Shopify vs. WooCommerce – Which Platform To Use For Your Online Store?
Shopify vs. WooCommerce is a head-to-head comparison of two of the most popular eCommerce platforms out there.
So, you’ve finally decided to jump onto the eCommerce bandwagon and get your very own online store. It’s the need of the hour, we all know that.
But how to get started? How to build your online store and which eCommerce tools do you need?
The first thing you need is an eCommerce platform that provides all the tools you need to sell online.
Thanks to the fast pacing world of technology, you’ve plenty of eCommerce platforms to choose from. What you really have to do is pick the right platform and start selling right away.
So, which one should it be? WooCommerce or Shopify? Is one better than the other? Or considering the cost, is one cheaper than the other?
Well, it turns out answering these questions isn’t as simple as you might have expected.
But before we dig into all the details, let’s get to the bottom-line and answer the main question: Which eCommerce platform should you choose?
The Bottom-line of WooCommerce vs Shopify
When it comes to WooCommerce vs Shopify comparison, there is no right or wrong answer. It all comes down to your needs and requirements.
In a nutshell, Shopify is easier to use but less flexible and less customizable while WooCommerce involves a learning curve but is highly flexible and more customizable.
Let’s dive deeper and see the real difference between the two platforms. Hopefully, it will help you make an informed decision.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Understanding the Basic Differences between Shopify and WooCommerce
Chapter 2: How Easy is it to Get Started With WooCommerce and Shopify
Chapter 3: Cost of WooCommerce and Shopify
Chapter 4: Performance and Security
Chapter 5: Integrations and Add-ons
Chapter 6: Payment Methods
Chapter 7: Multi-vendor Support
Chapter 8: B2B eCommerce Support
Chapter 1: Shopify vs WooCommerce: What’s the Difference?
What is Shopify?
Shopify is an all-in-one eCommerce platform that enables you to create and run an online store. A cloud-based SaaS solution, it not only provides basic e-commerce tools, but also handles the technical aspects of a website like hosting, speed, and security.
What are WordPress and WooCommerce?
Any discussion of WooCommerce can’t be complete without first discussing WordPress. If you are not familiar with WordPress already, it’s a self-hosted Content Management System with no e-commerce features out of the box. Enter WooCommerce, a plugin that comes with all the right tools to transform your WordPress blog into a full-fledged online store.
Here is a table that highlights the main differences between WooCommerce and Shopify.
|WooCommerce doesn’t provide hosting. You have to purchase it from an independent hosting provider (Pantheon, or WP Engine) for your WordPress account before you get started with WooCommerce.||Shopify has its own personal hosting. It has all the tools you need to manage your hosting account, saving you the hassle of looking for independent hosting services.|
|E-commerce Market Share|
|21% of the top 1m e-commerce sites in the world use WooCommerce. Shopify comes at a close second at 18%.||Among the top 10k e-commerce sites of the world, however, 23% of the companies use Shopify, while only 6% use WooCommerce.|
|With WordPress, you have access to over 50,000 plugins designed for a variety of different tasks with some of them being specifically designed for the WooCommerce platform.||Similar to WordPress plugins, the Shopify website also has a good collection of Shopify Apps dedicated solely to e-commerce.|
|The open-source nature of WooCommerce enables it to have several international and niche payment gateways which include Stripe, Square, Authorize.Net, and PayPal.||Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify has its own payment gateway. While Shopify does provide you access to external payment gateways just like WooCommerce, the only difference is that it charges you extra for that (read Chapter 6 for more information).|
An Analogy That Explains Their Difference
Think about the time when you needed to move to a new place and you were trying to decide between purchasing an apartment or your own land.
Building your store on Shopify is like buying an apartment, and then customizing it the way you want. An apartment is your own property and you can customize it any way you want. The building in which your apartment stands, however, is owned by the property manager. It comes pre-packaged with plumbing, electricity, and security. Hence, the owner doesn’t have to face any problems related to the infrastructure. If there is some plumbing issue, the management takes care of it. But if they need to improve lighting in their home by installing new fixtures, that’s the owner’s responsibility.
On the contrary, WordPress + WooCommerce are like building your home on a piece of land you own. You can customize it the way you want and you can do anything you can dream up. You have complete and total control over your property. But then, you will be the one who has to manage the property and take care of all the issues that arise with the infrastructure.
Say your website gets hacked or slows down too much. Now, if you were on Shopify, that wouldn’t be your headache. But if you were on WordPress, you would have to find solutions and fix things yourself.
Chapter 2: How Easy Is The Initial Set-up?
When it’s time to put things into action, we want to get started as soon as possible. But how easy is the initial set up? And which platform offers the path of least resistance?
Initial Set-Up with Shopify
Getting started with Shopify is a piece of cake. Being a subscription-based tool, it gets you started as soon as you click on the sign-up button.
Head over to the sign-up page of Shopify and click on the blue button on the top right-hand corner.
A pop-up will open asking you for the email address, password, and the name of your business. Click on the Enter My Store button to continue.
You will then be redirected to a form-field where Shopify will ask you a few questions. The answer fields have a drop-down menu with pre-defined answers from which you have to choose the answer. There will also be a checkbox, asking whether or not you are setting the store up for a client. Click Next to proceed.
You will then be redirected to a form. The only difference is that this one is a bit longer than the last one.
It will ask you to enter all information like your first name, last name, street address, office suite address, postal address, phone number, and etc. Click Enter Your Store to continue.
You will then be redirected to the Shopify Dashboard. Congratulations, you have just opened your online store!
Initial setup with WooCommerce
Setting up WooCommerce is not a walk in the park, but it is not so tough that you back down from it entirely. There are some additional steps that you need to look at. Here’s what the initial setup looks like:
Purchasing a Hosting service
As discussed in Chapter 1, hosting is something that you need not worry about when using Shopify. Shopify provides all the basic infrastructure needed to run your website. That’s why you only had to click on the Sign-Up button (and pay for the service, obviously).
On WooCommerce, it’s a different story. WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress – and you need to be running WordPress on a self-hosted site. This means that you need to buy a hosting service so that you have a space to build your website. Pantheon WordPress and WP Engine hosting are perhaps the best hosting services for a scalable eCommerce venture.
After purchasing hosting, you need to install the free WordPress CMS. This step involves a moderate learning curve, and you’ll find many WordPress tutorials on the internet that can prove helpful. Many hosting companies also provide one-click WordPress installations which help a great deal. Additionally, you can use specialized WordPress hosting services to get things rolling quickly.
Installing and Activating the WooCommerce Plugin
Download the plugin that comes in a zip file. Go to: Dashboard > Plugins > Add New > Upload, and choose the zip file to install it. Once installed, just activate the plugin.
Upon activating the WooCommerce plugin, you’ll be prompted with a setup wizard that guides you through the initial setup of your store.
And that’s it!
As you can see, setting up WooCommerce is not really Rocket Science. But at the same time, it doesn’t offer the same level of convenience as you would find in Shopify.
Verdict: Shopify is the clear winner when it comes to the initial set-up. Shopify is like that ready-to-move apartment – you can start selling in just a few clicks without worrying about hosting and other infrastructure technicalities.
Chapter 3: Shopify vs WooCommerce Cost
Shopify or WooCommerce, which platform is cheaper to use? As entrepreneurs, we all want the best value for our buck.
Let’s analyze the two platforms in terms of their costs.
How Much Does Shopify Cost?
When starting out with Shopify, you get a range of pricing plans to choose from.
Shopify Price Plans
|Basic Shopify||Shopify||Advanced Shopify|
|What you get||Hosting, SSL certificate, unlimited products, discount code engine, and fraud analysis tools.||Everything in Basic Shopify PLUS gift cards, professional reports, and abandoned cart recovery.||Everything in Shopify PLUS an advanced report builder and third-party calculated rates.|
|Transaction fee||Transaction fees is 2.9% + 30c||Transaction fees is 2.6% + 30c||Transaction fees is 2.4% + 30c|
As you can see, Shopify provides its platform at a fee. For a beginner, the Shopify transaction fees might feel a little expensive. However, Shopify’s costs are outweighed by their level of service.
How much does WooCommerce cost?
As compared to Shopify, the pricing structure of WooCommerce isn’t as straightforward. Being open-source, it’s essentially free to use. But that doesn’t mean it won’t cost you anything.
With WooCommerce, as discussed in Chapter 2, you first need to buy a hosting service and register a domain before you are able to install WordPress and WooCommerce.
Hosting plans range from a few dollars to around $30 per month on premium services. The domain can cost you around $7 – 12 per year. On top of that, you also need to buy an SSL certificate if your hosting provider doesn’t provide one for free. Many payment processors don’t work without SSL, which can cost around $70.
So, if you do the math, you can see that the starting costs of WooCommerce and Shopify (the basic plan) are about the same.
However, we’re only talking about the base cost here. Prices get more complicated to calculate and compare as we scale our business and add more features to our site. In that case, we need to take into account the cost of apps and plugins, custom development work, themes and customizations, and maintenance costs.
Chapter 4: Performance and Security
Talking about speed and security, how does Shopify compare against WooCommerce?
It appears that the difference is not how they perform; it’s what you have to do to make sure they perform well.
On Shopify, maintaining performance and security doesn’t take a lot of hard work. In fact, it’s not even your responsibility.
Your basic plan on Shopify should suffice in the initial stages of your business. But as you scale up, you need to upgrade to a higher plan to cope up with the growing needs and demands of your business.
It’s simple as can be. You pay them for maintaining your site and they do it well.
On WooCommerce, it’s a different story.
If performance is an issue, you need to upgrade your servers. You need to optimize your site to make sure it loads fast. You need to maintain things and stay on top of everything to make sure your site stays secure. And for that, you may need to hire WordPress maintenance agency or hire someone in-house to take care of optimization, performance, and security issues.
The good thing is: you never find yourself out of options at any stage. There is plenty of help available. But you should be ready to go the extra mile to keep your site performing like a well-oiled machine.
A Managed WordPress hosting service is also highly recommended to take care of regular maintenance issues.
Chapter 5: Integrations and Add-Ons
In order to be successful with your e-commerce venture, you need to have the right set of tools. Examples of such tools can range from lead generation to email marketing, analytics, help desk, customer service tools, and many others.
In the context of our discussion, you might be tempted to ask, “Which platform would utilize these tools to provide the most value to my store?”
Well, there is no black-and-white answer to this question. Both Shopify and WooCommerce have their own collection of extensions (or apps, in Shopify’s case) that give your e-commerce store the much-needed boost. After reading the two succeeding sections, however, you can come to a decision.
Your business, even it is pretty common, is going to have its own needs and demands. To cater to them, you need a distinct set of tools. If you are a Shopify user, you can benefit from Shopify’s directory of plug-ins and add-ons, aka Shopify Apps.
Shopify Apps is kind of like the Google Play Store, albeit only for Shopify users. The store offers hundreds of add-ons and third-party tools for almost every business need.
Need something for SEO?
Integrating Facebook chat with Shopify?
Want to add a loyalty program?
You can rest at ease knowing that Shopify has an app that answers all of these questions, and then some!
WooCommerce is no stranger to plug-ins and extensions. After all, WooCommerce itself is a plugin for the WordPress platform.
While WooCommerce is a plug-in, it has its own distinct collection of plug-ins within its ecosystem, also known as WooCommerce extensions. The collection is so massive, in fact, that it will spoil you for choice.
On WooCommerce, the number of plugins available for one particular need can range from thirty to forty, or even more. The breadth of the open-source e-commerce development community is indeed fascinating!
Now you might be thinking, “Hmm, WooCommerce has the quantity, but Shopify has quality.”
For the most part, that is true, but it’s not always the case. WooCommerce has some quality plug-ins and extensions that come in both paid and free versions.
In the initial stages, both WooCommerce and Shopify offer similar advantages. But as the business scales-up, things get more demanding. In the context of this section, the need comes down to the development of custom integrations.
As the business grows, the needs become unique. The plug-ins that had worked previously, just don’t seem to cut it anymore.
This is where custom integrations come in.
How do the two platforms adapt to this growing need of the business?
For one, WooCommerce gives you total control and greater flexibility. You own everything and you have the power to do whatever you want with your site.
If you want to edit a plugin so that it works the way you want, you can do it. If you want to add some custom functionality with the power of hooks and filters – the unique superpowers of WordPress – you can do that as well. The possibilities are endless.
Because of this control and power, custom development for WooCommerce is far easier than for Shopify.
Shopify is not so easy to play around with. You don’t own the code and you can’t change it. If you want to edit a plugin, you have to contact the developers.
And if you want some custom integration or add-on for Shopify, it wouldn’t be clear sailing at all. Apps communicate with Shopify via an API. So, it’s just more complicated to develop an app and then integrate it with Shopify via the API.
However, Shopify is becoming increasingly popular and the development community is expanding at a fast rate. And so, getting a custom Shopify integration is no longer a luxury only a few can afford.
Chapter 6: Payment Methods
There are many payment gateways available online. Some good, some bad, some not suitable for your niche, and some not available to your customers.
When choosing an e-commerce platform, therefore, payment gateways are an important consideration. You need to make sure that the platform you select has multiple options for payments, as it allows your customers to choose the most convenient payment option.
Shopify Payment Gateways
Shopify understands the need for having diverse payment gateways and provides you with several payment options.
The best option is their propriety payment solution: Shopify Payments, powered by Stripe. Shopify Payments charge a flat credit card fees with no extra transaction fee. As you upgrade to higher plans, credit card rates reduce further.
Apart from that, Shopify offers several third-party payment gateways as well. But when using those, Shopify charges a 2% transaction fee on top of the fee charged by the gateway itself. This transaction fee is reduced on higher plans though. For example, you can reduce the fee to 0.5% if you sign up for their Advanced Shopify plan at $299/month.
WooCommerce Payment Gateways
On the other side of the spectrum, what payment options do you get on WooCommerce? How do their fees and charges compare against Shopify?
For one, WooCommerce doesn’t charge you any transaction fees. It’s open-source and free to use. This can prove beneficial if you plan to use third-party gateways. You do incur the costs charged by the payment gateway though.
Coming to payment options, WooCommerce payment methods range from PayPal and Stripe to many other niche payment gateways by default. But it also supports all other popular gateways through add-ons. As a self-hosted platform, you are only charged transaction fees by your payment gateway or your bank. WooCommerce never charges you a % fee on your store transactions which is a major plus.
There is one more benefit of this self-hosted, open-source platform. Because of the low barrier to entry, any payments service can support it through add-ons. This can be useful for you if you want to offer some regional or less popular payment services.
Chapter 7: Multi-Vendor Support
So far, we have only talked about e-commerce stores in the context of selling your own products that you have in-stock. It is true that the vast majority of online stores operate on that model, regardless of whether they are a Business-to-Business (B2B) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C) store.
But there is another, more complex e-commerce model. Introducing the Multi-Vendor e-commerce marketplace.
So, how is an online store different from a Multi-Vendor e-commerce marketplace platform?
As discussed above, in an online store, you sell your own products. With a Multi-Vendor store, however, you invite third-party sellers to sell their products on your store. ThemeForest and Etsy are some popular examples of Multi-Vendor marketplaces.
As an entrepreneur looking to make serious profits out of an e-commerce site, a Multi-Vendor setup can prove very beneficial. But before you cash in those benefits, you would need a platform that supports Multi-Vendor e-commerce stores.
Switching the discussion to our topic, what kind of Multi-Vendor support do WooCommerce and Shopify offer? Which of the two is a better option for building a marketplace?
Unfortunately, neither WooCommerce nor Shopify have Multi-Vendor marketplace functionalities built-in. Yet, both can be transformed into such marketplaces through extensions.
On Shopify, you’ll find a few marketplace apps that let you build a multivendor store. These include the popular marketplace solution by Webkul. But unfortunately, all popular apps have their limitations. And Shopify users often comment that they were not satisfied with these solutions.
On WooCommerce though, you would find some powerful solutions like WC Wendors Pro and Dokan. Unlike the apps in Shopify, these plugins offer great features and let you run a successful multivendor store on WooCommerce.
Chapter 8: B2B E-commerce Support
Are you thinking about taking your B2B business to the digital space and tapping into the trillion-dollar market?
It is about high time to tap into the B2B marketplace since its sales are expected to be more than B2C sales by 2020.
Moreover, 93% of B2B buyers say they would prefer to buy online. This makes it essential for every B2B business to have an online store.
But B2B e-commerce has changed a lot since it first came out. B2B clients are now a lot more demanding. They want the same features, the same treatment, and the same user experience as you would give to a B2C customer.
For example, a B2B business offers custom pricing to each client. Their payment options also vary from traditional online stores.
That’s why you should pick a B2B eCommerce platform that caters to these needs and demands.
How do WooCommerce and Shopify compare when it comes to supporting the needs of a B2B business?
WooCommerce has a range of different extensions that can be used to create a B2B online store. These include:
- B2B eCommerce for WooCommerce Plugin
- Dynamic Pricing Plugin
- WooCommerce Product Table
- WooCommerce Role and Permissions Plugin
- User Role Editor
- Gravity Forms
Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for B2B stores on WooCommerce. In fact, getting your head around B2B stores on WooCommerce can be a bit tricky.
Compared with WooCommerce, Shopify has several useful wholesale apps that might offer such a solution. They are also reasonably priced, starting from $47/month (Free).
Another option is to upgrade to Shopify Plus, the enterprise plan priced at a minimum of $2000/month. Shopify Plus lets you create a branded, self-service storefront with only a click.
The wholesale e-commerce channel by Shopify Plus fulfills all needs and requirements of an online B2B business. It even integrates seamlessly with other systems like ERP, 3PL, POS, and OMS. The wholesale store also runs perfectly alongside the business’s B2C website.
So… Shopify vs WooCommerce, which platform should you use for your eCommerce store?
Well, there is no definitive answer to this question. It all depends on the needs and demands of your business. If you already have decided upon a niche, then we hope this guide was useful to you.
Let’s just get on the phone and discuss or tell us what you think in the comments below.