WooCommerce vs Shopify: How to Choose
When it comes to WordPress, WooCommerce is a plugin that reigns supreme over any other eCommerce solution. It powers almost 94% of all online shops on WordPress and 26% of top one million eCommerce websites. Shopify, on the other hand, is an immensely popular platform for non-WordPress websites, with a 20% share in the top one million online stores. Both solutions are considered by experts and users alike to be the absolute leaders of the eCommerce platform market, which makes the WooCommerce vs Shopify dilemma quite difficult to resolve.
Difficult or not, that’s what we’re setting out to do in this article, so of you’re wondering which platform to pick for your brand new online shop, stay tuned as we go through some of the basic criteria for choosing between the two:
Whether a tool is easy to use or not is an inherently subjective matter, as we all possess different levels of competence, inclinations and knowledge. Still, when it comes to picking between WooCommerce and Shopify considering their ease of use, there are a few things to be said.
First of all, it needs to be understood that WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin for WordPress, while Shopify is a standalone platform. If you’re already proficient in WordPress, adopting WooCommerce will come naturally and seamlessly, so that’s one point in favor of the plugin.
On the other hand, if you’re completely new to running a website, any sort of website, on any platform, then both WooCommerce and Shopify will most likely have a quite similar learning curve, which is definitely not too steep. In short, both platforms are relatively easy to master, especially with some quality guidance.
Now, when it comes to how easy it is to start a shop, Shopify has a significant advantage, since it’s self-hosted. What this means is that if you don’t have a website already, Shopify will take care of everything – the hosting, the domain name, design and functionalities, the whole thing.
With WooCommerce, on the other hand, you won’t have it as easy – you will have to find a hosting provider and install WordPress, set up a website, install the plugin and set up the shop.
So, Shopify wins a point here, especially for users who do not have a website yet and want to set up a shop quickly.
The situation is similar when it comes to which platform is more convenient – WooCommerce or Shopify. For most beginners, simply signing up for a plan that includes hosting, eCommerce functionalities and design is much more convenient, and that’s what you get with Shopify. On the other hand, already existing WordPress websites can easily be extended with the WooCommerce plugin to acquire all the necessary eCommerce functionalities – and for free.
In any case, there’s a good reason why both these platforms represent the most popular and widely used eCommerce solutions – in both cases setting up an online shop requires basically zero effort and can be done relatively quickly, allowing users to start selling and generating revenue right away. Of course, simply setting up a shop doesn’t mean the money will automatically come pouring in – there’s still work to do in terms of optimisation, marketing and whatnot. The eCommerce pre-launch checklist is not long, though, and doesn’t take up much time either.
This is a tricky one. On paper, WordPress is free, and so is WooCommerce. But if you don’t have hosting and domain name, there will be some costs to incur.
Shopify, on the other hand, offers a range of plans that include different feature tiers but all come with hosting taken care of.
In short, if you’re already hosting your website somewhere, WooCommerce is the cheaper solution, since it’s free (at least in its basic form), but if you’re literally starting from scratch, Shopify may be cheaper.
Finally, let’s not forget that it’s quite possible to find a hosting plan that is cheaper than Shopify’s cheapest plan, in which case a WooCommerce store will be your cheapest option.
The eCommerce market is a highly competitive one, so naturally all players strive to offer the highest possible level of features and functionalities in order to survive. Consequently, you can count on both WooCommerce and Shopify to offer the same or similar set of options for adding and customizing product presentations, creating variations, zoom-in options and more. That’s just out of the box. When it comes to extending the features, for instance creating engaging product carousels, lightboxes, additional payment gateways, product reviews, AR features and similar – you will, in both cases, have to use extensions, addons and plugins.
The great thing about WooCommerce, being a WordPress tool, is that there’s a wonderful community around it creating wonderful plugins to help you extend your shop’s functionality. And many of them are free. There are product bundle plugins, plugins for converting your shop to catalog mode, product filter and product badge plugins, and many, many more.
You could say that the WooCommerce vs Shopify game is tied when it comes to features and functionalities. However, note that if you’re using a premium WordPress eCommerce theme for your WooCommerce shop, you will probably be able to enjoy some premium, advanced eCommerce features that come with the theme, and that you won’t even have to use that many plugins and extensions as the functionalities will already be included.
Good shop design is incredibly important for reaching your sales benchmarks. It’s not just about the aesthetics – when done well, eCommerce design can gently and unobtrusively push your visitors towards the cart and checkout pages, by creating an enjoyable, streamlined shopping experience that keeps your customers coming back.
Of course, you don’t have to design your shop by yourself. You can, if you want, but if you don’t have the time or the resources, you can simply use one of the many themes that both platforms offer. We’ve already mentioned premium WordPress themes for online stores earlier. These themes can be generalized or specialized in niches, such as fashion store themes or tech shops.
As for Shopify, the platform also sports a nice range of well-designed themes, albeit in a much smaller number. If you really want to invest in your shop’s design, you can also opt for a premium Shopify theme, but bear in mind that these can be quite expensive, much more than what we’re used to with WordPress themes.
Note that, with WooCommerce, the shop basically inherits the design from the main WordPress theme installed on the website. However, the themes can usually be customized down to the tiniest detail, which gives you a lot of control over the visual aspects of the shop.
Finally, we have to admit to being partial on this one and to believing that WordPress themes are unsurpassable when it comes to design and aesthetics, so WooCommerce wins a point here.
We have to say right away that when it comes to SEO, WordPress is definitely superior to any other site builder or platform. And by extension, so is WooCommerce, when it comes to shop builders. First of all, it’s optimized out of the box. You can add meta descriptions to your products to increase their performance in search engines, and you can optimize the titles, subtitles and whatnot. In addition, there are tons of excellent plugins for different SEO functions, many of which are free. We recommend either Yoast or RankMath, as these plugins have the best track record so far and are very intuitive and beginner-friendly. Optimizing your online store is an absolute must and fortunately, with proper guidance, it doesn’t require much effort or any special expertise.
Shopify, on the other hand, also includes some elements of SEO in its core, but not much – meta descriptions and titles, and that’s about it. There are, of course, tools in the Shopify App Store that can help with SEO, but we have to say their number is much lower compared to WooCommerce.
The verdict here would have to be that if you want to make sure your SEO game is on point, WooCommerce is your best bet.
Out of the box, Shopify offers integrated marketing tools to help you promote your business. Blogging tools are there for content marketing, but that’s pretty basic considering almost any website on any platform is equipped with blogging features. However, Shopify comes with certain social media marketing tools to help you automate your Meta advertising, complete with targeting and segmentation features. It also features analytics and marketing dashboard tools. Another built-in feature is integration with major marketplaces and channels, like Amazon and eBay.
WooCommerce doesn’t have all these features built in. Once again, should you need any particular marketing tools, you will need to add them through extensions, some of which are free, but most are paid.
Therefore, this is a field where Shopify seems to take home extra points, although it should be said that the best marketing tools around are generally third-party ones you’d have to integrate anyway.
Both WooCommerce and Shopify have decent to very good customer support systems. The official WooCommerce documentation page is an excellent, well-organized resource, and there’s also a handy WooCommerce New Store Guide for those just starting out. WooCommerce being an incredibly popular eCommerce platform, there’s a lot of support forums and communities you can consult for guidance.
When you’re handling payments, personal customer data and other sensitive information, you obviously want to make your website as secure as possible.
Being a ready-made solution that involves hosting, Shopify also made sure to offer some security features out of the box, primarily the SSL certificate. You don’t get that with WooCommerce, but you can add one very easily, and for free. In addition, there are several excellent SSL plugins you can use.
But eCommerce security doesn’t end with an SSL certificate. In fact, there’s a whole host of steps you can and should take to make sure your transactions are secure and your website doesn’t pose an easy target for hackers. And although WooCommerce does have some known vulnerabilities, there are plenty of easy ways to fix them.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce support a wide range of payment gateways. WooCommerce supports Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.Net, as well as PayPence and several other regional payment gateways. However, “supports” doesn’t mean “includes out of the box,” which means that for certain payment gateways, you will need to purchase an extension.
Shopify, on the other hand, has its own bespoke gateway that comes out of the box and doesn’t require any setup. It also supports a range of other gateways but there’s a catch – only the Shopify Payments (the native gateway) comes with zero fees. You will have to pay additional fees if you want to use other gateways, which we must say is a significant downside.
As for the shipping, the two platforms don’t lack in functionalities. They both support international shipping, however for the best possible experience and smooth running of your business, you may be required to install some addons or plugins. Shopify integrates with most major carriers, such as FedEx, USPS, UPS and DHL, and you get that out of the box. This is not the case with WooCommerce, where you have to resort to plugins, some of which are paid.
Finally, if you want to adopt the dropshipping model, WooCommerce is a great platform to do so, as it has some excellent extensions for dropshipping, Amazon affiliation, stock and inventory management and so on, as well as plugins for a seamless integration with AliExpress.
Shopify offers similar possibilities for dropshipping, with a designated plugin for AliExpress and other platforms.
Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer a stack of features for managing your inventory. If you’re already familiar with WordPress, you’ll be happy to find the usual editor interface in the WooCommerce backend, where you can add new products and assign their attributes and other details (SKU, category, images, etc) like you would create a new post. Shopify also allows for all the essential inventory management tasks, such as generating reports, setting up alerts, sorting the products and so on – out of the box. However, WooCommerce wins a point here as it does not have a hard cap on the number of variations you can set for each product (color, size, etc). Shopify only allows for 100 variations, and three total options per product. If you need more, you’ll have to get a special extension for that.
Now that we have reviewed some of the most important aspects of starting and running an online shop, let’s see how the two platforms compare and who wins the WooCommerce vs Shopify dilemma.
The answer is, unfortunately, somewhat anticlimactic – there is no clear winner here. Which of the two platforms will be better for your particular shop depends on the type of shop you intend on running, and on several other factors.
In short, if you’re already using WordPress or are familiar with it, WooCommerce should be your platform of choice. You will have an easy time setting everything up and a terrific selection of plugins (many of which are free) to extend the functionality of your shop and run your business smoother. Plus, the amazing eCommerce themes for WordPress will help you awe and woo your visitors. The fact that both WordPress and WooCommerce (as well as some of the specialized or multipurpose themes, like our own Qi Theme) are free doesn’t hurt either.
Shopify, on the other hand, may be simpler for those with no hosting or domain name. It is a more complete turnkey solution, although we feel that it lacks some of the smoothness and convenience that come with WooCommerce.
In short – you won’t be wrong to choose either of the two. Just go through the list and pick the one that fits your current resources and your future needs better.