How To Start an Online Store: Shopify vs WooCommerce 2018 COMPARISON

So You Want To Start an Online Store?

Great, I’m here to help. I’ve used both Shopify and and WooComerce and have two fantastic tutorials for you depending on which route you choose. Both these options are the current market leaders in e-commerce for small businesses. Simply click the link below to get your FREE video tutorial (they both open in a new tab):


Create a Store With Shopify  – Create a Store With WooCommerce


// Wait! Which One is Best? Shopify or WooCommerce?

Before we get into the details, please rememember that what makes a store successful IS NOT THE PLATFORM it’s built upon. It’s your marketing strategy (more specifically how you’re going to drive traffic to your store – paid advertising, search and social media influencers), your products (and where you’re getting them from) and your customer support.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

// WOOCOMMERCE VS SHOPIFY

Design and Feature
Cost
Scalability
 Ease of Use
SEO

// CONCLUSION

Which is Best?

With that said, if I had to choose I would personally pick Shopify.

Why?

One reason, it’s ease of use. I know websites. I can code and I have a deep understanding of WordPress. But even I would go with Shopify if I was going to start an online store simply because they take care of all the annoying little technical things you don’t even know you need when running a store.

Shopify makes it their business to make running a store as headache free as possible. Much the same when I get emails from people asking me if they should use a platform like Teachable or if they should self host their courses themselves by using a learning management plugin (LMS) I always suggest the platform route simply because it’s easier and you’ll have less working parts so less of a chance for something to go wrong.

Your theme, hosting, design, site security, integration with drop shippers like Ali Babba or Amazon FBA and the checkout process are all taken care of under one platform.

If you ever have a problem or need support? You can simply contact Shopify.

While the WordPress and WooCommerce setup is seemingly cheaper – it’s basically the self managed route. You’ll need to setup a WordPress website, then integrate an ecommerce plugin like WooCommerce, then find additional plugins to allow integration with drop ship providers or Amazon.

You’ll need to pick a theme (and probably buy a premium theme) that integrates well with your WordPress website and WooCommerce. Don’t forget you’ll need to get an SSL certificate so you can accept credit cards.

Then to top this all off, if you have a problem or need support, you’ll have multiple service providers to contact depending on the issue.

Most people who want to start an online store just want to get a store up and start selling. Focusing on marketing, branding customer service and advertising. Not be bogged down with all these technical and design parts. This is why I suggest going the Shopify route.


// Shopify Vs WooCommerce – Shopify is generally best IF

1 – You’re NOT interested in self managing a store from a technical aspect. You’re willing to pay a little more for conveneince so everything is ready and works. With the site loading fast, having it work in multiple languages, and your hosting is set as well as your SSL cert.

2 – You want to have multiple products and product categories.

3 – You’re looking to drop ship products or sell products via Amazon FBA. You’re a one or two man operation and you want to focus more on driving traffic to a store with Facebook ads and just need a store to work out of the proverbial box.

Shopify examples:

Bare Performance Nutrition – Nick Bare started his supplement company years ago. He promotes his products via his YouTube channel, Instagram and paid advertising. His store is powered by Shopify. He has a multiple products across various categories. For medium sized stores like this, Shopify makes sense because of the ease of use and easy integration with payment processors and multiple languages.

Store.Kinobody.com – Kinobody.com is actually powered by WordPress. Why? Because WordPress is one of the best content management systems and it’s what I suggest if you’re looking to start a content based business that leverages advertising and affiliate marketing. But store.kinobody? That’s actually powered by Shopify for the reasons I already outline. In a nut shell, Shopify is to stores what WordPress is to content websites.


// Shopify vs WooCommerce – WooCommerce is generally best IF

1 – You have a good understanding of WordPress and have a WordPress website already setup. You’re wanting to add e-commerce functionality onto your site so you can try out selling physical products or perhaps you have a small team of people perhaps and would rather go the do it yourself approach for greater flexibility.

2 – You have just a few physical products to sell. Like if you’re selling T-Shirts on Merch by Amazon and want to sell them via your own website or you create some sort of physical product you’ll be shipping out yourself at a small scale. A great example would be say a local bakery with a physical store. You just want to have a lovely store to sell cakes, cookies, wholesale and custom orders.

3 – You have digital products to sell and want to setup a stylish online store or perhaps you have some a combination of physical products and digital products.

WooCommerce examples:

The Good Batch – A Broklyn (New York) based bakery. Simple, elegant website offering a few products to sell.

MINI Learners – A simple store selling nursery wall art. Powered by WordPress and WooCommerce.

More? More! WOOCOMMERCE VS SHOPIFY

Let’s explore a little bit more into the technical differences between Shopify and WooCommerce. This will be a formal, detailed comparision and you can navigate to a section of interest by using the menu below:

// Design and Feature Comparison

 

Shopify Design

Shopify and WooCommerce vary quite a bit in the feature and design department. Shopify is a hosted platform and has a lot of free themes and add on’s that you can use for your future store. They also offer premium themes (that can cost well over 100 USD) that you can leverage as well. But even the free themes are acceptable to get started for most new stores, particularly if you’re going to be drop shipping.

Why?

Because Shopify has their themes (including their free themes) outsourced and built by professional designers who focus not only on asthetics and current design and coding trends, but also on the user experience so you’ll have an acceptable conversion rate. With Shopify, your store will have the best practices already built into it.

So with Shopify you’ll have around 50+ designs to choose from as well as a built in editor to make the store yours. This is critical because I’ve done numerous website reviews and it can be a bit easy to tell when a store is powered by Shopify because the web master made minimal effort to customize the design. If you go the Shopify route, customize your store (using their code free editor!) and make it your own but also take advantage of design best practices for online stores.

Shopify Features to Help You Sell

Shopify as well as WooCommerce focus on the essentials for what is needed for an online store. Shopify is not overly complicated. This is good and bad depending on your needs. For most stores, it’s ideal as it’s easy to setup a store with all the tools already built in. Here are some features that come with your Shopify store account:

/ unlimited file storage

/ unlimited product listings

/ credit card payment

/ drop shipping integration

/ unlimited traffic to your Shopify store

/ abandoned cart recovery

/ product review integration

/ adjustable shipping rates

/ product variations on the the product page

/ mobile optimization

/ customer profiles

/ editable HTML and CSS

/ SEO structured design

/ performance reports

/ print orders

/ social media integration

/ Facebook advertising module / daily backups

Again, this is why I said even I would go with Shopify if I was to start a store simply because the platform takes care of all these little details you would have to hobble together if you were using WooCommerce.

WooCommerce Design

WooCommerce is a freemium WordPress plugin that can integrate with any WordPress theme. How well it integrates really depends on how the theme was designed. If it was designed with e-commerce in mind, then it will work great. If you’re using it on a random theme you may be frustrated by the way it looks and feels on your given theme.

The best place to start for themes would be WooCommerce’s own theme called Storefront (free). Storefront is a theme with a visual editor that allows you to customize the look and feel of your store with ease. They also offer Storefront child themes – basically pre-built templates you can with Storefront if you’re wanting to customize your store. Lastly, f you want to get a premium theme then I would suggest checking out Theme Forest.

WooCommerce Features to Help You Sell

WooCommerce is open source. As such there are hundreds of plug-ins for any sort of additional feature you want or need from 3rd party developers. Here is what you get with WooCommerce:

/Stripe and Paypal integration

/ Can sell anything – software, digital products or physical products

/ Total control over all aspects of your store

/ Adjustable shipping and tax rates

/ Free Facebook extensions for selling

/ Stock level management

WooCommerce gives you all the benefits of WordPress such as control over the design, mobile friends and complete control over your data.

Additional Plugins and Add Ons

Both platforms are robust and offer the critical features you need to run an online store. Both Shopify and WooCommerce each have their respective directories for plugins to add addition features to your store with ease. As WooCommerce is open source, there are much more plugin options.

Payment Methods

Both Shopify and WooCommerce allow you to use PayPal, Stripe and various other 3rd party payments. Shopify also has their own internal Shopify payments (which is powered by stripe). While it varies, Shopify does add a small transaction fee to purchases made. These transaction fees decrease if you upgrade your account to a higher tier.

What about WooCommerce?

WooCommerce never charges a transaction fee as it’s a WordPress plugin. You’ll only be paying transaction fees from your payment gateway or bank.

To sum it up, WooCommerce has the advantage IF you’re doing a high volume of transactions. If you’re a small store and you intent on using Shopify payments which has the same rates as credit card rates as PayPal or stripe, it makes no difference

// Cost Comparison

Running a store is a bit more expensive than say a blog or content website. Stores need SSL certs in order to encrypt data when people use their credit cards to buy stuff. Stores need payment processors and payment gateways for again credit cards. Stores need reliable hosting to handle traffic as a slow loading store directly effects people trusting a store and completing a purchase.

Shopify Costs

Shopify has straight forward pricing on a sliding scale starting with Shopify lite ($9), Basic Shopify (29$), Shopify (79$) and Shopify Advanced (299$). With your Shopify account you get everything you need to have a reliable, secure store store that provides a great user experience including hosting, a domain name and an SSL cert.

WooCommerce Costs

WooCommerce is the self hosted method. While the Plugin is free, you’ll need to pay for all the costs associated with having a website and some additional costs on top of that because you’re running a store.

Hosting – You’ll need mid range hosting to make sure your store loads fast (10-20$ a month minimum)

SSL Cert – You need a secure store in order to accept credit card payments (100$ a year)

Top level domain – You need to register a domain name on your own (10$ a year)

Plugins – Some features you will want will require a paid plugin

Your costs for running a WooCommerce powered store will be the same as Shopify if not more as you’ll need to pay for additional features that are often included with a Shopify account. You’ll also get all the downsides of the self hosted method as laid out at the start of this page – if something goes wrong you’ll have multiple support contacts.

Transaction Fees

Both platforms have transaction fees. Transaction fees vary and change quite often. Be aware they exist and to check what the current rate is when building your store with Shopify or WooCommerce.

// Scalability

Shopify vs WooCommerce – which one has better scalability? Both platforms can grow with you as your store goes. With Shopify it’s simply a matter of upgrading your account to the next pricing tier if you’re in need of more features or power. With WooCommerce it’s a bit more complicated as you’ll need to upgrade your hosting account.

What I like about Shopify is that with your account (even the the basic Shopify account) you get unlimited bandwidth and unlimited products. This makes it easy for your store to handle large traffic spikes without you encountering a problem.

While all web hosts say that their shared hosting plan has “unlimited” bandwidth, this is simply not true. Once you have a website that is getting 50,000 visitors a month you’re going to need a more expensive plan than the cheapest shared hosting plan. For WooCommerce again, it’s the self managed route. You’ll simply need to pay more for hosting to handle larger amounts of traffic.

That’s why in the cost analysis I put WooCommerce hosting at around 20$ a month simply because that’s what a successful store that gets traffic is going to have to spend in order to provide a good user experience with a fast loading store.

Winner: Shopify

// WooCommerce vs Shopify – Ease of Use

If you know how to create a website with WordPress, then both Shopify and WooCommerce are equal in their ease of use. Shopify is designed to be user friendly and non-technical. By non-technical I mean not having to manage security updates, plugin conflicts, SSL certificates and basic coding to achieve desired functions as you would if you go the self managed route with WooCommerce.

With Shopify you simply signup, create and account and then you’re presented with a user friendly design wizard to get your store up and running.

WooCommerce is simply a plugin for WordPress so if you’re going to use WooCommerce it’s ideal you already have a strong understanding of how WordPress and WordPress powered websites work. Once you activate WooCommerce you’re presented with a setup wizard to walk you through the initial setup of your WooCommerce powered store.

Once you have WooCommerce setup on a WordPress website the user experience and ease of use is very similar to Shopify.

Technical Support

As stated earlier, this is the key reason why I would pick Shopify over WooCommerce. As both cost the same (roughly) to get started, I like having my technical support under one company. Shopify provides 24/7 customer support for any technical aspect of your website. With WooCommerce, it’s a free plugin and thus you’ll need to use the WooCommerce forums to figure out how to solve your problem. Also if it’s an issue with say your WordPress theme or your site speed – you’ll have to contact the respective support lines for that as WooCommerce support if for the specific plugin.

The self managed WooCommerce route has too many working parts. That and when you compare the fact that you can have unlimited traffic to your store with Shopify, makes Shopify better for most users.

//SEO

Shopify and the overall platform is designed and coded with the best SEO practices in mind. The code is sound and they make editing the meta details for each page simple and straight forward. For WooCommerce, it’s a plugin so you got WordPress and the Yoast SEO plug-in powering your SEO. It takes advantage of the whole WordPress ecosystem for SEO.

Which is better? 

For a store, I would again give it Shopify because they offer unlimited traffic. Each store is powered by Shopify’s internal infrastructure. This makes your store fast, which is a big deal for your SEO as well as the overall user experience. If your store takes 2 or 3 seconds to load a page, people are going to bounce off and give up.

This is not to say your store won’t be fast on WordPress with WooCommerce, it will if you have the right hosting account – but again it’s the self managed route.

CONCLUSION

Shopify vs WooCommerce, which should you go with? For the average smart person I’ll break it down here.

Go with Shopify if

You’re an individual or a small team of people and want a headache free solution that works. You want to get a store up and running NOW (not a week from now) and not have to worry about all the technical stuff so you can focus your limited time on marketing.

Go with WooCommerce if

You want a self managed route where you’re in control of all aspects of your store.


Create a Store With Shopify  – Create a Store With WooCommerce