WooCommerce VS Shopify

A breakdown of the similarities and differences between the two biggest names in eCommerce.

Photo of a chess piece with overlaid images of graphs and upward-pointing arrows. This is meant to illustrate the superficial similarities between WooCommerce and Shopify as well as the advantages Shopify has over WooCommerce.
On a superficial level, both WooCommerce and Shopify appear to be evenly-matched in regards to functions and usability. But what is it about Shopify’s eCommerce strategy that has more businesses using their platform over WooCommerce?

In our previous article, we discussed the major advantages and disadvantages between WooCommerce and BigCommerce. We concluded that despite WooCommerce’s strengths in its fast startup, customization capabilities, and content management and promotion, the platform fell short against BigCommerce when it came to base functionality, security, stability, and overall value. But how does WooCommerce stack up against Shopify, the largest eCommerce platform in the US market?

WooCommerce and Shopify mirror each other in many ways, but there’s a reason (several reasons, actually) why more businesses choose Shopify over WooCommerce. We’ll take a look at them now.

#1: Ease of Use

A screenshot of WooCommerce's user backend/admin section.
WooCommerce’s admin section.

Both WooCommerce and Shopify are relatively easy to use for even the non tech-savvy. However, due to WooCommerce being open source, one would need advanced coding skills in order to get the absolute most out of the system. Four basic steps are required to open a WooCommerce store:

  • Purchase web hosting – WooCommerce does not include web hosting.
  • Install WordPress – WooCommerce only works with WordPress.
  • Install the WooCommerce plugin for WordPress.
  • Create your new store using WooCommerce’s setup wizard.
A screenshot of Shopify's user backend/admin section.
Shopify’s admin section.

This sounds easy enough but notice that very first bullet point, PURCHASE WEB HOSTING. One of the downsides to WooCommerce and their free open source model is that web hosting is not included with the service. Naturally, there are many providers from which to choose, including many of the top web hosting companies such as DreamHost, GoDaddy, and Amazon, but this is an additional cost that many novice or first-time store owners will encounter and might not be expecting. Shopify, on the other hand, includes web hosting in all of their subscription plans. Shopify web hosting includes these in-demand features:

  • Your own domain – Shopify users have the option to either purchase and register a custom domain name for their website, use their pre-existing domain, or use the free .myshopify.com domain that’s included with every subscription.
  • Unlimited EMail forwarding – Users who opt to buy a domain through Shopify will receive an unlimited amount of forwarding EMail addresses included with their purchase. Messages that are sent to the new EMail addresses will be forwarded to a pre-existing EMail account of your choice.
  • Automatic updates – Like BigCommerce, Shopify updates are automatic and relieve the user of the responsibility of manually updating their websites whereas with WordPress’ constant updates and revisions, it is up to the user to perform their own maintenance.
  • Content Delivery Network through Fastly – Fastly is one of the most trusted content delivery network (CDN) companies on the Internet. A CDN uses an expansive network of servers across the globe to ensure that users can access your website in minimal time, regardless of where they are in the world. This not only helps improve sales/conversions and reduce bounce rates, fast loading speeds are also crucial for prime SEO ranks. In fact, of all the major eCommerce platforms, it was Shopify who was the first to use a CDN.

Shopify hosted websites also receive unlimited bandwidth and Level 1 PCI compliance, a must-have for any online store.

#2: Customization

In their absolute base forms, WooCommerce and Shopify leave the door wide open for full customization in terms of additional features, functions, right down to the overall look, feel, and visual WOW factor of presentation. Both systems also go about it in similar ways; WooCommerce and Shopify are both heavily-dependent on 3rd party apps and integrations but where Shopify edges out is on the availability of themes. Shopify’s theme store has over 100 free and paid themes from which to choose; each one is especially designed to give websites the extra visual polish to make them stand out from their competitors. Premium paid themes do start at $140 but it’s not a subscription price that will need to be repurchased annually, it’s a one-time payment and from that point on, you as the store owner can do what you’d like with it. Of course, for the full custom experience, we recommend a full custom layout for your Shopify store from an experienced developer (We at Diztinct are experienced Shopify custom website developers and are officially recognized as design partners with Shopify.).

In regards to apps, plugins, and integrations, WooCommerce does offer a higher number of plugins for their platform; over 58,000 free plugins are available on WordPress.org and even more paid premium ones are available through marketplaces such as CodeCanyon and Pro Plugin Directory. Alternatively, Shopify has just over 5,700 apps in their marketplace. This is well under the 58,000+ that WooCommerce has to offer, but here’s something to consider: Think of an elevator. Elevators have a weight capacity window from which they can operate safely before critical failure. If the weight capacity is exceeded, the elevator can malfunction or even crash. The more additional weight is added, the likelihood of catastrophic failure becomes even greater. With each plugin, app, or integration that is added to either a WooCommerce or Shopify website, the chances of a software conflict go up as well as decreased website performance and increased loading times. So while Shopify doesn’t have nearly the same availability of apps/plugins as WooCommerce, Shopify’s apps are typically much more efficient and don’t necessarily require the amount of stacking that WooCommerce needs. Also, Shopify’s framework is far less fragile and temperamental than WooCommerce’s; WooCommerce performance dips heavily once apps and plugins are incorporated onto one of their websites.

#3: Security and Stability

Believe it or not, being part of a system that powers almost half of all of the websites on the Internet does have its fatal flaws. WooCommerce/WordPress websites are a favorite easy target for hackers and cyber criminals and when a website is attacked every 39 seconds of every day, there’s a very high probability that the website being attacked is one that is on WordPress. If that’s not enough of a concern, WordPress goes through constant updates and revisions. One one hand, it means that WordPress is always adapting to new technology and not allowing itself to remain stagnant (unlike Yahoo and to a degree, Volusion). Conversely, we should remind you that WordPress users are responsible for executing their own software updates; updates are not automatic as they are with Shopify and BigCommerce. WordPress’ constant revisions also carry the potential to cause site-breaking software conflicts; this is exacerbated even worse if your WooCommerce store is heavy on the plugins and integrations. Many site-breaking scenarios have been attributed to an ill-timed WordPress update. This means that some apps may malfunction, crash, or quit working altogether and then the original developer has to find a new workaround (or start over from scratch) to restore compatibility. Shopify, while just as app and integration-dependent as WooCommerce is, is not prone to the same level of accidental failures and software conflicts. Unlike WooCommerce app developers who take advantage of the free open source nature of the software, Shopify developers work within Shopify’s dedicated software architecture. This means better stability and a significantly reduced chance of incompatibility through app integration, even when apps that were created by different developers are stacked on top of each other.

WooCommerce’s increased user responsibility also entails that it is up to the user to obtain their own PCI compliance and security. This normally comes with the purchase of an outside hosting service but with Shopify, hosting is included as are the SSL certificate and PCI-DSS compliance. It’s absolutely paramount that any website that wishes to business online obtain an SSL certificate to protect themselves and their customers and having one comes with the added bonus of increased SEO ranks; Google always prefers to promote SSL secure websites higher in their rankings over unsecured ones. Need any more reasons why SSL certificates and PCI compliance is important? If a hacker lands a successful attack onto an unprotected WooCommerce store, the store owner will be on the hook for any damages and when it comes to data breaches involving personal information and payment records, it could be enough to permanently ruin and end a business for good. Maintenance is one aspect that many WooCommerce users often neglect; not necessarily out of willful ignorance, but because these aspects aren’t explained up front as they are with Shopify. That’s because Shopify performs all the security maintenance and software updates themselves, relieving the user of the added responsibility of having to perform them on their own.

#4: Sales and Marketing Features

The ideal WooCommerce user is a content creator, social media influencer, or digital artist that prioritizes promoting and selling content over actual physical merchandise. This is an area where WooCommerce has Shopify beat, but for websites that sell physical product and companies with large and sprawling inventories, Shopify wins over WooCommerce. Shopify comes prepackaged with essential selling tools and features which helps them become more accessible to a wider variety of merchants, not just those who deal strictly in digital or virtual content. Shopify includes abandoned cart recovery, multichannel selling, and shipping solutions as standard. Abandoned cart recovery can help convince a website visitor towards finalizing their purchase, thus creating a new customer and conversion for your business instead of letting them “walk” and take their business elsewhere. Multi-channel selling allows your store to branch out and reach more shoppers by way of piggybacking onto other major companies like Amazon, eBay, Google, Facebook, and Instagram. Multi-channel selling is one of the most effective ways to boost your website’s sales and your branding, thanks to the public recognition with these corporations. Shopify also includes a free built-in blog to help advertise and promote your website and basic SEO tools to help streamline your website’s tags and boost search engine rankings. With WooCommerce, these features would all need to be added through plugins–and you’re probably going to have to pay for them all individually (except Facebook store integration, which is free for WooCommerce users).

#5: Support

Both WooCommerce and Shopify have excellent user support systems in place but both companies go about it in vastly different ways. As open source software, WooCommerce does not have its own dedicated 24/7 customer and user support team. There’s no corporate help phone number or EMail address to use should something go wrong with your WooCommerce/WordPress website. WooCommerce/WordPress does, however, have an abundant global community of designers and developers. They can be found through social media, online forums, and online user communities. In some ways, this means that WooCommerce help is just as accessible as Shopify support. The trade-off is that since you’d most likely be contacting these people through social media and forums, their responses will vary greatly as each individual designer and developer will have their own techniques and information will not always be compatible. Also, the response will not be as immediate as it would be with a dedicated support contact line. Shopify also has a wide global network of designers and developers, just like WooCommerce. The big difference is that because they’re a full service provider, they have their own team of tech support professionals who are available 24/7 VIA phone or chat. Shopify users in North America, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore each have a designated phone number per region. Should your Shopify web store suffer a minor bug or a major cataclysmic system crash, you can get help immediately. Plus, Shopify’s customer support team is rated among the highest in the eCommerce industry.

Who is the WooCommerce User?

  • Content creators, social media influencers, musicians/artists, anyone whose business model revolves almost entirely around digital or virtual content. This includes live streamers, online-based instructors, merchants that sell digital tickets/reserved spots for online only virtual events such as concerts or seminars, etc.
  • Small, private business or businesses that operate from home; merchants with limited variety/quantity in saleable product.
  • Highly-advanced techies (or those with access to a professional-grade website developer) that can fully utilize WooCommerce’s unlimited open source customization and design capabilities; this will require A LOT of patience.

Who is the Shopify User?

  • Merchants with advanced product inventories and inventory categories; this can entail businesses of varying sizes from small independents to large, enterprise level companies. It is easy to immediately launch a Shopify website and begin selling. 
  • Users that value the latest and most up-to-date software but don’t want the added responsibility of having to perform their own maintenance; Shopify provides their users with automatic updates, security compliance, and 24/7 technical support.
  • Businesses that are seeking fast and effective ways to grow their online presence as well as increase their income; multi-channel selling capabilities, built-in marketing tools and SEO help broaden their reach to new groups of potential customers.

Diztinct Recommends Shopify over WooCommerce

A pie-chart depicting the dominance of Shopify and WooCommerce in the US eCommerce market.
Most businesses in the US eCommerce market power their websites through Shopify.

Together, WooCommerce and Shopify dominate over half of the entire eCommerce market in the US. But the reasons why Shopify wins out over WooCommerce and why more businesses power their websites with Shopify are down to 5 major factors: ease of use, customization, security/stability, sales and marketing features, and support. Shopify users can enjoy the platform’s straightforward admin functions, immense selection of design templates and focused feature-expanding apps as well as a broad global community of Shopify-based designers and developers, security and safety of a dedicated 24/7-available customer support team, and the piece of mind of automatic software and security updates that give the user one less thing to worry about when managing an Internet-based retail company.

Migrating from WooCommerce to Shopify

For stores that got their start on WooCommerce but are now looking to make the next move in business growth, migrating off of WooCommerce and relaunching their website onto Shopify’s powerful and secure platform should be a top priority.

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
  • Redirects

In addition to our complete web migration services, we also offer expert graphic design and logo design, inventory management, marketing and promotion, and search engine optimization services. When you hire Diztinct to overhaul your website, our goal will be the same as yours: to help your company convert more customers, make more sales, and earn more income.

We can either migrate your pre-existing WooCommerce store onto Shopify, or design and craft a brand new, fully-customized Shopify website with a unique and professional look as well as a rock-solid user experience for you, your company’s employees, and every visitor to your website.

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.

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