Shopify vs WooCommerce
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Ecommerce is absolutely exploding.

By 2022, it’s expected that online sales will make up a whopping 17% of all retail sales in the United States. As technology continues to advance, that number is likely to increase.

If you’ve ever thought of starting your own ecommerce business, now is the PERFECT time to do it.

It’s easier than ever to start an ecommerce business. Just a few years ago, you had to be able to build a website and shopping cart from the ground up or invest thousands of dollars to pay someone to build it for you.

Now if you have something to sell, you can have it online and ready to go with just a few clicks of a button.

There are a handful of services you can use to get your products online, but there are two that stand out from the pack: Shopify and WooCommerce.

If you’re starting an ecommerce business, it’s hard to go wrong with one of these.  

Shopify is a stand-alone service, while WooCommerce is a plugin for the immensely popular WordPress service.

So, which one should you use for your business? Is one better than the other?

Those aren’t easy questions to answer, and it depends on numerous factors.

So let’s break it down and decide which platform you should use for your business.

Short on time? Here’s the bottom line:

If you’re not too technically inclined, Shopify is probably the best way to go (you can try it out with Shopify’s 14-day free trial). Here’s our step-by-step guide to build an online store with Shopify.

If you’re planning to have a ton of products, are familiar with WordPress and want more control than Shopify offers, then WooCommerce is likely the best choice for you. Follow our step-by-step guide to start an online store with WordPress + WooCommerce.

What Is Shopify?

What is Shopify? Ecommerce platform

Shopify is your one-stop shop for all things ecommerce. It’s an online tool that allows you to create an online store from scratch with no experience necessary.

You won’t need the help of a designer or a developer either, because Shopify will hold your hand through the entire process and guide you along the way as you setup your store.

You can sell whatever you want with Shopify, including physical products, digital products, services and dropshipped products. You can also use Shopify offline with their Point Of Sale feature which allows you to integrate your traditional store with your Shopify online store.  

This is a fantastic feature to have if you ever plan to or already sell your goods in a traditional retail setup.

Thinking of picking Shopify? Read our step-by-step guide to build an online store with Shopify (don’t forget to use Shopify’s 14-day free trial).

What Is WooCommerce?

What is WooCommerce? Ecommerce platform

To answer this question, you first need to know about WordPress. WordPress is an extremely popular, all-in-one website software, and it’s estimated that WordPress runs 28.9% of the internet. In other words, more than one quarter of the entire internet runs on WordPress.

WordPress is built with the intent of sharing content including (but not limited to) blog posts, pictures, videos, and much more. However, initially WordPress wasn’t built with the intent to sell products.

That’s where WooCommerce comes in. WooCommerce is a plugin available for WordPress that adds a shopping cart to your website and allows you to sell products to your audience.

WooCommerce is a free plugin, which is good, but there are some expenses you’ll have to take care of to get everything running. We’ll talk about those a little later on.

Think of it like this. Using Shopify is like going out to eat at a restaurant. Everything is done for you and all you have to do is eat. Using WooCommerce is like cooking at home. You have to get all of the ingredients and prepare your food yourself before you can eat it.

Choosing WordPress and WooCommerce? Follow our step-by-step guide to start an online store with WordPress + WooCommerce.

Which Should You Choose?

Shopify vs WooCommerce

Now that you know a little bit about both services, let’s break it down further to decide which option is best for you and your business.

As we go through the details, be sure to keep in mind the goals you have for your business, what you need to get out of your online store, and the skills you already have. These things will inform which one you choose.

Category #1: Design

The design of your site is your customers first impression. You want to have a good looking, well designed site that people can trust. If they look at your site and it looks like it was put together by someone in the early 1990s, they’re likely to move on to one of your competitors.

Shopify Themes

Shopify themes

Shopify comes with over 50 different themes, with 10 of them being free. Each of these themes will have unique variations and will be able to be customized to certain extent. All of the themes are mobile responsive, and have a clean, modern feel to them.

Shopify doesn’t design their themes in-house, outsourcing the job to professional developers who make sure the themes stay fresh, relevant and engaging. Because of this, the cost of the premium themes can get pretty pricey. Of course, for the price you get a beautiful theme that’s always updated.

Shopify themes are extremely easy to change, edit, and update. With their theme editor you can easily adjust colors and styles, update your site, and even change your theme completely. You can also edit sections of your website without publishing them so you can prepare for a new product launch without taking your site offline.

More advanced developers can utilize the platform’s specialized ‘Liquid’ language to make more substantial changes and really make the brand stand out. This is not necessary, just an added bonus if you have the skills to do so.

WooCommerce Themes

WordPress.org theme directory

The design options for your WooCommerce store are practically limitless. As mentioned before, WooCommerce itself is a plugin for WordPress, so it doesn’t come with any designs on its own. The design of your store depends on the theme you use in WordPress.

WooCommerce has been designed to work with the majority of the WordPress themes on the market as long as they follow the standard recommendations and best practices, so you can be sure you’ll never be short on options for a theme.

However, there are many themes that have been built specifically for WooCommerce, and these would be an excellent place to start. The Storefront Theme is the official WooCommerce theme and is an excellent choice for your online store.

Shopify has numerous outstanding themes, but you’re limited to what you can find in the Shopify theme store. WooCommerce, on the other hand, is run on WordPress, so developers all around the world can create and sell (or giveaway) themes for various industries and purposes.

Category #2: Pricing

Price is one of the most important factors when you decide which service to use. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of capital, you want to be sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Shopify Pricing

Shopify pricing

Shopify is a single, out-of-the-box solution for your ecommerce store, with just a few pricing packages. You sign up and start building right away since everything is included in one price.  

The most popular pricing package for Shopify will cost you $29/month, which starts off with a 14-day free trial. Shopify has a variety of options available including:

  • Lite ($9 per month)
  • Basic Shopify ($29 per month)
  • Shopify ($79 per month)
  • Advanced Shopify ($299 per month).  

In addition to the base price, you also need to consider transaction fees. Shopify charges a certain percentage of every transaction, and if you’re using an additional payment gateway like PayPal or Stripe, those fees will be included as well.

Transaction fees change constantly so I won’t list them here, but you need to know they exist and to take them into consideration.

WooCommerce Pricing

WooCommerce free plugin

WooCommerce is a free, open source software plugin for WordPress, which is also free.  Although you aren’t charged to use them, you will incur other costs along the way. You will need to buy your domain, hosting, WordPress theme (if you choose to pay for one) and SSL certificate. Here’s how to this set up with WooCommerce.

Depending on who you use for hosting and the deals they have running, this could all cost you as low as $5/month.

With WooCommerce, you also have to factor in additional services like SEO and payment gateways.

WooCommerce is certainly the cheaper alternative, but it takes extra time to set up and get running. You also need to be careful when you purchase extra extensions so you don’t go over your budget.

Category #3: Features

While the pricing structure between the two services varies greatly, the features are relatively similar. Shopify and WooCommerce both have all the ecommerce essentials built into the main software, and both have solid app stores for installing any other features you may need.

Shopify Features

Shopify features

From the start, Shopify gives you:

  • Unlimited products
  • Unlimited file storage
  • Automatic fraud analysis
  • Embedded Oberlo integration
  • Manual order creation
  • Discount codes
  • Blog module
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Mobile commerce optimization
  • Editable HTML and CSS
  • Credit card payments
  • Multiple languages
  • Adjustable shipping rates and taxes
  • Customer profiles
  • Drop shipping capabilities
  • SEO-ready site structure
  • Individual product reviews
  • Facebook selling module
  • Social media integration
  • Physical and digital products in the store
  • Unlimited traffic to your store
  • Daily backups
  • Site stats and product reports
  • Fully featured mobile app
  • Product importing via CSV files
  • Different product variations
  • Print orders

Some of these features will need to be purchased through extensions if you use WooCommerce.

WooCommerce Features

WooCommerce features

Because WordPress is open-source, third party developers to can create various themes, extensions, and plugins to power their websites. This is also true for WooCommerce. Whether you want to sell on Facebook, implement email marketing, or study your customers behavior, WooCommerce will have a plugin for it.  

Here’s what you’ll find inside WooCommerce:

  • Payments via PayPal and Stripe built-in
  • Adjustable shipping rates and taxes
  • Unlimited number of products and categories
  • Inventory control
  • Mobile-friendly structure
  • Complete control over your website and its data
  • Runs off of your WordPress theme
  • Hundreds of plugins and extensions
  • Free Facebook ad and Facebook stores extensions

There’s nothing missing from either service. However, Shopify has the simplest by giving all the features you’ll need to run your store for one price.  

However, you can get everything you need with WooCommerce as well. It just might require a little extra work and an additional price tag. Choosing the service you like based on it’s features usually comes down to personal preference and desire for ease of use.

They both have everything you need to be successful.

Category #4: Ease Of Use

Just like price, ease of use will be very important to new users. People that have never opened an online store want something they can get on and start selling with no headaches.

Shopify Ease of Use

Shopify ease of use

Shopify’s biggest strength is that it’s an online subscription based tool. This means that all you need to do to get started is go to www.shopify.com, complete the signup wizard, and you’re done. You can start selling immediately.

Shopify comes with a very easy to use Dashboard that lets you control everything in your ecommerce store from one spot. The entire process with Shopify is very straight forward. There’s no guesswork, and you don’t need any specialized skills to get your store up and running. Shopify is also very intuitive when it comes to things like adding products and handling your orders.

For example, when you’re adding a product to your Shopify store, every option is available on a single panel so you don’t have to visit multiple spots on your dashboard when adding new products.

Overall, Shopify is extremely easy to use and can be mastered very quickly, even by the most inexperienced users. They also have 24/7 support in case you run into problems.

WooCommerce Ease of Use

WooCommerce ease of use

Once you get through the initial setup, working with WooCommerce is just as simple as working with Shopify. However, the initial setup is much more difficult with WooCommerce than it is with Shopify.

To get started with WooCommerce, you need to:

  • Buy your domain name
  • Sign up for web hosting
  • Install WordPress onto your site
  • Install the WooCommerce plugin
  • Install any additional plugins needed for your store

Those steps do involve some amount of tech savvy. You have to setup your web server, redirect your domain, get WordPress installed and operational, and then install WooCommerce and all of its plugins. That’s not as simple as just clicking a few buttons through a setup wizard.

However, there are hosting companies that specialize in WordPress that will take care of everything for you. The only thing you’ll have to do is install WooCommerce and any of the additional plugins you want.

Even so, this process is still more difficult than Shopify’s.

Once you get WooCommerce installed, you’ll be taken to a setup wizard that will guide you through the process step by step. It’ll help you set up things like currency settings, shipping options, and your payment gateways.

Being able to complete the entire process in Shopify in just a few steps is very attractive. WooCommerce is just as easy to use on a day-to-day basis, but the initial setup up is significantly more difficult.  

Category #5: Support

Support is a service people often take for granted. When things are running smoothly, people sometimes forget they even have support available to them. But when it’s the day before black Friday and your store isn’t working, you’ll be very happy to have 24/7 support available to you.

Shopify Support

Shopify support

Shopify prides itself on its first class customer care.  Every customer has the ability to reach a customer care specialist at any time, 24/7. You can reach them via phone, email, or live chat at support.shopify.com.

Aside from that, Shopify also has an extensive knowledge base that has answers to many of the most common questions.

WooCommerce Support

WooCommerce support

Support works very differently for WooCommerce. Since WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, you can find support on their forums. You can also create a free account at WooCommerce.com and get support there.

Because WordPress and WooCommerce are open source, there are a various developers that work on the various themes and plugins available for your website and your store.

Because of this, there is no centralized support for all things WooCommerce. WooCommerce is great for people who don’t need or want to speak to a customer service rep and do their own research instead.

Category #6: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the process of making sure your website sits high in search results for specific keywords related to your website. There are debates that still go on today about the importance of SEO for ecommerce stores. Some people live and die by SEO, while others don’t think it’s as important. Either way, Shopify and WooCommerce both provide excellent ways to optimize your store.

Shopify SEO

Shopify SEO

Shopify handles basic SEO practices like meta data and site copy with ease.  As long as you’re producing quality content, there’s no reason to worry about your site not getting user engagement and strong results.

Shopify is also known for having clean code and natural linking structure, which both offers a smooth user experience and in turn enhances visibility in search engine rankings.

Shopify is also very fast. Because it’s a subscription service hosted on a huge infrastructure, it’s able to offer its users rapid loading pages.

WooCommerce SEO

WordPress WooCommerce SEO

WordPress is known for being well-optimized search engines. You can expect the same results when using WooCommerce. With powerful SEO plugins like Yoast SEO, you can be sure your website is highly optimized, and you’ll have full control of every little detail that’s SEO-related.

WooCommerce gives you more SEO specific options than Shopify overall because it’s built inside of WordPress. However, the speed of your website relies on the hosting provider you choose, so be sure they can deliver the speed you need to rank high.

Shopify Is Right For You If…

Shopify

Shopify separates itself by being the one-stop-shop ecommerce solution for everyone.  And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. Anybody with the most basic computer and internet skills can login in to Shopify and have products for sale within minutes.

If you’re looking for a low barrier to entry, Shopify is probably the one for you. The setup process is fast and easy, and you control everything from a single dashboard. You’ll be working with customers in no time.

You also don’t need to be an ecommerce expert. Shopify handles everything like inventory, taxes, shipping settings and so on. It handles the boring stuff so you can focus on your products and customers.

You should use Shopify…

  • If you don’t already have a website and you want to launch a quality ecommerce store as fast as possible.
  • If you don’t have any design, coding, or website building skills, and you don’t want to pay anybody to setup your store for you.
  • If you appreciate a hands-off approach where all you need to do is sign up and follow a few simple instructions to launch your store.
  • If you don’t mind paying a fee to have everything taken care of for you.
  • If you aren’t interested in the technical details of your ecommerce platform, but want it to work and be accessible to all customers on all devices.
  • If you want to integrate your online store with your traditional retail store.
  • If you need access to great customer support.

WooCommerce Is Right For You If…

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is appealing because it operates on the massively popular WordPress platform, and developers from all over the world can create unique and powerful plugins for it.

You can get WordPress and WooCommerce for free, but you will need to pay for your domain, hosting, and various other services.

WooCommerce delivers all of the basics, like shopping carts, product catalogs, online payments, coupons, and so on. There is also an enormous marketplace for additional plugins to use for your store.

You should use WooCommerce…

  • If you want full control of your eCommerce store.
  • If you want access to thousands of site designs and plugins that will enable you to enhance the functionality of your store.
  • If you already have a WordPress site and you’re familiar with the interface.
  • If you already have a WordPress site and you want to minimize costs.
  • If you’re comfortable experimenting with source code occasionally.
  • If you can cope without 24/7 customer support.
  • If you don’t mind an in depth setup process, and you’re not afraid to handle the tasks on your own or will pay someone else to do so.
  • If you have a small budget to start and you want to do everything on your own.

If you’re not too technically inclined, Shopify is probably the best way to go (you can try it out with Shopify’s 14-day free trial). Here’s our step-by-step guide to build an online store with Shopify.

If you’re planning to have a ton of products, are familiar with WordPress and want more control than Shopify offers, then WooCommerce is likely the best choice for you. Follow our step-by-step guide to start an online store with WordPress + WooCommerce.

Conclusion

You now have enough information decide which ecommerce service will work best for you. There are certainly some stark differences between the two services, but they both offer everything you will need to run a successful ecommerce business.

Shopify is probably for you if you don’t already have a website and you want to be able to sign up and get started as quickly as possible. It’s also good for you if you are going to need customer service reps on stand by.

WooCommerce is good for you if you already have a WordPress site installed and you want to start selling products through that. It’s also a good option for you if you want access to their extensive theme and plugin marketplace and don’t mind a bit of a learning curve.

Either way, now is the time to get started. It’s time to strike while the fire is hot and build your ecommerce store.

If you’re still not sure which to choose, read our detailed guides on both WooCommerce and Shopify:

If you’re selling services (not products), you don’t really need either Shopify or WooCommerce. Instead, consider making a business website, blog or using another website builder.

Originally published July 18, 2017, updated March 11, 2018