Shopify is an excellent ecommerce focused website builder that makes creating a professional online store easy. They have integration with essential tools for ecommerce like payment processors, tax calculations, shipping costs, coupon codes, email marketing and more. The checkout process is also well designed on Shopify and you can also create a blog as well to engage in content marketing.
WooCommerce by contrast allows you to do everything you can with Shopify, you simply have more control and options for each aspect of the ecommerce experience for your end users as you have to put together the pieces of your online store with different tools.
The main difference is that Shopify is a website builder. As such they take care of the technical maintenance of your website like server updates and updating the Shopify software and associated apps. With WooCommerce, you have full control over your website but also full responsibility.
Which Platform is Best?
Both options are outstanding for ecommerce. It’s not so much a matter of which one is best, it’s more about which one is best for you and your needs. After creating ecommerce stores with both, I suggest solo merchants or merchants with a small team to use Shopify as they make getting setup and selling easy and fast.
WooCommerce is much better if you have a larger team and want more control and options over each aspect of your online store. WooCommerce is also better if you’re simply looking to sell digital downloads or a offer a downloadable free give-a-way like some type of PDF resource for your audience.
When to use Shopify:
1 – You’re not interested in self managing a store from a technical aspect. Shopify is a website builder for ecommerce. That means they offer themes to design your website, the tools and software to manage inventory, extensions to expand the features of your website and various ways to integrate different payment processors. All under one company.
2 – The idea of having a single support channel appeals to you. As a website builder, any technical issue you have with your website you can open a support ticket and get help directly from Shopify.
3 – You’re looking to drop ship products or sell products via Amazon FBA. Website builders integrate with drop shipping companies very well and Shopify is no different. You just create an account with a drop shipping website and connect it to your Shopify store to sync products.
Bare Performance Nutrition – Nick Bare started his supplement company years ago. He promotes his products via his YouTube channel, Instagram and paid advertising. His store is powered by Shopify. He has multiple products across various categories. Shopify works because it’s more valuable for Nick and his team to focus on selling, shipping products, customer support and marketing.
Store.Kinobody.com – Kinobody.com is powered by WordPress because it is one of the best content management systems for blogging. But store.kinobody? That’s actually powered by Shopify for the reasons I already outline. Shopify is to stores what WordPress is to content websites.
The industry leading website builder for ecommerce websites.
When to use WooCommerce
1 – You have a good understanding of WordPress and have a WordPress website already setup. You’re wanting to add ecommerce functionality onto your site so you can sell physical or digital products.
2 – You have just a few physical products to sell and want to sell them via your own website. A good example would be say a local bakery with a physical store. You want to have a lovely store to sell cakes, cookies, wholesale and custom orders in a cost effective way.
3 – Perhaps you’re wanting to build out an affiliate marketing store using WooCommerce where you promote products from other marketplaces on your own website (like thisiswhyimbroke.com)
4 – Open source platforms appeal to you and you prefer that you own your online store in every way and will have a team to help you manage your WooCommerce store.
The Good Batch – A Broklyn (New York) based bakery. Simple, elegant website offering a few products to sell.
MINI Learners – A simple store selling nursery wall art. Powered by WordPress and WooCommerce.
Advanced ecommerce platform for WordPress.
WooCommerce vs Shopify Comparison
Let’s explore a little bit more into the technical differences between Shopify and WooCommerce. This will be a formal, detailed comparison and you can navigate to a section of interest by using the menu below
Design and Feature Comparison
Design and layout are essential for online stores. You need a high converting layout that gets users to view products, add them to the cart and trust your store enough to make a purchase decision. Also adding in helpful marketing features to help drive sales is very important to.
Shopify design options
Shopify and WooCommerce vary quite a bit in the feature and design department. Shopify is a hosted platform and has a lot of free themes and add on’s that you can use for your future store. They also offer premium themes (that can cost well over 100 USD) that you can leverage as well.
But even the free themes are acceptable to get started for most new stores, particularly if you’re going to be drop shipping. Because Shopify has their themes outsourced and built by professional designers who focus on conversion and design trends, you’ll have design best practices built in.
So with Shopify you’ll have around 50+ designs to choose from as well as a built in editor to make the store yours. This is critical because I’ve done numerous website reviews and it can be a bit easy to tell when a store is powered by Shopify because the web master made minimal effort to customize the design. If you go the Shopify route, customize your store (using their code free editor!) and make it your own but also take advantage of design best practices for online stores.
Shopify features to help you sell
Shopify as well as WooCommerce focus on the essentials for what is needed for an online store. Shopify is not overly complicated. This is good and bad depending on your needs. For most stores, it’s ideal as it’s easy to setup a store with all the tools already built in. Here are some features that come with your Shopify store account:
- Unlimited file storage and product listings
- Multiple payment processors depending on country.
- Drop shipping integration and adjustable shipping rates
- Unlimited traffic to your Shopify store
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Product review integration
- Product variations and customizations for products
- Mobile optimization and the ability to edit the HTML and CSS
- Customer accounts and profiles for your store.
- Detailed analytics and performance reports.
Shopify is simply a superior website builder for ecommerce. Ideal for any mid-range store due to all these useful features to help you sell products while being easy enough to use on the back end for a single person or a small team of people.
WooCommerce design options
WooCommerce is a freemium WordPress plugin that can integrate with any WordPress theme. How well it integrates really depends on how the theme was designed. If it was designed with e-commerce in mind, then it will work great. If you’re using it on a random theme you may be frustrated by the way it looks and feels on your given theme.
The best place to start for themes would be WooCommerce’s own theme called Storefront (free). Storefront is a theme with a visual editor that allows you to customize the look and feel of your store with ease. Also, there are numerous themes that integrate well with WooCommerce.
When looking at both free and premium themes take not if they mention anything about ecommerce. If they do, that means you can use WooCommerce to easily sell products on your website or blog.
WooCommerce features to help you sell
WooCommerce as we stated in the beginning can do everything Shopify can do. You simply need to purchase the right themes and plugins to put it all together.
- Multiple payment processors like Paypal, Stripe, credit cards and more.
- Can sell digital downloads, software, physical products or products as an affiliate.
- Adjustable shipping an tax rates.
- Stock level management.
- Abandon cart recovery via various plugins.
- Full control over your website thanks in part to WordPress.
WooCommerce gives you all the benefits of WordPress such as control over the design, mobile friends and complete control over your data. Any feature you want to add can be achieved via a plugin specifically designed for the purpose.
Both platforms are robust and offer the critical features you need to run an online store. Both Shopify and WooCommerce each have their respective directories for plugins to add addition features to your store with ease. As WooCommerce is open source, there are much more plugin options to choose from.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce allow you to use PayPal, Stripe and various other 3rd party payments. Shopify also has their own internal Shopify payments (which is powered by stripe). While it varies, Shopify does add a small transaction fee to purchases made. These transaction fees decrease if you upgrade your account to a higher tier.
WooCommerce never charges a transaction fee as it’s a WordPress plugin. You’ll only be paying transaction fees from your payment gateway or bank. To sum it up, Woo Commerce has the advantage IF you’re doing a high volume of transactions. If you’re a small store and you intent on using Shopify payments which has the same rates as credit card rates as PayPal or stripe, it makes no difference
Running a store is a bit more expensive than say a blog or content website. Stores need SSL certs in order to encrypt data when people use their credit cards to buy stuff. Stores need payment processors and payment gateways for again credit cards. Stores need reliable hosting to handle traffic as a slow loading store directly effects people trusting a store and completing a purchase.
Shopify has straight forward pricing on a sliding scale starting with:
- Shopify lite ($9)
- Basic Shopify ($29)
- Shopify ($79)
- Shopify Advanced ($299)
With your Shopify account you get everything you need to have a reliable, secure store store that provides a great user experience including hosting, a domain name and an SSL cert.
Once you pay for your subscription you can choose to use a free or premium template. Premium templates can cost over $100 as a one time fee. Shopify also has their own respective app marketplace with both free and paid apps.
WooCommerce is the self hosted method. While the plugin is free, you’ll need to pay for all the costs associated with having a website and some additional costs on top of that because you’re running a store.
- Hosting with an SSL – I suggest SiteGround ($6.69 introduction rate)
- A .com domain name – You need to register a domain name on your own (10$ a year)
- Plugins – Some features you will want will require a paid plugin
Your costs for running a WooCommerce powered store will be about the same as Shopify depending on what you’re doing. If you’re a blogger who simply wants to sell a simple PDF or a video then WooCommerce is more affordable. If you’re trying to build a full scale ecommerce store then both cost the same.
Shopify could be cheaper for high traffic stores as you get unlimited bandwidth and traffic to your store. With a WooCommerce website you would need to upgrade your web host that could handle a high traffic ecommerce website.
Both platforms can grow with you as your store goes. With Shopify it’s simply a matter of upgrading your account to the next pricing tier if you’re in need of more features or power. With WooCommerce it’s a bit more complicated as you’ll need to upgrade your hosting account.
What we like about Shopify is that with your account (even the the basic Shopify account) you get unlimited bandwidth and unlimited products. This makes it easy for your store to handle large traffic spikes without you encountering a problem.
While all web hosts say that their shared hosting plan has “unlimited” bandwidth, this is simply not true. Once you have a website that is getting 50,000 visitors a month you’re going to need a more expensive plan than the cheapest shared hosting plan. For WooCommerce again, it’s the self managed route. You’ll simply need to pay more for hosting to handle larger amounts of traffic.
My favorite web host for WooCommerce and online stores is SiteGround. They provide fast, reliable hosting for high traffic, ecommerce websites.
WooCommerce vs Shopify – Ease of Use
If you know how to create a website with WordPress, then both Shopify and WooCommerce are equal in their ease of use. Shopify is designed to be user friendly and non-technical.
Shopify is all-in-one website builder
What is great about Shopify is not having to manage security updates, plugin conflicts, SSL certificates and basic coding to achieve desired functions as you would if you go the self managed route with WooCommerce.
With Shopify, it’s a website builder design to make creating an online store fast and easy with you needing to master the technical aspects of ecommerce. You simply signup, create and account and then you’re presented with a user friendly design wizard to get your store up and running.
WooCommerce is DIY
WooCommerce by contrast is simply a WordPress plugin. If you’re going to use WooCommerce it’s ideal you already have a strong understanding of how to use WordPress. Once you activate WooCommerce you’re presented with a setup wizard to walk you through the initial setup of your WooCommerce powered store.
As stated earlier, this is the key reason why I would pick Shopify over WooCommerce. As both cost the same (roughly) to get started, I like having my technical support under one company. Shopify provides 24/7 customer support for any technical aspect of your website.
With WooCommerce, it’s a free plugin and thus you’ll need to use the WooCommerce forums to figure out how to solve your problem. Also if it’s an issue with say your WordPress theme or your site speed – you’ll have to contact the respective support lines for that as WooCommerce support if for the specific plugin.
SEO for WordPress and WooCommerce vs Shopify
Shopify and the overall platform is designed and coded with the best SEO practices in mind. The code is sound and they make editing the meta details for each page simple and straight forward.
For WooCommerce, it’s a WordPress ecommerce plugin. If you want SEO, you have access to dedicated WordPress SEO plugins like Yoast SEO, Rank Math or All in One SEO.
Which is better for SEO?
For a full blown store with multiple products, verticals and categories I would again give it Shopify because they offer unlimited traffic and each store is powered by Shopify’s internal infrastructure. This makes your store fast, which is a big deal for your SEO as well as the overall user experience.
If your store takes 2 or 3 seconds to load a page, people are going to bounce off and give up. For ecommerce websites it’s absolutely essential your website loads fast and it’s easy for the end user to checkout.
This is not to say your store won’t be fast on WordPress with WooCommerce, you just need the right hosting account which is why for ecommerce WordPress websites we like SiteGround.
Shopify vs WooCommerce for selling online
Go with Shopify (14 day free trial) if you’re an individual or a small team of people and want a headache free solution that works. You want to get a store up and running now (not a week from now) and not have to worry about all the technical stuff so you can focus your limited time on marketing.
Go with WooCommerce if you want a self managed route where you’re in control of all aspects of your store or you’re looking for a simple cost effective way to sell digital downloads on your website. Last, find out if you should get your domain name through Shopify or now.