Our Pick for Best Website Builder: Shopify
While we chose Shopify as the overall winner, it was an exceptionally close call. Your specific business requirements should, ultimately, help you decide which of these ecommerce platforms will best meet your needs.
Shopify’s exceptional ease of use — even for beginners — and extensive customer support strongly influenced our decision. Shopify also includes web hosting and, in accordance with modern business requirements, themes that all feature a mobile-responsive design.
Key Comparison: Magento vs. Shopify
If you plan to start an online store, you’ll face a range of options for your ecommerce platform.
To help you more easily assess the suitability of these leading platforms for your business, our research focused on the factors that matter most:
- How easy is it to use as you launch your online store?
- What sales features, as well as search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing tools, does it offer?
- What are the available payment options and transaction fees?
- Does it offer customer support?
- How much does it cost to launch and maintain an online store with each platform?
Ease of Use: Magento
Ease of use is vital for beginners while experienced ecommerce entrepreneurs may prefer a platform that offers more features.
Ease of Use
You’ll need at least some coding skills in order to build an online store with Magento’s user interface. If you find the learning curve too steep, you can hire a developer to build your store. But, Magento offers greater flexibility because it provides more customization options.
Magento isn’t a hosted platform so you must source your own website hosting. Before you start building your online store, you also must install Magento and complete any needed configurations.
Magento offers ready-made store themes, which are easy to use and start at around $100, as well as custom themes, which are more expensive and require some coding.
Apps and Plug-Ins
With Magento, you can install extensions, apps, and plug-ins to add extra functionality to your online store. Of the more than 5,000 available extensions, nearly half are free. If you want to integrate your store with Facebook, that will cost $199.
You can find extensions, apps, and plug-ins for just about anything you wish to add to your online store, including these popular options:
- Amasty Multiple Coupons: This adds custom discount coupons to encourage repeat purchases.
- Product Pre-Order: This automatically emails customers with new products.
Magento also enables you to customize your blogging functionality so it stands out from your competitors.
Ease of Use
With Shopify, you get everything on one platform. Its website builder uses drag-and-drop functionality, allowing you to customize your online store with all the basic features. It also has a “wizard” mode to assist beginners.
Because the Shopify platform includes web hosting, you don’t need to choose a separate web host for your online store.
Shopify offers 10 free themes as well as 64 premium (paid) themes, starting at $140. It’s easy to customize Shopify themes because you can tailor your chosen template. Specifically, you can add new pages, integrate social media feeds, change colors, as well as move and resize individual elements.
All Shopify themes are mobile-responsive so they look great on smartphones and tablets.
Apps and Plug-Ins
The Shopify app store features more than 1,200 free and premium apps and plug-ins to help you improve your email marketing, social media advertising, and shipping. Shopify carefully vets each featured app and plug-in to ensure you can safely install them on your ecommerce site.
Some of the most popular options include:
- Analytics Buddy: This free app provides useful insights from Google Analytics on your dashboard.
- Trust Hero: This free app displays security badges on your site to encourage customers to finalize their orders.
- Trackr Order Tracking: This premium app (from $9 per month) automatically sends tracking updates to your customers about their orders.
The Shopify platform also includes an integrated, easy-to-use blogging function, but it doesn’t offer as much customization as you’ll find with Magento.
What Sales Features as Well as SEO and Marketing Tools Does It Offer?
Magento allows you to install extensions that’ll integrate Facebook, Instagram, and eBay with your online store, but you must pay for them. Its inventory system also has some powerful, built-in features that provide total revenue reports, total visitor counts, and bulk product imports from a database.
This platform also enables you to create a unique checkout for your online store, set discounts by a percentage or a fixed price, and add an abandoned cart recovery feature.
SEO and Marketing Tools
Magento offers useful SEO guides as well as several built-in features that help users excel at SEO. For example, the platform allows you to edit image alt tags and customize URLs to make it easy for online search engines to find your online store’s web pages.
Users must install most marketing tools as extensions from the Magento Marketplace, and some require technical knowledge to provide specific features. For example, you’ll need to install an extension like Remarkety if you want to run email campaigns on the Magento platform.
Shopify has some impressive sales features, including a built-in capability that enables your online store to sell on multiple channels. With Shopify, you won’t pay anything extra to sell your products on Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
This platform allows you to sell both digital and physical products. It also saves you the hassle of finding a courier service to deliver your products because it already has partnerships with DHL, Canada Post, the U.S. Postal Service, and UPS.
In addition, Shopify’s abandoned cart recovery feature allows you to recover potential customers by sending them an email reminder about their abandoned cart.
SEO and Marketing Tools
While Shopify users must rely more on apps to support their SEO efforts, they can make basic changes like editing image alt tags and page titles within the platform.
Shopify enables users to advertise directly on multichannel platforms. It also supports sites in various languages: up to two languages with its mid-range Shopify plan and five with its Advanced Shopify plan. In addition, you can use a variety of third-party integrations for email campaigns with Constant Contact, Seguno, and others.
What Are the Available Payment Options and Transaction Fees?
Magento makes it easy to accept online payments because it supports more than 150 payment gateways. Many of these target large businesses, such as Worldpay. You also can install and integrate Stripe, Square, or another payment processing app from the Magento Marketplace.
In addition, Magento allows you to sell directly through Amazon so you can reach more customers while still using your inventory on Magento.
The only transaction fees you pay when using Magento are those charged by the payment gateway provider.
Shopify offers free transaction fees to sellers that use its proprietary payment processor, Shopify Payments. But, users must still pay the regular credit card processing fees.
If you decide to use a different payment processor, Shopify will charge additional fees according to your Shopify plan.
- Basic Shopify plan: 2 percent
- Shopify plan: 1 percent
- Advanced Shopify plan: 0.5 percent
With more than 100 different payment gateways from which to choose, Shopify gives users many popular options like PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and Stripe.
Does It Offer Customer Support?
Magento lacks a dedicated support service beyond what you receive from your web hosting provider. Most hosting providers do, however, configure their servers to maximize Magento’s performance.
This community-based platform does offer some very informative guides created by other Magento developers, including step-by-step guides for building your online store.
Shopify offers many support options through various channels, including 24/7 phone support, live chat, social media messaging, video tutorials, and advanced specialist support.
How Much Does It Cost To Launch and Maintain an Online Store With Each Platform?
As a self-hosted platform, Magento is free to install. After installation, your costs will include web hosting fees paid to your hosting provider, security fees, extension purchases, and theme purchases. Depending on which extensions and themes you use, you may have a low or high monthly cost to use Magento.
Magento users also must register their domain names with a domain registrar and pay an annual registration fee.
Magento offers a customized plan called Enterprise for large businesses with pricing based on a company’s specific needs.
As a hosted platform, Shopify covers all hosting costs within your monthly plan. It has three plan tiers from which to choose with fixed monthly rates:
- Basic Shopify plan: $29 per month
- Shopify plan: $79 per month
- Advanced Shopify plan: $299 per month
Shopify also includes a free secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate with all plans, doesn’t charge any bandwidth usage fees, and offers a 14-day, free trial period.
You may opt to buy a specific theme on Shopify, but you’ll find plenty of free themes to work with as well.
Magento and Shopify both offer excellent options for building your online store. Deciding which will work best for your business will depend on if you prefer a fully hosted and managed platform or one that requires some technical expertise to use.
If ease of use is your top priority then Shopify is the clear winner. You can build and launch an online store on this platform much faster than on Magento with readily available customer support.
Magento, on the other hand, is ideal for business owners willing to take their time building bespoke online stores that stand out from the competition. If you lack the technical know-how to create your dream store on Magento, you can hire a web developer or rely on help from other expert developers on Magento forums.
Shopify offers an all-in-one payment option that’s convenient and allows users to choose a plan that fits their budget based on their unique business needs.
If you’re willing to put in more time and money, then Magento will enable you to create an online store with unlimited customization.