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magento & ecommerce

Shopify VS Magento

ECommerce platforms come in many shapes and sizes. New ones keep emerging every year, at a pace that can leave one with the impression that, in this industry, everyone’s copying everyone else.

Shopify and Magento are two of the names that have been standing out for many years in the dynamic world of eCommerce. At Interactivated, we have always appreciated Shopify’s ease of use and rich array of features. So much so that recently we have become a Shopify partner.

We know how difficult it can be to choose an eCommerce platform, which is why we've prepared for you an in-depth comparison of Shopify and Magento. We'll be covering everything you need to know to create a site, including installation, features, ease of use, extensions, and price.

Shopify

Shopify has grown into one of the most popular and accessible eCommerce platforms, with over 400,000 users worldwide. It's essentially a web store builder that lets you create a professional store even if you don't have any coding knowledge. It integrates with a wealth of extensions for accounting, reporting, sales and forecasting, inventory and more.

The biggest difference between Shopify and Magento is that Shopify is delivered as a paid service. Shopify technicians handle all the code for you. At the same time, you have full access over the code, should you choose to customize it.

Shopify makes the most of the what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) web design principle so that you can customize your eCommerce site and the shopping experience it provides using simple options and visual cues. You access all features via a dashboard through which you can change all the essential elements of your website design, including layout or pages.

Advanced Integration

One of Shopify's advantages is advanced integration. For example, you can integrate it with Amazon to create a sales channel that tracks all your Amazon sales. You can then use the built-in forecasting and analytics to optimize this channel. Shopify also integrates beautifully with Facebook, allowing customers to browse your products using a Shop section on your Facebook page.

What's more, with Shopify you can enable customers to discover and even buy products using Messenger. Customers can also ask questions using Messenger, and in return, they receive automated responses, get automated order tracking, and more.

User-Friendly

ECommerce platforms come in many shapes and sizes.

Thanks to its drag and drop interface and simple theme editing, Shopify is remarkably user-friendly. This is in fact why so many people have adopted it as their main shopping tool. The Shopify dashboard or backend is one of the best-polished dashboards you can find. It's simple, intuitive, and a pleasure to use.

There are no redundant settings or unnecessary menus so that you can find your way around it with ease, whether you want to change how your site looks, generate a sales report, or review your inventory. From the initial setup down to the minute design changes you can make to your site, Shopify remains user-friendly throughout. You probably won't even need the manual to use it.

The frontend, or the shopping experience your customers get, is just as smooth.

Integrated POS

Shopify's POS system enables you to run a brick-and-mortar and SEO shop at the same time without any difficulties. It integrates smoothly your online and offline operations to improve customer satisfaction. This means using the same inventory for both stores, doing customer segmentation, and more.

It does this without the need for a massive investment in hardware or new dependencies. If you don't have a POS system already, or if you're not happy with it, Shopify offers you a viable alternative.

Free to Try For Two Weeks
ECommerce platforms come in many shapes and sizes.

You can try Shopify for free for 14 days, during which you can access all of its features. Fourteen days is more than enough to get a feel for what Shopify is capable of and explore its whole range of features. Ideally, you want to try running your store with it to get a sense of its true power.

In terms of pricing, Shopify isn't the cheapest eCommerce platform around, but considering its wide range of features, it offers good value for the money. Shopify pricing is subscription-based and starts at $29 per month, plus a 2,9%+30 cents credit card rate. The credit card rate may make you uneasy, but on the other hand, you can manage an unlimited number of products with Shopify regardless of the subscription you choose.

The major difference between different subscription plans is in the number of accounts you can use -- from 2 to 15 -- and some more advanced features like abandoned cart recovery, advanced reporting, or third-party shipping rates calculator. There is no setup fee, and hosting costs are covered. Keep in mind that, depending on where you live, you may have to pay some extra sales taxes. If you pay your plan upfront, you get a 10% discount for an annual payment and a 20% discount for a biennial plan.

SEO-Optimized

Shopify comes out of the box with all the essential search engine optimization your store needs to rank well in Google and other search engines. With Shopify, it's easy to edit tags and meta descriptions, customize pages URLs and file names, and add ALT tags to product images. Other SEO benefits that come with choosing Shopify are fast, fully-responsive themes, mobile support, and excellent social media integration, all of which can give your search engine ranking that boost that often makes the difference between a sale and a failed deal. For an online shop, SEO optimization can be a time-consuming process, which is why Shopify gets bonus points for making it so much easier.

Professional Templates

The nine free themes that Shopify offers come with plenty customization options, including different layouts, header and banner support, and customizable sidebar. This enables you to give your site a unique identity without a massive investment in a professional theme. Still, Shopify features a theme store with plenty of professional themes you can choose from. At $140+, Shopify themes aren't cheap, but you do get quality for what you pay.

That said, you shouldn't expect from Shopify themes, not even premium ones, unlimited customization options. If you're very specific about theme customization, you may come across at some point over a theme limitation that will make you regret you're not using Magento. Shopify themes, and the platform as a whole is designed to be user-friendly, and that comes at the cost of limited options.

Customer Support

ECommerce platforms come in many shapes and sizes.

Shopify provides 24/7 customer support through phone, live chat, and email. Judging by the reputation of its customer support team, you can count on Shopify to fix any issue that may be interfering with your customer experience or the way you manage your shop. Shopify support is quite responsive, and won't be running you through a long or frustrating ticketing process. Considering that site errors in the world of eCommerce can ruin the reputation of any shop, the prompt and reliable support service Shopify is known to provide brings you peace of mind. If your business is too small to maintain a dedicated customer support team, Shopify is a great choice, as their technical team takes care of all the technical issues for you.

Magento

Magento is one of the most powerful and flexible eCommerce platforms ever developed. It allows for an unprecedented depth of customization, which means you can turn your online store into anything you want. It does not have the limitations that Shopify or other eCommerce platforms have. With it, you can change the essential code on which your site is based and customize every aspect of it, from the size of your main menu and product description images to how social media is integrated into your site.

The downside to all this is that Magento isn't the most user-friendly eCommerce platform around. While a web developer or site builder won't have a hard time finding its way around all of Magento's features, a store owner of business manager will hit a technical barrier pretty soon. Even though there are plenty of tutorials and help guides online, it's very difficult to take advantage of Magento's true power to craft a custom site that customers will love returning to. Unlike content management systems like WordPress and other site builders, Magento is built specially for eCommerce. Here are the key benefits you can expect from Magento.

Open Source

ECommerce platforms come in many shapes and sizes.

Magento Community Edition is free to download and use. There are no subscription fees, monthly fees, or any other costs beyond web hosting and what you pay for development if you choose someone to develop your site for you. Many of the Magento extensions -- and there are thousands of them -- are free to download, so you can extend the functionality of your site in any way you need to. Excluding setup and technical maintenance costs, Magento can prove to be a more affordable web store solution that Shopify, which comes with monthly costs and heavy transaction fees.

Magento is also available as paid Enterprise-grade software. Enterprise Edition and Enterprise Cloud Edition both build upon the core features of the platform a richer user experience optimized for large catalogs of products and advanced marketing and analytics. To find out how much these editions cost, you can contact Magento for a quote. For most businesses, though, the Community Edition is more than sufficient.

Full Customization

In terms of customization, Magento is truly exhaustive. With it, you can create a customer experience that offers unrivaled eCommerce functionality. Go beyond layout and design customizations to change the way customers discover and view your products. You can integrate advanced marketing functionality and customer segmentation, optimize your site for search engines and mobile users, create and manage sales and promotions, and more, all this without any heavy dependence on a particular extension or add-on.

Great Built-in Checkout

ECommerce platforms come in many shapes and sizes.

Since the launch of Magento 2, the platform provides a two-step checkout that's much faster than the old checkout. This is a crucial feature for any web store. Magento has made the checkout process as simple as possible, enabling even customers who are not logged on a site to order products. This can make all the difference between a customer that changes his mind in the last moment, and a new order ready for processing. The checkout is also mobile friendly.

Remarkably Extensible

Magento is powered by a large community of enthusiastic developers who maintain a large collection of plugins and extensions. Out of the box, Magento Community Edition comes with all the basic functionality you need to create a rich web store experience with a fast checkout and an easy navigation. But its true power comes from its beautiful integration with a wealth of extensions that offer social media integration, barcode scanning systems, advanced marketing tools, shipment tracking, and more. These extensions are by no means cheap -- expect to pay up to a few hundreds of dollars for the more advanced ones -- but they deliver on their promises.

Great SEO

In terms of SEO functionality, Magento is probably the best eCommerce platform around. But there's a catch. You have to do most of the SEO configuration yourself, on each page of your site. For those who are not initiated to basic SEO, this process can be challenging. You need to be familiar with more than the basic principles of SEO to harness the power of the SEO functionality that Magento offers. But if you do have the time and the knowledge for this, Magento helps your maximize your on-page SEO to rank higher in Google and other search engines.

Shopify and Magento Side By Side

Now that we've taken a look at the strong points of both Shopify and Magento, let's compare them side by side for key considerations such as Ease of Use, Customer Support, Features, or Price.

ECommerce platforms come in many shapes and sizes.

Ease of Use

Shopify is designed to be easy to use. While Magento's dashboard and interface have gotten a lot better since the release of the latest version, the platform continues to have a steep learning curve due to its high number of features. If you're looking for the simplest possible user experience, with a mostly automated setup and a drag and drop site builder, Shopify is the way to go.

Functionality

Magento brings you all the features you could expect from an eCommerce platform. Shopify, on the other hand, strikes a good balance between features and ease of use. It can't provide the same deep functionality that Magento has without losing its ease of use, and that's something you should keep in mind. Shopify isn't just a cloud alternative to Magento -- for all its extensions, it's lighter and may make a web developer feel limited by the freedom and options it gives him.

Features

One of the main reasons both Shopify and Magento are so popular is their wealth of features. These two eCommerce platforms really have it all, from smooth shopping carts to in-depth social media and marketing integration. In terms of essential features, you can expect the same level of quality from both. But in terms of raw power, Magento wins the contest, unsurprisingly so, since it was built for providing web developers with all the features they need to create rich web stores.

Customer Support

Shopify offers a dedicated customer support team that solves your problems quickly and effectively. Even if you ask them questions that are not strictly their domain, they may offer you guidance. With Magento, things are different. The free, Community Edition does not include any dedicated support. Instead, you can use the many free resources available to solve your problem. You can browse the web for solutions or ask in specialized forums and groups.

Considering just how big and dedicated to Magento the community behind it is, finding a solution to your problems won't be too hard. But searching for one will take time and may prove frustrating at times -- it's good to factor that in before using Magento. One way to overcome that problem is to use a managed Magento installation service. At Interactivated, we know how nagging technical problems can be, which is why our expert Magento developers are always ready to come to your assistance.

Installation

Since Shopify is delivered as software as a service, you don't have to install it. All you have to do is build your site with a drag and drop creature and configure a few essential things about it. With Magento, however, you shouldn’t expect the same easy installation. If you're not a web developer or site builder, you will need a bit of time to complete the installation process. With the latest installment, the platform has simplified installation as well, but it's still not as user-friendly in this regard as Shopify.

Pricing

Shopify isn't free -- it's not even cheap. The monthly subscription may not seem so big, but purchase fees can easily add up, leading to substantial costs every month. With Magento Community Edition, on the other hand, you only have to pay for web hosting and any plugins you may buy. That said, thinking of Magento as free isn't necessarily a good idea, as many users end up spending money on extensions and professional maintenance for their installation. How much Magento will cost you depends ultimately on what you want to do with it.

Who Is Shopify For?

ECommerce platforms come in many shapes and sizes.

Shopify is ideal for shop owners and managers who want a streamlined solution to managing their online shop. It's for people who don't know coding and who don't have any time to waste on technical issues. It's also for users who want scalability without sacrificing features or functionality. The users who can benefit from Shopify the most include...

•    Small business owners who don't have the resources or the time to create and manage the code that powers their online presence
•    Businesses who are growing and need a scalable eCommerce solution
•    Local shop owners who also sell products online
•    One-man businesses who don't need to develop complicated online store experiences
•    Any business that prefers to have its online shop managed by a dedicated team
•    Businesses who want a mobile-responsive experience
•    Stores who sell their products to a mobile audience
•    Businesses with stores in different countries and that sell products in multiple currencies
•    Businesses that want to integrate their store experience beautifully into Facebook and other social networks

Who Is Magento For?

ECommerce platforms come in many shapes and sizes.

Magento is for businesses that want maximum eCommerce functionality and are not daunted by the technical issue this entails. It's for businesses that don't want to be limited in any way by their eCommerce platform. And since it's open-source, stores can use it to keep their eCommerce platform costs in check, enjoying all the features they need without sacrificing functionality. It's ideal for...

•    Medium-sized and large businesses who want to develop outstanding shopping experiences for their customers
•    Shop owners that want to implement specific features or functionality into their stores without any limitations
•    Businesses active in competitive markets who want to develop stores that truly stand out
•    Shop owners who want maximum control over all SEO aspects of their website
•    Any company that has the resources to cope with the technical challenges that come with managing a Magento store in the long term
•    Businesses who want to cut down eCommerce platform costs by embracing open-source philosophy
•    Web store owners with technical knowledge or who are familiar with the principles of web development

Wrapping It All Up

In the battle between Shopify and Magento, we don't have a clear winner. In fact, it's not necessarily a battle, more like two lions nearing the border of each other's territory and prowling around it cautiously, wary of their foe yet not ready for an attack. While Shopify and Magento are both eCommerce platforms with a host of overlapping features and can be used with equal success, they differ in several regards. Both of them are highly customizable in terms of the final shopping experience customers will get, but Shopify stops well above Magento.

ECommerce platforms come in many shapes and sizes.

Magento is arguably the most customizable shopping platform of its kind, but the price users have to pay is a difficult interface and plenty of setup procedures that will daunt the average user. It's not that a Magento installation is hard to set up or use, but it was built for web developers and site builders who want maximum power and optimal performance. It's intended to be that way and its developers have not taken any shortcuts to provide site builders with all the complex functionality they need to craft compelling web stores.

Shopify and Magento are both complete eCommerce solutions for businesses big and small. Whether you choose one or the other, you can expect a polished and reliable platform with all the functionality you need to run and grow a successful store. They are powered by vibrant communities and live up to their promises in a way that not many other shopping platforms do. But they ultimately target different audiences, and that makes direct comparisons between them somewhat forced.

Shopify is for people who want to set up a professional online shop fast and run it without worrying about the backend. It's for small stores, local businesses, startups, and any business that needs a user-friendly platform. It knows after what features to draw a line to keep the platform clean and well-organized. Ultimately, it offers a web store model that has been proven to work time and time again and that can be hard to resist for store owners who want their stuff to be shared online.

Magento is for building unique stores with advanced features. It's not so much about usability as it is about customization. In this sense, it's more a platform for web developers and site builders than for the average business owner, who may easily get lost among its many and varied features. Magento adds a depth of personalization to the store-building experience that no other eCommerce platform can. More than just a piece of software, it's a suite of tools that tech-savvy store owners can use to get their message across and sell more products.

If you're not sure whether to choose Shopify or Magento, you should try them both and see which one you feel most comfortable with. Just because Magento offers more customization options, or Shopify makes running an online store so easy doesn't mean that you can't use one for the other successfully. Try Shopify for free for 14 days and download Magento Community Edition to get started with them now. With these great eCommerce shopping platforms on your side, selling online has never been easier, or more fruitful.

If you already use Shopify or Magento, or want to switch to a managed plan, we can help you create the web store you envision. Tell us your ideas and let us transform them into a beautiful shop experience that people will continue to come back to.

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By interactivated • on May 28, 2017

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