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Magento Review 2019: Features, Pricing, Alternatives

Randa Kriss

Staff Writer at Fundera
Randa Kriss is a staff writer at Fundera, where she has written dozens of reviews on ecommerce, merchant services, payroll, and human resources solutions. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish from Iona College. Randa has written for KNF&T Staffing, PeopleKeep, Zoho, the American Kennel Club, Planted, and Serendipity magazine. Email: randa@fundera.com.
Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone.

Shopify, WooCommerce, and Volusion—if you have an ecommerce business, or are looking to start one, you’ve probably heard these names. How about Magento? Although Magento might not be a household name, this ecommerce platform handles over $100 billion in gross merchandise volume every year and works for big brands like Canon and HP. That’s pretty impressive. With a business that large, you may be wondering why all small businesses aren’t looking into Magento ecommerce.

Some relevant background on Magento: The Magento ecommerce platform has been around since 2008 and ownership has shifted a few times over the past 10 years. In 2018, Adobe purchased Magento and their platform became part of the Adobe Commerce Cloud. Before the Adobe acquisition, Magento was known mainly as Magento Community (now called Magento Open Source), an open source ecommerce platform geared toward businesses with development knowledge. At that time, Magneto also offered their Enterprise edition (now called Magento Commerce), which was a more inclusive platform typically utilized by big businesses.

Since Magento has become part of Adobe, they have shifted their ecommerce offerings and the way they market their platforms, with a renewed focus on appealing to small and midsize businesses. As you may have gathered, matters are pretty involved when it comes to Magento and their ecommerce platforms—and that’s why we’ve created this Magento review. Keeping in mind the new direction of Magento ecommerce, we’ll take you through their offerings, features, pricing, and compare Magento to other industry players—so that you can decide if this is the right ecommerce platform for your business.

What Is Magento?

Now that we’ve explained a bit about Magento’s history, let’s dive deeper into what Magento actually is.

On the whole, Magento is an ecommerce platform, as we mentioned, owned by Adobe. Magento, therefore, has the general capabilities that characterize an ecommerce platform software: It allows a business to operate online. With their software, you can create and manage your website, sell your products, develop a customer experience, and generally handle your ecommerce business operations. As an ecommerce platform, Magento has two distinct branches, Magento Commerce and Magento Open Source. So, what’s the difference?

Magento Commerce is a cloud-based, all-inclusive, ecommerce platform. This means that by using Magento Commerce, your store is hosted through the cloud, as is the case with many ecommerce platforms. It also means that everything you need to run your business—building your small business website, managing your products, developing your shopping cart—is part of the software. To have the full breadth of functionalities offered by Magento Commerce, all you have to do is pay for their service.

Magento’s second offering, on the other hand, is completely different. Unlike your typical ecommerce platform, Magento Open Source (as per the name) is an open source platform. With this open source platform, anyone can download it (for free), install it and make adjustments to the software based on their needs. This also means, however, that you must find a web host for your site and any functionality that isn’t included must be added or created and then installed by a developer.

So although as a whole, Magento is an ecommerce platform, there are two very unique ways to use it. Ultimately, which offering you choose depends on your particular business needs.

magento review

Magento Features

As you might imagine, the features you receive when using Magento ecommerce varies greatly depending on which version of the platform you choose. Since Magento Commerce is the more comprehensive option, comparable to other ecommerce platforms, we’ll discuss those core features first. You should keep in mind that Magento Commerce has an exhaustive amount of capabilities and these are just the highlights. A complete list of their features is available on their website.

Store Builder

Magento Commerce gives you the ability to create your own ecommerce store and personalize it to your business. With their Page Builder, you can drag-and-drop to develop and edit your pages, quickly and easily. You can preview and schedule your content to seamlessly make changes without disrupting the customer experience. Additionally, the Magento ecommerce platform has responsive design themes so that you can optimize your store for desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.

Shopping Cart

With the Magento ecommerce platform, you receive advanced shopping cart and checkout capabilities. You can create personalized shopping experiences based on user information, let users save products in their cart for later, and allow them to create a post-purchase account with one click. Magento Commerce also includes instant purchase checkout, extended promotion development, tax and shipping estimates, as well as both guest and user checkout options.

Payments

An essential element of any ecommerce business, Magento gives you the ability to securely accept payments. Magento automatically accepts checks and money orders, bank transfers, cash on delivery, and purchase orders as part of their platform. For accepting credit card payments, Magento allows you to integrate with a variety of different payment gateways. Although they recommend you work with Braintree or PayPal, you have the capability to work with others, as well as download payment extensions through the Magento marketplace.

Inventory and Order Management

Through the Magento Commerce dashboard, you can manage your inventory as well as your orders. You can add all of your products, assign them to categories, bundle, and group them. You can also create product templates, track inventory, and offer different business models including subscriptions, digital goods, and services. For your orders, you have the ability to view, edit, create, and fulfill orders and invoices right from the dashboard. You can also print packing slips, shipping labels, and customize customer emails.

Marketing and Reporting

In addition to these general store functionalities, Magento Commerce also includes integrated marketing and reporting resources for your business. The platform includes SEO tools, a data dashboard, customer email capabilities, loyalty program development, and more. Magento’s reporting system gives you access to up to 100 predefined reports as well as the opportunity to create and edit your own.

Customer Support

The Magento ecommerce platform comes with support for you, as a user, as part of the managed cloud, as well as from their staff directly. As part of the cloud, you have access to application and infrastructure support as well as platform monitoring. From Magento, you have technical support available to you 24/7 by phone or email. Depending on your agreement with Magento, you may also have access to a dedicated launch and account manager.

Magento Open Source

Although the Magento Commerce platform gives you access to all the features described above (and more) the capabilities that come included with Magento Open Source are very different. In fact, Magento actually provides a chart to lay out the feature differences between Commerce and Open Source.

On the whole, Magento Open Source allows you to build your store—developing your shopping cart, products, payments, catalog management, and instant checkout. Open Source includes your general ecommerce necessities, but lacks some of the supplemental capabilities associated with Magento Commerce such as marketing tools, content preview, customer loyalty programs, and the drag-and-drop Page Builder. Furthermore, since Magento is free to download and install, there are no user support offerings.

You can, however, use integrations and add-ons to Magento Open Source to increase your abilities, but to do so you must work with a developer or go through the process yourself.

Magento Add-Ons

Additionally, for both Commerce and Open Source, Magento offers a few specific product add-ons to further enhance your ecommerce capabilities. These include:

  • Order Management: Extends your order management and inventory functionality, combines online and in-store shopping experiences
  • Business Intelligence Pro: Gives you added data management, web analytics, and reporting capabilities
  • Shipping: Enables access to full-scale shipping services—connecting you to global shipping carriers, automating order fulfillment and logistics, comparing rates and finding the best shipping costs
  • Magento Marketplace: Magento’s network of available integrations and extensions you can add to your platform to improve your store—includes free and paid options ranging in categories from payments to marketing to accounting.

Magento Pricing

To discuss Magento pricing, we once again have to break down the difference between Commerce and Open Source. Open Source, as previously mentioned, is free for anyone to download and install. However, just because it’s free to download doesn’t mean that Magento Open Source comes at no cost. Remember, to use Magento Open Source, you’ll need a web host, a theme, as well as additional technologies to actually get things up and running. Furthermore, although Magneto Open Source can accept payments, you’ll need a payment gateway to actually process them, which comes at varying costs depending on the gateway you use.

Additionally, there is cost to consider involved with actually installing and maintaining Magento Open Source. Unless you have a development experience or a developer on staff, you’ll need to work with and pay an outside resource to create your store, customize it, add any integrations, and put everything into production. Furthermore, if you want particular add-ons, like some of those in the Magento Marketplace, you might have to pay for those as well.

At the end of the day, although it’s difficult to put a dollar amount on the cost of Magento Open Source, this platform is not a way to run your ecommerce business for free.

The pricing for Magento Commerce, on the other hand, is based on a different set of considerations. Many of the added costs associated with Open Source—web hosting, customization, development—comes included with Commerce, and this is one of the main benefits of an ecommerce platform like this. However, Magento does not list the cost of their Commerce offering on their website. To find out the price of Magento Commerce, you’ll have to contact them directly and receive a quote based on your individual business and needs. The Magento website allows you to request a free demo; however to do so, you’ll have to provide your information and work with their team.

That being said, most ecommerce platforms operate on a subscription, monthly fee basis, plus the cost of payment processing. In this case, therefore, you would be paying for the Magento Commerce platform, plus the fees associated with the payment gateway you choose. Pricing might vary depending on your business size, amount of monthly sales, and specific capability requirements. Furthermore, Magento is not clear if their additional product offerings (Order Management, Business Intelligence Pro, and Shipping) require an added cost. Ultimately, if you’re considering Magento for your ecommerce platform, you’ll have to reach out to them for specific pricing information.

Pros of Magento

As an ecommerce platform that serves over 250,000 merchants, there are definitely benefits to Magento. Let’s check out a few:

Features

If you’re looking for the maximum amount of features and functionality, Magento Commerce is your best bet. Their feature list is extensive—any specific need you’re looking for is probably included in their platform. Additionally, Magento has all the essential elements you need to set up and manage your store, as well as global functionality, advanced reporting, customer loyalty programs, among others. At the end of the day, you’re probably not going to find an ecommerce platform whose capabilities compare to Magento’s.

Integrations

In addition to their comprehensive feature list, Magento also gives you the ability to integrate with numerous platforms, working with hundreds of the best industry partners (like Amazon Pay, for example) through their Magento Marketplace. If you need something that Magento Commerce doesn’t have, this marketplace gives you access to find that functionality. The integrations on Magento Marketplace include customer support, payments, marketing, accounting, shipping, and site optimization.

Open Source Option

Although the Open Source track is certainly not viable for every business, those who can use it will receive extremely unique benefits. Not many ecommerce platforms have an open source offering, so if this is something you’re looking for, Magento is a great option. With Open Source, you have unmatched control over your ecommerce business. Since you’re developing the specific elements, your store, design, and functionality will be completely your own. Furthermore, if you have already have the development experience in-house, Magento Open Source becomes even more of a workable option.

What Magento Users Say

Magento customer reviews generally reach a consensus that these points are the main benefits of their service. Customers highlight the customization ability, especially with Open Source, saying it allows them to stand out among other ecommerce businesses. Additionally, users say that the extensive capabilities are very useful, particularly if you have a large or rapidly growing business. It should be noted, however, that users who like Magento Open Source often admit that you need to have a coding background to truly utilize the platform.

magento review

Cons of Magento

Although both of Magento’s ecommerce offerings have their advantages, there are certain drawbacks as well. Here are a few to consider:

Usability

Whereas many ecommerce platforms advertise their ease of use, this is not a quality bestowed upon Magento. For Open Source in particular, this is probably one of the biggest issues. If you don’t have a development background, or don’t want to pay for someone to install, develop, and work on the software, Open Source is going to be nearly impossible to use. As for Magento Commerce, although it’s an all-inclusive platform, it’s easy to see how the amount of features could be overwhelming and therefore, could be possibly be complicated and confusing to actually use.

Price

For many small businesses, cost is a huge consideration, especially if you’re just starting out. Whether you’re a small or medium size businesses, the price is a definite disadvantage of Magento Commerce and Magento Open Source. Although it’s difficult to determine the exact cost of either option, Magento customer reviews seem to suggest it can be quite high.

What Magento Users Say

Just as with the positives, the Magento community reviews are consistent on the negatives of the platform as well. As we mentioned, Magento users view the price as a big drawback, regardless of the version being used. Although the “free” element of Open Source seems appealing, customers confirm that there is, in fact, a large cost involved with actually getting your business up and running. The price associated with either platform, customers feel, is only appropriate for bigger or rapidly growing businesses. Additionally, users of both systems (as well as developers) report that it’s not user-friendly, can be overcomplicated, and it’s difficult to train employees to use it.

Alternatives to Magento

If you’re looking into Magento for your ecommerce platform, there are also many industry competitors you should consider. Here are two worthy alternatives:

Shopify

One of the first platforms you probably think of when you hear “ecommerce,” Shopify is known for its usability, variety of features, and customization abilities. Unlike Magento, Shopify’s pricing is readily available. They offer four different plans, ranging from $9 to $300 per month. Additionally, Shopify allows you to accept payments through their own payment services provider, or, for an additional charge, you can work with one of over 100 other payment gateways.

Although Magento has an unparalleled list of features, Shopify’s platform is also pretty inclusive. In addition, if they don’t have a functionality you desire, you can choose from over 1,200 apps in the Shopify app store to extend your capabilities. Furthermore, where users report that Magento can be complicated and often requires developer-level knowledge, selling on Shopify is generally considered simple, user-friendly, and accessible for all business sizes.

In fact, for better or worse, Magento ecommerce platform reviews consistently mention Shopify as an alternative. So if you’re looking for a wide variety of capabilities, plus upfront pricing and an easy set up and selling experience, Shopify is worth considering.

OpenCart

OpenCart, like Magento Open Source, is an open-source ecommerce platform. Just like Open Source, OpenCart can be downloaded and installed for free and then customized to create the exact website and store you desire. While Magneto requires you to find your own web hosting, OpenCart offers you the ability to work with their hosting partner, who will get the set up started for you. You can also download the platform and host it yourself, if that’s what you’d prefer.

With OpenCart you can choose a variety of themes, and while the feature list isn’t as extensive as Magento, there are numerous plug-ins (free and paid) you can use to extend your capabilities. Like Magento, OpenCart also gives you access to a handful of payment gateways, like Authorize.Net, that are already integrated, or you can download additional ones from the OpenCart marketplace.

A huge difference between OpenCart and Magento Open Source, however, is the ease of use. Although OpenCart does require some technical knowledge, it’s said to be much easier to set up, implement, and maintain—making it more accessible for small businesses who are interested in an open-source platform. At the end of the day, though, OpenCart is pretty reliant on plug-ins and actual customization, so you might need the help of a developer to get the most out of it. Nevertheless, OpenCart certainly stands up as a competitor to Magento Open Source and is worth a look if this functionality is something you’re interested in.

Is the Magento Ecommerce Platform Right for Your Business?

When it comes to Magento ecommerce, it’s safe to say that the platform is very involved, whether you’re considering Magento Commerce or Magento Open Source. Although as part of the Adobe Commerce Cloud, Magento is marketing their software directly to small and medium-sized businesses, it’s difficult to say that utilizing their platform would be the most efficient way to run your ecommerce business. Magneto has unparalleled features and functionality, however, due to the unpredictable pricing and resources involved to actually use it, the platform is probably best for larger businesses or businesses with significant developer resources. At the end of the day, you’ll have to consider the various ecommerce platform options to decide which is right for you.

Randa Kriss

Staff Writer at Fundera
Randa Kriss is a staff writer at Fundera, where she has written dozens of reviews on ecommerce, merchant services, payroll, and human resources solutions. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish from Iona College. Randa has written for KNF&T Staffing, PeopleKeep, Zoho, the American Kennel Club, Planted, and Serendipity magazine. Email: randa@fundera.com.

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