WooCommerce vs Shopify: Which E-commerce Platform is Right for your Store?

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WooCommerce and Shopify are two of the most widely known names within the e-commerce sphere.When a budding e-commerce entrepreneur first starts out their journey, choosing which e-commerce platform to use is one of the first decisions they will face. While there are more e-commerce platforms to choose from, WooCommerce and Shopify are the largest, holding the two largest pieces of the market share. 

According to BuiltWith, as of September 2020, of the top 1 million sites, 29% of the web uses WooCommerce to power their stores. Shopify is second at 22%.

e-commerce platform distribution

Today we are going to break down the main difference between each of these technologies. By the end of this article, you will hopefully know which option best suits your needs and goals as an e-commerce entrepreneur. 

Price of Platform

Price is, fairly, probably on the forefront of your mind when making this decision. However, it can be difficult to make a direct comparison between the price of Shopify and the price of WooCommerce over time. 

Shopify

shopify vs woocommerce payments
Source: Shopify Pricing

Shopify basically sells a complete e-commerce platform as a service. So the first cost incurred by going down that route is signing up to that service.

Another cost of Shopify to consider is the price of addons in the form of apps. While many are free, there are a lot that will add to your monthly Shopify bill too.  As your store grows, you will add more and more apps and ultimately your monthly bill will grow.

e-commerce platform shopify app store
Source: Shopify app store

You’ll need addons for features like:

  • Product search 
  • Subscriptions/Recurring billing 
  • Real-time shipping/tracking (only required for Shopify plan. It’s not an option for Basic and is included with Advanced)
  • Reward Points
  • Upselling & Cross-selling
  • Google Trusted Stores

WooCommerce

WooCommerce and WordPress, on the other hand, are both free and come with a lot of cost flexibility. You choose how much or little you spend on the development of your store. While there is potential to spend less on developing your WooCommerce store, there are still costs involved in launching it. 

Your WooCommerce store will be self-hosted, so you will need to pay for your own domain name and hosting platform.  

Another cost of WooCommerce to consider is hiring a developer. One of the ups and downsides to WooCommerce is that you have the flexibility to design your own store, but you need to know or have someone who knows how to do it and isn’t afraid to see code.

In theory, you only need them for the set up of your store. However, in practice, as your store grows, you’re going to have new ideas, want to customize added features and integrate more marketing tools. This will require a developer more on an ongoing basis. 

Ease of Use Vs Flexibility

Shopify

Out of the box for a beginner, Shopify is good to immediately have a certain base quality to the level of your shop.Once you sign up for Shopify, you will go through their Wizard which will help you get started straight away on your e-commerce journey. Overall, the whole process is very straightforward, you don’t need any design or site building skills to get started at a decent level

Shopify is very popular amongst dropshippers because of its ease of integration with sites such as AliExpress, using Shopify dropshipping apps. They allow you to import thousands of products to your store within minutes and then sell them directly to your shoppers. 

Where things get a bit trickier on the Shopify platform is at.the point you may want to customize your features. To do this, you are limited to the plugins available on the Shopify app store, as mentioned above. You will not be able to code add ons as Shopify uses their own coding language which very few developers know.

WooCommerce

A big advantage of WooCommerce is that it is built on WordPress. A lot of people have WordPress and if they simply want to add a shop to their preexisting site. If you don’t already have WordPress, you will need to download it and become familiar with its interface, as well as downloading and becoming familiar with WooCommerce’s interface. 

e-commerce platform WooCommerce wizard
Source: WooCommerce Setup Wizard

Once you have WooCommerce installed, you have a lot of opportunity to make your store unique. WordPress and WooCommerce is open source and operated by PHP, a web universal coding language which is accessible to most developers. This makes your shop easily customisable and under your creative control, without the recurring cost of the addons (unless you opt for the premium plugins of course). 

Despite its flexibility, opting for WooCommerce requires extra time to actually learn how to build your store with the infrastructure you are provided. If you have this time, you have the potential of making it even better in the long run with more control over the features, page speed, reliability, security, etc.

Payment Methods

Both WooCommerce and Shopify have plenty of payment gateway options, so you shouldn’t notice much of a difference on that front. 

WooCommerce

WooCommerce payment gateways include all the ones you know: 

  • Stripe
  • Paypal
  • Square
  • Amazon pay, etc.

e-commerce platform WooCommerce payment gateways
Source: WooCommerce Payment Gateways

WooCommerce offers its own payment gateway called WooCommerce Payments which is currently only available to US-based merchants.


Shopify

Shopify offers its own payment gateway called Shopify Payments. As mentioned it also offers the big players such as Paypal and Stripe, but Shopify charges an extra fee if you use an external gateway. This fee for not using Shopify Payments can be as high as 2% on top of what your payment gateway charges.

Which payment gateway is the right for you?

When it comes to deciding on your payment gateway and the payment methods offered in your store, it is important to understand the different expectations of customers around the world. In Germany PayPal is the most favorable payment method for online shoppers, whereas in the US consumers generally use their credit card everywhere. In Poland there is a payment solution called Przelewy24 which is very popular. 

Every country and every economic area will have its own rules and payment methods. Inform yourself about your customers’ typical behavior to understand what you need to implement in your store.

Store Data Control

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is self-hosted, so you have full control and ownership of your data. (There are some new features, such as the WooCommerce mobile app, which require you to connect your shop to WooCommerce.com and share your data with them, so be mindful of that.)

Ultimately, the data will be sitting in your local SQL database which makes it easy to build custom software to connect with it.

Shopify

A copy of all your data will sit on Shopify’s servers. This means you never really have full control of your data. However, Shopify does give you access to your data through an API and export functions.

Customer Data Privacy

Shopify

As Shopify is a hosted solution, all incoming traffic to your online shop will meet their servers. Ultimately, this means that Shopify, in theory, could track your visitors and customers and accrue a lot of data about them. Especially for companies based in Europe, since the introduction of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the EU, the topic of data privacy is a big concern. 

Lately, the global trend seems to show that countries around the world are following the European example by implementing data privacy laws addressing the topic of digital privacy (example: LGPD in Brazil, CCPA in California).

Shopify is addressing the topic of data privacy transparently. You can inform yourself about the things you need to do to comply with your local data privacy laws here.

WooCommerce

In contrast to Shopify, WooCommerce is a self-hosted solution. This means that by default, all incoming traffic to your online shop will only be visible to you (and depending on your infrastructure to your hosting provider).

The WooCommerce way of doing things will be less of a headache in terms of customer data privacy in the beginning. But don’t forget about all your plugins you want to add. Those may bypass the isolation and transmit data to external services.

Final Thoughts

Both of these e-commerce platforms have their merits and are influential within the e-commerce world. When you download WooCommerce, you are given the software to build an e-commerce infrastructure, which you have full control over, data and all. When you pay for Shopify, you get a shop infrastructure immediately, and while exciting, it may be limiting in the long run.  

What do you think about these e-commerce platforms? Are there any others which you are considering?

Let me know in the comments below!

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