ecommerce

Shopify vs. WooCommerce – Choosing an Ecommerce Platform

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If you’ve spent any time in ecommerce, you’ve likely come across a conundrum – should you choose WooCommerce or Shopify to run your online business?

If you’ve spent any time in ecommerce, you’ve likely come across a conundrum – should you choose WooCommerce or Shopify to run your online business?

The answer largely depends on what you’re hoping to do with your website and how much time, skill, and resources you can afford to put into it. WooCommerce is a powerful ecommerce suite, but it takes technical aptitude to customize and personalize it to suit your needs. Shopify is a simple, turnkey solution but costs can quickly add up when you veer from its selection of default options.

Both have pros and cons, and the purpose of this guide is to explore the features and benefits of each platform to empower you with the knowledge to make the decision on your own. Here’s what you need to know about each popular ecommerce platform.


Shopify and WooCommerce

Before we get too far into the details about the differences in these two platforms, let’s get a quick overview of each company in their own words. Here’s an introduction video that Shopify offers:

And here’s one from WooCommerce, explaining the features of its WordPress-based service for ecommerce businesses:

As the videos demonstrate, Shopify functions as a turnkey ecommerce platform to provide non-technically-inclined businesses with an online selling solution right out of the box. WooCommerce, on the other hand, is a WordPress plugin that allows you to develop an ecommerce site through coding and customization.

Now that we have the basics down, let’s take a closer look at what else differentiates the two platforms.

Pricing

On its surface, WooCommerce is the cheaper option, because it’s free. That’s right – free. By comparison, Shopify costs anywhere from $21.75 to $299 per month, depending on which tier (Basic, Shopify, or Advanced) you choose. However, these surface costs aren’t the only cost consideration.

WooCommerce requires WordPress, as it’s a WordPress plugin. This means you’ll need to pay $10-15 per month for hosting, $10+ per year for a domain, up to $100 for a theme (free themes simply don’t have the quality), ~$100 per year for plugins and extensions, and countless developer costs. If you’re not technically savvy (or simply don’t have the time), the hidden costs of WooCommerce can easily catch up to you, especially when using hosted WordPress solutions.

Shopify is a turn-key solution, but you’ll also need to pay for a domain, extensions and themes. If you choose to pay for the $13 Shopify hosting, you’ll be at their mercy to maintain your website’s SEO position.

Credit Card Processing Costs

With both platforms, the costs for hosting, themes, and other expenses are in addition to the costs of credit card processing.

WooCommerce lets you add processing capabilities from different providers, including PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.Net. You’ll be able to shop around for the best pricing for your specific business.

For Shopify, you can use the integrated payment processing for a fee or choose another payment gateway. However, if you use a different payment gateway, you’ll pay an additional 0.5-2% transaction fee on top of Shopify Payments’ 2.25-2.9% + $0.30 fee, which will typically be cost prohibitive.

For that reason, we have to give the edge to WooCommerce, as it makes it easier to secure competitive pricing to accept credit cards – a necessity for ecommerce sites.

See pricing for credit card processing. It’s free and there’s no obligation.

Setup and Customization

Shopify has a wide array of themes, but they’re mostly paid themes. Customization and personalization is easy using addons, but coding it yourself isn’t allowed. You’re also limited to a single page in the basic plan (up to 25 in the Advanced plan). From a developer’s perspective, WooCommerce is the preferred option, but if you just need a fast solution to bring your business online, Shopify is the answer.

Both platforms make it easy to transfer between each other, so if you’re not happy with one, you can ultimately migrate to the other. It’s not uncommon to see Shopify sites maintain WordPress blogs, and business owners without online development knowledge and resources frequently migrate to Shopify to relieve costly headaches in maintaining a WordPress site.

As a WordPress theme, WooCommerce is very simple to install. Additional Woo extensions (mostly paid) can be used to customize everything, but they’re not necessary. Yoast SEO and other free plug-ins give WooCommerce a huge boost in SEO performance, design options, and functionality. For example, Shopify has limited default product attributes, whereas some PHP and JavaScript programming can easily accomplish whatever you want in WooCommerce.

Related Article: Taking Credit Cards Online.


Third-Party Integration

Both Shopify and WooCommerce can be integrated into most cloud-based POS and inventory platforms. Since Shopify is an all-in-one ecommerce solution, the company also offers offline POS services itself. With WooCommerce, you’ll still need a payment gateway and other services. It’s a DIY option that can end up either better or worse than the turnkey solution, depending on your skill and resource commitment.

The variety of WordPress plugins available means WooCommerce easily has more third-party integration. If something doesn’t work out the box, a savvy developer can easily enable the functionality. She’ll need to do it without customer support, however, as Shopify’s customer support easily overshadows WordPress’.

Ease of Use

From a business perspective, Shopify is much easier to use. It’s a web-based service that works right out the box. There’s no need to shop around for different vendors to perform each service as you’re getting a truly all-in-one ecommerce solution. This ease of use comes at a price – the basic plan supports very few users. If your business is successful, your site may crash on the lower plans, forcing you to purchase more bandwidth at much higher costs.

WooCommerce is easy to use so long as you’re familiar with WordPress and PHP. If you’ve never viewed the source code of a website, you’re unlikely to enjoy working with WooCommerce and WordPress. Solo entrepreneurs and small businesses may not be able to afford the time, money, and resources. But tech-savvy developers will find customizing WooCommerce is much easier than Shopify.

Conclusion

Shopify and WooCommerce are two very different approaches to resolving the same problem – providing a secure ecommerce solution. Shopify is an all-in-one solution that includes everything you need to get a turn-key website up and running by the end of the day. It’s perfect for people running side businesses or where ecommerce volumes simply don’t justify the time necessary to maintain a WordPress site.

WooCommerce is a great scalable solution for anyone with development skills and/or WordPress familiarity. Developers love the unlimited options available and can create some amazing sites well beyond the simple templates. Both are great ecommerce solutions that easily outpace Magento and other older ecommerce platforms.

What’s not debatable is the necessity of ecommerce to succeed in today’s business environment. So set up a website today. Let us know how we can help you select the best payment gateway to complement your online shopping cart.

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Brian Penny

BY Brian Penny

Brian Penny is a former business analyst and operations manager at Countrywide and Bank of America turned whistleblower and freelance writer. His banking career also included jobs for Chase, American Express, and client work for Wells Fargo and other large banks. He's interested in all things finance, and spends much of his time for CardFellow writing about financial technology and payment security.In addition to CardFellow, you can find Penny's blogs on Huffington Post, Forbes, Fast Company, The Street, Cracked, High Times, Quicken's Small Business Resource, and Small Business Daily.

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