In this post, I am going to be comparing Shopify vs WordPress & WooCommerce, to see which on is the better option for building an ecommerce store.
Shopify vs WordPress & WooCommerce: What is the Difference?
Shopify is a fully hosted ecommerce platform, which means that the hosting, ecommerce software and 24/7 support are all included in the monthly package. WordPress + WooCommerce is a self hosted platform, which means that the hosting and WordPress software are separate and the website owner is responsible for the security and performance aspects of the site.
Disclosure – this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you sign up to services via a link in this post, I do receive a small commission. BUT and I cannot stress this enough, in no way does this influence my review of any platform, if I don’t like something then I will say so!
No Turnover Limit
2% Transaction Fee
Unlimited Data Storage
Free SSL Certificate
2 Staff Accounts
Dependent on Hosting
No Turnover Limit
No Transaction Fees
Dependent on Hosting
Dependent on Hosting
No Dedicated Support
Shopify does have a smaller plan that costs $9 a month but it lacks quite a few of the features that you get with the basic Shopify plan, which is why I haven’t included it in this comparison. Most users starting out with Shopify will go for the Basic package as it includes lots of features and the website builder.
This Basic package is very much in line with most other fully hosted ecommerce platforms, the only real downside is the 2% transaction fee that is charged on any payment received not using the Shopify Payments gateway.
While WordPress and the WooCommerce plugin is completely free to use, you will have to pay for web hosting in order to have a WordPress site and this all depends on the hosting company and your requirements. You may also need to pay for plugins if there are specific features that you require.
Shopify offer a 14 day free trial of their platform to all users, with no credit card needed to get started.
As WordPress is open source software, you need to buy some hosting and install WordPress and the WooCommerce plugin in order to try them out for yourself.
As two of the biggest names in the industry, it is expected that they all offer a good range of features for their users.
As Shopify is a fully hosted ecommerce platform, it comes with a lot of ecommerce related features straight out of the box and all of the following are available on the Shopify basic plan.
- Dropshipping Integration
- Flexible Shipping Rates
- Product Reviews
- Digital Products
- Gift Vouchers
- Shopify Management App
Marketing & SEO
- Google Adwords Credit
- Sell on Facebook
- Discount Codes
- Abandoned Cart Recovery
- Auto Generated Sitemap
- Social Share
- Custom Meta Data
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Product Reports
- Traffic Sources
- Google Analytics
- Day, Week and Monthly Reports
- Shopify Payments
- PayPal Express Checkout
- Amazon Pay
Shopify App Store
Even though the features you get in the standard Shopify core platform are very good, they do have their own App Store which features over 3000 apps from both the Shopify team and also third-party developers.
The Shopify App Store opens your store up to a whole world of possibilities including dropshipping integration, Google, Ebay and Amazon integration, SEO and marketing tools and advanced reporting to name but a few. Obviously, with so many to choose from, it is nearly impossible for me to start listing them all in this post.
But not all of these apps are free to use as many of them are made and managed by third party developers. Many offer free plans but you are limited to the amount of features you can use in the particular app, to get all the features then you will need to use a paid plan.
So you do need to be selective when it comes to choosing your apps as you can soon end up with a very expensive store.
The WordPress + WooCommerce combination is very basic in its standard form and gives you the basic tools you need in order to set up your website and online store. In its basic form, you get the following features:
- Sell Physical & Digital Products
- Discount Coupons
Marketing & SEO
- Blog (WordPress)
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Sales by Date
- Sales by Product
- Sales by Category
- Registered vs Guest Customers
- Amazon Pay
WordPress Plugin Library
Now this doesn’t look great for WooCommerce BUT this is where the WordPress plugin comes in, searching WooCommerce returns a result of over 7,000 plugins that can be used and these offer all different kinds of functionality from Marketing & SEO to payment gateways and ecommerce tools.
There are also many many other things you can do including creating an online marketplace, booking website and membership websites. Pretty much everything you could think of you can do with WooCommerce.
Outside of the free WordPress library, there are also thousands of paid plugins for WooCommerce that offer many more premium features. This also includes paid versions of the free plugins.
Shopify – The Shopify Theme Store offers a selection of 70 themes that you can choose from but only 9 of these are free to use and the others range from $140 – $180. The Themeforst marketplace has over 1200 additional themes you can choose from.
WooCommerce – When it comes to theme selection, no platform can beat the WordPress + WooCommerce combination. As there are over 1000 to choose from in the WordPress free theme library, the majority are made by third-party developers and have varying degrees of WooCommerce integration but many of them work perfectly. There are over 8,500 premium themes available on Themeforest starting form only a couple of dollars.
Running an ecommerce website can be challenging at times and you require some help, so what support do you get from these platforms?
As Shopify is a fully hosted platform, you do get some very good support options including over the phone, via live chat and email along with twitter. This is offered to all users and is available 24/7.
Accessing their support is not completely straightforward as you need to go to the help centre, type in a search query and then the button will appear that shows all of their contact options.
They also have a community forum that is frequented by their support staff and other users will also offer help and advice where they can.
Due to being open source and free, the level of support for WooCommerce isn’t anywhere near as Shopify. But as a registered customer of WooCommerce, you can contact their support team via support tickets and they will help as soon as they can. They also have very good documentation on the WooCommerce website.
There is also a support forum on WordPress where you can ask questions about the plugin and generally you will get a helpful reply either from one of the WooCommerce team or someone else on the forum. The same extends to plugins as long as you ask in the right place.
The one good thing about WordPress & WooCommerce being so popular is the amount of information and guides out there to help you set up plugins or do things within the platform. A quick Google search will give you the answer to most of your problems.
Hosting & Performance
As I mentioned as the start of the post, WooCommerce is a self hosted solution and that makes comparing the performance of the two quite difficult as there are few factors that affect how well a WooCommerce store runs but I have done my best to compare them.
Shopify on the other hand is a fully hosted solution and all of the hosting is taken care of by the platform and they also have a good hosting environment that offers the following:
- PCI Compliant Hosting
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- Unlimited Storage
- 99.9% + Uptime
- Global CDN
- Free SSL Certificate
This all looks great right? But, I don’t like to take companies on their word so I decided to test Shopify out and used my tried and tested method! I took three of their customer example sites and ran them through Pingdom’s speed test tool (London server), once a day for three days to see how well they performed.
I also created a demo WordPress + WooCommerce website, that was filled with demo content and ran a test of that website to give a sort of comparison.
Average Load Time
Website 1: 1.39 Seconds
Website 2: 2.36 Seconds
Website 3: 1.04 Seconds
Test Website Load Time
Shopify had really good performance, especially as I was using the London based server and the majority of their hosting is based in North America. The average 1.60 seconds is within the golden 2 second window, with only one site averaging over this.
WooCommerce did really well on the test with a 0.95 second load time but this was a very simple set up with WordPress + the WooCommerce plugin, with demo WooCommerce content. There are many variables that affect how well a Woo site works, such as the quality of hosting, how well the site is optimised and the amount and type of plugins that you use.
Ease of Use
Facts and figures are one thing but what are these platforms like to use and how do they compare to each other? Well that is what I am going to be looking at in this section.
Getting started with these two platforms is different due to the way that they both operate and I will explain this in more detail below.
Getting started with Shopify is really easy to do, as it is simply a case of going to the Shopify website and entering your email address and creating a password.
Once you have done this, you will be taken to a page where you are asked what stage your business is at such as just getting started or turning over X amount a year along with some other questions. You will then be asked to enter your business information, which is your name, store name and address.
After you have done all this, you will be taken into your dashboard for the first time and be greeted by a short set up guide.
As you can see in the image above, the set up guide doesn’t include that many steps and is missing out on very important ones such as setting up your payment gateway and delivery methods.
Fortunately, they have created a very useful set of videos in their academy, that are worth watching as they not only show you how to get started with Shopify but also include some tips and tricks to get you up and running.
Outside of the set up guide, the Shopify dashboard is a very nice place to be. It has a simple, uncluttered layout and the sidebar navigation menu is clearly labelled, making it very easy to not only find out where everything is within the dashboard but also to move from one section to another.
Getting started with WordPress & WooCommerce is a little bit more challenging as it is not a simple as just signing up and off you go. This is because you need to buy some hosting, install WordPress and then install the WooCommerce plugin.
Once you have got everything installed, getting started with WooCommerce is pretty easy. There is a quick start up wizard that takes you through most of the important steps you need to do in order to get WooCommerce set up but it is a little bit limited.
The reason why I say this, is because it only allows you to set up PayPal standard as a payment gateway and the set up guide doesn’t show you how to do these steps, as in where to go in your dashboard to make any changes. It also doesn’t have a guide to help you set up your first product.
Once you get past the set up wizard, using the WordPress and WooCommerce dashboards is nice and easy and all of the Woo elements integrate nicely into the standard WordPress sidebar navigation menu.
The navigation sidebar can get a little crowded if you install a lot of plugins as many are accessed directly from the sidebar. Others will go into other sections such as settings or tools, so will need to learn where to go to access them once they are installed.
Customising your Theme
As Shopify has the largest selection of themes to choose from (Shopify Theme Store + Themeforest) when it comes to fully hosted platforms and you really want to be able to make the most of these themes by being able to customise them so that they fit your business and brand.
Fortunately, Shopify has one of the best theme customisation tools on the market and it allows you to quickly add and removes sections, change the content within these sections such as the images and text along with being able to change the themes colours of font types.
This gives you lots of flexibility over the look and feel of your site! Unfortunately though, this only really applies to your homepage, there are a couple of options for your collection and product pages but nowhere near as much.
Unfortunately, there is no way to apply this customiser to any of your created pages such as About Us/Me. This is a real let down for me as it would be great to use this tool on all of your sites pages.
When it comes to these customisation in WordPress, it very much depends on the theme that you are using as some will give you lots of options and others will give you very few. The same goes for how well these themes integrate with WooCommerce.
But when it comes to the tools available, WordPress has two very good ones and it makes theme customisation really easy to do.
The first one is the main theme customizer, which looks very similar to the image below. And it is within the customizer that you can see all the options that are available for your chosen theme. This is generally where you set your branding such as your logo, set the font type and size and configure your header and navigation bar layout.
It is very easy to use and you see a live preview of your changes to see if you like them, before clicking the publish button if you want them to go live.
The second tool is the Gutenberg page editor/builder, which uses a block based system to build your pages and posts exactly how you want to. There are lots of blocks as standard but there are third party plugins that offer a great selection as well.
Unfortunately, the Gutenberg editor can’t be used with product or category pages and any customisation options for these page will be in the WordPress customizer.
Within the WordPress ecosystem, there are thousands of themes to choose from and it very much comes down to your business as to which one best suits, you but as many of the themes you can get in the WordPress theme library are free versions of premium themes, it is a great way to see if the theme will be any good for your website before committing to buy.
Adding and Managing Stock
Being able to manage your stock efficiently and effectively is a hugely important part of running an online store and for me there are three main areas to this and they are:
- Adding products
- Organising your Products
- Managing your inventory
Adding a new product is really easy to do on the Shopify platform as they have gone for a simple, one page layout, which has a nice flow from one section to the next. They haven’t gone overboard with the options and you get the right amount of sections to really help sell your product.
Shopify do things a little differently when it comes to organising your inventory as they have developed their own collections system and there are couple of different options on how this can be used.
The easiest way is the manual method, that works very similar to a traditional category based system but the automatic method takes a little getting used to as it works of rules that you set up using product tags and to get it working effectively, it is worth reading through the documentation.
Managing your inventory is pretty easy to do in Shopify as they have included an inventory section, that allows you to update your stock quantity in bulk but if you want to make changes to the pricing, SKU code or any other field from the product, then you need to select the products you want to edit from the product overview screen and then click the edit product button, which allows you to make updates in bulk.
The add new product page in WooCommerce is also very easy to use and is based around the classic post/page creator in WordPress. There is the options to add full and short descriptions as well as a main featured images and additional images.
To add product information, there is a tabbed section below the main description that allows you to add pricing, inventory and delivery information along with any product attributes that you have created.
Organising your products is also very easy and uses a category system that allows you to make both parent and sub-categories which makes create a very good hierarchy for your products. The add product page is very simple, all you need to do is name that category and if you want to, you can add a description and images to the categories.
You can manage a lot of your inventory directly from the product overview page using the quick edit option including price, quantity, category, SKU number, sale price and product title and URL. This makes updating your inventory very quick and simple to do.
Shopify – While the order management system in Shopify isn’t bad, it does miss one very useful feature and that is the option to print order invoices/packing slips in bulk, directly from your order dashboard. The only way that you can add this feature is by installing the Order Printer App, that adds this functionality.
There are some bulk features such as being able to update order statuses and exporting all of your order information in CSV format.
WooCommerce – In the core WooCommerce plugin, the order management process is pretty poor as you can only update order statuses. If you want to add the ability to print off invoices or export your orders via CSV file, then you will need to install additional plugins to allow you to do this.
• Theme Customisation
• 24/7 Support
• Easy to use Admin Area
• The App Store
• Very Good Performance
• Transaction Fees
• Automatic Collection system is a bit complicated
• Free to install and use
• Theme Selection
• Plugin Selection
• Easy to use admin dashboard
• Needs addition plugins for full functionality
• No real technical support
• Premium plugins can be expensive
Both of these options are very good choices for building an ecommerce store but they do approach achieving this from different perspectives.
And this makes Shopify the better option for people who want to build a store in the easiest way they can and don’t want to deal with the technical aspects. With Shopify, it is very much a case of signing up, setting up and designing your store, adding their products and then start selling. I know I make this sound very simple but most users will be able to get a Shopify store up and running within a week.
WordPress + WooCommerce is a very good base for building an ecommerce store but it does require some additional plugins to add some basic functionality. It is also more technically involved as you will need to find good quality hosting, install and configure security, performance and optimisation plugins in order to make the WordPress system ready for ecommerce.
If you are or have experience with WordPress then this could be a great option but if you are completely new to building a website, Shopify is the easiest way to get started.
Try Shopify for Yourself
14 day Free Trial, No Credit Card Needed!
Check Out WooCommerce
Free, WordPress Ecommerce Plugin