Magento vs. Shopify: E-Commerce diffrences

One question we hear all the time from our online retail clients is: “Which is the better e-commerce platform, Magento or Shopify?” But the answer isn’t so straightforward. It all depends on who you are and what you need. So, we thought it might help to give a quick Magento vs. Shopify breakdown:

What are the main differences?

Magento Community Edition is a PHP/MySQL-based framework that the shop owner is responsible for hosting as a standalone web application. Since it is open source, unlimited customization is possible when you work with expert PHP programmers.
Shopify is a hosted, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. The shop owner does not have access to the source code with Shopify, so the core functionality cannot be modified. But the templates themselves are highly flexible, so while Shopify’s functionality is more limited than Magento’s, the actual cosmetic look-and-feel has no limitations.

Who uses them?

Some big-name Magento adopters are: OfficeMax, Christian Louboutin, K-Swiss, and The North Face.

In the Shopify camp are: Angry Birds, General Electric, Amnesty International,, and Pixar.

How much do they cost?

Magento Community Edition is a free download, plus support and some plug-ins.

Shopify plans range from $29–$176/month, plus plug-ins.

What if I need technical support?

there are many drawback in Magento’s flexibility is that there is a relatively high level of complexity to everyday tasks. Things like adding new products often require an experienced PHP programmer, making for a more time-consuming process than on Shopify. And of course this can lead to the frequent need of technical support. With Magento Community Edition, direct support does not come with the free download, and plans start at around $3,000/year, but there is, however, a large and active support community of Magento users online.

Shopify plans, on the other hand, come with direct technical support by phone or email. But because the Shopify platform is more limited, less support is needed.

Which one should my e-commerce business use?
Obviously, we’re only speaking in broad strokes here, but in general:

Magento tends to be for medium-to-large businesses who:
• Have highly skilled PHP programmers available full time
• Are willing to forego customer support from the product vendor
• Need extensive customization, beyond Shopify’s capacity
• Have the budget for several months of customization, set-up and implementation
• Have the resources and expertise to maintain a self-hosted PHP / mySQL solution

Shopify is more common among small-to-medium businesses who:
• Need to add a shop to an existing website or whose e-commerce shop is their core business
• Need ongoing customer support
• Do not have an experienced, full-time PHP programmer available
• Are willing to sacrifice customizability for greater ease-of-use