As the ecommerce industry grows, merchants are gaining access to more and more platforms that let them build fully customized and extremely user-friendly online stores. Shopify and Magento are among the most popular solutions, but which one is better for your company and why?
In this article, we will present a versatile ecommerce comparison of those platforms, from their looks and feels to their most advanced features. We will try to compare all the important aspects, but please remember that one could write a separate article about each one of them, so to dive into details it’s better to consult the software house or the agency that handles such development processes.
It’s good to be aware that some of the described functions of both platforms could be further customized to conform to the client’s specific needs.
We will discuss each platform’s:
- Ease of use
- Customization & themes
- Scalability & flexibility
- Hosting options
- Sales features
- Marketing tools
- Apps and add-ons
- Customer support
- Additional features
All right, let’s go!
Shopify vs Magento: short characteristics
Shopify is an easy-to-use and commercially hosted solution designed solely to build online stores – from the smallest local boutiques to the biggest global brands. It uses a monthly payment model and provides users with a bunch of themes, ecommerce apps and 24/7 support.
Magento, on the other hand, is an open-source platform like WordPress, suitably catering to needs of big enterprises with their own development teams. In 2020, Magento 1 was replaced with Magento 2, providing a wider range of functions.
Magento does also have a paid version, but it is only meant for the biggest companies as the monthly costs may reach tens of thousands of dollars.
Both solutions are quite popular ones – Shopify is a more common choice because of its user-friendliness and simplicity, which is important to millions of small and medium-sized businesses.
Before we start: headless Shopify
One of the important aspects that has to be mentioned in the beginning is headless Shopify. In the linked article, we have talked about it in every detail, but let’s just summarize it here: headless ecommerce is a solution where the front end (“head”) is decoupled from the back end (“body”).
You can also use this approach while implementing Shopify, which enhances its functionality manyfold, allowing you to customize exactly how customers browse, search, and buy products, providing them a smooth, rich and omnichannel experience.
Thanks to headless approach to eCommerce, you can as well:
- host Shopify outside Shopify
- use PWAs
- arrange CX as you wish
- enhance marketing opportunities
- and more!
All of this while maintaining access to almost all of Shopify’s standard advantages.
In this article, we speak mainly about a “classical”, monolithic Shopify solution, pointing to headless only from time to time, but please keep in mind that the vast possibilities of fully customizing Shopify do exist and an experienced software house can help you implement them according to your business needs.
Now, let’s compare Magento and Shopify, taking different categories into account.
Shopify vs Magento: ease of use
Ease of use is an important factor because it makes you more independent from external providers. What does this look like in the case of Shopify vs Magento?
Well, as we said, Magento is an enterprise-oriented solution and setting up an online business requires advanced technical knowledge, although you can integrate it with a WordPress blog to ensure easier content administration. You should, however, be familiar with the developers’ jargon to use it properly.
On the other hand, Magento gives you vast possibilities of customization, if you need very specific functions.
Shopify has been created as a user-friendly drag-and-drop solution for all sorts of online stores, so it’s quite easy to implement, customize, and use, but in the case of enterprise-scale shops, it may lack versatility. It still does give some really neat possibilities that bigger shop owners can benefit from.
Conclusion: Shopify is easier to use and more user-friendly, which is especially important for merchants who want to set up their stores in a short time. Magento will be best for more advanced needs.
Shopify vs Magento: customization & themes
Customization options are becoming more and more important for online merchants who want to provide their clients with unique customer experiences.
Both Magento and Shopify offer vast customization capabilities, but with Shopify it’s easier for people who don’t have coding experience. On the other hand, the customization options in Magento are virtually unlimited.
Themes make it easier to set up an online store, because you don’t have to design everything from scratch.
Today, they are so diverse and versatile that many shops find it rational to choose from a selection of pre-designed templates rather than produce a new one.
The look of the shop is very important in the context of the sales process. So, what do Shopify and Magento offer?
Shopify: customization possibilities
In the case of Shopify, merchants get access to 10 free and 64 premium themes, costing between 140 and 180 dollars each. All of them are mobile responsive, which is vital, because the majority of online purchases are made using mobile devices.
You can of course further customize every theme, changing the fonts, colors, or icons, and adding new pages or social media feeds, but you don’t have to, because the templates are ready to use immediately. You are also able to modify the themes completely, working directly on their code, or create brand new ones.
It is also possible to build a unique front end in the case of headless Shopify.
Shopify is used by many stores from the fashion, jewelry, and makeup industry, because those markets require a design that’s both functional and beautiful, and Shopify themes come in handy.
Magento: customization possibilities
Magento offers both ready-made templates paid at approximately 100 dollars, which can be used straight away. Custom themes may cost anywhere from 600 to 25,000 dollars and require the help of a developer when setting up.
Compared to Shopify, Magento has, however, quite limited choice of themes, and they are more expensive. On the other hand, they offer more flexible customization, including the ability to apply custom images to products and pages, or edit the action bar and navigation text.
Conclusion: Shopify has more beautiful templates at decent prices that would cater to the needs of almost every store, however Magento’s design possibilities would be really satisfying for more demanding customers.
Shopify vs Magento: scalability & flexibility
Both Shopify and Magento are highly scalable, with the latter being designed specially to let big brands grow, and is hence able to handle high traffic and a wide range of products in multiple stores in different languages.
You can build a one-of-a-kind storefront, including:
- cross-selling and up-selling blocks
- advanced search
- product sliders and hero carousels
- extended footer features
- advanced cart and payment integration
Shopify also takes care of the biggest shops with its Shopify Plus for enterprises and Advanced Shopify plan.
In headless Shopify, we have even more flexibility and total control over the customer experience, with head-spinning features like real-time updates of any functions, integration with any third-party solutions, and standalone mobile sites.
In terms of flexibility, Magento is a solution open to any modifications made by developers, while the changes in Shopify are mainly introduced via apps.
Conclusion: Although harder to manage, Magento offers almost unlimited scalability and flexibility.
Shopify vs Magento: hosting
Shopify comes in a package with hosting – each of the monthly plans contains a hosting solution. The company maintains a network of servers scattered around the world and keeps the data in the cloud. This solution is called Content Delivery Networks (CDN).
You can, however, choose an external hosting provider with headless Shopify, which will allow you to be more independent from Shopify’s policy and pricing, and also adapt the hosting capacity to the actual needs of your store.
Magento, on the other hand, requires an external hosting provider, but in this case, you are free to adjust your hosting plan to your actual needs. Only with Magento’s Commerce license, which is fairly expensive, do you get automatic access to pre-installed cloud features and hosting.
Conclusion: Shopify is a hosted solution, so it’s more convenient and cheaper for store owners.
Shopify vs Magento: performance
Magento is a resource-intensive choice, so it needs a powerful hosting platform, especially with high traffic and numerous products, but the software offers an optimized and unique solution that uses caching to improve performance.
Shopify is more lightweight and operates smoothly in any environment. It is also ready for a higher number of products, operating on the same hardware as Magento. On the other hand, you have to use Shopify hosting and not an external provider who might offer better parameters.
Alternatively, as we mentioned before, you can benefit from the headless approach to Shopify, which gives you the possibility of hosting your store outside the eCommerce giant’s infrastructure.
Conclusion: Both solutions offer great performance, although their core philosophy is different.
Shopify vs Magento: sales features
These are some of the most important aspects for an online store.
Shopify has quite a lot of them, including:
- abandoned cart recovery (with automatic email to clients)
- multi-channel selling (you can sell on Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube using built-in solutions only)
- real-time shipping rates
- the possibility to sell digital products, such as e-books or podcasts
- partnerships with the most popular shipping companies
- advanced customer reporting
- manual order creation
- setting discounts
Magento also has some interesting tools, such as:
- abandoned cart recovery
- persistent shopping cart (the possibility to save items in the cart for a later visit)
- real-time shipping rates
- multiple addresses in one order
- multi-channel selling
- checkout customization
- setting discounts
In the case of Shopify, most of the tools are in-built and you don’t have to pay extra to have them, which is not always the case while using Magento – a good example is multi-channel selling, which is available only with paid extensions. The list of tools is also longer when it comes to the Shopify platform.
On the other hand, Magento allows for deeper customization, which means you can delete or add steps of the process, or add different payment methods and shipping carriers.
Conclusion: Shopify has more in-built features, but Magento allows for more customization.
Shopify vs Magento: marketing tools
Both platforms make it possible to run marketing activities. Shopify has a bunch of brilliant tools – email campaigns, advertising directly on other platforms, support for multilingual sites and more.
Magento, on the other hand, has those tools mostly available in their marketplace with extensions, and they require technical knowledge to be installed. With Magento, you can also create flexible coupons for various purposes, prepare landing pages for different categories, or manage newsletters.
Conclusion: Shopify has more marketing tools that are included in the basic price and don’t require coding.
Shopify vs Magento: apps and add-ons
Merchants with more advanced expectations may be tempted by the possibility to extend the shop’s functionality using an app. How do Magento and Shopify solve this issue?
Shopify App Store offers almost 7.5 thousand Shopify apps, both free and premium, covering the whole range of merchants’ needs, such as marketing, merchandising, analytics, shipping, store management, customer service, the sales process, and more.
Magento Marketplace has over 5 thousand extensions, and about 2 in 5 are free of charge. The prices of apps vary quite significantly both for Shopify and Magento, so it all depends on your needs and budget.
What’s included in the basic price of using one platform may be paid extra in the case of the other one – for example, it costs 199 dollars to integrate a Magento-based store with Facebook, while on Shopify it’s an in-built basic function.
It’s worth emphasizing that Magento’s apps, although more complex, require coding knowledge to be implemented and used.
Conclusion: Shopify has more apps to offer, and they usually don’t require coding experience to be installed.
Shopify vs Magento: payments
Both Magento and Shopify offer multiple payment gateways, like PayPal, Braintree, Stripe, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, and many others – Shopify supports more than 100 gateways, and Magento supports 340. Most of them are available via extensions and add-ons.
With Shopify, using non-native payment providers results in additional transaction fees of up to about 3%, depending on the chosen plan, but if you use Shopify Payments (which is however limited to only 17 countries), you can avoid these costs.
Magento charges no transaction fees and offers payment processing for international merchants, supporting different countries and languages. What’s more, it allows you to sell your items directly through the Amazon marketplace.
Conclusion: Magento comes with zero fees and a few handy options, so it scores better in this category.
Shopify vs Magento: SEO
An SEO-friendly online store gathers much more traffic and generates more sales, so this aspect is crucial for merchants.
Magento offers plenty of SEO guides and tools, such as adding alt tags to images or customizing URLs. Shopify, on the other hand, relies mainly on its apps in this respect. In this case, Magento can offer more, but that doesn’t mean you can’t introduce a good SEO strategy with Shopify – it just requires more effort.
Conclusion: Magento has more in-built SEO options, which makes it more convenient to introduce an SEO strategy. It doesn’t mean, though, that with Shopify you won’t make a good SEO.
Shopify vs Magento: customer support
The uninterrupted functioning of your online store is to a great extent dependent on good customer support. Both Magento and Shopify offer numerous options of contact.
In the case of Shopify, this covers:
- 24/7 phone support
- social media support
- 24/7 live chat
- community forum
- e-mail support
- help center
- video tutorials
- advanced specialist support
Magento is a community-based platform, so it offers great guides that are full of information from Magento developers. But still – you may need help from a professional developer that you’ll have to hire on your own.
Conclusion: Shopify offers more options for live customer support, so it’s better for the shops that don’t have their own development teams.
Shopify vs Magento: pricing
Let’s first recall the fact that Shopify is a hosted platform, while you need an external provider when using Magento, which means extra price. For example, at SiteGround, which supports Magento, it may cost between 10 and 30 dollars per month.
Although the software itself is free to install, you will probably spend a bit more also on extensions and themes that, in this case, tend to be costly.
Shopify comes with three all-inclusive monthly plans:
- Shopify Basic for 29 dollars – aimed at small businesses, it doesn’t include international sales, and the transaction fee amounts to 2%.
- Shopify for 79 dollars – best for developing businesses, with lower transaction rates and more staff accounts.
- Advanced Shopify for 299 dollars – for big stores, with low transaction rates, it includes the possibility of international selling, 15 staff accounts, and detailed reporting.
There is also a Shopify Plus solution, intended for enterprise-level businesses, and Shopify Lite, which makes it possible to accept credit cards and create invoices.
Conclusion: Shopify seems to be a cheaper solution. You have one price including the most useful features and hosting, but you are going to pay extra if you want to extend the functionality of the store. Magento, once again, is recommended for bigger businesses with special needs and a solid customer base.
Shopify vs Magento: security
Most ecommerce platforms place great emphasis on security. Shopify, as a hosted solution, comes in a package with:
- fraud analysis,
- and SSL certificates.
Magento requires the user to purchase and install the SSL certificate on their own, although it can be managed via a hosting provider.
Conclusion: Shopify comes in handy with its in-built security tools.
Shopify vs Magento: additional features
Here we want to discuss some additional, but useful functions of each platform. We will show them in a table to make the ecommerce comparison clearer.
|Dropshipping||Built-in feature, implemented via Oberlo||With extensions only|
|Multi-lingual function||With extensions only||Built-in feature|
|Provisions for coupons||Built-in feature (except Shopify Lite)||Built-in feature|
|Inventory||Unlimited products||Unlimited products|
|Shipping fees||Partnership with popular carriers – discounts up to 90%||Popular carriers integrated, others only via extensions|
|Blogging||Built-in feature||With extensions only|
Summary – when should you choose Shopify and when Magento?
To sum up, Shopify is a more user-friendly solution. Magento, on the other hand, requires more sophisticated developers’ skills.
A choice between those two may not be easy.
Let’s now summarize all the aspects.
|Shopify||More user friendly
Numerous attractive themes
An easy-to-use builder
Many apps to extend the functionality
Easy to use even without technical knowledge
Great customer support
|More attractive themes have a price
Fee for every transaction (unless you use Shopify Payments)
Few built-in SEO tools
|Magento||Vivid community & great documentation
Flexibility and unlimited options for customization
Free of charge (open source)
|Difficult to master: requires soome technical knowledge
Setting up a store may last longer
Additional costs of hosting and add-ons
You should consider the monolithic Shopify if you want to establish the store quickly and comfortably, enjoying a wide choice of easy-to-use and often built-in features, alongside add-ons, at a good price.
If you have highly advanced or specific needs, you can go further and choose headless Shopify, which will extend your possibilities to almost infinite, as we have mentioned throughout the article.
Magento, however, has been originally designed mainly for enterprise-scale stores, so it offers total creative freedom at the cost of hiring a team of developers.
Both solutions have their pros and cons which we highlighted in the article, so if you are looking for specific traits, you should consider every aspect separately.