Reprint Article from ecommerce-platforms.com
Shopify vs WooCommerce – to say it simply, these are the two most popular eCommerce platforms available on the market.
Each one has multiple strengths and can possibly be the perfect solution for you to build an eCommerce store with. And the best news is that you can do so all on your own, without any help from professional designers and/or developers. But we’ll get to that later.First, which one of the two is actually going to fit your specific needs better,Shopify or WooCommerce (for creating a fantastic online shop)? Which is more feature-rich? Which is cheaper? Which is better-looking? Which is more flexible? Which is the easiest to work with? …
This is a lot of questions, but we’re going to answer then all in this in-depth comparison. After reading it, you will know exactly which platform to choose based on your individual needs and on the type of eCommerce store that you want to run. Here’s Shopify vs WooCommerce – which one is the absolute best:
Shopify vs WooCommerce – Design
For websites – and especially eCommerce stores – design is everything. Users simply don’t trust a site that doesn’t have the right aesthetic or doesn’t function as well as it should.
How Shopify does design
One of Shopify‘s greatest selling points is the visual quality of the themes. In my opinion, they look absolutely great even out of the box. Shopify comes with more than 100 different store templates, of which 20+ are free. The best part is that they are all mobile responsive and have a variety of different coloring options. These templates are no joke, they have a fashionably sleek and clean aesthetic, which makes it perfect for modern, forward-thinking websites.
Shopify’s designs aren’t created in-house, by the way; they’re outsourced to a group of professional web designers who ensure they’re as current and as engaging as they can be.
Unfortunately, the price tags on the premium ones go as high as even $180 a piece. But what you get in exchange is great design.
Luckily, as I mentioned, there are free options available too.
Perversely, the instant attraction of Shopify designs can cause many webmasters to select the same themes. Some Shopify users who have designed a site themselves have later complained of looking a little too similar to other websites. For that reason, customization is encouraged.
Happily, Shopify is easy to chop and change. You can easily amend colors and styles, while more adept developers can utilise the platform’s specialized ‘Liquid’ language to make more substantial changes and really make a brand stand out from the rest.
How WooCommerce does design
As with many other aspects of the WooCommerce experience, when it comes to aesthetics, the world is your oyster – you just have to put the hours in.
WooCommerce is a plugin created by the developers from WooThemes (and acquired by Automattic). As such, it doesn’t deliver any specific design traits on its own. What it does is it provides you with the means to sell products and services online. The design part, however, is left to your current WordPress theme.
That being said, WooCommerce has been built to cooperate with most themes on the market, provided that they follow the standard recommendations and best practices.
This means that, in most cases, you are able to select any WordPress theme that you like, and still make it work together with WooCommerce.
However, you will also come across themes that have been built with WooCommerce in mind from the get-go, and are tailor-made to make all your product / service listings look great. If the design of the eCommerce store itself is particularly important to you, you should perhaps look into some of those themes.
The place to start would be Woo’s own default online store theme called Storefront (free). It’s a really efficient creation that puts focus on all the important elements of an eCommerce store, and helps you sell more effectively.
You can also get a range of child themes for Storefront in case you want to customize the look of your store further. Most of those are available at $39 a piece (occasionally, though, there are themes with price tags as high as $119).
Apart from that, you can also look into marketplaces like ThemeForest where you can find tens or even hundreds of other WooCommerce-compatible themes.
To be honest, WooCommerce has a serious advantage over Shopify when it comes to designs. What I mean is simply the fact that, setting aside the specific WooCommerce themes, you can basically make any WordPress theme work with the platform, and there are thousands of those things on the web.
Shopify vs WooCommerce – Price
Every webmaster wants slightly more bang for their buck, but the two platforms have really different approaches to pricing:
The main difference between Shopify pricing and WooCommerce pricing
To say this quite bluntly, Shopify pricing is very clear and straightforward. WooCommerce’s isn’t.
On the one hand, WooCommerce is free. Or, I should say, as open source software, it is technically free – you can download it for free straight from WordPress.org. No strings attached. But then, you find out that to actually launch a working eCommerce store with it, you need to get ready to spend money (we’ll get into specifics in a minute).
In simple terms, Shopify is all about delivering you a single, out-of-the-box solution with one price tag on it. You get it, you “unwrap the box”, and you get to use your shiny new eCommerce store right away, since everything you need is included from the get-go.
With WooCommerce, on the other hand, what you actually get is a box with just the engine of your eCommerce store in it. But to then make that engine run, you need to find an empty car to put it in, so to speak. (Where by “car” I actually mean things like hosting, domain, working WordPress setup, etc.)
Here’s a table that should make the costs involved with each platforms easier to grasp:
Note. Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer you a handful of tiers / options to upgrade your version of the platform depending on the type of your business, the scale of your sales, etc. To simplify this comparison, I’m going to focus on the cheapest path – what it costs, at the minimum to have a working eCommerce store with Shopify vs WooCommerce.
|Software||Hosting||Subdomain||SSL certificate||Top-level domain|
|Shopify||$29 / month||Included for free||$9 / year|
|WooCommerce||$0||$5-$100 / month (via 3rd party)||n/a||$100+ / year (via 3rd party)||$9+ / year (via 3rd party)|
When we sum things up, the above translates into:
- Shopify eCommerce store running on a top-level domain: $29.75 / month.
- WooCommerce store on the same setup: $29 / month (a modest $20 hosting, domain, SSL).
As you can see, even though the WooCommerce software is free, to actually get it to run an actual eCommerce store costs basically the same as Shopify.
But that’s not all. With WooCommerce, you might also have to factor in the additional extensions for things like SEO, more payment gateways, and so on. Those extensions are usually around the $49-79 mark (one time payment).
What it all comes down to is that although WooCommerce is technically the cheaper solution, it will require much more work to set it up, and you’ll need to be much more careful not to go over your budget, as every additional extension comes with a price tag. In the end, with WooCommerce, you’re exchanging dollars for features.
Shopify can boast a much more conventional pricing structure. It has a sliding scale of packages which offer users a range of different features up front – Basic ($29), Professional ($79) and Unlimited ($299).
Last but not least, there are the transaction fees. In essence, whenever you sell something with either of the platforms, they will charge you a small fee (for processing the payment, delivering the money to your account, etc.). Those fees change quite often, so I won’t get into that here, but just be aware that they exist. Usually, they sit around 2%-3% per transaction, but make sure to check the exact numbers before signing up with either of the platforms.
Shopify vs WooCommerce – Features
While both platforms’ approaches to pricing are different, they’re relatively similar when it comes to giving your eCommerce site that little va va voom. Unlike a platform like Bigcommerce, Shopify and WooCommerce don’t bombard the user with plenty of tricks and toys.
However, both have enviable app stores that can be raided for the latest money-making features.
How Shopify helps you sell
Although you will probably need to install apps to make the most of the platform, Shopify offers significantly more free options. From the very start Shopify allows you to have:
- Unlimited number of products
- Unlimited file storage
- Automatic fraud analysis
- Manual order creation
- Discount codes
- Blog module
- Free SSL certificate
- Mobile commerce optimization
- Editable HTML and CSS
- Credit card payments
- Multiple languages
- Adjustable shipping rates and taxes
- Customer profiles
- Drop shipping capabilities
- SEO-ready site structure
- Individual product reviews
- Facebook selling module
- Social media integration
- Physical and digital products in the store
- Unlimited traffic to your store
- Daily backups
- Site stats and product reports
- Fully featured mobile app
- Product importing via CSV files
- Different product variations
- Print orders
- Gift cards (on Professional and Unlimited)
- Abandoned cart recovery (on Professional and Unlimited)
In comparison, some of these free features, such as CSV uploads, shipping options and Facebook selling will set you back up to $500-600 to get started on WooCommerce.
Aside from the basic options, there are hundreds of different features that can be installed from the Shopify App Store. Like with WordPress, you certainly won’t short of inspiration. Nor will you be bemoaning the apps’ poor quality.
How WooCommerce helps you sell
As open source software, WordPress is well known for allowing third party developers to create various extensions and plugins. WooCommerce taps into that further by offering lots of interesting and exciting additions. Whether you want to easily edit aesthetics, sell on Facebook, ramp up email marketing techniques, understand user behaviour or quite frankly do anything else, you’ll be able to.
Here’s what you’ll find inside WooCommerce:
- You can sell physical products, 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 structure
- You have complete control over your data
- Works with your current WordPress theme
- Literally hundreds of plugins (extensions) available
Shopify vs WooCommerce features compared side by side
Just to make all of the above easier to grasp, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the most essential eCommerce features in Shopify and WooCommerce:
|Is a subscription-based tool/service + a complete, out-the-box eCommerce solution.||Is a free WordPress plugin. It requires a web server and a working WordPress installation to run.|
|The core similarities and differences|
|Allows you to sell whatever you wish (physical, digital, products, services).|
|Use it online (eCommerce store) + offline (via Shopify’s “Point of Sale” kit).||Use it online only (eCommerce store).|
|24/7 email, chat, and phone support.||Ticket support, and forum support.|
|Closed platform – you can only modify your store to the extent that Shopify allows.||Open source – you can modify your store freely; there are no limitations.|
|Shopify controls your store/website data.||You have complete control over your data.|
|Your eCommerce store design|
|More than 100 store design available (20+ of them free).||Thousands of store designs available (through WordPress themes).|
|Other similarities and differences|
|Hosting included.||No hosting included.|
|Free subdomain included with every plan (e.g. YOURSTORE.shopify.com).||No subdomain included.|
|Free SSL certificate.||You can hook up a free SSL certificate manually.|
|Unlimited file storage.||File storage limited by your web host.|
|Sell an unlimited number of products.|
|Create/use coupon codes and discounts.|
|Accept payments via PayPal, multiple payment gateways (including Stripe, credit cards), bank deposits, cash on delivery, and other methods.||Accept payments via PayPal, Stripe, checks, bank transfers, cash on delivery.|
|Sales stats and reports.|
|Native support for multiple languages.||Support for multiple languages via third-party plugins.|
|Adjustable shipping rates and taxes.|
As you can see, there’s nothing particularly important that’s missing from either platform. Choosing one over the other can often come down to your personal preference, or your thoughts on the value (or lack thereof) of open source software vs the rest.
But, the devil is in the details. At the end of the day, Shopify seems like a more laser-focused solution of the two (at least to me). Everything that Shopify offers is geared at making your online store more functional and easy to use. With WooCommerce, albeit the platform is extremely feature-rich and doesn’t lack any specific eCommerce feature, it’s still an add-on to WordPress – a plugin.
In the end, though, there’s no clear winner here in the features department. Both platforms have everything that a standard eCommerce setup could need.
Ease of use
Okay, so since we haven’t had a clear winner when it comes to eCommerce features, maybe we can have one in regards to the ease of use – aka. how easy it is to set up a working eCommerce store with either platform.
How easy to use is Shopify
The main strength of Shopify is that it’s a subscription-based online tool. In other words, to use it, all you need to do is visit Shopify.com, click the sign up button, go through a basic setup wizard, and you’re done.
Shopify is going to help you along the way, asking about the purpose/nature of your store (what you’re planning to sell), and giving you some overall tips as to which design/structure to choose and how to set everything up.
Once you get through that initial wizard, you will get access to the main dashboard. It’s from there that you can create your new eCommerce store, add new products, and so on.
Overall, the whole process is very straightforward, and most importantly, you don’t need any design or site-building skills in order to get through it.
Later on – once you have the store running – you can access every crucial option from the sidebar of the dashboard:
This sort of organization should make your daily work in the store very easy to grasp.
When it comes to adding new products to your store, handling sales, orders and etc., it’s also equally intuitive. For example, when adding a product, all product parameters are available from a single panel, so you don’t have to visit different areas of the dashboard to set things like the name, price, images, stock levels, and etc.
Here’s what the “new product” screen looks like:
Overall, Shopify is a very intuitive solution, and the best thing about it is that you can just sign up and create a store right away, with no unexpected interruptions.
How easy to use is WooCommerce
To some extent, WooCommerce is just as easy to use as Shopify. But there’s a catch.
The catch is that although working with your store day by day is just as simple as with Shopify, setting up the store isn’t.
Basically, since WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin – a piece of software – and not a subscription-based solution like Shopify, this means that you need to handle a couple of things before you ever get to working with WooCommerce itself.
Mainly, you need to do these:
- Get a domain name
- Sign up for a hosting account
- Install WordPress
- Find and install a WordPress theme
It is only after you have those four taken care of that you can install the WooCommerce plugin on your WordPress website and start getting through the configuration of your online store.
Unfortunately, those steps do require some level of comfort around web-related things. After all, it involves setting up your web server, redirecting your domain to said server, and lastly getting WordPress properly installed and made operational.
To make that somewhat easier on yourself, you can choose a specialized WordPress hosting company that will take care of the domain and WordPress installation for you, leaving only the WooCommerce part to you. Either way, it’s all significantly more difficult than Shopify’s one-click, “sign up” button.
And also, the theme – your design. WooCommerce doesn’t come with any “design” per se. It is all handled via a WordPress theme of your choice. Luckily, WooCommerce works with basically all themes on the market, but it’s still on you to find one you like and install it on the site.
Now, about WooCommerce itself:
As I said, the platform in itself is just as easy to use as Shopify. The second you get the WooCommerce plugin installed and activated, you’ll see the on-screen setup wizard. It consists of five(-ish) steps and takes you by the hand through every crucial element.
Basically, it lets you choose/approve the main parameters of the store, and get everything neatly configured. For example, some of the important steps involve things like currency settings, shipping and tax, and payment gateways.
Once the installation is done, you can start using your store and begin adding products.
I showed you Shopify’s “add product” page above, so now let’s look at WooCommerce’s:
As you can see, it’s very much the same. Only some of the details are showcased slightly differently.
Which is easier to us, Shopify or WooCommerce?
Because of the initial hassle involved in setting up a WooCommerce store, I have to give this round to Shopify.
The fact that you can just click the sign up button and then have the whole store set up within minutes is very impressive in Shopify.
Later on, however, once you’re working with the store on a daily basis, Shopify and WooCommerce both present a similar level of ease of use. So I guess the choice is up to you, and involves answering the question if the more difficult setup in WooCommerce is a deal breaker for you or not…
Shopify vs WooCommerce – Support
There’s also the not insubstantial issue of technical support. Shopify is renowned for the high quality of its customer care. Each client can enjoy 24/7 access to a customer adviser in case they have any issues or queries (via email, open chat, phone call).
Apart from that, you also get access to an extensive knowledge base that covers some of the common user questions and problem solutions.
The matter of support with WooCommerce isn’t as straightforward. First off, WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin in itself. This means that you can get support through the WordPress forums. However, at the same time, the WooCommerce team also enables everyone to create a free user account over at WooCommerce.com and get support there.
Lastly, WooCommerce is an open source product just like WordPress. This means that you can jump into the source code yourself, and try solving things on your own (if you’re brave enough).
In the end, I have to give the support round to Shopify. Nothing beats 24/7 access to a support person.
Shopify vs WooCommerce – SEO
Any website that wants to make a splash needs strong SEO. Luckily, both contenders here have a lot going for them.
How Shopify helps with SEO
Shopify may come second when we look at the overall volume of SEO features available, but there’s certainly no shame in the way that it presents content. It too handles basic SEO practices like meta information and site copy with ease. So long as your business is producing quality content, there’s no reason to suggest you won’t enjoy great results and strong user engagement.
Site wide, there are plenty of ways that Shopify proves to beat WooCommerce in the SEO game. It’s actually renowned by developers like me as having some of the cleanest code out there and natural linking structure, which offers a smooth user experience and in turn enhances visibility in search engine rankings.
One interesting case that’s worth pointing out is what happened to the Lost Cyclist, an eCommerce expert. When he moved his site from Shopify to WooCommerce, he noticed that the traffic dropped markedly:
(If you’d like to dig deeper into how different shopping cart platforms can help your business with SEO, you might want to read this post.)
What’s more, Shopify is fast. Because it’s a hosted platform that’s built on huge infrastructure, Shopify offers each of its webmasters rapid loading pages (80 milliseconds, to be exact). As a result, shops stand a better chance of ranking well and a better chance of leading customers to conversions.
How WooCommerce helps with SEO
WordPress is primarily a content creation platform, and it’s renowned by SEO experts as one of the most reliable options available. It’s easy to add and edit content as well as meta information to ensure that your pages have a strong chance of ranking for specific keywords.
With plugins such as Yoast SEO, you can make your WordPress site highly optimized, and be in full control of every little detail that’s SEO-related.
When it comes to WooCommerce itself, it simply takes advantage of what’s already there in WordPress, or what’s available through third-party plugins like the aforementioned Yoast SEO, or the WooCommerce-dedicated version of the Yoast plugin.
In the end, WooCommerce gives you more SEO-specific options overall, purely because of the fact that it’s built on top of WordPress, which has pretty much unlimited SEO potential. This doesn’t mean, however, that you’re going to suffer from an SEO point of view if you choose Shopify (as one case study mentioned above points out).
Shopify vs WooCommerce: Conclusion
Comparisons such as this are never cut and dry. When I talk with clients, my recommendations always fluctuate depending on their specific situations.
Here are my recommendations based on the type of user that you are / what you expect from your eCommerce platform:
- You appreciate a hands-off approach, where you can just sign up “somewhere” and have an eCommerce store launched as a result of it.
- You don’t want to have to deal with any of the setup yourself, and you don’t mind paying a fee to have everything taken care of for you.
- At the same time, you want a highly optimized solution that’s in no way worse than what the competition has.
- You want to have a reliable and fast-responding support team at your disposal, just in case you have any questions.
- You basically don’t care about any of the technical details of your eCommerce platform … you just want it to work as expected, and be accessible to all customers and on all devices (mobile and desktop).
- You want to be in full control of your eCommerce store.
- You want to have access to thousands of site designs and thousands of plugins that will enable you to extend the functionality of your store.
- You don’t mind spending a couple of hours setting things up, and you’re not afraid to handle the tasks required on your own (or you’ve hired someone to do this for you).
- (Optionally) You have only minimal budget to start with, and you want to do everything on your own.
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