I recommend everyone to commence their e-commerce journey with Shopify. But many e-commerce veterans are seen siding with WooCommerce instead. From the data available, it seems that WooCommerce is more widely used than Shopify. I wanted to compare the two based on my experience.
You will likely find much more detailed reports on this comparison, however, many of those are written by web hosting companies which are biased towards WooCommerce as Shopify comes pre-hosted while WooCommerce is self-hosted and requires a hosting plan. I recommend that you read those reports since they are very detailed, but for the ones written by the hosting providers or by the affiliates of the hosting providers, please take what they say with a grain of salt.
Let’s begin with the cost. Shopify’s basic plan starts from $29/month but you will also need to pay 2% of the order value as transaction fee to Shopify. By upgrading Shopify plan, you can reduce this to 1% and 0.5% depending on the plan you choose. You also need to pay a monthly subscription for most Shopify apps.
WooCommerce in comparison is free and has many free apps available as well. But since you need to host it yourself, there will be a hosting cost of roughly $10/month. You will also require SSL certificate which you can get for $50-$100/year or for free using Clouldflare or a similar service. WooCommerce ‘seems’ to be cheaper in most cases but Shopify is also only expensive when you’re doing large volumes. For someone who’s just starting out, Shopify is going to be very affordable as well.
In addition, since WooCommerce is self-hosted and self-managed, there could be outages, security issues, hacks etc which may cause you monetary losses. In order to avoid these issues, you may require a technical resource. So after assuming these costs or losses, I don’t think WooCommerce is truly cheaper than Shopify. It may or may not be depending on who is using it.
Ease of Use
Ask anyone you like, including the ones who are using WooCommerce as their goto solution, and you’ll likely hear that Shopify is easier to use. It truly is. You don’t need to know anything about domains, hosting, SSL, security, integration, customization etc. Everything comes pre-configured and you can start a store in a jiffy, literally.
I recommend everyone to begin their journey with Shopify for this very reason. You’re likely working on your products, developing and frequently iterating them. If you’re a dropshipper, you’re likely constantly hunting new and trending products for your store. You’re likely figuring out a marketing plan. You or your team need to have A game when it comes to Facebook ads. If you can do Google, Snap, TikTok and emails, you could literally add at least as much revenue as you do from Facebook. All of this needs your attention. When your attention deserves all of this, you shouldn’t be wasting anytime looking into non-issues such as whether the hosting can take enough traffic, or whether part of my traffic is getting stolen from malware etc.
The ease of use is huge.
In addition, you don’t need to know much about how to optimize your conversions. Or how to have a perfect sales funnel. Free Shopify themes are VERY nicely done and have high conversion rates. They are perfect for inexperienced sellers looking to start a store on a budget.
Features & Customization
WooCommerce is light years ahead of Shopify as far as features and customization is concerned. It is why I think many advanced store owners eventually need a WooCommerce store. The amount of customization that you can do with a self-hosted platform is unthinkable.
I was listening to this podcast of a founder of a large D2C brand, and he said he hates the fact that you’ve to manually put in Zip Code, City, State and other information on your Shopify store. This became the reason for him to switch to WooCommerce since he wanted to just take in Zip code, and auto fill City and State info which wasn’t possible with Shopify. When your brand requires conversion optimization on that level, your hands are tied on Shopify.
Hence, it makes total sense for the advanced users to go with WooCommerce.
As a general rule, I think that new and small e-commerce businesses should start with Shopify while large business doing larger volumes should use WooCommerce so they can avoid transaction fee, hire a technical resource if needed, and get unlimited flexibility and customization.
At Socialoholic, we’ve been doing 7-figure e-commerce for a while, but still have found ourselves using Shopify. For 8 figure and beyond, I think one should definitely be using WooCommerce.