Magento vs Shopify

Choosing the right ecommerce platform is critical for your business. If you get this part of your online strategy wrong, it can be almost impossible to put right. Limited budgets and time constraints may make reversing a bad decision even harder. That’s why, together with our other articles (reviewing Magento alongside other ecommerce platforms), we’ve created this Shopify and Magento comparison guide. As two of the most popular, feature-rich development suites out there, you’ll almost certainly come across them when looking for your new ecommerce platform.

In the following article we’ll cover:

1. What features the two platforms share in common
2. How user friendly the two platforms are
3. What kind of support you can expect from both packages
4. How much your set-up costs are likely to be
5. The long term scalability of each product

To begin though, we’ll give a brief outline of each platform’s history and core feature set.

Magento Commerce

Founded in 2008, Magento develops ecommerce software with regular updates and security patches. Its most recent paid platform, Magento Commerce offers a host of features. These include, but are not limited to, PCI compliant payment systems, marketing tools for promotions, shipping integrations, shopping cart customisation, content management system (CMS) and more.

Shopify Plus

Launched in 2006, Shopify Plus is an ecommerce platform which allows everyday users to build their own ecommerce store. With a feature list including multi-channel Integration, payment gateways, partnered shipping, plus out of the-box-themes, it comes with everything you need to get you started.

Though both platforms come with free and paid versions, it’s the paid professional instalments we’ll be comparing below, focusing on the latest versions of the two software packages.

Magento vs. Shopify: Comparison

  Magento (Commerce Edition) Shopify (Shopify Plus)
SEO functionality Integrated SEO tools Integrated SEO tools
Multi-language support Yes. Multi-lingual support as standard No direct support. Third-party/paid apps must be installed
Payment gateways All major payment gateways included All major payment gateways included. But transaction fee applies
Inventory management Unlimited number of products/SKUs Unlimited number of products/SKUs
Themes and templates Premium themes for Magento
start at $50
Premium themes for Shopify
start at $180
Adoption rates Powers 70 companies on the Top 500 Internet Retailer list Powers 10 companies on the Top 500 Internet Retailer list
Number of apps and add-ons 3,000 2,400
Number of sites powered 250,000 200,000
Cost $22,000 $299 per month*

* This also includes a 2.4% and 30¢ charge per transaction. See our ‘fees’ section for more details.

Ease of Use

Magento: Magento employs a CMS (Content Management System) and may require at least some technical skill to use. Some knowledge of CSS is helpful, and a general knowledge of theming PHP applications. In other words, although Magento is highly flexible, it comes at a cost: there is more to learn if you want to get the most out of the platform. To really get your store off the ground, you will almost certainly need a developer. A developer will have the technical knowhow to take your store to the next level.

In nutshell: while Magento requires more technical skill to use, it has far greater functionality compared to Shopify.

Shopify: by comparison, Shopify’s interface is intuitive and easy to understand. This is because it is a drag and drop platform in essence. What you see within the edit is more or less what you will get live. Although some technical experience will help here, even as a novice you should be able to get something usable out of it. In this case then, the reverse of Magento is true:  while you might find it easier to implement a site, you will likely find it harder to create exactly what you want. Simplicity comes at the cost of flexibility.

Put simply: while Shopify is relatively easy to use, it has far fewer features than Magento and customisation can be costly.


Magento: supported by PHP Zend framework, Magento boasts an impressive backend which can be optimised for virtually any performance-related task. You can implement full page caching (both public and private) to greatly increase your speed. You can also use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) which will cache all your static content, including but not limited to; CSS, Javascript, fonts and image files. As an example, using this optimisation within Magento, you can get an image to load 20x faster than normal.

Shopify: one of the main drawbacks to Shopify, from a performance stand-point, is the lack of customisation: Shopify’s technology stack is locked down, leaving you with no way to monitor, manage, or optimise site performance. This is one of the major drawbacks of the apparent ‘convenience’ of Shopify’s hosting plan. Since Shopify throttles the data exchanged between its core app and add-ons apps, you are also likely to experience slow site performance during high traffic periods, degrading the overall customer experience.

Inventory Management

Magento: Magento comes with inventory management as standard, just like Shopify. With Magento however, there is option to have custom reports. In addition, Magento automatically tracks product quantities available for the site through configured stocks and sources. You can override product level configurations, manage multiple warehouses and integrate with ERP. In this area, Magento is hard to beat. With plenty of options for scalability and cross-management of products, it offers pretty much everything you need here.

Shopify: as you might expect, Shopify features a clean and simple interface. You can hide out of stock products from your inventory. Extra functions like promotional flash sales and discounts are available as extensions. Shopify wasn’t built with large online stores in mind – a fact which becomes obvious once you look at its standard inventory management. Again, Shopify is a platform which ease of use is paramount. Without adding extensions, potentially at cost, Shopify will be limited in what it can do.


Magento: even for the free Community version, Magento boasts a dedicated community support forum with knowledgeable and hands on developers ready to assist you. With 267,000 members, whatever the query, you’ll almost certainly find a solution. At the premium level, you’ll also receive 24/7 support to resolve any questions or technical issues, with a dedicated account manager to help you with your queries. The fact that Magento boasts a large global community of Solution Partners with the skills and experience to implement any sort of ecommerce project, not matter where the job or what the sector.

Shopify: by comparison, Shopify has a small partner community. This is because of its use of a proprietary Liquid language on its platform. The low adoption of this language leaves a limited pool of developers to work on projects. However, Shopify does provide support staff to help with queries. But it should be noted that you have to pay in order to receive this support and, even where you are prepared to pay a premium, service may still be lacking: Shopify has a small partner community, located mainly within North America, with little experience in implementing commerce experiences and providing merchant services.


Magento: with Magento, your store can either be self-hosted or hosted via Amazon Web Services (AWS). Global cloud infrastructure and services ensure 99.99% operational uptime and scalability no matter where your business is located. Unlike Shopify, Magento also has a self-hosted option. This means you will have full control of your data, with the ability to add patches and updates without prior approval – assurance that your data is confidential and secure, and that your site can be updated with ease.

 Shopify: unlike Magento, Shopify does not have a self-hosted option. Your store will always be hosted by Shopify themselves, and its multi-tenant architecture means that peak demand on one merchant’s store can quickly degrade the performance of another. The other consequence of this type of hosting is that you will more likely need permission before altering your site any significant way (e.g. installing updates or patches). This can lead to lengthy site changes along with potential loss of revenue.


Payment Gateways: unlike Shopify, Magento does not charge you to accept a payment via a gateway. With Shopify however, unless you accept a payment through their own proprietary gateway, you will have to pay a transaction fee on each on each payment processed in addition to any fees charged by your payment provider. All credit card transaction with Shopify incur a 1.6% + 20p charge as well.

Licensing: in magento you have the ability to run multiple instances of a single store with a single license. On the other hand, with Shopify, you have to purchase a separate license for each instance. This makes Magento far less costly in the long term.

In Summary

We hope we’ve given you a concise overview of the many ecommerce website features in Magento and Shopify. As you can see, the two platforms are very evenly matched. With the right person in charge of development, it is possible to create a winning webstore with either platform.

But what may tip the balance, and what we believe makes Magento the better overall option, is where flexibility comes into play. By no means is Shopify a slouch. It offers extensive functionality. But when it comes to customisation (particularly in the back end) it starts to show its limitations. Shopify is great for quickly and easily selling online – especially if you are a small business. However when it comes to creating a scalable store that can be adapted over time, Magento wins out: with the ability to host on your own server, built around an open source platform, and a PHP framework most developers will be familiar with, Magento can be tailored and optimised for virtually any task.

For developing a store that will give you full control and allow you to change your site’s speed performance, inventory cataloguing, and many other features, we still think Magento is the way to go.

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Further reading