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09/05/2024 • eCommerce

WooCommerce vs. Shopify – Which is Best?

In this article we discuss the pros and cons of two giants of ecommerce – WooCommerce vs. Shopify.

In this article we discuss the pros and cons of two giants of ecommerce – WooCommerce vs. Shopify. There’s no doubt that these platforms are both key players when it comes to building an online store, but which is best?

If you’re considering setting up an ecommerce business, please remember that this article does not consider your individual circumstances. If you’d like to discuss setting up an online store, please get in touch and we’ll be glad to talk through some options with you.

Introduction

Shopify and WooCommerce both offer something slightly different. Here are some of the key features you need to be aware of when comparing these platforms:

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is an ecommerce plugin for WordPress. It is not a standalone system. If you have an existing WordPress website WooCommerce can be added via the Plugins panel.

WordPress websites come in all shapes and sizes. A wide range of free and premium themes are available, alongisde plugins for just about anything you can imagine. Many successful brands run WooCommerce websites.

WooCommerce is a free plugin. However, some of its functionality is fairly limited and can only be accessed through the addition of paid-for plugins which can increase your site’s running costs.

Shopify

Shopify is a standalone system. Within Shopify business owners can create their own website, with ecommerce functionality built in from the start.

There are several free themes available for Shopify, alongside premium options. Setting up a Shopify site from scratch is fairly straightforward. Users don’t need to think about things like hosting, and you can even register your domain name directly with Shopify.

Like WooCommerce there is a comprehensive plugins ecosystem, enabling owners to extend the functionality of their website.

Setup and User Experience

As mentioned above, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin. Installation and setup are fairly straight forward if you have an existing WordPress website:

  • Login to WordPress

  • Go to ‘Plugins’ from the main menu

  • Search for ‘WooCommerce’

  • Install the WooCommerce plugin

  • Make sure your theme works with WooCommerce

  • Run through the setup process, adding your preferred payment gateway and so on

For a far more in-depth guide click here.

In an effort to compete with Shopify’s ‘out of the box’ approach, WooCommerce have recently launched WooExpress. This is a straight forward way to get setup with WordPress and WooCommerce. They provide everything you need to get started and scale your ecommerce business.

Shopify setup is equally straightforward. Shopify offers a free trial, during which users can get their store setup, adding products and other information and getting familiar with how the platform works. Once everything’s setup users can publish their website at their preferred domain and begin selling.

Design & Layout

Both WooCommerce and Shopify use themes to determine the design and layout of the website. Shopify offers a choice of 13 free themes (as of May 2024), alongside a good number of premium themes. WooCommerce currently offer 3 free themes and 85 premium themes via their website. However, thousands more WordPress themes are available, many of which will be compatible with WooCommerce.

Themes all come with some default styling applied – colours, fonts and layout options. But all good themes allow website owners to tailor the design to their own requirements. Website owners can add their business logo, define colour schemes, choose appropriate typefaces and add so on.

Whether in WordPress or Shopify these adjustments can be made using straightforward control panels. These are intended to be user-friendly and require next to no technical knowledge. For more advanced customisation some experience of HTML, CSS, Javascript and other web technologies may be required.

Generally both WooCommerce and Shopify themes allow customisation of the default layouts used across the site, such as:

  • Home page

  • Category page

  • Product page

  • Standard content page

But with both platforms, website owners are free to create their own layouts and apply these to whichever pages they like.

This flexibility ensures that despite many websites using the same themes, sufficient personalisations can be made to ensure websites remain visually distinct.

Our Take

While it’s important to stand out from the crowd, Shopify and WooCommerce have spent a long time perfecting their platforms. If you’re just getting started then choosing one of the free WooCommerce or Shopify themes is a great option. You can always switch to a different theme at a later date, or have a bespoke theme developed if you really want to make an impact.

WooCommerce vs. Shopify Costs

Shopify offers a 3 day free trial and the first month for £1. After this their Basic subscription costs £19 per month when billed yearly.

This fee does not include Shopify Payments transaction costs, which on the Basic plan cost 2% + 25p. Shopify’s transaction fees reduce as the monthly subcription cost increases. Full details can be found here.

If your website requires any advanced functionality which depends on a plugin or app, there may be additional fees. To get a feel for these take a look at the Shopify App Store.

While WooCommerce itself is free, running a WordPress website will incur costs. However, these will vary depending on your particular setup. If you choose to manage your hosting yourself you can get started cheaply, for only a few pounds per month. If you opt for a managed service (where someone else is proactively looking after your website) hosting will cost more.

Alongside hosting, if your website requires any paid for WooCommerce plugins additional costs will apply. Finally, depending on which payment provider you choose there will be transaction costs to consider. For example, Stripe costs 1.5% + 20p.

The Woo Express platform costs from $25 per month, billed annually. More details here.

Our Take

Ultimately the costs of running an ecommerce platform are often fairly similar, regardless of the platform you choose. When considering WooCommerce vs. Shopify it’s not really possible to give an accurate answer to ‘how much will it cost?’ as each platform offers something slightly different. It’s generally better to base your decision on functionality, rather than price.

Technical Support

As an open platform, WordPress plugins can be developed by anyone. This means that they are not all well supported and getting help to troubleshoot problems can be, well, a problem! That being said, WooCommerce is well supported and their tech team are helpful.

Shopify Apps can also be developed by third-parties, but in general they tend to be better supported. The Shopify platform itself is very well managed, and if a problem ever arises the tech support team are on hand to help out.

Our Take

Shopify support is second to none. If you’re going it alone, with minimal technical knowledge, we’d recommend Shopify on this basis.

If you’re hiring a web developer who recommends WooCommerce then the potential lack of plugin support won’t be a problem. Your developer will be able to troubleshoot any issues that arise.

Search Engine Optimisation

Both platforms provide granular control over key aspects of search engine optimisation. With Shopify this is provided out of the box, with the capacity to customise page titles, meta descriptions and even the URL of each product and page.

Shopify also features an AI supported text editor. This can help owners write more comprehensive descriptions for their products. However, we’d always recommend putting your own spin an any AI generated content, make it your own.

Within WordPress it’s a good idea to use a plugin like Yoast, which provides an easy way to manage these details. Alongside things like meta tags and page titles, WordPress makes it easy to manage things like image optimisation and caching. It’s also possible to change the URL structure entirely and make more granular changes to the page content and HTML structure to support your SEO aims.

WooCommerce vs. Shopify – Which Should You Choose?

Both platforms offer many useful features and can both be used to build excellent ecommerce websites. At the same time, every business has its own set of requirements. In order to make the best of your ecommerce solution you’ll want to choose the option which best meets your needs.

Shopify

Shopify is best if you want an out of the box solution which can be easily setup with the bare minimum of technical know-how. The platform offers an excellent suite of tools to help you reach your audience. At the same time, the tech support team make it easy to solve any problems you might have. Shopify themes and apps tend to be very well supported and high quality. And, with hosting (and even domain name registration) taken care of, you’ve less to think about so you can spend more time building your business.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is great for businesses who already have a WordPress website or are wanting to create one. With so many themes and plugins available, WordPress and WooCommerce makes for a very flexible and scalable platform for your business. Although it may take a bit more time and knowledge to get setup, WooCommerce offers slightly more fine-grained control. It’s a user-friendly and flexible platform which can be easily tailored to your particular needs.

Ultimately, choosing the right ecommerce platform for your business will depend on a variety of factors. It’s clear that when considering Wordress vs. Shopify there’s a lot to consider. Take your time to choose wisely, and get some expert advice if you’re unsure which way to go. We’re always happy to chat!

Photo by Roberto Cortese on Unsplash