WooCommerce vs Shopify: When and How to Choose Between Them

WooCommerce vs Shopify: eCommerce platforms concisely compared.

Starting an online business can be exciting but draining if you don’t know which platform to choose from: WooCommerce vs Shopify.

These are the most popular options for launching online businesses. Both are eCommerce platforms that offer a lot of tools to take your business to the next level.

But what are the differences between them and how do you choose the right one for your business?

Today, I’ll share details on WooCommerce vs Shopify, the advantages and disadvantages of both as well as which ones are more user-friendly and inexpensive.  I’ll also cover when you would want to use WooCommerce or Shopify. 

For more details, be sure to check out these resources:

WooCommerce vs Shopify: What’s the Difference?

When you’re deciding between WooCommerce vs Shopify, it’s essential to first understand the key differences between them.

WooCommerce is a free and open source WordPress plugin you can use to create a self-hosted online store of any size. Shopify is a hosted, subscription-based ecommerce platform that lets you create and sell goods or services online.

The WooCommerce website.
You can build a website using WooCommerce and WordPress.

For more, check out What is WooCommerce and Other Burning Questions Answered.

Shopify makes it relatively effortless for people with minimal technical skills to get an online store up and running as fast as possible. It has a simple and automated set process. But, this does mean you’ll have limited control over your site.

The Shopify website.
Shopify is a company and site where you can create a managed online store.

On the other hand, WooCommerce gives you more freedom to build your online store however you want it. It can be infinitely customised with plugins, which are pre-made bundles of code that automatically add features to your site in a few clicks. You can also fully customise a WooCommerce online shop with custom code.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Advantages and Disadvantages

Now that that’s taken care of, it’s time to take a look at the advantages and disadvantages for both options.

Advantages and Disadvantages of WooCommerce

The main advantages of WooCommerce are:

  • It’s open-source which provides the flexibility to use code to make unlimited modifications.
  • WooCommerce is free to set up.
  • There are literally thousands of free and premium plugins, extensions and themes so you can expand your store’s capabilities.
  • It’s built for accessibility out-of-the-box for those who are partially sighted, especially if you choose a fully accessible theme.
  • You can choose where you host your online store.
  • You retain full control over your online store.
  • WordPress and WooCommerce have strong communities you can lean on at times such as in the free WordPress.org Support Forum.
  • There’s a setup wizard to get your online store running in a few clicks.
  • You 100% own your data.

The typical disadvantages of WooCommerce are:

  • It’s not entirely beginner-friendly. While some settings and options are pretty straight forward and it’s possible to build a site without touching code, that’s not always the case. Custom features and professional quality can sometimes require some coding knowledge.
  • You’ll need to choose a hosting company to support your site.
  • Maintaining your site’s performance and security is solely your responsibility. Although, you can get managed hosting such as from WP Engine to take care of it all for you. There are also affordable maintenance plans you can get from web development agencies to cover this part.
  • The costs for a professional, feature-rich website can add up quickly if you’re not careful, though, there are free options to help balance the load.

Users often need to hire developers to build their site for them. But, the results are worth it if your goals involve running and growing a successful online store. This is especially true if you hire verified WooCommerce expert developers such as those at Progressus.io, for example.

Shopify Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages of going with Shopify are:

  • Hosting and security are managed for you.
  • You don’t need to know how to code or have prior experience with it.
  • There’s 24-hour customer support.
  • Shopify provides multichannel integration so you can sell on additional channels such as eBay, Amazon and Facebook.
  • It’s often less expensive than WooCommerce after you factor in optional premium plugins, themes and development.

Common disadvantages of using Shopify are:

  • There are additional transaction fees of up to 2% per transaction for using external payments gateways.
  • You have limited control including for customisations or possible price increases.
  • Shopify websites aren’t designed for accessibility right out of the box for those who are partially sighted. Shopify stores can’t be considered as fully accessible, which can lead to potential lawsuits.
  • The pre-built site designs are made for photo-heavy sites and won’t look professional without large, high-quality photos.
  • Your data (with the exception of credit card details) are transferred unencrypted, according to Shopify’s Terms of Service.
  • While you own your data, Shopify reserves “the right to modify or terminate the Services for any reason, without notice at any time” so data ownership is a moot point if your store can be switched off like a light, without warning.

Which One Takes Longer to Build?

When it comes to WooCommerce vs Shopify and getting your store up and going quickly, Shopify is the way to go. It’s simple to set up since the process is automated.

As previously touched upon, WooCommerce requires more technical knowledge or coding skills which means it can be difficult to use without the help of a web developer. As such, building an online store with WooCommerce takes more time.

If you’re just getting started selling online and want to get ahead of the game, Shopify would be your best bet. It’s a platform that combines robust eCommerce functionality with a simple setup process.

If your goals are focused on long-term growth, then WooCommerce is your best bet. It’s infinitely customisable, which means it will grow with you. You don’t have to worry about losing out on crucial features that will grow your business.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Usability

Shopify handles large portions of the technical aspects of running a business. This includes your domain name, hosting and security strategy, for example. There’s also no need for constant updates to software or scheduling backups. It’s all taken care of for you.

That’s why when it comes to usability, Shopify is the winner.

WooCommerce is significantly more sophisticated which is why it requires a certain degree of understanding or a willingness to acquire the necessary skills to maintain it.

Cost Comparison: WooCommerce vs Shopify

WooCommerce is more flexible when it comes to pricing, while Shopify has fixed prices.

Shopify Prices and Fees

The monthly fees range from $29 to $299 (in US dollars) for a Shopify store. As you upgrade, you have access to more advanced capabilities such as professional reports. There are also credit card processing fees that start from 2.9% and 30 cents per transaction on their Basic plan as well as 2.7% for in-person sales. For international payments, the rate starts at 3.9% plus 30 cents per sale.

If you upgrade, the fees are slightly reduced, up to 0.05% for credit card processing and international payments, and up to 0.03% for in-person transactions.

WooCommerce Pricing and Fees

But as mentioned earlier, the WooCommerce software itself is free and open source which means you can use and modify it for free as long as you distribute your changes, in like, as open source under the GPL v2+ licence. However, there are other fees such as for getting a domain name, hosting and security plugins.

These costs will vary depending on the size of your site and business as well as which web development agency or freelancer you choose to build your online store.

For WooCommerce sites, you can expect to pay anything between:

  • $0 for the WooCommerce plugin
  • $0 for the WordPress software
  • $25-$150+ per month for hosting
  • $10-$20+ per year for your domain name
  • $0-$99+ per year for a security plugin
  • $0-$250+ for each premium plugin you choose to use, per year
  • $0-75+ for a premium, pre-made theme
  • $2500+ optionally to hire a developer or verified WooCommerce expert

The Verdict on Pricing

If you take software prices and transaction charges into account, WooCommerce is either better or comparable when it comes to transaction fees and the whole WooCommerce vs Shopify decision. It varies by the country where your online store is based.

Similar to Shopify, It’s pay-as-you-go with no additional monthly fees to process payments. The difference with WooCommerce is that you can offer in-person sales at the same rate. For the fee schedule, check out What are the fees for WooCommerce Payments?

Beyond the in-built WooCommerce payment processor, you can choose from free or premium extension to offer more payment options on WooCommerce.com. For example, Stripe, Square. PayPal, Braintree and so many more. You’re also able to offer as many as want. You’ll have no such luck with Shopify.

Check out Is WooCommerce Free? What it Costs to Build an Online Store for details.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Which You Should Choose

At this point, you may be asking yourself which eCommerce platform you should specifically choose: WooCommerce vs Shopify. To answer this question and make a final decision it will ultimately depend on the specific features you need, your skill level as well as how much time and money you are willing to invest in your online business.

Both WooCommerce and Shopify are great platforms to build your online business. 

The Verdict: WooCommerce vs Shopify

With all that being said, if you want a truly professional, accessible, infinitely customisable online store where you have full control with the ability to scale and grow your business quickly and efficiently, then there’s no contest.

WooCommerce is definitely the way to go for these reasons.

If you’d like help from verified WooCommerce experts to create and maintain a professional online store, feel free to get in touch.

For details, check out Hiring Trusted WordPress Developers Saves You Time and Money: Why and How and Be Careful What You Woo: Customising WooCommerce Properly.

Wrapping Up

When you’re dealing with WooCommerce vs Shopify, the differences hang on these two factors: if you lack technical and coding skills and are looking to set up an online store quickly, Shopify is your best option.

Alternatively, if you have the technical skills of maintaining your online store or you can hire someone for it, you want more control, freedom and a professional online store, then WooCommerce is your best bet.

Many individuals and businesses have different opinions on WooCommerce vs Shopify. At the end of the day, it really comes down to what works best for you and which of these eCommerce platforms have the features you need at the price points you’re comfortable with paying.

What’s your pick for WooCommerce vs Shopify? Still having trouble deciding? Ask us your questions and share your thoughts in the comments below.

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