Building a new eCommerce site can seem daunting; there are multiple platforms to choose from, and so many questions to be answered. What’s the difference between each platform? Which one will work best for me? What does open source even mean?
Let us help break it down for you. There are two “big guns” when it comes to eCommerce, being Magento and Shopify. They are the two most popular eCommerce platforms out there. Magento currently has over 250,000 merchants across the world, while Shopify hosts more than 700,000 sites.
One Key Difference
The major difference between the platforms are that Shopify is a supported system, whereas Magento is open source, meaning the original source code is openly available for redistribution and modification. Because of this, Magento is exceedingly more customizable, but has a much steeper learning curve. You’ll likely need to hire a developer to build out a Magento site for you, and initially a great deal of set up work is required.
Why many merchants choose Shopify
Shopify is customizable to an extent, and if you have a small number of categories or products, will generally be a much simpler route to take. They host the site for you, meaning you’re operating through their servers, and they have numerous templates created that you can choose from to design the layout and functionality of your site. The drawback here though, is that there are a limited number of templates, and a limited number of customizations that can be made. Remember as a user you do not have access to the source code. Additionally, in the extreme scenario of a server crash or slow page loading times, you’re at the mercy of Shopify’s development team, since your hosting is in their hands. But obviously, Shopify is widely trusted and vastly used platform as shown by the sheer number of merchants on the platform today. It’s about analyzing YOUR needs and where they can be met.
Why many merchants choose Magento
Magento will definitely be more of a financial, and time intensive, investment in the beginning, because you not only need to build out the eCommerce site, but you also need to set up hosting on your own. There is not support (unless you subscribe to Magento Commerce – also known as Magento Cloud – which is an additional monthly cost), but the Magento Forums are incredibly active with developers sharing tips and tricks to enhance sites. As discouraging as that may sound; the major upside is that you’ll have full control over the functionality, loading time, and UX of your site, because you (or more likely, your development team) have the ability to manipulate the code.
If you project large scale growth for your company, it may be advantageous to sink your teeth into Magento from the get go, because eventually there’s a high chance you’ll need to switch over from Shopify to Magento for exponential scalability that’s custom to you and your business. Magento is capable of hosting limitless products in numerous colors, sizes, and virtually endless custom attributes etc., whereas Shopify has a maximum limit on categories and inventory.
Bottom line is – you must decide which platform is best for the current size, and future projections, of your business. Small mom-and-pop style shops can succeed with Shopify and not need to worry about the immense software learning curve. Larger scale companies can also see success while using Shopify, but may see even more ROI by using Magento.
Where to start?
Our advice; map up anything and everything you want YOUR site to do, BEFORE looking at the capabilities of each platform. When you have your list, take it to compare against the specs of Shopify and Magento. And ask others for advice too, but know, your business is unique as the next and what works for one business owner can be (and usually is) very different from the next.
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