Shopify vs. WordPress (+WooCommerce) For E-commerce Website? | Coding Ninjas
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April 2020
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Shopify vs. WordPress (+WooCommerce) For E-commerce Website?

Ksenia LarinaKsenia Larina

woocommerce vs shopify

Yes, you heard it right. The question is: which of the two most popular and easy to use E-commerce platforms is better. The never-ending battle you secretly dread. If you’ve been in this business long enough, you might have even seen a bar fight that started off with a discussion on why to choose Shopify over WordPress, or vice versa.

Well, guess what? There’s no universal answer. Of course, both services provide a working solution covering the most crucial features every ecommerce website needs and have their strengths and weaknesses, but it’s only up to you to decide which side you’re on.

To declassify the secrets of this ancient mystery, let’s take a closer look at what both platforms got to offer. 

What is Shopify about?

shopify mainpage screenshot

As it sometimes happens in the fairy lands where startups live, in the very first days of Shopify was not meant to be what it is now.

This Canadian business started out as snowboard equipment store. The struggle started when the co-founders realized they wanted their store to be unlike anything else on the market those days, and on their way to getting there, built an ecommerce platform everyone wanted. Ta-dah!

Luckily for the merchants who are running the 600 000 online stores based on Shopify, this company’s founding fathers were brave enough to pivot from their original idea to designing the software that basically changed the way things done in ecommerce now.

Shopify keeps the entry barriers low, demanding from its users little to none development skills. Everything you need comes all in one pack.  And that pack pretty much covers all the basic needs of running a shop. Obviously, that is itself the platform’s focal point: it’s never been easier to create and customize your own website. 

But what are some specific advantages and disadvantages of Shopify for you as a user?

As we have already stated above, it’s extremely user-friendly. Since it’s a self-hosted platform, you won’t need to worry about all the trouble that comes with setting up a new business. The pain of getting all your pieces together is gone since you can host your website on Shopify’s servers and skip the step with finding a third-party solution. The content management system also comes with your subscription, along with over a hundred of free and paid design templates and themes you can install yourself. Let’s dig deeper!

Shopify design themes

shopify design themes

When it comes to this question, you are most likely to hear that there are over a hundred design templates available to the merchants, some of them are free and some are not.

In reality, if you are looking for a completely free design option, there are only 10 themes you can choose from. We have to pay our duties: all of the design templates offered for free on this platform are quite trendy, somewhat-customizable and generally won’t leave you and your business look like a disgrace to the family. Moreover, all of the templates are mobile friendly and responsive (check out our article on why mobile-friendly is a must).

Of course, if you’re not the one typically having a creative block, you’ll most probably be able to make your website looks different from thousands of others. But if that’s not the case, you’ll have to look in the direction of the paid options.

The prices for the paid templates on Shopify start from $140 and go up to $180. But if even the paid design options of the platform don’t satisfy you, there are alternatives such as buying one at a marketplace like Template Monster or a similar one.

However, if the winner of the “Shopify vs WordPress” battle for you depends mainly on the simplicity of use, we wouldn’t recommend doing this. First of all, if you’re not that tech-savvy it may be a challenge to integrate a third-party design to your website. Another thing to know is that some of the themes sold online might be out of date and not so much compatible with the latest template engine. But if you’re still willing to go down that road but need some help of a professional developer, you can always use a hand of one of our Coding Ninjas.

Payment options on Shopify

Shopify payment getaways

Among the wide variety of payment methods supported on this platform, there’s one that stands out, and it’s the Shopify Payments. The reason it’s so special is that you can accept all the major credit and debit cards using their system, and no additional transaction fees will be applied.

There are some restrictions, though. First of all, such privilege is only available to the businesses based in the following markets: United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Some types of businesses are also not allowed to use this payment service, although this list is pretty much compliant with the local laws.

As for all the other third-party payment providers, also good news: all the major players are supported by the platform, and the transaction fees won’t be too tough either and will depend on the plan you use.

transaction fees and credit card rates Shopify

For your convenience, here’s a short list of the payment providers supported:

But here we come to the point where there is a chance that you stop reading the article and never get to the part where we actually start compare WordPress and Shopify. Because look at this little white cutie!

offline payments with shopify

If you have an offline part to the business you’re running, this Shopify card reader can become a real lifesaver. Just imagine not having to think about any other financial management solution for your company and being able to checkout your clients offline, using the very same system you use for your online sales.

Does it even get better? Well, they are giving out the card readers for free to all the newly registered businesses, and the transaction fee of 2.4% per swipe is quite low even compared to competitors which have been on the market long way before Shopify.

Enabling marketing

marketing plugins for shopify

What I love about the Shopify the most is that they understand their customers. Although the number of the big corporations using the platform is constantly growing, their core clients still are the smaller companies.

If you’ve been there yourself, you know how it usually is with the small business owners: they are basically the one-man orchestra. It’s completely fair to suppose that a single person can’t be equally profound in everything. So Shopify makes sure promoting your store is as easy as it gets.

They work a lot on integrating the options unavailable on most of the other ecommerce services and offer a wide variety of free and paid add-ons which you can use for promoting your business.

Beginning with the basic things like SEO optimizations and audit, and continuing to the painless syncing with the mailing services like MailChimp, for instance, allowing you to do the split testing of your e-mail marketing campaigns, and even integrating your store with the social networks like Facebook and Pinterest.

Moreover, with Shopify you’ll be able to implement the media buying tools usually needed for paid advertising quite easily. So if you think of running some AdWords campaigns or any other ads, gathering and analyzing stats won’t become a problem either.

24/7 support

24/7 shopify support

Shopify support team never sleeps and is available via e-mails, phone, and even a live chat. Or, at least, that’s what they say. In the real world, it’s easy to find the customer reviews that show the customers to be quite unsatisfied with their service. Most of the times that can be explained by two things:

  1. Support specialists are often asked questions that go way beyond their competence, e.g., things concerning customizing your website which actually require a professional developer being involved on your side
  2. The fact the product isn’t built on an open-source model means that if a bug actually appears, it may take a while to fix it.

But overall, the support is available and in most cases, will be able to sort you out any typical issues.

Well, in order to see some differences between WordPress and Shopify, we have to learn some basics about the other party.

WоrdPress vs Shopify?

shopify vs woocommerce

The first thing we’ll learn is that correct way to put this question would sound more like this “Woocommerce vs Shopify?” because unlike Shopify, this solution does not come in one beautiful package. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you have to be a software engineer in order to work with Woocommerce.

WordPress itself is designed to be a content management system most widely used for creating blogs. In fact, this system is proven to be so easy and comprehensible that according to W3techs, more than 30% of all the websites on the Internet is made using the WordPress technology.

usage of wordpress for websites

And of course, we can’t forget to mention that WordPress itself is absolutely free to use by anyone anywhere in the world.

The WordPress on its own can’t be used to create an online store. That’s when Woocommerce comes into the light. It’s actually not a separate platform or service, but a plugin you can apply on your WordPress website to start an ecommerce business. Similar to its bigger brother, the plugin doesn’t charge any monthly fee, but, on the other hand, this option does require a third-party hosting.

So let’s go over the Woocommerce pros and cons same way we did with Shopify.

Woocommerce design themes

woocommerce design templates

Same way it happened in case with Shopify, the folks behind this WordPress were starting off doing something different than building ecommerce solutions with Woocommerce. Can you guess what they were doing? Right you are, they used to create WordPress design themes and templates. Needless to say, they took care of their product to be compatible with the WordPress themes.

And since WordPress is an open source project, the selection of free design themes available for download is nothing but huge. I’ll also have to give some extra points to Gryffindor Woocommerce on this matter because its technology stack is so commonly used that building a whole new design with some really cool looking UI features and functionality may cost you not much more than you’d pay for one of the official Shopify themes.

Of course, this may seem too complicated, especially if you haven’t got any tech skills. But in fact, a good way to think of WordPress is as of Lego bricks. You have add-ons with different functionalities that come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. All you have to do is decide which of them you want to use and how you want them to be arranged. The rest of the job can be done by a hired freelancer. Most of them prefer to work on an hourly rate basis, but if you’re afraid the cost of such work will exceed your expectations, you can always request an estimate from Coding Ninjas here.

Payments & Marketing

woocommerce payment methods

It really doesn’t matter whether you use Shopify or Woocommerce. When it comes to payment methods or marketing tools, you will always find a way to do what you need to do.

Both platforms support an enormous amount of additional services and add-ons. The only difference is that in most cases it may be a little easier to integrate your new toys on Shopify, simply because it was built as a one-stop shop while WordPress depends a lot on the third-party products.

Nevertheless, there is one thing in which Shopify entirely loses the battle to WordPress in terms of marketing-related services. And, of course, I mean the blogging. Don’t be too fast to blame them. Great projects become great only because they stay focused on developing and embracing their most valuable features. But we have to admit: for Shopify, this whole thing is not about becoming the best blogging platform, right?

You want support? Pay for it.

tech support from woocommerce

Sounds a bit crazy, right? Well, it actually kind of makes sense that at WooCommerce they only support the products that are sold on their official website.

So, unless you pay for it, there’s no support available. On the contrary, they promise to fix any bugs detected on the product as fast as they can, and you’ve also got a huge support group: the community of developers and businesses which use the plugin worldwide. Trust me, there will always be someone willing to answer your questions at any time of the day.

Shopify comes in three different pricing plans with different packages. Here’s what you get:

Plan feature Basic Shopify Shopify Advanced Shopify
All the basics for starting a new business Everything you need for a growing business Advanced features for scaling your business
Monthly price $29 $79 $299
Online 2.9% + 30¢ 2.6% + 30¢ 2.4% + 30¢
In person 2.7% + 0¢ 2.5% + 0¢ 2.4% + 0¢
Using Shopify Payments None None None
Using external payment gateways 2.0% 1.0% 0.5%
Staff accounts 2 5 15
Number of products Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
File storage Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Retail Package + $49 + $49 + $49
Shopify Shipping discount Good Better Best
Print shipping labels Yes Yes Yes
24/7 support Yes Yes Yes
Fraud analysis Yes Yes Yes
Manual order creation Yes Yes Yes
Discount codes Yes Yes Yes
Website and blog Yes Yes Yes
Free SSL certificate Yes Yes Yes
Gift cards No Yes Yes
Professional reports No Yes Yes
Abandoned cart recovery No Yes Yes
Advanced report builder No No Yes
Third-party calculated shipping rates No No Yes

Please note, that it’s actually quite difficult to predict which option would cost you less in the end: WooCommerce or Shopify? This varies extremely from case to case and depends entirely on you and what tools you will need to use on an everyday basis and even your preferences in terms of style and design.

Let’s just point out that although you are very much likely to face some expenses with the add-ons on both platforms, WooCommerce won’t charge you any monthly fees as Shopify would.

Now that we know all about both of these ecommerce platforms and differences between them, let’s jump right into the summary.

WooCommerce vs Shopify comparison table

Shopify Woocommerce
Self-hosted yes no
Adjustable design somewhat yes
Mobile-friendly yes depends on theme
Tech skills required little some
Selection of add-ons great great
Blogging capabilities mediocre great
Offline payments supported in-house third-party only
Cost basic plan starts at $29/month, may add up costs on plugins, design, hiring a professional free to use, additional spendings on add-ons, themes or hiring a professional for set up
Support 24/7 over the phone, live-chat or email available for paid products only
Community medium, not too willing to help big, supportive, tech-savvy and engaged
Distinguishing traits all-in-one solution WordPress ecommerce plugin

In my point of view, there are some things you may disregard (like design themes, for example) while weighing up this decision. But the following questions actually may need a second thought:

  1.   Does your budget allow you to spare monthly expenses?
  1.   Will you require a support team, and if so, will they be able to answer the kind of questions you think you might face?
  1.   Does your business suppose offline sales that you prefer to manage within the same system you use for your online transactions?
  1.   Do you prefer an all-in-one solution that won’t suppose much of a third-party integrations and can be done on your own?
  1.   Do you believe that social media integrations will bring you more conversions than a blog?

If most of your answers to these were “yes”, then it’s quite likely that you should go with Shopify as your choice. If you mostly answered “no”, choose WooCommerce over Shopify instead.

developers shopify wordpress

The important thing to know when speaking of both of these platforms is that if you’re already running an online store using one of them and thinking of switching to the other side, we’ve got bad news. Migrating from either one of them to another without any data loss can be a real tricky affair. In most cases, there will be some experience or development skills required. So if this isn’t a life or death decision for your business, general suggestion: don’t do that, or, at least don’t do it on your own.

Couple years ago at Coding Ninjas, we actually were starting out as a marketplace for freelancers who specialized primarily on setting up and supporting all kinds of WordPress websites, including the ones which ran on WooCommerce plugin.

So if you’re generally leaning more towards to choosing WordPress over Shopify and think it would suit your needs better but feel held back by the lack of expertise, there is a way out of this dilemma. Although we’ve grown out of being a platform for freelancers, who were focused on WordPress, we’re still packed with developers who have a tremendous expertise in this field and are able to provide you with fast and high-quality solutions.Same actually applies for Shopify and any other ecommerce platforms out there.

So, if you’re ever feel overwhelmed with all the huge amounts of information you actually don’t have to go through, don’t be. Just hire one of the Coding Ninjas and spend your time doing what you actually enjoy: selling your products and making money!

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