What Is Magento?

If you’re thinking about starting an ecommerce business, you may have heard of Magento® — one of the most popular ecommerce platforms available today. But, you also may wonder if it’s the right platform for you and your business.

This article will help you understand the Magento platform, including what it offers, the pros and cons of using it, and its costs. By the end, you’ll see why world-renowned companies like Ford Motor Co., Christian Louboutin, Bed Bath & Beyond®, and Canon® all use the Magento platform.


Magento 101

Magento is an ecommerce content management system (CMS). In more simple terms, Magento provides business owners with the technology they need to successfully run an online store. As the website administrator, you can manage your product catalog, create and edit landing pages, and use ecommerce-specific marketing tools required to gain a competitive edge in your market.

As an incredibly popular ecommerce platform, Magento regularly ranks among the top three ecommerce platforms available today. Magento’s primary competitors include Shopify® and WooCommerce® — both of which offer an easier-to-use platform than Magento. But, Magento is infinitely more customizable than its competitors because it’s based on open-source software.

The Magento platform truly delivers the online shopping cart system you’ll need while also providing customization, marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO) tools. You can choose from two versions: Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce. While this article will primarily cover Magento Open Source, it’s important to know a few differences between the two.

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Magento Open Source

Previously called Magento Community Edition, Magento Open Source is literally an open-source, ecommerce platform. The term “open source” simply means users have the ability to modify the source code used to create the platform. This makes the platform endlessly customizable. If needed, business owners can hire programmers to make source-code edits required to ensure their online stores run exactly how they want.

You can download and use Magento Open Source for free, but you must purchase your domain name and web hosting package separately. Once you sign up with a web host, you can install Magento through your host’s cPanel® software or via file transfer protocol (FTP). You’ll find a number of extensions and themes available for this platform as well, making Magento Open Source the best choice for most small businesses.

Magento Commerce

Unlike Magento Open Source, Magento Commerce includes cloud-hosting services and a number of advanced features as part of its premium service. Adobe® owns Magento Commerce and, while new users must obtain a quote directly from Adobe, prices tend to start around $22,000 per year. Although this premium ecommerce platform and its features work well for large businesses and online stores, the price point puts it out of reach for many small businesses.

Magento Features

Magento Open Source includes a number of features that small ecommerce businesses will find helpful. Some of the most popular features include product and product category management, order and inventory management, payment platform integration, shopper accounts, and analytical tools.

Using Magento’s product and product category management feature, businesses can list their products, include multiple photos, and classify them according to user-specified categories. With its order and inventory management feature, business owners can track and manage an order through the fulfillment process and update their inventory accordingly.

Magento’s payment platform integration tools enable businesses to accept several different payment methods on this platform. To enhance the overall user experience, shoppers can set up their own accounts and view past orders, update their shipping and payment preferences, and more.

Magento also offers a number of marketing and analytical tools that business owners can leverage to improve their conversion rate.

Magento Benefits

As you begin to build your ecommerce website, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons of various platforms before choosing the one you want to use. Some of Magento’s key benefits include:

  • It’s easy to install.
  • It’s highly customizable.
  • It’s mobile-responsive. Because all websites will, ideally, enable visitors to easily view them on mobile phones and tablets, Magento sites have a design that gives users a great, mobile-shopping experience.
  • It’s SEO-friendly. Business owners can access their site maps, create unique URLs, establish a clear navigational structure, and more.
  • You can accept several different payment methods. Magento Open Source also connects with the most popular payment gateways.
  • It’s essentially free. You’ll have to purchase a domain name and web hosting package, but you can download and use Magento Open Source at no cost.
  • You can choose your own web hosting provider. Whether you prefer GoDaddy®, Bluehost®, or another provider, you can select the host that offers the best package for your needs.

Magento Drawbacks

Although Magento provides a number of attractive benefits, it also has some drawbacks business owners must carefully consider before choosing this platform. Magento’s main drawbacks include:

  • It’s not as easy to use as other platforms. You’ll most likely need to possess — or have time to develop — some coding skills to get the most out of your Magento website.
  • It’s slower than other platforms. When you create an ecommerce website with Magento, the website builder may feel sluggish when compared to other platforms like Shopify. Some users may find this frustrating.
  • You may need to hire a developer. In order to create the online store experience you envision, you may need the help of a Magento developer. That can get quite expensive.
  • Its extensions, apps, and plug-ins can add up quickly. By the time you add all the functionality you want to your website, you could spend hundreds — or even thousands — of additional dollars.
  • It has limited customer support. If you need help with your Magento store, you’ll most likely need to source that help from a developer or the Magento community.

Final Thoughts

Magento is one of the world’s most popular ecommerce platforms. It offers business owners the tools they need to build a successful ecommerce website.

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Ready to start your ecommerce website?

Before selecting Magento as your ecommerce platform, it’s important to consider the alternatives. Read our Magento vs. Shopify article to see how the two titans of ecommerce stack up against each other.

Magento vs. Shopify

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Magento and Shopify?

Magento and Shopify are two of the world’s most popular ecommerce platforms. Read a full comparison of the two in our Magento vs. Shopify article.

How much is Magento per month?

Magento Open Source is free to the public. But, Magento Open Source users must purchase their domain name and web hosting package separately. To learn more, read this detailed review of the best web hosting providers.

What is Magento Community Edition?

Magento Community Edition is the former name of Magento Open Source. Despite that name’s retirement, you may still hear developers and websites use it out of habit.