If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform to bring your small business online, you may have come across Magento in your research—along with multitudes of other names. While having options is a good thing, it can also be hard to decide which ecommerce platform will best meet your business’s needs.
In this Magento review, we’ll explore the features, pricing, pros, cons, user review, and more of this platform. We’ll also provide some Magento alternatives to consider.
Magento is an ecommerce platform owned by Adobe. With their software, you can create and manage your website, sell your products, develop a customer experience, and generally handle your ecommerce business operations. 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.
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 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.
Ultimately, which Magento offering you choose depends on your particular business needs and skillset.
|Magento Open Source||Magento Commerce|
Integrated checkout, payment, and shipping; mobile optimization; catalog management; app marketplace; instant purchase site search
Everything included with Open Source plus: business intelligence dashboards, B2B functionality, advanced marketing tools, customer loyalty tools, drag-and-drop interface, advanced security, visual merchandising, performance monitoring tools, PCI compliance, global availability, content delivery network, continuous site updates
Thousands of extensions and themes in the Magento Marketplace, plus the ability to add or customize anything
through the open-source code
24/7 technical support with a real person, plus dedicated account manager
Free to download (but other fees will apply for web hosting, payment processing, etc.)
As you might imagine, the features you receive when using Magento vary 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.
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.
With the Magento ecommerce platform, 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.
An essential element of any ecommerce business is 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.
Through the Magento Commerce dashboard, you can manage your inventory and 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. You also have the ability to view, edit, create, and fulfill orders and invoices right from the dashboard, as well as print packing slips, shipping labels, and customize customer emails.
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.
The Magento ecommerce platform comes with application and infrastructure support, platform monitoring, and technical support available 24/7 by phone or email. Depending on your agreement with Magento, you may also have access to a dedicated launch and account manager.
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.
Additionally, for both Commerce and Open Source, Magento offers a few specific product add-ons to further enhance your ecommerce capabilities. These include:
Magento Open Source and Commerce differ in their pricing as well. Open Source is free for anyone to download and install. However, you’ll want to take other costs into consideration, including web hosting, payment processing, additional apps or tools, developer resources, and more.
Magento Commerce, on the other hand, is a paid software that includes everything you need to build and launch your ecommerce store. However, Commerce is quote-based, meaning you have to contact Magento directly to receive a price for your business. You can request a demo, though, to learn more about the platform before you commit.
As an ecommerce platform that serves over 250,000 merchants, there are definitely benefits to Magento. Let’s check out a few:
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.
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.
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 already have the development experience in-house, Magento Open Source becomes even more of a workable option.
Although both of Magento’s ecommerce offerings have their advantages, there are certain drawbacks as well. Here are two to consider:
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 number of features could be overwhelming and possibly complicated and confusing to actually use.
For many small businesses, cost is a huge consideration, especially if you’re just starting out. Whether you’re a small or medium-sized business, 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.
Magento customer reviews highlight the customization ability of Magento, 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.
On the other hand, 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 larger 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.
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 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.
Shopify also boasts a long list of features, as well as over 1,200 apps 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.
OpenCart 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 Magento requires you to find your own web hosting, OpenCart offers you the ability to work with their hosting partner or a third party.
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 that 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.
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.
Magento 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 should consider several options and take advantage of any demos or free trials before choosing the right ecommerce platform for your business.
Randa Kriss is a senior staff writer at Fundera.
At Fundera, Randa specializes in reviewing small business products, software, and services. Randa has written hundreds of reviews across a wide swath of business topics including ecommerce, merchant services, accounting, credit cards, bank accounts, loan products, and payroll and human resources solutions.