When building an eCommerce store, two leading solutions stand above the rest: WooCommerce and Shopify. In the past few years, interest in Shopify has gradually increased, while interest in WooCommerce has remained relatively stable.
Shopify’s market share in the US is currently about 19% whilst WooCommerce’s share in the same market is over 28%. The two online store building tools are also the world’s two most popular ecommerce platforms amongst the top 1 million sites.
Ultimately, both platforms are reliable and trust-worthy, so if you’re deciding between WooCommerce vs Shopify, how do you know which one is right for you?
To help you answer that question, we put together an in-depth comparison between the two ecommerce platforms.
It’s Shopify vs WooCommerce time!
Woocommerce vs Shopify: Compared Feature Matrix
Approach to Ecommerce
Much like comparing website builder platforms such as Squarespace or Wix to WordPress as a whole, WooCommerce and Shopify take two different approaches to creating and managing your store.
WooCommerce is a self-hosted software that allows you to tap into the code, access and change various parts of your store so that you end up with a fully customized platform that meets your team’s crucial needs.
So if you’re looking for more customization options, and an ecommerce platform that has more flexibility, WooCommerce is the right tool for you. Just keep in mind that the independence that WooCommerce provides comes at the cost of sacrificed beginner-friendliness. To put it another way, you’ll need to be confident managing your site’s technical side and keeping it safe.
Shopify on the other hand, is an all-in-one eCommerce platform that includes everything you’ll need to get started selling online right away. It eliminates the complexities and technical aspects of running an online business and replaces them with easy-to-use tools. While you still have a lot of flexibility, you’re limited to only making the changes that Shopify allows you to make.
In a nutshell, Shopify is a great option if you’re a novice who doesn’t want to worry about stuff like web hosting and security certificates.
Pricing is not an easy feature to compare in WooCommerce vs Shopify. While Shopify offers a simple pricing method that includes three basic plans, WooCommerce’s price may vary depending on what features you choose to use.
If you want to build a WooCommerce store, you should know that the WordPress plugin itself is free. But you will be required to buy a domain name and pay for a hosting provider. Other optional features you might consider are a WordPress theme, various other plugins and extensions and developer fees.
Depending on your choices you can end up paying more or less for a WooCommerce store than you would for one of Shopify’s payment plans ($29, $79 or $299 respectively, based on available features).
The first impact your storefront makes on your customers has the ability to make or break a business, and a positive experience can create long-lasting business relationships. Therefore themes and design are an important aspect of your online store and WooCommerce vs Shopify both try to win you over with their available templates.
Currently, Shopify offers 74 template options, 9 of which are free. Factor in that each theme on Shopify has specific variations, and you are technically getting more than 100 different designs.
The main advantage common to all Shopify templates is that they’re all easily customizable with the simple drag-and-drop feature, and are also responsive to mobile screens (from where an ever increasing number of purchases are made) as well as desktop devices.
When it comes to design options within WooCommerce, the sky’s the limit. You can choose almost any WordPress theme you like (as long as it meets the common recommendations for best practices), and WooCommerce will most likely work with it. However, you will also come across themes that have been built from the ground up with WooCommerce in mind and are specifically designed to make all of your product/service listings look great. If the look and feel of your eCommerce store is especially important to you, you should search for WooCommerce-specific themes.
WooCommerce and Shopify were created to make setting up an online store simple and straightforward. However, the path they take to get there is very different.
Shopify uses a well-streamlined framework that takes you through the entire pipeline, from the beginning to the end, in the fewest steps possible. The entire process can take as little as 1 hour to set up a basic storefront.
Compare that with WooCommerce, which requires you to switch between multiple systems before you finally get your store up and running. Although how long it will take to go from nothing to a fully functional online store on WooCommerce ultimately depends on your skill set, the whole process takes significantly longer than Shopify’s inclusive approach.
Ease of use
A Shopify online store is easy to build and easy to run. Once signed up and set up, you can access every crucial option from your dashboard sidebar and every task you’ll need to perform is pretty intuitive.
Overall, Shopify is accessible to the everyday person, and you don’t need any design or website-building skills to get the most out of it.
WooCommerce, on the other hand, is not a hosted platform of a subscription-based solution like Shopify. It’s a WordPress plugin, which means it requires a pre-existing WordPresss website in order to run. So if you’re starting from scratch, there are a few steps you need to take in order to get your online shop up and running. These include getting a domain name, installing WordPress, signing up for a hosting account, installing a WordPress theme and more.
These steps do require a certain level of familiarity with basic website development and a little more time than going through Shopify’s setup wizard.
Fortunately, after the initial hassle of setting up your WooCommerce store, the platform itself is just as easy to use as Shopify.
It’s also worth noting that because WordPress is an open-end platform, much of the maintenance and security of running your website also falls under your responsibility. Bottom line, there’s a definite learning curve – especially if this is your first WordPress site.
Control over Functionality
As far as hosted platforms go, Shopify is actually one of the more flexible solutions. But it still can’t come close to the control that you get with a self-hosted platform like WooCommerce.
With WooCommerce, you have endless ways to customize your store’s functionality. Just think of all the features available to you : thousands of themes from hundreds of developers, more than 50,000 WordPress plugins (including plugins and extensions that are made specifically for WooCommerce) and, most of all, the ability to add your own code.
Similarly, you can customize your Shopify store with the theme of your choice from their 100+ themes portfolio. You can install one or more of the apps available on the Shopify website and can even add limited custom HTML. But Shopify has hard limitations in place, like their cap of 100 variants per product, no matter which plan you’re on.
Integrations and add-ons
By this point we have seen that WooCommerce is a free, open-source WordPress plugin. It’s a small wonder thus, that it strongly relies on add-ons and third party integrations for most of its tools. Fortunately, there’s an extensive directory of more than 55.000 unpaid plugins that you can get access to in order to make your WooCommerce store truly your own.
On the other hand, Shopify is an all-in-one tool that we’ve seen handles most of the work for you, and does it well. But no matter how well-rounded an ecommerce platform is, you’ll still need to add extensions to your store. Email marketing software, lead generation software, analytics tools, outreach programs, and so on. For moments when you find yourself in need, Shopify is packed with over 2500 apps and extensions which were developed by both in-house teams and third-party developers.
Payment Processing and Transaction Fees
Irrespective of the type of products or services you deal with, it is an undeniable fact that payment processing is at the heart of your eCommerce business.
If you operate an online store, the ultimate goal is always to convert visitors and facilitate their subsequent transactions. Luckily, although different in the way they handle transaction systems and fees, WooCommerce vs Shopify both offer a wide variety of tools to help you with this.
Due to WooCommerce’s open nature and large plugin community, you can find a ton of WooCommerce payment gateways.
First, they offer default payments to PayPal and Stripe. But, in case you want to try another service, WooCommerce also lets you access tons of niche payment gateways through add-ons (think Postgiro – a Swedish gateway; Przelewy24 – a Polish gateway, and tons of other ones you likely never heard of).
WooCommerce will never charge you a transaction fee; however, the associated payment processors will and their fees vary from one provider to the next.
Shopify offers more than one hundred Payment Gateways for you to choose from. Shopify Payments is currently the default payment processor on the platform and you’ll notice that it comes inbuilt on your Shopify dashboard. It’s a secure solution powered by Stripe that can even be used for in-person card payments. The fees for online card transactions through Shopify Payments range between 2.9% + 30¢ USD and 2.4% + 30¢ USD (depending on your plan) and there’s an additional fee of 2.0% to 0.5% for all card transactions processed through third party payment providers.
Which is why accepting card payments sometimes ends up costing you more on Shopify than WooCommerce.
While Shopify does give you access to all of your data, and more ways to tap into it than many other hosted platforms, the live copy remains on Shopify’s servers which means you never really have complete control.
Compared to Shopify, WooCommerce gives you much more control and ownership over your data because it is self-hosted.
Website security is a huge concern in general. When running transactions online and through your own store, it becomes an even bigger issue and important problems can occur if your site or your customer’s data is compromised.
Therefore, you need to make sure that the choice you make between WooCommerce vs Shopify is the one that allows you to protect your customers best.
WooCommerce doesn’t technically have any security measures built-in. Since it runs on WordPress, which is an open-source solution, most of the security falls in your own hands, SSL certificate included. Although WooCommerce can give you all the security features you need, you will have to do more work to get them.
Shopify, on the other hand, covers all security measures for you. It comes with an SSL certificate built-in for free, which basically gives you what you need to safeguard your website and stop information from being tampered with by criminals.
The little padlock graphic visitors see next to your URL has multiple benefits. First, it lets customers know that you’re giving them a safe browsing experience and that their personal and payment information is protected.
Secondly, you get a significant boost for your store SEO.
One of the most effective ways to ensure that your customers find you is through SEO. Since the number one aim of an online store is to draw traffic and convert customers, it’s critical that your website ranks well and is easily found.
In terms of page loading speed, Shopify comes out on top. Because it’s a hosted platform that’s built on huge infrastructure, Shopify is fast. As a result, shops stand a better chance of ranking well and a better chance of leading customers to conversions.
With WooCommerce, your site speed is largely determined by the hosting provider you choose.
In terms of the number of SEO plugins available, WooCommerce comes out on top. Although Shopify provides a wide range of apps to improve your SEO performance on top of their basic SEO capabilities, WooCommerce has a more diverse list of SEO plugins and powerful blogging features (inherited from WordPress) to greatly increase the visibility of your website online.
Overall, WooCommerce and Shopify are comparable in terms of SEO capabilities because both offer strong SEO tools that outperform almost every other contender.
As we’ve already seen, Shopify is an all-in-one fully integrated solution that handles most functions for you. Maintaining and securing your store is no different. Shopify handles any ongoing maintenance, so all you have to worry about is keeping track of the applications you use on your store to ensure they’re still working properly.
The tradeoff that comes with WooCommerce’s increased flexibility and complete data control is all the extra work you need to do in order to maintain and secure your store. WooCommerce does not take care of any of the ongoing maintenance in your stead, so you have the option of handling it yourself or outsourcing it to a professional.
24/7 access to a customer adviser (via email, open chat or phone call), access to an extensive library that covers some of the most common user questions and problem solutions, a community forum. Shopify provides almost any customer support practice you can think of, short of sending you a customer care agent to live with you rent-free, for the duration of you using their services.
The matter of support with WooCommerce isn’t as straightforward. First off, WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin. This means that you can get support through the WordPress forums. However, at the same time, the WooCommerce team also enables everyone to create a free user account over at WooCommerce.com and get support there. Last (but definitely not least), depending on your hosting provider you could get access to some pretty great support features that have the capacity to close the gap between WooCommerce and Shopify’s customer service (think Bluehost’s 24/7 support center).
Shopify vs WooCommerce: Conclusion
No platform, it seems, is ever perfect. They usually come with a collection of fantastic features as well as a set of limitations. What’s important is to make sure the one you choose has everything you need. Ease of use, flexibility, features, payment options and integrations are all essential considerations – and in the WooCommerce vs Shopify show-down, what works for one store owner, may not work for you.
WooCommerce is without a doubt the most popular and highly customizable e-commerce solution around, thanks largely to the popularity and strong credibility of the underlying WordPress platform. This isn’t, however, a one-stop, one-size-fits-all turnkey solution.
Just keep in mind that the independence that WooCommerce provides comes at a cost – a steeper learning curve and some skill in managing your site’s technical side and keeping it safe.
If you’re a novice who wants a more centralized platform with a single source for all of your site’s needed elements, or if you prefer a more “done for you” approach, Shopify may be the right fit for you.