Problem: You want to sell things online
A seemingly simple problem like this has never had a more complicated solution.
On one hand, you have a dedicated eCommerce platform like Shopify. On the other, you have the most popular solution (WooCommerce) on the most popular website platform (WordPress).
It’s Shopify versus WooCommerce as we determine what eCommerce solution will be the right fit for your needs and your skill set.
Using Shopify instead of WooCommerce
It is true that you are reading this blog post on a WordPress oriented blog. We sell WordPress themes for eCommerce and small business websites. Most of our expertise comes from WordPress solutions.
But this DOES NOT mean that we don’t understand the Shopify platform. We have used and tested the platform in the past and understand it’s positives and negatives. We have also talked to multiple guests who excel with selling on the Shopify platform.
Positives of Shopify
Shopify is a much easier platform to swallow if you are brand new to the web. The website creation is easier and, much like other specific website tools, takes all of the guess work out of setting up the initial website.
Shopify for the small business owner
As a small business owner, you can simply create an account from Shopify and be presented with the back-end. From there, you can go to the dashboard and set up your hosting, domain, and all other website requirements through Shopify… for a nominal and recurring fee.
The backend interface very clearly borrows from WordPress, which I would argue is a positive element. Only in this case, since the focus is on eCommerce, all of the tabs on the left side of the screen are dedicated to eCommerce settings and tools that would be all included within the one WooCommerce tab on WordPress.
The quality of Shopify code
Typically when you looking at a WordPress plugin or theme that gives your site a more user-friendly application, it is known that this will come at the cost of page load. For example, a theme or plugin that allows you to drag and drop content on the page is easy to use, but it might take a few extra seconds for your site to load, which is not good for SEO.
People will leave in a huff.
While you might think that a solution like Shopify would be heavy on resources and would deter people from using their product, the happy reality is that Shopify is a clean platform and loads quickly! WordPress can be optimized in a more user-controlled experience, but Shopify is not a bad choice if you want to take the work out of speeding up your website.
While their internal SEO features are nowhere near as robust as options found in WordPress, you do get some options for your products like editing the meta description of your product.
Ease of creating products
As someone who spends a good deal of time creating products in WooCommerce, I am used to the flow of work required to set up a WooCommerce website. That being said, I can readily admit that WooCommerce does not have the easiest interface and loads of options.
Shopify does a better job of getting a new user started with creation of products. All details of the product are taken care of from one “Create Product” page, including variations (shirt size, shirt color, etc.).
Negatives of Shopify
As you can probably imagine, the negatives of Shopify are mostly related to price. The ease of use comes at a cost that is higher than that of WooCommerce.
The Price of Shopify
While you can customize the look of the default Shopify theme, it is not as customizable as WordPress and the WordPress customizer. There is also no free theme repository or options for themes on Shopify beyond their shop.
Shopify theme prices are $140 and come with a few preset styles per theme.
Worse than this, the monthly hosting costs start at $29 a month and go up from there, depending on your needs as a retail location. Again, if you would prefer to remove the technical details of setting up an online store, you might be happy to pay this monthly cost to keep your website.
But if you are okay with learning how to purchase your own domain, hosting service, and SSL certificate, you can save a lot of money per month and per year by sticking with the WordPress platform and WooCommerce — base WooCommerce and WordPress do not cost a cent to download or maintain.
Shopify is the Apple to WooCommerce’s Windows
While you get a more streamlined experience with Shopify, you also have to pay more out of pocket to maintain that experience. Additionally, adding crazier tech or addressing special needs is going to be more difficult and more costly on Shopify.
WooCommerce is going to be the cheaper option with more potential for error, but the sky is the limit with what you can do with the product and still runs smoothly when it is operational.
WooCommerce instead of Shopify
Shopify is an easy to use platform focused on selling product. Why would we ever use WordPress and WooCommerce for eCommerce?
Positives of WooCommerce
WooCommerce is free. WordPress is free.
Sure, there are extensions you can purchase (how else would WooCommerce be consistently updated and supported?). But out of the box, WooCommerce is a robust platform that can be downloaded for free. Since WordPress is an open source download, it is ALSO free.
Finding a beautiful theme is also free to start. There are lots of beautiful WordPress themes (some free, some affordable) that can be downloaded, giving you a larger number of options over Shopify to make a site your own and at a more affordable price.
You will still need to set up your website on a server, but once you are finished, you potentially have a website and all you have to do is pay for hosting and SSL.
Control the experience with plugins
Sometimes you might have custom tech in mind to sell your product. Perhaps you have to ship to certain countries with certain criteria or want to collect certain pieces of information from users and move them to other places.
The ideas you might have are endless. Thankfully, WooCommerce has a good deal of “Extensions” that you can use to optimize and tailor your experience to the many other solutions that WordPress has. Check out the link above to see some of the cool integrations that you can get with the WooCommerce product.
Better SEO with WooCommerce
With free plugins like WordPress SEO by Yoast, you have an environment where you can optimize the text of your pages so that you get exposure on Google search results pages. These tools help guide the process of creating content that is compelling to people and to search engines.
Additionally, the build of WordPress is better suited for content and exposure on Google than a service like Shopify (though Shopify is again no slouch).
Content marketing platform
Really where WooCommerce and WordPress are going to excel is going to be with exposure in untapped markets. If you are selling a product locally and simply need a landing place to sell your products, having your presence online might be enough to gain local sales.
But what if you want to sell to a market that doesn’t know your offering exists? Well, you do that with blogging and being the online authority on the subject. You do it with keywords.
This is where the experience of having a fully charged blog platform in WordPress is going to give you a major advantage over Shopify and the rest of the competition.
Negatives of WooCommerce
The number one headache in using WooCommerce is the reason this article exists. If WordPress provided a solid platform with which to easily setup a website in a few quick clicks, you would have a free and simple solution to setting up a website with a solid free eCommerce platform. The reality is, you need to understand how to setup:
- Server space for hosting
- SSL certificates
…. or hire someone to do this in order to get the initial WordPress install operational. This may be too much of a hassle for some business owners, which is why solutions like Shopify also exist.
More difficult product creation
Additionally, WooCommerce can be a bit difficult to setup from the outset and is not as easy an experience as Shopify.
Thankfully, we have a resource that explains all it takes to set up WooCommerce initially and create products in the system. Without resources like these, however, WooCommerce can be a bit more difficult to set up.
Shopify vs WooCommerce
If you are a small business owner with extra disposable income and/or less time to devote to creating a website, it might be a better option to go with Shopify. Additionally, Shopify might be the better option for local businesses that are not looking to expand their services beyond their surrounding market.
But if you have a custom integration that you need to get your business to work and are on a smaller budget, you will want to take a look at WooCommerce and WordPress as your option of choice. For gaining notoriety among people that are looking for your solution, the SEO options cannot be beat by the WordPress and WooCommerce tools.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.