Magento 2 vs Shopify Plus: Battle of the Enterprise Ecommerce Platforms

30/04/2019, Migration, Hannah Leary

The battle of the enterprise ecommerce platforms is in full swing. Magento 2 and Shopify Plus have gone head-to-head as they bid to become the go-to ecommerce solution for large and ambitious enterprises. Our jargon-free comparison of these two ecommerce heavyweights looks at hosting and infrastructure, scalability, security, support, customisation and flexibility, ease of use, and pricing.

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In this article:

  • Choosing the right enterprise ecommerce solution for you
  • Behind-the-scenes
  • Scalability
  • Security
  • Support
  • Ease of use
  • Customisation and flexibility
  • Pricing
  • Summary
  • Swanky’s ecommerce champion
  • Looking to migrate?

 

Choosing the right enterprise ecommerce solution for you

 

 

As two of the most popular mid-market to enterprise-level ecommerce platforms on the web, the competition between Magento 2 and Shopify Plus is as fierce as ever. These two ecommerce heavyweights go to battle on a daily basis, fighting it out to be crowned the best enterprise ecommerce platform in the industry.

 

As an online merchant, you’ll know that the importance of a robust and scalable ecommerce solution is not to be underestimated. Using an enterprise platform that can cope with your growing business needs will save you significant amounts of time, money and resources. An inadequate platform, on the other hand, will limit your future growth.

 

Thus, the decision over which enterprise ecommerce solution is right for you can be rather daunting. You’ve got the future of your business in your hands (no pressure!), so thorough research is essential.

 

There are a whole host of factors to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform, including cost, support, security and ease of use, to name but a few.

 

Let’s take a look at some of these in more detail, with our (jargon-free!) comparison of Magento vs Shopify Plus.

 

Behind-the scenes

 

Perhaps one of the most crucial differences between Magento 2 and Shopify Plus is the way they are hosted.

 

Magento remains mostly a self-hosted*, single-server solution, whilst Shopify Plus is, and always has been, a fully-hosted, cloud-based ecommerce platform.

 

But what does this actually mean for your business on a day-to-day basis?

 

Hosting

 

Well, as an enterprise using Magento, you’ll either need to host your site yourself, or you’ll need a third-party to host it for you. This means you have to factor in the cost of hosting on top of Magento’s annual platform fee. Magento 2 requires a robust server setup with plenty of processing power, which can result in rather sizeable operation costs.  

 

Magento merchants need to make sure they choose a hosting solution that will allow for store growth. On a self-hosted platform, hosting fees increase with the more products and visitors you acquire. This is certainly something to keep in mind if you have ambitious expansion plans!

 

Your hosting package will affect the speed of your site too. Choose an inadequate Magento hosting plan, and your store could run into trouble during busy trading periods (potentially making you a victim of the dreaded Black Friday crash). This could see a direct impact on sales, customer trust and revenue, as ex-Magento-store Gymshark rather painfully discovered back in 2016:

 

When Gymshark’s Magento-based store fell victim to a huge Black Friday crash in 2016, unhappy customers took to Twitter en masse to complain. (Source: Shopify)

 

On the other hand, businesses using Shopify Plus don’t have to worry when it comes to hosting. Shopify Plus is a ‘software as a service’ (SaaS), which means your store is fully-hosted on somebody else’s server. This SaaS configuration means that all hosting costs are included within your monthly plan without traffic volume fees.

 

* It’s worth noting here that Magento have recently released a fully-hosted version of their ecommerce software, Magento Commerce Cloud. Whilst this provides automatic security updates and performance improvements, it is much less refined and significantly pricier than Shopify’s offering.

And did you know that this isn’t the first time that Magento has tried to go cloud-based? In 2014 it closed down its Magento Go SaaS ecommerce platform.

 

Shopify’s content delivery network

 

Shopify was the first hosted ecommerce website solution to use a content delivery network, or CDN. All merchants have access to this at no additional cost. A CDN refers to a collection of web servers distributed across multiple locations around the world. Content is delivered to site visitors from the server nearest to them.

 

Shopify’s global CDN means that stores load reliably and quickly around the globe, lowering response and load times, and keeping data flowing even during busy trading periods.

 

Quick response times have been shown to amplify visitor engagement, increase customer retention and boost conversion rates. In fact, according to recent research, every one second delay in load times decreases conversion rates by 7%!

 

Just one second can make a startling difference in ecommerce. (Source: Shopify)

 

On the other hand, a standard Magento installation is run from a single server. This configuration can be quickly overwhelmed during busy trading periods, restricting the availability of content for some users. This type of technical infrastructure also means that users from certain geographical areas may experience slower page load times. In turn, you could see a drop in conversion rates when trying to sell internationally.

 

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a tried-and-tested enterprise solution that handles all your traffic requirements on a fixed monthly hosting fee, then Shopify Plus is the platform for you. And when it comes to providing a slick customer experience for users across the globe, Shopify’s cloud hosting and global CDN is a clear win over a single server solution like Magento.

 

Scalability

 

Linked inherently into each platform’s hosting and server configurations is their scalability.

 

Thanks to Shopify’s cloud infrastructure and global CDN, it can handle high volumes of traffic with ease. With a peak order volume of 10,149 per minute, growing enterprises can be confident in the platform’s ability to handle busy trading periods such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as well as highly-publicised product launches.

 

Indeed, Shopify Plus has earned its place in the record books, successfully handling over 200,000 simultaneous visitors on the Kylie Cosmetics store during one of the biggest product-drops in ecommerce history.

 

Screenshot of Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat story showing over 200k simultaneous users on her Shopify Plus store. (Source: Shopify)

 

Shopify’s Plus’ innate capacity for accelerated growth means that enterprises on the platform are growing 126% year-over-year on average.

 

Self-hosted ecommerce platforms like Magento, on the other hand, have been known to struggle with an influx of site visitors, with serious consequences for businesses. A well-known example of this occurred on the Magento-based site of premium sock store, Bombas.

 

Following their success on an episode of hit US TV show Shark Tank, Bombas founders David and Andrew Heath watched as their online store crashed before their eyes. Product images weren’t displaying properly and customers were unable to check out. Within just a few minutes, losses totalled $15,000, and their reputation as a trusted retailer was starting to take a hit. And, when the Shark Tank episode reran, their site suffered the same damaging problems.

 

Following this double debacle, Bombas made the decision to migrate to Shopify Plus, known for its unrivalled and seamless scalability. They are now thriving as one of the most rapidly-expanding fashion brands, thanks to an ecommerce store which is built to handle large numbers of site visitors. In fact, since migrating from Magento to Shopify Plus, they have seen revenue grow by 300% year-on-year.

 

Talking of Shopify Plus’ scalability, co-founder David Heath said:

 

“Whether we’re doing 500 or 5000 orders a day, Shopify Plus automatically scales with us, without us having to do anything extra.”

 

If you’ve got big plans to grow your brand, it’s important to feel confident that your ecommerce platform is ready and able to perform. With its unlimited bandwidth and proven track record of scalability, Shopify Plus is a great choice for high growth enterprises.

 

Security

 

As a result of Magento 2’s self-hosted configuration, merchants are entirely responsible for maintaining their site’s security. All updates and security patches have to be installed manually, which requires extra funds and development resources.

 

Things like PCI compliance are also the onus of the merchant. This is a rather costly and time-consuming process that can distract retailers from growing their business.

 

Being an open-source solution, Magento is also prone to malware, with security breaches a regular concern. In 2015, over 10,000 Magento-based sites were affected by the Guruncsite malware. Over 8,000 storefronts were then blacklisted by Google in the first 90 days of the attack, causing a significant impact on sales and revenue for the affected stores.

 

In cases like this, a single vulnerability is often all a digital attacker needs to install malware onto a business’ website. This makes having the best and most current security mechanisms in place on your ecommerce store crucial for the safety of your customers’ data. Managing your own protection against these malicious cyber attacks places huge demand on your time, resources and budget.

 

As a fully-hosted ecommerce platform, Shopify Plus takes care of security for you. It guarantees up-to-date security around the clock, which not only provides merchants with peace of mind about the safety of their site, but frees up time and resources for other tasks.

 

By default, Shopify Plus has Level 1 PCI DSS compliance (which is much harder to attain if you are using a self-hosted solution). This means that the platform is committed to protecting your cardholder data, regularly monitoring and testing networks, and maintaining a secure network and vulnerability management program at all times. What’s more, Shopify use SSL encryption technology to protect a customer’s entire online experience as standard.

 

And when it comes to preventing security breaches, Shopify are well-known across the ecommerce industry for their HackerOne Bounty Program. This sees security researchers contributing to the security of the ecommerce platform by identifying serious vulnerabilities before they can be exploited in malicious cyber attacks. In return for identifying a valid vulnerability, researchers are rewarded with a bounty payout. This highly successful bounty program, now in its sixth year of operation, complements Shopify’s overall security strategy and ensures that it remains arguably the most secure enterprise platform in the world.

 

So, in terms of security, Shopify Plus is certainly the more attractive option for enterprises. Whilst the new Magento Commerce Cloud does offer automatic security updates just like Shopify Plus, it is still in its infancy as a platform and so not as polished.

 

Support

 

Another key difference to consider when comparing Magento 2 and Shopify Plus is the level of support provided.

 

The biggest source of free support available to Magento merchants is the Magento forum, where users can search for answers to their queries on a huge database of user generated content. This large community of users can provide comprehensive, jargon-free solutions for all manner of Magento queries. Magento users also have access to 24/7 phone support and extensive user guides.

 

Despite the support available though, self-hosted Magento merchants often find that their support queries need to go through their hosting provider. Understandably, this can leave many enterprises feeling unsure, unsupported and frustrated. This is especially the case when something on your website has gone wrong and you’re in need of immediate help to get your store up and running again.

 

For Magento Commerce Cloud users, the speed at which Magento provides fixes is dependent on which plan you are on. Merchants on the cheapest plan have to wait up to four hours for a response to critical issues. It’s worth thinking about how this could impact your site should a serious issue arise.

 

Shopify Plus offers 24/7 support available via phone, email and live chat – so there’s an option to suit everyone’s taste. Plus support has varying response times, depending upon issue urgency. Like Magento, Shopify also have an online forum where merchants can exchange advice about site builds or ecommerce trading in general.

 

On top of this, each Shopify Plus retailer has access to a Merchant Success Program at no extra cost. This provides merchants with access to training and support on key business areas such as brand strategy, technical solutions and business management. The program will help you define a clear roadmap for success, whilst providing the tools and advice to execute your ecommerce vision.

 

“Shopify Plus has become so much more than a simple tool to sell online. Their fantastic support—and vast collection of webinars, training videos, and checklists in Shopify Plus Academy—have been incredibly helpful in growing our business.” Jordan Edwards, CEO of Mixology Clothing, talking about the vast level of support provided to Shopify Plus merchants.

 

Overall, when it comes to comparing the support provided by these two enterprise ecommerce platforms, access to a Merchant Success Program positions Shopify Plus in a league of its own.

 

Ease of use

 

As well as offering speed, support and security, Shopify Plus has clearly been designed with retailers in mind. Its intuitive interface features an easy-to-use drag and drop editing system, which means you can make basic changes to your site yourself with just a few simple clicks. No need to be a coding whizz!

 

There are also built-in tutorials for new users to get to grips with the Shopify editor. With no need for a developer to make basic changes for you, you can save agency resources for larger, more exciting edits.

 

Example of Shopify’s intuitive user interface. (Source: Shopify)

 

Magento, on the other hand, is much harder to get to grips with, particularly if you don’t have any backend development experience. For non-technical team members (your marketing team, for example), the steep learning curve that comes with Magento’s content management system can be rather daunting. You may find that it causes a delay in pushing campaigns or site changes live. Without a visual editor, everyday tasks like customising your homepage or making simple changes to your site can become complicated, often requiring input from a developer (and taking a chunk out of your budget and timeline).

 

Simply put, if you’re looking to get your store up and running quickly with a user-friendly ecommerce platform, Magento may not be the platform for you. As a new Shopify merchant, you can be making money within 24 hours thanks to its super-intuitive interface!

 

Of course, if you have a tech-savvy team with coding knowledge and time to invest in your store-build, then Magento 2 may be a better fit for your enterprise. Navigating its content management system won’t be so much of a challenge, and you’re more likely to be able to harness the platform’s full potential.

 

However, with modern platforms such as Shopify Plus, it’s not necessarily best practice to prioritise investing in an in-house development team anymore.

 

Customisation & flexibility

 

Because Magento 2 is an open-source platform, merchants can access and modify their site’s full source code. Whilst this puts unlimited customisations at their fingertips, it requires advanced knowledge of the demanding platform architecture. Therefore, many merchants choose to hire experienced Magento developers to build customisations, something that certainly doesn’t come cheap. The time and budget allocated to this can eat into valuable resources for other important marketing drives.

 

Plus, having access to and responsibility for the code base of the entire website, including the checkout, means that there is a higher risk of making costly mistakes. A problem with the checkout functionality is not only frustrating for your customers, but it poses a significant security risk and may ultimately cost you significant revenue.

 

There’s also a greater amount of risk involved with Magento customisations because the platform is self-hosted. Merchants are on their own to manage, support and scale any customisations, which places responsibility of non-functional requirements such as security, performance, reliability and accessibility firmly with them. This is another distraction from important sales and marketing efforts.

 

As a Shopify Plus merchant, all that’s required to build a custom enterprise ecommerce store is knowledge of HTML, CSS and Liquid. The platform has an extensive library of themes though, which can almost entirely remove the need for manual page development. Merchants can make some basic theme customisations (such as adding new pages, changing the colour palette, editing page elements and integrating social media feeds) all without needing to know a line of code.

 

Shopify’s theme store.

 

As well as front-end code control, Shopify Plus provides other opportunities for customisation. Shopify Scripts, for instance, allows developers to create their own customised shopping cart experience. This useful tool gives Shopify Plus merchants advanced functionality and flexibility, allowing custom checkout options, upsells and promotion, whilst at the same time maintaining stability.

 

Customisations can also be built in the form of integratable apps such as email marketing and personalisation tools.

 

Magento-turned-Shopify merchant Shivraj Bassi, CEO and Founder of ground-breaking nutritional supplements brand Innermost, is full of praise for how straightforward customisations and additions are within Shopify Plus:

 

“It’s been a breath of fresh air for us. On Magento, our biggest frustration was that it was very difficult to make changes to the website, to upgrade the website, add additional functionality, but with Shopify Plus a lot of that just comes out of the box.

 

It’s really been a way for us to empower ourselves and have a website that really help us grow our business.”

 

It’s safe to say that customising a Shopify Plus store carries less risk than making custom changes to a Magento 2 site. It’s also much more straightforward.

 

Many Shopify Plus merchants still choose to be consulted on customisations by Shopify Plus Expert agencies though, as it enables them to focus their own time on developing business growth strategies, knowing the store development is in safe hands. They needn’t worry about security and support issues like self-hosted Magento merchants, so can focus their attention and budget on working with an ecommerce agency on things like store optimisation through A/B testing and personalisation.

 

Pricing

 

A Magento vs Shopify Plus comparison wouldn’t be complete without a mention about their price tags.

 

What makes Shopify Plus so much more affordable for enterprise-sized businesses than other ecommerce platforms like Magento 2 is the large number of functions and features included within the flat monthly price. As a merchant using Shopify Plus, all of your basic development, hosting, security and business management tasks are included at no extra cost.

 

On the contrary, Magento merchants can easily find themselves battling with unforeseen costs that aren’t covered in their original annual fee. As well as paying for hosting costs that increase with product and traffic volume, Magento-users have to budget for significant development time when it comes to installing security updates and making customisations.

 

It’s also much cheaper to build a Shopify Plus site compared to a Magento store, so you’re saving money from the get-go as a Shopify merchant.

 

Overall, Shopify Plus is considerably cheaper than both the self-hosted Magento 2 platform and the recently-released Magento Commerce Cloud. The huge time- and cost-savings you gain from switching from Magento to Shopify could enable you to really focus on taking your business to the next level by investing in more conversion-boosting opportunities.

 

Magento vs Shopify – A summary

 

On the one hand, there’s Magento 2, geared towards merchants with more complex customisation and hosting architecture requirements. Built for developers, there’s no denying that it offers a vast amount of flexibility, although this can come with hidden, and often rather significant, costs.

 

On the other hand, there’s Shopify Plus – an intuitive, scalable, fully-hosted platform that’s quick and easy to get to grips with. It provides all the key components of an enterprise-level ecommerce solution, without the need for development teams in day-to-day operations. Crucially, the money that you can save as a Shopify Plus merchant can be invested into growing your business – perfect for ambitious enterprises looking to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace.

 

As we’ve seen, there are a variety of factors to consider when choosing the right enterprise ecommerce solution for your business. The decision on which platform is best should ultimately be based on a detailed assessment of your specific requirements and resources.

 

The ecommerce world is changing though, and more and more enterprise-level brands are making the switch from Magento to Shopify Plus in search of a simpler, more robust, more manageable solution.

 

Why do Swanky choose to work with Shopify Plus?

 

Here at Swanky, we champion Shopify Plus as the best, and most affordable, ecommerce platform for rapid-growth, enterprise-level businesses. It offers unrivalled security, scalability and support, whilst allowing you time and resources to focus on growing the revenue-generating aspects of your business.

 

Shopify Plus was built with modern ecommerce managers in mind. We believe it is unique in the way it truly understands the value of your time and money.

 

We caught up with Shopify Plus Expert and Founder of Swanky, Dan McIvor, to find out why he thinks Shopify Plus comes out on top when compared with Magento’s enterprise solutions:

 

“For me, it’s all about potential; the breakneck pace of change in the digital space – strategies, tools, regulations, channels and so on – is either an opportunity or a risk for organisations. Dealing with change poorly and missing those opportunities places hard limits on an organisation’s growth – no matter how great other aspects of the organisation are. But if risk is handled as standard, at the platform level, teams are unleashed to take every opportunity open to them.

 

Shopify Plus goes a step further too; the ease and speed of development makes it quicker, simpler and cheaper to grab more opportunities as they arise. The results for teams that have bought into a Plus mindset and robust growth methodologies can be extraordinary – you’ll find case studies on our site.”

 

Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding: not only does Shopify Plus provide users with 99.98% uptime, 80 millisecond page response times and 24/7 customer support, it generates an average year-on-year growth rate of 126% for its merchants. This level of reliability simply cannot be matched by open-source platforms like Magento.

 

Looking to migrate?

 

If you’re a Magento-user on the hunt for a more scalable, reliable and intuitive ecommerce platform, then Shopify Plus is a robust solution to handle your growing enterprise.

 

Want to know more about what a Magento to Shopify Plus migration entails? Check out our detailed migration resources, including an exclusive webinar recording with Shopify Plus and our shiny new migration eBook. Perfect for large and scaling enterprises who want to understand more about the benefits and practicalities of replatforming to Shopify Plus.

 

 

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About the author

Hannah Leary

Hannah is Swanky's Content Manager and Copywriter. She enjoys researching the exciting world of ecommerce and crafting engaging articles to help ecommerce managers around the world make the most of their presence online. Her blogs specialise in ecommerce strategy, website design and store optimisation.

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