I talk to many ambitious brands when they’re at the planning stage for what they hope will be an all-singing, all-dancing website. They intend for this new launch to take their business to the next level and meet users’ needs in a way previous infrastructures couldn’t. My company (TheGenieLab) is a development agency that usually builds sites around the Shopify platform. But clients and potential customers are also tempted by WooCommerce, WordPress’ most popular eCommerce platform. In this post I compare Shopify vs WooCommerce. Which looks the best? Which is the most flexible? Which has the best, most innovative features? Which offers the best value for money? Which, crucially, makes the most money?
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 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.
Because WooCommerce is a plugin created by WordPress developers WooThemes (and acquired recently by Automattic), you might also want to purchase a theme affiliated with them, however the plugin can be integrated with any WP theme. There are only 5 free themes, but nearly 50 available for a one-off fee of $79, or $139 with Adobe Photoshop options. There’s also the alternative to purchase all of the 52 themes for $399 to play with in your own time.
How Shopify does design
One of Shopify’s greatest selling points is its 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.
There are even more paid templates available on the Shopify store which cost around $150. Again, these look great (probably better than the free ones, as you might expect).
Perversely, the instant attraction of Shopify designs can cause many webmasters to opt for the same designs. Some Shopify users who have designed a site themselves have later complained of looking a little too similar to other websites. A little 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.
There’s no doubt that this platform is king when it comes to visual appeal.
Shopify vs WooCommerce: Price
Every webmaster wants slightly more bang for their buck, but the two platforms have slightly different approaches to pricing:
How WooCommerce prices up
WooCommerce is absolutely free. If you have a website that’s powered by WordPress, you can add this open source plugin to your site completely free of charge.
Now, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that sounds a little too good to be true. Unfortunately it is. To make the most of WooCommerce, you need to add a series of different ‘extensions’, which we’ll discuss in the features section below.
Many of these extensions, some of which come as standard on Shopify, will be free because WordPress is an open source project but there are also many essential apps that will set you back between $5 and $500 a year each, depending on your needs.
While for some these supplementary charges are a hassle and can occasionally turn out prohibitively expensive, they do offer a large degree of flexibility. Users can pay for exactly what they use – and uninstall any features that they feel aren’t offering value for money.
The standard payment gateway that comes with WooCommerce is Mijireh, which allows you to process customer payments through a number of different companies including PayPal, eWay, Braintree, SagePay and Stripe.
Mijireh commands a transaction fee of 0.5% (the same as Shopify’s most competitive option) but it is possible to buy other gateways without fees for a one-off cost.
WooCommerce – Hosting!
Another thing that needs paying for when using a WooCommerce site is hosting. While Shopify is a hosted solution, which means that all security and hosting issues are taken care of, if you’re running WooCommerce you need to find a partner. This isn’t much of a problem, and there are some excellent solutions out there, but you will have to pay up to $700 a year, depending on the size and ambition of your website. What’s more, you’ll have shell out decent amounts of cash in order to enjoy the same rapid response times that Shopify sites enjoy.
How Shopify prices up
Shopify can boast a much more conventional pricing structure. It has a sliding scale of packages which offer users a range of different features – Basic ($29), Professional ($79) and Unlimited ($179).
Shopify is a hosted option with a more comprehensive set of features, and so any issues such as hosting or payment processes will be sorted as soon as you sign up.
Whether it’ll be as cost-effective as WooCommerce depends on your specific circumstances – for instance, its 2% transaction fee on the Basic plan will be more than smaller sites will pay on its rival platform – but there’s no doubting that it offers simpler solutions out of the box.
Shopify vs WooCommerce: Features and eCommerce trickery
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 WooCommerce helps you sell
As open source software, WordPress is well known for allowing third party developers to create popular extensions on its sites. 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.
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
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.
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.
Because WooCommerce is, in effect, a free platform there’s no strict customer care. Users are left to figure it out themselves – although there are hundreds of thousands of like-minded people on forums who are happy to lend a hand if you’re confused.
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 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. It’s easy to add and edit body content as well as meta information to ensure that your pages have a strong chance of ranking for specific pages.
Compared to Shopify, its blog is better organised and archives posts better – giving you a better chance of making a splash with your content creation techniques.
How Shopify helps with SEO
Shopify may come second when it comes to blog effectiveness, there’s 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 blogs, 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.
The Lost Cyclist, an eCommerce expert, noticed this: when he moved his site from Shopify to WooCommerce 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.
While WooCommerce clients could feasibly run a site that’s runs as fast as the Shopify alternative, it would be expensive.
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. WooCommerce is a fine option that allows webmasters to create quality, high-functioning sites, but generally, I find that Shopify offers something extra: faster, more advanced and with a better aesthetic, it is one of the best platforms out there. Also, Shopify is definitely easier to implement and a lot more secure. The issue of credit card SSL certificates when using WordPress based sites can be complex and expensive. In case you want to switch from WooCommerce to Shopify, there’s a nice walk-through guide here.
What do you think?
That’s enough of me. What are your thoughts on the two platforms? Have ever switched from one to the other? Have you had any serious issues with either product? I’d love to hear from you below.