Choosing the Right ECommerce Platform (WooCommerce vs Shopify)

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As a small business owner or a budding entrepreneur, you’ve decided to create an online store. Congrats & welcome to the digital age, my friend! With all of the options out there, choosing an eCommerce platform can be a daunting task, especially when comparing WooCommerce vs Shopify (two of the best eCommerce platforms).

When getting ready to kickoff your eCommerce business – there are so many things to think about like ease of use, payment gateways, shipping & fulfillment, design, search engine optimization, subscription costs, etc. Don’t worry though! We hope this blog post will walk you through a few of these important aspects to consider and will ultimately help your new online business be successful!

Ease of Use

Everyone wants their online store to be as easy to use and navigate as possible. It’s a no brainer that the easier to use your store is, the easier it will be to remain active & produce sales for your eCommerce business.

Shopify’s advantage lies in its simple and intuitive interface. You don’t need any technical knowledge to create an online store, which is why many novice business owners prefer Shopify. Its platform includes a very intuitive & no-frills content management system & comes stocked with almost all of the marketing tools you need to get rolling and start selling online. If something is missing or you need more, it’s usually just a Shopify app away!

WooCommerce, on the other hand, requires a fair knowledge of WordPress and some other technical aspects. The WordPress dashboard has been around for a long time & might not look as flashy as Shopify’s, but managing your eCommerce store doesn’t require much of a learning curve – especially if you’re already familiar with WordPress. Due to the extremely large WordPress community, WooCommerce is also backed by some very large organizations to provide store owners with amazing support.

Payment Gateway

Your payment gateway will be a core backbone of your eCommerce store and is a requirement for any business to sell online. Let’s look take a look at both eCommerce platforms and see what they have to offer when it comes to accepting payments online.

Shopify conveniently comes with its own payment gateway, Shopify Payments, which makes it easier to process transactions without having to go through a third-party payment gateway. It’s quick & easy to setup and will deposit batch payments directly to your bank account. However, they charge a transaction fee (2.4% + $0.30 in the basic package), and if you decide to use a third-party gateway, Shopify will charge you an additional fee for that gateway. This is an attempt to get you to use their ecosystem of services, but the tradeoff is convenience and you do get tiered discounts as you level up your Shopify plan.

WooCommerce, being an open-source eCommerce solution, allows for more flexibility with payment gateways. In fact, you can use any payment processor you want. However, you’ll need to pay more attention to your website’s security and compliance. We always recommend using a gateway from a trusted payment processing company so that you can benefit from security & support when it comes to their integration plugins. Any obscure gateway, may require its own proprietary plugin and may not include the customer support that would come with a popular company like Stripe.

Customizability

As a business owner, you want your online store to reflect your brand and present your products or sellable services in an engaging way. The experience of your online store can make or break sales & the customizability of WooCommerce vs Shopify might be the largest aspect to consider when deciding between these eCommerce platforms. Your website’s customizability also plays a role in your online store’s search engine optimization. If the platform you choose offers the ability to customize your website more, then you likely will have more opportunity to own your content in a way that can boost your rankings in search engines.

Shopify offers a range of beautifully designed templates and easy-to-use drag-and-drop website builder. Setting up a theme & store with them is very turnkey and meant for those looking to start selling online fast. The cost of this templated & turnkey approach is advanced customizability. If you need to make more extensive customization changes than the theme allows, you’ll need coding knowledge & Shopify uses their own open-source templating language (written with Ruby on Rails) called Liquid. Even then, there are areas of your Shopify store that won’t be customizable unless you have a Shopify Plus account. Although this seems unnecessary, it has helped create a very consistent & effective environment for conducting business online.

On the other hand, since WooCommerce is an open source eCommerce platform, users typically find a more significant amount of flexibility and customization. However, this increased flexibility comes at the cost of technical knowledge. Since WooCommerce is already built on top of the most popular content management system in the world, you have access to those same features like themes & plugins. Very similar to Shopify’s suite of themes & app – WordPress allows you to take a modular approach with your eCommerce functionality. The beauty of WooCommerce, however, shows when you start desiring a very specific experience for your online store. There isn’t a page or area that can’t be customized to fit your exact needs & although coding knowledge is required for most of these changes – there is an extremely large community of WordPress developers that can help with optimizing your eCommerce store.

Pricing

The cost of anything is always a factor when it comes to running a business – and when you’re running an online store, the cost your eCommerce platform will also be an important factor. Since WooCommerce & Shopify operate with very different business models, their pricing is different as well.

Shopify generally has the more straightforward pricing up front as it offers different pricing plans, starting at $29/month. This includes your hosted eCommerce platform and add-ons & apps come at different prices set on the Shopify App Store. Aside from your Shopify plan, you’ll have costs associated with payment processing & fulfillment.

WooCommerce is technically a free plugin for WordPress, but to run your website does come with other associated costs that any other owned website would require. Think costs for your domain registration, web hosting, payment processing fees & account subscription (if applicable), SSL certificate (sometimes free) and additional plugin support fees if you go that route. All of these costs can certainly add up, but you do have complete control over your expenses & you do actually own your website. For example, if your web hosting provider ups their cost – you can easily migrate your website & online store somewhere else. With Shopify, that’s not possible.

Scalability

Any business owner who starts an online store should be planning for growth. There are important factors to consider and questions to ask when it comes to scalability, such as…

  • Will my eCommerce solution support increased traffic & a growing product catalog?
  • Will my web hosting cost more as my traffic increases?
  • Will my eCommerce platform charge more as I sell more?
  • Does my eCommerce platform come with the marketing tools I need to grow & scale my online store?

Those are just a few important questions to answer when choosing between the two most popular eCommerce platforms.

When it comes to Shopify, it’s common knowledge in the industry that their eCommerce solution can support massive online stores with thousands of products efficiently. Built specifically for eCommerce, Shopify has cracked the code when it comes to a platform that runs well. With Shopify, however, it’s important to consider that their business model relies on your growth. As you grow, your subscriptions will likely grow. Many apps base their costs on the number of products and/or orders you host & fulfill. The more you sell online, the more you pay.

In contrast, WooCommerce powers 24% of the eCommerce websites worldwide and offers a significant amount of scalability, typically at a lower cost. Premium WooCommerce plugins don’t cost more as you fulfill more online orders or host more products. However, as you ramp up traffic through marketing efforts or search engine optimization, you may find a need for more resources from your web hosting company. You’ll also want to consider the quality of your website’s code & framework to ensure that as your online business scales up your eCommerce store can keep up. Depending on the type of products you sell, this can require advanced technical experience to keep your website full optimized.

To Wrap Things Up

To wrap it up, both WooCommerce and Shopify are excellent eCommerce platforms. Which you choose ultimately depends on your specific needs, business goals and your ability to invest time, money, and resources into your chosen platform. Shopify could be the right choice for small business owners looking for a simplified solution, while WooCommerce could be the preferred option for businesses with more technical knowledge and requirements for customizability. Whichever eCommerce platform you choose, remember that choosing the right platform can be the ultimate success factor for the online success of your business.

If you’re struggling to make this decision for your business, or have jumped in and need that extra help to get launched and start selling online – our team of experts is here to help! With experience building on both eCommerce platforms, even building instances that use both Shopify & WooCommerce simultaneously, we know the ins & outs of each and can help you but the best eCommerce platform for you.

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