Ecommerce enterprises traditionally built their own systems to sell their products online. For instance, they would develop a website in-house, get a software developer to integrate the cart and payment systems, and then hire a third-party marketing agency to do the SEO.
But with the latest crop of eCommerce platforms, we are fast leaving that approach behind. Today, you don’t have to have any expertise in web design, marketing, or payment processing at all to start trading online. You can get all the digital tools you need in one place and start selling fast.
This post discusses two leading options for eCommerce entrepreneurs looking to make setting up and managing their empires simpler: WooCommerce and Shopify. We investigate the pros and cons of each and then discuss the reasons for picking one or the other. By the end, you should be in a position to get started, either by yourself or with our help.
Pros Of Shopify
Shopify is a popular product. As of October 2019, more than one million merchants used the platform worldwide, supporting more than two million jobs.
But why such popularity?
Ease Of Use
Ecommerce store owners don’t want technology bogging them down: they want to make sales. Ideally, all the support systems should fade into the background and just do their job.
This promise is key to Shopify’s appeal. The platform offers users things like a simple interface, customer support, and setup wizards. You don’t have to be a computer whiz or even know anything about web development at all. The learning curve is shallow, meaning that practically anyone can pick up the platform and run with it. That’s how the developers designed it.
Do you want your store to look different from your competitors? If so, then Shopify can help. The platform offers a host of storefront themes (or templates) that let you quickly give your webpages a consistent and brand-tailored look. Merchants can choose themes broken down by industry (Food & Beverage, Art & Photography, etc.). And you can select versions specifically designed for mobile usage. Premium themes offer more functionality and customization than their free counterparts, but you pay for the privilege.
Shopify App Store
The Shopify App Store is a veritable ecosystem. It has more than 4,900 apps that you can use to improve your site’s functionality and boost sales [October 2020]. Apps (or website extensions) helps with everything from reporting to shipping, allowing you to quickly and easily scale your store.
Shopify provides 24/7 support for your account via email and live chat. There are also call centers dedicated to helping you, depending on your region.
Shopify provides you with a range of marketing tools. These include things like selling your products on Pinterest, improving your SEO keyword targeting, and using Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) criteria to boost the performance of your site in SERPs.
Cons Of Shopify
It’s not all good news though.
While Shopify is simple to use, it comes at the cost of less functionality. Because you have to do everything in the Shopify framework, you don’t have the option of branching out like you can on WordPress or Magento, delving into the source code, and creating something truly bespoke.
Limited Number Of Free Themes
While Shopify offers a large number of themes for your store, it only comes with ten free ones. The rest are premium, meaning that you have to pay a monthly subscription in addition to your regular fee to use them. Furthermore, if you want to customize your theme extensively, you either have to become acquainted with Shopify’s Liquid system or hire a third-party expert.
While Shopify offers a wide range of apps, you’ll pay for the privilege. While many apps have free versions or trial periods, you only get real value if you subscribe.
Pros Of WooCommerce
WooCommerce isn’t a standalone platform, like Shopify. Instead, it is a plugin for WordPress that provides many of the same features. Currently, it is the most popular eCommerce platform on the market, but why? Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages it offers.
A Large Number Of Integrations
WooCommerce comes with a large number of integrations. For shipping, you get support via WooCommerce Shipment Tracking, Iconic’s Delivery Slots, and Skyverg’s Local Pickup Plus, Print Invoices, and Packing Lists. For marketing, help comes in the forms of AutomateWoo, a marketing tool that lets you send follow-up emails and analyze abandoned cart statistics. It also comes with full MailChimp and Hubspot integration, providing enterprise-level scaling and marketing solutions. On the payments front, you have a choice between WooCommerce Payments – the in-house default point of sale system – or Square, Stripe, and Braintree for major credit/debit cards, plus Paypal.
Check Out Without An Account
WooCommerce has some pretty sophisticated account options. Not only does it permit both admin and customer accounts, but it also allows customers to guest checkout without having to enter any of their credentials at all.
If you’re trying to work out how you can capture customer information and smooth the sales process, WooCommerce gives you the best of both worlds. Go to your WooCommerce account on the WordPress admin tool and select WooCommerce > Settings > Accounts & Privacy. Here you’ll see two options under the guest checkout tab. The first allows you to specify whether customers are allowed to place orders without an account. And the second is whether customers have the option of logging in when they hit the checkout page. Enabling both will allow you to capture payment information from existing customers while also preventing users who don’t want to create an account from abandoning their carts.
Like Shopify, WooCommerce offers a host of free and paid themes to get your website started, all listed by industry or business segment. What’s more, you tend to have more control over the degree of customization than you do with Shopify and other “on rails” systems.
Cons Of WooCommerce
It’s not all good news, though. Here are some WooCommerce cons you’ll need to consider:
Lack Of Support
WooCommerce doesn’t have a centralized customer support service, as Shopify does. Instead, the help you receive depends on the theme, plugin, or hosting solution you use. Thus, there’s no unified place where you can get assistance with troubleshooting. It all depends on the provider.
Difficulty Of Use
Setting up WooCommerce isn’t too challenging a task, thanks to the installation wizard. But connecting it to your WordPress account and adding products via the dashboard can be a bit of a hassle if you haven’t done this sort of thing before. If you install WooCommerce extensions, such as TrustPulse, MonsterInsights, or BeaverBuilder, you’ll need to manage all these separately, as you would regular WordPress Plugins.
The need for plugins also creates the potential for performance issues. The lack of an integrated whole means that each plugin must load separately, taking up memory and slowing down overall page speed performance.
Which Should You Pick?
When choosing an eCommerce platform, you need to pick one or the other. Trying to run with both (or several) is impractical and administratively costly.
In general, businesses with more in-house IT skills pick WooCommerce. Yes, it is more challenging to use than Shopify, but it comes with a host of features and plenty of functionality. What’s more, it is fully compatible with the WordPress CMS and website building features, the world’s most popular platform.
The WooCommerce learning curve tends to be higher than Shopify, but the number of integrations makes it worth it. You’re able to connect it to applications across your software stack, including marketing and customer service platforms, like Hubspot.
The advantage of Shopify, by contrast, is the fact that it is a self-contained solution. Once you log into the platform, all the tools you need are right there, including hosting on Shopify’s servers (you don’t have to do this separately).
The learning curve is much shallower than it is for WooCommerce. Once you choose a theme, setting up your store via the control panel is surprisingly simple. Furthermore, you’re able to contact customer support whenever you like to resolve your account issues via multiple channels. The downside is that you’re less able to determine your site’s precise layout and source code. Because you’re using Shopify’s system, and not WordPress, you have less flexibility.
If you’re selling on a small scale and catering to a niche, Shopify probably offers the better option. It’s simple, streamlined, and relatively inexpensive. But if you want to become much larger, then WooCommerce gives you the flexibility you need, even if it is at the expense of a steeper learning curve. Once you get to scale, you can hire the help you need to use it effectively.
Please note that these platforms do not offer fulfillment or distribution directly. They only provide digital tools for managing your operations.
So, are you looking to implement either Shopify or WooCommerce for your eCommerce site? Get in touch with us today to start your project.