WooCommerce vs. Shopify

WooCommerce and Shopify are the web’s leading eCommerce platforms, and both of these online store builders make it easy for anyone to build a business selling products and services of all kinds in a fast-growing global marketplace – but although both WooCommerce and Shopify offer the essentials for creating a fully functioning online store, they work very differently. Which should you choose for your new eCommerce venture? The answer depends on your budget, your technical expertise, and your site’s long-term goals.

What Should Your Online Store Include?

Online store builders need to include some basic features for running any kind of store, while also staying flexible enough to meet the needs of highly specific niches. At a minimum, your online store needs essential retail tools, such as a way to display products, handle payments, manage orders, and provide customer contact and support. You’ll also need a customizable storefront that represents your brand and the kinds of products and services you offer.

If you’re not familiar with the technical side of website building, you’ll also want your online store to be easy to set up, customizable, and manageable without coding or other development tools. If you have design experience, you might want the flexibility to work directly with your site’s core components to completely customize every aspect of your store. 

Your choice of an eCommerce platform also depends on your plans for growing your business and expanding the scope of your site. Some online entrepreneurs may need just a small storefront to sell a limited number of products, while others might be planning to grow the business into a larger enterprise that needs more online space and resources. It’s also important to consider who will manage the store site, and how much time it might take. 

With multiple components that can be mixed and matched to build a custom storefront, WooCommerce offers control and flexibility in a self-hosted WordPress site, but Shopify’s hosted, all-in-one store building solution and fixed fees can save time and money.

What Is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is a free plugin that can be installed on any website built with WordPress, a free piece of software that comes with the source code for creating a basic site. To use WordPress, you’ll need your own domain name and an account with a hosting provider – an arrangement known as “self-hosting,” since your site can be moved to any host you prefer. Once WordPress is installed on your host account, you can install the WooCommerce plugin, activate it and begin building your store.

WooCommerce comes with an array of essential tools for setting up an online store, with product pages, shopping carts, payment portals, and options for customizing your store’s general WordPress theme. Users can also install WooCommerce-friendly themes from the WordPress theme directory and a variety of online developers. If the core features of WooCommerce don’t provide all the functions you’re looking for, you can add more with a variety of extensions that can be purchased and installed into the basic plugin.

What Is Shopify?

With an array of essential features built into the platform, Shopify offers a “one-stop,” solution for setting up and running a fully functional store in a very short time, with no technical expertise required. Shopify is a hosted platform, which means that it provides users with a set of tools and templates that can be quickly customized and populated with products. Shopify handles the technical side of things, so for many users, setting up a shop on Shopify can be as simple as customizing one of more than 100 themes and adding your products or services. Shopify also includes integration with popular social media and online marketplace sites, so that visitors can make purchases directly from those sites.

Because Shopify is a fully hosted provider, users have to work within the framework of the themes and tools the site provides. Shop owners don’t have access to their site’s source code and it’s not possible to add more functions with themes and plugins, but Shopify provides robust customer support and built-in many of the features WooCommerce can only offer through extensions. With those general features in mind, here’s a closer look at how these platforms compare in terms of key features every store builder needs to consider.

Security and Transaction Protection

Every successful online business has to assure customers that their transactions are secure and their personal data won’t be misused. Adding an SSL certificate to your site is one way to protect transactions on both WooCommerce and Shopify sites, but SSL certificates of various types are included in Shopify’s built-in suite of tools. WooCommerce users will need to purchase and install an SSL certificate separately. Shopify also includes compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard or PCI DSS. WooCommerce users can also become compliant, but this feature requires additional steps since it isn’t native to the WooCommerce plugin.

Payment Gateways and Fees

Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer multiple ways for customers to pay, with choices from many leading online payment gateways. WooCommerce users can add their favorite payment gateways, such as PayPal, through plugin extensions, but Shopify offers many of these on the site. For some Shopify account plans, a small transaction fee is levied each time a sale is made, but that can be eliminated if a user installs Shopify’s new Payments feature, which handles all payment methods from the site’s dashboard.

Ease of Setup and Use

Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer the tools to quickly set up and customize an eCommerce site, but because WooCommerce is a plugin designed to work with an existing WordPress site, it has to be installed and configured to suit, along with its extensive complement of extensions. Shopify is a fully hosted store builder that provides an array of customizable themes and templates, so users don’t have to worry about maintaining the technical aspects of the store on the back end. Plus, Shopify provides constant access to user support when problems arise. WooCommerce users have access to a widespread user community, tutorials, and documentation for setting up the plugin and resolving issues.

Pricing and Services

Shopify users have a choice of several tiered plans offering different features and levels of service, so users have a single monthly payment that includes every aspect of setting up and running a site at the level they choose. With plans ranging from $29 to more than $200 per month, Shopify makes it easy for users to budget for setting up and running an online store.

WooCommerce itself is free, but setting up a storefront requires a WordPress site, and that involves buying a domain name and getting a hosting account. Users may also need to buy various WooCommerce extensions as well as other plugins or themes in order to make the site run properly, so it can be more difficult to predict just how much a WooCommerce site actually costs – and those costs can change as the site requires new components.

WooCommerce and Shopify are the web’s top choices for setting up and running an online store – and in their very different ways, both of these platforms make it possible for just about anyone to launch a new eCommerce venture.

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