Shopify .v. WooCommerce – which is best for your ecommerce store?


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Whether you already have an ecommerce store up & running, or you’re thinking about making one, choosing the right platform matters.

The two main players are Shopify and WooCommerce – but what’s the difference anyway? Which is better for price, security, customisation & growth?

Our MD Sarah is here to answer all your questions – so whether you’re getting ready to create an ecommerce store but can’t choose a platform, or you’ve got one already & you’re wondering if you should keep it or make a change, watch our video to get all the information you need to make the right decision for your business.

Scroll down for the transcript if you prefer to read rather than watch, and as always, feel free to share this with any small business owners you know who may benefit from our top tips.

We’ll have a new episode each week, which will appear here & on our YouTube channel (if you subscribe there you won’t miss one).

Got questions about anything in the video? Drop us a line or give us a call at Fastnet HQ.


Video Transcript:

“Now, there are so many decisions that you need to make when starting an ecommerce store. But one of the most important ones is what platform to build your store on.

Now, the two most popular platforms at the moment are Shopify and WooCommerce. So, in this video, we’re going to dig deep into Shopify and into WooCommerce to see which is the best option for your business.

So for the best advice on how to grow your ecommerce story quickly and profitably, subscribe to this channel and hit the bell as well, so you’re notified – I get a new video out every week.

So I’m Sarah, I’m founder of The Fastnet Agency, and we help exciting, up-and-coming ecommerce stores to promote themselves online and to gain new customers.

So follow me for more great advice on how to grow your ecommerce brand.

So Shopify and WooCommerce are definitely the two biggest players at the moment in the ecommerce marketplace, in terms of the platforms that you need to build your ecommerce website on. Now, both of them have scaled to huge ecommerce stores.

Both of them are good options when it comes to building your ecommerce site. But actually, which one is the best for you?

Now like most things in life, there are pros and cons to both of these platforms. So we’re going to really dig deep into what these platforms have to offer to see which is the best fit for your business.

So let’s just start with a bit of a basic – now what exactly are these platforms?

Well, to start off with, Shopify is effectively more of a service than a website builder. So what Shopify do is they offer you a ready-built store service, which you subscribe to on a monthly basis. You pay a fee every month, and that gives you a platform on which to build your store.

Now they’ve got the basic store already there, it’s already built, all the functionality is in it, but you can customise it to your brand and to your needs. So it’s really a ready-made option straight out of the box, and you can do some customisation to make it your own.

WooCommerce on the other hand, is what we call a self-hosted platform. That means that the makers of WooCommerce deliver the software as an open source. Anybody can access it, you don’t have to pay to download WooCommerce. You run it on your own WordPress website. So this means you can plug this straight into yourWordPress site.

Now WordPress is also self hosted. So that means that you can effectively host your own ecommerce store by yourself without any third-party interference. Now, there are advantages and disadvantages to both of these options.

So let’s dig deep initially into the main pros and cons of both Shopify and WooCommerce

Now, before I start to dig into this, do you run an ecommerce store? Are you looking at whether to use Shopify or WooCommerce? Or maybe you’ve tried them both? I’d love to hear experience. Pop a comment down below and let’s get the conversation going. So yeah, let’s start by going through the pros and cons of Shopify.

So the first thing is that Shopify is a hosted software. As we mentioned before this means that Shopify own it, control it, they run all the servers, they run the platform. All you do is you sign up and you set up your own store.

Now this is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that if you haven’t got any development experience, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it means that you can get up and running very quickly without any need to understand things like coding and hosting and other things like that.

The disadvantage is that it means that Shopify have much more control over your site, they set certain parameters like, for example, transaction fees and various other things. It means that it’s less flexible than WooCommerce. So that is both an advantage and a disadvantage of Shopify.

Another advantage of Shopify is the fact that they have 24 hour support. So because it’s a hosted platform, because it’s a service, there’s always somebody there behind the scenes ready to help you out if something goes wrong. Which, of course, if you’ve got your WooCommerce website isn’t necessarily the case.

Now, one of the big advantages of Shopify, if you’re looking to sell elsewhere as well as on your actual website, is the fact that it has multi-channel integration, so you can tap into things like Amazon and eBay so that you can control stocks between various different locations.

Now this is also something that you can do on WooCommerce, but it’s a little bit more difficult to set up. We’ll go into some of the reasons for that later.

What are the main cons of Shopify? Well, I would say the number one con in many ways is the fact that they have a standard transaction fee, over and above anything that you would pay to your payment gateway provider.

This means as well as charging a monthly fee, Shopify take a percentage of whatever your transaction fee is at the cart, which can be costly if you’re looking to build a bigger store with a large number of transactions.

Also, because Shopify is very much controlled by Shopify, it controls what sort of apps you can plug into that store, now that means that some of these apps can be quite expensive. You’re a bit more limited than you are with more of an open source solution, like WordPress.

OK, so now let’s dig a bit deeper into WooCommerce.

So looking initially at the pros, now one of the big pros of WooCommerce is that there is limitless customisation. Literally the sky is your limit. Because it’s open source, because you can plug lots of other things in to WooCommerce and in to WordPress, you can literally do whatever you like with it, provided you’ve got the development skills to do that.

So another pro for WooCommerce is the scalability, again because it’s open source, you know, you can really grow your site as big as you want, you know, providing you can get good server integrations, so your server is capable of dealing with a larger site, you can effectively have unlimited products, unlimited transactions using your WooCommerce store.

And finally, it is excellent value for money. You know, WooCommerce is effectively free to use. Of course, you’ve got other costs associated with that. You know, you need to pay for somebody to host your site. You might well need to pay for plugins. You might well need to pay development costs, especially if you’re coming to this without any sort of development knowledge at all.

But effectively it’s a very, very comprehensive, completely free of charge, system to use, which of course, is a big advantage. So what are the cons of WooCommerce? Well, the biggest con is that it’s not particularly user-friendly in terms of getting it up and running.

Now the actual, I would say the actual dashboard, so once your site is set up and ready to use, the actual dashboard is relatively easy to use. You can control your orders, you control your products, all of the things you’d expect to see in an ecommerce store.

But in terms of actually getting it set up, you do need a reasonably high level of knowledge of coding and WordPress and hosting and security and all of the other things that you need in order to set up your WooCommerce store successfully.

So that is a big con if you’re not in that position. Okay, so now we’ve covered the main pros and cons. I’m just going to go through each of the individual features of both Shopify and WooCommerce and do a bit of a compare and contrast, so you can get a better idea of exactly what each has to offer. Now as we look through these we will see if there are any clear winners between WooCommerce and Shopify

Then at the end we’ll do a little summing up to see which is the best solution for what type of business.

So as we’ve already discussed, Shopify is a ready-made system. So when we’re looking at ease of use, Shopify definitely wins hands down over WooCommerce when it comes to getting you set up in the first place,

With Shopify you literally set up an account, you log in, you choose your theme, and unless you really want to customise your site very finitely, it’s basically ready to go. You’re ready to start trading. So definitely ease of use, Shopify wins hands down.

When it comes to controlling your store over longer term, so managing products managing inventory, you know, processing customer orders etc.. etc… So the day to day running of your shop, I would say that Shopify and WooCommerce are pretty evenly matched in terms of ease of use.

So initial set up, definitely Shopify, if you’re just looking to get something off the ground very quickly, is the winner. Day to day, they’re pretty even.

So, second point – build time. How long does it take to get your store up and running? Well, as we’ve already covered, Shopify, you’re pretty much there the minute you set up your account, depending on how much customisation you want to make, depending on how much you want to optimise your store around your branding and around particular requirements, you can basically be up and running within a few hours really, once you’ve got your products uploaded.

WooCommerce – much longer build time. You’ve got other things to consider. First of all you need to get your hosting sorted. Then you need to get WordPress installed on that hosting. Then you need to plug WooCommerce into your WordPress instal. And then you need to start looking at any sort of additional plugins that you need in order to get up and running, including getting things like payment gateways set up.

So definitely WooCommerce, a much lengthier, more in-depth build process than building a store on Shopify. So yes, for build time, Shopify is a definite winner, hands down.

So design – which store is easier to design and to make your own? Now really, for both of these platforms, to an extent, the sky is your limit when it comes to design.

With Shopify, if you know what to do, if you know how to customise themes, you can have a fairly infinite range of design features on your site, and the same goes for WooCommerce.

The reality is that if you’ve got a good developer that knows what they’re doing in terms of building out a design that you want, then you can do infinitely different things using both Shopify and WooCommerce.

However, I would say that if you want a nice design just out of the box, you just want to be able to log in and select a theme that you quite like and then just upload your logo and your colours and your fonts and so on and so forth, to make it feel like your brand, then Shopify has the easiest option to do that.

So if you’re not working with a specialist WordPress or sorry, a specialist website developer, and you’re looking to get this up and running yourself, and you just want to be able to style an existing design to fit around your theme, then Shopify is a definite hands down winner on that one.

So features, now this is an interesting one, because again so much depends on your development knowledge and experience. So in terms of ‘out of the box’ features, Shopify again is a definite winner. It has all of those things that you really need as part of an ecommerce. store.

It has abandoned cart sequences. It has discount systems and codes. It has pop-up features already in there. It has a certain level of email marketing integration. It has a certain level of social media integration.

All of these things that you need to run a successful ecommerce store are already built in, they’ve already thought about it, and that’s great.

So, you know, in terms of getting everything you need up and running very, very quickly, Shopify definitely has, you know, that all built in and ready to go. WooCommerce will be able to do all of those things and much, much more.

There is so much out there you can plug in to WooCommerce, it’s almost infinite as to how much you can plug in to WooCommerce, but it does involve you actively going out there and doing it, it’s not just an out of the box solution.

So you need to go and look for those various plugins that will give you additional functionality and quite a lot of the time you’ll need to pay for those additional plugins. So WooCommerce themselves have a range of paid plugins that you can buy and install. There are numerous third party plugin providers that will do the same.

So again, in terms of features as a purely out of the box solution, Shopify is the hands down winner. So what about plugins and integrations? If you’re looking to do something a little bit different, if you’re looking to do something a little bit more bespoke, which is the best option to use?

Now Shopify – all of those advantages of being an out of the box solution kind of come to a bit of an end here, because it is an out of the box solution it’s designed to be fairly generic and apply to most store owners. Which for most stores is absolutely fine, but if you’re looking to do something a bit different, if you’re looking to do something really, a bit bespoke with your store for whatever reason that might be, you’ll find that there are more limitations with Shopify.

With WooCommerce on the other hand, you can plug in numerous different plugins. You can create your own plugins, you can create your own integrations. Because it’s all self hosted you have no limitation in terms of features and integrations that you can plug in to your site.

So definitely in terms of extending the site’s functionality and creating bespoke features for your website, WooCommerce is a definite winner.

Now, marketing tools. Of course, every ecommerce website needs to plugin certain tools in order to ensure that you’re successful with your marketing. And these mainly involve social media and email marketing.

Now, as we previously discussed, Shopify has some brilliant out of the box features for things like email, marketing and social media.

So Shopify again as an out of the box solution is definite, hands down, winner.

WooCommerce has a very comprehensive open API system. You can plug in numerous different things into it. You can build your own bespoke functionality with WooCommerce. So again, in terms of more sophisticated marketing solutions where you’re maybe looking at a number of different triggers and reactions, you’re maybe looking to build in CRM systems and tracking systems, then WooCommerce can be a winner in this sector, provided you know what you’re doing.

So for more comprehensive marketing, where you need to have that sort of level of bespoke functionality, then WooCommerce comes out stronger.

So payment gateways. Now both WooCommerce and Shopify offer over 100 different types of payment gateway, the most common being things like PayPal and Stripe and Square. And there’s a few others out there, I’m sure you can name your favourites.

So both of these platforms allow you to plug in numerous different payment gateways. They both have that functionality fairly well out of the box, so they’re pretty evenly matched from that perspective. I would say the main, quite fundamental difference, as we mentioned before between WooCommerce and Shopify, when it comes to this feature, is that Shopify, unless you use their payment system, which is, I think called Shopify payments.

Unless you use their system, they charge you an additional 2% fee at the checkout for any transaction you do using your Shopify store. Whereas WooCommerce do not charge you a transaction fee. You’ll pay your payment gateway provider a fee, but you won’t pay a transaction fee direct to WooCommerce.

So again, if you’re processing a lot of transactions here, that will be a big factor to consider. In terms of your subscription settings, Shopify has a number of different levels of subscription, and I know that for the highest level of subscription, they do our waiver the transaction fees.

So if you get to a certain size, that fee will be waived, but you are then paying quite a large monthly fee to be using Shopify. So it’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. So in this instance, in my perspective, for the point of payment gateways, I would say that WooCommerce was a winner there because of that lack of transaction fees.

Okay, so let’s have a look at SEO. Now, as you probably know, SEO, search engine optimisation, it’s really important for ensuring that you’re building a profitable ecommerce store because it means that people can find your products online, both WooCommerce and Shopify offer a range of plugins for SEO, the most popular one on WooCommerce is Yoast, which is widely known for being a very effective SEO plugin.

There are a couple of other ones available on Shopify as well. They’re pretty evenly matched in this sector, to be honest of you. Shopify has a good level of set up from an SEO perspective, as does WooCommerce. So I would say in this, they’re 50/50. There’s no real difference in terms of optimisation between WooCommerce and Shopify, in my opinion.

Ok, and finally we get to security. Obviously a big thing if you’re dealing with customer data and information, you want to make sure that your site is secure. Now Shopify here is going to be the hands down winner if you don’t know what you’re doing, Shopify has those security parameters built in. It’s all controlled by Shopify, it’s all managed by Shopify.

It means that they have responsibility, effectively, for your site security. So if you don’t know what you’re doing in this sector, and you want to hand that responsibility over to somebody else, then Shopify is a really good option here, they’ve got a very high level of security built-in, ready-made, straight out of the box when you set up an account.

Now WooCommerce – that security is down to you. So you’ve got to make sure that you choose a secure server, that you’ve got an SSL certificate in place. That you’re regularly updating your plugins and that you’re scanning your site for any malware and bits and pieces like that.

Now, that means that it’s all in your own hands. So, you know, if Shopify had a mass hacking attempt, you know, they could well, take your website down while they sorted that out, and you would have no control over that.

Whereas if you’re running your own security you have complete control over that. You know, you can make sure that you’re set up to the best possible way, and you can keep that monitoring in place. But it means that it’s your responsibility.

So you’ve got to know what you’re doing and you’ve got to make sure that you’re on top of it. So again, pros and cons. But I would say that if you’re concerned about security and you don’t know what you’re doing in terms of keeping your site secure, than Shopify is an obvious winner.

So with all that said, which is the best? Shopify or WooCommerce? So I would say that Shopify is for you if you want 24 hour support from a customer care team, if you want security and other things like that, taking care of it for you, if you don’t know what you’re doing in terms of site development or if you do know what you’re doing, but you want a fairly out of the box solution that you can just customise to your own needs.

And if you want really good out of the box templates that can just, sort of, slightly customise to make into your own brand and your own theme, then I would say Shopify is for you.

It’s a great out of the box solution. It will cost you potentially a little bit more, because you’re obviously paying for somebody else to build and maintain all that infrastructure for you, but it is definitely a really good option if you want to get set up yourself, you want to get up and running quickly, and you’ve got a fairly standard ecommerce store that doesn’t need any sort of bespoke, unusual functionality.

However, you should consider using WooCommerce if you’ve got particular functionality, that’s a little bit unusual, something that you want to set up that’s not quite your standard ecommerce, and you need to create a bespoke, kind of, level of functionality for that.

WooCommerce gives you plenty of flexibility to do that. It’s also really good if you’re looking to scale your store online, infinitely, you know, Shopify’s plans go up incrementally as you scale, as you add more products, as you add more customers, so you’re kind of very much relying on their charges scaling as your store scales.

Now with WooCommerce that doesn’t quite directly relate, I mean, you’ve obviously got to make sure that you’re maintaining a server, and you might need to upgrade your server as your store gets bigger and busier, and you’ll certainly need to potentially look at upgrading things like security and so on and so forth. But the reality is that that’s all within your control.

And if you know what you’re doing, you can definitely reduce your costs by having a WooCommerce site. So basically, if you’re technically more competent, or if you’ve got somebody that is technically more competent, a good web developer that you’re used to working with, and you’ve got some bespoke requirements, then definitely WooCommerce is the best option for your business. So what is my personal preference?

Well, my personal preference always depends on the situation. If one of my clients comes to me and says, look, I want to get this set up myself, or I want to get it set up quickly or I don’t have any particularly bespoke requirements, and I’m happy to pay the monthly transaction fees, than I tend to recommend Shopify.

If somebody comes to me with a bit more of an unusual example of how they want to build their ecommerce site, if it looks like they’re going to  need better functionality later on down the line, if they want to really start building a blog around their ecommerce website as well, so they want those blogging features, or if they’re looking to build an ecommerce site into a wider website, I will generally recommend WooCommerce to do that.

So that’s it. That’s my summary of WooCommerce versus Shopify. I’d love to hear your opinion, pop a comment down below. So if you’re looking to advertise your store on Facebook or Instagram, then I did a great video all about this. You can check that out over here. And if you’re looking to scale your ecommerce store quickly, then I did a great video, all about ecommerce growth strategies, so check that out over here.

So I release a new video all about growing your ecommerce brand every Thursday. So hit subscribe, hit the bell and that means you’ll get notified every Thursday when I release a new video. Thanks for watching.”

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