Looking to open a new online store? Do you have an amazing idea but don’t know how to sell? Or maybe you found a sweet deal with a vendor, you’ve got the product but don’t know how to manage your brand’s content?
You search the internet, maybe you type in how to make an online e-store or how to sell online, and you get bombarded with links and ads, all of them offering you the best hosting service in the world.
Now your problem has flipped. First, you didn’t have any information, and now you have too much. You just wanted to sell online but now you have to make a seemingly confusing choice for a Content Management System.
We know how that feels. That’s why we did our research and shortlisted two of the best options for eCommerce content management on the internet. In this article, we’ll compare Shopify and WooCommerce across important factors that go into selecting a CMS. We will evaluate:
- Ease of use
- Money considerations
- Payment capabilities
- Scalability and
- SEO performance
After you’ve gone through these factors and what they mean towards running a store, you’ll be in a clear, decisive position to select a content management system.
Ease of Use
A major factor that influences choice in content management systems is their ease of use. You want to go with a system that’s easy to set-up and easy to use. You also want something that is easy to design and helps swiftly manage inventory. Let’s compare WooCommerce and Shopify on this metric.
Shopify operates on a subscription-based model. This means that all you need to is signup with Shopify and their step-by-step wizard will help you set-up a store in no time.You can also buy an existing store from the Shopify Exchange Marketplace.
Because you’re paying for the whole package, you won’t have to be concerned about managing security, performance and server issues. These aspects will be dealt with by Shopify itself.
Shopify offers a simple 3 step approach:
- You sign up
- You pick a design of choice
- You add products and customize them
As far as design is concerned, Shopify offers very aesthetically appealing options. There are 50+ themes to choose from and you can customize them further if you wish.
The only downside is you may feel limited in design options if you’re a passionate designer who likes to get into the nitty-gritty of it.
Ease of Use of WooCommerce
WooCommerce is a plug-in for WordPress and isn’t a hosted platform like Shopify. Therefore its setup involves more steps than Shopify. Before you can accept your first order using WooCommerce, you will have to:
- Get a domain name
- Sign up for a hosting account
- Install WordPress
- Find and install a WordPress theme
Once you’ve installed WooCommerce on your website, its setup wizard will take you through 4 steps and will help you take care of:
- Page setup
- Store locale
- Shipping and tax
Setting up a store in this manner definitely involves a bigger learning curve compared to Shopify but the advantage is that such a hands-on plugin opens up room to unlimited customization.
With WooCommerce you have full control over your website and can tweak the minutest of details. You can add functionality through more than 50000+ available WordPress plugins.
If you’d like to bypass setting up a domain and installing WordPress altogether, you can hire a specialized hosting company like Liquid Web to do that for you.
If you have prior experience in running a website or a store and value your ability to customize, WooCommerce is the way to go.
Cost of a product is a central consideration for anyone looking to set up a store. The more information you have on pricing, the better you can set up your business’s budget and account for initial and future costs.
Shopify is available in 3 basic plans. Their starter package starts at $29 a month, the regular Shopify plan is at $79 a month, and if you want the Advanced Shopify plan, that’ll put you in the $300 cost range.
All three plans come with a domain name, an SSL certificate and web hosting. Shopify keeps a small share of your online transactions as well, starting from 2% on the basic package, and going down to 0.5% on the advanced plan.
A significant advantage of using Shopify is that if you have a brick-and-mortar store, you can integrate your POS system with Shopify to track all your sales under the same umbrella.
On the whole, Shopify’s pricing is transparent and upfront. The only time you’ll pay additionally is when you want to install premium themes (one time cost) or one of Shopify’s paid apps (usually on subscription bases).
Interestingly, WordPress and WooCommerce plugin themselves are free. But if its that simple, everybody would be jumping onto a free e-commerce plugin. So where’s the catch?
You will remember that with WooCommerce we have to manage additional website hosting services as well. That’s where the money goes. You can expect to pay for:
- Premium themes
- Premium plugins
- Payment gateway
One perk of using WooCommerce over Shopify is that WooCommerce doesn’t charge a dime in transaction fees, so you can expect to save some money there. Integrating a payment gateway like Stripe or 2Checkout will still charge per transaction.
On the whole, WooCommerce and Shopify can set you back almost the same amount. But given that there a lot of free themes and plugins available for Woocommerce, if you shop smartly, you can save more using WooCommerce.
The higher the price you pay to Shopify is justified through the automation they offer. The cheaper cost you pay for WooCommerce is offset by the time and management required to set it up.
WooCommerce wins on the money front.
To inform yourself in depth on pricing, you can refer to this ecommerce website pricing guide.
Both options are feature rich and even the basic versions include a handful of stock features. Instead of mentioning the features one by one. It will be more meaningful to compare them side by side.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce: Side-by-side Feature Comparison
Shopify is loaded with features that are built to help you succeed with your business. The amount of features available to any user increases if they decide to upgrade their plan.
With WooCommerce you’ll have just as many features available as Shopify, if not more. The only struggle will be manually choosing and downloading plug-ins.
If I were to make a purchase decision based solely on features, I would go with Shopify. They transparently list all the features I’d be buying into with each package. That leaves me with exact information and less guessing room regarding my costs. And most importantly, I wouldn’t have to scour the internet myself to look for appropriate tools for my online store.
Which types of payment gateways do Shopify and WooCommerce support? What % of your sales do they keep for themselves?
Shopify offers multiple ways to set up a payment system. It comes with its own payment solution called Shopify Payments but you can use third-party providers if you wish. Have a look at supported payment gateways here.
With Shopify payments, you get charged 2.9%+30c on each transaction (rate goes down with upgraded plans). If you use third-party gateways, there’s a flat 2% charge on the basic package, 1% and 0.5% on Shopify and Advanced Shopify plans respectively.
Paypal and Stripe are default payment options with WooCommerce. All other popular payment options are supported and since there is no barrier to entry, any payments company can create add-ons for WooCommerce and provide support for it.
WooCommerce doesn’t take any percentage from your earnings; you’d only have to pay transaction fees to the third party payment gateway you decide to go with. You can expect the transaction fees to be less than 2% with most providers.
Both are very similar in their approach to payment methodologies and you can expect to pay similar transaction fees with both platforms. The only difference is that Shopify requires zero configuration to set up a payment gateway. On the whole, I’d say WooCommerce and Shopify are at par in their payment capabilities.
As a business starts to bourgeon and grow, naturally issues of scalability, performance management, and security will pop up. When they do arise, you need to have systems in place to facilitate growth and minimize your growing pains.
Scalability on Shopify
Luckily with Shopify, all scalability needs are taken care of. All you have to do when your business grows is to upgrade your plan.
What you’ll be paying for in upgrades, you’ll be saving in not hiring specialists and worrying about downtimes, crashes, and security. Shopify also lets you manage your information by letting you:
- Export CSV files of your catalog
- Back up the website through a third-party integrated app
- Connect with your data via an API
Scalability on WooCommerce
With WooCommerce, you yourself take responsibility for growing, securing and maintaining your business. If you fancy not doing it yourself, you can purchase WooCommerce hosting tools or hire an outside professional to do the job.
The good part with self-management is that you have complete control over your scalability decisions. As you scale, your cost of hosting resources will increase but you can choose exactly which resource to invest in. However, that does mean that you’ll be expected to have a considerably higher level of technical knowledge to be able to manage your WooCommerce powered eCommerce store.
The decision again comes down to automation vs. experience. If you prefer not to have to handle scalability issues and would instead automate such decisions, Shopify is the way to go. If you’re experienced with hosting and scaling and would like to self-manage the process, your smartest choice will be WooCommerce.
One factor that adds to SEO ranking is the speed at which a page loads. Shopify is a hosted platform built on an enormous infrastructure. It offers its users rapid loading speeds which improve chances of a good ranking.
Shopify is also adept in handling website copy and meta information; you won’t face technical issues that can land you penalties with Google.
Shopify offers suggestions for headings, body text, alt text, and URLs to fully optimize search engine rankings.
When it comes to SEO, WooCommerce is heavily endorsed by SEO experts because of its capabilities. WordPress’s interface makes it quite simple to handle content copy and meta information.
A great plugin to use along with WooCommerce on WordPress is Yoast SEO. It gives you an overall analysis of your page’s SEO and lets you get into small details like snippet editing, keyword analysis, and content suggestions.
Further plugins allow you to track focus keywords performance, and even track organic vs. paid clicks.
On the whole, you can expect similar SEO friendliness on both platforms but if you’re a small-to-medium size business, and lack the knowledge of an SEO specialist, Shopify is the way to go. It helps you with keyword suggestions, has easy HTTPS implementation and takes the brunt of the load of off your shoulders.
We assessed Shopify and WooCommerce based on factors that we believe most heavily influence a CMS purchase decision. They are:
- Ease of use
- Payment capabilities
- Scalability and
- SEO performance
Here’s how the comparison between the two looks visually:
This table skews in favor of Shopify making it look like the evident champion. This case is valid when:
- You are a novice in e-commerce
- You don’t want to get your hands dirty with small details of running a store
WooCommerce wins when:
- You are experienced in blogging or running an e-store
- You want a completely customizable experience
- You like to micromanage details of your business
At the end of the day, each CMS works differently for each person but with these tips, you can make an informed decision before opening your next online store.
Read more: The State of Marketplace Startups in 2020