E-commerce platforms: WooCommerce or Shopify. Which should you use?
10 February 2021
E-commerce platforms
For any online retail business, there is always the question of which e-commerce platform to use to sell your products. This article will review and compare two of the e-commerce giants, Woocommerce and Shopify to help you answer that question.

Woo Commerce is an open-source E-commerce platform built for WordPress. It has thousands of plugins and extensions available to customize your store, and it makes it easy to set up a payment system. That being said, WooCommerce requires more technical know-how than Shopify, which you need to be able to handle yourself.

Shopify, on the other hand, offers E-commerce as a service. With this approach you don’t need to worry about installing any software; you also don’t need to worry about any hosting or technical set-up because Shopify manages that for you.

Cost

Shopify has three tiers available, priced from $29 to $299 per month. This includes all you need to set up and run your online business.

Woocommerce is free but this doesn’t include essentials such as website hosting to store your data, security, or a domain name, all of which are available for a regular monthly or annual payment. A hosting service may cost from $35 per month, website security from around $20 per month and your domain name will cost between $20 – $80 per year.

As a startup business, with an eye on your cash flow, it is, obviously, tempting to choose the cheapest option. This isn’t always the best decision for your business. Savvy business owners seek out value for money or the best return on their investment.

We’ll look at their pros and cons in terms of ease of use, security measures and the support available, to help you decide which provides the best value for your business.

Set up and useability

Initially, at least, you will be configuring and maintaining your own online business. It’s important to consider how easy it is to use each platform.

Initial setup

Shopify is practically a complete off-the-shelf solution. WooCommerce has a slightly steeper learning curve than Shopify, as it tends towards more technical features which you need to be able to handle yourself.

WooCommerce is the E-commerce platform that comes preinstalled with WordPress. It makes use of hundreds of free or paid extensions. Extensions are plugins or software applications that add functionality. Woocommerce is an open-source platform, meaning it is hugely flexible. You will need to understand how to complete some of the initial configurations yourself but you then have the ability to create whatever you can imagine.

A simplified list of steps to set up Woocommerce:

  1. install the plugin;
  2. activate it;
  3. create product categories and products;
  4. add payment gateways;
  5. create E-commerce templates;
  6. add E-commerce pages.

You also need to source a hosting service, security and domain name. Clearly, there will be a learning curve but, once you have set up your store, you will be able to easily maintain and add to it as needed.

To set up E-commerce using Shopify, you need to:

  1. sign up for an account;
  2. connect your store to an E-commerce payment processor such as PayPal or Google Wallet;
  3. choose themes and build your site.

This is much simpler than setting up E-commerce with WooCommerce and all of the technical aspects are handled for you.

Both options let you choose from a selection of themes to add your own style to your online outlet.

Background tasks/Maintenance

As in a bricks and mortar shop, you need to run some tasks behind the scenes, to add new products, remove outdated products, and change prices. You may need reminders to restock as products start to sell out. Both platforms will perform all of these tasks for you.

A handy feature provided as standard on Spotify is the recovery of abandoned shopping carts. The platform will send a reminder email to your customer enabling them to finish their shop without having to complete their details again. This also helps reduce the risk of sales being lost to distracted customers.

The vast number of extensions available for Woocommerce means it too can be made to attempt to recover abandoned carts but not by default.

The future and scalability

A smart business owner plans for growth. If the business doesn’t grow, it may well fail as costs increase over time and sales, or income, don’t!

As your business grows, your online outlet will need to expand. You may have a wider selection of products or services or complete new ranges to offer to your customers.

Woocommerce, with its wonderful flexibility, will allow you to update and expand your store to match your e-commerce success.

If Shopify is your platform, you simply buy the next biggest package.

Security

All IT businesses should consider the security of their infrastructure and data and their customers’ data.

Shopify offers backups of your data and configuration information via CSV files. You could simply use spreadsheet software, such as MS Excel, to access this data.

Both platforms offer plugins, or extensions, to back up your precious information, which you should do, regularly. This will provide you with the means to recover your store and product data should you ever need to.

Your customers are somewhat web-savvy and will expect your store to provide security for their data too. They will be looking for the padlock symbol, signifying your Secure Sockets Layer (or SSL) certificates are current. This adds the ‘s’ to your HTTP, identifying a safe, encrypted connection to the website.

Shopify activates this security by default for your store. SSL certification for Woocommerce is a manual process.

Support

Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer customer support for online stores.

For stores with Shopify, there is support available 24 hours a day via chat, email or ‘phone.

WooCommerce offers help articles, video tutorials, user forums, and email support. Woocommerce stallholders may also receive support from their hosting service and from suppliers of some of the extensions.

Conclusion

In summary, both platforms can provide everything you need to begin your online retail presence. Both have a vast range of extensions or plugins, to modify your store.

Wocommerce is the world-leading e-commerce choice. Today’s statistics suggest Woocommerce has at least twice as many online stores as Shopify and more than twice the value of online sales.

Woocommerce is flexible, meaning you are able to create a unique online presence and make changes to your store or stock. It is easily scalable, allowing for future business growth.

You will need to be more ‘hands on’ for Woocommerce but it’s not particularly difficult to pick up and there is a vast amount of online tutorials and user forums for advice and tips. If you’ve worked with WordPress you will probably find Woocommerce easy to set up and maintain.

Woocommerce is available free, you could always try it to see if it suits you and your business!

If you have any doubts about your technical abilities or if you want real ease of use then you should use Shopify. It comes complete with security features and is ready to use ‘out of the box’. Shopify can also work out cheaper, with simple monthly payments.

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