WooCommerce vs Shopify – “WooCommerce or Shopify?” is a question we hear over and over again, so we’ve decided to fully address this question here.
While there are several different e-commerce platforms available, WooCommerce and Shopify are by far the most popular. Similar to Pepsi vs. Coke or Tom vs. Jerry, WooCommerce vs. Shopify is one of the stiffest competitions within the e-commerce landscape.
Have you been thinking about starting an online store, but aren’t sure which platform to build it on? If so, sit tight as we evaluate the two top contestants – WooCommerce and Shopify.
There’s no right or wrong platform. In fact, there’s a very good reason why these platforms are so popular and have such a stiff rivalry. They’re both great platforms to build your e-commerce site on. They are fairly easy to set up and modify, they’re scalable, and they offer great design. However, each platform is designed for a different type of person and business.
If you’re looking for a quick answer – WooCommerce is the better option if you’re serious about your business website, see it as a long term investment, and have either technical skills, willingness to learn, or a developer to help out. If you don’t like hearing ‘no, this isn’t possible’ for an answer and you don’t like limits, WooCommerce is right for you.
Due to its convenience, Shopify is better suited if you want to set up quickly, easily, and don’t foresee expanding or customizing your business website. This platform is an all in one solution to building a store, but it’s costly and is very limited in customization options.
Shopify is priced by plan, and WooCommerce is free but needs a hosting plan. It is more possible to cut costs with WooCommerce than it is with Shopify, but if you need a new feature on your site, you can add it with a free or paid extension in WooCommerce – whereas with Shopify it may not be possible at all to add.
Now we will dive in and take a deeper look at each platform and how to decide which one is right for you.
WooCommerce and Shopify differ in the way that they’re structured. They each have different options and features that should be taken into account when deciding which platform is right for you. The best platform will be determined by your individual needs and how serious you are about your business, how many features you will need, and how invested you are in long-term success and returns.
Before we dive into features, we’re going to give you a quick run down on what each platform is and how it works.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is a hosted platform that gives you an all-in-one solution to build and manage an e-commerce store for a monthly fee. The features depend on the plan you select, and the store is yours for as long as you pay for Shopify’s services. Check out their current plans and pricing here.
• It’s a paid platform – you have fixed costs for every month
• No coding skills required
• The store can be online or offline using their POS system
• Free and Premium themes to choose from
• They have 24/7 support
• Free subdomain included (yourstore.shopify.com)
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is a free, open source WordPress plugin that allows you to build e-commerce functionality into a WordPress website. It offers all of the features you would expect from an e-commerce platforms, and allows you to build in any type of additional features or functionality by installing extensions. Because it’s an open source plugin, there are no limits to what you can achieve with WooCommerce. Unlike with Shopify where you will hit walls, you will never hear a developer say “that’s not possible” to any idea you may come up with. If you can dream it, you can build it.
A few important points about WooCommerce:
• Free plugin for WordPress (also free)
• Need a WordPress website
• Need to have hosting and a domain
• All in one website software with unlimited options
• Involved slightly technical setup
• Good for people with or without web development experience
• Free, paid or completely custom coded designs
• Unlimited customizations using free and paid extensions
• Limited support, but very helpful community/support system
In order to build a WooCommerce Store you need to have a domain and a host. If you already have a website, you likely already have both of these.
At it’s core and without any extensions, WooCommerce offers almost everything that Shopify starts you out with. Here’s a few of the most common/basic features:
• Tax settings and suggestions, including different tax rates and classes needed to sell anywhere in the world
• Payment gateways, including Cash on Delivery, PayPal and BACS
• Sales, inventory, and general store reports
• Ability to leave reviews, use coupons and discounts
• Ability to create product categories as well as up sells and cross sells.
WooCommerce vs Shopify – Price
Pricing is important to everyone, and while we would love to give you one straightforward answer telling you which one is more/less expensive. There are a quite a few different aspects of each platform to look at. Shopify is a paid platform offering different pricing tiers, while WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that requires hosting – and can be extended with paid add-ons. The price of each one will depend on you – by what Shopify plan you select, or what extensions you add to your WooCommerce store.
As we mentioned earlier, Shopify is a paid service, and you will have to pay a monthly fee to use it. At the time of this post, the prices range from $29/month to $299/month. Find current plans and pricing here.
In exchange for the price, Shopify gives you convenience. It delivers you an out-of-the-box solution to build an online store. As soon as you sign up, you’ll have all the basic tools you need to sell products (you will still have to invest time into setting up and building your store). While this may sound great, it also means that you’ll have fixed costs even before you start selling. It also means that if you want to add extra functionality to your store, you will have to upgrade to a higher plan. You cannot simply choose the tools you want. You have to purchase a whole package. If at any point you can’t cover your monthly plan, your store will go offline and you will be unable to even showcase your products or your website.
It’s important to note that with Shopify you are basically renting/leasing a store. It is yours as long as you pay, but if you stop paying, you may no longer use the store or the website you created.
WooCommerce is a free plugin. The only fixed cost out of the gate will be the hosting plan you host your website on. Although you will have to pay for any extra functionality you add to the store, you can determine exactly what to pay for. This is great for anyone who understands investing time on marketing and store setup. They can begin setup without purchasing any additional tools, and then purchase them only when they are within the budget. Hosting, extensions, and an SSL will need to be taken into consideration, but the combined price of these is typically lower than even the lowest of Shopify’s monthly plans.
The total cost to start your store will depend on the features you need. However, the money you put into a WooCommerce store is an investment. You own your WooCommerce store, and you do not have to pay monthly fees to maintain it. The platform is much more scalable, and it allows you to grow your business while keeping your costs down. You have the opportunity to turn your store into an asset that increases the value of your business.
Want to offer a customized/personalized product? Not too easy with Shopify. With WooCommerce, you can add a $79 extension - and be set to go.
At a minimum, you will need a domain, a hosting plan and an SSL, which you may already have if you already have a website. A domain costs about $10/year, an SSL costs about $40/year, and hosting will depend on your provider and the plan you select – it starts from around $75+ per year. You could be paying anywhere from $5/month – $29/month to run your store. Additional costs may be incurred if you decide to purchase a theme or additional plugins.
With WooCommerce you decide exactly what you pay for, so you can make a small budget go a lot further. WooCommerce is definitely the money saving option that can be built to be as simple or complex as you want it to be. One of the best features of this platform is that it’s very scalable.
A simple way to look at it is that Shopify is like renting a furnished apartment, while WooCommerce is like buying a house. Shopify/renting gives you convenience, less to worry about, and you can expect everything to work. If not, call the landlord/support. WooCommerce is an investment, you will have a strong foundation with most of what you need, but you will be responsible for adding to it, purchasing furniture, and doing a lot of the work yourself.
WooCommerce vs Shopify – Setup
Shopify is easier to set up than WooCommerce. Is easier better? On this platform you pay a monthly fee, and with their lowest plan you have the bare minimum to make sales. Higher monthly plans will include additional features. It’s simple and easy, but the downside is that Shopify stores are not very customizable.
Want to set up a simple abandoned cart recovery system? With WooCommerce, add in a $49 extension and you're set. With Shopify, you'll have to upgrade to their $79/month plan.
WooCommerce is also quite simple to setup. It only becomes more complicated or technical as you decide to add additional features. However, your store can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. This platform may be more technical, but it allows you to do much more.
Because WooCommerce allows you to choose from hundreds of thousands of extensions, the platform is naturally more technical. However, you can do much more with it. If you’d like to start small and then scale up later, that’s completely possible. You can build in memberships, customizable/variable products, sell services, take bookings, appointments and more! If you can dream it, you can do it,
WooCommerce vs Shopify – Features
As we mentioned earlier, WooCommerce is an open source platform. This means that anyone can modify the code to completely customize the platform and add features – there’s absolutely no limit to what you can do with WooCommerce.
In terms of product customization and features, Shopify offers limited options. It only offers three default product attributes, which are size, material, and color.
With WooCommerce, on the other hand, you can sell any type of product or service you can think of. you can create any attribute with any number of variations – which you specify. As you can see in the screenshot below, you may select from four different product types
and if you select ‘variable product;, you may name each attribute, and define every variation.
It may require more technical knowledge, but if you’re serious about your store and want to have more control over it, WooCommerce is the better option. You will be able to create any type of product you wish, add any options, and any functionalities. There’s a plugin for just about anything you can think of – and if there isn’t, you can always build it!
WooCommerce vs Shopify – Design
WooCommerce’s design options are much more intricate than Shopify’s. Shopify is designed for people who put ease of use at the top of their priorities and do not mind having a template-looking store. Because WooCommerce can be incorporated into any WordPress site and theme, the store’s design can have much more variety. Your store is just as customizable as your site. If you’re familiar with WordPress, you probably already know that the options are endless.
With WooCommerce, you can either choose from millions of WordPress/WooCommerce themes to customize or have your developer build your own for you. Need to tweak it? Easy to do with WooCommerce, not so easy with Shopify.
WooCommerce vs Shopify – Support
Shopify wins on free/included support. You pay a premium for convenience and support. This platform is designed for people with less technical skills and the lack of customizations options means you probably won’t need too much support. Nevertheless, it’s there if you need it – every Shopify user has access to 24/7 support.
WooCommerce is very well documented, so even if you don’t have technical skills and have never used it – you will be able to set up your store. Their support team is there to help and solve any major issues, but their support is nowhere near as prompt and personal as Shopify’s. However, the availability of a very helpful WooCommerce community, and very competitive WooCommerce developers makes it very easy to accomplish something in WooCommerce that’s out of your technical range.
WooCommerce also has a very strong community and support network among it’s users. You will find forums, Facebook groups and more that you may join to ask for support.
The right platform for you depends on the type of person you are and what your business goals are. If you prefer to go the easy and simple route, or if you’re simply trying to build a store quickly, Shopify is right for you. If you want to invest effort into building a strong brand, store and website that you have complete control and ownership over – and turn that into an asset for your business, then WooCommerce is the best option for you.
As you may see across their sites, their marketing messages differ. Shopify’s messages focus on ease and convenience, while WooCommerce brings attention to their endless customization options and scalability.
As well as the fact that their platform is simple enough for an average person to build, yet customizable enough to be suited for a developer.
Which message speaks to you? Quick and easy or customizable, robust and expandable?
If you chose the latter and you want to build a long-lasting store without cutting corners or going the easy way, we encourage you to begin building your store on WooCommerce. After we’ve built hundreds of stores using this platform, we’ve created a guide to building your first WooCommerce store, covering every step from A-Z.
Download Our Free WooCommerce Guide to Setup Your First Store!
And don’t forget to check out our additional resources:
Also published on Medium.