Building up your very own e-commerce store is a great way to start your entrepreneurship journey. Incidentally, this view has solidified because of the Covid-19 pandemic affecting the world now. Many traditional retail businesses are affected adversely by the crisis and has turned their focus towards building up an e-commerce presence.
Which platform should you use to start developing your e-commerce website? We take a look at two of the most popular e-commerce platforms available on the market – Shopify and WooCommerce. Both platforms have their strengths and we hope this simple comparison between the two can help you to make a more informed decision on which platform to utilise.
The categories of comparison are as follows:
1. Ease of Use
Users would want a platform that is simple to use, especially if they have limited technical knowledge when it comes to developing websites. The ease of use pertains to the difficulty regarding setting up and managing a working e-commerce website using either platform.
It is hard to find fault with Shopify when it comes to ease of use. From the moment you create an account, you are guided through the entire setup. The whole process is very straightforward, which means you require neither design nor site-building abilities to set up your store. Once you have your store running, you are able to access every important option from the sidebar of the dashboard, which further simplifies your everyday process of managing your online store.
WooCommerce is nearly as easy to use as Shopify. However, setting up your store will be more challenging. Because WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin and not a subscription-based solution like Shopify, you will need to complete several actions first. These include getting a domain name, signing up for a hosting account, installing WordPress, and installing a WordPress theme. These steps do require some knowledge regarding web-related things, which could be slightly overwhelming for beginners. Fortunately, certain hosting providers offer a 1-click installation which automatically installs WordPress and WooCommerce for users.
Verdict: Shopify is the clear winner here because of the initial hassle involved with establishing your e-commerce store.
When it comes to e-commerce websites, it is not exaggerating to claim that design is everything. If a website is not aesthetically pleasing enough, customers will lose interest quickly.
Shopify comes with its own theme store, containing over 180 different themes. Every theme is mobile responsive and has a variety of different colouring options. The design looks fashionably sleek and clean, making it extremely suitable for modern, forward-thinking websites. Furthermore, Shopify’s designs are outsourced to professional web designers to ensure creativity from a wide variety of companies and people. The price of premium Shopify themes goes as high as $180, although there are plenty of free choices available.
WooCommerce does not deliver any specific design traits on its own. The design part is best left to each user’s current or future WordPress theme. Fortunately, WooCommerce has been built to cooperate with most themes on the market. This means that you are able to select any WordPress theme you prefer, and make it work in conjunction with WooCommerce. You can look for plenty of options from Woo’s own default online store theme called Storefront or look into marketplaces such as ThemeForest. If you have a certain level of technical skill coupled with willingness to put in some time, the sky feels like the limit when creating new themes for your e-commerce store using WooCommerce.
Verdict: WooCommerce has the edge here due to being open source and thus having access to significantly more themes than Shopify. With some technical ability, users can even customise the themes to their own liking.
When it comes to features, both platforms provide the features most users need to create an effective online store. Let us understand the features offered by each platform in slightly more detail.
Shopify offers significantly more free features to make the most out of the platform. Some of the key features include: unlimited products, unlimited file storage, discount codes, free SSL certificate, mobile commerce optimisation, credit card payments, customer profiles, drop shipping capabilities, individual product reviews, social media integration, site stats and product reports, fully featured mobile app, and inventory management. In contrast, some of these free options, such as CSV uploads, shipping options and bookings will cost you a few hundred dollars with WooCommerce.
As an open source software, WordPress allows third-party developers to create a variety of extensions and plugins. WooCommerce takes advantage of this fact by offering plenty of interesting additions. These are certain functions users might find extremely useful when managing their online store: integrating affiliate marketing, payments via PayPal and Stripe built-in, unlimited products, mobile-friendly structure, complete control over your data, great synchronisation with current WordPress theme, and having hundreds of plugins available.
Verdict: We call this a draw in this category. Both platforms are certainly not lacking in e-commerce features required for most users to effectively run their store.
E-commerce store owners would want to maximise their margins. As such, pricing plays an integral role in helping prospective users make a decision to adopt the platform. The two platforms have slightly different approaches to pricing.
Pricing in Shopify is very clear and straightforward. Shopify is all about delivering you a single, out-of-the-box solution with just several pricing packages. The prices range from $29 per month to $299 per month depending on the features you need. This means that Shopify boasts a significantly more conventional pricing structure.
While WooCommerce is a free open source software plugin, users must consider the additional costs that come along with creating an online store. Things such as domain hosting, domain name, SSL certificate, and any additional extensions will cost money. In other words, although the WooCommerce software is free, running an actual e-commerce store will cost you similar to what you pay for using Shopify.
Verdict: We call this a draw too. While Shopify has a straightforward method of pricing, WooCommerce comes with more flexibility as you can select your own hosting. It depends on your preference.
Beginners would definitely prefer a high level of technical support to ensure their e-commerce store runs smoothly and issues are resolved quickly. Let us determine which platform has the superior support system for users.
Shopify is renowned for its high quality of customer support. Every client gets access to a dedicated personal support 24/7 through email, open chat, and phone call, should they encounter any queries or issues. Furthermore, users have access to an extensive knowledge base that covers some of the common user questions and problem solutions.
WooCommerce relies heavily on its large community through WordPress forums. At the same time, the WooCommerce team also allows everyone to create a free user account at Woocommerce.com and receive support there. Guides and technical step-by-steps can be found on plenty of forums. This is great for users who prefer to complete their own research online to resolve their issues.
Verdict: Shopify is the clear winner here. Nothing beats having 24/7 access to support personnel when you encounter problems.
Any website that intends to gain more traffic needs a strong SEO. Both platforms integrate strong SEO capabilities which we shall explore below.
Shopify handles basic SEO practices like meta information and site copy with ease. Users can look forward to enjoying great results and having strong user engagement if their businesses are producing quality content. Shopify offers a clean code and natural linking structure, which helps with a smooth user experience and enhances visibility and search engine rankings. However, Shopify does not give complete freedom in choosing your URLs, which is not ideal.
WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, which is considered by many SEO experts to be one of the most reliable options available. Like Shopify, it is simple to add and edit content and meta information to ensure pages have a higher chance of ranking for specific keywords. Furthermore, with plugins such as Yoast SEO, users can make their websites highly optimised and be in full control of every single detail which is related to SEO.
Verdict: WooCommerce gets the edge in this category. If users know what they are doing, WooCommerce is certainly more powerful than Shopify when it comes to SEO capabilities.
In any e-commerce business, payment processing will surely be one of the most critical components. Regardless of what users are selling at their platforms, the objective is always converting visitors and facilitating their subsequent transactions. Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer a variety of options to make sure the payment process is smooth.
Shopify Payments is currently the default payment processor on the platform. Interestingly, Shopify Payments is a payment application powered by Stripe, which essentially makes Shopify Payments a flexible processing solution capable of handling a wide array of cards without any difficulties. Due to Shopify being certified as Level 1 PCI DSS compliant, there are no issues protecting your clients’ card details. However, Shopify Payments is only accessible to merchants based in the UK, the US, Spain, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, Hong Kong, Canada and Australia. This means Shopify Payments is far from being a global payment solution as a result of omitting many countries from its merchant list. Fortunately, Shopify has not left out other payment options. It supports a wide variety of third-party payment processors, although doing so will impose on you extra fees from Shopify.
By default, WooCommerce gives users two options – PayPal and Stripe. Both are considered solid payment processors which are tried and tested. Most e-commerce stores should be comfortable with either option right from the start. Besides, WooCommerce supports plenty of other payment processing solutions, most of which can be integrated smoothly through extensions. Essentially, every e-commerce store owner’s possibilities here are endless as you can get access to all the major gateways. However, while WooCommerce does not charge users anything for the transactions, the third-party payment processors will do so.
Verdict: We are going to give a slight edge to WooCommerce in this category. The restriction of Shopify Payments to a few countries means that transaction fees are going to be slightly higher in general for most users using Shopify.
Another crucial aspect to e-commerce websites is security. Huge problems can occur if your store is compromised. Users will get into much trouble with consumers if the latter’s data is compromised.
Shopify is a hosted service, which means that any security issues in the background are settled by them. Users do not have to think about getting an SSL or worrying about their sites being hacked into. Additionally, Shopify is PCI compliant right out of the gate. This is vital for sites accepting credit card payments to protect your customers’ card details. Interestingly, Shopify awards bounties to anyone who can find possible security exploits or loopholes via Hackerone, which eventually makes the platform safer.
Because WooCommerce technically does not have any security measures included with the plugin, most of the security falls into your own hands. For example, users must set up their own SSL and ensure that their hosting company has secure servers. Users should also configure site security plugins, two-factor authentication, and various other elements to further protect their store. Moreover, WooCommerce is not PCI compliant by default. Users could follow some basic guidelines to ensure their site becomes PCI compliant.
Verdict: Shopify clearly comes out on top here. While WooCommerce could give you the security features you require, significantly more work is needed to do so. Shopify settles much of the security aspect right out from the box, making it come out on top for this category.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce are certainly great options to start your e-commerce store. We would argue that the platform to go for really depends on your own needs. There are several scenarios whereby WooCommerce would be the better choice than Shopify; the reverse is true as well. In general, you should select WooCommerce as the platform to establish your e-commerce website if you already are using WordPress and love its plugins. On the other hand, if you feel you are a complete novice when it comes to setting up your site, Shopify would be a better option as it is significantly easier to set up and it comes with better support. So long as you have a clear plan for the type of e-commerce you desire to construct, it should not be difficult for you to make the correct decision to start your online business empire.