Shopify Vs WooCommerce - A comparison for startups: do we have a winner?

By Matt Janaway

Shopify or WooCommerce?

Who doesn’t love a good battle? In this post, we’ll share our thoughts on who would win in a fight – Shopify Vs WooCommerce. Shopify launched as an eCommerce platform in June 2006. Because it was a simple, hosted solution for online retailers, Shopify quickly gained traction and is being used by nearly 200,000 merchants today, with total gross merchandise volume exceeding $10 billion.

In 2011, WooThemes introduced a WordPress plugin named WooCommerce. Because it was a free plugin and the majority of people were already using WordPress, WooCommerce became even more popular than Shopify. Today, more than 1,500,000 retailers, or a whopping 30% of eCommerce sites run on WooCommerce.

Does it mean WooCommerce is a better eCommerce solution than Shopify, because more people are using it? Like many other big questions, this one also has no simple answer. So, let’s dive deep into both platforms and try to figure which one is more suitable for building and growing your online shop.

A Multilevel Comparison of Shopify and WooCommerce (with Small Business in Mind)

For the purpose of comparison, our big question can be broken down into multiple smaller questions that have to be answered before a verdict can be issued. When people compare the two platforms, they’re basically concerned about the following:

Pricing – which one is more economical in the short and long run?

Design and Aesthetics – which platform has better aesthetics and customizability?

Features and eCommerce tools – which platform offers better eCommerce options to “woo” your customers?

Customer support – what happens when things go south?

SEO and Trackability – which platform gets more organic traffic and is easier to track?

Let’s compare the two hugely popular technologies along these dimensions and try to reach a conclusion.

Shopify Vs WooCommerce: Pricing

Shopify pricing

Shopify offers a monthly pricing structure starting as low as $9 per month (for a Facebook only store). You can have your own website starting at $29 per month. This includes hosting as well as all major e-store features such as shipping label discount, discount codes, and manual order creation.

If you need more features, such as abandoned cart recovery, gift cards, and real-time carrier shipping, you’ll need to upgrade to Pro ($79/mo) or Unlimited ($179/mo) plans.

shopify pricing
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The pricing seems too good to be true, considering that you get a hosted solution, 24x7 customer support and all basic eCommerce functionality within your monthly plan. Unfortunately, there’s a catch.

Although the default Shopify Payment gateway is free to use, you’ll need to pay from0.5% (for Unlimited) to 2% of the sale as transaction fee whenever an external payment gateway is used. This is in addition to the credit card rates of 2.4% to 2.7% plus $0.3, for each transaction. Hence, the actual amount you pay for Shopify will depend on how much you sell.

WooCommerce pricing

Unlike Shopify’s conventional monthly pricing, WooCommerce follows a “freemium” pricing model. The WooCommerce plugin is absolutely free to install and use. However, you’ll need additional plugins to acquire the essential eCommerce functionality. These plugins can cost you up to $500 per year or more, depending upon the features you need.

Just like Shopify, WooCommerce also has a default payment gateway known as Mijreh. But it will cost you 0.5% to use. You can also process payment through PayPal, eWay, SagePay, Stripe, or Braintree, for each of which you’ll need to pay a one-time cost. From then on, there are no transaction fees to be paid.

Another major cost associated with WooCommerce is the hosting cost. Shopify is a hosted solution that comes with a free SSL certificate (Basic and up) as well as page speed optimisation. With WooCommerce, you’re going to need to pay extra for hosting, security and speed.

Do we have a winner on pricing?

Shopify appears to be the more cost effective option for eCommerce startups. You can have your own store, complete with hosting, SSL security, and all basic selling features for as low as $29 per month. The transaction fee you pay depends on the volume you sell, so there’s no upfront cost to be paid. Shopify now comes with a 14-day free trial.

Although WooCommerce is free to install, you’ll have to spend a few hundred dollars to bring your store up to par with Shopify’s basic functionality. You’ll need to buy hosting, security, payment gateways, etc before you can start selling. It’s not only going to cost more money upfront but will also take more time.

Shopify Vs WooCommerce: Design & Aesthetics

Shopify design & themes

Shopify comes with visually stunning themes, which are as engaging for your customers as they’re beautiful. Even the free themes are great, straight out of the box. You can customise them by changing the colours and layout, but there are tonnes of premium themes available if you want to go for something more spectacular and unique. They will cost you from $100 to $180 each.

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As for the Usability, you can change the style and colour of any theme without knowing anything about coding. For bigger changes, you’ll need a developer specialising in “Liquid,” Shopify’s programming language.

WooCommerce design & themes

WooCommerce is equally good when it comes to visual appeal and aesthetics. Being a WordPress plugin, WooCommerce can run on any WordPress theme, although the free themes are often worthless. Premium WooThemes are priced at $79 to $139, and you can buy all of them for $399. There are thousands of more themes available from other developers, so you may feel a bit spoilt for choices.

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WordPress being an open source platform, you can modify any theme in any way you like, either by using plugins or writing your own code. This can take hours and hours of work and may cause compatibility issues between the WordPress version, theme, and plugins that you’re using.

With most of WooCommerce themes, you’ll need to optimise the mobile user experience by making the site adaptive for different mobile devices. Shopify, being a hosted and managed platform, would spare you that effort and may provide a better mobile user experience.

Which is best for design?

Although it’s hard to say which particular platform has better design and aesthetics, Shopify will get your sleek and fashionable store up and running more quickly than WooCommerce. You can dice and slice WooCommerce themes any way you like, but it’s just more and more work.

Also, picking the perfect WooCommerce theme can be confusing, with virtually unlimited options being available.

Shopify Vs WooCommerce: Features and eCommerce Tools

Shopify features

Shopify, being a purpose-built e-store software, comes loaded with all essential eCommerce features. You can install Shopify’s free apps to acquire many additional functionalities and have the following features right from the outset, without any additional cost:

  • Sell on Facebook
  • Create discount codes
  • Offer gift cards (on Professional and Unlimited)
  • Import products using CSV files
  • Amend shipping options
  • List different product variations
  • Include individual product reviews
  • Print orders on demand with companies like Kite.ly
  • Install cart recovery systems (on Professional and Unlimited)

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For eCommerce retailers that want to give their customers the ultimate shopping experience, integrate Shopify with their CRM or inventory, or do anything else, there’s no shortage of paid Shopify Apps that can add every imaginable eCommerce functionality to your website.

WooCommerce Features

Like Shopify, WooCommerce also gives you every eCommerce trick in the book to enhance your eCommerce store. There are tons of free and paid plugins from WooThemes as well as third party developers that allow you to pull off every ploy in the book. However, as mentioned before, you’ll need to part with hundreds of dollars to get the features that come free with Shopify.

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For instance, CSV uploads, shipping options, and Facebook selling are going to cost you around $500 to install on WooCommerce. Premium WooCommerce plugins have an annual subscription fee, whereas Shopify extensions, when needed, have a monthly subscription fee, which makes the latter more expensive to use.

Which platform offers the best features?

Once again, Shopify appears to be the better option for small business and startups. You can get all the features you need within your monthly plan, without having to find the right plugins and pay for them. WooCommerce also has integration problems with CRM and inventory, and may not be suitable for larger companies that want to integrate it with their enterprise-level software.

Shopify Vs WooCommerce: Customer Support

Shopify support

Shopify has a clear edge here, as it offers 24/7 customer support to each client. Ever since WooCommerce threatened to snatch away customers, Shopify has been beefing up customer care. Right now, they have one of the best support team among all hosted eCommerce solutions.

WooCommerce support

With WooCommerce being a free platform, users are pretty much left on their own to find their way around. However, a vibrant WordPress community is available to rescue the day on various forums. Many enthusiastic developers will be happy to assist you clear bugs without charging a fee.

WooThemes Helpdesk also provides documentation, troubleshooting tips, and step-by-step guidance to build your store from ground up.

Where can I find the best support?

Shopify wins this one hands-down. Its top-rated customer support gives you the reassurance there’s someone you can run to with your issues and glitches. Although WooCommerce isn’t far behind, as you can still get most of the assistance you need at the Helpdesk, it’s nothing like the one-on-one customer support you get with Shopify.

Shopify Vs WooCommerce: SEO & Tracking

Shopify SEO

Shopify can present your content in a visually appealing style, but its blog is missing an archive feature and is not as well organised. You can easily add meta information, titles, and everything else that you need to climb up higher on search listings. Shopify also has a cleaner software structure that search engines love.

You can easily track Shopify traffic and conversions using Google Analytics, but you cannot track events. Another Shopify limitation is that it is missing the i18n/Multilanguage support, which may be a problem if you’re doing business in certain locations.

WooCommerce SEO

WooCommerce is equally good with SEO, if not slightly better because of its blogging features. The famous Yoast SEO plugin provides easy content analysis and helps you optimise your meta information, page titles, and content.

However, you can do the same with Shopify using the SEO Meta Manager app. You can track your entire WooCommerce site activity with Google Analytics.

Which platform is best for SEO?

Both eCommerce mega-platforms appear to stand shoulder to shoulder when it comes to SEO, although WooCommerce may have a slight edge because of its better blog feature and availability of multi-language support.

However, Shopify sites have a cleaner code and may be able to edge ahead of WooCommerce sites with their better mobile adaptability and faster page speed.

Shopify Vs WooCommerce: So which is best?

Based on the above analysis, a Shopify store is easier to get up and running in the beginning. It is the better option for small businesses and startups with little technical know-how. However, it may become more expensive when your business grows, because you’ll need to pay a transaction based fee and monthly app subscriptions.

To most businesses, the impact of this fee may be negligible considering the ease of maintenance and customer support that Shopify provides.

WooCommerce may be a better and more economical option if you’re looking for extensive customizability and have knowledge of PHP/CSS. But WooCommerce has certain limitations that can make other platforms like Magento or Big Commerce better suited for bespoke, high-end eCommerce stores.

So in most cases Shopify edges it, especially for start-ups. Having said that, there are some seriously successful stores which run WooCommerce and love it.

If you liked this post, you might also like this Magento vs Shopify post.

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