WooCommerce or BigCommerce: Which is the right choice for your website?
WooCommerce is the second largest eCommerce platform in the US, second only to Shopify. Helping to make this possible is WordPress, which powers over 40% of all websites on the Internet. As a common plugin for WordPress, WooCommerce makes it fast and easy for new web stores to launch online but is WooCommerce the best platform to use as a foundation for your business? Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of WooCommerce, plus our take on the matter.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce, like Magento, is an open source eCommerce platform. Unlike Magento, however, it is a plugin for WordPress websites and not standalone software. Standard baked-in features such as inventory management, tax management, order tracking, and secure payments make WooCommerce a top choice for eCommerce beginners. It is also widely used by content creators and social media influencers due to WordPress’ excellent content management system, the societal impact of social media, and the rise of headless commerce.
Advantages of WooCommerce
Zero Initial Startup Cost
WooCommerce is open source freeware; there are no licensing fees or monthly subscriptions required in order to use the plugin. It is accessible to anyone and everyone so long as you have a WordPress website or are launching a brand new WordPress site. You can almost immediately jump in and start selling online with the WooCommerce plugin.
Any user, designer, or developer can custom-tailor WooCommerce to their liking thanks to free access to CSS, HTML, and PHP code. WooCommerce also has a large and sprawling user and developer community with thousands of plugins and themes available from which to choose. Not only can store owners customize the look and design of their websites, they can also include all of the features they want from standard and basic useability to bespoke, unique functions.
Online retail isn’t just limited to physical merchandise and WooCommerce fully acknowledges that fact. WooCommerce stores can sell physical items (clothes and shoes, tools, furniture, other general merchandise), virtual (invites to webinars, private livestreams, online training sessions), and downloadable products (e-books, digital comics, music and movies, software and video games).
Disadvantages of WooCommerce
Can Get VERY Expensive
While the base WooCommerce plugin is free to use, virtually every other function and feature that is needed to run and maintain an online store necessitates some kind of add-on–and you’re going to pay for them. Want your website to look a certain way? Pay for a theme. Need to add a specific feature? Pay for a plugin. Don’t have that crucial function in your base WooCommerce admin section? Pay for another plugin. Have a preferred payment gateway other than PayPal? You’re going to be paying for that–if it’s even available to use with WooCommerce, that is. Additionally, WooCommerce stores require outside hosting which will bring even more costs. Tally up all of these additional plugins and extensions and the startup cost often ends up being far more expensive than a monthly subscription with a platform such as BigCommerce, which bundles the missing features from base WooCommerce as standard.
Stability and Security Issues
In their most basic forms, WooCommerce stores are very quick to load. But, with each add-on, plugin, and integration that gets thrown into said store, the performance drops off significantly and load times can get dragged down to dangerously low levels where bounce rates start increasing as a result. A caveat to WooCommerce/WordPress’ immense developer community is that because it is so diverse, the individual add-ons and plugins aren’t guaranteed to be compatible with each other. This can lead to the plugin simply not working at all or causing a catastrophic compatibility error that can break the website. This is an issue any time when plugins and integrations are added to a website but because WooCommerce is so heavily-dependent on them, the threat of total failure is even greater. WordPress itself goes through several critical updates annually (to-date, there have been over 40 revisions since its 2003 launch) and while that means users will always have access to the latest and greatest, WordPress updates have repeatedly been the cause of WooCommerce incompatibility crashes ranging from minor to severe. Plus, when almost half of the websites on the entire Internet are WordPress-based, the likelihood of being hacked or targeted by cyber criminals goes up. Without the proper security in place (typically, in the form of another paid plugin), WooCommerce stores are exceptionally vulnerable. Speaking of which, here’s a fun bit of trivia: a website is hacked every 39 seconds daily.
WooCommerce is built for use with WordPress and WordPress only. That’s fine for pre-existing WordPress users or for those who want to launch their very first website on WordPress, but not fine for long-established online stores that want to use WooCommerce or websites that have been on the Internet on a different host for an extended period of time (IE: several years or even decades). They would need to redo their entire websites under WordPress in order to use WooCommerce.
Increased User Responsibility
The freedom that open source software allows is balanced by the consequences of using it. Being open source software, WooCommerce has no dedicated user support and maintenance is entirely up to the user. Though not impossible to learn, advanced coding knowledge will be required if one wishes to tackle customizing WooCommerce by themselves. This part of the WooCommerce user experience is definitely not for novices or beginners. The user will also be responsible for keeping their WooCommerce stores secure and up-to-date and are also on the hook for finding a hosting service because WooCommerce does not include hosting.
So, Who EXACTLY Uses WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is a great solution for small, private or home-run businesses with very limited inventory and is a favorite of content creators and social media influencers. For merchants who prioritize digital or virtual merchandise over physical items, WooCommerce could be the right choice. Alternatively, for larger or enterprise-level retailers, established businesses, and retailers with complex inventory catalogs, WooCommerce is probably not the right solution. In these cases, a comprehensive all-in-one eCommerce platform like BigCommerce would be the best platform to use.
Our Pick: BigCommerce
For businesses of all sizes, we recommend going with BigCommerce. That’s because while WooCommerce is a great launching point, BigCommerce offers more features and value that, in the long run, will better benefit businesses as they continue to grow and establish themselves in the eCommerce marketplace. As we’ve stated earlier, WooCommerce does allow for limitless customization and functionality due to it being open source software–but to do so requires a significant bump in upfront cost, which somewhat contradicts WooCommerce’s freeware model. Of course, any successful business will require a degree of investment but at the same time, it doesn’t make sense to overspend when it’s absolutely not at all necessary. BigCommerce-powered web stores have better performance, better features, and better value for online business owners.
Ease of Use
WooCommerce and WordPress make setting up and launching a brand new website quick, but not exactly easy. There is quite a steep learning curve involved when dealing with WooCommerce; this is mostly due to its nature as open-source software. In order to take full advantage of WooCommerce’s seemingly-endless customization capabilities, the user must have a degree of advanced coding knowledge and technical skill (or, the employ of a WooCommerce/WordPress specialist). To launch a new WooCommerce store, a domain name and hosting account need to be purchased. WooCommerce and WordPress do not offer their own hosting services. Next, the WooCommerce plugin must be installed onto your WordPress website. WooCommerce is made for use ONLY with WordPress, so forget about trying to use it with another website. Alternatively, launching a web store with BigCommerce is easy and straightforward. Many of the tools are already available for you as standard; BigCommerce is a fully-hosted platform, which automatically includes hosting and automatic software and security updates. Users will not have to perform maintenance themselves.
Security and Stability
Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates encrypt important data, provide shoppers with extra assurance and confidence, and even help boost search engine rankings. BigCommerce offers all users–regardless of subscription plan level–a free SSL security certificate from Symantec called Encryption Everywhere. There are also options to purchase enhanced GeoTrust-verified SSL certificates and Pro and Enterprise-level users can opt to install their own preferred SSL certificate from a third party. Like WooCommerce, BigCommerce users also receive automatic core software updates but because BigCommerce comes pre-loaded with a host of essential features (unlike WooCommerce, where most essential features must be added on through plugins and extensions), the possibility of incompatibility issues is significantly reduced.
Impressive Collection of Standard Features
Even in its most basic configuration, BigCommerce includes a vast array of important analytical tracking and reporting tools, multi-channel selling capabilities, abandoned cart recovery, and SEO and marketing tools. Users can also choose from 12 free templates, create their own coupon and promo codes, set their own shipping rates, and build pages themselves using the built-in drag-n-drop WYSIWYG editor. BigCommerce also does not limit the amount of products that can be sold and whether the merchandise is physical or digital, BigCommerce’s detailed inventory management system makes product categorization effective and efficient. Even BigCommerce’s entry-level plan includes basic SEO tools to help improve search engine visibility such as meta tags, automated image optimization, and a built-in blog. Users on BigCommerce’s uplevel plans have even greater functionality with additional features that are exclusive to their specific subscriptions. WooCommerce users would need to purchase additional third-party plugins, extensions, apps, and integrations in order to have the same basic features that BigCommerce includes as standard. BigCommerce’s own native features allow for far easier business scalability than WooCommerce.
BigCommerce’s own hosting platform and flexible API give their users fast, reliable performance for page loading to accessing multiple streams of data. As we’ve covered in an earlier article, slow page loading speeds are the leading cause of high bounce rates; shoppers quickly lose patience if websites fail to load in under 2 seconds. Additionally, as BigCommerce is already mobile-friendly and optimized for responsive design, stores on the BigCommerce platform have an SEO advantage. BigCommerce websites don’t just perform well on devices, they also perform well with search engines and the higher your store ranks on Google or Bing, your own earnings performance gets a nice boost, as well.
It is possible to grow a business on either platform, but in order to do so through WooCommerce, it involves many additional steps and added costs. Also, because WooCommerce requires hosting, not all of the steps are straightforward or even compatible with each other; pricing will also vary heavily between providers. Scalability on BigCommerce involves upgrading your subscription plan to a higher tier. While this will incur additional business costs on your end, it is the quicker, more efficient, and actually value-oriented approach. As a fully-hosted eCommerce solution, BigCommerce handles the technical side of scaling your website for your business; storage, backups, updates, security, and downtime is all taken care for you by the provider.
As previously noted, WooCommerce/WordPress’ open source model means that the end users are responsible for the maintenance and security of their websites. That’s not to say that finding help is impossible with WooCommerce; almost half of all websites on the Internet are WordPress websites and accordingly, WordPress has a sprawling user and developer community worldwide. This is in lieu of an actual corporate help/support line. If something should go seriously wrong with your WooCommerce store, a search online through various social media outlets, forums, and other Internet communities will very likely put you in contact with a WooCommerce/WordPress expert that can assist you. However, most of the help you will find will be in the form of pre-written documents and if you do happen to contact someone direct, the response is less likely to be immediate as would be in the case of a 24/7, 365-available support hotline. With BigCommerce, users can contact the company’s technical support team through phone, live chat, or EMail. Additionally, BigCommerce also hosts a full library of supplemental help documents and instructional videos in their Knowledge Base. Also, just as it is with WooCommerce, BigCommerce also has a growing online community of developers and experts who can also be found through the same channels as WooCommerce/WordPress experts.
Migrating from WooCommerce to BigCommerce
If you already have a WooCommerce store and have outgrown its usefulness, perhaps it’s time to consider upgrading your website to a powerful, robust, and secure system from BigCommerce. Migrating off of WooCommerce to either BigCommerce is one of the most efficient ways to take your business to the next level with enhanced website customization and inventory management capabilities, fortified security, and the performance to handle increased web traffic and order processing.
At Diztinct, we have over 15 years’ worth of experience in the eCommerce industry and in custom eCommerce website design and development. Our work has been recognized and awarded by some of the top names in the eCommerce industry and we’ve had the privilege to work with globally-renowned companies and brands such as QVC, Clorox, Dickies, Crocs, and Dooney & Bourke among others. We’re also proud to be officially-certified design partners with both BigCommerce. That means when Diztinct migrates your website, you’ll have the support of dedicated experts who are recognized and backed by the actual platform provider company.
We address every aspect of the website migration process, including:
- Basic data transfer
- Product and inventory management
- Page titles and metadata migration
- SEO data retention and optimization
- Link preservation
- Category page migration
- Policy and other informational page transfer
Whether you want us to migrate your existing WooCommerce website over to BigCommerce or create a brand new custom site from the ground up, we can build you a modern, feature-rich, and SEO-friendly secure website that will promote the growth of your business.
Are you ready to give your website and your business the Diztinct advantage over the competition? If so, let’s talk. Get in touch with us today and get ready to make your website work for you.