WooCommerce vs. Shopify: Ecommerce Comparison

Gearing up to create a new eCommerce venture can be exciting. There’s a lot to consider, however. Strategizing for how you’ll manage online payments, inventory, and product display are all part of deciding what tools might be the best choice for you. 

WooCommerce for WordPress and Shopify are currently two of the biggest eCommerce platforms available. However, given that they’re both stellar options, choosing between them can be tough. The right choice will set your online store up for success from the very beginning.

In this article, we will explore the differences between these two solutions, and explain in detail why you might choose one over the other. Let’s jump right in!

WordPress or Shopify?

WordPress is an open-source Content Management System (CMS) that can be extended to support eCommerce through third-party plugins like WooCommerce. This means you have full control over the sales process, and the resulting data you collect. While WordPress doesn’t come with eCommerce functionality out of the box, there are robust free options for adding it.

On the other hand, Shopify is an eCommerce-specific, subscription-based CMS. Since it’s a third-party service, your site and its data are in Shopify’s hands – meaning you’re limited to just the access and services it offers. However, you won’t need additional tools to set up your store.

What to Look for in an eCommerce Solution

Choosing to use WooCommerce or Shopify comes down to understanding the features that come with each, and deciding which one better suits your unique needs. There are a lot of aspects to consider before deciding which product to use for your online store, however. 

When making your decision, you’ll want to think about: 

  • The pros and cons of each platform
  • Pricing options, and any premium add-ons you may want
  • Design elements you might want to change and how customizable they are
  • The learning curve and user-friendliness of each platform
  • Any security considerations required to safely implement online payments and sales
  • How well the platform might mesh with your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts
  • Any built-in options for providing customer support

While it’s likely that not all of these will be weighted equally in your decision-making process, they are all important points to consider. Below, we’ll explore how both WooCommerce and Shopify fare in these key categories.

WooCommerce Solution

WooCommerce is one of the most popular plugins for adding eCommerce functionality to WordPress. If you’re already a WordPress user, you simply need to install the plugin and run through the setup options to begin selling:

WooCommerce store setup

It can take some time to perfect your product listings, but getting your account set up after you install the plugin is a breeze. 

Pros and Cons

One of the benefits of using WooCommerce is that you have ownership and control over your data, by building on top of your own WordPress installation. You can almost completely control all aspects of your store – in many cases for free – while also using the hosting company of your choice.

However, this also means you’re responsible for configuring your eCommerce store from the ground up. You’ll need to constantly monitor your site to ensure that everything is always running smoothly, and make sure the functionality you implement is within your budget.

Pricing

Speaking of budgets, WooCommerce is a free plugin. The base functionality offered at this unbeatable price is enough to get you up and running. If you want to add some bells and whistles to your online store, however, you’ll have to budget for premium extensions:

WooCommerce Extension Menu

While many extensions are also free, shipping services, additional payment gateways, and other advanced options can vary in cost from $0 to $250. You’ll also want to determine whether the extensions you want operate on renewable annual licenses, or if they have a one-time cost. 

Design

Using WooCommerce means you have almost full control over how your eCommerce store looks and operates. If you’re missing a certain feature, there are many additional add-ons you can download. However, it’s important to only add the functionality you need, as too many features could overwhelm users and cause your budget to spiral.

Additionally, you have access to thousands of WordPress themes. This means you have nearly limitless free and premium options when it comes to the look and feel of your site. Also, because WordPress is an open-source CMS, if you can’t find what you want, developing (or commissioning) a custom theme is always an option. 

Ease of Use

The WooCommerce interface is pretty user friendly. If you’re familiar with posting content through WordPress, you’ll be right at home. There are, however, a few items to attend to before you can jump right in and start using the platform. 

Since WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, you’ll need the following pieces, including: 

  • A registered domain name
  • Web hosting services
  • A WordPress installation 

Of course, if you use a managed hosting solution for WordPress, much of this will be taken care of for you.

Once you’re set up with a website, you’ll find adding products to your online store to be quite simple. The WooCommerce interface fits right in with WordPress, and mimics the post editor: 

WooCommerce Interface

Once you add a product’s name and information, you’ll have some additional options below the editing panel. You can add product data, create custom fields, and include product descriptions: 

Adding a new product in WooCommerce

Outside of the setup required for WordPress itself, WooCommerce is quite user-friendly, and still offers a lot of options for displaying your products online. 

Security

When it comes to eCommerce, you want your customers to feel secure making online payments. This is one area where WooCommerce requires a bit more hands-on work. Since it is a plugin, you’ll have to look at your hosting service and WordPress itself to make sure security measures are in place.

You can do this by purchasing your own Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, and using some of WordPress’ many security plugins. By doing this, you’ll know exactly what kind of security you’re offering to your customers. Of course, you’ll also have to keep on top of plugin updates and other tasks required to support your security methods. 

SEO 

Again, because WooCommerce relies on WordPress, you’ll also get the benefit of all the SEO plugins WordPress developers have to offer. One of the best options is Yoast SEO. Above and beyond its already-stellar SEO product, Yoast also offers a specialized WooCommerce plugin:

Yoast WooCommerce SEO Plugin

Whether you use the basic Yoast SEO plugin or the WooCommerce-specific option, working within the WordPress framework means you’ll have almost total control over all the elements that are important to SEO. 

Customer Support

When it comes to customer support, you’ll have to rely on the web host you’ve chosen for many things if you’re using WooCommerce. If you encounter an issue directly related to the plugin, however, you do have other options. 

WooCommerce gives users the chance to sign up for a free account on its website, in order to access more support options. Additionally, there are many online tutorials for the product, and a helpful WordPress support forum community. 

WooCommerce in a Nutshell

To summarize, WooCommerce:

  • Provides a free eCommerce solution for WordPress users
  • Offers flexibility and is customizable to your needs
  • Keeps you in control of your own data
  • Puts you in charge of designing the customer’s sales experience

WooCommerce also has a solid reputation, with more than 5 million active downloads and over 2,500 five-star reviews. The plugin’s developer, Automattic, also provides regular updates to maintain WordPress compatibility. 

Shopify Solution

Shopify is a third-party service, rather than a WordPress plugin. In other words, you pay a monthly subscription fee (along with a small fee per sale) to access Shopify’s platform. In return, you receive a website specifically for your store, along with additional features depending on the tier you opt for.

Pros and Cons

Some of the prominent features offered by Shopify include a point of sale system, social media integration, gift cards, and more. Some of these features only come with the higher pricing levels, but to access them, you can simply upgrade your plan. 

There’s something to be said for bundling together hosting, eCommerce capability, and a whole host of other features for one monthly price. The downside, however, is that the data you’ll create and collect isn’t strictly yours. This means that quitting the platform could result in a loss of control over your data, along with your store as a whole

Pricing

Shopify pricing tiers start at $29 per month, and top out at $299 per month. The base level plan has a lot to offer for a new business startup, however. Additionally, Shopify offers a 14-day free trial without a credit card. In other words, you can try out the system and decide afterwards which plan is best for you: 

Shopify pricing menu

It’s hard to compare WooCommerce and Shopify based on price, as Shopify is an all-in-one system as opposed to a plugin. Regardless, you can keep the monthly, recurring price in mind when planning out your budget.

Another consideration is Shopify’s cost-per-sale rates when you choose to take credit card payments through a gateway that is not its Shopify Payments option. These decrease for higher-tier plans. 

Design

Shopify offers 10 free store designs with its plans. Alternatively, you can access over 50 other store designs for prices ranging from $140 to $180. Shopify store designs (or themes) each come with several variations, and have many customization options. 

Additionally, you can use Shopify’s internal theme language to make even more customizations. These themes are all mobile responsive right out of the box, and are very professionally designed. However, you’ll still have a lot fewer options and less control over design and layout than you would with WordPress and WooCommerce.

Ease of Use

Setting up Shopify takes less than a minute, thanks to its easy setup wizard. After answering just a couple of questions about your business, you’ll be up and running: 

Shopify Setup

Once you’re set up, you can easily add new product information and images to your store. You’ll also have access to all your important store settings through a main menu and dashboard: 

Add a product in Shopify

Shopify comes with a simple text editor for creating your product descriptions. Below that, you’ll find a place to upload images, set your pricing, define shipping options, and more. Since Shopify does not require a separate host for its platform, it is pretty user-friendly. 

Security

Out of the box, Shopify has quite a few security options. For example, the platform is already Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliant. This means it meets security standards set by the payment card industry for credit and debit card processing. 

Additionally, Shopify accounts come with SSL certificates ready to go. Of course, if you want to maximize security, you will find yourself limited as to how many non-default features and options you can add to your store.

SEO 

While Shopify offers a pretty standard set of SEO tools to handle product descriptions and meta data, it does boast fast page loading times. This, of course, can be a ticket to better search engine rankings. Since Shopify is an all-in-one website, hosting, and eCommerce solution, it can take advantage of a robust infrastructure dedicated to just eCommerce. 

Customer Support

When it comes to support, Shopify has quite a few options for its users. As a customer, you have access to 24/7 support from specialists. You can contact them via email, chat, or phone. In addition, there is also a fairly robust online knowledge base for users who prefer to research what they need. 

Shopify in a Nutshell

To recap, Shopify:

  • Provides a managed eCommerce service, meaning you don’t have to worry about infrastructure or software configuration
  • Offers a professionally-designed sales experience
  • Enables you to pick and choose features based on the package level you need
  • Handles charges for shipping costs (as well as per-state taxes) automatically

All in all, neither WooCommerce nor Shopify is a ‘better’ eCommerce solution. Your situation, needs, resources, budget, and goals will dictate which platform you opt for.

If you need full control over your store, WooCommerce is probably the right choice. However, if you want a mostly hands-off eCommerce solution, Shopify is a strong contender.

WooCommerce to Shopify

If you currently use WooCommerce but are considering moving to Shopify, the switch is easier than you might expect. For a start, you don’t need to manually migrate your entire eCommerce store. Shopify offers a migration tool called Woo Importer:

Woo Importer plugin menu

This tool is free for the first twenty products, with prices ranging from $10 to $100 for a full migration beyond that. Setting up the importer requires generating a WooCommerce API key. After that, you can follow the included wizard to complete your import, and then start selling products with Shopify.

Secure Your Online Store With WP Engine

WP Engine is a leader in strong and stable managed WordPress hosting. You’ll receive a free SSL certificate with every plan, along with around-the-clock chat support and website staging to help you work on your eCommerce store before you go live.

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