Selecting the most suitable ecommerce platform for creating, managing and maintaining an online store is of a critical importance, as it can be the factor responsible for either success or failure for your business. This is particularly important for a small business since it has to make do with limited resources and budgets.
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 and Magento Community Edition (aka Magento) 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 Community 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.
With these two important difference in mind, here is a head-to-head comparison between the two platforms:
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 can be said to be significantly easier to setup and use as compared to Magento.
Inventory management – the Shopify Starter plan ($14/mo) restricts you to a maximum of 25 store items while Magento Community offers a virtually unlimited number of items. All other Shopify plans allow an unlimited number of items to be added to and sold via your store. However, on another note, Shopify now offers Oberlo as an embedded app for new users.
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 calculation of shipping charges which is one of the most basic and essential aspects of selling physical goods via an ecommerce storefront.
Provision for coupons and discount codes – Shopify, a bit of an underdog here, does not offer this feature on their starter plan while it is available on all other plans. Magento allows discount code creation and calculation functionalities.
Payment gateway options – Shopify has a major edge here, with support for 70 payment gateways while Magento Community 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.
Themes and Templates – both Shopify and Magento Community 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 Community, it can be noted that the free Shopify themes are generally more contemporary as compared to the themes offered by Magento Community.
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!
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 Community 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 using which you can enhance and expand the functionality of your online store in various ways. Magento, again, is at a strong advantage here, with a whopping 5000+ apps and add-ons, owing, no doubt, to the open source, community-driven nature of the platform. A mix of free, as well as paid apps/add-ons, are available for both platforms.
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/templates with a simple as well as an advanced level interface. Magento is again at an advantage here, with more in-built 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 fgeel of your theme, and it has the aability to hide sections, so that you can work on future updates beforehand without having the duplicate the theme, or work on a staging server.
Blogging functionality – easy blogging functionality is available as an integrated feature at Shopify while this can be achieved with Magento using a (free) plug-in.
Ease of use:
As mentioned earlier in this review, Shopify and Magento Community 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.
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 Community 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.
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.
Bandwidth charges – Shopify does not charge any bandwidth usage fees on any of their plans. With Magento Community, this will depend on the hosting provider that you have used for hosting your store.
Transaction fees – Shopify does not charge any additional transaction fees if their own payment gateway is used. If using 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 Community Edition, 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.
While both the Shopify and Magento Communities are fairly powerful ecommerce hosting 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.
To get started with a free trial of Shopify, click here.
To download Magento Community Edition, click here.