Creating an eCommerce store, but not sure what platform is best for you?
With so many products and solutions out there, prospects can be overwhelming. It’s tough to pick which would work best for your venture. Varying costs, system extendability, and ease of use can play huge roles in your choices. For many, however, it comes down to a choice between the two leaders: Shopify or WooCommerce.
There are quite a few other platforms out there, but few of them match the pricing and general usability of these two. That’s why WooCommerce boasts nearly 3 million installs, and Shopify powers more than 700,000 online shops.
Let’s take a look at Shopify and WooCommerce to figure out which best suits your needs.
What Do You Need From Your eCommerce Platform?
Before we put these two eCommerce giants head to head, let's talk about how to choose an eCommerce platform. By knowing what you’re selling, how you’re selling, and how you’ll expand in the future, you’ll be able to choose the platform that’s best for you.
What should you be looking for? Here are some questions to help create your list of needs:
- How many products are you looking to sell, now and in the future? Is it dozens, hundreds, or thousands?
- Are you tech savvy? Do you want to handle purchasing your own hosting and domain, and installing software yourself?
- What forms of marketing are you aiming to use? SEO, pay-per-click advertising, and email marketing are just a few options available out there.
- Who will be managing the site? Will it be run by one person? Several? Or are you looking to automate as much of the process as possible?
- If you had the choice, would you prefer ease of use or finer control?
- Finally, what’s your price range? Do you prefer paying more up front, or is an ongoing payment structure more suitable for what you have in mind?
Once you have some rough answers to these questions, it’s time to compare Shopify and WooCommerce to your list and see how they stack up.
What Does WooCommerce Offer?
With your list of needs in hand, let’s take a look at our first platform: WooCommerce. One of the most commonly used eCommerce solutions on the web (if not the most common), it’s typically one of the first names that you’ll come across when building an online store.
Products for open-source platforms and popular CMSs, like WordPress for instance, sometimes fall into the trap of becoming too generic for many purposes. Let’s see what that means for WooCommerce.
Low Initial Cost
WooCommerce is an eCommerce system built on top of WordPress. Because of this, it’s possible to get a basic site up on your own using only WordPress, WooCommerce, and a free website theme. Aside from hosting and a domain, there’s no cost associated with getting a minimal working online store up and running.
In addition, WordPress developers are also readily available, making it one of the most widely supported CMSs out there.
Free and Paid Add-Ons for Expansion
If WooCommerce doesn’t do what you need right out of the box, it’s likely that there’s a free or paid solution available. If you’re trying to spruce up your site, ThemeForest currently has over 1,000 premium themes for WooCommerce that can be easily installed. If you need something extra that falls on the side of functionality, CodeCanyon has over 1,500 plugins for WooCommerce available.
This is on top of WordPress’s already sizeable collection of plugins that cover almost every feature you could want for an eCommerce site.
Customizable and Developer-Friendly
Need something for your site that you can’t seem to find or apply? WordPress and WooCommerce are known for their developer friendliness. There are a plethora of great developers for the CMS that are ready and willing to help you out. You probably even have one near you!
This ability to customize and extend means that you can adjust your site to do exactly what you want, even if you’re only looking to slowly upgrade over time.
One of the downsides to using WooCommerce for your shop is that if you decide to go it alone, it can be an uphill battle. There is plenty of support available, but sometimes you need to know a little first to keep everything moving. While other eCommerce systems have been simplified to make them easier for beginners, WooCommerce and WordPress try to have finer control for developers.
However, you can set up an entire set on your own without ever working with a developer, if you’re willing to figure out how each piece works on your own. Luckily, there are plenty of guides out there for the platform that can help you get up and running.
WooCommerce excels at listing dozens or hundreds of products, and even does well with product ranges in the thousands. As you exceed these numbers, however, it becomes difficult to continue scaling without additional assistance.
This typically requires better-performing servers from web hosts, the use of Content Delivery Networks, and working with a professional developer to optimize your site. While this is par for the course with most eCommerce platforms, there are a few out there that have scalability built into their pricing model: like Shopify.
What Can I Expect From Shopify?
Let’s take a look at Shopify next.
Shopify is built explicitly for online stores as opposed to being an extension for a general-use website, like WooCommerce. This creates some trade-offs: typically making it more difficult to add extra eCommerce-adjacent functionality, but easier when it comes to managing a store.
Here are some of the highlights of working with Shopify.
Subscription Pricing Model
With WooCommerce, it’s possible to get a site up for almost no cost. If you wanted your site to be custom instead of built on a free theme, you might have a one-time cost with occasional maintenance as needed—but Shopify uses a different model entirely.
The crux of the Shopify pricing model is a monthly subscription ranging from $29 to $299/month. With that ongoing cost comes a number of benefits, however. These range from discounts on shipping and regular updates to the inclusion of Shopify’s own Content Delivery Network and in-store POS solution.
Since you don’t need to manage your own hosting with Shopify, it’s possible to increase the number of products in your store as necessary, without running into limitations. If you experience a massive amount of traffic or need to add more staff to the management area of your store, you can simply upgrade your account, and Shopify handles it for you.
This means that you can spend more time on your business, and you don't need to worry about the technical infrastructure underneath.
Fewer Resources Available
There are significantly fewer resources out there for Shopify than WooCommerce. But that isn’t to say there aren’t any at all—on the contrary, guides, themes, and apps are available for almost any need. But the diversity is slimmer overall.
With a smaller user base and a more niche product than the WooCommerce and WordPress combo, there is a slight lack of variety. While there are thousands (if not tens of thousands) of WordPress themes out there, Shopify has roughly a tenth of that.
The same goes for apps (the Shopify version of plugins). Using SEO services as an example, when working with WooCommerce and WordPress, you may have a few dozen SEO plugins available. With Shopify, there are only a few to choose from.
Final Summary: WooCommerce vs. Shopify
When it comes to deciding between Shopify and WooCommerce, the answer lies in that needs list that we put together back at the beginning. Which platform checked off the most needs?
If you’re looking to experiment, have in-depth control, or have a small budget, then WooCommerce is likely the way to go.
If you’re looking for ease of use, reliable scaling, or tying an eCommerce shop to a brick and mortar store, Shopify might be a better pick for you.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear-cut choice, so finding out what your business needs are first is the best way to determine which to go with.
Which eCommerce Platform Do You Use?
WooCommerce and Shopify are two of the most popular online store platforms, but there are many more! What platform do you use, and why do you like it? Let us know in the comments below!
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