Choosing a suitable platform for your ecommerce store is a critical decision as it can have a direct impact on the success or failure of your business. It’s even more important for smaller businesses who are just starting out because they often have tighter budgets and less resources, so forward planning and intense scrutiny are a must when it comes to selecting a sales platform.
Magento vs. Shopify are two of the most popular and widely acclaimed online sales platforms. They’re both popular for good reasons, but there are plenty of differences you should be aware of.
So which one is best for you? We’re going to give an overview of the benefits and drawbacks of using each platform, and then compare them.
Magento is a highly flexible open-source ecommerce solution which isn’t short of high-end features. It’s used by over 200,000 retailers and has a massive community of developers dedicated to creating add-ons and extensions for themselves and other users.
There are two different Magento editions available:
Magento Community Edition allows anyone to modify the core system to extend functionality and add plug-in modules.
Magento Enterprise Edition has the same core files as community, but has more features and functionality. This is designed for larger businesses who require things like tech support, installation, configuration and troubleshooting, and therefore comes with quite a hefty price-tag.
- Magento allows users to create multi-stores in one platform, so you to operate more than one store at a time from one Magento account – if you wanted to run a UK store and a US store. This is a great saver of time and effort.
- Payment gateway setup is really easy as Magento is already integrated with PayPal, Google Checkout, SagePay and more, but you can also add your own payment option.
- There are analytics and reporting tools which aim to help you improve your business intelligence. Assess your statistics, sales reports, product popularity and other figures related to your business performance.
- There are some pretty strong search engine optimisation (SEO) features including SEO friendly URLs and custom meta-descriptions for each product.
- Mobile optimisation ensures that the store translates well to smaller screens, which makes online shopping easier for the customer.
- Lots of professional themes to choose from. You can customise it as you want.
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- There’s a free version in the form of Magento Community, which is great for most sellers, and if that’s not enough, you can upgrade to a more powerful version.
- It packs a lot of features, including ones not widely available on other channels – you can manage more than one storefront, and it supports multi-currency and multi-language, to name just a few.
- Magento is very user-friendly with a simplistic backend, nicely organised store management features, and navigation is easy.
- The Magento community is huge, and it’s there to help and support you. Members often create extensions and plugins which they make available to other users, including ones for CRM, accounting, Magento inventory management, and plenty more, so most of your business needs are met with one system.
- The architecture is flexible and lets you customise pretty much anything, so you can design your store to look exactly how you want it to.
- It’s a powerful system (that includes the free version) and can easily handle over 10,000 products.
- If you want a more powerful version, Enterprise can cost upwards of $10,000, which is a pretty hefty price tag and could be considered well out of reach for the casual seller.
- Sourcing talented Magento developers can be challenging because of its huge and complicated database.
- Because of this complexity (which is what makes Magento so flexible), store customisations can take a lot of time – usually more time than it would with other platforms.
This is a another popular and powerful ecommerce platform which gives you a lot of freedom to customise your store and inject your brand’s personality. You don’t need to be a designer to create beautiful stores, and there’s a huge amount of support available. There’s also a great selection of apps and addons you can choose from if you want to add more features and to your site, or to help with other elements of running your business.
- Lots of professional themes to choose from. You also have full access to the HTML and CSS of your store, so you can customise it however you want.
- You get a blog along with your store. This blog has some pretty good SEO capabilities.
- Abandoned checkout recovery automatically emails prospective customers with a link to their abandoned shopping carts, encouraging them to complete their purchase.
- Customer profiles which can help you learn more about your customers and their shopping habits.
- Customers can create an account at checkout, which encourages repeat custom. Your customers can also check out as a guest without creating an account, so there’s less chance of abandoned carts.
- Search engine optimized shops, product reviews, email marketing and integrations with all the leading social media sites.
- Plenty of integrations available including things like CRM, accounting and software available to help with your Shopify Amazon integration.
- Digital products can be sold through Shopify.
- Analytics and reports on sales, orders, and traffic helps gain insight into your store’s growth.
- The shopping cart is secure with automatic carrier shipping rates.
- SEO capabilities are pretty good.
- The support network is great, with the team offering 24/7 customer support, and help with creating your own store designs, plus there’s a ton of resources available on the shopify website that cover all ecommerce topics.
- It’s customisable if you know a little about web design or know someone else who does.
- Bandwidth is unlimited.
- It’s easy to get your store up and running almost immediately.
- You can only customise certain elements of your store, i.e. what Shopify lets you customise.
- There’s no free version. The pricing system is complicated, and you’re tied to a recurring price structure. There is, however, a free trial.
- You depend on a 3rd party for upgrades.
- The SEO and content marketing offerings are quite weak, especially if you’re used to more powerful platforms like WordPress.
- Highly targeted at UK/US based merchants, so it’s not great if you’re after a platform that supports multi-language and multi-currency.
So which is better?
Let’s see how the two platforms compare in the following areas:
Price – Magento is free and Shopify offers range of different plans to help you. While Magento is free it doesn’t have a lot of the built-in features that Shopify offers, so you’d need to buy Magento extensions and add-ons to get the same features – making it not as free as you thought.
SEO – Shopify’s standard version has no support for product specific keywords and description. There is an available add-on which does this, but it should be build-in. Custom URL and title tag per product are possible. Magento offers custom URLs, custom title tags, keywords and description per product. Next to an XML sitemap it also publishes a sitemap on the website which helps for a good SEO. Thus it has some more SEO capabilities than Shopify. .
Setup – Shopify is much easier to set up, with support available to help you along the way, whereas Magento, which requires skilled/experienced developers
Customisability – Shopify is customisable to an extent, but nowhere near the same level as Magento, which is much more flexible and lets you change whatever you want.
Apps and extensions – Magento and Shopify are about even in terms of extensions and add-ons available.
It’s hard to say which one is better because it depends on the individual’s needs and circumstances. Shopify is probably better for small/medium retailers who are new to ecommerce and need the help setting up and getting their feet on the ground, whereas Magento is likely better suited to those with more products, more experience in web development, and who require the freedom to customise their stores in whatever way they want.