Even if you haven’t launched your e-commerce business yet, chances are you’ve heard of the two biggest players in the game – Shopify and WooCommerce.
Powering millions of online businesses between them, these eComm giants make up over half of the internet’s market share. So, it’s no surprise that most business owner’s shortlist comes down to a 50/50 choice between the two.
While both have their strengths, as both a WooCommerce and Shopify development agency there’s a clear winner in our book – but that’s not to say that this will be the best fit for your business.
Let’s take a closer look at each platform head to head across a number of features before we give you our final verdict on which e-commerce platform is better overall.
Build time: Shopify
At a very top level, if you’re looking for a platform that will help you get to market quicker – Shopify has got WooCommerce beat.
As an out of the box solution, Shopify is a lot easier to tweak and includes technical things like hosting, your domain name and your security (SSL) certificate that you don’t get with WooCommerce.
While WooCommerce’s customisation options are pretty hard to beat (more on this later), it’s a double-edged sword in that there’s a lot more work involved.
For beginners who don’t have a clear idea of what they want (or the technical savvy to make it happen), Shopify’s onboarding and set-up process will help you to get your site up and running relatively pain-free. The same can’t be said for WooCommerce, which assumes both that you know what you want your site to look like, and you know how to make it a reality.
Unlike Shopify, which offers transparent and consistent pricing tiers on a monthly plan, WooCommerce is technically free – but its decentralised approach to things like hosting makes it hard to pinpoint how much it will actually cost to run your site.
Unless you need a high level of customisation on your site or you’re looking for a more enterprise solution, Shopify will be the cheaper e-commerce platform both to build and to run. You’ll invest more time into a WooCommerce build, given that it will require more design and development time out of the box than customising a Shopify theme, but depending on your business this more customised site could end up paying for itself many times over.
Design options: WooCommerce
We’ve got a win for WooCommerce on the board – though to be honest, both platforms have a really solid offering in the design department.
The reason WooCommerce edges out Shopify here is just the sheer number of options you’ve got at your disposal when it comes to the look and feel of your WooCommerce site.
A criticism levelled at Shopify websites is that they often look up ending very similar to one another – and it’s a valid one. While Shopify has over 80 themes to choose from at current, WooCommerce has been built to plug and play with just about any WordPress theme on the market – of which there are hundreds upon hundreds. Plus, there are several options (like the default WooCommerce theme, Storefront) that are built specifically for the e-commerce platform.
You will require a bit of elbow grease to customise these themes, but if you ask us – when starting out, we’d prefer to have a wider range of options to choose from for our site design.
That’s not to say that Shopify’s themes are sub-par, however – quite the contrary. They’re all optimised for mobile, have a modern aesthetic and can be easily customised when it comes to colours and styles to make your site feel more on-brand. Working with a Shopify development agency will help you to unlock the full potential of the platform.
Shopify takes another round here – while the two platforms actually offer pretty similar features, you’ll get a lot more of them included with Shopify’s standard offering.
Outside of including those important set-up features like hosting and SSL certificates as standard, Shopify also offers key functionalities like abandoned cart recovery and social sales channels as standard. Using WooCommerce, these features will set you back an additional fee.
Both offer support for things like discount codes, multiple languages, adjustable shipping/taxes, an in-built blog and varied payment methods – you’ll just get more of them included with Shopify. Anything not included out of the box for WooCommerce, you can generally find in its Extensions Store.
Another close race here, but we’re giving the win to WooCommerce based on the fact that it doesn’t charge transaction fees if you opt to use a third-party payment gateway (and Shopify does).
Each e-commerce platform offers a host of payment options for your store, along with their own native gateways – Shopify Payments and WooCommerce Payments, respectively.
So, you can give your customers the option to checkout with PayPal, Apple Pay, Square and a host of other well-known gateways – but you’ll be slugged with additional transaction fees on top of Shopify’s cut, up to 2%.
WooCommerce on the other hand offers integrations with both PayPal and Stripe as standard. Embedding these into your store means you don’t have to send customers to a third-party checkout site to complete their transaction (hello, bounce rates) and can leverage the trust that these gateways have in the market.
Beyond these two options, just about all the big names have add-ons that you can download and connect to your store. Be warned, however – just because WooCommerce won’t charge you additional fees to use these payment gateways, doesn’t mean the payment processors won’t. It’s best to double check this before locking anything in.
WooCommerce marginally pips Shopify at the post here, but in our experience as both a WooCommerce and Shopify development agency? Both platforms will put you in good stead for your SEO efforts.
WooCommerce just edges out Shopify again in terms of the volume of SEO tools on offer. Not only is WooCommerce built for SEO, right down to its code – you can bolster this with a range of plugins to optimise your site. Yoast is one of our favourites and is probably the worst-kept secret when it comes to upping your SEO game.
Shopify has add-ons too, just not as many.
Notching up one last win for the board, security goes to Shopify for its one-stop-shop approach to keeping your site secure.
This comes back to the hosting we touched on at the start of the blog. Because hosting is part of the Shopify package, that means they’re then responsible for any breaches on your site. As a result, the standard security features are a lot more robust than what you’ll get with WooCommerce.
That’s not to say that you can’t make your WooCommerce site just as secure, but you’ll just be responsible for all the security features yourself.
Shopify will give you an SSL certificate as we’ve mentioned earlier, along with being Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) compliant and offering features like two-factor authentication to keep your site safe from breaches.
With all being said and done, Shopify is a clear winner across the board for just about any business. If you’re looking for a turnkey solution that will get you up and running with a shorter turnaround, Shopify ticks all the boxes (and looks good doing it).
For a more customised option though, the sky really is the limit with WooCommerce – and with new features being added all the time, we think the gap between these two will begin to narrow.
If you’re after a bespoke e-commerce solution for your business – whether you’re looking to migrate platforms or you’re still in the planning phase – The Natives have years of experience building beautiful e-commerce sites with WooCommerce, Shopify and a range of other platforms. Learn more about how we can help to create the perfect solution for your e-commerce business.