ECommerce has exploded in popularity over the last few years, with more and more people choosing to shop online rather than in brick and mortar stores. If you’re looking to build an online store in 2023, two of the most popular platforms are WooCommerce and Shopify. But which one should you choose for your eCommerce business? This guide examines the key differences between WooCommerce and Shopify to help you determine the best option.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce↗︎ is a WordPress plugin that allows you to build an online store directly on your WordPress site. As it is built on top of WordPress, it inherits the content management system’s famed flexibility and customisability. WooCommerce is open source and completely free to use, you just need to pay for web hosting as you would with a regular WordPress site.
WooCommerce gives you total control over the look and feel of your online store. You can choose from thousands of free and premium WordPress themes and adapt them using CSS and HTML. Hundreds of free and paid plugins are also available to add extra features and functionalities. This makes WooCommerce extremely customisable to suit your specific needs.
What is Shopify?
Shopify↗︎ is an all-in-one hosted eCommerce platform. With Shopify, you don’t need to worry about web hosting, security, backups, or software updates – everything is taken care of for you. Shopify offers powerful cloud hosting on a robust infrastructure provided by Amazon Web Services.
Shopify offers an easy-to-use drag-and-drop store builder to create a professional-looking online store without needing to know any code. It is less flexible than WooCommerce but simpler to use, especially for eCommerce beginners. Like WooCommerce, Shopify also offers hundreds of themes and apps to extend functionality.
One of the biggest differences between WooCommerce and Shopify is pricing. Shopify costs from £25 per month for the basic Shopify plan. You will need to factor in transaction fees and the cost of themes, apps and other add-ons.
WooCommerce is free to install and use. You will need to cover the cost of web hosting, which starts from around £5 per month. While cheaper, the overall cost difference becomes smaller once you factor in the expense of premium themes, plugins and custom development work.
Ease of Use
Shopify is the easiest eCommerce platform to use, especially for beginners. The hosted all-in-one nature means you can just sign up and start using the intuitive store builder to create your online shop.
WooCommerce requires installation on your WordPress site. There is more initial setup required including finding a web host, installing WordPress, setting up security and payments, etc. It also requires some technical know-how for WordPress and some theme customisation. WooCommerce will require constant maintenance and updates which could cost around £25 per month if you hire a WordPress maintenance agency.
Features and Functionality
Both WooCommerce and Shopify come with robust core eCommerce features for digital and physical product sales including cart and checkout management, shipping and tax calculation, payment processing, and inventory management.
As a WordPress plugin, WooCommerce integrates seamlessly with WordPress features. This makes it a better choice if you want to combine eCommerce with blogging and content creation. The open source nature of WooCommerce also means there are no limits on expanding functionality using plugins and custom development.
Shopify offers more built-in functionality out of the box including advanced reporting and analytics, automated marketing tools and integrated POS. The app store has thousands of apps that can add extra eCommerce and marketing features.
Flexibility for store design and customisation is a clear advantage for WooCommerce. The WordPress ecosystem provides endless choices for store templates, allowing you to fine-tune your site design. You can tweak templates and presentations using WordPress themes, custom HTML/CSS or page builder plugins.
Shopify limits you to using and customising from their template and theme store. While still offering variety, you have less control compared to building a store with WooCommerce and WordPress.
SEO and Marketing
Thanks to WordPress, WooCommerce stores have excellent SEO capabilities built-in. Store owners can optimise pages and products with custom metadata, URLs, and leverage the inherent SEO-friendliness of WordPress. There are also hundreds of SEO plugins and tools available for further optimization if needed.
Shopify also provides decent SEO options including custom title tags, meta fields and URL structures for pages and products. Third-party apps can expand SEO functionality. Overall there is not much between the two platforms when it comes to optimising your store for search engines.
For paid advertising and email marketing, Shopify has integrated tools that make it easy to create and manage campaigns. With WooCommerce, you can choose from the many WordPress plugin options but will require more setup.
Scalability and Growth
WooCommerce scales with your business needs. As it is hosted on your own server, you have total control over resources and optimisation. Typically stores start on shared hosting plans and upgrade the server capabilities as the store grows. Because WooCommerce is free and open source, your overhead costs scale linearly.
Shopify scaling works on an incremental tiered pricing plan model. It offers excellent scalability but you are limited to the confines of the pricing tiers, which can become expensive as you grow. You’ll have less control over server resources and optimisation.
Both platforms integrate with CDNs and caching tools for enhanced performance at scale.
Shopify provides a secure and compliant platform to ensure your customer data is protected. You don’t need to worry about security measures like SSL certificates and PCI compliance for payment processing – Shopify handles it.
WooCommerce stores require more focus on security measures. The plugin itself is secure but the responsibility falls on you to choose a secure web host, install security plugins, implement SSL, and comply with regulations. This takes some technical expertise but for most stores, the costs are not prohibitive.
Support and Documentation
Shopify offers excellent round-the-clock customer support and documentation. Support options include 24/7 live chat, email and phone. The online help centre also provides extensive guides, videos, and tutorials.
As an open source platform, WooCommerce does not offer official support. You will need to rely on the community, guides, documentation, and developers for help. Support levels can depend on your web host or whether you hire a WooCommerce developer to help manage your store.
WooCommerce is the more flexible, customisable and cost-effective option but requires more technical skill. Shopify is simpler to use out of the box, and offers more built-in features and better support but reduced design flexibility and higher cost.
For skilled WordPress users wanting maximum control over their eCommerce site, WooCommerce is likely the better choice. Total beginners or non-technical users are likely to benefit from the easier onboarding and management of Shopify.
The needs of your specific business should drive the decision between these two powerful eCommerce platforms. Carefully evaluate the pros, cons and unique capabilities of both WooCommerce and Shopify before choosing the best option to build your online store.