Updated: July 1st, 2018
If you’re looking at starting an online store, two of the most widely used choices are Shopify and WooCommerce. These are also my two most recommended choices. I used to use both of these on a regular basis, both are great in their own ways, but one is my favourite by far. I will try not to be biased and will outline what I like about each platform and hopefully, this will help you decide what route to go with your new eCommerce store. I could go on and on about in-depth features of both, but I attempted to keep this short and brief as possible to help you decide which route you might want to go.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is an all in one e-commerce solution to quickly get your store up and running. Shopify is a Canadian company, that started back in 2006 but did not become popular or widely used until 2014. Shopify allows users to easily add products, set prices and variations, add photos and start selling with their built-in payment system which supports Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Payments etc right out of the box. They also have a Facebook sales channel and integrate with the Facebook pixel natively, Shopify also supports product tagging on Instagram. Shopify works on a monthly paid plan service. They offer 24/7 online live chat support and have many integrations across the web with other platforms.
- Shopify is simple and easy to use
- Shopify works out of the box with no technical configurations needed
- 24/7 Support
- Very reliable and secure payment gateway (credit card processing) with one click Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Paypal options
- Very reliable and fast website hosting
- Nice reporting, tracking and many great marketing apps that work great and easy to setup
- Connects nicely with social media and Facebook to run Facebook Ads including automatic Facebook pixel integration
- Instagram product tagging
- Pinterest Integration
- Amazon Integration
- Has a POS sales channel
- No worries about updating and breaking your site, its not necessary with Shopify
- Shopify runs a great blog with lots of information from customizing your store, to getting sales and driving traffic. There is a wealth of information and groups on Facebook out there to help you with Shopify.
- The app store is massive, with apps your Shopify store can become extremely powerful, and its that’s not enough there is Shopify Plus that brings it to a whole new level.
- Ability to add on a Wholesale Channel.
- The monthly cost and cost of apps can add up.
- Inflexibility ‘out of the box’ when it comes to custom layouts within pages and blogs.
- Complex stores will require some custom development or apps which can add up.
- Apps are a monthly fee, most start around the $10/mo but go up to $50+ a month.
What I love most about Shopify is…everything, but in reality, it’s the fact it just works very well. I have yet to have any major issues with setting up third-party apps with Shopify, website speed is very fast, payment processing and checkout are smooth and easy for your customers. Our clients that use Shopify find it very easy to add products, put in variations, sales, photos, shipping costs etc. If you plan on having your online store as your focus Shopify is what I would recommend. The built-in feature for advertising & selling on facebook (and now Instagram) works great and is simple. But adding on a bunch of third-party apps can start adding up in cost as you pay for them all monthly. The nice thing is most offer a 7-30 day trial, and have nice reporting so you can actually see how much that app is returning in terms of additional sales to see if its worthwhile before committing. As well if you have a developer lots of the functionality of apps can be built right in your theme. If you are running a successful store, the cost of the apps will not be an issue as the ROI will (generally) greatly outweigh the costs.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is a “plugin” (extension) for WordPress which allows you to turn your wordpress site into a full-fledged eCommerce store. Both WordPress and WooCommerce are open source. This allows thousands of developers around to world to build on and improve WooCommerce. There is no monthly fee, no purchase fee, it is 100% free. WordPress is the most widely used website platform in the world, which is also free. But before you base your choice on the fact its free there are other aspects to consider I’ll outline below.
- It’s free, and open source (but see below under cons)
- There are many free extensions/plugins for woocommerce
- It’s very flexible
- It has the power of WordPress behind it
- Page layouts are very flexible
- Thousands of paid add-ons that you purchase upfront with no monthly fee
- Easy to create multiple categories, sub-categories and sub-sub-categories
- If you want some sort of feature for your store, chances are there is a plugin for it, you can make very complex stores with it
- It’s not really FREE…you have to pay for hosting and an SSL certificate and setup annually. As well you have to setup a payment gateway for credit card payments if you do not want to use paypal.
- For hosting equivalent to shopify, you would spend about $15-25/mo, SSL setup and certificate can cost around $65 a year.
- Learning curve is more difficult than shopify.
- Things can sometimes *often* break if you’re not super careful.
- There can be incompatibilities between wordpress, woocommerce, themes and plugins.
- There is no real live support, there is a team at woocommerce that can help support you, but support times can be very slow, your best bet is to post and ask for help in the any facebook groups dedicated to woocommerce users. This and google are your best bets for finding support.
- Many people end up adding on A LOT of plugins, which can really slow down the loading speed of your site and can possibly cause headaches down the road. So think about what you really need before adding plugins. There are many badly developed plugins out there that can also cause security issues.
What I love about WooCommerce is its flexible and uses WordPress. Your pages can be very feature and media rich. But on the other hand, you have to deal with four pieces, WooCommerce, WordPress, your Theme and Plugins which are generally all built by different developers. When wordpress gets an update, woocommerce generally releases an update, the theme authors will release updates and same goes for the plugin developers. But you can’t just jump the gun and update one and not the other as it could break things, you should always make sure your theme is compatible with the latest version of WooCommerce before updating, same goes for plugins. Nowadays it’s rare that your site will break during updates, they have gotten that down pretty good so don’t let this completely drive you away from WooCommerce. One thing I do recommend with woocommerce (well really any route you decide to go, but more so woocommerce) is to have a developer that knows woocommerce well that you trust and can work with from time to time. Its best to hire someone to look after the updates, fix little problems and add in customizations that you might want.
How much will they actually cost?
I’m going to break down the most basic and typical costs of getting both up and running with similar features as possible and my most recommended apps/extensions that I feel every store should have. Prices are in USD.
- Basic Account: $29/mo
- Shopify Premium Theme: $140 (Pipeline Theme – My Favourite)
- Conversio App: Free – $19/mo – Looks great and works well for upsells, the premium version has cart abandonment and reviews. (link)
- Additional App Cost (average): $10/mo (link)
Total = $160 up front + $39-59+ per month.
- Hosting $15/mo (a small orange VPS)
- WooCommerce Premium Theme $60 (Aurum Theme)
- SSL Setup $60/year ($5/mo)
- Stripe Payment Gateway $20 (link)
- Email customizer $23 (link)
- Cart Abandonment Protector $29 (link)
- Table Rate Shipping $22 (link)
- A developer to help you from time to time $xxxx+ a month (suggested)
Total = $154 up front + $20 per month.
Dont forget: Developer costs every few months to run updates and fix any issues. This could be as little as 1 hour ($95) up to 5 hours ($475) if major problems occur.
Conclusion – Which route would I go?
That’s a very hard question. I always say this..if the most important aspect of your website is your store, and you’re in this for the long run then I’d go with Shopify…no question. Shopify is an e-commerce powerhouse and is becoming better and more powerful as time goes on. There are so many great apps and features focused on conversions and selling your product. The blog and custom page layouts (via sections) are becoming more flexible and you can always hire a developer (such as us!) to customize it to your liking and requirements.
If you want to have lots of great content, a nice blog and/or a content-driven website then I suggest going with WooCommerce as you have more control over content based pages and its content side and CMS is very expandable.
ps: Be sure to factor in a budget for generating sales and traffic via ADs no matter what route you go, I suggest $20 a day if possible to run retargeting and some LLA facebook ads.
Feel free to post any questions or comments below and I will try to respond as quickly as possible.
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Very accurate blog post indeed, we would tend to agree with you. If a business is looking at building a brand and a store for the long term then Shopify is the winner. WordPress and WooCommerce are ok, but have limitations.