Before we dig into our WooCommerce vs Shopify comparison, let's start with a few insane statistics!
Did you know that 51% of people in the USA prefer online shopping?
In 2016, the average shopper spent $488 on e-commerce purchases, beating offline purchases by $79.
E-commerce is expected to grow 23% year-over-year.
If you're in the eCommerce business, things are looking good for you. These e-commerce statistics present a very lucrative future for online shopping and e-commerce.
If you want to make the most out of this rising trend, you need to create an e-commerce site - asap, that's a fact. The easiest way to create an online shopping website is to use an eCommerce platform or ready-made online store solution.
There are several eCommerce platform options out there, but these two are by far the two most popular ones. Both platforms offer an extensive list of features and have a large user base, which leads us to the following question:
Which eCommerce platform should you use to create your shopping site?
That is what we will discuss today.
This article has just been updated in May 2021 to ensure all new details are added to keep the content and relevance as recent as it can get.
The WooCommerce vs Shopify dilemma comes about if you want to create an online store. We'll try to resolve that question by diving deeply into both platforms, their capabilities, their benefits, their prices, their pros and cons and anything else we were able to get our hands on after having worked with both platforms.
We will compare both platforms side by side on various factors. We've set up several websites with both WooCommerce and Shopify so we can speak with authority and experience about both of these two online store products.
Finally, we will explore the potential situations and help you decide which platform to use in which situation. You'll find that WooCommerce will excel in certain scenarios, while Shopify will be a better choice in others.
By the time you finish this post, you will have a clear idea about what features these platforms offer, and which one you should choose.
Are you ready? Let’s get started.
1. Ease of Use and Getting Started
Ease of use should be one of your top priorities when choosing the best e-commerce platform. Both during setup and as you maintain the store, your website or blog should be easy to manage without a lot of complex options.
Let’s start the post by comparing the ease of use, user-friendliness and the user experience of both these two platforms - the WooCommerce vs Shopify user experience.
This is a subscription-based tool. That means that the Shopify platform will take care of all the technical details involved in the process of the setup of the shop - no installations or figuring out what hosting package and platform to use.
Read More: What is Shopify?
You just need to create an account, answer a few questions related to your business, and that’s it - you have set up your online store.
The Shopify dashboard includes the necessary links to manage products, track orders, check out the customers, reports, set up discounts, etc.
The settings options are located on the bottom-left corner of the dashboard.
The Shopify service has carefully crafted the various steps of managing your online store, which ensures a seamless user experience.
For instance, when you are adding a new product, you will find all the relevant options like the title, description, images, price, type, vendor, tags, inventory, shipping, weight, SEO, and variants of the product.
You can expect the same level of convenience in all other aspects of managing your website, which makes Shopify an excellent e-commerce management platform.
If you want to have a look at the possibilities, here's a complete video on how to start a T-shirt business using this as your platform.
Looking great right? You might want to get some more details about Shopify in the link below.
When it comes to usage, it is almost as easy to manage a WooCommerce eCommerce store.
But getting started and the actual setup of the store requires a lot more effort, typically it requires the involvement of a third-party who already has some experience in setting up a store with WooCommerce.
Since this is a WordPress plugin, there are some preparatory steps involved.
First of all, you will need to perform all of the steps necessary to set up and install WordPress, because this is the base infrastructure necessary for WooCommerce.
You will need to purchase a domain, a WooCommerce hosting plan (here are some WooCommerce hosting plans we recommend), download and install WordPress on your website, choose and install a WordPress theme. Only after you have followed all these steps, you can get started with WooCommerce.
Recommended Reading: [How to] 14 steps to an awesome WordPress website for beginners
After setting up a WordPress site, the first step to set it all up is installing and activating the WooCommerce plugin on your WordPress installation.
Have a look at this quick overview:
The plugin will take you through you some basic steps to set up the necessary pages, store location, shipping, tax, and payment options.
At this point, you will have two new menu items on your dashboard – WooCommerce and Products. The first menu item allows you to manage the orders, coupons, reports, and the eCommerce store settings.
The WooCommerce products menu is for creating new products and managing the existing products, tags, categories, etc.
When adding a new product, the entry point also offers the necessary options like the title, description, category, tag, image, gallery, price, inventory, shipping, and any custom product attribute.
Winner: Shopify - Although both platforms are very easy to use, the Shopify hosted service has the edge over WooCommerce in getting started since there is practically zero installation effort required, so we'll declare it the winner of this category.
2. Design Options - what themes and designs are available?
Design plays a major role in e-commerce. You need a modern, intuitive design to establish your brand and boost the conversion rate. So it's obvious that our next feature to assess in our WooCommerce vs Shopify comparison is design.
Read on to know which design options these two eCommerce platforms offer and the advantages of choosing WooCommerce over Shopify and vice-versa.
Both platforms offer readymade themes to help you get started as quickly as possible. Various themes are available at Shopify's dedicated theme store. There are both paid and free themes, and most themes have several variations so that they adapt well to different niches.
You can browse the available themes based on your business type or preferred style. The themes are highly optimized and fully responsive, so they work well on mobile devices, tablets, and other screen size variations.
There's also a full section of themes dedicated to Shopify on ThemeForest.
Most of these themes look great, which can lead to an unexpected problem/side-effect.
Using the default theme styles will make your website look very traditional. There is no way to easy to use website builder, or drag and drop page builder such as those made popular in WordPress and WooCommerce (e.g. Divi, Elementor, Beaver Builder and many others).
Therefore, you should be prepared to perform some intensive customization if you would like to go for a different look and feel. There are dedicated features for controlling the colors and basic styles, but you need to use the platform's proprietary ‘Liquid’ language for advanced customizations.
On the other hand, WooCommerce comes with unlimited design options. Since it is an e-commerce platform based on WordPress, you will have access to hundreds of free and premium themes.
WooThemes itself (the original developers of WooCommerce before it was acquired by Automattic) has developed several themes and child themes.
You will also get a large number of WooCommerce-supported themes at ThemeForest and other premium marketplaces.
In general, most premium themes are expected to work with the platform. Such themes as Divi can help you quickly get started with setting up shop with WooCommerce.
As these are WordPress themes, you are likely to have lots of customization options in the Theme Options or Theme Customizer sections. These options will make it a lot easier to customize your WordPress/WooCommerce site rather than fiddling with the code (as in the case with Shopify's Liquid engine).
Here is a quick list of a few themes for both a Shopify eCommerce store and WooCommerce:
If you've been on our site for a while, you know that at CollectiveRay, we love ElegantThemes and Divi. Given how much we enjoy using this theme, it's no wonder that we find no problem using it also to create an eCommerce store, given that Divi is also WooCommerce compatible.
Avada WordPress has been the best selling theme on ThemeForest for quite some time. And for good reason, this multi-purpose WooCommerce compatible theme is one of the best out there.
Enfold is also one of the greats on ThemeForest, it's the best-rated top-seller on ThemeForest, and yes it's compatible with WooCommerce.
Flatsome is the best selling WooCommerce theme on Themeforest, we even use this on our shop about buying Drones.
Winner: WooCommerce - With hundreds of themes to choose from, your design options are practically unlimited
3. Accepting Payments
Your online store needs reliable solutions to accept payments from your eventual customers. It is critical that your eCommerce platform of choice supports credit card payments, ideally, without excessive fees for you.
The great thing is that both platforms offer several payment gateways.
When it comes to WooCommerce vs Shopify payment options, both of these tools offer various configurable payment methods and payment gateways which can be used to remove the complexity of billing, etc.
Many of these are third-party extensions.
Shopify comes with PayPal Express Checkout as the default payment method.
For credit card processing, you can use Shopify Payments, which is free for all existing customers. However, this method is restricted to the USA, Canada, UK, and Australia. You have to use a third-party payment gateway to accept payment from other countries.
In that case, your account will be charged a small fee on top of the original payment gateway fee.
As of recently, the service has also released such new technology for selling as the Chip and Swipe Reader, which makes it very convenient to convert your website to a shop that can be integrated with your physical store.
In general, Shopify payment options could do with a bit of improvement we believe, especially for people outside the US.
WooCommerce is a lot more generous in the case of payment gateways.
You can get started with different payment methods including PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, Amazon Payments, PayFast, etc. There are lots of premium payment methods available too.
With such a broad range of payment methods, you will never have to worry about accepting payments on your store.
Winner: WooCommerce - although in most cases the payment gateways available with your Shopify store are enough, you have significantly more payment options with WooCommerce, so when it comes to Shopify vs WooCommerce for payments, the WordPress plugin takes the edge.
4. Multi-lingual Support
When your customers are located in different countries, speak different languages, or serve an international audience, your site and store must be multi-lingual.
Therefore, let’s find out how Shopify vs WooCommerce handles the multi-lingual aspect.
Shopify doesn’t offer any direct solution for developing multi-lingual online shops. Yes, you can create multiple sub-domains or separate websites, but that is not possible for most small businesses.
A better choice would be to use a third-party app like Langify to create localization for the store. The premium app supports both traditional and RTL languages, detects the visitor’s language automatically and allows you to customize the language switcher.
The only downside to Langify is its steep pricing; it will set you back $17.5 per month. There is a 3-day trial to help you test the app before you dive in.
WooCommerce Multi-language options through various popular fully-featured plugins
WooCommerce offers a lot of benefits simply because it is a WordPress plugin.
The same goes for the multi-lingual aspect as well. Several WordPress plugins work perfectly with WooCommerce stores and allow you to create multi-lingual websites easily.
Popular WordPress translations plugins include WPML, Polylang, and Weglot Translate.
These plugins are reasonably priced and easy to use. Since a lot of people use these plugins, you are also likely to get quick solutions to the common issues.
Winner: WooCommerce - there's no doubt that multi-language is a must for your online shop to takeoff. We love WP and WooCommerce's built-in multi-language options, so it is the clear winner here.
5. SEO Features
SEO is a key determining factor, particularly for competitive stores.
You'll want to make sure that your e-commerce shopping platform is as easy to rank as possible, that's why we're making SEO a key determining factor in our Shopify vs WooCommerce review. With onpage SEO still being a crucial part of your ranking efforts, we're taking this into full consideration.
You need solid SEO support from your chosen shopping platform.
Let’s find out what we can conclude in terms of WooCommerce vs Shopify SEO features that these two tools offer.
Shopify offers all the basic SEO features like the title tag, meta description, customizable URL, and alt tag for images.
It will automatically generate canonical URL tags, sitemap, and the robots.txt file.
The rest is up to you.
You need to generate high-quality content, ensure an excellent UX, and focus on engagement to enjoy better search engine rankings.
Some other factors could be useful for Shopify SEO. For instance, Shopify stores are well-known for their clean, logical coding, and the natural linking strategy which is built-in.
Shopify also ensures an incredibly fast page loading speed. All of these things could help your content get more focus from the search engines.
When it comes to SEO in WooCommerce, this is a different game.
WooCommerce itself doesn’t offer any SEO features, and there are strong reasons for that. This e-commerce plugin is based on WordPress, which is a content management system renowned for its powerful SEO capabilities.
There are lots of feature-rich SEO plugins that allow you to cover the basics and take full control of the advanced options. Plugins like Yoast SEO will help you manage the SEO options and ensure the best ranking for your content.
If you want to take it to the next level, you can get the Yoast WooCommerce SEO plugin, which is specially developed for this functionality. The premium plugin comes with advanced options like using the Yoast breadcrumbs, optimizing Pinterest sharing, streamline the sitemap, etc.
Winner: WooCommerce. This was a close one. We strongly believe that SEO is mostly about content and good organic links, but the range of SEO capabilities offered by Shopify vs WooCommerce is the reason why we have given it the edge in this category.
6. Extensibility Options
Depending on the nature of your business, you might need different types of features.
It is not likely that any single one of these tools will be able to meet all of your requirements. In that case, you need to use additional apps, add-ons, extensions, etc.
Let’s check out how these each eCommerce platform performs in the case of extensibility.
Shopify supports extensibility through its App Store
Shopify has a dedicated app store. By default, the store displays featured apps from various categories like marketing, sales, accounting, shipping, inventory, social media, customer service, tools, etc.
You can sort the apps by price or popularity.
There are some collections of apps too. The platform's team picks these for various purposes like launching your store, growing the business, developed by Shopify, etc.
The app details page offers all the necessary information to help you decide whether you need this app or not. You can read the description, check out the customer reviews, view screenshot, pricing information, and the developer information.
There's also quite a lot of great Shopify stuff on Github.
Read More: If you're interested also in hiring app developers, this is a great article on CollectiveRay.com.
WooCommerce takes pride in offering a large number of extensions, 383 to be exact (at the time of writing this post). That's a whole niche in itself, in fact, there are developers and themes which are solely dedicated to supporting WooCommerce.
That's VERY strong support.
You can search for your desired extension, or browse the different categories like accounting, inventory, marketing, products, reporting, subscription, customer service, etc. We've already reviewed the how to set up WooCommerce subscriptions on this separate article on Collectiveray.
You can sort the extensions by their popularity, release date, and price.
There is also a slider for defining the price range for your desired extension.
The extension pages offer detailed information about the item. Depending on the extension, you can find a description, list of the features, video walkthroughs, screenshots, and pricing information.
In reality, extensibility covers anything you could probably dream of. Given the support of WordPress in general, you'll also find plenty of WordPress developers who would be able to customize it as necessary for you.
As you can see in a Shopify vs WooCommerce battle of extensions, there is no comparison.
Winner: WooCommerce - once we again, we do strongly feel that WooCommerce's popularity and range of options when it comes to extensibility gives it the edge.
7. Customer Support
The quality of customer support is a critical issue when choosing the e-commerce platform for your business. Regardless of your experience, you might need some professional help at some stage of your business. And when you do, you want to make sure that you don't get caught out.
This is a critical factor - when your store goes belly-up, in peak-sales, you'll need a reliable, knowledgeable and fast support system to make sure your business does not get hit hard.
In those instances, you should be able to get a timely response from the support team. But how do these two platforms, handle the customer support issue? Let’s find out how customer support is treated by WooCommerce vs Shopify.
Shopify - customer support is part of the service you pay for
Since this is a subscription-based service, you can expect dedicated and professional customer support.
You can have a live chat with a “Guru,” send an email or talk to a customer support professional over the phone.
The average wait times for chat and call are two and five minutes respectively. For emails, you have to wait up to 21 hours to get a reply.
There is also a very informative help center with detailed, step-by-step guidelines about managing your store. You can search for your desired information or browse the available categories.
WooCommerce - support through open forums
As you know, WooCommerce is a free plugin. That means you can get support from the default support forum. However, it is also possible to use your WordPress.com account to sign in to WooCommerce, open a support ticket and get support there.
WooCommerce also has a fully-fledged knowledge and documentation center at https://docs.woocommerce.com
Winner: Shopify - although WooCommerce offers good support channels, we strongly believe that the fact that you can call and speak directly to a person is a critical aspect of supporting an e-business platform and give the former the advantage.
Having said that, if you opt for a managed hosting solution for WordPress, you'll have access directly to WordPress experts whatever problem you might encounter. Essentially, with managed hosting, your provider would be handling the infrastructure, while you run the business.
When it comes to the cost of setting up e-commerce websites with these two platforms, it seems pretty clear initially. Shopify is a subscription-based service, while WooCommerce is free to use.
But it is not as simple as it looks. Why?
Continue reading to find out the nuances of each platform.
Shopify - a various range of plan options depending on your sales volumes
The service offers three pricing plans with different features, although in reality, it's the commission/sales which makes the most difference.
The Basic, Shopify, and Advanced plans are priced at $29, $79, and $299 per month respectively.
As you go for the higher tier Shopify plan, the commission charged per sale gets smaller.
When you've got enough volume of sales, it makes more sense to go for a higher-tiered plan.
Each of these solutions comes with everything you need for running a fully functional online store. They differ in the credit card rates, transaction fees, the number of staff accounts, and some advanced options.
For larger businesses, there is Plus, which offers custom solutions according to your requirements.
And if you sell through Facebook or another medium and only need a payment processing service, Lite could be a convenient choice for you.
WooCommerce - mostly a one-time initial investment apart from hosting
When you want to start a shop online with WooCommerce, there are some initial costs involved - but given that WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin which is open source, its actual cost is zero.
That doesn't mean that there are no costs involved though.
The biggest spend will probably be on a suitable WooCommerce hosting plan. But let's look at all the costs associated with setting up shop with WooCommerce.
You need to purchase a domain, we would suggest managed WordPress hosting package (we recommend a good VPS such as our InMotion plan), maybe buy a premium theme. Moreover, you are going to need some premium plugins to enjoy the latest features, timely updates, and professional support.
Most of these purchases are one-time payments.
In a nutshell, WooCommerce is more expensive to get started. But once you get started, there is no recurring fee except for the yearly domain and WordPress hosting renewal fees. There are no transaction fees except anything which might be imposed by your payment gateway.
Winner: tie - this pretty much depends on your business model and requirements. We can't make a judgment here because you're going to have to make an assessment of your situation and decide what model works best for you.
If you need to perform additional stuff such as Facebook chatbots, run email marketing campaigns, cart abandonment and recovery, you'll probably need to spend a bit more.
But this applies to any eCommerce platform.
The great thing about both of these is that, for anything you'll need to do, there is probably a solution for it. You'll just need to install a plugin or an app, set it up and you're good to go.
9. Shopify Pros and Cons
Now that you know all the necessary details about each of the two, let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of the platform –
- Easier to get started
- Comes with hosting
- Includes free SSL certificate
- Premium support available via different means
- Lots of great themes
- Incredibly fast page loading speed
- You need to choose a monthly subscription plan
- Limited payment methods available
- Advanced customization involves coding
10. WooCommerce Pros and Cons
And now, it’s our turn to go through the pros and cons of WooCommerce –
- Comparatively cheaper than its competitor (open source)
- Offers complete control over the design
- Offers lots of payment methods
- Easier to set up multi-lingual online shops
- You need to get a domain, WordPress hosting, theme, etc. separately
- Requires you to set up the website
- No guaranteed support for the users
- Managed WooCommerce hosting is typically a premium service
Shopify vs WooCommerce: Which eCommerce Store to Choose?
As you can see from the discussion above, it is pretty much head-to-head competition between these two platforms.
There is no way you can declare one platform a clear winner against the other. Unless we know the precise requirements, it is not wise to suggest one of these platforms.
Rather, let’s discuss when to use which platform. We believe that’s a more intelligent way to choose between these two e-commerce solutions.
When to Use Shopify
Shopify makes it very easy to start an e-commerce site. You just sign up, choose your Shopify plan, set up the basics, and start selling.
The simple steps make it a perfect choice for the following situations –
- You don’t have a website right now, and you want to get started with e-commerce as soon as possible.
- You don’t have any practical experience in designing or developing a website. And you don’t want to hire professionals for creating your shop online.
- You already have an offline business, and now you want to have an online presence for it.
- You run a Dropshipping business with Amazon, Shipwire, or Rakuten. The service comes with dedicated solutions for these platforms.
- Dedicated, professional support is a must for you. You want a quick solution to your problems as soon as possible.
If any of these situations match your situation, Shopify would be the best choice for you.
When to Use WooCommerce
The WooCommerce plugin is a feature-rich e-commerce platform. Thanks to the wide availability of WordPress themes and plugins, you can set up any kind of e-commerce site with this platform. Go with WooCommerce if you agree to any of the following situations –
- You already have a WordPress website. Since the platform uses the same admin interface, you will find it a lot easier to create and manage your WooCommerce online store.
- If you are short on a budget or don’t like the idea of a subscription-based system, WooCommerce should be your top priority.
- If you have some coding experience, or you are interested in occasional fiddling with the source code, this could be a great choice for you.
- When customer support is not that important to you, you can go for WooCommerce. While it is possible to get some help from the developers, you should be prepared to do some digging on your own.
- If you plan to run an Amazon Affiliate site and want to have it all integrated into one.
Do any of these situations sound familiar to you? If yes, WooCommerce should be your weapon of choice for developing the e-commerce site.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is Shopify better than WooCommerce?
Shopify is better than WooCommerce if you want to get an online store up and running in very little time without having to bother with too many technical details. In the long-run though, if you want the most power, flexibility, and ability to tweak, tune and customize the shop to your specific needs, WooCommerce would be better.
2. Does WooCommerce work with Shopify?
No, WooCommerce does not work with Shopify. They are two completely different and independent systems. There are ways to integrate them, but using them together is a very strange and uncommon use-case.
3. Is WordPress better than Shopify?
WordPress is better than Shopify when you want to create a shop that is completely customizable to suit your needs. With Shopify, you are going to be boxed into common scenarios while WooCommerce allows you to extend the platform using custom code and it's API to create specific functionality that suits your own needs.
4. What is the difference between WooCommerce and eCommerce?
eCommerce is the concept of selling your products and services online. eCommerce is short for electronic commerce, i.e. commerce which is done electronically, or the systems necessary to set up and provide online shopping services. WooCommerce is a specific platform that can be used to enable eCommerce.
5. Which is the better platform for security?
Shopify is better in terms of security. The reason for this is that all infrastructure is handled by the platform itself. With WooCommerce, the person responsible for infrastructure needs to handle most of the security, including such stuff as updating to the latest version of plugins and themes, keeping systems updated, ensuring good passwords, installing security plugins and other security systems and other good security practices.
Conclusion: WooCommerce vs Shopify
Both Shopify and WooCommerce are great options for creating an e-commerce site. In fact, they are amongst the best eCommerce platforms for small businesses.
They only have major differences in WooCommerce vs Shopify with regards to their UX. One offers a polished interface with simple steps to start your online store, but comes at a monthly price.
On the other hand, the WooCommerce is free to use but requires you to handle the basics by yourself.
At the end of the day, choosing the best e-commerce platform is highly dependent on your experience, budget, and requirement. Now that you have read this in-depth comparison post, it should be easier for you to decide the most appropriate e-commerce platform.
So, which platform did you choose for your site? What is your experience with these two or other e-commerce platforms? Let us know and leave a comment below with your thoughts.
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