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: