As the eCommerce market matures with two clear platform leaders, the question needs to be asked: has Shopify grown into a full blown competitor to Magento? And if so, how do the two stack up?

Well to find out we delved deep into both platforms to give you the most comprehensive and detailed review on the two platforms anywhere on the web. Plus in a few minutes I’ll even share with you how they stack up financially over a two-year period – and the results may shock you!

But first I’ve got a confession to make…to make sure that I’m in full disclosure, our company sells Magento websites. However I put all of that aside and built a Shopify store to discover for myself exactly how the platform worked.

Now in order to determine the winner between these two platforms, I created some judging criteria, these include:

  • Setup difficulty & time
  • User Interface
  • Security
  • Hosting
  • Integration
  • Order management
  • Key Features
  • Support
  • Maintenance
  • Speed
  • Scalability
  • Total Investment (over a two-year period)

And to finish up my personal recommendations of which platform is better, as well as a guideline for when to use each platform.

 

Set Up

Shopify:

Setting up a basic Shopify store is simple and easy. In fact – I got mine ready to sell in a little under three hours. However, people who have not been in tech their whole lives usually take a day or so to get to this point.

One thing that did bug me a little was that regardless of which template I chose, the design never quite looked completely professional.

I got the navigation going, the colour schemes set, the products imported, the blog set up, uploaded my logo, etc. I then spent an hour trying to figure out how to change the search bar so its colour was different to the ‘cart’ button. I also wanted to change the social icons to be at the top of the page, but that wasn’t possible either

Upon further research I discovered that if you want your Shopify store to look perfect, you still need to hire a professional designer and developer to implement the personalisation that you want.

A professional design will usually set you back about $3,000 regardless of the platform you choose. This will include your banners, sale images, custom buttons, headers as well as various other graphics & layout.

The fees implement this design on Shopify using a qualified expert will cost around $5,000 – according to the shopify experts area.

So overall, to get your Shopify store set up and ready to sell with a professional design (like you see in their examples area) will require an upfront investment of approximately $8,000.

 

Magento:

Magento has two editions – Community and Enterprise. For this case study I’m going to focus on Community, but where necessary I’ll let you know about Enterprise as it has heaps of benefits.

So in order to set up a Magento website, unless you are an experienced developer you can’t do it yourself. And even if you are an experienced developer – I wouldn’t attempt the install without training because there are too many intricacies that are often broken by first time developers in Magento.

This means that although the Community software itself is free, you will need to invest in getting it set up correctly.

By default Magento 1.9 has a great responsive template, and if you base your design around it you’ll dramatically decrease the traditional costs & hassles associated with building a Magento site.

To get a basic store up and running you’ll be looking at the same $3,000 in design fees that you would invest with Shopify. However, your Magento Developer will likely require a significant investment to setup Magento & implement your design. This investment will depend greatly on what you needs are and the complexity of your design. So if you’re going to build a store with Magento, then we recommend using a designer who is familiar with its development processes.

 

Platform Costs:

Magento Community is a free open source software which means that your outlay is in its installation and customisation. Whereas Shopify has lower upfront fees, but a continual license.

Marketing Features:

Both platforms are very well built for SEO. They both feature quality redirect functionality, and they are both quick, responsive and contain great SEO features.

 

User Interface:

Both websites have completely different user interfaces as they were built with different intentions in mind.

Shopify have a very simple, easy-to-use interface out-of-the-box. However, you’ll find that many key features aren’t easily accessible in order to simplify the administrator’s user interface.

Magento on the other hand has a very ‘Enterprise’ feel it its back end. It’s designed for one purpose – to give you as much power as possible. In doing so they didn’t put as much thought into making things pretty on the eye. However it certainly gets the job done.

 

Front End Design:

Shopify:

Out-of-the-box Shopify has some great looking templates. They are crisp, clean and very easy to install and customise on a basic level.

In building my trial site on Shopify I ran into issues with getting the template to look exactly the way I wanted it. So if you want to get it to look right you still need to hire some technical help. Shopify know this which is why they put together the ‘experts’ section on their website to bring together the best in the Shopify market.

 

Magento:

The latest Magento 1.9.1 edition comes with a really clean, responsive template. However much like Shopify if you want to make custom changes you do need to get professional help.

With that said, if you spend the money and get a professional, both platforms allow you to customise to the way that you want your store to look. The default Magento template contains many of the most important frontend features for conversions such as reviews,

 

Hosting:

Shopify is a fully hosted platform which means that every area of hosting is taken care of. This eliminates the cost and need for you to organise your own hosting. The flip side is that if you want to edit something at the core of your site, you simply can’t because you never get access to the code which can be extremely limiting.

 

On the other hand with Magento you need to host the platform. To get the best performance, it’s a good idea to use an experienced Magento web host such as our partner Nexcess.
They supply servers and frameworks that are specifically built to host Magento websites, giving you the best performance on the market. This in itself overcomes the largest issue that people usually have with Magneto which is the speed of the site (More on that later). But bottom line, if you run a Magento store, host it with Nexcess.

Security:

Because you never touch your code with Shopify, they handle your Security for you which again takes the hassle out of it.

With Magento, a simple SSL certificate (around $50/yr) and professional web host and payment provider will address most security concerns with Magento. Furthermore, Magento is proactive in finding vulnerabilities, before they are a problem. In fact, they recently released a ‘bug bounty’ which is paying hackers if they can find a weakness in the system. This is further bulletproofing the security of Magento for years to come.

 

Integrations:

This is where things between the two platforms really start hitting a divide.

On the Magento side of things most integrations can be done by your developer for a one-off investment. Up front this is usually more expensive than Shopify integrations, however long-term it can save you a fortune.

You can integrate almost anything with Magento and it does a great job working as the central ‘hub’ of your business.

For example if your have a retail store you can integrate your POS with Magento. You can then connect your warehouse, eParcel, accounting software, ERP systems and your CRM. This makes your life managing your business easy and can save you countless hours every week.

With Shopify however, most integrations are built by third party developers who charge a monthly fee for them. This results in an on-going monthly fee ranging from $1.50 – $225 for most common integrations. It also creates a limitation to the systems that you can integrate with as if someone hasn’t built the app, it’s extremely expensive to do so.

Here are some common integrations that most businesses make and how much they’ll cost you each month with Shopify.

Integration

Monthly FeeAnnual Fee
Accounting software (Xero or Quick Books)$59$708
eParcel Integration$30$360
eBay & Amazon Integrations$109$1,308
Store Finder$1.5$18
NetSuite Integration$225$2,700
Total$424.50/month$5,094/yr

As you can see these monthly integrations with Shopify start to stack up quite considerably, hitting your bottom line hard when you have a quiet month.

On the flip side, Magento integrations will cost you more up front, with many costing $500+ to get installed by a developer. However this fee is a once off, so after 5-10 months you’re better off than many subscription-based extensions plus they last for years once they are built into your site.

 

Order Management:

Order management is the core of both platforms as they both started life as shopping carts. However where they differ is when you start hitting scale.

In Shopify I found it would not process bulk (50-100) orders a day without adding another integration and another monthly expense.

However because Magento was built for enterprises, it has fantastic order management with the ability to easily process 1,000+ orders a day in a way that’s manageable and easy.

Key Features:

Now that the foundation is out of the way, it’s time to discuss the key feature that each platform has to offer.

From building a site with both platforms I realised something…That Magento 1.9.1 has virtually the exact same features out the box as Shopify does.

Here’s is the easiest way to compare their features:

FeatureShopifyMagento
ResponsiveYesYes
CMSYesYes
Order notification emailsYesYes
Transactional EmailsYesYes
Order ManagementYesYes
SEO FriendlyYesYes
Integration to Google ShoppingYesExtension
Discount CouponsYesYes
PCI CompliantYesEnterprise Is
SecureYesYes
Control over codeNoYes
Colour swatchesYesYes
Multi-Store CompatableNoYes
Financial ReportingYesYe
In-built BlogYesExtension
Inventory ManagementBasicAdvanced
Product BundlesYesYes
Cross SellingYesYes
URL Rewrites for SEONoYes
WishlistsYesYes
Configurable ProductsYesYes

 

Support:

One thing that I want to get very clear – Magento Community Edition has no support from Magento. If you’d like support from Magento then I suggest looking into Enterprise Edition.

With this said, most Magento merchants get themselves a Magento Support program with their development company which eliminates this hassle. In fact – a lot of merchants prefer the ability to make a phone call, speak with a real person within 30 seconds, and have their issue fixed for them on the same day.

Shopify however does include a comprehensive support database where you can delve into to find the answers you’re looking for yourself. If however you want to get in touch with them, they can walk you through how to fix your problems on the phone, email or live chat.

If you’re not technically minded, you’ll still need to call your developer to get them to implement any major changes.

 

Maintenance:

Once again, here is where the hosted vs. controlled system rears its head.

On doing research I found that Shopify handles all maintenance and upgrades for you automatically. This means they upgrade your servers, programing versions as well as ensure things are always kept running.
If you go with Magento however you’ll need to take care of this yourself. The good news is that if you get a support package from your developer, most will have an option where they will upgrade you to the latest version of Magento as an inclusion. This eliminates the issues that people have traditionally had with the maintenance of Magento.

 

Speed:

In 2015 people’s patience is shorter than ever before. They want access to everything in an instant, and as a result the speed of your website is crucial for your success online.

Out-of-the-box Shopify has Magento beat here. Its lean Ruby on Rails framework loads quickly every time without a hassle.

However, when you first install Magento it is a different story. It will run at an average speed, but nothing impressive. With that said there are ways to make Magento run considerably faster. Services such as Varnish & Squixa both allow merchants to boost their site speed by up to 50% making it just as quick, if not quicker than Shopify in many cases.

 

Scalability:

When I started building my trial store, I set out with the goal of scaling and growing the business to service a global market as well as wholesalers.

This means that I need to have a store that can handle significant growth as well as have multiple store views.

This is where Shopify really falls down. Its a great platform to start on, but you are sadly limited to one website per installation.

This means that if you’re selling in Australia and would like to launch into the USA, you’d need to rebuild another site from scratch, pay another round of fees each month, and still deal with the frustration of having your inventory not sync between the two. However, you can get around the inventory issue by using a third party inventory software.

When it comes to scale Magento really comes into its own. You can build multiple store views (Frontend) from the one installation. This allows you to set up a wholesale site, as well as ‘competitor’ sites to compete against yourself, and even sites for other international markets.

Plus with Magento, as you grow it grows. Do you need additional power to handle hundreds of orders an hour? No problem, simply upgrade to Enterprise. Do you want to integrate with 3 new warehouses? It can be done. Are you expanding your product line and need to manage 1,000’s of SKU’s? Piece of cake.

 

Total Investment:

Now let’s get down to business – how much will it cost you to run your store on either platform?

In order to give you a realistic estimate the figures below are all researched and based on what I’ve mentioned above. In this example I’ve built the requirements around a fashion store that does 1,000 X $30 transactions a month.

I’ve also included most expense that you’re going to encounter for a typical eCommerce store, so that your not hit with constant unexpected surprises every time you want to integrate a new features.

Shopify:

 

UpfrontMonthlyTotal over 24 months
Base of site01794296
Custom development50005000
Custom Design30003000
Monthly Transaction Fees3007200
Web Hosting000
Graphic Design10001000
Blog Functionality000
Review functionality000
Gift Card Functionality000
Xero integration0591416
eParcel Integration030720
MailChimp Integration000
eBay Integration1092616
Amazon Integration00
PayPal Integration000
Payment Express Integration000
Store Finder1.536
Technical Support2004800
Total:$30,084.00

 

As you can see, Shopify ends up being far more expensive than $179/mo over 24-months when you’re looking at building a fully functioning store.

 

Magento:

Because Magento websites are built to your exact specification,  we sadly can’t provide a comparison using this software. What we can say however is that depending on your exact needs sometimes stores might be more affordable over 24-months, and in other times they might be significanty more expensive. But it all depends on your exact situation

 

Conclusion: So which is better? Shopify or Magento?

At the end of the day neither platform is better than the other. They simply have different uses and purposes.

Shopify is cheaper to get started on if you only have a few products, however if you want to integrate it to save you time, it can end up costing you quite a significant amount. It is also a great platform if you are tight on capital, but are confident that your cashflow won’t dry up.

Essentially Shopify is like renting your store. It requires less capital to start, but over time it costs you virtually the same. Except if your cash flow dries up, you get kicked out.

Where as with Magento you need more money upfront to ‘buy’ your website. The positive of this is if things slow down you’ll always have your site because you own it outright.

The other down side to Shopify is that as you scale and grow, so do your expenses. Everything from your transaction expenses from Shopify themselves through to all of your integrations – They will all cost you more.

Magento is also a fantastic solution for people processing large orders or high turnover because there is no additional monthly fee’s and your extensions don’t charge you any more whether you do one sale or 10,000 sales per month.

Magento provides far superior scalability for businesses who are looking to grow into the future with either international stores or require the ability to have a wholesale site.

It also provides better inventory management for businesses with over 500 product lines, and its ability to easily integrate and automate daily tasks will save you countless valuable hours each day.

 

Personal Recommendations:

Personally I’d recommend that you weigh up the two options very carefully. I’d chose to work with a premium Magento agency instead of a very popular hosted solution because the hosted model has many limitations that can be very restrictive for a growing business.

If your going to be taking eCommerce seriously as a sales channel in your business, then Magento is the solution for you. It has the power, flexibility, and scalability that is needed to run a successful eCommerce store, which is why 45% of Australian eCommerce stores use it!