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Magento vs Shopify - what will work best for your business?

March 19, 2020

At NB, we specialise in Shopify ecommerce. Indeed, we are a Scottish Shopify Expert agency. However, we are well aware that other ecommerce platforms exist and that Magento, in particular, is very popular. In this blog post we take a quick look at the comparative merits of Magento and Shopify.

If you are an existing Magento customer, you'll probably be aware that from June 2020 its popular ecommerce platform Magento 1 will no longer be supported. Having announced the product’s end of life back in 2017, the company made a commitment to help customers migrate to its Magento 2 platform. Yet, worryingly, a number of retailers have yet to switch to the new version, putting their website’s security and performance at risk.

If your business currently uses Magento 1 and you’re thinking of upgrading, it might be a good time to consider all your options. Could it be time to switch to a new platform altogether? One that’s more geared up for your business and customer needs?

Magento and Shopify are two of the biggest players in the ecommerce market. Magento is an open-source platform that you host on your own server, while Shopify is a software-as-a-service – a hosted solution that you pay a monthly subscription for. Both have their pros and cons, as we've highlighted in brief here...

Pros of Magento

It’s flexible. With Magento, as it’s an open-source platform, there’s no limit to the features and functions you can add to your retail store over time, including integrating modules from third-party technology providers. Shopify, meanwhile, is a semi-closed system meaning that some areas, such as checkout, are less customisable on the basic package.

It’s widely used. Magento continues to be a popular platform and so there’s lots of free forums and support you can access online to troubleshoot any issues and get answers to your queries. Lots of developers are also proficient in it, meaning you should easily be able to find someone who can help you develop your site.

It’s easily scalable. Whether you’re selling 10 products or 1,000, have 20 customers or 20,000, Magento can handle thousands of products and multiple transactions with ease.

Cons of Magento

It’s not intuitive. Unless you’re a developer, Magento isn’t the easiest platform to manage. Getting to grips with it can be time consuming and frustrating if you don’t have coding expertise. It’s not an easy to use, off-the-shelf product that you can just switch on and use.

It can get expensive. Like Wordpress, Magento Open Source is a free platform to download but, unless you’re a coding whizz, you’ll need to pay a developer to create the online shopping experience you want. Additional costs for configuration and hosting will also be involved, meaning the costs add up pretty quickly. So, for a platform that is theoretically "free", you could end up spending tens of thousands.

Support is limited. Although there’s a huge online community of Magento fans, the company don’t provide 24-hour phone support, live chat or email. This means if you get stuck, you’ll need to search online for a solution or pay someone to help.

Pros of Shopify

It’s easy to use. Shopify has a straightforward user interface, which means you don’t need to know code to be able to use it. After the initial set-up, you should be able to upload products and prices on a day-to-day basis without expert help.

Costs don’t stack up. Shopify is designed as a software-as-a-service, meaning that they host your online store for you. You pay a monthly subscription service to access the software, and this starts from just $29 for a basic package. The only costs you need to be mindful of are if you use payment gateways, like Paypal, as Shopify will take a percentage of each transaction. Or, if you add lots of additional third-party apps to extend Shopify's default functionality.

24/7 support. Shopify’s customer service is great and you can troubleshoot any issues relatively easily by contacting their web support team or phoning their helpline, or contacting your Shopify Expert. Also, because they host the platform for you, you don’t have to deal with any hosting issues yourself.

An excellent app. The Shopify app allows you to easily manage orders, customers, update product details, discount codes and inventory levels, from your mobile device. And every time you receive an order you get a pleasing notification!

Cons of Shopify

It’s not multi-lingual. If you’re selling internationally, you’ll need to incorporate a third-party app to accommodate other languages, as this functionality isn’t automatically built in.

It's less flexible. With Shopify's templates there are some standardised elements (e.g. checkout layout) that can't be entirely customised in the same way as Magento templates. This means a lot of Shopify stores are similar in terms of functionality. But, once you add your own corporate branding and imagery to your site this shouldn't be an issue.

You can't offer multiple customer discounts. Only one discount per order is available by default. Some extensions, like a Script Editor, can be used for multiple discounts feature, but only if you subscribe to a Shopify Plus plan.

Conclusion

Both Magento and Shopify are tried and tested ecommerce platforms that can support any online business. Shopify is ideal if you’re a small to medium-sized business looking for easy-to-use ecommerce software that has all the basic functionality to carry out online transactions. The ability to use pre-existing themes means you can get up and running without huge investment, and many Shopify users will find that the overall ease of use will save them lots of time, which can have a hugely positive impact on your business. The fact you don’t have to host your site and just pay a monthly fee is also a bonus, as it limits the site maintenance you have to do and you can keep track of costs. Magento, however, is a good solution for bigger businesses who may have complex ecommerce needs and need a more bespoke solution.

NB are official Shopify Experts. We design and develop online stores for many of our clients and find that it is more than capable of handling their ecommerce needs. To find out more about this platform, do get in touch and we’ll happily talk you through its capabilities.

March 19, 2020

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