So, you’ve got your pet business up and running and you’re selling your products online. But your eCommerce hosting platforms kind of…sucks.
For virtually every business looking to sell via eCommerce, there comes a time to choose between convenience and aesthetic; user-friendliness and functionality; and the ability to run your online store with little to no hassle.
How, then, do you choose the right eCommerce hosting platform? And, more importantly, how the heck do you know what to look for in the right platform?
Undoubtedly, the two most popular eCommerce platforms currently available are Shopify and WooCommerce. Both have a host of benefits, but there are also details of each to consider before you go all-in on either platform.
We’re going to break down both platforms for you so that you can make an informed decision about which eCommerce hosting platform is right for your business. Whether you’re looking to make a switch or start your online store from scratch, let’s take a look at each of these platforms and what you need to know about choosing the best platform that will be crucial to your success with eCommerce.
Overview: Shopify vs WooCommerce
Before we can dive deeper into both of these platforms, it’s important that we first understand what these platforms are and how they operate.
Shopify is an all-in-one eCommerce platform that allows you to sell products and services online while accepting payments and managing the daily tasks of running an online store, all without having to deal with the technical aspects of a site, such as web hosting, security certificates, caching and more. With Shopify, you can manage your inventory, fulfill orders, communicate with customers, and even perform email marketing all within the platform itself.
A key thing to remember about Shopify is that it allows you to create your own eCommerce website, which means any site you build on Shopify would be your primary website.
WooCommerce, on the other hand, is an open-source eCommerce plugin that allows you to build and customize your online store and even build custom extensions. Unlike Shopify, WooCommerce is a plugin used with WordPress, and isn’t a stand-alone site builder.
Keep in mind that, with WooCommerce, you have to be using WordPress as your website hosting platform in order to use WooCommerce.
What are the important differences between Shopify and WooCommerce?
A simple search of both eCommerce platforms will reveal a lot of mixed opinions on which platform is better for running an online business. And, while the countless reviews can be informative, the platform you choose really boils down to a few important yet core differences.
We mentioned above that Shopify is an all-in-one eCommerce platform, whereas WooCommerce is an open-source plugin.
With Shopify, you don’t have to handle the technical side of running a website – instead, you get a suite of tools that simplifies the entire process of building out an eCommerce site and allows you to get your online store up and running within hours (seriously).
However, this means you don’t have as much control over the more granular aspects of your website, including design, because unless you’re a coder or web developer, Shopify requires you to use pre-made store templates. Shopify is also limited in how far you can customize your store template without needing custom coding.
WooCommerce is different. Because it’s an open-source plugin, you are able to customize virtually every element of your online store, and this is helpful when you want niche features and settings. But it’s also just a plugin, which means you have to already be using WordPress for your website if you want to use WooCommerce. And, WordPress can be quite technical, which doesn’t make it the most convenient or easy choice.
Shopify if for you if: You want an easy, all-in-one platform where you can manage everything and not have to worry about the technical side of hosting an eCommerce website.
WooCommerce is for you if: You already have a WordPress website and don’t mind the more technical and complicated aspects of using WordPress for your online store.
What to look for in an eCommerce platform
Whatever platform you’re leaning towards, you have to think about more than just the aesthetic of your online store. That’s because your eCommerce website will have to do a lot of heavy lifting for you, like helping you manage inventory, process sales and payments, and more.
Thinking about the following will help you make a well-informed decision about the platform you choose:
- Budget – how much is it going to cost you, in both money and time, to set up your store?
- UX – how user-friendly would your site be, and will it be easy for you to set up and manage?
- Payment Processing – what are the options for payments, and how easy is it to accept multiple forms of payment?
- Integrations – what capabilities does each platform have for integrating third-party apps or tools?
- Scalability – can the platform grow with your business as you scale?
By understanding the core basics of what you’ll need from an eCommerce platform, you can better evaluate platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce so that you invest your time and money into the platform that’s ultimately the best choice for you.
How Shopify does design
One of Shopify’s greatest selling points is its out-of-the-box store templates. These templates are designed in-house by Shopify, which means any template you purchase through Shopify for your store won’t be sold anywhere else.
Now, that doesn’t mean other online stores won’t or can’t use the same template you do, but Shopify allows you to customize a range of features in each template, such as fonts, colours, buttons, imagery, text and more.
For the more technical aspects of your online store, like interactive buttons, dynamic scrolling or index pages, and other features not included in the template, you’ll likely need code or custom development, which makes Shopify a bit difficult to use if you’re not adept at coding.
Some of the store templates can also range in the $120-$180 mark, which means paying for a template can be steep. But it’s important to keep in mind that these templates comes with everything you need to create a beautiful eCommerce site in mere hours.
Oh, and there are a few free options for templates, too!
Shopify’s real and sole purpose is to make it simple for businesses to create a stunning eCommerce site quickly, so knowing what you can and can’t do with a Shopify template (or, as they call them, “themes”) will help you decide whether Shopify is the right route for you to go.
How WooCommerce does design
WooCommerce is the perfect solution to selling products online through your WordPress website, because the ability to really customize your online store is vast. However, you have to be willing to put the work in.
Because WooCommerce is a plugin, and not a hosting platform in and of itself, it works in collaboration with your existing or chosen WordPress theme/template. That means that you customize your online store but based on the template you’ve chosen – not a separate template or theme altogether.
The greatest selling point or feature of WooCommerce is that you’re not beholden only to themes found in WordPress. For example, you can purchase a theme or template for WordPress outside of WordPress, and as long as it’s compatible with WordPress and WooCommerce, you can use it. This gives you a leg-up over using Shopify because the customization and design options are greater.
Bearing all of that in mind, WordPress is a complicated enough website hosting platform as it is, so to truly make a WooCommerce store work for your WordPress site, you’ll need to be open to putting in quite a lot of time to customizing your store (or working with a developer to do it for you).
Features: Shopify vs WooCommerce
Both Shopify and WooCommerce include a suite of features and tools that come built into their main software, but the additional upside is that you can use third-party tools, apps and integrations to make your online store more robust.
Let’s take a look at how each of these platforms helps you sell online.
How Shopify helps you sell
Shopify is great because a lot of the tools or apps you can integrate into a Shopify store are free. But, in addition to those tools, Shopify gives you a lot right off the bat. Here are some of the many features you get with Shopify from the outset:
- Unlimited products
- Unlimited file storage
- Automatic fraud analysis
- Free SSL certificate
- Mobile commerce optimization
- Editable HTML and CSS
- Multiple payment options (including PayPal, Stripe, and gift cards)
- Drop shipping capabilities
- SEO-ready site structure
- Advanced reports
- Product variations
- Print orders
- Inventory management
- Abandoned cart recovery
While these are just a few of the many features you get with Shopify, one of the most important features you’ll want to note is the mobile capabilities. By default, Shopify templates (aka “themes”) are mobile friendly, which means less hassle for you in customizing your site for mobile, and more convenience for shoppers who are buying using their mobile devices more frequently.
Additionally, some functionalities with Shopify that are inherent to their templates, like varied shipping options, may cost you big bucks when using WooCommerce.
How WooCommerce helps you sell
Like Shopify, WooCommerce also includes many features in its main software that make it convenient when setting up an online shop. These features include:
- Adjustable shipping rates and taxes
- Unlimited number of products and product categories
- Stock levels control
- Mobile-friendly structure
- Works with your WordPress theme
- Hundreds of extensions, tools, and apps available
The core features of Shopify that WooCommerce doesn’t have include a free SSL certificate, unlimited file storage, hosting, and subdomain availability.
Ease of use: Shopify vs WooCommerce
Overall, what we’ve learned so far about these two eCommerce platforms is that they both have a robust suite of features and tools, so who’s the clear winner? Before we can reveal which platform we recommend, it’s important that we take into account the ease of use of these platforms.
How easy is Shopify to use?
A core strength of Shopify’s is that it’s a subscription-based platform, which means all you have to do is signup for an account, go through a setup “wizard”, and you’re essentially done.
Along the way, Shopify will help you determine key details about your store by asking a series of simple questions, and giving you helpful tips so you can optimize your store – including how to choose and set up the template/theme you want to use.
Once you’re finished, you’re presented with your shop’s main dashboard, and from there, you can go ahead with adding products, tweaking the design of your store, and getting it up and running ASAP!
Because Shopify is an all-in-one platform, every aspect of setting up your store is very easy to do – even connecting a domain or setting up a discount code is simplified with conversational instructions and helpful tips.
Shopify is also incredibly intuitive, meaning that adding products, accessing purchase data, tracking inventory and sales, and every other task you’ll do on a daily basis with your online store is simple!
How easy is WooCommerce to use?
From a high level, WooCommerce is just as simple to manage from a day-to-day perspective as Shopify is, with one small catch.
Setting up your store isn’t going to be as easy.
We’ve mentioned throughout this article that WooCommerce is a plugin, which means that, right out of the gate, you’re going to have to set up a few aspects of your store in your WordPress site with WooCommerce that Shopify takes care of for you.
Chiefly, with WooCommerce, you’ll have to:
- Find and purchase a domain name
- Sign up for a hosting with WordPress account
- Install WordPress
- Find and install a WordPress theme
Unfortunately, those key aspects of your site do involve a certain level of comfort in dealing with web-related tasks – like sourcing and purchasing a domain, connecting it to your WordPress site, installing WordPress, and installing a template/theme. You’ll then have to install WooCommerce and get that portion of your WordPress site up and running.
Of course, you can work with a WordPress specialist to do this for you, should your budget allow for it, and sites like Fiverr or UpWork present you with some cost-effective options for doing so. But, either way, using WooCommerce to get your store online is inevitably going to be more difficult than using Shopify.
You’ll also need to consider the design phase. Again, WooCommerce is a plugin, so the design of your store will or would happen through your WordPress template/theme, not WooCommerce itself. The upside here is that WooCommerce works with virtually all WordPress themes, it’s simply up to you to install WooCommerce and get it up and running.
Summary: While both Shopify and WooCommerce are easy to manage once both are up and running, Shopify is easier when it comes to setting up and configuring your online store.
What about technical support?
Anyone who has ever used WordPress knows how difficult it can be to get a hold of Support for WordPress. And that’s why many businesses turn to Shopify.
Shopify not only comes with a vast library of resources and support articles, but the company is also known (and highly renowned for) its customer support. As a customer with Shopify, you have access to 24/7 support, which is extremely helpful for any business owner new to eCommerce or not yet adept at building an online store.
WooCommerce is another can of worms altogether. Because it’s a WordPress plugin, most of the customer support goes through WordPress, which has a reputation for being less than convenient and very hard to get through to. On the upside, there are many support articles and online user threads with troubleshooting advice and helpful information, but if speaking with a real customer support rep is important to you, WooCommerce won’t offer that convenience.
Who comes out on top: Shopify or WooCommerce?
At the end of the day, the platform you use to host your online store or eCommerce business will depend entirely on what your individual needs are. At StreetDog Marketing, we work with both WordPress and Shopify, and recommend each platform based on the goals and eCommerce design needs of our clients’. But, if simplicity and ease of use are your main concerns, we’ve got to give this one to Shopify. After all, getting your store up and running today is more important than taking months to perfect it before launch!