded as one of the truly free ecommerce platforms, the fact is that you will have to pay for several things along the way, pushing it further and further from being free. For example, you will need to pay for your own hosting with Magento (so it’s not free in this regard, but this is true of all open source software for the web). Because of this, Magento requires a lot more work initially, as you have to buy hosting, install Magento, set the whole platform up, and configure everything you need to make your store run how you want it to. A lot of this setup requires pretty significant experience and programming skills, so many business owners pay experts like us to do it for them. So, this makes Magento less and less free with every added expense.
Magento also offers paid, licensed version called Magento Enterprise; this comes with a fairly hefty price tag, but with a range of extra features as well as support from Magento direct.
Magento and Shopify Themes and Templates
The Magento and Shopify online communities are very active, so they produce a huge array of themes and templates for businesses to choose between. This allows you find the perfect aesthetic to suit your products, your brand, and the customer experience you’re looking for. As Magento is open source, there are many more themes and templates for you to choose from. This is because Magento has been around for so long and is often the default ecommerce platform people go to once they’re serious about their online store, so many more developers spend time working with Magento. Check out our own Magento page for more information about what we could offer you.
However, although Shopify offers significantly fewer themes and templates than Magento, these themes tend to be more modern and made to a higher standard than the average Magento themes. However, there are many Magento themes that are just as good as Shopify themes, and the price discrepancy between the two platforms is enormous: premium Shopify themes start out at around $80, whilst Magento themes start out at $1. You will need to shop around much more with Magento, but spending a little more time should save you a significant amount of money in the long run.
Basic Store Functionality
Both Magento and Shopify offer easy-to-use online store interfaces. The functionality on both platforms is powerful enough to handle pretty much anything you might want them to do. The only huge difference in this regard is the amount of work involved in the setup stage, as Magento will require a lot more time and effort.
Delivery/Shipping Charge Calculations
Both Magento and Shopify provide a range of useful options for customers to calculate how much their delivery is going to cost. Given that organising and paying for delivery is an essential part of all online shopping exchanges, this level of shipping functionality should be a bare minimum for any ecommerce platform.
Managing Your Store’s Inventory with Magento and Shopify
With Magento, you can add an almost unlimited number of products to your inventory and it won’t cost anything extra. With Shopify’s ‘Starter Plan’ of around $14 per month, you can only have a maximum of 25 products on your store. However, all other Shopify accounts after their Starter Plan offer unlimited products.
Although Magento gives businesses the opportunity to add unlimited products to their store, if your host server isn’t up to the challenge, you may run into some big problems. If your server can’t handle the additional items, your site may slow down to the point where it is unusable for customers. This isn’t a problem for Shopify, however, as it is a fully hosted, managed service. However, as long as you pay for better, faster hosting, then it shouldn’t be a problem for Magento either – it’s just something you have to keep an eye on as your business grows.
Coupons and Discount Codes with Magento and Shopify
Temporary discount codes or coupons are often a great way to drum up a little bit of attention for your website with very little effort. Customers love to feel like they’re getting money off a purchase. Magento offers full coupon and discount code capabilities.
Shopify, on the other hand, doesn’t offer this feature on their starter plan. They do, however, offer full coupon and discount code functionality on their other payment plans. This is obviously geared towards encouraging businesses to take the more expensive Shopify plans. So, keep this in mind if you only ever intend to pay for Shopify’s starter plan.
Add-ons and Apps for Magento and Shopify
This is perhaps the biggest difference between both platforms, as due to Magento being open source, countless developers have had the chance to develop their own apps and add-ons for it. There well over 5000 apps and add-ons available for Magento, offering you a staggering mixture of customisation and functionality. Some of these add-ons are paid, some are free.
Shopify has significantly less than Magento, with less than 200 apps and add-ons to choose from. These add-ons are all very good quality, however, and there are a mixture of paid and free options to choose from.
Areas Where Shopify and Magento Perform Equally Well
There are several areas where both ecommerce platforms perform equally well. These areas include the following:
- SEO on both platforms works incredibly well, with the structure of both platforms set out to make it as easy as possible to optimise your website, driving as much traffic to your site as possible.
- Customisation options on both Shopify and Magento are extensive, whether you want to change the raw HTML/CSS code with Magento or the more user-friendly customisation options offered by Shopify.
- Blogging is equally easy on both platforms. It is built-in to Shopify and can be achieved easily with a free plug-in on Magento.
Conclusion: Shopify vs Magento
It is impossible to make a conclusion that is relevant to every single business, as we all have different requirements and capabilities. Perhaps the biggest difference is how easy Shopify is to setup and manage in comparison to Magento. If you do not have the time and do not want to play someone else for their time, then Magento could prove too time consuming and difficult to get the hang of. Shopify, on the other hand, does a lot of the hard work for you.
On the other hand, Magento could prove significantly cheaper if you are willing to work hard and work out exactly what you need to pay a web development company for. Weighing up what you can do yourself and when you need to pay someone else to do something could save you a lot of money in the long run.
So, if you are mainly looking for ease of use, then Shopify is a clear winner. But, if you want thousands of add-ons to choose from and you’re willing to work a lot harder in order to save money, then Magento is the right platform for you. I hope this article has proven useful and that it’s answered most of your questions. If you have any more questions about whether Magento or Shopify is best for your business, then please get in touch.