Shopify vs. WooCommerce

Which is the better eCommerce solution?

This article compares the two eCommerce systems with which I have had experience, WooCommerce and Shopify. WooCommerce and Shopify are the two biggest players in the eCommerce website market.

When I first had the opportunity to make eCommerce websites, I read several articles online to decide on an eCommerce system to use. My initial research in 2015 brought me to choose Shopify as the best online eCommerce solution. I called Shopify and talked through the website I planned to make on their platform, and the customer service staff were very helpful. Shopify is developer friendly, and they helped me set up a developer account so I could make staging websites for my clients. And at only $29 a month, the price was right.

A few years and several websites later, I was less sure about Shopify. Every time a client needed an additional feature on their website, their monthly invoice went up. One client was rejected for Shopify Payments, and Shopify added 2% of sales to their invoice each month. At the same time I was hearing that WooCommerce was a great eCommerce solution. I began to make new eCommerce websites on WooCommerce instead of Shopify.

How are Shopify and WooCommerce different?

Shopify is a full-service eCommerce solution. $29 a month includes website hosting, an SSL Certificate, and 24/7 support.

WooCommerce is a completely different model and, in fact, is very disruptive to the eCommerce market. To run an eCommerce website with WooCommerce, first you need to have a website host, then an installation of WordPress, and finally you can install the free WooCommerce plugin. It is not a one-stop shop, like Shopify. WooCommerce is added on functionality to WordPress.

How do Shopify and WooCommerce make money?

Nothing in life is really free, so it is important to know how companies you work with make money.

Shopify makes money is through its monthly fees. With that in mind, the way Shopify makes more money is to entice you to buy more services, which means more monthly fees. Shopify is an all encompassing service that includes website hosting, security, backups, and service.

WooCommerce is an free WordPress plugin that makes a WordPress website into an eCommerce store. Since WooCommerce plugin is free, how does it make money? WooCommerce is owned by Automattic, and CEO of Automattic, Matt Mullenweg, is one of the founders of WordPress. Automattic sell a variety of services for WordPress users but also gives away significant services for free. The most used of the Automattic services is, where anyone can make a WordPress website for free.

WooCommerce is completely free for most of my customers who use it. Some customers pay $79 a year for a WooCommerce plugin to accept payments via (WooCommerce has free credit card services for Stripe and Square.) One client pays $99 a year for a WooCommerce plugin that sends automated emails. If you were to purchase WooCommerce Extension for your store, you would pay for one year of updates and support for use of the plugin, ranging from $49 to a few hundred dollars a year.

Shopify Pros

24/7 Service: The Shopify online help is tremendous. They provide service 24/7 and truly go above and beyond to help you with your website. If you want to do much of the work without a developer, their service team will be a great help to you.

Excellent UI: Because they only make eCommerce stores, it is easy to click around intuitively to find what you need to do.

Customizations: Once I found my way around the Shopify code, code customizations were very easy to make and easier than in WordPress. Shopify has their own coding language called, “Liquid”, but your developer doesn’t need to learn it. HTML, CSS and Javascript can be co-mingled with the Liquid.

Price: $29 a month is a great price, when you consider all that is included. 24/7 service, SSL, automated backups, and stellar security it really is a value.

Exceptional Checkout Process: The Shopify checkout process for your customers is very elegant. I have WooCommerce clients that come to me and ask me to make their checkout process look like Shopify’s checkout process.

Shopify Cons

Shopify Payments: When you run an eCommerce store, you need a way to process credit card payments. Shopify offers one of these for free, called “Shopify Payments”. Assuming you can be approved for Shopify Payments, your cost can truly be as low as $29 per month. However, if you have any problems in your credit history, like a Chargeback, Shopify Payments will drop you like a hot potato. At that point you need to install a different payment service, and Shopify takes 1-2% of all of your sales, in addition to what you pay to the credit card company.

Shopify Upgrades: The problem with Shopify is that you will likely want to upgrade from the services you receive for $29 a month. One of your first upgrades may be to go to the $79 per month level. Also, if you would like to add functionality, then you need to purchase a Shopify Add-On, which adds to your monthly Shopify bill. In contrast, there are more free plugins available in WordPress, and if you do need a paid plugin, then you likely pay once per year and much less for the service.

Not Open Source: Shopify gives developers incredible access to make changes to the files, but the Checkout Process screens and the databases are not available to modification.

Code Modifications: Fewer developers know how to work with Shopify than with WooCommerce. So when you need a new developer, you may have trouble finding someone with experience.

Learning Curve: Creating your first website on Shopify will take most of a weekend. The user interface is unique to Shopify so the time you spend learning it will not translate to websites on other platforms.

WordPress/WooCommerce Pros

Overall Lower Price: WooCommerce and WordPress are free. While the software is free, you still need a place to put it (your website hosting) and, at a minimum, you need to install SSL (HTTPS and the little lock) on your website. To get all of the hosting features equivalent to Shopify you will likely need to pay @$30 per month. White Buffalo sells a hosting plan for $120 a year that does most of what Shopify includes in their hosting. Where WordPress really keeps prices low is when you would like to add additional functionality to your website. With WordPress most plugins are free. Overall, your costs will be significantly lower on WordPress.

Many Free Upgrades: WordPress is an open source model and there are many upgrades you can make to your eCommerce offering for free. 33% of the websites in the world are made on WordPress, so developers churn out new options all the time.

WordPress Community: If you need help with a WordPress website, you don’t necessarily need to hire a developer. You can find solutions online and even go to a WordPress meeting to get help. Many website designers do not know HTML and CSS…they use WordPress plugins to design their websites.

Value of WordPress Skills: Because WordPress powers one/third of websites, familiarity with WordPress is a desirable skill and something to add to your resume.

WordPress/WooCommerce Cons

No Service: With WordPress and WooCommerce, there isn’t a 24/7 line you can call for help with your website. If your website goes down you will need to call your website developer or start Googling for an answer.

The Bottom Line

WooCommerce is the hands down winner, because of the cost and the ability to find free solutions to problems. With Shopify, the initial price is great; however, if you plan on making ongoing enhancements to your store, the monthly bill with grow and grow. If you have less than a perfect credit rating, then you may owe 1-2% to Shopify of your sales each month. However, if your credit is excellent, and you want to do much of the work yourself, consider Shopify as a solution.

White Buffalo Websites can help you make a great eCommerce website. We specialize in making websites that work well on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. We will help make the best website in your market!