The e-commerce revolution is here! From small-time bookstores to large corporations, almost every business is utilizing the power of e-commerce to generate considerable revenues.
To put things into perspective, let us look at some statistics:
- The total number of global e-commerce buyers is expected to reach 1.92 billion in the year 2019.
- The annual revenue generated by Amazon in 2018 amounted to $232.89 billion.
- Global e-commerce revenues for the year 2021 are expected to hit $4.5 trillion.
So the potential is definitely there. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or a business owner, it is about high-time you start thinking about opening up an online store.
But where to start? Which platform is the best?
One question at a time, now.
Yes, it’s true that the world of e-commerce seems a bit unnerving when you are first starting out. If you have been doing research, then you might have come across platforms like WooCommerce, Magento, BigCommerce, and Shopify. While each platform performs well in its own right, the issue arises when a platform does not live up to its expectations or cater to the unique needs of your business.
Picking the right e-commerce platform, therefore, is a crucial choice to make when starting an online store. From our research, we have identified two e-commerce platforms that can prove beneficial to your online store: Shopify and WooCommerce. Regardless of whether you are a beginner or an expert, these platforms will add significant value to your e-commerce store.
So, which one should you pick? You might ask yourself the question, “Which eCommerce platform should I use? Shopify or WooCommerce?”
From the outset, we would like to say while good, both of these platforms do come with their fair share of pros and cons. That being said, both of these platforms cater to a significant number of e-commerce needs, which makes them more or less universal.
We believe that after reading this detailed e-commerce platform comparison between Shopify and WooCommerce, you will be better able to make an informed decision, and then cherry-pick the platform most suitable for you.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: Understanding the Basic Differences
Shopify is an all-in-one eCommerce platform that enables you to create and run an online store. In fact, it is one of the largest e-commerce platforms out there. A cloud-based SaaS solution, it not only provides basic e-commerce tools, but also handles the technical aspects of a website like hosting, speed, and security.
Any discussion of WooCommerce, however, can’t be complete without first discussing WordPress. If you are not familiar with WordPress already, it’s a self-hosted Content Management System with no e-commerce features out of the box. Enter WooCommerce, a plugin that comes with all the right tools to transform your WordPress blog to a full-fledged online store.
For the uninitiated, e-commerce might sound a little daunting and for the most part, it is. But once you start from the very basics, things start to look a lot easier.
This section, therefore, outlines some of the very basic differences between WooCommerce and Shopify. The goal is to provide you with a basic understanding of the two platforms so that you won’t be at a loss for context when we explain these differences in detail in the upcoming chapters.
Now, let’s get down to business.
|WooCommerce doesn’t provide hosting. You have to purchase it from an independent hosting provider (Pantheon, or WP Engine) for your WordPress account before you get started with WooCommerce.||Shopify has its own personal hosting. It has all the tools you need to manage your hosting account, saving you the hassle of looking for independent hosting services.|
E-commerce Market Share
|21% of the top 1m e-commerce sites in the world use WooCommerce. Shopify comes at a close second at 18%.||Among the top 10k e-commerce sites of the world, however, 23% of the companies use Shopify, while only 6% use WooCommerce.|
|With WordPress, you have access to over 50,000 plugins designed for a variety of different tasks with some of them being specifically designed for the WooCommerce platform.||Similar to WordPress plugins, the Shopify website also has a good collection of Shopify Apps dedicated solely to e-commerce.|
|The open-source nature of WooCommerce enables it to have several international and niche payment gateways which include Stripe, Square, Authorize.Net, and PayPal.||Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify has its own payment gateway. While Shopify does provide you access to external payment gateways just like WooCommerce, the only difference is that it charges you extra for that (read Chapter 6 for more information).|
An Analogy That Explains Their Difference
Think about the time when you needed to move to a new place and you were trying to decide between purchasing an apartment or your own land.
Building your store on Shopify is like buying an apartment, and then customizing it the way you want. An apartment is your own property and you can customize it any way you want. The building in which your apartment stands, however, is owned by the property manager. It comes pre-packaged with plumbing, electricity, and security. Hence, the owner doesn’t have to face any problems related to the infrastructure. If there is some plumbing issue, the management takes care of it. But if they need to improve lighting in their home by installing new fixtures, that’s the owner’s responsibility.
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 have complete and total control over your property. But then, you will be the one who has to manage the property and take care of all the issues that arise 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 with 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.
Shopify Initial Set-Up
Head over to the sign-up page of Shopify and click on the blue button on the top right-hand corner.
A pop-up will open asking you for the email address, password, and the name of your business. Click on the Enter Your Store button to continue.
You will then be redirected to a form-field where Shopify will ask you a few questions. The answer fields have a drop-down menu with pre-defined answers from which you have to choose the answer. There will also be a checkbox, asking whether or not you are setting the store up for a client. Click Next to proceed.
You will then be redirected to a form field. The only difference is that this one is a bit longer than the last one.
It will ask you to enter all information like your first name, last name, street address, office suite address, postal address, phone number, and etc. Click Enter Your Store to continue.
You will then be redirected to the Shopify Dashboard. Congratulations, you have just opened your online store!
Now that you have created your online store, you need to decide on the theme of the website.
This is where Shopify Themes come in.
On Shopify, you have the convenience of choosing a theme from three different categories: Collection, Industry, and All Themes.
You can go to All Themes first if you don’t know where to get started. If you really have an idea about which theme would suit your site well, you can check out the Industry section (more on that later).
Firstly, let’s go to collections. Naturally, the themes in the Collections section are the ones that have been gaining popularity over the week.
The Industry section is where you will find themes suited to specific niches, like gardening, health & fitness, or clothing. If you find a theme that suits your fancy in the Industry section, feel free to use it.
The All Themes section is even more interesting since it allows Shopify store owners to select a theme on their budget and requirements. It is just like the Industry section, with modifications in terms of theme catalogs.
It is important to know that Shopify themes come in both free and paid versions. So select one that suits your budget.
Now that you have selected a theme, it is time to go to Marketing and Social Media and select the social platforms that you want to use to promote your brand.
After that, just set up your page and add the “Add to Cart” button. Again, all of these modifications are highly dependent on you, so we won’t go into that.
Congratulations, your online store is now open for business!
Now, how’s the initial setup on WooCommerce?
Setting up WooCommerce is not a walk in the park, but it is not so tough that you back down from it entirely. There are some additional steps that you need to look at. Here’s what the initial setup looks like:
Purchasing a Hosting service
As discussed in Chapter 1, hosting is something that you need not worry about when using Shopify. Shopify provides all the basic 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 that you need to buy a hosting service so that you have a space to build your website. Pantheon WordPress and WP Engine hosting are perhaps the best hosting services for a scalable eCommerce venture.
After purchasing hosting, you need to install the free WordPress CMS. This step involves a moderate learning curve, and you’ll find many WordPress tutorials on the internet that can prove helpful. Many hosting companies also provide one-click WordPress installations which help a great deal. Additionally, you can use specialized WordPress hosting services to get things rolling quickly.
Installing and Activating the WooCommerce Plugin
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, just 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.
Picking a Theme.
Apart from deciding on the look and aesthetics of your website, you need to make sure that the theme is compatible with the latest version of WordPress and WooCommerce.
And 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 level of convenience as you would find in Shopify.
Chapter 3: Cost
Shopify or WooCommerce, which platform is cheaper to use? As entrepreneurs, we all want the best value for our buck.
Let’s analyze the two platforms in terms of their costs.
When starting out with Shopify, you get a range of pricing plans to choose from.
Shopify Price Plans
|Basic Shopify||Shopify||Advanced Shopify|
|What 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 an 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, Shopify provides its platform at a fee. For a beginner, the Shopify transaction fees might feel a little expensive. However, Shopify’s costs are outweighed by their level of service.
Now, how much does WooCommerce cost?
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.
Suppose you are looking to scale your business or improve its ranking. In that case, you would have to purchase premium versions of security and SEO plugins like WordFence or Yoast.
With WooCommerce, as discussed in Chapter 2, you first need to buy a hosting service and register a domain before you are able to install WordPress and WooCommerce.
Hosting plans range from a few dollars to around $30 per month on premium services. The domain can cost you around $7 – 12 per year. On top of that, you also need to buy an SSL certificate, which is 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 clearly see that both WooCommerce and Shopify have different pricing structures. However, the services they provide on that pricing also varies.
Themes and Design
First impressions matter.
For both WooCommerce and Shopify, you need a website theme to be able to design your store. Although there are free themes available on both platforms, you might as well look for premium themes to get more features and design options.
On Shopify, the lowest priced themes can cost around $140. Comparing WooCommerce on the other hand, even the most popular themes are priced under $100. A significant difference in terms of cost.
Since it’s open-source, WooCommerce also has a large number of theme developers, which means a greater number of available themes. This means on WooCommerce, you are spoilt for choice whereas, on Shopify, you only have 63 themes from 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 plugins, extensions, and apps that are packed with varying functionalities.
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 even 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.
If your business starts generating revenue, you would eventually have to scale.
If you ever 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 effort that it takes to create 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, it might not be well worth the effort.
On the contrary, developers adore the power and control that WooCommerce provides. Creating custom add-ons and integrations is not such a complicated task for them. Hence, the lower the custom WordPress development costs.
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. Shopify is a cloud-based, ready solution, after all.
Unless you are tech-savvy and experienced with web technologies, you’ll have a hard time maintaining your WooCommerce site single-handedly. As an alternative, you can always use a WordPress services agency that provides a WordPress maintenance service for your site.
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 costs.
On the other side of the fence, even Shopify is not as cheap to maintain. When your site scales up, you would need to upgrade to a higher plan in order to 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, the cost is not a big differentiating factor between them especially in the initial stages of your business. When you are building your business from the ground up, both platforms will have more or less the same cost.
But as 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
WooCommerce vs Shopify, which is better for security?
Speed and security are two essential considerations for your e-commerce store. While it is true that when you are first starting out, you won’t run into such issues, but as you scale up your business, you would naturally be faced with the need for superior performance and security.
It appears that these differences are not based on how they perform, it’s what you have to do to make sure they perform well.
In terms of performance, Shopify ensures that you don’t face any performance issues. From the outset, Shopify provides you with a hosted platform, so you don’t have to go through the rigors of choosing a host, and purchasing a domain from them.
When your business scales up, Shopify provides you with the option to upgrade to their more costly plans. Once you upgrade to the plan, Shopify naturally takes care of everything and provides you with state-of-the-art security, and high performance. Its code is highly optimized for taking care of any such demands.
WooCommerce doesn’t provide you hosting, you have to do it all yourself. As a small business, once you set up your WordPress and WooCommerce, you would be pretty satisfied with the whole setup.
As your business scales up and you introduce more products and features to your site, the load on your site increases as a natural consequence. As a result, the site slows down, leaving you in a bind for performance.
Unfortunately for you, WooCommerce does not offer a permanent solution for improving site speed during scaling as of yet. There are several workarounds like improving your servers or WordPress speed optimization, but overall you are pretty much in a rut when you are trying to scale up with WooCommerce.
Moreover, on account of being open-source, your site could get hacked. This is where the “pro” of WooCommerce being open-source becomes a con because eCommerce security is an important consideration. Even with all the QA testing, it is not highly optimized, so you are generally going to face some hurdles as far as security is concerned.
The good thing is: you never find yourself out of options at any stage. There is plenty of help available online. 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
In order to be successful with your e-commerce venture, you need to have the right set of tools. Examples of such tools can range from lead generation to email marketing, analytics, help desk, customer service tools, and many others.
In the context of our discussion, you might be tempted to ask, “Which platform would utilize these tools to provide the most value to my store?”
Well, there is no black-and-white answer to this question. Both Shopify and WooCommerce have their own collection of extensions (or apps, in Shopify’s case) that give your e-commerce store the much-needed boost. After reading the two succeeding sections, however, you can come to a decision.
Your business, even it is pretty common, is going to have its own needs and demands. To cater to them, you need a distinct set of tools. If you are a Shopify user, you can benefit from Shopify’s directory of plug-ins and add-ons, aka Shopify Apps.
Shopify Apps is kind of like the Google Play Store, albeit only for Shopify users. The store offers hundreds of add-ons and third-party tools for almost every business need.
Need something for SEO?
Integrating Facebook chat with Shopify?
Want to add a loyalty program?
You can rest at ease knowing that Shopify has an app that answers all of these questions, and then some!
WooCommerce is no stranger to plug-ins and extensions. After all, WooCommerce itself is a plugin for the WordPress platform.
While WooCommerce is a plug-in, it has its own distinct collection of plug-ins within its ecosystem, also known as WooCommerce extensions. The collection is so massive, in fact, that it will spoil you for choice.
Let’s put things into perspective. Take a look at the questions from the preceding section again. On Shopify, the answer to these two questions would be one or two dedicated apps that fulfill the user’s need.
On WooCommerce, the number of plugins available for one question can range from thirty to forty, or even more. The breadth of the open-source e-commerce development community is indeed fascinating!
Now you might be thinking, “Hmm, WooCommerce has the quantity, but Shopify has quality.”
For the most part, that is true, but it’s not always the case. WooCommerce has some quality plug-ins and extensions that come in both paid and free versions.
In the initial stages, both WooCommerce and Shopify offer similar advantages. But, as discussed in Chapter 4, as the business scales-up, things get more demanding. In the context of this section, the need comes down to the development of custom integrations.
As the business grows, the needs become unique. The plug-ins that had worked previously, just don’t seem to cut it anymore.
This is where custom integrations come in. On the surface, the word “custom integration” might sound very technical, but simply put: it’s the process of developing a custom plugin, and then integrating it with your site.
While custom integrations can be developed for any sort of website, the most recurrent use-case for custom integrations comes from e-commerce stores.
So, which platform is most suited for custom integrations? WooCommerce or Shopify?
If you’ve come to this point after reading each of the previous chapters sequentially, you wouldn’t find it surprising that WooCommerce is the clear winner here.
WooCommerce, because of the fact that it is open-source, provides you with greater control and flexibility with custom integrations than Shopify.
Want to edit a plugin?
Want to add some new functionality to your site?
Want to utilize the power of hooks and filters for your custom integrations?
Well, you have the code, and you can do whatever you want with your site. The possibilities are endless!
Shopify, in essence, is a lot more conservative than WooCommerce. 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 integrations or add-ons 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 through the API.
Chapter 6: Payment Methods
There are many payments gateways available online. Some good, some bad, some not suitable for your niche, and some not available to your customers.
When choosing an e-commerce platform, therefore, payment gateways are an important consideration. You need to make sure that the platform you select has multiple options for payments, as it allows your customers to choose the most convenient payment option.
Shopify Payment Gateways
Shopify understands the need for having diverse payment gateways and provides you with several payment options.
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 is reduced 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.
WooCommerce Payment Gateways
On the other side of the spectrum, what payment options do you get on WooCommerce? How do their fees and charges compare against Shopify?
For one, WooCommerce doesn’t charge you any transaction fees. It’s open-source and free to use. This can prove beneficial if you plan to use third-party gateways. You do incur the costs charged by the payment gateway though.
Coming to payment options, WooCommerce payment methods range from PayPal and Stripe to many other niche payment gateways by default. But it also supports all other popular gateways through add-ons. As a self-hosted platform, you are only charged transaction fees by your payment gateway or your bank. WooCommerce never charges you a % fee on your store transactions which is a major plus.
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 services.
Chapter 7: Multi-Vendor Support
So far, we have only talked about e-commerce stores in the context of selling your own products that you have in-stock. It is true that the vast majority of online stores operate on that model, regardless of whether they are a Business-to-Business (B2B) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C) store.
But there is another, more complex e-commerce model. Introducing the Multi-Vendor e-commerce marketplace.
So, how is an online store different from a Multi-Vendor e-commerce marketplace platform?
As discussed above, on an online store, you sell your own products. With a Multi-Vendor store, however, you invite third-party sellers to sell their products on your store. ThemeForest and Etsy are some popular examples of Multi-Vendor marketplaces.
As an entrepreneur looking to make serious profits out of an e-commerce site, a Multi-Vendor setup can prove very beneficial. But before you cash in those benefits, you would need a platform that supports Multi-Vendor e-commerce stores.
Switching the discussion to our topic, what kind of Multi-Vendor support do WooCommerce and Shopify offer? Which of the two is a better option for building a marketplace?
Unfortunately, neither WooCommerce nor Shopify have Multi-Vendor marketplace functionalities built-in. Yet, both can be transformed into such marketplaces through extensions.
On Shopify, you’ll find a few marketplace apps that let you build a multivendor store. These include the popular marketplace solution by Webkul. But unfortunately, all popular apps have their limitations. And Shopify users often comment that they were not satisfied with these solutions.
On WooCommerce though, you would 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 E-commerce Support
Are you thinking about taking your B2B business to the digital space and tapping into the trillion-dollar market?
It is about high time to tap into the B2B marketplace since its sales are expected to be more than B2C sales by 2020.
Moreover, 93% of B2B buyers say they would prefer to buy online. This makes it essential for every B2B business to have an online store.
But B2B e-commerce has changed a lot since it first came out. B2B clients are now a lot more demanding. They want the same features, the same treatment, and the same user experience as you would give to a B2C customer.
For example, a B2B business offers custom pricing to each client. Their payment options also vary from traditional online stores.
That’s why you should pick a B2B 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:
- Dynamic Pricing Plugin
- WooCommerce Private Store
- WooCommerce Product Table
- User Role Editor
- Gravity Forms
Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for B2B stores on WooCommerce. In fact, getting your head around B2B stores on WooCommerce can be a bit tricky.
Compared with WooCommerce, Shopify has several useful wholesale apps that might offer such a solution. They are also reasonably priced, starting from $47/month (Free).
Another option is to upgrade to 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 e-commerce 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… Shopify vs WooCommerce, which platform should you use for your eCommerce store?
Well, there is no definitive answer to this question. It all depends on the needs and demands of your business. If you already have decided upon a niche, then this article would have proven useful to you.
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.