With the rise of entrepreneurship, the “side-hustle,” and the distributed workforce, more and more people are looking to eCommerce as a way to make a living or expand their existing brick and mortar business.
Two of the most popular eCommerce platforms are WooCommerce and Shopify. The following is a short guide to choosing which of the two is a better fit for your business needs.
Control: Hosted vs. Self-Hosted
WooCommerce is a plugin that adds eCommerce functionality to WordPress sites. Websites built using the open-source WordPress.org software are self-hosted. With WooCommerce, you have full control and ownership of your site files and data, including your customer information.
Shopify, on the other hand, is a hosted solution. You sign up through shopify.com, then your site and customer information resides on their servers. You don’t have to make any decisions about server storage, bandwidth or providers, but you also don’t have any control over them.
With WooCommerce, your base costs are lower, as you have no monthly subscription or membership. You do need to pay to host your WordPress website, but for smaller stores, that monthly cost is less than the Basic Shopify plan. With WordPress, as your sales (and therefore traffic) increase, you’ll need to update your hosting. Keeping your site up-to-date with the latest updates will either cost you time if you’re able to do it yourself or money if you choose to hire a developer.
Shopify plans start at $29/month and increase to $79/month and $299/month as your management needs increase. For enterprise-grade solutions for high volume and large businesses, they have custom plans called Shopify Plus.
For both WooCommerce and Shopify, your potential costs increase as your site customizations increase. More on that next, but it’s important to note that the openness of WooCommerce vastly expands your options to find the right combination of functionality and cost for your needs.
One final note on pricing is regarding transaction fees. For any eCommerce platform, your payments will run through a payment processor such as PayPal, Stripe, or Authorize.net. They typically take a base charge plus a percentage of the order total for each transaction. That can add up as your sales increase. By default, your payments on Shopify go through their system and they take that cut. You do have the ability to use a third-party processor, but Shopify still takes their cut, just a smaller one.
With WooCommerce you can choose from many different payment processors, and with how easy it is for developers to add plugins to WooCommerce, the chances that the bank you already use has a processor for WooCommerce is higher than with Shopify.
The more customization you need for your products, fulfillment, pricing, and site functionality, the more WooCommerce becomes the better option for your eCommerce business.
Both WooCommerce and Shopify have ways to extend the functionality of a site outside of what comes standard. In WooCommerce, plugins are used to do this, while in Shopify, apps are used.
In Shopify, apps are available in their App Store with easy installation. Some apps are free, some are paid, and some have both free and paid plans with varied functionality.
Plugins for WooCommerce follow similar pricing options. While most are ready to be installed right from the dashboard, there are many more options available. Developers of plugins for WooCommerce aren’t required to distribute them through the WordPress dashboard. This allows them to share plugins through their own site but also enables the developer community to work together on plugins and make them available to everyone.
It’s not uncommon to find functionality that comes standard with WooCommerce that isn’t possible with Shopify or is only possible with an app. For example, Shopify is limited in the number of selectable features you can offer on variable products and the total number of combinations of those features. Another is categorizing products. WooCommerce allows the nesting of product categories into subcategories which isn’t possible in Shopify.
Where Are You Starting From?
If you’re adding a shop to an existing website, there’s roughly a 1-in-3 chance that the website is built on WordPress already. Integrating WooCommerce functionality into your existing WordPress site is a natural transition and has a smaller learning curve than starting with a new platform.
If you don’t have a website to begin with and want to get up and running with something simple quickly, it’s possible to add products to a new Shopify store in a matter of minutes.
If you have the time to build a new site that will support a complex shop as well as rich content outside of the store, a custom WooCommerce site will likely check off more of the boxes of your needs.
If you are okay with not owning and controlling your website and its data, and you want an all-in-one solution where you don’t have to worry about the technical aspects of managing a website, Shopify may be a good solution for you.
If you want to have full control and ownership of your website and its data, the ability to customize any aspect of it, and are either willing to do it yourself or pay a developer to manage it, WooCommerce is likely the better solution for you.