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Comparing E-commerce Platforms: Magento vs. Shopify Plus

Comparing E-commerce Platforms: Magento vs. Shopify Plus

Comparing E-commerce Platforms: Magento vs. Shopify Plus

Which enterprise level e-commerce platform is better?


When it comes to building a website, there are many things to consider. Who should host your website? What theme should you use? What should the layout of certain pages be? What kind of user flow should you design? Should you build and design your website in-house or should you hire an agency? Add in a bunch of e-commerce variables -- inventory, products, product variations, categories, shopping carts, payments, discounts, promotions, shipping, social selling, and more -- your head starts to spin! That’s why choosing the right e-commerce platform can make a big difference. Fortunately and unfortunately, there are a number of e-commerce platform options out there.


While we are a Shopify agency, we recognize that both Shopify Plus and Magento Commerce can meet the needs of enterprise level e-commerce businesses. With our prospective clients, we’ve found that Magento is typically the number one platform considered against Shopify. Recognizing that every business has its own unique requirements and parameters, this article runs through many of the items you should consider when comparing Shopify Plus and Magento Commerce.

Magento vs. Shopify HISTORY

Magento has been around since 2008 and has been one of the most used e-commerce platforms worldwide. More than 230,000 stores run on Magento; with over 6,000 enterprise level stores running on Magento Commerce, including big name brands like Nike and Ghirardelli. Last year in 2016, Shopify actually overtook Magento in Google Trends and they just recently announced that the number of Shopify merchants passed the 500,000 mark in 2017. Since Shopify launched Shopify Plus for enterprise level businesses a few years ago, there are now over 2,500 Shopify Plus merchants. So there’s a lot to consider when comparing these two platforms!


While Magento has been around longer than Shopify and dominated e-commerce market share for quite some time, Magento developed a reputation for being slow to release platform updates and has generally been considered a pricier solution. When Magento released version 2 in 2015, many merchants using Magento 1 were faced with the need to rebuild their entire website, and even re-purchase themes and extensions, if they wanted to update to the newest version of Magento. These challenges have encouraged many Magento users to consider switching to Shopify.


Shopify initially developed a reputation as an e-commerce platform for small mom and pop shops, making it fast and easy for e-commerce business owners with little technical savvy to get up and running with an online storefront. But with the launch of Shopify Plus a few years ago, Shopify expanded into enterprise e-commerce markets while continuing to make it easy for its users to focus on the business (customers, marketing, sales) with optimized e-commerce user flows and a very approachable user interface. Today, Tesla and the Los Angeles Lakers’ store run on Shopify.

Magento vs. Shopify HIGHLIGHTS

OPEN SOURCE & UN-HOSTED VS. LICENSED & HOSTED

In previous years, enterprise level businesses would have considered Magento Enterprise Edition (EE) against Shopify Plus. This meant weighing the pros and cons of a self-hosted, open source platform (Magento) against a hosted and licensed platform (Shopify).


Hosted vs. un-hosted can become a very technical and complex subject very quickly. There’s a reason why hosting companies exist! At a high level, hosting your own servers or website might entail purchasing your own computers to run as a server; ongoing maintenance and updating of hardware, software, and databases; troubleshooting and testing of all these moving parts to ensure website speed; making additional purchases to scale; and especially lately -- liability for security risks. When you go with a hosted solution, all of these things are taken care of for you.


Hosting is one of the reasons why Shopify has been such an attractive solution to the less technical e-commerce business owners. As a licensed and hosted platform, Shopify takes care of all the hardware and infrastructure that it takes to host an online store.


Today we can compare Magento Commerce, still open source but now a hosted platform, to Shopify Plus.


Open Source Software: Technically, “open source” means that the core software is freely available and that any fees charged are related to hosting, support, extensions, and customization. For Magento, Magento Open Source (formerly Community Edition) is the free version of the platform. Magento Commerce takes the free version and packages it together with a variety of partners and services to include hosting and support, charging a price for the package.


Regardless, Magento is still an open source software and here are some of the pros and cons that coincide with open source:


Pros of Open Source Software

Cons of Open Source Software

  • Freedom to customize anything
  • Community (in most cases)
  • Low product costs
  • Need developers! (This can become costly!)
  • Slow to release updates


Licensed Software: When a software is “licensed” this means you get a product that is owned and managed by a company that is working to sell, support, and improve their product. Since the product has paying customers, a company will work to keep its customers happy and on board. Shopify is a licensed and hosted platform.


Here are some pros and cons typically associated with licensed software:


Pros of Licensed Software

Cons of Licensed Software

  • Clean procedures, processes, and protocols
  • User friendliness
  • Proactive support
  • Security
  • Limited customization potential based on APIs and features provided by the company
  • Fixed pricing structure


THEME MARKETPLACE

A “theme” is a set of code, or webpage templates packaged together, that controls a website’s layout and design features, ensuring that a website has a consistent look and feel. Essentially, the theme dictates the design of a website. Both Magento Commerce and Shopify Plus offer their own themes as well as 3rd party themes for their platforms.

Magento Commerce version 2 has nine themes available in Magento’s Marketplace store, while themeforest has upwards of 750 Magento themes across version 1 and version 2 (keep in mind that Magento will be phasing out version 1 by fall of 2018).

Shopify offers more themes, 59 of them, in its own marketplace -- 10 of which are free. While the paid themes are created by 3rd parties, Shopify maintains a strict approval process of themes in their marketplace, so purchasing themes from Shopify guarantees that a theme meets certain standards. There are also nearly 500 Shopify themes available in themeforest as well.

At the enterprise level, most e-commerce companies that have a clear sense of their brand typically find themselves developing a custom theme to represent their unique identity on the web. With Magento Commerce or Shopify Plus, you can develop a custom theme completely from scratch or take an existing theme to use as a base and customize it.

APP MARKETPLACE

Magento and Shopify both have marketplaces where users can find apps and extensions that add functionality to an e-commerce website. A website “plugin,” “extension,” or “app” is a packaged set of code that performs a certain function. It’s kind of like when you download an app on your phone to make to-do lists or send money to your friends. An app gives you the function, or ability, to make a to-do list (ex: Wunderlist) or to transfer money to others (ex: Venmo). You can add a plugin to a WordPress site, an extension to a Magento store, or an app to a Shopify store to add a function -- say an Instagram social feed.

The Shopify app store has over 2,000 apps while the Magento marketplace features over 1,600 extensions with over 1,000 of those for Magento 2. There are way more apps available for Shopify, many of which are well documented and easy to install. In general, most apps in the Shopify app store cost between $5-$30, while some niche apps can cost a lot more. Magento extensions range in price from $0-$5,500, with most falling in the $0-$700 range.

With both platforms, it is also possible to have a developer build a custom function for you, though here at Growth Spark we always encourage our clients to pursue out-of-the-box options first.

Magento vs. Shopify EASE OF USE

EASE OF STORE SETUP

With any enterprise level e-commerce business, it will take time to add content and products; configure shipping, payment, and notification details; and complete any design customizations. Generally speaking, most consider it much easier to setup a Shopify Plus store than a Magento Commerce store.

Shopify makes it easy for a business or marketing-focused person to make changes to the majority of e-commerce tasks, not to mention that with Shopify Plus you’ll be assigned  dedicated Launch and Merchant Account Managers.

For years Magento was considered much more approachable for experienced developers and not very user friendly towards business focused users. In 2015, Magento finally launched version 2 and users noted that the update came with a much friendlier user interface than Magento 1. It’s now much easier to add content and products, monitor sales, and browse through reports in Magento than it was before.

User Interface

Since Magento is now offered as a Platform-as-a-Service offering like Shopify, both are geared towards business minded users more focused on monitoring orders, marketing products, and optimizing conversions. As a result, both platforms feature rather user-friendly admin panels.

Magento 2 Admin Panel, Dashboard View:

Shopify Plus, Dashboard View:

Magento 2 Admin Panel, Products View:

Check out the Magento 2 UI on YouTube.

Shopify Plus, Products View:

Magento 2 Admin Panel, Sales Report View:


Source: Alex Lukyanau on YouTube

Shopify Plus, Sales by Month Report View:


Magento 2 Admin Panel, Customer Profile Views:






Source: astralweb on YouTube

Shopify Plus, Customer Profile Views:



Notice that both admin panels make it easy to:

  • Control multiple online storefronts
  • Manage products, customers, and orders
  • Edit pages and content

DESIGN CUSTOMIZATIONS

Shopify Plus and Magento Commerce both use themes to meet  a merchant’s design preferences.

Shopify actually has its own coding language, .liquid, that is very easy-to-learn. If you’re comfortable with HTML and CSS, you’ll probably find Shopify’s .liquid theming language easy to modify. Depending on the level of design customization you’re looking for you might consider customizing a theme on your own or finding a Shopify Partner Agency to help. Overall, thanks to .liquid, you won’t need a “full stack developer” to work on your Shopify store.  

With Magento, you will need a dedicated full stack developer. This is because the open source nature of Magento’s platform requires knowledge of CSS, HTML, PHP, XML, JavaScript, and Responsive Web Design in order to make changes.

CUSTOMER SERVICE / TECH SUPPORT

Running an e-commerce store, you know how important it is to provide excellent customer service. Delay too long responding to a customer’s request and you might be damaging their view of your company. Point your customers to an FAQ page that’s tough to navigate or missing the answer they’re searching for and you’re looking at frustrating interactions. So what kind of customer support would you like to receive when it comes to facing unexpected challenges that might might be impacting the customer experience of your e-commerce store? Top notch support, we’d think!

Shopify has always maintained a strong reputation for its support. Beyond Shopify’s extensive support documentation, E-commerce University, and discussion forums, each Shopify Plus customer also receives their own dedicated Merchant Success Manager in addition to a dedicated Account Manager and 24/7 priority support.

Similar to Shopify, Magento customers also have access to Magento’s support documentation and community forums. For Magento’s paid offerings, Magento Commerce Starter customers receive 24/7 email support, but you would have to bump up to Magento Commerce Pro in order to receive a dedicated Launch Manager for your account. With Pro, you’ll also receive 24/7 phone and chat support in addition to email, but you still don’t have a dedicated support team committed to helping you improve your e-commerce business once you’ve successfully launched.

Magento vs. Shopify FEATURES

As e-commerce platforms, Shopify and Magento both offer pretty robust e-commerce capabilities. Some capabilities come “out-of-the-box,” or ready to go upon installation, while other capabilities can be added by installing an app or extension. Check out our features grid below to see how Shopify Plus and Magento stack up.


Key: available out-of-the-box   available via app or extension    requires configuration

Shopify Plus

Magento Commerce

E-Commerce Backend

Inventory Management

Track inventory and automate inventory labels in your online store

Use inventory management apps to automatically hide out of stock products and link inventory across multiple online stores

Download an inventory management extension from the Magento Marketplace


✍ Have a developer add in a catalog inventory code module


Overview of managing inventory

Unlimited Products

No limit to the number of products you can add to your online store(s).

No limit to the number of products you can add to your online store(s).

Unlimited Customer Accounts

Shopify Customer Accounts

Assuming unlimited?


Magento Customer Accounts

Payment Gateways

Native Shopify Payments and integrations with PayPal, Amazon, Apple

100+ payment gateways including mobile, social

Supported Payment Solutions & Gateways: PayPal, Braintree, Authorize.net, WorldPay, CyberSource

Payment Platforms

Native Shopify Payments platform

Shopify Pay’s one-field checkout

Shopify Gift Cards

Can get additional payment extensions in Magento Marketplace

Shipping Carriers

Calculated shipping for USPS, Canada Post, FedEx, UPS

Shopify Shipping offers rate discounts for USPS and

Other shipping carriers available via app store

Calculated shipping for UPS, UPS XML (account rates), FedEx (account rates), USPS, DHL

Shipping Management

- Overview of shipping considerations & more on shipping & fulfillment

Calculate rates

Print shipping labels

On-Site Order Status Tracking

Integrate with fulfillment services via app

- Configure shipping methods and rates

 Print shipping labels

 Order tracking via RSS feed


Integrate with fulfillment services via extension

e-commerce frontend

Sales Channels

16 Shopify Sales Channels integrated into core merchant dashboard

Password protected Wholesale Store

Integrate with Google Shopping via app store

Few extensions available:

Amazon

Facebook

Facebook Messenger

Instagram

Pinterest


(easier to find extensions through Google search than searching on the Magento Marketplace)


Configure a wholesale site using customer groups or purchase a wholesale extension

Coupons & Discount Codes

Create, manage, and export discount codes

Create, export, and report on coupon codes and discounts

Promotions

Use Launchpad to schedule promotions and site customizations for promos

Set catalog price rules to offer promotions on select products


Configure cart price rules to offer buy x get y free promotions

POS

Shopify POS and Retail Package covers everything you need to sell in person

Extensions available

Marketing Insights

SEO

SEO in Shopify

Update SEO data with API

Native integration with Kit app that automatically uses SEO Manager to suggest & execute SEO improvement recommendations

Create URL rewrites using the Traffic Control app

SEO in Magento

SEO best practices in Magento include meta data, sitemaps, URL rewrites

Analytics

Use Launchpad to track promo event metrics in real-time

Customer, Finance Reports in addition to a variety of other reports

Build custom reports

Customer, Sales, Marketing, and a variety of other reports  

Customer / Inventory Segmentation

User allows access to customer info

Create and manage customer groups

Customer Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs available via app store

Magento Reward Points System allows you to configure reward points based on a range of transaction and customer activities

Marketing Tools

Social Selling

16 Shopify Sales Channels integrated in core platform (Amazon, FB Messenger & Shop, Pinterest, Houzz, EBates)

Secure apps for Shoppable Instagram Galleries and more

Few extensions available:

Amazon

Facebook

Facebook Messenger

Instagram

Pinterest

Conversion Assists

Manual and automated Abandoned Cart Recovery

Configure abandoned cart recovery notifications using marketing reports or purchase an extension

Newsletter & Email

Use Bulk Account Inviter to email customers to activate accounts


Integrate with email and newsletter programs via app store

Create emails and newsletters


Integrate with email and newsletter programs via extension marketplace

Blog

Built in Blogging Engine

Download a blog extension

Technical

Apps & Integrations

Shopify app store

Magento Marketplace

Seamless Login

Multipass allows users to be automatically logged in to Shopify site when connecting from an external site

Configure Global Customer Configuration to allow Magento store sites to share customer accounts

Multi Language Support

Avalara AvaTax automates tax calculations and filing


Manage checkout language


Download a language translation app for your store

✍ Configure Translate Inline for basic language translations

Download a translation / localization extension


✍ Configure tax zones and rates


Install AvaTax extension to calculate tax and filing

Media Storage

Unlimited: never charged based on number of site visitors, or files and photos uploaded.

- Unclear whether there is unlimited storage. Platform.sh mentions 50GB of storage while Amazon Web Services also has a different pricing structure

- Overview of Magento Commerce Media Storage

Security

Shopify Payments includes built-in fraud analysis and is PCI compliant

Magento PCI Compliance Overview


Commerce Pro and Starter should be PCI compliant according to this info-sheet


✍ More info on Magento PCI Compliance

Performance



Optimizing Shopify Themes

Full Page Cache & Varnish caching

Customer Service Support

- Dedicated Merchant Success Manager + Launch Manager


- 24/7 priority support

Starter

Pro

- Starter = 24/7 email only


- Pro = 24/7 email, phone, chat + dedicated Launch Manager


Magento vs. Shopify PRICING

Shopify Plus and Magento Commerce both offer base monthly pricing.

Magento Commerce Starter begins at $1,999/month and Magento Commerce Pro begins at $3,399/month. You can compare Starter and Pro plans here, though it looks as if you’d need to go for the Pro plan in order to get closer to the level of support that Shopify Plus offers (dedicated Account and Launch Managers, deeper business intelligence and analytics, and better hardware and infrastructure).

Shopify Plus starts at around $2,000/month and goes up depending on your specific needs, never surpassing a maximum fee of $40,00/month (you’d have to be selling upwards of $16M/month to hit the maximum fee). Since Shopify Plus fees depend on unique business aspects, the monthly fee will vary. A German Shopify agency, liquify.design, actually has a really nice comprehensive breakdown of Shopify Plus pricing that we’d recommend visiting if you’re looking for more detail.

Both Shopify and Magento offer non-enterprise level platforms at lower costs. For Magento, this offering is called Magento Open Source (formerly known as “Community Edition” or “CE”), and can be used for free. Just remember that you’ll have to purchase your own hosting when using Magento Open Source. Shopify’s lower price point offerings still come hosted and there are a variety of price points and packages available that speak to different business sizes.

CONCLUSION

Still with us? Head reeling? There’s quite a bit of information out there for Shopify Plus and Magento Commerce, we hope this article helped you gain a better understanding of both e-commerce platforms!


At a high level, Shopify Plus offers more out-of-the-box features than Magento Commerce, but both platforms pretty much cover the full gamut of e-commerce capabilities via apps and extensions. If you’re really looking to get familiar with the platforms, we suggest taking time to click through the links in the Features Grid to the Shopify and Magento documentation so you can compare the features and how to manage them.


Looking for other opinions? We thought this Huffington Post article offered a pretty thorough comparison of Shopify Plus and Magento Commerce. Or you might consider checking out a variety of opinions on Quora.

Need help weighing the benefits of Shopify Plus or Magento Commerce for your business? 

We're here to help!