Shopify vs WooCommerce has been a hotly debated topic for several years, with promoters and detractors on both sides. I use both Shopify and WooCommerce to build e-commerce websites and each has its pros and cons. To save you the time of reading this article, I believe Shopify wins over WooCommerce in almost every aspect if your main business objective is offering products or services for your customers to buy online. Shopify is especially suitable if you want to be doing as little techie stuff as possible.
WooCommerce certainly has some plus points too, particularly for those familiar with WordPress, the platform upon which it works. For more technical minded people who like to get under the hood and tweak things exactly as they want them, Woo-Commerce gives you that option too. Oh, and its FREE!
Development of Shopify and WooCommerce
Shopify is a Canadian company founded in 2006. Its sole purpose is to enable its customers to sell their goods and services online. It was built from the ground up for this purpose.
WooCommerce was released in 2011 to enable users of the popular blogging platform, WordPress, to sell goods and services on their websites. Through its technical wizardry, WooCommerce turns WordPress from a simple blogging tool into a fully-fledged e-commerce platform. It provides catalogues of products, stock levels and inventory management etc. as you would expect from any e-commerce platform.
Shopify vs WooCommerce – Infrastructure
A Shopify store is hosted on Shopify’s own servers which are fully managed by Shopify. Store owners do not have access to Shopify’s servers so they under the protection of Shopify. Shopify’s servers have proven fast and reliable, and because you’re paying them directly for the service, you can be assured that Shopify will make every effort to keep its servers and infrastructure secure and up and running at all times.
A WooCommerce store can be hosted on any computer capable of running WordPress. Most owners of WooCommerce stores rent website space from a hosting company. The hosting company is responsible for the hardware, but the configuration of WordPress and WooCommerce is down to you or your third-party developers.
Some hosting companies specialise in hosting WordPress. Website owners often have access to at least part of the server on which they host their WordPress installation and WooCommerce shop. They need this access to be able to tinker with WordPress settings, occasionally.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify offers a number of ‘themes’ – ready-made layouts for a website store. Some of the themes are free and these are actually the choice of developers because they utilise Shopify’s main functionality but can be customised to suit most businesses. Shopify also offers paid-for premium themes, created by Shopify developers or designers. These themes may give your shop the right look and feel immediately with very few changes needed to the layout or design.
All Shopify themes, even the free ones, can be restyled and changed completely by someone proficient in using ‘css’ (the code to style a web page) and Shopify’s own mark-up language ‘liquid’ (which controls the layout and functionality of the pages).
WooCommerce, being WordPress based, has 100s of WooCommerce-capable themes available made by developers and designers that specialise in creating WordPress themes. WordPress also has a number of ‘page-builder’ plugins available with WooCommerce features. These plugins allow styling of WordPress and WooCommerce shop pages without any coding.
However, unless you are familiar with WordPress, you are likely to find that installing and configuring WooCommerce to your exact requirements will require some technical know-how. Essential things such as being able to process payments, requires configuration and choices and settings to be made. With Shopify, the most essential components for selling online are available straight out of the box.
Winner – Shopify
Apps and plugins
Shopify offers a number of ‘apps’, add-ons to enhance a Shopify store. These apps range from making it easier to design and print your invoices and packaging labels, to adding products your store directly from drop-shipping companies. Some Shopify apps are free, others are sold at a monthly fee.
WooCommerce, like WordPress itself, has a number of ‘plugins’. These are similar to Shopify apps and add features and enhancements to an existing theme. There are 1000s of plugins available for WordPress and many are free.
Although WordPress’s numerous themes and apps offer endless possibilities to create the look and feel of your store, they also lack overall quality control, may not keep up to date with new versions of WordPress, or slow down your website, which is never good for customers or search engine rankings.
The essential Shopify apps are free, which include Shopify’s own ‘Order Printer’ app, that enables you to create nice looking invoices, and third-party cookies apps such as GDPR Cookie Consent Banner. However, other apps, including adding wholesale pricing or synchronising your products to other outlets such as Etsy or Amazon, can be rather pricey.
Winner – Tie
Email is an important component for any online business to consider, even if it is just for sending confirmation of orders and invoices.
Shopify doesn’t have an email client (somewhere to send, receive and store emails). It can send emails automatically when you receive online orders, but you need an external email service set up to give Shopify an email address to use.
WooCommerce also needs an external email client and by default will use whichever one you set up for WordPress.
Most hosting companies provide email clients. This makes it a little easier for WordPress users, and therefore WooCommerce users, to integrate their websites to their email clients. However, many companies prefer to use established email services (like Gmail, Outlook and Zoho) to handle this important communication tool for their business.
Whatever email client you use, you can brand your emails with your website name, such as email@example.com. Both Shopify and WooCommerce will use whatever address(es) you tell them to use for out-going emails.
Winner – Tie
Website domain name
Shopify can register your domain name for you if you haven’t got one already, for an annual fee of $11. However, it gives you no access to that domain name to change technical stuff, like using it for your email address, or creating sub-domains such as help.mybusiness.com and shop.mybusiness.com.
Transfer of a domain bought through Shopify can also take time. It is better to buy a domain name from a well-respected domain registrar and to point that domain to Shopify servers. If that’s all gone over your head, then look at my article how to make a website, or ask someone (including me) for help.
WooCommerce will use whatever domain name you have set up for the WordPress website you install it on. If you bought your domain name and website hosting from the same company, you will mostly likely have access to the tech tools required (through something like CPanel) to point your ‘mybusiness.com’ domain to the WordPress installation that hosts your WooCommerce store.
Winner – WooCommerce (but you still need to get a domain name from a registrar or your web host)
Shopify has a partnership integration with Stripe, one of the world’s largest online payment processing companies, so setting up online payments is very straightforward. Payment processing charges are 2.2% of the sale value + 20p per transaction.
Shopify also has integrations for other payment methods including PayPal and ApplePay, although processing these payments costs a bit more.
WooCommerce offers a range of payment options, including Stripe, PayPal and Braintree (a PayPal product) and there are plugins available to use even more. You have to apply to a payment provider to use their services, unlike the Shopify/Stripe partnership which does this automatically for you.
The cost of processing payments on WooCommerce depends on the payment provider you choose, but is likely to be similar to that of Shopify.
Winner – Shopify
Selling through social media
Shopify offers built-in ‘Sales Channels’ functionality to link your Shopify store to a Facebook Shop or Instagram account. If you’re active on social media (and you should be to market your online business), it is relatively straightforward to allow your Facebook and Instagram visitors to buy directly from your Shopify store without having to leaving your Facebook or Instagram page. This is only suitable for selling physical products and you do need a Facebook and Instagram business account (both of which are free).
A WooCommerce shop can also be linked to Instagram and Facebook for free, but more technical tweaks are required to do this.
Winner – Shopify
Tech knowledge required
Shopify is undoubtedly much simpler to use, you can get your shop up and running with little to no technical knowledge. Saying that, a little technical knowledge can go a long way and it’s worth learning a bit, as much as you’re interested to learn, to get the most out of your online shop.
Thankfully there are 100s of Shopify articles and videos on how to do almost anything you need to in Shopify. Shopify’s support is very good. You’d expect this because, like Apple, they own the hardware, the platform and the application software, so they are responsible for all of it working together.
WooCommerce does need some technical knowledge before you launch your first shop. Even people who have played around making WordPress blogs for sometime will find some aspects of WooCommerce a bit daunting at first.
WooCommerce has tweaked a fundamentally different product, WordPress, and made it into an E-Commerce platform. And it’s done a great job. But just as with WordPress itself, there’s a fair bit of learning to be done.
There is plenty of help out there for users of WordPress and WooCommerce. WordPress powers over 30% of the world’s websites! It’s unlikely there’s a question you need answering that hasn’t already been asked and answered somewhere. Finding that answer, in the haystack of all the knowledge out there, can sometimes be tricky though.
Winner – Shopify
Shopify has a simple cost structure offering 4 different packages. The most popular package is $29 (you’re charged in dollars even in the UK) for one website store, with no limit on the number of products you have in stock or sell each month. As stated, the cost per store transaction is 2.2% + 20p.
Shopify has a cheaper package, $9 a month, which lets you use their payment processing and stock management system, but you have to host your shop on your own website. (This is OK if you only have very few products to sell, like web services, and you know how to make your own website.)
Shopify’s premium packages are $79 and $299 per month, intended for high volume sellers and for this they pay less per transaction processing and can have multiple staff accounts.
WooCommerce is FREE! That seems to trump all the other case arguments for Shopify right there. If you’re already a WordPress user, know about domains and mail clients, or even if you’re just a little bit techie and fancy building your own shop as a project, then WooCommerce is worth a look at.
However, if you’re serious about creating an e-commerce store, one that may eventually become your main income, then Shopify is the choice for you. You’ll reach your goal of having a website quicker. Then you will have more time to build up your customer base through marketing.
Winner – WooCommerce
Other options I haven’t mentioned
There are some other big players in the E-Commerce website-building world, including Magento, BigCommerce, OpenCart and Wix. These have plenty of reviews and comparisons online but I don’t use them. I find Shopify and WooCommerce the two best solutions for small UK businesses.