Shopify vs WooCommerce | Which one is right for your business?
Shopify and WooCommerce are two of the world’s most popular ecommerce platforms, both boasting millions of users worldwide. When using the term “ecommerce platform” we’re referring to a piece of software which is used by both sellers (to list and sell products) and customers (to browse and buy products). This can either be a stand-alone platform (Shopify) or a plugin for an existing content management system (CMS), such as WordPress (WooCommerce). These will allow you to list your products, manage your stock, take payments and be found online by your customers.
First up, it’s worth saying that neither Shopify or WooCommerce is necessarily better than the other. What your choice will come down to is your needs as an individual and as a business.
Ask yourself: Do you have the personal technological skills to build and maintain a website? Or if you don’t possess these skills yourself, do you have access to or the funds to employ a professional who can do this for you? And most importantly, what stage is your business at? What are your future plans? Do you require a platform which will offer you flexibility and scalability to fulfil ambitious business plans? Or do you plan to stay small and need something which you can manage as a one-person-band? Whether WooCommerce or Shopify is the better option for you will heavily depend on your answers to these questions. By the end of this article you should know exactly which option is right for you.
Shopify is a stand-alone all-in-one ecommerce platform which is favoured by new businesses and generally considered to be highly accessible.
Most of what you need will already be integrated in the service; templates for your store, payment acceptance, inventory management etc. Hosting, security, caching and other core features are also dealt with as part of the platform, meaning you don’t have to worry about setting these up in isolation.
The platform is easy to set up, intuitive and user-friendly, as well as being a mature technology meaning there are plenty of integrations with 3rd party services, as well as support resources available should you run into any problems.
All of this combined makes it a great entry-level option for those just starting out or not ready to invest in tech.
Shopify’s greatest strength is also one of it’s greatest weaknesses – in striving for simplicity, it has also reduced the control you have over your site. The ability to customise, extend and develop your store is greater with other platforms such as WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce plugin built for WordPress.
It allows you to pair up with one of the world’s most popular and powerful content management systems (WordPress) which offers endless possibilities for customisation and scaling. WooCommerce is an incredibly powerful, open-source tool which doesn’t cost the earth and can produce fantastic, reliable results.
This option is potentially less user-friendly for beginners to set up themselves, and will require 3rd party hosting in comparison to Shopify’s integrated hosting. Not everyone will immediately need the wealth of features WooCommerce offers or have the know-how to make use of the scope for customisation without developer support. So if you’re non-techy and planning on staying small, this option might not be for you.
Compare and contrast; Shopify vs WooCommerce
WooCommerce and Shopify have completely different payment structures.
WooCommerce is completely free to run, but there are of course other costs to consider such as paying for a hosting provider, finding a developer to do more advanced work, as well as the cost of any other plugins you might need to extend WooCommerces core functionality (although these are often reasonably priced compared to Shopify’s “apps”). This has the benefit of meaning you can tailor what you pay but also means you’ll have different costs to manage and that things can add up.
Shopify on the other hand takes a flat subscription fee per month which includes everything from hosting to security. Whilst this gives you less control over what you pay, it means you have less to keep track of. The monthly costs increase as you grow your store, so be sure to check what you’re signing up for.
Payment options & transaction fees
Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer their own payment options as well as a wealth of 3rd party merchant integrations, including the most common options like Google Pay and Apple Pay.
One very important distinction to make between the two though is that Shopify adds between 1.6% and 2.2% transaction fee from every online sale you make, plus 20p. If you don’t use their Shopify Payments system, this changes and is in addition to any charge taken by the payment merchant. Whilst this may not seem like a lot to begin with, once you start scaling a business this can quickly become very costly. With WooCommerce, however, you’ll only need to pay the merchant fee.
Of course, these options are liable to change at any time and we’d recommend studying each platform’s fee structure in detail before deciding which is best for you. You can find more on each here: WooCommerce, Shopify.
Support for both WooCommerce and Shopify is really good in terms of available resources to go and resolve problems yourself. One benefit Shopify has over WooCommerce, however, is that all Shopify’s customers will have access to a 24/7 chat support service in case they run into problems. This makes sense when you consider that their target market are business owners with less technical knowledge who are more likely to struggle resolving their issues. Regardless if you run into issues with either option, 99.9% of the time the answer to your problem will be on the internet or help forums somewhere.
Ease of use
Set up: By very nature, Shopify is designed to be incredibly easy to set up. You can take your shop live within a matter of minutes if you want to, because all the features you need are already built in. Whilst WooCommerce isn’t difficult to set up in terms of installing it and setting up your WordPress theme, there are a number of elements you’ll need to get together before going live such as hosting, an SSL certificate, security and any customisations you want done.
With WooCommerce, what you sacrifice in terms of a more difficult set up, you make back in the ability to have more control over the individual parts of the platform. This is a good example of the trade-off between speed and control that Shopify and WooCommerce offer respectively.
Ongoing: once both WooCommerce and Shopify are set up, there isn’t much in it when it comes to ease of use. WordPress is an easy CMS to get to grips with which makes managing your WooCommerce store intuitive. Equally Shopify is designed at it’s very core to be as user-friendly as possible.
Both solutions offer great SEO capabilities and neither one is necessarily better than the other for ranking. Shopify makes it easy and obvious what you need to do to rank on Google, however, you are limited in your success to what’s possible within their framework.
With WooCommerce, you have greater control over the individual aspects that make up great SEO rather than working within Shopify’s framework. With more control to customise the individual components that make up SEO your potential success is unlimited, but you will need to have a greater knowledge of SEO and what’s possible in order to be successful. We’d recommend the popular Yoast plugin if you’re looking to succeed in your SEO endeavours whilst using WooCommerce.
The story is similar when it comes to security. Whilst most security features are a built-in feature of Shopify (it’s PCI compliant straight out of the box), with WooCommerce security is something that you, or your developer will need to handle yourselves. This includes installing an SSL certificate (this is what enables the padlock symbol in your browser and ensures that all data on the website is being processed securely). You’ll also need to update and maintain WordPress, WooCommerce and any plugins on the site (see our handy article on why you should keep your WordPress updated). This is probably one of the clear advantages Shopify has over WooCommerce, as it is very important to keep your website’s security up-to-date.
What we’d recommend
As always, this completely depends on your business in terms of which will be the right platform for you. It’s vital you consider your business needs now, as well as your long-term vision in order to determine what technology is going to be best suited to your business.
For the clients we work with (high-growth potential startups and scale-ups, or businesses with more complex needs), our choice is often WooCommerce. If you’re an ambitious, scaling business it really does offer everything you could want. We’re huge fans of WordPress, and WooCommerce by extension, because it’s customisable, powerful and familiar to most people so easy for client teams to work with.
The WooCommerce plugin allows you to design and manage your ecommerce website within the WordPress framework and has produced some fantastic results for our clients, which will support their businesses as they scale into the future. You can see the details of a WooCommerce site we’ve built and continue to improve for our clients Muddy Trowel here. We’d definitely recommend checking out their live site as well, to see the website in action.
If you’re a smaller business with less capital to invest in a platform, Shopify remains a really solid option. You can get off to a great start on your ecommerce journey with Shopify as it’s intuitive, offers many of the core features inclusively and means you can focus on the more important aspects of running your business instead of the tech side.