Have you heard of the famous Shopify VS WooCommerce debate? If you haven’t, then you will now. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. But in this case, comparing both eCommerce platforms side by side is necessary to help you make the right decision that in the end will hopefully bring you joy.
In recent years, Shopify and WooCommerce have become two of the most popular eCommerce platforms for startups. Another well-known option is BigCommerce, which we have discussed in a separate comparison article, so we are focusing on just these two today.
With both Shopify and WooCommerce having a lot to offer, it can be tough to choose which one is best for you. This article provides a comparison of some of their features and lets you know how they compare in terms of usability, free themes, available apps, SEO, reporting and so much more.
This article will discuss the following:
What is Shopify?
What is WooCommerce?
Shopify vs WooCommerce
Ease of Use
Ready-Made Apps or Plugin Extensions
SEO and Blogging
Reporting and Data Analytics
Email or Text Message Service
Plans and Pricing
We have done all the "dirty work" for you, so by the end of this article, you will be well-informed about the differences between Shopify and WooCommerce, and most importantly, you will know which platform is a better fit for your business.
But before diving deeper into the comparison, let's first take a look at what these eCommerce platforms are and why you should consider using one of them.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is an e-commerce solution that runs with the software as a service (SaaS) model to provide the best possible experience for their customers and merchants alike.
It is a cohesive e-commerce platform that oversees all aspects of your business. It provides a built-in website builder, an integrated payment system, and a variety of apps for shipping, inventory management, and marketing campaigns.
All this is available to you through one central dashboard – The Shopify admin panel.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that turns your WordPress-based website into an eCommerce store. It is open-source software, which means it is available for free and its code can be customized (if you have the know-how).
Once you have it installed on your website, there's virtually nothing you can't do with WooCommerce, given that you know how to use it. You can run a basic online store or an advanced webshop selling physical products, digital goods, subscriptions, and so much more.
Shopify vs WooCommerce
In simple words, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, whereas Shopify is an all-inclusive eCommerce platform. This means there are some significant differences between them in terms of ease of use and the number of features you can expect to find on each one.
Let’s discuss them all.
1. Website Hosting
Shopify's built-in hosting platform makes it a gem when it comes to web hosting. This means you don't have to worry about maintaining any server or hosting. You don’t even have to learn these things at all!
Shopify takes care of it for you and makes sure that your website is always up and running (and fast, too). Your website hosting is already included in whatever Shopify Plan you choose.
On the other hand, for WooCommerce, you will need to purchase your hosting plan. This can be done with any hosting service provider of your choice, but the web host must support WordPress (most do). As for the pricing, it is generally affordable and varies depending on which hosting service you choose.
WordPress must also be installed on your hosting service before you install the plugin for WooCommerce. This needs a little installation knowledge on your part. You can ask for assistance from your hosting service if you don’t have time to learn how to do this, or if you are worried that you can’t do it properly.
Verdict on Website Hosting: Shopify
There's no denying that Shopify offers easier website management. The company provides backups as well as automatic SSL certificates; whether you are using their domain (myshopify.com) or your own. You don’t even have to worry about making sure your website is online 100% of the time! That’s one less thing to worry about.
However, if you're not looking for a turn-key solution and would prefer more freedom when it comes to hosting your website (meaning using your web host), then WooCommerce will be the better choice for you.
2. Ease of Use
We are complex human beings, but we like simple stuff. We also like to be in control, but let's face it, there are times when we don't want anything to do with technology.
When talking about usability for an eCommerce, there are two important factors:
1) how user-friendly the platform is, and
2) how much you can customize out of it.
As mentioned before, Shopify has a built-in hosting platform and this means that you don't have to worry about installing plugins or worrying if your website will work properly.
If you’re not very techy and simply need a platform that allows you to build your website without spending hours trying to figure out how things work – Shopify is the way to go. Shopify has a one-click installation feature that allows you to launch your online store within minutes.
Regarding point #2 of usability, WooCommerce is a bit more customizable. If you have some technical knowledge, you can easily configure it to suit your needs. It’s just like building a website using WordPress.
The good thing about WooCommerce is that there are many plugins available. They allow you to extend its functionality by adding new features (like shipping management).
You don't need to code for a feature like allowing customers to download digital products after they buy. It can easily be done by installing the right plugin, and there are many of them available. Some of them are free, others come with a fee.
Verdict on Ease of Use: Shopify
In terms of usability, I would say that both Shopify & WooCommerce are pretty user-friendly, but as far as technical knowledge goes – WooCommerce is significantly more difficult for beginners to use.
So if you're not tech-savvy and simply want to build your website as quickly as possible, then Shopify is the way to go.
3. Available Themes
Shopify offers you a wide range of premade themes that not only look good but also have been well optimized for conversions. Their professional design team has put together some great-looking website templates and they're available to you at no cost!
However, there are only 9 free themes available in Shopify. While you can still customize these to your liking, there are limitations to what you can do.
The great thing about Shopify, though, is that the platform allows you to easily preview and switch between different website designs. You can install several free themes, customize them, and evaluate which one works best for your business.
If none of these free themes work for you, you can always opt for a premium theme. The price of premium themes ranges from $150 to $350. In total, there are 80 free and premium themes available in Shopify at the moment.
Compared to Shopify, WooCommerce provides a wide choice of free themes. While WooCommerce itself offers only three free themes, other companies that sell WooCommerce themes offer free versions as well.
In total, WooCommerce itself offers 35 free and premium themes. Third-party themes, however, come in hundreds!
Verdict on Available Themes: WooCommerce
4. Ready-Made Apps or Plugin Extensions
Along the way, while designing your shop, you're probably going to need certain apps that will help streamline your workflow. Let's say you want your customers to track their order status or check on their previous orders. What good does it do if you have to manually update the statuses of each customer? This is where apps come into play and will save your time significantly! After all, time is money, right?
Shopify’s App Store makes it easy for you to find all the apps relevant to your needs. As of 2020, Shopify announced that they have a whopping 4,200 apps available! More are being added as we speak since hundreds of companies continuously create third-party apps for the platform.
Even with this sheer volume, you don’t have to be worried about getting lost in the pile as they are neatly organized into categories and subcategories. Finding the app that you need won't be difficult! You name it, they have it: from SEO apps to custom email marketing, to SMS Marketing apps like WinBack!
WooCommerce, on the other hand, provides only more than 500 official plugin extensions. WooCommerce plugin extensions are similar to Shopify’s apps. But just like with WooCommerce themes, there are hundreds of other companies that sell third-party plugin extensions.
The biggest downside to plugin extensions for WooCommerce is that they don’t have one marketplace for them all. Official ones are available in WooCommerce website, while third-party ones can be found in templates and scripts marketplaces like CodeCanyon. In CodeCanyon alone, there are almost 2,000 WooCommerce plugin extensions up for sale.
Verdict on Ready-Made Apps or Extensions: Shopify
In this round, Shopify wins again as it offers you thousands of more apps than WooCommerce. Furthermore, finding the right app is easier with Shopify because of their one-stop-shop App Store.
5. SEO and Blogging
SEO is a very important aspect that can either make or break your online store. Google continues to place a lot of emphasis on the relevancy and quality of websites.
And since organic traffic can help you gain new customers in more ways than one, then it would be wise to use a platform that can make search engine optimization easy for you.
With Shopify, you can easily set the meta title and description of every page on your website. These can be edited at the bottom of every page you create—may it be a product page, a collection page, a landing page, a blog post, and more.
The meta title, description, URL slug, and alt description on images are pretty much all you can change with Shopify when it comes to SEO. For more in-depth adjustments for SEO, you need to install a third-party app.
With WooCommerce though, you need to optimize your WordPress website’s SEO first. Then you need to install an additional SEO extension that will work side by side with WooCommerce. On its own, WooCommerce is not ready for search engine optimization out of the box.
In addition, as you probably know, one thing search engines love is blogs—it's an easy way for them to crawl content from many pages which ultimately helps improve their algorithm.
The good news is that Shopify has a built-in blog that you can use to share content with your customers. You don't need any coding skills for this—the platform offers an intuitive interface that allows you to create posts and pages very easily (and it also includes some great-looking templates).
However, with Shopify, the default blog post template is very basic. If you want to differentiate the look of your shop and your blog, you won’t have a lot of options unless you create a new template from scratch.
If you want a blog that will help you improve your website's SEO, then WooCommerce is a better option. After all, WordPress by default is a content management system that focuses on blogs, so blogging can be made easy with WooCommerce. Customizing the look and feel of your blog can also be done easily.
In combination with SEO-centric plugins like the Yoast Seo plugin, you can take full advantage of your blog. WooCommerce offers the most flexible blogging tools, so if this is something you're serious about then it might be a better option for you!
Verdict for SEO and Blogging: WooCommerce
This round goes to WooCommerce, as its blog is more versatile and it offers additional SEO tools that can help you get the most out of your website.
6. Payment Gateways
Your eCommerce website won’t for your business if your customers can’t checkout their order and make a payment online. That would defeat the purpose of having an online store!
To make purchases on your online store, customers need a quick, easy and secure way of paying. Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer multiple payment gateways that allow you to get paid in more ways than one.
With Shopify, as soon as you create your account automatically Paypal Express Checkout is enabled; you just need to connect your Paypal Account. If you don't want to use it, then just disable the feature.
Credit cards can also be accepted via Stripe and a dozen other secure payment gateways. The platform offers a quick integration process, so you won't have any issues trying to get paid. However, you will have to pay a small fee per transaction, the cost of which depends upon the mode of payment and the gateway you work with.
In WooCommerce, you have to go through the checkout process manually to find out which gateways your customers will be able to use when making purchases on your online store.
The good thing is that there are over 80 payment gateways available including Paypal, Stripe, and Amazon payments! WooCommerce offers more options when it comes to the number of supported payment gateways. Because WooCommerce is open source, any payment company can create an app to be used on WooCommerce.
Verdict on Payments: Tie
Both platforms have secure payment gateways that you can work with. The fees are the same for both since the gateways are the ones that set this.
7. Reporting and Data Analytics
We can't stress enough the importance of data analysis when running an online store. If you don't analyze your data is just like driving a car with your eyes closed—you won't know where to go and how fast you're going!
Data analysis provides valuable insights on what works best for conversions. Any eCommerce platform must offer extensive reporting tools so users can quickly access all data needed to make smart business decisions.
You already have an online store, you shouldn’t have to track and analyze your sales manually!
Shopify has a range of reporting tools that help you track your sales and customers so you can make important decisions about your business.
You can choose from four different reports: orders, customers, traffic, and products—all of which help you understand what's going on with your business.
One of the best things about Shopify's reports is that you can create your customized report. You have access to all important data so it won't be hard for you to analyze anything related to your store and its performance.
The downside to using Shopify is that you won’t have access to all reports. If you’re on the Basic Shopify Plan or lower, you won’t have access to the following report types:
- Order Reports
- Sales Reports
- Retail Sales Reports
- Profit Reports
- Customers Reports
- Custom Reports
WooCommerce doesn't offer detailed reports as Shopify does, but it can still provide enough valuable data for improving your online store performance. Developers made available several analytics plugin extensions that help users track important metrics about their websites and eCommerce stores.
WooCommerce has an extensive library of analytics plugins so you can choose which ones best fit your needs. The problem with this is you’ll have to research or test which one best works for you, which can be time-consuming.
Verdict on Reporting and Analytics: Shopify
Even as Shopify limits the types of reports you can view based on your Shopify plan, the Reports page shows you almost everything you need to understand your store’s performance.
Plus, it’s built-in! There’s no need for you to install anything as it’s already up and running once you start using your eCommerce store.
8. Inventory Management
Aside from reports on your online sales, you should be able to use your eCommerce platform for inventory management. After all, you don't want a product that is out of stock to continuously be purchased online, right? It would be a disaster for your brand's reputation and you might even lose customers in the process.
Shopify allows you to quickly update your inventory levels. This way, you can ensure that the item is not being displayed if it's currently unavailable. You can find Shopify's built-in inventory management system in all Shopify plans.
On the other hand, WooCommerce does not offer inventory management by default. Instead, you would have to install a plugin extension for this feature, many of which come at a hefty price.
Verdict on Inventory Management: Shopify
9. Email or Text Messaging Service
Once you’ve created your webstore, you’d likely want to have access to ways to have constant communication with your customers, especially when it comes to their orders. Transactional messages regarding order confirmation, delivery updates, and more are very important in eCommerce.
Shopify offers a default email and SMS service for these transactional messages. You can customize the design and content of your messages through Shopify's built-in email templates and services. Transactional messages can be sent automatically, with minimal intervention on the eCommerce store owner’s part.
If you want to customize the look and feel of your transactional emails in Shopify, you can do so with a bit of knowledge on liquid coding.
The same goes for WooCommerce—transactional messaging via email is both available by default. However, SMS messaging is not. You would need an SMS messaging extension to allow your store to send transactional messages via text.
As compared to Shopify, though, editing the contents and look of an email message is easier in WooCommerce. No coding knowledge is required; you just need to install the WooCommerce Email Customizer extension.
Let us not forget how useful email and SMS are when it comes to marketing. While both Shopify and WooCommerce both don’t have email and SMS marketing features, they do have apps and extensions that fulfill these needs.
One of the best marketing strategies is sending emails to your customers. As the saying goes "A small list that wants exactly what you’re offering is better than a bigger list that isn’t committed." Any business owner should be able to create lists of subscribers and send personalized messages or newsletters from their online store easily and effortlessly.
What's worth mentioning is that currently, SMS Marketing is taking over email marketing as it's cheaper and more effective; there are more people using and responding to SMS these days than email.
Verdict on Email and SMS Messaging: Tie
While both are almost on equal footing when it comes to the availability of email and SMS marketing solutions, there is one thing that makes us lean towards Shopify—and that’s because WooCommerce does not have a WinBack plugin extension (yet!).
WinBack is an affordable SMS marketing solution that can help increase your store’s bottom line in a matter of weeks!
Nowadays, with the increase in the number of online frauds, security is a huge concern for all types of businesses.
In terms of security, Shopify is much more reliable than WooCommerce. It has a security system called Shopify Secure which keeps your and your customers’ data secure by encrypting it in the cloud and monitoring for any suspicious behavior. Shopify offers SSL for free, even if the domain name that the store owner will use is not purchased from them.
WooCommerce, however, does not provide free SSL certificates. You must purchase this separately. It is likely that the hosting service you signed up with also sells SSL certificates; these can be purchased yearly. You would then have to manually install the SSL certificate on your website.
But once you’ve signed up and installed your SSL, your WooCommerce store will be as safe as your Shopify store, provided that you do not make use of dubious third-party WordPress plugins which can be risky for your website.
Verdict on Security: Shopify
The fact that you won’t even have to worry about how to install SSLs or how to make sure the plugins you use are secure makes Shopify the better choice.
Hands down, Shopify wins the support round. Their Support has a dedicated team of experts, and they work 24/7 to answer your queries promptly.
WooCommerce does not have phone or chat support—only ticket-based customer care. If you don’t get a timely response, you can always search for similar concerns or questions on the WooCommerce forum. Maybe someone has already found an answer to a problem like yours. There are many benevolent users of the platform who are quite helpful.
Making sure that your website is up 100% of the time falls on your shoulders, though. There are no customer support teams to back you up (except if the issue relates to your hosting service) and help you get your online store up and running quickly.
Verdict on Support: Shopify
12. Plans and Pricing
Undoubtedly, costs are important when it comes to running a business, so let's compare the prices of Shopify and WooCommerce plans.
Shopify has three regular plans and two special plans:
- Basic Shopify plan is priced at $29 per month and is great for new e-commerce businesses with occasional in-person sales.
- Shopify plan comes for $79 per month and is ideal for growing businesses selling online or in-store.
- Advanced Shopify Plan costs $299 per month and is best for scaling businesses that require advanced reporting.
- Shopify Plus plan is their most expensive plan, which is aimed at high-end users and agencies and starts at $2000 a month.
- Shopify Lite is the cheapest plan that allows you to embed Buy Now buttons in a separate website that you own but does not come with website hosting for a standalone eCommerce store.
There is a 14 -day free trial for all plans. Once you have started one with a designated plan, you have the option to upgrade or downgrade anytime. Shopify is great when it comes to pricing, as all of its plans offer unlimited bandwidth and are affordable for businesses of any size.
On the other hand, WooCommerce itself is a free plugin so you don’t have to pay for it. However, there are many other costs involved when using WooCommerce, mainly the hosting service you need to pay for in order to get your website up and running online.
So indirectly, it comes with a price. Web hosting is cheaper, though, with hosting services charging anywhere from $3 to $10 per month for a single website installation.
Verdict on Plans and Pricing: WooCommerce
13. Additional Features
Aside from the major features and benefits mentioned above, there are also a few smaller details we’d like to compare:
Shopify all of its plans to have multilingual websites in up to five languages. If you have Shopify Plus, you can get your online store translated into 20 languages!
WooCommerce has a free plugin for multilingual websites which you can use on your site. However, it's not as efficient or effective as Shopify. A great solution for WooCommerce is WPML, but it isn't free.
For this aspect, we choose Shopify.
Shopify automatically updates themes or its platform behind the scenes; it requires no store owner intervention. When Shopify decides that it is time for another theme or the core platform to be updated, they will release a new version of either without any warning.
The only indication that there has been a change in either will be in the version number displayed by the core application when you view your online store after login via your browser. Or you would just notice a new feature available in your dashboard when you log in.
While Shopify updates every once in a while automatically, WooCommerce requires manual updating. This is due to the fact that there is a chance that your website will break with the update, so you would have to back up your website first before you start any update.
For this aspect, we choose Shopify again.
Final Verdict: Shopify vs WooCommerce
If you have gone through all the aspects discussed above, you would already know what the final verdict will be.
So based on our final tally, the scores are:
Shopify - 11
WooCommerce - 5
In short, the clear winner for us is Shopify!
In this Shopify vs WooCommerce comparison, we’ve covered the most important features to consider when deciding on an eCommerce platform for your business. While both professional eCommerce software systems can meet your store’s needs, it is up to you to choose the best one that offers enough flexibility for future growth and development.
If you decided to go for Shopify, don’t forget to sign up for our SMS Marketing app, WinBack! We’ll even give you 14 days of free usage just to see how much this marketing tool can help you boost your sales.