E-commerce is the rage these days. Everyone and their grandmother is vying to open an online store and sell anything from printed tees to handmade trinkets. And sure. It is indeed pretty easy to launch an online shop on the internet in these times.
There are several online platforms that offer easy ready-to-go installation of online shops and will get you fully functional online shops faster than you can say “cart abandonment rate”.
However, what most people fail to understand that is that getting an online shop setup is only half the battle. The next half is scaling it up, getting more customers in and getting the most buck for your ecommerce bang. And mind you, the latter half will decide the future of your ecommerce venture and if you turn out to be a recognizable ecommerce brand or just a blip in shoppers’ radars.
What every online shop will remember (to varying degrees) is the exact moment when they decided to go ahead with their ecommerce platform. It could have been the lure of low costing, or the promise of excellent technical support. And it would not be wrong to say that “it all began at that very moment”. What platform your online shop is built on has a far reaching effect on how successful and expansive your ecommerce venture will be.
This is why it is imperative that we talk about the two most popular ecommerce platforms out there – WooCommerce and Shopify – and how they can help you sow the seeds of a successful ecommerce venture.
WooCommerce is not an ecommerce platform per se, it is a WordPress plugin that acts as a Shopping Cart for your WordPress website.
Being used by over a million websites as per BuiltWith WooCommerce is the most popular shopping cart platform in use today. Coupled with goodies such as high scalability and extendibility, with endless customization options, WooCommerce presents as a great way to sell your products online.
Shopify is a self-hosted CMS that is built specifically for creating online stores and shops. It exempts you from going through the hassles of web-hosting and installing CMS. You just have to sign up for their service and manage your e-store.
Unlike WooCommerce, it requires little to no prior web design and development experience for getting started on this platform. This is the biggest advantage that Shopify has over WooCommerce.
But selecting Shopify over WooCommerce just because it’s easy to use is like making a deal with the devil without knowing its consequences. So it’s of utmost importance that before finalizing either of them, you analyze all their aspects so as to prevent any problems occurring in the future.
Let us look at the factors that should be taken into consideration before making any decision:
● Ease of use, Scalability and Flexibility
● SEO and Blogging
According to builtWith, 1,072,663 websites are being powered by WooCommerce as compared to a measly 314,606 websites.
Clearly a lot of people are using Woo-Commerce. This may be due to the fact that WooCommerce can be added to any existing WordPress site as well, whereas in Shopify you need to start from scratch.
With so many people jumping on to the e-commerce bandwagon, it’s imperative to stand out from the crowd. And nothing makes you stand out better than an online shop that looks as good as it sells.
WooCommerce was created by WordPress developers Woo Themes. They offer 5 free themes for getting started on WooCommerce, but nearly 50 themes are available for a one-off fee of $79, or $139 with Adobe Photoshop options. If you have an existing WordPress website, you can integrate the WooCommerce Plugin with that website.
You can also buy the Theme Package and gain access to all of their themes at $399.
On the other hand, Shopify offers 11 different free design templates. All of these are mobile responsive and has a variety of coloring options.
All the themes are extremely sleek and have a clean aesthetic. Other theme templates are also available that you can buy for around $150. Obviously they look better than free templates.
One disadvantage of free design templates is that there too are many sites using the same template. So to stand out in the crowd, a little customization is encouraged which again is fairly easy in WordPress.
WooThemes, the creator of WooCommerce, provides several useful ecommerce plugins that go well with WooCommerce eStores. Moreover, other ecommerce related WordPress plugins can also be easily integrated with the website to add other functionalities.
Shopify has an app store that provides its users with a collection of free and premium plugins for extending the functionality of their online store and adding specialized feature according to the needs. Before launching any plugin in the Shopify app store, Shopify team meticulously tests it to ensure the quality of these plugins.
Both the platforms offer extensive plugins, and there is nothing pertaining to e-stores that can’t be achieved by them.
Pricing is an extremely important factor that plays a lot of role in selecting the platform that will give us maximum returns.
Although Woo-Commerce is a free plugin, but it would be naïve of you to think that it wouldn’t cost you a dime. To make the most out of WooCommerce, other extensions should be integrated in the website as well.
These extensions might be free (as WooCommerce is Open Source) or not. So these extensions can set you back up to $5 to $500 each year depending on your needs.
Most of the extensions in WooCommerce are at par with the apps in Shopify app store. WooCommerce offers greater flexibility of paying for exactly what you use and uninstalling what you don’t need.
The hosting for WooCommerce would cost you up to $750 per year for hosting your website depending upon the size and ambition of your website. Moreover, you’ll have to spend more cash for having a rapid response website.
Payment options: Mijireh is the standard payment gateway that comes with WooCommerce. It allows you to process customer payments through a no. of different companies including PayPal, Safeway, Stripe and Braintree.
SSL Certificate: For processing payment on your website, you need to have an SSL Certificate. WordPress Engine charges $49.99 a year for an SSL certificate.
Shopify, on the other hand, has a much more conventional pricing structure.
It has three plans: Basic Shopify for $29(not recommended), Professional for $79 and Unlimited for $299. Here are the plan’s features taken from Shopify website:
Shopify is a self-hosted shopping cart, so as soon as you sign up, it takes care of your hosting and payment gateway features. Shopify has its own dedicated servers for hosting these e-store sites.
Shopify payment gateway charges 2% for Basic, 1% for professional and 0.5% for unlimited plan. You can also use external payment gateways by making a one-time payment.
The total amount you end up spending largely depends on what exactly you want.
Although Woocommerce is a free plugin, but all the other aspects that we discussed above can sometimes make it more expensive than Shopify.
Woocommerce and Shopify are both customizable, but the only difference is that customizing Woocommerce is going to take a little bit more effort and coding skills from your end. The upside of this is that Woocommerce can be completely customized by you whereas Shopify places some limitations on customizations.
Setting up Woocommerce takes a lot of effort from your end. You have to first set up a hosting server with a hosting provider, install the WordPress CMS on a paid server, upload/configure all the necessary plugins, upload/configure your chosen theme and then start setting up your products and pages.
And later when your site begins to grow, you’ll have to change your servers and plans and look for a content delivery network for creating a backup of your data in case your site crashes.
If you want to create an ecommerce site using Shopify, you just have to sign up for one of the Shopify plans and rest all will be taken care of. So for people who don’t have any knowledge about web development, it provides a pretty straightforward solution.
And when your site begins growing, you simply have to upgrade your plan and everything else will be taken care of in the background.
So Shopify is a clear winner when it comes to ease of use, whereas when it comes to flexibility and scalability, both offer different benefits according to what your needs are.
SEO is an important factor that we should keep in mind while choosing an ecommerce platform, as being on the first page of Google will generate a lot of leads and a blog also plays an important role in bringing more traffic to your site.
Speed is an important factor that Google takes into consideration when analyzing any website. Speed depends a lot on the performance of the web host, which in turn depends on what kind of hosting services you are using. And hosting service will depend on the amount that you want to invest in it.
Another important factor that Google takes into consideration is how secure is the website for the user, so a SSL certificate is great for your SEO.
So for having a SSL certified website you’ll have to again shell out some more money.
WordPress is primarily a blogging platform and is renowned for its SEO friendly features.
It provides an easy way of editing & publishing a post, and handling Meta information. Its blogs are organized and archived better than that of Shopify.
Shopify also allows user to handle Meta information with ease and is renowned for having a clean code and natural linking structure which helps in providing a smooth user experience.
It already has SSL certification in it, and it’s hosting is done on dedicated Shopify servers, so the speed of the site is also excellent.
Shopify’s blog is not as effective as WooCommerce’s blog, but it’s not like that if you write great content, you won’t be able to get on top of the SERP.
WordPress may be better for Blogging but Shopify is at par with Woocommerce when it comes to SEO. Moreover, you’ll need to hire an SEO expert for WooCommerce for handling so many SEO plugins used for optimizing WordPress.
Customer support plays a huge role in making any platform successful, and when it comes to CMS, it’s even more important as it is built to cater the technically uninitiated crowd. So a strong customer support team is necessary for such CMS platforms, only then the user can solely focus on their business part.
Woothemes has a reputation of having a great customer support. They have great documentation and a community that actively participate in its forum.
Shopify also has a community that is quite active in their forum. They also have a feature of live chat for helping their users. But they just don’t stop there yet. They also have an ecommerce university where one gets to learn a lot from ecommerce specialists in the industry. They also showcase the success stories of Shopify users to help people stay motivated.
So Woocommerce has a good customer support but Shopify has raised the bar too high. Shopify is the clear winner when it comes to customer support.
Let’s first start with a recap of pros and cons of each platform:
• Great for blogging as it is built on WordPress platform
• Offers higher level of customization
• It’s low cost as the Woocommerce plugin is free
• Good SEO
• Lots of themes and plugins
• It’s incredibly simple and is an all in one solution
• It has professional looking designs
• Fast setup, Signup and be up and running in a few hours
• Fully scalable and grows along with you
• Great customer support
• Limited free designs
• It’s difficult to customize its code.
• Its blogging is not as great as Woocommerce
There is a neck to neck competition between the two platforms but ultimately which platform you use depends on how much money you want to invest in the beginning and your preferences for the offerings that each platform offers.
Another factor that determines your choice should be the nature of your business. So if you want to blog and sell some products at the same time, then WooCommerce is the clear choice.
But if your main focus is on selling products and the blog is just the topping, then you should go for Shopify.
So make a two column list, list out your properties and set an online shop armed with an acute knowledge of what each platform offers you.