WooCommerce vs. Shopify a Comparison

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For the first time many brick-and-mortar stores are finally making the shift to offering products online. If you’re looking to venture into eCommerce, a side-by-side comparison of WooCommerce vs. Shopify might help you decide. This holiday shopping season is going to look a lot different than seasons past. With COVID-19 still raging across the country, more and more shoppers are going to rely on online shopping to complete their holiday shopping. 

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a plugin that will turn your WordPress site into an online store. If you know how to code (or can hire someone that does), you can create an extensive and unique shopping experience for your customers. 

However, since WooCommerce is a plugin, you’ll still be responsible for hosting, security, and a range of other behind-the-scenes processes. WooCommerce is infinitely scalable and can be fully customized. When you are getting started and you opt to use free plugins, you may later have to spend thousands of dollars to get yourself out of that hole. 

WooCommerce users don’t simplify enough – if only because they have the ability to customize extensively. Human nature adds more features, by adding irrelevant functionality, means you have to pay more for hosting and you complain about costs, and it is your fault. 

Shopify

Offering ease of use and beautiful templates, Shopify will have your site up and running in no time flat. Since Shopify is an all-in-one platform, you’ll never have to worry about the technical aspects of your online store (such as security) and you’ll be able to build your site, make sales, and manage your inventory all from one place. 

“Shopify works great if you fit into the mold they have created for stores. We have worked with many clients who have major successes working with Shopify” -Patrick

Keep in mind once your site is built in Shopify then it cannot be moved anywhere else easily. This means you need to rebuild the site and replatform it on a different content management system. All of your data is still intact and can be exported to another platform. This data would include orders, products, customer information and order history. Once you have the data you can rebuild your site on a different platform. Although it can be done it is not as straightforward as if you were to choose to move your WordPress site to different hosting companies. 

Pros and Cons

A pros and cons list can help you make a lot of decisions – weighing what’s best for you or business. Thoroughly understanding all of your options can be very useful. Choosing an eCommerce platform might feel overwhelming, but we’ve compiled a list of the pros and cons of WooCommerce vs. Shopify to help. 

Ease of Use

For many, choosing the simplest option can be best – maybe you’re the set-it-and-forget-it-crockpot-chef. However, not everyone prefers simplistic over technical. It all comes down to how technically savvy you are. You need to decide how much time you want to dedicate to building your store. You should also decide if you would rather hire someone to help you create your store. 

If you have minimal technical knowledge and want a do-it-yourself option then starting with Shopify could be a good option. This is an easy start option. Shopify is great if you plan to have a smaller number of sales. 

WooCommerce is also a good do-it-yourself option, but there is a little more set up involved. However, if you plan on a higher volume of sales then this would be one to consider. WooCommerce will continue to scale and you can move it to different hosting platforms as you need.

Hosting

Shopify is a hosted platform – that simply means that the technical aspects of running an online store are not the user’s responsibility. Whether it’s your domain, security certification, or software updates, Shopify makes these connections easier. Keep in mind these aspects are not free, you still need to purchase your domain, but they can roll them into your monthly payment. 

On the flip side, WooCommerce requires an understanding – or a willingness to learn – of how to use WordPress. It also requires that you source your own hosting service and security certification. While these are certainly not difficult tasks, they are additional steps you’ll need to take. Many hosting companies provide SSL certificates nowadays, so this could still be straightforward. 

Developing a WooCommerce or Shopify store

Building

If you want to get your online store up and running immediately – or you don’t have faith in your technical abilities – Shopify is the option to check out. With an intuitive drag-and-drop system and thousands of themes and apps to choose from, you can create and take your site live quickly.

Creating an online store with Shopify basically only takes 3 steps:

  • Create a Shopify account 
  • Select & purchase a domain name (or sync one you already own)
  • Select a theme 

The downside to using Shopify is that you have very little control as you can only use the tools, interfaces, and add-ons available in the Shopify marketplace. 

WooCommerce, however, is a WordPress plugin that gives you more control over what you create but does have a bit of a learning curve. WordPress is an open-source platform that offers hundreds of thousands of customizable themes (or you can build one from scratch) as well as over 55,000 plugins. If this is your first WordPress site, you’ll need to install WordPress and get comfortable with their interface and then install WooCommerce. While the WooCommerce set-up guide is helpful, it is definitely aimed at users with some technical skills. 

Features

If you really want to compare WooCommerce vs. Shopify, the feature set is where you want to start. While both sites offer these features, you’ll notice that some are included and some are an add-on service. 

“No matter where your store is, the cost differences are really marginal. I advise clients to choose based on features instead of price when choosing between Shopify and WooCommerce.” – Patrick

Abandoned Cart Recovery

Have you ever added a few things to your cart and then been distracted or unsure of your purchase? If you have, and then later you received an email with a gentle reminder to complete your purchase, that is abandoned cart recovery. 

This tool is a standard tool that is included in Shopify plans but is not included in WooCommerce plans. But through other plugins or SaaS options, WooCommerce also handles this with ease. 

Cart abandonment is troublesome, especially for small business owners. In fact, eCommerce brands lose about $18B in sales to abandoned carts each year as nearly 70% of shoppers abandon their carts prior to checkout. 

Shipping

Seamless shipping options are crucial for both buyers and sellers. Shopify and WooCommerce both allow you to offer free shipping and ship across the globe. Shopify has partnerships with major shipping companies such as USPS, DHL, and UPS. 

WooCommerce integrates seamlessly with all major shipping companies and will even automatically add shipping costs and taxes to orders. 

Payment Methods

Shopify and WooCommerce both offer over a hundred ways for sellers to accept payments. The main payment methods for each options are: 

  • PayPal 
  • Stripe
  • Credit and Debit cards
  • Apple Pay 
  • Square

Shopify offers Shopify Payments, which is an internal payment gateway. If you choose to use external (read: third party) payment gateways, Shopify charges an additional 2% transaction fee. Alternatively, WooCommerce does not charge any transaction fees itself. You’ll only ever pay fees to the payment provider, like PayPal. Unless you choose to utilize WooCommerce Payments. Then there is a 2.9% + $.30 transaction fee, with no monthly or setup cost.

Specifically for subscription sites there is a bigger difference between Shopify and WooCommerce. WooCommerce is able to offer a more cohesive experience whereas Shopify requires two separate checkouts. Even though it feels right when setting it up, the user experience is not where we would like it to be. For these reasons when it comes to subscriptions we usually lean towards WooCommerce over Shopify.   

The differences in WooCommerce vs Shopify

Scalability

When it comes to scalability – growing your site alongside your sales – these two sites each have their own pros and cons. 

With Shopify, scaling up your site to meet the needs of your business is as simple as upgrading your Shopify plan. Upgrading means they charge you more money to allow for more transactions. 

Shopify scales on sites that most people won’t see – those sites used to break Shopify. They learned what we learned and it is in their core platform now – infinite scalability on Shopify but less control. When Shopify goes down you have to wait for them to fix it.

You’ll need to upgrade your WooCommerce store as well. But since you are in control of your site it could be as simple as increasing your server capacity. Since you are also managing all of your own plugins and security you know exactly what is on your site and can optimize accordingly. 

“I know I am from Texas, but when it comes to WooCommerce you can do anything you want with it. It is like being handed a loaded gun – you can shoot yourself in the foot with it.” – Patrick

Marketing Tools

Marketing is a very important part of your online business. Connecting with new and prospective customers is arguably the most crucial, and sometimes challenging, aspect of running an online store. Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer tools to help you achieve your marketing goals. 

Email Marketing

Email marketing is your main form of communication with your customers and is one of the most important marketing tools. Through use of plugins, both Shopify and WooCommerce offer email marketing tools. With apps such as Constant Contact, Shopify store owners can run multiple email campaigns. Similarly, you can use MailChimp with WooCommerce to create personalized email marketing campaigns. Not to mention SaaS providers like ConvertKit or Active Campaign that work with Shopify and WooCommerce. 

Social Media Integration

All Shopify and WooCommerce sites can be fully integrated with social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Both of these platforms use plugins and extensions for these integrations. 

Search Engine Optimization 

SEO is paramount to ensuring your store is appearing in relevant search engine results. When shoppers search for products like yours, you want to make sure that you show up. 

WooCommerce was built with code optimized for SEO and its WordPress integration means you have access to a huge selection of SEO plugins, such as Yoast. Yoast is simple to use and has excellent customer support. However, if you don’t want to use Yoast, WooCommerce and WordPress offer more options than Shopify. Additionally, you fully control meta-descriptions with WooCommerce. Shopify also has excellent SEO tools, specifically SEO Booster, and also allows you to add some basic SEO descriptions to your products. However, their SEO options are not as robust as WooCommerce. 

“Shopify’s content management system is really an afterthought. Shopify is an eCommerce solution that has content. WordPress was built for content management and now has a robust eCommerce solution that can be attached to it. Many people decide to use these together. Shopify for eCommerce and WordPress for content management.” – Patrick

Customer Support

Shopify offers 24/7 customer support through a myriad of channels: live chat, phone, and email. Furthermore, Shopify has an extensive library of guides, a very helpful community forum, and an easy setup wizard. 

WooCommerce itself offers general support but a large piece of support depends directly on the plugins and extensions that you purchase. Free plugins can be tempting, but the support is not always reliable. The small fees associated with use of premium plugins is well worth the perks.  

Security

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates are important for a couple of reasons

  • Provides security when handling customer payments and personal information 
  • Let’s your customers know your site is safe and secure, leading to additional conversion
  • Is favored by Google, increasing your sites SEO value

If you move or build your store on Shopify – and you want an SSL certificate – you have to wait until their system propagates it and that can take up to 24 hours. While WooCommerce requires users to source their own SSL certificate, most hosting providers offer SSL certificates when you sign up for a hosting plan. 

Cost 

Shopify has set pricing and their plans range anywhere from $29 to $299 per month. This set pricing includes things such as hosting, domain, security, etc. WooCommerce is free but you are going to pay separately for the items included in the Shopify plans. The great thing about the cost of WooCommerce is that you can tailor it to meet your specific needs and don’t end up paying for services you don’t use. Depending on who you choose for hosting, if you need to pay someone for site design, etc., WooCommerce is actually the more cost-effective choice. 

Cost especially comes into play with enterprise plans. Shopify Plus starts at $2,000/month whereas WooCommerce costs remain constant with no surprises as your sales increase. 

But remember what Patrick, the CEO of Mindsize says, when it comes to cost these platforms pretty much equal out. Fans of each point fingers to the other one that their costs are higher, but from his experience with WooCommerce and Shopify the costs are pretty equal.

When it comes down to it, the pros and cons of WooCommerce vs. Shopify really depends on what your business needs. If you are looking to start selling immediately and want something simple and intuitive to use for your online business, Shopify is the way to go. However, if you have the time and the technical expertise to utilize WooCommerce, you will likely appreciate the control you have over your site. 

Regardless of the eCommerce platform you use, Mindsize can help you optimize your site by helping you increase your conversion rate, integrate a number of processes, and ensure that you’re providing a consistent experience for your customers.