Nexcess
Nexcess Blog Logo
November 21, 2019

Magento Vs. Shopify: Which Ecommerce Platform Is Best for You?

Selecting the right ecommerce platform requires merchants to consider multiple facets of their online business. Decisions require an understanding of store size, number of products available, payment and shipping options, and envisioning their store’s user experience. 

Choosing the right platform also means finding one that balances your requirements as a merchant with those of your customers. In this article, we compare Magento vs. Shopify.

While both platforms can create unique ecommerce store experiences, they differ significantly in almost all areas, including their target audiences. The Magento platform is aimed at larger enterprise-level businesses. The Shopify platform targets smaller businesses and those looking for ease of use over functionality. 

This article will include answers to the following questions:

  • How do Shopify stores work?
  • Can Magento handle millions of products?
  • Are Shopify stores search engine optimization (SEO)-friendly?
  • Why is Magento secure?
  • What is the final price of Magento?
  • Which is better: Magento or Shopify?

Magento vs shopify eBook

Don’t have time to read this now?

Download the Magento vs. Shopify eBook for access whenever and wherever you need it.

Download Now


Magento Vs. Shopify: What About the Numbers?

Magento and Shopify differ in terms of numbers of live sites. 

Magento has 4x less stores than Shopify

According to the latest BuiltWith data for Magento and Shopify, Magento currently has 204,276  ecommerce stores. Shopify has 1,686,817. 1.05% of Magento stores are featured within the top 1m sites globally, compared with 2% of Shopify stores. 1.73% of Magento stores are featured in the top 10k sites globally, compared with 3.28% of Shopify stores.

Despite the quantity of sites using Shopify, Magento is known for its open source software, incredible functionality and ability to customize the ecommerce experience — therefore it is more likely to be used by enterprise-level ecommerce stores that want to make shopping more personal for users. Shopify, on the other hand, is proprietary software and offers a more templated platform, with fewer options for user personalization. More to come on that later in this article.


MagentoShopify
Number of total live sites204,2761,686,817
Number of extensions or apps3,4513,200
Monthly cost$0*$29 – $2,000+
*Magento requires a hosting solution, which normally starts at around $29 per month.

Magento Vs. Shopify: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Magento pros and cons

Magento Pros

Functionality
Magento offers incredible functionality compared to almost any other ecommerce platform. This makes it one of the most versatile options for merchants looking to create personalized customer experiences — especially if they have a developer team behind them.

Advanced Shopping Cart Options
Shopping cart customization can translate into real return on investment (ROI). As one of the most vital stages of a customer’s journey, the right options during a potential purchase can make the difference between clicking purchase and adding on additional cross-sold products and services.

Extension Expandability
Magento has almost twice the number of extensions as Shopify, which stays true to Magento’s reputation for flexibility, scalability, and functionality.

Supportive Community
Magento’s community is an asset that is not talked about enough — loyal community members provide the ecommerce platform with a lot of support that other non-open-source applications don’t have.

Magento Cons

Difficult for Beginners
Magento was not designed for those looking to take their first steps into building an ecommerce store. While there is a page builder in the works for open source, you still very much need either coding knowledge or a developer to get started.

Price
While open source itself is free, hosting is not. Hosting can cost hundreds of dollars if you’re a large store. It can cost you more than the Shopify equivalent, but you’ll likely get more for your money by self-hosting.

Shopify pros and Cons

Shopify Pros

Ease of Use
Shopify is designed to be a simple ecommerce platform that provides owners with an easy way to get started selling quickly. Pages can be easily customized, as can products. While this customization is nowhere near Magento’s, it’s enough to get started.

Free Themes
Shopify has several free themes available to help you get started. They require no coding, are responsive, and look modern.

Inclusive
Shopify is managed through a single point of contact. Instead of having to manage your store on multiple fronts, you’re able to access and do everything in one place.

Price
Once you’ve gone through everything you’ll have to add to your Magento budget, Shopify is often the less expensive option.

Shopify Cons

Transaction Fee Per Sale
Using an external payment gateway (also known as a payment processing services) can cost an additional 2%.

Learn more about Shopify’s transaction fees.

Lacks Functionality
As we’ll explore in this article, Shopify just can’t compete with Magento in terms of functionality and customization.


 Get started with Magento hosting with Nexcess.


Magento Vs. Shopify:  Designs and Themes

In terms of design, both Magento and Shopify hold their own. From the get-go though, Shopify offers an easier design experience for beginners. 

Shopify’s available stock themes come in both free and paid options, provide a classy, modern look, and can be tweaked to align with your brand’s image.

These tweaks can include:

  • Changing color schemes throughout the site
  • Applying custom images to products and pages
  • Changing how newsletter signups work
  • Editing the action bar and navigation text

If you’re coming into ecommerce with limited experience or are on a limited budget, then Shopify’s stock themes open up a world of online store creation you won’t find with most other more complex pieces of software. 

On the other hand, building a theme in Magento can be a long process that requires coding knowledge. However, the rewards are massive — a customized Magento build allows you to create a unique storefront unlike anything offered in Shopify.

This includes:

  • Cross-selling and up-selling blocks throughout your site
  • Advanced search functionality with tools like Elasticsearch
  • Featured product sliders and hero carousels
  • Expanded footer functionality including newsletter sign-ups
  • Advanced cart and payment integration

Putting Mobile Users First

Of course, websites don’t just need to look good. They also need to cater to mobile users — especially with Google’s mobile-first indexing best practices, which primarily uses mobile website versions for indexing and ranking new websites. And it’s no wonder that Google has decided to make mobile a priority. In the last 6 months of 2019, 79% of mobile users made a purchase with their mobile device.

“We now live in a mobile-first world, and that means using a platform that has the SEO features needed to rank for mobile. That means Magento.”

While some merchants may still be vying for desktop users, a large percentage are putting mobile users at the forefront, optimizing their sites for handheld devices in terms of user experience and ease of use. 

Luckily, both Magento and Shopify offer responsive templates by default. And though these templates may look and feel simple, they get the job done while maintaining a sleek, intuitive user experience. 

However, if you’re willing and able to develop your ecommerce store, Magento really shines in terms of the mobile experience. We’ve seen some great mobile designs from agencies and merchants alike. 

Advanced customizations for mobile layouts make the Magento vs. Shopify debate less a question of “which one?”, and more a question of “can I?”

We’ve seen Magento stores make great use of fluid product grids, mega menus, and unique layout customizations. Shopify does offer some of these too, but in a mobile-first world, maintaining a store that gives you great functionality and code clean enough to sparkle in terms of SEO means you’re going to be a lot more successful.

What Do You Need to Do with It?

Determining which platform is better for your online store really depends on what you want to do with it and your level of site-building experience. Shopify is great for beginners, but Magento offers more experienced users a wealth of design and theme options you just won’t find in simpler ecommerce applications.

Moreover, if you’re thinking about replatforming and making the move from the Magento 1 platform, then Shopify is going to be a big let-down in terms of functionality. As a result, you’re more likely to see a search engine ranking drop after you replatform to Shopify. Magento 2 is a much safer platform option. Read more about Magento 1 and Magento 2 later in this article.

Winner: Draw


Magento Vs. Shopify:  How Easy are They to Use?

Straight out of the gate, Shopify takes the ease-of-use lead. Known for its ability to allow merchants to create easy-to-navigate online stores, it is, without a doubt, the easier platform for merchants to use.

Shopify also features a simple drag-and-drop admin interface. This is something you won’t find in Magento and makes creating new pages much easier.

The Shopify Admin Panel for creating new pages


However, with that simplicity comes a lack of versatility with Shopify. Versatility can be found with Magento.

Besides offering a host of built-in customizations and functionalities, Magento also offers an extension marketplace with over 3,487 extensions available. Those extensions provide a host of functionality options you can also find with Shopify, and a lot you can’t.

For those replatforming from Magento 1 to Magento 2, the vast majority of the most popular Magento 1 extensions have received updates. For most merchants, this means the replatforming experience shouldn’t be difficult in terms of continued extension support.

Still on Magento 1? Invest in Nexcess Safe Harbor.

Need More Functionality?

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for those looking to move to Shopify. While offering its own impressive array of apps, they just don’t cover some of the advanced features merchants have grown to love with Magento. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the additional features that go hand in hand with an Adobe product.

“Replatforming from Magento 1 to Magento 2 is going to avoid a lot of pitfalls related to moving to Shopify.”

Magento’s recent acquisition by Adobe has already led to other added functionality and integrations for the ecommerce platform — integrations that Shopify simply can’t compete with for enterprise-level clients.

If you’re looking for ease of use, Shopify is the way to go. However, if you’re willing to put in the time and energy needed to learn and create an incredible customer experience with Magento, then it’s almost definitely better than Shopify.

Winner: Magento


Magento Vs. Shopify: Adaptability

Magento is known as an ecommerce powerhouse. Between built-in functionality and add-on extensions, it stands as one of the most adaptable ecommerce platforms available.

However, Shopify does offer enough functionality for small- and medium-size stores to grow. Their ecommerce platform makes it easy to do a lot of things without having to code even a single line.

This includes:

  • Inserting custom images to create a personalized experience
  • Adding products and SKUs to your store
  • Setting up optimized payment options
  • Personalizing the customer experience and the look and feel of your store

However, as you start to require more advanced functionality, your monthly premium will increase. You’ll have to pay more than $29 a month if you want to use gift cards, build professional reports, and implement advanced shipping options.

Controlling the Buyer’s Journey

Magento, on the other hand, is engineered to allow merchants full control of the customer experience by default. This means creating and selling fully customizable products and managing them across multiple stores (if needed).

One of Magento’s greatest strengths is payment processing for international merchants. Magento offers 148 payment processors, many of which come with support for different countries and languages. Since 65% of global online consumers prefer content in their own language, being able to offer that international, multilingual experience is vital to successfully target global merchants.

Shopify does offer a limited number of translation apps, but they don’t provide the complete experience like Magento can.

Winner: Magento 

What’s Your Payment Gateway?

What payment gateway (payment processing service) do you use?

This might be one of the most important questions you ask yourself before making the move to either Magento or Shopify. Both offer access to a large number of payment gateways, including PayPal, Braintree, and others. However, if you decide to use these with Shopify, then you can expect to pay additional transaction fees.

This is because Shopify charges for transactions made with external payment processors. As of August 2019, Shopify transaction fees start at 1.9% + 30¢, and go down from there the larger your store.

Remember, by using Shopify Payments, you can wave these fees.

Perhaps one of the reasons Shopify can do this is because it supports more payment gateway options than Magento. In fact, Shopify currently has support for over 70 different payment gateways, with Magento supporting far less.

Despite this, Magento’s options are not limited. The payment gateways it does support include PayPal, Authorize.net, Amazon Payments, Stripe, and many more. These provide almost all the functionality most ecommerce stores would require from a payment gateway, all while maintaining secure transactions.

Winner: Magento


Magento Vs. Shopify:  Apps and Extensions

Once you’ve got your store up and running, you may find that some functions and features you want are missing, including advanced checkout, improved search, and expanded payment options.

Both platforms have an answer to this, and it comes in the form of 1-click add-ons that can be purchased (in some cases), downloaded, and installed. Shopify calls these Apps, Magento calls them .

Delving into the options available to merchants, it’s easy to see why Magento’s extension marketplace is praised, where Shopify’s app store is seen as more of a useful addition.

The first thing you might notice is the difference in the number of extensions made available for each. The Magento marketplace offers over 3,487 extensions, Shopify’s 4,200.  And it’s not just the quantity of add-ons that make Magento so much more versatile, it’s the quality as well.

Shopify apps allow merchants to:

  • Integrate their store with social and shopping channels
  • Add additional shipping options
  • Make basic edits to important SEO data

Magento extensions allow merchants to:

  • Add advanced, pre-ordered functionality
  • Draw insightful analytics into how well a product is doing
  • Integrate marketing and analytics software into the ecommerce platform
  • Leverage powerful advertising tools both internally and externally

A comparison of some of the more popular add-ons for each platform shows that Magento is truly geared towards delivering a custom user experience, and its extension marketplace aids in doing so.


Magento pros and cons
Magento
Shopify pros and Cons
Shopify
Yotpo ReviewsFacebook Channel
Amasty Improved Layered NavigationInstagram Channel
Amasty Customer AttributesOberlo
Aheadworks Ajax Cart ProPoint of Sale
Aheadworks Add Free Product to CartKlaviyo

Graphical user interface, application, Teams

Description automatically generated

Unfortunately, Magento’s extensions (in general) are more costly than Shopify’s apps. Luckily, Magento has a lot of intermediate and advanced features built into its ecommerce platform. With Shopify, merchants often need to download an app — if they can find a comparable feature at all. 

Magento is the clear winner here. Despite costing more, the extensions available add more in-depth ecommerce functionality, and there’s a much larger range of options available.

Winner: Magento


Magento Vs. Shopify: What’s Your Inventory Size?

Both ecommerce platforms allow for an unlimited number of products. They also both allow for you to integrate shipping and fulfillment extensions into your store, making inventory management easy.

However, the larger your store becomes with Magento, the more likely you are to run into performance problems if you don’t upgrade your hosting account. Shopify has similar problems. However, because your store will be hosted by Shopify themselves, they will encourage you to upgrade your account before you start to experience slowdowns.

“The larger your store becomes, the more products you have to manage in terms of search, deliverability, and more. Magento’s support for Elasticsearch and personalized product delivery make it perfect for that.”

With Magento, we recommend finding a Magento-optimized hosting provider. They’ll provide you with a fully managed service, similar to Shopify. In some cases, you may even find that your store is faster and more reliable than its Shopify counterpart.

Shopify still wins this round, simply because it’s easier to manage performance and inventory through one point of contact instead of having to get in touch with a developer, hosting provider, and the Magento community.

Winner: Shopify


Magento Vs. Shopify:  Performance

Magento is a known heavy resource user, requiring a serious hosting environment to back it up. It’s common knowledge that a merchant’s hosting infrastructure can start to feel the strain as more product SKUs are added. Backed by over a decade of experience, Magento offers an  optimized solution that uses caching to improve site performance — a solution that can’t be found elsewhere.

Shopify, on the other hand, is a lightweight application. As a result, it runs quickly in most environments, and can hold a larger number of product SKUs on the same hardware that will only run a smaller Magento store.

However, Shopify doesn’t have the same level of functionality as Magento. Personalized shopping experiences with Shopify can be limited to occasional product recommendations and cross-selling.

Running a site on an optimized hosting platform can make a large difference to actual page load times. Ultimately, this means that the better your hosting platform, the better your sales.

Performance Configuration

The reason Magento is such a resource heavyweight is because of everything going on behind the scenes — true personalization of the ecommerce experience, cross-selling, up-selling, customized shopping cart experiences, and more.

And Magento will run smoothly if the server is configured properly. In 2018, we saw 64% of our hosting solutions run Magento. When asked why they chose Magento, merchants cited uptime and functionality as the two primary reasons — indicating that performance makes a difference.

While Shopify requires less optimization, Magento reigns as the performance champion due to the added functionality that comes with it. By offering customized customer experiences, it’s almost certain a Magento ecommerce store will perform better in terms of return on investment (ROI).

Winner: Magento


Magento Vs. Shopify:  SEO

Both Magento and Shopify are strong SEO contenders. In some research, Shopify comes out on top with an SEO score of 98, compared with Magento’s 95.

However, while Shopify is better from an absolute beginner perspective, those with some SEO knowledge will be able to get more out of a Magento installation. The primary reason for this is the extensions available and the ability to truly conform to coding best practices.

“Generally, ecommerce platforms are equal when it comes to SEO capabilitiesespecially when you consider add-ons. That being said, more functionality means you’re able to tell search engines more and rank higher.”

Magento doesn’t just let you edit metadata; it also allows you to make vital product and on-page customizations that can provide you with an SEO boost you won’t find in a software as a service (SaaS) product. Additionally, if you’re looking to start working in SEO longtail, adding a WordPress blog to your Magento store is a relatively simple process.

Magento leads the way in added customization options available for users and the ability to customize the SEO process manually.

Winner: Magento


Magento Vs. Shopify:  Security

Security should be at the top of any merchant’s ecommerce store must-have list. According to the State of Hosting, 61% of shoppers will not make a purchase from a site that is missing a trust seal such as an SSL certificate.

With changes to the way Google handles security, sites that lack an SSL certificate will now be subject to unsecured site warnings before shoppers can proceed. 98% of shoppers will not proceed past these warnings.

While Shopify manages the integration of an SSL certificate, Magento requires you to purchase and install it separately. This process can be managed for you by a managed hosting provider, but you’ll need to find one first.

Patches and Updates

Shopify manages patches and updates for their customers. Magento requires you to do this manually. While Magento’s method requires more time investment from the merchant or developer team, it also provides more flexibility. This is, in large part, due to Magento’s incredible community of ecommerce developers and contributors.

Magento frequently releases dedicated security patches that are the result of constant testing and development by a community of developers well-versed in ecommerce store requirements.

Shopify, on the other hand, is only managed by in-house talent. This makes for a much smaller pool of resources working on creating and deploying fixes for security problems. While there is a Shopify bounty program that rewards users who find vulnerabilities, the fixes themselves are managed internally.

PCI Compliance

Finally, in order for merchants to process credit card data, it’s important for them to be Payment Card Industry (PCI)-compliant. Shopify manages this internally. However, finding the right Magento hosting provider will make managing PCI compliance just as easy.

PCI Compliance is a necessity for large, modern ecommerce stores. Without it, processing credit card data securely becomes impossible.

Magento is the clear security winner here. While it’s true that Shopify makes security easier, Magento community support can’t be matched.

Moreover, by searching for and finding the right hosting provider, managing security with Magento can be just as easy while still providing flexibility you won’t find with a SaaS platform.

Winner: Magento


Magento Vs. Shopify:  Pricing

A quick look at the pricing for Magento vs. Shopify makes it seem as though Magento is the cheaper option. However, while Magento itself is open source and free, there are several other costs to consider.

As a Magento merchant, you must consider hosting costs, security costs (such as SSLs), and developer fees. Developer fees can be the largest, with some Magento stores costing several thousand dollars just to create. 

Of course, Shopify comes with its own costs, including transaction fees if using an external payment gateway. Add to that the cost of a developer (if you decide to go that route with Shopify), and you can quickly see costs start to rise.

If you’re merely looking for a less expensive option, Shopify is the better choice. It’s also a lot more predictable in terms of cost, with a clear, monthly payment in addition to a transaction fee per sale.

Winner: Shopify

Magento Vs. Shopify: The Overall Winner

So, which is better overall: Magento or Shopify?

We’ve come to the conclusion that it really depends on your store’s needs. Do you want to create unique customization? Magento is better for those looking to create personalized experiences customers won’t find anywhere else. Looking for simplicity? Shopify is good for merchants looking to create a simple ecommerce site that requires little coding or technical experience.

However, if you do have either the technical experience or a team of developers, we highly recommend Magento. With functionality you just can’t find anywhere else and an open source version driven by an incredible community, it’s hard to beat.

If you don’t have the time or money to invest in creating these unique experiences, Shopify is able to provide a simple, customer-friendly storefront.

Magento Vs. Shopify: Migrating From Magento 1

So which platform should you be looking at migrating to once the Magento 1 End of Life goes into effect? Both Shopify and Magento have advantages and disadvantages. And picking the right platform will have far-reaching consequences for the future of your store.

The decision should be based on two core questions:

  • How much do you currently use Magento’s intermediate and advanced functionality?
  • What budget do you have for replatforming?

If you’re using a lot of Magento’s built-in functionality and it’s leading to an increase in sales, we highly recommend making the move to Magento 2. Losing some of those features if migrating from Magento to Shopify may end up being a disaster you won’t recover from.

However, if you’re not using those added features and are looking to save money, then Shopify may be the right option. Of course, don’t forget about other options that are easy to use and implement such as WooCommerce or BigCommerce. Both offer merchants the accessibility features of Shopify, but with a lot more potential for additional customization.

The Best Platform for Your Ecommerce Store

If you’re already well acquainted with Magento 1, see what Magento 2 can offers you. Alternatively, you can download our guide to your After Magento 1 options, and take a look at other ecommerce platforms that may be right for you.

Don’t forget, if you have any questions about which platform may be best for your ecommerce store, we’re always here to help. You can get in touch with our team to discuss your options and see how each can be tailored to suit your needs.