When it comes to building an online store, the two most common options are Shopify and WooCommerce.
While both platforms are powerful in their own right, they have different strengths that may be more suited for your specific needs.
In this article I will share some of the most important details about each platform so you'll feel confident in making an informed decision on which one is best for YOU!
Let's dive in.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is an ecommerce store building platform founded in 2006 by Canadians Tobias Lütke and Scott Lake.
At the time they struggled to find a decent platform where they could build their own Snowboard equipment so they decided to build their own!
They've since grown to one of the world’s largest eCommerce store building platforms and the largest publicly traded company in all of Canada.
With Shopify you can build a store that is fully functional, all at a reasonable cost.
The platform includes hosting built-in payment systems, website themes product pages, blogging features and more.
Shopify really is the perfect solution for people who want to sell online but aren't necessarily tech savvy.
Features of Shopify
Shopify is built for stores. At a low cost, what you get is a fully functional web store that is hosted by Shopify itself.
- Online store – on any plan, the store is already built-in. As a store builder, the default setting of the platform is to make sales. You can easily create product pages and collection pages the moment you start. All of these products already have an add to cart button, and customers can pay you on your selected payment processor.
- Multiple payment processing systems – there are dozens of payment processing system you can use in Shopify. You are not limited to PayPal.
- Staff Accounts – depending on your plan, you can give access to staff members and control their level of access. If you want, you can allow them to process orders but not change the payment processing system.
- 24/7 support – you can send an email to a Shopify rep and expect an answer if you need help.
- Sales channels – you can integrate other stores with your Shopify store. For example, if you have a Facebook shop, you can connect the two. Your Facebook shop is going to show all the products that you have in Shopify. If you remove a product from Shopify, your Facebook shop will also take it off. You can do the integration with Amazon, too.
- Discount codes – you can create discount codes for distribution to your customers. In this feature, you can set how long the discount code will remain active. You can also choose whether the discount you offer is a flat dollar amount or a percentage of what the customer has in his shopping cart.
Shopify is a complete package. It has everything that you need to build a store. However, please take note that high-end programs are not included. For example, Shopify does not include a program where you can create product bundles or upsells. You have to install an app to be able to do that.
Shopify offers three main price points.
Here are the packages:
- Basic Shopify – $29 per month
- Shopify – $79 per month
- Shopify Advanced – $299 per month
Regardless of the plan you choose, you can build a fully functional store. However, there are some perks and bonuses if you pick a plan with a higher tier.
Here are the features of the Shopify plan, which costs $79 a month, that you cannot use in the Basic Shopify plan:
- Advanced report builder
- Up to 72% shipping discount if you use DHL Express, USPS and UPS
- Access to USPS Priority Mail Cubic® pricing
- Lower fee of 2.6% + $0.30 USD per transaction
- Only 1% transaction fee if you use other payment methods
If you choose the Advanced Shopify plan, here are the benefits that are not available on the first two tiers:
- Up to 15 staff accounts
- 74% discount on shipping costs
- A low fee of 2.4% + $0.30 USD for every transaction
- If you use other payment methods, you will get charged a fee of only 0.5%
The good thing about Shopify is that it has a free trial for 14 days. Yes, you can build your store in 14 days without paying any subscription. However, this store is not live. It cannot accept payments. Use this free trial to check if you like the platform.
What is WooCommerce?
It's important to know that WooCommerce isn't a platform itself, but an e-commerce plugin for WordPress.
WooCommerce was created by theme developer WooThemes in 2011 and it is currently used by an estimated 4million websites.
Unlike Shopify, WooCommerce is not a standalone platform. To be able to use WooCommerce, you need:
- A Web Hosting Provider – this is the company that maintains your server; all your website data sits on this sever.
- WordPress – a content management system that allows you to create pages and blog posts (just like this website!)
WooCommerce was designed to convert your WordPress website into a store, but it only provides basic elements. It allows you to charge your customers via PayPal, but you need more apps to be able to use other payment gateways.
Overall, WooCommerce is great because it is free. As far as ease of use and functionalities are concerned, though, that is a totally different thing.
WooCommerce is best for individuals who have had their first rodeo with website building before. But if you are a first-time, you may find it a little difficult to use.
Features of WooCommerce
Now, let us take a look at the features of WooCommerce. This section should help you compare this platform with Shopify, and then decide if it has the things you need to build a website.
- Sell anything – with this platform, you can sell physical or digital products. Should you choose to sell digital products, you only need to upload the product, and WooCommerce will automatically download it for the customer once the purchase is made.
- Product variations – there is no limit to the product variations you can make, such as color size, and so on. You can also upload different photos for each product variation.
- Built-in payment processor – once you install WooCommerce, you can easily charge payments with PayPal. In some countries, you have the option to charge customer via Braintree. All it takes is to enter your PayPal API credentials to integrate the two.
- Shipping options and rates – you can create shipping zones and publish different shipping prices. You can even offer free shipping if you want.
- One-click refunds – you can issue a refund from your WooCommerce dashboard; you no longer have to go to your PayPal account to do it.
- Themes – there are many themes built by WooCommerce. These themes are not free.
- Flexibility – if you want to build a website from scratch, you can do it. All you have to do is to start with a WordPress website, and then choose a drag-and-drop web builder tool like Elementor or Thrive. With this tool, you can start building your website from a blank canvas and design it the way you want.
WooCommerce, in itself, is not an all-in-one platform. It is merely an e-commerce solution, an extension, of you a WordPress website. If you use WooCommerce, there are many elements that you have to change, such as the product page color scheme, the buttons, and a lot more.
WooCommerce is a free tool. It is a plug-in that you install in your content management system, the most common of which is WordPress. WooCommerce is basically a software that is fundamental to processing payments.
If you install WooCommerce in WordPress, you can already charge your customers money, upload products and create product categories. However, there are many WooCommerce supporting plug-ins that are not free.
Here are some examples of WooCommerce extensions that you have to pay:
- Table rate shipping – $99
- Membership – $149
- Subscriptions – $199
As you can see, your costs will pile up in the long run. Use WooCommerce if your store can run on a basic e-commerce software.
Shopify vs WooCommerce: Which One Is Better?
Utlimately this comes down to your specific needs, but here are my tips on how to choose between Shopify and WooCommerce.
Use Shopify if:
- You have the budget to pay $29 per month and if you are willing to pay a cut to Shopify for each of your sales
- You want a platform that is easy to use
- You are satisfied with a website that you cannot edit
- You want a platform where everything you need for a basic store is already available and functional
- You want superb customer support for your issues
- You need a supportive community of users
- You are not good enough to tinker with the codes of websites
Use WooCommerce if:
- You understand how websites work, and you know how to do integrations
- You want an almost free online store (you still need hosting remember)
- You do not want to pay fees for the sales that you make
- You want more flexibility, and you want to be able to change how your site looks like
From a cost perspective, WooCommerce is going to save you some money but don't forget that there are many other WooCommerce plug-ins and extensions that are paid. These apps are made by WooCommerce itself.
So, while the WooCommerce platform is free to use, you will end up paying more money to get more features, which can be substantial in the long run.
The workaround is to use other plug-ins that are offered for free in the WordPress environment. The thing is that these plug-ins may not always work since WooCommerce did not make them.
On the other hand, Shopify has a complete set of tools that you need to run a store. However, you have to pay $29 per month right off the get-go.
The Final Word on Shopify vs WooCommerce
Shopify is a great platform that is all in one. With Shopify, you no longer need to think about integration and plug-in compatibilities. If you use the platform, you should be able to put up a store in as short as a few hours.
On the other hand, WooCommerce is great if you are on a tight budget, or if you are knowledgeable about some technical aspects of web-store building activities.
At the end of the day, you have to choose a platform that meets your skill level and budget. Both platform are great, but they are not built for all users.