Shopify vs. WooCommerce – Which Platform To Use For Your Online Store?
E-commerce is an exciting business opportunity. But there is one important thing you need to do before you can start on that thrilling journey of selling your products and showcasing your catalog to the masses.
You need an ecommerce platform to create that amazing store and make your dreams come true. So, what options do you have?
Well, you have several options. And that is precisely the reason why it gets intimidating to choose between them and pick the most suitable ecommerce platform for your business needs.
So you start digging. And then, there it comes… the most dreaded clash of Shopify vs. WooCommerce – two of the most popular ecommerce platforms out there!
They both have their own merits. And they are both really nice, which makes it even harder to choose between them.
Here, we dig deeply into these two platforms, comparing and contrasting both on a range of different factors.
Before reading this, we highly recommend that you read our detailed guide on the most important factors to consider when taking a dive in ecommerce. This guide will help you gain an insight into the most important things that matter in ecommerce. Once you have downloaded it, go on and read this detailed comparison of Shopify vs. WooCommerce.
Don’t fret. Read and make an informed decision.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: Understanding the Basic Difference
The words Shopify and WooCommerce might sound alien to you, especially if you’re an entrepreneur with no web related experience. But it’s ok. We’ll start with the basics so you can understand easily.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is an all-in-one eCommerce platform that enables you to create and run an online store. It’s a hosted solution that not only provides basic eCommerce tools, but also handles technical aspects of a website like hosting, speed, and security.
What are WordPress and WooCommerce?
WordPress is synonymous with blogging. It’s a self hosted Content Management System with no e-Commerce features out of the box. But when plugged in with different tools and extensions, WordPress allows you to do more than just blogging.
WooCommerce is an ecommerce plugin for WordPress that gives you all the right tools to transform your WordPress blog to a full-fledged online store.
Let’s go a bit deeper and understand the basic difference between them.
The Analogy That Explains Their Difference
Think about the time you need to move to a new place and you’re trying to decide between an apartment and your own land.
Building your store on Shopify is like buying an apartment and then customizing it the way you want. You would own the apartment but the property would be pre-packaged with plumbing, electricity, security, and Property Management.
As an owner, you won’t have to tackle any problems related to the infrastructure. If there is some plumbing issue, the management takes care of it. But if you need to improve lighting in your home by installing new fixtures, you’ll have to do it yourself.
On the contrary, WordPress + WooCommerce are like building your home on a piece of land you own. You can customize it the way you want and you can do anything you can dream up. You get complete and total control over your property. But then, you’ll be the one who has to manage the property and take care of all issues with the infrastructure.
Say, your website gets hacked or slows down too much. Now, if you were on Shopify, that wouldn’t be your headache. But if you were on WordPress, you would have to find solutions and fix things yourself.
Chapter 2: Getting Started
When it’s time to put things into action, we want to get started as soon as possible. But how easy is the initial set up? And which platform offers the path of least resistance?
What does the initial set up look like on Shopify?
Getting started on Shopify is a piece of cake. Being a subscription based tool, it gets you started as soon as you click on the sign up button.
After signing up and creating an account, you are given two minimal forms to fill before you can taste the pleasure of having an online store.
Another form follows when you click on the Next button.
That’s it. You are literally a few clicks away from your online store. When you click on the Enter My Store button, you see the dashboard of your store from where you can start adding products or customize design.
Now, how’s the initial setup on WooCommerce?
Getting started on WooCommerce is no doddle at all. Here’s what the initial setup involves:
First, look for a hosting service.
Now, this is something you didn’t have to worry about when using Shopify. Shopify provides all infrastructure needed to run your website. That’s why you only had to click on the Sign Up button (and pay for the service, obviously).
On WooCommerce, it’s a different story. WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress – and you need to be running WordPress on a self hosted site. This means you need to buy a hosting service so that you have a space to build your website.
Second, install WordPress.
Now, when your site is live, you need to install the free WordPress software platform. This step involves a moderate learning curve though you’ll find many WordPress tutorials on the internet that can be helpful. Many hosting companies also provide one-click WordPress installation that could help a great deal. Or, you can just use specialized WordPress hosting services to get things rolling quickly.
Third, pick a theme.
Apart from deciding on the look and aesthetics of your website, you need to make sure the theme is compatible with the latest version of WordPress and WooCommerce.
Last, install the WooCommerce plugin and activate it.
Download the plugin that comes in a zip file. Go to: Dashboard > Plugins > Add New > Upload and choose the zip file to install it. Once installed, activate the plugin.
Upon activating the WooCommerce plugin, you’ll be prompted with a setup wizard that guides you through the initial setup of your store.
So, that’s it. As you can see, setting up WooCommerce is not really Rocket Science. But at the same time, it doesn’t offer the same convenience of Shopify.
Chapter 3: Cost
Which platform is cheaper to use? As entrepreneurs, we all want the best bang for our buck.
Let’s analyze the two platforms in terms of their cost.
Let’s assume you want a basic online store without a lot of bells and whistles.
When starting out on Shopify, you get a range of pricing plans to choose from.
|Basic Shopify||Shopify||Advanced Shopify|
|What do you get?
|Hosting, SSL certificate, unlimited products, discount code engine, and fraud analysis tools.||Everything in Basic Shopify PLUS gift cards, professional reports, and abandoned cart recovery.||Everything in Shopify PLUS advanced report builder and third party calculated rates.|
|Transaction fee||Transaction fees is 2.9% + 30c||Transaction fees is 2.6% + 30c||Transaction fees is 2.4% + 30c|
As you can see, the cost of starting a basic online store in Shopify is around $29/month.
As compared to Shopify, the pricing structure of WooCommerce isn’t as straightforward. Being open source, it’s essentially free to use. But that doesn’t mean it won’t cost you anything. Confused, right?
As explained above in Chapter 2, you need to first buy hosting service and domain registration before you are able to install WordPress and WooCommerce.
Hosting can range from as cheap as a couple dollars to around $30 per month on premium, managed hosting services. Domain can cost you around $7 – 12 per year. On top of that, you also need to buy SSL certificate, which is although not a hard requirement but highly recommended. In fact, many payment processors don’t work without SSL, which can cost around $70.
So, if you do the math, you can see that the starting costs of WooCommerce and Shopify are about the same.
Themes and Design
Who said looks don’t matter?
In both WooCommerce and Shopify, you need a website theme to be able to design your store. Although there are free themes available in both platforms, you might as well look for premium themes to get more features and design options.
In Shopify, the lowest priced themes cost around $140. Comparing WooCommerce on the other hand, even the most popular themes are priced under $100. So, that’s a big difference.
Since it’s open source, WooCommerce also has a large number of theme developers and a higher number of themes available. This means on WooCommerce, you are spoilt for choice whereas, on Shopify, you find only 63 themes on its official store.
Things rarely stop at the basic level. You’ll soon find the need to add plugins and extensions to add more functionality to your site.
Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer hundreds of extensions and apps that enable you to do what you want.
But how does the pricing differ?
Well, there is a subtle difference in the way apps and extensions work on both platforms that might affect their cost in the long run.
On Shopify, you buy apps for a monthly subscription. If you don’t pay the subscription any month, the app won’t work anymore on your website.
On WooCommerce, you buy Woo extensions with a yearly subscription to receive support and updates. What does that mean? It means that if you don’t pay the subscription the next year, the extension will still work but you’ll stop receiving updates and support. You need to be careful with that though as developers regularly release new updates to fix security vulnerabilities.
Think about scaling up your store.
If ever you need to create any custom app or integration, it’s going to cost you a lot more in Shopify than in WooCommerce. It’s because of the hard work of creating custom apps in Shopify.
All apps communicate with Shopify over an API. So, if you hire a developer to create a custom app for Shopify, they’ll not only have to labor over the code but also make sure to deal with the API correctly. Even after all the hard work, the juice may not be worth the squeeze.
On the contrary, developers love the power and control WooCommerce provides. Creating custom add-ons and integrations is not such a complicated task for them. Hence, the lower costs of development.
Maintenance is a heavy job. You need to oversee things and make sure your website performs well and is secure.
On WooCommerce, it’s your job to maintain things while on Shopify, it’s not your headache.
Unless you are tech savvy and have experience with web related things, you’ll have a hard time maintaining your WooCommerce site single-handedly.
And as your business grows, marketing and other strategic tasks might leave you struggling for time to maintain your website. And so, you might hire an expert to maintain your website, which means increased cost.
On the other side of the fence, even Shopify is not cheaper to maintain. When your site scales up, you would need to upgrade to a higher plan to be able to handle all that traffic and storage needs.
The Big Picture
People often ask the question: is WooCommerce free to use? You get the answer now.
In fact, cost is not a big differentiating factor between them especially in the initial stages of your business. When you are only building your business from the ground up, both platforms will have more or less the same cost.
But when your business grows, that’s when it becomes more complicated to calculate the cost difference. Nonetheless, most Shopify users find the platform more expensive in the long run as their business scales up.
Chapter 4: Performance and Security
Talking about speed and security, how does Shopify compare against WooCommerce?
It appears that the difference is not how they perform; it’s what you have to do to make sure they perform well.
On Shopify, maintaining performance and security doesn’t take a lot of hard work. In fact, it’s not even your responsibility.
Your basic plan on Shopify should suffice in the initial stages of your business. But as you scale up, you need to upgrade to a higher plan to cope up with the growing needs and demands of your business.
It’s simple as can be. You pay them for maintaining your site and they do it well.
On WooCommerce, it’s a different story.
If performance is an issue, you need to upgrade your servers. You need to optimize your site to make sure it loads fast. You need to maintain things and stay on top of everything to make sure your site stays secure.
The good thing is: you never find yourself out of options at any stage. There is plenty of help available. But you should be ready to go the extra mile to keep your site performing like a well-oiled machine.
Chapter 5: Integrations and Add-Ons
You need a solid set of tools to make your eCommerce venture successful. Examples are tools for lead generation, email marketing, analytics, help desk, etc.
That’s why it’s important to pick an ecommerce platform that enables you to integrate the tools you’ll be going to use.
Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer a massive extensions directory and they integrate with many third party tools.
Shopify comes with a powerful API and its App Store offers hundreds of add-ons and third party services, both free and paid. All of them integrate seamlessly with your store.
On WooCommerce, you have a massive choice of 50,000 free WordPress plugins and many more premium ones. WooCommerce will spoil you.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer similar advantages for a business in its initial stage. But when the business grows, things get more demanding. One of those growing demands would be the need of custom integrations.
It’s rather common for online stores to have custom development of plugins or add-ons. How do the two platforms adapt to this growing need of the business?
For one, WooCommerce gives you total control and greater flexibility. You own everything and you have the power to do whatever you want with your site.
If you want to edit a plugin so that it works the way you want, you can do it. If you want to add some custom functionality with the power of hooks and filters – the unique superpowers of WordPress – you can do that as well. The possibilities are endless.
Because of this control and power, custom development for WooCommerce is far easier than for Shopify.
Shopify is not so easy to play around with. You don’t own the code and you can’t change it. If you want to edit a plugin, you have to contact the developers.
And if you want some custom integration or add-on for Shopify, it wouldn’t be clear sailing at all. Apps communicate with Shopify via an API. So, it’s just more complicated to develop an app and then integrate it with Shopify via the API.
Chapter 6: Payment Methods
Offering multiple payment options on your store gives your customers more choice when it’s time to pay.
Shopify offers plenty of payment options to receive payments from customers.
The best option is their propriety payment solution, Shopify Payments, powered by Stripe. Shopify Payments charge a flat credit card fees with no extra transaction fee. As you upgrade to higher plans, credit card rates reduce further.
Apart from that, Shopify offers several third party payment gateways as well. But when using those, Shopify charges 2% transaction fee on top of the fee charged by the gateway itself. This transaction fee reduces on higher plans though. For example, you can reduce the fee to 0.5% if you sign up for their Advanced Shopify plan at $299/month.
On the other side of the spectrum, what payment options do you get on WooCommerce? How do their fees and charges compare against the above?
For one, WooCommerce will never charge you any transaction fee. It’s open-source, it’s free to use. That’s a big plus point if you plan to use third party gateways. You do incur the costs charged by the payment gateway though.
Coming to payment options, WooCommerce offers PayPal and Stripe Payments by default. But it also supports all other popular gateways through add-ons.
There is one more benefit of this self-hosted, open-source platform. Because of the low barrier to entry, any payments service can support it through add-ons. This can be useful for you if you want to offer some regional or less popular payment service.
Chapter 7: Multi Vendor Support
How is an online store different from a multi vendor eCommerce marketplace?
In an online store, you sell your own products. In a multivendor store, you invite third party sellers to sell their products on your store. ThemeForest and Etsy are some big examples of multivendor marketplaces.
Multivendor stores are gold mines for entrepreneurs. But for seamless management and to make the most out of it, you need the right eCommerce solution.
What kind of multivendor support do WooCommerce and Shopify offer? Which of the two is a better option for building a marketplace?
Neither WooCommerce nor Shopify have marketplace functionality out of the box. Yet, both can be transformed into marketplaces by using extensions.
On Shopify, you find a few marketplace apps that let you build a multivendor store. These include the popular marketplace solution by Webkul. But unfortunately, all the popular apps have limitations. And Shopify users often comment that they were not satisfied with these solutions.
On WooCommerce though, you find some powerful solutions like WC Wendors Pro and Dokan. Unlike the apps in Shopify, these plugins offer great features and let you run a successful multivendor store on WooCommerce.
Chapter 8: B2B Ecommerce Support
Are you thinking about taking your B2B business to the digital space and tapping into the trillion dollar market?
Yes, that’s right! B2B businesses earned $7.7 trillion in 2017, which is four times more than B2C businesses.
93% B2B buyers say they would prefer to buy online. This makes it essential for every B2B business to have an online store.
But B2B ecommerce is a whole new ball game as compared to B2C ecommerce. A B2B client these days is looking for the same kind of treatment like a B2C customer. They want the same user experience a well designed B2C online store gives to its customers. But of course, the needs and requirements of a B2B buyer vary by degrees.
For example, a B2B business offers custom pricing to each client. Their payment options also vary from the ones offered on traditional online stores.
That’s why you should pick an eCommerce platform that caters to these needs and demands.
How do WooCommerce and Shopify compare when it comes to supporting the needs of a B2B business?
WooCommerce has a range of different extensions that can be used to create a B2B online store. These include:
Unfortunately, there is no ‘one fit all’ solution for B2B stores on WooCommerce. In fact, getting your head around B2B stores on WooCommerce can be a bit tricky.
As opposed to that, Shopify has several good wholesale apps that might offer a ‘one fit all’ solution. They are also reasonably priced from Free-$47/month.
Another option is to upgrade on Shopify Plus, the enterprise plan priced at a minimum of $2000/month. Shopify Plus lets you create a branded, self service storefront with only a click.
The wholesale ecommerce channel by Shopify Plus fulfills all needs and requirements of an online B2B business. It even integrates seamlessly with other systems like ERP, 3PL, POS, and OMS. The wholesale store also runs perfectly alongside the business’s B2C website.
All in all, Shopify is a much better solution for B2B businesses than WooCommerce.
So… Which platform should you use for your eCommerce store?
Well, there is no one answer. It all depends on the needs and demands of your business. The above analysis will hopefully help you determine the best ecommerce platform for your business.
Want more help? Take our eCommerce Platform Selection Quiz to get a suggestion based on your individual needs.
Or let’s just get on the phone and discuss. Take things one step forward and schedule a free consultancy hour with us.