With so many eCommerce solutions to choose from, making a final decision can be extremely challenging. One platform might suit one business but be completely unfitting to others.
You also have to consider various features your store needs, and the way you want your website to be built. This will ensure that your site functions the way you intend it to.
In this article, I’m going to offer a comprehensive comparison of Magento vs Shopify, two eCommerce giants. In it, I’ll discuss the user experience, design, and pricing - all to help you get a complete look at the platforms.
What Is Magento?
Magento is a self-hosted, open-source eCommerce platform that allows store owners to build a fully customized online shop. Aside from giving you full control over the look of your store, Magento offers a full shopping cart system so that you can keep track of your orders and inventory.
Furthermore, Magento comes with powerful marketing and SEO tools. You’ll also benefit from the service’s catalog management feature which allows you to add, edit, and remove products from your site in a matter of seconds.
You'll need a Magento hosting account to set everything up.
What Is Shopify?
Shopify works very differently from Magento. Instead of paying for a hosting provider, the solution does everything for you. All you have to do is create an account and you’ll gain access to a fully hosted site. Plus, each subscription comes with a domain name for the first year.
This all-in-one eCommerce solution is now the largest in the world, powering more than 600,000 online stores. With a Shopify account, you can create an online store, manage your orders and inventory, take local and international payments, as well as run marketing campaigns, among other activities.
Magento or Shopify: The Answers to The Big Questions
As you can probably tell from the descriptions, the two platforms pack a lot of different characteristics. Which one is the right pick for your business? Here's an overview of the most important features to make the decision easier.
Hosted vs Self-Hosted Platform
The main difference between Shopify and Magento is the way they’re hosted. Magento is self-hosted. This means you have to source your own hosting provider and pay for a plan before you can start using the service for free. Luckily, hosting doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Some of the best hosting providers include Bluehost, Hostinger, and A2 Hosting.
While hosting your own site does come at an extra cost, it also comes with many benefits. One of which is creative freedom. By paying for a hosting provider and using an open-source eCommerce solution like Magento, you’re not limited to specific templates and themes. Instead, you can design your site exactly how you want it.
Despite this level of design freedom, this option does mean that your site’s uptime is in your host’s hands. It also means that you’re responsible for its security and speed. Simply put, if someone decides to hack your website, you’ll have to pay for a professional to fix the problem or do your own research to resolve it yourself.
With a hosted solution like Shopify, you don’t have to worry about any of the above. Instead, you pay a monthly subscription and you gain full access to the platform’s features. While this option is far more straightforward, it doesn’t give you the same creative freedom, unless you pay a professional to design your site in code and then upload it.
On the whole, ease of use should be at the forefront of your mind when choosing an eCommerce solution to create your online store. With Magento, the learning curve can be quite steep, especially for those with little to no experience using web building solutions.
If you truly want to make the most of what the platform has to offer, you’re going to have to learn some code or pay a web developer to join your team. If you’d prefer to avoid going down this road, Magento does have a Content Management System (CMS), though this isn’t as user-friendly as Shopify’s.
Although Magento may be intimidating for some, the company does have some comprehensive user guides that can help you get started. There is also a Magento forum you can check out to ask and get answers to questions.
With Shopify, the user experience is far more intuitive and straight forward. From the moment you sign up, you’ll land on a dashboard where you can do everything from customizing your site’s design to adding products and even creating marketing campaigns.
Shopify also has a drag-and-drop website builder where you can personalize individual elements on each one of your website’s pages. To create your store, you won’t need any coding knowledge whatsoever and, if you get stuck, you can contact the support team which is available 24/7.
Design and Customization
If you’re looking for a fully customizable site with everything exactly the way you want it down to the millimeter, Magento is your best choice. Aside from the fact that you can choose from 12 themes, you also have the chance to create and upload your own, free of charge.
The only catch is that you’ll need a lot of coding knowledge to make this happen.
Whether you do it yourself or hire a designer, this option lets you personalize every single aspect of your site. In addition to choosing the layout you want, you’ll have the chance to add animations and include newsletter functionalities, among other features.
Alternatively, if you’re new to designing a website and want a good selection of ready-made themes and templates to choose from, Shopify is the way to go. The solution offers a selection of 10 free themes and 60 paid ones. These are all fully customizable and tailored specifically to eCommerce.
Furthermore, each and every one of them allows you to add products and their variants as well as set up various payment and shipping options. You can change the color of the theme and add your own media such as your company logo, for example.
When it comes to pricing, the two solutions don’t compare. This is because Magento offers a free community version of its services, however, you will have to pay for your own hosting. That said, this can cost as little as $5 a month. Just make sure you do your research before making a final decision in order to get the best service.
Alternatively, you can go for one of their premium services, all of which vary in price depending on the one you go for. These include hosting and allow you to add an unlimited number of products to your store.
Furthermore, these services come with a theme-based system and allow you to add extensions to your site.
These include the ‘Basic Shopify’, ‘Shopify’, and ‘Advanced Shopify’ which cost $29 a month, $79 a month, and $299 a month respectively.
All these options include an eCommerce website and blog as well as unlimited product listing, and 24/7 customer support.
You’ll also be able to create orders manually and integrate with other marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. Not only this, you can add discount codes and you’ll benefit from the abandoned cart recovery feature.
Plus, every plan comes with a free SSL certificate which adds a layer of security to your store. If you’re not sure you want to commit to a monthly plan, you can try the service for free for 14 days.
So really, comparing prices is difficult. While Magento in a complete "build-it-yourself" experience, and can be both very cheap and very expensive, Shopify is a little more clear. But that's more or less the only thing they can be compared with when it comes to pricing.
Magento vs Shopify: Which One Wins?
While Magento offers more freedom when it comes to personalization, Shopify remains the better eCommerce platform. The solution is more user-friendly and, therefore, allows you to get your store up and running in a matter of minutes.
Moreover, Shopify comes with a large selection of themes for you to choose from, some of which are free.
This means that all you really need to do is assign one to your site. Then, you can personalize the colors, media, and content. Last but not least, Shopify is more intuitive and makes it much easier to track orders and inventory.
But if you're a seasoned developer which time on your hands, you will be able to make Magento absolutely shine. All really comes down to how much are you prepared to work for it.
But what's your experience with Magento and Shopify? Do you have experience with using these platforms? Let me know in the comments!