Shopify vs Magento Open Source (December 2019): Which Is the Absolute Best?

Selecting the most suitable ecommerce platform for creating, managing and maintaining an online store is of critical importance, as it can be the factor responsible for either success or failure for your business. This is particularly important for small businesses since they have to make do with limited resources and budgets. We outline all sorts of ecommerce platforms on this website, but none are more popular than Shopify and Magento. Shopify has somewhat of a stranglehold in the “hosted, all-in-one” platform market, while Magento is the biggest player when it comes to larger, more complex ecommerce sites. They're very different platforms, but we'd like to pit Magento vs Shopify to see which one is right for your business.

As someone planning to create an online store, or migrate your current store to another platform in the near future, you might be considering your options. Shopify (read our Shopify review) and Magento Open Source (read our Magento review) are two widely acclaimed and used ecommerce store creation and management platforms today. There are, however, some huge fundamental differences between these platforms that you should be well aware of before making a comparative evaluation of the two:

  • Shopify is a commercial product (that you need to pay for) while Magento Open Source is a free, open-source software.
  • Shopify is a hosted solution (where your store is hosted by them) while Magento requires that you provide your own hosting, install, setup and configure everything before you can actually start creating your store – something requiring medium to high level of web development and programming skills.
  • Shopify is more for beginners, with a simple user interface, while Magento is packed with features but more suitable for advanced developers.

magento vs shopify - shopify homepage

Magento does have a paid version, but it gets extremely expensive and is only meant for large enterprises that can spend 10s of thousands of dollars on a website per month. We won't be reviewing the paid version, since most startups and small businesses don't have the money. Most small businesses should think about the opensource version of Magento if you have an experienced developer on the team–or if you have development skills yourself. Otherwise, you're far better off going with Shopify for your entire online store.

With these differences in mind, here's our head-to-head comparison of Magento vs Shopify:

Magento vs Shopify: A Feature Comparison

Basic online store functionality – Both Shopify and Magento offer basic store functionalities that are fairly powerful to use and maintain on an ongoing basis. Shopify is significantly easier to set up and use when compared to Magento. You'll find that basic features like shopping carts, checkout modules, collections, and product pages are all included with both Magento and Shopify. The main difference is that Magento has far more intermediate and advanced features built into the system. With Shopify, you often have to get an app for extended functionality.

Inventory management – All Shopify plans allow for unlimited products in your store. Magento also lets you create and sell an unlimited number of products. You can easily create products and collections on both of the platforms, but the reason Shopify gets the thumbs up on this one is because of its direct integration to dropshipping inventory apps like Oberlo.

It should be noted here though, that while Magento allows a virtually unlimited number of products, your host (server) performance and site loading speed might turn out to be serious issues if you add too many products on your Magento store – something you don't have to worry about with Shopify, since it is a fully managed and hosted solution.

Calculation of shipping charges – Both platforms allow flexible and powerful options for the calculation of shipping charges–which is one of the most basic and essential aspects of selling physical goods via an ecommerce storefront. Shopify also integrates with some dropshipping tools (with shipping estimates) and more exact shipping calculators, which might be helpful if you're trying to be as accurate as possible for your customers.

Provision for coupons and discount codes – Shopify, a bit of an underdog here, does not offer this feature on its Lite plan, but it is available on all other plans. Magento allows discount code creation and calculation functionalities from the start.

Payment gateway options – Shopify has a major edge here, with support for over 70 payment gateways while Magento is relatively at a disadvantage with support for a far lower number of gateways. More gateways, however, can be added to Magento store via third-party add-ons. The main problem I see with Shopify is that it kind of forces you to go with its built-in payment gateway. Shopify's gateway has 0% transaction fees, while they make you pay fees for third-party gateways.

Themes and Templates – Both Shopify and Magento offer a large collection of themes and templates to give your online store a look and feel to suit your products and taste. While the number of free themes provided by Shopify is significantly smaller than that of Magento Open Source, it can be noted that the free Shopify themes are generally more contemporary as compared to the themes offered by Magento Open Source.

magento vs shopify - shopify themes

Both offer paid/premium themes but here, Shopify is at a great disadvantage, with premium themes starting at $80, while Magento paid themes start at – an almost unbelievable – $1!

» Try Shopify «

In keeping with today's must-have requirement of responsive website design (a design that works well across a range of commonly used devices with which people get online), both Shopify and Magento Open Source offers a good number of responsive templates, free as well as paid.

Apps and Add-ons – Well over 100 apps and add-ons are available for Shopify. The apps for Shopify assist in enhancing and expanding the functionality of your online store in various ways. The Shopify App store is constantly growing, with apps for things like loyalty programs, accounting, and email marketing. Shopify also moderates its app store pretty well, so you're not going to install some junk app that's going to damage your site.

magento vs shopify - magento marketplace

Magento, again, is at a strong advantage here, with a whopping 5000+ apps and add-ons. This is primarily because of the large, open source, community-driven nature of the platform. A mix of free, as well as paid apps/add-ons, are available for both platforms.

» Try Magento «

In general, you should be able to find free apps for pretty much all tasks on both platforms. I often stumble upon premium apps on Shopify, but then complete a quick search to locate something similar and free.

Multi-lingual capabilities – Shopify does not offer full multi-lingual capabilities directly. For creating fully multi-lingual stores, third-party/paid apps are available for Shopify. Another option available at Shopify is to custom code your theme so that it has multilingual capabilities. However, you would most likely have to find an expert Shopify developer to complete the task. Magento is again at an advantage here, with more built-in multi-lingual support.

SEO capabilities – Both platforms offer extensive SEO capabilities in order to help you drive more organic traffic to your store via search engines, scoring almost neck-to-neck on powerful SEO features and benefits, as extensively described in this article: Choosing the best ecommerce platform for SEO capabilities.

Customization capabilities – Both platforms offer robust customization capabilities, via an advanced interface that allows you to edit the raw HTML/CSS code directly to give you total control over the design and the look-and-feel of your store.

However, as mentioned above, Shopify scores better here by providing a simple, menu-driven method to change the basic attributes of your store such as fonts, colors etc. very easily while with the customization capabilities with Magento are as high as it can get because all its code is open source, any of which you can modify in any way you wish to. Albeit, this unrestricted freedom to customize can be used only by those who have deeply entrenched web programming and HTML/CSS coding know-how.

Also, Shopify offers a theme editor that allows you to play around with the look and feel of your theme, and it has the ability to hide sections, so that you can work on future updates beforehand without having the duplicate the theme, or work on a staging server.

Finally, Shopify provides drag and drop sections, which are nice for organizing the content on your website. It's nothing like an actual drag and drop builder, but it makes for a much easier design interface when compared to Magento.

Blogging functionality – Easy blogging functionality is available as an integrated feature at Shopify. This can be achieved with Magento. As long as you have a developer, your Magento blog should be far more customizable than what they provide at Shopify.

magento vs shopify - magento functionality

Magento vs Shopify: Ease of use

As mentioned earlier in this review, Shopify and Magento Open Source are both fairly powerful ecommerce store building platforms. Both come with a user interface that is well-designed and thought-out, making it fairly easy for any user to get up and running with an online store.

magento vs shopify - shopify dashboard

Having said that, it should be noted that Shopify has a wizard mode that allows even novice users to set up their stores very easily while Magento Open Source is lacking in this feature.

Also, since Magento is not a hosted solution, procuring your own hosting and setting up your store with it are processes that typical end-users would not find easy or convenient to do on their own.

When I look at Magento vs Shopify and consider ease of use, it's a no-brainer. Shopify wins.

Magento vs Shopify: The Costs

Setup fees – Shopify does not charge any setup fees. In fact, they offer a 14-day free trial with which you can test and evaluate the functionality and features offered by their ecommerce hosting platform. With Magento, the question of setup fees simply does not arise since it is totally free to use. (You'll need to procure – and pay for – your own hosting though, as discussed below.)

Monthly fees – Shopify offers four different plans with monthly fees ranging from $14 to $179 as follows:

  • Lite Plan: $9
  • Basic Shopify Plan: $29
  • Shopify Plan: $79
  • Advanced Shopify Plan: $299

Start a free Shopify trial by clicking here.

With Magento, you'll have to provide your own hosting, which is available at monthly costs ranging anywhere from $5 to 100s of dollars.

BlueHost is a reliable, popular and powerful ecommerce hosting provider where you can purchase hosting for your Magento store very inexpensively.

Bandwidth charges – Shopify does not charge any bandwidth usage fees on any of its plans. With Magento Open Source, this will depend on the hosting provider that you have chosen for hosting your store. In the Magento vs Shopify battle of bandwidth charges, I like Shopify because of the certainty.

Transaction fees – Shopify does not charge any additional transaction fees if their own payment gateway is used. If utilizing any other gateway or method (such as COD), their transaction fee structure is as follows:

  • Lite Plan ($9/mo.) : 2%
  • Basic Shopify Plan ($29/mo.): 2%
  • Shopify Plan ($79/mo.): 1%
  • Advanced Shopify Plan ($299/mo.): 0.5%

With Magento Open Source, no transaction fees are charged other than the gateway provider’s fees (which vary from gateway to gateway). These fees would, naturally, be applicable for Shopify as well.

Theme/Template prices – Both platforms offer a good number of free as well as paid themes, with Shopify and Magento premium theme prices starting at $80 and $1 respectively.

Overall, it's tough to compare Magento vs Shopify in the realm of pricing. Shopify is most likely more manageable with its monthly pricing, but Magento is free. The problem is that you have many other larger expenses you have to look out for with Magento.

Magento vs Shopify: Which One is Best for Your Online Store?

While both Shopify and Magento are fairly powerful ecommerce platforms, Shopify provides greater ease of use since it is a hosted and fully managed service.

Magento, while free itself, requires you to purchase hosting and carry out all the software/system setup and installation procedures yourself – something that only fairly tech-savvy people (and not typical end-users) would be able to do.

In light of this, as well as some of the points discussed above, Shopify comes out a winner as an ecommerce platform for building your online store with maximum ease of use and powerful capabilities. If you have any other questions about our comparison of Magento vs Shopify, let us know in the comments section below.

In case you want to see some real examples of Magento vs Shopify online shops in action, here are some fantastic Shopify stores and some Magento website examples.

To get started with a free trial of Shopify, click here.

To download Magento Open Source, click here.

Joe Warnimont

Joe Warnimont is a freelance writer who creates tools and resources to help other writers get more productive and market their work.