Shopify vs Magento for ecommerce – which is best?


Last updated on October 6, 2017 in Product Comparisons, Small Business Thursday

One question we hear a lot is if you should use Shopify or Magento for eCommerce. So our researchers dug into the problem and came back with a few findings.

The short version is that Shopify is a commercial eCommerce platform where you pay to use the service as a subscription. Your site is hosted by Shopify on their servers. This is much like SquareSpace or WordPress.com, where you do not have to worry about hosting or upkeep, but you may have to pay for upgrades and you pay either a monthly or annual fee. Shopify can be great for starting your first ecommerce shop and also has the ability to scale, but at a certain scale you may find it restrictive.

Magento is a free open-source platform requiring you to provide your own hosting, setup, installation, and configuration before creating a store. Therefore, Magento demands some intermediate to advanced programming and web-development skills, as well as vision for templates and branding. Magento can be great for ecommerce brands that are scaling, though it does require a lot more input and has a lot of technical gotchas and needs to be configured correctly for SEO.

Research methodology

To create this comparison, we searched through expert review sites to find distinguishing details about Shopify and Magento. We also examined corporate websites and e-commerce blogs to get a detailed analysis and overview of these software regarding how widely each is used, which striking aspects differentiates them, and the types of companies suited for each. To capture divergent users reviews, we sifted through various user forums to determine the main complaints users identify with when using these platforms, including what users feel should be tweaked to enhance functionality.

Pricing

Concerning pricing, Shopify has a 4 tier pricing system starting from Lite to Advanced, whereas Magento does not use a unified pricing mechanism but breaks it down based on the edition (community or enterprise) a user wants. The community edition is freely available for download and use but not free to implement. The Enterprise edition offers users advanced permissions and functionalities including administrator controls over particular actions by individual administrator users on your site. Pricing for both has been broken down into different categories.

Below are the base pricing and average pricing depending on usage for Shopify and Magento.

Shopify

Shopify is a subscription business, where you pay a monthly fee for access to the software and ecommerce platform.

Level Price/mo
Life $9
Basic Shopify $29
Shopify $79
Advanced Shopify $299

Magento

Magento is free open source software, which means it is infinitely expandable but also requires your own hosting, development, maintenance, and more. It can be a tricky system with many different costs involved, but for the right company (large ecommerce) it can be the right solution.

Need Associated cost
Code base Free to download and use but costs start when implementing.
Site development From $2.5K to $45K and up.
Implementation $3K to $55K
Hosting $29 to $600/month
Maintenance $0 to $250/month

Magento also has an Enterprise version, which is akin to WordPress’s VIP service.

Need Associated cost
Enterprise Edition $22k-$32k/yr
Website development  $50K to $250K and up
Implementation $50K and up
Hosting $300 to $5K per month
Maintenance $100 and up per month

Required commitment

Shopify bills monthly. However, users have an option for a year-long commitment that saves 10 percent, and 20 percent for two years.

Magento is somewhat different in that the community edition is free to download and use and users start paying depending on the services used with them. In short, the commitments vary from monthly to yearly depending on the service used, i.e., web hosting is monthly. One should note that the Magento Enterprise Edition is yearly.

Features

Both Shopify and Magento offer numerous features used for many purposes (for a full list of Magento features click here and for Shopify click here).

Some features offered by both include:

  • basic online store functionality,
  • inventory management,
  • calculation of shipping charges,
  • provision for coupons and discount codes,
  • payment gateway options,
  • themes and templates,
  • apps and add-ons,
  • multi-lingual capabilities,
  • varied SEO capabilities,
  • customization capabilities and
  • blogging functionality

Magento offers extra features accessed by upgrading to the enterprise edition. Customer service and technical support are offered only for enterprise clients. All other clients have to use user guides and forums provided on the Magento website.

For Shopify, the number of features accessed depends on the type of plan selected, and users enjoy 24/7 customer support regardless of plan.

And of course, you can also use one of these platforms on a subdomain separate from the rest of your site if you wish.

User reviews

To include the most reliable user reviews, we chose G2Crowd which had the most reviews for both Shopify and Magento. Also, they featured guidelines for reviewers to follow and all reviews are validated to prevent fraudulence.

The most common feedback asked from users was what they liked and disliked about the product, recommendations, what they were using the product for, and the benefits received from the product used.

According to Maverick merchant (a comparison site), Magento is a reliable product that has won three notable awards:

(1) Number one platform Internet Retailer Top 1000 (2015)
(2) Number one platform Internet Retailer B2B 300 (2015)
(3) Number one platform Internet Retailer Europe 500 (2016)

As far as ease of use goes, Magento is one of the most difficult to get through as the setup and customizing process causes the most headaches. Again, if you lack web development skills, you should hire a professional, and once you get past this, daily operations are simpler.

The most common complaints by sites and reviewers on Magento were that

  1. it is hard to use if you lack the right technical skills,
  2. it is costly to maintain for small companies.

Maverick merchant reviews Shopify as a reliable product, and the company now hosts more than 400,000 stores globally and has brought forth over $34 billion in transactions. Both sites and reviewers agree that it is user-friendly in terms of ease of use.

Matching complaints by both sites and reviewers agreed that add-ons can become quite costly, themes can be lacking for both, and functionality.

Type of company suited for Shopify or Magento

Magento is generally designed for mid to large companies as it is costly in terms of money, time to set it up, and keep it up and running. A few companies that use Magento include Samsung, Nike, and Nespresso.

Shopify is suited for all types of companies as it is not as costly or technical as Magento. Big brands that use Shopify include Budweiser, Tesla Motors, and Redbull.

As found by the research, Shopify and Magento are two of the most popular eCommerce software providers with each being different in unique ways.

The answer as to which is right for you all depends on what you are looking for as a company.

Conclusion

To wrap it up, Shopify is a commercial eCommerce platform where users pay to use the service and it is hosted by them.

Magento is a free open-source platform requiring users to provide own hosting, setup, installation, and configuration before creating a store.

Both are solid ecommerce platforms, and the decision about which is to use is not one to take lightly.