Learning how to build an e-commerce online store from scratch can be a daunting task. We know it, as we design and develop E-commerce websites and know the complexities of the process.
We also know that young entrepreneurs are on a tight budget, and sometimes they prefer to do things on their own to save some money.
Good news are that the tools available online today are good enough to let people generate professional looking e-commerce websites by their own without spending thousands. If you are looking to start a website by your own, this is the best time to do it.
This guide is intended to help people on a tight budget that want to start an e-commerce online store by their own. We have developed e-commerce websites in numerous platforms, and believe that these two are easy enough for beginners to use to create professional looking e-commerce sites.
We will compare the platforms based on the following criteria:
- Number of users by platform
- Prices and developing costs comparisson
- User Friendliness and ease of use for a beginner
- Best overall design options
- Seo Capabilities and Page Loading times
- Best extensions and add-ons (or plugins)
- Pros and Cons comparisson
- Overall, which platform is the best for you?
1.- How many websites use Woocommerce and Shopify? Number of users by platform.
Acording to BuiltWith, as of September 2017 a total of 2,077,766 of websites use WooCommerce vs 296,285 sites that use Shopify. That translates into a 41% of users for Woocomerce vs 6% of users for Shopify. This statistics represent the usage of each platform in the whole internet.
Another interesting statistic is how many of the biggest websites are using each platform. Bigger websites tend to have more experienced web developers, so this number can reflect their platform preference. Also, bigger websites need more features and functionalities. This number can tell us if they can provide advanced functionality for big websites.
Of the top 100k websites, 2,180 websites use Woocommerce vs 1,174 websites that use shopify.
That translates into 17% of users that use Woocommerce vs 9% that use Shopify.
Overall, the number of users of Woocommerce is higher. We have to take in consideration that the WordPress plugin is older and works as an addon of one of the most popular platforms in the World. If you analize only the segment of the top 100k Websites, we can see that usage numbers get tighter. This is because Shopify has been catching up in features and functionalities compared with what you can find in Woocommerce.
2.- Shopify vs Woocommerce Pricing Comparisson
We know that one of the most important aspects for young entrepreneurs when taking a decision is the price. In the beginning of any business every penny counts, and the more you can save the greater chances your business will have to succeed.
When it comes to pricing, the two platforms use very different approaches and comparing side to side can be a little tricky. Shopify uses a monthly plan model where Woocommerce works as a free plugin for WordPress. At first sight this can seem like a clear advantage for Woocommerce, but that is not necessarily true and we will explain why ahead.
In this section we will compare the price to start and to manage each platform, including some of the essential addons you should get for your website excel.
WordPress with Woocommerce Pricing
As stated before, Wocommerce works as a free plugin for the WordPress platform. That means that you need to install first WordPress on your hosting account, and then download and install Woocommerce from the Plugin Repository.
To analyze the costs of an E-commerce website that uses Woocommerce, you should analyze the prices required to setup a WordPress Website, not the cost of the plugin itself. This is because, contrary to Shopify, the Woocommerce plugin does not include Web Hosting, credit card processing or SSL certificates, just to list a few.
This are some of the extra cost that you cant avoid when starting an E-commerce website, not to mention shipping fees or security upgrades. Woocommerce costs will depend on your level of experience and specific functionalities of your e-commerce store.
The setup prices will depend on your hosting company choice. The advantage here is that WordPress is free, so you only need to pay for the hosting service of your choice. After that, you will need a theme with the functionalities and design that your Online Store needs.
For an in-depth analysis of all the cost involved for starting a WordPress Website, please read our guide: How much it costs to start a WordPress Website in 2017?
Woocommerce Addons Pricing
“Out of the box” Woocommerce offers all the basic functionalites you will need to start adding your products. It will involve some extra work (and in some cases money) to setup your payment processor, shipping provider, transaction analytics, etc. The final cost of addons will depend on the specific functionalities that your store needs.
The main difference with Shopify is that Woocommerce addons use a “one time payment” model, while Shopify uses a “monthly plan” model.
Shopify offers three different plans that range from $29 for a basic setup to $299 for advanced stores. They also have a a very basic plan for $9 strictly for selling on Facebook. Also, Shopify offers a 14-day free trial so you can test the platform before deciding if it’s the right choice for you.
All of the plans include hosting, a SSL Certificate and free payment processing if you use their “Shopify Payments” option. In comparison, all of this come with an extra cost when using Woocommerce.
For a full description of the included features and latest Shopify plan prices, click here.
Shopify Essential Addons Pricing
Shopify addons or “Apps” use the same pricing model as the platform, offering monthly subscriptions for their use. In their App Store
you can find a series of free and payed addons to improve you e-commerce website. The final price will depend on the specific needs of your store.
Shopify also offers a series of free themes you can choose from to build your store. This themes are good enough to build a modern store with good enough capabilities to start selling your inventory.
If any of the free themes doesn’t suite your needs, you can choose from a collection of premium themes that are targeted at websites with larger product catalogs and that need advance e-commerce capabilities. Out of the box, this themes include some of the addons you can buy separately, and prices range from $140 to $180. This are payed once, and include support from their developers.
So which one has a better pricing for a young entrepreneur?
The answer will greatly vary depending on your level of experience setting up websites.
If you are a total beginner looking to create your first website then hands down Shopify is a better option for you. Is easier to setup a website using this platform, as you don’t have to worry about choosing a hosting provider, installing the platform, getting an SSL certificate, etc. You will not only save some money, but also time. Consider that the time you spend learning to install a new WordPress website is time you can be spending learning how to manage your new Shopify store.
If you have setup WordPress websites before, have experience choosing a fast hosting provider, creating free SSL certificates, and setting up a payment processor then definitely you can save money using Woocommerce. The monthly cost of a WordPress website can be lower than the cheapest of Shopify’s plans, and the price will ultimately rely on your hosting needs.
3.- Ease of use
As this guide is directed to people wanting to start an E-commerce without professional assistance, comparing the ease of use and beginner friendliness is important. The ease of use refers to how easy it is to use either platform, from the set up all the way to the management and maintenance of the site.
Woocommerce’s Ease of Use
To some extent, WooCommerce is as easy to use as Shopify. The hard part is the setup.
If you choose Woocommerce as your E-commerce platform, you will have to be willing to manage some things by your own. For example, you will need to buy a domain name, sign up for a hosting account, install a SSL certificate and Install WordPress, just to name a few.
Only after you have those points taken care of, you can install the WooCommerce plugin on your WordPress website and start getting through the configuration of your online store. Unfortunately, those steps do require some level of comfort around web-related things.
To make that somewhat easier on yourself, you can choose a specialized WordPress hosting company that will take care of the domain and WordPress installation for you, leaving only the WooCommerce part to you. Either way, it’s all significantly more difficult than Shopify’s one-click, “sign up” button.
There’s also the design. WooCommerce doesn’t come with any actual “design.”. It’s all handled via a WordPress theme of your choice. Luckily, WooCommerce works with basically all themes on the market, but it’s still on you to find one you like and install it on the site.
As I said, the platform in itself is just as easy to use as Shopify. The second you get the WooCommerce plugin installed and activated, you’ll see the on-screen setup wizard. It consists of several steps and takes you by the hand through every crucial element.
Basically, it lets you choose the main parameters of the store, and get everything neatly configured. For example, some of the important steps involve things like currency settings, shipping and tax, and payment gateways.
Once the installation is done, you can start using your store and begin adding products.
Shopify’s Ease of Use
The main strength of Shopify is that it’s a subscription-based online tool. In other words, to use it, all you need to do is visit Shopify.com, click the sign up button, go through a basic setup wizard, and you’re done.
Shopify is going to help you along the way, asking about the purpose/nature of your store (what you’re planning to sell), and giving you some overall tips as to which design/structure to choose and how to set everything up.
Once you get through that initial wizard, you will get access to the main dashboard. It’s from there that you can create your new eCommerce store, add new products, and so on.
Overall, the whole process is very straightforward, and most importantly, you don’t need any design or site-building skills in order to get through it.
Later on – once you have the store running – you can access every crucial option from the sidebar of the dashboard:
This sort of organization should make your daily work in the store very easy to grasp.
When it comes to adding new products to your store, handling sales and orders, it’s rather intuitive. For example, when adding a product, all product parameters are available from a single panel, so you don’t have to visit different areas of the dashboard to set things like the name, price, images, stock levels, and etc.
Here’s what the “new product” screen looks like:
Overall, Shopify is a solid solution, and the best thing about it is that you can sign up and create a store right away, with no unexpected interruptions.
Which one is easier to use for a beginner?
If you are a complete beginner without any previous experience with websites, then Shopify is the right platform for your. If you are more experienced with websites, then you will find more flexibility and options, in design and addons, with Woocommerce.
As mentioned before, when it comes to usage, both platforms are relatively easy for beginners. But there is a big difference when it comes to the set up of the website itself. The steps to get to install Woocommerce itself are numerous and require some previous experience.
Shopify offers a “one click” setup and a straight forward pricing platform. That makes a huge difference when you are a beginner as it will save you a lot of time and the final results will be the same as with a Woocommerce site.
4.- Store Design Options: Themes
Woocommerce’s Design Options
As you know by now, WooCommerce is an addon to WordPress rather than a CMS itself. This means that, in most cases, you can make any WordPress theme work together with WooCommerce. This gives you the flexibility of adding E-commerce capabilities not only to new websites, but also to existing ones.
We recommend you choosing a theme that has been built specifically for WooCommerce. The results will be better as they are tailor-made to make all your product/service listings look great.
If you are looking for a theme that is built with Woocommerce in mind from scratch, the place to start would be Woocommerce’s Storefront. Storefront is the official WooCommerce theme built to the same exacting standards as WooCommerce itself. Best of all? It’s free!
The default Storefront design is clean and simple – the perfect starting point from which to customize your store. You can extend the default theme’s capabilities by installing a child theme. Storefront Child Themes allow you to instantly transform the look of your store.
If you haven’t work with WordPress before, the concept of child themes can be a little confusing at first. Basically a child theme is a custom modification to the main WordPress theme, without actually modifying the main theme’s files. They are installed “on top” of the main theme, and you use a copy of its files to customize the look of your website.
Child theme’s prices range from $39 to $119.
You can also find a large number of WooCommerce-supported themes at ThemeForest and other premium marketplaces. This is a great option if you want to give your store an original and modern look.
WooCommerce themes offered on Envato Market have been optimized specifically for the plugin itself and offer plenty of useful features. This premium themes usually cost between $13 to $99, depending on the capabilities you store needs.
Shopify’s Desing Options
One of Shopify‘s greatest selling points is the visual quality of its themes. Shopify comes with more than 54 different store templates, of which 10 are free.
Shopify themes are available at its theme store. There are both paid and free themes, and most themes have several variations.
You can browse the available themes based on your business type or preferred style. The themes are highly optimized to work perfectly on mobile devices.
Shopify’s designs are created by a group of professional web designers who ensure they’re as current and as engaging as they can be. Unfortunately, the price tags on the premium ones go as high as $180. But for the money you get a ultra fast, modern websited that can compete with the best e-commerce stores on the web.
There’s also a full section of themes dedicated to Shopify on ThemeForest. We recommend this option so that your store has a unique design. Some Shopify users have complained about their sites looking too similar to other websites. If you choose a common theme, spend time customizing it as much as you can to prevent this.
Customization is done thru the theme editor within the platform. There are dedicated features for controlling the colors and basic styles, but you need to use Shopify’s proprietary ‘Liquid’ language for advanced customization.
You can also choose to hide sections within the theme editor without removing them. Hidden sections can still be customized, but not visible to your clients. This allows you to start sections for future releases and remove the need for theme duplication ( a common issue most developers face with WordPress).
Which one has the best design options?
Based on quantity, Woocommerce has the advantage as they have far more options than Shopify. Being an extension of WordPress, you can use most of the themes for the platform and get good results. That does not mean that all options out there are good, as some themes tend to be bloated and slow. Also, not all of them are built with e-commerce in mind, so they can be limited in functionality and require extra work to make them fit your needs.
Shopify has less options, but they are well coded and fast loading on mobile devices. Remember that speed and responsiveness are important factors for your webpage. They are also built specifically for the platform from scratch, so in terms on functionality they tend to be better for e-commerce.
More doesn’t necessarily means better always.
SEO is one of the most important factors for any website to take in consideration. That’s why we’re making SEO a key determining factor in our WooCommerce vs Shopify review. There are two main areas of SEO you will have to work on to make sure Google is indexing your site correctly: ON-page SEO and OFF-page SEO.
We will analyze the platforms’ ON-page SEO capabilities, as the OFF-page SEO refers more on building links and traffic to your website. The OFF-page SEO will depend on your marketing strategies rather than the e-commerce platforms capabilities we are comparing.
WooCommerce’s SEO Tools
WooCommerce itself doesn’t offer any SEO features, and there is a good reason for that. As you know by now, Woocommerce is an extension of WordPress, rather than a standalone CMS. But this is an advantage, as WordPress is a platform with robust SEO capabilities.
WordPress is primarily a content creation platform, WordPress is primarily a content creation platform and it’s well-known for its SEO capabilities. It’s easy to add and edit content and meta information to ensure that pages have a good chance of ranking for specific keywords.
Also, WordPress handles blogging in a logical and organized way with its categories and archives. This helps your website to have an organized structure and clear hierarchy, two aspects that greatly improves your On-page SEO.
There are lots of feature-rich SEO plugins that allow you to cover the basics and take full control of the advanced options. Plugins like Yoast SEO or Woocommerce SEO are essential to ensure the best ranking for your content.
If you want to take it to the next level, you can get the Yoast WooCommerce SEO plugin, which is specially developed for this platform. The premium plugin comes with advanced e-commerce options like using the Yoast breadcrumbs, optimizing Pinterest sharing, streamline the sitemap, etc.
Shopify’s SEO Tools
Shopify offers all the basic SEO features like the title tag, meta description, customizable URL, and alt tag for images.
It will automatically generate canonical URL tags, sitemap, and the robots.txt file.
The rest is up to you. You need to generate high-quality content, ensure an excellent user experience, and focus on engagement to enjoy better search engine rankings.
Shopify has some really strong features that will help your SEO. For instance, the platform is well-known for its clean, logical coding, and the natural linking strategy. It also has integrated SEO features such as: image optimization, defining title, alt, and meta tags, as well as product descriptions. Another point in favor of Shopify is the fact that SSL certification comes with all the stores in every plan, free of charge.
Another benefit is that Shopify is fast. A fast loading website ensures that your clients will spend more time interacting with your website rather that waiting for pages to load. Page speed is a ranking factor in Google’s mobile-first index, so this should be a crucial factor to take in consideration when choosing your e-commerce platform.
On the downside, Shopify can improve in other SEO aspects.
One of them are Rich snippets. Rich snippets are useful to display things like the price or user ratings alongside the search results page. To include these in Shopify you’ll either have to get an app, or dive into your store’s code.
Other aspect that can be improved are Page URLs. Shopify doesn’t give you complete freedom choosing your URLs. For the blog it’s using a subfolder structure such as /blog/news/, which isn’t ideal. Also for regular content pages it’s using a /pages/ subfolder in the URL.
Which platform has better SEO Tools and Capabilities?
We will separate this answer in two parts, SEO specific options and page loading times.
Out of the box, WordPress (not Woocommerce) gives you more SEO-specific options. Comparing to Shopify, WordPress has a lot more WP plugins available, some of them even for free.
If you want to take your e-commerce’s SEO to the next level, you will have to pay for a plugin like Yoast Woocommerce SEO. Also, you will have to know how to configure properly, as with every other aspect of WordPress.
Shopify’s SEO options may come second, but there’s certainly no shame in the way that it presents content. It also handles basic SEO practices like meta information and site copy with ease. So long as your business is producing quality content, Shopify will handle the SEO without the need for advanced technical knowledge.
Shopify also has some SEO addons like SEO manager that will greatly improve your ON-page SEO. It will be easier to configure for a beginner too. The problem is that it is offered as a paid addon, and you will have to pay $20 per month to get it.
Page Loading Times
For a beginner, Shopify will provide the best loading times comparing to Woocommerce. Shopify dedicated servers are configured exclusively to serve Shopify stores. Because of this, page loading times and overall performance can be slightly better than WordPress (this of course depends on other aspects of your web design).
Shopify’s is well known to use a clean and logical coding. Themes tend to be less “bulkier” than the average WordPress Theme, and this also help to have good page loading times without additional addons.
That does not means that a Woocommerce Store has to be slow, or slower than a Shopify site. The problem is that your your website’s speed will depend on your choice of web hosting, theme coding, cache plugins, image compression addons, just to name a few.
All in all, WooCommerce has more powerful (and free) SEO specific options and addons than its competitor (if you know what you are doing!). Shopify basic options are good, but if you want to improve it will cost you some money.
When it comes to page loading times, Shopify is the clear winner. It uses dedicated servers configured specifically to serve Shopify sites and it reflects in how fast their websites load. Shopify is also known by developers for having cleaner coding practices and an easier configuration for beginners.
6.- Extensions and Add-ons
Depending on the nature of your business, you might need different types of features.
It is not likely that any single platform will be able to meet all of your requirements. In that case, you need to use additional apps, add-ons, extensions, etc.
Let’s check out how these two e-commerce platforms perform in the case of extensibility.
Shopify App Store
Shopify has a dedicated app store. By default, the store displays featured apps from various categories like marketing, sales, accounting, shipping, inventory, social media, customer service, tools, etc.
You can sort the apps by the price or popularity.
There are some collections of apps too. The Shopify team picks these for various purposes like launching your store, growing the business, developed by Shopify, etc.
The app details page offers all the necessary information to help you decide whether you need this app or not. You can read the description, check out the customer reviews, view screenshot, pricing information, and the developer information.
There’s also quite a lot of great Shopify stuff on Github.
WooCommerce Extensions Store
WooCommerce offers a larger number of extensions compared to Shopify. The platform is open source with a greater user base, so is understandable that more developers will be actively supporting WooCommerce.
In reality, WooCommerce extensions cover any area your website needs. Given the support of WordPress in general, you’ll also find plenty of WordPress developers who would be able to customize it as necessary for you.
xtensions can be found in Woocommerce’s extension store, or directly in the WordPress’ plugin repository. You can buy extensions individually, or by bundles. Bundles offer a discount for stores that need several extensions, and the prices range from $69 to $299.
In the extension store, you can search or browse the different categories like accounting, inventory, marketing, products, reporting, subscription, customer service, etc. You can sort the extensions by their popularity, release date, and price.
Installation is really straightforward. You can upload a zip file thru the wordpress, or download and install them directly thru the WordPress’ plugin repository.
Configuration though is up to you. Getting some payment processors to work require advanced knowledge like generating secret keys and tokens. If you are a beginner, implementing some payment processors will be a challenge and will require time.
Which one has the best addons and plugins?
Based only on numbers, WooCommerce’s popularity and range of options when it comes to extensibility gives it an edge. There is an extension for every possible need. Just be aware that configuring some payment processors and other plugins can be a challenge for a beginner.
Shopify’s user friendliness will make extension configuration easier. Also, Shopify’s rising popularity has made more plugins available over time, covering the most important need of any e-commerce website. You wont feel the need of more plugins with the ones available today.
7.- Woocommerce vs Shopify – PROS & CONS
|SHOPIFY PROS & CONS|
|WOOCOMMERCE PROS & CONS|
|SSL certificate sold separately and setup is not easy for a beginner.|
SHOPIFY VS WOOCOMMERCE: Which one is the best for E-commerce?
In our opinion, you should based your choice in 3 specific aspects.
- Your level of experience setting up websites.
- The time you have available to start your e-commerce store.
- The initial budget you have available to start your business.
Shopify will be your best option if:
- You have little or no experience with web design and development.
- You do not have the time or are not willing to spend time learning web development. This is important as you will also need time to learn how to maintain and manage your store.
- You are willing to destine an average of $40/month (average cost of basic shopify + theme + addons) to keep your store running.
Woocommerce will be your best option if:
You have previous experience in setting up WordPress websites. This includes choosing a web hosting company, buying domains, buying of generating SSL certificates and installing the WordPress platform in your web host.
You have the time and experience configuring and optimizing WordPress websites. An alternative would be to pay a professional service to develop and optimize your website.
You are in a tight budget and want to pay as little as possible to keep your website running. Be aware that most hosting options charge you up front for the whole year. In average, you will have to pay $60 – $85 on the first month, depending you your choice of web hosting. Also, you will have to pay up front for the domain name and SSL certificate.
We recommend you to keep in mind the following:
No matter your level of experience, an e-commerce website is ultimately a business. All businesses have fixed costs, and the idea is to turn them into a profit. From this perspective, Shopify’s monthly price tag is not high at all. You can start in their basic plan and scale it up as your profits grow. We recommend you take their free 14 trial period and cancel your service at the end if you are not convinced.
While the choice of an e-commerce platform is important, is only a small step to guarantee your success. Choose wisely how to spend your time and money. Create a strong advertising strategy, grow your social network community and generate content that your fans are willing to consume. Analyze your website visitors and measure your conversions. All of this will increase your chances for success.
Taking all of this in consideration and the time all of this requires, what is your choice?
Share if you find it useful and comment to let us know which one is your favorite!
You can also Contact us if you need any help with your e-commerce project.