WooCommerce vs. Shopify: which is the best ecommerce platform?

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December 19, 2019

woocommerce vs shopify comparison

Comparing Shopify and WooCommerce is a showdown between two giants. By the numbers, they are the two biggest ecommerce platforms in the world.

25% of ecommerce websites use WooCommerce, compared to 20% using Shopify. That said, Shopify tends to be a more popular choice for heavyweight ecommerce businesses.

Both tools are known and loved by retail business owners worldwide as simple solutions to build a professional shopfront and sell their products.

But which ecommerce platform is best – WooCommerce or Shopify?

A better question is which tool is the best fit for your business. As a rule of thumb:

  • WooCommerce is your best choice if you use WordPress and want to turn your website into an online store.

  • Shopify is your best choice if you have a brick-and-mortar business and/or you want an all-in-one package for your sales channels.

There are two main differences between the two platforms behind this:

  • WooCommerce is self-hosted on your WordPress site and your store’s files are located on your own server. This offers much more scope for customization.

  • Shopify is hosted, meaning that Shopify manages the software for you. This makes it super easy to get started, but you’ll also be limited to their themes and options for customization.



When to choose WooCommerce

1. You have a WordPress website

In most cases, WordPress users choose WooCommerce to power their online store.

WooCommerce is built on WordPress, the world’s most popular CMS. If you already have a WordPress site, you can download the WooCommerce plugin and follow their easy set-up process to start selling your products.

2. You want to customize any aspect of your store

As WooCommerce is open source and you have full code access, you’re free to customize any aspect of your site.

If you know your way around WordPress and want greater control over your site’s design and hosting, WooCommerce is likely to be a better option for you – there’s simply a lot more you can do with it. Here’s an example: Flwr, a flower studio in New Zealand, hired a web agency to customize WooCommerce and create this stunning website:

amethyst

There’s a flip side to WooCommerce’s flexibility, however: it’s not as straightforward as the hosted Shopify platform. If you want to get going fast with a tried-and-tested theme, Shopify might be a better choice for you than WooCommerce.

3. You don’t want to pay a monthly price plan

With WooCommerce, pricing isn’t tied to plans. It’s free to get started with the WordPress plugin. You can then choose specific paid and free add-ons from the WooCommerce Extensions store as and when you need them.

You can choose extensions like…

  • WooCommerce Subscriptions (from $199.00) – let customers subscribe to your products or services and pay on a weekly, monthly or annual basis
  • WooCommerce Memberships (from $149.00) – give members access to restricted content or products
  • Shipment tracking (from $49.00) – add tracking information to your orders
  • Stripe integration – integrate the popular payment provider and accept card payments directly on your store

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You can also buy a WooCommerce theme for your online shop and customize it to match your branding.

4. Your store has some complex requirements

If your store has any niche requirements – such as a complex checkout process, pricing structure or product variations – WooCommerce is likely to give you more flexibility than Shopify. Make sure to ask each platform’s support team for advice on your store set-up if you have any doubts.


When to choose Shopify

1. You have a brick-and-mortar shop

If you have a lot of sales channels and a walk-in store, Shopify is probably more suitable for your business.

Shopify is a powerful solution to manage all of your sales channels – including your online store, in-person sales, social media and marketplace purchases, and buy buttons on other sites.

If you’re selling via channels other than just your website, choosing a Shopify package is the easiest way to cover everything in one place.

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2. You don’t have a website yet

If you’re starting from scratch and still need to set up a website – or you want a brand new one – look at Shopify before you check out WooCommerce.

Shopify makes it super simple to create a beautiful website with minimal tech knowledge and customization. It’ll look like you’ve invested in web development, when really you’ve just chosen that perfect theme and added your brand’s colors, fonts and logo.

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3. You want to get set up fast

WooCommerce usually requires more set-up time than Shopify, especially if you don’t have a WordPress site yet, so bear that in mind if you want to get your store up and running fast.

With Shopify, you can have a bare-bones online store in place thirty minutes after signing up, whereas WooCommerce usually requires more time commitment and customization.

4. You don’t want to be responsible for the technical upkeep of your store

As Shopify is hosted, you don’t have to worry about the technical side of things. They also offer 24/7 support for all plans via chat, email, phone and Twitter. If the server goes down, Shopify will get it back up and running. As a WooCommerce user, that’s all on you.

If you’re a less technical shop owner – or you simply have enough on your plate already without having to deal with site speed, server issues and software updates – choosing Shopify as a hosted platform can take a lot of pressure off you.

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Can you use Shopify with WordPress?

You can use Shopify with WordPress by embedding a Shopify Buy Button (available from $9/month with Shopify Lite) on your site where you want your products to show.

But unless you only need to add a few products to your WordPress website – such as for a side project – it’s usually better to stick with WooCommerce as a WordPress user. As a Shopify user, you’ll be better off with the hosted website they give you.


Comparing Shopify and WooCommerce features

Set-up

Getting set up with WooCommerce

To set up WooCommerce, you’ll need to:

  • Get WordPress hosting through a provider like SiteGround. They offer 24/7 chat support and great documentation, so they’re a good choice if you want reliable support.
  • Create your WordPress site and get familiar with the interface.
  • Install the WooCommerce plugin and learn to navigate it.

Screenshot 2019-11-07 at 18.53.51

Before you start selling, you’ll also need to:

  • Choose a WooCommerce theme (some WordPress themes also come with built-in WooCommerce integration and pages)
  • Configure your payment gateway, tax set-up and tick other boxes

Getting set up with Shopify

As Shopify is hosted, it’s quicker to get set up and add your first product to your store. You’ll just need to:

  • Create a Shopify account
  • Choose and purchase a domain name or sync an existing one
  • Choose your theme and customize it

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Ease of use

It’s hard to beat Shopify’s ease of use. You can get set up in minutes with a standard sign-up process. Then it’s just a case of choosing a theme, adding your first product, and adding or syncing a domain.

Once you get the hang of WooCommerce it’s also user-friendly, but you need to know your way around WordPress and give it a bit more time than with Shopify.


Sales channels

Shopify has built-in most of your go-to sales channels, but with WooCommerce you’ll be relying on their extensions.

To process point of sale transactions as a WooCommerce user, you can use a gateway like Square to accept payments and sync transactions, items and inventory back to WooCommerce.

WooCommerce also offers extensions to sell via marketplaces, social media, and other popular channels. You could sell on Amazon and eBay directly from your WooCommerce store, or integrate Pinterest to grow your brand and find new customers.

Overall, Shopify is the most convenient tool for setting up popular sales channels. To access other channels, you can check the Shopify App Store.

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Payment gateways

Both WooCommerce and Shopify integrate with 100+ payment gateways, including all the major providers like Stripe, PayPal and Square.

If you choose Shopify for your store, the easiest payment method to set up is Shopify Payments. This has restrictions for certain countries, however.

If you use a third-party gateway (like PayPal) instead of Shopify Payments, you’ll be charged transaction fees each time a customer makes a purchase. This can make Shopify slightly more expensive than using WooCommerce.

Screenshot 2019-11-07 at 18.54.57

Customization

As we mentioned before, WooCommerce has more options for customization than Shopify.

That said, Shopify does let you hire experts to help you get to where you want to be, within the limits of the product. As well as store setup and development, you can find Shopify experts to help you with branding and marketing to take your business further.

WooCommerce also has a marketplace of recommended agencies and promotes Codeable, the WordPress exclusive freelancer platform.


Pricing comparison of Shopify vs. WooCommerce

The main difference between Shopify and WooCommerce pricing is that:

  • WooCommerce is free to download, but you need to pay for your website hosting, domain name and transaction fees for your payment gateway. You will also likely end up paying for a premium theme, WooCommerce extensions and WordPress plugins (usually these are a one-off payment).

  • Shopify pricing is based on their fixed plans. The advantage of this is that most of your costs are bundled together. When you set up Shopify, you can add your existing domain name or buy a new one through the platform. You might also need to pay for premium themes and apps – and you’ll need to factor in payment gateway charges.

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There’s also Shopify Lite (USD $9/month) if you want to sell on Facebook, add products to your website or blog, and accept credit card payments for these. This is ideal if you want to start a small side hustle and send a few products on your website.

On the other end of the price scale is ShopifyPlus, which offers enterprise-grade solutions for high volume merchants and large businesses.


Summary: When to choose WooCommerce vs. Shopify ecommerce software

What’s the difference between WooCommerce and Shopify? The main difference is that WooCommerce lets you turn a WordPress site into a store and maintain freedom over customization, while Shopify gives you the full package – minus some flexibility – for a monthly fee.

Shopify is fantastic for business owners who want easy set-up and minimal technical upkeep, while WooCommerce is great for people who know their way around WordPress and hosting websites.

Here’s a quick comparison of when to choose Shopify vs. WooCommerce, based on where the two ecommerce platforms excel:

When to choose WooCommerceWhen to choose Shopify
You have a WordPress websiteYou have a brick-and-mortar shop
You want to customize any aspect of your storeYou don’t have a website yet
You don’t want to pay a monthly price planYou want to get set up fast
Your store has some complex requirementsYou don’t want to be responsible for the technical upkeep of your store

Connect your apps with WooCommerce and Shopify

Both Shopify and WooCommerce have robust integrations with PieSync, so you can connect both of them to hundreds of apps and keep your up-to-date contact data flowing two-ways.

Popular WooCommerce integrations:

Popular Shopify integrations:

  • Pipedrive + Shopify: When custom attributes are updated in Pipedrive, apply tags to them in Shopify or remove them too
  • ActiveCampaign + Shopify: When ActiveCampaign contacts are from a certain region, update their about field in Shopify
  • Mailchimp + Shopify: When contacts have not opted out in Shopify, match them up to contacts in Mailchimp
About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.