Magento vs Shopify - Which one to choose?

Whether you are a start-up planning to grow fast or a vast enterprise focusing on digitization, selecting the right eCommerce platform is crucial for the overall success.

There are hundreds of articles over the internet comparing Magento and Shopify. I went through a few of them and instead of getting a clear picture ended up being even more confused. 

By the end of this article, I am sure you'll be able to make the right selection.

It’s not about Magento or Shopify

Yes, it is actually not about Magento and Shopify. The real difference that you need to understand is between an Open-Source platform and a SaaS-Based platform.

The buzz over the internet for ‘Magento vs Shopify’ is because they are leaders in Open-Source and SaaS-Based respectively.

Defining requirements

Before we move to comparison, I would like you to answer the following questions:

  1. What stage are you at:
    • Starting Online Business
    • Growing Business
    • We have good business and development capabilities.
  2. Does your website require a custom feature such as - Product Customizer?
  3. Will you be managing your website on your own or you are okay to have a developer?

Keeping the answers to the above questions in mind let’s understand each platform one by one.

Types of eCommerce platforms

There are two types available to consumers worldwide:

  • Open-Source — Like Magento,  WooCommerce, and PrestaShop.
  • SaaS-based — Like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion.


Open-Source eCommerce software refers to eCommerce programs whose source code is made available to, used, and modified by users and developers.

Some famous Open-Source eCommerce platforms:

  • Magento
  • WooCommerce – eCommerce plugin for WordPress
  • Prestashop

SAAS Software as a Service

SaaS stands for “Software as a Service” and describes software that is hosted and maintained by a third-party vendor. 

This software does not require downloading and can be accessed via web browser.

Some famous SaaS-Based eCommerce platforms:

  • Shopify and Shopify Plus
  • BigCommerce
  • Volusion

Let’s evaluate both the platforms in different areas:

Time to Launch

Open-Source platforms require considerable more work and coding needed to get up and running. You’ll also have to attain a hosting server, deploy software, and manage security.

SaaS platforms, on the other hand, take less to set-up as there is no need to install. You just create an account and you are good to go. 

Since they take care of hosting and security, you don’t have to worry about setting that up. Realistically, you can have a minimalistic store ready in just a few days.

Overall, if you’re looking to get started quickly, a SaaS eCommerce platform is going to be your best bet.

Ongoing Maintenance and Support

SaaS eCommerce platforms require little effort on the merchant’s part for ongoing maintenance.

SaaS provider hosts, monitors, and upgrades their software on an ongoing basis. You don’t have the responsibility for performance, server issues, and more. 

Open source platforms, on the other hand, put maintenance and support on the merchant or their developer agency. You’re responsible for all infrastructure and administration of the platform. 

You must set up hosting and stay on top of software upgrades and updates. If something goes wrong in your environment, then you must find and fix the issue.

Some merchants might want this complete control over performance, site speed, and how you build your infrastructure.

Security / PCI Compliance

With hackers constantly looking for vulnerable sites, you must safeguard your users’ data, especially their payment info.

SaaS software providers will take care of security and PCI compliance for you. 

Open source platforms, however, leave that to their users. You’ll have to ensure you meet PCI compliance standards and stay up to date with any patches or bug fixes for your security firewall.

Customization / Features

Both SaaS and Open-Source platforms will meet your basic eCommerce needs. You’ll be able to customize your shop’s theme, product pages, check-out experience, email marketing, etc.

On top of that, for extended functionalities like abandoned cart, loyalty points, inventory management, CRM/POS integrations, etc. there are plugins/extensions available for both.

However, for SaaS-Based there are limitations because of the restricted access to the source code, which limits your ability to edit and change it. If there’s not an app or functionality built yet that you need, you might be out of luck or a bit expensive to create one.

On the other hand, for Open-Source the sky is the limit. That is why many enterprise businesses opt to use open-source platforms to build out that unique custom experience, whether done in-house or by an agency.

Total Cost of Ownership

Here’s how costs break down for SaaS and open source platforms.

Open-Source -

  1. Free eCommerce framework
  2. Hosting server fees (monthly or annually)
  3. Web developer or agency fees
  4. Additional costs to fix bugs, update patches (quarterly or half-yearly)
  5. Security and PCI compliance costs
  6. Apps or extensions

SaaS-Based -

  1. Monthly subscription rate – ranging from $29 to $2,00/month
  2. Commission on every sale - ranging from 3% to 0%
  3. Agency fees (usually one-time)
  4. Apps or extensions


  • If the requirement is to build a complex store with custom features and you have the development resources in place, Magento is the right platform.
  • On the other side, if you plan to manage your store by yourself and the requirements include simple customizations, you should go for Shopify.


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