Want an Online Store?
Which is Best for You?
A Real Comparison
This article is intended to assist you in making that big decision as to how best to start your online store. The choice is not as easy as it may seem at first and there are many areas to consider to ensure you make the best decision for your company for both now and into the future.
To be honest and transparent in our overview, we have looked at many other comparison blogs before putting together ours and want the viewer to be aware. This blog uses the format of some others but has very different conclusions as our research found many comparisons extremely biased or uninformed. We have done our best to ensure our post covers what you need to know to make your own decisions.
Both platforms have some great features. Which one suits your business model best?
- hosting and security built-in
- 24/7 support
- connect and sell on Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Pinterest as a built-in feature
- only platform to enforce its own transaction fee unless using its own gateway
- add-on apps can be costly (usually annual renewal fees)
- full and limitless customization (can add custom coding etc…)
- easily scalable
- free installation and use, most add-ons are inexpensive or free
- steeper learning curve to start
We are a fan of scalability and customization. That said, the Shopify ability to integrate with other sales channels can be a big bonus for reaching more buyers. We’ll say this is a tie with the side note that it depends on where/how you’d like your store to grow.
2. Ease of Use
Depending on your existing knowledge, skills, and/or who you are working with, each platform has its limitations and bonuses.
- most technical store areas are dealt with for you
- build your site using templates and pre-set systems
- hosting and security is part of using Shopify – plug and play
- many hosting choices available
- much is also pre-set but customization takes now knowledge
- widely sued so there are many available add-ons to get done what you want done in your store
- Overall store customization is virtually limitless
Again – this depends on how customized you would like the look, feel, and operation of your store.
How fast can you/ do you need to get your store up and running.
Shopify is set up to be more of a plug-and-play system. It handles the technical and layout intricacies in the background and you can simply input your information. Helpful if you have limited technical skills and/or need to get your store up and running quickly.
WooCommerce is more suited to users that have a long-term plan and want to start with a custom foundation that will scale with them as needed. The initial building can therefore take more time to complete.
We cannot help but emphasize the solid foundation of planning and executing with a long-term goal in mind. To be real, as a company we encourage small businesses and entrepreneurs to have a business plan in place that lays out their goals both long-term and short-term. This plan will help in knowing which platforms work best with where you are going and not just where things are right now. Fast may not be the best long-term.
Both platforms give you many themes to choose from.
Shopify currently comes with over 70 themes to choose from. Premium themes start from $140. This is usually a one-time payment.
WooCommerce themes number the thousands. Many are free and for full customization, there are builders that allow the user to create virtually any layout they like.
WooCommerce is the winner here hands-down. We have seen reviews that state WooCommerce needing the ability to understand code to customize etc… That is simply not true. The more you know and learn though, the more customized you can go.
Both platforms have some great features. Which one suits your business model best?
Shopify comes with many great built-in selling features like:
- Abandoned Cart Recovery
- Multichannel Selling
- Shipping with partnerships
WooCommerce has the ability to do and have virtually any feature that Shopify has, including those noted here. WooCommerce is a base system that allows you to build on it as needed. Many features can be found for free and others come with premium options that may involve annual licensing.
Both platforms can do almost all the same things – don’t let anyone tell you differently. The key in your own choice is planning your store and knowing what features you’d like to have – then looking into which platform can offer them all at the best price overall. Without doing this research you could get stuck paying more. Lastly, website developers will be easier to find for customizing with WooCommerce stores than Shopify. You should consider this when setting future goals.
Installing apps or plugins increases the features beyond what either platform presents out of the box. On both platforms, you can install more to add extra functionality, including shipping, SEO, and marketing. But which one has the better choice of apps?
- Shopify has over 1,200 free and paid apps
- Reviews can be mixed. A good rule of thumb is to read all reviews before adding a new app. Quite often, the one thing you wanted is what may be a problem down the road.
- WooCommerce has over 50,000 free and paid plugins
- As always, reviews can be mixed. A good rule of thumb is to read all reviews before adding a new app. Quite often, the one thing you wanted is what may be a problem down the road.
WooCommerce has way more options which give site builders more and better choices as to what suits them best and gives them the functionality they really need.
7. Marketing Tools
It’s one thing to get your store built and operating as it should…. it’s quite another getting your store in front of potential buyers.
Shopify supports multichannel selling, enabling you to integrate your store with Facebook, Amazon, eBay, and Pinterest, as well as advertise on them. This opens up your business to a whole new online audience, at no cost to you.
With WooCommerce, you can integrate your store with Amazon, eBay, and Instagram for $79, but you can also advertise on Facebook for free.
Shopify has more built-in marketing features than WooCommerce out of the box. That said, a marketing plan should be thought through as to what and how to best market your store. This should go beyond just the marketing tools mentioned here and potentially into Google Ads, old school promotions and the like…
8. Payment Options and Fees
If you are selling online you will need to use a payment services provider to process your client purchases. Here’s how these two stack-up.
Shopify currently charges 2% per transaction on top of whatever fees you pay using a third-party gateway (service provider). This can be eliminated by using their own gateway (Shopify Payments) and whatever fees are connected to that service.
WooCommerce does not charge additional fees. You can then research and select your own payment processor and will only be subject to their fees.
WooCommerce wins. We believe in the ability to have a choice without feeling forced into other options. WooCommerce leaves the payment gateways and fees up to you.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key to making your website/store found in internet searches.
This one is pretty even. Both platforms offer the same abilities via add-on features (apps/plugins) and can do pretty much the same things as a result. WooCommerce has more selection so we will give it a slight edge as a result.
Ideally, an SEO company is the best way to get more from your websites with either choice you make.
Security is of huge importance for any website. Even more so with eCommerce.
Shopify hosts all its user sites and comes with SSL and PCI-DSS Compliance. These are needed to ensure safety in your site and with any information shared by clients including credit card information.
Since WooCommerce is an eCommerce solution and not an entire hosting solution it does not offer SSL or PCI-DSS Compliance. But wait!
These security measures should be part of any hosting that you may choose for your website and store. Most hosting providers have this as part of their hosting plans.
We see this as a tie… with a slight edge to WooCommerce. Although both make this work, WooCommerce gives you the option of choice. With Shopify you are stuck with their internal services only.
Shopify provides 24/7 phone, chat, and email support. They also have a growing library of guides and community forums.
With WooCommerce you can use the support of the hosting provider you choose. Some support is amazing (we highly recommend FlyWheel hosting). WooCommerce itself has a ticketing system for general support and, like Shopify, there are libraries of guides and many user/community forums available for assistance.
Another close one. That said, if you have great hosting (like the amazing hosting and support you get with FlyWheel), WooCommerce edges slightly ahead of Shopify.
Be sure you know all your costs as these two can be tough to compare3.
With Shopify, you will be paying monthly fees from $29 – $299 as well as the additional cost of premium add-ons that you may want in your store.
WooCommerce is free. The only costs you will have are for your hosting services and any paid licensing for premium add-ons.
With WooCommerce being free and Shopify charging monthly (similar to the need for hosting for a WooCommerce store) we give this round to WooCommerce. Our research has shown that it is rare to pay as much per month for hosting (including SSL at no additional cost) as is paid with a Shopify plan.
Shopify get’s the edge in:
- 24/7 support
- ability to get up and running fast
WooCommerce get’s the edge in:
- the ability to customize and change as you grow
- more control of your site and choices
- ability to take your site and move it to whatever hosting you like.
As a company, we believe that clients should always have the ability to take their services to any provider they wish to use. For this reason, we are WordPress specialists. With WordPress websites, a client can take their entire site and move it to any hosting provider they would like to use. This may be due to service issues, hosting stability, etc… Ultimately, the site, as built, is movable. With Shopify, clients have to stay with Shopify and cannot move their website as-is if they are not pleased with Shopify’s service.
Some reviewers allude to WooCommerce and Shopify sites being able to move into each other’s environment. This can happen but not easily. It will usually involve a fair bit of rebuilding so we recommend choosing your store platform wisely at the start.