Shopify or WooCommerce? If you want to build a successful online business, then your choice of ecommerce platform matters.
And with $4.8 billion forecast in retail sales during 2021, everyone wants a piece of the pie. But which ecommerce platform is better for your business? It’s got to be the one that can add to your bottom line, right?
So, I’ve broken down the 10 essential components that make up the best ecommerce solution in 2021.
Here is my Shopify vs WooCommerce comparison for the definitive answer.
Table of contents
- Shopify vs WooCommerce: Quick comparison
- Design templates: Look and feel
- Time to launch
- Ease of use
- Payments, inventory and shipping
- Extra features
- Search engine friendly?
- Support for Dropshipping
- Customer support
- Shopify vs WooCommerce: Conclusion
Some entrepreneurs swear by Shopify while others would want nothing except WooCommerce.
The short answer?
The word on the internet is…Shopify is great if you don’t have a technical background and WooCommerce is great if…you can sit down, learn and get these technical skills!
This is true in a sense, but it’s not the whole picture.
You can skip to the end if you want to read the conclusion. But read through the whole blog for a better understanding of why I’ve arrived at this conclusion and what the facts are that led here.
Before we dive in, here is some background.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is a popular, subscription based ecommerce platform. It has support for online stores as well as point of sale touchpoints. It’s like a ready made ecommerce website.
It calls itself the platform with every feature you need to set up, maintain and grow your business online.
It’s expensive but provides a fully hosted solution, meaning it takes care of hosting, domain, and maintenance of the website.
- But so will most other website development and hosting companies you hire.
- Plus, you’ll have to pay extra for a custom domain name.
- Shopify’s biggest advantage over any other web development company is its scalability. Building huge websites is really tough!
- Its single biggest drawback (apart from pricing) is that you won’t own your online property. It’s like Shopify retains ownership and you pay the lease.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is an ecommerce plugin for WordPress (the world’s most popular CMS). Just like WordPress, it is open source – meaning it’s free to install and customize.
With a huge online community to support it, you would think running a WordPress site (or its associated WooCommerce plugin) would be easy.
It is much, much cheaper, but it’s a self hosted solution. You still would need to set up your own website first – that’s hosting, domain, plus you’ll need to run maintenance and updates for your website.
That sounds harder than it actually is.
- Because post-2020, on sites like Upwork or Freelancer, you can hire freelance WordPress developers starting at $5-$10/hour.
- Even though the price is subjective, the fact remains that the talent pool for hire relating to such a popular platform remains affordable and readily available.
- Its biggest plus is that you own your website (at a reasonable price). You have complete control.
- Its biggest disadvantage is that it’s not a product – it’s a tool. If you don’t know how to use it, you’ll have to either learn it or hire someone who knows how to use it.
Shopify vs WooCommerce: Quick comparison ↩
Here’s a quick visual comparison for you. As you can see, except for ease of use, in all other parameters WooCommerce trumps Shopify. (I explain further down why ‘Customer Support’ doesn’t count!).
Okay, now let’s take a deeper look at this.
Design templates: Look and feel ↩
Both Woocommerce and Shopify are competent.
However, in terms of the variety of designs and templates available for your store’s visual elements – WooCommerce is the clear winner.
The themes in Shopify are clean and simple, but your choices are limited.
Choosing paid themes can definitely add some color to your webstore, but they can be pretty expensive. They start from $140!
Themes with WooCommerce? There are lots (almost infinite) and they are more affordable than themes on Shopify.
Plus you can also buy from 3rd-party theme stores – for an even better price.
So, as far as design themes and the visual appeal of your website go, both Shopify and WooCommerce are good. However, the price difference isn’t something new businesses can ignore.
Time to launch ↩
Creating a website is (slightly) faster with Shopify than WooCommerce.
But if you consider the amount of time for your business to be up and running? It’s both neck and neck.
Shopify is ready out of the box…err sort of. This means you get a barebone structure instantly, as soon as you sign up for the 14 day trial.
But it’s got some way to go before it becomes a website. As you can see here.
After you sign up, you’ll still need to:
- Add content,
- upload product images,
- populate categories,
- create product listings and
- write blogs.
Not to mention setting up how to accept payments from customers. Whew! That’s a lot still left, right?
According to this blog, a developer can set up your WordPress website in 24 hours. Then laying on the WooCommerce plugin takes another…10 minutes. That’s it!
But having your online store up and running will take longer than that (as it is with Shopify).
The price difference however makes this a worthwhile option for your business.
WooCommerce has way better pricing.
In fact, it’s the single biggest factor setting it apart from Shopify.
Pricing plans for Shopify are billed monthly or annually. As I’ve said before the pricing is pretty steep, especially for new businesses. Here’s a snapshot, or you can see the full pricing here.
However, if you can afford it, Shopify acts like the one stop shop for everything you need to run your ecommerce store.
Unlike other web development agencies, with Shopify you get:
- SSL certificate
- Top-level domain
With WooCommerce on the other hand, if your management and organizational skills are good, you get more control at a better price than with Shopify.
For example, consider this pricing plan for WordPress.com (it’s in INR). For comparison, ₹1000 = $14 (approx).
You can see, running WooCommerce on top of these plans makes more business sense than having a Shopify subscription.
The initial software is free. Even if you consider the additional cost of hosting, themes, domain name, an SSL certificate, and add on features, WooCommerce is still way cheaper.
And Shopify gets more expensive as you grow. Also remember, it’s a monthly subscription based system. With WooCommerce, it’s mostly just an upfront cost.
Note: Have you heard of Shopify Lite?
- It’s used if you already have a website,
- it easily adds the Shopify ecommerce experience,
- it works with your website,
- it works with 3rd party websites you’ve partnered with to sell your products.
Shopify Lite comes at a fair price (of $9/month). It might not be practical for an ecommerce store, but it can help you partner with other existing websites to start selling online.
Ease of use ↩
Both Shopify and WooCommerce are easy to use.
For routine, everyday changes, they both use a point and click based backend.
Both let you:
- Change text/content on pages.
- Add/remove product categories.
- Add/remove products.
- Update product information.
- Update product media.
For adding products and for simple changes, the interface is quite similar between both Shopify and WooCommerce. Here’s what it would look like.
One advantage Shopify has over Woocommerce is that it lets you easily edit the elements on the Homepage of your website – just the Homepage though, not any other page.
With Shopify you can add videos, feature products, add buttons and do lots more with their simple interface.
WooCommerce doesn’t have an easy way to do this. So that’s one thing where Shopify comes out on top!
You can get a theme you like, with these elements, or have a customized one designed, but making changes yourself won’t be practical. Especially if you’re not familiar with the WordPress ecosystem.
Payments, inventory and shipping ↩
WooCommerce has a better payment structure than Shopify.
You can choose from hundreds of payment providers on both platforms.
But with Shopify:
- You’re either locked into the Shopify Payments ecosystem or,
- there’s an extra 2% charge for 3rd party transactions (on top of any standard bank charges).
Inventory and shipping management are in built on both platforms and are pretty standard, with support for popular service providers.
On WooCommerce, you can access both from the settings tab under the WooCommerce menu.
Extra features ↩
Shopify could maybe inch out WooCommerce in this criteria. Just maybe.
The single biggest win for Shopify is its multichannel sales feature – it lets you use eBay, Amazon, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram to grow your sales.
For WooCommerce this is a paid feature.
However, the number of plugins you get to choose from for WooCommerce is huge! On the breadth of add on 3rd party features available, WooCommerce beats Shopify hands down.
Shopify cannot compete in this matter. Apps made for Shopify are limited and the built in features are mostly all you have.
Search engine friendly? ↩
WooCommerce wins out over Shopify here.
But first, what is SEO? It stands for search engine optimization. This means making it easier for search engines (like Google and Bing) to find and display your webpages – whenever people search for related services.
WooCommerce inherently makes this easy. Using a 3rd party application can add even more to your websites’ SEO strength. Here is an example of one such app.
Yoast SEO (featured in the image) is the most popular SEO plugin for WooCommerce. It packs in a lot of powerful features into your website, making it easier for customers to find you on the internet.
For example, using Yoast your product can show up with rich search features like ratings, reviews, prices and more.
Yoast can also help your products appear on Google shopping search results like these – which can bring more people to your website.
Plus, powering blogs is easy – because that’s what WordPress does best.
With Shopify, having your own blog is easy and you get standard SEO features.
However, Shopify’s biggest disadvantage: not being able to customize your webpage URL (which can help with SEO).
Support for Dropshipping ↩
Both WooCommerce and Shopify have support for Dropshipping.
What is Dropshipping? It’s a way to sell online that has recently become popular. Unlike traditional businesses, in dropshipping, only after a customer pays does the seller order the product from the supplier. The supplier then directly delivers it to the customer.
With Shopify, there is an inbuilt dashboard for Oberlo (a Shopify subsidiary) for managing your dropshipping orders.
Here is what the interface looks like.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer many 3rd party apps/plugins to dropshipping marketplaces that work just as seamlessly.
However, all dropshipping marketplaces come with their own charges and overhead which you’ll need to consider.
Customer support ↩
Shopify wins (but it’s just not a fair comparison).
WooCommerce is a plugin, Shopify is a paid platform. This is technically a loaded question. But it’s also an essential aspect of running an online store, so here’s the comparison.
Shopify offers 24/7 support via call-backs, chat or email. Or you can engage with the online community.
Shopify also offers a central resource hub where you can learn more about Shopify and how to sell using the platform.
For WooCommerce support, you’ll need to contact your hosting/website provider for most things (like WordPress.com which offers 5-day chat support for most paid plans).
Or, if you can manage things yourself, WooCommerce has lots of resources to guide you that you can learn from.
Ofcourse WooCommerce also has a resources hub. Again here you’ll have to rely on yourself.
But to be fair, WooCommerce is not a website. It’s just part of your website.
If you’re looking for a person who can connect and help you with problems on your website, you’ll need to contact the person who built and now maintains it.
Both WooCommerce and Shopify are great for scalability.
WooCommerce is built from the ground up for scalability, so it has the potential to grow with your ambitions.
Growing your business on Shopify can be really easy, but it can also be really expensive.
If your business growth skyrockets, there’s Shopify Plus – the enterprise ready solution for business that have high transaction volumes.
But realistically most growing businesses won’t need this.
Shopify vs WooCommerce: Conclusion ↩
So, Shopify or WooCommerce, which is better? I would say – this is a false comparison.
Why’s that? As I’ve said before WooCommerce is a plugin – a tool. Shopify is a product.
So a better comparison would be between a website with WordPress/WooCommerce Hosting and Shopify: and for a new business, the former makes business sense.
And the popularity of platforms backs this up – as of September 2021, 8.5% of all websites use WooCommerce.
That’s twice as popular as Shopify.
Shopify is for you if:
- You want to sell online & in person (Shopify supports POS payments),
- you want to test out your skills and get a feel for the business or,
- you don’t mind spending the extra cash (and taking the hit to your bottom line).
Go for WooCommerce if:
- You’re comfortable working with WordPress developers,
- you have a WordPress developer on retainer,
- you don’t mind the steep learning curve or,
- you’re serious about selling online.
WooCommerce might not be for starters, but the overhead of running Shopify might not be affordable for growing businesses either.
If you’re planning to sell online for the long term, then sooner or later, you’ll have to consider that WooCommerce can give your business that competitive edge.
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