WooCommerce and Shopify are two ecommerce giants competing for dominance over the lucrative ecommerce landscape. However, we think Shopify comes out on top for its ease of use, high-quality free themes and templates, reliability, and transparent pricing. Regardless, WooCommerce is a noteworthy contender and scores high points for its low barriers to entry, seamless WordPress integration, cost-effectiveness, and exceptional customization.
We’ll jump straight to our head-to-head comparison so you can decide which platform is worthy of hosting your online store.
WooCommerce vs. Shopify
We ranked WooCommerce as the best ecommerce plugin. It allows you to transform an existing WordPress site into a fully functioning online store. You’ll be able to receive secure payments, manage inventory and tax, handle shipping, and much more. Considering that WordPress doesn’t come with any native ecommerce features, WooCommerce will save you the trouble of migrating to a different platform or building your site from scratch.
On the other hand, we rate Shopify as the best ecommerce platform for most people. Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify is a purpose-built ecommerce platform with all the features you need to run a successful online business. For example, Shopify supports multi-channel sales, in-person sales, and drop shipping. You also get handy features for managing your business, including an easy-to-use website builder, shipping management solutions, and marketing tools.
More Top Ecommerce Platforms and Software
We put our team to work testing 20 different ecommerce platforms. We compared pricing, features, plan limitations, and supported business models to curate our top list. See all of our top picks to find out what else is on the market.
Where WooCommerce Shines
WooCommerce has many strong points. Here’s what is great about the plugin:
Open-Source: WooCommerce is a top choice for budget-conscious entrepreneurs. It’s open-source software, meaning that it’s free to install. Its flexibility allows you to keep costs down, which is crucial for new businesses.
WooCommerce also offers free storefront themes, basic shipping options, payment gateways, and extensions out-of-the-box. You also choose your web host and domain registration service, perfect for price shopping. Keeping costs to a minimum is easy with WooCommerce.
Complete Customization: WooCommerce offers numerous customization options for novices and advanced users alike. For example, you can customize your pages using a dedicated plugin, the in-built WordPress editor, FTP to access Theme Files, configuring WooCommerce Template files, or creating a plugin from scratch.
You can also customize virtually any part of your store, including the store content, store identity, themes, homepage layout and design, checkout, and tax and billing settings. It’s easy to create a unique online storefront that stands out among similar stores hosted on WooCommerce. There’s also an excellent opportunity to deliver a unique shopping experience.
Endless Plugins: WooCommerce has an extensive and active community of developers. There are at least 50,000 WooCommerce plugins to choose from. The platform makes scaling your business effortless.
For example, there are dedicated plugins for conversion optimization, geo-targeted banners, search engine optimization (SEO), analytics, email marketing, and anything else you can think of. There are also many free plugins, and the paid ones are reasonably priced.
Deep Integration with WordPress: WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS and boasts of powering 43% of the internet. WooCommerce is purpose-built for WordPress, so it’s an obvious choice for WordPress users who want to transition to ecommerce. In addition, WordPress has inherent advantages, including ease of use, low cost, regular automatic updates, and simple installation and setup.
WooCommerce is built on WordPress, so it is intuitive to use with your existing WordPress site. The two platforms are a match made in heaven. In short, you don’t need to choose a different CMS for your online store if you already have an existing WordPress website.
Optimized for Search Engines: The WooCommerce code is optimized for SEO out of the box. You also get built-in optimization features, such as customizing URLs and adding titles and Meta descriptions to product pages. The plugin also supports third-party SEO tools like The SEO Framework and Yoast SEO.
Search engine visibility is crucial to online business success. WooCommerce makes it easy to garner organic traffic for inexperienced marketers. In addition, there are even more optimization options for people proficient with online marketing.
Where WooCommerce Falls Short
WooCommerce certainly has many strong points. But it falls short in a few areas. Some of the not-so-great things about the plugin include:
Limited Support Options: Admittedly, WooCommerce offers extensive guides, tutorials, and documentation to solve everyday problems. Even chat support if you purchase premium themes or extensions from WooCommerce. However, the support options are limited.
On the other hand, Shopify offers round-the-clock support via phone, email, live chat, and Twitter. You may need to hire a freelancer if you run into serious problems with your WooCommerce store.
Manual Maintenance: There’s a lot of hands-on work required to launch and maintain an online store with WooCommerce. You’re responsible for hosting and domain registration. There’s also a steep learning curve when customizing your online store. The process can be overwhelming if you’re setting up an ecommerce store for the first time.
You also need to manually upgrade your resources as your business grows. Finally, you need to maintain your website’s security, backups, and updates. Again, Shopify maintenance is more hands-off and better suited for novices.
Where Shopify Shines
Likewise, there are many reasons to choose Shopify as your preferred ecommerce partner. Some of the best things about the platform include:
All-in-One Ecommerce Solution: Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify is a purpose-built ecommerce platform. You get everything you need to set up and run an online store out of the box. Shopify handles everything from start to finish, from creating your website, registering a domain, hosting, or managing security updates and backups.
You also get all the sales features you need built-in and ready to use instantly. For example, Shopify offers abandoned cart recovery as a standard feature, but you’ll need an extension in WooCommerce. Similarly, Shopify supports multi-channel selling by default. But, again, you’ll need to pay for this functionality in WooCommerce. Finally, Shopify offers more shipping tools and features built-in to the platform.
Quick Build Time: Shopify lets you build an online store from scratch in just a few minutes. You get at least ten free themes to start with. After that, you only need to populate the theme with your content.
Shopify’s design makes it ideal for non-technical users. The platform guides you through the entire process of creating your online store. As a result, you have everything you need to take your store live immediately.
Modern Themes: Shopify offers numerous themes to create your ideal store. The premium paid themes are modern and professional and worth the money. You also have a handful of high-quality free themes to choose from. All the hard work has already been done, so you can make an excellent store with zero technical skills.
WooCommerce offers more control of themes and customization. But you need time and technical skills to create an exceptional store. Shopify also curates its themes, so you don’t have to scroll through endless options to find the best one.
Excellent Security: Shopify covers all your security needs. You automatically get an SSL certificate when you set up shop. In addition, the platform is PCI-DSS compliant by default, so there isn’t much to do except create a strong password. Shopify also has security woven into its payment processing to guarantee secure payments if you stick with the platform’s default Stripe-powered payment gateway.
It is possible to get the same level of security from WooCommerce. However, there are a lot of manual configurations and third-party tools involved. Shopify has security built into the platform.
Transparent Pricing: Again, Shopify comes with built-in ecommerce features. So the pricing is more transparent. You know exactly how much you’re going to pay in a given month.
WooCommerce requires more extensions and third-party apps to compete with Shopify’s basic features. This situation means that your costs can quickly spiral as you scale your business. It’s hard to predict your running costs with WooCommerce, especially for a fast-growing company.
Where Shopify Falls Short
Shopify is far from perfect. There are a few downsides you need to be aware of. Some of the platform’s shortcomings include:
Limited Customization: Shopify’s ease of use is also its Achilles heel. After all, hosted solutions are less flexible, and Shopify isn’t an exception. You’re limited mainly to what the platform permits.
For instance, you can only use pre-approved add-ons and software from Shopify apps. This limitation can be an issue when you need to expand the platform’s capabilities with third-party plugins or custom software. WooCommerce is far more flexible in this regard.
Restrictive Store Design: Shopify’s limited customization extends to its store theme designs. Some themes let you customize with Liquid code snippets or add HTML. But there’s still a limit to the modifications you can change.
WooCommerce is true to its open-source heritage. The platform offers extensive customizations, making it more likely that you’ll create a unique storefront. Shopify stores can look the same, especially if you don’t have coding skills.
The Final Verdict on WooCommerce Compared to Shopify
Let’s do a quick overview of WooCommerce vs. Shopify pricing before deciding which platform takes the cake.
Shopify has three fixed pricing tiers. These include:
- Basic, which costs $39 per month or $29 per month billed annually
- Shopify for $105 per month or $79 per month billed annually
- Advanced, which costs $399 per month or $299 per month billed annually
The fixed pricing structure makes it easier to manage and predict operating costs. You’ll know exactly how much you need to pay every month.
Plus, you can start with the cheapest plan and upgrade to unlock more features as you scale your business. The entry-level plan is affordable for someone starting an online store from scratch, with all the supporting features you need to succeed.
WooCommerce pricing structure is far more flexible. The software is free to install and set up. But, there are extra costs before you can take your store live. These costs include:
- Web Hosting – $29 – $250 per month
- Domain name – $10 – $20 per year
- SSL Certificate – $20 – $70 per year
- Extension fees – $0 – $100 per month
These add-ons are the bare minimum you need to launch your WooCommerce store. Shopify includes these essentials in all its pricing tiers.
The advantage of WooCommerce is you can minimize your costs by price-shopping. You decide on the hosting provider you’re comfortable with, so there’s excellent potential for low setup costs. This flexibility is perfect if you’re on a tight budget.
However, many service providers have a low introductory cost but a high renewal price. For instance, you can get web hosting from Bluehost for as little as $6.95 per month. But the price jumps to $13.99 per month after the first year.
WooCommerce is potentially cheaper than Shopify, at least in the beginning. But the extra cost starts to add up when you factor in professional paid themes, developer fees, and plugins and extensions to enhance your store’s functionality. Shopify may be more expensive out of the gate, but you get most of the ecommerce features and functionality out of the box.
That said, Shopify is the best option for most people. There are many things to like, including its transparent pricing, carefully curated high-quality themes, ease of use, and range of built-in ecommerce features and functionality. If you’re building an online store from scratch, Shopify is the way to go.
You don’t have to worry about web security, domain registration, hosting, and other technical aspects of launching and managing an online store. You also get dedicated support and in-platform tutorials in case you get stuck.
However, there are certain cases where WooCommerce is the better option. Its unrivaled flexibility is attractive to experienced designers hoping to create a one-of-a-kind online shopping experience. It’s also cheaper than Shopify if you only need to sell a handful of similar products.
Finally, WooCommerce is an excellent option if you have an existing WordPress website. You don’t need to migrate platforms to start selling online. You’ll get access to numerous themes, plugins, and extensions to turn your website into a fully-fledged online store.
Fortunately, your options aren’t limited to WooCommerce and Shopify. We spent many months testing at least 20 ecommerce platforms and software. We detailed the results of our experiment in our compilation of the best ecommerce platforms and software.
We also reviewed each platform to make it easier for you to choose the best option. Our top contenders include:
- Shopify – Best ecommerce platform for most
- Wix – Best ecommerce platform for beginners
- Bluehost – Best for automatic WooCommerce store setup
- Squarespace – Best portfolio-based ecommerce builder
- BigCommerce – Best for multichannel sales
- Ecwid – Best free shopping cart extension
- WooCommerce – Best ecommerce plugin for WordPress
- Shift4Shop – Best ecommerce platform for developers
- Easy Digital Downloads – Best WordPress plugin for digital products
- Volusion – Best ecommerce platform for large stores
- Magento – Best enterprise ecommerce platform