Selected Winner: Shopify
While it was a very close call, Shopify came out on top because it allows users to create online stores without any coding knowledge. WooCommerce, on the other hand, requires a bit more time and effort to use the platform effectively.
Shopify also provides exceptional customer support via phone, email, or live chat. In addition, while Shopify may have higher initial costs, its set pricing includes website hosting and security.
Key Comparison: WooCommerce vs. Shopify
To help you more easily assess the suitability of these leading platforms for your online store, our research focused on the factors that matter most:
- How easy is it to use as you launch your online store?
- What sales features as well as search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing tools does it offer?
- What are the available payment options and transaction fees?
- What security does it offer?
- Does it offer customer support?
- How much does it cost to launch and maintain an online store with each platform?
How Easy Is It to Use as You Launch Your Online Store?
Ease of Use and Online Store Design
If you decide to use WooCommerce to build your online store, you must secure a web hosting provider and website security services. Beyond this extra legwork, it’s easy to design your ecommerce website by using one of the many WooCommerce or WordPress themes.
WooCommmerce’s default online store theme — called Storefront — is free and allows users to efficiently create an online store. WooCommerce also offers a range of premium (paid) themes that give users more freedom to tailor their store design to their specific industry.
Store Build Time
Because users have a lot of creative control when using WooCommerce, building an online store may take a bit longer than with Shopify. While the WooCommerce Setup Wizard covers the basics, users still need some technical know-how because it’s hard to follow many of this platform’s basic requirements.
Plug-Ins and Integrations
If you want to add functionality and features to any aspect of your online store, you can choose from more than 50,000 WooCommerce plug-ins.
Ease of Use and Online Store Design
Shopify is the best choice for anyone seeking a very easy way to start an online store. This platform handles the technical side of your store operations, including its domain name registration, website hosting, and secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate. In addition, you’ll never need to install, manage, or update any software.
Shopify offers more than 70 professionally developed themes, ranging from free options for those on a tight budget to premium themes that start at $140 (a one-time cost). Each theme also has numerous variations, and all of them feature a mobile-responsive design to help you sell.
With Shopify’s theme editor, you can adjust each theme’s colors and styles for easy customization. More experienced developers also can use “Liquid” — Shopify’s open-source, templating language — to make site customizations. Using Shopify’s theme editor, users can hide all site customizations from their storefronts until they’re ready to release them.
Store Build Time
You can build and launch your online store more quickly using Shopify than with WooCommerce because Shopify guides you through each step in the process. You also can see the results of each step along the way, and Shopify will store all your site design details and digital assets in one place.
Plug-Ins and Integrations
If you want to add more features and functionality to your online store, you can choose from Shopify’s collection of approximately 1,200 free and paid apps.
What Sales Features as Well as SEO and Marketing Tools Does It Offer?
WooCommerce offers plenty of useful sales features. For example, it enables multichannel selling on Amazon, eBay, Instagram, and Facebook. While users can install Facebook selling for free, installing the other channels will cost $79 each. WooCommerce also allows users to offer free shipping and to sell internationally, but they must source their own courier.
In addition, WooCommerce has built-in blogging functionality, the ability to embed products and a checkout feature within many online store pages, and a one-click refund feature. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer abandoned cart recovery so returning shoppers must fill their carts all over again.
SEO and Marketing Tools
WooCommerce mainly relies on plug-ins for email campaign features, but it provides integration with Mailchimp for personalized email campaigns. It also offers multichannel integration that allows users to advertise on their preferred social media platforms.
Built with SEO in mind, WooCommerce provides excellent SEO plug-ins via its WordPress integration. This enables users to add detailed meta descriptions and titles for SEO purposes. In addition, WooCommerce offers SEO guides and prompts throughout its online store-building process to ensure users don’t miss any important steps.
Shopify has a wide array of sales features, including abandoned cart recovery and alerts that remind abandoned cart owners to complete their purchases. It also offers free, multichannel selling integration and enables online stores to offer free shipping. Because Shopify has partnerships with popular couriers like DHL and the U.S. Postal Service, users don’t have to source their own courier.
Shopify’s other impressive sales features include discount codes, unlimited products, blogging functionality, and more than 100 payment options.
SEO and Marketing Tools
Users can conduct email marketing campaigns on Shopify using the platform’s rich selection of marketing features, including Constant Contact and Seguno. Shopify users also can integrate their online stores for free with Amazon, Facebook, eBay, and Pinterest and then advertise on those platforms.
In addition, Shopify’s app store offers a variety of easy-to-use, SEO plug-ins. Its free SEO Booster app, for example, scans and fixes any SEO issues in a user’s online store. Even though Shopify doesn’t provide an SEO guide, the platform makes it easy to add basic SEO information like meta descriptions and titles to an online store’s pages, products, and images.
What are the Available Payment Options and Transaction Fees?
WooCommerce offers two online payment options by default — PayPal and Stripe — as well as other core payment options which users may include in their online stores. These include the Check Payments payment gateway, the Direct Bank Transfer or Bank Account Clearing System (BACS) gateway, and the Cash on Delivery (COD) payment gateway.
WooCommerce also supports many other payment options that users may integrate into their sites with plug-ins.
Like Shopify, WooCommerce has a point-of-sale (POS) system for in-store transactions that can accommodate providers offering in-person, card-processing functions. Users can easily connect these free services to a merchant bank account, but they must still pay any fees charged by the corresponding payment processor.
Users also must obtain payment security certificates because WooCommerce doesn’t provide them.
Shopify has its own payment gateway called Shopify Payments, which is the platform’s default payment processor built into each user’s Shopify dashboard. But, Stripe, which accepts all major credit and debit cards, processes the transactions via the Shopify Payments gateway.
Shopify also enables users to integrate payment methods from more than 100 third-party payment providers. Shopify charges 2 percent per transaction with those external providers when you choose its Basic Shopify plan, but offers reduced transaction fees to users of its Shopify and Advanced Shopify plans.
Shopify users don’t need any additional security systems because this platform meets “Level 1” compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). That means Shopify protects all customer card details and prevents fraudulent, card-not-present (CNP) transactions.
Shopify users with brick-and-mortar stores also can process in-person card payments with the Shopify POS system. In addition, Shopify’s mobile app allows online store owners to process transactions from anywhere.
While Shopify doesn’t support Shopify Payments everywhere, it does so in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Spain, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
What Security Does It Offer?
As a self-hosted plug-in that works with WordPress, WooCommerce has no built-in security. You must either handle your store’s SSL certificate yourself or obtain it from your hosting provider. Some plans from popular web hosting providers include a free SSL certificate.
A website that complies with the PCI DSS may legally accept credit card payments. Ecommerce sites using WooCommerce don’t automatically comply with this industry standard, but site owners can set this up manually. Although not overly complicated, you will need an SSL certificate, a PCI-compliant web host or a payment gateway that uses a third-party payment page, and a completed Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ).
As previously noted, Shopify handles security for its users’ online stores. The platform’s built-in SSL certificate appears with your site’s URL, which tells customers your site is safe and helps with your SEO efforts.
Using Shopify, you get automatic PCI DSS compliance as well as secure payment processing to protect your customers’ personal information.
Does It Offer Customer Support?
WooCommerce offers general customer support via account-holder tickets plus a wide range of setup guides. WooCommerce users also can access support via their web hosts, and many choose Bluehost given its reputation for excellent customer support.
Shopify provides 24/7 customer support via phone, live chat, or email. It also offers helpful guides, a community forum, and useful blog posts that cover how to set up a Shopify store.
How Much Does It Cost to Launch and Maintain an Online Store With Each Platform?
WooCommerce is a free, open-source plug-in, but users must still pay for website hosting — a cost that varies by provider.
While it’s free to create an online store with WordPress, you’ll likely incur extra costs for your site’s theme, any additional extensions you need, and your SSL certificate if that’s not included in your web hosting plan.
Shopify’s pricing ranges from $29 to $299 per month. But, each of its plans include web hosting and security, a domain name, and any extension fees.
Shopify also offers a 14-day, free trial period so you can test it out before you commit to a plan.
Both of these ecommerce platforms have equal strengths and weaknesses.
While WooCommerce offers complete customization and control, it's less flexible and can prove challenging for beginners. That means WooCommerce users often spend more time setting up and managing their online stores. In contrast, Shopify provides a secure, hosted platform that enables users to create an online store without any coding experience.
Shopify has stronger customer support, but WooCommerce offers a range of helpful setup guides. Shopify offers free, multichannel integration while only Facebook integration is free on WooCommerce and you must pay for premium plug-ins.
WooCommerce might seem like the cheaper option because it’s free, but it could end up costing about the same as using Shopify when you factor in your website hosting and security costs.
Always remember to check if transaction fees apply when dealing with so-called “free” platforms. WooCommerce has a reputation for not charging anything so you usually just pay a transaction fee to the card processor.