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Magento vs Shopify – which is best for your business?

Guide
by George Robertson Developer

If you want to sell your products online, or set up a brand new online retail business, the easiest and safest way to go about it is to use an ecommerce platform. The alternative – creating your own website and setting it up for taking payments and arranging shipping – can be complicated, although it’s not impossible for a small operation where you’re manually handling stock, payments and shipping.

When it comes to ecommerce, two standalone platforms dominate the market: Magento and Shopify. Both do essentially the same thing – display products, take online orders and process the payment, stock-keeping shipping. However, they go about it in slightly different ways from a business and development perspective. If you’re deciding between these two ecommerce platforms, here’s a quick comparison for you.

Shopify

Shopify is a hosted ecommerce platform, which means you essentially have to create an account, open your shop and populate it online, and it’s all hosted off-site by the company. You therefore don’t really need Shopify development skills, as you can buy a shop off the shelf, although some skills in design would be useful. You pay a monthly subscription, and there are three tiers, which give different benefits.

Because Shopify uses its own payment gateway, you’ll probably find it’s cheaper for you to sell through them rather than to use a third party at first. The cost of a sale depends on the tier you use – Shopify Advanced has higher monthly fees but lower transaction fees, so it’s worth your while when you grow.

Shopify has a huge range of plugins and themes, which are all approved by the company itself, so you’re assured of a better choice, and therefore better quality tools and layouts. Also, you have access to support in-house.

If Pinterest is important to you, and you sell through it, Shopify’s integration is fantastic. Pinterest has proved to be a very successful way of showing your wares thanks to its groups, communities and millions of users, so this could be a major consideration.

It’s worth noting that the basic version you get by paying the minimum is a competent ecommerce solution, but it’s not especially flexible or spectacular. If you want to enhance the site, you should be prepared to spend more.

Overall, Shopify is all about making it easy for anyone to set up their own shop, and prides itself on its user-friendliness. It comes at a price, however, and all modifications have to come with Shopify’s blessing.

Magento

Magento is a free platform, inasmuch as you don’t have to pay for the actual software – it’s all open source. However, larger operations will use Commerce Edition, which does have a price tag. Even a free site has costs, of course, including hosting and payment gateway costs, plus anything you have to contract out, like development or design. But if you do a lot of the work yourself, you can keep costs very low.

Once the site is set up and hosted, it’s 100% yours, and nobody can tell you what you can or can’t do with it. Whether that’s good or bad news depends on how you want to run the site and pay for its upkeep. There are thousands of themes and plugins, but because there’s no central authority, there’s no guarantee of quality, usability or security.

Without dedicated support, you’re relying either on the community (which is large) to help you, or hiring a specialist Magento developer for assistance. If you’re already running a thriving business, paying for support won’t be a problem. If you’re just starting out, it might be.

On the flip side, you have complete freedom on how to run your site, what it looks like and what plugins and themes you choose. You can use the basic ecommerce platform to custom-build a whole site if you like.

Deciding what’s best for you

If you’re just starting out, and don’t have much development experience and your budget is relatively tight, Shopify lets you build a website and your costs are essentially a percentage of your sales, which means you should be able to grow with minimal expenditure.

If you’re already established and have a budget, or are experienced in development, Magento gives you more flexibility and lower costs associated with your sales – although you might have larger upfront costs as you get yourself established.