Magento vs Shopify – Which one should you opt for Better Sales? (Part-I)
Gauri Pawar

To go with Shopify or Magento; this is a dilemma that many merchants face, especially if they are new to online selling. Compounding matters further is how evenly matched these two e-commerce platforms are. Both offer a long feature list, beautiful designs and layouts, proven scalability and most importantly, let you launch a shopping website quick and easy. Is it any wonder then that together, Magento and Shopify serve close to a million merchants around the world.

But as similar as they are, there exist several critical differences between the two. For starters, Magento is an open source product, which means it’s free (but there are other costs attached). Shopify, on the other hand, is a paid product. Another basic difference is that Shopify is self-hosted. But with Magento, you pay for the hosting separately.

Shopify is also famed for its simple user interface. Many refer to it as the WordPress of e-commerce, and with good reason. Beginners, especially those with no coding experience, find Shopify easier to work with than Magento. Though the latter is packed with features, its full potential can be unlocked only if you’re comfortable with coding.

If you prefer not to code yourself, you can hire a Magento developer. This brings us to yet another point of difference, it’s more affordable to hire Shopify experts than a Magento one. While the exact reasons are debatable, the lower number of good Magento developers is a plausible explanation.

In the first of this two-part series, we take a look at what are the fundamental differences between Magento and Shopify, and how they affect first-time or inexperienced online sellers.

How the Two Work?

Before we compare their features, let’s take a moment to understand how each platform works.

Shopify – As alluded to earlier, Shopify is similar to WordPress in how quickly and easily it lets you build a website. You don’t need any coding experience when building a Shopify e-commerce store. It’s a paid subscription software that lets you build, edit and manage your shopping website with just a few clicks.

From adding new products to integrating social media buttons and managing payment processors, all changes can be made from a single location in the software. And just like WordPress, Shopify to lets you buy and host a domain name on its own hosting service.

Magento – Being open-source, Magento is free. On the flipside, the platform doesn’t offer a hosting service; meaning you have to buy your domain name and arrange to host for it separately.

Magento is also a more bespoke solution than Shopify as you have to figure out everything about your shopping website yourself. This includes designing the website from the ground up and integrating it into the Magento platform.

Those tasks require web designing and coding skills, or at least the budget to hire them. And while that might sound expensive, it makes complete sense if you want a distinct identity for your online store and doesn’t mind paying for it.

Now that you know how the two platforms work, let’s see how they stack up against each other in key areas.

Magento vs Shopify:  Ease of Use

This is an important criterion, more so if you’re new to selling online. If a platform is easy to use, your store will be up and running quicker. Once you’re familiar with its different aspects, you can use all its features to the fullest. The end result is an e-commerce store that you love to manage and your customers love to spend time in.

Shopify scores well on this parameter. It offers a drag and drop builder which lets you create an online store by simply moving various elements around the webpage. From adding products to inserting images, setting up a payments system and customizing the look of the website to reflect your business ethos, you can do a lot on Shopify. You can also hire Shopify experts to set up your store and make changes on your own as and when required.

Sweetening the deal further is Shopify’s 24/7 support via phone, email and live chat if you need any help with configuring or troubleshooting your store.

In principle, Magento does offer more flexibility and freedom than Shopify. But they come at a price. For instance, the Magento CMS is slightly more cumbersome than Shopify’s user-friendly editor. It also throws up several technical terms and requires a decent level of coding experience to get the most out of it. This ‘you are on your own’ aspect is also evident in how Magento problems are solved. There’s no central support option. Instead, you have to rely on the large and active Magento open source community for answers to your questions and problems.

Choosing a winner here is easy. Shopify is the way to go if you want to set up your online store quickly and start making money right away. Magento comes into the picture only if you’re open to learning some coding or paying a hefty sum to a developer.

Magento vs Shopify: Themes & Templates

The theme of your shopping website has a major influence on the overall user experience. Starting with how the store looks to how easy it makes navigation and searching for products, the right theme can turn a visitor into a customer.

Shopify offers a wide range of themes to suit different types of e-commerce stores. Its themes are also responsive out of the box. This means your site’s layout will adjust to different screen sizes while maintaining overall functionality. And while Shopify also offers free themes, most good ones need to be paid for. Many of them are also priced on the higher side. But investing in one makes sense when you consider it’s a one-time thing. After buying, you are free to customize it the way you want or can hire Shopify experts for the purpose.

Magento has an edge over Shopify in the number of free themes it offers. Even its paid themes are cheaper than Shopify’s. Magento also lets you create your own theme and add distinct features to help take your store to the next level. But each of these strong points is nullified by the fact that it requires hands-on experience with coding, or hiring an expensive Magento developer.

Magento vs Shopify: Apps & Add-Ons  

While a good theme is essential to get your online store running, apps and add-ons are what you really need to grow your store further. Similar to apps on your smartphone, these apps and extensions add new functionalities to your store. Once you automate routine tasks with these apps, you get more time to focus on the business side of running your store.

Although the exact figure is unknown (since Shopify keeps updating its store and acquiring popular apps), there are approximately 2,000 free and paid Shopify apps available to you. Some of these help with really specific tasks like abandoned cart recovery, integrating email marketing campaigns into welcome emails and newsletters, adding social media feeds, order tracking functionality and generating analytics for your store.

Magento’s Marketplace offers thrice the number of apps on Shopify’s App Store. One reason for that is the platform’s open-source nature. The Magento community is incredibly active and keeps adding free and paid apps to the Marketplace. Although both are evenly matched in terms of basic function apps, Magento leads ever so slightly for apps that perform advanced tasks like adding custom/multiple coupons to a single order, creating a pre-order option to gauge new product feasibility and email marketing automation to track performance.

On the whole, Shopify’s range of apps is wide enough to give your online store all the functionality it requires. What also helps is that Shopify’s apps are easier to install than Magento’s. Both are reason enough to overlook the sheer numerical advantage that Magento’s Marketplace has over Shopify’s App Store.

Magento vs Shopify: Payment Gateways

A payment gateway lets you collect payments from customers when they buy something from your website. Since your customer is parting with vital information during the payment process, it’s important to choose a secure and proven payment gateway. It also helps to have different payment gateway options for your customer’s convenience.

In this aspect, Shopify has you well-covered. It offers support for over 100 payment gateways (including PayPal and Amazon Pay). However, you’ll be charged a per-transaction fee of 0.5% to 2% for using them. But Shopify also lets you avoid this transaction fee if you use its own payment gateway, Shopify Payments. It’s a secure payment processor that lets you manage payments easily from the dashboard.

Magento doesn’t offer as many payment gateway options as Shopify. But you can add the ones you want through third-party extensions. As with everything in Magento, setting up a payment gateway requires you to jump through a few additional hoops. One reason to consider Magento here is that it offers payment gateways with support for different nationalities and languages. Barring that, Shopify is a better option as you can easily hire Shopify experts at a low cost to set up a payment gateway of your choice.

And that’s it for the first part of this two-part series. In the final one, we’ll take a look at how Magento and Shopify fare against each other in aspects like inventory management, SEO capabilities and that most important of factors, cost. Tune in for the final part next week.

POSTED IN: June 27, 2019 Gauri Pawar

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