Selecting the right platform for your ecommerce business is one of the most important decisions you can make when presenting yourself to the online market. A great ecommerce platform will help make managing your store simple and straightforward, whilst displaying beautiful designs and layouts that appeal to visitors.
For many years, the ecommerce platform Magento was the default choice for online business owners. However, more and more ecommerce brands are now moving their businesses onto the Shopify platform to make the most of its low cost of ownership, ease of use, functionality and flexibility.
In this article we cover several important aspects of migrating from Magento to Shopify Plus. With that in mind, here are some quick links to get you to the parts that are relevant for you:
- The differences between Magento and Shopify Plus
- Your Magento to Shopify Plus migration guide
- Case study: Pineapple Dance Studios migrate from Magento to Shopify Plus
The differences between Magento and Shopify Plus
Shopify and Magento are two of the biggest contenders when it comes to ecommerce platforms - with many people finding themselves torn between them. While there are some similarities between Magento and Shopify Plus it’s important to point out that both have different capabilities and work in different ways.
Here are some of the key differences between the two platforms.
Shopify and Shopify Plus are licensed as a SaaS (Software as a Service,) this means that the hosting element is taken care of by Shopify themselves. This does mean that there is limited or no access to the server side, which can be an issue if your business model requires custom backend changes.
However, with the introduction of headless and custom apps, most backend functionality can be achieved on Shopify Plus without access to the server. The benefit of using a SaaS is that you don’t need to pay and manage servers and the closed system is much more resilient to outside attacks.
With Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce, you’ll need to find a third-party hosting provider. Magento also offers a managed and automated hosting platform with Commerce Cloud, although this comes with higher licensing costs. This may have some advantages for certain business owners as it can offer more flexibility. The functionality of the ecommerce store should be evaluated to ensure the hosting package is right for the business case.
The disadvantages of hosting an ecommerce platform usually far out-weigh the disadvantages of a SaaS. Often, maintenance costs and server upgrades are expensive and can eat into budgets at an on-going rate - which won't be a problem on Shopify Plus.
The risk of being hacked or attacked is much higher on a Magento platform, and without a reactive hosting and development team to hand, this can soon spiral out of control. This can have serious implications on business operations and often is a risk that doesn't need to be taken.
Because Shopify and Shopify Plus have a closed backend ecosystem, it means that any attacks that happen are contained and managed quickly. While there have been cases of business owners not enabling 2FA authentication or leaving passwords written on post-it notes, there have been no hacks on the Shopify platform.
Shopify is still a web based application and nothing is completely un-hackable. However, their reactive team of maintenance, security compliance and developers means that any vulnerability in the platform is patched well before any damage can be caused. This allows businesses to focus on what’s important to them, safe in the knowledge that their site is secure.
By far, one of the biggest complaints we hear from Magento merchants is the security issues surrounding the platform. While Magento releases security patches regularly, the time and cost implications to integrate them often mean that they fall down the priority list. As an ecommerce merchant, being able to continue with daily business operations without worrying about arbitrary security patches is important.
Updates to Shopify and Shopify Plus are a regular occurrence. Thankfully, merchants don’t have to apply these updates themselves as they’re all done via the SaaS platform. Security, functionality and performance updates are all done behind closed doors and often seldom noticed by the merchant.
Functionality updates such as multi-currency are rolled out automatically to merchants and require little to no set up on their behalf. Performance based updates are rolled out periodically and are focussed around accessibility and speed. Shopify is constantly striving to be the best ecommerce platform. This eagerness often leads to ground-breaking technology performance updates that keeps them ahead of the game.
With each new edition of Magento comes a list of new functionalities. Functionality updates to Magneto need to be carefully implemented, as often, there can be compatibility issues. All of this requires development time and expense that could be used to provide “positive development” elsewhere.
While Magento does release patches that help with the clunkiness of the platform, performance issues are usually formed at server level. Shopify applies performance updates for you, whereas upgrading and optimising servers for Magento is costly and time consuming.
So when it comes down to it, what will you be paying for Magento or Shopify/Shopify Plus?
Shopify has no set-up fees, with monthly plans between £19-£259. It’s also important to note that you won’t be paying any bandwidth fees.
Whilst Magento offers a free set-up with its Open Source Edition, there is a need to host the site on a server and pay for an SSL certificate (free with Shopify). This can cost anywhere from £20 a month to hundreds of pounds depending on the size of store you plan to launch.
Alternatively, with Shopify Plus, you'll only be charged a single flat monthly fee.
Shopify Plus is licensed on a case-by-case basis, but as a base indicator, prices start at $2,000 per month (approximately £1,745). On the Plus plan there are reduced transactional fees.
The starting cost for a Magento 2 Enterprise Solution licence is $22,000 a year and goes up in tiers based on the stores annual revenue. While this is ever-so slightly cheaper than the Shopify Plus starting licence, Magento licence doesn’t include any additional costs such as hosting - often doubling the cost.
One of the top considerations when making a decision on your ecommerce software is scalability. How does the size of my online store fit with the scalability of both platforms?
Magento is the route for many large-scale online stores with lots of products and the desire for a large amount of flexibility within the system. Shopify is the platform of choice for smaller and mid-sized stores that are looking for a no fuss easy to use set up. However, that was until Shopify Plus landed on the scene, providing a rival to Magento for high-volume, fast-growing merchants.
On Shopify, you can get a store up and running for as little as $29/month, changing plans seamlessly as you grow and benefiting from reduced transaction fees as you scale up. In terms of growing traffic, Shopify automatically scales your hosting capabilities (at no extra cost) to dynamically deal with fluctuations in traffic.
This can be extremely important during busy shopping periods such as Black Friday where, not only will there be a spike in traffic, but there will also be a spike in users checking out at the same time.
Often with Magento, if you’re expecting to see a large spike in traffic and checkouts, then you need to pre-plan it with your hosting company. Making sure the infrastructure is in place to cope with any increased activity.
Pineapple Dance Studios migrated from Magento to Shopify Plus due to a number of challenges the platform presented. General Manager Simon Nicholson explains that:
“Our previous site would always go down on weekends, or [during] sales—whenever we had more traffic. It was unintuitive. Reporting was terrible. Small changes were a struggle. We were faced with spending tens of thousands of pounds on simple product or content updates. We knew we had made the wrong choice with Magento."
Ecosystem & integrations
Technology partners of Shopify often have a seamless integration, requiring only a plug-and-play attitude to get up and running. This makes the platform extremely versatile and allows you as the business owner to experiment with different solutions. This flexible integration allows for new features and functionalities to be added inline with ecommerce trends without spending a small fortune on development.
For customised and complex integrations, Shopify’s API allows experienced Shopify agencies to develop apps at a fraction of the cost of a Magento counterpart.
While Magento also has a large range of integrations with technology partners, often the integration side isn’t as seamless as Shopify. Requiring coded integrations, compatibility testing and on-going updates means that integrations can take days (or weeks!) rather than hours.
Cost of ownership
While the functionality and performance requirements will vary store to store, on average the cost of ownership is much lower on Shopify Plus. This is due to several factors, including the cost of hosting and maintaining the security and performance updates. Integrations and custom development is often quicker and therefore more affordable on the Shopify Plus platform.
While licence fees are slightly lower on Magento Enterprise solutions, these don’t include hosting fees. There is, however, a Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition (ECE), which starts at around $40,000 annually. This makes Magento substantially more expensive even before we’ve started any development work.
It’s no secret that Shopify is a lot easier to use than Magento, particularly with a key website-building tool in the back end to help customise store features. Magneto presents lots of back end features that can be difficult to navigate if you’re not native to web development.
Time to market
Time to market can be a big deciding factor for some ecommerce businesses. Typically, upgrading or migrating to traditional software can take 8-12 months. However, migrating to Shopify Plus usually takes 3-4 months.
There are pros and cons to both Magento and Shopify/Shopify Plus, and what works best for your ecommerce business depends entirely on your individual store and your unique needs/desires.
If you’re looking to set up an online store for a small to mid-sized business, with great designs that’s easy to manage, Shopify should be your first choice.
If you’re a bigger organisation looking to handle large amounts of inventory and are willing to hire extra dev help, then Magento may be the way forward.
If you still want a platform that can handle high-volumes of traffic with an easy-to-navigate back end system, it's definitely worth looking into Shopify Plus. As you’re here reading this Magento to Shopify Plus ecommerce guide, it looks like you might already be ready to take the leap.
Your Magento to Shopify Plus migration guide
Making the move to a new platform can be daunting as it requires a lot of work, planning and research. Migration is often a word that sends shivers down the spines of ecommerce store owners. However, looking at a platform migration as a positive development opportunity will allow merchants to flourish on Shopify Plus.
Here’s your guide on how to get your Magento to Shopify Plus migration right.
Because Magento and Shopify Plus are built on a different frameworks it’s not possible to just pull across the theme in a drag and drop style. Instead, the theme will need to be re-coded on Shopify. However, the development cost of a Shopify Plus theme is significantly lower than that of a Magento theme.
Often, if we’re migrating a client over from Magneto we would run their site through a UX and design exercise to capitalise further on the migration investment.
Because the infrastructure of the two platforms are different, migrating over customised code isn’t as simple as copying and pasting. Instead, focus on the end goal of the functionality and implement it directly in Shopify. This gives merchants an opportunity to iterate and improve upon existing functionality and performance.
Extension to app migration
Shopify Plus’s extensive ecosystem of technology partners means that if you have an extension you need migrating over, there will likely be a solution ready to go. In the rare instances where there isn't a solution on the app store that can match the integration and functionality, custom apps can be built.
Custom applications can be built and hosted separately to Shopify Plus to serve functionality that would be required. The development cost and time for these custom apps are usually much more economic than a Magento 2 counterpart.
While migrating the data from Magento to Shopify Plus is no small task, it can be relatively painless when working with the right expert. There is a large library of Magento data migration tools out there. The two platforms handle data in different ways, but matching up the fields and transferring the data allows a seamless transition.
While most data fields can be migrated over, including customer data, migrating over passwords is not a viable option. While it may be possible to do, by doing so you would expose the plain-text password and potentially leak customer data. However, this can be a fantastic opportunity to reach out to your customers and let them know about your new site, and to change their passwords.
Order data can be migrated over and assigned to the correct customer, so any historical order queries or customer services are seamless between the two platforms. Data migrations can be an important part of creating better customer experience when changing platforms.
Organic traffic is usually high quality traffic and when invested in properly can count for a large number of conversions. Migrating to a new platform brings many challenges with it, not least of all, the SEO side of things.
Understanding how Google and other search engines look at migrations will help you retain and even increase your organic visibility.
Before launching the new Shopify Plus store, it’s important that you map a full 301 url redirect strategy in place. This way, not only does Google pass over the ranking power to the new URL, but any customers with saved links will still land on a relevant page.
Ensuring that the content on the new Shopify Plus site closely matches that of the old Magento store will ensure the same quality content is available for search engines to crawl.
Case study: Pineapple Dance Studios migrate from Magento to Shopify Plus
Pineapple Studios is undoubtedly one of the most famous dance studios in the world. Debbie Moore OBE turned her dance studio into one of the most recognisable fitness fashion brands.
When Pineapple approached UWP, they had a clunky ecommerce site running on Magento and often couldn't update pieces of content. A far stretch from the dynamic and ever-changing environment of the Pineapple Dance studios.
Working closely with Pineapple's marketing team, UWP created a dynamic Shopify Plus site that was conversion-focussed, adaptable and integrated with their current business requirements. We successfully migrated over all integrations, customer data, content and ensured the SEO of the site wasn't negatively affected.
Pineapple needed an agile platform that could cope with minute-to-minute changes. Alongside this, the Magento platform did not provide the framework needed for the dynamic studio environment, covering timetables, blogs, and social media integration. UWP had extensive experience with building on the Shopify platform, and they were confident we could create together a site that was mobile focussed and adaptable with easy integrations.
Of the migration, Marketing Manager at Pineapple, Caleb Newman, said:
"The team at UWP impressed founder Debbie Moore OBE with their creative approach to design and problem-solving. The team worked to a specific brief and were flexible in their approach and accessible when changes occurred."
"The project involved platform migration, and UWP took care of all the work in the background, and made recommendations to streamline processes going forward. Delivery was on time, and UWP worked with shifting deadlines and inevitable hiccups. UWP were reassuring and knowledgeable from the start, which helped the Pineapple team focus on the work in hand, creating confidence in the transition and build process."
Seeking expert support with your Magento to Shopify Plus migration
Replatforming your ecommerce store can be a daunting move, but it can also be one that accelerates the success and growth of your business.
Here at Underwaterpistol, we’re Shopify Plus partners. This means we’ll make sure your migration runs smoothly from beginning to end. Then, we’ll train your team on how to make the most of the Shopify platform and offer growth tactics and services that maximise your traffic, customer base and revenue.
Talk to us about how we can help manage your migration and maximise your success.