WooCommerce vs Shopify
By Raeleen| 14 April 2022
WooCommerce and Shopify are two of the most popular eCommerce platforms today. How do these two stack up against each other? Which is the better choice for you?
We’ll give you a comprehensive comparison of WooCommerce and Shopify, but let’s dive into definitions first.
What is an eCommerce platform?
An eCommerce platform is a software that enables the buying and selling of goods or services over the internet.
When we talk of eCommerce platforms, we usually refer to those that let us build a website that can display products, manage orders, and accept payment from customers.
They are different from online marketplaces which are owned by big companies (such as Amazon, Etsy, and eBay) that lets other companies and individuals sell their products on their platform.
What are the different types of eCommerce platforms?
Several variations of eCommerce platforms exist. But for this blog, we will just focus on the following.
Open-source eCommerce Platforms
Open-source software is made available for modification and redistribution. It means that the copyright holder of the code has allowed anyone to use, study, change and distribute the software under certain conditions of the licence. Several eCommerce platforms fall under the open-source category.
Open-source eCommerce platforms do not provide hosting for your website so you have to get a separate hosting provider.
Some open-source eCommerce platforms are stand-alone platforms that allow you to create an online website store from scratch. While other open-source eCommerce platforms are built on other open-source Content Management Systems such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.
Proprietary eCommerce Platforms
Proprietary eCommerce platforms do not share their source code for anyone to modify and redistribute. You have to pay the company a recurring fee to be able to use their platform.
Sometimes, these companies may offer a “free” version of the software but it has very limited features.
Propriety eCommerce platforms also provide hosting of your online store aside from letting you use their software. You also get technical support from the company.
Some proprietary eCommerce platforms are dedicated to building eCommerce websites (Shopify, BigCommerce). Others are web builders/content management systems that offer eCommerce solutions (Wix/Wix eCommerce, Squarespace).
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce platform. It is not a stand-alone solution but a plugin that runs only on a WordPress website.
WooCommerce core software lets you create a beautiful storefront, sell digital and physical products, accept payments securely, and manage inventory, among other features.
You can further extend the functionality of your WooCommerce website by installing extensions and customising your website according to your needs. You can find extensions for payment processing, accounting, marketing, customer service, analytics, and more.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is a proprietary eCommerce platform that allows you to build your eCommerce website from scratch.
It is subscription-based software that offers tiered plans depending on your needs and budget.
Being a propriety eCommerce platform, Shopify also takes care of your web hosting needs unless you are getting their Shopify lite plan.
WooCommerce vs. Shopify
Cost is one of the most important considerations in choosing an eCommerce platform.
WooCommerce and WordPress are free to use. However, there are costs associated with using WooCommerce as your eCommerce platform.
First, you need to get a hosting plan from a reputable provider. The cost of hosting plans vary widely depending on whether you are getting a shared hosting plan, dedicated server plan, managed hosting, etc.
The cheapest hosting you can find is not recommended because security and performance are not the best. When you are building an eCommerce website you need to take security very seriously as you could end up in a world of pain if your website is hacked and your customers credit card details are stolen. Decent plans start from around $30 dollars per month. Enterprise-level plans could go all the way up to a few hundred to even a thousand dollars per month depending on the plan inclusions.
You also need to buy a domain name for your website.
Technically, you can set up and run a store using WordPress and WooCommerce with just your hosting plan and domain name. You can use free extensions to keep your costs to a minimum.
However, you might eventually need to buy premium extensions to add more functionality to your website. Premium extensions from the official WooCommerce extension store range from $49 to $299 billed annually. You can also buy extensions outside the official store for a one-time or recurring fee, but you must do your due diligence before you do so.
With Shopify, you don’t need separate hosting for your website. Buying a domain is also not required, but then you will have to use the Shopify branded subdomain. If you want to use your own domain name (which is better for branding and other reasons), you have to buy it separately through Shopify or another third-party provider.
Shopify plans start at $29 per month for basic, $79 per month for Shopify plan, and $299 per month for advanced. Enterprise-level plans start at $2,000.
Shopify also offers Shopify Lite at $9 a month, but this is very different from the regular plans. This plan enables you to put a buy button on your existing website or sell in person (with a Point of Sale system).
Another cost consideration for Shopify is the transaction fees. If you are using Shopify Payments, you won’t be charged transaction fees. However, Shopify Payments is not available in all countries. If using third-party payment processors, you will be charged a transaction fee which is applied per each order.
Like in WooCommerce, you may also have to spend on premium themes and apps (their counterpart of plugins) in Shopify depending on your needs and preferences.
Price-wise, WooCommece may not be the cheapest option for your eCommerce website even if the platform is free because your business may require a lot of premium extensions and custom solutions in the long run. But it is an affordable option when you are just starting your business.
Setting up a Shopify store is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is sign-up for the 14-day free trial, then create and launch your store on the same day. Choosing your plan can come in later before the trial period expires. The only technical thing you may have to do is to connect your domain name to your Shopify store if you bought it from a third-party provider. If you got your domain name from Shopify, you don’t have to worry about this either.
Setting up a WooCommerce store has a few more steps compared to Shopify. You need to get hosting and domain name from a provider, install WordPress on your hosting server, install WooCommerce and then set up your eCommerce store with the help of the WooCommerce Wizard.
Overall, the whole process of setting up WooCommerce is not that complicated but involves more steps. Shopify’s process makes it a lot easier to set up an eCommerce website.
Ease of use
Adding and editing products, managing orders and inventory, and monitoring your store stats are fairly easy to do in WooCommerce through the admin dashboard. If you have used WordPress before, you will be familiar with how things work. If you’re a total newbie, you will find that there is a bit of a learning curve, but it is easy to use overall. You don’t need to have coding knowledge to be able to use WordPress and WooCommerce.
WordPress/WooCommerce eCommerce sites also require hands-on management which means you need to manage updates, keep backups, and beef up the security of your website. This means you either have to do this yourself or hire in-house staff to manage your website or hire a third-party design and development company to do website maintenance for you.
On the other hand, Shopify requires little management on your part as the provider takes care of the hosting, and security. The dashboard is pretty intuitive and the built-in drag and drop interface makes it easy for you to make minor changes in your shop’s design.
Both platforms are easy to use but Shopify is a bit more intuitive and doesn’t require a lot of hands-on maintenance.
Woo Commerce allows you to customise your web store’s design and functionality. You can pick a theme from either the WooCommerce official store or the WordPress.org theme repository.
You can tweak the appearance of your chosen theme (fonts, colour, and sometimes layout depending on the theme you are using) through the WordPress customizer or via a page builder of your choice.
It is also possible to edit the code of the theme itself, but this must be done by a professional. If you want a truly unique website, you can have someone develop a bespoke theme for you.
Likewise, you can extend the functionality of your website by installing WooCommerce extensions. Many WordPress plugins are also compatible with WooCommerce so you can install other plugins for your website if necessary. Also, you can hire a developer to create a custom eCommerce solution for you.
With Shopify, you can also customise the appearance of your store. The theme editor enables you to tweak the elements in the theme that you have chosen for your website. Some Shopify themes even enable you to add snippets of HTML or Liquid code that can be rendered in the template, section, or block that contains the setting. You can also edit the theme code but doing so may make it ineligible for automatic updates.
You can extend the functionality of your Shopify store through Shopify Apps although you are limited to what add ons Shopify permits.
WooCommerce offers a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to customising any aspect of your website. For some businesses, having complete control over their website is paramount. It makes sense for them to choose WooCommerce as their eCommerce platform. For other businesses, Shopify may be enough to suit their needs.
When you’re business is ready to scale up, will your eCommerce platform be able to keep up?
WooCommerce is designed to be scalable. The core software has good enough features for a basic eCommerce store. WooCommerce allows you to add unlimited products and product variations from the get-go.
As your business grows, you can add more features and functionalities by installing WooCommerce extensions or developing a custom solution for your website.
But keep in mind that you have to ensure that your hosting can keep up with the growing demands of your website and upgrade your hosting plan as needed.
Shopify is also great for scaling up your business. Aside from the Basic, Shopify, and Advanced plans, there is also the Shopify Plus which is for enterprise-level businesses.
Like WooCommerce, you can also add more functionalities to your website through applications and integrations.
One downside with Shopify is that although you can add unlimited products to your store, you are limited only to 100 variants per product. But you can lift this limit by using a third-party app.
Both WooCommerce and Shopify are extremely scalable eCommerce platforms. But with WooCommerce, you have better control of your website.
If you ever have problems with WooCommerce, you can go to their extensive documentation guides to help you solve your issue. You can also find help in community forums. You can also get support from WooCommerce by opening a ticket through the WooCommerce dashboard. They only provide support for extensions and themes sold through their official websites.
Shopify provides better support to its customers. You’ll get 24/7 support thru chat, phone, and email no matter what plan you have. You can also find extensive documentation, how-to guides, and community support.
Having a backup of your website is crucial so that you can recover your data in case something goes wrong.
WooCommerce doesn’t have a backup system out of the box. But there are many plugins that you can use to automatically back up your websites.
The built-in backup tool of Shopify is quite limited. Shopify doesn’t back individual website data, they only maintain disaster recovery backup of the entire platform. But Shopify allows you to export CSV files to back up your store information but this only includes the following: products, customers, orders, gift card codes, and financial data. For a full backup, you can install apps to automatically back up your website.
Both WooCommerce and Shopify do not have adequate built-in backup systems but you can install third-party apps or plugins for both to automatically backup your eCommerce website.
Shopify and WooCommerce are great eCommerce platforms but each has its pros and cons.
Shopify is best for those who want to launch their stores quickly and don’t want to deal with managing the technical side of their website.
WooCommerce is best for those who want to build a very customised website and want to have greater control over their website. It is also a great option for those who already have a WordPress site with a significant following and want to turn their existing website into an eCommerce site.
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