The rapid evolution of information technology and the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant impact on modern business practices. To keep up with customers’ ever-changing needs, many businesses have turned to ecommerce to reach new heights. However, developing an ecommerce website or app requires a powerful platform behind it.
For the development of high-scaling applications and responsive websites, open source headless commerce architecture has become the go-to option in recent years because of its flexibility, scalability, and agility. However, choosing the best open source headless ecommerce platform can be challenging. To help you navigate this complex landscape, this article compares two popular open source solutions: Medusa and Sylius.
Built on the Symfony framework, Sylius comprises decoupled components that can be used independently in any PHP application, even if it doesn’t use Symfony. This allows you to use the complete platform or to select individual elements to create a custom solution. Sylius boasts high-quality code, a strong testing culture, built-in Agile (BDD) workflow, and exceptional flexibility.
Meanwhile, Medusa is an open-source set of ecommerce building blocks providing a composable architecture. It is built with Node.js. It prioritizes a great developer experience through its architecture, ease of setup, supportive community, and strong documentation. Since its launch nearly two years ago, developers have used Medusa in over 20,000 projects.
This article explores the similarities and differences between Medusa and Sylius regarding features and developer experience to help you determine which platform best fits your needs.
What is Medusa?
Medusa is an open source ecommerce engine built with Node.js. It’s an API-first engine that allows you to build custom, flexible websites and applications. Medusa’s architecture includes three components: the headless server accessed via REST APIs, the admin dashboard, and the storefront. You can use it as a single entity or select the parts you need for your ecommerce store.
It was built to provide helpful features like easy setup, endless customizations for merchants to scale, extendibility, plug-and-play payment integrations, etc. There are around 4,000 users in the community providing support and strong documentation.
What is Sylius?
Sylius is an open source headless ecommerce platform built on top of the Symfony PHP framework. It is designed for mid-market and enterprise brands that need specialized solutions.
The platform has a free version (Standard) and a paid one (Sylius Plus), around 7k+ stars on GitHub and 3000+ users.
Sylius is also recognized among the community of CTOs, architects, and developers for its unlimited scalability, customizability, and powerful REST API that can be customized with the front-end of your choice. It’s built with API Platform, easy to host, and adjusts to your growing needs. The platform can detect and fix problems before they hit your customers and revenues as it’s a pioneer in automated testing of ecommerce platforms and encodes it in your projects.
Comparison of Features
Medusa and Sylius offer a wide range of features. This comparison can help you understand the key differences between them and determine which platform is better suited for your business needs.
Within an ecommerce platform, RMA (return merchandise authorization) flows include processing order returns, changing the order status, managing accounting and financing details, managing shipping and payment, and more.
Medusa RMA Flows
In Medusa, RMA flows are available out-of-the-box and are automated. Returns, swaps, and claims are seamlessly integrated and automated. Customers can initiate a return request directly from the storefront, while store operators can manage the order status, payment, and shipment details from the Medusa admin.
All these processes can easily be handled from the admin dashboard, from the customer’s request to items marked as returned or swapped. The platform also allows developers to integrate with accounting or finance services to automatically update the business’s finances for returns.
Sylius RMA Flows
Sylius offers an out-of-the-box return management option for ecommerce platforms through the Sylius RMA plugin by Madcoders. This allows customers to create and submit return requests, enable return forms for guests and signed-in customers, select items and quantities, and choose a reason for the return.
Additionally, the plugin allows merchants to define return reasons, set time limits for returns, and establish terms and conditions that must be accepted before submitting the form. You can manage these features through a dedicated return management area in the admin.
Medusa is incredibly fast due to the server’s headless architecture, which separates the front-end and back-end, allowing both to be more lightweight and faster than a tightly knit architecture.
Medusa also offers two starter storefronts built with static-site generators Next.js and Gatsby, further enhancing speed. These modern technologies ensure a high-performing and fast storefront for businesses.
While Sylius is known for its great performance out-of-the-box, you may still need to optimize its speed by prioritizing asset loading, loading only necessary assets at the beginning of the page and deferring the rest to the end, caching commonly used data using a service like Redis, and implementing ElasticSearch for efficient product search.
Multi-region and Multi-currency
Medusa Multi-region and Multi-currency
Medusa allows businesses to easily create multiple regions and set specific currency options for each one, all within the same store. This eliminates the need to switch between multiple stores.
Businesses can also set product pricing in each currency in their store within the same platform.
Sylius Multi-region and Multi-currency
Sylius supports multiple currencies per store, making creating stores that target customers worldwide easy. The platform automatically converts money values to other currencies using exchange rates and allows customers to switch currencies in the store’s front-end.
Sylius uses “zones” that consist of zone members to manage regions. For instance, these zones are defined based on any criteria, such as EU countries, specific countries with similar tax systems, or even ZIP code ranges in the USA.
One of the key advantages of using Medusa is the flexibility in payment solutions. Medusa and Sylius enable developers to integrate third-party payment and shipping providers, but Medusa offers a wider range of integrations. Medusa developers can integrate providers such as Stripe, Stripe Subscription, Klarna, Adyen, Mercado Pago, Manual Payment, and PayPal.
Medusa is open-source, allowing easy extension of its payment API to integrate with any preferred payment solution.
In contrast, Sylius supports a limited number of payment providers, including PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, and Mollie.
Medusa offers built-in tax management. Merchants can independently manage regional taxes and add multiple tax rates. The system also allows tax overrides for specific products.
Its Tax API enables integration with third-party services for extended tax capabilities.
Sylius’ tax system supports item-specific, zone-based, and custom tax calculations. To set up taxes in your store, you must create at least one tax category (e.g., “taxable goods”) and assign it to items with the same tax rate.
For diverse tax rates, create multiple categories (e.g., clothing, books, shoes, etc.). You can also create different zones to apply the correct taxes for customers from any country worldwide.
Medusa’s advanced Promotions API allows you to create discounts and free shipping offers based on region. You can apply the discounts as a percentage or a fixed amount. The API offers standard use cases such as free shipping discounts, fixed-amount discounts, or discount percentages.
Merchants can also create discounts specific to customer groups, products, number of redemptions, and various other conditions.
With Sylius, you can apply various customizable discounts. For instance, you can create discounts based on specific periods like Christmas or dates like Black Friday. It offers free delivery for a selected country and promotions depending on the quantity, value, or even specific items in the cart. You can also provide a usage restriction, percentage-based discount, and different discount rates for different client groups (retail and wholesale customers).
Medusa’s open-source nature means it’s entirely free of charge, with full access to features, plugins, and a responsive open source community.
For medium to large-scale businesses, Medusa also provides Premium Support. This option gives you a dedicated support channel, architectural advice, and a guaranteed response time. To learn more about the setup and cost, fill out the form.
Sylius offers two versions: Sylius Standard (free) with an MIT open source license and Sylius Plus (paid) with a commercial license and annual subscription based on Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) you make through Sylius software.
Medusa Gift Cards
Medusa has integrated gift cards with easy management from the admin dashboard. Merchants can offer multiple denominations and customize images. Customers can buy gift cards like any other product, but the fulfillment of gift cards is handled differently from other products on purchase.
Gift cards have customizable settings and conditions that can be adjusted in the admin dashboard. These customizations include adding or deleting denominations, using more than one currency value for a denomination, and changing the handle (URL) of the gift card, tags, and product type. You can add up to ten images for a gift card and use a thumbnail image. Take note that you can only create one gift card per store.
Sylius Gift Cards
Sylius offers gift card functionality as a plugin. The administrator can access a dashboard that displays the total outstanding balance of gift cards, allowing easy auditing. You can use a code to group the gift card, add the multi-currency feature, and gift card amount.
Medusa and Sylius both enable developers to incorporate shipping providers. With Medusa, users can specify shipping providers by region or store through plugins, including popular providers like WebShipper. You can create custom plugins to integrate other providers.
Sylius allows multiple shipments per order and configurable shipping options based on the shipping address or category. A shipment represents a shipping request for an order.
Medusa currently does not support multiple languages. If your store needs to support languages other than English, connect a Content Management System (CMS) like Contentful to Medusa — it allows you to configure multiple locales for all the content.
Sylius supports multiple languages through locales. Locales are language codes standardized by ISO 15897.
With the default configuration, customers can change the store language in the front-end.
Medusa offers a customizable platform through its abstraction-based architecture. Ideal for businesses seeking control of their tech stack and getting creative with their front-end, Medusa resolves the challenges faced when customizing traditional monolithic ecommerce platforms with its flexible and extensible features.
The composable commerce architecture in Medusa decouples front-end from the back-end, allowing free storefront customization with any programming language or framework. The back-end provides extendable API layers for straightforward integration of third-party services or custom features. This architecture offers limitless customization for both the storefront and admin dashboard. Developers can use existing starter storefronts or build their own using any front-end framework.
With Sylius’ modern architecture and Symfony’ framework, you can easily customize every part of this platform to meet your business requirements. You can directly do the customization in your application or plugins.
Reporting and Analytics
Medusa Reporting and Analytics
Medusa, as of the moment of writing this article, does not provide any analytics or reporting on its admin dashboard. But you can integrate third-party services like Matomo and Segment for analytics purposes.
Sylius Reporting and Analytics
Just like Medusa, you can integrate some plugins for analytics use in Sylius. For instance, with Sylius Report Plugin by Odiseo, you can add a reporting interface to the platform’s administration. It’s also possible to create custom reports easily.
For statistical data, use the Analytics Plugin, which adds Google Analytics tracking to your shop, or the Facebook Tracking Plugin, enabling you to add Facebook Pixel to know visitors coming to your website from any social media platform.
Plugins allow developers to implement custom features or integrate third-party services into Medusa. Some official plugins cover different aspects, including payment, CMS, storage, analytics, shipping, and notifications. You can check out the plugins available here. There are also community plugins that you can explore.
An alternative approach is creating a plugin. Medusa allows you to develop, configure, and test a custom plugin. You can learn how to get started here.
Sylius provides some open source official plugins and they can be found in a GitHub repository. They include shop API, invoicing, refund, admin order creation, customer reorder, and customer order cancellation plugins. They have an “official plugin” badge.
Designing and maintaining a web store can be challenging, so seeking help and support from the community is very important. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at the ecosystem of Medusa and Sylius.
As a platform focused on working closely with the community and providing any support needed, Medusa has over 4,800 developers, product owners, and other specialists working with this tool on its Discord server. You can join in discussions, showcase your work with Medusa, and get help from other developers or the core Medusa team almost instantly.
For more community support, Medusa has a GitHub repository with over 130 contributors. You can join this community to help shape the solution with other ecommerce builders, open source developers, and the Medusa team.
Sylius has over 4,400 community developers on public Slack and a GitHub repository with over 600 contributors. Sylius Partner Network comprises over 70 trusted technology partners, hosting providers, and ecommerce agencies that can help you upgrade your ecommerce development game.
You can join the communities to ask for support or help others in solving any issue they may encounter. Sylius also provides detailed documentation, video instructions, and discussion forums, which is helpful for those learning to use this platform.
Medusa offers other features like customer and customer groups, adding products and sorting them into collections, easy integration of custom tools and third-party services, advanced pricing for products, sales channels, full checkout flow, bulk imports and exports, cart functionality, customer profiles (e.g., for customer-specific pricing), and multi-vendor support.
Aside from the standard RMA feature, Medusa offers an automated way to manage swaps, returns, and claims.
Sylius Plus offers marketing features such as email marketing, content management, review management, and CRM, but it lacks SEO management — which is a significant weakness. To enhance SEO, you need to install additional extensions.
Medusa Vs Sylius: Which One is Better Suited for your Needs?
When is Medusa the Best Choice?
Medusa is a great choice for developers looking for a Node.js ecommerce platform.
It is suitable for any project, from ambitious ecommerce startups to global enterprises with more than $100 million in annual GMV.
Developers who want complete control over the codebase, integrations, and customizations of the ecommerce platform.
For businesses with unique use cases, such as subscription models or multi-vendor use cases. Medusa’s flexibility for merchants and developers makes it a platform that can fit any use case.
When is Sylius the Best Choice?
Suitable for businesses that have outgrown out-of-the-box (OOTB) solutions and have reached the expansion stage (typically after the first two years of the web store’s existence, as it is primarily a technical product).
It’s a good choice for Symphony developers.
Sylius is built with a strong emphasis on code quality and the Behavior Driven Development approach, which keeps your team focused on business value rather than flashy code.
It could be used for any type of ecommerce, including B2C, B2B, and multivendor marketplaces, as well as as a headless microservice powering video-on-demand (VOD), e-learning platforms, and SaaS.
We have compared Medusa and Sylius by highlighting their features, similarities, and differences. You now have enough information to select the platform that’s most suitable for your next project.
You can check out Medusa’s documentation for details on features, integrations, and how to get started. Also, Medusa’s GitHub page contains quality resources for your use.
To get started with Sylius, click here and also check out Sylius’ documentation for more information about the Symfony framework.
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