Magento and Shopify are two of the biggest names in eCommerce website hosting. However, despite this, it’s tough to compare the two platforms. Shopify is a hands-off “service” that handles all of the coding and nitty-gritty for you, while Magento is full of developers’ tools and other expert-level features.
However, this just scratches the surface of a Magento vs Shopify eCommerce website builder comparison. We’ll walk you through a thorough evaluation of the two web builders below.
What Is Magento?
Magento is an eCommerce suite that Adobe maintains and offers to the public. As with many of Adobe’s products, Magento is full of features. As long as you know how to code or implement it with the Magento software, you can do just about anything you can think of.
However, Magento’s fatal flaw is that it can be difficult for newbies or inexperienced website builders to use. Magento comes in two varieties: the paid version and the open-source version. If you’d rather not pay for your website builder, you can download and implement yours from Magento’s open-source code library, but this is for very advanced users only.
Magento is available for any business size you can imagine. In fact, Magento breaks down their services by size and variety on its Solutions page. Magento breaks down its business solutions into the following categories:
- Small Business
- Mid-Market and Enterprise
- B2B eCommerce
- Global Expansion
- Mobile eCommerce
- Digital Transformation
Magento has been used across virtually all industries; if you can sell it online, the chances are that Magento has been used to build a virtual storefront for that product. However, remember that Magento isn’t just a storefront, either; Magento is a full suite of business tools providing other services such as B2B marketing.
Furthermore, keep in mind that as a highly-expandable business solution, Magento’s fees and costs can be very high. Instead of charging you a subscription fee as Shopify does, Magento will charge you a hefty upfront fee. There are, however, many add-ons in their Marketplace that can invoke subscription costs and higher prices.
Using this vast library of extensions, you can build your Magento website to the exact standards you want (and need).
Pros of Magento
Magento’s most significant advantage lies in its flexibility. Because it’s a “modular” website builder that you customize according to precisely what you need, you could go as far as creating a brand-new type of website that has never been seen before. If Magento doesn’t have the kinds of extensions you need in their Marketplace, it’s as simple as creating one (or hiring Magento or an independent web builder to create a custom solution for you).
Because Magento is also one of the biggest web store building platforms on the web, it offers incredible support. Not only will Magento help build you whatever you need as part of its web building process, but they also have tutorials, a 24/7 help center, forums, documentation, partner solutions, case studies, and many more resources.
If Magento itself doesn’t have the tools you need to get the job done, they have a network of specialized partners that they can refer you to to get the job done instead. By integrating their most successful business solutions into the full Magento package, Adobe can offer vertical scaling that very few other website builders can match.
Lastly, remember that Magento offers its basic package as open-source software, too. The reason why Magento’s paid packages are so expensive is that Adobe is essentially creating your website for you from the ground up; this is no different than any other website builder, in theory. However, if you’re an experienced web builder, you may save a pretty penny by doing it yourself.
In the end, the biggest pros of using Magento are:
- Robust, 24/7 support
- Massive library of extensions and add-ons
- Open source availability
- A long list of partner solutions
- Unparalleled scaling
Cons of Magento
A full-featured service like Magento has a long list of pros associated with it, of course, but there have to be some downsides to the service. The first and main one, of course, is the price. Magento is a premium website building service, and unlike Shopify, it has more of an “upfront cost” model.
As you might expect, when Magento is done building your website for you, you’re supposed to pay for services rendered. Expect to spend at least five figures for a basic Magento website built custom for you. The most extensive solutions for enterprise-level businesses can go for more than six figures.
Unfortunately, Magento doesn’t give definitive price-lists for the services they render. Since every website is unique, the final amount due will always be different. However, you can get a decent idea of what individual extensions will cost by looking at their Marketplace, as this will give you the starting prices of these integrations.
Another drawback to web building with Magento is time. While Shopify allows you to build your web store on your schedule, Magento depends on developers to build a custom solution for your business. Sometimes, they must create an entirely new, unique solution for your business alone.
This can take many months’ worth of working hours to accomplish. For example, Magento’s Small Business “Rapid Deployment” packages can take as long as twelve weeks! Keep in mind that any custom package will take longer to produce, and the faster you want a custom website solution created for you, the higher your final cost will be.
In the end, the only real cons to Magento’s business model are time and cost. However, you might also consider the following to be cons, too:
- Open-source software is for experts only
- Not really a “build it yourself” website solution – design and implementation is handled mostly by Magento
- Not for small businesses who are just starting out (and unable to handle paying five figures for a basic custom website)
What Is Shopify?
Shopify is an easy-access platform that’s designed to bring eCommerce to small business individuals. Instead of an upfront price model like Magento, Shopify operates under a subscription-based model, which can make it easier for small and just-starting-out businesses to afford.
Where Magento builds a custom shopping experience from the ground up, Shopify uses preconfigured codes and templates to create a website based on tried and tested formulas. As such, many of the web stores made with Shopify will function similarly to each other. However, you can make these web stores look unique with your own themes and extensions.
While Shopify’s extension store isn’t as robust as Magento’s, it’s enough to add an impressive amount of function to your Shopify website. Different Shopify add-ons exist for simple tasks like:
- Terms and conditions checkboxes
- SEO optimization
- Product videos
- Food order dashboards
- Announcement bars
- Social media feeds
- Order printers
Keep in mind that Shopify has a full App Store, too. Many apps have free tiers available that won’t add-on to your monthly subscription price, or they have free trial modes that let you test them before you commit. If you’re looking to build your shop on a budget, you can with Shopify, whereas that’s not possible with Magento.
It’s hard to compare Spotify with Magento because they’re marketed toward very different people. Magento is capable of building you a completely custom eCommerce store from the ground up (or you can create your own with their open-source software if you know how to code). Shopify’s goal is to bring eCommerce to sellers who want to start with small, inexpensive, and self-managed stores.
Pros of Shopify
If you’re a small business owner (or even a large business owner who doesn’t want or need a completely custom eCommerce site), Shopify has a lot to offer you. You can create your website exactly according to your vision (within the limits of Shopify’s capabilities, of course), and you manage every aspect of its operation.
For those who prefer to micromanage or tweak many small things about their store’s operation, this is extremely useful. With Magento, on the other hand, you might have to wait for a technician or web expert to edit your site for you if something isn’t exactly the way you want it. You’ll likely have to pay for their time spent, too.
Additionally, Shopify is incredibly flexible in terms of cost. If you’re looking to keep costs low, you can do that with Shopify by choosing free tiers of apps and add-ons. However, if you’re willing to pay a bit more, you can customize that experience much more, too.
Shopify also has incredibly helpful 24/7 support available to help you out. While they don’t have the same forum presence as Magento, their support team and small, helpful community can still help you find an acceptable solution for whatever problems you run into.
Keep in mind that over one million businesses around the globe use Shopify for their eCommerce websites, too. With that many active users, you can have confidence that their service is respectable and productive.
In the end, the biggest pros of Shopify are:
- Accessible for small and large businesses alike
- Allows you to sell on multiple platforms in addition to your own (such as Amazon, Facebook, etc.)
- Free and premium options abound
Cons of Shopify
While you can’t argue that Shopify is an incredibly useful platform, it has its own set of cons. For example, while Shopify has plenty of free options, it can never truly be “free.” This is because Shopify, as a subscription service, will always require you to pay a monthly fee. On the other hand, even Magento is not truly “free,” as even with its open-source software, you’ll have to pay to host your new website somewhere.
However, that brings us to another con: as lovely as Shopify is, you’re corralled into using the same apps, extensions, and themes as every other Shopify user. As such, another user could, in theory, build an identical website to yours, though the chance is low.
While Shopify is still a highly flexible platform, it will never come close to the innate flexibility that a custom website can provide to larger businesses. However, you can manage Shopify from an extremely user-friendly interface on Shopify’s website because of this. With Magento, depending on your site’s complexity, you might have to have an expert take care of any website edits for you.
This is both a pro and a con for both Magento and Shopify. Smaller business owners might specifically want to be in control of more minor tweaks and changes to their websites, but it’s likely not worth a large business owner’s time to bother with small website changes. Most likely, their time would be better spent on managing other aspects of the business.
Unfortunately, one of Shopify’s main cons is how the costs add up as you select additional apps and extensions. While this isn’t much of a consideration compared to the cost of Magento, too many premium apps, themes, and functions can drive up the price of your eCommerce site and make it too expensive for a small business owner.
In the end, the main cons of Shopify include:
- Many free options, but not truly “free”
- Limited design and function options
- Website management is your responsibility
- Costs of apps and extensions can add up quickly
Magento vs Shopify : Head-to-Head Comparison
Features and Tools
Magento and Shopify have plentiful tools and features that make their respective services more natural and satisfying. Both services also have access to an impressive app store that allows access to extra functions (for a fee).
However, as we ascend through various price tiers, Magento comes out as the clear winner. This is because, if you want to accomplish a function that there’s no app available for, you can either code it yourself or have one of the professionals at Magento or a partner company code it for you.
While you can create your own apps with Shopify, too, the process is more restrictive. Unless you intend to create an app that anyone on the app store can use, it won’t be possible.
Essentially, Magento is a platform created to be whatever you (and your business) need it to be. It will create the solution to whatever problem you might have, all with a focus on eCommerce. Shopify, on the other hand, is designed to bring the ability to do eCommerce to any size business, regardless of the uniqueness or ingenuity of the website itself.
Marketing and Sales Tools
Marketing and sales tools are a particular subsection of the features available to both Shopify and Magento. Unsurprisingly, both Shopify and Magento excel in this category, as marketing and sales are the two cornerstones of a good eCommerce website.
However, the way that Magento and Shopify handle their marketing and sales tools is very different. While Shopify comes with lots of these tools built-in to the platform, Magento depends on the Marketplace for anything beyond essential sales tools. Note that Magento has an additional suite of marketing tools exclusive to the Magento Commerce (paid) package that is lacking from the open-source version of their service.
Some of the sales and marketing tools that come integrated with your Shopify website include:
- Multi-channel sales
- Social media integration
- Email campaigns (through apps like Constant Contact and others)
- SEO and content marketing
- Ads through Facebook and other sites
- Ad campaigns and auto-pilot marketing
- Campaign reports and insights right on your dashboard
- Built-in blogs
Conversely, some of the tools that Magento offers with or in addition to your Magento eCommerce website (not the Magento open-source option) are:
- B2B Marketing
- Multi-channel sales
- Custom checkout experience
- Customer loyalty tools
- Optimized cloud computing
- Global availability
Keep in mind that, while Shopify comes with many more features included in the basic package, Magento has a much bigger app store. As such, many of Magento’s integrations depend on apps from this Marketplace. This will drive up the price of your Magento website, of course, but if you’re willing to purchase a Magento website in the first place, you’re probably aware of (and okay with) this already.
Accessibility and Support
Both Shopify and Magento offer 24/7 help and support to their eCommerce site users. However, Magento edges Shopify out a bit here because of their more extensive range of helpful resources. Both websites have help guides, forums, developer tools, expert advice, and more. However, like before, Magento is geared more towards experienced web developers here, too.
For example, Magento goes a step further and offers eCommerce training courses on its website for those looking to really get involved. Additionally, Magento offers their own 24/7 support for customers, and they have hundreds of affiliate partners with useful Magento expertise.
For both Shopify and Magento, you can submit custom apps, programs, and themes to the parent company. If they decide that your submission passes their quality check, you may be able to sell your app or theme on their website or feature it yourself. This provides opportunities to web developers, and it lets individuals with web hosting experience design a unique eCommerce website for themselves.
Add-Ons and Extras
As you know, both Shopify and Magento have app stores that you can use to download extensions and themes. However, while both platforms offer you the opportunity to design and build your own apps and themes, Magento edges out Shopify just slightly. This is because, while Shopify has a comprehensive app store with more than 100 apps, Magento has over 5,000.
Additionally, because developers are always creating new, bespoke programs for their Magento websites, new extensions are being created all the time. If you’re savvy about your app store use, you may not even need Magento to create a completely custom website, simply because of the sheer number of solutions available on the app store.
The apps from both Shopify and Magento’s app stores are small and functional, but they don’t change how the website works. For example, on the Magento store, you can download apps for things like web address minimization, Follow-up emails, and pop-up banners.
Similarly, on Shopify’s web store, you can download add-ons for things like mass photo imports, geolocations, and product reviews. The main differences between the two stores are scope and audience; while Shopify’s apps are designed to be accessible to anyone, even small business owners, Magento’s apps are more complicated, and many are closer to “developers’ tools” than standalone apps.
Note that Shopify’s apps are usually significantly less expensive than Magento’s.
Fees and Pricing
As you’ve probably gathered throughout this article so far, many of Magento’s features are premium-level features designed for large, wealthy enterprises. On the other hand, Shopify is designed to be accessible to any size business. The prices of these features follow accordingly.
A Magento website is nearly always a significant investment. If you choose to build your own eCommerce site using Magento’s open-source software, you can save quite a bit over hiring a web developer. However, even with that, Magento is far from free; if you want to purchase one of their extensions or themes to use, for example, these can be hundreds of dollars.
Similarly, once you’ve designed your Magento website with its open-source software, you must figure out how (and where) to deploy your site. While Magento Commerce, their paid tier, provides cloud hosting, Magento’s free open source software does not. As such, even if you designed the website for free, you need to pay to host it somewhere (and that doesn’t count Marketplace fees for extensions, either).
All in all, Magento isn’t an option for anyone but well-established businesses with the budget to afford the whole Magento package. Companies that are just starting out have the option of using open-source Magento, but you’re better off using Shopify because of its more affordable add-ons and plans.
It’s hard to compare Magento and Shopify from a style perspective. Because you can build virtually anything with Magento, the sky really is the limit in terms of design. However, Magento also has a wealth of templates and designs that are pre-prepared for you to use if you’d rather go that route.
As you know, Shopify operates exclusively using themes. Because their storefront model is, underneath all the bells and whistles, virtually the same for every customer, your only choice in changing the style of the site is to change the theme.
Shopify also has a theme store for you to browse through, but keep in mind that choosing a theme from the store and failing to customize it at all generally isn’t a good idea, both with Magento and Shopify. Someone else is most likely using the same basic theme somewhere out on the web, and this could turn customers away from your store or make it seem less unique.
If you’d really like to make sure your eCommerce site is unique, you can always create a custom theme. In this Magento vs Shopify eCommerce website builder comparison, these home-made themes are about equal in terms of uniqueness and difficulty.
We don’t recommend creating your own themes unless you have some programming experience. For both Magento and Shopify, you need coding expertise to create your own theme. Shopify uses its own open-source coding language called Liquid, while Magento uses PHP.
This is one more point for Magento, as you already have an advantage if you have experience using PHP. On the other hand, if you have no coding experience whatsoever, it may be easier to learn Liquid, since it is open-source and was created specifically to support Shopify themes.
All in all, it’s easy to compare the individual talking points of Magento and Shopify, but it’s hard to look at them side-by-side and say which is the better option overall. Both platforms have advantages and disadvantages, but in the end, the biggest divider between the two will always be price.
Because Shopify is designed under a subscription-based model, it’s friendlier for those who can’t afford an all-in-one upfront cost like Magento demands. However, this isn’t to say that Shopify will be less expensive in the long run. There are many related variables to consider, like whether a Magento website will help you recoup that initial cost better, how much you’ll end up paying Shopify over time, and more.
The size of the business in question is your best starting point to determine whether Magento or Shopify is right for you. The fact of the matter is that most small businesses will not be able to afford Magento’s services, but intermediate and enterprise-level firms will.
On the other hand, Shopify may not be custom enough for large businesses, even though it’s still a viable and inexpensive option. A small business with fewer products that’s more concerned with building an online presence than creating a truly bespoke storefront will benefit more from the features that Shopify has to offer, especially at such an affordable price.
Either way, the best thing to do is weigh the pros and cons of each platform and determine which one is best for you, just like we’ve done in this Magento vs Shopify eCommerce website builder comparison.