Choosing between WooCommerce and Shopify can be difficult if you’re new to the world of eCommerce.
You have to decide what’s more important for you and how much you want to spend. Like every software solution, there are great things and things that are well… not so great about both platforms.
In this guide, I’ll help you decide whether you should choose Shopify or WooCommerce for your next eCommerce project.
First, let's get some background on these two leading platforms.
A Brief Introduction to Shopify and WooCommerce 🛒
🦄 The Unicorn: Shopify
Shopify is the industry unicorn whose market share is valued in billions of dollars. More than 820,000 store owners are using Shopify to power their eCommerce journey as of mid-2019.
It is a hosted solution — it runs on Shopify's servers, not your host. This makes it painless to get a store up and running in minutes at the expense of some content lock-in. (I'll say more about that later.)
Second in industry usage only to WooCommerce, Shopify is used by all kinds of businesses. From mom-and-pop shops to celebrities and famous brands, Shopify serves large and small enterprises.
🏋️♀️ The Reigning Champ: WooCommerce
WooCommerce is one of the most well-known eCommerce solutions worldwide, powering 26% of all online stores. That makes it the leader in the eCommerce market.
Created in 2011 by a WordPress company called WooThemes, WooCommerce was a fork of another WordPress plugin called Jigoshop that launched that year. WooCommerce was acquired in 2015 by Automattic, whose founder co-founded WordPress. Today, WooCommerce is the leading eCommerce plugin for the WordPress platform. Both are WordPress and WooCommerce are free, open-source software.
Like WordPress, the core WooCommerce plugin is free; you just need a domain and hosting to run it yourself.
With thousands of available free and commercial add-ons for every feature you could dream of and the lowest entry price (free), WooCommerce is an attractive choice.
Now that we know what the platforms are, what should you consider when deciding which one to use?
WooCommerce vs. Shopify: Pricing 💸
One of the first things you should consider is pricing and what you get for what you pay. WooCommerce is free as a software product. Shopify is a software service that costs from $29 to $299 per month.
As a hosted solution, Shopify hosts your store, and you handle everything through them as a service provider.
WooCommerce is a self-hosted solution. You are responsible for hosting and setting up WordPress, configuring WooCommerce, and taking technical control of everything your host doesn't handle. If you need extended features for WooCommerce (like subscription sales) these are sold as add-ons known as “extensions.” Some of the major WooCommerce extensions cost more than $200 per year, but many are free or inexpensive. Extensions make WooCommerce incredibly customizable. (See our picks for the eight most essential WooCommerce extensions.)
So how can you decide which eCommerce platform to adopt?
- Know what you need from your store. Do you need coupons? A specific payment gateway? Shipping integrations? Subscriptions? Once you have everything worked out, you can compare Shopify's features to those in the WooCommerce ecosystem and calculate the total cost for each.
- Know your needs and limitations. Do you want to self-host your website using a host such as Siteground, Kinsta, or Pagely so you have total control? If so, WooCommerce is for you. But if you want to give up some control to have someone else handle the more technical concerns, then maybe you should go with Shopify.
After considering the pricing differences, you may think you've reached your decision, but there’s a lot more you should consider than the sticker price.
1. Control 🎛️
You may have heard of content lock-in. This is what happens when you use a hosted platform and can’t easily switch to another provider/platform without a major headache.
Fortunately, unlike most hosted platforms, Shopify doesn’t lock you in. You can export your orders, inventory, and content in a click. You'll get them all in an easy-to-use CSV file that can be opened in any spreadsheet or imported to a different platform. However, with Shopify, you don’t have direct database access as you do with WooCommerce.
WooCommerce lets you easily export all your products in a standard CSV file too. It can be imported to a WooCommerce site at a different host or potentially any other eCommerce platform. You also have full access to all your data inside WordPress if you use WooCommerce.
2. Usability 🖱️
Any new platform you use will require you to learn how to use it. Ultimately some are easier than others to get to grips with.
WooCommerce is undoubtfully harder to learn than Shopify, and it has a weaker user experience. While Shopify is by no means perfect, it’s inherently more user friendly and intuitive.
With WooCommerce there’s also the added confusion that WordPress can bring. While it’s powerful, with great power comes great complexity. It’s not a dashboard you can throw someone into and just expect them to pick up without documentation or tutorials.
Don't forget that WooCommerce requires you to buy hosting and then install WordPress, WooCommerce, and any add-ons you require. This is not difficult for basic sites, and most hosts offer one-click installers to simplify the process. Shopify is still a much more “ready out of the box” solution.
3. Integrations 🔗
Whether your favorite shipping provider is DHL, USPS, UPS, FedEx, or something else, having an integration for the partners you work with is vital as you set up your eCommerce store.
Luckily both WooCommerce and Shopify have every integration you could imagine — from newsletter tools to shipping providers and payment gateways.
You'll want to research how much each integration costs on each platform to decide which best suits your business.
4. Point-of-Sale 🏬
POS stands for “Point of Sale.” It refers to inventory tracking software used by brick-and-mortar stores that also sell products online. A POS system updates your online inventory based in-store sales. It ensures you don’t sell something online that you don’t have in stock anymore. POS systems also handle credit card payments, collect customer information, and much else.
WooCommerce integrates with many different POS systems through commercial plugins that you can buy and install.
In contrast, Shopify has a fully-featured POS system, but you will need to buy their hardware for your store. While reasonably priced, you may feel “locked-in” to Shopify at that point.
If you have an existing POS solution you want to continue using, or if you want to avoid vendor lock-in, WooCommerce may be the better choice. If you are just starting and don't mind committing to the Shopify POS, it may be the better choice.
5. Support 💁♀️
This is where Shopify ultimately blows WooCommerce out of the water.
WooCommerce offers support for paid add-ons that you have purchased. It doesn’t offer support for WooCommerce itself. Instead, core WooCommerce questions must be directed to the WooCommerce community support forums. If you have a WooCommerce expert to help run your site, this may not be a concern.
Shopify offers expert 24/7 support even on their cheapest plan so you can always connect with real Shopify professionals whenever you have a problem. Plus Shopify also has community forums where you can get help from other store owners.
While several companies offer paid WooCommerce support, your store may have custom features that make it unique and challenging to support. Without dedicated support staff, you are much more on your own.
So if 24/7 support is vital to your eCommerce needs, then Shopify would be a great choice.
WooCommerce vs. Shopify: Which Should You Choose? 🛍️
Both Shopify and WooCommerce provide solid foundations for any eCommerce store. While there are pros and cons to both platforms, they both make it easier than ever to get started with online sales.
Which will suit you best?
The decision is yours. Is ease-of-use important? Or access to every line of code and database table? Do you prefer to self-host or have a hosted solution handled for you?
Have you used WooCommerce or Shopify before? Which solution do you prefer? Let us know what your thoughts are in the Commerce Journey Facebook group.