Are you planning to start your own e-commerce business?
Confused between Magento and Shopify?
Or just curious for your not-so-near future endeavours?
So, either you’re here to make a decision for your future, or you just want to witness the…
Battle of the Titans – Magento vs. Shopify.
Maybe, you will read till the very last word of this long article, or maybe you will simply skip to the end of the page to peek at the winner.
Either way, I recommend that you don’t make a hasty decision.
Weigh the pros and cons of both, do a cost-benefit analysis, evaluate what you really want, make an informed decision, and then just go for it.
In this article, we will try to answer the real questions asked by many customers.
And try to find the best e-commerce platform which will not only benefit you in the long-run but also, is a one-in-all solution.
Spoiler Alert! There is no absolute WINNER in this comparison.
In this scenario, choosing a specific e-commerce platform, either Magento or Shopify will determine the fate of your online store.
If not chosen rationally or objectively, the extensive coding needed in Magento or the limitation on the scalability of Shopify, can hinder your future prospects or even, growth of your business.
So, let’s dive right in!
Magento vs Shopify: A Quick Overview
Basic Differences between the Two Platforms
Branding and Design
Search Engine Optimization
Third-Party Integrations, Extensions, Add-ons, and Apps
User-Friendliness and User-Experience
Although both of the platforms are used in hundreds of thousands of online businesses around the world…
But, the fundamentals and core structure of both of the platforms are entirely different.
Launched in 2007, Magento is an open-source software written in PHP. According to Builtwith.com, it is one of the biggest e-commerce platforms in the world with more than 500,000 live stores in total on different Magento versions.
It also has a much larger market share in mid-level stores than WooCommerce or Shopify in terms of revenue earned.
Being a market leader in terms of the highest number of top IR1000 online merchants, Magento (Commerce and Enterprise Edition) enjoys significant popularity in the online world.
Some of the highest-grossing stores on Magento’s platform (all versions) have a turnover of more than $1 billion annually.
- Nike (AU)
- Fred Perry
- Paul Smith
- Harvey Nicholas
- Christian Louboutin
However, many of the recognized stores are still operating on Magento 1.x, which is on the verge of extinction and will be completely cut off by Magento’s official Support by the end of 2020.
Magento 1 is based on an entirely different architecture compared to Magento 2.
And it is also cheaper to run. Much, much cheaper.
However, their purpose and fundamentals are (pretty much) the same.
So, even if you’re looking to read about Magento 2 vs Shopify, this article perfectly
On the contrary, Shopify is a fully-hosted, fully-supported, and version-less platform.
Although Shopify enjoys a much larger number of live stores than Magento – approximately 1,600,000 live stores according to BuiltWith.com, still Shopify’s market share in terms of revenue is much smaller than Magento.
The reason is that many of these stores are small to lower-mid level in size.
Shopify (including Shopify Plus) also has a number of big clients in the online world.
To name a few, these include:
- Good American
- and many more.
Magento is a rather flexible and scalable platform.
It has a complex architecture, self-hosted nature, and a Do-It-Yourself approach on every step. It is also difficult to use, code, and run, but can be the biggest ROI for your business.
Whereas, Shopify is a non-differentiated, theme-based, user-friendly software
Building an online store on Shopify is a piece of cake, but it limits the freedom to customize the overall structure of the store.
Compared to Shopify, Magento requires a deep learning curve to get started.
It demands an intense knowledge of coding, languages, technical terms, and much more.
On the other hand, Shopify will do it all for you.
One of the most widespread misconceptions is that both of the platforms are very similar in nature.
However, their purpose may be very similar but their approach, core structure, extensions, functionalities, and even fundamentals, differ in every aspect imaginable.
Either you can be a king of one thing or jack of all.
Hence, both platforms target a different market segment and audience.
Thus, there can’t be a sole winner in every situation.
The costs associated with both of the e-commerce platforms vary greatly depending on an individual’s needs and requirements.
Magento Community Edition is free to install.
However, it doesn’t come with support and customization requirements needed to be performed by a Magento Agency or your Magento experts.
The same is the case with Shopify’s trial version.
In general, Magento Enterprise is much expensive compared to Shopify Plus.
Starting with a license fee that starts at $22,000 annually for the Enterprise Edition and $40,000 annually for the Enterprise Cloud Edition.
You may want to check out the complete Magento pricing policy of different versions here at Magento Pricing.
Note: RLTSquare charges $30-$50/hour for Magento services.
Compared to Magento, Shopify follows a subscription-based model for pricing.
It does allow you to start free for 14 days.
But soon you will be asked to purchase the basic version.
It starts at $29 per month, Shopify Plan costs $79 per month, Shopify Advanced costs $299 per month, and the fully-hosted Advanced Plus version will start at $2,000 per month.
Below is the summary of Shopify pricing:
|Shopify Basic||Shopify||Shopify Advanced|
|Fee per Transaction||2.9% + $0.30||2.6% + $0.30||2.4% + $0.30|
|In-Person Credit Card Rates||2.7%||2.5%||2.4%|
|Payment Fee||Shopify Payments
Paying more does mean that you will be able to enjoy tons of new features.
However, bad news…
Themes and extensions can also get premium-priced.
It does sound cheap compared to Magento’s pricing, right?
But, here’s the catch!
Shopify charges a transaction fee per transaction payment via external payment methods.
So, if you’re using an external payment method, for instance, PayPal or Braintree, you will be charged on every transaction.
And it increases depending on how much money you make.
Nevertheless, if you use Shopify’s own payment method; Shopify payments, then you will be exempted from these payment fees.
There is no doubt that Magento and Shopify both, are extremely popular in the e-commerce world.
Both platforms have a significant number of registered clients with them.
However, there is a clear distinction between the type and scale both the platforms hosts.
While Shopify targets small to medium-scale e-commerce businesses, Magento generally attracts medium to large-scale enterprises, where the turnover can reach up to billions of dollars.
That’s because Shopify is relatively cheap and easy to set-up, easy to use, and easy to manage.
Whereas, Magento is expensive and difficult to set-up.
In simple terms, it is a marketing practice that creates a unique set of symbols, design, and perception in the minds of the consumers and is easily identifiable by them.
A major part of branding or marketing is creating the overall look and design of the business.
Both Magento and Shopify offer a range of different and unique themes (free or premium-priced).
These themes are responsive, user-friendly, and mobile-friendly. They can also easily adjust to screen sizes and devices.
Although both of the platforms offer around 10 free themes in total, you can always buy the appropriate theme from a range of premium-priced themes.
Because of the registered or trademarked factor of Shopify themes, you won’t be able to change a lot in them except for little tweaks and twists overall.
On the other hand, comparing Shopify with Magento’s themes. Magento provides you with all the freedom that you want including visual editing and graphics enhancement.
You can customize it exactly the way you want it to be.
Now, let’s talk about some technicalities.
In terms of coding, both platforms differ from one another.
Where Magento uses a much-sophisticated PHP language, Shopify is based on Liquid.
Magento is an open-source platform, but Shopify is trademarked.
It means that you cannot alter the proprietary rights and you won’t be able to customize as much as you want.
Shopify is a fine solution for simple stores and startups.
Yet, not-so-ideal for larger, more complex stores where customization and personalization with advanced features to suit specific requirements, is all you need.
This is where the true essence of Magento is recognized.
Magento is an on-premise e-commerce platform with a wide variety of broad APIs across the whole system.
It has an ability to change the core code, has a highly flexible platform, and unquestionable extensibility.
On the negative side, it can also create a problem in terms of maintenance costs.
In case you’re inclined more towards Magento, keep in mind that you will also need to upgrade the database every time there’s a new version out there.
Also, taking care of security patches, extensions, and bugs are all your responsibility.
Yours. Not Magento’s, but yours.
At the same time, it is relatively more extensible, has a broad range of APIs, is always preferred over SaaS platforms, and has an ability to do much more than Shopify.
While on the other hand, Shopify does everything for you.
Basically, you have minimal control over your own website and hence, the core database. But, this also means that they do not need to worry about security patches, customization, and updates.
In terms of system integrations, Shopify does take a lead here.
With Magento, one must get the code checked, understand extensions and integrations, and then handing over everything to the person in charge.
This isn’t the case for Shopify because of its platform-as-a-service approach, which is also a service to their users and it does everything for them.
For many retailers, the pros of Shopify; a hosted SaaS e-commerce platform, outweigh the cons of it.
However, if you’re an enterprise, you’re better off with Magento where you can exercise complete control over the platform.
As you might have already guessed, Magento has unlimited capabilities in terms of customization.
The possibilities are nearly endless with Magento.
With Magento’s more than 5,000 add-ons (free and paid), it has the capability to fulfil its every client’s demand. Add custom coupons, error messages, gift cards, wishlists, customer dashboards, related products, or even multiple logins.
Magento provides an endless adventure to your journey.
Do whatever you feel like.
On the other hand, Shopify has merely a total of 100 apps and add-ons to work with.
Shopify will fill the vacuum of every basic need but, it can in no way match the never-ending ability of Magento.
Shopify has three different options to work with:
- Shopify Plus Wholesale Channel
- Separate Store
- Using the Main Store
Based on the main store’s catalogue, it is a dedicated wholesale channel where products are pulled based on price lists.
It uses the main price and a wholesale price to calculate the price to a limited or targeted group of people.
However, there are various limitations to it, such as unable to edit themes or limitations on setting custom shipping rates.
A second page or a clone page for wholesale with relatively more customization ability and freedom.
It will use the main store for simple, yet effective wholesale programs such as customer tagging, template variables, and scripts.
Wholesale capabilities are one of the best-selling points of Magento’s platform because Magento provides support for business-to-business and wholesale merchants.
Hence, Magento has a huge focus on B2B market compared to Shopify.
It can differentiate between different customer groups, use targeted-pricing; differentiated pricing and customer-based pricing, and different payment methods.
It’s also very convenient to build different payment methods in Magento’s platform. Magento’s new module comes with great features.
For example, managing quotes and various customer setting easily, creating customer-specific catalogues, and assigning specific budgets and roles to different users and companies.
Magento’s new B2B suite has helped the platform to compete with other online solutions, which includes SAP Hybris, Spryker, Intershop, and many more.
Which in turn provides, but is not limited to, budget, quote, and credit management, customer roles, user data with accounts, and order filters.
Although both platforms take a different approach to inventory management, both will cater to your needs and get the job done for you.
It’s totally up to you which platform you choose based on this.
Magento, similar to Shopify, comes with ready-to-use basic inventory management.
However, it completely outshines Shopify when it comes to advanced features.
There are numerous possibilities to enhance and compliment the features of Magento through some in-built and third-party integration services.
On the other hand, as expected Shopify is not made for large enterprises and you can be sure of it once you peek at its inventory management.
It’s a simple and to-the-point platform. You can take control of your inventory.
But, the restrictions on flexibility will annoy you at the time when you want to expand your business.
Do you have a large and complex business structure and a complicated product setup?
Then you will probably lean towards Magento.
Because features like bundled products, downloadable products, and grouped products will require significant customization in the building.
The setup of the bundled products is easy to do, but the complexity of the setup of the SKUs will actually take a lot of time and effort.
Magento will support product bundles and allow for unimaginable customization for handling products.
Whereas Shopify uses a system of tags or tagging and meta fields to sort out different categories of products and group them accordingly. It works in a very different way compared to Magento.
It’s relatively more user-friendly, flexible, and time-efficient but, this method is not as structured as Magento’s.
However, this doesn’t bother any Shopify’s typical users. But it will be a head-scratcher for a more complex retailer who wants to improve manageability or restrict certain fields.
Magento has 7 different categories to group products or core and standard product types, which are:
- Simple Products
- Configurable Products
- Bundled Products
- Downloadable Products
- Virtual Products
- Grouped Products
- Gift Cards.
Whereas, Shopify only has two types:
- Simple Products
- Configurable (Parent) Products
Shopify is simple and easy to use on the front, with standard product catalogues and selling simple products on standard pricing.
Meanwhile, Magento comes stronger out of the box. It has stronger features and fundamentals to begin with.
Shopify can also achieve that with some development work or with third-party apps.
But, why begin with Shopify and end making it look like Magento when you can start with Magento in the first place?
However, Shopify does take a lead in one aspect – CSV import, for an average merchant with a simple and straightforward catalogue.
Shopify also has a pretty awesome plugin called Excelify that can import/export and migrate using CSV files. It also makes it less prone to errors.
Do you want to invest so much time and money on one website and see it die a slow death because you couldn’t find enough ‘organic’ traffic?
So, it’s better to decide your e-commerce platform on the basis of future marketing and SEO.
Although both of the platforms vary greatly in terms of doing SEO of the websites based on these platforms yet, somehow, they perform somewhat similar in most aspects.
Both platforms offer various integrations and functionalities to maximize ROI.
Magento is much more powerful than Shopify. But Shopify is easier to play with for an average user.
For Magento, there’s a great deal of work required to do for out-of-the-box setup, but the flexibility and freedom make it personalized according to your requirements.
It has the ability to integrate and implement custom SEO and marketing strategies without any hindrances.
You can easily change the store design and customize it according to your strategy for maximum ROI.
It also can change URL structure and hierarchy and implement advanced SEO components and techniques.
Meanwhile, due to the SaaS-based nature of Shopify, it’s not possible to make changes to the URL or perform any technical changes.
Shopify also lacks multi-store which can make life much more difficult because it makes hreflang logic harder to create.
Still, Shopify does come stronger out-of-the-box SEO setup than Magento with a stronger and fixed URL structure.
It has a rather simple and SEO structure, to begin with.
You can edit or change meta tags and product pages and optimize inventory in an SEO-friendly way.
You can also do in-depth customization of file structure which makes it easier for search crawlers to do their job.
Both platforms host a number of options for payments and with integrations, the possibilities are almost endless.
Magento comes with many options to accept payment methods. You can also add PayPal and many other mainstream payment methods to work with it.
In addition to this, you can observe a wide array of pre-integrated payment methods present within the core, which reduces overheard within the integration.
Whereas, Shopify also comes with many existing integrations for payment methods.
Some of them are:
Probably the most notable difference is that Shopify offers their own payment gateway called Shopify Payments.
It is managed and owned by Shopify itself. It’s very competitive in terms of transaction fees and subscription charges.
However, it’s not a fit for every situation and with every merchant in the marketplace.
And if you’re planning to go for Shopify and choose a third-party payment method, remember that there will be an additional transaction fee on every transaction on that method.
Speed may be the determining factor for ranking a website for SEO or whether customers will buy from you.
If a website is fast and optimized, it will be able to secure a higher position on Google’s ranking as well as more customers will find it convenient to browse through the pages.
The opposite is true for a slower or unoptimized website.
Research by KissMetrics shows that even a 1-second delay can reduce your conversions or sales by 7%.
Magento 1 was extremely slow which left a vacuum in the marketplace to be filled.
Shopify took the opportunity and captured the gap.
It was fast, reliable, and convenient to develop as well as for consumers to use.
And the best part? You never had to worry about how fast the website loads. It’s Shopify’s job to allocate sufficient resources to your website.
However, with the advent of Magento 2, Shopify had a run for its money.
Magento 2 is much faster than Magento 1, from 20% to 56% in some cases.
As you have already guessed by now, Magento takes a clear lead in customization and integrating third-party extensions, add-ons, and apps.
These large collections of extensions work smoothly with Magento backend code.
Thanks to its huge and supported community, there are several vetted extensions that can enhance the functionality of Magento.
Now, with the release of the new Magento’s marketplace, it follows the footsteps of Demandware and Shopify.
Due to the self-hosted nature of Magento, customers are free to use, adapt, change, and edit and extension and integration as they see fit.
However, it also means that you will need a tech guy to install any third-party extensions.
Previously, some low-quality and broken modules were available at Magento Connect, which was a threat to Magento.
Shopify, on the other hand, has a small reserve of add-ons and extensions because of its hosted nature.
Shopify’s code is propriety and doesn’t let its client fondle with it.
On the plus side, the installation process is simple and easy.
And, most importantly, restricted access and flexibility make sure that no unauthorized third-party extension is installed on the platform.
This section has a clear winner right from the start: Shopify.
To make up for all the restrictions and inflexibility in Shopify’s customizability, Shopify does provide a pretty clean and smooth user-experience to its clients.
With easy-to-use tools, drag and drop interface, and basic attributes that are hard to find on Magento, Shopify clearly wins this round.
It’s easier to use, quicker to set up and includes a website-building tool to customize according to your preference.
Choices may have been limited but, user-experience is just satisfying.
On the other hand, Magento’s deep and intense learning curve is not designed for every newbie.
That’s because it is designed to facilitate flexibility and a wide range of extensions, add-ons, and apps. It does that at the expense of user-friendliness.
However, Magento 2 has heard its customers and introduced a new user-friendly admin panel.
It is simpler, easier, and efficient to use even compared to Shopify’s admin panel.
So, if you’re already working with Magento and user-experience is a big deal for you, then migrate from Magento to Shopify.
If you listen to people’s opinions, you might make a mistake in choosing the right platform.
Choose what’s right for your business, not for you.
In the end, the right platform will determine your business’ success, not people’s opinions.
Maybe or maybe not, Shopify is a better option for someone. Or maybe, Magento would’ve saved the day for the other person.
As I’ve said in the beginning, weigh the costs and benefits according to your business’s point of view and then make a decision. It should be determined by your business’ needs.
So, what’s it gonna be in this Magento vs Shopify battle? Magento or Shopify?
Will you migrate from Shopify to Magento or Magento to Shopify?
Whichever it is, none of them can guarantee the success of your business. It will solely be based on your business model.
Choosing the right platform may save you from the embarrassment of losing everything. And how will you lose everything?
Because once upon a time…
You made a mistake and choose the wrong platform.
Shopify is easy to install, easy to set up, is relatively cheaper, does everything for you, has a lower monthly cost of maintenance, and provides a hosting service to you.
However, it lacks the freedom of being open-source, fine-tuning, and customization.
Magento is a relatively expensive investment, to begin with. Monthly maintenance costs are high, user-experience is not that great, is difficult to install, setup, and you have to do everything for you.
Nevertheless, these points are irrelevant to big enterprises.
Magento may be expensive and difficult to use but, the sole purpose of scalability and flexibility makes it the perfect choice for e-commerce businesses.
They can exercise their authority and do whatever they feel like.
Can you put a price on uniqueness and exclusivity? I guess not.
This is the case for Magento.
Its features and extensions provide every business on Magento to look unique and exclusive in their own way.
Although Magento is not a clear winner in some of the aspects, many businesses still prefer it over Shopify’s user-friendly and homogeneous approach.