For those thinking of starting an ecommerce site to meet the needs of the ever growing army of online shoppers, one of earliest decisions often revolves around designing and creating the online store itself. Nowadays it is no longer necessary to spend thousands of dollars paying for an developer to custom code the front end design and integrating all the backend systems (customer management, stock tracking, payment processing etc) as there are fantastic software options that enable you to have all whole site operational in days or at the very least a base to customise and adapt so you are not starting from square one.
In order to choose the best for your business, you first need to decide if you want a self-hosted ecommerce website which will have greater upfront costs but more flexibility or one that runs Software as a Service (SaaS) which you will be able to have up in running in days with minimal outlay but cost you a monthly fee..
Software as a Service (SaaS) eCommerce Software
For this article we are going to look at SaaS eCommerce software and two of the most popular choices in this category – Shopify and Magento Go (note Magento also has a free open source self hosted version which we will not be covering in this article). Both platforms are easy to use, allow you to be up and running in a short period of time, allow you to manage inventory intuitively while providing site visitors with simple ways to create an account, set up a wish list, or view orders they have placed in the past. In fact, on first glance there may seem to be little differences in them.
However, on closer inspection of their various features there are a few differences that should determine which will be a better fit for you and your internet business. So without further ado, lets look at the advantages and disadvantages of Shopify and Magento Go and see if there is an overall ‘winner’.
The Benefits of Shopify
Shopify is generally considered easy to use by and you can begin setting up a site immediately thanks to its simple and intuitive admin panel. Small customization can easily be handled without the need for outside tech help, the front end templates are easy to set up and you don’t have to get involved with modifying any code unlike self hosted ecommerce software.
The cost of the program is reasonable for most with a basic Shopify plan will only set you back $29 per month (see prices below).
If a problem does arise, the company has a quick responding and highly rated customer support team. Shopify also offers a mobile app designed for smart phones without any loss of site function. Be sure to check out the free and low-priced add-ons, approximately 140, available through the company. People love the simple dashboard offered more functionality is offered for those who choose free add-ons.
The Drawbacks of Shopify
This program is by no means perfect, however. The limited template library bothers some who wish to have more front end options so it is worth checking out there included templates before taking the plunge and choosing them – how your site looks and feels will have big impact on sales and customer engagement. However this is somewhat overcome by the many talented 3rd party Shopify theme developers who are creating awesome designs for $50 or less (see our list of the best here or themeforest). Another issue common to some SaaS platforms is that bespoke customization outside of what is offered through the company is almost impossible and reporting options are limited.
Order management could also be improved and if you are in need of complex sales processes you probably need to look elsewhere. Customer service hours do tend to be limited so keep this in mind and the company doesn’t provide video tutorial or webinars as some of their competitors do. You should also be aware that 2% and 1% transaction fees are charged on the basic and professional packages respectively as shown in the pricing table above. Only the unlimited version priced at $179 per month has 0% transaction fees. Furthermore, if you choose to cancel the account, the store is permanently deleted. You can’t move it to another provider.
The Benefits of Magento Go
Magento Go, unlike Shopify, has no transaction fees on any of its fee packages. Furthermore, they offer social media integration and various promotions in addition to the standard marketing and checkout options. Thousands of templates are offered also, allowing you to fully customize your site while the plug-in library is rich and large.
Plans start at $15 per month, with prices based on various factors including the number of SKUs used and languages selected (see prices below).
There are a long list of extensions offered for this program are enough to please even the pickiest of users and if you wish to sell in more than one language, you’ll find it easy to upload custom translations as needed.
Drawbacks Seen with Magento Go
Some, especially those new to eCommerce, may find they feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices offered through Magento Go, even with the extensive online help files and great community support system. Setting up these various options can be more time consuming than Shopify and outside help may be required. The customer support quality is also a little inferior compared with Shopify but this alone is not a reason not to choose them – they still offer better customer support than most ecommerce software providers.
Only you can decide who comes out on top in the Shopify vs Magento showdown as it will depend on the type of store you want to open (i.e. does one company have better looking templates in your niche than another), your budget, the number of transactions you expect to do per month (i.e. would 1-2% transaction fees charged by Shopify be excessive for your business), if you need a multi lingual platform and your level of technical know how. Each company has things they could improve on but in reality either option is likely to offer a great solution to get your ecommerce site up and running in a matter of days.