To go for Shopify or Magento; this is a dilemma that many merchants face, especially if they are new to online selling. Compounding matters further is how closely matched up these two eCommerce platforms are. Both offer a long list of features, several beautiful designs, can be scaled up as business volumes increase and most importantly, allow you to launch a shopping website quick and easy. It’s no wonder then that together, Magento and Shopify serve close to a million merchants from around the world.
But as similar as they are, there are several critical differences between the two platforms. For instance, Magento is an open-source product, which means it’s free (there are other costs attached though, see below). Shopify, on the other hand, is a paid product.
Another fundamental difference is that Shopify is self-hosted. If you go with Magento, you’ll have to pay for the hosting separately.
Shopify is also famed for its simple user interface. Many refer to it as the WordPress of eCommerce, and with good reason. Beginners, especially those with no coding experience, will find Shopify far easier to work with than Magento. Although the latter is packed with features, its full potential can be harnessed only if you’re comfortable with coding or hiring a Magento developer.
It’s open-source notwithstanding, Magento does offer a paid version. But it’s priced in a manner that makes it unviable for most up and coming online stores. And since we are comparing the two platforms vis-à-vis their suitability to small- and medium-sized stores, we’ll choose parameters that reflect what actually matters to those businesses.
How the Two Work
Shopify – As alluded to earlier, Shopify is similar to WordPress in how it lets you build a website (an e-commerce one) in a quick and easy way, even when you have zero experience with coding. It’s a paid subscription software that you can use to 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 like WordPress, Shopify 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 the hosting for it separately.
Magento is also a more bespoke solution than Shopify as you have to figure out everything about your new shopping website yourself. This includes designing the website from the ground up and getting it integrated into the Magento platform. These are tasks that require web designing and coding skills.
If you don’t have these skills or don’t want to learn them, hiring a web designer and Magento developer is the only option. And though this might sound like an expensive proposition, it makes enormous 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 eCommerce 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 selling your products online for the first time. If a platform is easy to use, your store will be up and running faster. Once you familiarize yourself with its different aspects, you’ll be able to use all features to their fullest. The end result will be an eCommerce store that you love to manage and where your customers love to shop.
Shopify scores well on this parameter. It boasts of a drag and drop builder, which lets you create an online store by simply moving various elements around the webpage. From quickly adding products to inserting images, setting up a payment system and customizing the entire look of the website reflect your business ethos, you can do a lot on Shopify without knowing a single line of code! What further sweetens the deal is that Shopify offers 24/7 support via phone, email and live chat if you need any help with configuring or troubleshooting in your store.
In outright terms, Magento does offer greater flexibility and freedom than Shopify. But this comes at a price. For instance, the Magento CMS is slightly more cumbersome than Shopify’s user-friendly editor. It also contains plenty of technical terms all over the place and requires a decent level of coding experience to get the most out of it. This ‘fend for yourself’ nature is also evident in how problems with Magento are solved. There’s no central support option as you instead have to rely on the large and active Magento open source community for answers to your problems.
Choosing a winner here is easy. Shopify is the way to go if you want to set up your online store fast and start making money quickly. But if you’re open to learning some coding or are willing to pay for a developer, Magento is worth a shot.
Magento vs Shopify: Themes & Templates
The theme of your shopping website has an influence on the overall user experience. Right from 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 eCommerce stores. Its themes are also responsive out of the box. This means your site will accommodate different screen sizes while maintaining overall functionality. And while Shopify does offer free themes, most good ones need to be paid for. Many of these themes are also priced on the higher side. But investing in one makes sense when you consider that it’s a one-time thing and you can customize it to your heart’s content. And the best part, you don’t need to know any coding whatsoever to do so.
Magento has a slight edge over Shopify in the number of free themes it offers. Even on the paid side of things, its themes and templates are more affordably priced than Shopify’s. Magento also lets you cook up your own theme and add features to help take your website to the next level. But each of these strong points is nullified by the fact that it requires some hands-on experience with coding, or hiring a 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 need if you want to grow your store further. Similar to the apps on your smartphone, these apps and extensions help you add new functionalities to the store. Once you automate routine tasks using these apps, you can focus on the business side of your store.
Although the exact figure is unknown (since Shopify constantly updates its store and acquires popular apps), there are approximately 2,000 free and paid Shopify apps that you can choose from. Some of these apps can help with tasks like abandoned cart recovery, integrating email marketing campaigns into welcome emails and newsletters, adding 10 social media feeds, order tracking functionality and comprehensive analytics of your store.
Magento’s Marketplace offers thrice the number of apps on Shopify’s App Store. This can be attributed to the platform’s open-source nature. The Magento community is quite active and keeps adding free and paid apps to the Marketplace. Although both app stores are evenly matched when it comes to apps for essential functions, Magento has the edge when it comes to advanced tasks like adding custom or multiple coupons to a single order, adding a pre-order option to gauge the feasibility of a new product and email marketing automation to design and track the performance of a campaign.
On the whole, Shopify’s range of apps is wide enough to give your website all the functionality it requires. What also helps matters is that Shopify’s apps are easier to install than Magento’s. Both are reason enough to overlook the sheer numerical advantage that the Magento’s Marketplace has over the Shopify 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 a Shopify developer at a low cost to setup 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.