Shopify and WooCommerce are the two top ecommerce platforms in the world each with their own pros and cons, and I often have enquiries for both of these sorts of sites.  As a business owner, choosing the right ecommerce platform that fits your business needs is crucial for your success.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a packaged ecommerce platform that makes it easy for you to create an online shop, accept payments, and manage your stock all from a single platform without worrying about the technical aspects of managing a website .

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce plugin built for WordPress. It allows you to utilise the world’s most powerful content management system and use it to run an online shop. Because of the open-source nature, you can customise every aspect of your shop and easily add on extensions, of which there are many, plus design options are unlimited.

What to Look for in Your Ecommerce Platform?

There are few things to need to keep in mind when starting an online shop:

  • Cost – The initial cost of starting your ecommerce shop
  • Ease of use – It should be easy to use
  • Payment Methods – You need support for multiple payment methods e.g. PayPal, Stripe, WorldPay etc
  • Integrations – Services and third party tools you can integrate to grow your business
  • Scalability – The platform should be able to scale as your business grows

These are the very basic requirements, but depending on your needs, you may also want to look at other options like shipping, reporting tools etc.

I’ve done a summary of both platforms, and kept it simple, so you can read in 2 mins and decide for yourself!

1 – Cost

Cost is often the most important consideration for ecommerce website owners. You need to evaluate the cost of getting started while also keeping in mind the variable costs for add-on services and software.

Shopify – The basic plan is really cheap and is fine for setting up a basic shop but it doesn’t include third-party tools and add-ons that you will need to take scale your shop. As your business grows, these costs will start adding up, and you’ll soon be paying a lot more than the basic plan.

Also your payment fees can become costly if you want to use external payment services

WooCommerce – To use WooCommerce you will also need to have a WordPress website in place with a domain, SSL certificate and hosting all set up, but once that is in place the basic WooCommerce software is completely free.  You can of course get a whole host of paid extensions to scale your shop and add functionality, but the vanilla version does a great job all on it’s own.

You can often find free alternatives to the paid extensions, and keep costs under control by only purchasing the tools and plugins as you need them.  I’ve a whole list of my favourites that I like to use to help customers keep a hold on their costs as well as experience of which plugins are unreliable or work poorly.

WooCommerce doesn’t charge you a percentage fee of your transactions which is a great.  Depending on which gateway you use you will pay your provider a flat rate or a percentage on top of your sales, but you can’t avoid that, whoever you use.  My favourite is Stripe, easy to use and very low cost.

WooCommerce costs start adding up as you purchase paid extensions. Your hosting costs will also increase as your online store grows.

With the number of free themes and free add-ons available for WooCommerce, it’s definitely the winner when it comes to cost.

2 – Ease of Use

Most business owners starting an online store aren’t designers or developers, and it’s vital your platform is easy to use.

Shopify – is a fully hosted platform which means you don’t need to install, manage, or update any software. You also don’t need to worry about security, performance, backups, and compatibility issues.

As soon as you sign up, it helps you pick a design for your website. After that, they walk you through customisation and then help you add products, however it does limit your control. You can only use the design and development tools provided by Shopify or add-ons available in their marketplace.

WooCommerce –  it does need to be installed and configured and will need some maintenance and updates are essential.  The installation process does have a wizard which is very helpful.  A common service I can provide is a WooCommerce installation, for people who want to keep costs to a minimum but ensure the initial set up is optimised.  WooCommerce is super flexible when it comes to customisations, and you have full control of the whole platform. You can add any functionality imaginable to your website with the addition of WordPress plugins.

WooCommerce can have a steeper learning curve than Shopify, but I feel it’s offset by the flexibility WooCommerce gives you. 

3 – Payment Methods

There are many payment gateways that you can use to accept payments online. Some payment methods may not be suitable for you, and others may not be available to your customers.

Shopify  – offers lots of payment options that you can use to receive payments from customers. It has its own payments solution called Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) as well as all popular third-party payment gateways.

However it charges an extra 2% fees on each transaction made through third party payment gateways, on top of the transaction fees charged by the payment gateway.

WooCommerce offers PayPal and Stripe payments by default. It also supports all other popular payment service providers through add-ons.  As a self-hosted platform, you are only charged transaction fees by your payment gateway or your bank. WooCommerce never charges you a % fee on your shop transactions which is a major plus.

If choosing your own merchant account and using a third-party gateway is important for you, then you will save a lot of money by using WooCommerce, if you stick to Stripe with Shopify this can also keep your costs down.

4 – Integrations and Add-Ons

No matter how good your ecommerce platform is, you’ll always need third-party tools and services to grow your shop, and they both have a massive extensions directory, and integrate with many third-party services.

Shopify – has an App Store where you can buy third-party add-ons for your Shopify shop. They have hundreds of apps in the store covering every feature you’ll want to add to your shop, some free some paid.  Pricing for paid add-ons varies and most apps offer monthly subscriptions.

WooCommerce – is open source and built on top of WordPress. This gives you access to more than thousands of  free WordPress plugins and paid plugins.  There are a lot more integrations and add-ons available for WooCommerce than Shopify.

Almost all third-party tools and service providers have their own plugins to seamlessly integrate with your WooCommerce shop.

5 – Scalability and Growth

As your business grows, you will need more resources to handle new challenges and goals.  Shopify and WooCommerce can both be scaled to handle large amount of traffic and orders.

Shopify – handles the technical parts of your shop for you which means you don’t ever have to worry about performance, security, and scalability. Once your business starts growing, you can simply upgrade your Shopify plan, but their upgraded plans can be expensive, so you need to do the maths there.

WooCommerce – is a self-hosted platform which makes you responsible for maintaining updates, backups, and security of your website, however you can ask your developer or hosting company to help you with those, for a small cost, which gives you peace of mind.  As you scale your business, the main cost increase would be your hosting, so you can ensure your platform can cope with your and transaction volume.

I use for all of my e.commerce sites, we have a discussion at the start of every project to ensure that the hosting we select is appropriate for your business and that there are options available should you need to move up a level, plus your shop is backed up daily, and your SSL certificate is included at no additional cost.

With WooCommerce you have plenty of options to manage your growth as you are in full control of your website, whereas Shopify is a tech-free solution, which comes at a price.

Summary Time!

Shopify and WooCommerce are both powerful platforms to start your ecommerce shop, and as with everything it comes down to your personal skills and preferences.

Shopify can be easier to use initially but you don’t have full control over everything. Your costs can go high with transaction fees, add-ons, and integrations. Your upgrade options are limited to select plans, and you cannot manage costs on a pay-as-you-grow basis.

WooCommerce is open source and gives you full control of your website, and can be fully scaled without huge costs.  It does has a bit of a learning curve, which is why I provide all of my client’s with a full training programme and online guides. But millions of people use WooCommerce, it’s a fantastic platform, and once you start to use of it you get past the learning phase quite quickly.

If you are looking for a cost-effective solution, and you want to have full control of your online shop, then WooCommerce is the best platform for you, but Shopify can still be an excellent solution for hobbyists wanting to sell their products online easily.