Magento vs. Shopify: a Side-by-Side Comparison

Magento and Shopify are both strong options for eCommerce projects and their curious adversarial position can be compared with Android vs Apple or Coca-Cola vs Pepsi rivalries. The two sides that always seem to compete, causing eCommerce observers to write the never-ending guides on choosing between the two.

Shopify is a convenient way for entrepreneurs to build an online store. 24/7 support, highly-optimized themes, affordable prices, extensive apps for eCommerce – that is not an exhaustive list of the leverages that the platform offers.

Magento is a powerful open-source CMS that, importantly, can be free to use. It is scalable, secure, mobile and SEO-friendly, provides easy third-party integrations, and has a gigantic community with more than 180,000 developers in total. However, the average entrepreneur is likely to find it unnecessarily difficult to set up and use.

Even though these two platforms serve distinct business needs and attract different kinds of users, lots of merchants are still torn between the CMSs.

The good news is that we have a holistic picture of the pros and cons that each of the platforms has, and we will be glad to share those with the readers.

Magento vs Shopify: a Quick Overview

Let us take a look at what the numbers say before we delve into the exhaustive comparison review. This is an awesome way of checking the trustworthiness of each CMS, a favorable benchmark to consider when determining what platform is good for your business.

The numbers don’t lie: there are more than 315,000 websites around the world powered by Magento; the platform occupies 1.4% of the CMS market share. While Shopify powers more than 820,000 sites with support and representation in all major geographies. But let’s take a closer look at what these websites are. Magento powers 70 companies from the Internet Retailer Top B2C eCommerce Leaders Report, while Shopify powers only 10 from the same list.

The fact is that Magento is a good option when it comes to larger, more complex eCommerce stores and works well for both B2B and B2C. Even its features and settings are geared to advanced developers. Magento is massive, it comes with more than 5000 files, and the development process may take half a year. We want to note two factors that make large stores and major brands prefer Magento over other platforms: they need Magento’s scalability and have a sizable budget to pay for it.

Shopify is preferred by small and middle-sized stores, as well as by customers who are new to online retail because they consider the CMS can be cheaper and satisfy their basic needs at the same time. It is a good “all-in-one” solution with easy back end administration, plug-and-play mentality, professional support, and lots of built-in tools.

Magento pros:

  • High level of customization;
  • Free Magento Community Edition.

Magento cons:

  • Demands good knowledge of coding;
  • Hosting can be expensive.

Shopify pros:

  • Easier to set up;
  • It does not require coding knowledge.

Shopify cons:

  • Not very customizable;
  • Limited default functionality.

Prices: Magento vs. Shopify

Price is often a vital issue. The platforms are slightly different when it comes to pricing. While Magento provides Community Edition version for free and Enterprise Edition version on a paid basis, Shopify has three paid options and charges a certain fee per transaction.

But it is not cut and dried. There are a lot of hidden costs in both CMSs. In order to decide which one offers more cost savings, it is essential to know the pricing intricacies.

Magento pricing

As we mentioned before, Magento offers two versions: Community Edition (free) and Enterprise Edition (paid). All you need to start with the first option is to download and install it. With the paid version it is not all that simple. The cost of the Enterprise Edition depends on your store revenue. Thus, for instance, for merchants generating less than $1,000,000, a Magento 2 Enterprise Edition license cost starts at $22,000 per year. In other words, the more revenue you get, the more the license costs.

Magento is a powerful and massive platform with advanced functionality. But all its benefits come at a price. The significant downside is Magento’s resource-intensiveness. The fact is that if you ever had an intention to host your Magento store on shared hosting at $2/month, let it go. If you want your store to work seamlessly and easily manage seasonal traffic peaks, you need an advanced solution such as cloud, VPS, or dedicated hosting.

Other expenses may include:

  • Store customization (the installation of approximately 10 extensions may cost you over $3000)
  • Theme development (or purchase a premium theme costs around $100);
  • Maintenance (will depend on the hourly rate of a developer, starting from $50 at least).

Magento’s website optimization and maintenance are costly. So, many business owners decide to look for external help. An outsourced company that provides Magento consulting services would be the right choice. Due to solid coding skills, experienced developers provide a high level of quality avoiding costly tech mistakes and can establish a store willing to maximize sales.

Let’s not forget third-party extensions! Magento Marketplace, the official Magento store, offers high-quality extensions, modules, add-ons, plugins designed for the eCommerce edition. There are almost 6000 extensions for Magento 1 and 2 including free ones. But most of the extensions are paid. The prices are diverse: they start from $20 and can be up to $28,700.

Summary: Most of your budget will be spent on an advanced hosting provider and store optimization. You may expect to pay $7,000-$140,000 to create a new customized online store based on Magento 2. The total cost depends on your business needs. Do you want to customize your store with a unique theme? Are you ready to invest in dedicated or cloud hosting to boost your website performance?

Shopify pricing

Unlike Magento, Shopify doesn’t provide a free version but offers a two-week trial. Two weeks period is enough to decide whether the platform is a good choice for your store. After the trial is expired, you can go with one of the three inexpensive monthly plans:

  1. Shopify Basic costs $29/month;
  2. The main Shopify plan costs $79/month;
  3. Advanced Shopify plan costs $299/month.

Moreover, Shopify provides a fully hosted enterprise-level plan for large eCommerce stores – Shopify Plus which costs $2000/month. The plan is designed for businesses with at least $1M in annual revenue. It provides more powerful features and an advanced website hosting provider ensuring that your website will withstand traffic spikes during sales or seasonal promotions.

The plans vary by functionality and perks. The Basic plan offers enough for the average online store. The main Shopify plan takes it higher by providing hardware support, gift cards, and professional reports made with the advanced report builder. With the Advanced plan, you will get all that and even more.

Because the platform is self-hosted, you don’t have to pay any additional hosting fees. Every Shopify plan includes unlimited bandwidth for free, has no setup fee, and comes with a free SSL certificate, which is a nice add-on.

However, the platform charges a certain fee per transaction and a monthly fee for using a third-party extension. And here is the thing: if you use Shopify Payments for transactions, you pay no fee. But there will be additional fees of 0.5%, 1%, and 2% for their Advanced, Main, and Basic Shopify plans, respectively.

When your Shopify store is created, you may want to find ways to make it stand out and gain value for your business. Like Magento, there are a huge number of themes, add-ons, plugins, and third-party extensions for Shopify stores both free and paid. The prices are affordable. For instance, you can buy a theme at $19 in one of the Shopify marketplaces. As for third-party extensions and plugins, there are a lot of free ones available for the platform. Thus, for example, SendinBlue plugin is 100% free and allows you to analyze email statistics within your Shopify environment.

However, it is a common misperception that Shopify is cheap. Building a highly customized Shopify store can be almost as much expensive as Magento development costs. Mull over the need to deploy extra servers to expand functionality or support third-party integrations, quite apart from all those app subscriptions that can make up a pretty penny at the end of the month.

Summary: Taking into account the cost of Magento optimization, customization, and hosting, Shopify seems to be the cheapest option. You may expect to pay $30-$100,000 for a new Shopify store development. The total sum depends on your readiness to pay for the better hosting infrastructure, customization features, additional extensions based on Shopify API.

Performance: Shopify vs. Magento

According to Google research, there is a connection between load time and conversion rate. As page load time goes from 1 to 5 seconds, the probability of bounce rate increases by 90%. So, one of the main challenges merchants face is achieving a high level of performance across various devices and network conditions to deliver a faster user experience.

Many store owners claim that Shopify is lightning-fast compared to Magento. That is partially true but it is not really that simple.

Magento performance

Magento is a powerful and scalable platform with solid features and expanded functionality built in the system. However, all these benefits, which are a great advantage for merchants, significantly affect the performance making the CMS really slow.

The point is that there are some ways to boost Magento website performance but they all required significant investments. As we mentioned earlier, if you want your store to work fine, you have to splurge on dedicated or cloud hosting. But wait there’s more. Without proper optimization, fine-tuning, and specific third-party services (which may cost an arm and a leg) your site is not likely to perform well.

Nevertheless, with the help of experienced experts, it is possible to combine rich functionality and a high level of customization with excellent performance. Once your website is well-optimized, you won’t have to worry about lags in the future.

Shopify performance

Shopify is cloud-based and self-hosted, which means merchants don’t have to worry about updates or maintenance. Shopify takes care of everything. The fact is that Shopify performs higher than Magento. As far as an overall rating is concerned, Magento’s performance score is 2.8 while the rival gained 3.9 points.

However, there are pitfalls. The problem is that the platform was built in such a way that you can’t get the perfect Google Page Speed score no matter how much effort you take as far as it is impossible to optimize a Shopify website for desktop or mobile Google PageSpeed.

Customization Options: Shopify vs. Magento

There are almost 6,000 third-party extensions designed for Magento 1 and 2 online stores. If you are comfortable with continuous improvements, tinkering, customization, Magento is the right platform for your business. The flexible mentality of the platform allows you to do everything you want within your store. Thus, if you failed to find the appropriate extension on the Market place, you can build your own and implement it in the system. Of course, in order to accept this challenge, solid coding skills are required (or at least you need to pay for a developer who knows the ropes).

When it comes to Shopify, it was designed as an “all-in-one” solution with limited customization potential. Even though the number of third-party extensions on the Shopify App Store is comparable with the number that Magento Marketplace holds, most of them don’t do much, they are less customizable, less powerful, and provide fewer features.

Moreover, Shopify online stores are limited in different ways. Firstly, the platform has a simplified product category structure without the possibility of customization. Secondly, custom Checkout requirements and advanced search options are not provided, and, what is more, Shopify restricts stores to using their own payment gateways.


There is no clear winner in the battle. Both CMSs have their pros and cons and serve different purposes.

As for online store owners, it is essential to choose what platform works better for your business needs. After all, if you are not happy with the CMS you have chosen, you can migrate from one CMS to another.

So, opt for Shopify if you need:

  • to set up a small or middle-sized store;
  • out-of-the-box solution with standard features and navigation, so the need for development is less;
  • save money on hosting and optimization services;
  • easy support of your website.

Opt for Magento if you need:

  • to set up a large or middle-sized store and have a budget to pay for it;
  • freedom of customization to build a website as per your requirements and vision;
  • to get 100% control over your server configurations and hosting;
  • exclusive design with wonderful UX;
  • complex supply and payment mechanism that you can handle.

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