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Shopify vs. WooCommerce: how do they compare?

Growth Secrets|03.05.2016

With more and more brands turning to e-commerce to access customers in new ways, one of the most important aspects of launching your online store is choosing the platform that’s right for your business.

Two of the big players are Shopify, the platform we dedicate our services to, and WooCommerce, the WordPress e-commerce plugin. So what are the differences between the two and how should you decide which one to use?

Design

Looks are everything when it comes to creating your e-commerce experience. Having the right aesthetic ensures you make a good impression on visitors and gain their trust, making them more inclined to buy and increasing the chance of their return.

With WooCommerce, the possibilities for crafting your own aesthetic are endless, if you’ve got the time and technical and programming skills. As it’s an open-source plugin developed by WooThemes, you may want to purchase a theme affiliated with them, however you also have the option to integrate with other existing themes. There are only 5 free templates, but nearly 50 others for a one-off fee of $79, or $179 with Adobe Photoshop. You can purchase all 52 for $399 if you think you’ll want even more freedom with your design.

Shopify has a strong offering when it comes to themes. With 11 free, high-quality design templates available there is immediately a wider choice - each responsive on mobile, with different colour options and a streamlined, slick appearance. The themes on Shopify are created by outsourced teams of professional web designers so you can be sure that each template will be fresh and innovative. 

There are also more premium e-commerce templates available which will set you back around $160, however with the price tag comes quality design and beautiful functionality, in turn increasing the likelihood of turning visitors into customers. 

Price

As an open-source plugin for WordPress, WooCommerce is completely free. However, although there are no initial costs to add this toolkit to your WordPress site, as soon as you start adding extensions, hosting and development, prices quickly start to accumulate. 

Many of the extensions are free and similar to those available as standard on Shopify, but several of the crucial apps can cost anywhere between $5 and $500 per year. While this may not seem cheap, on the flip side it means users can pay for exactly what they require, uninstalling any extensions that aren’t useful. 

Other significant prices to budget for with WooCommerce include hiring a skilled developer to create your website as well as finding a hosting partner. A developer for WooCommerce requires more technical skills than those needed by a Shopify Expert, with this more complex service reflected in the much higher price. In terms of the hosting partner, it could cost up to $700 a year depending on the scale of your website. 

Shopify’s pricing arrangement comes in the form of three packaged options, each with a monthly fee, from Basic ($29) through to Professional ($79) and Unlimited ($179). Being a hosted solution, Shopify also takes care of security, payment processes, rapid response times and hosting, so although the Unlimited option may seem pricey, you’re given a comprehensive set of key, premium solutions from the start. There’s also a 14-day free trial for new clients.

Features

Despite their differences in pricing, both Shopify and WooCommerce offer similar options when it comes to enhancing the functionality of your website. 

Given its nature as open-source software, WordPress allows third party developers to create popular extensions meaning there are thousands available for WooCommerce such as payment solutions, live chat, inventory management and email marketing add-ons. However, larger companies can run into issues with integrating their more advanced solutions with the software, so be sure to take that into account if you have a more established system already in place. 

Shopify offers a wider range of free add-ons including selling on Facebook, importing products using CSV files and shipping options - features which can add up quickly on WooCommerce. While WooCommerce does offer high adaptability due to its range of extensions, with Shopify you aren’t required to pay for many of the basic and most useful components. There are also hundreds of other features available on the Shopify App Store.

Support

As WooCommerce is a free, open-source platform, there is no customer support available, although there are plenty of individuals and experienced programers on forums who you can discuss website issues with. 

In contrast, Shopify is well-known for its high levels of customer support and offers 24/7 assistance to its users via customer advisers. There are also numerous dedicated official Shopify Experts in a range of specialised fields. For example, Design Experts can assist with tweaking a template, Photography Experts can capture high-quality product shots and Web Developer Experts can bring your ideas to life with custom apps modified for your business. 

SEO

Primarily a platform for creating content, WordPress allows you to easily optimise your SEO by adding and editing page content and meta information to ensure better search engine rankings. The blog is well-organised and enables easy archiving of posts, making your content creation experience fuss-free and allowing more time to create engaging, effective posts. 

Shopify may not be at the same level as WordPress for blogs but it can still expertly handle meta information and site copy, among other SEO practices. If you’re producing quality blog posts for your website, Shopify will be able to increase your search engine ranking due to its coherent and well-structured user experience. As it’s a hosted platform with a huge infrastructure, Shopify also boasts an 80 millisecond page loading speed which in turn enhances your visibility and likelihood of customer conversions. 

Conclusion

If you’re looking for maximum flexibility and bespoke structuring then WooCommerce is the platform for you. However, if you don’t have advanced technical knowledge yourself then it requires a large budget for hiring experienced developers in order for your website to rival the rest. 

On the other hand, while Shopify may offer slightly less flexibility, if you want access to a selection of beautiful, well-crafted themes, 24-hour technical support, security measures as standard and a range of economical pricing packages, it may be the right choice when it comes to launching your e-commerce business.

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