It’s hard to ignore all the innovative product ads popping up in your social media news feed. For those of you born and bred entrepreneurs, you’ll undoubtedly feel a pull to start your first lovingly-crafted eCommerce store.
After all, if success stories are true, starting an online shop has never been easier, partly thanks to the power of emerging eCommerce platforms dominating the market.
The two big giants of the eCommerce world are WooCommerce vs Shopify. Though they may be similar in size, there are as many differences as similarities.
This guide will take you step-by-step through both platforms to help you make the ultimate decision: WooCommerce vs. Shopify: which platform is the best choice for your business?
Future-Proofing Your eCommerce Business With the Perfect Platform
Moving eCommerce platforms once you are up and running is technically doable. But it’s fair to say most of us would rather avoid it if we can.
Understanding the difference between Shopify and WooCommerce will help you make the best long-term decision for your eCommerce business. Here’s a look at what both have to offer:
An Overview of WooCommerce
The most important feature to understand about WooCommerce is this. It is a WordPress plugin. In other words, it will only work when added to a WordPress website.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course. WordPress is a leading CMS, popular with businesses of all sizes.
WooCommerce is what’s known as an open-source platform. That means the code is freely available for developers to view and change.
What does that mean for you? It means WooCommerce is highly customizable (using an experienced developer, naturally).
Famous brand names using a WooCommerce store include Clickbank, Spectator, and Bluestar coffee.
But don’t let that information give you the impression that WooCommerce is a big-company platform. Far from it. This eCommerce technology is very popular with small startups.
An Overview of Shopify
Shopify is probably the biggest eCommerce brand. It’s unlikely you’ll get too far in your store creation without hearing this name crop up as a recommended eCommerce platform.
The first thing to understand about Shopify is that it’s an all-in-one hosted solution.
That means you pay monthly and get a complete package to launch your store without any extra technology (the small exception here is a domain name, but you can even forgo that and use a Shopify store address instead).
Shopify boasts big brand names on their customer database, including Red Bull, Hyatt Hotels, and Fitbit. So you’re in good company.
Nevertheless, just as with WooCommerce, they also pride themselves in supporting the small startup enterprise as effectively as the billion-dollar brands.
Shopify or WooCommerce: Head-to-Head on Features
Now that you have an introduction to both platforms, it’s time for them to go head-to-head. How does each fare when it comes to the highest priorities for shop owners? Let’s find out:
Ease of Setup
For those readers who shy away from the thought of technology, Shopify is probably your winner in this category. The fully-hosted solution makes it easy to start by clicking through the setup process until your website is live.
WooCommerce, on the other hand, is a multi-step process. First, you’ll need hosting. Then you’ll have to set up your WordPress installation, and finally, you’ll need to add and set up the WooCommerce plugin.
Running Day-to-Day Operations
The two aspects of the system that will be most important to a store owner are adding products and managing orders. Let’s see how these two platforms fare.
Shopify has a product section that will be familiar to most users. You click to add a product, enter the relevant details, add a picture, a price, and you’re finished.
After that, it’s then a case of tweaking the product page to get the final look and layout you are after.
However, if you plan to sell more personalized products or products with a more complex pricing structure, WooCommerce’s customizable platform is hard to beat.
Let’s turn our attention to orders. Here, both platforms perform equally well.
When a new customer places an order, it will show up in the order section of the platform. You can change the status from there to notify the customer where their product is in the shipping process.
One of the newer features of eCommerce websites, and one that’s hugely popular, is the abandoned cart functionality.
That allows you to notify customers who’ve got part way through a checkout process but not completed an order.
Most of us are familiar with the following scenario: we browse a product, click buy, and then get distracted by a phone call or our kids and forget all about it. And that’s where abandoned cart technology can help boost a store’s sales.
Both platforms off this feature, but with Shopify, it’s available as standard, whereas it’s a premium feature through WooCommerce.
The other significant functionality important to most eCommerce businesses is payment features. WooCommerce offers the two big players (Paypal and Stripe) for free.
Shopify has the additional Shop Pay feature, their branded payment option, designed to increase conversion rates during the checkout process.
Shopify also added Point of Sale functionality if you have a bricks-and-mortar store you want to integrate with your online presence.
Two features matter when it comes to helpful customer service. The first is a company’s ability to provide a vast knowledge base for those who need a quick answer to a problem.
The second thing people look for is 24/7 customer support that allows you to connect with an expert to help solve your issue.
Here’s how Shopify and WooCommerce handle their customer service.
First, let’s look at Shopify. Shopify has a solid reputation for excellent customer service. They have plenty of informal testimonials from customers to back that up.
They also offer different methods of connecting with their support team, including chat, email, phone, and Twitter, so it’s flexible to your personal preference.
In addition, they’ve also built up an extensive knowledge base. And with such a significant customer base, it doesn’t take much searching to find the answer to any Shopify problem.
So how does WooCommerce compare?
Since WooCommerce is open source, there’s a vast knowledge base online, arguably more than what’s on offer for Shopify.
And you’ll find a range of technical experts; our clients find it helpful to work with some of our WooCommerce experts to help solve their shop problems.
You also have access to a professional, dedicated online support team, which is an excellent service given that it’s available for a free platform.
On top of that, WordPress has an extensive knowledge base and great forums with helpful people to answer almost any technical problem you might encounter.
It’s worth touching briefly on dropshipping, as this is becoming more fashionable in eCommerce circles.
Dropshipping is where you send an order straight through to the manufacturer, who then ships direct to the customer. It skips the need for a warehouse.
Both platforms have dropshipping integrations, which means you can easily integrate between supplier databases and product listings.
Multichannel selling might interest your business venture. Multichannel is the ability to sell your products across a range of places instead of solely on your website.
Shopify offers integrations with Amazon and eBay. That is great if you are in a new business and don’t yet have website traffic coming to your online store.
Perhaps you sell across multiple countries and need a website with different currencies, overseas shipping calculations, and numerous languages.
If you’re willing to pay, Shopify’s premium Plus package does offer a solution for international eCommerce that covers all these aspects.
With WooCommerce, you’ll need to do this via add-on plugins to create the same solution.
WooCommerce Vs. Shopify Pricing
Of course, however fantastic these features are, they are only worth it if a platform is cost-effective. So here’s an overview of the upfront and online costs you can expect with either platform.
Shopify eCommerce Cost
Shopify charges a monthly fee, and there are five different packages to choose from:
- Lite (currently $9/month)
- Basic (currently $29/month)
- Standard (currently $79/month)
- Advanced (currently $299/month)
- Enterprise (there are no published prices; it’s for large businesses)
What may stand out to you from this list is that there’s a big jump between each package, so you’ll need to factor that into your growth plans from the start.
The other relevant fact is that you can make plenty of different investments in a Shopify store, but you’ll need to budget.
First, there are the plugins. Some are free, others a fixed fee and others charged monthly or annually).
Second, as with WooCommerce, you might want to venture above and beyond the standard templates.
We work with clients who find our design team can help transform a standard Shopify store into something more unique and powerful that reflects the type of brand they want to grow.
If that sounds similar to your business goals, get in touch so that we can give you a custom quote.
Earlier on, we mentioned how popular WooCommerce is with startups. One of the biggest attractions for a brand new business is that WooCommerce is free of charge.
So if you want a zero-risk option for launching an eCommerce business, a free platform (together with a free WordPress website) is an attractive prospect.
As with any free product, you have to start examining what other costs you’ll incur.
Let’s start with hosting. Unlike Shopify, you’ll need to pay for a hosted WordPress platform before you can install WooCommerce.
Like other WordPress websites, you’ve got the option of keeping your expenses to a minimum and opting for a free theme.
But if you have grand ambitions for your eCommerce venture, you’ll want to push the boat out and get a custom design.
We do that for our clients at Iconic Web because a professional design can mean the difference between a struggling store and one that flourishes from day one.
So as far as costs go, you should always budget for custom design work if you go with WooCommerce.
What About Transaction Fees?
Upfront costs aren’t the only expense to keep in mind with both Shopify and WooCommerce. You’ll need to do a few rough calculations to figure out which of their transaction fees is better for your business model.
There is no clear answer and will depend on the number of transactions you expect and your profit margins.
If you choose Shopify, what you pay will depend on your plan. On the standard option, the fee is 2.6% plus a flat fee of $0.30 per transaction. If you move on to the Advanced package, you’ll pay 2.3% plus $0.30.
It’s worth bearing this in mind if you move from Standard to Advanced. Though the monthly cost is considerably higher, your savings in transactions fees might offset that.
Using WooCommerce payments, expect to pay around 2.9% for each transaction plus a flat fee of $0.30. That’s for the U.S. For international transactions, it’s 3.9%.
Which eCommerce Platform Is Better for Your Business?
It’s fair to say we think both platforms are great eCommerce solutions, which is why our teams support either. But what’s best for your situation will depend on a few business factors:
How Quickly Do You Want to Be Up and Running?
Shopify will quickly get you an eCommerce site if you are going it alone. But don’t rule out the option of WooCommerce.
If you are ready to hire experts like our teams to support you, you can get either platform up and running quickly. And you’ll achieve a more professional finish that will give your business the edge.
What Are Your Technical Skills?
WooCommerce is undoubtedly a more technical solution. If you are the type of person who loves digging into a problem and searching for the answer on the web, it’s a good choice.
However, if you want to delegate even the most minor problems to a technical team and want a naturally low-tech platform, Shopify might suit you best.
Do You Need Something Customizable?
For highly custom websites, including more intricate and complex product and pricing models, WooCommerce is your best option.
WooCommerce is a more bespoke solution. And with the support of a development team like ours, you can do a lot to get the website to match your vision instead of compromising with the more standard Shopify themes.
Do You Have an Existing (and Popular) WordPress Website?
Here’s an important note to finish on. You might already own a WordPress website that ranks well in Google and has healthy traffic statistics.
That’s an asset on which to capitalize. The best way to do that is by adding a WooCommerce plugin to your existing WordPress setup to turn your website into your new eCommerce venture.
WooCommerce Vs Shopify: And Your Winner Is…
So how do things stack up for you in the battle of WooCommerce vs Shopify? Are you thunderstruck by the fabulous features of Shopify? Or has WooCommerce wooed you with its flexible, open-source creation?
One thing is for sure. To get an eCommerce website that does your business goals justice, you’ll need the help of professionals to take you from boring templates to beautiful brands. And that’s where we come in.
Your first task is easy. Get in touch with our team today to share your grand vision with us, and we’ll tell you how we can help you get there.