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WooCommerce vs Shopify: Which one is your best option?

Joanne Amos's Layout avatar

Today, eCommerce is big business and with more options than ever to set up your online store, it’s never been easier to make the leap and become part of the online retail space.

There are several things to consider when setting up your store, but one of the most important decisions is which platform you’re going to use to power it. Over the last few years, several new platforms have sprung up. Of these, two of the biggest players are WooCommerce and Shopify.

Both solutions have their advantages and disadvantages, but how do you know which is right for your business? Here’s a comprehensive overview to help you decide.

The basics

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that’s been around since 2011, and has the ability to turn your website into a fully functioning store. An open source project from WooThemes, it’s renowned for its bespoke features, expansive customization options, intuitive interface, and virtually non-existent transaction fees.

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Shopify

Launched in 2006, Shopify is an all-in-one platform that powers around 100,000 online stores. It’s one of the best cloud-hosted eCommerce solutions around, and includes hosting, security, and design templates. Stores are hosted on Shopify’s own servers, but you don’t have access to the backend code, meaning your customization options are limited.

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Design

WooCommerce

Aesthetically, your options are limitless with WooCommerce, as long as you have the time and knowledge to customize it as you would like. Because it was created by WooThemes, it works with all of their themes and you have the choice of 5 free themes and numerous paid options ranging from $79 to $139. However, it can also be integrated into virtually any WordPress theme.

Shopify

Shopify looks pretty good straight out of the box. There are 11 free themes to choose between, all responsive, with a sleek, clean aesthetic, and a number of color options. In addition, there are paid themes costing up to $150 that look even better, as you might expect.

The downside of Shopify is because many themes are ready to go, people generally do very little customization, and even then their options are limited, so many Shopify stores end up looking pretty similar. It also uses Liquid, a programming language designed specifically for Shopify, whereas WooCommerce uses PHP, which is far more familiar for most developers.

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Features

WooCommerce

As an open-source platform, WordPress is renowned for the number and variety of extensions and plugins created by third-party developers to enhance the appearance and functionality of its sites. This is also true with WooCommerce, which offers an amazing level of flexibility and customization options.

Whether you want to play with the back-end to control the appearance and functionality of your site, beef up your front-end options, sell on Facebook, or ramp up your marketing, you can always find an extension to suit your needs. In this respect, it’s way more powerful than Shopify.

Shopify

Shopify is an easy-to-use platform, and the Shopify App Store offers monthly subscriptions for hundreds of new features and integration options. You will need to install some apps to make the most of your store, but there are many free options available. However, users are restricted in terms of customization options due to the inability to access the back-end to make the most of the platform and make the changes that some businesses require.

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Pricing Options

WooCommerce

There are several things to consider when it comes to comparing prices for WooCommerce and Shopify. As long as you have a WordPress-powered site, you can add WooCommerce absolutely free. But to make the most of your customization options you need to add some extensions, some of which are free but many of which come with an annual fee of between $5 and $500. While this is an additional expense, you do have complete flexibility so you can experiment to see which extensions work best for you and which don’t give you any value.

You need to pay for hosting, but WooCommerce’s payment gateway, Mijireh, allows you to receive payment via a number of sources, including PayPal, Stripe, and SagePay, with a fee of 0.5% per transaction. You can also find other options without fees for a one-off cost, and as an added bonus you have complete ownership of your store.

Shopify

Shopify has a more conventional pricing structure. There’s a sliding scale of packages available, each with different features. They’re all available at a monthly rate with the Starter costing $14 per month, Basic $29, Professional $79, and Unlimited $179. This is a comprehensive fee, including your hosting, security, and payment options, and the transaction fee depends upon your package, ranging from 2% for the Starter, to 0.5% for the Unlimited.

While it’s easier to calculate your upfront costs with Shopify, once your store is up and running, it generally works out more expensive in the long-run, especially if you’re on one of the lower packages where more of your profits trickle through to Shopify.

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Support

WooCommerce

As with all Internet-based services, you will hit upon the occasional hitch, problem, and potential security loophole, so support is something you need to consider. WooCommerce offers very little in terms of direct support, which you might expect from a free platform. However, there are numerous forums to help you figure things out.

Shopify

Shopify has the edge here. As a comprehensive solution, everything is centralized in one place, including 24/7 customer care lines, and it’s renowned for its high quality of customer support.

Content Marketing & SEO

WooCommerce

If you want your online store to be successful, a robust blogging platform is essential. And there’s only one winner here. WordPress is well known for its blogging capabilities and because WooCommerce is an extension for it, you can add and edit content easily, and edit your meta data to ensure your pages rank well.

Shopify

Shopify was built purely for eCommerce and it simply can’t match the blogging capabilities offered by WooCommerce. However, you can integrate it with a WordPress blog and it does have nice, clean code and the ability to edit your meta data, so there’s no reason it won’t rank well if set up correctly. Also, due to the infrastructure of the hosting and restrictions in customization, Shopify stores tend to load much faster, which is a plus for page rankings.

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WooCommerce or Shopify?

So which is the best option for your business, WooCommerce or Shopify? Like many things this comparison isn’t cut and dried, and much depends on your business needs, and the time, money, and skills at your disposal.

Shopify offers a smart, one-stop-shop solution, straight out of the box. If you want a simple pricing structure, can afford the ongoing charges, and you have little or no development knowledge, it offers a great solution to get your online store up and running in no time. It’s a great option for early eCommerce stores.

However, if you want a high level of customization and control over your store, and you want to integrate it with your favorite marketing and accounting tools, then opt for WooCommerce. It offers a bespoke structure, complete ownership and control, and gives you the ability to enter the digital retail market at a lower price. Its flexibility means you can build a store suited to your size with the ability to grow, and it now powers more online stores than any other platform.

Which option do you prefer to power your online store? WooCommerce, Shopify, or a different platform? Join in the discussion below.

Now that you’ve chosen between the two, try these tips to create a great eCommerce experience for your users.

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Chris Mundy

    December 3, 2015

    Hi Joanne, Thanks for the article. I have experience with both products and it can be a case of different strokes for different folks. It gets down to the goals and use case for the customer, what do they want to do? In our experience the cases where the customers wanted simplicity, then Shopify wins hands down.

    That's not to say WooCommerce is complex, it just needs a few more steps with setting up and management. The determining factor was, "how tech savvy is the user"?

    There are now a couple of great plugins and approaches that overcome the content marketing issues you described.

    Selling Shopify Products on a WordPress Site - For WordPress.com users https://docs.shopify.com/manual/more/official-shopify-apps/shopify-for-wordpress.

    Linking a self hosted WordPress site to a Shopify Store - This method creates a link and takes you to the Shopify Store. A good article is found here http://www.wpbeginner.com/wp-tutorials/how-to-create-wordpress-ecommerce-store-with-shopify/

    The best way to utilise this method is through domain name management using a CNAME entry so that your store could be www.store.mysite.com/ where www.mysite.com is your self-hosted WordPress Site and www.store.mysite.com is the Shopify Site.

    Having Shopify as the main site and WordPress as the blog. - This is the same as the previous point but in reverse. You would do the same with the domain name management. e.g. www.mystore.com is the Shopify Site and set-up a CNAME for the blog, www.blog.mystore.com the WordPress site.

    With these approaches, design work would be required for the presentation layer ensuring there is design continuity across both platforms.

    So you can mix and match WordPress and Shopify.

    Where the integrated WooCommerce site works well is if you want to keep everything under the same roof, however, there is that point to discuss from security perspective depending on site policies, is it best keeping all your eggs in the same barn? That's a risk management assessment required for the site.

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