Honest advice from an experienced user in both WooCommerce (with WordPress) and Shopify platform. They’re both fantastic ecommerce platforms with incredible designs and features. Both are popular for all users, beginners, experts, and even large corporations.
It used to be that Shopify was considered the “expensive/paid/pro” option and WordPress/WooCommerce was the “cheap/free/open-source/DIY” option…but a lot has changed. Both platforms have matured and grown a lot over the years and now it’s no longer as clear cut. Both can do similar things with overlaps in many areas. Both have unique advantages and disadvantages.
Choosing the right ecommerce platform for you depends on these areas:
1. SITE PURPOSE – Store or Blog?
Is your site just a store? Or is it a full website that also has a store? Are your website visitors only there to buy or also to read/share your content?
WordPress is unbeatable blogging – tons of blog features, blog-related extensions, and better SEO. Shopify doesn’t even come close. If you need to have a nice blog, WordPress all the way! If your site is about a niche subject with many pages and posts about this subject and then with a store attached, WP/WC is probably better for you.
Shopify is great for stores – it’s built as a store CMS first. If your main function is a store with some pages and blog built in, Shopify is the right pick. Yes, Shopify can have a blog as well but it isn’t designed to be a truly engaging blog. It’s more like a corporate blog with some info for people to read, and nowhere near as many options as WordPress.
Both are ok for store and pages – if all you need is a store and some other information pages, both can do the same task.
2. Budget – HIGH or LOW?
Both options can cater to high and low budgets, but how they do it is different.
WordPress/WooCommerce (LOW) – both WordPress & WooCommerce are free and so are the many plugins they come with. But can you truly stick with only free themes and free plugins? You can but at some point, you’ll probably have to pay for certain premium features. At the very least, you’ll have to pay for webhosting which is $5-12/month for the cheapest plan. Throw in a payment for any theme or plugin, or hiring someone to do basic customization and you’re getting close to Shopify’s basic plan ($29/month). Paid themes can be around $50-100 (totally worth it, btw). Theme customization can be as low as $500-1000.
WordPress/WooCommerce (HIGH) – WooCommerce can also be very costly and fancy. There are many paid themes and paid extensions. Professional development can take up to $5-10k or more if you want a really fancy design and many custom features. The platform maturing rapidly and allows many features that even Shopify doesn’t have. Anything you can think of, you can do it in WP/WC…but it does cost money.
Shopify (LOW) – Shopify’s starting cost is $29/month. It comes with a website, free themes, and even free extensions. For 98% of stores out there, you can do it all without buying anything else. That’s an incredible deal. And then when you consider that Shopify’s plan comes with a powerful server that loads your site quickly, it’s hard to beat that. With WordPress, you have to pay for your own hosting but at least your hosting will let you host many other sites whereas Shopify’s hosting plan only covers your site. Paid themes can be around $100-200 (totally worth it, btw). Theme customization can be as low as $500-1000.
Shopify (HIGH) – Shopify’s development cost can be high or low. Low if you find people on Upwork and high if you choose to go with one of the certified/approved Shopify partners. The code is closed source and also hard to work with on your own so you’ll likely have to hire for help a lot. If you pay for premium themes or extensions, many of them come with free support. Shopify development can also cost up to $5-10k or more.
3. User Skill – NEWBIES, DIY, or PRO?
Who is managing the site and who is making changes? Is it you or someone you’re hiring?
Shopify is easier for noobies – if you plan to manage the site yourself and not hire out as much for 3rd party help. Go with Shopify, many helpful guides and great support out there. It is paid service, after all. Many basic things like setting up products and handling payments are easy to do on your own. Where Shopify really stands out is the maintenance. You never have to deal with maintaining your website plugins or server upgrades. That’s not ever an issue and everything just works!!! No plugin/theme issues ever!
WordPress/WooCommerce is easier for developers – it’s not that WP/WC is easier for developers (great developers exist on both). It’s that WP/WC is easier to find good developers and find people who can work on the platform and hack every part of it. Just beware that WP/WC needs regular maintenance. Theme or plugin updates (coming out every few months) can break your site and require an expert to fix it.
Both are ok for power users – if you’re skilled enough, you can manage either on your own. Whether it’s hacking Shopify or reading DIY guides to resolve issues on WordPress.
4. Features – STANDARD or CUSTOM
This area can get really complicated. WooCommerce (WordPress) has far more features and extensions but also more code conflicts. Shopify has fewer but they work easily. Those needing customization should research the available extensions on both platforms.
Shopify is great for standard stores – if you need only standard store features? Basic product, some images, a price, simple shipping option…Shopify is the easy winner! Want it collect some text fields or put in a couple? Perfect! Stick with Shopify and your life will be so much easier. Shopify is probably best for 98% of stores out there.
Shopify is costly for customized stores – want to change the way images are shown? Want to combine multiple coupons? Want some uncommon features…this is where Shopify can be really expensive (since you have to develop it yourself) and sometimes, not even possible! Shopify has a great amount of extensions, but nowhere near WordPress.
WooCommerce is easy for small stores – have only a few products? WooCommerce is really easy and simplistic to set that up by yourself. But if you have hundreds of products and many different kinds, it can be quite tricky (learning curve) for a beginner to set that up. You might even feel like the cost savings, if any, wasn’t worth it.
WooCommerce is really flexible for customized stores – this is WooCommerce/WordPress’ strength. Incredible amount of 3rd party extension to do anything you can ever dream of. Your imagination is the limit. You can do all and everything in WooCommerce! (For a price, of course.)
5. Business Mindset – SHOPKEEPER or WEB ENTREPRENEUR?
A big part of deciding what is best for you depends on your day-to-day activities. Are you organizing your store, manufacturing, packaging, shipping products, and filling orders? Or are you tinkering around on your website, writing posts and editing your site?
Shopify is for selling products – serious retail businesses or product management businesses should stick with Shopify and not spend any more of their time on the website than they have to.
WooCommerce is for online businesses – if your business activities are 90% online, WC/WP is for you. Better panel for your cyber workspace. Easier for you to do many things that aren’t related to just your store. Blogging, marketing, sharing…all things that internet marketers are more busy with.
QUICK DECISION MAKER
A few defining points for you to finalize your decision!
- SIMPLICITY (tool vs business) – Shopify is all about simplicity. WooCommerce/WordPress is all about options. Is your website only a tool for running your business, or it IS your entire business? Busy people who need to get a shop run and running quickly will prefer Shopify.
- DIY cost vs HIRED cost – WC has a lower DIY cost, but that depends on your skill. The less tech-savvy you are, the more WC costs and the more likely you belong on Shopify. WC is cheaper if you’re willing to hire out developers to work on your site regularly. Shopify paid costs are cheaper if their paid extensions can do everything you need instead of requiring custom coding.
- Product COUNT & CUSTOMIZATION– Shopify is easier if you have many standard products (with few variations). WooCommerce is easier if you have few products (with simple customization). Both can do it all but this is where their strengths lies for me out of the box.
Choose SHOPIFY if you…
- You’re a non-techy person doing everything yourself and want to keep costs down.
- You’re an established business with big development budget, and want to keep your time focused on shop-related matters.
- Want to start selling as fast as possible.
Choose WOOCOMMERCE if you…
- Love WordPress or need it to run other business functions.
- Tech-savvy and understand many basic things about maintaining your website. Or at least have an expert/coder you can hire regularly.
- Need extremely customized store functions.
- Need not only a store, but also a powerful site with blogging and many other functions not related to the store. (Membership area, forums, etc.)
And btw, you can choose BOTH (WC & Shopify) if you need to have both!