Magento is one of those systems that sounds great in theory. An entire, fully-functional ecommerce platform that is, gulp, FREE! Who can resist free?
Well, to use an old cliche that attempts to rebut this temptation, “You get what you pay for”. Magento is fantastic and may make sense — and it’s worth it to do a detailed comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of each.
And it’s not just free — as you scale, the hard costs of Salesforce Commerce Cloud scale as well, since the only fee is a commission (of 2% to 4%). Note, of course, you still have to pay for servers, sysadmin/devops, maintenance, and so forth.
Other than being free, Magento has another great advantage: the fact that it’s written in PHP (a classic software development language). There are millions of developers around the world who know PHP and thus can work on it and improve it — and there being so many, there are PHP software developers at every level of competence and every level of price. You want one who is pennies on the hour to work on your site? You can probably find him.
Another benefit is that Magento is a classic — it’s been around since almost the dawn of the ecommerce era. As a result, it’s not just well understood, but there is a well-developed infrastructure and universe around it: modules to buy; teams to focus on it; few bugs, like with anything tested by time (the Lindy Effect for software).
But there’s another side as well. To use another saying: “What’s cheap is expensive”. Here are some of the ways Salesforce Commerce Cloud is stronger than Magento.
First, you have to host Magento yourself. As a result, you’re in classic software devops land of running servers, dealing with them crashing, scaling them, and the nightmare of running a site. What’s awesome about the “cloud” – such as, Salesforce Commerce Cloud – is that someone else worries about this. (Shopify has this same advantage as well, for the record.)
Second, Magento doesn’t have content or blogging functionality. It’s an ecommerce system, nothing more, and nothing less. If on your site you want to blog or write articles or show off photos of your team — sorry, no can do. Magento was built to sell, nothing more and nothing less. (Salesforce Commerce Cloud includes a content functionality.)
Third, Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s marketing functionality is hard to compete with. As one of my colleagues, Nadia Garcia, told me (with a hint of exaggeration; as a perfectionist, she will point out this isn’t literally true): “If you can imagine any online marketing functionality on the site, Salesforce Commerce Cloud can do it.” If you want only particular products at particular prices to appear at particular times of day to particular users (who previously did particular things A, B, and C) in particular places – you can do that. Magento? Don’t even dream of it.
Another benefit of Salesforce Commerce Cloud is that, while Magento does allow for the creation of extensions and themes, like with Shopify, it is the wild west and using many, many plugins will slow down your site and cause more problems than they’re worth.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud also allows to create very different user experiences for different users — users who see the site after 9pm every day can only see a green site, if you so please! — and those can be deployed in almost any way you like. You can even do A/B tests of very different user experiences. You effectively want two sites? You can do that.
Another advantage is that Salesforce Commerce Cloud enforces the use of staging environments, so you just can’t make a change to a site and have it live. Since Magento is open source, this is doable in Magento, but entails serious custom software development.
In conclusion, the main advantage to Magento is both legacy reasons — if you’ve already got it, it’s a tough call to switch — or because you want access to the entire universe of PHP developers, or because you already have a server, and hosting and devops infrastructure, thus removing the need to worry seriously about that burden. Besides from these cases, we’d recommend Salesforce Commerce Cloud.