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 purchase, beating offline purchase with $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 solution.
There are several ecommerce platforms 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. The WooCommerce vs Shopify dilemma comes about often, so today 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.
Finally, we will explore the potential situations and help you decide which platform to use in which situation.
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 - which one is best?
Ease of use should be one of your top priorities when choosing the best e-commerce platform. 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 - WooCommerce and Shopify.
This is a subscription-based tool. That means the platform will take care of all the technical details involved in the process of setting up shop - no installations or figuring out what hosting package and platform to use.
You just need to create an account, answer a few questions related to your business, and that’s it - you have created your online store.
The 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 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 it 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.
When it comes to using WC, it is almost as easy to manage the store.
But getting started and setting up the store requires a lot more effort.
Since this platform is actually a WordPress plugin, there are some preparatory steps involved.
First of all, you will need to perform all of the steps necessary to setup a WordPress website.
You will need to purchase a domain, a hosting plan, install WordPress on your website, choose and install a WordPress theme. Only after you have followed all these steps, you can get started with WC.
Recommended Reading: [How to] 14 steps to an awesome WordPress website for beginners
After setting up WordPress, the first step to set it all up is obviously installing and activating the WC plugin on your WordPress site.
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 store settings.
The products menu is for creating new product 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 hosted service has the edge over WordPress 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 design options 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.
Read on to know which design options these two ecommerce platforms offer.
Both platforms offer readymade themes to help you get started as quickly as possible. Various themes are available at its dedicated theme store. There are both paid and free themes, and most themes have several variations.
You can browse the available themes based on your business type or preferred style. The themes are highly optimized to work perfectly on mobile devices.
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.
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.
Recommended Reading: How to Setup a perfect WordPress shop - 9 themes and plugins
WooThemes itself 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 WC.
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 e-commerce site rather than fiddling with the codes.
Here is a quick list of a few themes for both Shopify and WooCommerce
A small collection of Shopify Themes
YourStore has won a number of contests and awards for ecommerce themes, so if you're looking for a winning template, your search is over.
Our favourite WooCommerce templates
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 site, given that Divi is also WC compatible.
Avada has been the best selling theme on ThemeForest for quite some time. And for good reason, this multi-purpose WC compatible theme is one of the best out there.
Enfold is also one of the greats on ThemeForest, it's actually the best-rated top-seller on ThemeForest, and yes it's compatible with the WP platform.
Flatsome is the best selling WooCommerce theme on Themeforest, we even use this on our own shop about buying Drones.
Winner: WooCommerce - With hundreds of themes to choose from, your design options are practically unlimited
3. Which platform offers most options for payments?
Your online store needs reliable solutions to accept payments from your eventual customers.
Both of these platforms offer various configurable payment methods.
The service 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 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 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 which can be integrated with your physical store.
WC is a lot more generous in the case of payment methods.
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 Shopify are enough, you have significantly more payment options with WC, so when it comes to Shopify vs WooCommerce for payments, the WordPress plugin takes the edge.
4. Multi-lingual Support - how easy it is to provide an interface for an international or local audience?
When your customers are located in different countries, speak different languages, or you serve an international audience, it is crucial for your site to be multi-lingual. Therefore, let’s find out how these platforms handle the multi-lingual aspect.
This service 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. 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
WC enjoys a lot of benefits simply because it is a WordPress plugin.
The same goes for the multi-lingual aspect as well. There are several WordPress plugins that work perfectly with Woo 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 shop to takeoff. We love WP and WC's built-in multi-language options, so it is the clear winner here.
5. SEO Features - which platform is best for organic search rankings?
SEO is definitely a key determining factor. 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 a solid SEO support from your chosen shopping platform.
Let’s find out what we can conclude in terms of Shopify vs WooCommerce SEO features these two platforms offer.
Shopify SEO - strong built-in features
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.
There are some other factors which could be useful for Shopify SEO. For instance, the platform is well-known for its clean, logical coding, and the natural linking strategy.
The platform also ensures an incredibly fast page loading speed. All of these things could help your content get more focus from the search engines.
WooCommerce SEO - excellent support through WordPress SEO
When it comes to SEO in WC, this is a different game.
The platform 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 platform. 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 are the reason why we have given it the edge in this category.
6. Which platform offers the best extensibility options?
Depending on the nature of your business, you might need different types of features.
It is not likely that any single platform 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 two ecommerce platforms perform in the case of extensibility.
Shopify supports extensibility through its App Store
This service 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 the 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.
WooCommerce extensions - a full niche market of its own
The Automaticc owned plugin 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 WC. 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.
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 walkthrough, 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.
Winner: WooCommerce - once we again, we do strongly feel that WC's popularity and range of options when it comes to extensibility gives it the edge.
7. Customer Support - what are my options when I get stuck?
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 you business does not get hit hard.
On 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 Shopify vs WooCommerce.
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 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, WC 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.
Woo also has a fully-fledged knowledge and documentation center at https://docs.woocommerce.com
Winner: Shopify - although WC has good support channels available, we strongly believe that the fact that you can call and speak directly to a person is a critical aspect of supporting an ebusiness platform and give the former the advantage.
8. How much will it cost me?
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 WC is free to use. But it is not as simple as it looks like. How? Continue reading and you will find out.
Shopify - a various range of 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 plans, the commission charged per sale gets smaller.
When you've got enough volume of sales, it makes more sense to go for the higher-tiered plans.
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 WC, there are some initial costs involved - but given that the actual plugin is open source, its actual cost is free. That doesn't mean that there are zero costs involved though.
You need to purchase a domain, get a 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, WC is more expensive to get started. But once you get started, there is no recurring fee except for the yearly domain and 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 judgement here because you're going to have to make an assessment of your situation and decide what model works best for you.
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
- Premium support available via different means
- Lots of great themes
- Incredibly fast page loading speed
- You need to choose a monthly subscription
- 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 WC –
- 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 domain, hosting, theme, etc. separately
- Requires you to set up the website
- No guaranteed support for the users
Shopify vs WooCommerce: Which eCommerce Platform 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
The service makes it very easy to start an e-commerce site. You just sign up, choose your 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 an e-commerce site 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 you, Shopify would be the best choice for your e-commerce site.
When to Use WooCommerce
The WC plugin is a feature-rich e-commerce platform. Thanks to the wide availability of WordPress themes and plugins, you can create any kind of e-commerce site with this platform. Go with WC 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 online store.
- If you are short on a budget, or don’t like the idea of a subscription-based system, WC 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 Woo. 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.
Does any of these situations sound familiar to you? If yes, WooCommerce should be your weapon of choice for developing the e-commerce site.
Final Words - should you use WooCommerce or Shopify?
Both Shopify and WooCommerce are great options for creating an e-commerce site.
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 WP plugin 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 by leaving a comment below.