Shopify VS WooCommerce

The e-commerce giants: Shopify vs. WooCommerce – which platform is right for you?

Choosing the right e-commerce platform is critical to making your online store a success, so let’s dive in and compare two of the most popular solutions for creating and hosting – WooCommerce and Shopify.

In terms of uptake, WooCommerce claims pole position, with Shopify in second place (and Magento in third). While they both offer a full suite of features for site owners, there are some areas that each stand out in.  For this reason you’ll want to get it right and pick the best platform for you, from day one.

Warning: there’s a fair degree of lock-in with whichever platform you run with. Yes, it’s possible to migrate from Shopify to WooCommerce (or vice versa) later, but it can be a time-consuming and clunky process, with the high possibility of losing some data in the migration.

Our advice is to do your homework and get it right from the get-go. In this article, we’ll compare the major pros and cons of both, taking into consideration how each platform affects the shopping experience for users, how streamlined the backend processes are, what the costs are, and so much more.

So let’s take a deep dive into Shopify and WooCommerce.

First things first: there are marked differences in the way these platforms run. WooCommerce is a plugin for the open-source WordPress software, while Shopify is its own standalone hosted e-commerce platform.

Most people have heard of WordPress; it’s the most popular way to build a website in general, powering over 40% of all websites on the internet. Even the U.S. White House and Facebook are based on WordPress.

With Shopify, you don’t have access to the code that powers your store, nor do you need it. There’s no need to bother with hosting any software yourself because Shopify handles setting everything up for you. All you do is register for an account and you’re essentially up and running – just  start adding products.

When you’re choosing your platform, there’s quite a bit to compare, starting with:

1. Budget

In general, WooCommerce rates highly for value for money. It will most certainly be cheaper for most people, because there are only three things you need to launch a (basic) WooCommerce store:

  • A domain name – sometimes free or maybe around USD$10 per yea
  • Web hosting – the most variable core cost depending on how many products you have
  • WooCommerce – the WooCommerce software is free.

To create a Shopify store, you only need two things:

  • A domain name
  • The Shopify service

Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify isn’t free. Shopify’s prices range from USD$29 to USD$299+ per month depending on what features you require. However if your business requires more than what Shopify offers, you can opt for Shopify Plus which starts at USD$2,000 a month offering unlimited bandwidth and customisation.

2. Ease of development and use

When it comes to ease of development, this is where the wheels fall off somewhat for WooCommerce. Unless you have some coding knowledge, you may struggle to build the online store you want on WooCommerce, unlike on Shopify. This is because the setup process on WooCommerce is not beginner-friendly. However once your store has been  developed, WooCommerce is easy to manage on a day to day basis.

To create a Shopify store, all you need to do is register for a Shopify account and follow a simple setup wizard. In no time at all, you can be managing your store via a user-friendly dashboard. Ease of use and speed to build is definitely where Shopify has the edge to create a quick, smart online presence.

3. Features and plugins

In terms of core e-commerce features, both platforms offer everything that you’d expect to see like shopping carts, checkout and payment gateways, shipping calculations, coupons / discounts and reporting.

Where they differ is in adding features beyond that, which you’ll typically do via third-party extensions. WooCommerce relies heavily on plugins, and with over 50,000 to choose from, you can build a bespoke website without many limitations.

Shopify has more than 1,200 free and paid apps that are all reliable.

While both platforms give you all the core features you need to make an e-commerce store, as WooCommerce is an open-source software, it has a larger collection of add-ons.

Another area that both sites get right is that WordPress and WooCommerce are very multilingual-friendly. WooCommerce lets you use unlimited languages and also gives you more flexibility for managing translations. Shopify includes a feature to let you create your store in up to five languages.

4. Performance + scalability 

In  any e-commerce platform you’ll be looking for its ability to handle large numbers of products and/or high-traffic situations.

Both perform well in this regard with WooCommerce and Shopify able to scale to handle large stores with lots of products. WooCommerce in particular offers fantastic flexibility, but might require a little more technical expertise to scale.

5. Payment methods

When you sell online, you need to ways for your customers to pay. Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer you a choice of over 100 payment gateways.

The main ones are:

  • Stripe
  • PayPal
  • Credit and debit cards
  • Apple Pay
  • Square

WooCommerce offers its own official payment service powered by Stripe, plus it lets you integrate with hundreds of additional gateways using plugins. WooCommerce also makes it easy to accept alternative payment options, such as cryptocurrency and cash on delivery.

Shopify offers its own payment service that’s enabled by default. If you use a different gateway, Shopify will charge you an extra fee on top of the regular processing fee from your provider.  If you’re willing to pay that fee, Shopify supports hundreds of additional gateways.

While both tools support lots of large and small payment gateways, WooCommerce gets the edge – making it the preferable option for stores selling in volume.

6. Customisation and Design

 The way your store looks is incredibly important: luckily both WooCommerce and Shopify offer themes to create a professional look and feel.

The two main ways that you can customize the design of your WooCommerce store are by using:

  • Themes, and
  • Plugins

How good your design looks on WooCommerce depends on the hours you’re willing to put in, as well as your technical skill level.

Shopify offers the same basic approach to design customization, with over 70 free and paid themes for you to choose from. While you don’t get quite as much flexibility and breadth as WooCommerce, Shopify’s offerings are more curated and polished.

7. Pricing and operating costs

If you use WooCommerce, you’ll be responsible for maintaining your store, a large part of which is staying on top of core software updates and extensions.

If you want to outsource this hassle, and many do – you can pay for managed WordPress hosting, or even a WordPress maintenance service. Of course, this starts to push your monthly website costs up.  

The beauty of Shopify is it’s ‘all-in’ model – you don’t need to worry about maintaining the software because Shopify handles it for you. Remember, Shopify backups are more expensive than WooCommerce, which is something to consider when it comes to budget.

8. Support

Because WooCommerce is a free, open-source project, there’s no access to a dedicated team of support reps; instead, you’ll need to rely on community support. Luckily, because WordPress and WooCommerce are so well known, online help is quick and easy to find.

As a paid service, your Shopify subscription gets you access to direct support from Shopify staff, with 24/7 phone support, live chat, and email. Along with helpful guides, a community forum, and a setup wizard,  Shopify’s support is top-notch.

9. Tax settings

Both platforms are pretty flexible and both give you options to automate tax calculations.

10. Shipping options

Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer flexible shipping options via built-in features or, more likely, third-party add-ons and integrations. Both platforms give you a lot of flexibility for custom shipping calculations.

11. Page speed and performance 

 The You can create a fast-loading store with both platforms.

12. SEO capabilities

SEO is an essential for any e-commerce store because organic traffic will play a big role in your store’s success.

When it comes to who does it better in SEO, it’s a tough one to call. Both WooCommerce and Shopify are designed and optimised to make sure your products are appearing in front of the right people.

Because WooCommerce is integrated with WordPress and its impressive range of plugins, it offers a greater choice of SEO plugins than Shopify does.

Yet, Shopify also makes it easy to add basic SEO information to your store. You can add descriptions and titles for your images, products, and pages.

13. Security

High-level security is imperative when it comes to e-commerce sites because you’re not only processing customers’ money – you’re privy to their personal information.

While both WooCommerce and Shopify are considered secure, there are a few things to note.

Because WooCommerce works with WordPress, it is self-hosted. However, the actual plugin doesn’t come with built-in security, so any security will need to be handled either by yourself or your hosting provider.

Shopify is a hosted platform, meaning security is taken care of for you – it comes with an SSL certificate, and is PCI-DSS compliant. There’s nothing to set up and you can start processing payments from day one. With WooCommerce, you’ll need to source SSL and set up PCI-DSS compliance yourself.

In summary: should you use WooCommerce or Shopify?

While there’s no doubt that WooCommerce is in front when it comes to flexibility and features,  Shopify maintains the lead when it comes to simplicity. That’s because Shopify handles a lot of the basic setup and maintenance, offers 24/7 support, and has things like security taken care of for you.

But here’s an important consideration:

While there are ways to make WooCommerce simpler and more hands-off, once you get it up and running – there aren’t many ways to add more flexibility to Shopify beyond its pre-built apps.

If you’re ready to make a move or want to chat over some options for an e-commerce store, or any part of your digital presence – give us a call at 09 220 5699 or visit hiho.co.nz.

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