The choice of which platform you use to run your online store will likely stay with you for years to come, so it is very important to make an informed decision. While it is possible to migrate to another service at a later date, this will just add more headaches that you don’t need. Having said all of that, both Magento and Shopify are fine products and neither one of them will send your business into a tailspin just by itself. The differences between these two platforms can be subtle, and they can also just come down to user preference, so there can be no real black and white answer on which one is better than the other.
Magento was established in 2011 and is, therefore, younger than Shopify, but it gained popularity at a rapid pace and overtook its older competitor in terms of percentage of sales in online stores operated on the two platforms.
Generally considered to be the more powerful option for large businesses, although a harder beast to tame because of it, Magento can be a joy to use if set up and managed by knowledgeable people. That’s where the problems can begin.
There is another option under this umbrella which is called Magento Community Edition (CE), and it’s free. But, of course, there is a catch. While it is true that it’s open source and free to download, that is where the “free” part ends. You will have to host it yourself (as opposed to most other carts), as well as installing and configuring everything to your needs. This is not the kind of task that one regular person could normally do, so you will need to budget in the need for outside help or new employees to cover this.
Perhaps the more well-known of the two, Shopify has earned a good reputation over the last decade and seen much success in the area of small to mid-level online stores. It is generally considered to have an easier initial setup when compared to Magento, although your mileage may vary of course.
Shopify is also the clear winner in another ease-of-use factor: the design. There are a lot of great free templates to get started, and premium themes starting at under $100, with easy options that allow just about anyone to tweak the design.
The long-term popularity of this cart has also lead to hundreds of businesses and freelancers on the side who cater to users of Shopify. If you need a custom theme, consulting, or just some help integrating something, you will be able to find plenty of professionals who specialize in what you need.
Almost half of all online purchases start with a few words and a click or a tap, so it’s important to choose a platform with search engine optimization in mind. When it comes down to Shopify and Magento, it’s hard to pick a winner in terms of SEO. They both support all of the things you would expect, such as custom page titles, URLs, descriptions, ALT tags on images, etc. Both platforms also have a basic offering of add-ons for this.
Nothing will ruin your online reputation, and perhaps financial future, faster than a security breach. While both of these platforms do a good job of keeping everything as secure as they can, and both are compliant with the Payment Card Industry standards, you will need to pay special attention if you choose a self-hosted option. For example Magento CE and EE are self-hosted which will put more of the burden on you in terms of security.
People who make sales should be left to make sales; they should not be wasting time trying to figure out technical issues or confusing interfaces. Shopify is the winner when it comes down to which one your marketing team will like using. It offers key functions at a glance from the dashboard, while also allowing users to go in-depth to track things like social media campaigns and discount code usage. Magento can do what Shopify does here, but it takes more work (and money) to set up and is not as intuitive.
Selling tangible products online brings with it the issue of getting the products to the people, which is definitely one of the most important parts of any new business. Magento CE and EE are able to integrate with almost all of the leading shipping providers. Shopify integrates with only some of them by default, and others can be added through the use of apps. If this is important to you, make sure to check which ones are supported at the time, as these things can change.
Apps and Addons
Both platforms are supported by a large amount of third-party merchants producing quality apps and add-ons, but Shopify is the winner here. The third party apps and extra functionality that you can bring to Shopify are both cheaper and more numerous than those made for Magento.
At the end of the day, there is still no clear answer on this debate. Shopify is easier to get into and has some nice features by default, but Magento can be very powerful in the right hands. The answer ultimately rests on what you need the platform to do, and how much you are willing to spend on it.