A Comparision: Magento vs Shopify

Results of AheadWorks researchRecent research by AheadWorks (click on the image to view the market share results) shows that Magento is the dominant platform in the e-commerce market with a 29.1% market share.  This is rivalled by WooCommerce with a 26.5% share.  The one to watch is Shopify which has shown a 1.9% growth rate.

It’s no secret that at Create Hosting we are big Magento Community Edition fans.  Sure, we beat our heads quietly against the desk sometimes but overall Magento Community Edition is our e-commerce platform of choice.

This is our comparison of Magento vs Shopify.

Paid versus open source

A significant difference between the two platforms is that Shopify is a paid / commercial product whereas the Magento Community Edition is free, open source software.  Additionally, Shopify is a hosted solution whereas you can choose to host your Magento site with a provider that meets your specific requirements.

As with many paid products, if you want more features you need to pay for them, for example discount code functionality it not available on Shopify’s basic plan; you need to pay extra for this.

Core features

Both Magento and Shopify offer basic online store functionality as you’d expect from such popular platforms.

Inventory management

Both Magento and Shopify allow management of stock with variables i.e a t-shirt that is sold in different sizes and colours.  Magento has an advantage here as the number of products, attributes and variations is only limited by your hosting resources.  Shopify limits the number of products on their starter plan to 25 and there is a limit of 100 variants per product on all plans.  Additionally, Shopify only allows 3 variant options per product (e.g. size, colour, style).  While this will generally suffice , depending on your catalog setup you may want to have more options available on a product (e.g. size, colour, style, fabric type).

Shipping calculations

Shopify and Magento have basic shipping calculation as default.  Shipping rates can be set up as price or weight based or as a flat rate.  Shopify’s starter plan doesn’t allow for any extra customisation however the premium plans can have real time rates added (supported carriers only) at an extra cost.  There are a variety of Magento extensions that provide complex shipping customisation, this comes at an extra cost however it is often worth the investment for larger companies.  For smaller businesses or those that choose flat rate shipping, Magento’s native functionality is adequate.

Payment gateways

Shopify has an advantage over Magento here it supports over 50 options as a default.  Magento has few options but does come with PayPal as standard, which allows you to accept credit cards.  In New Zealand payment methods are generally limited to bank transfer and credit card so the fewer Magento options aren’t necessarily a negative.  Additional payment options can be added to Magento via third party extensions.

Discount codes

The starter Shopify plan doesn’t have discount code functionality however the premium plans do.  Magento offers discount codes and catalog price rules as standard.  The functionality on both platforms is very similar; you can specify criteria for the discount.


Magento and Shopify both allow for good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), whether with native functionality or with the use of extensions and addons.  Magento does have a little more flexibility in this area and with the installation of extensions large stores will be able to manage their technical SEO better than if they used Shopify.

Magento’s native functionality allows for product promotion such as cross sells and bundle products whereas this is an additional feature for Shopify stores.

Shopify comes out on top for social sharing whereas this can be more difficult to achieve with Magento.  Both platforms can be easily integrated with email marketing tools such as MailChimp.

Themes / mobile friendly

Both platforms are compatible with a large variety of themes which can be customised to better reflect your brand.  Magento does have the advantage here with more options at better prices.  A mobile friendly website is essential in today’s market, both Magento and Shopify tick this box.

Extensions / plugins

Magento and Shopify stores can both be extended with the installation of extensions (Magento) or plugins (Shopify).  These are modules which can improve or customise the checkout, calculate shipping, offer visitors complex promotions, etc.  The cost of extensions/plugins for both platforms ranges from free to hundreds.  In terms of variety and number of options, Magento is the front runner – which is to be expected after 10+ years on the market.  Shopify’s App Store is good but doesn’t offer the same variety.


In short, both Magento and Shopify are capable of upscaling as your online business grows.  The difference is in how it’s handled and the potential limitations.

As Magento is a self hosted, open source platform and you have access to all the code, the customisation and scaleability options are virtually endless.  The collaborative nature of the Magento community means that solutions are constantly in development. Not only is there a huge range of off the shelf extensions to help you scale your online store, you also have the option of developing your own solution.  There are many Magento merchants using the free version (Magento Community Edition) that turnover millions of dollars in sales, proving that the platform certainly can accommodate growth.

Shopify offers a number of plans to merchants and upscaling is as easy as upgrading to a plan with additional functionality.  The limitation of this is that you still only have access to off the shelf functionality (although you can submit suggestions for customised functionality) which can potentially slow your online growth.


Support is an important consideration for any service / platform.  As a hosted solution Shopify provides 24/7 customer support (as you’d expect) and community forums and knowledgebases.

Magento relies on community support  and paid support through a dedicated developer. It’s very important to find experienced and reliable Magento developers to ensure that best practice is used on your site.  Our own Quentin is a Magento whizz so drop us a line if you’re an existing hosting customer and need Magento support.  If you have a large project in mind or are not an existing customer we highly recommend Moustache Republic based in Auckland.

Final word

In the great debate of Magento vs Shopify, it all comes down to what you are aiming to achieve and the resources available to you.

If you want basic online functionality with a professional finish which you can manage with little or no training and not have to think about the technical aspect of managing a website, Shopify is the one for you.

If you are planning to grow your online business substantially and require unique features and customised functionality, Magento is the clear winner.

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