Setting up your online store and opening your virtual doors to the world is an exciting time. But it can also be pretty stressful. There’s a lot to do during set up, and not having everything in place on opening day could be disastrous for your brand. Before you choose a platform on which to build your store, we thought we’d relay some information about the two industry leaders: WooCommerce and Shopify. Hopefully, the information and insights noted here will help you make the best decision for your business’s continued and sustained growth.
Regardless of which platform you choose, certain business problems are inevitable. Take abandoned carts, for example. Up to 70% of online shoppers who put items in their virtual cart never finalize their purchase. That’s where an innovative company like LiveRecover can help, contacting those customers via a real person on SMS and converting that product interest into product sales.
The Big Difference
Making sure platform features align with your business needs can go a long way toward ensuring your company’s success. A lot of the features across these two platforms have some overlap, and the decision which is best for your business can even at times be subjective. However, there is one main difference here that we should lay out right away.
Shopify is a SaaS offering, which stands for Software as a Service. Simply put, that means you, as an online seller, are getting software (in this case, your entire online store platform) for a subscription price instead of installing it and maintaining it yourself. WooCommerce, on the other hand, is an open source plugin from WordPress, which means you have to be running WordPress as your CMS. Simply by its nature, WooCommerce puts you entirely in control of your site at every operational level. As you may suspect, this is a merchant position that has both upsides and downsides.
Determining What You Want and Need
To establish our comparison between Shopify and WooCommerce as simply and clearly as possible, we’ve presented several key features in an online store platform. We’re pretty sure you’ll have these somewhere near the top of your list as you begin to set up shop. Within each of these features, we’ll give you the topline rundown for both WooCommerce and Shopify. From there, we suggest you identify what’s most important for you and your business and dig a little deeper into those specific issues.
Of course, both platforms come with lots of features, but as far as an out-of-the-box, ready-to-roll list, Shopify has WooCommerce beat. Because it’s an all-inclusive package, Shopify has a lot more built-in features. While both offer things like an unlimited number of products and product categories, Shopify has many other offerings, including:
- Drop-ship capabilities
- Discount codes
- Daily backups
- Automatic fraud analysis
- Unlimited file storage
- Customer profiles
- Social media integration
- Separate, full-featured mobile app
- And more
That’s not to say these features are unavailable should you choose WooCommerce. The difference is, with WooCommerce, you have to acquire and install each one separately, usually through plugins and extensions. This may seem like a big hassle, but for the tech-savvy business owner, adding most of your platform features a la carte isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The other side of the coin is, with WooCommerce, you only have the features you want and need because you built your slate yourself.
The WooCommerce plugin is free. Wait, did you say free? As in no cost? Well, that makes the decision easy, right? Not so fast. The plugin is free but setting up and running an online store with WooCommerce certainly isn’t. There are inevitable set-up costs, including hosting fees, your domain name, your SSL certificate, and more. On top of that, as your business opens and grows, you will most likely need additional extensions for functionality you hadn’t anticipated needed. On top of that, there is the likelihood of tech support needs and even additional security.
One of Shopify’s main benefits is its fixed, competitive cost. $2,000 per month covers all the many things you’d rather not have to deal with while you get into the business of selling things online.
Ease of Use
Shopify has a sleek and simple functional design that makes running your store on that platform a breeze. A great example of this user-friendly design is Shopify’s dashboard, which intuitively lets you do everyday tasks like adding new products and editing the listings for existing ones.
WooCommerce boasts similar, easy-to-use functions as far as the day-to-day is concerned. The only difference here is that setting up a Woocommerce store takes a bit more time, expertise, and work than its Shopify counterpart. That’s mainly because you, as the merchant, have to build your site’s functionality from the ground up, adding what you need to the fundamental WooCommerce plugin.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce have lots of ways to customize your site, but it’s no contest. Woocommerce has more because it’s open source vs. Shopify’s closed platform. There are lots of plugins and extensions designed specifically for WooCommerce available all over the Internet. Some of them are even free. From design themes to virtually every aspect of your site’s functionality,
While it’s true upgrading to Shopify Plus gets you code-level access to make changes, that’s not the comparison we’re laying out here, so as far as our post here is concerned, WooCommerce is the better option if customization is top of mind for you and your business.
What your customers see when they land on your site, your retail first impression can honestly make or break your business and your brand. Shopify design templates (only about 20% of which are free) are all first-rate, professionally created. To ensure your site doesn’t look exactly like many others out there, each template gives you the ability to change things like colors and style so that your finished look strays a bit from the template. This is important because you want your site design to be as unique as possible so that you can stand out in the crowded online marketplace—just like your brand.
With Woocommerce, you choose from WordPress themes, many of which are designed with the store platform in mind. Also, because WooCommerce is open source, you can search and find lots of themed templates specifically designed for the platform. Some of them are even free.
No one likes to think about this dreaded topic, but technical support is simply part of the deal with Shopify and not so with WooCommerce. That’s because Shopify is hosting and managing the site, so any tech problems are technically (no pun intended) theirs. On the WooCommerce side, things are a bit different. To get their questions answered, many WooCommerce users rely on WordPress forums. If you make an account on the WooCommerce site, you can also access tech support there.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce are set up to accept popular payment gateways, and WooCommerce users can add services like PayPal through a simple plugin extension.
Also worth noting: Shopify does charge transaction fees if you operate outside their built-in gateway Shopify Payments.
Abandoned Cart Recovery
Shopify includes a feature to call customers back to their carts if they added items but didn’t finalize their purchase. With WooCommerce, you need to set that up yourself with a WordPress plugin that will automatically send an email to customers who abandon their carts.
There’s a better way, though. LiveRecover contacts those customers via text from a real person. This method has proven far more effective in converting sales. And if you think your business isn’t losing potential sales from abandoned carts, think again.
WooCommerce has the power of WordPress behind it, so once you install the Yoast SEO plugin, you can be at the top of your game in that arena. Likewise, Shopify offers exceptional SEO functionality, although keep in mind that you cannot customize your url page names, and that can sometimes adversely affect your rank in searches.
Although they share many features, Shopify and WooCommerce have one main difference: Shopify’s all-in-one package vs. WooCommerce’s open source, DIY experience. While the former can get you up and running worry-free in minutes, the latter is like the Spider-Man motto: “with great power comes great responsibility.” If you want customization and control, you choose WooCommerce but understand that means all the hosting, maintenance, and security issues go to you as well.