Shopify vs. WooCommerce
Shopify vs. WooCommerce
Deciding which e-commerce platform and website framework you will use to establish your online business are some of the most important decisions an organisation will make. The cost of running and managing a website is often underestimated at the best of times but can spiral when the platform isn’t fit for purpose.
In this post, we look at the two e-commerce systems that come up again and again for new and small businesses: Shopify and WooCommerce. Each system is powerful and “good” but we will share our experiences with them and the implications a startup should be aware of before committing to one.
You need to consider three areas:
1. Front end
Visuals, user experience, navigation – everything a visitor experiences.
2. Back end
Behind the scenes updates of content and sales management.
Does the platform integrate with other elements of my business?
Where To Start
The first tip we can give is to stop thinking of your business in terms of size (team size, number of product SKUs, turnover) and to start thinking about the complexity of what you’re offering.
- Are you planning to operate as a standard e-tail business or looking at a subscription model?
- Is it a physical product that needs to be shipped or downloadable?
- Do you have a high volume of simple products or a handful of complicated ones that actually need highly detailed (or bespoke) product pages?
Understanding that these different platforms are partly about the scale of your business and partly about the complexity of what you have to offer (and how you’re going to fulfil that offer) is the first step in getting the right platform. Each one has its strengths but generally speaking, Shopify and Woocommerce are popular because there is a range of pre-designed themes and plugins that you can integrate into your website with limited web development experience.
As well as the key technical considerations, we have based our criteria on the digital marketing challenges we see faced by clients regularly and the cost implications of each system:
Shopify vs. WooCommerce: Design
A theme changes the design of your website, including how your site looks on the front-end (what a visitor sees), its contents layout, typography and how these display across different devices (eg: mobile vs. desktop). Clients can either have a theme that’s been built specifically for them or will use a theme adapted from a preexisting template (this website included). There are thousands WooCommerce and Shopify both offer a range of themes.
WooCommerce gives developers greater customisation so, if you’re technically competent, you can tailor your website to your exact liking. A site such as ThemeForest provides 1000’s of themes, live demos and other functionality. WooCommerce can also be incorporated into any WordPress giving it far more variety, not only as template design but in website features.
Shopify makes it easier to create a great looking website and start selling online quickly but if you have a la carte requirements or specific functionality (especially at checkout) WooCommerce is generally superior. Shopify’s ‘Liquid’ language does allow users to make more significant changes but you will need a Shopify developer to help with this.
Shopify is more ‘idiot-proof’ and therefore more rigid. You can make far fewer mistakes but it also means there is less opportunity for original layouts. You cannot change the checkout section at all without investing in Shopify Plus.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce: Subscription Model
WooCommerce has a range of subscription options such as WooCommerce Subscriptions which can handle tasks such as multiple billing schedules, renewal notifications and integration with most common payment gateways, it also gives users to ability to change their own plans. Reporting on a subscription model business requires additional features to allow Google Analytics to report on multiple billing cycles. WooCommerce has third party tools such as Chartmogul that will provide the insights required.
Shopify has a host of subscription-based apps to choose from. In our experience, ReCharge is an excellent product, offers great support and is simple to integrate. Reporting on a subscription model on Shopify also requires additional features to allow Google Analytics to report on multiple billing cycles and Shopify has an excellent app called LittleData that can break down recurring payments within Google Analytics.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce: Website Security
Owning a secure website should be a top priority for any webmaster and this is especially poignant for online stores, as they are not only processing customers’ money, they’re also holding personal information.
By default, WordPress core has some security measures in place but nothing compared to Shopify. There are plenty of third-party plugins that will fill the gap and give you security safeguards such as file scanning, blacklist monitoring, firewalls, brute force protection and more.
Being a hosted platform Shopify has an advantage over WooCommerce. Having SSL is a bit of a given but Shopify comes with this built-in. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is responsible for safeguarding a website so personal information can’t be tampered with. Shopify, again, comes out the box PCI-DSS compliant. You don’t need to set up anything, and can start processing credit and debit card payments from day one.
A website backup is a copy of all of your website data. What backup storage encompasses depends upon your online hosting provider.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce: Backups & Security
A website backup is a copy of all of your website data. What backup storage encompasses depends upon your online hosting provider. WooCommerce is required to manage this themselves. Free and paid are readily available. Shopify has removed many of the technical aspects of managing a website such as security, caching, web hosting and automating backups.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce: Accountancy Integrations
Integrating your website with automation tools such as Zapier or bookkeeping tools like Quickbooks can save business owners a lot of time. Both platforms offer very similar integrations. Both Shopify and WooCommerce have a wide range of accounting integrations.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce: Payment Gateways
Payment gateways orchestrate the movement of this money from customers and ultimately into your bank account (via your website). Merchants charge a commission on sales made. From experience Stripe offer SME’s the best all-around service, both WooCommerce and Shopify provide integrations. PayPal also remains popular because it is easy to integrate into websites and offers consumers trust its strong buyer protection.
Stripe is our preferred payment gateway option for both WooCommerce and Shopify.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce: Support & Documentation
WooCommerce is a more hands-off approach to support. WordPress-related forums, the GitHub community and plugin developers can offer assistance for all but the most obscure tasks. When it comes to supporting Shopify comes into its own providing 24/7 support via phone, live chat and email. It also has a strong collection of guides, a community forum and setup tutorials within the Shopify Help Center.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce: Costs
Let’s talk about costs. If you don’t need Shopify Plus, the setup costs net out at roughly the same by the time you take into account hosting and theme templates. Shopify takes 2.9% to 2.4% of every purchase depending on your plan, whereas Stripe is 1.4% + 20p for European cards.
So, for every £1000 of transactions (assuming an average order value of £50) – Shopify takes £29 and WooCommerce would take £14 + £4 (20 transactions of £50). This might not seem like a lot but if your margins are tight, an extra 1% adds up. Shopify Plus also starts at $2k a month. Something worth noting and factoring into margins if you want to scale up.
The pros & cons of WooCommerce
- Complete customisation & control.
- Huge community online + support.
- Wide variety of themes & plugins.
- WooCommerce is free.
- WooCommerce is simple to configure.
- Greater learning curve vs. Shopify
- Cost of additional plugins, themes & hosting.
- Hosting, security, maintenance & backups are separate.
- Plugin conflicts are more common.
The pros & cons of Shopify
- Thousands of apps & integrations.
- Hosting & security are all included.
- Quick to set up.
- Excellent support.
- Great for the multi-channel retailer — i.e. online, offline POS.
- Less control vs. WooCommerce.
- Customisation is limited to theme & platform.
- Additional transaction fees for using external gateways
- No free plan is available.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce/WordPress are great solutions for startups that want a solution that allows them to scale in the future. Shopify is very straightforward and easy to set up for those with no e-commerce knowledge. However, if you’re a step beyond this stage – you might start to get frustrated with the framework and its lack of flexibility. That said, when you’re beyond the very basics, you will need a developer to help regardless of the platform. WooCommerce is an easy bolt-on to existing WordPress sites. It’s no better or worse than Shopify, just different. If SEO is a priority for your business, we would recommend sticking with WordPress over Shopify because of the categorisation of posts and pages in URL structures which you simply don’t have the option to use in Shopify with all URL structures including ‘/page/’.
Essentially it comes down to the type of business that you own – if it is e-commerce-first, content-second; opt for Shopify. If it is content-first, e-commerce-second then go for WordPress/WooCommerce. Both will require additional marketing, design and technical expertise as your business evolves but both are far more intuitive than systems such as Magento which are suited for extensive product catalogues and far more advanced than a basic solution such as Wix.