WooCommerce vs. Shopify
Which is the Better E-Commerce Platform?
Your choice of e-commerce platform can impact everything from your on-going costs to the scalability of your store. WooCommerce and Shopify are the two most popular e-commerce platforms in the world, but they differ significantly in their set-up, pricing, and features.
The biggest difference when comparing WooCommerce vs. Shopify is that Shopify is an all-in-one platform whereas WooCommerce is a much more custom setup.
In simple terms, Shopify is like an all-inclusive vacation package with pre-planned activities and pre-booked transportation. WooCommerce, on the other hand, is the do-it-yourself holiday: the sky’s the limit from lounging on a Balinese beach to hiking through the Bolivian Andes.
Understanding the pros and cons of each option will help you avoid a disastrous vacation, or in the case of your online store, having to rebuild your entire site.
Table of Contents
WooCommerce vs. Shopify
WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to turn any WordPress site into an e-commerce store. Just like the do-it-yourself holiday, which can fit into any budget or timeframe, WooCommerce can be tailored to meet nearly any need.
This flexibility and accessibility has made it the most popular option for e-commerce sites. An estimated 3.3 million websites currently use WooCommerce, according to 2019 BuiltWith reports, and 30% of all online stores are running on WooCommerce.
One of the biggest advantages of WooCommerce is that it integrates seamlessly with WordPress, which is the most popular content management system with approximately ⅓ of all websites in the world running on WordPress.
WooCommerce is also a very customizable and expandable platform. This flexibility is due to both WordPress and WooCommerce’s code being open source, meaning that developers can view and modify the code to customize your site to perfectly meet your needs.
New plugins and extensions are constantly being created and added to the WooCommerce repertoire, so you can keep building and expanding your online store as new functionalities are invented.
WooCommerce and WordPress’s popularity also means it’ll be very easy to find a developer and design team to help you build your shop.
Additionally, WooCommerce has several features that are helpful for SEO: you can both set up a custom URL structure for products and edit the store’s metadata. In contrast, Shopify offers limited URL customization and a much more complex method of editing the store’s metadata.
One of the disadvantages of WooCommerce is that it is not an all-in-one platform. In planning your own holiday, you need to book your own flights, hotel, and car, and research activities and exchange rates.
The same goes for WooCommerce. You’ll need to manage certain details, including the hosting, security and maintenance of your website. Top of the list will be security for the WooCommerce site. You’ll need to get an SSL certificate (required for any e-commerce site) and security monitoring to protect the website from hackers and security breaches.
Maintenance comes in the form of updating the WooCommerce plugins regularly, as well as the other plugins on your site in a timely manner. This is best performed by a developer to ensure the optimal functionality and security of the site.
Another disadvantage of WooCommerce is that there is no direct WooCommerce support team. You can still request support through the community forum or through a ticket on the WooCommerce site, but it’s a bit more complex of a process than with Shopify.
Lastly, in comparing WooCommerce vs. Shopify, adding certain features to a WooCommerce site may require help from a WooCommerce development team, as there are numerous paid plugins available which can be difficult to navigate on your own.
Shopify, on the other hand, is a complete e-commerce and website platform. Founded in 2006, Shopify has grown in popularity with over 900,000 online stores built on Shopify as of 2019.
As with the case of a vacation package, complete with lodging, meals, two activities a day, and evening entertainment, Shopify has all the conveniences of an all-in-one platform. All the basics are covered: an e-commerce shop, technical oversight, and a support team.
The technical details of hosting and security are managed by Shopify, so you won’t need to add any security monitoring. Nor will you need to plan ahead for potential changes in the hosting server costs if your website traffic or need for storage grows.
Shopify comes with 24/7 support and you can speak with a Shopify agent to rapidly resolve any site issues or questions.
Additionally, a lot of e-commerce features are already built into the standard Shopify store, meaning you’ll spend less time setting up the store than you would with WooCommerce.
The convenience of Shopify’s all-in-one package is also its biggest drawback, as there are significantly less customization options available than with WooCommerce.
This is partially because Shopify uses its own coding language called Liquid, and most of the code is not available as open source. So, designers and developers are more limited to the existing Shopify options.
Another disadvantage is that the Shopify site is more limited with just an online store, a blog and some basic pages.
If you plan to expand your website to tons of content pages or wish to add functionality outside of an e-commerce store, then Shopify is not the best option. If you have an existing website built on another platform, and would like a Shopify store, it will probably be necessary to migrate the entire site to the Shopify platform.
It can also be a challenge to find developers and designers that are experienced with Shopify because the platform is less popular than WooCommerce and is not open source.
Lastly, Shopify isn’t an ideal choice if you need a multilingual store or need to set up a store that can handle different currencies. WooCommerce is the better option for this set up because you can utilize translation plugins on WordPress and process payments in other currencies.
WooCommerce vs Shopify Pricing
It’s very difficult to directly compare pricing between WooCommerce and Shopify because each platform has a different pricing structure. The price of a Shopify site is simpler to calculate, as Shopify charges a monthly fee, plus a small commission percentage of sales.
WooCommerce, however, is a free plugin available solely on WordPress, but requires hosting and security maintenance. You may also end up using additional, paid plugin extensions on your WooCommerce site, which can be difficult to calculate the cost of unless you are working with a WooCommerce developer.
When comparing initial costs, Shopify can be more expensive than WooCommerce, but it can be hard to tell for sure until you assess all the costs involved in growing your store.
Selecting the Best Platform for Your Business
Switching e-commerce platforms can be an expensive and timely project. Before selecting your e-commerce platform, consider your long-term plans for the site. If you are looking for an all-in-one set up for your online store and you plan on keeping your website as solely an online store, Shopify may be the best choice.
If you are planning to use your website for a lot more than e-commerce or if you would like to customize your site, WooCommerce is a better choice. With WooCommerce, you can take advantage of the flexibility of a WordPress site and customize the store to your needs.
So whether you’d prefer the ease of an all-in-one vacation package or the customization features of a plan-it-yourself adventure, the best e-commerce platform for your site is within reach.
Frequently Asked Questions
WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that allows an e-commerce store to be integrated seamlessly into any WordPress platform. Given the worldwide popularity of WordPress, it's no wonder that WooCommerce has become one of the most popular options for e-commerce stores.
While the WooCommerce plugin is free, most e-commerce stores require a few paid WooCommerce plugins for certain functionality and WooCommerce sites require ongoing costs for maintenance and hosting.
Shopify is a complete e-commerce and website platform. For those business owners looking to utilize Shopify as their e-commerce platform, they'll need to build & host the website on the Shopify system. In comparison, the WooCommerce application can be added to a website built on the content management system WordPress.
While there are some fees associated with hosting and building the site on Shopify, one advantage of Shopify is that a lot of features can be added into the site on the Shopify platform and may not require the help of an outside development team.
You may see the terms WooCommerce interchanged with e-commerce. WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin and e-commerce application that can be integrated into any WordPress site. If a website is using WooCommerce, then it is most likely a full e-commerce website with shopping cart and check out capabilities.
Because the WooCommerce functionality and plugins are extremely flexible, some WordPress websites will utilize the WooCommerce plugins to provide a product catalog and quote submission without utilizing the full check out and payment system processes.