Shopify vs WooCommerce: Which Online Store Platform Is Right For Your Ecommerce Business?

December 27, 2022

By Vince Laliberte, Swiss Army Knife

Choosing WooCommerce or Shopify When Starting Your Ecommerce Business

Even in the shadow of Amazon, ecommerce is a growing industry each year. With the ease of setting up shop online, anyone can start selling their products or services to a global audience. But with so many options out there for ecommerce platforms, it can be hard to decide which one is right for your business. In this blog post, we’ll compare two of the most popular ecommerce platforms: WooCommerce and Shopify. We’ll go over pricing, features, and limitations of each platform and guide you on the true differentiators between Shopify and WooCommerce. An important point to make before you even get into the post is that while both of these platforms have similar features and functions, you’ll have a wildly different experience depending on which one you decide to go with.

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress that allows you to turn your WordPress site into an ecommerce store. WooCommerce is a free and open-source ecommerce platform, released in 2011 by WordPress co-founder John O’Nolan and WooThemes founder Adii Pienaar.

Since its release, WooCommerce has quickly gained popularity as a simple and customizable ecommerce solution for WordPress sites. According to BuiltWith, WooCommerce powers 24% of all online stores in the top 1 million websites as of December 2022 (mind you, the link source above is dynamic and could go up or down from the 24% we are referencing today as BultWith updates their data).

While Shopify is a dedicated ecommerce platform, WooCommerce is a plugin that turns your existing WordPress site into an online store. If you already have a WordPress site or are planning on starting one, then WooCommerce may be the right ecommerce platform for you.

Here are some key features of WooCommerce:

  • Sell physical and digital products, including subscriptions
  • Flexible shipping options
  • Tax calculations
  • Multiple payment gateway options
  • Easy to manage via mobile
  • Comprehensive Google Analytics integration
  • Built on top of WordPress – easy to use for non-technical users
  • Extensive documentation and public support forums

WooCommerce Pricing, Benefits, and Limitations

  • WooCommerce Pricing:
    • WooCommerce is free to download and use. You will need to pay for hosting, a domain name, and any plugins or themes you use. Prices for these can vary depending on your needs but can start at around $60 per year.
  • Benefits of using WooCommerce:
    • WooCommerce is very flexible and can be used for a wide range of businesses.
    • It’s possible to find free or low-cost plugins and themes to customize your store.
    • There’s no limit on the number of products you can sell.
    • You have full control over your store including taxes, shipping, and payments.
  • WooCommerce Limitations:
    • WooCommerce can be difficult to set up if you’re not familiar with WordPress.
    • You will need to manage your own hosting, security, backups, and updates (the same goes for all WordPress sites).
    • You may need to hire a developer if you want more complex customization.
    • There are limits to what you can do for free (for instance if you want to change the checkout process, you might need to use a paid plugin unless you know how to edit the code yourself).
    • It’s not an “all-in-one” platform – you’ll need a domain, hosted website, and plugins for analytics, SEO, and more.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a comprehensive ecommerce platform that enables businesses of all sizes to create an online store. Shopify provides everything you need to get your store up and running, including a customizable interface, secure payment processing, and shipping integration. (Please note that our Shopify link above is a referral link – if you choose to go with Shopify, consider using our link to support more content like this.)

Shopify is the perfect solution for businesses that want to launch an online store with minimal hassle. With Shopify, you can start selling right away without having to worry about complex technical details or hiring expensive web designers.

Here are 7 bullets on key features of using Shopify:

  • Customizable templates that allow you to create a beautiful store (even with no experience doing so).
  • Secure payment processing.
  • Integrations with popular shipping carriers, so you can easily get your products to your customers.
  • 24/7 customer support.
  • A 14-day free trial, so you can try out the platform before commit

Shopify Pricing, Benefits, and Limitations

  • Shopify Pricing
    • Shopify has three different pricing plans: Basic Shopify, Shopify, and Advanced Shopify. The Basic Shopify plan starts at $29 per month. The Shopify plan starts at $79 per month. And the Advanced Shopify plan starts at $299 per month.
    • There are also two other plans: Shopify Plus and Enterprise Ecommerce. Shopify Plus is for high-volume businesses and starts at $2,000 per month. Enterprise Ecommerce is for larger businesses that need more customization and starts at $10,000 per month.
  •  Benefits of Using Shopify
    • It’s easy to use – You don’t need any technical skills to use Shopify. It’s designed to be user-friendly so anyone can create a beautiful online store quickly and easily.
    • It has a lot of features – Shopify comes with everything you need to create a successful online store. It has built-in blogging, product pages, shopping carts, order fulfilment, secure payment processing, etc.
  • Shopify Limitations
    • Shopify doesn’t offer a free trial – so you have to commit to a monthly plan from the start.
    • Transaction fees – If you use a third-party payment processor like PayPal or Stripe, then Shopify will charge you a 2% transaction fee. If you use Shopify Payments, then there are no transaction fees.
    • You need to be comfortable with code – If you want to customize your shop beyond the basics, then you’ll need to be comfortable working with code. Shopify uses its own Liquid templating language, which is relatively easy to learn but can still be daunting for beginners.
    • Shopify can be expensive – The monthly fees can add up, especially if you need to use premium themes and apps. And if you use Shopify Payments, then you’ll also be charged 2% per transaction for using any payment processor other than Shopify.
    • It’s not as flexible as some other platforms – Shopify is designed to be an ecommerce platform first and foremost. So if you need something more than just an online store, then it might not be the best fit.

When to choose WooCommerce and when to choose Shopify

Each platform has their pros and cons. Ultimately, you can run a successful business on either platform. It comes down to how you are running your business, what your skills are, the products you’ll be selling, and your needs in a website and the entire ecommerce process.

Reasons to choose WooCommerce over Shopify

  • You already have a WordPress site and are looking to add products.
  • You, or someone on your team, is comfortable developing a website (or learning how to do so).
  • You are on a tight budget and would prefer to spend time learning a platform instead of spending money on the platform itself.
  • You want more flexibility and customization options in your ecommerce platform and in your website itself.

Reasons to choose Shopify over WooCommerce

  • You prefer to spend money on an all-in-one platform over spending time putting together a system that works for you.
  • You want to get started quickly and spend as little time as possible learning the platform or setting up integrations.
  • You don’t want to spend too much time designing your site. With Shopify you can choose a theme make very few changes before going live.
  • You want to have customer support available to you 24/7 instead of hiring an expert or doing research to solve problems.

What we suggest for our clients

At Taction, we do most of the legwork for our clients in terms of their online presence. Whether we’re using WordPress or Shopify, we can create a beautiful site and set it up in a way that will make selling products a breeze. The main questions we ask our clients when they are looking to get started with one of these two major platforms are focused on their budget, their team, and their needs.

When we use Shopify

Large businesses, high-volume sellers, and clients with larger budgets will do better with Shopify. Ultimately it costs more because there IS more. As SEO-professionals we don’t love how BIG Shopify sites are on the backend because it tends to create slower sites, but they are big because there is a lot going on behind the scenes. You are paying for having a lot of the work done for you.

When we use WooCommerce

If a client already has a WordPress site, has someone on the team comfortable working with WordPress, or if they are just getting started but want to keep monthly costs low, we would use WooCommerce.

A note about website builders

While using services such as Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Elementor (among others), anyone with a computer and internet connection CAN build a website. That said, even when using a templated design or theme, not every site is going to be visually stunning, fully functioning, or perform well in search engines. In fact, doing all of these things takes a lot of expertise, attention, and work. We’re big proponents of DIY at Taction. If you’re looking for guidance (or even a critical eye to take a look at your site) we’re happy to offer a free consultation regardless of if you hire us or not.

What is the biggest difference between Shopify and WooCommerce?

Shopify is a full-service ecommerce business while WooCommerce is a free, open-source plugin for WordPress (which is an open-source platform as well). What this means is that for Shopify you are paying more because you are getting more. With WooCommerce, like with WordPress, you have total control over an endless amount of customizable options. This means there is much more work to do to get started. With Shopify, much of this work is done for you on day one and you also have the benefit of it being a business with support ready to help you when you run into issues.

We love WordPress. There is a reason nearly half of the internet consists of WordPress sites – it has everything you could possibly need. That said, open-source platforms are free because there is no service or support built in. You have to build the site yourself, add plugins yourself, secure your own site, pay for hosting, connect it to any integrations you might need, and the list goes on. It can be a daunting task to take on yourself, but for DIYers, the WordPress/WooCommerce pairing is the way to go when building an ecommerce business.

Ultimately the choice you make is dependent on how much control you want over your site and how much you want to pay on a monthly basis. If you’re looking for more customizations, more control, and lower costs, WooCommerce is the right move. If you’re looking to pay for a complete ecommerce service to help you every step of the way, Shopify is the way to go.

Regardless of which direction you take, we’re happy to guide you, work with you, or even offer you a free audit of your site after it goes live. Anything we can do to support you in your journey.

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