[Guest post by Lucy Barret from HireWPGeeks Ltd]

With steadily growing number of online shoppers, almost every business wants to get a slice of the profit pie. And today, that’s just as easily said as done.

But we all know that. What we are often stumped over is which platform/plugins/extensions to choose to do it right. That’s a perfectly legit concern, especially when every e-commerce platform you find is better than the last.

Let’s narrow it down to something a bit more manageable. There’s Shopify, a completely managed and hosted e-commerce platform.

Then there is WooCommerce, a little WordPress plugin (which itself owns a very meaty 4.1% of the internet, in case you didn’t know).

“That’s all well and good for them. What have they got to offer to you,” you ask? And, which one you should be choosing out of the two? Well that depends on your own prowess with e-commerce and web-development, not to mention the size of your budget.

Apart from that, here’s a comprehensive and unbiased comparison of the two mammoths in e-commerce playground today.

Let’s take it step-by-step. We know you’ll be making your decision based on:

Start-up Cost

cost

Shopify

Shopify offers 4 subscription plans. Whether you’re planning to start the next big thing to Amazon, or just set up the online equivalent of a quaint little corner store; one of the four plans will fit your needs.

There’s Basic at USD $29/month. For features like fraud detection, abandoned cart recovery, etc. look at Pro at $79/month. Shopify Unlimited will give you real time carrier shipping (along with everything else) at the cost of $179/month. They’ve also got Lite at $9/month, but that’s won’t give you an online store.

All of them offer POS, unlimited inventory and file storage, a Facebook store, and a Shopify buy button to put on your website.

If you’ve bigger plans than that, take a look at Shopify Plus. If you have doubts, you can take a 2-week free trial.

WooCommerce

For the low, low price of absolutely-nothing, WooCommerce will give you a free plugin to support selling on an existing website.

I’ll reiterate, if you have squat in terms of an online presence, WooCommerce will do nothing for you. For those who already own their websites, WooCommerce will allow them to start selling through it immediately.

Setting up Shop

Shopify

Shopify is THE e-commerce platform for internet rookies. You set up shop with a few clicks, pick a theme, make a catalog, organize categories, and manage orders and payments. You can do all that and more; even if you don’t know a single thing about HTML/CSS.

Although you won’t be able to do it in minutes, it’s still easier than a lot of other options out there.

Inventory management is optional. You can allow Shopify to show an admin alert if a product is low or runs out of stock.

WooCommerce

Every single WordPress user will find WooCommerce a dream to work with. You start with installing the plugin and begin with the catalog. Uploading items on your online store is exactly like uploading a post and adding pictures. The plugin allows you to customize description, set prices, allow/disable reviews, show stock status, etc.

WooCommerce can show you admin alerts on your inventory status.

Remember: A dab hand at WordPress will go a long way on WooCommerce.

Store Design

Shopify

Themes (paid and free) are available to allow you to customize the look and feel of your online shop. You can choose from Shopify’s Theme Store or get themes from third-party sellers. Those available from Shopify are sorted into industries, an arrangement which I, personally, appreciate. The prices can range from $100 to $180.

Keep in mind that some features (like responsiveness, subcategories, newsletters, drop-down menus, etc.) are available only with certain themes. Check out the features before you buy/get one.

If you want to customize the design to your exact specifications, you’ll have to hire a designer who can work with Liquid.

WooCommerce

Virtually any WordPress theme works with WooCommerce, so you’re going to be spoilt for choices. For a more store-specific look, you can get one (for free or at a price) that are built specifically with WooCommerce in mind. You can get them on WooCommerce or third-party designers. Again, remember that some features come with themes, so take a good long while testing the features before getting one.

On WooCommerce, you start with a free responsive WordPress theme called Storefront. You can add features to this theme with extensions.

Designers can also customize Storefront Theme with child themes that WooCommerce allows you to download.

Features and Extensions

features and extensions

Shopify

Shopify’s app store lists over 900 plugins, features, and services you can add to store. They are put neatly in categories like Marketing, Social Media, Accounting, Customer Service, etc. and can be sorted on your preference.

If you’re unsure what you want, check out collections. It clubs the best available apps together for business purposes: launch, grow, manage, or POS.

They’re both free and paid. You pay for ‘premium’ apps on monthly subscription basis (like a service) for single site. Keep this in mind at the end of the month.

WooCommerce

There are 330+ extensions available on WooCommerce to increase your store’s functionality, also divided into business function categories. You can sort them on popularity, date added, and price. You can restrict the price bar to your preference.

The extensions on WooCommerce are bought on license. This gives you 1 year of premium support and updates. You can get annual license for any extension for use on 1, 5, or 25 sites at once.

There are websites which offer you the same extensions at exponentially-reduced costs. The cheaper rates are amounted to the fact that they are not selling support with them. You still get 1 year worth of updates though.

Be careful with those. If you install something malicious you’re on your own.

SEO

seo friendly

Shopify

Shopify by default allows you to edit Page titles, meta tags, and description. You can up the ante by using apps like SEO Meta Manager (at $5/month) for better optimization and search result previews.

WooCommerce

You can call it cheating, but SEO on WordPress is very viable. Add plugins like Yoast SEO to the mix (which is free, remember), and with Breadcrumbs functionality (specifically for compatible themes and WooCommerce), you make navigation easier and win on SEO Every. Single. Time.

Ownership, Security, and Maintenance

Shopify

Shopify owns your domain. Basically, on starting, you get your-shop-name.myshopify.com domain. You can purchase an alternative domain from Shopify.

This ownership can be a blessing and a curse. If you already went ahead and bought a domain from a 3rd party provider, you’ll have to change the DNS settings.

Shopify maintains your site/store and keeps it secure, but remember that you’re renting. Apart from terminology, a lot of business owners will probably have no trouble with that. Can you say ‘freedom from IT-related headache-and-hassles’?

WooCommerce

Your site (and consequently, your store) is all yours; site, server, everything. Since we still operate on a client-server model, being allowed to influence your server-side code is a very good thing. Although for an enterprise owner, this can be a double-edged sword.

Skilled developers can make use of available tech (for instance, .NET) and make serv-side user-validation, data saving, and navigation great. On the downside, you have to hire those developers and pay regular upkeep to keep your store secure. Make no mistake, the cost can be staggering.

WooCommerce itself is audited by Sucuri. Every WordPress user worth their salt knows you don’t mess with that. Apart from that, you and your store are on your own.

Support

Shopify

24×7 live support for your entire store ensures that if you do manage to run into a snag, you can get out of it. Couple that with plenty of documentation available in ‘resources’ section at docs.shopify.com and you’re practically golden.

WooCommerce

It provides support, yes, but only through the Helpdesk. If you get into trouble, you’ll have to try and find a solution on WooCommerce support. And you better pray to the Lord they have your specific problem covered, otherwise you enter a ‘ticket’ and wait for a miracle (read: someone to come over and help you).

This would be a non-issue if WordPress weren’t vast and the chances of you messing up were minuscule. And since WooCommerce doesn’t support 3rd party customizations, you’re quite literally, on your own.

Scalability and Migration

Shopify

Shopify provides all that’s necessary to set up an online store and run it successfully. If you grow (I hope you do), you’ll end up using more server resources (as more shoppers start making calls to non-cached pages). Shopify is very capable of accommodating you as a growing business.

Shopify does (in its own words) market itself to entrepreneurs and start-ups instead of well-established businesses. But Shopify also has solutions (read: Shopify Plus) for multi-million dollar companies. Check out Black Milk Clothing, for example.

At the bottom of things, however, your store is still hosted on a shared server with thousands of other stores exactly like yours. Unlimited storage and products is true, and compared to other shared hosts, it is better. However, should you get fed up and choose to migrate, good luck dealing with the lock-in. Your store and entire data will be deleted and your only salvation is exporting product data via CSV files.

WooCommerce

The entire point of having a self-hosted store is control. And you have all of it.

WooCommerce is very capable of scaling up with your business, up to an extent. As a general rule of thumb, a large number of products with multiple attributes will slow down advanced search results (from slower database queries). So no, you will not be building the next Amazon, not on WooCommerce.

But what if you’re scaling up and want to eventually move on to something else? Go on right ahead! WooCommerce will not resort to locking you in.

So, what’s the final verdict?

Shopify or WooCommerce

On every other ground (payment transactions, billing, shipping, discounts, tax, gift codes, vouchers, social media integration…I can go on and on) Shopify and WooCommerce run neck-to-neck. So go for:

Shopify: if you can’t be bothered with anything even remotely related to IT. Your scalability can be handled well, don’t worry.

WooCommerce: if you’re already familiar with WordPress and can handle being self-hosted. For those who want control.

This is as simple as it gets.

5 Comments

  • Rajiv Sathian

    Hi Lucy,

    Nice article giving detailed comparison about Shopify and WooCommerce.
    In my experience WooCommerce is the best bet for people who are new online venture.
    Since it is light easy to install and as you mentioned lets the user take control of site which is something all users always ask for.

    Shopify with its various plans suits whenever you want automated actions to be performed and when you want to scale up your business.
    Again thanks for this nice article.

  • Hey Lucy,

    Great write up here on the differences between the two platforms. I agree with most of your points. Shopify is the route to go if you want something set up easily and fast without much hands involved. WooCommerce is platform if you want more control and flexibility.

    I’d also add, that both platforms have great independent communities for help + support so no matter which you choose, you’re in good hands. There are also a good handful of experts on both sides that provide support services.

    My company, Tribe Interactive, specializes in WooCommerce custom development and ongoing maintenance / support:
    http://madebytribe.co/woocommerce-support/

    For shopify, I highly recommend checking out Hey Carson:
    http://heycarson.com/

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