Which Should I use? WooCommerce vs. Shopify
Today, anyone with access to a computer can launch their own shop selling whatever takes their fancy. You need the right tools at your disposal though. That’s why I weighed up two of the most popular e-commerce platforms – Shopify and WooCommerce – to see which provides the best foundation for your retail empire.
The short answer
WooCommerce scores more than Shopify overall with 7.6 / 10
Shopify scores 5.9 / 10
Woo Commerce is a flexible and adaptable WordPress app that lets you run a shop on your WordPress website (and much more, too). It’s also one of the most popular e-commerce platforms around, so there are hundreds of plugins and integrations to make your shop work just the way you want. The flip side to this is that the platform can be quite complex for non-experts to use, taking a while to get the hang of. Back on the upside, it’s relatively open-ended, meaning you can develop your shop as you like and even move away from the platform.
Shopify is a stand-alone app that provides everything you need to run a shop, including a website and domain. It can be an easy option for running a basic, straightforward shop with almost nothing besides a Shopify subscription.
The basic processes of setting up and running a shop are easier with Shopify than with WooCommerce. However, as you grow and develop, you can sometimes butt up against limitations and paywalls that are expensive or impossible to overcome, especially if your shop is complex or non-standard. In these cases, and many others you can end up paying a lot more for Shopify. As you cannot export the information from your shop, you could then face a choice between paying extra and losing all the work you have done.
Shopify – 3/10 – More costly, but all-inclusive
Costs start off reasonable and simple, covering everything you need at a basic level. But they quickly rack up when your shop starts to grow.
Shop owners start off paying £25 per month (or £228 per year) for the basic tools plus various extras. This level is quite limiting though and many shop owners will realistically need the standard Shopify offering at £65 per month (or £588 per year).
There is also a wide range of extras that are charged for, and not all the charges are clear at the outset. I advise you do some careful research in advance to find out what you need and what you’re going to have to pay for, to avoid upset further down the line.
WooCommerce – 8/10 – Free at a basic level and cheap throughout
The pricing for WooCommerce is the opposite of Shopify, it’s never simple, but it starts off free and reflects good value for most shop types. You do need to account for hosting, site setup, and other costs separately, though.
There are many bits and bobs that you can pay for. The good news is that almost everything can be done cheaply at a basic level. You will pay extra for some themes, integrations and tools, but you can make an informed choice based on budget and preference. WooCommerce’s pricing blog lays everything out in one place, estimating that a DIY site setup will cost around $1000 (£850). Getting a pro in will cost somewhat more than this, but will reduce the workload vastly while improving the final results. On the other hand, it’s possible to get a shop set up on the cheap for a lower total cost (from around £400 + £6 per month), but this will require a lot of work and research.
Ease of Use
Shopify – 10/10
Shopify’s interface and introduction literally couldn’t be easier. A simple-to-use wizard helps you to set up your shop in the first instance by asking a series of easy questions. Once your shop is set up, the setup guide will help you to do everything for the first time on the interface, which is intuitive in itself.
Woo Commerce – 6/10
WooCommerce is a different kettle of fish to Shopify in complexity terms. It’s designed to be powerful for users with some technical knowledge, so it can be a little complex, but there are a lot of helpful videos and guides available for the popular platform.
If you are familiar with WordPress, you should be okay with the general functions. The platform’s powerful adaptability and flexibility means it can quickly get very complex though.
Shopify – 10/10
If there’s one thing that Shopify does well, it’s processing the day-to-day sales admin. The analytics and reports are useful and it’s easy to manage your shop using the back end. You can even manage groups of similar objects simply in one using ‘metaobjects’, a big time-saving measure.
WooCommerce – 9/10
WooCommerce takes some getting used to, but when you’re in the swing of it, managing your sales will become a doddle. While it’s not as intuitive as Shopify, this platform provides more functionality to run your shop exactly as you want.
Shopify – 8/10
Shopify has a fairly complete help centre with good support from start to finish. Response times are only average for a paid service, but you do feel like all your problems can be dealt with easily, which is great.
WooCommerce – 5/10
A lot has gone into providing as much help as possible for WooCommerce. Unfortunately, the help is stunted because the platform is fairly technical and is also comprised of many different add-ons and updates. Getting help is largely a case of fishing around amongst the community. Paid tools can have good provision, but it depends. On the upside, if you are familiar with the art of getting help with WordPress apps, the same holds true here.
Shopify – 4/10
Shopify suffers in comparison to WooCommerce because it is a closed loop. WooCommerce has a community of 1000s making stuff for its offering. Meanwhile, Shopify is limited to just a small professional development group and a couple of licensees.
Although it allows you lots of tweaks at a superficial level, Shopify is fatally flawed because its creators prioritise locking clients into profitable contracts over giving them the freedom to evolve. There are plenty of tools to bring your shop into Shopify, but there is nothing to help you export it to another platform.
WooCommerce – 9/10
As mentioned above, WooCommerce has a community of 1000s making content, themes and tools for its offering and the result is the ultimate one-stop shop-shop. You can find a tool to do almost anything, and you can often track down a free option, too. Adjustments take some getting used to, but when you figure it out, the possibilities seem endless.
Bespoke Shop Design
Shopify – 8/10
A good selection of themes is available from Shopify’s theme shop and each can be tailored extensively in a lot of different ways. There are a fair number of powerful and easy-to-use ways to make your shop look like your own.
Woo Commerce – 10/10
Once again, WooCommerce blows Shopify out of the water by simply being open source and having a large community designing content. Between hundreds of plugins and thousands of themes, there’s very little you can’t do to tailor your shop and make it stand out.
Shopify – 3/10
Shopify’s internal marketing tools feel very restrictive. There is a small suite of apps that will let you promote and advertise your wares on market-leading platforms like Google, Facebook and Shopify’s personal email service, but there isn’t much more. There is a reasonable range of external integrations, with MailChimp, for example, but the central toolbox could do with some bulking out.
WooCommerce – 8/10
As with most other applications, WooCommerce has tons of choices where marketing is concerned by right of the many apps and plugins available. There are few places where its superiority over Shopify is more obvious than here. It isn’t as clear how to get started designing a marketing campaign as in Shopify – This is the main drawback – But when you have the right tools and a bit of knowledge, there’s no stopping you.
Shopify – 2/10
Shopify grows with your business, but you pay for the privilege. From £19 per month (paid yearly on the basic plan), your fees will quickly swell to a monthly £49 for the standard package, right up to $2000+ per month for a bespoke Shopify plus plan for large enterprises. As you begin to handle more volume and require a more complete suite of tools, you will find yourself shelling out a lot for the privilege. On the upside, you will be well looked after for the money.
WooCommerce – 6/10
Growing your business with WooCommerce is honestly a case of experimenting to see what works. There are hundreds of options available, some for solopreneurs operating out of their back room, and some for expanding enterprises taking on the world. The trick is to find the reliable and cost-effective ones in each case and make them work for you.
It’s an open market of shop services. The platform lacks a clear guide to growth and service selection. However, it more than makes up for this with good old competition keeping providers honest and prices down, something which Shopify lacks.
Conclusion – What’s Better? WooCommerce vs. Shopify?
WooCommerce – 7.6/10
What WooCommerce does well is, in a word, flexibility. The open-source platform offers tools and personalisation options for everything you could imagine. You can pay a lot to run your shop with hundreds of tools, but you can equally operate and grow at a fraction of Shopify’s cost.
Woo is much more difficult to pick up and get used to than Shopify, but when you have carved out a niche, there is much more scope for you to grow and develop as you wish. If you value a broad choice, if you have some experience, or if your budget is limited, we recommend WooCommerce over Shopify.
Shopify – 5.9/10
Shopify’s benefits are also its drawbacks. It is easy to get to grips with because all the tools involved are created by the same group of people. However, this means it is severely limited in terms of personalisation and adaptability. The suite of tools are so limited that its difficult to even run a complete marketing campaign for your shop.
The platform scores well for day-to-day admin, but even then, you’re going to start feeling choked as soon as your business starts growing. Only take this option if you value absolute simplicity above everything else, including growth.