Shopify has been making a tremendous improvement over the past few years and with the release of Shopify Plus, it makes them a good candidate for merchants who are looking to migrate and upgrade their Magento 1.x websites. There are things you’ll really enjoy if you make the switch. There are also things you need to be considering before you make the switch.
Having migrated multiple Magento sites to Shopify and vice versa here are some thoughts I’d like to share.
The enjoyment of migrating to Shopify:
Hands down, Shopify has the most user-friendly admin interface among all eCommerce platforms we have been working with. You (especially your marketing team) will really enjoy the ease of product creation, promotional rule management, order management and content page creation. Promotional rules, in particular, have been the single biggest nightmare for marketers who work in the Magento backend. Magento is so cluttered that even seasoned pros make mistakes all the time. This has now been simplified and dramatically improved with Shopify.
Easier and cheaper integration with 3rd party apps ( Thanks to 3rd party apps?)
Most Shopify implementations follow the ‘Shopify development standard’ and no one is able to modify it. Which mean there is a ‘standard’ way for 3rd party app developers to integrate their app with Shopify, thus most 3rd party app integrations with Shopify are easier and faster to implement at a much lower cost.
The learning curve within Shopify development is significantly less time consuming than Magento, Shopify developers generally cost less than Magento developers, here in Australia and New Zealand you typically pay $140 – $190 per hour for Magento development agencies as opposed to $100 – $150 for Shopify development. This is a drastic reduction in development costs.
Peace of mind
You don’t need to worry about hosting and securities, which is a BIG DEAL for larger retailers. With Magento (non-cloud versions) there is always the worry about the optimisation and maintenance of the hosting infrastructure, especially when you are required by your bank to have PCI compliance. This can be a major headache for merchants. Within Magento, merchants are responsible to keep their Magento site patched constantly for security reasons and when you fail to do so, your site will be hacked, it’s just a matter of time.
Shopify does take a headache away by providing a fully controlled PCI compliant infrastructure so you never need to worry about hosting and security anymore. What else would you want?
Shopify is constantly innovating and improving their platform. You get new feature upgrades automatically as part of your subscription meaning you do not need to do it. Magento does improve and provide new releases, however, it is again the merchant’s responsibility to upgrade to the latest version, and due to the difficulty of upgrades for some major Magento releases, some merchants just choose not to upgrade which results in them having an out of date eCommerce platform.
If you have not been convinced of the benefits of Shopify already, now would be the right time to mention some of the factors you need to include before making the switch.
Shopify Plus is not for every business
Shopify Plus is most suitable for brands with relatively small catalogues and easy navigations. Shopify was built years ago with ‘small businesses’ in mind. Through years of development and the release of Shopify Plus version which is aimed at enterprise level clients, it is still lacking some functionalities to support big catalogues with complicated faceted search requirements. For brand manufacturers that generally have smaller catalogues, this is OK but retail aggregators that have tens of thousands of SKUs with tens of searchable attributes, you will find it challenging to achieve the same level of structured data and faceted search support that you normally get with Magento.
As of today (Apr 18) Shopify still do not have native multiple website support like Magento does. Shopify Plus does provide you with free clone sites to achieve the multiple website setups but it is just not as a good of a solution as Magento is offering. You’ll find it a bit time consuming to keep all promotional rules, banners, stock levels etc. up to date throughout your sites when having more than 5 clone sites.
Large enterprise customers will use a PIM (Product Information Management) tool to keep all the product info in sync between all sites and smaller businesses can use 3rd party apps to achieve the same thing, however, it is never as good as the native support provided by Magento. If multiple website support is key to your business make sure you spend the time to evaluate the solutions before making the switch to Shopify.
Cost of ownership
The cost of ownership for Shopify Plus may not always be cheaper than Magento. It varies for each business. You’ll just have to do the calculation and do the comparison yourself.
Basically Shopify Plus costs US$2000/month. If your annual turnover is less than $20 million, the way you calculate your Magento cost of ownership is as follows. Monthly hosting cost + Magento upgrade cost + Security Patches cost + platform specific bug fixes.
Shopify can definitely cost less for large enterprise customers with high traffic and transactions volumes, however, for smaller business on ‘Magento Community edition’ with less traffic, Magento hosting cost can be less than $500/month and with the upgrades, patches and bug fixes, your average cost can be around US$1000 so it might work out to be cheaper than Shopify Plus. Make sure you work out and compare the cost.
Dealing with the Platform Limitations
Migrating from a self-hosted open source solution to a cloud-based SaaS solution requires a mindset shift also. Any business with decent development budget would’ve done major customisation to their Magento sites and there’s basically no limit to what they can achieve. When you can modify the source code, anything is achievable, so a lot of businesses are used to coming up with unique requirements and their development agency has the ability to implement those ideas. However, with Shopify as a SaaS e-commerce platform, you do not have access to the source code. You can modify the frontend look and feel then do further customisation through interactions with Shopify API, as a result, there will be limitations of the platform that you just can’t get around.
There will be certain things that are limited, eg when it comes to the checkout page. There are things you just cannot do. For businesses who always want to stay ‘cutting edge’ and would like to push the boundaries of the e-commerce platform, they will find it challenging to deal with the limitations of Shopify.
To me, it is only inevitable for the trend of SaaS e-commerce solutions to take over. There are still limitations at this current stage so make sure you understand the limitations and have a plan to deal with it before you start making the switch. Making the decision is really only the first step, you’ll need to have a proper plan for the migration.
I’ll be sharing the things I’ve learned from the migration processes in a future article. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts about e-commerce platforms.