Recently Simon gave a talk on migrating to Magento 2 from Magento 1. During the Q&A session after his talk, he was asked, “Could I migrate from Magento 1 to Shopify, or for that matter another platform other than Magento?”. “Of course…” he responded “…but why might you want to?” (which was of course, the only answer he could give to that question!).

Don’t misunderstand, Shopify is a great hosted platform that many online businesses, particularly those in start-up mode do very well on. It makes an ecommerce offering easily accessible through its low cost and simplicity of set up. Whilst every platform has its limitations, we would suggest that there are a particular set of criteria which inform which platform is best for you. Let’s look at the facts:-
 

Technology

Magento is open source and uses PHP, while Shopify is a software-as-a-service (SAAS), proprietary platform uses a coding language called Liquid. This may not seem on the surface to be a ‘big deal’ but it really dictates what can and can’t be done. Open source essentially means the source code is freely available and can be modified (with a huge community of supporters behind it), while propriety code can’t. So Magento, offers the kind of flexibility that Shopify doesn’t.

Whilst on the subject of options, most ecommerce store owners need the flexibility to add functionality or features as their product offering grows. Magento offer a vast array of over 5,000 extensions (both free and paid for), whilst Shopify currently offer around 100 apps and add-ons. If you want to do something like change product images based on a user changing a configurable option, that’s easily achieved on a Magento store.

Shopify sustains the platform through a monthly subscription and transaction fees for payments made through external payment gateways. If your site sees a lot of transactions Shopify can get expensive if you’re not purely using their direct payment gateway. Magento make no charges for their Community platform.
 

Hosting

Shopify provides the hosting with its platform, Magento doesn’t. Although this could be seen as a negative, it’s also a positive. Good hosting is essential for a successful ecommerce site, it can affect speed, storage, and the number of products you can offer. Having a flexible hosting situation empowers Magento users to adjust to their needs (even hosting additional things like WordPress blogs there). If your store handles a lot of products, then the general consensus is that Magento is the better platform. Whilst on the subject of speed, did you know that even a 1 second delay can reduce conversions by 7%! Magento 2 sites perform an average of 20% faster than their Magento 1 predecessors, upping the performance of Magento to be on a par with Shopify.
 

Design

Design is critical to brand. Both Shopify and Magento stores are generally built on ‘themes’ (like design wireframes/templating options). Shopify themes are proprietary, therefore don’t allow much customisation beyond changing colours and font. Contrary to that, Magento 2 includes drag and drop visual editing, which allows non-coders and coders alike to create beautiful sites in no time. Coders obviously have the added benefit of being able to do what they like on Magento through their use of PHP wizardry!
 

Control

Control is a major factor for many business owners, Magento 2 gives you this with bells on, as its designed to facilitate large merchants. Although having such a myriad of options on your user admin dashboard can be a bit daunting to first time users, it gives you the power! You have the ability to manage several stores from within the same user-friendly admin panel to market products, sort customers, access advanced reports, manage payment processors  and so much more.

Shopify has a simple interface which is really easy to use, but limited. If you’re happy to just add and edit your products, change copy, create and managing categories, add modules etc this may be a tick in your ‘pro’ box. You also have power to adjust more complex things such as tax settings, order confirmation emails, delivery options and the front-end code editor but these are controlled by user. Both platforms provide different user permission levels facilitating different people differing access rights to work on the site and view different areas of the CMS.
 

User journey and experience

Search is critical to ecommerce success. Did you know that in the region of 44% of online purchases begin with an online search. In a study of the SEO scores of 16 shopping cart platforms, Magento came out on top with Shopify and Woocommerce tied for a close second. UX (User Experience) can make or break your ecommerce store. A quick and user-friendly checkout is critical to avoiding the dreaded high cart abandonment rates. The Magento 2 checkout is exceptional. It’s packed with out of the box features like automatic guest checkout, one-click account creation, and streamlined two-step (shipping and payment) checkout with discount code box. Shopify now offer a one-page responsive checkout but beware, if you’re a business owner on the lower tier pricing plan, you won’t be able to view real-time shipping rates, which could result in your customers being put off by higher rates.
 

Both ecommerce platforms;

  • have great marketing capabilities to help increase your store’s visibility and conversion.

  • can be integrated with email marketing tools fairly easily and provide options around coupons, free shipping, product reviews etc.

  • have your standard product features, like catalogue management, multiple product views, configurable products (and other product types) and more.
    However, Magento does have the advantage in this department because it offers more powerful ‘out of the box’ features, including built-in wish lists, bundled products and upsell capabilities.
     

In conclusion

If your ecommerce needs aren’t too advanced or specialised and your turnover isn’t likely to extend past the £5m glass ceiling of Shopify then the platform provides an ideal simple, low cost, low risk, quick to set-up ecommerce store that you can manage without the additional overheads of a hosting environment or development agency for support. However if you’re considering potentially growing into another platform at a later date, be warned that with Shopify you don’t own your databases with your customer, orders and product information, so migration could prove tricky.

14% of the top million sites worldwide are based on Magento, versus 6% for Shopify. Businesses choose Magento because it offers the flexibility to scale and grow. The ability to customise the platform is perhaps its greatest strength. The option to have multi-stores and complex SKU/product/ catalogue setup is a real win. With advanced features such as rich search, complex product catalogue, complex internationalisation, advanced integrations (e.g. ERP, POS system, stock management system, marketplace integration etc). It is ideally suited to stores that are likely to turnover more than £1m pa.
 

Investing in the future

Price point is not a reason to embark on a Magento development. It’s an investment in the future of your business. Migrating from Magento 1 to Magento 2 has to be seen in a similar light. Proper planning and expertise in development enables your online revenue to grow, reduces costly manual interventions and increases customer satisfaction.

Although it’s perfectly possible that an ecommerce business has changed since being platformed on Magento 1, and the requirements are simpler. There should be some concern about the trajectory of the business if moving to Shopify or another hosted platform was looking like the best option.

Clearly, we are somewhat biased insofar as we only develop on Magento. However, I would say that a growing ecommerce business may well need more flexibility if not for now for the future than is available in a hosted platform, if that is the case, investing in Magento 2, particularly if you are on Magento 1, is a much better bet.

If you’d like to chat more about this please get in touch.