Magento vs Shopify (Oct 2020): Which Is the Absolute Best?

Your ultimate guide to Magento and Shopify.

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 reviews) 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: Table of Contents

Magento vs Shopify: Pros and Cons

Let’s start with a basic rundown of what you can expect from each solution in terms of pros and cons. Both Magento and Shopify have a number of benefits to consider, but they also have places where they may fall short for your eCommerce website too.

Shopify Pros 👍

  • Tons of beautiful responsive store themes to choose from
  • A comprehensive eCommerce builder
  • Great app store for extending the functionality of your website
  • Pretty good customer support
  • Easy to use
  • Lots of checkout and payment options
  • Large community of dedicated fans

Shopify Cons 👎

  • Most themes have a price attached to them
  • Integrating apps into your store makes it more complex
  • There’s a fee for every transaction (unless you use Shopify payments)

Magento Pros 👍

  • Excellent community with tons of support for users
  • Flexible platform with lots of customization options
  • Good range of themes to choose from
  • Phone support available
  • No real coding knowledge needed for magento commerce
  • Magento is open source and free to use
  • Magento 2 extensions

Magento Cons 👎

  • Has a bit of a learning curve
  • Quite difficult for beginners
  • Requires a lot of time to set up
  • Lots of costs associated with setting up your store

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 optionsShopify 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: Themes and Design

Although there’s a lot more to your website than how it looks, an attractive site is often more appealing and much easier to navigate. Having access to the right theme can allow you to offer a better user experience, as well as ensuring that you stand out from the crowd.

In terms of frontend appearance, Shopify has a lot of fantastic and fully customizable themes to choose from. What’s more, Shopify’s themes are easy to start using. As long as you can add your own content and products you’re basically ready to go.

Another great thing about Shopify from a design perspective, is that it’s themes are optimized for mobile. This means that they’ll impress Google and your customers whether they’re browsing on a desktop or not. There are features like product zoom to explore too.

On the downside, while there are a handful of free themes available, you’ll need to pay for the majority of the options from Shopify. This can mean that you end up over-spending on your site a little

On the plus side, if you have the cash, Shopify offers a ton of customization options, including the option to change your color pallet, add new pages to your website, remove and resize elements and more. You can also integrate social media tools onto your page.

Magento, on the other hand, offers a lot fewer themes to choose from. There are 16 themes in total, and they come in a selection of free and paid options. 10 of the themes are mobile responsive, which means that your site can auto-resize itself to any device.

Magento also allows you to implement your own theme and update designs from the backend of your online business. However, this requires a lot more developer knowledge than you would need with Shopify, or even Shopify Plus.

On the plus side, Magento also has a lot of great customizations to offer, including the option to add product sliders to your home page, or implement animations. You can also include newsletter functionality into your website footer.

Shopify is definitely the better option if you’re looking for a wide selection of themes to choose from. There’s a much wider range available from Shopify, and the sites always look great. However, Magento does have a few more powerful features to consider if you have the right knowledge to use them.

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:

Start a free Shopify trial by clicking here. More about Shopify Pricing 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:

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: Apps and Add-Ons

While both Shopify and Magento have a lot to offer, you’ll still want to make sure that you can extend the functionality of your website with additional apps and add-ons. Whether you’re looking for a way to add WooCommerce or PayPal functionality to your store, that’s where integrations come in handy.

Apps and extensions are available from both Shopify and Magento, helping you to broaden the functionality of your website. You can turn your site into a community edition with links to various membership plugins. Alternatively, you might choose apps for things like countdown timers to boost your chances of making a sale.

When it comes to apps and additions, Shopify is much closer to WordPress in terms of options, there are thousands of free and paid apps to choose from. However, keep in mind that some of the options will require a little bit of coding knowledge.

The good news is that you can add most plugins just with the click of a button. These allow you to access things like trust icons that reduce your risk of cart abandonment, or social buttons to boost your chances of a community. You can expand your CMS and eCommerce solution however you choose.

On the other hand, Magento also has thousands of paid and free extensions to choose from. If you don’t belong to the subgroup of magneto developers on the market today, then you can still add a lot of functionality without coding knowledge.

magento apps

With a click of the mouse, you can add gift cards and abandoned cart functionality to your website. There’s also the option for business owners to implement things like pre-order functionality, or banner sliders with SaaS apps from around the web. Whether you’re looking to improve your order management options or expand your market share, you can do a lot with your ecommerce business through Magento.

Although Shopify often stands out as one of the top solutions for apps and extensions, it still doesn’t compete with Magento 1 of the reasons that this site builder is so popular is its addons.

Magento vs Shopify: Payment Processors

When you’re comparing options like BigCommerce, Magento, Shopify, and many others for your website, you’ll need to ensure that you have plenty of great ways to take payments. After all, your site can only be profitable if you can complete transactions safely.

Both Magento and Shopify allow you to take online credit part payments and other transactions from your customers. Shopify even has its own integrated payment processor, named Shopify Payments. If you use this option, then you’ll be able to avoid the transaction fees that you would otherwise need to pay with Shopify.

Alternatively, if you prefer to use a payment solution that your customers are already familiar with, you can still use things like Paypal and Amazon Pay. However, it’s worth noting that you’ll need to pay for each transaction.

Shopify supports more than 100 different external payment processors, which makes it one of the most incredible shopping tools there is.

On the other hand, Magento developers and beginners can also access a bunch of payment options, although they can require a bit more work to implement. Because you’re not working with a hosted platform, you will need slightly different skills.

Magento supports all the major payment processors that you know and love, with over 150 payment integration options. Additionally, you can access a bunch of payment options in different languages and countries, so you can sell to customers overseas too.

While Shopify might be the best option for implementing your payment processor quickly and easily, Magento has a few more options for international selling.

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.

Just before you start though, you might want to take a look at our Shopify reviews and Shopify Pricing guide.

Joe Warnimont

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