Shopify vs. WooCommerce (WordPress) – which is best? This is one of the most asked questions here at MMG, and is no doubt that plagues eCommerce businesses around the world.
Why? Because every day more businesses are making the decision to launch their own eCommerce store. After all, eCommerce retail sales are estimated to hit almost $5 trillion by 2021.
But in the process of setting up your online store, you’re plagued with a myriad of questions: Which platform should I be using? What are the costs involved in setting up my store? What are the pros and cons of Shopify and WooCommerce?
Look no further! In this blog, we’re going to give you an in-depth comparison, including a look at:
- What is Shopify, including how much it costs
- What is WordPress, including how much it costs
- The main differences between Shopify and WordPress
- eCommerce tools and features
- Payment options and transaction fees
- Which is better for SEO
- When to use one over the other
- Summary: Pros and cons
- Final thoughts
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: We would like to be completely honest and tell you that we love Shopify, and 99% of the time, it’s our go-to platform for eCommerce. At MMG, we haven’t used WooCommerce specifically, but have used WordPress for a lot of the websites we’ve delivered. In any case, we’ve done our research on WooCommerce so that we could put this blog post together, bias or no bias.
Shopify – What is it?
Shopify is an all-in-one tool specifically designed for eCommerce, making it easy for businesses to start, run and grow their online store.
One of its main selling points is that you can build a functional eCommerce store from scratch without any technical or design skills and without resorting to complex HTML code. Forget about a steep learning curve, as you won’t need a designer or a developer to help you launch.
Shopify also comes with a range of templates that you can plug your branding into, and if you do have some coding skills, you can edit the HTML and CSS of your website to edit the templates further.
The beauty of Shopify is that it is a fully-hosted product. This means you don’t have to worry about paying for web hosting. Instead, you pay a monthly fee to Shopify, which can be anywhere between $29 and $299 per month. You can also use it offline, as they also offer a point-of-sale system to unify your in-store and online sales.
WooCommerce and WordPress – What is it?
Both WooCommerce and WordPress have more of a learning curve than Shopify does, especially the WordPress content management system. Depending on how customised you want your site to look, you may need some coding and design skills. WooCommerce is an open source platform, meaning you can install plugins for other features such as SEO, social media and more.
Initially, WordPress and WooCommerce are both free. However, as you use more features of WordPress specifically, you’ll need to look at upgrading your plan, which range up to £432 per year. There’s also additional costs for template themes, hosting, and SSL certificates, so the costs can quickly add up.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Now that we have defined WordPress and WooCommerce, we’ll be using those terms interchangeably for the rest of this blog post.
What’s the difference between Shopify and WordPress?
The main difference is that Shopify falls into the category of website builders, a website builder being an online tool that helps people with limited technical knowledge to build their own website.
Shopify has been purpose-built exclusively for eCommerce businesses, and you’ll only ever use it for creating your online store. WordPress on the other hand, is known as a blogging platform, and WooCommerce is simply one of many eCommerce plugins that are compatible with WordPress. WordPress is available in two formats:
- WordPress.com – This works as a website builder, allowing you to create your own website.
- WordPress.org – A self-managed hosting software, which is far more technically advanced.
So at this point, if you’re still undecided about whether to use Shopify or WordPress, it’s worth asking yourself the question “Do I just need an online store, or do I need a full website builder?”
eCommerce tools and features
It would be wrong of us to put this comparison together without reviewing the eCommerce features of these two platforms. After all, without these features, you haven’t got the platform to market and sell your products to a potentially global audience.
eCommerce features of Shopify
We’re not exaggerating when we say Shopify has hundreds of eCommerce features. You can sell an unlimited amount of products regardless of what plan you’re on, and it has features built-in for shipping, inventory, analytics and more.
We could write an entire blog post of the features of Shopify, but for now, we’ll give you our top 3:
- Marketing tools – Shopify comes with tools for blogging, SEO, even Facebook Ads, allowing you to market to your audience without leaving Shopify and sell to them wherever they are.
- Point-of-sale – As we mentioned earlier, Shopify also has a seamlessly integrated point-of-sale system, which can help you create seamless customer experiences, both online and offline.
- Cart abandonment – Without a doubt one of our favourite features! You can set up your site to automatically email customers who have abandoned their (virtual) shopping cart, which can make all the difference between a lost sale and a happy purchase.
eCommerce features of WordPress / WooCommerce
To be clear, WordPress does not have any built-in eCommerce features to begin with, which is why WooCommerce exists a plugin for WordPress sites.
WooCommerce has countless features, and again, we’ll give you our top 3:
- Support from real people – WooCommerce has a dedicated support team who are on-hand 24/7 to provide support and guidance when needed.
- Extensions galore – WooCommerce, much like WordPress, can integrate with various other apps, such as Mailchimp for email marketing, Facebook and more.
- Coupons and deals – You can set various coupons and special offers for buyers, whether they’re timed offers and one-off deals
However, there are alternatives to the WooCommerce plugin for WordPress, such as Ecwid, so we always recommend doing some research into those before making a decision on which to use.
Payment options and transaction fees
This is probably the most important section of this blog post, as the ability to take payment could be the difference between your customers pulling out the credit cards or not. Not only that, but it’s important to make sure the payment options are seamless and current, as an outdated system will likely be a put off for your customers.
Shopify supports numerous different payment gateways, including the popular ones of Paypal, Stripe, Square, Amazon Pay and Apple Pay.
It also has its own payment gateway, aptly called Shopify Payments. The advantage of using this is that it can process orders in multiple currencies, and you won’t be charged an additional transaction fee. The other aforementioned payment gateways will leave you with a charge of between 0.5% and 2%, depending on your pricing plan.
Additionally, your Shopify payments can integrate with your cloud accounting software, which can be extremely beneficial in the long run and save you a lot of time. At the time of writing this, Shopify has a direct integration with Xero, QuickBooks, FreshBooks and many others.
WooCommerce also covers the majority of the popular payment gateways, and you won’t be charged anything more on top of each one’s own transaction fee. You can also integrate with your accounting software much like Shopify, with integrations for Xero, QuickBooks, FreeAgent and others. However, some of these come at an additional cost, as they act as another plugin for your site.
Which is better for SEO: Shopify or WordPress?
SEO is extremely important in today’s digital world. Without solid SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), you’re going to struggle to increase your website’s visibility on search engines, making it all the more difficult for your buyers to find you and make that sale.
With this section, we’re going to review how easy SEO is for both Shopify and WordPress, whether it’s in-built or third party features.
Shopify has a number of built-in features to help you optimise your store and content for the world to see. You’re able to add specific titles, meta-descriptions and URLs for your blog posts, webpages, products and collections, which makes it easier for search engines to understand your site as you begin to update it and share it with the world.
You also have the ability to optimise and add keywords to your site, and some SEO is taken care of automatically for you. For instance, your website’s sitemap is automatically generated, meaning all you have to do is submit the sitemap to Google so it knows how up-to-date your site is.
SEO for WordPress on the other hand is much more complicated, and can only be achieved through third-party plugins. The most popular (at the time of writing this) is Yoast. We’ve used it ourselves at MMG and love its simplicity. It allows you to alter the URLs of your pages and blog posts, as well as assign a keyword to the page and set titles and page descriptions. There are more features, but you would need to pay $69 for its advanced features.
There are also other sites such as SEMrush which allow you to do keyword research, but there is a steep learning curve needed to get to grips with that platform.
When should you use Shopify over WordPress (and vice versa)?
If you’ve got this far into the blog post, you’re probably asking the question “Which should I use, and when?”
Both have their advantages. Shopify is great as you can get started straight away with building your online store and begin selling to your customers almost immediately. WordPress on the other hand is a powerhouse, allowing you to create websites of all kinds, but there’s a lot of work to be done when getting started.
So, let’s look at the top three circumstances where you might want to use Shopify over WordPress first:
- Use it if you don’t have a pre-existing website, and want to get your eCommerce store setup fast.
- Use it if you have limited, or no experience with designing, coding or building a website, and you don’t want to hire someone to do it for you.
- Use it if you want to bring your online and offline store together, and integrate them seamlessly.
Similarly, if you’re leaning more towards WooCommerce, or another eCommerce plugin for WordPress, here are the top three circumstances you would want to use it over Shopify:
- Use it if you already have a pre-existing WordPress site, and you’re familiar with that interface. Or you don’t want to invest in a new and separate eCommerce platform.
- Use it if you have experience with editing code, and feel comfortable doing so.
- Use it if you’re not reliant on customer support, as WordPress doesn’t have a fast-reacting support team.
Summary: Pros and cons of Shopify and WordPress
As we begin to summarise this comparison, we wanted to take the opportunity to provide some quick fire pros and cons of both platforms. So, if you’re still on the fence, here’s what it comes down to:
Pros and cons of Shopify
- You don’t need to have any technical knowledge of coding, design and building to use Shopify
- It’s a platform that has been wholly and purposefully built for eCommerce websites, meaning everything is ready for you to use.
- There’s no additional fees for hosting, SSL, etc.
- There are extra transaction fees unless you’re using Shopify’s own payment gateway.
- Changing your store theme will likely mean you’ll need to reformat the entirety of your site.
- It’s still not as basic as other DIY-builder tools such as Wix.
Pros and cons of WordPress
- It’s a powerhouse, giving you total customisation over how your site looks and works
- There’s a mountain of resources online, both from user forums and professional developers
- You will need to invest some serious time into learning how to use the platform
- It can get expensive, with additional costs for hosting, security, SEO and more
The battle between Shopify and WordPress is a mighty one, to say the least. Depending on your circumstances will ultimately depend on what’s right for you.
We love both platforms, and have used them extensively with clients. However, your decision will likely come down to budget and skill level. For us, and eCommerce specifically, there can only be one heavyweight champion in our eyes, and that’s Shopify. We love it for it’s all-in-one, easy-to-use dashboard.
We recommend that you don’t make a rushed decision though. Both platforms come with a free trial, so give both a try and see what works for you. Or, if you need support from an eCommerce marketing agency, it’s a click away!