Shopify VS Magento Go

Winner: Shopify


Shopify and Magento Go are both shopping carts that, at their most basic level, allow you to create and operate an online store. Boasting more than $52 million in merchant sales since launching eight years ago, Shopify is probably the best-known cart in the industry. It mainly powers small to mid-sized stores, including Forty Ninth Parallel  and Good as Gold. Shopify has earned a reputation for slick themes, accessible customer service, and general ease of use.

Magento is a well-established hosted cart that powers several notable companies, like Toms and Fiji Water. Magento launched cloud-based solution Magento Go in 2011, marketing it as a more user-friendly option for small and medium-sized e-tailers. Like its older sibling, Magento Go comes out of the box with a slew of features and a handful of extensions that increase functionality. The following review covers web-hosted Magento Go.

At the end of the day, is Shopify or Magento Go more accessible? Which cart one offers better features and extras? What about customer service? After spending hours researching, testing, and culling user comments for both carts, we’ve put Shopify and Magento Go head to head. Read on for the full lowdown.

Date Established:

2005 (Shopify)

2011 (Magento Go)


Ottawa, Ontario Canada (Shopify)

Culver City, California (Magento Go)

Domain Name(s):

Web-Hosted or Licensed:

Both Shopify and Magento Go are web-hosted. Magento Go is the cloud-based version of the hosted Magento CE platform.

Hardware and Software Requirements:

Since Shopify and Magento Go are cloud-based, you’ll just need to have a secure internet connection and browser (Safari, Chrome, Firefox) to access your store. We recommend using the latest technology whenever possible.


Winner: Tie

Neither Magento Go or Shopify charge fees to set up or to cancel your store. Magento Go offers a test period of 30 days compared to Shopify’s 14-day trial. You’ll pay a similar amount to use either shopping cart (Magento Go’s plans range from $15 to $125 per month; Shopify’s plans cost $14 to $179 monthly.) And each has potential negative aspects you’ll want to consider.

Some Magento Go users complain about getting stuck with bandwidth overage charges. That’s in contrast to Shopify, who doesn’t charge any bandwidth fees. Basically, bandwidth is how much data is transferred from your shopping cart’s server to the computer your customer is using. Having too little can potentially cause slow sites or crashes. To make sure that doesn’t happen, carts that charge overage fees like Magento Go automatically infuse your store with additional bandwidth when you exceed what’s included in your plan. And that can end up costing you $10 for every extra GB of bandwidth you use per month. If you sign up with Magento Go, I recommend taking the time to choose a plan that offers enough bandwidth from the start.

In addition, Magento Go doesn’t offer a way for you to check how much bandwidth or storage you’ve used. If they’re going to charge for overages, it only makes sense that just like with your cell phone bill you can check and see if you’re near allotted limits.

On the other hand, Shopify is notorious for charging transaction fees ranging from 1 to 2 percent depending on your plan (its top tiers are exempt.) But as an incentive for merchants to sign up with Shopify Payments, you can now have transaction fees waived. Shopify Payments offers competitive rates and transparent pricing, so if you’re not already committed to a processor I’d recommend looking into it to avoid those transaction fees. You can read more details over on our full Shopify review.

Ease of Use:

Winner: Shopify

The first time you enter Magento Go’s admin area you’ll be walked through several getting started steps, which I had no trouble following. I don’t like that Magento Go issues two different login URLS–one to access your admin and another to manage your account. It would be simpler if all the info and tools for your shop could be grouped under one login.

In my time reviewing, I’ve seen several shopping cart backends that I wouldn’t recommend to any merchant. But after spending time using Magento Go’s admin I think some merchants could dive in–Magento Go’s CMS may not be the simplest around, but it is certainly easier to use than some of its competitors. The dashboard is searchable and defaults to basic order and sales info, and I like that Magento Go offers a WYSIWYG editor.

Some other aspects of Magento Go make it a better option for more experienced sellers. For example, adding new products could be a whole lot simpler than it is. You’ll have to navigate through what the cart calls “attributes” that can then be bundled into “groups” or “sets.” It really shouldn’t be that complicated.

Shopify’s CMS used to be good. But when Shopify 2 finally rolled out in August of 2012, in my opinion its new admin became even more elegant and simple. I really feel like Shopify designed its admin with the customer and merchant in mind and found that Shopify anticipated what I wanted before I knew I needed it. After signing up, I was guided through four steps during a quick initial process. It covers adding new items, choosing a theme, and more. I like that with Shopify I don’t have to access code unless I want to make more significant changes to my store. But since Shopify’s skins are so attractive I don’t think knowing code is necessary for most sellers.

At the root of all that user-friendliness is a powerful, well-designed backend that now features live editing that lets you view how a font looks right when you select it or see whether or not a new color choice is a good fit with no lag time.

Product Features:

Winner: Magento Go

While Magento Go and Shopify both let you load products and images, manage inventory and orders, and complete sales, Magento Go offers a stronger discounting system than Shopify. Plus, I found the cart to support a wider variety of marketing promotions like polls, surveys, coupons, and built-in newsletters. In addition, Magento Go comes with more out of the box analytical features, better order management tools, and a broader range of product browsing options. You’ll also be able to integrate your Magento Go store with eBay for free, which makes sense since eBay bought Magento two years back.

Shopify starts out lighter than Magento Go, which some merchants actually prefer since leaner stores at (least in theory) equal more efficient, faster sites. With Shopify, you’ll still find plenty of solid SEO tools (built-in meta tags, editable meta descriptions, and image and page title alt tags, to name a few) and a free customizable mobile app. But if cost is a concern, keep in mind that some features like one-page checkout and email newsletters that come standard with Magento Go will cost extra when you use Shopify. Have a look at our full Magento Go and Shopify reviews to learn more about each cart’s feature set.

Confused or overwhelmed by your options? If you need help sifting through shopping cart software we’re ready to help. Check out Merchant Maverick’s consulting services.

Web Design:

Winner: Shopify

Plain and simple, Shopify offers killer free templates. Even better, the themes are easy for beginners to tweak without having to pay for a designer or developer, which is a big plus for small businesses on limited budgets. Magento Go offers free themes like Shopify, and while some are moderately eye-pleasing there’s really no comparison. While you can’t dig into all the raw files with Magento Go like you can with Magento, if you have a basic knowledge of code you should be able to use Magento Go’s “themes editor” in the admin to adjust fonts and colors. I also like that the “theme text editor” and “layout” editor let you drag and drop and make small changes to text from the backend or frontend of your store.

Still, it’s tough to top the simple and elegant “live theme editor” (found under “themes,” then “theme settings” in the backend) that rolled out with Shopify 2 in the summer of 2013. It lets you see changes the moment you make them and couldn’t be simpler to use.

Integrations and Add-Ons:

Winner: Shopify

Shopify is flooded with free and fee-based add-ons, so you’ll have little to no trouble finding the extensions you want to help you boost marketing and SEO or support accounting and shipping. I’m also a big fan of Shopify’s iPhone app. You can check out all of Shopify’s integrations here.

Compared to Magento Go, Shopify arrives lighter out of the box. That means you may be forced to buy certain extras that are included as standard features with Magento Go, like the ability to set up one-page checkout. But at the end of the day, while Magento Go also integrates with a handful of reporting and shipping tools, its app store is pretty remedial isn’t plumped up very much by this smattering of third-party add-ons. I’d like to see Magento Go introduce an expanded list of quality mobile and analytics add-ons in the months ahead. If you need to expand the scope of your Magento Go store’s admin beyond the thick list of features that come with all plans then I’d recommend looking more closely at Shopify.

Payment Processing:

Winner: Magento Go

From PayPal and Braintree to international gateways, Shopify integrates with more than 70 payment processors. That means you’ll probably be able to work with your current processor or find a new one that’s already integrated with Shopify–check out the full list here. The cart rolled out in-house processor Shopify Payments in the summer of 2013. As mentioned above, when you sign up with the gateway your transaction fees will be waived. But it’s only offered to merchants based in the U.S. More details about Shopify Payments are in our full Shopify review.

Magento Go also integrates with several processors and offers one-page checkout, which is such an important feature that can make the difference between a closed sale or an abandoned cart. Here’s hoping Shopify adds one-page checkout soon.

If you need help choosing the payment processor that best fits your business, head over to our comparison page or contact us for a consultation.

Customer Service and Technical Support:

Winner: Shopify

Both Magento Go and Shopify offer 24/7 customer support, but only Shopify gives you access to tech help over the phone during after hours. And Shopify maintains a whole host of additional ways to find help, like a discussion forum and wiki, alongside educational tools, including a blog you’ll want to bookmark and its Ecommerce University. You can also like Shopify on Facebook and follow the cart on Twitter.

In order to access phone support with Magento Go you’ll need to be on its “Go Beyond” or “Go Anywhere” tiers. Otherwise you’ll need to use live chat or email. You should also know that several Magento Go users have complained about slow ticket response times, so I’d recommending taking advantage of live chat or phone support if you want swift access to help. Magento Go also offers a whole host of other ways to seek answers to questions, including webinars, guides, video tutorials via their YouTube channel, and a forum. And you can reach out to Magento on its Facebook and Twitter pages.

Negative Reviews and Complaints

Winner: Shopify

After an exhaustive search, we garnered a good deal of user feedback for both Shopify and Magento Go. Several Magento Go users reported slow server speeds and found that the cart offers mediocre themes and only a small number of add-ons. As mentioned above, others are unhappy with its bandwidth charges and, even though Magento Go offers 24/7 support, discovered that it can take days to have a question answered via tickets. The list goes on: Some Magento Go users found the cart too complicated and wanted a built-in blog and mobile theme.

Shopify merchants complained about transaction fees (again, these can be waived with Shopify Payments) and testify to the fact that add-ons can add on cost to monthly bills. Some users don’t like that Shopify’s themes are hard to customize beyond basics like changing fonts and colors. Others miss real-time shipping in its cheaper plans and want one-page checkout. And even though users can create one-time discount codes, some wish for the ability to create gift certificates. But overall, we found more significant negative reports from Magento Go users.

To do your own research, you can search on Google for terms like: Shopify/Magento Go reviews, Shopify/Magento Go complaints, Shopify/Magento Go comments, Shopify/Magento Go scam, Shopify/Magento Go testimonials, etc.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials:

Winner: Shopify

Users like that Magento Go allows you make deep customizations (of course you’ll need to know enough code to get that done) and that the cart offers 24/7 access to support. In addition, merchants praised Magento Go for not charging transaction fees and like its broad feature set.

But we found more praise from Shopify merchants, who like the cart’s unlimited bandwidth, accessible round the clock customer care, hearty collection of add-ons including a free mobile integration, and overall ease of use. And more than all of those positives, merchants rave about Shopify’s beautiful free themes. I’m right with them.

Final Verdict:

Winner: Shopify

Magento Go has the bones to become a really fantastic shopping cart. It already gives you more control than Shopify, but it’s still emerging in a lot of areas. I like the full set of features that come with Magento Go regardless of your plan and that compared to Shopify it doesn’t charge any transaction fees. However I don’t like that you’ll have to be careful you don’t go over bandwidth with Magento Go.

But the main difference between Magento Go and Shopify is its ease of use and design. A web-based solution, Magento Go is much easier for newbies to use than its self-hosted sibling, and it’s powerful. Once you get over the small learning curve, Magento Go offers you tools to create a stand-out online store. You’ll also have be ok with a less inspiring template that will probably need some sprucing up and be willing to do without some extras like a free mobile app and built-in blog. But in my opinion if you’re looking for a totally user-friendly cloud-based cart with out of the park skins, Shopify could be a better fit. Its elegant admin and solid customer support if you do get stuck are hard to beat.

If you’re ready to know more, take Shopify and Magento Go for trial runs to see which cart is the better fit for your business.

Amad Ebrahimi
Amad has worked in the eCommerce and online marketing world since 2002. He started as an eBay seller, then slowly graduated to building & marketing his own websites and consulting others to do the same. He founded Merchant Maverick out of frustration with all the misinformation and shady tactics that he encountered when trying to find a merchant account for his and his client's businesses. He's the man behind most of the merchant account reviews, and articles posted on Have any questions related to credit card processing? Talk to him.
Amad Ebrahimi
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