‘Shopify vs. Magento’

Which is better for your e-commerce business in 2018?

Choosing the perfect ecommerce platform is no easy task simply because of the sheer number available. Even if you are looking at only the best, your options are not clear. Well, they weren’t until now, because from our articles you will learn everything there is to know about them.

Shopify and Magento are in many ways similar platforms, but that is only the surface.

At first glance they might have the same basic functionality, but we are going to show you all the differences that can make your business fail or thrive based on this very decision.

We are going to have a look at pricings, SEO features, market shares and even tell you the exact number of themes and extensions available at the moment of the publication of this article.

First, let us clarify one thing: why do we even bother to write about this topic? In other words…

Why ‘Shopify vs. Magento’?

Why did we decide to write an article on this exact comparison? Simply put: these are the two most popular choices in ecommerce, but still many merchants and marketers don’t know why exactly they should choose one or the other.

These are both excellent platforms but each comes with its own unique set of features and capabilities, and they are in now way aimed at the same people.

Making this decision can have a great effect on how successful your business is going to be – if you can provide the best user experience, have the highest possible conversions and reach your financial goals.

Magento vs. Shopify by trends and regions

First it may be interesting to see what Google Trends show us about the popularity of the two platforms – at least in terms of search volume.

Magento started to gain attention globally in the first half of 2008 (around the time of its release) and since 2010 enjoyed a steady search volume that only started to dwindle slightly in the last year.

Searchers started to get interested in Shopify in 2010 and its search volume built up very slowly. However at the end of 2017 is surpassed Shopify. More and more searches are ran for it every month and now it is significantly more searched for.

Now in the United States the trend is similar, but the switch of popularity happened as early as 2015. Shopify searches since then outnumber Magento searches 4-5 times on average.

Now this in itself could indicate something if not for the huge differences in the two platforms we are going to talk about. We will also show how in terms of market share they are doing and who is using them, but first let us have a look at what exactly they are.

What is Magento?

A PHP based open-source eCommerce platform that has launched nearly a decade ago. In the last years, it had many new versions coming out – the old Community Edition and Enterprise Edition were phased out by the company (which has been acquired by Adobe in 2018).

Now it has two basic versions:

  • Magento Open Source: the freely downloadable, open source version that can be installed, used and altered by basically anyone – with the proper skills and experience of course.
  • Magento Commerce: basically the former Enterprise edition, obviously targeted at enterprise level e-commerce projects and packed with a list of extra functions and features that make it one of the few platforms that can seamlessly handle large-scale operations with the proper hosting and support.

Magento Commerce has two distinct versions as it can be operated as Platform-as-a-Service or On-Premises.

Also in 2015 Magento 2 was released after years of work and according to the intentions of the company it should phase out all 1.x versions in the coming years. There are more and more developers working with the completely renewed version of the platform – however naturally there are still more of those who are proficient in Magento 1.x development.

Before we dig into the details, we have also to mention the two greatest strengths of Magento.

The first one is its flexibility. As an open-source system it is fully customizable, with a professional team of developers you could make it suitable for basically any kind of eCommerce project. (Which doesn’t mean that you should, but we will get to that.)

The second is the community behind it, which is one of the largest and most active in e-commerce. On the Magento forums there are hundreds and thousands of developers, consultants and eCommerce experts sharing their experiences, knowledge and advice – and also working on new extensions, features, functions and looking for bugs and improving security constantly. Thus for Magento there are thousands of ready-built solutions available if you want to extend the capabilities of your store – many of them completely free.

What is Shopify?

An e-commerce platform which CNET provided is probably the best summary about: it is “clean, simple and easy-to-use.”

It lets you create an online store and can also be used to sell through online marketplaces and brick-and-mortar locations. It has inventory, product management and payment options built-in – basically it is a very good, multifunctional software that you can use in eCommerce with ease.

The service doesn’t require a hosting service as it is completely cloud-based.

Shopify vs. Magento by the numbers

Number of sites powered

For this part we are going to use statistics provided by BuiltWith.

According to this there are currently 638,081 online stores powered by the Shopify platform, and it is getting ever more popular since 2012. It is the

  • most popular in the Top 100k sites in Hosted Solution category.
  • 2nd most popular in the Top 10k sites in Hosted Solution category.
  • 3rd most popular in the Top 1 Million sites in Hosted Solution category.
  • 4th most popular on the Entire Internet in Hosted Solution category.
  • most popular in the United States in Hosted Solution category.

Apart from the United States you can find the most Shopify stores in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, however the vast majority (~76%) are active in the US.

Its share in the top websites looks like this:

  • Top 1m 1.94% (19,376)
  • Top 100k 3.12% (3,116)
  • Top 10k 2.9% (290)

Magento is not far behind: currently there are 532,428 active online stores that use the platform. It is the

  • 3rd most popular in the Top 10k sites in eCommerce category.
  • 3rd most popular in the Top 100k sites in eCommerce category.
  • 4th most popular in the Top 1 Million sites in eCommerce category.
  • 9th most popular on the Entire Internet in eCommerce category.

Most Magento stores are operating in the US, however there are also many active sites in the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Germany.

Its market share among the top sites looks like this:

  • Top 1m 1.52% (15,237)
  • Top 100k 2.77% (2,770)
  • Top 10k 1.87% (187)

According to Datanyze market shares of the two platforms among eCommerce technologies look like this:

  • Shopify: 281,703 domains 8.62% market share
  • Magento: 143,284 domains 4.38% market share

 

Number of apps and add-ons

In the Shopify App Store, there are currently 2294 extensions available for the platform in a dozen categories. Around 60% of them are paid, the rest are free solutions. You can check them out and browse here.

At this moment there are 4117 available add-ons and extensions available at the Magento Marketplace. The vast majority of these were developed for the Community (or Open Source) edition, and it is also notable that as of this moment there are more available for Magento 2 than Magento 1. 30% of these are free to download and use. You can check out the exact numbers here.

 

App and add-on prices

It would be hard to determine an average price for the extensions available for either platform as they greatly vary. In the case of Magento there are many available for less than $100, but you can also find one that costs $13,000.

We should also mention that for Magento you have to factor in the price of the developer too: you will most likely need a professional who can install it in your eCommerce site to avoid any problems. For a more detailed look on how much Magento development costs, visit our previous extensive article about the topic.

For Shopify it is basically the same, though it seems that there are more add-ons that offer trial periods before a monthly billing cycle begins or you have to buy the product.

 

Themes (numbers and prices)

To clarify: here you will see extremely small numbers, but for both platform you can find both free and paid themes externally at third party sites, marketplaces and forums. (And it should be also noted that it is the best if you develop your own theme to set yourself apart from the competition, in which case the price is all about the development).

The officially available number of themes:

  • Shopify: 67
  • Magento: 15

The prices can vary, but here we can give you an average.

  • The average price of a Shopify theme is ~$170.
  • The average price of a Magento theme is ~$120.

Pricing

As we have already covered in our previous article about Magento pricing, monthly and yearly costs look like this:

Gross Sales Revenue Magento 2 Enterprise

Edition (EE or Commerce) Cost

Magento 2 Enterprise Cloud

Edition (ECE) Cost

$0 – $1 million $22,000 $40,000
$1 – $5 million $32,000 $55,000
$5 – $10 million $49,000 $80,000
$10 – $25 million $75,000 $120,000
$25 – $50 million $125,000 $190,000

However in the case of Magento you should plan your budget accounting for development – even if you use the free Open Source Edition, your costs can be anywhere between $1,500 and $100,000.

Shopify offers three subscription plans. The pricing (where we included additional costs and discounts) are as follows:

Basic Shopify Shopify Advanced Shopify
Monthly price $29 $79 $299
Shipping discount up to 64% up to 72% up to 74%
Online credit card rates 2.9% + 30¢ 2.6% + 30¢ 2.4% + 30¢
In-person credit card fees 2.7% + 0¢ 2.5% + 0¢ 2.4% + 0¢
Additional fees using all payment providers other than Shopify Payments 2% 1% 0.5%

 

A basic difference apart from development is that in the case of Shopify you don’t have to pay for hosting but Magento offers this as optional. You will most likely be needing your own hosting service.

Shopify Plus pricing

In the case of Shopify Plus (which can be compared to Magento Commerce), pricing is a bit more complex.

The price you pay will consist of the following factors:

Platform FeeFor using the platform you have to pay at least $2,000 and a maximum of $40,000 a month, depending on your monthly sales. The minimum $2,000 is what you pay to get access to the software itself.

 

Payment gateway fees

  • 2.15% + 30¢: When using a credit card via Shopify Payments (online)
  • 2.15% + 30¢: When using a credit card via Shopify Payments (In Person)
  • 1.2% + 30¢: – 4% When using an external payment gateway (Like Paypal or Stripe)

 

Transaction fees

  • 0% if you are using Shopify Payments as a payment gateway.
  • 0.25% if you are using an external payment gateway.

App fees (integrations that generally cost $5-$30, e.g. MailChimp integration) and maintenance fees that you should also account for in the long term.

Support

Shopify

Shopify has a 24/7 support service that is pretty easy to use. You can reach out to them with problems, questions and for guidance through live chat, phone and also email.

They also maintain a forum where you can exchange ideas and knowledge with other Shopify users. You can find a helpful community there, although nowhere as large as Magento’s.

Their partner community is also smaller than that of Magento and mainly located in the United States, which makes it more difficult for international users to access support.

Magento

The company does not have a dedicated support service, although you can talk to the Sales or Technical Support departments through their website. Instead they have a FAQ and Knowledge Base on their site available.

Here however the community itself comes in as a huge pro: Magento has 260,000 developers worldwide and many Solution Partners, and most important for all, a vast and very active community that you can find at Magento Forums.

The community basically stands in for all the support you might need: you can ask questions, search for solutions for your problems or share experiences, and you can definitely count on some experienced professionals responding to your issues.

 

Functions & Features

The two platforms’ basic functionality is considered more or less equal. If you want to build a basic e-commerce site for a middle-sized business with no extra development necessary, the functionality will make little difference.

The difference is in the software itself, as Shopify is an out-of-the-box solution – it cannot be altered or built upon apart from installing apps and add-ons (which we have already covered). Otherwise your options are limited: if there is no existing solution from on official partner, you can’t get what you want.

Magento however is the most flexible platform out there: being open-source, if you have a professional developer team you can accomplish basically anything and everything: extensions, integrations, migrations and more, almost anything you can think up.

And you will have no trouble finding developers – as we have mentioned, there are more than 260,000 worldwide. (If you are interested in how much hiring a developer or building an in-house developer team costs, check out our Magento pricing article.)

This being said, we are going to have a closer look at some important aspects of the two platforms.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping is one of the most popular eCommerce models today because it requires low investment on the part of the merchant (given there is no stock required), you can sell basically anything this way an it is a very scalable model that does not require a lot more work if you have more orders coming in.

In the case of Magento there are several ready-made solutions for dropshipping: you can integrate one of the existing extensions or you can develop a new one. There is no built-in functionality for it, but you can still easily start a dropshipping business with it.

Shopify supports the model: there are guides and case studies about starting a dropshipping business using their platform.

SEO

Both platforms are considered ideal for search engine optimization purposes as both of them offer the basic functionality needed – and very similar sets of features.

Both are considered Google-friendly, but if that itself is not enough for you, there are several extensions available for each.

Although neither of the platforms was designed as a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress, you can still add blogs to both of them and with extensions and add-ons you can expand their SEO capabilities to rank better in search results.

Payment options

Including as many payment options as you can (or at least the most relevant for the regional market) is vital for the success of your e-commerce site. The preferred options vary from country to country, and one of the most common reasons for cart abandonment stems from the shopper not finding the most preferred options to pay for a product.

It is also important to support multilingual sales. 42% of consumers never make purchases on sites that communicate with them in any other language than their own. Simply put: if you want to sell overseas, you must have multi-language support besides the preferred payment integrations.

For Magento you can find 100+ payment integration apps, including processors for PayPal, AmazonPay, Stripe and others.

Shopify has its own payment processor called Shopify Payments. This of course doesn’t mean that you can’t use other options, but as we have already talked about it when looking at the prices, this will come at a cost: you will be charged for every single transaction, which will reduce your profits.

Themes & Design

Most Magento themes are mobile responsive and offer drag&drop layouts, meaning they provide a good user experience on any give device you visit the site on.

You can of course always create a theme from scratch and customize anything you want. There are multiple options, but the best way to go about it is to hire a developer, a UX specialist and a designer (or even better, a team or agency) to create a custom template for you that can set your online store apart from the competition.

In the case of Shopify we have advantages and disadvantages as well, both attributed to it being an out-of-the-box solution.

First the good news: the official themes you can choose from are all mobile-friendly and responsive: there are no coding issues as they are all developed by the company, ready-made for the platform.

But again, this also means lack of flexibility: your options to customize are very limited, so it can be hard to distinguish yourself and add functions or UX features that the platform does not have available in their premade themes.

It should also be noted that Shopify uses a special coding language called ‘Liquid’ compared to the PHP based Magento. If you want to customize design elements, you should find a developer adept in using it. Usually it tends to be quite a simple and quick programming language to work with, so this might count as an advantage.

Why mobile-friendliness is so important? Apart from the fact that Google prefers mobile-friendly sites and thus will rank poorly those that are not, today 69% of consumers in the 18-39 age group are visiting e-commerce sites using mobile devices. Of course they might very well be using a desktop to complete a purchase and convert (desktop conversion rates are still significantly higher), , but the fact remains that their first impression of your store will occur on a small device. So, if your site doesn’t look good there, the shopper will look elsewhere, where they can browse it more easily.

 

Shopify Plus vs. Magento Enterprise Cloud

We have decided to dedicate a section to comparing the two enterprise-level solutions because they are quite different from the more basic plans either company offers.

Hosting

Both Shopify Plus and Magento ECE are fully-hosted solutions, based on cloud technology. The former is SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), the latter PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), but that means little difference: SaaS has slightly more support available.

User-friendliness

Shopify Plus’ user interface is no different from that of the other plans. It’s easy to navigate and learn to use.

Magento ECE is more difficult and complex, and because ECE itself is a relatively new solution, you might find little help in learning how to use it. It has more features and options, thus it is harder to navigate compared to its Community Edition counterpart.

Design

There are more than a hundred ready-made themes you can choose from, a quarter of which is free, the rest costing an average $140-$180.

Magento ECE has only 2 ready-made themes but is fully customizable as all other versions of Magento.

Payment gateways

Shopify Plus can be integrated with 70+ payment processors, including Shopify Payments. (Whether or not you use their own gateway can greatly affect the pricing, see above.)

Magento ECE can be integrated with PayPal as a start, and there are other integrations available at their marketplace. If you don’t find your preferred option there, a development team can do the necessary integration for you.

Features

Both solutions have what an enterprise-level eCommerce platform should offer – the list of features is so long, we will not include it here. However, it should be stated that Magento ECE is a clear winner here: it offers so many features that learning about all of them on its own will take a quite long time.

There are however features that both platforms are missing. Shopify Plus for one does not have a one-page checkout function, which can be greatly inconvenient in 2018.

Magento ECE, on the other hand, does not feature a blog as a basic option – however, a good developer can help with that too.

 

Security

Magento regularly issues patches that include security updates and bugfixes. The company is working hard on not only developing the platform further but also making it safer for everyone to use.

The community has a great influence over security: the tens of thousands of developers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities and they are also engaged in repairing them and sending them to the company.

Shopify is also strong in security: their privacy policies meet PCI DSS Level 1 requirements, in other words, they meet the highest possible security requirements. As a SaaS platform security is constantly being upgraded.

Big Brands

 

Magento

Magento Brands

 

Shopify

Shopify Brands

Pros & Cons Summarized

After the detailed look on both systems, let us summarize what we know and in what areas do they excel over the competition.

Technical Aspects

Shopify is easy to understand and operate: it has a very user-friendly interface that basically any online merchant can learn to use quickly. Hosting is not needed and you can easily upload your own content and products to the platform, launching it in a very little amount of time. Customization requires more technological knowledge and you should be also familiar with a Liquid language they use.

Magento is much more complex and also much more flexible. It takes time to learn how to use it, but the structure itself is very logical – it is just a much more complicated system and therefore getting familiar with it is slower by nature. You can customize a lot of things directly from the administration interface and with the help of experienced developers create a site that is nothing like any other.

Design, themes and mobile-friendliness

Both platforms perform well on different devices, so this really shouldn’t be a deciding factor.

Shopify themes are generally aesthetically pleasing and can be customized to a certain level, so you can distinguish your store, but you cannot exceed the built-in boundaries.

With Magento you can create a fully customized look and user experience. The official themes might not be as nice-looking as in the case of Shopify, but your best option is designing a fully unique one anyway (which of course takes a healthy budget).

Search Engine Optimization

Shopify has the basic functionality of any eCommerce platform. You can set the basic SEO feature: edit meta tags, edit search engine console tags and design your inventory in a way that search engines will like. But the platform does not go further than the basics: it is good, but not excellent.

Magento offers all the options for optimizing your site, not only because of the many built-in options and available extensions but also because the system itself is fully customizable thanks to being open-source. If you invest the money and time needed, it is easily an excellent option.

Multi-channel sales and marketing

Shopify gives you the opportunity to conduct your operation in many different channels simultaneously, including their very own Shopify Facebook App.

However only the main platforms are incorporated currently. For retailers with brick-and-mortar premises it offers a good point-of-sale solution, although there are fees applied for every transaction.

But if you also sell products for example on Ebay, your options for integration are limited.

Magento can be integrated with basically anything – given you have good developers to do it. Any channel you want to integrate for marketing or sales purposes can be, but it takes time and development. So if you are looking for a wider range of solutions, this is the platform for you.

Inventory Management

The Shopify interface, as we have already covered, is very user-friendly, including inventory management options. It offers basic features as discounts os flash sales, but the functionality is very basic and aimed clearly at small and medium-sized businesses.

Magento aims higher, at the enterprise level, thus provides unlimited options for managing your inventory, including filling it up with thousands of different products, each with different attributes. Your options here are truly limitless, however you will need some technical knowledge (or someone with it) to leverage them.

Investment (time & budget)

Shopify is cheaper. It has a clear monthly subscription system, however you can also count on fees being applied after every transaction. It is also the faster option: you can set up a well-functioning Shopify store yourself in days if you want.

With Magento a developer can slow launch a basic store a little amount of time – however if you choose Magento, you likely do it because of the customizability, which implies the need for more development time and resources. You can find more on this topic in our Magento pricing article.

 

Conclusion

If you want a cheap and fast option and you don’t need extra feature in your shop, Shopify is a good solution. It can handle larger stores as well and has its own hosting which makes the life of the merchant easier.

However, for an enterprise-scale operation or a medium sized business with large ambition, Magento is the clear choice on the long run. It takes more time to develop, a greater budget and overall it is a greater investment in every area – but it can also be customized in any way you can imagine. You can integrate channels, services, create completely new functions and so on – and if you want to run a scalable business, this level of control is a must.

The only question is: do you plan to take your business to the next level (or are you there already), or do you want a middle-sized business running on a perfectly good, but less flexible platform? Do you plan your ecommerce business success on the long run with keeping an eye on growth, or do you want a sustainable source of income?

If you can answer those questions, we hope that we provided you with a pretty good idea on when to choose Shopify vs. Magento.

Juergen Schreck
Certified Magento Developer and Magento 2 Solution Specialist

Juergen is a 10-year veteran Magento Developer holding multiple certifications. Combining more than 25 years of hands-on experience in software development and business management, his insights provide merchants with creative solutions to gnarly problems and peace-of-mind where the rubber meets the road – turning hard earned traffic into actual sales. Juergen is proud father of two, a foodie and a lover of jazz music.