WooCommerce vs. Shopify is the age-old battle of the most well-known, talked-about and convenient e-commerce platforms available today. They are both great platforms to help you build an eCommerce store from ground up and their ease of use makes them the go-to choice. Gone are the days when you needed strong technical skills and months to years of time to build an e-commerce store for your brand. With these plug-and-play tools, it is a matter of days or even hours in some cases to start an online store without shelling out a bomb towards professional developer and designer fees.
But the winner of the WooCommerce vs Shopify battle depends on your strengths and needs from the e-commerce platform. To determine which one would work for you, you’d have to ask yourself the following questions:
- What are your strengths in setting up an online shop? How much experience do you have in running an online store?
- How much flexibility do you need in terms of design?
- Are there specific features you want to develop that are unusual?
- How quickly are you interested in going online?
- Do you have the time and/or expertise to develop and maintain the website?
- Are you set on a Wordpress site and comfortable with Wordpress plugins?
- How tight are you on budget immediately and in the following months?
We’ll get into the comparison right away to work towards answering each of these and more questions. After going through this, in all probability you will know exactly which ecommerce platform to go for based on your discrete requirements.
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Market Share in the E-Commerce Industry
Just to set the ball rolling, a quick look at industry trends should help understand which of the two e-commerce platforms is the more popular choice among e-commerce businesses. It also helps to understand what your top competitors are using to gain an advantage over them. You’ll see below a pie chart from BuiltWith, that shows the e-commerce usage distribution in the top 1 Million Sites. Clearly, WooCommerce and Shopify seem to be the top choices in the e-commerce industry, but as per this report, WooCommerce tends to be the first choice. It’s interesting to note though, that the trend reverses with Shopify taking the lead when the comparison is between the top 100K sites. In fact, 21% of e-commerce websites in the top 100K sites are built with Shopify while only 13% are built with WooCommerce. It’s up to you to decide which of these statistics is relevant to you, based on your specific business needs, your niche and your competition.
Section 1 - WooCommerce Vs. Shopify: Setup Experience
Setup experience of both the platforms is considerably different. Shopify is a turnkey solution that makes it as easy as it gets, even for someone new to e-commerce. Shopify’s setup wizard takes you through each step of the journey with ease. It’s a simple process of making an account, buying a domain/ connecting an existing one and picking your theme. The Shopify app also simplifies the process and lets you do the product setup on the go.
In order to use WooCommerce, you first need to install Wordpress, a popular open-source website building platform that powers about 52% of the internet as a content management system (CMS). It comes with a host of free and paid plugins that need to be added for SEO, Website Security etc. WooCommerce is one such free plugin that needs to be added to Wordpress in order to set up shop. There is more technicality involved in this setup, as against that with Shopify. It is also important to note that WooCommerce needs to be self-hosted and finding and maintaining your own server can be challenging for beginners.
In summary, to set up shop on Wordpress and WooCommerce, here’s what you need to do:
- Find a web hosting solution
- Pick a domain and install WordPress
- Install and configure WooCommerce with a theme
- Fix the other details like SSL certificates (which may already come with some web hosting platforms), payment providers, inventory management, tax accounting, and more
This requires a certain level of expertise while leveraging the large Wordpress community and can be a time-taking process. However, going with a hosting platform like Bluehost can help simplify a lot of the process through packages. All the Bluehost packages come with a free SSL certificate.
The Verdict: Shopify is a clear winner in this category, given the ease of use, drag and drop functionality alongside the setup wizard.
Section 2 - WooCommerce Vs. Shopify: Customization
Shopify is built on the company’s own, specialized, coding language called Liquid. To make any changes to your Shopify store, you will need to be technically sound and learn the language. This makes customization a tad bit difficult on Shopify. Nevertheless, they try to make it a bit easy by offering access to a developer community through Shopify Experts, however that comes with an additional price tag. There is, however, an organised Shopify App store, where merchants can find a host of free and paid apps to add a certain level of customization to their online store. You can find apps for outreach and marketing, communicating with customers, and even to make your Shipping Emissions Carbon Neutral on the Shopify App store.
On the other hand, WooCommerce is open-source with great online resources for customization. In-fact WooCommerce markets itself as the product that helps you “Build exactly the eCommerce site you want”.
So effectively with WooCommerce, one can build a new store from scratch or else you can customize or extend an existing Wordpress store.
The Verdict: WooCommerce offers more unending customization ability thanks to a host of technical community resources, while Shopify is a bit more rigid in its structure.
Section 3 - WooCommerce Vs. Shopify: SEO
The ultimate goal of any e-commerce store is to get customers, and SEO plays an important role in the process of acquiring them. If your store does not rank high on the search engines results pages (SERP) of search engines like Google, Bing etc. for relevant keywords, you will not get the required traffic, potential leads and thus, customers for your online store.
With regards to SEO, WooCommerce vs. Shopify is a close match. Both seem to be very effective platforms that are built keeping SEO in mind. With the right strategy, both can ensure great results in SEO.
Shopify is built with a very strong code, that is believed to be very clean among the developer community. This code ensures natural inter-linkages for a beautiful user experience, which works in the favor of the store to show up high on search rankings. Also, the load speed of Shopify sites is extremely fast on both desktop and mobile, thanks to the infrastructure (of dedicated servers) it is built on, which adds to the optimization and conversion.
While the number of SEO features on Shopify tend to be limited, the interface makes it very easy to work on elements like meta descriptions, title tags, and site copy very conveniently. Several plugins can be used for SEO on Shopify but the most common one is SEO Booster. It helps avoid content duplication and puts up the right page tags.
WooCommerce on the other hand, makes it easy to control all aspects of the online store through it’s customizability. These aspects include SEO. Since WooCommerce is an extension of Wordpress, and Wordpress is possibly the most well-known platform among SEO experts, it makes for a great choice with regards to optimization for ranking on search engines. The infamous Yoast SEO plugin has a dedicated version for WooCommerce which makes it very easy to rank for your chosen keywords.
One important aspect of doing SEO for your online store is to have an SSL certificate in place. This is to ensure that search engines find your site safe for transactions which helps push you up in the rankings. While Shopify comes with a free SSL certificate, your choice of hosting can provide for it in case of WooCommerce.
The Verdict: For that reason and more, Shopify seems to win the WooCommerce vs. Shopify: SEO battle but with a very little margin. Given that it provides a right-out-of-the-box approach to SEO, Shopify makes it easy to do SEO right.
Section 4 - WooCommerce Vs. Shopify: Themes and Design
Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer plenty of theme options that can be used to set up an online store.
While Shopify has nine free and 64 paid (that could go up to a price of $180), in-built themes to choose from, you can also buy more options online. Moreover, these themes also come with unique variations, are mobile responsive, and have a modern aesthetic. These themes are easy to modify in terms of style, colour, hiding/deleting sections etc. This allows you to start sections for future use so that there is no requirement for theme duplications, which is a challenge most developers face.
On the contrary, it’s interesting to note that the WooCommerce plugin is created by Woothemes, a Wordpress theme developer, which has the creation of themes at the core of it’s business. In that sense Woothemes and consequently, Woocommerce comes with a design-first approach. You will find many free themes on various theme stores on the internet that are meant for WooCommerce stores. Naturally, there are tonnes of innovative themes that are meant for WooCommerce that are perfect for e-commerce businesses but may not be free. You could start with the mobile-responsive entry theme, WooCommerce Storefront as the theme and use any of the two free or twelve $39 child themes. If none of these suit your requirements as a business, you could visit sites like Themeforest for custom themes as per your need.
The Verdict: While Shopify themes are top-notch, WooCommerce has a considerably larger variety available online. In the WooCommerce Vs. Shopify design battle, we’ll call this a draw.
Section 5 - WooCommerce Vs. Shopify: Cost Comparison
As an e-commerce business owner it is important to forecast and understand the actual cost behind setting up and maintaining your online store. It is one of the most important to evaluate the cost of starting up and additionally, keeping in mind other variable costs for additional software, plugin and add-ons.
The difference between WooCommerce pricing and Shopify pricing plans is that Shopify lacks customization to need unless you are a large enterprise.
While Shopify pricing plans are seemingly conventional and clearly listed on the website, they offer little flexibility in terms of feature selection. The pricing plans come in the form of a monthly subscription fee package - Shopify Lite ($9 per month,) Basic Shopify ($29 per month,) Shopify ($79 per month) and Advanced Shopify ($299 per month). However, if you are a business of over a million dollars you must contact the Shopify Team to discuss their enterprise-grade solution - Shopify Plus. Chances are that when you upgrade from one pricing plan, say the Basic plan to the next one for a specific reason such as real-time shipping rates (which comes with the top plan of $299), you might end up with more features than you need.
What may particularly hurt some e-commerce websites is the additional Shopify transaction fee that comes with each plan. This ranges from 0.5% to 2% per transaction based on your plan, effectively meaning letting go of about 2% of your revenue in the name of Shopify, that could add up to a lofty sum in the long run.
One has the option of getting rid of this fee by using Shopify Payments, instead of any other payment gateways. And Shopify makes sure to incentivise the businesses to use Shopify payments over any other.
The two main advantages of using Shopify Payments as your payment provider are:
- No additional transaction fee, except the gateway fee.
- Discounted payment processing, specially on the Shopify and Shopify Advanced plans
In addition, Shopify Payments charges a flat-rate fee for each chargeback that customers issue, however if the issue is resolved in the favor of the e-commerce website, Shopify agrees to refund that same to the business. This fee is different from country to country. There are no more hidden costs, monthly fees, hidden fees or setup fees on Shopify Payments.
Furthermore, Shopify plan fees include the cost of a world-class CDN run by Fastly. Thus, while the Shopify servers may be located in North America, it will not prevent your store from loading fast anywhere in the world. With the CDN, the free SSL and no maintenance requirement, Shopify plans give a good bang for the buck.
On the other hand, when we talk about WooCommerce, which is a free open source plugin for Wordpress, the additional costs that go along with hosting, security and maintenance of an online store need to be anticipated. You must consider the cost of the theme, the domain name unless you already have one, any additional paid extensions, payment gateway, and an SSL certificate. Specially for large businesses and high traffic e-commerce stores, the hosting costs may not be cheap.
An important thing to note and a plus for WooCommerce is that there are no transaction fees in addition to the payment provider charges. This rules in favor of WooCommerce if the volume of products is high. It’s also important if you want the flexibility to choose your payment gateway.
The Verdict: Shopify wins this one. While WooCommerce may seem technically the cheaper solution as barebones, in the additional plugins and features stack up, so do the costs. Also, you must weigh the time cost associated with setup and management of your online store using the Wordpress and WooCommerce combination.
Section 6 - WooCommerce Vs. Shopify: Payment Methods/ Payment Options
Doesn’t matter what the product, payment methods and processing are the most crucial elements of an online business. Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer various tools for payment processing but have considerably different approaches.
While Shopify offers tonnes of payment processing options such as Paypal, Credit and Debit Cards, Apple Pay etc. by country (refer to this list), their emphasis lies on incentivising the use of Shopify Payments, the current default, for ten countries including US, UK, Canada, Japan etc. Shopify payments is Shopify’s own payment processing application, powered by Stripe in the background, that is built into the Shopify dashboard. It’s as easy as filling in some basic bank account details and gives real-time summary dashboards for transactions. In terms of security, Shopify is Level 1 PCI DSS Compliant, thus making it a great option to protect your customers’ card details. And if you’re a business with retail stores, you can integrate Shopify POS with Shopify payments to leverage the power of Shopify Payments offline.
As a Shopify online store, if you choose to go for a payment processing option other than Shopify Payments, you are asked to pay an additional transaction fee (lies between 0.5-2%) on most of the Shopify plans. This fee is waived off if you use Shopify payments, which however is limited to only a few countries so far. However, don’t forget the in-built transaction fee for Shopify Payments, which can be as high as 2.9% + $0.03 for the Basic Shopify plan.
On the contrary, WooCommerce offers a host of payment processing options as add-ons that can be directly embedded into the shop. This includes options like Paypal and Stripe that are used very commonly. Additionally, there are other options like Authorize.net, First Data, Payfast, Square and so on, that can be integrated as simple plugins. They have also launched WooCommerce Payments for US merchants to accept debit card and credit card payments securely at the rate of 2.9% + $0.03 per transaction. Important to note that it requires the latest version of Jetpack to authenticate every request.
And with regards to on-ground transactions, WooCommerce also has WooCommerce POS that can help with in-store payment processing. One important difference between Shopify and WooCommerce is that WooCommerce has no transaction fees of it’s own like Shopify does.
It’s important to note that for both platforms, different payment gateways come with different fees.
The Verdict: Between WooCommerce Vs Shopify payment methods, owing to the transaction fees, WooCommerce takes the cake. In the long run, Shopify ends up becoming a revenue sharing partner which can hurt.
Section 7 - WooCommerce Vs. Shopify: Customer Service/ Customer Support
Customer Support is one major aspect of the WooCommerce vs. Shopify discussion and while both the platforms tend to be very supportive in terms of the forums and communities, there is a clear winner in this segment.
Shopify is built on a special coding language, Liquid, which is slightly hard to maneuver and has some learning curve, even for seasoned developers. Also, it is a fully hosted platform, and only the folks at Shopify know the platform more than anyone Else. Thus, having a strong support community is important for Shopify. And it sure delivers on that!
Shopify doesn’t just have an active discussion forum, it also has it very well organised. There are discussion threads for everything from Design and Apps to Partner Offers and Technical Q&A. In addition, they have Shopify Compass, their response to COVID-19, which particularly has a lot of ancillary content that can help business owners launch and grow their business, get feedback on their Shopify stores and get help with topics like getting their first sales. Also, there is tonnes of content in the form of videos tutorials, how-to guides, documents and more.
Furthermore, Shopify provides 24/7 support through phone, email, live chat, and Twitter. However, you will not find any support on third party apps and integrations done on your Shopify store.
WooCommerce, on the other hand, has a different approach to Support. Since building a WooCommerce store requires an amalgamation of multiple plugins and themes, they want you to rule out the possibility of conflicts on that front before contacting them. They suggest following the process: searching the WooCommerce documentation, verifying that everything (within Wordpress) is up to date, checking for conflicts with third party apps and integrations and then opening a ticket to contact Woo support. While WooCommerce Docs presents some amount of organised information, most likely you will feel the need to go to find more information elsewhere on the internet. For instance, WooCommerce does not give general Wordpress Support, and for help with your Wordpress website you will need to contact Wordpress.org Forums.
Furthermore, WooCommerce support is handled by developers who have made the extension which could cause a delay in getting responses, and WooCommerce encourages that you reach out to the concerned developer for help.
Their support service is limited, in that, you will not be able to reach out to them through Social Channels (like Facebook, Twitter), Email or even on Phone as of now.
The Verdict: A clear winner in the Shopify vs WooCommerce Customer Support battle is Shopify. They have both live reps and online communities for support apart from a host of documentation. WooCommerce, on the contrary, makes it difficult to get in touch with them for conflicts and could require much more time and effort for resolution.
Section 8 - WooCommerce Vs. Shopify: Client Reviews
Enough and more client reviews are available for both the products online and while you could go ahead and read them in your own time, here’s a little gist of what people have to say about these products.
➕ Lots of tutorials available online. WooCommerce is a very talked-about e-commerce platform.
➕ WooCommerce has built-in blogging, unrestricted customization, and one-click refund for customers.
➕ WooCommerce with Elementor is a deadly combination for control over your Wordpress Store customization.
➕ It’s a great product and to know that it’s free, is just something.
➕ The fact that it has a huge user base, made it easy to find information and help online, when we got stuck.
➕ There are regular updates on the plugin to ensure security.
➕ I am a fairly DIY person and WooCommerce is so easy to customize. You can add anything to solve shipping, invoicing etc.
➕ You have the ability to publish simple products, variable products and even affiliate products. If you have marketing experience with regards to affiliates, then use this, because you can add your affiliate link products easily in your website.
➕ I found it very easy to create coupons and discount codes on WooCommerce. You may add coupons like percentage discounts, fixed cart coupons, and fixed product discounts at the drop of a hat. You may also allow free shipping with just a checkbox.
➖ The extensions are costly for small businesses.
➖ If a plugin gives an error, there is no support from the WooCommerce team.
➖ I faced challenges during updating to a new version of Wordpress. The order export plugin wasn’t compatible with the new Wordpress site and my entire site crashed.
➖ Hosting and maintenance is a nightmare on WooCommerce.
➖ Premium servers that installed WooCommerce stalled often, even after doing a clean wipe and minimizing a lot of plug-ins. Nothing ran smoothly.
➖ While theoretically you can use any Wordpress theme, ideally it’s best to use Woothemes which limits your theme options.
➖ I found that the learning curve with WooCommerce was very steep and required a lot of effort.
➕ Shopify is intuitive and customer-friendly. Very easy to set-up.
➕ Has professional and good-looking templates.
➕ The abandoned shopping cart recovery feature helps improve our completion rate and shortens the customer journey.
➕ It is easy to use for beginners. Doesn’t require technical knowledge to set up.
➕ The Help section is well-organised and easy to navigate.
➕ Has a great ecosystem of apps and is the best e-commerce solution available.
➕ Provides a fluid interface and buy buttons.
➕ The fact that the store themes/ templates scale to mobile with zero input from us is incredible.
➕ Great for multilingual features, upsell features and all sorts of different marketing (including email marketing, Facebook and Instagram marketing, Whatsapp marketing etc.) and client retention techniques.
➕ Customer service is fantastic even in times of COVID-19.
➖ Inventory records only go back three months, so it’s important to keep a log and backup like clockwork.
➖ Not the best from the perspective of checkout API and customization. Requires a lot of effort to tackle this.
➖ Feels like Shopify sucks you in and lacks transparency.
➖ To have employees log in, you need to download the Shopify app and pay for it monthly.
➖ The duplicate feature doesn’t work well.
➖ They disabled Shopify payments after 3 years of us using them, without waiving the 2% alternate gateway charge.
➖ Facing immense security issues. The "bots" tend to eat the website alive during special releases.
➖ No way to deal with pair clothing sizes such as bikini tops and bottoms.
Other E-Commerce Platform Choices
While Shopify and WooCommerce tend to be the most popular and best e-commerce platform choices that have garnered a lot of interest over the years, there are other options too that one could explore.
Some of the other alternatives that e-commerce businesses go with are Volusion, Lemonstand, Magento, BigCommerce, Squarespace, Wix etc.
⏩ If you are a numbers person and think big of data, Volusion is a great platform for all your analytics needs. It gives great insights into sales for growth.
⏩ Lemonstand is a store for businesses that are already growing with an established customer base. It is highly customizable with strong multi-app integration, all on the cloud. It offers more than 95 payment gateways.
⏩ Magento is self-hosted but is extremely scalable. However, this is the most technical platform on the list and will require extensive development knowledge.
⏩ BigCommerce is popular among big businesses for scalability, and it does not require too many technical skills.
⏩ Squarespace is great for small to medium size businesses looking to build a beautiful brand. The template options in Squarespace are one of the best in the market and will make your products look incredible.
⏩ Wix is technically very easy to use, with it’s drag and drop functionality. Building a website on Wix is convenient, and great for small businesses. However, it is not the best platform from the perspective of SEO and is hard to rank on Google.
WooCommerce and Shopify are both impressive e-commerce platforms and among the top choices for any e-commerce store.
WooCommerce is open source and brings with it immense customization and considerable cost-effectiveness, specially with specific hosting providers. In that sense, WooCommerce gives a lot of control but also requires more time and effort from your end. Shopify provides ease of use, and quick setup. It is a one-stop-shop for all your online business needs, but it comes with a cost. The payments processing in Shopify can be a bit expensive. It has a lot of scalability built into the system.
At the end of the day, the better choice of e-commerce platform depends on your specific business needs. In our opinion, for anyone serious about growing their business and scaling up in time, Shopify is a very effective e-commerce platform.