In the competitive online market landscape there are new eCommerce platforms introduced every day. Forty percent of US businesses are already online, and chances are if you’re looking to sell your products online- you might’ve considered using SaaS platforms like Shopify, Wix, SquareSpace and others.
You might’ve also looked into Open-Source eCommerce platforms like Magento, but this tool’s marketing isn’t as aggressive as some of the aforementioned do-it-yourself models.
Amid all these options, you’re sure to be in search of one thing- the best option for your business and your online store.
When making this decision, the first question you should ask yourself is:
Do you prefer to rent a space for your website or would you like to own your property?
Truth be told, for a starting business, a small influencer shop or just a one-pager website that you want to have to try and push a product – the DIY models can be quite tempting. They might even be the right choice for a starter website, depending on your available bandwidth to invest time into building the website and configuring the products yourself.
However, even then, there are certain limitations to those platforms that will limit your SEO, your control over the content you produce, and your ability to grow.
So, the initial question points to the scaleability of the platform you select to build your website upon. With that in mind, let’s break down some of the pros and cons of both platforms, and you can determine yourself if you are in need of a templated SaaS or if a website facility with features and additional flexibility.
Magento Vs Shopify: Sell or Be Sold On
We’ll be up front, when it comes to long term investment in the scalability and growth of your eCommerce platform, we prefer the robust, open-source Magento platform. What open-source means is everyone can use it if they know how to, but the how-to part is the tricky thing, and unless you’re a Magento developer, you will likely need to invest in a partner that can design and develop the website project with you.
With decades of experience in developing and supporting eCommerce platforms – you should rest assured that we tested out all of them. Thoroughly. And for small businesses to medium-size enterprises, our recommendation stays the same – Magento is the way to own your content, own your digital presence, and own your sales.
However, this robust platform might not be the best fit for your budget and might actually offer more features than you need for your current business model, so we’ve outlined the Pros and Cons of Magento and the popular SaaS offering of Shopify.
1. Platform that puts you in control
Unlike Software as a Service eCommerce type of a website – Magento relinquishes all control in the hands of its users. Do you want to tie a certain ERP to your platform? How about a professional CRM integration? Do you rely on any other tools like Quickbooks for your day-to-day operations?
Just google it – 9/10 times you will find that there is a way to connect your software with your Magento website. As your company and the need of your eCommerce website grown and change, Magento is an evolving and agile tool that can grow and change with you.
You’re also in control of your content, and you have access to the root of your website. This means that you’re getting a far more advanced SEO solution, that helps you to address all of your technical parameters, alter your metadata, change your keywords, meta descriptions, titles, URLs and make your website as Google-friendly as possible.
The traffic you’re getting from Search Engine Optimization is the highest quality and highest converting traffic that your online store can get. Digital Marketing data confirms that organic traffic conversion rates are significantly higher than paid advertising or social media traffic. So, you want to be sure your website is optimized to come up when your clients and customers are searching for you online.
2. FREE to utilize the platform
Where other platforms can’t wait to drop their hidden costs on you and get you in a nasty situation mid-campaign, Magento offers a lot without any additional cost.
The initial installation of the platform is free. You also have free themes, free integrations, you can apply coupon codes and discounts as you see fit, and a lot of advanced features are free for use as well. Some of them can’t be found on the aforementioned SaaS solutions at all.
There are opportunities to purchase additional plugins and custom features for the platform, but you don’t HAVE to buy anything for the platform to work seamlessly with it’s out of the box eCommerce functionalities.
3. Big Support Community
You have a unique product or offering and you’re confident that there’s something absolutely unique about it that your customers will be crazy about. However, UX expectations for online shopping are often quite similar across industries, and your customers are accustomed to a certain level of consistency in how they navigate through websites.
What’s great about Magento is the vast community of thousands of developers and online store owners that are actively contributing in forms of guides, articles, blog posts, and forums as well.
However demanding your ideas may seem – there are good chances that someone had a similar challenge, and shared their experience online. If not – you can always ask for help, and the good thing about this community is that Magento users are as friendly as some of their interfaces.
But it’s not all good news, of course. Here are some of the cons that you should be aware of if you’re considering Magento as your eCommerce platform.
1. Requires Expertise in Website Development
DIY websites tout a low cost and ease of use, however most of them are far more labor intensive than the typical layperson has time to learn how to manage. While some non-eCommerce sites can be built and published live quickly in these platforms, especially if have no SKU, customer, or order data to worry about, these platforms are akin to glorified Facebook accounts.
If your business is at a place where you’re looking to focus on growing your sales and create an eCommerce solution to help streamline the running of your business, an investment in Magento will result in a customized solution. However, it will likely require budget spent on coding and design talent.
2. Lengthier Production time
As we said before – Magento is an open-source platform that puts you in control. Now picture a kid playing with a set of Legos: there’s a blueprint on how to assemble those right, and a certain level of creativity can help you to enhance your Lego firetruck or add some customization to it. That’s what Shopify is. A single set of Legos.
The open-source Magento Platform offers limitless possibilities, so you can find yourself continuously adding features, changing content, integrating new features and updating your look whenever you want to, anyway you want to. Production time with these projects definitely takes a toll because of that. There are always more things that you can play with, and always more useful features to add to your eCommerce website.
3. Free comes with a cost too
Magento might be an open-source platform, but the cost of hosting is necessary if you’re looking to actually launch it. The same as every other website that you own – you need to have a place to put it, and a dedicated server is the best option if you’re looking for a secure way to store your platform.
Furthermore, as you grow your business – you will definitely want the help of a programmer of a developer to support your website, update regularly, handle inventory and process sales. So if you’re growing your business the right way – you’ll have to step away from the counter at one point and focus more on the management side of things.
Lastly, there is a great number of themes and integrations that come with an additional cost. Although a lot of third-party apps can be added to your website, some of them will charge you to actually execute that integration. Popularity always comes with a price.
Now that we’ve broken down some of the Pros & Cons of Magento Open Source Platform, let’s outline where it would be beneficial to use Shopify as a solution for your online business, and also where it might fall short of its eCommerce platform competitors.
1. DIY Model
As the name says – Shopify is usually a Do It Yourself type of a platform, where you’re guided through the process and enabled to carry simple tasks in order to set up your first online shop.
It’s fairly simple to use, it comes with multiple different themes for your website customization, and comes with an integrated POS system, which definitely makes things easier for the first timers who’re looking to start a business online.
With a simple drag and drop interface, you are able to build a page and start moving your products, preferably on social media, with very little time invested.
2. 24/7 Support
As any other service that you pay for, and SaaS means exactly that (Software as a Service) – you’re getting a bang for your buck in terms of technical support. The support team might be available around the clock for any question, but as with most large companies, support is not personalized and the quality often varies.
Other than that, there are extensive guides full of useful content that you might want to consult if you encounter a problem of any sort. From Facebook Advertising to Drop Shipping – Shopify Guides can educate you on anything you can do with this platform.
One thing is certain about Shopify – they go beyond in customer relations in order to retain their clients and enable them to utilize their services to the fullest.
3. Low initial costs
Basic Shopify, as the name indicates – comes with a limited set of features and eCommerce support, at a low price of $29 monthly. There are some additional fees (that we will discuss here shortly), but the fact that you have to pay only $29 to set up shop is mostly the reason why people opt in for this SaaS solution.
If you’re looking to utilize all Shopify functions, the price is a bit higher – $79 per month. After that, there is also an advanced solution that puts the price at $299. These two options vary in just a couple features, but mainly people need the latter to utilize Shopify reporting, and cut down on some other hidden costs.
As previously stated – the fact that you don’t have to worry about hosting, and the fact that you only need some good quality images and some time on your hands, makes this option very popular among young entrepreneurs, small businesses and influencers.
Whether the cons outweigh the pros of this platform still depends on the nature of the business that you are running. Shopify is very popular among Dropship companies, and businesses who are running sales via their social networks. That being said, here are a couple of downfalls that you should be aware of.
1. The more sales you make, the more fees you pay to Shopify
Paying $29 per month to have your own webshop sounds too good to be true. And it is. The $29 option provides you with just a glimpse of Shopify abilities, and you’re pretty much inclined to get some of the more expensive options right from the get go.
With the Shopify Plus solution, the more sales you make on your webstore – the more money you pay. Shopify Plus solutions for vendors in the medium size enterprise category, will cost you a minimum of $2000 per month to maintain. Plus the additional fees of running your store.
The “good” news is – once your percentage based model reaches $40k in fees paid, Shopify will be satisfied with this figure and won’t charge you additionally for any other sales you make.
Furthermore, Shopify does not allow you to use any outside payment processors, so you will be forced to use their Stripe solution, which charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction in credit card fees.
And if you’re using a payment provider that your business is accustomed to already, instead of their solution, not only that you’ll pay the same fees, and the cost of integration, but there’s also an additional fee of 2% per transaction.
2. Not SEO Friendly
One of the main reasons why people dislike Shopify is its lack of SEO abilities and features. If your business is relying on Search Engine Results to bring you leads and conversions – be aware that this is not a platform for you.
Some of the basic technical SEO parameters that you need to set in order to have a properly indexed website are simply not accessible (like robot.txt for example). As you don’t have access to your eCommerce shop backend as you would on WordPress or Magento (since you’re only renting the platform), there is also a problem with limitation on you ability to execute redirects.
Your URL structure, page titles, meta data and other content is out of your reach as well. You’re forced to use templated themes that generate new pages for you, and the level of management is so poor that you end up having duplicated content that Google just ends up disregarding all together. So if you’re looking to sell via Shopify, you’re best to go with social media advertising, as even Google Ads won’t give you the ability to optimize your Cost Per Click through content optimization
3. Expect Limitations
The initial packages of Shopify will not let you take a look at your reports and generate documents if you want to have any record of transactions that you are making. Gift cards, and similar functionalities that would enable your shop to run promotions only become available as you upgrade your account. The initial low cost of using this platform really provides the bare minimum of what your eCommerce business requires.
Furthermore, Shopify uses its own PHP code, that is unlike any other, so if you’re looking to get out of the box of your initial settings and upgrade your theme a bit – you will need help from developers that work specifically with Shopify.
If you’re looking to integrate other features that your business uses on a daily basis, additional cost for adding plugins and addons is something you should count on. Plus, if email lists is something you depend on to maintain relationships with your clients – be aware that there is no email hosting possible. You would need a third party app for your emails, or a personal address that will not be the same as your business URL.
So it seems that the cost friendly model that Shopify is known to be, is only cost friendly if you’re not making a lot of money. Which by itself kind of defeats the purpose of running a business at all. One more, perhaps less-important downfall of this model is that it’s very popular among scammers, hackers and shady individuals that are ready to jump to the opportunity to utilize the cheap platform to scam users out of their money. Apparently, making yourself too accessible also comes with a price of its own.
If you are still not sure which option would be a better fit for your company, fee free to review the following table and contact us directly. We’d be happy to set up a one-on-one consultation to learn about your business objectives and provide you with some strategic advice on how to get started with your eCommerce site. Let’s get to selling!