Have a look at the Google Trends graph below. See the little blue and red lines shooting up in recent years? Yep, they represent the public’s interest in Shopify and WooCommerce, two solutions for creating a fully-fledged online store.
And since you can’t really decide which is the best one based on their growing popularity alone, here is our complete guide to help you choose between the two ecommerce solutions!
Let’s dive right into our Shopify vs WooCommerce comparison.
Google Trends comparison of worldwide searches in the last 5 years
So, first and foremost:
Shopify vs WooCommerce – Rounds Overview
|Round 1: Ease of Use||Excellent||Poor|
|Round 2: Themes and Flexibility||Great||Great|
|Round 3: Product presentation and features||Good||Good|
|Round 4: Payment options||Good||Good|
|Round 5: Customer Logins and Checkout options||Great||Great|
|Round 6: Shipping Cost Settings and Carrier integration||Good||Good|
|Round 7: Tax Settings||Great||Great|
|Round 8: Multilingual capabilities||Poor||Great|
|Round 9: Security||Excellent||Ok|
|Round 10: SEO capabilities||Good||Great|
|Round 11: Uptime & Pagespeed||Great||Good|
|Round 12: Support||Great||Ok|
|Round 13: Prices||Good||Good|
|Conclusion||Click to see final result|
What makes Shopify unique?
We’ve written a complete guide to Shopify before, but the long and short of it is that it’s a web-based ecommerce platform, which includes hosting. And the keyword here is “platform”. They have their own app store, where you can buy tons of extra functionality (which you’ll find out more later on).
This philosophy has proved a winning one. Launched in 2006, the Canadian company now claims to look after more than 800K businesses. This is especially impressive since they don’t offer a free plan.
Another complete solution to create an online store easily. The main differences here are that WooCommerce is a) open source and free, and b) it’s a plugin for WordPress. So yes, you will need to have a hosted website to use it, and yes, you will need to have WordPress installed on it too (find our full WP tutorial here).
If you already use WordPress and are familiar with plugins, then great, this could be a pretty attractive option already. But if you’re still shopping around (no pun intended) for the best way to create your online store, let’s take a closer look with our detailed Shopify vs WooCommerce comparison.
Round 1: Ease Of Use
Hands down one of the easiest solutions available for a complete online store is Shopify. This is because from the moment you create an account, they will guide you through the complete setup.
They take care of the hosting for you, and will even give you the option to “play around” with your store before publishing it. It goes without saying that you won’t need any technical abilities to get started in minutes.
Adding a product in Shopify
WooCommerce is also pretty easy to set up. The only thing to consider is that there are a few steps needed beforehand. These include installing, or updating, WordPress on your website, and then installing the plugin. We’re not going to lie, it can be a little overwhelming if you’ve never done it before.
Adding a product to WooCommerce
But the good news here is that certain hosting providers such as Bluehost offer a 1-click installation that automatically installs WordPress and WooCommerce for you. Maybe not in one click, but two or three at the most, which is still pretty dang good.
Round 2: Themes and flexibility
The themes are essentially your virtual shop window. So you’ll be happy to hear that Shopify has its own theme store, which comes with over 180 different themes. Some are premium, but a lot of them are free. Most of them come with customization options so you can change their look and feel without touching one line of code. All the templates are mobile responsive, so the’ll look good on any device.
Premium themes offer more options, but if you really want to tailor the style to your liking, you’ll have to get your hands dirty with the Liquid programming language or hire someone to do it for you. A great thing is that you are not limited to the templates Shopify provides themselves as Themeforest has more than 600 Shopify themes available.
WooCommerce doesn’t have its own theme store, but you can use third-party services to source them. On Themeforest, for instance, there is a whopping 600+ WooCommerce themes available, with prices ranging from $29 to $64. There are also free themes, but these don’t come with any support.
Round 3: Product presentation
Pretty even here. Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer options to create product descriptions, upload pictures, let users zoom in on the images, and you can easily add variation such as product color or size. You can also add product videos easily.
Shopify product display on their standard theme (with active zoom)
One thing to note: because WooCommerce will be essentially operating “within” your WordPress theme, some images or galleries might not play super nice straight away, which can be a bummer.
Round 4: Payment options
Probably one of the most complicated/important things to consider for your shop. Shopify offers two kinds of options, but it gets rather confusing, so bear with us here. First, as soon as you set up a Shopify store, you will accept PayPal Express Checkout.
Shopify payment settings
Credit card processing is best done through Shopify Payments as you will face extra fees from Shopify if you are using an external payment processor. BUT, the service is only available in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and a few other countries at this point.
Which means that if your business is located elsewhere, you will have to rely on what they call a “payment gateway”, or a third-party service. These are country-dependent and the fees vary greatly, so it will take a bit of homework to decide what’s best for you.
Likewise, WooCommerce offers different “payment gateway” extensions. Adding PayPal and support for credit cards via Stripe is free. Other options such as Authorize.Net, Amazon Payments or Braintree aren’t and will set you back $79 a year minimum. There are also numerous other payment options, most of which come at a price.
WooCommerce payment settings
In conclusion, both services offer a good range of payment options. But there is also a bunch of stuff to consider in terms of where you are located, and how much you want to spend on extra fees to accept all the $$$ that customers can’t wait to throw at you.
Round 5: Customer Logins and Checkout options
Both services offer customers the option to log in to process their payments or to continue to check out as slick incognito ninja guests.
Furthermore, both Shopify and WooCommerce make it easy to send automatic emails to customers who didn’t complete their purchase (“Abandoned cart recovery”). It’s included in all of Shopify’s plans by default. For WooCommerce you’ll have to use one of the many available plugins of which some are free.
Shopify offers a “one page checkout”, which lets you skip the cart and go directly to the payments page, but you will need to implement it with a few lines of code.
“One page checkout” is also available with certain WooCommerce themes.
Round 6: Shipping Cost Settings and Carrier integration
Both Shopify and WooCommerce let you add a shipping price based on different parameters ie: local, international, next-day delivery etc… so far, so standard.
But if you want to get a bit more technical, you can also enable real-time shipping cost estimates, which offer a super precise price based on the day your carrier will pick up the parcel (USPS, FedEx, UPS and many more). However, one word of warning: WooCommerce requires a paid – and expensive – plugin to do it.
Shipstation Extension for WooCommerce
With Shopify, you can only enable 3rd party calculated shipping rates if you have an Advanced Shopify plan or higher.
Dropshipping businesses should probably look to Shopify since the platform offers native support for partnerships with Amazon, Rakuten and Shipwire amongst others. They have a useful app (Oberlo) for dropshipping integration. They also provide comprehensive guides about how to make the most from your stockless shop. Oberlo (read review), a Shopify-owned app, is also a straightforward way to start with dropshipping.
WooCommerce doesn’t have a native dropshipping option, but you can always get a plugin for your plugin, and if you’re willing to pay a bit extra, there are tons of solutions out there.
Round 7: Tax Settings
No big difference here: both options let you display prices with, or without, taxes. They can also do the math for you and calculate the tax rate based on where you are in the world. Pretty neat.
Round 8: Multilingual capabilities
Shopify users have been scratching their heads for years over how to offer true multilingual support for their stores. For a long time, one expensive option was to duplicate the store or to add subdomains. Boy, are they now happy to be able to use the Langify app, which offers multiple languages and currency options for the store and checkout page. Well, they’d be a lot happier if it wasn’t $17.50 a month.
Language apps in the Shopify App Store
WooCommerce is the clear winner here thanks to the reliable and well-established WPML plugin. It enables a complete multilingual solution and costs $79 the first year, and $39 thereafter. Still not cheap as chips, but it sure beats Shopify (until a new multilingual store app comes out maybe?)
Round 9: Security
Shopify is a hosted service, which means that they take care of any security issues in the background. They have the power to make any security holes disappear as soon as they learn about them.
Interestingly, they even encourage people to hack into their platform! But it’s not as bad as it sounds: through Hackerone, Shopify awards bounties to anyone who can find possible exploits, subsequently making the platform safer. Oh yeah, Shopify is also PCI compliant right out of the gate. That’s important if you are planning to accept credit card payments.
But that’s not all: you can also secure your account using two-step-authentification. And of course, a free SSL certificate from Shopify with all their plans.
With WooCommerce, security is a different story. WordPress is a very popular platform among hackers and therefore has frequent security exploits. Since you have to install WordPress & WooCommerce on your own server it’s you who is responsible for security updates. If you are a solo founder and out on vacation (or sick), no one will close these security holes for you.
You can reduce the risk a little bit by using a managed WordPress hosting but in terms of security, it still won’t be even close to Shopify’s standards. WooCommerce is not PCI compliant by default either as this depends on various factors such as your chosen hosting. You can follow these guidelines to reach PCI-DSS compliance though.
You’ll also need to set up SSL yourself with your hosting provider (which is very easy and usually free these days using Let’s Encrypt).
Round 10: SEO capabilities
Wanna crush the competition with your Google ranking? Shopify’s got you covered. You can edit all the SEO settings, from meta title to 301 redirects. There are two downsides, though.
Rich snippets: these are metadata that search engines like Google use to understand the content of your page better. It’ll then be able to display things like the manufacturer, the item’s availability and a user rating alongside the search results page. To include these in Shopify you’ll either have to get an app (here’s one for ratings and another one for product data) or dive into your store’s code.
Page URLs: Shopify doesn’t give you complete freedom choosing your URLs. For the blog it’s using a subfolder structure such as /blog/news/, which isn’t ideal. Also for regular content pages it’s using a /pages/ subfolder in the URL. (Thanks to Jordan for pointing that out.)
For WooCommerce, once again you’ll need a bit of digital elbow grease. Or you can just add a simple SEO plugin, and there are great free options with advanced features such as our fave Yoast SEO. To add rich snippets there are plenty of WP plugins available, some of them even for free.
All in all, from an SEO perspective, WooCommerce is certainly more powerful than its competitor (if you know what you are doing!).
Round 11: Uptime & Pagespeed
Not to be ignored, because Google punishes bad uptimes and slow sites. And it’s hard to compare fairly here because while we have clear (and very good) results for Shopify, WooCommerce will depend entirely on your web hosting service. So if you have a hosted WordPress site, it’s up to you to ensure that you can reach an uptime of 99.95% or higher (some hosting companies will even give you a level agreement with guaranteed uptime).
Shopify’s Uptime on our test site
Round 12: Support
Another extra point for Shopify here: all their plans come with dedicated personal support via phone, email and live chat so you can bother their poor staff 24/7 if you so wish.
WooCommerce relies on its large community of benevolent geeks because it doesn’t have any official support unless you purchase a WooTheme. There are, luckily, plenty of forums with guides and technical step-by-steps out there.
Round 13: Prices
Last but not least. The question everyone’s been waiting for: how much does it cost?
Well, it kinda depends. At first, WooCommerce looks like the cheapest option thanks to its 0$ price tag. But once you start adding extra features, web hosting ($5-15 per month), domain name (around $10 per year), premium themes ($59 one-time), plug-ins and custom coding it can quickly become a money pit as our analysis explains in more detail. You could even easily end up spending more than with the Shopify plans which are respectively:
- $29 / month for Basic Shopify
- $79 / month for Shopify (the standard one)
- $299 / month for Advanced Shopify
It’s worth noting that you get a tiny discount if you plan on paying for more than a year at once, so check out their full list for a better overview.
Winner: Shopify is easier to calculate, WooCommerce is a bit more flexible as you can choose your own hosting. As it depends so much on your preference we wouldn’t be able to pick a clear winner here. Another draw.
Shopify vs WooCommerce: Side-by-side Comparison
Shopify vs WooCommerce Conclusion: What should I pick?
In the end, Shopify manages to beat WooCommerce 8:6. What an exciting finale!
But as the result is so close you can imagine that there are plenty of scenarios when actually WooCommerce would be the better choice. Let’s get straight to the point.
You should choose WooCommerce if:
- You already use WordPress and you’re completely in love with it and its plugins
- You absolutely need multilingual support
- You want to squeeze the last bit of SEO juice out of your store
- You don’t care about speed or scaling and just need the cheapest option available…
From our point of view a good way to start is the Bluehost WooCommerce plan. It will save you the pain of having to install everything yourself.
But if none of the bullet points above describe your online business plan, then you definitely go with Shopify. When you think about it, it’s just so much easier to set up. It’s not that expensive. It’s fast. Far simpler to manage. And it also comes with tons of features and support.
So like with any venture, just make sure you have a very clear plan for the kind of ecommerce you want to build. It should then be very easy to make the right decision and run your highly-lucrative online business empire.
10 Apr 2019: Shopify video updated.
13 Feb 2019: Cart abandonment options added.
25 Oct 2018: Side by side comparison added.