Choosing the perfect e-commerce platform is key to making or breaking your business and it can be a tough decision to make if you are just starting out. This is particularly important for small businesses with limited budget and resources.
Shopify and Magento Community Edition - otherwise known as Magento - is widely acclaimed to be the top competitors for e-commerce platforms but what sets them apart from each other?
(For the purpose of this article, we will only be looking at Magento Community Edition rather than Magento Enterprise)
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Shopify Lite (9 USD/ month + 2.9% + 30¢ credit card fees)
You can upload an unlimited number of products, but you do not get an online store. Instead, you must use the Shopify Buy button to make sales. Manual order creation and discount codes are included. Mainly used for Social Media sales or existing websites.
Basic Shopify (29 USD/ month + 3.2% + 50¢ credit card fees)
Upload an unlimited amount of products and receive an online store with this plan. A website and blog are included, along with discount code features.
Shopify (79 USD/ month + 3.1% + 50¢ credit card fees)
In addition to the ‘Shopify’ plan, you will gain access to gift cards, professional reports and abandoned cart recovery.
Advanced Shopify (299 USD/ month + 3% + 50¢ credit card fees)
All that from the previous plans and much more. Advanced report builder and third-party calculated shipping rates will be made available to you. All plans have no transaction fees, a 14-day trial, unlimited storage, a point of sale and a nice retail package. You will get 24/7 customer support, manual order creation tools, discount codes and fraud analysis features.
Free. You don't have to pay to download the Community Edition. However, if you'd like to upgrade to the Enterprise Edition, you need to request a quote. Magento is open source, so you have access to a community forum and mobile responsive themes. An app store comes with your account, and you can sell an unlimited number of products. You must search for and set up your own hosting and domain name. The same goes for a CDN (Content Distribution Network).
Shopify and Magento are fairly even when it comes to their theme offerings, but Shopify has a few more with 116 premium and 21 free options. This looks like it may be a little better, but it has many very similar themes. However, all themes are super sleek and powerful, you can adapt the themes without touching any code, and you gain access to source code files if needed. An FTP account is not provided by Magento.
Magento Community Edition can connect to an FTP client, making it easier to edit files if you're an advanced user. However, the files can be more confusing than that of Shopify. The Magento Theme Marketplace has around 120 themes, some of which are free; others are paid. You should expect to pay around $50 to $150 for a quality theme. Keep in mind that not all of them are vetted for quality, so Shopify is often a safer bet.
The frontend is responsible for viewing on mobile devices, and Shopify provides a nice checkout area and a minimalistic design. It depends on the plan you choose, but you can integrate with Facebook and Pinterest, and a simple point of sale comes along with your purchase. You receive a website and blog, along with discount codes, real-time shipping and gift cards. Customer profiles are better in Magento, but you can improve them with a few tweaks.
The frontend is similar to Shopify in that it has coupon codes, a sleek checkout, gift cards and a customer dashboard. The built-in features include upsells and cross-sells, related products, wishlists, quantity discounts, a saved shopping cart and an order status module. You can also incorporate zoomable images, re-orders and product reviews. Not all of these are built-in with Shopify, but an app can usually solve that. Finally, Magento is responsive.
Compared to Magento, Shopify provides a backend for both beginners and advanced users. Magento is more for developers, but you can learn it if need be and if you have enough time. Shopify keeps options to a minimum, but you can open up advanced features and customize certain parts of the source code. Similar to WordPress, the dashboard has tabs for checkout, payments, shipping, taxes, general settings and notifications.
The system also provides links and modules for support documents, videos and contact information. If you plan on adding a product, a few tabs will appear for the creation of gift cards, managing inventory, creating collections and more. Fields are offered for things like vendors, collections, pricing, SEO tools and shipping.
Although it may be confusing for beginners, the backend is extremely robust. Move around the dashboard with ease, and access reports and analytics right on the dashboard. This isn't as prevalent with Shopify. Manage payment processors, integrate with Authorize.net or PayPal, and even sell virtual products.
Along with product tags, you can sort customers, use marketing features, set unlimited product attributes and more. Making a product isn't that hard, but product pages for Shopify are more basic.
Shopify has the basic essentials of SEO, with robots.txt and sitemap.xml files, Canonical URL tags, and editable meta descriptions, URLs and title tags. The setup for SEO is much cleaner, but it's not that hard at all with Magento.
Shopify wins by a slim margin in terms of social media, since you have access to product sales on Pinterest and Facebook. However, most other social media buttons and integrations require an app of some sort.
Generate a page to implement a newsletter signup form. It's not that powerful of a system, but you can integrate with big-time solutions like MailChimp and AWeber. If you can't find what you need for a newsletter, go with an app. However, the built-in subscription management is not great.
Built-in promotion options
Discount codes and coupons come with your plan. You typically have to turn to the app store to find solutions for promotions, but that's still a huge advantage since you have the option.
Support of other selling channels
Sells through Google Products. It takes some development experience to make this integration, but that's no different than if you were to do it through Magento Community. Look at the app store to find options for selling through places like Amazon and eBay.
Magento provides powerful SEO features like SEO friendly URLs, meta info (like Shopify,) a Google sitemap and a handy Google Content API for expanding on your SEO customization. Both solutions can integrate with Google Analytics.
No social media features are included, but you can integrate just about any app you want to make your site social friendly.
Magento offers a newsletter subscription management feature, which beats out the integration from Shopify. You can integrate the system with coupon codes, but most people will still use a system like MailChimp to send out nicely designed emails.
Built-in promotion options
Magento Community wins in the built-in promotions category since you receive features for upselling, promotional pricing, flexible coupons, related products, free shipping, product bundling and more. All of this is included, and you can also turn to the app store if needed.
Support for other selling channels Custom coding and the app store is your friend when looking to sell through other channels. The Google Shopping API is available, but this takes some development knowledge.
Reports are amazing. Magento has strong reports as well, but Shopify's are easier to access and understand. Check out your gross sales, along with traffic from locations, landing pages, referrers, devices and more. Order sales are shown by billing address, channels and hours. Gross sales are broken down by traffic referrer, SKU, product title and more.
Stats are easily viewed from the dashboard, which is one of the ways it stands out from Shopify. The other reports are super comprehensive but more complex. Some of the reports include details like sales, taxes, refunds, invoices, low stock reports, abandoned shopping carts, product review reports, best-viewed products and more. There's also an area to see what keywords people are searching to find your site.
Web Hosting Security
Shopify provides hosting when you sign up for a plan. This means you get a secure hosting account and a domain for your site. ServerCentral hosting is an enterprise level hosting platform. Automatic backups and Level 1 PCI compliance are provided. It's much easier to setup hosting, as opposed to Magento.
Magento Community and Shopify are polar opposites when it comes to hosting. Although security is solid for both, you must look for your own hosting plan with Magento Community. This means you need to seek out a hosting company and pay from $3 to $50 per month, or even more. That's not a huge problem, but some might find it tedious. You also have to buy your own domain name. Other than that, it is PCI Certified and SSL security support is offered for the front and backend. You may also have to sign up for your own CDN depending on your needs.
The Shopify app store has hundreds of options, ranging from accounting to email marketing. Some of them are free, while others you must pay for. The apps are the best part of Shopify, and they are much easier to install than with Magento.
The Magento Extension Store actually has far more apps for you to choose from, but some of them are less reliable, since some developers may make apps that don't work well. You must download the app and upload it to your store, whereas with Shopify you can just click a button and stay on the Shopify dashboard. However, you shouldn't have a problem finding app solutions in the Magento store, ranging from email receipts to live chats.
Shopify offers dedicated support with hired reps who are waiting for your call. Magento is not even close to offering the same kind of support. You can contact them on a 24/7 basis through live chat, email or phone. They even have a powerful blog (Ecommerce University), forums and a knowledge base.