Shopify vs WooCommerce: Picking a winner
Choosing the right e-commerce platform for your business
At some point, every new e-commerce entrepreneur will ask the same question: which platform should I use to build my store?
Both WooCommerce and Shopify have multiple strengths (and weaknesses) and could be the perfect solution for building your online business. Whichever one you choose, you’ll certainly be able to build a powerful and functioning e-commerce store.
But here’s the thing – it’s not about which one is the best, but rather which one is right for you. So, what are the key differences and how do you figure out which is the ideal platform for your business?
In this guide, we run a magnifying glass over key aspects of Shopify and WooCommerce – pricing, features, ease of use – factors that will no doubt influence your decision. We look at both the pros and cons, so when it comes time to choose you’ll have the information you need to make a confident decision.
What makes a good e-commerce platform?
With so many different options available, we think it’s important to first understand what ‘good’ looks like. When choosing the perfect e-commerce platform for your business, there are several factors you need to think about.
Your budget, technical skills and business plans will determine what qualities your platform of choice will need. For example, if you don’t have any website-building experience, you’ll probably want to go with a ‘drag and drop’ option, or one that utilises pre-set templates. If you’re a coding whizz, then a build-your-own solution will be more your jam.
Most e-commerce platforms have the same standard functionality. But depending on what product or service your business specialises in, you may or may not need additional features, like abandoned cart recovery or inventory management. It’s these add-ons that will generally increase the monthly cost – something to be aware of.
Lastly, you want to make sure you have access to useful help options. For some people, that might be 24/7 phone support or step-by-step videos. Whatever it is, ensure there are proper resources available.
Shopify vs WooCommerce: the main difference
Even though Shopify and WooCommerce are both valid options, they have been designed with different types of sellers in mind.
Shopify is an all-in-one offering, serving you well-designed tools, templates, and e-commerce capabilities on a silver platter. If you’re looking for an option that will have you up and running as quickly as possible, and you lack the technical skills to build your own store, then Shopify has been made for you.
WooCommerce, on the other hand, is a self-hosted platform, open source software that you download and can fully customise to suit your needs. The software is free, but you’ll need to open an account with a website host and build a site before you can use it. If you’re technically skilled and would prefer to take a more hands-on approach, then WooCommerce is worth a shot.
Let’s compare price
One of the most important questions on any e-commerce seller’s mind is, ‘What is this going to cost me?’
Truthfully, unlike other e-commerce comparisons, the cost of Shopify versus WooCommerce is a bit like comparing apples and oranges – they have very different pricing models.
Shopify’s set pricing is perhaps a little easier to understand. Basically, the more advanced features you have, the more you pay. Your monthly cost will remain the same unless you decide to purchase any premium apps or themes.
Here’s a quick rundown of Shopify’s prices:
- Free trialfor 90 days
- BeginnerUS$29 a month
- IntermediateUS$79 a month
- AdvancedUS$299 a month
There’s also a low-cost option. For US$9 a month,Shopify Liteturns any website into an online store by adding ‘Buy Now’ buttons, or allowing customers to purchase from your Facebook page’s Shop section.
Alternatively, if you pay for an annual subscription, you’ll benefit from slightly lower monthly payments.
With WooCommerce, it’s a little more difficult to say what your final monthly bill will be. WooCommerce is free, but it comes with several additional costs if you’re to get started selling online.
You’ll need to purchase separate website hosting, a domain name, an SSL certificate and any extensions you may need (these are all included in Shopify’s plans).
It’s estimated that running a store on WooCommerce is approximately the same as Shopify’s basic $29-a-month plan. But there’s another important factor you need to take into consideration here: time!
In business, time is money, so even though you might be able to create a store and start selling for less with WooCommerce, it’ll take you a lot longer to set up.
In terms of features, both platforms have their pros and cons.
Shopify is a more accessible option for those with limited web-development skills. When you sign up, you’ll automatically have access to a wide range of e-commerce tools and features.
Here’s a quick summary:
- Online store (including website and blog)
- Unlimited products and orders
- Unlimited bandwidth – number of people who can visit your store at once
- Staff accounts
- 24/7 customer support
- Customer accounts
- Credit card processing
- Multiple payment gateway systems
- Mobile optimisation
- Shipping integrations
- Search engine optimisation
- Basic sales reporting tools
You can also easily add new features to your store using Shopify’s extensiveApp Store.
WooCommerce is well-known for its flexibility and doesn’t lack any specific e-commerce features. In fact, it’s extremely feature-rich, but you’ll need the appropriate skills, time and money to make full use of the hundreds of plug-ins available.
Here’s a quick overview:
- Online store (sell physical and digital products including software and apps, plus it’s also good for affiliate marketing)
- Payments via PayPal and Stripe built-in (plus a range of other gateways available for an extra fee)
- Adjustable shipping rates and taxes
- Unlimited number of products and product categories
- Stock levels control
- Mobile-friendly – manage orders on the go
- Get help – use extensive documentation, a public support forum or hire a developer if you want to customise.
- International customer-friendly – translate your store’s content into 24 different languages and accept payments in multiple currencies.
- Complete control over your data
- Works with your current WordPress theme
- Marketplace has hundreds of free and paid extensions that add features and functionality to your store.
- A free Facebook ad and Facebook stores extension
Customers tend to trust a professional-looking and intuitive website more than one that’s hard to use, so your platform of choice must offer some great design options.
If there’s one thing that Shopify does better than most, it’s design.
Through Shopify’sTheme Store, you get access to free and paid themes. These themes take the hard work out of designing a beautiful online store. Because Shopify is a dedicated e-commerce platform, the themes are designed to help you sell. The out-of-the-box design solutions have been created by third-party website designers, are all mobile responsive, can be installed quickly and are fashionably modern and sleek.
Shopify’s premium themes can be rather pricey (between $140-$180), but they’re well worth the one-off investment for great design. If that price tag is a little out of your budget, there are plenty of free options to choose from.
Some will argue that Shopify’s downfall is limited customisation, but there’s still plenty of room for you to modify the colours and styles of any of the themes. You could also consider working with a professional website developer if you wanted to make more substantial changes.
If any e-commerce platform was able to take on the reigning champion of design – and win – it’d be WooCommerce.
As a plugin, WooCommerce has been created so that it works with most website themes on the market. This means, no matter which web builder you use to create your store, you can select any theme, customise it how you like, and it’ll still work with WooCommerce. You might even find some themes have been designed specifically with WooCommerce in mind.
To get you started, WooCommerce has its own default theme calledStorefront– and it’s free. It’s fully mobile responsive and has a fresh, clean layout. To develop your theme, it’s up to you to add child themes (from $39) and extensions (ranging from free to $69 for a bundle).
This might seem like a lot of work to some, but there are plenty of advantages to building a website from scratch – like not being limited to in-built design elements and functionality. How good your design looks all depends on the hours you’re willing to put in – plus your technical capabilities.
Ease of use
This is possibly the most important factor when examining any e-commerce platform. No matter how many features, or how pretty the themes, if it’s not easy to use then you’ll quickly call time before you’ve even had a chance to go live.
Shopify comes out on top – it’s far easier for everyday sellers. You don’t need any design or site-building skills to get through it.
To start, you don’t need to worry about the technical side of operating a store, like managing or updating software, security or back-ups.
Once you’ve signed up, it takes you through a straightforward on-boarding process. You pick a design, make any necessary customisations, and then start adding products. Shopify comes with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. And when it comes to making changes to your store once it’s live, you can simply do that from your dashboard without having to navigate around different pages.
There are also tons of help widgets to guide you through editing and personalising your store.
WooCommerce is arguably just as easy to use – for website developers and designers. For others, it requires a lot more time and legwork.
Because WooCommerce isn’t a hosted platform, you’ll need to manage software updates, security and back-up on your own. But there are plenty of free and paid plugins that can automate these tasks for you.
While set-up might not be quite as smooth sailing, the pay-off is total control – and you can add any functionality imaginable. Once you’re all set up, working with WooCommerce daily is just as easy as Shopify.
It all comes down to which platform is best for you
As we said in the beginning, Shopify and WooCommerce have been designed for completely different e-commerce sellers. So, the decision about which one is best for you comes down to your skills and experience.
Let’s do a quick recap:
Shopify is a one-stop-shop for all your e-commerce needs. It’s a great option for those who want to get their store off the ground as quickly as possible, and who have limited technical skills. There’s a pricing plan to suit most budgets, as well as free (or paid) themes to sort the look and feel of your website.
It comes with all your standard e-commerce functionalities, and as your store grows you can add more advanced features by upgrading your plan or installing add-ons from its marketplace.
With WooCommerce, the world is your oyster. Once you’ve sorted the technical aspects of your site, integrating WooCommerce is super-easy. From there, you have complete control over the design, price and functionality of your store. Sure, set-up is more time-consuming, but if you’re technically competent and want the freedom to configure a unique store, then WooCommerce should be your tool of choice.
If you’re still in doubt, nothing will make your mind up like a free trial. Use the trial periods to experiment and test the functionality of each platform – and find out for yourself how easy you find them to use.
We wish you all the best on your e-commerce endeavours!
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