Last updated - April 14, 2020
Are you planning to set up an eCommerce store? Are you not sure which platform is the best for you? Read on, as we are going to compare two eCommerce giants – WooCommerce vs Shopify. We intend to provide a basic understanding on how both these platforms work. In addition, we will look deep into some of the specific components of an eCommerce store, and try to understand how each of these solutions fare. By the end of this article, you should have a clear idea on the suitable eCommerce platform for your products and business strategies.
Statistics on popularity
According to BuiltWith data, there are currently 606,200 live websites using WooCommerce. At the same time, there are 987,866 live websites using Shopify that they know of. Looking at it another way, out of the top one million sites, WooCommerce powers 21%, whereas Shopify takes 18% share.
WooCommerce vs Shopify – The fundamental difference
The fundamental difference between WooCommerce and Shopify would be in the site hosting. WooCommerce is based on WordPress, which is a self-hosted content management system.You will have to make your own arrangements for domain name registration and hosting. Shopify, on the other hand, is a hosted solution. That means Shopify will manage your store’s hosting aspects and you don’t have to worry about it.
This will have an impact while setting up the store, as well as in the pricing considerations. To set up a WooCommerce store, you have to first set up a WordPress site, and then install the free WooCommerce plugin to get started. With Shopify, you can get started with a free trial and then choose a pricing package suitable for your business.
That means you need to have a certain level of technical knowledge, or have to go for a managed WordPress hosting service to set up an online store with WooCommerce. In contrast, you can very easily set up a store using Shopify. However, do not decide one is better than the other based on the hosting parameter alone. This difference itself will lead you to very different approaches during the growth stages of your online store.
The trick is to assess your requirements, technical skills and limitations, and find the most suitable one for your business. Hope this detailed analysis of several eCommerce related aspects will help you get clarity in choosing the most suitable platform for your store.
Setting up your store
The approach of both these platforms are entirely different with the initial set up process.
You have to set up a self hosted WordPress site to be able to use WooCommerce. For this, first you have to register a domain name, and then get a suitable hosting service. Both will cost you money, depending on the choice that you make.
Now, once you have set up a WordPress website, you can install WooCommerce (which is a free plugin you can install).
Understand how to install WordPress here.
Learn more about setting up WooCommerce here.
Once you install WordPress, getting started with it is quite easy, as you will get help from a set up wizard. This will help you configure all the basic aspects of your store such as payment gateway integration, shipping settings, etc., and help you get started.
Shopify, on the other hand, deals with all this quite smoothly. You can simply enter your email id, set a password, and get started with the 14-day trial of Shopify. Enter a few details about your store, your address, phone number, and you will be greeted with a welcome page.
You can manage all this within a few minutes with Shopify. Compared to WooCommerce, this is a much smoother process. If you already have a WordPress site, and you are familiar with the ecosystem, WooCommerce is pretty easy to set up. However, if you are a complete beginner, you will find the setting up process a breeze. If you prefer to not worry about site maintenance, and would rather pay a recurring fee for that, Shopify is for you.
WooCommerce might prove to be a little tough to set up for absolute beginners as they have to choose a hosting plan and domain name on their own. If you are able to manage that part, WooCommerce too has a smooth user interface, which is easily manageable.
The pricing perspective
Now, let’s address the pricing aspect of both these platforms.
Two major pricing concerns for a WooCommerce store are in fact before you even set up a store. As you have already seen, this is to get a domain name and hosting service for your WordPress site.
Here is a list of popular domain registrars you can use to register a domain name for your website:
|Domain Registrar||Starting Price|
Please remember, when you register for certain hosting plans, you will get a domain name free of cost.
You can also go through some of the most popular hosting services offering Managed WordPress hosting in the below table.
|Hosting Service||Starting Price|
However, the WooCommerce plugin is free, which you can install easily on your WordPress site. Once you install WooCommerce, you will get access to a set of basic features for free. Later on, depending on the specific requirements of your store, you can extend the functionalities of WooCommerce using free and premium plugins.
You can read about the WooCommerce pricing perspective in detail here.
Moving on to Shopify, you need to choose a suitable subscription plan for your store by the time your free trial ends. There are different plans available, tailor made for different requirements.
The Shopify pricing plan has three tiers – “Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify”. The Basic package costs $29 per month, the intermediate one is priced at $79 per month, and you have to shell out $299 per month to get the Advanced package. Depending on your store strategy, you can choose a suitable plan.
Please note that Shopify charges you a transaction fee for each transaction you make through your Shopify-powered online store. And this transaction fees vary according to the pricing plan that you choose. For example, the transaction fee is 2% for the Basic package, and it comes to as low as 0.5% for the Advanced package.
You need to really give in a lot of effort and thoughts in getting the right design for your online store. It determines how your site will appear to your customers, along with defining the user experience. Both WooCommerce and Shopify gives ample options to help you choose a suitable design taking into account your product range. Let’s how each one fares in a head-on WooCommerce vs Shopify comparison.
When it comes to WooCommerce, design options are numerous. However, due to the abundant choice, you might need to work a bit to select the most suitable theme for your WooCommerce store. When you are starting out with WooCommerce, the best option would be to go with the in-house theme, Storefront. It packs a punch with flawless integration with WooCommerce and all the associated plugins. Moreover, it has a variety of child themes that you can use to suit your specific business strategy and set of products. And if you want to create your own Storefront child theme, it is not that difficult too.
Furthermore, you can get a large number of WooCommerce themes to help you set up a unique website. If you don’t want to go for the premium options, you can checkout some of the best free WooCommerce themes here as well.
Shopify offers a range of high quality free and premium themes on their own store. You will find around 60 premium themes and 10 free ones on the Shopify themes store. The design is a top class that many experienced designers prefer the in-house themes for Shopify. All Shopify themes are responsive and portray a modern sensibility of design and aesthetics. The pricing might be a little too high for the premium ones, but you can opt for the free themes too when on a budget. There are several third-party options as well, where you can find awesome Shopify themes.
Setting up a payment gateway is one of the primary necessities of an eCommerce shop. Your customers should be able to make the transaction and smoothly checkout from your store, after placing an order.
WooCommerce offers a few offline payment options like check payment, direct bank transfer, etc., as default options. You will also find free options like PayPal and Stripe, that will help you accept payments online. With free options itself, you can accept payments through major credit cards. There are several premium payment gateway options as well, which you can integrate based on the requirement.
WooCommerce has an edge when you have to integrate regional payment gateway companies on your store. The WordPress ecosystem allows companies to easily create an integration plugin and support the stores using them. This provides a lot of convenience to store owners when using WooCommerce irrespective of the location.
Another important advantage of WooCommerce when it comes to payment gateway integration is transaction charges. WooCommerce doesn’t charge you based on the number of orders or transactions. However, if there are any charges related to the payment gateway you are using, you are bound to pay that. For example, Stripe and PayPal charge customer 2.9% + 30¢ for each transaction you process through them.
Shopify has its own payment option powered by Stripe. This will be available in all the countries where Stripe is available. If you are using Shopify from other regions, you can integrate your payment of choice from a range of options. You can easily configure the payment option on Shopify by setting up the permissions on your gateway account.
Search engine optimization is a very important matter for online stores. It is through good search ranking that your customers are going to find you. Fortunately, both WooCommerce and Shopify has good SEO features. Let’s look at how a direct comparison of WooCommerce vs Shopify would work.
Because of the fact that WordPress is quite dedicated to SEO features, WooCommerce owners can rest assured. There are quite a few good external solutions to help you with SEO aspects. Plugins like Yoast SEO will be a great help in optimizing the content on your site. However, you have to be careful with the choice of your hosting plan, as it can affect your page loading speed. It is better to understand the impact of the hosting service on page speed and SEO of a WooCommerce store.
You can read more about WooCommerce SEO solutions here.
Shopify has great features to make sure search engines rank your online store well. In the back end, Shopify offers a great linking structure that will make sure search engines take notice of your site. Also, Shopify ensures the page loading speed is good for your site. Moreover, integrated SEO features such as image optimization, meta description, etc., are available with along with SSL certificate for all pricing packages. If your site is on Shopify, you can be assured of great search engine rankings.
Security of your site cannot be taken lightly at any point. Before choosing one of these platforms for your eCommerce store, you should be well aware how they handle security.
The security of your site is your responsibility if you are using WooCommerce. You may have to talk to your hosting service provider to understand the security measures. In addition, you will also have to get an SSL certificate as well as take measures to ensure PCI compliance. In addition, you will find a lot of plugins that will help you set up solid security measures on your WooCommerce store.
Now, you can absolutely stop worrying about security if you are using Shopify. It offers built-in SSL certification and PCI compliance, which will be a huge relief for several shop owners. In addition, they will handle any security breaches that might happen on your store.
If you know a thing or two about maintaining your site, you can easily take care of your WooCommerce store’s security, as there are several solutions. On the other hand if you don’t want to get into any of the security hassles, Shopify might be more suitable for you.
Control over data and functionality
When you are owning an eCommerce store, it is important to know how much of it you are actually controlling. This is very much relevant at this time when data privacy and security have huge implications on site owners.
With WooCommerce, you are the sole owner of your data. There is no other controlling factor at all. Just like that, you will be also in control of the code, plugins and themes as well. In fact, this helps you create a unique website based on your ideas making use of the foundation set up by WordPress and WooCommerce. The flexibility that an on-premises solution offers is huge, and that is a big reason for its popularity. Moreover, you can find a huge number of resources to help you extend the functionalities of your store. And, if you know coding, or if you have the help of a good developer, you can manage a lot with custom code as well.
On the other hand, Shopify doesn’t offer the same control to store owners in handling data and functionality. Compared to other similar SaaS-based solutions, Shopify is really much better in this aspect. It provides access to data via an API, as well as allows you to export and back up. However, the data of your live site will be still in Shopify servers and that means you have only limited control over it.
Analytics is an essential aspect for the growth of any eCommerce store. So, the platform that you choose to set up your eCommerce store should give you good analytics options. Both WooCommerce and Shopify offers good reporting features.
On your WooCommerce store, you will see a section for Reports. Here you will find separate sections for:
Under each you can customize the report to a specific metric or date range. For example, you can view the sales figure for last 7 days or for the last month as per your requirement. Similarly, you can easily get reports on Stock and Taxes as well. You can easily integrate your WooCommerce store with Google Analytics as well to understand the user interaction with your website. There are several user friendly tools available to integrate WooCommerce store with Google Analytics.
Shopify analytics offers you detailed insights on store performance as well as customer behavior. The Analytics dashboard of Shopify offers extensive data related to your sales such as total order, average order value, conversion rate, etc. From the Reports section, you can view separate reports for:
- Profit Margin
In addition, you can also generate customized reports based on several parameters like sales over time, choice of payment methods, tax collection details, etc.
This is where you actually see the effect of a good eCommerce platform. Thankfully, both Shopify and WooCommerce excel in this area with splendid options to add functionalities. It is more about the flexibility to adapt to unique business cases than presenting an elaborate set of features.
WooCommerce, by default, has a fundamental set of features to run a small eCommerce store. However, one of the most loved aspects of WooCommerce is its awesome flexibility to allow extend your store’s features as you want. WooCommerce has its own set of extensions on a varied range of functionalities. On top of that, several third-party developers are actively offering good quality WooCommerce plugins at competitive rates and with awesome support. WooCommerce users definitely have an advantage with the open source model of WordPress, where you can find a plugin for every imaginable feature.
And, it is very easy to install and set up a plugin too. Here is a good article to help you understand the process of installing and setting up a plugin on your WooCommerce store.
You can find reliable plugins to extend your WooCommerce site from the following resources:
As mentioned above, Shopify is an all-inclusive package which has a large set of features specific to each pricing plan. So naturally, you have the option to move to an advanced pricing plan as and when needed. In addition, the Shopify App store has plugins on various functionalities including Accounting, Shipping, Email Marketing, etc. The good thing here is that the options included in the basic package will be adequate in a lot of cases. You can also find several Shopify themes to customize the look and feel of your site. As far as customization is concerned, Shopify allows to enhance the theme, products, price, checkout, etc. to suit your specific requirements.
Support and custom maintenance
When you are using a software tool, it is natural to encounter issues on a regular basis. What makes the difference is how you are able to solve it pretty quickly. And it becomes more important when your business is solely dependent on the software. Let’s see how WooCommerce vs Shopify results are when it comes to offering support.
WooCommerce is largely a DIY tool, and that sort of reflects in their support scenario as well. Since it’s a free tool, you can look for support in WordPress forum and WooCommerce official site, once you log in. However, you can find companies offering dedicated support for WooCommerce users. Moreover, if you are using external plugins, you can get dedicated support from individual developers. Social media forums related to WooCommerce are also quite active. Overall, if you prefer to find solutions to your problems yourself, you will like the approach of WooCommerce in support.
And, the customization options are awesome too. People with coding knowledge can do a lot of WoooCommerce customization on their own using hooks. You can even hire the services of companies that work on WooCommerce customization according to your needs.
Shopify has dedicated support for its users 24/7. Users can contact them via phone, email or live chat whenever they face an issue. On top of that, there is a great knowledge base and extensive documentation to help with self-service.
WooCommerce vs Shopify – Which one should you choose?
For an eCommerce store owner, there are multiple aspects to consider when setting up a store. Both WooCommerce and Shopify offers great features to ensure that you can run a great store that ensures user experience. However, there are marked differences that would appeal differently to users. For example, some users would prefer the all in one package deal of Shopify, compared to the “build your store as you want it” model of WooCommerce. And, there will be others who prefer WooCommerce, as it gives them complete control over their own data. And, there will be still some, who would not prefer the hassles of hosting that they may have to encounter with WooCommerce.
Therefore, we will conclude that it is a matter of personal choice to go by any one of the platforms. Hopefully, this article has covered enough ground to help you make a decision. Let us know if you want to share a specific point to the WooCommerce vs Shopify debate.