WooCommerce vs Shopify – Which is Best for eCommerce Stores?

Published on September 19, 2022 by Simon Wright

Are you looking to create an online store? If so, you’ve landed on the right page, as today we’ll be directly comparing two of the most popular eCommerce platforms – WooCommerce vs Shopify – to help you decide which one is best for you.

What is eCommerce?

In a nutshell, eCommerce is simply commercial transactions that are conducted electronically via the internet as opposed to more traditional means. This type of commerce is vast and will continue growing for the foreseeable future. In fact, according to statistics gurus, Statista, retail e-commerce sales are expected to grow from $4.9 trillion globally in 2021 to a whopping $7.4 trillion by 2025.

Most businesses that want to survive in this digital age realize that people now prefer to shop online. Furthermore, the internet has made it super easy to create an online store, and thanks to the dropshipping model, you don’t even need to hold inventory. Accordingly, small business ownership is now within easy reach of home entrepreneurs.

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is a plugin for the hugely popular WordPress CMS (content management system), which powers the lion’s share of the websites on the internet. The plugin allows you to use WordPress to create an eCommerce store, which can be standalone or part of a blog or other type of content site.

Like WordPress, WooCommerce is open-source software. That means its code is accessible by all, allowing virtually unlimited scope for modification and customization of your eCommerce store.

What is Shopify?

Conversely, Shopify is a completely standalone, out-of-the-box solution specifically for creating eCommerce stores.

Unlike WooCommerce, which works in conjunction with WordPress, Shopify is fully hosted, so you don’t need to worry about that. It is highly customizable, although, unlike WooCommerce, its code is not open source, limiting the opportunity for deep customizations.

WooCommerce vs. Shopify: Comparison of Key Features

WooCommerce Shopify
Hosting Needs separate hosting and a WordPress site. WP Bolt offers a range of reliable, high-performance WordPress hosting plans suitable for WooCommerce-based stores of any size. Included.
Domain name You can use any domain name (subject to availability), although you must purchase that elsewhere, e.g., from Domain Name Sanity. You can use any domain name (subject to availability). You can purchase one through Shopify or connect one purchased elsewhere. Alternatively, you may use a free myshopify.com one (not recommended.)
SSL Certificate No – needs to be added, either using a WordPress plugin or choosing a hosting provider that provides SSL, such as WP Bolt. Yes – the platform is fully hosted and includes an SSL certificate.
Storage and Bandwidth May be limited dependent upon your hosting provider or the hosting plan you have purchased. Unlimited.
Open Source Yes – accessible code allows for deep customization. No – customizations are limited to what Shopify allows.
Theme Library Library of 54 themes. Also, a wide range of others is available from third parties, such as Shoptimizer. Library of 97 themes. Also, there is a wide range of others available from third parties.
Extensions for Additional Functionality A large selection of free and paid extensions is available via the WooCommerce Extensions Store and third parties for things like marketing, conversions, customer service, store management, shipping, sales tax calculation, etc.

Furthermore, as WooCommerce uses WordPress as its base, a vast range of WordPress plugins is also available to you.

Many free and paid apps are available via the Shopify App Store and third parties. However, the range of available extensions is less extensive than for WooCommerce.
Payment Gateways The WooCommerce Payments extension covers the most popular gateways and supports multiple currencies. Alternatively, you can add individual gateways using other (free and paid) extensions. Third-party fees may be payable, depending on the payment processor. Most popular gateways are supported. Moreover, when using Shopify Payments, no third-party fees are levied, plus multiple currencies are supported.
PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) Compliance Yes. Yes.
Point of Sale (POS) System for In-store Orders Not included, but free and paid POS extensions are available from WooCommerce and third-party vendors. All Shopify plans include a limited ‘Lite’ version. The paid Pro upgrade adds additional features, such as staff roles and permissions, omnichannel selling, etc.
Support No direct support is available except for products offered through WooCommerce (e.g., extensions). However, extensive documentation, including detailed guides, is available.

Moreover, a blog offering technical and other advice is available, and there are tons of third-party resources such as blogs and tutorial videos on YouTube. However, problems with hosting will need to be dealt with by your hosting provider.

24/7 customer support via email, phone, or chat, and help is available for all aspects of your store, including hosting.

Shopify also has a help center on its website, a free learning portal, and a YouTube channel with video tutorials. There is also an active forum offering further help and advice.

Discounted Shipping No. Discounts up to 88% are available from DHL Express, UPS, or USPS (depending on the Shopify plan purchased.)
Shipping Calculation The plugin includes shipping rules. More advanced features, such as advanced shipping rules, label creation, etc., are available via extensions. The platform includes shipping rules. Moreover, it can automatically calculate and display shipping costs for specific countries and print shipping labels. Further shipping calculation features are available via third-party apps.
Sales Tax Calculation Sales tax rates can be manually configured in the WooCommerce plugin. Alternatively, extensions (free and paid) are available to help automate the process, for example, TaxJar. The platform includes default tax rates, which must be regularly verified and updated. However, limited paid third-party extensions are available to help automate the process.
Dropshipping Marketplace Integration Yes, via extensions, including AliExpress, Zapier, Fulfilled by Amazon, ETSY, Printful, etc. Yes, via extensions, including AliExpress, Zapier, Fulfilled by Amazon, ETSY, Printful, etc.
Sales Conversion Tools Various conversion tools are available, including abandoned cart recovery, discount coupons, promotions, cross and upsells, etc. Various conversion tools are available, including abandoned cart recovery, discount coupons, promotions, cross and upsells, etc. Shopify has more of these tools pre-installed vs. WooCommerce, which requires extensions for many of them.
Permissions and User Roles for Managing Your Store The plugin includes the six default WordPress user roles, plus two additional WooCommerce ones. Moreover, it is possible to have unlimited staff accounts, although we recommend limiting them. A wide range of permissions and user roles are available. The number of staff is limited to between 2 and 15 depending on the plan purchased.
Search Engine Optimization WooCommerce has optimized code, and it is possible to add Meta descriptions and tags to products and pages. Furthermore, various WordPress plugins are available to boost SEO further. It is possible to add basic SEO information. Moreover, the range of available SEO plugins is limited.
Monetization of Existing Blogs or Websites Possible to add a store to any site and embed product links in content. Possible to embed products, collections, and a cart into existing content.
Inventory Management Yes, including bulk product upload via CSV. No limits on product variation, e.g., size, color, etc. Yes, including bulk product upload via CSV. Limits on product variants, although third-party apps are available to overcome this.

WooCommerce vs. Shopify: Pros and Cons of Each

WooCommerce:

Free, although you do need to add hosting and a domain name. Moreover, you will probably need to purchase some other plugins and extensions to get your store precisely how you want it.
It can be used to add eCommerce functionality to an existing website – great for monetizing blogs.
Tons of customization and expansion possibilities thanks to a vast range of available configurations, plugins, extensions, and themes
Fully open source, meaning deep customization is possible.
WooCommerce offers greater control over all aspects of your online store and website vs. Shopify.
Both WooCommerce and WordPress have a massive following, so there are many levels of support ranging from detailed documentation, written and video tutorials, blogs, forums, etc.
Not standalone and can only be used in conjunction with WordPress
You will need to purchase hosting such as WP Bolt
You will need to arrange an SSL security certificate
More complex than Shopify to set up, requiring some technical ability. However, it is not rocket science, and you can quickly learn the basics.
Technical issues can be harder to solve, depending on whether they relate to the WooCommerce plugin, WordPress, or your hosting provider.
Adding lots of premium extensions, add-ons, and plugins can prove pricey.
Limited technical support from the developer

Shopify:

An all-in-one eCommerce solution, so you don’t need to have separate hosting or WordPress to create an online store.
SSL certificate included
Easier to set up than WooCommerce. Therefore, you can launch a store in very little time – perfect for beginners with no technical knowledge.
A good range of customization and expansion possibilities are available via configurations, plugins, extensions, and themes. However, while Shopify boasts more themes, WooCommerce has more plugins and extensions.
Shopify has a good following, so plenty of written and video tutorials, blogs, forums, etc., are available.
Technical issues are easier to solve as you will only be dealing with Shopify, not WordPress, WooCommerce, or a hosting provider.
24/7 support from the developer
It is possible to add eCommerce functionality to an existing website – great for monetizing blogs.
Discounts on product shipping are available
Not open source, so deep customization is difficult.
Shopify offers less control over several aspects of your online store vs. WooCommerce.
Not free, and the cost of the cheapest plan can outweigh the cost of hosting required by WooCommerce.
All sites bear the ‘Powered by Shopify’ branding. However, tutorials are available on the internet explaining how to remove this.
Adding lots of premium extensions, add-ons, and plugins can prove pricey.
Only a limited number of staff can be authorized to access the system compared to WooCommerce.

WooCommerce vs. Shopify: Cost 

As WooCommerce is self-hosted and Shopify is hosted, comparing them cost-wise is not so straightforward. In either case, you need to decide upfront what extras you are likely to need and price them out. That way, you can see which platform best fits your budget.

WooCommerce

While WooCommerce is a free plugin for (also free) WordPress, there are a couple of expenses you will incur to get an eCommerce store off the ground, including:

  • A domain name – These can cost as little as a few dollars from companies such as Domain Name Sanity.
  • Hosting – This is where things get a little more complicated, as it depends on what type of hosting you opt for. For example, you may choose between shared or WordPress hosting, which starts at a few Dollars per month, or if money is no object, you may decide to have your own servers. Fortunately, plenty of hosting companies (like WP Bolt) exist, giving you a wide choice. However, please do your homework before deciding which is best for you.

To create a truly unique eCommerce store, you will probably want a nice theme, some WordPress plugins, and a few WooCommerce extensions. Unfortunately, while many of these are free, the ones that offer the most features and customization possibilities tend to be premium ones. Therefore, depending on your wish list, you may end up paying either nothing or several hundred dollars per year.

Tip: When looking for extensions and plugins, choose ones that cover multiple functions wherever possible. The benefits of that are three-fold: (i) you will save money, (ii) you won’t be ‘bloating’ your store unnecessarily, and (iii) you might get some extra features you never knew you needed.

Shopify

Things are a little more straightforward with Shopify as it is fully hosted. That means you just need to purchase a Shopify plan that suits your needs and a domain name, and you are pretty much ready to go.

Three Shopify plans are available: Basic ($29/month,) Shopify ($70/month,) and Advanced ($299/month) while committing to an annual plan will save you around 50% compared to the monthly prices.

Moreover, another thing to consider with Shopify is credit card transaction fees: depending on the plan you purchase, these are 2.4 to 2.9% plus $0.30 for each transaction.

Of course, as with WooCommerce, you can tailor Shopify using different themes and plugins, some of which are free while others are not.

WooCommerce vs. Shopify – Which Wins?

In all honesty, there is no outright winner in the WooCommerce vs. Shopify tournament. Both are excellent eCommerce platforms for creating an online store regardless of how much budget you have available. Therefore, which you choose mostly boils down to how quickly you want to get your store online and whether you have some technical ability.

If you are an absolute newbie that freaks out at the thought of creating a store from the ground up, then Shopify will probably be the best option for you. What’s more, if you have an existing website, you can easily monetize with Shopify by embedding products, collections, and a cart into existing content.

Conversely, if you have built a WordPress site before, or are willing to have a go, then WooCommerce could be right up your street. And like Shopify, you can create a store from scratch or use it to monetize an existing blog or website.

Finally, if you don’t have any products to sell or cannot afford to have someone else manufacture them, you can always use your creative talents to build a print-on-demand store. Alternatively, if you are not artistic, why not try dropshipping some items from a marketplace like AliExpress? Nowadays, there is absolutely no excuse not to have your own eCommerce store!

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