You have finally decided to start your online shop.
You have the product. You have the target audience.
What you haven’t figured out yet is which platform you should use to do so.
While deciding you will have to take many variables into account, like your product and features of the platform.
But that’s hard to do if you don’t have all the information.
There are many alternatives available on the market, but two options that you will definitely encounter when looking for the best platform to sell online will be WooCommerce (on WordPress) and Shopify.
In this article, we will look at the most important aspects for both options, based on different objective criteria that can be important for a future shop owner, such as:
- Payment options
- SEO optimisation
...basically every aspect that you could consider in order to make the best decision.
WooCommerce vs Shopify. Which one are you going to choose?
The Difference between Shopify and WooCommerce
Two amazing solutions, each with advantages and disadvantages. That’s why you need to choose carefully.
We will start with an introduction for each of them, followed by a description of the specifics mentioned above and a conclusion on which is the best choice, WooCommerce or Shopify.
At the end you have the infographic with the results and a bonus trick on how to differentiate your shop from others on the market, even if you are selling similar products or solve similar problems.
Let’s start with WooCommerce.
As we mentioned earlier, the first difference between the two options is that WooCommerce is not a platform itself, but a plug-in for WordPress, which is one of the most popular publishing platforms worldwide.
WordPress itself is a content management system (or CMS). It started as a blogging platform and became widely used as a website builder, mostly because of its simplicity and the enormous customer base growth during the past years.
WordPress is a very popular solution on the market: right now, WordPress websites represent 39.6% of the internet, so roughly every second page that you visit is built on it.
WordPress alone is not really helpful if you want to sell through your website, because it has not been primarily created to sell online. That’s why you need WooCommerce.
But what is WooCommerce used for?
It upgrades WordPress making it an e-commerce platform, transforming a “blogging” website into a “selling” website.
Now, nearly 28% of all e-commerce goes through WooCommerce on WordPress, making it one of the most popular plug-ins.
But what is exactly a plug-in?
A plug-in is basically an extension, an integration that allows you to do something more on your website. Every plug-in that you install on WordPress will let you do something that you couldn’t before. And WooCommerce is one of them.
All you need to know about WooCommerce
Let’s now move to the WooCommerce specifics to make the best choice:
1. Initial setup
With WooCommerce the setup process is definitely more complex than on Shopify.
Before starting, it’s good to have some experience (or learn something about it before starting) with WordPress, as WooCommerce is used jointly with it.
It is better to have some technical skills for both, especially because they require some coding knowledge. That will help you not just at the beginning when you will be setting up the shop, but later as well, if issues come up.
A shop on WooCommerce needs more maintenance and many updates along the way. You will also have to solve conflicts between installed plug-ins that sometimes happen.
Then you have to purchase the hosting and domain for the website, install WordPress (if you haven’t yet) and the WooCommerce plug-in.
For hosting the choice is yours. But don’t just look at the price, but at the reliability and features of it, as it is really important for the website itself.
You can follow the WordPress hosting recommendations or find one of many hosting providers available on the market.
2. Themes choice
On WooCommerce there are free and payable themes available, so you can find what suits your needs. You can check all of them in the WooCommerce themes marketplace.
The free ones are basic, the paid ones are more professional (and usually cheaper than the paid ones on Shopify).
The cheaper ones cost 39$, with expensier ones priced at 79$ and 129$.
You can also think about hiring a developer to develop a customised theme. There are many developers specialised in WooCommerce and they would be able to code the perfect website for you.
3. Payment options
You have the WooCommerce payments solution, which is free of charge with no monthly fees. You pay just for transactions, which costs 2.9% + 0,30$ per transaction for U.S. issued cards (or +1% for transactions paid using cards issued outside the US).
On WooCommerce you can also use third-party payment providers, such as Stripe or Paypal. Each of them has different payment options and different fees per purchase.
You can look at all the payment providers with their fees on the blog post written by Kinsta, where everything has been explained in detail.
4. Multilingual shop
If you plan to use WooCommerce with a multilingual store, you can use WPML, a popular solution that integrates with WordPress. With it you can offer products in different currencies and make your store ready for different geographical locations.
It offers three yearly plans:
- one for 29$ (renews for 21$)
- one for 79$ (renews for 59$)
- one for 159$ (renews for 119$)
WooCommerce is built on WordPress and it’s actually easily hackable. You have to worry more about the security and keep everything constantly upgraded in order to keep everything safe.
On the WooCommerce blog you have many resources on how to increase the security of your shop, like the importance of a reliable hosting provider, the SSL certificate and other options to make the shop safe for you and your customers.
You can follow the steps that WooCommerce itself published on their blog for securing your shop.
6. SEO optimisation
On WooCommerce (actually WordPress) you need to instal a plug-in to manage the SEO for your shop.
Yoast offers a free alternative with limited features (that can be ok for starting-up) and a premium one that costs around 110$ per year for more complex improvements.
WooCommerce doesn’t offer direct support as Shopify does. Their support is only available if you purchase something from them, before that you have to help yourself on your own.
But don’t worry.
You have tons of forums, videos and other resources where you can find what you need, the only issue is that you have to find the problem and fix it on your own.
WooCommerce is a free plug-in. It means you pay nothing to use it. But as we mentioned earlier, you will encounter some costs when setting everything up, such as the domain, hosting, themes (if you want to use a premium one).
What is good about WooCommerce is that:
- the plug-in itself is free.
- It's very customisable: it is an open-source plug-in, which means there are many developers working on it to improve the existing features and constantly add new ones.
- you have total control of the shop: being self-hosted, it is totally under your control. It means there are no third parties that can shut your website down.
What is bad about WooCommerce is that:
- it’s more technical: you need to be aware that it’s more common to have technical issues on a WooCommerce shop than on Shopify.
- you have no direct support: that can be hard if you don’t have at least some experience with WordPress.
Shopify started in 2004 with a mission: offer a simple and user-friendly solution for shop owners to sell online.
After a few years, it’s one of the leading e-commerce platforms worldwide, second just to WooCommerce (based on market share), mostly because it’s really user-friendly, there is no coding knowledge required to use it and it’s tailor-made for e-commerce purposes.
Shopify is one of the best options right now.
It’s simple and the set up is straight forward, allowing sellers with different backgrounds and no technical knowledge to start a shop.
They surpassed one million merchants selling through their platform in October 2019, and the number keeps growing jointly with the increase of popularity and usage of e-commerce.
It’s hard to gather data on how many shops are active right now, but definitely, the pandemic prevention measures and various lockdowns worldwide boosted its usage.
All you need to know about Shopify
Let’s now look at the Shopify specifics:
1. Initial setup
The Shopify platform is really simple to set up and everything is well explained, even if you are a newbie to e-commerce. You just go to the Shopify website, register, set the required basic information and start with the 14 day free trial.
It takes you just a few hours and their support will help you with all you need for starting up. Everything is easy as it has been tailor made for e-commerce, so that anyone can put
products online fast and simple.
You have many available apps that can upgrade your shop and there is a good integration with external tools that can be useful for a shop, such as email marketing services, CRMs, marketing tools and more.
2. Themes choice
Shopify offers 9 free themes and more than 60 paid ones.
The prices of the paid themes vary between 100$ and 180$. All of them are professional, cool, easy to customise (with some limitations) and updated on a regular basis. So you can start for free if you have a limited budget or differentiate from other shops with a paid theme.
You can check out all of them on the Shopify themes marketplace.
The customisation on Shopify is limited. With that it doesn’t mean that you can’t customise your shop, it means that, compared to WooCommerce, there are definitely fewer options to make exactly what you want. You will have to make some compromises.
3. Payment options
If you will choose Shopify you can use Shopify payments, their payment method. You can learn more about the service on their payments manual, where you can find all the information that you need to set it up.
If you want to try it, you can register here.
The fees for that option depend on many factors, such as the location, the payment method and the pricing method. You can learn more about it in the charges section on the Shopify platform, together with the formula for the calculation of your fees.
You can also choose to use a third party payment provider, but you will have to pay a doubled fee (one to the external provider and one to Shopify).
4. Multilingual shop
On Shopify you can have a multilingual shop, but you have to use a plug-in to do that. One of the best ones, with a rating of 4,8/5, is Langify.
It costs 17,50$ per month with a 7 days free trial included, but will definitely make your life much easier if you plan to sell outside your country.
Shopify is a self-hosted platform, it means that shops you make with Shopify are hosted by them. They are a good hostinging provider, offering good uptime and speed results for the pages they host.
In this case they have more responsibility to keep the shop safe, they have full control over it and they can eventually shut your website down (even if it is very unlikely to happen).
But you also have your part to do.
There is a detailed FAQ on how to secure your Shopify account written by them. You can use it to find out what you can do.
6. SEO optimisation
On Shopify you can customise all the content based on possible SEO improvements and settings, like page titles, descriptions, sitemaps and more; basically everything good SEO requires.
They have published an overview of the steps to follow in order to improve SEO of your shop. The resource shows how to add SEO related keywords to your shop, how to optimise the structure of the website, how to submit the sitemap and other SEO related questions made by their community.
One of the biggest benefits of Shopify, especially compared with WooCommerce, is their customer support. If you have any troubles with your shop, you can contact them by day and by night, 24/7, by chat, phone or email.
You can find all their FAQ about all the possible issues with the shop and the contact options in their help center.
They have more responsibilities to their users compared to WooCommerce, so they have more interest to offer the best experience to every shop owner, solving all possible problems without causing further problems as soon as they can.
Shopify offers three pricing plans, each with different features available:
- Shopify Basic, that costs 29$
- Shopify Standard, that costs 79$
- Shopify Advanced, that costs 299$
The most popular option is Shopify Basic, which is an affordable choice, especially if you are starting out. It includes everything that you could need.
Shopify is probably more expensive than Woocommerce. It can be cheaper at the beginning, but in the long run, it is usually more expensive (especially if with increasing sales you need increasing integrations).
It is simple to use, which is why if you want a complex and customised solution, maybe it’s not the best choice.
What is good about Shopify is that:
- it’s simple to use.
- there are many templates available.
- you have 24/7 support and constant platform improvement: that can be very helpful, especially if you are not experienced.
- there are good integrations with external tools (email marketing, CRMs).
- it usually has fewer technical issues.
What is bad about Shopify Is that:
- it is more expensive: and the costs increase if the shop becomes more complex.
- it offers limited customisation: on WooCommerce you can do whatever you want, here you have some limitations.
- you don’t have full control over your shop.
- third-party apps are more expensive.
WooCommerce vs Shopify: Who wins?
Neither is the clear best choice in a vacuum, because it really depends on what you want to do and what you need:
- WooCommerce is good if you want to go for the affordable solution, but it requires some technical knowledge (or be prepared to hire somebody for it), if you encounter issues. This happens definitely more with WooCommerce than Shopify. It’s a free plug-in so there is not much support. It is less expensive if you plan to have a big number of smaller shops, but remember, you will be more on your own when doing that, because at the end it’s a free plug-in.
- Shopify is good if you want to simplify your work life and need everything to work out without problems. It is a reliable, professional solution that will probably cause you less “platform issues” when selling online. Here, you will have total support from the owners of the platform. But bear in mind that it will probably cost you more.
There isn’t a clear winner between WooCommerce and Shopify, because you have to look at your needs and goals and decide based on the features you think you will need.
If you are a beginner and want to start simple, maybe Shopify is better (dropshipping stores, start-ups). WooCommerce is maybe better if you are more experienced, but offers way more flexibility than Shopify (complex websites, international stores).
Down below you have the infographic we promised, that shows you which is the best based on the criteria mentioned above.
Is the standard shopping experience enough?
You probably already know how important the first impression is, but remember that the long term relationship is important as well.
Especially with a customer.
With a standard shop you offer a standard experience, but do you know how you can offer the best one to every customer?
With a mobile app. That’s right.
There are many reasons why to have a mobile app, we have discussed them in some previous publications such as “Why have a mobile app for eCommerce?” and “12 Benefits Of Mobile App That Will Change Your Perspective”.
You can offer a totally different experience, increase the retention rate, customise touchpoints with each customer and exploit pop-up notifications, so you can remember each customer about your shop and recurrent offers.
Right now you can do it with a simple app maker, that requires no coding knowledge and no initial investment to have your shop app built.
It’s an accessible solution to offer something that many shops are spending tons of money to have and you can try it with us for free.
We went through all the important information that you should know in order to make the best possible decision. And we really hope that right now you know what to do.
Let us know which one you are going to choose in the comments below.