Magento is an ecommerce platform built on open source technology. With its flexible shopping cart system, Magento has long been a heavy-hitter among enterprise brands selling online because it provides them total control of the look, feel, and functionality of their online stores.
According to data from BuiltWith, there are over 230,000 live stores running on Magento. In terms of market share of the Alexa top 1 million (the one million websites with the most hits globally), Magento is used by 18%. In other words, there are over 14,000 Magento stores in the Alexa top 1 million.
Magento was first released in 2007. In 2011, the company was acquired by eBay and then became an independent company again in 2015. The latest development occurred in May 2018, when Magento was acquired by Adobe. Speculation followed as to what that would mean for the company and businesses relying on it. In September 2018, Magento announced the end of life of Magento 1 as June 2020, meaning those software versions would no longer be supported. In March of 2019, Adobe announced their new Adobe Commerce Cloud which is essentially a fully managed cloud-based version of Magento that integrates with other Adobe tools.
Magento is undeniably flexible and scalable but its long list of features comes at a cost. In order to unlock its potential, you will need a skilled developer/designer (or team of developers) to set up, maintain, and update your store. Depending on how you get the product delivered, you also may be on the hook for hosting and platform security costs.
Let’s compare the Magento platform to the BigCommerce platform. Both offerings have a robust catalog of features for enterprise brands, but one of the biggest differences is the hosting setup.
BigCommerce is a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform. This means it provides an all-in-one package that includes a flexible shopping cart plus best-in-class security and DDoS protection with hosting on Google Cloud, the highest level of PCI compliance, and automatic updates.
BigCommerce has a wide range of built-in features and is a great fit for large businesses who are ready to grow quickly.
Magento may be a good fit for businesses who require extreme flexibility in their platform and are willing to invest a lot of time and money to achieve that.
We’ll delve more into the distinct differences between these two platforms below and determine which is right for your business.
On-Premise vs SaaS vs Cloud
One of the primary differences between Magento and BigCommerce is how they are hosted.
Magento offers two main products. The first is its free-to-download option Magento Open Source. Anyone can download the software for use from Magento without cost. However, you will be responsible for hosting and development costs which can be steep, so “free” comes with a pretty big asterisk (more details on the Magento operating costs below).
Magento’s second main offering is Magento Enterprise which comes with Magento support. The cost of running Magento Enterprise will be based on the business’s traffic and sales. Magento Enterprise can be hosted on-premise or cloud-hosted as a PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) solution.
Both Magento Open Source and Magento Enterprise can be hosted on-premises on a company’s own servers or be cloud-hosted through Amazon Web Services. With Magento Open Source, a business would download the software for free and then seek out their own hosting solution.
It is worth noting that, in addition to the above products, in 2019 the new Adobe Commerce Cloud was announced. This is a fully managed cloud service built on Magento Commerce and now part of the Adobe Experience Cloud.
The difference between on-premise and cloud-based solutions are pretty clear: the former is on site and the latter is delivered over the internet. However, as we delve into the intricacies of cloud services, things can get murkier.
Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition is a PaaS offering. BigCommerce is SaaS. To complicate things further, there’s another cloud hosting model, IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service). Here’s a quick breakdown of the difference:
- IaaS: cloud-based, pay-as-you-go for services such as storage and networking.
- PaaS: hardware and software tools available over the internet.
- SaaS: third-party software available over the internet.
Below is a great summary illustration as well:
Magento 1 Deprecation.
In September of 2018, Magento announced that they would be sunsetting Magento 1. In other words, all early versions of their products (1.1-1.9) would no longer be supported with maintenance and security patches. The official end-of-life date for the versions Magento Commerce 1 (formerly Enterprise Edition) and Magento Open Source 1 (formerly Community Edition) is June 2020.
Businesses still on these versions after the EOL date will be running a big risk by placing a fundamental part of their operation on unsupported software.
According to data from BuiltWith, as of March 2019, there are over 36,000 sites still running Magento 1 versions. Unfortunately, switching from Magento 1 to Magento 2 versions is not a straightforward update. In fact, it’s a complete re-platform. Businesses making the switch will not only have to migrate data but also adopt a new theme and integrate new extensions. It will involve substantial design and development costs to replicate their current website as closely as possible on the new versions.
Understandably, some businesses staring down the face of this forced re-platform are considering their options. Setting up Magento 1 and moving to Magento 2 is both expensive and time-consuming. Businesses can consider moving from Magento 1 to a SaaS platform like BigCommerce where they can often launch faster (on average 50% faster) and with a more reasonable budget spend compared with Magento 2.
How Much Does Magento Cost
The cost to set-up and operate a Magento ecommerce site will depend on your organization and its complexity. Magento offers one option, Magento Open Source, free for download. However, while the software is available for free, you will need to pay for web development, web hosting, and additional necessary integration costs to launch and maintain your site.
These costs can be substantial, so you will need to do research on your specific needs to understand your full monthly outlay.
If you are interested in running Magento Enterprise Edition the cost will depend on your business needs. To understand Magento pricing specific to your business, you will need to request an individualized quote. The total cost will be based on your store’s average order value and annual online revenue. This can start at around $22,000 per year and go all the way up to $125,000.
Licensing will not be your only costs. You also need to think about:
- Infrastructure: Web/app servers, databases, firewalls, and load balancers.
- Development: Programming, design, and app integration costs.
- Managed support: Fees to manage updates, troubleshooting, bug fixes, patches, and training.
- Technical staff: Employee or team on staff to manage the software.
By contrast, with a SaaS platform, your infrastructure costs and managed support costs are covered. You will still have design, development, and app integration costs as you tailor the platform to your specific business needs.
An on-premise solution, like Magento, could still be the right choice for your business, but it’s important to calculate these factors to get a look at your total cost of ownership.
One brand, Savannah Bee, was able to reduce their total cost of ownership by 30% by switching to BigCommerce from Magento.
Performance and Security
In addition to cost, two of the most important factors for any business will be how the website performs and how safe it is. Data breaches and downtime are both costly and damaging to your brand’s reputation and customer satisfaction.
Ensuring both performance and security is one reason many enterprise businesses are turning to SaaS solutions for their ecommerce platforms. In fact, a 2018 survey predicted that 95% of all organizations will be relying on the SaaS model for application delivery by 2020.
If you choose an on-premise solution like Magento, your IT team will be responsible for:
- Conducting necessary updates
- PCI compliance
- Installing updates and applying patches to plugins
With a SaaS platform, like BigCommerce, all updates, maintenance and PCI compliance are covered for you. You also don’t have to worry about downtime while updating to new software versions. At BigCommerce, there is no versioning.
Reliable performance is incredibly important as the cost of downtime is on the rise. According to Gartner, the average cost of downtime is around $5,600 per minute.
BigCommerce maintains best-in-class 99.99% median uptime and 100% uptime during Cyber Week four years in a row.
Platform Flexibility and Extensibility
Your business and your brand are unique. You need to look for an ecommerce platform that has the flexibility and extensibility to work for your product, customer, and business needs. It also needs to be able to grow with your business.
One of the major selling points of Magento is its flexibility. You have complete control to mold the platform to what you need (with all the costs those changes entail). However on Magento, the more you customize the more expensive and harder your store is to manage and maintain.
It’s possible to get the same extensibility through a SaaS platform, provided you choose one like BigCommerce that is set up with enterprise-class integrations, flexible APIs and webhooks. These features will enable you to customize your platform for selling online with a great deal of flexibility, even though you don’t have access to the source code.
BigCommerce and Magento Features & Functionality Compared
BigCommerce and Magento both have extensive features to support enterprise businesses. Learn which may be best suited for your business.
Magento Hosting: Software is self-hosted on-premise or cloud-hosted
BigCommerce Hosting: Cloud-hosted
Magento Payment Integrations:
- Amazon Payments, multiple PayPal gateways, Authorize.net, and Google Checkout integrations
- Other payment integrations require custom configurations
BigCommerce Payment Integrations:
- Choose from more than 65 pre-integrated payment gateways serving 100+ countries and over 250 local payment methods including PayPal and Apple Pay
- All payment gateways are PCI compliant and built into the platform for easy integration
Magento Mobile features:
- Pre-integrated mobile interface uses HTML5 technology and supports iPhone, Android and Mobile Opera browsers with a number of features to support positive mobile UX including pinch, multi-touch and scaling images, easy swipe between product images, and zoom capabilities
- Responsive design included
- Support provided for native applications on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices
BigCommerce Mobile features:
- All themes (both free and paid) are mobile responsive out of the box
- Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) allows for faster page loads for category and products on all mobile devices and is available natively
- All BigCommerce stores use Akamai Image Manager2 to automatically optimize and deliver mobile-optimized images without creating mobile-specific image variants
Magento SEO features:
- Google site map creation and site map auto generation
- SEO-friendly URLs with rewrite control
- Metadata editable at both product and category levels
- A popular search terms page that’s auto-generated
BigCommerce SEO features:
- Optimized page architecture using proper HTML elements and hierarchy
- Microdata or “rich snippets” built into product pages to enhance search result listings
- Auto-populated SEO-friendly URLs for product, category, and other pages
- Automatic 301 redirects and URL rewrites
Magento Shipping features:
- Shipping discounts with USPS
- Support available (at a cost)
- Bulk label printing capabilities with multiple carriers
- International shipping
- Multi-location shipping and fulfillment
- Rules to automate the shipping process and in-cart rating
- Dynamic and static in-cart rating options
- Tracking updates by email, or on a branded tracking page
- Returns portal
BigCommerce Shipping features:
- Shipping discounts with multiple carriers: USPS, FedEx and UPS
- Fully supported in-house at no cost
- Bulk label printing capabilities with multiple carriers
- International shipping
- Multi-location fulfillment (not taking into account inventory by location)
- Rules to automate the shipping process and in-cart rating
- Dynamic and static in-cart rating options
- Tracking updates by email, or customer can select sms through tracking link
- Account-based returns portal
As more businesses adopt an omnichannel strategy that includes both selling online and in brick and mortar stores, having your ecommerce sync effectively with your point of sale (POS) system becomes very important. Both BigCommerce and Magento offer integrations with leading point of sale solutions.
One of Magento’s strengths is its ability to support multiple brands, stores, and B2B/B2C customer experiences from a single interface.
BigCommerce also offers options to create multi-store experiences on a single platform. Best-in-class integrations allow for customer segmentation and fulfillment. Audio retailer Skullcandy was able to launch 7 websites in 6 languages and 4 currencies in under 6 months.
In a global economy, one of the advantages of ecommerce is that it can make it easier for your business to take on international expansion… provided you have the right tools in your ecommerce platform.
Your platform needs to be able to offer a localized experience for shoppers in countries you sell to and provide them price and shipping options that are competitive.
Magento supports localization of language along with multiple currencies and tax rates. You can also configure the list of countries that you sell to.
BigCommerce also supports localization through storefront language options and multiple currencies. For merchants looking to enable more complete localization, BigCommerce can be used in conjunction with a PIM or ERP.
Headless commerce means decoupling the front-end presentation layer from the back-end ecommerce layer.
This is helpful for brands that have a massive amount of content already produced and would rather connect their existing CMS to an ecommerce solution instead of migrating old content over. It’s also great for any business implementing a content + commerce strategy and creating content-based brand experiences through their website.
BigCommerce provides headless commerce solutions for bridging content and commerce on your existing tech stack.
On the BigCommerce platform, you can make 400+ API calls per second, and 90% of the platform data is exposed to APIs. This makes it easier and faster to pass data from the platform to third party applications.
Headless commerce can be accomplished on the BigCommerce platform to connect to any front-end CMS/DXP using custom solutions and our flexible APIs. However, in many cases, there is an easier way. BigCommerce has worked with Acquia, BloomReach, Sitecore, Drupal, and WordPress to create simple plug-ins that let you achieve headless commerce without the headache.
Magento provides features to support the unique needs of B2B businesses. This includes:
- Advanced account management tools to allow B2B customers to manage their company accounts
- Functionality for multiple buyers to share a single account
- Easy, automated quote requests through a third party extension
- Flexible payment terms
BigCommerce is also dedicated to modernizing the selling process for B2B merchants with features targeted for their needs. Their features include:
- Options for punch out, purchase orders and net payment terms
- Functionality to easily segment customers into groups to offer custom pricing or catalogs
- Integrations with major ERP, OMS and CRM systems
BigCommerce includes 7 pre-built and mobile responsive templates for free with many additional themes available for purchase from designers. Developers can customize the website and shopping cart templates for added control.
Magento provides two themes out-of-the-box, but one is a demonstration theme and the other is a blank slate for custom theme creation. With Magento, you can create custom themes to suit your brand, but you must either hire a designer to create it or purchase one from a theme marketplace.
Extensions and Apps
While both Magento and BigCommerce have a number of native features, a key part of both platforms is the ability to add additional non-native features to extend the functionality and encompass more use cases.
Magento accomplishes this with extensions, or blocks of PHP code that are added onto Magento to create custom features such as integrations with other web services, marketing tools, and themes.
BigCommerce accomplishes the same goal with third-party apps which are seamlessly integrated with the platform.
Magento customer support
Businesses using Magento Open Source don’t have dedicated support, although they do have access to user documentation and forums. Magento Enterprise customers do have access to customer support via phone, chat, and support tickets.
BigCommerce customer support
BigCommerce offers unparalleled in-house support and services including onboarding teams to get you migrated and launched with ease, 24/7 chat, email, and US-based phone support for technical issues. BigCommerce also provides a Premium Services team focused on helping propel business growth.
Partner Program Comparison
Magento Partner Program
Magento and BigCommerce both partner with design agencies, developers, and solution providers to help customers get the help they need to get the most out of their respective platforms.
Both programs provide partners benefits like increased exposure, access to new clients, and training and enablement support.
BigCommerce Partner Program
What sets the BigCommerce Partner Program apart is its partner-first vision. BigCommerce Partners receive quick attention from dedicated Channel Account Managers. BigCommerce is also the only privately-owned, widely adopted ecommerce platform on the market, which means partners can play a greater role in influencing the product roadmap.
Here are a few partners who speak to how BigCommerce has supported them in creating success for their clients.
“The BigCommerce team aided in the success of the project by engaging with the client pre-sales with a platform demo, timely follow-ups and spot-on info relevant to the project. During production, support around price lists helped us to customize the solution to meet the client’s exact requirements and exceed expectations after they had experienced two separate failures on Magento with other agencies.”
– Gene Ferriter, Fuse Digital
“We were looking at the technology and were impressed with BigCommerce’s focus on their product. Many of the other platforms focus a great deal on marketing, where BigCommerce puts investment dollars into the product.”
-Derek Cwik, Director of Integrations, Americaneagle.com
Migrating From Magento
Beginning any re-platform project can be daunting. Migrating from Magento after pouring time, energy, and dollars into customizing to meet your business needs in many ways can feel like starting from scratch.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong decision. For many merchants, it can mean substantial savings and an improved ROI. One agency was able to help 11 ecommerce stores migrate from Magento to BigCommerce for a combined savings of $1,000,000 per year and a 312% increase in ROI.
There are tools available to make the migration from Magento to BigCommerce easier. Because the BigCommerce data migration team has done so many Magento migrations, they have built a free app that can make the catalog transfer easier. Learn more about the Magento Catalog Transfer app here.
Thoughts From BigCommerce Merchants
Re-platforming is not a project to be undertaken lightly, but it can lead to big results. Hear from a few current BigCommerce brands who made the move from Magento and what it has meant for their business growth.
Founded in 2010, Bulk Apothecary is now one of the nation’s largest online sellers of natural ingredients and essential oils. In 2014, they decided to use a Magento on-premise solution for their online store. However, after 10 months and tens of thousands of dollars dealing with performance and integration issues, they made the switch to BigCommerce.
“We decided to move to BigCommerce during our slow season to limit any impact on our business. We expected to see a modest dip in revenue due to seasonality, but since switching our online sales are up 15–20%.”
-Greg Pellegrino, President of Bulk Apothecary
This apparel brand began their online sales with Volusion in 2012 and moved to Magento as they continued to grow. They were disappointed with the costs and complications caused by upgrades to newer versions. Since moving to BigCommerce they have seen a 94% increase in ROI and $82,500 yearly savings.
“Magento was one huge headache after another – from security updates to parts of our site not functioning. With BigCommerce, none of that is a concern now, which is great. We don’t have to spend time worrying about that, and we can spend time on running our business.”
-Thompson Tee co-founders Randy Choi and Billy Thompson
Common Magento FAQs
Below are common questions merchants have when considering using Magento as an ecommerce platform.
How much does Magento cost per month?
Magento offers one option, Magento Open Source, free for download. As outlined above, you will still need to pay for web developer costs, web hosting, and additional necessary integration costs to launch and maintain your site. These costs can be substantial. For example, reliable web hosting can cost anywhere from $50 – $500 a month.
Magento also offers a paid edition, Magento Enterprise. The cost of this will again depend on your business needs. Magento pricing depends on the business, and the total cost will be based on your store’s average order value and annual online revenue. Costs start at $2000 a month.
How much does it cost to build a Magento website?
In addition to the monthly costs for hosting and for the software (if you’re using Magento Enterprise), your costs to build a Magento website can be determined by the cost of your team (or agency) of developers and designers.
Whether you outsource or employ these teams in house, this is not a place to skimp on cost. Hiring a cheap programmer who doesn’t fully understand the Magento architecture to set up your store can lead to expensive repairs later. Also, be aware of ongoing development costs. As Magento rolls out new fixes and versions, you will have to continually pay to maintain and update your site.
Is Magento easy to use?
The back-end of the store does involve a learning curve. There are a lot of features to sift through and some trial and error will be involved. Once you’ve invested the initial time to explore and play around with the features, the workflow shouldn’t be too overwhelming.
That said, to make changes to the front-end of the store, you may be limited in what you can do without the help of a developer. Many design changes will require getting very involved in the source code. This is touted as an advantage of Magento because you have the freedom to change what you want, but if you’re not a Magento Certified Developer, it means you will need to align yourself with one to unlock what Magento can do.
Is Magento cloud based?
Magento Enterprise does offer a cloud-hosted option (Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition). It’s important to note that it is a PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) not a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) offering. This means that there are still some system administration requirements that fall on your business to manage. Learn more about the difference between PaaS and SaaS.
What language is Magento written in?
Magento’s scripting language is PHP.
Does Magento require coding?
The short answer is: yes. Unlike SaaS platforms like BigCommerce that come with a built-in theme editor for those who want the option to alter the design without backend coding, Magento requires a developer with expertise in both PHP and the Magento architecture to run successfully. You can choose to create a theme from scratch using a frontend developer or purchase an existing third-party theme.
Is Magento a framework?
Magento is an ecommerce platform written in PHP on top of the Zend framework.
Can I still use Magento 1?
In September of 2018, Magento announced that they would be sunsetting Magento 1. The official end-of-life date for the versions Magento Commerce 1 (formerly Enterprise Edition) and Magento Open Source 1 (formerly Community Edition) is June 2020. After this time, Magento will no longer offer maintenance and security patches for these versions. Businesses are strongly discouraged from continuing to base their businesses on unsupported software.
Is Magento 2 better than Magento 1?
There are some advantages and improvements between Magento 2 and Magento 1 such as better performance, faster checkout, and improved customer experience. Learn more about the differences here.
What is the difference between Magento and Shopify?
Like Magento and BigCommerce, one of the main differences between Magento and Shopify is that one is on-premise or PaaS (Magento) and the other is a SaaS platform (Shopify).
While BigCommerce and Shopify are both SaaS solutions, BigCommerce tends to be the better choice for enterprise brands interested in the flexibility and extensibility of Magento with the advantages of SaaS.
BigCommerce gives you the flexibility to customize using an open API. BigCommerce APIs are 40 times faster than Shopify’s, giving businesses more data speed to pass information to third-party systems.
How many products can Magento handle?
One of Magento’s strengths is its capacity for a large product catalog. Magento can handle more than 1 million products, although this may cause a lag on frontend speed.
Both BigCommerce and Magento have their strengths. Only you and your team can determine which platform will best work for your business.
At BigCommerce, we believe our open SaaS platform has the flexibility and extensibility to work for most use cases. Talk to a solutions expert and start a demo to find out how BigCommerce can work for you.