portland ecommerce

What’s the Right Platform for Your Portland E-Commerce Store?

November 12, 2018

E-commerce is growing 23% every year but 46% of small businesses in America don’t have an online store. Oregon alone has over 400,000 active businesses.

The Portland e-commerce scene has been a vital component for success in the North West. To diversify your store, start with two of the most popular e-commerce platforms.

E-commerce Platforms

There are enough e-commerce platforms to give you analysis paralysis for months. The best way to choose is to know what questions need answering:

  • How are your computer skills on a scale of a novice to a programmer?
  • Do you have the time to dedicate to an online store?
  • What is your timeline to get your store up and running?
  • How many items will you have in your store?
  • What is the goal of having an online presence?
  • What payment gateway options do you have in mind?
  • What is your budget?

These questions will help you determine if the features of an online platform work for you.

Two popular platforms to consider are Magento and Shopify. These are great options for different people. Shopify is a paid platform which is “move-in ready”. Magento is free to use but is  “highly customizable”.

Magento vs Shopify

Magento is a company owned by Adobe. This “fixer-upper” platform is one of the most customizable platforms you’ll find. Unlike the others, you can change every feature of every app and add-on.  Magento also has a rich ability to interconnect to many 3rd party systems which is needed in many businesses.

There is a platform for large enterprises and small business owners. The free platform is called the academic version or the Community version. It’s available to small businesses and student developers.

Shopify is a platform that is more immediately user-friendly or “move-in-ready”. It allows you to change the code to further customize it but not to the extent Magento does.  The interconnections are not as rich as they are when using Magento, so this is worth considering.


The costs of Magento come from the steps required to get it up and running. Although it’s free with the community version, you’ll have to pay for hosting to get it online. You can find hosting services for as little as $45 a month for smaller Magento implementations and the cost will increase as the store grows and the hosting system becomes larger.

Also, if you’re not well-versed in coding, you’ll have to get some help. Magento is an open source software who uses the programming language PHP. Open source means the source code is open to the community to change and develop. Shopify is proprietary and does not have this feature.

The Shopify platform offers different versions:

  • Lite Plan: $9/m
  • Basic Shopify Plan: $29/m
  • Shopify Plan: $79/m
  • Advanced Plan: $299

Shopify is a fully hosted software-as-a-service(SAAS) platform. This means everything you need to get started is included with signup.

For both platforms, you’ll have to pay the transaction fee of the payment gateway you choose. Paypal and Authorize.net are two popular gateways.

Shopify also offers their own payment gateway. If you choose another service, they charge a transaction fee from 0.5% to 2%. The percentages are in respect to the plan you choose. So, you would have to pay this fee and the fee of the new gateway.

Magento does not charge a transaction fee when you sign up for a payment gateway.

Ease of Use

As mentioned before, Magento is a fully customizable platform. It’s created to expand and grow as your company grows.

The customizable part is the programming code that goes along with it. Though it offers lots of freedom, there is a bit of a learning curve. Magento offers free and paid resources in anticipation of this.

Also, there are user community forums if you should run into trouble.

Magento has recently upgraded to version 2. This includes three versions: Cloud, Commerce, and Community. The Community version will remain free.

The Shopify platform is available for novices to jump right in. This powerful software is drag-and-click easy. It also comes with a wizard to simplify setup even further. Drag and drop is not a Magento feature.

Shopify offers a limited amount of customization with their code. They use the programming language Liquid. This is an open-source code created by them and used by companies all over the internet.

The complexity of Shopify comes in when you need to scale your company up. Although Magento requires coding, it is better suited to grow as your company grows.

Apps, Plugins, & Themes

Both Magento and Shopify offer extensive apps, plug-ins, and themes. Many are free while others aren’t.

The best quality Shopify themes are usually paid. You can routinely find themes for $75 and up  which are good quality from Magento.

Shopify’s drag-and-click simplicity shines here with the ability to use an add-on right away. Magento requires integration.


Magento allows blogging using a free plug-in. Shopify’s blog feature is integrated into its platform.

Inventory Management

Both platforms are great for small business. If you have a smaller inventory — less than 25 items — Shopify may be for you. If you want to scale up, though, you’ll need to upgrade to a new Shopify program.

Magento is virtually unlimited. As your store grows with Magento it’s important to keep your web host in mind. The bigger the store gets, the likelihood of your site slowing down increases.

Slow page loading can hurt businesses. This can be an additional cost for your hosting services.

Portland E-commerce

Online retail has caused major box retailers to close their doors. This is a trend which will continue as more and more businesses hop online.

For the novice, Shopify offers more accessibility. Its move-in-ready style allows you to get your products and site setup in a matter of minutes. The costs up front are a trade-off for the ease-of-use.

If you’re a solo-entrepreneur or own a small business, this could save you valuable time. Shopify also can avoid transaction fees charged by other gateways. This is something to think about as you begin to process larger sales volumes.

Magento may be for you if you have the extensive skills or time to dedicate to its learning. In a saturated online world, branding can set you apart. You can fully control how your brand is represented on your website with Magento.

The time you trade for its learning could be a valuable trade-off. The programming skills you develop will pay dividends for your future website needs. Magento is much more flexible and customizable and can be the least expensive option in the long run as you grow.

For many retail companies the right choice is to work with an eCommerce development company for both Shopify and Magento.  An experienced eCommerce development company can make quick work of setting up a store and making all the needed connections and integrations.  Plus adding the ability to customize the Look and feel the way you want your store to make you standout.

Final Thoughts on Shopify vs. Magento

When it comes down to it, only you can answer which platform is the best. How unique do you want your eCommerce store to be vs. a more turn key approach? Is cost an issue for you? Is your company growing quickly and will need a rich feature set or a larger number of interconnections to 3rd party systems?

These are some questions you’ll want to answer when choosing the right platform for your Portland e-commerce store.

K3G Solutions has years of experience designing and developing both Magento and Shopify stores.  We can help you decide which platform fits your budget and requirements.  There is a myriad of options available to you when you want to open a store. Contact us today to start your online presence off right.

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