Shopify vs WooCommerce – to say it simply, these are the two most popular eCommerce platforms available on the market.
First, which one of the two is actually going to fit your specific needs better, Shopify or WooCommerce? Which is more feature-rich? Which is cheaper? Which is better-looking? Which is more flexible? Which is the easiest to work with? …
This is a lot of questions, but we’re going to answer then all in this in-depth comparison. After reading it, you will know exactly which platform to choose based on your individual needs and on the type of eCommerce store that you want to run. Here’s Shopify vs WooCommerce – which one is the absolute best:
Chapter #1: Shopify vs WooCommerce – Design
For websites, design is everything. Users simply don’t trust a site that doesn’t have the right aesthetic or doesn’t function as well as it could.
How Shopify does design
One of Shopify‘s greatest selling points is the visual quality of the themes. In my opinion, they look absolutely great even out of the box. Shopify comes with 11 different free design templates, each of which is mobile responsive, and has a variety of different colouring options. All of these templates have a fashionably sleek and clean aesthetic, which makes it perfect for modern, forward-thinking websites.
Shopify’s designs aren’t created in-house; they’re outsourced to a group of professional web designers who ensure they’re as current and as engaging as they can be.
Unfortunately, the price tags on those go as high as even $150 a piece. But what you get in exchange is great design.
Luckily, there are free options available too.
Perversely, the instant attraction of Shopify designs can cause many webmasters to select the same themes. Some Shopify users who have designed a site themselves have later complained of looking a little too similar to other websites. For that reason, customisation is encouraged.
Happily, Shopify is easy to chop and change. You can easily amend colours and styles, while more adept developers can utilise the platform’s specialised ‘Liquid’ language to make more substantial changes and really make a brand stand out from the rest.
How WooCommerce does design
As with many other aspects of the WooCommerce experience, when it comes to aesthetics, the world is your oyster – you just have to put the hours in.
WooCommerce is a plugin created by the developers from WooThemes (and acquired by Automattic). As such, it doesn’t deliver any specific design traits on its own. What it does is it provides you with the means to sell products and services online. The design part, however, is left to your current WordPress theme.
That being said, WooCommerce has been built to cooperate with most themes on the market, provided that they follow the standard recommendations and best practices.
This means that, in most cases, you are able to select any WordPress theme that you like, and still make it work together with WooCommerce.
However, you will also come across themes that have been built with WooCommerce in mind from the get-go, and are tailor-made to make all your product / service listings look great. If the design of the eCommerce store itself is particularly important to you, you should perhaps look into some of those themes.
The place to start would be Woo’s own default online store theme called Storefront (free). It’s a really efficient creation that puts focus on all the important elements of an eCommerce store, and helps you sell more effectively.
You can also get a range of child themes for Storefront in case you want to customize the look of your store further. Those are available at $39 a piece.
Apart from that, you can also look into marketplaces like ThemeForest where you can find tens or even hundreds of other WooCommerce-compatible themes.
To be honest, WooCommerce has a serious advantage over Shopify when it comes to designs. What I mean is simply the fact that, apart from the specific WooCommerce themes, you can basically make any WordPress theme work with the platform, and there are thousands of those things on the web.
Chapter #2: Shopify vs WooCommerce – Price
Every webmaster wants slightly more bang for their buck, but the two platforms have really different approaches to pricing:
The main difference between Shopify pricing and WooCommerce pricing
To say this quite bluntly, Shopify pricing is very clear and straightforward.
On the one hand, WooCommerce is free. Or, I should say, as open source software, it is technically free – you can download it for free straight from WordPress.org. No strings attached. But then, you find out that to actually launch a working eCommerce store with it you need to get ready to spend money (we’ll get into specifics in a minute).
In simple terms, Shopify is all about delivering you a single, out-of-the-box solution with one price tag on it. You get it, you “unwrap the box”, and you get to use your shiny new eCommerce store right away, since everything you need is included from the get-go.
With WooCommerce, on the other hand, what you actually get is a box with just the engine of your eCommerce store in it. But to then make that engine run, you need to find an empty car to put it in, so to speak. (Where by “car” I actually mean things like hosting, domain, working WordPress setup, etc.)
Here’s a table that should make the costs involved with each platforms easier to grasp:
Note. Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer you a handful of tiers / options to upgrade your version of the platform depending on the type of your business, the scale of your sales, etc. To simplify this comparison, I’m going to focus on the cheapest path – what it costs, at the minimum to have a working eCommerce store with Shopify vs WooCommerce.
|Software||Hosting||Subdomain||SSL certificate||Top-level domain|
|Shopify||$29 / month||Included for free||$9 / year|
|WooCommerce||$0||$5-$100 / month (via 3rd party)||n/a||$100+ / year (via 3rd party)||$9+ / year (via 3rd party)|
- Shopify eCommerce store running on a top-level domain: $29.75 / month.
- WooCommerce store on the same setup: $29 / month (a modest $20 hosting, domain, SSL).
As you can see, even though the WooCommerce software is free, to actually get it to run an actual eCommerce store costs basically the same as Shopify.
But that’s not all. With WooCommerce you might also have to factor in the additional extensions for things like SEO, more payment gateways, and so on. Those extensions are usually around the $70 mark (one time payment).
What it all comes down to is that although WooCommerce is technically the cheaper solution, it will require much more work to set it up, and you’ll need to be much more careful not to go over your budget, as every additional extension comes with a price tag. In the end, with WooCommerce, you’re exchanging dollars for features.
Shopify can boast a much more conventional pricing structure. It has a sliding scale of packages which offer users a range of different features up front – Basic ($29), Professional ($79) and Unlimited ($299).
Last but not least, there are the transaction fees. In essence, whenever you sell something with either of the platforms, they will charge you a small fee (for processing the payment, delivering the money to your account, etc.). Those fees change quite often, so I won’t get into that here, but just be aware that they exist. Usually, they sit around 2%-3% per transaction, but make sure to check the exact numbers before signing up with either of the platforms.
Chapter #3: Shopify vs WooCommerce – Features
While both platforms’ approaches to pricing are different, they’re relatively similar when it comes to giving your eCommerce site that little va va voom. Unlike a platform like Bigcommerce, Shopify and WooCommerce don’t bombard the user with plenty of tricks and toys.
However, both have enviable app stores that can be raided for the latest money-making features.
How Shopify helps you sell
Although you will probably need to install apps to make the most of the platform, Shopify offers significantly more free options. From the very start Shopify allows you to download free apps to:
- Create discount codes
- Offer gift cards (on Professional and Unlimited)
- Install cart recovery systems (on Professional and Unlimited)
- Include individual product reviews
- Amend shipping options
- Sell on Facebook
- Import products using CSV files
- List different product variations
- Print orders
Some of these free features, such as CSV uploads, shipping options and Facebook selling will set you back up to £500 to get started on WooCommerce.
Aside from the basic options, there are hundreds of different features that can be installed from the Shopify App Store. Like with WordPress, you certainly won’t short of inspiration. Nor will you be bemoaning the apps’ poor quality.
How WooCommerce helps you sell
As open source software, WordPress is well known for allowing third party developers to create various extensions and plugins. WooCommerce taps into that further by offering lots of interesting and exciting additions. Whether you want to easily edit aesthetics, sell on Facebook, ramp up email marketing techniques, understand user behaviour or quite frankly do anything else, you’ll be able to.
However, it may struggle when it comes to more specialised integration solutions. Larger companies with more specific needs, for instance, might find that it doesn’t integrate well with their company-level software.
Chapter #4: Shopify vs WooCommerce – Support
There’s also the not insubstantial issue of technical support. Shopify is renowned for the high quality of its customer care. Each client can enjoy 24/7 access to a customer adviser in case they have any issues or queries (via email, open chat, phone call).
Apart from that, you also get access to an extensive knowledge base that covers some of the common user questions and problem solutions.
The matter of support with WooCommerce isn’t as straightforward. First off, WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin in itself. This means that you can get support through the WordPress forums. However, at the same time, the WooCommerce team also enables everyone to create a free user account over at WooCommerce.com and get support there.
Lastly, WooCommerce is an open source product just like WordPress. This means that you can jump into the source code yourself, and try solving things on your own (if you’re brave enough).
In the end, I have to give the support round to Shopify. Nothing beats 24/7 access to a support person.
Chapter #5: Shopify vs WooCommerce – SEO
Any website that wants to make a splash needs strong SEO. Luckily, both contenders here have a lot going for them.
How Shopify helps with SEO
Shopify may come second when we look at the overall volume of SEO features available, but there’s certainly no shame in the way that it presents content. It too handles basic SEO practices like meta information and site copy with ease. So long as your business is producing quality content, there’s no reason to suggest you won’t enjoy great results and strong user engagement.
Site wide, there are plenty of ways that Shopify proves to beat WooCommerce in the SEO game. It’s actually renowned by developers like me as having some of the cleanest code out there and natural linking structure, which offers a smooth user experience and in turn enhances visibility in search engine rankings.
One interesting case that’s worth pointing out is what happened to the Lost Cyclist, an eCommerce expert. When he moved his site from Shopify to WooCommerce, he noticed that the traffic dropped markedly:
(If you’d like to dig deeper into how different shopping cart platforms can help your business with SEO, you might want to read this post.)
What’s more, Shopify is fast. Because it’s a hosted platform that’s built on huge infrastructure, Shopify offers each of its webmasters rapid loading pages (80 milliseconds, to be exact). As a result, shops stand a better chance of ranking well and a better chance of leading customers to conversions.
How WooCommerce helps with SEO
WordPress is primarily a content creation platform, and it’s renowned by SEO experts as one of the most reliable options available. It’s easy to add and edit content as well as meta information to ensure that your pages have a strong chance of ranking for specific keywords.
With plugins such as Yoast SEO, you can make your WordPress site highly optimized, and be in full control of every little detail that’s SEO-related.
When it comes to WooCommerce itself, it doesn’t give you much in terms of SEO on its own. It simply takes advantage of what’s already there in WordPress, or what’s available through third-party plugins like the aforementioned Yoast SEO, or the WooCommerce-dedicated Yoast WooCommerce SEO.
Shopify vs WooCommerce: Conclusion
Comparisons such as this are never cut and dry. When I talk with clients, my recommendations always fluctuate depending on their specific situations.
Here are my recommendations based on the type of user that you are / what you expect from your eCommerce platform:
What do you think?
That’s enough from me. What are your thoughts on the two platforms? Have you ever switched from one to the other? Or maybe you have any other questions related to the topic of Shopify vs WooCommerce? I’d love to hear from you below.