When it comes to starting an ecommerce business, choosing a platform for your store is one of the first major decisions you will face. It is also an important one: the platform you choose can influence how your store will look, and what functionality it will have. Your budget is also something to keep in mind – there are solutions at various price points, so you need to decide if you want to invest early on to get more features, or if you would rather play it safe and go with a cheaper, albeit more limited platform.
Shopify and Magento are two of the most popular choices for ecommerce platforms. In a way, they also represent two different approaches: one is simpler and cheaper, another more complicated but feature-rich, and allows for way more flexibility.
If you are still deciding between the two, this article is for you. We’ll go over the main aspects that may interest you when choosing a solution, and compare the two. This is not a complete feature comparison, but rather a list of things to be aware of when making a decision.
So, let’s get into our comparison.
First and foremost, you need to understand key differences between the two, since they influence every category of this list:
1. Magento is open source. This means that the solution was built by developers, for developers, so the source code is completely open and free to install for all. However, because it is made to be used by someone with a strong technical background, it may not be the easiest to understand.
On the other hand, Shopify is a commercial product, made to appeal to as many people as possible. They don’t offer any free plans, but it’s easier to work with for someone who has never built websites before.
2. Shopify offers hosting for your store, while Magento requires you to find your own hosting (though, if you get Magento through Adobe Commerce you do get hosting as well). This makes Shopify easier to start with, but the hosting they provide may not be the best option. Magento requires you to spend more effort to set everything up, but you get a more controllable and flexible solution.
3. Generally speaking, Shopify is more beginner-friendly, with a smaller amount of features, while Magento is more advanced, but difficult to get started with.
Magento is an open-source platform, so its base version is 100% free. That’s not to say you won’t have to spend anything. As we mentioned, Magento is a self-hosted platform, so you will have to spend money on hosting. There will also be additional spending on the domain, security, and other smaller things.
Also, you’ll likely outsource website development to someone, so don’t forget to calculate your spendings on that as well.
There’s also Adobe Commerce (previously Magento Commerce, Magento Cloud Commerce), a paid Magento version provided by Adobe. With Adobe Commerce you get hosting provided by Adobe, as well as many other benefits (this plan would be comparable to Shopify Plus, which we’ll talk about later). The exact pricing isn’t available online and will be determined depending on the characteristics of your business (size, yearly revenue). Their licensing fees start at $24,000 per year or $2000 per month.
Shopify is not an open-source platform, and they don’t have any free plans. Their pricing is very transparent and should be affordable for a small business. There are three main plans:
Basic Shopify, at $29 per month, is the perfect choice for someone who wants to test out a new business idea. It has all the basic features but comes with a lot of limitations. For example, you won’t be able to use regional domains, you can only have two staff accounts, and credit card rates are higher.
The next plan is regular Shopify, and it costs $79 per month. This is a great mid-way plan, suitable for businesses that already started to grow, and sell both online and in-store. There are fewer limitations, and benefits this plan adds focus more on the in-store shopping experience.
The most expensive plan is Advanced Shopify, which will cost you $299. This plan is suitable for those who want advanced analytics and reports available for their store.
More detailed descriptions of payment options can be found on the Shopify website.
There’s also Shopify Plus, Shopify’s version of the enterprise platform. If we’re looking only at Shopify products, this will be the one in competition with Magento. Shopify Plus offers its users a lot more flexibility, compared to the regular Shopify. There are also more support options, and you get more access to your store’s underlying code. The price is significantly higher, however. There’s no detailed pricing available since, like Magento’s, it depends on multiple factors. However, the cheapest option comes at $2,000 paid monthly, the same as Adobe Commerce.
It’s hard to make a decision here because Shopify and Magento are very different platforms in this regard.
Magento is open-source, so there will always be a completely free version, and Shopify owns their code, so there’s no incentive to provide a free plan.
Also, Magento is a self-hosted platform, while Shopify is hosted. What is preferable completely depends on your preferences. Since you choose your hosting, security, domains, and other elements with Magento, you can fully tailor them to your needs, and change different aspects as your store grows. With Shopify, you’ll have to always use their services, at their terms, which may not be flexible enough for everybody. However, if you don’t want to think about things like hosting, paying once for everything without thinking about any settings may be preferable to you.
If we are comparing Adobe Commerce to Shopify Plus, the prices are similar, with the cheapest option for both of them starting at around $2,000 paid monthly. Here, the difference comes down to other features, which we’ll be looking at later.
When it comes to setting up a store, there’s a clear winner in this category. Shopify is easier to understand for someone with no coding background, it is a fact. Their whole business model is built on providing someone who doesn’t know anything about the technical aspects of owning a website but wants to own an online business.
They offer a drag-and-drop website builder, where everything is intuitively understandable.
Magento, on the other hand, is way more difficult to set up. To get the most out of the platform, you would need to have experience with PHP, and preferably specifically with Magento. For this reason, we recommend hiring a developer for the initial development process.
When it comes to day-to-day operations, Magento is more easily understandable, so you don’t have to worry about not being able to manage your store by yourself. Magento 2 introduced a new Admin Panel, that has an improved UI, and is generally user-friendly.
If you are planning to outsource the development, it shouldn’t matter much which platform you are choosing. Both of them are easy enough to learn when it comes to daily tasks.
However, if you are planning to completely build a website from scratch yourself, and you don’t have a technical background, making a store on Shopify will be way easier for you.
Every company is different and in a constant state of change. Your preferred platform should be able to adapt to your specific needs and challenges your business face. It also should serve you at all stages of your business, and doesn’t limit it.
Magento is extremely customizable. The limit to what can be done using this platform is mostly determined by the technical skills of those who set up the store. Two different stores built on Magento can have completely different looks, functionality, and unique features. Shopify on the other hand is a middle-of-the-road solution, made to fit most users. However, every compromise requires sacrifices, so no one will be completely satisfied. It is a great platform if you need a very basic store, but as your business grows and requires more custom functionality, Shopify may become a bit more limiting.
Here Magento is an absolute winner for us. It is both extremely customizable and built to scale, so it will work well for 50, 50,000, or 500,000 monthly customers. And if you decide to add a custom function to it, there won’t be any problems.
On the opposite hand, you will outgrow Shopify, since it’s a solution for small businesses first.
Shopify is a drag-and-drop website builder, so naturally, themes are a very important part of this platform. On their website, they have a list of 64 Shopify-approved themes that come with different styles. You can get some of them for free, but most are premium, with the prices ranging from $150 to $350. If 64 themes don’t seem enough, there are also third-party websites that offer Shopify themes at different price points.
Magento also has a page with themes on Magento Marketplace, however, there are not as many as on the Shopify website. Same as with Magento, you can get themes from other sources as well, so finding something you like shouldn’t be a problem.
Both Magento and Shopify offer a wide selection of themes, so it’s hard to find a winner in this category. Both of them also offer responsive themes, which is a must right now.
However, if you are getting your theme from a place unaffiliated with Magento or Shopify, be sure to check everything carefully, since the quality may vary.
As your store grows, you will inevitably find a need for a feature that isn’t available in the platform you chose. Maybe you need to add a payment method that isn’t supported by default, or you find SEO settings lacking. Whatever it may be, custom modules are the answer to your problems. Custom modules can be developed by a developer specifically for you, but they can get quite expensive. However, if your problem is widespread enough, someone likely made a solution for this already. In cases like this, the solution can be bought and applied to your store. Both Shopify and Magento offer a selection of modules (Shopify calls them apps) from different third-party sources on their website.
The Magento extension store is called Magento Marketplace. It has thousands of solutions, both free and premium. paid options are ranging anywhere from $40 to $10,000, so there’s truly a solution for every problem and every budget.
As for Shopify, their extension store is called Shopify App Store. They also have thousands of plugins for different budgets. Some of the solutions they offer have free trials, some have free and premium plans.
Both Shopify and Magento do great in this category. They offer multiple solutions for different problems, both free and paid.
Depending on how complicated the extension is (for both Magento and Shopify), the installation can be as simple as pressing a button or can require coding knowledge to set up, so if you are managing your store completely on your own, this is something to keep in mind.
Payment processors enable your store to accept online payments. Shopify and Magento offer a variety of them by default, and others can be added with custom extensions as well.
It is worth mentioning though, that Shopify takes a fee from every payment made. Here is how much it will cost you:
|Plan||Basic Shopify||Shopify||Advanced Shopify|
|Online credit card rates||2.9% + 30¢ USD||2.6% + 30¢ USD||2.4% + 30¢ USD|
|In-person credit/debit card rates||2.7% + 0¢ USD||2.5% + 0¢ USD||2.4% + 0¢ USD|
Shopify also has its payment processor, Shopify Payments. When using Shopify Payments, you won’t have to pay transaction fees to Shopify (but you will still need to pay a fee to a credit card processor).
Magento doesn’t have any fees like this, so you’ll only have to pay the credit card processor. Also, Magento allows you to sell your products on Amazon using your Magento inventory.
Magento wins here. Both Shopify and Magento offer multiple options for possible payment processors, however, Magento doesn’t take any money for it.
Since Magento is an open-source platform, you only get dedicated customer support if you pay for Adobe Commerce. If you do, you get extremely reliable customer support through email. Phone, or an online chat.
If you use Magento Open Source, then to solve your issues, there’s a dedicated forum. It is very active and used by Magento certified developers, so chances are someone will be able to help you. Magento Community also has dedicated blogs, masterclasses, courses, and user guides, in case you want to understand the platform better.
Also, there’s an Adobe Solution Partner program for developers that specialize in Magento, so if you feel like you need advanced technical help, you can find a reputable developer to assist you.
Shopify offers similar support. If you have any questions, you can ask them via phone, chat, or email, as well as by browsing user forums. And if this is not enough, you can hire Shopify Experts, from the list of certified developers on their website.
With Shopify Plus, you get a dedicated account manager that will help you with a setup, a migration process if you are moving from another platform, and can also consult you about other aspects of Shopify development.
If you are using Adobe Commerce, both Magento and Shopify offer excellent support options.
However, if you are using an open-source version of Magento, the support options are limited to a forum, and you may find it lacking.
At the same time, if you are using an Open Source version, you probably have a dedicated developer that can also be consulted if you face any issues. If that’s the case, you shouldn’t worry much about the fact there’s no designated customer support.
The last thing to keep in mind is the fact that since Shopify is a commercial product, by signing up with them you have to agree to their Terms of Service. This won’t matter much for a lot of users, but some market niches can be affected by it.
For example, if you are in a controversial or high-risk industry. Shopify may drop you from their platform with minimal warning, so you’ll end up in a situation where you need to find a new place to migrate to extremely fast, and your store won’t be available to customers until you do. Even if you sell products that are safe to sell under their Terms of Service, but are subject to a quick public opinion change, you are in a risk category too.
Also, if you work in a highly regulated industry, like pharmaceuticals, the technology or security level Shopify provides, may not be enough for you.
Magento, being open-source, doesn’t have the same issue. You are the only person responsible for your store, so you can be sure nothing will happen to it. Again, this is a concern for only some of the users, so chances are you don’t have to consider it. However, if your products or services can be influenced by this policy, this is one of the most important factors to consider before making a decision.
At the end of the day, both Magento and Shopify are excellent platforms that you can use to build your store. Which of them is right for you depends on where you are with your business currently.
Shopify is a great starter option. If you have an idea for a business but are not sure if it will work out, Shopify is going to allow you to test it out relatively fast with minimal spending. However, be prepared to migrate to another platform if your business grows, because at some point Shopify will become somewhat limiting.
As for Shopify Plus, since the price is similar to Adobe Commerce, we recommend going with Magento since its functionality is way broader.
Another option for smaller businesses is Shopware. It is partly similar to Shopify when it comes to lower price (there’s a completely free version) and ease of use, but it does give you some more advanced features as well. We compared Shopware and Magento recently in our blog post, so if you are interested check it out as well.
If you are ready to invest in your store, Magento is an amazing option. Sure, it takes time and money to set everything up, however, you do get a solution that is exactly tailored to your needs and can grow with your business, as well as full control over it.
If you decide to go with Magento, we will be glad to assist you! Reach out to us, and let’s build a store you’ve been dreaming about!