What’s the best platform for ecommerce? Choosing how to set up ecommerce on your site is an important decision, and designers and clients I work with often ask me whether I recommend WooCommerce or Shopify. It depends!
Both have their merits, and while my answer might not be as black and white as some might hope, hopefully the factors I’ve laid out below help you decide which is best for your project:
- Upfront vs Transaction Cost
- Ease of Use/Support
- Management and Scalability
- Site and Sales Strategies
WooCommerce is excellent for those who are tech-savvy, don’t have a ton of products (generally less than 100) and want complete control over their site.
Shopify is the winner if you’re looking for ease of use, scalability and point of sales (POS) capabilities.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce Round 1: Pricing
By far the most common question I get regarding Shopify vs. WooCommerce revolves around pricing.
Many people get frustrated with Shopify’s high transaction fees. These can be up to 4.9% of your sales depending on the package you have and the type of payment processor you use.
If you care more about your profit margin per transaction and have the time and funds to invest up front, WooCommerce might be more attractive for you.
The total cost of either platform varies greatly depending on your exact setup. The below comparison give you a general idea of costs. As you can see, Shopify is generally much more expensive than WooCommerce overall, both upfront and on a per transaction basis.
||$9/yr +||$9/yr +|
|Software||$29/mo – $299/mo||—|
|Add-Ons||$0 – $20/mo +||$0 – $199/yr +|
||0.5% – 2.0%||—|
|Payment Processing Fee||2.4% – 2.9% + $0.30||2.9% + $0.30|
||$357/yr – $3,500/yr +
2.9% – 4.9% per transaction
|$139/yr – $338/yr +
2.9% per transaction
Shopify vs. WooCommerce Round 2: Ease of Use and Support
I’m not going to lie. WooCommerce can be tricky to set up, especially if you aren’t particularly tech-savvy. Shopify, on the other hand, is a breeze to set up. You’ll still need to invest some time into getting everything just right, but it’s a lot more streamlined than WooCommerce. Shopify has a 24/7 support team that can help you set up and manage your store.
WooCommerce has made some strides in this department recently. When you activate the WooCommerce plugin, you’ll be taken to a Setup Wizard, which will get the basics of your site all ready to go.
However, WooCommerce has dedicated support for paid add-ons only. So if you are struggling, you’ll need to try posting in the WordPress.org forums or hire a developer to help you out. That being said, some of the paid add-ons are worthwhile and still make WooCommerce a more affordable investment. I’ve had good luck with Smart Coupons, Table Rate Shipping, and Waitlist add-ons, all of which come with support.
All in all, WooCommerce requires an extra level of involvement and offers less support than Shopify. If you are just looking for straightforward ecommerce, Shopify might be worth the cost. This was the case with a client of mine, Lawren of Teaching is a Royal Adventure:
I LOVE Shopify! It’s definitely way easier. BUT, it’s a huge learning curve as far as blogging. But that is the biggest downfall. Thankful I didn’t have much on the blog, but for someone who blogs a lot that might be an issue.”
However, if you have broader goals you want to integrate with ecommerce and you have access to a developer, WooCommerce is definitely worth considering.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce Round 3: Management and Scalability
Both Shopify and WooCommerce are ready to scale with you as your business grows.
However, if your business has lots of products (generally over 100 or more), WooCommerce is a little clunkier. Although you can do some bulk importing and editing, the truth is that once the number of products reaches into the hundreds, WooCommerce tends to take much more time to manage. I don’t want to lead you to believe that WooCommerce can’t be used for larger stores; it powers many huge online merchants. But it does require some additional time to set up and scale.
Shopify makes it easier to manage lots of SKUs. Shopify’s product management system is engineered to allow you to bulk edit, add, import and manage your products. Shopify has created an excellent product that is engineered to make creating and managing an online store as easy as possible.
With the easier setup and support as well as scalability features, Shopify might well be worth the extra cost if you are looking to power a pure-play ecommerce site you don’t want to spend too much time managing.
In some cases though, this last factor might steer you toward WooCommerce.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce Round 4: Site and Sales Strategies
As I mentioned, I’ve recommended Shopify when a client was looking for straightforward, pure-play ecommerce and was willing to pay per transaction for the platform. But for projects where ecommerce is part of broader site enhancements and multiple sales channels, WooCommerce often fits the bill.
If you’re looking to make broader updates to your site and engaging a developer, especially if part of those updates involve content and functionality beyond ecommerce, the extra setup of WooCommerce might not be all that significant.
Similarly, if your site is one of multiple sales channels, including Amazon and/or a retailer network, it might need to play a role beyond pure-play ecommerce while still preserving a strong profit margin.
This was just the case with my client Smithey Ironware. I’ve been lucky enough to help them enhance their WooCommerce functionality to keep up with demand online, while continuing to showcase their craftsmanship and press mentions and support their retailer partners. We’ve worked with the WooCommerce platform to build off great designs by Stitch Design Co for seamless sales and user experience. You can read more about my work with Smithey here.
Shopify wins when …
If you have hundreds of products to manage and don’t mind paying extra per transaction, Shopify offers a great pure-play ecommerce experience with great support and scalability.
WooCommerce wins when …
WooCommerce is great for integrating into broader site and sales strategies. With a lower cost, it fits well with other site projects beyond ecommerce, helping you grow your overall business with other useful content, features, and sales channels.
I hope this analysis helps guide your decision on which ecommerce platform to use for your site. I’ve worked with clients to support both Shopify and WooCommerce platforms, so please feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to work together.