Apr 29, 2019 - Justin Emond

What Your Magento-Loving IT Team Doesn’t Want You to Know About Shopify Plus

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We frequently work with mid-market and enterprise clients comprised of multiple, independent business units. We often find we’re introducing Shopify Plus to an organization that has a pre-existing investment in Magento across business units. This means we frequently encounter cantankerous IT leaders that don’t like marketing teams skipping over their major capital investment, even if Shopify Plus is a nimble, agile platform that often can do more than Magento, with less engineering and infrastructure effort.

Often, they’ll give us one of these (misinformed) reasons to stick with Magento.

  1. "Shopify Plus is in the cloud so you can’t make it secure."

  2. "It doesn’t easily integrate with third-party systems."

  3. "Since we don’t host the platform, we can’t ensure that it’s scalable."

  4. "The platform is inflexible, without backend code control."

  5. "Shopify has bad SEO and you can’t tune it."

Here’s why those claims shouldn’t sway your decision.

In 2018, more than 600,000 merchants across the globe with Shopify and Shopify Plus stores sold more than $41 billion in of goods (yes, that is billion with a “b”). All of these transactions, every single page load, payment process, and checkout ran through the Shopify cloud network, which is probably the most fluid, scalable, and secure network outside of Amazon Web Services. The demands on the Shopify cloud are breathtaking in scale, scope, and risk, and their engineering team delivered. See for yourself by watching this presentation given by a Shopify network engineer at a GOTO conference.

In any given 24-hour period, the Shopify Cloud detects, protects, and thwarts more attacks than any single Magento store faces in an entire year. And since most Magento sites are hosted by the merchants themselves, there is no central engineering team that can learn from the global scope of network threats in real time.

Indeed, one could argue, quite convincingly, that Magento cannot be considered a secure platform because of this crucial limitation.

IT leaders that have invested heavily in standard Magento platforms love to point out that “as a cloud solution, you can’t integrate as easily with internal and third-party systems.” That claim just doesn’t hold water.

You know who the richest Kardashian is? Kylie Jenner. It’s because of Kylie Cosmetics, her incredibly successful digital cosmetics brand. The brand grew so quickly, she became the youngest self-made billionaire in history.

And in all of this growth, what wasn’t a hassle? Scaling her digital commerce store on Shopify Plus. A brand on Shopify Plus has to do exactly nothing to scale from 100 orders an hour to 10,000 orders every hour. You could scale to that level in 10 minutes because the platform just works.

What about if you are on Magento? Well, handling that kind of growth in activity over ten minutes or ten hours or even ten days is going to be tricky. Magento is notoriously resource-intensive (believe me, my company built the largest Magento 2 store in the world) and you are going to have to scale the database to the web servers, data cache layers, and (possibly) storage at the same time, all while losing orders because of downtime. It’s sort of like taking off from Boston on a 25-minute flight to Portland in a turboprop puddle jumper and finding out mid-flight that you have to head directly for London and build a 747 so you have the fuel to make it across the Atlantic… all in midair.

Shopify Plus is very different than Magento. Shopify Plus is a cloud platform that doesn’t offer access to the backend code, whereas Magento is software you run yourself (or with a third-party host). You certainly can customize more areas when you run Magento, but that’s usually not a necessary asset. The crucial factor to understand is that the areas where you are limited with Shopify Plus aren’t really used in typical, browse-and-buy commerce, so it really doesn’t matter.

One area where we find clients incorrectly doubting that Shopify Plus can work for them is integrations with custom backend systems, especially around custom fulfillment use cases. Many organizations with digital commerce also have a large, pre-existing offline fulfillment model where they need to send inventory to retailers and wholesalers. As digital sales increased the online store became more and more integrated with whatever custom fulfillment process existed with the warehouse and manufacturing facilities at play in a larger fulfillment ecosystem. The result is custom integration highly specific to the organization and an assumption that a cloud solution can’t do a custom integration.

The straight scoop is that because of Shopify Plus’ strong APIs and support for custom applications, even if an existing app from the public app store won’t work you can develop a custom integration that will achieve what you are trying to do. We have built some of the most complex custom integrations in the Shopify Plus ecosystem and we have yet to be limited.

Another area we frequently encounter clients assuming that Shopify Plus is too limited to be a viable option is product personalization. This is simply not the case. Take a look at Zippo Lighters online personalization tool, powered by (you guessed it) Shopify Plus.

Life is better when you stop worrying about problems that you don’t have and focus on those that you do.

We aren’t sure where this one comes from, but we have heard IT departments throw out SEO concerns when arguing against Shopify. Like Magento, or any leading marketing or commerce system, SEO is what you make it. All of these systems can run sites with terrific, well-managed search engine ranking positions, and all of them can be complete tire fires from a digital marketing perspective.

Maybe a couple of examples will help?

Here’s Shopify Plus customer MVMT ranking in the 1st organic position for the search term “nice watches,” which has more than 12,100 searches per month. They are ranking above Macy’s even though Macy’s is targeting the same keywords.

 

 

MVMT Google SERP

Here’s another Shopify Plus customer, Leesa, ranking in the top five organic positions for the search term “queen mattress,” which has more than 135,000 searches per month. Leesa is going pound for pound with this competitive keyword against heavyweights like Amazon, Wayfair, and Overstock.

Leesa Google SERP

*Note: This image doesn’t show the full search result, only the organic section area where the Leesa result was found. Perform the search “queen mattress” to see for yourself, but keep in mind that it could have changed since 3/23/19.

We’re all flexible and inflexible in some ways

The existence of many impactful, customized buyer journeys across many Shopify Plus stores is evidence that the platform is flexible. On the front end of the experience, you have near pixel complete control in the theming layer. On the backend, you have at your disposal an expansive app ecosystem to leverage, and a strong set of open APIs that can be used to build your own custom app.

The question isn’t whether Shopify Plus is inflexible or not—all platforms are flexible in some ways and not in others. What matters is the intersection of your flexibility needs. In an increasingly large number of browse-and-buy use cases, Shopify Plus has the right kind of flexibility to be a successful, less expensive alternative to Magento.

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