It’s the most common question clients ask eCommerce agencies like us,the first one we hear on pre-sales calls and a go-to conversation starter at trade shows and conferences: which enterprise eCommerce platform is better for my business, Shopify Plus or Magento Commerce?
This isn’t the first article comparing and contrasting the two enterprise solutions, and it probably won’t be the last. Googling ‘Shopify Plus vs. Magento Commerce’ yields about 800,000 hits, from longread whitepapers to breakdown charts and cheat sheets.
But we also noticed that many of these comparison posts are outdated, especially with recent changes to both platforms. Adobe recently acquired Magento Commerce, and Shopify Plus just rolled out in-store hardware for retailers with a brick-and-mortar presence.
So we thought the time was ripe for a fresh look at the two etail giants, to revisit their advantages, disadvantages, and differentiators in the year 2019. We’ll be settling the score between Shopify Plus and Magento Commerce, once and for all—or at least until next year.
If only it were so simple as Magento vs. Shopify. Both of these eCommerce platforms offer different types of solutions, some whose names change on a seemingly regular basis (looking at you Magento).
You may have heard Magento referred to as Magento 1, Magento 2, Magento Community, Enterprise, or Open-Source. There’s a ton of jargon out there, some of which is interchangeable, and some of which refer to different things. I want to hash out the details on both platforms here before we continue our comparison.
When I use the word Magento in this article, I’m referring specifically to Magento Commerce. Magento Commerce is their solution tailored to large mid market or enterprise companies. It was formerly Magento’s Enterprise Edition, so while that term is technically outdated, don’t be surprised if you hear someone just refer to Magento Commerce as Magento Enterprise. I also mentioned that since its acquisition, Adobe has rebranded Magento Commerce as Adobe Commerce Cloud. So while that may be the official title as of late, I’m still using Magento Commerce here, because that’s what everyone’s still calling it.
Magento also offers Magento Open Source (formerly Magento’s Community Edition). It’s more geared towards SMBs or start-ups, so we won’t be touching on it much in this article. Magento 2, or 2.X, refers to the technical update the original Magento 1, or 1.X received a few years ago. This upgrade occurred across all of its platforms, both Open Source and Commerce.
On a much easier note, Shopify’s basic platform is just called Shopify, and their enterprise solution—and direct competitor of Magento Commerce—is Shopify Plus. When I use the word Shopify in this article, I’m referring specifically to Shopify Plus.
Now that we’ve gotten the housekeeping over with, let’s get into this comparison.
Many retail enterprises house several different brands, and need a solution that can consolidate their management into a centralized platform. For years, this has been one of Magento Commerce’s key differentiators, the trump card they have over Shopify Plus.
But claiming that Shopify Plus doesn’t support multiple stores is a bit misleading. Plus does allow for multiple ‘instances’, which are essentially duplicate versions of an original primary store. Many consider Magento’s multi-store architecture to be more robust, but Plus could be a better fit, depending on how you structure and operate your stores.
For example, Magento’s multi-store feature allows for a shared inventory between stores, whereas Shopify Plus’s instances don’t—admins need to create and manage separate ones. For many enterprises, that inability to use a centralized inventory for Shopify Plus is a deal breaker, but we’ve worked with clients who find the siloed inventories a better fit for their particular business operations.
In Codal’s experience, enterprises prioritize the distribution of resource management and responsibilities when choosing an eCommerce platform. Who hosts the platform, who manages the servers, who houses the data—these are essential questions that every client asks. That’s because they affect everyone, from the dev team to the marketers to the accounting department.
Magento Commerce comes in two varieties: Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and on-premises. On-premises describes Magento’s locally installed service, no cloud deployment necessary. You, the client, will need to manage the servers, data security, storage, runtime, all of it. As you can imagine, those IT and hardware costs start to pile up.
PaaS is Magento’s cloud-based solution, where the eCommerce company takes the onus of platform upkeep—you oversee the data and applications you install. It’ll be interesting to see if Magento Commerce remains PaaS or becomes even more cloud-oriented now that it’s under the Adobe umbrella.
Shopify Plus, however, is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where everything—the hosting, server management, data storage, all of it—is managed by Shopify.
Which one is better? Again, it depends on your enterprise, and which resources you have access to and are willing to allocate. Maybe you have the infrastructure to support an on-premises solution, or maybe you’d rather simply have Shopify or Magento handle the upkeep.
Despite the eCommerce boom permanently shifting the retail sector throughout the past two decades or so, brick-and-mortar isn’t dead yet. In fact, it’s far from itdespite what you may have read in that eyebrow-raising CNBC article (here’s Forbes’ fact check of the piece, if you’re interested).
The current consensus is that the most successful enterprise retailers have both a digital and physical presence. Even companies launched with an eCommerce-only business model, like Trunk Club, have acknowledged the opportunity for growth by having even a basic brick-and-mortar presence.
This is all to say that many enterprise retailers need an eCommerce solution that seamlessly integrates with the tech used to run their brick-and-mortar stores.
Both Shopify Plus and Magento Commerce have POS integrations, either native or via a plugin (depending on your POS system). But Shopify’s recent unveiling of in-store hardware is signaling a push towards serving that brick-and-mortar experience more wholly.
Why am I bucketing user-friendliness and customizability under a single heading? Because, like so much of the tech that precedes it, that’s the essential tradeoff between these two enterprise platforms.
With its open-source roots, Magento offers a high level of flexibility and customization—so much, in fact, that its complex interface can be difficult to navigate. If the team overseeing your online store doesn’t have a technical background, Magento Commerce might prove to be an issue.
Shopify Plus, on the other hand, offers a much more user-friendly interface. It’s a fairly forgiving learning curve, and the day-to-day operations of managing an online store are easy to complete. And to mitigate its lack of customization, Shopify Plus does offer an expansive library of site templates and plugins—it’s not unlikely you’ll be able to achieve the look and functionality you’re going for with the right combination of both, instead of a custom code.
As its high level of customization would imply, Magento Commerce trumps Shopify Plus when it comes to the feature list. Magento’s native support of multiple languages and currencies alone is enough to sway some retailers to it over Shopify.
Both eCommerce platforms have a robust marketplace, full of third party plugins that can cover anything not natively supported. And if the functionality you’re looking for still isn’t there, you can always bring in an eCommerce design and development agency to help.
It’s not enough to just build and launch an online store. You’ll need ongoing maintenance and upkeep, just as you would a brick-and-mortar space.
Shopify Plus offers 24/7 support included in your plan, plus an ever-growing network of users and certified support partners. Magento, being an older platform, boasts a larger community and partner list as well. They don’t offer a dedicated support service though—you’ll need to enlist a web development agency for that.
Finally, we reach the price tag. The cost of running your online store on either of these platforms will depend on your company’s existing resources. As a rule of thumb, Magento Commerce is the more expensive of the two. The average cost of build runs from about $150k-$300k, whereas Plus tends to clock in between $50k and $150k.
If you’re still unsure which enterprise solution is right for you, reach out to an eCommerce design agency like Codal. We help you take stock of what your enterprise needs, and offer our expertise to help choose a solution that’s a perfect fit for your company.