Magento Vs. Shopify: Which Platform is Better for eCommerce?

Whether you’re planning to sell online or want to scale up your business on the internet, an eCommerce platform that gives you a range of features, flexibility and scalability is worth every dollar invested. At this point, you’ve likely heard two names being mentioned repeatedly: Magento and Shopify. These are among the two most widely used eCommerce platforms worldwide. If you’re wondering what these two platforms look like when compared side by side, you’re not alone.

But before we move on, let’s take a look at some eCommerce platform features that are a must-have, regardless of whether you choose Magento, Shopify or any other platform:

  • A stable hosting environment on which to run your online store (cloud or on-premise)
  • Customisable, mobile-friendly themes and templates in open source languages to ensure your website looks good and is easy to use
  • Unlimited API calls so users can perform operations such as signing up or logging in, search for or saving a product and so on
  • Integrations and plugins so you can easily hook your online store with your accounting software, payment gateway, inventory management system, logistics platform and more
  • Compliance with PCI DSS regulations and controls to safeguard your customers’ credit card data and to reduce the risk of a compliance breach
  • User-friendly, customisable checkout
  • Easy catalog management including the ability to add discount codes and special offers
  • Analytics for data capturing and reporting
  • SEO features such as customisable navigation links, customisable URLs, canonical URLs, metadata, image alt tags, 301 redirects, social sharing buttons and a lot more

Let's get started!

What is Magento?

Magento is a popular self-hosted eCommerce platform used by small, midsize and large businesses worldwide. The USP of Magento is that it’s an open-source platform with two versions:

  • Community Edition (CE): A platform that offers free open-source eCommerce software, most suitable for developers and small businesses
  • Enterprise Edition (EE): A paid eCommerce platform that offers a host of features that are not included in the CE version, suitable for mid-size and large eCommerce stores.

Launched in 2007, Magento is best known for being flexible, highly customisable and scalable. It also integrates with various payment gateways worldwide, making accepting payments easy.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a web-based eCommerce platform with built-in shopping carts. It lets sellers create a custom online storefront, sell and track products and accept payments online. Shopify hosts the platform for merchants, which frees them from the task of maintaining software or web servers.

Shopify’s USP is a 14-day free trial, giving merchants the opportunity to take the platform for a test drive. Shopify integrates over 70 payment gateways and is available in nearly every major language, making it suitable for businesses anywhere in the world.

Magento vs. Shopify: Pros and Cons for Your eCommerce Store

Magento and Shopify were developed to do the same thing: sell products online. Despite this, the two eCommerce platforms are very different to each other in terms of their features, functionality and interface. As a result of this, while Shopify has become the go-to solution for small businesses, Magento has largely carved a reputation for being the eCommerce platform of choice for larger businesses and enterprises.

Read on for a like-for-like comparison between Shopify and Magento across these key elements:

  • Hosting Environment
  • Ease of Use
  • Scalability
  • Themes and Templates
  • Omnichannel Capabilities
  • Performance, Speed and Load Times
  • Catalog and Product Management
  • Search Engine Optimisation

Hosting Environment

All eCommerce platforms can be broadly segmented into fully hosted and self-hosted.

A fully hosted store is one that the eCommerce platform provider will host for you. In other words, your eCommerce platform will store all your data and files in the cloud and you don’t need to set up your own server. Self-hosted on the other hand is where you are responsible for setting up a server to store all your files and data.

While Shopify is a fully-hosted solution, Magento is self-hosted.

Before you can start using your Magento store, you will need the support of a web-developer and programmer to install and configure your online store, but you’ll ultimately have more control over configuration. On the other hand, opting for Shopify means that you can enjoy a plug-and-play solution but you may have to pay a monthly fee for the hosting.

Ease of Use

User experience at the back-end is an important part of an eCommerce platform for online store managers. This is especially true for small businesses where you may not have a dedicated specialist looking after your eCommerce store.

In terms of ease of use for the end user, Magento is complex but a lot more flexible than Shopify for this very reason. This is because Magento is designed to host very large online stores and thus has a very feature-rich admin panel, which for a new user, may seem slightly daunting.

Shopify, on the other hand, has a remarkably easy-to-use admin interface, making everyday functions such as adding, removing or editing products or categories very easy. With Shopify, it’s also easier to manage things such as tax calculations and delivery options.

If you’re a new user, the learning curve on the Shopify backend is less steep than Magento. However, Magento Community 2.0 has a user interface that’s a lot more intuitive than before, so you don’t need to be a superuser to find your way around the backend.

Scalability

As your business grows and diversifies, your eCommerce store needs to stay abreast. If you have growth on your mind, which eCommerce platform you choose also depends on the scale of that growth.

The good news is, both Magento and Shopify are designed to offer you scope for scaling up (or down, as the case may be).

With Shopify, you can simply scale up or down by switching over to higher or lower plans, which range from US$29 to US$200 a month. And if you’re planning to go even bigger, Shopify Plus offers “enterprise-grade solutions for high volume merchants, and large businesses.” One thing to note, though, is that the lower your Shopify plan, the higher are the transaction fees and credit card rates you pay per transaction.

If you wanted to scale up or go international with Magento you would need to tweak your current server resources to handle increased web traffic or the need for more advanced features. Given its robust architecture, Magento can inherently manage massive numbers of products. The Magento 2 CE, for instance, can manage up to 200,000 products, and with optimised scaling, this number can even be doubled.

Themes and Templates

Both Magento and Shopify are an eCommerce merchant’s dream when it comes to themes and templates: both offer a mammoth mix of free and paid options. However, the Magento Connect marketplace (an online store featuring thousands of extensions and themes) gives Magento an edge over Shopify. Because Magento users (read Enterprise edition) also tend to have higher budgets, you’ll find that design and web development agencies are constantly releasing custom themes for Magento.

Shopify, on its part, doesn’t disappoint on the themes and templates front. Shopify’s theme store includes thousands of responsive themes designed specifically for different industries such as clothing, sports, jewelry, furniture and more.

Omnichannel Capabilities

Omnichannel capabilities can help you go where your customers are most likely to discover products or make the decision to buy them. With retail behemoths such as Amazon entering Australia, it’s ever more essential for businesses to stay on top of the game. This means your online store needs to look and feel the same not only across different devices but also across different platforms such as social networks and apps.

As with many businesses worldwide, if omnichannel is a priority for your business too, you may want to consider Shopify for its built-in omnichannel capabilities. While Magento stores render brilliantly across different devices and platforms, Shopify goes a step ahead and allows merchants to integrate their stores with social platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest. If you wanted to achieve this with Magento, you’d have to rely on add-ons available at the Magento Marketplace.

Performance, Speed and Load Times

Pagespeed and website performance is a game of seconds rather than minutes for online shoppers. How well your eCommerce store runs is often directly proportional to how fast it loads as shoppers browse through your products and make their way to the checkout.

Shopify, being a hosted solution, offers quick load times and great overall performance. On the flip side, because it is a fully-hosted solution, it gives you little control over your hosting environment if you need to make specific tweaks to boost performance. Magento CE, on account of being a more robust and self-hosted eCommerce platform, gives you far greater control over the finer metrics that impact your website performance and speed.

Catalog and Product Management

Both Magento and Shopify have all the extra features your store needs for a well-maintained catalog that includes hundreds of products. Some common product and catalog management features include quick product configuration, bulk product actions, instant product image uploads, product list exports and more.

Magento carries a slight edge on this front in the form of more built-in advanced upsell and wish-list features. Although these features don’t come built-in in Shopify, there are paid add-ons that can help you achieve the same results.

Search Engine Optimisation

You may have a brilliant online store, but it’s of little use if users cannot find you when they’re searching online for products that you sell. This is where search engine optimisation features come into play. That said, both Magento and Shopify come equipped with nearly all essential SEO features for your website to be found online.

With Magento, you also achieve more complex SEO actions relating to redirects, permalink edits, canonical tags and meta tags. Moreover, Magento enables store owners to code specific SEO features into their online store based on individual requirements. Shopify, too, comes with the entire suite of basic SEO functions such as writing custom metadata, dynamic sitemap creation, social media sharing, optimising individual product pages and more.

No matter which eCommerce platform suits your needs, you’ll be pleased to know that Bambora offers a variety of options to help you accept payments online. Connecting your Bambora account with both Magento and Shopify is easy and you’ll be up and running in no time. Keen to learn more? Get in touch with one of the Bambora team today.

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 About the author: Victoria Galloway is Bambora APAC's Technical Copywriter, and has been writing and producing in the payments and eCommerce space for a number of years, both in the UK and Australia

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