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The ecommerce platform for global brands.

Centra vs Shopify vs Magento: A side‑by‑side comparison

Ecommerce has evolved. Gone are the days when a single platform could be good for everything. Modern original brands need agility, design freedom, and scale to grow and reach their customers internationally.

The evolution of commerce platforms

Past
Legacy platforms
Magento
redEcommerce business logic coupled with CMS and frontend website
redBusiness logic and website customized by integrating directly with the platform’s source code
redDifficult to upgrade due to version and vendor lock-in. Significant cost to keep an installation running
Present
Monolithic SaaS platforms
Shopify Plus
yellowEcommerce business logic coupled with CMS and frontend on limited APIs
yellowLimited possibilities to extend the built-in business logic and functionality through apps
yellowLimited flexibility prevents rapid online business development and makes it hard to meet enterprise needs
Future
Composable SaaS platforms
greenPresentation layer fully decoupled from the ecommerce engine
greenOpen architecture, with data accessible through well-defined APIs
greenAPI “technical contract” between platform and implementation enables rapid low-cost development

Running a fashion brand? Pick the right tool for the trade!

If you’re doing fashion and lifestyle on a monolithic ecommerce platform, you’re very likely limiting the growth potential of your brand. Today’s leading monolithic SaaS platforms don’t support the business logic and complexity of modern lifestyle commerce. They may be good for everything, but they fail to meet the needs of modern, dynamic fashion brands.

At a glance

While there are many ecommerce platforms on the market, Shopify Plus and Magento are often mentioned as the top ones. However, when you look at how both platforms were built, which industries they serve best, and how they support growth, their shortcomings start to emerge – especially in how they solve the challenges of modern, global fashion ecommerce.

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Shopify PlusMagentoCentra
Built for...
  • Built for entry-level retailers that want an easy-to-get-started webshop. Many third-party apps are needed to get the core commerce features like variant handling, campaign features and international sales.
  • Magento is a generic retailer-focused ecommerce product. Industry-specific adaptation needs to be added through customization, driving cost and complexity.
  • Built for both established or aspiring brands that need a platform to strengthen their imprint.
Powerful vs. ease of use
  • Built to be easy to learn. Shopify’s ambition is to enable aspiring online retailers to open up a simple online store with a few easy clicks.
  • Powerful but complex. Requires specific Magento programming skills to customize and maintain. Most programmers have difficulty learning Magento.
  • Built to be powerful
  • Centra’s ambition is to empower brands with every tool they need to serve the world from one powerful platform.
Wholesale vs. direct-to-
consumer
  • Shopify Plus offers a bad wholesale experience. Also, Shopify’s wholesale is not natively built-in and as robust in terms of price and vendor control. It still needs a separate store to run a full Wholesale Site which means more money spent.
  • B2C only platform – Magento B2B is only B2C-style ecommerce for business customers, not wholesale.
  • Wholesale and direct-to-consumer
  • With Centra, you can handle all channels from one platform — both Wholesale B2B and Direct-to-Consumer B2C.
Single vs. multi-market
  • Separate storefronts are needed per each market. Shopify Markets helps with basic internationalization, however this does not allow for proper local catalog management, assigning of multiple warehouses per market, local bank accounts, base currencies, payouts etc.
  • Multiple markets
  • Multiple markets
  • Centra is one system to rule them all – markets, currencies, languages, and price.
  • Serve all markets from one system.
Custom design/dev vs. closed templates
  • Template-based design system
  • Generic look and feel based on templates.
  • A good choice for businesses that cannot afford to invest in on-brand
  • design
  • Integrated solution
  • Legacy platform that combines backend architecture with ecommerce, CMS and front end in a monolith, leading to cumbersome and slow development.
  • “Headless” design system
  • Build your site with complete freedom of design. Use any CMS. Front end fully separated from back end, enables agile development and choice of technology.
Payment options
  • Few fixed payment options with focus on Shopify payments, which is tailored for the North American market. Extra fees and complexity when using other PSPs.
  • Multiple payment options available
  • Flexible payment options
  • Centra offers 200+ leading payment methods through multiple PSPs, empowering brands to sell globally.
Hosting
  • Cloud-based infrastructure
  • Self-hosted product
  • Hosting is integrated. A hosting provider needs to be contracted separately from the platform and typically does not give an end-to-end availability guarantee.
  • Hassle-free SaaS solution
  • Centra always works. Operated in the cloud, Centra guarantees 99.9% availability - even during peak sale periods such as Black Friday.
Automatic updates vs versions
  • Automatic platform updates
  • Versioned software
  • Software needs to be manually updated to the latest version, driving
  • cost, risk and creating plug-in compatibility issues.
  • Always up-to-date
  • Centra is always running on the best and latest version with automatic updates fortnightly
Licensing fees
  • A monthly licensing fee includes: hosting, maintenance, version upgrades, native multi-store capabilities, Shopify’s POS solution, and account management
  • High total cost of ownership
  • Fees for licenses, customization, hosting, updates and upgrades come on top of website development, creating a high and difficult to forecast total cost of ownership.
  • Cost-efficient modern solution
  • Centra’s license fee covers everything needed, including support. The only cost on top is the design and development of a custom-built, on-brand website.

The 11 challenges of fashion commerce

To scale fast and grow internationally, dynamic fashion brands need a solution that enables it without imposing limitations in terms of design and development. These challenges include scalability, complexity, design freedom, internationalization and suitability for selling fashion and lifestyle products.

Let’s have a closer look at how popular platforms solve these challenges, and how they stack up against Centra’s headless, fashion-centric approach to fashion ecommerce.

Challenge #1

Lack of design freedom and flexibility

In terms of website design, the fashion industry has very unique needs. Ambitious brands need the agility and design freedom to build brand-authentic, pixel perfect sites – without compromises or design limitations.

Design freedom means empowering editors with a full-scale modular CMS mixing content marketing and shop capabilities. Most popular ecommerce platforms don’t enable full freedom, limiting brands’ growth and flexibility.

Why brands migrate to Centra

You can build a headless store on top of a monolithic commerce platform but you’ll miss out on the tooling that made you choose the platform in the first place. At the same time, you will also lose most of the benefits generally associated with headless like low price and minimal developer support. You will basically end up paying as much or more than a true headless ecommerce setup – while not getting all the benefits. 

Fully headless, composable and API-first architecture offers some performance and growth benefits that are impossible to achieve with a monolithic platform like Shopify Plus or Magento.

Centra’s API-first approach caters to the needs of ambitious fashion brands. Many of Centra’s clients choose to work with a headless CMS as part of their front-end stack for a perfect mix of content marketing and advanced shop functionalities. The platform’s API coverage allows brands to elevate their front-end experiences without having to worry about the restrictions commonly associated with popular monolithic ecommerce platforms. 


Challenge #2

Multi‑store and internationalization

Localization is key to driving sales internationally. Different markets accept different price points, and prefer different languages and payment methods. They follow different influencers, and their different climate zones impact seasonal sales. They want different payment options and localized checkout. However, traditional monolithic commerce platforms complicate localization, badly impacting SEO. They require one storefront per each localized market. 

Offering a localized website and local payment methods can increase conversion rates by over 10%, and local shipping options can add another 10% to that figure. 

Why brands migrate to Centra

Centra’s native multi-store architecture allows for full management of core data locally and globally across different stores, supporting brands with global reach or aspirations to enter new markets. 

Centra allows admin users to manage product management at a store level, a language level, or globally. Descriptions can be different for stores based on languages, while the same images can be used globally. The same principle applies across things like category management, promotions, customer management, etc.

Challenge #3

Wholesale & B2B capabilities

Wholesale experience is a new competitive frontier for fashion brands. Shopify offers a product called wholesale, but it comes with fewer features than the B2B ordering apps that have been around for the past 10 years. If you want to move ahead with a wholesale strategy, it is a clear tell that you’ve outgrown your monolithic ecommerce platform.

Why brands migrate to Centra

With Centra, you also gain a fully digital wholesale platform out of the box to help your brand stand out from the competition. The built-in B2B portal for buyers, sales reps and agents, supports the full wholesale business logic for preorders and at-once orders.

Challenge #4

Native features vs plugins

Plugins and extensions offer a convenient way of expanding the functionality of your ecommerce platform, but native integrations are cheaper in the long run.

If you do not have a dedicated developer, be prepared to pay extra to hire developers working on your site 24/7. If you only need a simple site, this won't apply to you, but then you also have no reason to use Magento when simpler, more stable products are available.

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Shopify PlusMagentoCentra
Features for fashionThrough apps/extensions Through apps/extensions and native integrations (limited)Native

There are four big problems with the app-based approach to achieving the basic functionality that all fashion brands need: 

  1. Apps or plugins are not equal to native functionality

    There are things that simply can’t be achieved by Shopify’s apps – they can’t access specific data. Business logic that needs to be interconnected is turned into silos – the app needed for managing the product catalog doesn’t speak to the app used to manage inventory. 

    With Centra, fashion brands get a highly integrated feature set that covers all core needs, out of the box. 

  2. Apps raise security and stability concerns

    Each app is basically another website inside the Shopify admin, which means you depend on many third-party developers to keep their sites up and running well, and keep the data secure.

  3. Apps cost extra

    Monolithic platforms might look cheap to start with, but with all the apps, payment transaction fees, FX markups, and costs per storefront, the cost can go very high.

  4. Apps lead to a cumbersome user interface

    Because the apps are siloed, non-native extensions, they are managed from different parts of the user interface. Simple processes that are achieved with a few simple clicks in Centra need multiple steps in multiple apps with Shopify.

Monolithic platforms like Shopify Plus or Magento direct you to apps in their marketplace even when it should be something natively offered by the platform. 

Why brands migrate to Centra

Launching on Centra, original fashion brands get all the features they need, integrated in a tight package. 

Challenge #5

Performance, scalability and stability impact on SEO and conversion

In terms of website design, the fashion industry has very unique needs. Ambitious brands need design freedom to build brand-authentic, pixel-perfect sites – without compromises or design limitations.

Design freedom means empowering editors with a full-scale modular CMS mixing content marketing and shop capabilities. Most popular ecommerce platforms don’t enable full freedom, limiting brands’ growth and flexibility.

It is worth noting that you do have full control over the URLs If you use Shopify in a headless manner, as the platform isn’t powering the front end. It also gives you access to the server so you can implement things like visual merchandising solutions without just relying on JavaScript for the product grid.

Why brands migrate to Centra

If your store runs slow, it is a telling sign to upgrade your setup to Centra – a future-proof headless platform built for speed and growth.

Challenge #6

Support

Fast and responsive support is, apart from the features and capabilities, an important factor impacting how fast brands can get their stores up and running.

Challenge #7

Cost of ownership

The combined cost of frontend and backend development and maintenance, as well as hosting and other fees (like payment processing) may exceed the initially projected cost of launching on a legacy monolithic or generic headless platform.

Why brands migrate to Centra

With many features offered out of the box, Centra significantly reduces the long-term cost of maintaining the platform and ensuring its good performance in peak sale periods. Since there are no hidden costs and no third-party integrations needed, Centra is the most affordable ecommerce platform of the three.

Challenge #8

Analytics and reporting

Commerce needs reports to give you the means to review your store's recent activity, get insight into your visitors, analyze your online store speed, and analyze your store's transactions.

Magento has historically been bad at reporting, even with third-party modules. 

A few years ago, Magento acquired RJMetrics (now Magento BI), which is a fairly strong solution that adds a lot of value to merchants. Magento BI is essentially a data warehouse and you can also pull in data from other systems and sources, which is really powerful.

The out-of-the-box Shopify reporting is much better. Although it doesn’t cover everything, Shopify has a much nicer and cleaner reporting interface and covers all of the core metrics, as well as having a really good API to support this. You can then use third party solutions like Glew or Daasity or build out your own data warehouse / bespoke reporting for broader business reporting.

Why brands migrate to Centra

Centra has an intuitive dashboard, giving an instant overview of sales. It is possible to analyze data through numerous different dimensions and time periods. The dashboard is powered by a high-speed database, making working in it fast and intuitive.

Centra has extensive report generation capabilities. Report generation methods exist to analyze virtually any part of the business data stored in Centra. Reports can be exported as csv or xlsx files and can be set to be automatically generated at set times or intervals and emails can be automatically sent once a report is generated.

Centra is your complete digital control room, giving you analytics and reporting modules for a detailed overview of your business performance.

Challenge #9

Bundling, promotions and upselling features

Centra has a really impressive set of features for trading and also supporting marketing activity.

Challenge #10

Suitability for fashion and lifestyle products

Most popular monolithic platforms don’t support the business logic and complexity of fashion lifestyle commerce. They are good if you want to launch fast without paying much, but then hold back your growth by not offering core, fashion-specific functionalities.

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Shopify PlusMagentoCentra
Features for fashionThrough apps/extensions Through apps/extensions and native integrations (limited)Native

Why brands migrate to Centra

Centra is built for original fashion and lifestyle brands, and supports complex lifestyle products. Centra makes handling styles, colors and sizes, different product displays, collections and drops easy. 

Supported by Centra, fashion brands can focus on growing their fan base and global expansion rather than on maintaining complex technology. The features and roadmap are 100% designed for the needs of brands with global ambitions and no retailers influence the prioritization of features.

Challenge #11

Omnichannel capabilities

Brands want to sell to consumers and retailers across channels, countries and marketplaces to scale globally. 

Why brands migrate to Centra

With Centra, you can sell through distributors, agents, resellers, marketplaces, and their direct-to-consumer websites – all from a single platform.

You’re in good company

International fashion brands choose Centra as the only platform that fully understands the needs and complex business logic of fashion commerce.

Join the vanguard of original brands that scale fast and expand on new markets without the limitations imposed by their legacy ecommerce platforms. Centra have a very impressive portfolio of brands using their platform, including Nudie Jeans, Sandqvist, ETON, iDeal of Sweden, Douchebags and Norse Projects – with some of these being on the platform right from the start.