Magento vs Shopify: Which Is The Best for Your eCommerce Store?

John Ahya April 02, 2021
14 mins read Last Updated July 27, 2022
Magento vs Shopify

Magento vs Shopify – this question is quite nostalgic. It takes me back to the time I started working on developing eCommerce websites. As I was new to the industry, I had to do a lot of self-learning and research. The eCommerce tech world was still in its nascent stage, and no significant discussions around the platforms were happening.

But this allowed me to explore both these eCommerce giants extensively. I have worked on both platforms, experimented with their capabilities, and understood their limitations. In this article, I will go over the critical factors involved in choosing between Shopify and Magento.

Before we delve deep into the subject at hand, let me ask you the question that I ask all my clients – “What vision do you have for your business? How do you think finding the right eCommerce platform will help you attain that dream?”

You need to know that choosing between Magento and Shopify is not usually straightforward. It is one of the decisions that can impact the way your business will shape out to be. You have to make this decision fairly early on in your journey, and you can’t backtrack once the decision is made.

As an eCommerce web developer, I insist that my clients understand these four points before picking a platform:

  • The predicted growth of their company
  • Building and running cost of their online store
  • Objectives or reasons why they want an eCommerce store
  • The control they want to have on customer engagement

I have seen businesses make the mistake of picking the platform based on product demos or price discounts. Building an online store is much more than just having your products listed on the web or color-coding your store’s skin. While layout and theme are important, it is equally essential that attention is given to back-end business processes like CRM, customer engagement, inventory management, and more.

In this blog, I have compared Magento vs Shopify based on the various essential aspects. When you understand these aspects well, you can easily choose the best eCommerce platform for your business.

So, let’s get started.

Introduction of Magento

Magento is PHP-powered open-source software that is free to use. It means you get complete freedom to customize your store’s look and feel and make it unique.

And yes, if you are building an online store for your start-up, then the open-source solution is tempting to try. You should also remember that Magento doesn’t provide hosting, meaning you have to find a separate hosting partner.

It becomes easier to develop your store using Magento if you have the technical know-how. But again, you can always pick an experienced Magento developer who will help you set up your store.

Pro-tip: it helps to learn a bit about how Magento works – its features and limitations before you decide.

I have seen start-ups and brands who assume that Magento is more suitable for large-scale enterprises only. It is not entirely true! Many small-medium scale businesses are set up using Magento because it helps them design unique and stand-out online storefronts.

Introduction of Shopify

Shopify is an easy-to-use, plug-and-play platform. For someone who doesn’t have the technical background or the time to design a custom theme, then Shopify comes as a savior. It is user-friendly, meaning ready to take off with the word go.

There are three plans in Shopify –

  • Basic Shopify
  • Shopify
  • Advanced Shopify

If you pick Shopify as your eCommerce partner, I would suggest picking out Basic Shopify to see how it works for you. You don’t have to settle for the standard themes. Shopify gives you the freedom to customize their themes according to your needs.

Magento vs Shopify: A Detailed Comparison

Popularity

When I compare any two concepts, I drive parallels on several factors, and popularity is the first one. We will first know which platform is popular and then get to the ‘why’ in a bit.

Shopify has been around much longer than Magento but Magento has enjoyed quite a bit of popularity with brands and enterprises. Of late, it seems that this popularity is facing south. If Magento review is anything to go by I don’t think it is entirely out of the race. It still has managed to retain about 8% of online eCommerce stores worldwide.

Shopify, on the other hand, did not have a great start. Yet, it has steadily captured market share. It is so popular that it is now the power behind nearly 19% of all eCommerce websites. Impressive! I think the reason for Shopifys’ soaring popularity is its simple, plug-and-play interface.

Traditionally, Magento has been a favorite with large-scale enterprises and businesses. The reason is – it is an open-source platform that requires considerable technical knowledge to set shop. Shopify is more popular with small businesses that need an easy-to-install store.

Ease of Use

Magento:
Magento comes with a steep learning curve, and you would need a developer or a team to build your site. And let’s not forget that Magento doesn’t come with a hosting partner, so you should add ‘host’ to your ‘to-do list. It doesn’t provide on-site support, so it might be challenging for new users to wade through it with ease. Although Magento is not entirely user-friendly, it does give developers a lot of freedom to experiment.

There is a consensus that Magento is a tough nut to crack for those lacking technical abilities. It is true; Magento is not a ready-made set-up. But with its many extensions, it becomes easier to work with.

Shopify:
With Shopify, its easy-to-use interface is a hit with new users and brands alike. You don’t require technical abilities to use Shopify. Its drag and drop feature and impressive toolkits make it easier for non-technical users to build a fairly decent web store. You can customize your store by bringing in brand elements, add/delete products and move design elements around. And it brings in everything from marketing to inventory in its dashboard.

Key Takeaways:
It is a no-brainer – Shopify is the winner in this category. Magento is not too far behind, though it requires a bit of coding knowledge to work around.

Features

Both Magento and Shopify provide almost similar features – an easier way to sell products online, handle inventory and shipping, manage payments, and tailor-make sites for search engine optimization.

Online Store Functionality: All basic features –checkout systems, shopping carts, product pages, and more – are available on both platforms.

Multi-Language Capabilities:
If your business needs multi-language functionality, Magento is the perfect deal for you. It is quite possible to do the same with Shopify but you have to use third-party apps or customize the themes.

Blogging Functionality:
Shopify’s advantages of having a blogging feature and user interface win it hands down. Its in-house branding tool makes it easier to add content to your site without romping in a third-party platform for blogging. It is possible to do the same in Magento as long as you have a good developer.

Coupons and Codes: Although Shopify provides the ability to offer coupon codes, it is only available on its premium plan. Magento offers them as a standard feature.

Key Takeaways:
Both Magento and Shopify provide a few covetable features and miss out on a few. But Shopify, for its easy user interface and in-built blogging tool, is highly recommended. As far as multi-language capabilities and coupon codes are concerned, all you need to do is go in for third-party apps.

Themes and Design

I can’t emphasize the need to have an interactive, attractive, and responsive theme for your store. For instance, users usually spend 50 milliseconds – 0.05 seconds – on a page before deciding whether to stay or boot. You get less than half a second to make a great impression.

Pro-tip: if you already have a physical store, complete with your branding, you should go in for themes that make your store look like an online extension of your brand. Another point to note is mobile responsiveness. 57% of users say they will not recommend a store if it has a poorly designed mobile store.

Magento:
Being open-source, Magento doesn’t offer themes as a part of the native software. You can, however, find a suitable theme from third-party sites. Magento is a developers’ favorite because it is possible to build custom-designed themes from scratch. The Magento themes are much cheaper than Shopify on the price front, ranging from $49 to $99.

Shopify:
Get Shopify, set your store up, and you are ready to go! It’s that simple. You can customize themes, start adding products, and content and tweak the design to get going. Moreover, these themes are mobile optimized as well.

On the downside, only a few Shopify themes are free, and you will have to pay a bit for the rest. In case you don’t mind paying the extra buck, then Shopify’s site customization and social media integration options are great. There are 9 free and 81 premium Shopify themes. The price point for Shopify paid themes start from $180.

Another point (that no developer will tell you) is that being proprietary software, Shopify doesn’t allow too many tweaks to its themes. You can surely alter the colors, and button size, and add font or images, but the customization choices get limited beyond this.

Key Takeaways:
For a developer or anyone with coding knowledge, Magento is a dream come true. It gives users the freedom to create something truly unique. That’s why I highly recommend Magento. You can even build a theme entirely from scratch if you have the technical prowess.

Community Support

Ever for an experienced user, there are times when help and support are needed. Regardless of whether you are building a store from scratch or customizing themes, you will have issues that need immediate fixing. So timely help and support is another parameter to judge the effectiveness of Magento vs Shopify.

Magento:
It has a flourishing user community from around the globe that offers timely help to users. If you need help dealing with any issue, you can always find outside help using Magento support and maintenance services.

Shopify:
Shopify ticks all the boxes – 24/7 phone and chat support, email support, tutorials, help center, and more.

Key Takeaways:
Our vote is for Shopify for its support. When you pick Shopify, you are paying for both platform and support.

Scalability and Capabilities

You want your business to grow. So choose a platform that not only satisfies your present needs but is also scalable.

Magento:
If your business sees a sudden spike in sales, you can be sure that your Magento-powered store will work just fine without running into trouble.

Since the platform is built using open-source software, its flexibility is top-notch. You need new functionality, and you can ask your developer to update the Magento database accordingly.

Shopify:
Shopify is a hosted eCommerce platform, so you don’t have to worry about finding a host. Even though you get three plans to choose from, there aren’t many feature variations in them.

If your business is growing, you might want to look at pricier plans to cater to your needs. And let’s not forget the steep transaction fees that come along with it. The more you sell, the more Shopify exacts fees from you. It means that you might not be able to scale beyond a certain point.

Key Takeaways:
Scalability is one of the most vital parameters of eCommerce platforms, and our vote goes to Magento on this.

Coding

I usually ask my clients to learn a bit about the coding language used by the platform. It usually lets us know what would be the capabilities and limitations of the store.

Magento:
Magento can be altered by anyone with access to the source code. If you are tech-savvy, then you can go ahead and build your store. Otherwise, there are experienced Magento web developers to do the job for you.

Shopify:
Shopify runs on Liquid. And it is proprietary software, meaning you can’t modify or alter the code.

Key Takeaways:
We give Magento a big thumbs-up on the coding front.

Pricing

The development cost is one of the essential factors that you should consider for your eCommerce store. The price structures of Shopify vs Magento are entirely different from each other. Let’s see if there are any similarities between the two.

Magento:
Magento has an enterprise version and a cloud version on offer. The cloud version needs extra funds for licenses and customization. The open-source program, however, is free of charge.

Since Magento is from the open-source community, it doesn’t charge you anything for downloading. However, you need to get a hosting partner to continue using it. A decent hosting partner who offers great bandwidth and customization packages will be useful to your business. Also, you will have to keep an eye on other costs such as coding costs, developer charges, and set-up charges.

Before choosing Magento, you should consider

  • Your budget
  • Cost of hosting and support services
  • Type of theme and customization
  • Cost of developers – in-house, freelancer, or agency

You can check the detailed pricing of Magento from here.

Shopify
In Shopify, there are Basic Shopify, Shopify, and Advanced Shopify plans at $29, $79, and $299 per month, respectively. All three plans feature unlimited products, support, discount codes, gift cards, and manual order creation features. The differentiating aspect is report generation and transaction fees.

Since it is self-hosted, the hosting charges are included in the package. But, Shopify includes transaction fees, unlike Magento.

Key Takeaways:
If you can bear the initial developer and set-up costs, then Magento might work for you. However, Shopify’s simple monthly subscription-based plans are suitable for almost all business types.

Payment Processors and Transaction Fees

The payment process is a major consideration when choosing the right eCommerce platform.

Magento:
Magento supports more than 150 payment gateways. But a majority of these cater to large businesses. With Magento, you can also sell your wares directly through Amazon using Magento inventory -which might tip the balance in its favor.

Shopify
Shopify supports over 100 payment gateways, far higher than Magento. When you select the built-in Shopify Payment, you don’t incur these extra charges. It charges transaction fees if you choose external payment gateways.

Key Takeaways:
I know that Magento demands good coding skills to set up payments, but I still think it is better.

Apps and Add-ons

Apps and add-ons are vital to the performance of the store when its in-built features aren’t fully satisfying your brand’s needs.

Magento:
Magento has over 5,000 extensions to offer. Since it is open-source, the applications and extensions are developed by the global community of developers. While it might still take time for all extensions to be compatible with Magento 2, nearly 2,500 extensions work well on the newer version.

Shopify
Shopify’s advantages include its App store. The store has more than 4,200 free and premium apps for businesses. With the store constantly expanding, you are sure to find one to suit your needs. It does an excellent job of offering essential apps that most stores need. Any additional functionality you require can easily be added-on.

Even with Shopify’s affordable apps, you can still run up costs if you need advanced features. Just make sure you know the features you want in your store before you start subscribing.

Key Takeaways:
Magento vs Shopify is neck-to-neck in the apps and extensions category.

Marketing tools and SEO

Magento:
Magento usually has many marketing tools included in the package, so you don’t have to seek developers’ customization. You can offer discounts, coupons, and free shipping – all on your terms. You can also choose segmentation to target your customers.

Magento has an edge over Shopify in the SEO category. With Magento, you can easily customize the URLs of your web pages. This will make it easier for search engines to find your pages. Another built-in feature is the ability to edit image alt tags making it easy for Google image search to categorize your images.

Shopify:
Shopify doesn’t offer many in-built marketing tools. Unlike Magento, Shopify gives you the option of adding a blog feature to your store. Premium Shopify apps provide you with access to reports and analytics.

When you use Shopify, you don’t get many SEO features with the package. You can still edit image alt tags and customize page URLs.

Key Takeaways:
It is tough to call the winner in this, as both platforms offer various marketing features and SEO tools.

When should you choose Magento?

Pick Magento if you are willing to pay the top buck for a unique store complete with custom features and functionalities. The platform is always evolving, the features keep increasing, and the extensions get piled on.

If your business has an extensive line-up of products and you need great customization options, then you should go with Magento development for your business.

If you foresee huge growth for your business and need a platform to keep pace, Magento will help you.

Finally – if you are willing to bear the initial set-up costs and have someone do the ‘techy’ stuff for you, then Magento’s robust software will help you scale up pretty well.

When should you choose Shopify?

Now, let’s see how Shopify fares at the final countdown. When should you pick Shopify as your platform partner? Shopify is the simple and relatively straightforward solution to setting up online stores.

If you are a start-up or a small business, then Shopify’s ease of use and the hosted solution will fit your bill. You absolutely don’t have to have the technical knowledge or understanding of coding to build a powerful site on Shopify.

Finally – choose Shopify if you want a simple website, decent customization options, all-inclusive package (hosting, marketing tools, inventory plans) on a budget.

Conclusion

As I usually say, there are no winners here, only the right eCommerce solution to suit your business needs.

I absolutely think Shopify satisfies the business needs of specific users while Magento does the job for others.

But I recommend Magento as the platform that can keep pace with a growing business. Its initial costs can be a deterring factor to many, but these businesses can reap immense benefits once they acquire the right skills to work on Magento.

Frequently Asked Questions

Shopify is an all-in-one hosted platform for building an online business, while Magento is an open-source self-hosted platform that is best for building large & complex sites.

Magento is facing tough competition from Shopify. But, after the acquisition of Magento by Adobe, its popularity has increased. Moreover, Adobe is constantly releasing new patches and updates. Hence, Magento will have a significant share in the market.

Regardless of the online business, Shopify is still a choice that you can consider. Due to the platform’s scalability, you can establish trust and reputation among your audience. It also offers a wide range of integrations and add-ons to fulfill the needs of the audience.

John Ahya
John Ahya

John is the President and Co-Founder of WebDesk Solution, LLC. Living the digital agency life for over 10 years, he explores an extensive eCommerce world. He has immense experience in all major e-commerce platforms. Being a nature lover, he likes to breathe the fresh air on the hill stations during vacations.

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