Shopify and WooCommerce – which should you use for your online store?
With the current global events, we have been experiencing a mad rush with the need for businesses to start selling their products online. We wanted to create this case study to help answer some of the questions you may be asking when it comes to choosing between the most popular eCommerce platforms for small businesses – Shopify and WooCommerce.
Every business has different needs, and both platforms, while similar, come with their own pros and cons – and making the right choice can make all the difference to the success of your online store and general ease of use for your business.
So in short, this blog is for business owners who want to start their own eCommerce store, and want to understand what each platform offers, what it doesn’t and choose which will be the best solution for them…
Shopify vs WooCommerce – the basics.
Before we get in too deep with our comparison of Shopify vs WooCommerce, here is a basic overview of each platform…
What is Shopify?
Shopify is a cloud-based eCommerce platform that provides an easy way for businesses to create an online store, by operating as a monthly subscription. Rather than building an entire website from scratch, you get access to an admin panel where you can add products and your customers can shop and pay for their orders. You can make it your own by adding store info and choosing from their range of free and paid design templates so you can maintain brand consistency – without having to deal with the techy stuff associated with building your own website.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce plugin built specifically for the WordPress platform. If you have a WordPress business website, this plugin is free to install and adds the functionality of eCommerce directly to your site – without having to log in to an additional platform. Like Shopify, you can also customize your store to reflect your brand and choose how you want your store to look and operate.
What do YOU need in an eCommerce platform?
While there are basic requirements that any online store will need – regardless of size and scale, you may also need additional functionality, so it’s good to establish this upfront before you make your choice!
Cost – work your budget out first to make sure you can cover the costs to start it up, as well as catering for any on-going costs associated with running your store.
Payment support – make sure it can support multiple payment options for your customers; such as PayPal, Stripe, etc.
User-friendly – if you are wanting to update, manage and operate it yourself, you’ll need something that’s easy to learn and operate if you aren’t very tech-savvy!
Customisation – make sure that the platform you choose allows you to customise the design to stay on brand – especially if you already have a business website and online presence.
Think to the future – will you need a platform that can scale with you as your business and product line grows? What if you need to sell internationally with multiple currencies?
What interrogations will you need in order to sell, scale and adapt?
Think of your entire sales process as well; will you need shipping, invoicing capabilities, dropshipping options… the list goes on. Now is the time to map it all out so you get the full picture of your requirements, both now and in the future.
In the rest of this blog, we are going to go through each of the basic must-haves, along with some of the other important features, and see how each platform measures up!
Let’s talk dollars and cents – what will these platforms cost you?
When we say cost, it’s not just how much you have to outlay for the initial setup, but you also need to take into account anything you’ll need to spend on add-on services, integrations, plugins, templates and software, etc.
Shopify – what’s the real cost?
Shopify will set you back $29 per month for their basic plan, and if you want/need to upgrade, they have two higher subscription ‘levels’ to choose from; the ‘Shopify’ plan for $79 or the ‘Advanced Shopify’ plan at $299 per month.
What do these plans include?
Each monthly subscription level includes the domain name, SSL certificate and web hosting.
It’s important to note that, while the basic plan comes with enough features to set up a new online store, (unlimited products, 2 user accounts, unlimited file storage, etc.), it doesn’t cover everything you’ll need to scale and grow. You’ll almost definitely end up needing to purchase third-party tools and add-ons as your business grows.
Another thing to consider is the cost of taking payments. With Shopify Payments, you are charged 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction, but if you will be using third-party payment gateways or your own merchant account, you will be charged a flat fee of 2.0% for all transactions unless you are on the Advanced plan – then it drops to 0.5% per transaction.
Payment fees can add up, so have a look at what options are out there and calculate the true cost of making a sale before committing to any plan.
WooCommerce – what’s the real cost?
If you have a domain name, SSL Certificate, and a WordPress hosting account, then adding the WooCommerce plugin is totally free.
Just note that, even though it is a free plugin, it’s still important to use a decent developer to program and maintain it – otherwise it can end up costing you more money in the long run.
If you don’t, then there are several hosting companies that offer WooCommerce hosting plans, which can help you get started at a reduced cost.
Worth noting is that, unlike Shopify, WooCommerce doesn’t actually charge you a percentage fee on transactions, however, you may need to purchase paid extensions, and your hosting costs will increase as your online store grows.
With WooCommerce, you also have the option of finding free alternatives, rather than always paying for plugins, extensions and themes, and you can purchase tools and plugins on an as-needed basis.
When it comes to cost – WooCommerce wins this round.
Shopify or WooCommerce – which is more user-friendly?
Most online store owners and creators are not web designers or developers – they just need to run their business and make their products accessible online.
Even if you do have a bit of web experience, you still need an online store that is easy to use and operate, so let’s explore Shopify and WooCommerce and see how they score when it comes to their user-friendliness…
Shopify gets points for being a fully hosted platform – so no techy-stuff needed like updates, security, backups, etc.
All you do is sign up, choose a design, then Shopify helps you customise and add your products. Easy done. Just drag and drop!
While using Shopify itself is easy, even for absolute beginners, you are limited to using only the design, add-ons and development tools provided by Shopify.
In saying that, they have a wide selection of extensions and themes, so, for most businesses, this is enough for what they need to get their online store up and running.
Because WooCommerce isn’t hosted, but needs to be added to a WordPress site as a plugin, you have to install, manage updates, keep backups, and handle your own security – but you can use a variety of the free and paid plugins available to help out.
Unlike Shopify, WooCommerce is totally customisable and you get full control of every area of the platform. There are also loads of plugins you can use to add all the functionality you could possibly need.
Be prepared to knuckle down and spend more time learning how to create and build on your store however – it doesn’t come with a built-in drag & drop design builder like Shopify (although those can be purchased).
You also need to sort out your own payment options and merchant account.
It does come with a guided setup wizard, but in terms of ease of use and being beginner-friendly – Shopify is the clear winner of this round!
Shopify vs WooCommerce – Payment Options
While there are many payment options or ‘payment gateways’ that you can use to accept payments online, you need to make sure to have plenty of options available as you want your customers to have the option they prefer so it doesn’t become a barrier to them purchasing!
So, how do Shopify and WooCommerce compare when it comes to offering payment options for your store?
Shopify – Payment Options
Shopify comes with its own payment option called Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe), but can also integrate all other popular third-party payment gateways – essential for your customers.
Shopify Payments offers flat-rate credit card fees, and happily, has no other transaction fees – and of course is already set up for you being the platform’s own option. Credit card rates start from 2.9% + 30¢ for the basic plan and become more affordable when you are on the higher paid plans.
WooCommerce – Payment Options
Let’s mention right off the bat that, as a self-hosted platform, with WooCommerce you are only charged transaction fees by your payment gateway or your bank – and they never charge you a % fee on transactions. Bonus.
WooCommerce also helpfully offers PayPal and Stripe payments by default, and can integrate with all of the other main payment service providers (and many regional and less-popular options) with the help of add-ons.
If you need to choose your own merchant account and use a third-party gateway for payment, WooCommerce is definitely the more cost-effective option.
On the other hand, Shopify Payments has the same credit card rates as Stripe / Paypal, so if you are a small store, then it makes no difference.
For us, Shopify and WooCommerce are a tie when it comes to payment options.
Shopify vs WooCommerce – Extras and integrations
With any e-commerce platform, you’ll always need to use other add-ons and integrations for extra functionality and options and, importantly, to allow your online store to grow.
This might mean adding a CRM software or email marketing to reach and nurture customers, analytics to track your data, lead generation tools to increase traffic… the list goes on.
Shopify and WooCommerce are both easily integrated with third-party tools and services, and have their own extension directories for you to choose from – but let’s see which one has the advantage here.
Shopify comes with an extensive App Store containing hundreds of third-party apps for almost everything you could need to add to your store – both free and for purchase. Some you can buy out-right, but you’ll find that most require a monthly subscription that you need to pay directly to the provider, not through Shopify.
Whether you are looking to boost SEO, showcase reviews, offer discounts, or run product-launch countdowns, you should be able to find pretty much everything you’ll need in their App Store.
Because WooCommerce is an open-source software for WordPress, you can access over 55,000 free WordPress plugins to use with your store – plus thousands of more plugins for purchase.
We’ve found that there are more integrations and add-ons available for WooCommerce than Shopify – and will integrate easily and operate smoothly with your store.
If you need a very specific integration or plugin, you also have the option of hiring your own developer to create something just for your store, although the majority of stores will be able to find what they need from the existing range.
However, with WooCommerce being so much more customizable than Shopify, if you are one of the few who need to create and submit your own plugin – you’ll find that doing it through Shopify will be much harder.
Because of their bigger range of plugins and easier customisation, WooCommerce wins this round.
What about Growth? Shopify vs WooCommerce – Scalability
You might be starting small, but you need to make sure that the platform that you choose now, has the ability to scale and grow as your business does.
While Shopify and WooCommerce both have the capacity to scale as orders and the traffic to your store increases, they still have different capabilities – so let’s explore those now…
Because Shopify is an all-in-one eCommerce platform, that means they handle the technical parts of your store – so you don’t need to stress once growth kicks in. Just upgrade your Shopify plan to the next level when you outgrow the plan you chose when you started; Shopify Plus even offers enterprise services as part of the plan.
Naturally, the bigger the plan, the more you have to pay for it – but take into account that they are handling all the stuff like backups and security, so it saves you the hassle, and you don’t need to pay for that inhouse or additionally.
Unlike Shopify, WooCommerce is a self-hosted platform – so the backups, security and other technical aspects of your website are all on you.
Most stores will quickly outgrow their starter hosting plan, but, because you have full control of your site, there are lots of options to manage your growth.
For example, you can upgrade your hosting to a more powerful server to increase capacity as your traffic increases – this will cost more, but you only pay for the resources you need.
If you like being in control of the technical side, or you have someone on your team who can manage this for you, then you might want the control that WooCommerce offers.
However, in our experience, most business owners will go for the hassle-free option – which makes Shopify come out on top in this area.
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