Apr 9, 2024

What Is Magento Open Source & How Does It Compare To Other Ecommerce Platforms?

Magento offers a range of features that gives it a significant advantage over other popular ecommerce platforms. Let's explore these advantages...

Among the many content management systems (CMS) available for building online stores, Magento is widely recognised as one of the most powerful and versatile platforms. Offering a myriad of benefits, it’s not really fair to call Magento a CMS as it does so much more than simply manage content. It’s more accurate to say that it's an all-in-one ecommerce platform that can also be used as an Enterprise Resource Planning solution (ERP), however, we’ll stick with 'CMS' for the sake of ease.

Regardless of what you call it, Magento provides a wide range of features that gives it a significant advantage over other popular ecommerce platforms like Shopify, OpenCart, BigCommerce and WooCommerce (via Wordpress). We shall explore these advantages but before we do, let’s first take a quick look at what Magento is and does.  

Understanding Magento: A Versatile Ecommerce Solution

Launched in 2008, Magento has grown into a leading e-commerce CMS, catering to businesses of all sizes, from small startups to enterprise-level companies. As an open-source ecommerce platform, it provides a robust framework for creating and managing online stores as well as a large supportive community driven by collaboration. Being ‘open source’ means that anyone can view, use, modify, and distribute Magento’s source code freely, making it ideal for those in need of a strong yet flexible ecommerce solution.

Magento really comes into its own when there’s a need to manage multiple stores or storefronts, making it the perfect option for companies with localised subdomains, a presence in more than one country, or several distinct brands. This is because through Magento, website managers and merchandisers may instantly adjust stock levels across a portfolio of sites, amend content on one site without changing others, or even implement data protection compliance procedures in adherence with one region’s laws without having to make the same changes across all versions of the site. In short, it allows users to quickly and efficiently do anything they could possibly want to across multiple sites through a single platform.

In addition to Magento Open Source, which is the free, open source version, there is also Adobe Commerce. Adobe Commerce comes with everything that Magento offers and a whole lot more. We will look at the difference between Magento Open Source and Adobe Commerce another time but basically, Adobe acquired Magento in 2018 and has since developed a practically limitless enterprise platform using Magento as its base.

Now that we have the overview of out of the way, let's take a quick look at how the open source Magento platform stacks up against some of the other Content Management Systems out there…

Benefits Over Shopify

Shopify is another popular ecommerce platform known for its user-friendly interface and quick setup. However, Magento offers several distinct advantages for businesses seeking a more sophisticated and scalable solution.

1. Customisation: While Shopify provides templates and themes, Magento offers unparalleled customisation options and deep-level customisation. This makes it ideal for businesses that require unique design and functionality tailored to their specific needs.

2. Scalability: As businesses develop, their ecommerce needs often evolve. Magento excels when it comes to scalability, offering the capacity to handle large catalogues, multiple stores, and high levels of traffic. This scalability is crucial for businesses with ambitious growth plans.

3. Open Source Flexibility: Unlike Magento, Shopify isn’t open source. This means no one has access to the source code, which stifles the possibility of advanced customisation and limits the ability to integrate with third-party solutions.

4. Rich Feature Set: Magento offers a comprehensive set of features, including advanced product management, flexible pricing rules, extensive SEO capabilities, and multi-language support. These features contribute to enhanced customer experiences and improved conversion rates.

Benefits Over OpenCart

OpenCart is a lightweight and user-friendly open-source ecommerce platform. While it undoubtedly has its merits, Magento offers significant advantages for businesses that require more advanced functionalities and a higher level of control.

1. Scalability: While OpenCart is effective at handling moderate-sized stores, it will struggle with large catalogues or high traffic. Magento, on the other hand, is suitable for businesses of all sizes, from small start-ups to large enterprises. It can handle a high volume of products and transactions with minimal fuss.

2. Customisation: While customisation is possible with OpenCart, it typically requires more effort and development skills compared to Magento.

3. Feature Set: While both offer a rich set of built-in features including advanced marketing tools, inventory management, multi-store support, and more, OpenCart relies more heavily on third-party extensions for advanced functionality, which can increase ongoing costs.

4. Security: It has to be stated that OpenCart is generally considered a secure platform, but it doesn’t have the same reputation as Magento when it comes to security. The Magento ecommerce platform is renowned for its robust security features and regular updates to address vulnerabilities, which has led to it becoming incredibly popular among enterprises with high-security requirements.

5. Community Support: While both platforms enjoy established communities, Opencart’s is not as extensive or mature as Magento's community. This means that OpenCart site managers lack access to the same wealth of resources, applications, and support options that Magento website managers enjoy.

Benefits Over BigCommerce

As the name would suggest, BigCommerce has been built with large ecommerce stores in mind. Incredibly popular in its own right, there are undoubtedly similarities between BigCommerce and Magento, however, one is undoubtedly more mature than the other.

1. Ownership: Like Shopify, BigCommerce provides hosting as part of its overall service. This may be seen as a convenient feature, but it does limit the control that website owners and manager have over their hosting environment. Magento, on the other hand, empowers users and enables them to exercise complete control. A Magento site can be hosted wherever its owner prefers, which can be beneficial for data security and compliance purposes.

2. Security: Building on the last point, while BigCommerce does have a wide array of security features, it does not enjoy the same robust security features and regular updates that Magento does. As a matter of fact, Magento is often seen as the only game in town for businesses with high-security requirements.

3. E-commerce Flexibility: While its interface is incredibly user-friendly, BigCommerce is limited when it comes to design and customisation. This can make things very frustrating for businesses with specific branding requirements or who are eager to experiment with atypical UX/UI configurations.

4. Feature Set: It’s fair to say that BigCommerce offers a good range of features but - like OpenCart - you may need to rely on third-party apps and extensions for advanced functionality, potentially leading to additional costs. While Magento is also compatible with an extensive range of third-party extensions, it comes with a rich set of built-in features including advanced marketing tools, inventory management, multi-store support, and more.

5. Community and Support: As previously mentioned, Magento is backed by a sizable community that’s both active and passionate. BigCommerce, it has to be said, enjoys a similarly passionate community, but it isn’t as extensive and lacks maturity. These things will change with time, of course, but it has a long way to go before it catches up.

Benefits Over WordPress

WordPress is the most commonly used Content Management System, accounting for around 43% of all websites on the internet. Not all Wordpress websites are ecommerce stores, however; in fact it was originally conceived as a blogging platform. Because of this, plugins - usually WooCommerce - are required to convert base Wordpress websites into stores. This brings us nicely on to our first point…

1. Ecommerce Focus: While WordPress is undoubtedly versatile, Magento is purpose-built for ecommerce. This means it offers a more comprehensive suite of tools and features for managing online stores, a specialisation that translates into a more tailored and effective ecommerce experience.

2. Scalability: While WordPress websites are scalable, they require far greater optimisation and performance enhancements as e-commerce sites grows. This means that an ever-increasing number of plugins will be required, increasing the fragility of a site and making it prone to serious development errors.

3. Security: Due to the prolific use of third-party plugins, security is a concern for Wordpress websites. Because of this, they require additional security measures and monitoring that most large businesses are not willing to tolerate.

4. SEO Capabilities: Both platforms offer a wide range of SEO features, including SEO-friendly URLs, sitemaps, and metadata management. WordPress’ SEO features, however, can vary depending on the plugins and themes used, while Magento has most standard SEO functionalities built in.

5. Customisation: While WordPress is undoubtedly the more customisable overall, Magento offers a far powerful selection of advanced e-commerce-specific customisation options.

Is Magento Right For You?

If you have gotten this far, you should hopefully have a good idea of Magento’s benefits. If you believe your business would stand to gain from making a move over to the Magento ecommerce platform, please get in touch and we can help you start to scope things out. A move to Magento isn’t something you want to undertake quickly or carelessly, but we’d be more than happy to help guide you through the process at whatever pace best suits you.

If you’re still not sure whether it is the best platform for your business, you’re welcome to contact us or keep an eye out for our upcoming articles that will delve deeper into the differences between Magento and the Content Management Systems listed above.