The Differences Between Shopify, Spree and Magento

Over the years BuildRX has become deeply emerged in the eCommerce space. As we have started doing more and more eCommerce work, we’ve run into many potential clients that ask us to explain the differences between our preferred eCommerce platforms: Shopify, Spree and Magento.

All three of these platforms are very different from one another. There are many benefits to using each depending on the size, budget, complexities and level of technical competence of the business in question. We’ve put together a quick guide to explain some of the most critical.

Magento:

Pros:

  • Magento is the most feature rich platform of the three with the largest amount out of the box both in terms of the site and the admin. A lot of functionality that is available through extensions on other eCommerce platforms ships as part of the Magento core, which ensures compatibility.
  • Magento has a proven track record. Many large retailers utilize the platform successfully and the platform is owned by eBay, which means it isn’t likely to go anywhere.
  • Due to its success and longevity in the space there is a plethora of unofficial documentation, vendors, extensions, etc.

Cons:

  • The learning curve is steep. You really need to find developers with Magento specific experience to work on your site. Unfortunately, these are hard to come by.
  • The admin is very complicated to use, but Magento does offer official training (for a fee).
  • Magento is much heavier weight than most other eCommerce platforms. As a result hosting is much more expensive.
  • Timely releases aren’t eBay’s specialty. Magento 2 was announced in 2010- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJvcbIzyeMg&feature=youtu.be&t=55m16s It has had several launch dates since but it is starting to look very promising with the current release dates and public progress.

Spree:

Pros:

  • Spree is a Rails-based eCommerce solution which allows for rapid development. Rails developers are easier to come by than those specializing in particular platforms, and Spree doesn’t really require specialization as it is easy to pick up.
  • Spree officially maintains many extensions to provide additional functionality that isn’t available out of the box.
  • Spree has a much easier to use admin without much of a learning curve.
  • The core is open source and largely maintained by the community.

Cons:

  • Spree is still a young platform and its codebase is constantly changing. Keeping your Spree store up-to-date can be somewhat time consuming. These upgrades are non-essential, but contain valuable bug fixes.
  • A lot of essential functionality ships in separate modules. As a result, these aren’t guaranteed to be tested and compatible with other modules.
  • In some cases functionality that you might consider common may requires custom development. This is because Spree is still a younger platform than Shopify and Magento and doesn’t have as many open source modules.

Shopify:

Pros:

  • Shopify is much less expensive than using Spree or Magento. You can buy a theme for a hundred bucks or so. This is great for proving a concept before diving deeper with another platform, or even as a long term solution for many stores. They have a “starter” plan for $14/month and a much more feature complete basic plan that starts at $29/month.
  • Pricing is all inclusive of hosting, etc. Pricing is also much more transparent and easier to understand.
  • Simplest to use admin. Not much of a learning curve.
  • Shopify Plus tailors to high end retailers that need a white glove service. Shopify Plus can open up Shopify to be a bit more powerful than the typical hosted solution.

Cons:

  • Less flexibility and power because you don’t have access to the underlying code to make changes.
  • Tighter restrictions on certain functionality such as customizing the checkout workflow.
  • Your data is held by Shopify, and exporting that data to take with you elsewhere is limited by their functionality. Shopify doesn’t seem to use this to lock customers in, but there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to extract exactly what you want in the future.

In conclusion:

Magento, Spree and Shopify are all great solutions, and their appropriateness should be judged on a case by case basis.

Generally Shopify builds are less expensive than Spree which are less expensive than Magento. This can change in certain cases where open source modules provide better support for specific functionality on Magento. The less expensive options also generally have easier to use control panels.

Have any questions about this or need help on your next e-commerce build? Take a look at BuildRX.com or reach out to us on twitter @BuildRX.