Which Platform Is Superior in 2022?
Those new to e-commerce have many questions but, “Which platform should I go with?” is the most pressing. There are many choices out there, and here we’ll take a look at two unique examples. Between Shopify and Magento, there’s a lot to discuss.
Shopify is proprietary software, which means you’ll have to pay for long-term usage. On the other hand, Magento is open-sourced and, therefore, free (if you don’t buy the paid version). In addition, they each have many other distinguishing features, which we outline below in this Magento vs Shopify comparison.
A Basic Comparison
Magento was introduced in 2004 and has historically been the most popular platform for e-commerce stores. It runs on a coding language called PHP and is open-sourced. If you have the technical knowledge or know someone who does, modifying the code is entirely legal and even encouraged.
As for Shopify, it entered the scene in 2006, two years after Magento. It’s now a top-rated platform, making up 21% of stores worldwide. It runs on Liquid, and the code can’t be altered like Magento’s.
With the basics out of the way, we can now dive into each platform’s specifics.
In addition to the most common features, Magento offers clients some excellent advantages. You don’t have to pay to use most of them, and we won’t be covering the paid version here because it is specifically targeted at enterprise-level companies.
Magento Is Entirely Free to Use and Modify
Thanks to Magento’s open-source license, anyone who downloads it can set up an online store after installing. You don’t need to pay a single cent for the platform itself. Still, you do need to pay for a domain and hosting provider.
This arrangement lets shop owners save some money over time, especially if they choose more affordable providers.
If your company has a competent developer who knows how to code in PHP, they can modify the code as much as they want. The same goes for you, should you possess the necessary skills.
Choose From a Wide Variety of Themes
Magento has many themes available for purchase. However, if you’re looking for a great design, try the Magento Marketplace or ThemeForest. The Marketplace does offer some free themes, but you usually have to pay for the best ones.
ThemeForest has around 500 Magento themes for sale. So naturally, their prices can vary, just like on Magento Marketplace. However, you can look at the designs’ ratings and comments on ThemeForest before purchasing. Making an educated decision thus becomes more manageable.
Once you purchase a theme, your website developer can put their PHP knowledge and experience to use. They may need training in other languages as well, but PHP is the primary language for Magento. An experienced PHP developer will find customizing the theme and adjusting objects simpler.
Magento has also released a drag-and-drop builder extension to help developers work faster. It’s a separate download, but it does reduce the time needed for coding.
There are many Magento themes on the internet due to the open-source nature of the platform itself. It encourages creativity on all fronts, even with themes and templates.
Large and Helpful Community
An open-source platform naturally breeds collaboration and a sense of community, which is why Magento users tend to band together. For example, the Magento Forum is home to many experts and developers who spend long hours working on the platform. Beginners are also there to learn and ask questions.
Such an environment naturally breeds discussion, and if you need help with something on Magento, turning to the forum is a great idea. The members are all too willing to offer their assistance.
If you’re not starting a new topic, you can always search for past answers to similar questions. With some digging, you’ll likely find what you need to kick start your Magento store.
Thousands of Extensions
Magento has around 5,000 extensions you can buy from the Marketplace. Out of these, about 1,970 are free to install. The paid ones can run up to $2,000, though you likely won’t need them.
The price depends on who made the extension and if you need expert help installing it. First, of course, you’ll want some coding experience and PHP knowledge to install them yourself. Fortunately, the knowledge required isn’t too advanced.
An Extensive List of Features
Magento allows users to do whatever they need for e-commerce. The features include:
- Site management
- Marketing functions
- Product browsing
- Catalog browsing
- Handling checkout, payment, and shipping processes
- Other built-in functions Magento comes with are:
- Coupon codes
- Gift cards
- Wish lists
- Order status modules
Even though some features are missing from the free version, you can still ask a developer to create extensions for these features if you’re not buying them from the Marketplace already. Sadly, some of these missing features are only found in the paid version by default.
A Reasonable Interface for Experienced Developers
While Magento isn’t meant for beginners, experts tend to speak favorably about its interface. Everything is in the navigational menu, including reports, sales, and more. The system must first be installed and requires FTP, though seasoned developers will find this a walk in the park.
Magento 2 addresses many of the original issues with user experience. For example, the new admin panel is more straightforward to pick up, even for new users. In addition, users no longer need as much advanced web development knowledge.
Even though there’s a learning curve, Magento is still highly flexible. As long as your developer can code something and make it work, they shouldn’t have a problem customizing your online store.
Strong Built-In SEO Features
We just talked about how Magento comes with endless features, which also pertains to the SEO department. From URL customization to SEO prompts, Magento has it all right when you download and install it. The SEO is even automatically configured if you don’t want to fine-tune it manually.
While some of the most advanced features are locked behind the paid version, Magento Commerce, your developer can also build the tools you want themselves. The open-source version doesn’t prevent you from adding missing functions.
With that in mind, you can trust Magento’s SEO capabilities. In the hands of an SEO expert, the included tools should already be enough.
Magento Is Highly Scalable
Compared to Shopify, Magento is designed with scalability in mind. Shopify is a simple platform that anyone can use without much coding knowledge.
When you reach some limits on Magento, you can always go further and install more extensions. You don’t need to switch to a new platform, which can be a hassle. In addition, the transfer process from one site to another is always troublesome.
Magento is strong enough to handle high website traffic, meaning transitioning to another platform isn’t necessary at all.
Even though Magento has some great positives, some areas need improvement. Here are some of the ecommerce platform’s weaknesses.
Steeper Learning Curve
Magento is marketed more towards experienced users. Thus, its steep learning curve is a natural consequence. You’ll need a competent developer or have the proper skills yourself before the interface makes sense.
If you don’t have development experience, Magento will slow you down considerably. In addition, it takes a long time to learn web development, and you should only come back after you’ve obtained the necessary skills.
However, if you do have a developer, you can safely ignore this disadvantage. They should be able to pick it up quickly.
Limited Customer Support
While using Magento, you may run into some problems. Sadly, customer service can’t help you very much. You can ask them about sales questions, but errors are out of their domain. The reason is that customer service is reserved for Magento Commerce users.
You’ll have to pay for customer support if you end up needing it. It might sound like a horrible disaster, but you shouldn’t forget about the forums.
There are also guides for common problems on Magento’s website, though they don’t solve every issue.
Some Features Are Locked Behind Magento Commerce
Some advanced features are only available behind a paywall, namely upgrading to Magento Commerce. These include abandoned cart recovery methods and a built-in rewards program. Only paying users will have access to the advanced functions.
You can ask your developer to code these functions into Magento’s free version. The problem is that it takes time and money, especially if you’re doing this alone. Hiring another person to perform the installation and coding is also not an option for some users.
While there are extensions on the Magento Marketplace, many users are averse to spending extra on unnecessary ones.
There Are Additional Costs
You can install Magento for free, but you still have to spend money on a domain name and a hosting service. Depending on which provider you’re working with, it may set you back a bit.
Many other e-commerce platforms offer free SSL certificates or the HTTPS extension you commonly see on secure websites. However, Magento doesn’t come with one. Unless your host throws that in as part of the package, you’ll need to purchase an SSL certificate on your own.
Another thing you’d spend on is a payment processing partner. But, again, without a subscription, your customers won’t be able to purchase your offerings.
Currently, Magento only supports the following services out of the box:
- PayPal or PayPal Pro
With some integration, however, you can also implement these:
- Amazon Payments
With Shopify’s popularity as one of the most profitable ecommerce platforms, it’s not hard to see why so many vendors love it. This section will cover its various advantages.
Ease of Use
Shopify was designed from the ground up to let anyone build an online store. That means you need no coding knowledge to create a beautiful shop that runs smoothly.
The editor works on the drag-and-drop principle, meaning most coding is eliminated. All you need is a mouse to move things around exactly where you want them. After a few minutes, you should have mastered the basics.
The interface is clean and intuitive, with a menu on the left. You can find the essential functions on it, and at the right are customization menus.
You can set up and edit the following all from the interface:
- Your main store
- Your store’s Facebook page
- Buy buttons on websites and blogs
- Amazon listings
- Store Instagram account
When you get the relevant apps, you can even integrate other platforms like eBay.
Shopify doesn’t have many themes, but the 64 premium ones you can buy are beautifully designed. Nine others are available for free, while the premium themes cost from $100 to $180.
With the drag-and-drop editor, you can easily adjust your theme. Adding, removing, and resizing objects on the shop page are simple to do. What’s more, this extends to the mobile version. As a result, all themes are mobile-friendly, making for a smooth experience.
With more people using mobile devices for shopping, it’s no wonder Shopify decided to pour more resources into helping them purchase items efficiently.
The themes are all yours to modify down to the colors. Best of all, you don’t have to code a single line just for simple adjustments or worry about web hosting costs.
Lots of Apps
Like Magento, Shopify also has a wide selection of apps you can install on your online store’s website. In addition, there are several thousand paid and free apps waiting in the Shopify App Store. These apps are handy, as Shopify sometimes lacks specific functions.
Shopify’s Point of Sale System
The point of e-commerce is to let customers buy products from the comfort of their homes, but there are also times when a business also has physical locations. With Shopify’s Point of Sale (POS) system, users can merge both online and physical stores under one system.
To do this, you’ll need some specialized hardware, which may be more difficult to purchase in locations outside of the following:
- New Zealand
The best way to get this outside of the mentioned territories is through authorized resellers. Once you set everything up, you can sell your products in a physical store. No location is off-limits as long as you can connect the hardware to the internet.
For example, you can sell your products at an event or a market stall. Then, when someone purchases an item, the stock count on your online store will also be updated. A feature like this can save you lots of time, as you don’t have to update the online store manually.
The Shopify POS Pro plan does cost $89 a month and per location, though it offers some extra advantages. If you’re not a fan of these, sticking with the built-in POS features is sufficient. In addition, all Shopify plans have POS Lite included as part of the subscription.
Having unlimited products in your store allows you to sell as many things as you want. You don’t have to remove a product’s listing just to release a new one. Shopify can handle as many offerings as you can throw at it or afford to sell.
What’s more, each product can have 100 variants. That’s slight overkill, but you never know how many variants of a product you’re going to have. So some extra space wouldn’t hurt.
One caveat is that each variant can only involve three product options. So, for example, if you’re selling watches, you can provide 100 variants of a watch, but only three different option types (like color, version, and style).
You can’t add another option, such as voltage, to this list. While there are third-party apps that work around this limitation, they cost money.
It shouldn’t be a problem for most shop owners, as having too many variants isn’t common. That said, Shopify does allow for easy organization with this feature.
Shopify also lets you group multiple products into a collection, and you have two ways to do that. One method is to gather them manually into an item pool like you would with physical objects.
The more straightforward method is to set up “automated collections,” which work thanks to the tag system. Admins can assign tags to any product, and Shopify can group everything up for you automatically once you make sure certain tags always end up in a particular category.
With this feature, you save hours or even days of categorizing and grouping. In addition, the software doesn’t miss products, and thus there’s no possibility for human error and forgetting something important.
Flexible Shipping Options
Web admins have lots of flexibility when it comes to shipping products out. Here are some adjustable parameters:
- Free shipping rates
- Flat rates
- Price-based rates
- Weight-based rates
- Real-time shipping rates
Real-time shipping rates can be a nightmare to calculate, as carriers will provide estimates subject to change. With Shopify, there’s no need to worry. There are two ways to adjust these rates, depending on where you’re located.
For those in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, the “Shopify Shipping” service is for you. You can use local postal services, print labels, and even provide preferential shipping rates. This feature is included with all plans, and using it lets entrepreneurs save a lot of money.
As for the other users, they’ll have to use third-party services to calculate shipping rates. It does require extra spending, which may turn some store owners off.
However, entrepreneurs who live in areas where Shopify Shipping is available can take advantage of it.
Built-In Multiple Currency Selling
Unlike competitors such as Squarespace, your Shopify store has multiple-currency payments enabled. The only condition is that you use Shopify Payments, the platform’s default payment gateway.
People prefer to see things in their local currency, and it’s been known to boost sales remarkably. So if you’re a fan of letting people feel secure about prices, a multiple-currency display is the way to go.
With this feature, visitors can select their country from a menu to display prices in their currencies. In addition, there’s an option to offer free app downloads to enable geolocation, though this is inferior to automatic currency conversion.
The feature doesn’t yet work with Shopify’s buy buttons on other websites.
You can use third-party apps for better results, but having these features included with your Shopify plan is already a considerable advantage. Unfortunately, many apps don’t have any built-in multi-currency support at all.
Free Abandoned Cart Recovery
Every Shopify plan comes with abandoned cart recovery, which is a big deal in e-commerce. If someone adds products to their shopping cart and lets it sit for too long, Shopify allows you to salvage the situation.
You can send manual emails to the cart owners or set the system up to do it automatically. Shopify also enables you to adjust when you send automated emails, which is a great way to manage time.
This feature saves entrepreneurs lost revenue, making it an excellent tool to have.
Not even a platform as popular as Shopify is free from criticism. So let’s take a look at some of its disadvantages.
Mandatory Transaction Fees
Unless you use Shopify Payments, you’ll need to pay Shopify some money for every transaction. This is because it’s automated and can’t be bypassed unless you use its built-in gateway. The problem is that Shopify works seamlessly with more than 100 payment gateways worldwide, which can be customers’ preferred methods.
Between options like PayPal to Apple Pay, some users might not enjoy using Shopify Payments to buy what they like.
Some Missing SEO Functions
Don’t get us wrong, Shopify’s SEO capabilities are about neck-in-neck with Magento’s. The difference is that while the latter comes with plenty of SEO tools, Shopify doesn’t. As a result,
many critical functions are only possible by installing apps.
Some of these apps might be expensive, but good SEO is what you need to rank highly.
Lots of Apps Means Lots of Cash Spent
Shopify ecommerce platform offers easily installed apps, and many of them are incredibly helpful for your business. The problem with needing so many is that you might end up spending too much on them. Compared to Magento’s built-in suite of free features, Shopify can feel basic.
Nevertheless, the apps on Shopify’s app store are carefully curated. So you won’t download something that’s a waste of space and money.
You can’t ask your developer to code a new app that functions identically to a feature locked behind a paywall, either. Instead, the only way to get more attributes is to upgrade your plan or buy apps. Most of the time, you’ll end up doing both.
Not the Best for Larger Online Stores
Shopify shines with smaller businesses, as it can get to a point where paying for additional apps and features become expensive. Should your business increase, you might find the platform too restrictive and simplistic. This point is where some entrepreneurs switch to a different platform that’s better for big business.
Magento users can stick to the free version if they have a developer they trust. Unfortunately, Shopify does fall behind in terms of scalability.
In this section, we don’t have to go into Magento’s details, as the software is free to use and modify. If you have the skills, you can even match the functionality of some of Magento Commerce’s features. It does take some time, however.
Magento Commerce is designed for larger businesses, as it costs a pretty penny to use.
As for Shopify’s plans, here they are:
- Basic Shopify for $29 a month
- Shopify for $79 a month
- Advanced Shopify for $299 a month
All plans get 24/7 customer service, unlimited products, and abandoned cart recovery. However, the costlier packages do come with some extra perks.
The “Shopify” plan allows for five staff accounts and inventory locations. You can also generate standard reports for SEO and other uses. Compared to the usual 2% transaction fee, this plan has a 1% fee should you stick with third-party payment gateways.
As for Advanced Shopify, that’s where all the best features are. The reports you get after purchasing this plan contain even more data. At checkout, your store even shows third-party calculated shipping rates.
The advanced plan further reduces the transaction fees to 0.5%, which is a great figure. But, of course, all plans have no transaction fees when you use Shopify Payments.
These are the three main plans, but you can also purchase a subscription for the Shopify Lite plan. It costs $9 per month and lets you set up a basic shop. You can transition to another plan after trying it out.
Some of its features are:
- Email carts
- Split bill
- Custom discounts
- Overview dashboard
The Enterprise plan is for larger companies. As for the cost, you’ll have to contact customer service for a quote.
Which Should I Go With?
Both platforms are pretty popular, but you should remember that they cater to different clients. For example, Magento is best for entrepreneurs who have developer skills or access to one. On the other hand, Shopify stores are easily set up without an ounce of programmer knowledge but cost more upfront.
In the end, your choice depends on your circumstances and skills. For example, Magento will take time before anyone learns how to build a store, but it’s highly scalable. On the other hand, Shopify stores are low-commitment solutions that aren’t too flexible. Between them, it’s up to you to decide.