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Best eCommerce Platforms for SMB in 2021 (Part 1): Shopify vs WooCommerce

Posted by Billy Gray on

Best eCommerce Platforms for SMB in 2021 (Part 1): Shopify vs WooCommerce

Ecommerce has boomed in 2020. The trend towards online shopping was already huge, but the coronavirus pandemic accelerated this 10 years in the space of a few months. Small businesses are already aware of the need to have an online presence. 

But which eCommerce platform should a small business use to thrive online? This time, we look into two of the biggest: Shopify and WooCommerce

Summary table: Shopify vs WooCommerce

Criteria

Shopify

WooCommerce

Ease of use

+1

0

Costs

+1

0

Apps and Widgets

0

+1

Themes

+1

+1

Scalability

+1

+1

Sales channels

+1

0

Best for

  • Small business owners without much technical expertise looking to move online
  • Dropshippers - Lots of apps to connect dropshippers with suppliers and useful services
  • Existing e-merchants looking for a more integrated platform
  • Existing e-merchants already based on WordPress
  • eCommerce startups with developers at hand

Shopify vs WooCommerce: Side-by-side comparison

1) Shopify 

Shopify has emerged as one of the most important eCommerce platforms with massive growth and onboarding over the last couple of years. The Canadian company seeks to dethrone Amazon’s inhuman approach towards dealing with businesses and instead create a platform that supports merchants in their journey. 

It is very human-centric, with great support and an easy-to-use dashboard packed with useful features like analytics, order management, quick theme edits, and more. The Shopify App Store has everything merchants need to improve their UX and boost sales in a competitive online marketplace. 

shopify vs woocommerce sign up

Setting up a Shopify store is quick and easy. You can sign up for a 14-day free trial and get started right away. 

2) WooCommerce

 

Shopify vs WooCommerce signup

WooCommerce ain't less popular as it's a widely-used open-source plugin for WordPress, the big brother in website development. Free to install, easy to customize, that's what businesses can get from WooCommerce. It’s a popular choice for e-merchants looking to save as much money as they can in the early days - but you should consider the potential for costs rising as your business scales. 

WooCommerce is one of the most personalized and customizable eCommerce solutions. The fact that it’s open-source means there are thousands of themes, widgets, and tools built by an active and responsive community. You can find information from hundreds of thousands of other merchants using WooCommerce without hassle. 

Ease of use

Shopify: Simple sign-up, no credit card needed

    Shopify is very easy to set up. You can create your website in a matter of minutes with an email address, a store name, no credit card required. This lets you focus more on developing a great product and marketing it to the masses.

    shopify vs woocommerce free trial

    Filling some information, you are already onboarding with a Shopify store.

    After creating an account, you’ll be taken to the dashboard where you can add products, choose your theme, create a custom domain within Shopify, and more. The UI makes everything easy to set up. 

    Once you’ve selected a theme, simply go to the Theme Editor and begin filling out the text and image sections. You can also import menus that you create in the dashboard and add featured products to your homepage.

    shopify vs woocommerce homepage

    The theme editor is intuitive, which makes building a great website much more manageable.

    WooCommerce: Easy for WordPress users only

      WooCommerce, on the other hand, is an add-on to WordPress, so you’d have to set up your website using WordPress first. WordPress has a notoriously steep learning curve, so you’ll have to spend some time getting to know the platform before installing WooCommerce. 

      Shopify vs WooCommerce menu comparison
      shopify vs woocommerce menu comparison

      Look at the side menu of WooCommerce (left-hand) and Shopify (right-hand). The latter is much more concise and straightforward.

      Of course, if your site is already built on WordPress then you’ll find it much easier to set up WooCommerce. You’ll already be familiar with the WordPress system and will likely already have a developer or team of developers working on the platform.

      Conclusion

      1 point for Shopify in terms of ease of use. 

      Costs  

      Shopify: A fixed pricing ladder starting from $29

        Shopify has a basic plan for $29 per month that is perfect for small businesses making the move online. It allows you to add as many products as you wish and add two staff accounts. However, it lacks the advanced analytics and growth features of higher plans. 

        The plans increase to include more useful features like multi-language support, more staff accounts, URLs for different countries, and more. For example, the standard Shopify plan of $79 per month allows up to five staff accounts, international domains, and multi-language support while Advanced Shopify for $299 per month unlocks 15 staff accounts, advanced reports, lower transaction fees, and more.

        shopify pricing shopify vs woocommerce

        This fixed structure stops you from worrying about hidden costs creeping up on your business as it grows. 

        Shopify Plus is the final step on the Shopify ladder with custom pricing for multi-million dollar enterprises. Small businesses don’t really need to think about Shopify Plus, but you might consider it once you begin seriously scaling.

        Another small note is that to make your Shopify store run smoothly and improve customer experience, you will actually need to install some Shopify apps. For example, to enhance on-site navigation, you may need a product filter & search app. Many apps have free plans, but some don’t and most of them have paid plans to add better features.

        WooCommerce: Free installation with some hidden charges

          The initial setup of WooCommerce is free, which makes it attractive to those on a tight budget. But it’s important to note that it doesn’t include: 

          1. A domain name, which usually costs anywhere from $3 - $13 per year
          2. Hosting, which averages around $20 to $30 per month
          3. An SSL certificate for better user security, which costs $17 and lasts for two years

          You’ll also potentially need to pay for a theme from the WooCommerce Theme Marketplace or through a third party like Theme Forest. This can be as little as a couple of dollars or as much as a thousand. This isn’t necessary if you have a developer to build your online store, but then you need to pay their salary. 

          You may need to pay for apps as well from the Extension Store, such as SEO and sales tools. These cost anywhere from $10 per year to $200+ per year, although some of them are free. 

          The cost of WooCommerce can scale a lot as your business grows and you have more products to manage. Hosting isn’t included and this alone can mount to more than a Shopify subscription (which includes hosting fees). 

          Conclusion

          Shopify and WooCommerce have different pricing systems, but the fixed pricing ladder of Shopify makes it easier for business owners to estimate the cost. So 1 point for Shopify.

          Apps and widgets

          Shopify: Various apps in one app store

            This is where Shopify really begins to shine. The app store on the platform has everything an eCommerce merchant could ever need.

            Take a look through the Shopify App Store and explore the thousands of apps in different categories. 

            shopify app store shopify vs woocommerce

            The Shopify app store has thousands of useful tools. Check out the categories on the left, and then search for apps in the results. You can see the user rating and whether the app has a free plan from the collection page. 

            Shopify app store has some categories for raising businesses like dropshippers. You’ll find yourself in good hands with Shopify if you’re dropshipping. The platform has many great apps to support dropshippers, such as Oberlo to find suppliers.

            WooCommerce: Premade plugins and open source for DIY

              WooCommerce has hundreds of plugins and tools to help optimize your eCommerce store. You can find them all in the WooCommerce Extension Store.

              woocommerce extensions Shopify vs WooCommerce
              WooCommerce features a lot of extensions for all kinds of purposes.

              Moreover, anyone can make a WooCommerce plugin because it’s open-source software. You’ll find everything from website design tools to page builders and all between. 

              Conclusion

              Shopify app stores cater to new businesses with little to no technical staff. WooCommerce can fit in with both tech-savvy and non-tech store owners with the ready-made extensions and the open-source for customization and personalization

              1 point for WooCommerce.

              Themes 

              Shopify

                The Shopify Theme Store has more than 100 independently developed store themes from professional coders. Around 10 are free at any given time and the rest cost around $160 to $180.

                shopify theme store shopify vs woocommerce

                The Shopify Theme Store has a variety of free and paid themes to make your store look amazing. 

                Shopify themes are compatible with most apps on the platform and don’t require any additional coding. They’re perfect for small businesses that just want to get up and running.

                WooCommerce

                  We’re not even going to attempt to count the number of themes supported by WooCommerce. Anyone can make them and there are tens of thousands. Some are free, while others cost hundreds of dollars, depending on the quality of the theme and the price the developer chooses to sell it at. 

                  themeforrest woocommerce themes Shopify vs WooCommerce

                  WooCommerce has no shortage of affordable themes on ThemeForest.

                  Of course, more expensive themes will likely be less glitchy and will integrate seamlessly with popular WooCommerce apps. Cheaper themes will save you money but require some extra customization for them to work with all extensions.

                  Conclusion

                  Both Shopify and WooCommerce get 1 point for Themes.

                  Scalability 

                  Shopify: Scale up with no hidden cost

                    Shopify is one of the most scalable platforms out there for small businesses. The simple fixed-price plans grow as you decide to add more features to your store. You could easily run a large store on the basic plan and upgrading is very easy to do. 

                    The apps in the Shopify App Store are also easy to scale up. They tend to offer fixed pricing plans that increase alongside features, for example, Boost Commerce allows you to use the app with more products for each successive plan.

                    WooCommerce: Great on the technical side

                      WooCommerce can be scaled easily enough thanks to the complete control developers have over how to use the open-source platform, but the costs are a lot less predictable than other platforms that have fixed pricing plans.

                      Bad planning for scaling, your little $20-per-month store can easily go up to $500-per-month when you choose better hosting, expensive apps added on, and international domains.

                      Conclusion

                      1 point for both.

                      Sales channels

                      Shopify: Easy integration with popular social channels

                        Shopify is now partnered with Facebook and Google to allow merchants to list their products on both platforms for free. This makes it an attractive option for businesses looking to scale online. 

                        Google Shopping is a popular destination for shoppers to find new products and Facebook is leading the charge in social commerce. Seamless integration with both platforms gives Shopify some serious bonus points!

                        shopify social channel connection

                        Setting up Facebook on Shopify is easy. Simply select the + under ‘Sales Channels’ and connect install Facebook, then connect your account and choose whether to sell on Facebook, Instagram, or both. 

                        Shopify also has sales channels for Instagram, Messenger, TikTok, Amazon, and more. The platform is built to connect with other eCommerce, social commerce, and search engines easily so you can maximize your discoverability online. 

                        We recommend adding at least two extra sales channels to boost the chances of people finding your products, but don’t overdo it, or you’ll find yourself spread too thin.

                        WooCommerce: Many plugins for integration, but with flaws

                          Like Shopify, WooCommerce also offers extensions to integrate with some social sales channels such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest.

                          However, the integration with Facebook receives a very bad rating due to difficulties in the sync process. The guideline for setting up Google Shopping for WooCommerce is super lengthy and not easy to follow at the first time.

                          woocommerce social channel connection bad rating

                          WooCommerce extensions for sales on social channels are not used very often. Some receive a very negative rating.

                          Conclusion

                          1 big point for Shopify for the seamless integration with popular sales channels.

                          And the winner is...

                          Overall, we’d recommend small businesses moving online in 2021 choose Shopify to build an eCommerce store. The main reason for this is that the platform is an all-in-one solution with simple fixed pricing plans. Merchants don’t have to worry about manually sorting out the technicalities of running their store.  

                          WooCommerce offers merchants the ability to change their store in any way they please, but this requires developers, which come with a price tag that most small business owners can’t budget for.