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September 26, 2018

WooCommerce or Shopify – Which eCommerce Platform to Choose?

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Today I am going to talk about two of the most popular and dominating e-commerce platforms, WooCommerce and Shopify. As we all know there have been, and are numerous debates already on this subject but believe me, I have gathered something more to this topic than  meets the eye.

Ok, let’s face it; there is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to choose the right ecommerce platform for your website. Each has its own set of pros and cons and which platform is perfect for a particular business is, of course, a long and tangled discussion.

Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform

As a beginner in the industry, choosing the right eCommerce platform may appear to be a daunting task. There are literally hundreds of different eCommerce providers to choose from, and it’s really important to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each type of solution before selecting it. 

In this article, I am going to compare, two of the top-notch eCommerce platforms that could be the first choice of entrepreneurs and have been well-accepted in the industry. We will analyze the benefits, strengths and competitive advantages as well as the drawbacks and the dilemmas of these two outstanding eCommerce platforms. This will hopefully provide you a better picture so that you can make your decision more wisely.

WooCommerce Overview  

WooCommerce is an open source, low priced and easy-to-use solution for creating full-fledged WordPress eCommerce websites. It can be downloaded for free, and the designs can be modified according to need. Owing to its open source nature, the plugins get regular updates, and there are plenty of free and premium WooCommerce plugins created by third-party plugin providers. For instance, one such plugin is WooCommerce Product Addons which allows  customers to personalize products with additional options using a drop-down, radio button and checkboxes.

The ease of use and flexibility is amazing. It supports various payment gateways and you can add a variety of products. It is considered to be the perfect solution for smaller business because there is no coding involved. Simply put, you can start a fully functional online store with WooCommerce even if you don’t have any idea about coding.

Shopify Overview 

Shopify provides a hosted solution. This means you don’t have to face issues like PCI compliance, finding a hosting server, or setting up the payment gateways or what happens if things go south. The prevailing ideology behind Shopify was to create a readymade platform so that a layperson could start a website without requiring any technical support or help from development or design professionals.

However, anyone already familiar with HTML and CSS will certainly have the competitive advantage to make a website look different from thousands of other websites using Shopify. It is a simple, easy-to-use, yet comprehensive and stand-alone eCommerce platform for your website.

Woocommerce vs Shopify Feature Comparison 

1. User Friendliness

Both platforms were created with a principle of providing a user-friendly and easy-to-use eCommerce solution. However, Shopify has a slight edge over WooCommerce as it is a subscription-based service. Unlike WooCommerce, a Shopify user doesn’t need to get hosting or install software.

In WooCommerce, a user has to take more steps, i.e. find an eCommerce host, install WordPress on it and then install the WooCommerce plugin. This can be confusing and frustrating for a beginner. Shopify is a complete starter pack. All you need to do is enter your email address; set a password and a store name and Shopify will start the setup that takes around 5 seconds to install. Afterwards, add a little about yourself and your store and the dashboard will appear in front of you. So Shopify is an easy option and is more beginner-friendly.

2. Designs and Themes

Aesthetics is an important feature of a website. Designs and themes have a direct effect on conversion rates and play an essential role in making a website successful. 

WooCommerce doesn’t offer any particular design. Primarily it is software and a WordPress plugin. The design of a WooCommerce store solely depends on the WordPress theme you decide to choose. The best thing is that there are no design limitations and most of the free and premium WordPress themes created by third-parties integrate well with WooCommerce to provide a seamless experience along with a great looking design.

Shopify users have an official Shopify theme store where more than 100 beautiful and responsive themes are available. 9 themes are free, and the rest are premium, ranging from 140-180$. The design of your store will depend on the chosen theme and unlike WooCommerce, a good Shopify theme will cost you more, so WooCommerce is the clear  winner here.

3. Product features and presentation

Both platforms are feature-rich and offer almost every option an eCommerce store needs, like product description, pictures, reviews, etc. In both, you can add an unlimited number of products and categories, and with a little bit of coding knowledge you can take features further and customize your store to make it different from the rest. Both platforms provide equal opportunities, so it’s hard to say which one is better as it is completely subjective and depends on the features you want to add to your store.

Here is a brief comparison of features:

WooCommerce Features Shopify Features
Unlimited number of product categories, sell all types  of products be it physical or digital e.g. software Unlimited number of product categories which can be organized according to category, type, sale and more
Pre-installed payment gateways and secure checkout process, Supports default currency and Geo location support Simple and secure payment options – accepts credit cards and all checkout features can be included such as discounts, taxes, etc.
Offers various marketing features such as discounts coupons and codes and is also good for affiliate marketing Excellent store management features such as refunds, order history and daily totals
Pre installed analysis and reporting features  such as earnings reports, traffic, sales, orders, and growth trends etc. Provides an actionable dashboard of your sales, orders, traffic, and more.

4. SEO 

SEO is another important factor that contributes a lot to the success of any eCommerce store. One of the critical factors that determine search engine rankings is a website’s loading speed. Google and other search engines prefer websites that deliver uncompromised speed to users. Shopify has dedicated servers which offer each of its webmasters rapid loading pages. On the other hand, the speed of a WooCommerce store depends upon the web hosting service you select. Shopify also provides basic SEO practices like Meta information and site copy that impact search engine rankings with ease.

So clearly Shopify stores have greater visibility opportunities than WooCommerce stores.

5. Support

Both WooCommerce and Shopify have detailed documentation and an active community that love to interact and support. However, Shopify has a dedicated support team and you can contact them 24/7, while in WooCommerce you mainly rely on the community for support. 

6. Pricing 

Pricing is an important factor to consider. WooCommerce is cost effective and the setup cost for the first month is approximately 24$. Shopify is an expensive solution and the setup for the first month is 42$. WooCommerce is fairly a low budget solution and is suitable for startups and small businesses. However, if your startup has a bigger plans then it’s recommended you consider Shopify, primarily because of its amazing ease of use and the availability of more options and free apps.

Conclusion

It’s a tough call. I didn’t want to add my personal opinion to this, but I believe that Shopify is a secure and better option for someone who is new to this business. However, WooCommerce has its own advantages. Again, the solution is entirely subjective and depends on your priorities. I hope that the above-mentioned comparison will help you make a better decision so that you choose the best solution.


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Zeeshan Khalid is a Web Architect, an eCommerce Specialist and an Entrepreneur. He is the CEO and founder of FME Dubai, a leading e-commerce web design Dubai agency. FME has successfully delivered projects related to Web development and Digital marketing. You can find him on the LinkedIn.

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