Shopify vs. WooCommerce – Pros & Cons of Each
If you’re looking to build an eCommerce website, there’s a good chance you have your sights on building with either Shopify or WooCommerce (the eCommerce platform that works with WordPress). Which one should you use? In this article, we’ll unpack the pros and cons of each platform and the best-use cases for each, so that you can make an informed decision.
First, a quick back story. I don’t often drop everything I’m doing to write an article and do a full breakdown, but in this case that’s exactly what I decided to do. After talking to a number of different web agencies, a potential client of ours has narrowed down their top-choices to moving forward with us for a WooCommerce solution, or going with another company that is pitching a Shopify solution. During our follow-up call, he asked for my thoughts.
While I don’t think one platform is always better than the other, I think there are certain situations where one is better than the other. I gave him some initial thoughts on the call and told him I would do some more research and get back to him.
Since I really want what is best for our clients, I decided to do a deep-dive, so that I could advise from a fully-informed perspective. I interviewed colleagues who do both WooCommerce and Shopify sites, read numerous reviews and comparisons, and even read the comments in those posts about different users’ experiences. The result is this blog post. Enjoy!
If you’re looking for the summary, click here to skip the conclusions.
Cost to Operate
Shopify is a hosted platform, so each of their plans include a domain name, hosting for your website, a SSL certificate and unlimited file storage.
It is worth mentioning, however, that this pricing doesn’t include third-party tools and add-ons that you will need to build and customize your Shopify experience.
- Do you want to add video backgrounds to your store? $6.99/month.
- If you want to use the Facebook Messenger chat app using Recart, that will be $29/month.
- Do you want to offer up-sells? Bold Up-sell costs anywhere between $9.99/month and $89.99/month, depending on the features you need.
These additional monthly costs can add up quickly.
WooCommerce works with WordPress, but you will need to pay for your own hosting, as it’s self-hosted. We recommend companies like WP Engine or Kinsta for your WordPress hosting. The cost for hosting will set you back about $30/month. Usually you get the domain name and SSL certificate for free. Most WooCommerce tools are free or have a minimal price tag, so there are fewer surprises and monthly costs.
Shopify requires a number of third-party tools, each with their own cost, and tend to cost more than WooCommerce tools.
Shopify is the only platform to enforce its own transaction fee, unless you use their payment gateway, Shopify Payments. If you want to use a third-party gateway, it charges 2% (on top of your third-party payment gateway) unless you pay for one of their higher plans.
If you upgrade to their Advanced Shopping tier ($299/month) then the fee for using a third-party merchant account drops to 0.5%. Let’s say you want to use Stripe for your payment processor, you’ll pay Shopify’s 2% + Stripe’s payment processing fee. If you’re content with Shopify Payments you should be okay.
WooCommerce doesn’t charge any transaction fees, so you can use whatever payment gateways you want and negotiate rates with them. You will still pay the bank or payment gateway charges, like if you’re using PayPal or Stripe, but those are all the fees that you will incur.
Ease-of-Use / Speed-to-Launch
Both Shopify and WooCommerce are easy to use. However, for beginners/novices or DIY users, Shopify has the edge in ease-of-use and speed-to-launch. If you’re planning to use a developer or agency to build your website, then both will be equally easy to use once setup. If you’re looking to launch an eCommerce store very quickly, you’ll be able to launch it faster on Shopify.
When it comes to drop shipping and fulfillment, WooCommerce is easier and has more options than Shopify. Shopify has a number of options, but you must be on at least the Advanced Shopify plan. There are numerous options for drop-shipping and fulfillment with WooCommerce.
When it comes to add-ons, both Shopify and WordPress/WooCommerce have a lot of options.
- Shopify has around 1,200 apps
- WordPress has 50,000+ add-ons and plugins
For certain things you want to do on Shopify, you’ll only find one option. On WordPress/WooCommerce, you’ll typically find 5-10 options and you can pick the one that will work best for you. If what you want to do is not available on WooCommerce, it’s easy to write something custom or have a developer tweak something. App development for Shopify is expensive, so you’ll most likely be stuck with whatever is available.
On Shopify you don’t have full control over everything, and you’re limited to set plans. Your data lives on the Shopify servers. Certain aspects you have very limited control over, for example: you can only moderately customize the checkout and thank you pages.
WooCommerce is open source and you have full control and ownership. There’s much more creative control on WooCommerce. You can fully customize the entire purchase experience.
Despite Shopify taking care of everything, their terms of service waive their liability if there are issues. See Michelle’s comment:
On Shopify, you can embed tracking scripts for analytics and conversion tracking. However, because of the limitations of the checkout and thank you pages, it can be harder to track conversions with tracking scripts.
On WooCommerce, because you have full control over the experience as mentioned above, you can easily track conversions and detailed analytics on your users’ actions.
While both Shopify and WooCommerce have ways to customize your SEO to improve your search engine rankings, WooCommerce has more SEO tools and control. Yoast SEO is the most popular tool and gives you a lot of control. WordPress is optimized for SEO and enables you to get your site ranking high.
Shopify doesn’t give you complete control of page URLs and has some limitations when it comes to what you can customize for SEO. There are SEO apps available for Shopify, but none as well known as Yoast SEO.
Value for the Money
WooCommerce is open source and generally a better value for the money. There are tens of thousands of free tools and even the premium ones that you pay for are very low cost. The market is very competitive and that keeps prices even for premium tools very affordable.
Shopify does have a number of free apps, but often the apps you really want to use come with a monthly fee. Shopify is attractive because of their seemingly low cost, however once you really get into it, the price of the add-ons you need to achieve your goals really add up.
GoDaddy takes a similar approach to their services, offering a low price and then “nickel and diming” you for everything and locking you into their services; we’re not a fan.
E-commerce Market Share / Popularity
According to BuiltWith in April 2021, WordPress is used by 40% of all websites on the internet. WooCommerce is used by 30% of Top 1 Million sites. Shopify is used by 18% of Top 1 Million sites.
WooCommerce and Shopify are both very popular and the two most popular eCommerce platforms.
With WooCommerce, you own your data. It will be on the whatever web-host you select and is fully portable. Do you want to edit the database or arrange data in a certain way? No problem.
Shopify gives you access to all of your data, but it lives on their servers.
Shopify has dedicated support via phone, email and live chat. However, depending on what plan you’re on and what kind of help you need, sometimes you’re unable to reach someone.
My friend Chris deals with a lot of Shopify clients. He says “I still find support to be pretty great, but as a Shopify Partner, I get faster support options. As a merchant, I suspect the queue for the support chat is probably pretty long nowadays.” This is confirmed by Jeff’s customer-experience trying to reach Shopify a few months ago:
If Shopify support is busy, not answering or has a long queue, you’re out of luck.
Since WooCommerce is self-hosted, you get to pick where it’s hosted. If you’re on a reputable web host like WP Engine or Kinsta, then you’ll have excellent support. On top of that, WordPress is a huge community with extensive documentation and open source solutions to all kind of problems or issues.
There are also digital agencies that provide WordPress & WooCommerce support on Website Care Plans. Our clients rely on us to provide support for their WooCommerce sites.
Bottom line: WooCommerce and Shopify are both excellent eCommerce platforms. There are certain situations where each one outshines the other. The most important thing is that you’re working with a reputable partner that you can trust, who understands your goals and objectives and is committed to helping you reach them.
We’re all about delivering great design, support and experiences to help our clients get results. If you’d like a quote, please reach out. We’d love to talk with you.
Best Uses for WooCommerce
If you want flexibility and control, WooCommerce is better. Some products have been banned from Shopify, so you’re at the whims of their decision making. WooCommerce has a great ecosystem of plugins and support with WordPress. Your cost of ownership will be lower and there is a wide range of support options so you’ll always have reliable support.
If you want more control over your SEO rankings or plan to drop ship or want to be able to use your own payment gateways, then those are more great reasons to use WooCommerce. You’ll get a better value for your money and have more control over your costs.
Best Uses for Shopify
If you’re looking to do it yourself and want the simplest, most beginner-friendly way to launch an eCommerce store, Shopify is a good choice. As long as you are okay with using Shopify payments for your gateway, not selling complicated products with many variations (natively limited to 100 variations), and don’t need full control over the experience, Shopify will work well for you. If you’re doing it yourself, you can get your site up quicker on Shopify, so that’s a bonus.
To my potential client and to everyone reading, I hope this helps you make a more informed decision and we look forward to working with you. Have a thought on Shopify vs. WooCommerce? Post your comments below.
Johnny Flash Productions
Johnny Flash Productions is a creative agency based outside of Washington D.C. that focuses on digital strategy, web design and development, graphic design and event production that helps businesses get better results from their marketing.
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