Shopify vs. Magento:
How do they compare?

By Laura Kluz | Oct 12, 2017

Over the past few years, the ecommerce world has exploded.

Last year saw ecommerce sales rise by 15.6% in North America alone, and that trend is only expected to rise. It is estimated that by 2020, ecommerce sales will reach more than $4 trillion worldwide. Yes, you read that right - trillion.

Magento and Shopify have both been major players in the ecommerce space. They’ve had to adapt and meet this growing trend. Magento has enjoyed an early stronghold on this market. It’s a powerful platform, but with the forced upgrade to Magento 2, business owners are wondering whether it’s still their best option.

Is the cost to upgrade worth it?

Shopify has been gaining momentum these past few years, and for good reason. Shopify makes it easy for everyday folks - those who know nothing about coding, programming or web development, to start their own ecommerce businesses.

With the release of Shopify Plus, which includes tools such as Scripts and Flow, this platform has become an even more powerful option for growing ecommerce businesses.

For the first time this year, search inquiries for Shopify have surpassed Magento and there is a reason for this trend. 

shopify vs. magento google trends rport

With the mandatory update to Magento 2, now is the time to look at which ecommerce platform is best suited for your needs.

Let’s first break down a key difference between the two:

  • Magento is a self-hosted platform, meaning the website is entirely managed and maintained by the store owner. The store owner must source a hosting partner and employ the help of a developer. A developer is essential to the set up and ongoing performance of your website.
  • Shopify is a hosted platform, meaning all of the hosting and maintenance is managed by Shopify without a cost (or hassle!) to you. This includes the upkeep, the troubleshooting and the security.  

To learn more about the difference between a hosted and self-hosted solution, give this Ecommerce Fuel podcast episode a listen.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s chat about how this choice affects your business.

Maximum Security

Magento has had some sour experiences over the years when it comes to security breaches. In 2015, more than 8,000 sites were victim to Guruncsite malware. Google didn’t like this. They blacklisted all of these websites in the first 90 days of the breach. This past year has seen a significant number of new security patches for Magento already. Installing these patches is the responsibility of the store owner and installing them is required to remain safe.

Shopify websites don’t need to worry about this type of infection. Shopify maintains the security on its servers and store owners never have to think about it.

Additionally, customer’s financial information is never stored by Shopify, which means your store is not a rich target to hackers. You’re boring to them. The platform is PCI level 1 Compliant meaning they use the same level of security as your bank.

Speed Matters

We all know speed matters, and we’ve got the data to prove it.  A 1-second delay in page loading time can reduce conversions by 7 per cent. That’s quite remarkable.

With a self-hosted cart, your site speed will depend largely on the server and hosting company you choose. This can be quite a headache for merchants. If your website is slow or breaks down, someone who knows your backend will have to step in and fix it.

With Shopify, this concern is all taken care of by them. You don’t need to add “security patches,” or “kernel upgrades,” or “server updates” to your vocabulary just to run an online store. Shopify has got you covered.  

International Growth

Expanding to an international market might be on your mind. If that’s the case, adding another language and currency to your store may be the next step.

Magento has open source code, which means a developer can theoretically come into your site and add additional languages with some careful custom coding work. The same can be said for currencies.

With Shopify however, you don’t have full access to the underlying code, so there are limitations. One of those is adding multiple languages to your storefront. There are a couple of apps out there which help with the issue, but they aren’t perfect. 

To manage different currencies on Shopify, a competent developer (or the right theme) is needed, letting shoppers see prices in their local currency. However, the default shop currency will be displayed at checkout (each shop can only have one default currency). 

One way Shopify stores deal with this issue is to have multiple stores for each language. This isn’t an ideal solution, so Magento may have the edge on this issue.

Magento vs Shopify

 Ecosystem Benefits

Both Magento and Shopify offer third-party integration tools to help create exceptional ecommerce experiences - for both businesses and consumers.

Magento’s ecosystem is impressive, with more than 5,000 extensions to choose from. Compare that with Shopify’s 500 apps and they win on quantity.

But does quantity win over quality?

Because of Magento’s open source ability, finding a reliable extension can be quite a hassle.

Shopify extensively nurtures and vets their approved apps (kind of like Apple’s app store), which creates a very stable app ecosystem.

Additionally, on Magento, a simple server upgrade, or software update can break a plugin and bring your store down. Shopify has architected a solution so that this doesn’t happen with Shopify apps.

Intuitive Interface

Magento 2 has completely revamped its user interface, so it is easier and cleaner for merchants to use. Previous versions of Magento have been hard for merchants to navigate, so it is pretty exciting they are addressing this issue.

However, Shopify has a significant head start on this because they were founded with this as a core value. Time and time again we hear that Shopify’s platform is more intuitive for merchants. It’s ease of use is one clear strength we hear among clients, especially those switching from Magento to Shopify.

Cost Matters

Finally, let’s take a look at cost. Magento offers a free version, as well as a paid one (the licence fee starts at $22,000 depending on revenue), but remember you also need a developer to source and prop up a server, configure, install and then maintain your Magento installation, plus hosting costs. Depending on your needs, this can be quite expensive. Not to mention the ongoing support you will need from a developer to maintain the server and security.

Shopify’s monthly plans starts as low as $29/ month and creeps up to $299/ month. If you are a high-volume client looking for a more robust solution, Shopify Plus is the way to go. This one is more expensive at around $2,000/ month, which is on par or below similar offerings from competitors like Magento when license fees and hosting are factored in.

Overall, both Magento 2 and Shopify offer you the tools for your shop to be successful. Both platforms have their place in the market. Both have their strengths. Both have weaknesses. It all depends on your goals, budget and vision.  Do you want to have a developer on call? Are you willing to trade stability for complete customization?  These are important questions to consider before making the jump to a new platform.

Magento grants you technical access (and responsibility) to manage every aspect of your website. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Shopify's focus is on empowering merchants to focus on their business, not technology. Shopify Plus is also a surprisingly flexible option, and is capable of meeting almost all of the demands of a larger, modern, growing ecommerce business.