Shopify vs. Magento: Small Business Online Stores: Side by Side Platform Review

By Cesar Beltran

Online Store | Your E-commerce Website Platform: Shopify or Magento

Online Store small business

An Online Store, which e-commerce platform will help your small business fire up? Read on and find out.

We have seen an explosion in the last couple years in the number of online entrepreneurs creating and opening online stores. And, Online e-commerce is rapidly replacing traditional brick and mortar stores.

And why shouldn’t it?

It is easier now than ever before to open an online store.  Shopify, Magento and other e-commerce platforms have changed the face of how online businesses are put together, run, and succeed. The platform design has brought down the barriers that kept motivated entrepreneurs from starting online businesses. In the past, you would have to spend a lot of time, money, and man hours to get an online store open. Today, all of these is easily done with the advanced e-commerce platforms.

In the past you had to wrestle with the following:

* Credit card companies: Connectivity and high fees
* Site hosting: Expensive servers managed by IT companies
* Graphic designers: Had to rely on marketers without your vision
* Developers: Overworked and expensive 
* Inventory management: Expensive and manual

And much more…

Selling Via an Online Store Used to Be Expensive

In the beginning, the options online entrepreneurs had for online stores were few. If you wanted to open your own site that took credit card payment it cost a lot to get it up and running. What was worse was that if you needed to make changes to your storefront, add new credit cards, add new products, or rebrand your site’s copy, you were handcuffed by the process. The only way you could affect the changes you wanted was to spend more time, money, and waste all the hours you previously put into it.

E-commerce  Platforms have eliminated the headaches!

e-commerce website shopify vs magento
Get the freedom to make the changes to your store in a snap!

 

Shopify introduced a simple and customizable e-commerce platform anyone can use to build your e-commerce website now also known as an Online Store. The so called now “Online Store” has become so popular that Shopify’s online stores alone are over 400,000 and growing.

Sounds Great But What Are My Other Options?

Interested in opening an online store but want more options to choose from?  Shopify is not the only website builder or e-commerce solution available. Along with Shopify, online businesses can also run using Magento. Our e-commerce experts conducted a side-by-side comparison. Here you can read all the details to learn more about each platform and pick the best e-commerce solution for your online business.

Shopify:  What is it and How does it  Support My Online Store?

Shopify is an easy-to-use enterprise e-commerce platform, which allows customers to create their own online stores. The process of creating the e-commerce website is rather simple.

The company offers templates with a large number of already made themes that you can select for your store. The theme store offers hundreds of ready-made options that you can choose from. The selection of themes is very good. There are static to dynamic themes that you can use, and that are easily customizable by he user with a few clicks.

Shopify is a Software As AS Service now known as “SAAS.” “. They will host your store for a small recurring fee. They offer an infrastructure with fast servers; You do not have to worry about managing hardware. The need for an expensive IT department to run your store is eliminated!

Shopify has already integrated the critical tools that you need to manage the Online Store day-to-day operations:

* Shopify offers a fully functional shopping cart
* Payment gateways to multiple banks & payments methods
* Inventory control
* Customer messaging via email & email integration
* App store for unique customizations
* Discount and Campaign management
* Gather and present intelligent data about your business.

All of these benefits and more are available to you for a small recurring transaction fee. In a nutshell, Shopify can easily help you get a full blown working online store business in your hands with little effort!

What is Magento and How Does It  Support my Online Store?

The Magento Platform is an open source e-commerce solution much like Shopify.  However, Magento requires you to bring either a level of experience as a coder or money to hire help to develop your online store. Magento shares similarities to WordPress (anotheropen-sourcee online platform). WordPress’s open source development allows the user to deeply customize the appearance, layout, and raw HTML code of your online store.

So which platform is better?

Are Shopify’s beautiful templates and turnkey system the right choice or would you benefit from getting your fingers deep into the development process coding a Magento site? The answer depends on what you want for your e-commerce store.

To help you decide, we have compiled a side by side comparison of key differences between Shopify’s ready to launch program and Magento’s build from the bottom up process. Below we cover the following:

* Design and Templates
* Ease of launch
* Tools and ease of use
* Handling Payment Gateways
* Online Support
* Mobile E-commerce
* Cost

The review will cover everything from both platforms. You will get to peek under the hood and see what drives each platform so you can make the best choice possible.

Shopify Vs. Magento

shopify vs magento
-Ecommerce Platforms that put a universe of choices in your hands

Shopify and Magento both have unique options to opening your e-commerce online store. To help you decide what is best for you, we compared the eight key functions that transform good online stores into great ones. Each of the seven options we cover features a side-by-side comparison of Shopify and Magento’s options.

1) Design and Templates

Building an e-commerce site can be a big project. Shopify knows this. That is why Shopify offers a hundred different templates to choose from. Shopify knows first impressions matter with your e-commerce store. A poorly built site will drive away customers.

Quality is the social proof that primes customers to buy.

Pros: Shopify Themes offer are easy to use for an online store where you can pick from both free and paid for templates. What is nice is that there are templates for every type of business ranging from food products, artisanal grooming products, to large products like furniture.

Cons: Not all of the Shopify themes are free. There is a transaction fee for some of the best templates have to be purchased. This isn’t a big con when you consider the quality and lasting impression your site can have.

Magento also has access to templates. With Magento being open source, any developer can code a template. Magento templates range in quality from simple to incredibly complex.

Pros: Magento’s open source allows more people to develop templates for the online stores. If you worry that Shopify won’t have a template that fits your needs, Magento surely will.

Cons: While there are free Magento templates, the best ones you have to pay for. What makes this issue different from Shopify is that you not only have a transaction fee for the templates but you have to pay someone for a template (or to have one made), you also have to pay a coder to install it if you don’t know how.

2) Ease of Launch

Launching your site is a big deal. You are finally taking your project live, and you want to make sure it is ready for launch!

We reviewed Shopify and Magento on the following criteria:

* Being able to review your site before launch
* Ease of making adjustments for pictures and text if needed
* Launching is seamless and easy to do

Shopify:

Launching with Shopify is easy. Even if you have little experience creating a website for online stores you will find the process easy to do. You can review your site before going live. This is important. This final check lets you make sure everything is in the right place, the images are correct, and that your links go to the right place.

If you do need to make adjustments, you can do so instantly. You can drop into Shopify’s builder portal and make any changes you need. Once you are ready, launching your site takes a few clicks, and the online store is  live!

Pros: Shopify is easy to create, review, and edit your online store before it is launched. Any changes you needed to be made can be done quickly and easily. Launching your Shopify store is easy and only takes a few clicks. This can be your e-commerce solution if you like easy starting projects.

Cons: If you want to make detailed changes outside of the template, you won’t be able to without hiring a coder. This will lead to a transaction fee. This was my biggest complaint because there are times when you are in the design process and realize a tiny change would make a huge difference, but you can’t do it.

Magento

Magento is not easy to do any of this. If you are an experienced coder or have a lot of money, this process won’t be an issue.

Pros: Magento can be personalized. If you realize you want to change the layout of a page, where an image goes, or the color of a background, you can do it. Not only that, but Magento is a powerful ecommerce platform and, when built right, launches very well.

Cons: You won’t be able to do any of the changes yourself again another transaction fee. You will have to pay for someone with years of coding experience. This is a dual sword if you aren’t used to clearly communicating what you want with a team or coder. If you have the money and the experience doing this, you won’t see this as a con. If you are new to communicating with a team, this could end up costing you a lot.

3) Tools and Ease of Use

New additions to e-commerce platforms are launched every day. The best platforms allow for tools to be easily added.  Tools can help you track SEO, click-throughs, bounces, and more. That is why the availability of tools is important to your e-commerce site.

shopify online store
-No Matter the Platform You Can Get The Tools You Need To Run A Successful Business

Shopify:

Shopify has a growing selection of apps you can download and install into your e-commerce store. These Shopify app tools help you personalize your user’s experience, help you collect the data you need, and help your e-commerce platform provide a better site-wide experience.

online store e-commerce website

-Shopify App Store

Pros: Shopify has an amazing app store. People have developed tools for everything you can imagine. Not only that, but new tools are being added to the roster every day. Shopify’s e-commerce platform app store is easy to use, and the apps are also easier to install.

Cons: This one is tricky. The biggest con is that most of the tools you are going to cost money, you cant get away with an app unless you pay a small transaction fee and although you can run your site without them, it won’t perform as well. Granted most of the apps have a low monthly cost (usually under $30), but if you are paying for a higher level package on Shopify, it doesn’t seem fair to be nickel and dimed in the app store.

magento app store

-A shot of the Magento App Store

Magento: This is where Magento really shines. Since it is open source, people can develop apps that solve niche problems or deliver services unique to a niche business.

Pros: The app store is easy to navigate and filled with apps. There are also a lot of free options for stuff that will make you happy.

Cons: None of these apps are plug and play. You are going to have to download them and then install them on your site. You will most likely need a coder to help you do this. That means the money you saved getting that super cool app for free will have a larger cost to have it installed than it would have if you could have paid a fee and plugged and played it.

4) Handling Payment Gateways

E-commerce is all about making money. You want your online store to integrate with a payment gateway and to be able to collect a payment anytime via the payment gateway, and that it will protect you from scammers, and make the process as easy as possible for your customers.

Shopify:

Shopify knows payment gateways are key to you receiving money from the customers. They have introduced two ways to help you take it.

Pros: Shopify can take currency from 70 different countries and up to seven different payment methods. All of this is done via the unique payment gateway system. This means you won’t lose customers who pay via Paypal over credit card or their debit or Pioneer or Stripe. Shopify’s payment gateway can handle all sort of multiple payment methods—and you don’t even have to worry about how they do it. It is all included in the monthly small transaction fee.

Cons: Transaction fees. Unless you are paying for the high-end version of Shopify or using their payment gateway, you will incur up to a 2% fee every time you make a sale. Is this a big deal? Not really. It just sucks that after spending so much money with them, on apps and everything else, they hit you with a tiny fee on the way out too.

Magento:

In this case, the pros and cons are the same as Shopify. The only extra con in this situation is that Magento requires you to code the system, which means you will most likely have to hire someone to integrate a payment gateway for you. This will cost you a lot more money that what Shopify would charge you.

5) Online Support

Running an online business requires ongoing support. You need to be able to call or email and get a helpful and instant response on your issue. The key here is speed. The faster your problem can be resolved, the better.

Shopify:

Shopify has a great support system. Whenever you need help, you can get someone on the phone or chat and start tackling your problem. Shopify’s wide use as an ecommerce platform also means theirs is a robust online community with experience handling your issues that you can talk to.

Pros: You can reach help quickly and make the changes yourself in most cases. There is also an online community where you can post questions and get help from other Shopify users.

Cons: Shopify is popular, and sometimes your wait can be long. Not only that – if the issue is with an app, the answer usually involves you removing the app. In my book that doesn’t count as a solution. Also, if there is a complex problem, you will most likely have to hire someone to fix it.

Magento:

Magento also has great customer support. What sets Magento apart from Shopify is that their users are more involved with the site and can usually walk you step by step through any problem. There is a large magento community to help.

Pros: The community of Magento users are expert level coders. They are nice and often very willing to walk you through very complex problems. Customer support is helpful and responsive as well.

Cons: It can be difficult to pin down the real issue. A stray line of code can take down an entire page. Not only do you need to know a lot about the inside of your site to communicate the issues, you also need to have experience going in and editing code to make things better. You can get a lot of help from the magento community edition, but you will most likely have to hire someone to make the changes for you.

6) Mobile E-commerce Business

Phone purchasing has exploded in the last few years. You need to capitalize on this to stay in the game. You need your site to not only work well on the phone but also be easy to purchase on.

Shopify:

Shopify has developed their platform to translate your site seamlessly to mobile e-commerce. Your site can drive revenue while people wait in line, read your marketing emails, and respond to your special offers from anywhere they have the Internet.

Pros: Shopify has made it easier than ever to buy from your phone. The entire process is seamless, takes a little time, and just recently they have removed the number of data points customers need to enter to make purchases (which has drastically lowered checkout bounce rates).

Cons: Shopify has this pretty dialed in. It takes extra time on your end to make sure everything looks right and checks out right, but overall, this is pretty spectacular. And as with the Magento community, there is a large user group for Shopify that act the same way as with the magento community. They will provide free information and offer ideas as to possible solutions to your store needs.

Magento:

Magento has mobile friendly and responsive themes to make purchasing on the phone easy.

Pros: Magento’s community has developed a lot more mobile friendly themes than Shopify. The ecommerce mobile platform style and template choices are bigger and more extensive. If you are looking for a specific look and feel, you are sure to find it.

Cons:  You are dealing with a niche within a niche. You will almost certainly have to hire someone to implement this for you unless you have expert level knowledge with coding.

7) Cost

Shopify online store pricing

-Learn how you can keep your spark alive without emptying your bank account

You need to be able to calculate the cost of opening and running your e-commerce platform. When running a business, you want the money you spend to be backed by value, support, and a foundation to create revenue.

Shopify:

Shopify has three packages you can purchase:

*  Light
* Regular
* Advanced

You are charged a monthly fee depending on the package you choose. So which one is right? This is where I really start to like Shopify over Magento. Each membership option delivers clear results to a specific level. If you know the scale you plan to market and sell to, then the option to choose will be clear.

The downsides to the cost are mentioned above. Shopify nickel and dimes you by forcing you to pay for supporting apps that, in my opinion, should be built into the service. Not only that, but they also try to force you into using their payment system by charging you up to 2% on your sales.

Magento:

Magento has a similar membership option layout.

* Light
* Regular
*A dvanced

I feel this is where the line in the sand is finally drawn. Yes, a Magento store has membership options to support your needs just like Shopify. The difference here is that these options aren’t plug and play. Magento offers you more options than Shopify due to its open source ecommerce platform design—and most of these solutions are found by reaching out to the large magento community.

magento vs. shopify

-Magento Can Be EXPENSIVE

With that said, I don’t see the availability of nuanced options worth the cost difference. In my opinion, Magento is more an ‘enterprise’ solution than a small business solution. Yes, the membership options costs are similar, but they don’t account for what you will have to most likely pay a coder to develop and launch your site.

Final Verdict

First off, let me say that both platforms are great. Most of my concerns relate to their business practice more than larger software and or e-commerce platform issues.

With that said, the e-commerce platform that is the clear winner based of my detail review of both platforms is Shopify.

Shopify’s e-commerce platform is easy to use. Yes, it has style, template, and some limitations. However, I confirm that these limitations will not interfere with your ability to create, launch, and manage a full blown e-commerce online store all on your own—and all these without the need for IT or GIGs like me!

Shopify’s ease of access, a relatively low cost to build and launch a store, and growing community base make it the clear winner for non-enterprise level businesses.

Thank you for visiting our BLOG; Please check out these other great resources that will help you get with your store:  Best Shopify Cheat SheetSocial Media and why you should incorporate it to your store, and The very best resources for your store.   As always, please send me a note I will be sure to answer @ info@blackbeltcommerce.com

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Comments 1

  1. I’m not so sure if you can really say that one is necessarily better than the other. I’ve tried both Shopify and Magento and, well, as this post shows they both have their pros and cons. I think everyone should try both and see what they prefer before deciding to stick with one.

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