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Magento 2 and Shopify: Differences & Similarities

  • Written By Livie
  • Posted February 27, 2018
  • 9 minutes Read Time

The first and most vital decision you need to make when creating a new eCommerce store is deciding which platform the site will be designed and powered by. If you do not choose wisely, you risk the chance of using an inadequately powered platform that will limit future growth and ultimately the success of your online store – yikes! So researching the different options on offer is very important!

Here at Media Lounge, we like and recommend both the Magento 2 and Shopify platforms to our clients. However, which one we recommend is dependent on a number of factors.

The most brewed misconception about Magento 2 and Shopify is that the two platforms are very similar. While both serve the same purpose: to provide a platform for eCommerce stores, the reality of using the two platforms is drastically different in almost every single aspect. Each has a different core structure, different payment options, even the way each handles extensions is via a completely different approach. However, which one you choose to use is dependent on your company size and structure. In order for you to make a considered decision, we have compiled the similarities and differences of Magento 2 and Shopify for an easy comparison of one against the other.

Popularity

There is no doubt that both Magento 2 and Shopify are extremely popular in the realm of eCommerce. A recent report by Datanyze on the current state of the eCommerce industry has revealed that there are currently around 240,000 registered domains on Shopify whereas, there are approximately 160,000 websites powered by Magento. However, popularity figures do not correlate to performance. The fact Shopify homes more stores does not necessarily mean it is the better performing platform.

Generally, Shopify is more attractive to small online stores because it is cheap and very simple to use. This makes it the preferred option for newer, less experienced (and most probably less wealthy) online store owners. Magento 2 on the other hand, is most commonly preferred by medium-large sized online stores because it boasts more complex features and a larger price tag.

However, if you are a new business owner, do not rule out Magento 2 just yet!

Often small or startup businesses will choose to work on Magento 2 if they have sufficient budget because they have long-term scalability plans for the business because unfortunately, the Shopify platform does not allow for easy growth. If you have a Shopify store and you need to scale up your site, then there is no option but to rebuild, which is a lot more expensive. So the first two questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • “What is my budget?”
  • “Where will the business be in a 3-5 years time?”

Capabilities & Features

While the decision of which platform to use is highly dependent on the budget and the scalability of your business, there are still many factors to consider before you make a decision. The next is the capabilities and features the platform offers. If the platform does not offer what you need, then you can rule it out straight away.

As mentioned, Shopify is known for its easy use. It doesn’t have a steep learning curve since its predominantly designed for inexperienced users. You simply choose from different pre-designed themes and then make adjustments to said theme.

Magento 2 on the other hand, brings unparalleled flexibility. Almost every aspect of the appearance and functionality of a Magento store can be altered, meaning you have complete freedom over how your online shop interacts with visitors. However, because of its complexity, you will often find yourself needing help from experienced developers to make design changes.

Design & Customisation

Being able to access pre-designed themes and templates is both a life and time saver so knowing what themes are available on both Magento 2 and Shopify is key.

Both platforms allow you to build your site from scratch with the offering of various free and premium themes. In general, these themes take full advantage of features specific to each of the platforms and come with a responsive design. These can be found at various online marketplaces and are often affordably priced.

This is where we discuss the ease of use again. Shopify is based on a drag and drop philosophy, which makes it easy to customise your own theme. Magento, on the other hand, brings more capable customisation options, making it really easy to produce a uniquely designed website. While this previously required a developers expertise, Magento recently acquired Bluefoot, a CMS and Page Builder module, that specialises in a drag and drop functionality. This new robust functionality in Magento is intuitive, extensible and allows for creativity when designing your store – arguably better than Shopify!

Inventory Management

Both platforms offer a personalised take on inventory management so you need to pick the one that will help you be most efficient. Inventory management includes categorising and filtering, as well as product and pricing variations so it is important it is considered closely.

Once you look at the inventory management on Shopify it becomes apparent that the platform is not designed for large online stores. The interface is both simple and straightforward again stressing its ease of use. However, there are several capable extensions which bring advanced features like promotional flash sales, discount for registered users and much more.

Magento comes with a very basic out-of-the-box inventory upload, just like Shopify. However, this platform stands out when it comes to advanced features. For example, there are far more variation possibilities and plenty of third-party services for integrating a broader distribution network. This may require more work initially but the long-term gain far outweighs setup.

Marketing & SEO

It’s all well and good having a beautifully designed eCommerce store but it’s no use if it ranks poorly on Google and no one can actually find the site. Therefore, you need to ensure that your eCommerce platform of choice allows profound SEO principles to be applied.

Shopify brings a basic set of SEO options. For example, you can edit the meta tags and optimize inventory and product pages in SEO-friendly ways. It also allows for in-depth optimisation that involves modifying the file structure which makes it much easier for search crawlers to do their job. However, the most prominent limitation is that Shopify stores are self-hosted, meaning you can’t make any server level configurations.

Magento is an open-source solution that provides full freedom over every single aspect of your online store. This applies to SEO too. You can fine-tune permalinks for inventory items, as well as meta content. More importantly, Magento takes a full advantage of no-follow links, redirects and canonical tags. These make it a lot easier for search engines to index eCommerce websites and understand their overall structure.

Speed and Performance

Speed and performance are correlated with the success of every eCommerce store. Users don’t like to wait a long time for a site to load. This applies to loading online stores, browsing through products and also making purchases. If an online store shows signs of weakness in any of these areas, a user is less likely to return for a second purchase or even convert in the first place.

What is important to understand here is that Shopify is a hosted solution, and while Magento 2 can be, it isn’t guaranteed to be. This means that Shopify users don’t have to worry about servers and website performance since Shopify is responsible for all those things. In general, Shopify provides a more reliable and highly-optimised performance that doesn’t require any maintenance.

There are two different editions of Magento 2: Open Source (formerly known as the Community Edition) and Commerce Cloud. If you choose the Open Source package, you must host the store yourself or call on a third party to help host the store for you. Open Source does allow for you to meet the basic commerce needs of business today, as per Magento, but this does not mean that you’re off the hook for keeping the site online. Magento Commerce Cloud, on the other hand, hosts your store for you, hence the word ‘Cloud’ in the title, giving you the stability and assurance that your site will always be live. This, of course, comes at a cost but is worth investing in if hosting, web support and eCommerce functionality aren’t in your skillset.

Cost & Expenses

Shopify has a subscription-based model. You can start out with a free trial, but you will soon have to pay for it. The most affordable option is priced at $29 per month, but that price goes up to $299 for the Advanced Shopify plan. By paying more, you get access to a more extensive set of features like advanced statistics, gift cards and more. Additionally, themes and extensions can be premium prices too.

When it comes down to those pesky hidden fees you need to know that Shopify charges transaction fees for payments made via external payment gateways which include PayPal, Braintree and others.

If you are using Magento Open Source then the cost of hosting will depend on where you choose to host. With Magento’s Commerce Cloud and Magento in general, there isn’t a fixed price as everything is custom to the store’s needs. Magento 2 provides a more robust platform than Shopify and can charge more for that premium experience. However, you won’t know the exact price until you speak with a Magento partner or Team Magento themselves and outline your needs and goals.

Conclusion

Shopify comes with a much lower monthly cost and easy installation. You can have your online store up and running in just a couple of days. However, it lacks the freedom of customisation and fine-tuning.

The functionalities and capabilities of both Magento 2 and Shopify warrant success for your online store. But in essence, your decision boils down to the one that best suits your overall needs.

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Magento 2 might still be a significant investment, even though it doesn’t come with a monthly subscription. More importantly, it offers incredibly powerful features and complete freedom of customisation as well as the scalability needed to grow the business in future.

With all of this in mind, if you have the budget then we would recommend choosing Magento over Shopify. Irrespective of the size of your eCommerce store, with Magento 2 there is no need to rebuild your site in future should you want to scale up and the platform offers far more across the board.

However, if you still unsure of which platform is best for your business, feel free to get in touch with our expert team who will be happy to help!