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Jaakko Alajoki, September 23, 2021

WooCommerce vs. Shopify

WooCommerce and Shopify are our two go-to platforms for creating ecommerce stores. These platforms have a lot in common, but they also have their differences. In this blog post, I will compare these two and hopefully help you make the right decision when choosing an ecommerce solution for your business.

A plugin vs. a cloud platform

WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin created by Automattic, which is the same company that’s driving WordPress development. Shopify is a subscription-based cloud platform.

Based on Google searches, Shopify is leading the game with almost double the search volume. Notice also the huge increase in interest after covid hit!

When comparing market share, Shopify is also taking the lead for being more popular than WooCommerce. For example, in the US Shopify, has a 29% market share while WooCommerce has 23%.

But market share doesn’t tell too much about the actual differences between these platforms, so let’s dive into the details.

Open source vs. SaaS

The key difference between the platforms is how they are licensed. WooCommerce is an open source platform and it doesn’t have any licensing costs, whereas Shopify is a closed source cloud service with a monthly subscription.

This doesn’t mean that WooCommerce is free – but it comes with flexibility (and complexity) in terms of setting up the hosting and other related things. Running WooCommerce requires setting up servers and taking care of updates and security. This is something we offer as a service for the stores we have built.

With Shopify, the company takes care of maintaining its own software and security. Shopify also takes a share of your revenue, unless you use their own payment method. The share can be up to 3% of payments which is something that needs to be considered. Keep in mind that anything can happen with the pricing in the future and Shopify subscribers don’t really have a say on that.

There are numerous add-ons and plugins available for both of these platforms which can cost money. Even though WooCommerce at its core is free, many of its plugins have a subscription fee. Adding plugins to Shopify or WooCommerce can significantly increase your costs. The need for extensions depends on which features you want, so it’s impossible to make clear cost comparisons and say which solution is cheaper.

Ecommerce features

The key question when choosing an ecommerce platform is: which one fits my needs better? The game is pretty much a tie here: both platforms support the most important ecommerce features, either out of the box or by installing plugins.

Customizability

Customizability is one of the biggest differences between Shopify and WooCommerce.

As an open source software, WooCommerce is very flexible. You have full control of layouts and functionalities can be extended almost without limitations. As we all know, great power comes with great responsibility – but if done right, WooCommerce can fit many different needs.

Shopify supports custom layouts and has a powerful API, but you cannot run your own code. This means that Shopify has limitations on how far its functionality can be customized. You can integrate your store to your ERP via the API, but you cannot build your checkout process from scratch.

Both platforms support third-party plugins which can be installed to extend functionalities. Both platforms also have a vibrant ecosystem. In many cases, the availability of existing extensions has been a deciding factor when we’ve been choosing a platform.

From a design point of view, both platforms provide fully customizable layouts. Both support third-party themes – which is an approach we tend not to take, though. Your brand is important to us and the stores we create always have a custom layout tailored for you. Luckily, both Shopify and WooCommerce allow this.

As a WordPress plugin, WooCommerce can be seamlessly integrated into your WordPress website. If you prefer a tight integration and cross-use of content, WooCommerce is a way better solution than Shopify. This has often been a deciding factor in our previous projects.

Ease of use

Shopify’s administration panel is very straightforward and it doesn’t have many customization options. It’s usually considered easier than WooCommerce. Because WooCommerce is more customizable, the ease of use also depends on the implementation. Some things can become very difficult if admin usability is ignored during the development process. We are always aiming to polish the user experience not only for the users, but for the store administrators too.

Initial project size

Shopify stores are dead simple to set up. With a few clicks, you are up and running and can start selling your products. Setting up WooCommerce and installing the right plugins usually requires a bit more time. Also as mentioned earlier, in the case of WooCommerce, greater flexibility also comes with greater complexity. So, customizing WooCommerce is usually a longer process than customizing Shopify. Project size always depends on the requirements, but my gut feeling is that Shopify stores can be launched more quickly.

So… which one is for you?

I’ll give you the safe answer: it depends. What are your requirements? How many products do you have? What features does your store need? What’s your schedule?

If you don’t have any special customization needs and want to go live as quickly as possible, Shopify might be the option for you.

If you need to use custom payment methods, have other customization needs and want to tie your website and store tightly together, WooCommerce might be the way to go.

If you would like to build a store and are juggling between these options. don’t hesitate to contact us. Let’s sit down together, go through your needs and see how we can help you 🙂