Magento vs. Shopify - 2017 eCommerce Platform Review

If you’ve just started a business, you’ll soon find out that choosing a company name isn’t your biggest woe. You probably have a pretty good idea on what your brick and mortar store should look like. But what about your online store?

Whether you’re an established business or a startup, choosing an ecommerce platform can be a pain. In essence, they all do the same - you list your products, take payments and ship out goods. There’s a host of ways to sell online, and we’re bringing you two heavyweights today: Magento and Shopify. Why these two in particular? They have huge user bases and while seemingly similar in the way they work, Magento and Shopify are vastly different.

 

Introduction: Magento

There’s a couple things to know about Magento. First, it was owned by eBay up until recently. Second, it has lots of users - over 250,000 websites run on this platform, and 178 of the top 1000 retailers in USA use Magento.

 

 

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Flexibility is the name of the game here: one of the essential features of this software is that it’s open source. This means that you can go wild with customizations and create exactly the kind of shop you need. This comes at a price, but we’ll discuss that later on. If you use Magento, you’re rubbing shoulders with giants - it has quite a list of clients. Some of the Magento users include Samsung, Nike, Ford, 3M and Nestle.

 

Introduction: Shopify

On the face of it, Shopify seems similar to Magento. It also has a vast client base (over 500,000 online shops) and is fairly easy to use. You can also customize it with around 1500 different plugins.

 

 

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Some of the companies using Shopify include Tesla, Budweiser and The Economist. It’s also popular with celebs, as Lady Gaga and Adele run Shopify stores, among others.

 

Ease of use

This is where Magento and Shopify take very different directions. When it comes to user experience, Shopify doesn’t require lots of work. From the very start, things are kept simple. Setting up the store will take less than half an hour, complete with entering the domain info. All that’s left is loading up your products and entering descriptions and images. Depending on the number of products and the text volume, this can take different amounts of time. However, Shopify makes the process super simple.

Magento on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. Unlike Shopify, it doesn’t come complete with web hosting. This means that you will have to download it and install it on your server. Speaking of installing, it’s best if you have some web development experience. Otherwise, you will end up taking a few hours to install.

If you’re not tech-savvy, setting up Magento will feel incredibly complicated, so it may be best to get someone else to do it for you. The plugins and addons are not easy to set up either. However, once you get through the initial issues, you’re good to go. For example, this page has almost 100 reviews with the majority of them listing that ease of use is a problem. In fact, no matter where you look online, all Magento testimonials and reviews will mention that it has a very steep learning curve.

Magento is easy to use when it comes to adding products, entering descriptions, managing shipping options and more. In essence, get someone else to set it up, then take over and you’re all set.

 

Customization

As we’ve mentioned, both platforms allow you to customize your stores to your liking. Shopify has a theme store where you can purchase ready made themes. At the moment of writing, the selection is not exactly broad, with a total of 61 themes. There are 10 free themes and 51 paid ones, ranging from $140 to $180. However, choosing one of these means you run the risk of having a store that looks similar to everything else out there. To get truly unique results, you will have to delve in editing HTML.

You can take a look at their App Store and find a host of tools you can integrate into your shop. These are neatly organized into categories such as Marketing, Sales, Social Media, Shipping and more. Many of the apps are free, while some cost up to $99 per month - something to bear in mind when calculating the final cost.

Some good apps include Exit Offers, a popup that nudges your abandoning customers and gives them a special offer. If you know the value of SEO, you will appreciate the Alt Text image optimizer. It automatically inserts alt text descriptions for images in your store. This is very useful if you have large inventories and don’t have time to enter descriptions manually. Yotpo Reviews is another must-have, as it allows your customers to leave reviews, either on site or by email. You can then share these easily on social media.

Magento’s customization possibilities are virtually endless. Since the software is open-source, this means that you can edit whatever you want to your liking. There’s just one problem - you need to have excellent knowledge of HTML and CSS in order to do any of this. You can edit anything from design, themes, payment gateways, extensions - you name it, it can be done. In fact, there are thousands of companies out there offering Magento customization services.

If you’re looking for more of a cookie-cutter solution, Shopify is the easier of the two. It’s easier to set up and run extensions for an average user. On the other hand, Magento’s possibilities are astounding, but you will need help from an expert to unlock its full potential.

 

Pricing

Shopify comes with only three pricing plans: Basic Shopify ($29), Shopify ($79) and Advanced Shopify ($299). The prices are for monthly subscriptions.

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The basic plan allows for 2 users and unlimited number of products and files you can store. The standard plan increases the user number to 5 and offers some handy extra features, such as gift cards, professional reports and recovering an abandoned cart. The most expensive plan gives access to 15 users at a time and offers features such as advanced reporting and third-party shipping calculation.

However, there is another aspect of pricing to consider. When taking payments, if you use the Shopify gateway, there are no extra fees. On the other hand, if you use an external payment gateway such as Paypal or Stripe (along with a list of 100 others), you will have to pay fees on every transaction. This comes in at 2% for the basic plan, 1% for the standard and 0.5% for the advanced plan. Depending on the size of your business, this can grow to staggering amounts, so it’s worth considering before choosing Shopify.

On the other hand, Magento is a bit pricier. You can get a 30-day free trial, but you have to choose one of the two plans: Magento Commerce Starter and Magento Commerce Pro. 

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Magento Commerce Starter kicks off at $1,988 per month and will get you the basic eCommerce features. These are standard, such as promotions, catalog management, shipping and others. On the other hand, Magento Commerce Pro will give you a detailed reporting system, and a dedicated launch manager. This means that you will get help with installing and running Magento from the moment you start your subscription until your site goes live.

 

Role Models

Given how widespread Shopify is, there are lots of sites using it, some really good and some really bad. Here’s a few that will give you an idea on how to use Shopify well.

Tattly is a super cool business that sells temporary tattoos designed by real artists. For those who want a tattoo at a fraction of the price, without the pain and commitment (and potential regret), this is a great choice. Their shop looks and works like a charm. We’d like to point out the sleek graphics for each item, as well as the ability to share products to Pinterest.

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If you’re looking for new threads, we have a place for you. GothRider was built with Shopify and it looks amazing. Their store is super easy to navigate and comes with a bunch of features to help you figure out sizes, colors and other details. When you visit their homepage, there’s a notification bar in the lower right at all times. It gives you live updates when someone orders something - along with the item and the location of the buyer. Say Jurgen from Germany bought a cool pair of boots - you will click to see what they look like out of curiosity. There’s also another reason we think GothRider is cool - they got over 75,000 leads using LeadQuizzes for their site.

Another great store to check out is Bourbon and Boots, built on the Shopify platform. Technically immaculate, their store is a joy to browse and use. They also ran our quizzes (7 different versions!) and had great success capturing leads. 

gothrider shop screenshot

 

A really cool store set up on Magento is BrewShop. Based in New Zealand, these guys sell home brew supplies for folks looking to make great beer from their home. Everything is on point - the choice of fonts, colors, layout, shipping forms, product pages. They also succesfully integrated a blog a resources/FAQ page on their site.

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For those whose shopping is a bit more quaint, check out Soak & Sleep. This UK-based store sells bedding, furniture, bathroom accessories and much, much more. This site shows how you can list a wide variety of products with ease, and combine it with a great use of coupons, discounts, deals and many other elements. There’s everything you need on the site homepage: coupons, testimonials, live customer support chat, user submitted photo gallery… A host of custom Magento features. 

soak and sleep screenshot

 

Are there some other options I should consider?

Sure, these aren’t the only two possible choices. BigCommerce is definitely worth taking a look. It has over 55,000 online stores at the moment, ranging from small eCommerce to big companies such as Motorola and Ben & Jerry.

If you’re running your site on Wordpress, one of the most convenient solutions is WooCommerce. It’s a free Wordpress plugin with lots of features such as reporting, managing your inventory and taking credit card payments.

Volusion is another feature-rich ecommerce platform. It’s self hosted and simple to use both for customers and store owners. In addition to the standard features, it also has a CRM system.

 

Which software is better for whom?

Given these outlines, it’s not hard to draw conclusions. Shopify is for you if you have a small-to-mid-size store and you’re on a budget. It offers lots of possibilities for tinkering and getting the store you want, while doing the bulk of the work yourself.

Magento is for you if you have the technical know-how to set up a store on your own. It is suited for mid-to-large-sized stores with a large customer base. If you have the need to tweak your store to the finest details, and the resources to pay for a good web developer, Magento is the better choice of the two.

 

No matter what ecommerce platform you use, generating more leads is always a problem. One strategy that many ecommerce businesses are using to generate tens of thousands of leads is quizzes. LeadQuizzes can help you set up a high converting quiz in minutes, without writing a single line of code. Try us out today for free!

 

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