When it comes to building or launching an online store the single most important factor is making sure you choose the right ecommerce software. Choosing the wrong platform to build your ecommerce website with is like building a home on a shaky foundation and you’ll run into endless issues down the road.
So we’ve put together a comparison on the two most popular eCommerce solutions in 2017, Shopify and WooCommerce. When it comes to building an online store these are far and away the two most popular options due to ease of use, expandability, and overall value. So the question really comes down to which option is better for YOU and YOUR online store in 2017.
To help you make that decision we’ve had the eCommerce, online marketing, and web dev pros from Optim Media Group give their feedback on both Shopify and Woocommerce. Based off these expert opinions we’ve put together a detailed comparison of these two online store solutions. So check out the breakdown below and hopefully determine which is the right eCommerce software for you in 2017.
Important Update: You can currently get started with Shopify for free in 2017 by Clicking HERE.
Appearance, Professionalism, & Overall Look
Both Woocommerce and Shopify allow users to build beautiful and professional looking websites & online stores. You really don’t have to worry about being stuck with an ugly, unprofessional, or dated design with either platform. So lets take a closer look at both options:
First things first, woocommerce is not a stand alone system but rather a Plugin that adds functionality to the blogging platform WordPress. So when it comes to the design of your online store it’s really a matter of finding a woocommerce compatible wordpress theme that fits your needs. The good news is there are a ton of great options available with a variety of free and paid themes to fit anyone’s design taste.When it comes to choosing between a free or premium theme, going the free route can be a decent option if you’re trying to cut costs and you’re handy with HTML & CSS. That said time is money and a professional design will likely pay for itself many times over in increased branding, customer trust, and conversion rates.
So if you are serious about your online store and don’t want to spend hours customizing a free template to suit your needs you are probably going to want to stick to Premium themes. A great place to get premium woocommerce compatible themes is at ThemeForest. You can click here to check out all the woocommerce themes currently available to get a better idea of how a woocommerce website can look.
Similar to woocommerce, shopify has both free and premium themes. The difference is there is a huge selection of great looking free themes from Shopify. Seriously unless you find a paid design you really fall in love with, you really don’t need to spring any extra money on a “premium” theme.
Another nice benefit is all the Shopify themes are fully mobile compatible so you don’t have to worry about any issues with users on mobile devices. Keep in mind every year more and more people are surfing the web on their iphones or android devices, so making sure you have a mobile compatible online store is crucial to maximizing your sales.
Design Winner: TIE – Both Platforms Have High End Designs Available
Features & Integrations
Probably the most important thing to look at when comparing Shopify and Woocommerce is their different sets of available features & how quick they are to launch new features when there’s a demand. IE you don’t want to be waiting 10 months for pinterest integration for your online store while your competitors had it from day one.
Woocommerce has a nice set of standard features like inventory management, user accounts and reporting features.
While woocommerce is “free” the features are where the costs can really start adding up. For most things outside of the core functionality there are extensions you need to add to your install for specific features and these extensions generally range from $49 to $249 each. These extensions include things like payment gateways (the ability to accept credit cards), social media integration, email lists, shipping provider integration, advanced coupons, and more.
Sure you can launch a basic online store without these extensions but you’ll really be missing a lot of the core features that make an online store successful. Another thing to keep in mind is that all these different extensions can cause conflicts with one another and result in bugs. These usually get fixed relatively quickly but no one wants to update a plugin extension and lose some other core functionality until the developer gets around to patching it.
All that said woocommerce is an impressive, expandable system and can really handle most everything you would want.
Shopify on the other hand is an all in one solution. Right out of the box you can have unlimited products, advanced analytics and order reports, automatic tax calculations, gift cards and coupon codes, built in SEO functionality (everyone wants to rank high in google right?) and a variety of other cutting edge features.
Shopify is also one of the only ecommerce platforms that integrates automatically with just about every popular social media platform you can imagine. Would you like the ability to sell to your facebook fans directly from your facebook page or maybe on Pinterest with “buyable” pins? Well Shopify makes this a piece of cake.
The big difference between Shopify and WooCommerce is how features are developed. While wordpress has a variety of random developers who all build plugins independently (some better than others), Shopify has a full time staff of developers who add features to the core product.
Another unique benefit of Shopify is the “offline” point of sale system. If you’re in the type of industry where you want (or already have) a physical location having a full checkout solution is a necessity. Also having a fully integrated system like this can take a lot of headaches out of managing your business. If you’ve ever sold out of a product in store and then had an online order come through for the same product you know what I’m talking about. Having a fully integrated system makes these types of issues a moot point.
Additionally for small startup businesses the ability to take credit cards in person allows a ton of flexibility for small popup shops at festivals or others events.
Features & Functionality Winner: Shopify
Flexibility, Ease of Use, & Scalability
The startup is a bit more involved with woocommerce as you will need to setup a hosting server with a hosting provider, install the wordpress CMS on said server, upload/configure all the necessary plugins, upload/configure your chosen theme, and then start setting up your products and pages.
As your website traffic grows you may need to look into setting up things like a content delivery network for serving your image files, automatic backups so a server crash doesn’t cause you to completely lose your website, ect.
Shopify on the other hand makes it a lot easier for non-programmers. You don’t have to worry about your hosting plan, server configuration, manual updates to your software (and future compatibility issues), ect. Everything is just handled for you in the background. One of our developers put it this way: “Shopify is similar to Apple in the way that it just works, where as Woocommerce requires a little more technical know how to get everything running smoothly similar to a linux install.”
Shopify also makes it easy to grow and scale as a business. With a woocommerce install you are probably going to need to change your servers and hosting plans as you grow where as again with Shopify everything will just be handled for you in the background.
That said both options provide a platform that can grow right along with you. For example shopify is used for huge festivals like Lollapalooza while also being the choice of the global fashion brands owned by Daymond John (of Shark Tank & FUBU fame.)
Flexibility, Ease of Use, & Scalability Winner: Shopify
Cost & Value
Woocommerce is a free plugin which you can install on a WordPress based website. Shopify on the other hand is an all in one solution with the cheapest plan running $29 a month. At face value woocommerce looks like a cheaper option than Shopify, that said when you start adding up the different associated costs they are a lot closer than you would think.
Costs of a Woocommerce Installation:
Hosting Plan – First thing you are going to need is a hosting plan and you aren’t going to want a discount shared hosting account for your online store. With an ecommerce based business time is money, the longer customers need to wait for pages to load the higher your dropoff rates are going to be. Risking your businesses livelihood to a $10 a month host is asking for trouble. So you are probably going to want to go with a trusted wordpress hosting provider who can scale with you, like WP Engine. The cheapest plan for a single website at WP Engine is… Yep $29 a month. That said WP Engine is a great host, just check it out here.
SSL Certificate – To process payments on your website you need an SSL Certificate. Shopify provides SSL certificates at no cost to users. WP Engine charges $49.99 a year for an SSL Certificate.
Woocommerce Extensions – If you want the ability to accept credit cards, print shipping labels, have custom invoices, social media integration, ect you are going to need to add extensions to your woocommerce installation. Most premium extensions range from $49 to $249 each.
Theme Design – This depends on if you go with a free theme or a premium theme. If you go the premium route you are probably going to spend around $50-100.
Credit Card Processing Fees – Both options are going to be pretty similar on this cost. Shopify charges 2.9% + 30¢ for online transactions and 2.7% + 30¢ for offline credit card processing. The most economical credit card processing solution for woocommerce would be to integrate it with the Stripe API which comes in at exactly the same rate of 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction.
Based off these figures a comparable woocommerce setup is probably going to start around $35 a month with probably a couple hundred dollars in upfront costs to get everything setup and configured. Sure you could cut costs by using overloaded shared hosting accounts and free unsupported plugins but that’s going to end up costing you way more in the long run in downtime and man hours.
When it really comes down to it the $29 a month plan at Shopify is a huge bargain. For less than a dollar a day your business will have access to an ecommerce platform and full featured website that rivals that of multi-million dollar corporations. Let that sink in for a minute, it costs more money to grab a latte at starbucks twice a week then it does to run a global business online.
You really need to ask yourself, if you aren’t willing to invest at least that much money into your business how would you ever realistically expect it to be successful.
Cost & Value: Shopify
Recap & Review
- All in one solution
- Professional looking designs
- New features constantly being added
- The ability to sell products both online and offline
- Fully scalable & grows along with you
- 24/7 Support from dedicated customer advisers
- Fast setup – Be up and selling in a few hours
- Great value for what you get
- Shopify Liquid – If you want to hack around in the code (for most users there really isn’t a need) it’s going to be a bit confusing vs a standard language like php
- Blogging – Shopify has a built in blogging system but it isn’t as expansive as something like wordpress
- Built on Top of WordPress – If you want to blog or build out a lot of content this is very nice to have
- Open Source Code – If you like to really get down and dirty with your code wordpress and woocommerce are a programmers dream
- Low Cost – For the most part WooCommerce is a great value as the core functionality is free
- Large network of Theme and Plugin Developers – If you think of something for the website someone else has probably already built it
- Hidden Costs – Sure you can keep the costs down a bit but they do add up from hosting, ssl certificates, domains, themes, plugins and extensions ect
- Steep Learning Curve – It’s a fair bit harder to get acclimated with the system than something like Shopify
- Lots of moving parts – You not only need to run you business but also manage your hosting server, handle updates, install and configure plugins/themes, troubleshoot issues that arise ect
- No Real Support – Since woocommerce is open source and managed by volunteers you won’t have access to support for a lot of issues that may arise. That said there are a fair amount of forums and the community tends to help each other out.
In the end the battle of the two fastest rising ecommerce giants isn’t really much of a battle at all. That’s not to say woocommerce isn’t a great piece of software, quite the contrary it’s an excellent product. However shopify just sets the bar so high for less than a dollar a day that it’s really in a league of it’s own in 2017. It’s pretty wild to think that only a few years ago launching an online store required a professional web design firm and tens of thousands of dollars upfront. Now you can get a platform head and shoulders above the competition for a fraction of your cell phone bill.
Best Ecommerce Platform of 2017 Winner: Shopify
If you want to take advantage of a no obligation, free trial of Shopify you can click here to automatically apply a free 14 day trial to your account.
If you would like to download woocommerce you can click here.