Magento development had a really strong run in Australia for over a decade. The bespoke nature allows merchants quickly turn business ideas into reality and the cost for M1 development were relatively affordable to even to smaller businesses. During this period Shopify being an off the shelf solution was pretty much the bottom feeder, taking on clients that cannot afford using Magento. Fast forward today, the tide has certainly changed as Shopify has clearly surpassed Magento to become the preferred eCommerce platform choice for many merchants – big or small. So as Shopify developers who are now proud of themselves to be the leaders in eCommerce land, with their app-vantage.
As a long time Magento developer who has worked on and delivered multiple eCommerce projects in both M1 and M2 (CE and EE), I can tell why so many Magento clients have moved away from Shopify and never looked back – the main reason to me is the poor adoption on Cloud based Magento solutions. Almost all the Magento projects I worked on for SMBs are on premise, which means self-hosted and this alone is a big overhead for small businesses. Adding security related issues, the resources required to run a Magento based eCommerce has a league of its own.
Since Shopify 2.0 update, we can see the tell tale signs of Shopify becoming more and more like Magento now by opening its core functions to allow extendibility. It’s just a matter of time before M2 loses its crown being the most customisable eCommerce platform. After that point, we are likely to see a more prominent dominance of Shopify becoming the default eCommerce choice. The market share, developer resources, standardisation, popularity and the willingness to reinvest for continuous improvement can all be found in Shopify. Therefore, the unstoppable force – the compounding effect is likely to push Shopify to the top until the next generation of new eCommerce technology comes along.
However, today we are not here to talk about how good Shopify is over Magento; we here to provide some insights on in which areas Magento still has its competitive edge – from both technical and strategic point of views.
I’m sure this will raise a few eyebrows for both agency fellas and developers alike, so I want to be clear that we are neither talking about basic vanilla store build or the touted Headless eCommerce here. For a mid sized Magento store build, you can keep the cost down by using the free Community version and go with a third party hosting solutions so you can get away with not running your own web server. Most third party modules for Magento CE is one off and very affordable. Take the same project to Shopify you’re likely to require some subscription based third party apps or even an app sever to handle all the integrations, plus the deployment pipeline setup your agency may or may not charge you. On top of all these are the Shopify subscription and order transaction related fees so you could end up paying a lot more. This is especially the case when you just started up and a standard Shopify setup is not going to meet your business requirements. Remember as it is today, Magento is still much more cost effective when it comes to building customised eCommerce features. In terms of fees, Magento EE does come with a pricy annual license fee based on revenue, however neither Magento Enterprise or Community charges a fee per transaction.
It seems to me there is no clear plan for Shopify to match up with Magento when it comes to multistore architecture. Since the first generation of Magento, EAV (entity-attribute value) and multistore architecture have been the key pillars keeps Magento above the competition. For brands planning to have an international eCommerce presence, it’s worth to be aware that you’ll end up with hundreds of stores instead of one multistore environment if go with Shopify. Then you can start to imagine all the disadvantages:
- You now have to individually maintain all of you international stores instead of only ONE. You can no longer update all the store core code base in a single deployment. How much additional cost would that be?
- You will need to individually integrate all stores to your ERP and remember the API calls for any ERP has rate limits which means you are likely to pay more to ensure all of your stocks are in sync with your warehouses.
- In terms of managing your Catalogue, you can no longer share product attributes between different stores. For example, a simple product update can take hours of your digital resources because you have to do it hundreds of times.
- The convenience of managing all stores – products, customers, orders under one single login – gone!
- Similar to point no 2, the additional licenses for CRM, Subscription, Customer Retention, Loyalty etc. All of them can add up really quickly in terms of upfront costs.
Some may question what about Shopify Markets? If you familiar with Shopify markets you’ll know at this stage, it’s only built for a simple and basic International online business model: assuming one warehouse selling globally, all products share the same price, inventory, etc (in other words, it’s really designed for the drop shippers). In really word, this is not the case. Let take an Omnichannel business as an example, it’s likely to have different distributors in different regions, and in some countries price fixation is illegal so you got to let your distributors decide how much to sell, and how much to stock. In this case, Magento is the perfect fit because it understand how most merchants do businesses in the real world!
Whilst ccTLDs (country code top level domains, such as eharvest.com.au for Australia, eharvest.co.nz for New Zealand, eharvest.co.uk for UK and etc.) is the way to go in terms of SEO best practices, there are plenty example big brands choose subfolder over ccTLDs – for example: use eharvest.com/au for Australia, eharvest.com/nz for New Zealand, and etc. If you are on the same boat, you will be in a world of pain because the standard Shopify cannot handle the subfolders setup. The other problem is: by the time you realise you better go with ccTLDs, do you have all the international domains registered for your brand?
Third Party Integrations
With Magento most third party integrations whether using GraphQL or REST API, can be done with custom or third party modules and many solution providers have their native Magento modules out of the box. They are installed in your Magento code base which means unlike some Shopify solutions, the integration layer doesn’t require a dedicated server to run.
As you can see as it is today, these are still some obvious advantages why Magento shines over Shopify therefore still the choice of many merchants around the world. When choosing an eCommerce platform, please take a holistic approach rather than “I think I should use XXX because I heard someone else is also using it” – this is such a rookie mistake decision makers get wrong all the time by simply license to a one side story. You should always try to define your SOW as clearly as possible by taking future growth into considerations before you start to listen what both parties have to say. Your business itself (both today and into the future) should decide on which eCommerce platform to choose from. Eventually all the big eCommerce players will match up each others’ offerings, the big question is can you afford the cost of opportunity by choosing the wrong one?
Before we end this, I just want to highlight something barely mentioned when people compare the two: Adobe who now owns Magento, has a full suite of products for eCommerce marketers such as Adobe Analytics, CDP (customer data platforms), Experience Manager, Marketo Engage, and much more. We all know when it comes to achieving eCommerce success, getting the store well built is just one of the many building blocks. If a holistic approach is your cup of tea, and if you prefer to have more control over your business’ destiny, it might be worthy to explore what are the possibilities if you head down the Adobe/Magento route.