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Most entrepreneurs who break in the e-commerce world start small. But over the years, if their business becomes successful, they think about expanding from a small online store to something larger that can offer a greater number of products and span across geographies.
That poses a few problems though. As businesses grow, their needs grow as well and often times it becomes complicated to cater to those new demands. That is why it is important that you think ahead when starting up your business and more specifically, when choosing the e-commerce platform for your store.
Will your chosen eCommerce platform be able to scale up appropriately? Will it be able to handle increased volume of traffic and handle higher number of transactions? Will it be able to keep up the walls of security?
When choosing the e-commerce platform, you should think ahead about the possibility of expanding and scaling up your store and make sure that you don’t run out of options when you do scale up.
Now, let’s come to the comparison of two popular e-commerce platforms: Shopify and WooCommerce. We know from previous discussions how easy it is to start up an online store with Shopify. But the question is: is Shopify scalable and how scalable it is when compared to WooCommerce?
To analyze the scalability of Shopify vs. WooCommerce, let’s discuss how each platform caters to the growing needs of large online stores.
Here are some common challenges that entrepreneurs face when they scale up:
- Traffic and sales spikes
- Data and customer security
Traffic And Sales Spikes
Say you had a major media appearance. How do you prepare your site for the high volume of traffic and sales transactions expected?
Or consider some holiday season like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. If you are offering some crazy discount, you can expect some crazy numbers of traffic and sales as well.
But is your website prepared to handle this load?
A few things can be worse than successfully drawing a huge number of people to your online store, only to have your website crash at the eleventh hour… Or what can be worse than experiencing such pathetic loading times that all those people you successfully drew abandon the site without even having a look at your catalog?
And while we are talking about speed, let me give you some interesting facts. 30% customers leave the website if the page doesn’t load within 6-10 seconds. What does it mean for you? You have to be lightning fast or you risk losing all those potential customers!
So what do you need basically? You need a website that can handle your visitors without crashing or slowing down.
Let’s see how Shopify and WooCommerce handle the spike in traffic and sales transactions.
How Shopify Scales Up With Growing Volume?
Obviously, you can’t expect Shopify to handle thousands of visitors at its basic plan. You need to upgrade to its enterprise plan, Shopify Plus, which starts at a flat $2000/ month but increases the cost with higher volume.
Shopify Plus scales up pretty nicely and smoothly. Let’s see what Shopify Plus says about their infrastructure:
“Shopify Plus’ cloud-based infrastructure — which powers over 600,000 merchants at 80,000 requests per second at its peak — works on a cluster of Shopify’s own servers running Docker with the Rails app, along with a few AWS feature-based augmentations. It was built to be resilient, with systems for controlled latency and solutions to ensure no single point of failure. To maintain peak performance, the in-house team manually performs extensive passive load testing and optimizations by combing through critical parts of the platform.”
Shopify Plus is quite impressive in handling traffic and sales spikes. Let’s look at some data that they quote.
- When Kylie Jenner launched her cosmetics brand, 200,000 people flooded their website simultaneously.
- When Death Wish Coffee won Super Bowl Challenge, their website generated $2,083 in one minute for two hours.
- Shopify merchants made $1.1 million in sales per minute during Black Friday Cyber Monday in 2017.
All these above were handled seamlessly by Shopify Plus.
How WooCommerce Scales Up With Growing Volume?
If you run a store on WooCommerce, you need to make a constant effort to make sure your website doesn’t compromise on speed and reliability.
Let’s take a look at some of the efforts you need to make to scale WooCommerce.
- You need a dedicated ecommerce hosting provider.
Those budget hosting providers may be sufficient for small businesses. But a growing ecommerce store needs a dedicated ecommerce host that understands the different processes that are going on in ecommerce. It’s not just content that has to be managed and delivered but there are tons of processes from blogs to emails to secure payment processing. Your hosting provider is essentially your partner in scale.
- You need to understand WooCommerce
So, you understand how to configure WooCommerce on a WordPress site, right? That’s great. But to scale WooCommerce, you need a more detailed understanding of how WooCommerce works. You need to have a solid understanding of its code. What queries does it run when an event occurs? For example, if someone uses a coupon on your site, what queries would it run to the database? If you understand the code, you can optimize your site effectively by using different techniques.
That’s why it’s very important that you either have an in-house technical team that consists of someone who understands WooCommerce or you work with someone who does.
- You need to keep tweaking and testing
Remember what we said about scaling WooCommerce. It requires constant effort. You need to keep tweaking your site to optimize speed. Caching techniques are used to optimize speed – though it’s done differently on an ecommerce site. For example, the cart, checkout page and account pages should always be excluded from being cached.
There are a lot of other tips and tricks of caching a WooCommerce site but they are out of the scope of this article. But the gist is – it requires you to constantly test and tweak your site. If you notice your website getting slow, find out what the issue is and try to resolve that issue.
Often, tech teams reach to the conclusion that the website needs more RAM, disk space and upgraded servers. They quickly upgrade the hardware while the issue was actually in the code. What does this result in? The costs increase more than the speed does.
There are a lot of other things that need to be considered when scaling WooCommerce. But the general idea is the same: it requires constant effort and a lot of maintenance when scaling WooCommerce. But in the end, you can do it. Is it worth it? Well, if you love WooCommerce for all its power, control and flexibility then yes!
Data and Customer Security
As an ecommerce store, you need a strong wall of security around your website that protects your customers’ sensitive information. We hear about data breaches, malware and hacking attempts all the time. Even a tiny hole in security of your website can lead to a malicious event. When you put so much effort into your business, every effort to keep it safe is worth it.
How do Shopify and WooCommerce take care of security?
On Shopify Plus, security and protection comes out of the box. They host your site and protect it with full compliance to Level 1 PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Standard Security). With regular assessment and risk management, they fill in any security holes as soon as they learn about them.
On WooCommerce, it’s a different story. For one, it’s not PCI compliant out of the box and you need to follow certain guidelines to ensure PCI compliance. Security on WooCommerce also depends on your hosting provider. If you’re using a dedicated hosting provider like WPEngine, security is less of a headache.
Overall, Shopify gives you peace of mind in terms of security while WooCommerce requires some digital elbow grease to keep security strong.
Front end performance is important. But the backbone of a growing ecommerce business is their behind the scenes operations. A growing ecommerce stores needs to integrate with those critical backend systems. This includes Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), 3rd Party Logistics (3PL), Inventory Management System, Warehouse Management Software, etc.
Do Shopify and WooCommerce allow you to easily integrate your store with these critical systems?
WooCommerce can be integrated with almost any software or system. Its open source platform is friendly to developers. Work with the right developer team to get a custom integration created based on your individual requirements.
Shopify can also be integrated with most business systems and software. If you are on Shopify Plus, you get access to its API which gives you developer access to all ecommerce related functions within Shopify. You’ll of course need to work with a Shopify partner to create custom integration.
We recommend you read this article we wrote on custom development within Shopify and WooCommerce and see how they both compare.
The gist is: it’s possible to create custom integrations with both Shopify and WooCommerce but it’s easier done in WooCommerce than in Shopify, the former being open source.
And if you consider the costs of custom development, the costs are lower in WooCommerce than in Shopify.
At a Glance
Let’s consider the question again. Which platform is more scalable – Shopify or WooCommerce?
The answer: both are scalable. And both require money from you.
On Shopify, you pay for the enterprise plan.
On WooCommerce, you pay the technical team to help you scale. And as you have seen above, scaling WooCommerce and ensuring good performance takes a lot of elbow grease and is certainly not a one man show. If you want to do it successfully, you need to work with experts.