So you’re thinking of starting an online store? Or maybe you’re rethinking your current hosting platform? Either way, two of the biggest players when it comes to the ecommerce game are WooCommerce and Shopify. Each with their own perks, it might send your head spinning trying to choose between them so we're here to clear things up and answer the question of ‘WooCommerce or Shopify’ for you.
Did you know that in 2021 ecommerce made up nearly 20% of retail sales worldwide? And according to Statista, it’s forecasted that by 2025 it’ll account for nearly 25% of all global retail sales (that’s nearly a quarter!). If you’re not already selling online, it’s clearly a no-brainer to jump on the bandwagon, but before you can get going you need to choose the right platform to use.
What is WooCommerce?
If you’re comparing things, you’re going to want to have an understanding of what they are first, aren’t you? So let’s start with “What is WooCommerce?”.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that you can install on your WordPress site to add shop functionality. It means that you can instantly turn any WordPress site into an online store in a few clicks. It’s flexible, beginner-friendly and is an extremely popular option with over 5 million installs. It brings lots of features to the table, with easy-to-customise pages, shop tools, payment options and more.
Want to know more about WooCommerce? We have a whole post that looks at what WooCommerce is and everything you need to know about it.
What is Shopify?
So, what is Shopify then? Similar to WooCommerce, Shopify can be used to create an online store. But instead of being a plugin that you install on an existing site, it's a standalone subscription-based website building platform – when you build a site with Shopify, you're building an ecommerce site from scratch. Designed for selling online, it has everything you need in one place including page customisation, theme editing, SEO tools and more.
The difference between WooCommerce and Shopify
Now you know what they each are, you’re probably thinking that they sound pretty similar and you wouldn’t be wrong. On the face of it, both can help you accomplish the same thing – creating an amazing-looking online store to sell your products. But if we get the magnifying glass out, you’ll start to see a difference between WooCommerce and Shopify, including:
- Ease of use
- Performance and page speeds
- Plugins and apps
- Themes and customisability
- Payment methods
Let’s take a closer look…
We briefly touched on it already but the biggest difference between WooCommerce and Shopify is their platforms.
WooCommerce uses WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system (CMS) meaning that you get all the benefits it has to offer integrated with your store. It’s an open source plugin that you can install on your WordPress site to turn it into an online store and you can add the features you need as and when you need them (more on that later).
Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify is an all-in-one hosted platform known for being a website builder that’s specifically designed for creating an online store. It’s more of a closed platform than WooCommerce and only really allows for drag-and-drop editing and some additional plugins (unless you have the knowledge to edit themes using Liquid). But if you already have a site and don’t want to rebuild it from scratch on Shopify, it’s also possible to generate embeddable product cards and checkout experiences that you can add to your existing site.
Price is a big factor when you’re trying to run an online store (more expenses means more cuts in profits). The difference between WooCommerce and Shopify when it comes to price partly comes down to what you actually have to pay for.
WooCommerce itself is free to use, but you need WordPress to install it on. If you opt for WordPress hosting with the CMS pre-installed, you could pay as little as £5 per month. Many providers also offer limited time deals so you can get it cheaper – you can get our own WordPress Hosting for only £1 per month for the first 6 months! The only thing to keep in mind is that if you want extra functionalities, some plugins come with a price tag too, adding to the overall cost. Also, while some providers include a domain and SSL certificate for free, that may be an extra cost to look out for.
Shopify on the other hand is all-in-one, with plans starting from £19 per month, but the features you get are limited so if there’s a function in particular you need, you may have to splash out on a pricier plan. You can also add extra functionalities with apps like you can with WooCommerce, but again some of these are paid-for so that’s another potential cost. Then there's also the cost of your domain name which you don't get for free with Shopify.
Ease of use
Once you’re set up, both WooCommerce and Shopify are easy to manage through their own dashboards, letting you edit settings like shipping information, payment options and more.
But, because it’s self-hosted, WooCommerce has some extra complexities – you may need to source your own web hosting, install WordPress on it and then install WooCommerce before you can start building. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t have to be this complicated. Luckily you can get WordPress hosting that already has the CMS installed and some providers (like us) can even pre-install WooCommerce for you too. Then it’s just a case of following the step-by-step setup wizard.
Being a hosted platform, Shopify is pretty easy to get set up with too. All you have to do is sign up for a Shopify account and follow the setup wizard to make your site and create your first product listings.
Performance and page speed
No matter how amazing your online store looks, visitors won’t be hanging around for long if your site is slow to load. Each platform works differently so how they perform and your control over them differs.
Site speeds rely heavily on hosting – if you’re using a slow hosting provider it can become a bit of an uphill battle. With WooCommerce, the hosting is your choice and you can shop around a bit to find the best one. You also get lots of control over improving your WordPress site speeds with the ability to use faster themes, optimise your plugins, compress your site files and more.
The downside to being a hosted platform is that Shopify doesn’t offer as much control over site performance. The platform and hosting is all bundled together meaning the performance of the platform is in their hands. Of course you can still do your bit to speed things up like optimising images and limiting your use of apps, but other than that there’s not much else you can do.
In general both can offer quick page speeds but it’s easier to increase performance with WooCommerce than it is with Shopify.
Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve had an ecommerce site for a while, every business needs the room to adapt and grow. Using a scalable platform means you can add more content, welcome more traffic, list more products and even add more store locations without restrictions.
Similar to performance, WooCommerce’s scalability largely comes down to the hosting provider you choose. You’ll want to do some research and pick one that offers several plans so if you ever need more storage space or other resources you can easily upgrade to a bigger package. And if a provider doesn’t offer the resources you need you can always find a different host that does.
Shopify does also offer larger packages that you can upgrade to as your business grows. But, because it’s a hosted platform, you can only choose from the packages that Shopify offers – you can’t just move to a different hosting provider that offers more resources if you need it.
For any and every site, security has to be at the top of the priority list, especially for online stores that collect personal information from visitors. The good news is that most ecommerce platforms are built with security in mind.
Although WooCommerce isn’t its own platform with built-in security, many hosting providers take care of a lot of it for you. Plus, it uses WordPress which is regularly updated with security patches to stay on top of potential threats. There’s also plenty of plugins to choose from that can help you keep your site and account secure and you can encrypt site data with an SSL certificate that a lot of hosting plans include for free.
Shopify is quite similar, but because it’s a hosted service it already has security features built in, with the ability to use security apps as well. You also get an SSL certificate free with your plan and your site will be PCI compliant from the get-go.
Plugins and apps
You’ll probably find that most ecommerce platforms offer similar basic features like shipping options, voucher codes and product variations. Where they start to differ is the extra functionalities you can add through the use of additional software. The terminology might get a bit confusing because WordPress calls them plugins, WooCommerce calls them extensions and Shopify calls them apps, but they all do the same thing – add extra features to your site.
Both WooCommerce and Shopify have their own library of extensions and apps to choose from. The difference is that Shopify only has just over 7,000 apps, whereas WooCommerce has 700 extensions in its own library plus 59,000 free WordPress plugins too. Granted, not all of these plugins are ecommerce focused but it gives you a lot of flexibility with what you can do with your site, how you can manage it and how you can customise it.
Themes and customisability
Let’s be honest, you want your online store to look great, right? You’ll be glad to know that both WooCommerce and Shopify have no-code editors that let you build and customise your site without needing to be a coding expert. All you have to do is choose a theme that you like and then edit it to make it look exactly the way you want it.
As with plugins, both platforms have their own library of themes to browse. Shopify has 93 themes, but it’s worth noting that only 9 of these are free and the paid themes start from £155. WooCommerce has 53 themes in its own library including 3 free themes and paid themes starting from only £68. But (and it’s a big but), there’s also over 9,000 free WordPress themes you can use and other third-party theme libraries like ThemeForest.
Once you choose a theme, they’re both simple to customise – WooCommerce can use the WordPress Gutenberg block editor and Shopify has a block editor of its own. There are some limits with Shopify in that you can only edit what the platform lets you edit unless you want to mess with the theme code. WooCommerce offers near-limitless customisation in the Gutenberg editor and through the use of other plugins.
Everyone has their favourite way to pay and you want to make sure you cover all the bases and offer customers multiple payment options. You also want to make sure you know what fees you might be charged for using certain payment gateways.
WooCommerce supports multiple payment methods including card, checks, bank transfers and cash on delivery. For bank cards, it has its own official WooCommerce Payments service that lets customers pay quickly with methods like Google Pay and Apple Pay in 135+ currencies. It also supports 100+ third-party gateways like Stripe, PayPal and Klarna. In terms of fees, WooCommerce Payments only charges 1.4% + £0.20 per transaction using a UK credit or debit card and third-party gateways aren’t charged an extra fee but the vendors themselves might charge you instead.
Shopify similarly supports various methods from card to manual payments. It also has its own card payment gateway, Shopify Payments, giving customers the option to use Google Pay, Apple Pay and more. While it doesn’t add extra fees for payments using its own Shopify Payments gateway, there are fees for using third-party payment gateways. The fee for online card payments depends on which plan you’re on, ranging from 1.5% + 25p for the most expensive plan to 2% + 25p for Shopify’s cheapest plan.
So, is WooCommerce better than Shopify?
The question ‘is WooCommerce better than Shopify’ is a common one but it’s definitely not a straightforward answer. The two platforms might be similar on the surface but which one you choose is ultimately down to what you’re looking for in an ecommerce website builder.
They’re both good for non-techie people but Shopify definitely has a more hands-off approach. So if you’re after something that requires less work to get set up, Shopify could be for you but you’d be more limited in terms of customisation, themes options and available plugins. It could also end up being more expensive so it’s down to what’s important to you – is a higher price tag worth the small amount of effort you might save in building your online store?
The bottom line is that WooCommerce offers more customisation options, it can be cheaper, there are far more plugins to choose from, it’s easier to scale and you have more control over performance improvements. And let’s not forget that it’s hosted on the world’s most popular CMS platform (it’s popular for a reason).
Think WooCommerce might be the platform for you? Our WordPress Hosting will take you through a simple step-by-step setup wizard and if you let us know you want to build an ecommerce site we’ll pre-install WooCommerce for you – easy peasy! And you’ll get to enjoy all the benefits our hosting offers from unlimited bandwidth and 24/7 support to automatic backups and scalable performance. Don’t forget that you can get it all for only £1 per month for the first 6 months.