WooCommerce vs Shopify: Who Should Be Using Each Platform

Posted on September 3, 2018 by in Editorial | 27 comments

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Who Should Be Using Each Platform

There are a lot of platforms you can use to set up an online store nowadays. Two of the most popular options are WooCommerce and Shopify, and it’s easy to see why since they both pack so many features. In fact, choosing between them can be a challenge in itself.

In this article, we’re going to give you our two cents on the WooCommerce vs Shopify debate. We’ll compare both platforms on ease of use, cost, customizability, and security to help you pick the best one for your needs.

Let’s get to it!

What to Look For in an eCommerce Platform

At its core, an eCommerce platform needs to provide you with the basic tools you need to create product pages and process payments. Technically, this is the bare minimum you need to set up an online store. However, in practice, you’ll want to access more functionality than that if you want your store to be a success.

Let’s break down some of the features you should look out for in a solid eCommerce platform:

  • Support for multiple payment processors.
  • Product taxonomies and a search feature.
  • In-depth customizability.
  • Third-party service integrations.
  • Robust security.

That’s a lot to keep in mind, but the good news is that you have plenty of excellent options to choose from. Shopify and WooCommerce are two of our favorites, and throughout the next sections, you’ll come to see why that is. First off, let’s introduce both platforms briefly before we dig into what makes them special.

WooCommerce

When it comes to WordPress plugins, few of them are as ambitious as WooCommerce. This open-source plugin transforms WordPress into a full-featured eCommerce platform.

With WooCommerce, you can sell both digital and physical products. You can also use regular WordPress themes and plugins alongside it, which means the platform is almost endlessly customizable.

Shopify

Shopify is a fantastic eCommerce platform that features an intuitive drag-and-drop store builder, and you get access to several modern themes. On top of that, the platform also provides integration with over 100 payment gateways, so you’ll never be lacking ways to process payments. Shopify stores also include built-in analytics, which can be invaluable when it comes to growing your store.

Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify is a hosted platform, which means that you’ll need to sign up to the platform to use it. Shopify’s plans start at $29 per month.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: A Head-to-Head Comparison

It would be impossible to discuss what makes both these eCommerce platforms such great choices in a single section. With that in mind, we decided to compare them from five angles. First off, let’s talk about the process of setting up a store with each of them.

1. Setting Up a Simple Store

You can use both WooCommerce and Shopify to set up complex eCommerce operations. However, for this section, we’ll judge them solely on how simple it is to set up a basic online store.

With Shopify, you need to sign up for an account before you can do anything else. The good news is the platform offers a 14-day free trial which doesn’t require a credit card. That means you can test the platform thoroughly before committing to it.

Once your account is ready, Shopify will set up a basic store for you. This will apply the default theme, which looks like this:

Shopify's default theme.

Go ahead and switch to a new theme from the Online Store > Themes tab:

Changing your Shopify theme.

Once you find a theme you like, you can customize it using the drag-and-drop editor we mentioned earlier. When you get your store looking the way you want, you can start adding products from the Products tab:

Adding a new product.

When you go to add a product, you’ll see a simple editor that enables you to set a title and description. You can also upload product images and categorize the item from this screen, on top of setting a price and configuring its shipping options:

Using the Shopify editor.

As soon as you publish your product, it’ll show up on your homepage. At this point, you’ll also need to configure your payment settings before your store is ready. However, Shopify doesn’t enable you to do this until you purchase a plan and enter your credit card information.

That’s too bad, but it should give you an idea of how simple it is to set up an online store with Shopify is pretty straightforward. In fact, adding a few items and customizing your homepage shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours.

Let’s move on to WooCommerce. If you want to use the plugin, you’ll first need to have a WordPress site ready to go on your web host of choice. As soon as you install WooCommerce, the plugin will prompt you to complete a setup wizard. We recommend you do this since the wizard covers all your store’s basic configuration. Bear in mind that the steps and options available will vary slightly depending on your store’s location, so the following example may be somewhat different from what you’ll see.

First off, the wizard will ask you to enter some basic information about your store. This includes where it’s based, what currency you want to use, and what type of products you want to sell:

Editing your WooCommerce locale settings.

Next up, you’ll be able to choose which payment processor to use. Out of the box, WooCommerce supports both Stripe and PayPal, but you can add more options later:

Choosing which payment options to use.

In the following section, WooCommerce will ask you what areas you plan on shipping to, and which measurement units you want to use:

Configuring your shipping options.

Finally, the plugin will show you a list of recommended settings you can use to get your first store up faster. For example, it can set you up with free Storefront theme, automate the way your store collects taxes, and integrate with MailChimp:

Using WooCommerce's recommended settings.

We want to get our store ready ASAP, so we enabled all three options. Your store will now be ready, and you’ll be given the option to add your first product by clicking on the Create a product button:

Creating a WooCommerce product.

Adding products is done using the standard WordPress editor, with a few extra settings. Overall, the product-creation experience is very similar between Shopify and WooCommerce:

Editing a WooCommerce product.

After your first product is ready, your store is basically good to go. You’ll still need to configure your payment options, though, which you can do from the WooCommerce > Settings > Payments tab:

Configuring your WooCommerce payment settings.

Overall, both platforms make it pretty easy to set up a new store. Shopify does enable you to customize your store’s aspect more easily, though, thanks to its built-in website editor. You can also get similar functionality using plugins and themes such as Divi with WooCommerce, but it takes a couple of extra steps.

2. Calculating the Cost of Opening Your Store

Next up, we’re going to talk about what type of budget you need to get a store running with both platforms. With Shopify, you can use your free trial to build your store, but you’ll still need to activate it before you can start processing payments. As we mentioned earlier, Shopify’s plans start at $29 per month with access to the platform’s basic features:

Shopify's plans.

Keep in mind, you’ll also need to purchase a domain, which usually costs around $10 per year. Some of Shopify’s apps are also pay-to-play, so if there’s a particular feature you intend on adding, you’ll probably want to browse the store beforehand to see how much it’ll cost you.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Shopify will take a percentage of all your sales depending on what payment processors you use. The percentages themselves are low, but they can add up over time:

Shopify's payment processing rates.

As for WooCommerce, you’ll also need to pay for hosting for your site. However, in most cases, a small online store should perform nicely with a good shared hosting plan or a Virtual Private Server (VPS). At most, you should be looking at anywhere between $5-15 for hosting. Likewise, you’ll also need to purchase a domain, so add another $10 or so to that price.

When it comes to extensions, WooCommerce offers plenty of free options. However, the paid options can be rather expensive:

A few examples of WooCommerce extensions.

Overall, both Shopify and WooCommerce are similar when it comes to the cost of setting up a new store. However, if you play your cards right, you can set up a WooCommerce store for less than $15. Plus, you won’t need to pay a fee for any of the sales you make. This can make WooCommerce the cheaper alternative.

3. Customizing Your Store

Both WooCommerce and Shopify provide you with plenty of options when it comes to customizing your store. With Shopify, you get access to a simple drag-and-drop editor that’s a walk in the park to use:

The Shopify editor.

You also get hundreds of themes to choose from, so creating a visually appealing store is pretty straightforward:

A few Shopify theme options.

WooCommerce is no slouch when it comes to customizability either. Although it doesn’t include a website-builder tool right out of the box, some themes provide you with similar options. Divi, in particular, works wonderfully with WooCommerce:

An example of a Divi WooCommerce shop.

If you want more options, you have access to thousands of themes and extensions you can use to customize every aspect of your WooCommerce store.

Although changing the style of your Shopify store is easier, WooCommerce takes the cake in this aspect due to sheer numbers. Given WordPress’ popularity, few (if any) other platforms can compete with all the customizability options it offers.

4. Making Your Store Secure

One of the great things about using Shopify is you don’t have to worry much about security. They’ve paid a lot of money in security bounties over the years, and they make sure users don’t have to worry about breaches. That being said, if you don’t follow good security practices for your store – such as using a unique username and password – all the features in the world won’t keep it safe.

WooCommerce, on the other hand, approaches security differently. Your web host will provide some basic security features if you chose a good one. However, if you really want to protect your WordPress website, you have to take matters into your own hands.

Since WordPress is an open-source platform, you can do pretty much anything you want with it. If you have the time, you can turn your store into the online equivalent of Fort Knox, all using manual tweaks and free plugins.

Shopify provides a more secure experience out of the box. However, it doesn’t enable you to play around with advanced security settings. If you want full control over those, then you’ll likely want to use WooCommerce.

Conclusion

When it comes to picking a platform for your online store, both WooCommerce and Shopify are excellent platforms. Which you should use depends largely on your store’s requirements and how much control you want over its settings.

If you’re looking to set up a simple online store, it can be easier to get started with Shopify, and you won’t even have to look for hosting. However, WooCommerce offers a lot more customizability. After all, the platform is built on top of WordPress, and it’s a good fit for almost any kind of store.

What’s your pick when it comes to WooCommerce vs Shopify? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

Article thumbnail image by elenabsl / shutterstock.com

27 Comments

  1. Could you compare Etsy to these?

    • John Hughes

      That’s a good idea, and one will think about taking on board!

  2. hi,
    good article. i’ve been thinking about using woocommerce to build my store but have been hearing so much about shopify.
    a few additional issues if you can do a comparison:

    – how about speed? e-commerce stores tend to have a lot of images etc. does shopify automatically optimize any images you upload? and also on wordpress, if you choose the wrong plugin with inefficient coding, it would slow down your site. does shopify take care of all that? any theme you choose on shopify, customization to your store etc. are they all built well that users can pick whatever they want and not have to worry about the coding behind them?

    – how about SEO, caching and CDN? on a wordpress site, you have to literally take care of this yourself. find the best plugin, set it up etc. having a storefront on shopify, do they take care of all these issues for you? SEO, caching and CDN are all critical areas to the performance of any website. does shopify do all that work behind the scenes, while the user just have to worry about the aesthetics of the site? for wordpress and woocommerce, you have to worry about both.

    if you can elaborate on these issues above, that will be much appreciated. i have a good sense about wordpress and woocommerce, and roughly what needs to be done. but i find it very time consuming. if shopify takes care of all the technical details for you and making sure that any site you build with them run efficiently, that i think could be a huge advantage.

    thanks very much!

    • John Hughes

      Hello Daphne,

      Speed is a by-product almost of a number of factors, and as such it can’t be answered in a few sentences. Our advice is to speak directly with Shopify and get them to answer your questions.

      Of course, when it comes to WordPress, that is as much down to what you’re willing to implement to help speed things along than anything else. Good luck. 🙂

  3. It thinks its a complete wastage of time by going towards other e-commerce solutions rather have Woocommerce. Even basic Woocommerce plugin will full fill your needs and customization power provides you entire control on your E-shop.
    So, my vote is for Woocommerce 🙂

    • John Hughes

      Good choice, Ameen. 🙂

  4. Great comparison. Although I Shopify looks all fancy and clean UI. I still like Woocommerce for fully customization option. And cost.

    • John Hughes

      Thanks for your insight, Lara.

  5. I have used both in the past and use WooCommerce exclusively now, for one simple reason. When you self host with woocommerce you have full control of your platform. Not happy with your hosting account, move it all over to a new host. Not happy with Shopify? Well suck it up Princess you are stuck with them. If you want to move your store to a different platform, you have a lot of work ahead of you. Using Woocommerce or any self hosted ecommerce solution gives you full control.

    • John Hughes

      That’s the crux, Paul – control over the process. We prefer this over other solutions, though it’s not to say WooCommerce is right for absolutely everyone. It’s a matter of need, budget, and time.

  6. Both are excellent. However, WooCommerce might be more suitable for existing WordPress users whereas Shopify could be better for folks seeking a turnkey solution. Also, Shopify’s partnership with Oberlo makes drop shipping convenient.

    • John Hughes

      Thanks for your considered opinion!

  7. This really is an apples to oranges comparison, because both options serve different types of business owners. What one offers in control (WooCommerce), the other offers in convenience (Shopify). WooCommerce is more suited towards those that WANT to manage all the intricate details of a storefront, while Shopify offers an easy solution for those who simply want to sell their products without worrying about the maintenance.

    I have personally used both and worked with clients who use either one of them and it all comes down to preference.

    • John Hughes

      Great thoughts, and something we hope others pick up on!

  8. I have clients who have both, it comes down to their needs. Shopify is really just for sellers whereas woo and WordPress allow the development of a brand(blogging, portfolios, articles etc) with ecommerce function.While my own preference is for woo, Shopify is easy for those who wish to just sell but they need to be selling well. Because Shopify hosting and add ons (basically paid plugins) adds up to a pretty expensive monthly fee as opposed to woo where it’s mainly free plugins for similar functions. Any half decent Shopify theme will set you back a couple of hundred dollars and even then they all look the same.

    • John Hughes

      Good insight, Leanne. 🙂

  9. Both are excellent. However, WooCommercec might be better for experienced WordPress users whereas Shopify could be more suitable as a turnkey solution. Also, Shopify’s partnership with Oberlo makes drop shipping convenient.

  10. It looks like I’m going against the grain here. I used to use WooCommerce but found the add-ons I needed expensive. Recently I switched to Shopify, but not the hosted option covered in the article. I went for the Buy Button option which is about a third of the price. You then use the Shopify Buy Button builder to design the presentation of your product and add a buy button. This generates JS which I drop into a Divi Code Module to position it on any page on my site. I create one of these Code Modules for each of my products and set them up as Divi Global Modules in the library. Then when I build a page or article that relates to a product I can just add the module to sell the product.
    I’ve found the Shopify Buy Buttons very easy to use and have been able to embed the same products on different sites that I have. Very neat and very cost effective.

    • John Hughes

      Robin, I think going against the grain is absolutely fine. After all, the beauty of using WordPress as a platform is that you can mix and match solutions based on your needs, time, budget, and expertise.

      if you’ve found a solution that does what you need, more power to you. 🙂

    • That sounds like a great option. I’m chasing my tail as an artist trying to decide the best choice for my wordpress stir.

  11. What about shipping quotes? I’ve heard that costs extra with Woo, but I’m not sure about Shopify.

    Also, sales tax collection is another concern I have. How is this handled on each of these platforms?

    • John Hughes

      Hello Teresa,

      You can set options for this in WooCommerce, but there are plugins to help extend this functionality further.

      As for Shopify, you may need to check with them directly, but I believe this is a near-automatic process.

  12. Helpful article. I’m looking into setting up an online store and have been looking closely at woocommerce. But – do I HAVE to change my theme? My website is already built and looks nice, I really don’t want to change anything, just add the shop pages. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Nathan B. Weller

      You don’t necessarily have to change your theme. WooCommerce works with a lot of themes just fine. I’d recommend creating a staging or local dev version of your existing site, installing WooCommerce, and seeing how it looks when you add the pages you want. There will of course be some customization that needs to happen. There always will be. But it may be minor enough that you can keep what you’ve got and not mess around too much with design.

  13. Great content to start your online store. Well-differentiated.Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    • John Hughes

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the article. 🙂

      • Your Welcome John,
        The way you quoted that its about how we feel comfortable and ease of use of the platform. I think Shopify is helpful for people who want to stay away from the technical aspect and if someone has worked on WordPress sites and have some technical skills then WooCommerce is best for this.

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