Magento 2 vs Shopify Plus vs Core dna: The Enterprise eCommerce Standoff
The eCommerce industry is still booming, and unsurprisingly, startups, large high-street retailers, as well as manufacturers all want in.
According to Statistica, global eCommerce sales are expected to reach a whopping $4.1 trillion by 2021, up from the $1.3 trillion reported back in 2014.
But before jumping on this sizeable bandwagon, you need to decide on a platform that’s going to cater to your needs today, as well as tomorrow.
eCommerce is no longer just about browsing for items on a laptop, adding things to the shopping cart, and checking out with a debit card. Not in 2019 and beyond, anyway.
Instead, online shoppers expect omnichannel eCommerce experiences. They want to research your products on YouTube, browse your wares via their smartphone, and make their order through their Amazon Echo — and they want that entire journey to be personalized just for them, too.
Sounds tricky, right? But with the right eCommerce software in place, delivering an omnichannel eCommerce experience is actually pretty straightforward.
In this post, we are going to take a look at three contending platforms in the enterprise eCommerce space, Magento 2, Shopify Plus, and Core dna (that’s us!).
- A brief introduction to Magento 2, Shopify Plus and Core dna
- Which companies are using these platforms?
- A look at the code
- eCommerce features compared: Overview
- eCommerce features compared: Inventory management
- eCommerce features compared: Multi-brand and store management
- eCommerce features compared: Payment gateways
- eCommerce features compared: Reporting
- eCommerce features compared: Omnichannel delivery
- eCommerce features compared: Marketing & SEO features
- eCommerce features compared: Branding & design
- eCommerce features compared: Scalability & sustainability
- eCommerce features compared: Support
- eCommerce features compared: Total cost of ownership
- What the customers say
Download this guide: How to choose an eCommerce platform
The definitive guide to choosing the right eCommerce platform for your business.
A brief introduction to Magento 2, Shopify Plus and Core dna
Magento 2 is an open source eCommerce solution that was released in 2015. It is the successor to Magento 1, which was released back in 2007.
Magento 2 is available in two distinct platforms, Magento open source and Magento Commerce, with the latter available as either an on-premise or a cloud solution. In June 2018, we learned that Magento was officially acquired by Adobe for $1.68 billion. Adobe plans to integrate Magento 2 into Adobe Experience Cloud (Adobe’s Enterprise CMS platform) — a move which adds an element of uncertainty to the future of Magento.
Shopify is a Canadian SaaS (Software as a Service) eCommerce platform that was founded in 2004. The founders, Tobias Lutke, Daniel Weinland and Scott Lake, created the platform soon after they tried to open their own online store selling snowboarding equipment. The existing eCommerce platforms that were available at the time were not meeting their requirements, and that’s how Shopify was developed.
Since then, Shopify made their eCommerce platform available to the general public and have seen substantial growth. In 2015, Shopify was listed on both the New York Stock Exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange.
The SaaS platform was originally developed by a full-service digital agency, meaning that the Core dna team is well versed in helping companies scale online. With personalization, marketing automation, and headless content management built into Core dna, brands can leverage the cloud-based platform to reach customers on new channels and launch in new regions of the world.
Which companies are using these platforms?
While Magento may have the bigger market share, all three of these enterprise eCommerce solutions are being used by big name brands:
- Harvey Nichols
- The New York Times
- Rebecca Minkoff
- Stanley PMI
- Tivoli Audio
A look at the code
Both Magento and Core dna are on a LAMP stack. Core dna also leverages PHP, Apache, Nginx, and SQL databases. Shopify, on the other hand, is built upon a Ruby on Rails framework. You can check out Shopify’s full technology stack here, which lists every technology being used by the company, from Docker to Elasticsearch.
Magento is partially open source, while both Shopify and Core dna are both proprietary software.
I say that Magento is partially open source because, while there is indeed a free community version available the enterprise version of Magento, Magento Commerce, is closed source.
Ascertaining whether a platform is open or closed source is a crucial factor to take into consideration, and you can read our comparison of open source and closed source software to find out why.
eCommerce features compared
Right, so now we come to the essential part of the comparison, the eCommerce features. For each of the 3 eCommerce platforms, we will be looking at:
- Inventory Management
- Multi-brand/Store Management
- Omni-Channel Delivery
- Marketing & SEO Features
- Scalability and Sustainability
Too long, didn’t read (TL;DR)
(Magento 2 vs Shopify Plus vs Core dna eCommerce platforms compared)
- Legacy platform (old school approach)
- Custom build everything
- Have to maintain the code or pay someone
- No new features happen unless you pay for them
- Still need to pay for hosting and support
- Use 3rd party plugins to make your store work
- Need to maintain 3rd party plugins and ensure you keep them updated
- SaaS product
- Template/Theme based
- Restricted ability to manage the user interface
- Designed for small business and startups
- Unproven to be customizable for the enterprise sector
- Use 3rd party plugins to make your store work
- SaaS Product
- UX can be customized to customer needs
- Open front end capabilities
- Designed for growth companies
- Can handle complex integrations
- All features native to the platform; no plugins
- Over 1,000 updates per year
- Inclusive ecosystem, deliver everything from hosting/ security to platform
[eCommerce feature #1] Inventory management
When it comes to inventory management, you want to have something in place that will help you do more in less time. Each eCommerce platform comes with the standard features that you’d expect to find (e.g. inventory importing, categorizing, filtering, and product and pricing variations).
Magento 2 comes with fairly strong inventory management features out-of-the-box. For example, you can offer your consumers different product variations (like product sizes and colors).
Plus, Magento’s interface enables you to add a whole range of features through their extensive range of custom extensions. But since Magento 2 is open source, there is no guarantee that these extensions will be kept up-to-date. And if they aren’t, then they pose as a potential security risk.
How, you ask? Well, thanks to Magento’s open source nature, anyone can develop and release a Magento plugin. That sounds great at first, but when bugs and security vulnerabilities are found, it's up to the individual plugin creator to fix it, which may take weeks, months — or it may never happen at all.
The downside is that Shopify Plus heavily relies on its apps to get your store to do what you need it to do, so if you want to add a custom feature to your inventory, then you can’t. But the bigger issue is that your company will have to keep track of and maintain these plugins. Also, if there is an issue, finding the root cause may be difficult, as each plugin vendor is likely to blame the other. The saving grace is that Shopify boasts a huge and rapidly growing range of third-party apps — most of which are of a high quality.
However, that high quality often translates into high cost. For example, a pre-order manager plugin costs $24.95 per month — which is a hefty fee for a relatively small dimension of an eCommerce website. Plus, with the average Shopify store running 3.7 plugins, you can see how the costs can stack up.
Core dna comes with an array of advanced inventory management features where you can manage your inventory in a single location and you also have access to over 80+ pre-built applications.
However, Core dna’s platform doesn’t limit you to those pre-built applications like Shopify Plus does. Instead, you can take advantage of Core dna’s API-centric architecture to integrate with any inventory management tool—or indeed, any third-party tool—on the market. You can even integrate your inventory with your current ERP system so you can share your inventory data with different departments including accounting, finance, purchasing and marketing.
[eCommerce feature #2] Multi-brand and store management
For an organization that operates multiple brands, you need to have a platform where you can run and manage multiple online businesses stores on a single interface.
The multi-store feature in Magento 2 is their key selling point. Magento’s multi-store architecture allows you to share your product catalog across different sites. And you can also set the product attributes at both global or store levels.
Shopify Plus also allows you to manage multiple stores. But Shopify does not have a proper multi-store architecture in place. And because of this, many brands have opted against Shopify Plus.
Shopify Plus’ multi-store feature only allows you to create separate stores (clones). The inventory can’t be shared between stores, so you have to have a separate inventory for each store. Managing multiple stores through Shopify can get a bit complicated since each store has to be managed and updated individually.
The platform has a multisite feature which enables you to create an unlimited number of online stores and you can manage them all through a single interface.
Core dna also gives you the option of sharing your product catalog across all your sites or run a separate catalog with store-specific customization. Plus, Core dna comes with built-in geo-localization so you can easily attribute sales to stores with store level order management and order processing.
Download this guide: How to choose an eCommerce platform
The definitive guide to choosing the right eCommerce platform for your business.
[eCommerce feature #3] Payment gateways
Multiple payment options give your customers more choice. You want to have an eCommerce solution that accommodates a variety of payment options, which benefit both your customer and your business.
Magento 2 has a range of options when it comes to accepting payments, including their existing integration with PayPal and other well-known payment gateways. But there is one significant issue, some payment gateways don’t have modules built into the system yet.
Magento does not charge transaction fees other than what you pay the payment gateway provider (which varies from gateway to gateway).
Shopify Plus supports a wide range of payment gateways, from PayPal to Stripe to Braintree.
However, Shopify Plus imposes transaction fees, so for every sale you make, Shopify takes a cut. If you take payment through third-party payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe, there’s a 0.25% transaction fee. But if you opt for Shopify Payments, which is not available in certain countries, that fee is reduced to 0.15%.
Shopify Plus also has a minimum fee of $2,000 per month, even if you don’t sell anything, as well as a maximum fee of $40,000.
For instance, if you sell $50,000 worth of products, you would owe Shopify $150 based on the 0.25% transaction fee. However, due to the minimum fee, you would pay $2,000. If you sold $2,000,000 worth of products, you would pay $5,000.
Core dna is integrated with all the leading payment gateways. Additionally, Core dna customers can leverage the platform’s powerful, open API to integrate with any payment solution on the market.
Moreover, Core dna does not charge transaction fees, you’re only charged the monthly subscription fee that is based on the number of server requests you use.
[eCommerce feature #4] Reporting
Having good reporting tools enables you to get a better understanding of how your eCommerce store is performing and will help you make better-informed decisions.
When it comes to reporting, Magento 2 does the job, but lacks finesse.
Their reporting interface is quite clunky, and if you opt for a third-party integration, you’re going to pay a fairly hefty fee. For example, one Magento analytics module is, at the time of writing, selling for $499.
Shopify’s out-of-the-box reporting feature is well-rounded.
The interface is clean, and you can easily monitor site traffic, sales, and other core metrics with ease. The Shopify Marketplace also has a number of analytics plugins.
Core dna has its own reporting system built in. but if you want to go the extra mile, Core dna lets you integrate with the best reporting tools on the market, from Google Analytics to KISSmetrics. You can also integrate Core dna with your ERP as mentioned earlier in this article. This allows you to attain comprehensive analytic data which helps you determine if your goals and objectives are being met.
In addition, Core dna allows you to capture information on individual customer behavior, giving your marketing team detailed information on how each customer interacts with your site.
[eCommerce feature #5] Omnichannel delivery
All three platforms can serve an omnichannel marketing and eCommerce strategy. For example, all three could integrate with Facebook Shop page, while Shopify has its own Point-of-Sale hardware for brick and mortar stores.
However, while both Magento and Shopify offer their own APIs which enables developers to build custom applications, storefronts, and commerce experiences, neither of them are built to handle content at an enterprise level; unlike Core dna.
As a true headless commerce platform, Core dna can headlessly manage and deliver both commerce experiences and content to any device or touchpoint.
For instance, neither Magento or Shopify have built-in content management systems that are built to handle blogs, news stories, and additional resources. For adequate functionality, you’ll have to integrate the platforms with a CMS.
In this regard, Core dna has a significant advantage over Magento and Shopify, because it’s built as a decoupled platform with enterprise-grade content management features built in. That means retails get more control over their website content, blog content, press releases, and everything in between — all while having the freedom to deliver that content to any touchpoint.
[eCommerce feature #6] Marketing & SEO features
Website traffic is the lifeblood of any eCommerce company. With the right marketing tools bundled into your eCommerce platform, your marketing team will have the resources to attract relevant traffic through search engines, social media, email marketing, and so forth.
When it comes to marketing features, here’s how Magneto 2, Shopify Plus, and Core dna stack up against each other.
As for Magento 2, you actually have more SEO options. Additional features like nofollow links, redirect links and canonical tags make it easier for search engines to index your eCommerce site.
Shopify Plus comes with a basic set of SEO options where you can edit meta tags and optimize both your inventory and your product pages. The biggest limitation to Shopify is that you’re not able to make any configurations at server level, while changing things like caching headers is also not possible
Besides the fundamental SEO features found in Magento 2 and Shopify Plus, you have to remember both these platforms only serve as an eCommerce site, and that’s it.
Core dna was built as a headless web CMS that you can use to run an eCommerce site. And this has many advantages. With Core dna’s CMS platform, you can add a news page, a blog, individual web pages and an FAQ page very easily.
You’re also able to conduct a content marketing strategy under the same domain as your eCommerce site or via a separate domain (handy for landing pages and microsites) thanks to Core dna’s multisite feature.
And since Core dna has an API-centric architecture, you can integrate your eCommerce site with any marketing platform, SEO tool, or analytics solution to further your marketing initiatives.
[eCommerce feature #7] Branding & design
Magento 2 also has a range of free and premium responsive themes. The new drag-and-drop feature enables you to customize the layout of your website more efficiently, which is handy for non-coders.
The downside though, is that your custom theme runs a risk of being incompatible with future versions of Magento (i.e. Magento 3). When developers migrated their theme from Magento 1 to Magento 2, they noticed their old Magento 1 theme was incompatible with Magento 2, so they had to start all over again.
Shopify Plus provides you with a range of free and premium themes. Most of the themes are responsive and can work on a mobile device. However, Shopify Plus’ interface doesn’t give you a lot of room to customize and tweak their themes.
Core dna comes with over 80 pre-built applications which are available out-of-the-box, allowing customers to quickly create and design an eCommerce site.
As a true enterprise SaaS platform, all Core dna solutions feature custom templates and the system places no restrictions whatsoever on UI design. This means a bit more effort upfront, since you won’t have pre-built generic templates.
That said, a custom design will help your eCommerce website stand out from the crowd, instead of looking like thousands of other websites using the same theme.
Plus, with Core dna being a decoupled CMS, you can easily customize and personalize your design and content presentation to meet the needs of your customers across touchpoints. And, since Core dna is a true single-instance/multi-tenant SaaS solution, your template - or any other add-ons and customizations - will always remain compatible with the platform.
[eCommerce feature #8] Scalability & sustainability
In terms of scalability, Magento tends to be preferred over Shopify Plus. As mentioned, Shopify Plus only allows you to create clone sites that you have to manage and maintain individually, which is a lot of work if you have many eCommerce stores. With Magento 2, it is built on a multi-store architecture so you can share your product catalog across different websites.
Core dna is built on a microservice architecture which enables you to scale much faster. This is because the individual components (i.e. services) that make up the architecture are not dependent on each other and they communicate with each other via requests/calls. This gives developers a great deal of freedom to scale and make any adjustments quickly. Furthermore, Core dna leverages CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) and load balancing to help deliver rapid, reliable digital experiences across the globe.
As for sustainability, Magento 2 actually fails in this department. If you’re using the open source edition, the onus is on you to update and maintain the entire system. And if you have multiples sites, that’s a heavy workload for your developers.
Plus, if history is anything to go by, it’s fair to say that Magento 2 won’t be around forever, either. Sooner or later, Magento 2’s successor will arrive, eventually forcing Magento customers to migrate yet again. To make matters more uncertain, Adobe’s recent acquisition of Magento could spell trouble for Magento customers, as licensing fees could rise, and the open source nature of the platform could be stripped away.
Those who have migrated from Magento 1 to Magento 2 have expressed a great deal of frustration on how time-consuming and tedious the migration process is. You might have to go through that entire ordeal when migrating from Magento 2 to Magento 3.
[eCommerce feature #9] Support
If something were to go wrong, it is good to know you have support in place. All 3 eCommerce platforms provide support, but at different levels.
Magento 2 only provides developer support. Moreover, Magento 2 users do have the option of purchasing the services of a Magento Technical Account Manager, but this comes at an added cost. Plus, Magento users can always tap into the support of the community of 500,000 certified partners dotted around the world.
Shopify does provide 24/7 support that you can get over the phone, email or live chat, but only at merchant level. The support you receive covers general platform-related queries, simple bug technical issues, and guidance on marketing.
If you need support at development level to implement complex changes, then you have to pay Shopify to cover the development costs. It is best to have a development retainer in place to avoid substantial overhead costs.
As for Core dna, you get support at both merchant and developmental level.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that Core dna has just one code base which receives over 1,000 updates a year—which every Core dna customer has access to.
Core dna is open to extending your eCommerce platform in a variety of ways, so you’re almost guaranteed a fully customized platform that meets your criteria. The initial customization requests can be added to your developmental roadmap. If you choose to make any additional requests later down the line, this will be charged at an extra cost.
[eCommerce feature #10] Total cost of ownership
In terms of costings, Magento 2 is actually the pricier option, while Core dna is the more cost-effective and affordable solution. That is, if you decide to go for Magento Commerce, the SaaS solution and avoid the hassle of migrating and looking after the system — believe me, you don’t want to do that.
Here’s a breakdown of the average costings* for each platform based:
Magento 2 Commerce
- Average Magento Enterprise build cost – $120,000
- Average annual hosting fees for Magento store – $24,000
- Average annual Magento maintenance retainer – $24,000
- Annual licensing cost – $22,000
- BAU (Business as usual) development costs – $36,000
- Total first-year costs — $226,000
- Total cost after 3 years — $438,000
- Transaction fees — $0
- Average build cost for Shopify Plus – $85,000
- Annual licensing cost – A minimum of $24,000 ($2,000 a month)
- BAU development costs – $36,000
- App costs – $3,000 ($250 per month)
- Total first year costs — $148,000
- Total cost after 3 years — $267,000
- Transaction fees — $2,000 minimum, plus a transaction fee of up to 0.25%
- Average build cost for Core dna — $80,000
- Annual licensing cost — $15,000 ($1,250 a month for up to 100,000 server requests)
- BAU development costs — $10,000
- Total first year costs — $100,000
- Total cost after 3 years — $150,000
- Transaction fees — $0
*The average costings for Shopify Plus and Magento 2 are based on Paul Rogers, a UK-based eCommerce consultancy firm.
What the customers say
There’s an abundance of reviews available for all three platforms; most of which are positive—as you might expect.
However, it’s not all good news for Shopify and Magento 2, particularly when you dig into the Shopify Plus and Magento Commerce reviews; the enterprise plans of each respective platform.
For instance, Lauren Kelly a Marketing Associate at Lekker Home spoke exclusively to Core dna about her reservations regarding Shopify Plus.
Kelly’s negative Shopify Plus review can be read below:
“There’s a lack of what feels like pretty basic functionality, requiring paid apps. Some examples include our shipping setup, applied discounts for sale periods, search functionality, content backups, and so forth.”
She continues, “Shopify’s navigation and use of "breadcrumbs" creates multiple URIs for product pages, depending on how you get there. This is nearly impossible to track in Google Analytics and makes redirecting broken links a nightmare. Exporting data relating to products, customers, orders, etc, is difficult. Some data is available to view on these pages, but will not export. That means we can't use that information in our analytics unless we tag it all manually.”
Similarly, a quick search on Google reveals that Magento 2 Commerce customers aren’t as satisfied as they should be considering the price tag. The following Magento 2 review is from a verified G2Crowd reviewer:
“I have been using Magento for over ten years so I know how to use it very well. is not very "user-friendly", and by that I mean it is difficult to learn how to use and even more difficult to use its features effectively.“
The reviewer also says, “For example, adding too many attribute values to a single attribute can cause your website to slow down to the point that it will barely work. Additionally, the only way to effectively manage your products is through the Desktop Store Manager. Unfortunately, Magento does not offer this software for Mac and that is what my company mainly uses. Magento is an outdated platform. The only real benefit to using Magento anymore is that I have used it for so long that I know it inside and out.”
With Core dna, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a negative review—or a review that fails to emphasise the quality of Core dna’s customer support services. Here’s another G2Crowd verified reviewer writing a Core dna review:
“The team at Core dna cares. That's the root of it. If you don't succeed, they don't. Your deadlines are theirs and they aim to please. They are also regularly rolling out changes to help all accounts and what helps one helps all, as it should be. The review continues...
Their APIs and integrations have made rolling out international websites simple. [Since migrating from Magento to Core dna], we no longer need to have a Magento development team on retainer.”
Magento vs Shopify vs Core dna: Make an informed decision
We’ll be frank; you aren’t going to discover the best enterprise eCommerce solution for your company just by reading about them.
Rather, we strongly urge you to go out and schedule demos with your shortlisted vendors to see which vendor is best prepared to help your company scale — because as we mentioned under the “Support” header, your ability to lean on your eCommerce software vendor for help and support is the difference between your eCommerce project
To conclude, take in the features of each platform, understand the way they’re each helping brands grow, and then consider which one
Thankfully, scheduling a demo with Core dna takes just a few clicks.