In one of our previous posts, we compared WordPress and Shopify to help you figure out which might be better choice for you to set up your own online store. We separately covered different factors like cost, extensibility, support and customization etc. to see how both these platforms stacked against each other.

Shopify vs. WordPress: Which Is Better?
Monty Shokeen

In this article, we will do a similar comparison for WooCommerce and Shopify. The primary difference here is that WooCommerce is simply a plugin for WordPress. This will make our comparison a bit more specific and accurate when discussing the following aspects:

Required Time and Effort
Design Choices
Accepting Payments
Cost of Setting Up the Store

You can also jump directly to the end of the article to find out Which One is Best for You?

WooCommerce vs Shopify: The Basic Difference

Lets begin the discussion by starting with the main difference between these two platforms that sets up the stage for the rest of the comparison.

Shopify is a full-fledged platform that will handle everything from hosting, security, payment and inventory management for you. It is a closed system that is designed to make your experience of setting up an online store hassle free and beginner friendly.

You probably already know that WordPress is a general purpose open-source CMS which you can extend to create almost all kinds of websites. WooCommerce is one of the many WordPress plugins that extends its functionality. The primary purpose of WooCommerce is to help you sell things using a WordPress-based website.

Basically, WooCommerce and Shopify are similar in the sense that they both focus on eCommerce. However, they are different in the way they address this problem. Shopify is a comparatively closed system that tries to do things on your behalf while WooCommerce requires a more hands-on approach.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Required Time and Effort

The sole purpose of the Shopify platform is to help people sell things online and they try their best to make the whole process as quick, simple and beginner-friendly as possible. This means that you will have to spend very little time thinking about things that are not directly related to selling. You don’t have to worry about picking a domain name registrar or do any research about web hosting providers among other things.

WooCommerce is also meant to help you sell things online but it is an open-source WordPress plugin. It is not meant to take care of everything for you. The primary aim here is to let you have the freedom to do whatever you want.

Things will be a bit easier if you already have a WordPress-based website set up. This is because it means that you don’t have to start from the very beginning by registering a domain etc. However, you will still need to take care of things like updates, security, backups, and website design.

You should consider using Shopify if you are an absolute beginner or have little technical know-how related to web development. This will make sure that you are up and running very quickly without having to spend a lot of time learning the absolute basics of things that aren’t directly related to your business.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Design Choices

The UI of your eCommerce store can have a huge impact on the number of sales. Everything else being equal, people are more likely to buy products from an easy to navigate website that shows them all the information they need about a product. All this essentially comes down to picking a theme that fits well with your plan regarding the overall content of the website.

There are around 80 different themes listed on the Shopify website and hundreds more on ThemeForest that you can use while creating your online store. Some of these themes are free while others are paid. 

15 Best Themes for Your Shopify eCommerce Business
Aladin Bensassi

WooCommerce is primarily concerned with the backend functionality that allows you to sell things online while leaving the design aspect up to you or other theme developers. It will usually work fine with a lot of themes provided they are following the standard practices and recommendations. You can search for a term like eCommerce and pick one of over 500 free themes to install.

While this might not always be true but you will notice that the Shopify themes usually have a more polished and professional layout compared to free WordPress eCommerce themes. However, WooCommerce is pretty popular so it is easy to find a lot of premium themes that are designed with WooCommerce integration in mind.

30 Best WooCommerce Themes: To Make a Better Online Store
Brenda Barron

I will have to call this one a tie because both Shopify and WooCommerce have plenty of themes available for you to use.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Accepting Payments

All online stores need to accept payments from their users. There are many important things that need to be kept in mind here. Any payment method that you use has to meet two requirements: it should be secure and it should be available to your customers.

Both Shopify and WooCommerce come with their own integrated payment systems called Shopify Payments and WooCommerce payments respectively. Both of them are powered by Stripe. Also, it is not a problem if you don’t want to use these built-in payment solutions. Both these platforms allow you to integrate 3rd party payment gateways.

The only major difference between these two is that while WooCommerce doesn’t charge any extra fee when you integrate a 3rd-party payment gateway, Shopify will takes its own cut over and above the default processing charge of the 3rd-party gateway.

This might not be a huge deal for some store owners but it can have a huge impact on the others. The costs will add up if you have high sales volume and most of your users prefer to pay using a 3rd party payment gateway instead of Shopify payments.

The extra fee charged by Shopify for using a 3rd party payment gateway makes WooCommerce =the winner of this round.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Scalability

Everyone wants their business to scale up and reach new heights. One of the worst things that can happen when your business starts to take off is that your whole setup comes crashing down because it can’t take on the additional load. This causes damage to both your revenue and your reputation.

Scalability problems can happen either due to inadequate hardware or unoptimized software. Hardware-related problems can be resolved quickly by simply upgrading your hardware. However, figuring out exactly what piece of software is causing optimization issues can be a bit tricky. In fact, what might seem like lack of hardware resources could actually turn out to be software optimization problem.

As I have mentioned earlier, WooCommerce is open-source and it gives you the freedom to integrate all kinds of 3rd-party plugins and themes in your store. This means that you could have scalability issues due to a 3rd-party plugin or theme that are not fault of either WooCommerce or your web host.

Shopify, on the other hand, handles all the technical details behind the scene. You don’t have to worry about monitoring your resource usage to see whether the RAM or CPU needs an upgrade. You are also less likely to run into any software optimization issues because there is a dedicated team of developers working constantly to keep everything running smoothly.

I would like to emphasize here that the above discussion does not mean that you will definitely run into problem when scaling your business on WooCommerce. I am just saying that you will need to be a lot more careful about it when using WooCommerce. All you have to do in case of Shopify is simply buy a bigger plan.

The winner for scalability is Shopify primarily due to its hassle-free experience for scaling up your business.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Cost of Setting Up the Store

How much money you spend while setting up your online store and to keep it running depends on a number of factors. These costs are a bit easier to calculate for Shopify but they will still differ from one business to another.

You pay a monthly fee when you set up a store with Shopify. This will cover things like hosting and a SSL certificate. You can also buy your own custom domain name for a fixed annual cost. A basic Shopify plan costs $29 per month and a top-level domain name will usually cost less than $14 per year. Additional optional costs that you will incur include the purchase of premium themes. There is also a variable cost due to transaction fees that Shopify expects you to pay for successfully placed orders.

Costs are a bit harder to estimate with WooCommerce. WooCommerce itself is free to use, just like WordPress. However, you will still need to purchase a domain name and a hosting account. One thing that can keep costs down in WooCommerce is its open-source nature. A lot of people develop free plugins and themes that can act as alternatives to premium options with some compromise in functionality or features.

WooCommerce will definitely be a cheaper option if you don’t mind looking around for free or cheaper alternatives to premium plugins and themes. However, the costs can add up quickly if you are not careful.

Which One is Best for You?

Creating an online store is an involved process and requires you to take a variety of factors into consideration. Here’s a summary of the factors we’ve discussed in this post:

required time and effort
design choices
accepting payments
cost of setting up the store

All you have to do now is figure out the importance you give to each of these factors when setting up your online store.

Shopify is a good option for creating an online store if you are looking for something that doesn’t require much technical know-how and can be set up relatively quickly.

WooCommerce is ideal for people who want more control over every aspect of their store. Setting up an online store using WooCommerce takes time and effort but it can save you money in the long run.

I will also recommend that you take a look at my other post that compares Shopify with WordPress. Some of the points mentioned in that article are relevant here as well.

Shopify vs. WordPress: Which Is Better?
Monty Shokeen