WooCommerce vs Shopify

Having trouble choosing between WooCommerce and Shopify? If you are planning to launch an e-commerce store, we are almost sure that you have come across these two e-commerce platforms as they are, by numbers, the two most popular e-commerce platforms in the world.

Both platforms have their merits, which makes it a difficult decision, especially for something as serious as an eCommerce store. To help you choose the right solution for your store, we’ll dedicate this post to delving into each platform and comparing and contrasting the two so you can be sure when you make your final decision.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: How Each Platform Approaches Ecommerce

Just like when comparing website building platforms like Squarespace and Wix to WordPress as a whole, WooCommerce and Shopify take two basic different approaches to building and running your store:

  • WooCommerce is self-hosted. That means your store files are located on your own server and you are free to modify everything in your store as you see fit.
  • Shopify is hosted. That means that Shopify hosts and manages the software for you, and while you have a lot of flexibility, you’re limited to making only the changes that Shopify allows you to make.

What is the practical difference between these approaches?

WooCommerce is more flexible, but not as beginner friendly. Shopify is the opposite: it’s very beginner-friendly, but it has some hard limits that you won’t find in WooCommerce. As we run some more specific comparisons, you should see this theme repeated over and over again.

How easy is it to open a store on each platform?

In terms of how easy it is to go from nothing to a fully functioning store that is ready to process payments and accept orders, Shopify is the ultimate winner.

WooCommerce

When you create a WooCommerce store, you have to do two separate things:

  • Install WordPress and learn the WordPress interface (if you’re not already familiar with WordPress, of course)
  • Install and configure WooCommerce and learn the WooCommerce interface

In general, before you can start accepting orders, you’ll be responsible for:

  1. find accommodation
  2. WordPress Installation
  3. Install and configure WooCommerce
  4. Find a WooCommerce theme
  5. Setting up essential details like payment gateways, tax calculations, and more (although something called WooCommerce Services has simplified some of this)

Now, none of this is too overwhelming, and the huge WordPress community makes it easy to find help (like our tutorial on how to install WooCommerce).

But there is a definite learning curve, especially if this is your first WordPress site, or you can just contact a specialist who will build everything for your business and you can forget all those steps.

Shopify

With Shopify, there’s very little that stands in the way of creating your first product and starting selling it.

Basically all you do is:

  • Create a Shopify account
  • Select and purchase a domain or sync an existing domain name
  • choose your theme

And assuming you’re using Shopify’s own payment gateway, it’s easy to start accepting credit card payments from day one.

How much control do you have over the functionality of your website?

When it comes to hosted platforms, Shopify is actually one of the more flexible solutions. But you still can’t come close to the control you get with a self-hosted WooCommerce site, so WooCommerce is the clear winner in this section.

WooCommerce

With WooCommerce, you have a few ways to customize the functionality of your store:

  • your theme
  • All 50,000+ WordPress plugins, including plugins and extensions that are specifically designed for WooCommerce
  • Custom code (one of the benefits of a self-hosted solution)

So what allows you to do this? Well, you can, for example, do something like Qüero Handmade Shoes and sell custom products on a scale that would be virtually impossible with Shopify.

Similarly, the flexibility of WooCommerce is also evident when it comes to things like product variations. With WooCommerce, there is no hard limit on the number of product variations you can use, while Shopify puts a hard limit of 100 variations per product and 3 total options per product, no matter which Shopify plan you’re on.

Shopify

You already saw a Shopify limitation above: product variations.

But how flexible is the rest of your Shopify store? Just like WooCommerce, you can customize your Shopify store with:

Shopify also allows you to add custom HTML but only to your store’s home page, which is obviously a limiting factor.

While these tools give you a lot of flexibility for a hosted platform, you’ll still run into some barriers, like the aforementioned product variation limits, that are impossible to avoid. That doesn’t happen with WooCommerce.

What payment methods does each platform offer?

Both WooCommerce and Shopify have long lists of payment gateways. Unless you have a very specific situation, you probably won’t notice the difference. However, Shopify charges an additional fee if you use a third-party payment gateway, which should be a big consideration because that fee can be as high as 2% (on top of what your payment gateway charges).

WooCommerce

Due to the open nature of WooCommerce and the large plugin community, you can find a ton of WooCommerce payment gateways.

First, WooCommerce is compatible with all popular gateways like:

  • Stripe
  • PayPal
  • Square
  • Authorize.Net

But beyond support for the big boys, one of the benefits of WooCommerce is that you can access tons of niche payment gateways like:

  • Postgiro (a Swedish gateway)
  • Przelewy24 (a Polish gateway)
  • Etc.

We know you’ve probably never heard of those last two: but that’s the point!

WooCommerce has both the big names and the regional gateways.

Shopify

Shopify has its own payment gateway that essentially requires no setup. But if you prefer to use a third-party payment gateway, Shopify also supports all the big ones like:

  • PayPal
  • Stripe
  • Authorize.Net

And not to be outdone, Shopify also has its own extensive list of local payment gateways .

However, Shopify will charge you more if you use a third-party payment gateway. As we said, this is definitely worth paying attention to.

Who controls your data on each platform?

Because WooCommerce is self-hosted, WooCommerce gives you much more control and ownership of your data.

WooCommerce

There is not much we need to write here: with WooCommerce you own everything. That means, if needed, you can even drill down into your database and access the raw data.

Shopify

While Shopify gives you access to all of your data, the live copy is still on Shopify’s servers. That means you never fully control your data.

That said, Shopify gives you many ways to access your data, which is better than many hosted platforms. You can:

  • Export a CSV file of your products
  • Backup your site through an app (not the main Shopify interface)
  • Connect with your data through an API

How does each platform handle ongoing maintenance?

Since Shopify is a hosted solution, it is much easier to maintain than WooCommerce.

WooCommerce

Earlier we told you that WooCommerce gives you the ultimate control and ownership of your store. Well, the trade-off for all that flexibility is that you’re the one responsible for maintaining and protecting your store.

You don’t need to do this yourself – in fact, hosts like Kinsta offer managed WooCommerce hosting. However, if you need development work, you may need to outsource it to a professional.

Shopify

Shopify takes care of the maintenance and security of your store, so you have very little maintenance to worry about. That said, you’ll need to keep an eye on the apps you use in your store to make sure they continue to work properly.

How much does each platform cost?

Due to the varying costs of each platform, it’s hard to declare a winner here.

WooCommerce

It’s hard to pin down an exact cost for a WooCommerce store because there are so many scenarios and edge cases. Technically, the only fixed costs are:

  • hosting
  • your domain
  • What your payment gateway pays

But you’ll also likely end up paying for:

  • a premium theme
  • Lots of premium plugins

One advantage is that WordPress plugins are often a one-time payment, while many Shopify apps use recurring monthly payments.

Shopify

Shopify core pricing is transparent and easy to plan:

But there are a couple of things that can increase the cost of your store:

  • Premium Themes – These are usually a one-time cost.
  • Apps – Many of these require an additional monthly payment, although you can also find free apps.

Additionally, Shopify will charge you more if you use a third-party payment gateway (as noted in the pricing table above).

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Which Should You Choose?

There really isn’t a right answer here. So instead of trying to make a single recommendation one way or the other, we’re going to run through a few scenarios where each platform makes the most sense.

3 reasons to use WooCommerce over Shopify

The big reason to choose WooCommerce over Shopify is flexibility and control. If you plan to sell simple products with minimal variations, you probably don’t need that flexibility.

but if you plan to sell things that go beyond the “simple”, whether it be in terms of variations, checkout process, or pricing structure, you’ll probably appreciate WooCommerce’s flexibility.

Another reason is that some products are simply banned from Shopify. Because Shopify is a hosted solution, you’re at the whims of the Shopify decision-making team, which has seen some cosmetic manufacturers get banned.

Finally, if you enjoy using WordPress and value the WordPress ecosystem of plugins and support, that might be another reason to opt for a WordPress eCommerce solution.

2 reasons to use Shopify instead of WooCommerce

If you just want the simplest and most beginner-friendly way to launch an eCommerce store, Shopify is definitely a good option. As long as you don’t plan on selling complicated products with lots of variations, you should be fine within the Shopify ecosystem.

Plus, if you don’t want to waste time maintaining your store (or just don’t want to have to think about technology at all), then that’s another reason to consider Shopify’s simplicity.

But there are a couple of things that can increase the cost of your store:

  • Premium Themes – These are usually a one-time cost.
  • Apps – Many of these require an additional monthly payment, although you can also find free apps.

Additionally, Shopify will charge you more if you use a third-party payment gateway (as noted in the pricing table above).

Migrate from Shopify to WordPress

If you’re currently using Shopify and looking for an easy way to migrate to WordPress (WooCommerce), here are a couple of plugins we recommend checking out. Or just contact us 🙂

Carmen Marín
Editor

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