eCommerce Solutions: WooCommerce vs. Shopify
WooCommerce and Shopify are two of the biggest names in eCommerce, but they’ve taken a vastly different approach to the online store experience. While neither platform is inherently better than the other, each option comes with its own set of advantages and limitations.
So what is WooCommerce and how does it differ from Shopify? If you’re wondering which one to choose for your business, this guide will steer you in the right direction.
WooCommerce vs. Shopify: How Do These Platforms Differ?
On the surface, these two platforms appear similar. Each one offers an eCommerce solution for businesses of all sizes, allowing users to display and sell products, customize a storefront, and implement marketing strategies.
With that said, when you look at WooCommerce vs Shopify more closely, you’ll start to notice the differences that set the two apart.
Downloading and using the WooCommerce platform is completely free. However, WooCommerce cannot exist on its own. The eCommerce platform works as a WordPress plugin, meaning it needs to be integrated with your WordPress website (which is also free).
The costs associated with running a WooCommerce site come from web hosting, purchasing a domain name, and paying for any premium extensions or themes. We’ll discuss the implications of these needs later on. For now, you can expect your average monthly costs to be somewhere between $10 and $250, depending on your requirements for your eCommerce business.
With Shopify, the initial pricing structure is more clear-cut. There are four options:
- Basic Shopify – $29/month
- Shopify – $79/month
- Advanced Shopify – $299/month
- Shopify Plus – $2,000/month and up
However, it’s difficult to estimate the true monthly cost of a Shopify account due to how payment processing fees are scaled. For example, with a Basic plan, Shopify takes 2.9% + $0.30 from every online credit card transaction. With an Advanced plan, this rate drops to 2.4% + $0.30. There are similar incentives for upgrading around shipping discounts and other transaction fees.
Though the total cost of Shopify will vary from business to business, you at least won’t have to pay for web hosting or a domain name (though you can add a custom domain name) when creating your ecommerce business. Plus, there’s a 14-day free trial.
WooCommerce offers countless must-have features by default, including unlimited product pages, inventory management, and adjustable tax and shipping rates. Plus, hundreds of free and premium extensions allow you to customize your eCommerce store any way you choose. You can add SEO functions, sell subscriptions, and so much more.
Every Shopify plan includes the same default features as WooCommerce: unlimited products, promo codes, and so on. As you move to better plans, you’ll also unlock extra features like reporting, international domains, additional warehouse locations, and more.
Ultimately, because both platforms are customizable through add-ons, they’re comparable in the “features” category.
As a free, open-source platform, WooCommerce is infinitely flexible. Through extensions and programming, you can collaborate with the WooCommerce community to easily personalize your online store. You also own all of your data—it lives in your database on WordPress.
When you choose the Shopify eCommerce platform, you’ll get a free SSL certificate for encryption. You’ll also find answers when you need them—even the Basic Shopify plan comes with 24/7 customer support.
Accepted Payment Methods
When it comes to payments, WooCommerce and Shopify both work with the most common methods, including:
- Amazon Payments
Each platform also offers a proprietary payment option. When you use WooCommerce Payments, all your transactions are manageable from your dashboard, and WooCommerce takes a small percentage (approximately 2.9% + $0.30) of all purchases. If you choose another payment method, the only transaction fees you pay are through your bank or the third-party processor.
On the other hand, Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) takes a similar percentage of every transaction. But if you choose to use a third-party payment gateway on Shopify, you’ll pay an additional 0.5-2% per transaction, depending on your plan.
The other difference is that WooCommerce offers far more payment gateways than Shopify, allowing you to connect with more specific audiences. For example, WooCommerce supports Redsys (the most popular gateway in Spain) and SOFORT (a well-known European option).
How Easy is it to Launch an eCommerce Store on Each Platform?
Starting an eCommerce store should be straightforward, and both WooCommerce and Shopify earn marks in that category. Let’s look at a brief overview of the setup process for each option.
If you already have a WordPress website, setting up a WooCommerce store is beyond simple. Download and install the WooCommerce plugin, complete the intuitive Setup Wizard, and you’ll have an online store in minutes.
But since WooCommerce is self-hosted, if you’re looking to build a store from scratch, you’ll need all of the following first:
- A domain name – Your domain is your website address (for example, wpengine.com is ours). You can usually purchase a domain name from a registrar like Domain.com or WhoIs for under $20/year.
- A web host – Web hosts connect your website to the internet. Choose from a shared hosting plan (starting at around $5/month) or a managed hosting plan (from $25/month and up).
- A WordPress website – Once you log in to your host’s client portal, you can install WordPress as your Content Management System. From there, you can access the WooCommerce plugin and add themes and extensions.
Ultimately, WooCommerce’s specialty is flexibility over ease of use. That’s not to say that WooCommerce is hard to set up (it’s not). However, because you need the above assets before you can launch a store, WooCommerce requires more initial time and effort than Shopify.
Shopify’s business model revolves around building a store in record time. As a hosted eCommerce platform, Shopify takes care of web hosting for you, and you choose your domain name upon signup.
Within a few minutes of creating a Shopify account for your ecommerce site, you can pick a Shopify theme and start selling products. The ease of use is truly unparalleled—though it comes at the expense of flexibility.
Which Platform is More Popular?
According to BuiltWith, there are almost 3.7 million live websites currently using Shopify. WooCommerce, on the other hand, boasts close to 3.4 million users. These statistics make Shopify and WooCommerce the top two eCommerce platforms around.
It’s a close race, which speaks to the longevity and popularity of both solutions.
Which eCommerce Platform is Right for You?
When it comes to WooCommerce vs Shopify, there’s no right or wrong answer. Your individual needs will dictate which eCommerce platform works for you.
When to Choose WooCommerce
If you need unlimited flexibility in the design and functionality of your eCommerce website, WooCommerce is the way to go—especially if you’re already familiar with WordPress. While there is a slight learning curve involved, it’s worth it. You can control every step of the shopping experience, from first impressions to checkout.
WooCommerce is also the budget-friendly option; with an inexpensive shared hosting plan and annual domain registration, you can keep the cost of a basic store below $100/year.
When to Choose Shopify
If you need to start selling as soon as possible, Shopify’s simplified setup is a good option. The platform also caters to those with little to no technical knowledge, so if web hosting and WordPress plugins seem daunting, a Shopify subscription may be best.
It’s worth noting that the Shopify platform also offers a plugin for WordPress through Shopify Lite. At $9/month, you can integrate a Shopify button into any website.
WooCommerce vs. Shopify: Pros and Cons
WooCommerce and Shopify are both powerful eCommerce tools, but they ultimately respond to different needs.
If you need more help deciding between the two for your online business, we’ve arranged a short list of pros and cons for each platform.
- The platform is free and open source, allowing for in-depth customization
- Hundreds of extensions make store personalization simple
- You can sell anything
- Built-in security is solid, and further layers can be added
- You own and control all of your data
- WooCommerce usage is restricted to WordPress
- Setup requires a domain name and a hosting provider
- You’ll have to obtain your own SSL certificate
- The user interface is intuitive
- Customer support is available 24/7 for all users
- Stores are customizable with free and premium apps and themes
- Multiple plans offer scalability
- Includes an SSL certificate with all plans
- Shopify is a closed-source platform
- Not every aspect is customizable
- You can access your data, but it exists on Shopify’s servers
- Transaction fees add up quickly
Supercharge Your Online Store with WP Engine
The final verdict? If you prefer simplicity, opt for Shopify for our online shop. If you plan to expand your business over time, we recommend WooCommerce. Shopify may be easiest to use at first, but invest an hour or two into WooCommerce, and you’ll find endless opportunities to improve your online store.
When you choose WooCommerce, you’ll also have the option to host your website on our lightning-fast eCommerce hosting platform. Optimized for WooCommerce, our eCommerce hosting plans start at just $30/month, with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Contact us today to learn more.