Magento, an open-source platform, is a longstanding giant in the ecommerce space. In fact, according to one source, the word “Magento” has been searched more times on Google than the word “ecommerce.”
There’s no denying that Magento has a long legacy as an open source solution for businesses to customize. That said, Magento isn’t the right fit for every business.
The total cost of ownership can be steep when you take into account hosting, security, maintenance, and design and development costs. While the platform allows for extreme customization, it also can be complicated and difficult to update quickly in order to innovate and stay competitive.
Whether you’re set on Magento and doing some last minute comparison shopping, or early in the process of choosing your next platform and wanting to learn what else is out there, this deep dive is for you. You’ll learn about some of the alternatives to Magento you might want to consider, including all their advantages and limitations.
What is Magento?
Magento is an ecommerce platform built on open source technology. This means that those who download the Magento software can make changes to the source code so they may customize their shopping cart.
Magento is best suited for ecommerce shops with developers or teams of developers to make the necessary changes. Because Magento is a fairly complicated ecommerce platform with potentially costly overhead, it is usually not considered by small businesses that don’t have the budgets to take full advantage of the platform’s versatility.
When we talk about Magento, it’s important to consider the different options for the software. While Magento is often thought of as an on-premise solution, they do also have a cloud-hosted option.
- Magento Open Source (formerly Community Edition): This is a free product anyone can download from the Magento website. After installing Magento, the user is responsible for hosting, support, and ecommerce development costs.
- Magento Commerce (on-prem)— This on-premise premium option comes with added features and support. It is usually only adopted by enterprises because the monthly costs can be steep.
- Magento Commerce Cloud — A cloud-hosted version provides the same features as the on-premise Magento Commerce but eliminates the need for self-hosting. It’s important to distinguish that even though this edition is cloud-hosted, it is not the same as SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). More on the differences below.
6 Reasons You’re Probably Looking for a Magento Alternative
Whether you’re already on Magento and feeling like there might be a better fit out there, or if you’re still just considering Magento as part of your research, there are several reasons you may want to keep your options open.
1. Magento is too costly.
Magento is usually synonymous with big budgets. Of course, how much your Magento license will cost you depends on the product you choose. Magento Open Source is technically free to download from Magento’s website, but that won’t cover your total cost of ownership. You will be paying for all the design and development fees to get your site up and running, along with continuous costs to cover all hosting, ecommerce security, development, and design fees.
Magento Commerce costs range from $22,000 to $125,000, depending on the size and complexity of your business. Magento Commerce Cloud is more expensive still, with sources saying it can range from $40,000 to $125,000 annually.
Many businesses don’t have this kind of money to spend every year on Magento and instead need to focus resources on other critical areas of their operations.
2. Magento requires too much dev time.
One of Magento’s biggest selling points is its openness for extreme customization. But to make complex changes while keeping your integrations working properly and data flowing smoothly — you need a great team of Magento developers at work who fully understand the complex infrastructure.
This isn’t just necessary as you’re getting your site up and running (which could take anywhere from six weeks for a basic site to as much as a year for a more complex build), but also as you continue to monitor and update your site. You will need trained developers to update, patch, and find plugins for your site. Their time is your money.
3. Magento is slow.
Magento’s greatest asset — the opportunity to create whatever you want for your site — also leads to one of its greatest weaknesses. The vast array of extensions and plugins that you can use with the Magento system can also lead your system to fall behind other solutions in terms of speed. Because of the complexity of the system, it can also be a time-consuming task for developers to optimize the site for speed.
4. Magento is difficult to maintain.
Magento has thousands of factors you need to stay on top of; if you don’t, your site can crash, slow down, or simply not work as well as intended. Because of all of these factors, you will likely encounter a number of bugs and glitches with the software.
Magento and its community are good about creating patches to solve these issues; however, it will take your developers time to stay on top of instituting all of these patches. And of course, you can’t forget about security patches, as overlooking them could be opening your site up to unnecessary risk. That’s time they’re not spending on more value-adding, innovative projects.
5. You’re being forced to migrate.
For some, the initial idea to leave your current Magento platform isn’t your own. For example, Magento stopped supporting their Magento 1 product in June 2020. Byno longer providing necessary patches and updates Magento has putstores still on Magento 1 at risk of falling out of PCI compliance, losing their payment provider, and no longer having the extensions or developer resources they need to have a functioning site.
Magento is encouraging merchants still on the now unsupported and unsecure Magento 1 to move to Magento 2. However, because of the differences between the two platforms, it will require substantial work to migrate. If this is you, and you’re realizing you will be doing most of the same work of replatforming anyway, this could be your opportunity to consider alternatives.
6. You’re unhappy in some regard.
Maybe you’re sick of having to deal with hosting because it doesn’t come as part of your Magento services. Or maybe you’re finding that Magento support isn’t able to help you in a timely fashion. Or maybe your customers are experiencing issues on your site that you think another solution could fix. You’re here because, in some way or another, you just aren’t happy with Magento’s services — so let’s start considering some of your options.
5 Features and Considerations For Your New Platform
If any of the above challenges apply to you, and you’re ready to leave Magento in the dust — where should you take your business next? Here are a few criteria you may want to consider in your new platform.
Of course, depending on the nature of your business structure, your marketing strategy, and your customer base, what is important for your business will be different from everyone else’s business. And of course, the reason you’re choosing to move on from Magento is something your next ecommerce solution should fix.
You’re not looking for the hands-down best platform in the world; you’re looking for the best fit for you.
1. Website builder.
If you are used to working with Magento, you are used to being able to customize your site as you want — but also having to rely on a team of developers to actualize it. Choosing a platform with a more user-friendly website builder can potentially provide more control over your website. The trade off is you may have less customization potential.
2. Available themes and templates.
You don’t like the look of your website and want a template that looks better. Many ecommerce platforms come with customizable templates that you can work with to build your site.
3. Better support.
Do you need an option that will quickly answer support tickets? If one of your current issues with Magento is the speed at which they answer your concerns or correct issues, finding a platform that offers 24/7 support may be something you want to consider.
4. Easier plugin integrations.
Many ecommerce platforms have options for fast, free plugins that can be installed on your site within a few minutes. You can save time and development costs if you make sure your chosen platform is already able to easily integrate with your mission-critical systems, such as your order management and inventory management systems.
5. Better payment gateways.
Payment gateways can sometimes be a pain, but many sites offer pre-installed payment processing from the likes of Stripe, Paypal, Venmo, Apple Pay, and more! Make sure your chosen payment gateways are covered and that you won’t be charged transaction fees.
5 Great Alternatives to Magento
Now let’s consider some of your options. Here are a few alternatives, both open source and SaaS, that might provide you some or all of the features that you seek.
Offering beautiful site templates and reliable uptime, BigCommerce is a SaaS platform that can provide business owners with an ecommerce solution through monthly fees.
- Launch your new site quickly and efficiently.
- Easy to use, with robust out-of-the-box features.
- Strong SEO benefits.
- 24/7 customer support.
- SaaS benefits of reliable uptime and PCI compliance.
- Unlike Magento, BigCommerce doesn’t yet have native multi-store functionality. If that’s an important part of your business model, you will need to leverage a headless configuration as a workaround.
WooCommerce is the primary plugin used to power online stores on WordPress and is a trusted (and often the go-to) option in the WordPress community.
- The plugin is technically free, although you will have to pay for domain hosting, theme, plugins, etc.
- Stores can leverage the WordPress blog natively.
- Large number of plugins available to extend native features.
- Part of an extensive WordPress community.
- Much like with Magento, you will find a heavy dependence on a developer/designer.
- Hard to scale without slowing down the live store.
- Limited support beyond community-based forums.
OpenCart is another shopping cart platform for powering your ecommerce website. It has a lot in common with Magento. Both are open-source platforms, and both are developed in PHP and use templates to upload products.
- Easy transition from Magento because of the aforementioned similarities.
- Options for multi-language and multi-currency.
- Templates available.
- OpenCart starts at $0 but can go up to almost $100,000, depending on the features you choose.
- Additional high development and support costs.
Shopify is another SaaS option that is well-known for powering small and medium ecommerce stores. They have a large merchant count and make it easy to get a site up and running quickly. Their Shopify Plus offering is an attempt to move more into the midmarket space.
- Ease of use.
- Beautiful, mobile-friendly designs.
- Robust app store for getting additional ecommerce features.
- The usual SaaS benefits, including PCI compliance and a decent uptime record.
- To reach the native functionality of other SaaS platforms like BigCommerce, you will need to pay for additional add-ons. The cost of relying on a lot of apps not only starts to add up, but it can make running your store more complicated. With different parts of your data living in several places, you can’t easily update everything in one place.
- Shopify charges transaction fees for using a payment gateway other than Shopify payments.
5. SalesForce Commerce Cloud.
SalesForce Commerce Cloud, previously known as Demandware before its 2016 acquisition by SalesForce, is another SaaS ecommerce solution.
- The advantages of a SaaS platform.
- Strong native merchandising features.
- Good omnichannel features.
- Confusing user interface and hard-to-access features.
- Customer support can be slow.
Where BigCommerce Stands Out
All of the Magento alternatives have their high points, but you’re on the BigCommerce blog, so we can’t help but toot our own horn a little.
BigCommerce outperforms Magento in a number of ways. Depending on the reason you’re unhappy with your current solution, we just might have the alternative you’re looking for.
If you’re leaving Magento because it’s too expensive… BigCommerce offers a more affordable solution without the ongoing and surprise development, maintenance, and ecommerce hosting costs for a lower and more predictable total cost of ownership.
If you’re looking to move to SaaS… even Magento’s cloud-hosted version is not the same as SaaS. BigCommerce can offer you all of the traditional advantages of SaaS, like hosting and ecommerce platform PCI Compliance. BigCommerce offers best-in-class uptime, performance, and protection.
If you’re looking to be able to customize faster and with lower development costs… on Magento, the more you customize, the more expensive and difficult your store is to manage and maintain. BigCommerce gives you the flexibility to customize using an open API — all without complicating your store. An open API allows BigCommerce merchants to use custom apps, ERP integrations, or partner integrations without the additional cost and headache.
There are a lot of choices out there for ecommerce platforms and a lot of factors to consider when picking the one that’s best for your business. If you’re currently on Magento and it’s not meeting your needs, it’s never a bad idea to cast a wider net to see what’s out there and how it can serve your business better.
Remember Magento isn’t your only option. BigCommerce might not be the right choice for you (although we do think we’re a great fit for a number of use cases), but the important thing is to consider what your business needs and find the right solution to meet those needs.
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