Four people carrying trolley and shopping baskets and choosing goods

Magento vs. Shopify vs. Custom Website Development: Which One Will Suit Your eCommerce Business?

17 December, 2020

Given that there’s a large number of CMSs and you have to consider a lot of parameters, it’s a tough call to choose the right one. When a custom eCommerce platform with a wealth of features starts looming on the horizon, you get even more bewildered. But we’re here to ensure that your decision making will be less stressful.

We’re back again and ready to continue our discussion about the best eCommerce platform for your business. As you happen to remember, in our previous article we discussed the 17 Content Management Systems. We considered the most relevant criteria for you to take into account when choosing an eCommerce solution that would meet your business needs.

Now is yet another time when we wish to keep on scrutinizing CMSs, as we ourselves have become enthusiastic about them.

eCommerce platforms in focus

We’ve decided to pick two popular eCommerce platforms — Magento and Shopify — and compare them with custom development. These two platforms have proven to be highly efficient and have gained a lot of positive feedback from their users. As for a custom eCommerce platform, it’s also a nice option, especially when you want a CMS to be designed specifically for your business.

No doubt, it’s a long way to go before you finally make up your mind. So, let’s find the way out together. Take a look at the comparison between Shopify, Magento, and custom web development. Let’s make a start!

Platforms overview

To start with, we suggest giving a shake to memory and recollecting some basic characteristics of Magento and Shopify.

Magento

First released in 2008, Magento is a PHP-based eCommerce platform that has been popular among midsize and enterprise-level businesses with a big budget. It is viewed as one of the biggest eCommerce platforms and is gradually becoming more and more popular in the B2B space. The list of top brands using Magento comprises Nike, Hermes, Paul Smith, Fred Perry, Coca Cola, Bulgari, Harvey Nichols, etc. In general, around 12% of all online stores are using Magento and they are said to be turning over $1bln online.

The current version, Magento 2, is available in two editions. They are Magento Open Source (previously known as Magento Community) and Magento Commerce that is an enterprise-level platform that can be either on-premise or cloud-hosted.

The advantages that Magento offers include adequate scalability, flexibility, and good customization. It’s compatible with many platforms and possesses many front-end features like coupon codes, gift cards, wish-lists and the like. Plus, its SEO functionality is really impressive. However, to get your website up and running on Magento, you have to possess good coding skills or hire a team of developers who will be responsible for building the website.

Shopify

Shopify was launched in 2006. It is a cloud-based eCommerce platform designed for building and managing online stores. It is an ideal option for small shops and those who are looking for a user-friendly way to build a website from scratch.

Shopify has 5 plans available. They are Basic Shopify, Advanced Shopify, Shopify Lite, Shopify, as well as Shopify Plus, which is the most outstanding version of all. Shopify Plus is a multichannel platform with higher customization, better support levels, and many other handy features.

Shopify has been used by such brands as Kylie Cosmetics, Tesla, Red Bull, Fashion Nova, Victoria Beckham Beauty, Clare, Staples, Seedlip and so on. It is especially popular among businesses from Canada and the USA.

What makes a custom eCommerce platform stand out?

A person estimating the potential profits of using different e-commerce platforms

Great, we’ve brushed up on our knowledge of Magento and Shopify. And now it’s time we pondered over custom website development.

First of all, it does have a large number of benefits. Just like Magento, it’s highly customizable, scalable, and flexible, as it allows you to introduce any changes and suggestions that you find relevant and crucial. But more than that — it enables you to regulate the website’s functionality yourself, which helps control the website’s appearance and permits you to add different features for your clients.

What features does it offer?

The most striking thing about a custom eCommerce platform is that you’re free to add the features, coding languages, frameworks, and other tools that you personally regard as relevant. Plus, you call the tune when it comes to dealing with design — no need to stick to the warmed-over templates. You’re welcome to upgrade the website’s UI/UX design and even utilize a stronger server for website operations.

Furthermore, it goes without saying that the primary goal of any e-shop-to-be is to win clients’ trust and make sure that they feel like staying with you. To fulfill this objective, you can optimize the customer’s journey by introducing special pop-ups or other features that you come up with — and a custom eCommerce platform will help you do that.

More than that, a custom eCommerce platform is capable of handling big transactions and bulk visitors while easily integrating with other platforms. Now you see that a customized version has its benefits to offer.

Summing it up, the main thesis of the aforementioned aspects is that custom website development is all about great flexibility.

Take a look at how this multi-platform custom eCommerce solution transformed a grocery store chain

Custom solution vs Magento vs Shopify pricing

Time is money, and with this in mind we get down to considering pricing straight away.

Undoubtedly, financial aspects play a crucial role when you compare different CMSs. But let us give you a small tip: don’t chase after cheap options while trying to cut down on essential features. You may lose on the deal in the long run. You’d better reach out to experts in advance and discuss with them the eCommerce platform parameters that you consider indispensable.

Magento

Magento pricing depends on what product you use. Magento Open Source, for example, is free to download but you will have to cover the cost of hosting, development, security, etc. yourself.

Magento Enterprise edition is generally expensive. Depending on the complexity as well as size of your business, the annual pricing can vary from $22,000 to $125,000.

The pricing of Magento Cloud Edition ranges from $40,000 to $125,000 per year.

Shopify

Shopify grants you a 14-day free trial, after which you’ll have to pay a monthly fee. There are some pricing models that are dependent on the businesses’s complexity. Besides, it must be noted that Shopify accepts monthly payments. Below, we provide the prices of various Shopify plans per month:

  • Shopify Lite — $9 per month.
  • Basic Shopify — $29 per month.
  • Shopify — $79 per month.
  • Advanced Shopify — $299 per month.
  • Shopify Plus — negotiable, but normally around $2000 per month.

Custom eCommerce platform

Depending on the platform and requirements, the cost of creating a customized eCommerce platform can vary. Some experts may say that a custom solution is expensive, or at least more expensive than utilizing an already existing platform. But no one can actually discredit the benefits of a platform that has been designed specifically for your business.

Moreover, some CMSs offer you features that you don’t need but they’ve already been included in the package. As a result, you pay extra money for surplus features instead of investing it in something more significant.

In custom web development, the pricing is calculated considering such factors as project scope, business needs and goals, hosting, design, integrations, features, maintenance, and so on. Once you’re fixed on a customized solution, you’re strongly advised to discuss all the aspects above with the company that will be responsible for delivering the platform. They’ll consult you and supply you with a detailed guideline to ensure that all your requirements are met.

Key Features

Magento vs Shopify

The features that you choose will define your website’s functionality. In this way, it makes sense to give a lot of thought to this factor in advance.

With regard to the fact that Magento is intended for strong eCommerce, it’s not surprising that it has a bit more built-in features than Shopify. However, you can always obtain more add-ons for Shopify via its own app store.

The number of native features in each platform depends on the edition/plan. Below, you can get acquainted with some of the two platforms’ general features. (The screenshots have been taken at the platforms’ official websites):

Magento

Table of comparison of Magento pricing plans based on the proposed features

Shopify

Table of comparison of Shopify pricing plans based on the proposed features

Customization possibilities

Customization has always been regarded as a weighty factor. When we’re talking about a custom eCommerce solution, surely it’s you and/or your team who determine the features that are to be included from the very beginning. This consequently allows you to be in control of your CMS functionality.

Still, when choosing the winner in the Magento vs Shopify struggle, you’d better be in the know about their customization capacities.

Magento, for example, gives you access to numerous add-ons on Magento Marketplace. The variety of apps is really impressive, and it enables you to extend your website’s functionality. Apart from extensions, you can come across some modules composed of themes, libraries, and language packages. They cost between $100 and $199. The range of themes is limited, though, which means that you’ll have to resort to third-party marketplaces.

In contrast to Magento’s customization, Shopify is a little inferior to it. According to some users, it has an insufficient number of apps and add-ons providers. Nevertheless, at Shopify marketplace you can purchase more than 100 themes, and the company tries to introduce new themes on a regular basis.

SEO

The importance of SEO today is beyond controversy. That’s why you should choose a platform that offers robust SEO techniques.

It’s considered to be less laborious to optimize a website built from the ground up, which makes custom eCommerce development a nice option. Developers will create the website code from scratch, and that enables them to optimize it for search engines.

As for Magento and Shopify, they both have good SEO characteristics. However, Magento is more flexible in terms of SEO functionality, whereas Shopify is more locked down — it is not possible to change the URL structure and hierarchy here.

By the way, whenever you wish to enhance the SEO functionality of your platform, you can download some special extensions.

The most prominent SEO extensions for Magento are the following: Magento 2 SEO Suite Ultimate, Ultimate SEO Optimizer, Improved Layered Navigation for Magento 2 by Amasty, Google Rich Snippets for Magento 2 by Amasty, Magento 2 WordPress Integration, etc.

Shopify also allows you to download various add-ons for SEO improvement via its official Shopify app store. The most highly-rated SEO extensions available are Shogun Landing Page Builder, Schema Plus for SEO, SEO Master ‑ Auto SEO Booster, SEO Booster ‑ SEO Marketing, Smart SEO, and so on.

Themes and design

Two people building UI of a website

Your website design plays an important role for customers. We all know the wise saying: ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. Still, no one can deny the fact that if a website looks attractive, a customer is more likely to stay and complete their purchases.

What is an attractive website? Basically, it is the site where everything is positioned logically, conveniently, and correctly, the colors are pleasant to the eye, and generally it looks stylish. This leads us to the point that you should carefully study the themes and designs that ready-made CMSs offer. Make sure that you’re satisfied with their range and check out if they harmonize with your future e-store.

First off, both of the two eCommerce platforms provide amazing user experience and modern design. In this respect, they are both on an equal footing.

Magento offers 12 free and paid themes, and 10 of them are mobile-optimized. Besides, you can also obtain themes for Magento via special websites, with Template Monster and Theme Forest being the most popular. There is a range of choices available to buyers and the prices may vary from $29 – 499.

Shopify provides a big number of themes that can be either free or available for purchase via Shopify’s official app store. The paid versions can be purchased from $140 to $180 each. Most of the themes are mobile-optimized and can be smoothly integrated into your shop.

Help and support

Whenever you experience technical issues and need to fix the bugs ASAP, you will definitely need to run to technical support for help. That’s why it’s worth paying attention to the support characteristics of each CMS and drawing the right conclusions.

Having no 24/7 phone or chat support, Magento provides its users with an alternative — handy user guidelines, certified partners that will be dealing with your issues, and a helpful community that offers a wealth of support to users.

Shopify, on the other hand, does have 24/7 email and chat support. It also offers social media support, a community forum, video tutorials along with a help center. Yet, its support capacity can be extended depending on your paid subscription package. Bear in mind that with Shopify you pay for the support and the platform.

Payment gateways

Let’s put the record straight from the very beginning: both Magento and Shopify have no difficulties in connecting your online store with various payment processors.

As for their individual characteristics, Magento integrates with a lower number of payment gateways than Shopify. Still, it can be implemented via third-party gateways. The most famous within the list are PayPal, Authorize.net, Amazon Payments, Realex Payments, Braintree, Worldpay, and Stripe.

Shopify supports about 70+ different payment gateways. Some of the most popular are PayPal, SagePay, AliPay Global, Authorize.Net., and surely Shopify Payments. However, once you decide to integrate any of these third-party gateways with Shopify, you’d better know that Shopify forces upon its transaction fees ( 0.5% — 2% on each sale).

Shipping

A person setting shipping information

Before setting up an online store, you have to think over shipping aspects. You should be ready for providing all kinds of shipping services, both locally and internationally.

Both of the platforms are well-equipped with options that enable users to calculate shipping charges. There are special calculators that communicate exact and accurate rates to users.

The Magento eCommerce platform provides an extensive shipping and delivery functionality, granting a store admin access to numerous shipping settings. Besides, Magento easily integrates with the major global shipping providers such as DHL, FedEx, UPS and USPS.

When using Shopify shipping, merchants get competitive shipping rates from such international shipping carriers as DHL, UPS and USPS. Another aspect to pay attention to is that Shopify integrates with some dropshipping tools as well.

Custom solution vs Magento vs Shopify – which should you choose?

It seems that we’ve highlighted the most significant aspects worthy of consideration when looking for an advanced, efficient, and comprehensive eCommerce solution.

Both of the eCommerce platforms — Magento and Shopify — have been highly successful in the market for years, and they keep on upgrading all the time. For sure, you might have spotted some minor drawbacks in each of them. But no one can diminish the boons that they can bring.

If your budget is unlimited, you run a large store, and want to implement a lot of different features, then you can consider Magento as a nice option. However, if you’re just a beginner in eCommerce and website development or run a small store — Shopify will be more advisable to try.

As far as custom web development is concerned, there’re many examples where this solution has been successfully implemented. Its great flexibility and customization capacity is impressive and endless. A custom website is bound to stand out among others as its unique design is created based on your ideas and vision.

Conclusion

To sum it up, let’s mention that both Magento and Shopify possess powerful features and the two can boast about equally outstanding performance. It’s natural that some of their characteristics differ and they can be either superior or inferior to the ones of their rival. However, it’s still not easy to decide the winner in the Magento vs Shopify struggle.

When it comes to a custom eCommerce platform, a substantial point here is that a dedicated team of developers will always be quick on the uptake whenever and whatever happens.

In any case, you can always contact us and we will consider all your needs and requirements, and help determine, which eCommerce solution is the best for you.

As you see, choosing the best eCommerce platform is a challenging task. But we do hope that this article will lead you in the right direction.

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eCommerce CMS Comparison Table

Would like to get a comprehensive yet brief summary of the 17 CMSs? Take a look at the major points provided in this table.

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