eCommerce Showdown: Magento vs. Shopify vs. BigCommerce

eCommerce-SpecialReport

At Fashion Metric we recently did a deep analysis of eCommerce platforms to pick the solution that would be the best fit for us. While our algorithm and much of the magic that we do is done in MatLab, PHP, and JavaScript, as our business has picked-up as has our need for a solid eCommerce backend has grown.

eCommerce platforms do everything from managing inventory and margins to allowing users to create accounts, wishlists, and view past orders. While solutions like Pay Pal can offer a quick way to accept payments, once you have a growing list of products and customers you’ll need something that’s a bit more high-octane.

Since we have spent so much time analyzing different platforms and weighing the pros and cons of each I thought it would make sense to share this with all of you. This will also be the beginning of many posts to come about Magento which is the solution that we decided to go with and has been a very big part of my everyday life for the past two weeks. Ready to go? Let’s dive in!

Shopify

shopify

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the platforms we reviewed Shopify was easiest to use to get a site up and running as quickly as possible. If you don’t know much about coding and you don’t need many customizations Shopify is a quick and easy way to get a store up and running on the web. There are easy-to-use templates that allow you to customize your store without having to write a line of code.

The big problem with Shopify is that you have to make a major sacrifice for the ease-of-use that it brings. Customizations are limited and while you can tweak some HTML and CSS, Shopify made the huge mistake of creating their own programming language, Liquid, for customizing templates.

This brings me to another drawback which is a very limited template library with under 200 templates available for Shopify. This means that there is a good chance that the site you build with Shopify will look like many other sites. These are the sacrifices that you make for simplicity and for some people these sacrifices are well worth it. So let’s review:

Pros:

  • Incredibly easy to setup
  • Easy to make small customizations
  • Inexpensive and great support

Cons:

  • Limited customization options
  • Small template library
  • Limited reporting options

Big Commerce

BigCommerce

 

 

 

 

 

Big Commerce is probably the biggest competitor to Shopify and they both run on the same value proposition of getting a store up and running as quickly as possible. The differences between these two platforms is small and I see the main difference being that Shopify has nicer themes out of the box but BigCommerce allows you to better customize your site and doesn’t require you to learn some random programming language unique to it.

Most of the free BigCommerce themes look pretty junky compared to the built-in Shopify themes but you can buy third party themes and customize until your heart is content. While Shopify is focused on companies selling products in the US, BigCommerce has solid support for shipping product all over the world.

Pros:

  • Easy to setup
  • Use HTML/CSS for editing themes
  • International shipping support

Cons:

  • Ugly built-in templates
  • Customizations are more complex than Shopify
  • Limited third party app support

Magento

Magento

 

 

 

 

 

.COM is king in the domain world and there is no doubt that Magento is king in the eCommerce world. With companies like Nike, NorthFace, and many more using Magento it is the best solution out there hands-down. Magento does have a hosted solution that competes with Shopify and BigCommerce called Magento Go.

Like Shopify, Magento Go requires you to make similar sacrifices with a fairly limited template library and very limited customization options. If you are looking for a hosted solution that works out of the box I’d actually recommend Shopify over Magento Go.

However Magento Go is a small part of Magento’s business, the real-deal platform is Magento Community Edition and Enterprise Edition. Magento (both CE and EE) is the most advanced and customizable eCommerce platform on the planet, period. With thousands of themes and an incredibly rich third-party plugin library there’s a reason why giants like Nike are using this platform.

Of course, just like Shopify’s easy-of-use comes a price, Magento’s advanced features also come at a price. Magento was built by developers for developers and you will need an intermediate/advanced knowledge of HTML/CSS/PHP in order to really take advantage of everything that Magento has to offer.

We are using Magento CE and hosting it with Managed Hosting from Rackspace which is absolutely awesome. Since I’ve been writing HTML code since the mid-90’s and spend every single day writing code I love all the geeky customization options that Magento allows and you really can’t get more advanced or feature-rich than Magento.

Pros:

  • The most advanced and complete eCommerce solution
  • Huge template library with thousands of third-party templates
  • Incredibly customizable
  • Advanced reporting and inventory management options
  • Large and rich third-party plugin library

Cons:

  • Requires extensive knowledge of HTML/CSS to customize
  • Very steep learning curve even to do simple tasks like installing a theme
  • Limited support options and online documentation

You may wonder why I didn’t cover Volusion in this review however after a very deep dive into all of these platforms I honestly don’t see them as a real player at this time. You also may wonder why I didn’t mention WordPress and while people like WooThemes have done a great job adding some slick commerce features through WooCommerce WordPress is a blogging platform first and an eCommerce platform second.

While you can certainly build an online store using WordPress I’d only recommend this if you feel that blogging will be a very important part of your store so you feel you need to have this deeply integrated into your store. We still use WordPress for the Fashion Metric blog and simply host this using the sub-domain blog.fashionmetric.com.

As always I would love to hear from you! Feel free to share your own experiences with any of these platforms or ask any questions you might have. Comment and let your voice be heard!

{ 41 comments… add one }

  • Yury April 19, 2013, 11:02 am

    What is your take on x-cart? They are also a very powerful and popular platform, similar to magento

    Reply
  • Jessica Malnik April 19, 2013, 11:10 am

    I actually work at Bigcommerce. I read your recent review of Bigcommerce, Shopify, and Magento, and was impressed by how comprehensive it was.

    I wanted to reach out, and let you know since the beginning of February, we have actually released more than a half-dozen new themes, including Classic White, Bedazzled, Munchen and Home IQ, etc. We are releasing even more in the very near future.

    In addition, when it comes to our third-party apps, we have a full list of integrations here. We would be happy to provide recs on some of the best ones. http://www.bigcommerce.com/apps/

    Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments anytime.

    Reply
  • Mark Macdonald April 19, 2013, 11:12 am

    Hi Morgan,

    Mark from Shopify here. Thanks for your honest review and for trying Shopify. It’s great to get feedback from developers like yourself and see what people who know how to code think of our platform.

    Of course as you mentioned, we try and strike a balance between ease of use and customization so that non-coders and coders alike can both get the most out of Shopify. I’ll just point out that none of the HTML and CSS are off limits with our themes and we’ve got easy to follow tutorials available on learning liquid – which is actually quite simple to pick up. In addition there is the Shopify App store which offers a wide range of 3rd party apps/plugins that let you expand the functionality of your store.

    I’m glad you found something that suits your needs and thanks again for your feedback!

    Reply
    • Morgan April 19, 2013, 12:18 pm

      Thanks @Mark and @Jessica for your comments and adding a bit more texture to the article!

      Reply
  • Joe Davison April 19, 2013, 12:12 pm

    Good write up, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Morgan April 19, 2013, 12:16 pm

    @Yury – X-Cart is definitely an interesting solution but more of a shopping cart system than an eCommerce Platform. That being said, I haven’t used it before so this is from the limited research I have done on X-Cart, OpenCart and similar.

    Reply
  • Yury April 19, 2013, 12:26 pm

    Thanks Morgan. Would you mind clarifying what the difference is between:
    shopping cart system and an eCommerce Platform. I thought they were the same.

    Reply
  • HowieCrosby April 19, 2013, 12:42 pm

    Great stuff, as par usual. With vs being the topic Morgan, have you ever used a versus or vs as part of the name in a domain sale? Just wondering? Howie.

    Reply
  • Morgan April 19, 2013, 1:36 pm

    @Yury – a shopping cart system is more focused on providing a way for people to add things to a cart and checkout on your site. An eCommerce platform helps with things like inventory management, margins, blogging, newsletter subscriptions, related products, etc. I’m not sure there is a hard and fast right answer to this question but that’s how I see it.

    @Howie – I have not used “versus” or “vs” as part of a domain sale but I’m sure there are some cases where it could make sense.

    Reply
  • Louise April 19, 2013, 6:15 pm

    @ Morgan said:

    @Yury – a shopping cart system is more focused on providing a way for people to add things to a cart and checkout on your site. An eCommerce platform helps with things like inventory management, margins, blogging, newsletter subscriptions, related products, etc.

    Which one is the ability to process payment?

    Reply
  • Joe April 21, 2013, 4:16 am

    Morgan!

    I’m not a perfect developer to defend well rest Html code to be honest not much, have the preference for the Zent Cart ecommerce and PrestaShop are easy for me, so that your writing with Wordpress if small ecommerce is interesting.

    I am sending you a link to the top 20 2013 the first open source is Magento.
    http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/webnethosting-1752779-opensourceecommerceshoppingcartstop20-130114224228-phpapp01/
    Joe

    Reply
  • Alfy July 15, 2013, 3:05 am

    I would also add two more platforms that I think are worth considering: PrestaShop (esier than Magento, more functional than WooCommerce, open source) and VirtueMart (if you are familiar with Joomla and how to handle it than VM is one of the best options).

    @Joe
    Here is another nice ppt, that may be useful fo a beginner in e-commerce
    http://www.slideshare.net/magneticone/shopping-cart-types-pros-and-cons

    Reply
  • Joe July 15, 2013, 3:19 pm

    @Alfy
    Thank you, be good to give out new ecommerce sites, as do you.

    Reply
  • Val July 23, 2013, 1:01 pm

    Morgan,

    This overview has been super helpful as I am currently comparing eCommerce platforms for one of my business units.

    Admittedly, I did have an interest in a particular solution mentioned within your post, but have since re-evaluated that preference.

    Based on your analysis and my own further research into each of the platforms you had mentioned, Magento appears to be the best solution for ‘professional level’ back-end admin and future scalability – critical requirements for our current needs.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Morgan July 23, 2013, 1:45 pm

      Really glad you enjoyed it @Val. We are using Magento and loving it despite the relatively steep learning curve.

      Reply
  • Kathy Daunt August 6, 2013, 1:33 am

    Really enjoyed this article. After a long hunt got a good post depicts the comparison of three platforms. As it is said Magento is the king of ecommerce platforms.

    Magento has secured reputation among all the ecommerce platforms in the race. The number of users community is getting increased.

    Magento is hardly vulnerable to attacks but what about the security range of Shopify and Bigcommerce?

    Reply
  • Raed Hawili August 10, 2013, 1:17 am

    Dear all who is interested in magento enterprise 1.13.0.1
    u can go to thier website http://www.magentocommerce.com/product/enterprise-pricing
    who like to download it for free:

    http://laulibros.com/enterprise-1.13.0.1.tar.gz ( magento ee 1.13.01)
    http://uploaded.net/file/n7dxgnxb (magento ee 12.0.2)
    http://www18.zippyshare.com/v/59412041/file.html (magento ee 12.0.0)

    Reply
  • Jack Wauters August 22, 2013, 8:19 am

    Hi Morgan,

    Recently I came across SEOshop. This platform is better comparable with Bigcommerce. They provide all necessary features for all EU countries and have 2checkout.com and authorize.net integrated.

    Pro’s
    – Localisation for EU, incl. native support
    – A lot of standard functionality, comparable with Shopify
    – Advanced reporting and inventory management options
    – Fully customizable, lighthouse customers include Philips and more
    – No percentages fees over revenues

    Cons
    – Just around ~15 Apps integrated
    – Documentation is still not comparable with Shopify

    In fashion they provide for example http://www.tony-cohen.com/en/

    Reply
  • JS September 2, 2013, 9:14 am

    Great insight. What about those pesky reservation systems that all of our restaurant and hotel clients use: an elegant way to make a reservation in a boutique hotel, an easy form field lets you order ahead from the menu at favorite cafe (with the option to pay now or later). The kind of flexibility in sales that small businesses grant to local clients but that are hard to do online.

    Reply
  • Carl September 7, 2013, 12:00 pm

    I am non-programmer who has done extensive research on these platforms and actively using few of them.

    Magento is monster. Looks great but you need army of IT professions (slight sarcasm) to tweek it and you really should run it on its on VPS hosting as it bangs on servers pretty extensively.

    Opencart was my first ecommerce site and had zero programming experience – had the site up in about 3 ours with $40 custom theme. Opencart loooooves to update (every few months) so that is something to consider. Support is marginal at best. Simpy quick solution for beginners.

    Shopify is easiest to set up and support is awesome. If you want to focus on growing the brand (advertising, marketing, sales, etc) and not spend hours trying to troubleshoot IT issues….this is best option. Only drawback is fees applied on each transaction and monthly cost. You must have decent margins to run this platform.

    Bigcommerce – still researching this as they are making attempt to upgrade look of templates. Fees are lower than shopify. Been told support is solid.

    Reply
  • Jessica Malnik September 7, 2013, 3:08 pm

    Hi Carl,

    We know it can be a lot to take in at first. Tweet or DM us at @bigcommerce anytime, with any questions. We’re happy to help you out.

    In addition, we have more than a dozen brand new themes. You can check out the designs on our blog. Here’s an example of one of our newest themes- Beautification. http://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-blog/new-design-theme-beautification/

    Reply
  • Hannah September 27, 2013, 5:26 pm

    Thanks for the post !! I really like it. It is always helpful to compare the options to feel the difference. Here a link where I found amazing comparisons between different E-Commerce Platforms http://www.blog.joelx.com/.
    Hope that helps !! 🙂

    Reply
  • Mike October 2, 2013, 1:05 pm

    Do you need your own website before you sign up for an e-commerce platform? I am just getting into this, and know nothing about code, and little more with websites.

    Reply
  • Jessica Malnik October 2, 2013, 3:33 pm

    Hi Mike,

    Nope. All our templates are designed in a way where you can use them straight out that box and start selling. No coding necessary.

    However, if you are a coder, all our themes are very easy to modify using HTML, CSS, jquery, javascript and our robust API.

    Reply
  • carl October 2, 2013, 5:50 pm

    Hi Jessica,
    I have really been impressed with my research so far on Big Commerce but the only thing holding me back is no blog capabilities. Since your scripting language is html & css I would assume one could integrate with wordpress but could it stay on same domain and what type of customization cost would it run?

    thanks
    carl

    Reply
  • Frank December 6, 2013, 7:11 am

    I can’t weigh in on a lot of this, except to share my experience on BigCommerce in the hopes that it will help someone else. I recently moved my site over from Volusion To BigCommerce. I found there was a lot to like about it, and there was. It’s very easy to use, and you get a lot of support from those guys. The one drawback I encountered, and it’s a big one was their sitemap. The platform automatically generates a Google approved sitemap, however Google only allows 50,000 products per sitemap, and we have substantially more than that. We took it for granted when researching the platform, and it cost us dearly. Volusion would automatically generate as many sitemaps as needed, and automatically divide them into 50,000 products per map. When we contacted them about it, they said not to worry that Google would crawl the whole site anyway, but that never happened. In the end, we saw our site drop-down 3 million spots in the rankings. We still like the platform, but buyer beware. If you have less than 50,000 it should be great.

    Reply
  • Jessica Malnik December 6, 2013, 4:36 pm

    Hi Frank,

    I work at Bigcommerce. Would you mind sharing your store url with me? We definitely want to take a second look and see if there is anything we can to do to help you out with this?

    Reply
  • Josh December 4, 2014, 12:03 am

    Hi Jessica. I’m having the same issue with sitemaps on my BigCommerce store. http://www.voluto.com.au. Are you able to help…?

    Reply
  • kodandran karthick January 3, 2015, 2:13 am

    Hello guys i want to create site for me ,let any one can help whether i’m use shopify or Bigcommerce.

    Reply
    • Morgan January 3, 2015, 11:31 am

      @Kodandran – that is a great question, Shopify and BigCommerce are competitors and offer a lot of similar offerings. Is there anything specific you’d like to do on your site that you think one might not support?

      Reply
  • Namita July 29, 2015, 12:52 am

    HI Morgan,
    Comprehensive article.

    I am currently using shopify to power my e-store myspungold.com, and I am incredibly happy with the class of the themes and level of customisation it allows. Can’t imagine not being hands on with my e-store, and I thank shopify for allowing me that.

    To the point, we also run a small resort and I want to know if there is anything like shopify out there for assisting us with the online booking… we are currently on http://www.ramangoa.com, and we do have an online booking partner, but their skills are v limited, they are unable to do a lot of simple things that I require…

    Awaiting your response.

    Cheers
    Namita

    Reply
  • Danielle August 6, 2015, 2:27 pm

    Hi,

    I’ve been looking into creating the ecommerce part of my site and am interested in using Shopify. I realized after creating my whole site in HTML that Shopify can host the entire thing not just the checkout. My question is can I upload my HTML pages to Shopify so I don’t need to re-do the whole site with a template?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Morgan August 8, 2015, 2:21 pm

      @Danielle – good question. Unfortunately you won’t be able to simply plug your standard HTML pages into Shopify. In general with all of these platforms you’ll start with a template and then customize from there. If you want to learn more about customizing your Shopify theme I highly recommend starting here –> https://docs.shopify.com/manual/your-website/themes/customize

      Reply
  • Srp October 17, 2015, 8:30 am

    Does magento has any inbuilt plugin for caching machanism.

    Reply
  • stock photo business November 16, 2015, 11:23 am

    Emphasis might be on the process of design growth
    from roughs to comprehensives, format, and the usage of grid techniques for multi-element layouts.

    Reply
  • Barry November 20, 2015, 1:20 pm

    For me all these issues were resolved when I switched to a platform targeted at enterprise level. Try http://virtocommerce.com

    Reply
  • Denise May 27, 2017, 4:57 am

    Big Commerce has a lot of downtime and DDOS attacks. I have three stores and manage a fourth. Very frustrating.

    Reply
  • Alex Morco April 18, 2018, 1:44 am

    Thanks for sharing comparison Here’s another comparison I found with stats and detail: https://www.cloudways.com/blog/magento-vs-shopify/

    Reply
  • Kevin October 21, 2019, 2:57 am

    Thanks for the useful article! In the world of ecommerce, BigCommerce, Shopify Magento are the 3 powerful leading platforms. Personally, I used Woocommerce and want to migrate my store to another platform, and I transferred all the data to these 3 platforms by using an automated shopping cart migration tool called LitExtension. I ran free demo and used its test store features to see which is the pros and cons. Finally, I prefer Magento!

    Reply
  • Jack Miler December 9, 2019, 4:50 am

    Thanks for sharing a great blog. In my opinion, Shopify is a better choice if anyone wants to develop an eCommerce site. During my research on eCommerce, I came across an article that I want to share with your audience.
    https://www.sphinx-solution.com/blog/magento-vs-shopify-select-the-best-platform-for-your-ecommerce/

    Reply
  • Tushar Prajapati January 21, 2020, 5:44 am

    Thanks for sharing a very helpful post.
    We have worked with may clients by developing an e-commerce store with various platforms. Among that all platform, we found Shopify is very helping hand for vendors.
    Still, awesome content shared over here.

    Reply

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