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Comparing E-commerce Platforms: WooCommerce vs. Shopify Plus

Growth Spark

Which enterprise level e-commerce platform is better?


So you’re building a website. This means you’ve probably asked yourself the following questions:

  • Who should host your website?
  • What theme should you use?
  • What should the layout of certain pages be?
  • What kind of user flow should you design?
  • Should you build and design your website in-house or should you hire an agency?

But wait -- you’re not just building any old website, you’re building an e-commerce website! That means you also need to consider a bunch of e-commerce variables:

  • Inventory
  • Products (variations, and categories)
  • Shopping carts
  • Payment processing & gateways
  • Discount codes & promotions
  • Shipping (carriers, rate calculation, label printing, order fulfillment)
  • Social selling

And there’s still more! The list goes on and on. Choosing the right e-commerce platform can make a big difference when it comes to setting up and launching an e-commerce website. Fortunately, there are a number of e-commerce platform options out there. Unfortunately, this means there’s lots of information to wade through when it comes to choosing an e-commerce platform.


Here at GrowthSpark, we are a Shopify agency, but we recognize that both Shopify Plus and WooCommerce can meet the unique needs of enterprise level e-commerce businesses. So we’ve put together this article to run through the items you should consider when comparing Shopify Plus and WooCommerce.

HISTORY

WooCommerce runs WordPress, which is an open source software that began as a blogging system and evolved into a powerful content management system (CMS). Today, WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) on the web. Back in 2008, WooCommerce initially started out as WordPress themes and plugins. In 2011, WooCommerce became an open source, commercial WordPress “plugin”.


In 2015, WooCommerce was acquired by Automattic, the company behind WordPress. Today, WooCommerce powers over 30% of all online stores and has received over one million downloads. Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Men’s Health BOX, and the Duracell Lighting site are all powered by WooCommerce (see more WooCommerce sites here).


Shopify initially developed a reputation as an e-commerce platform for small mom and pop shops after launching in 2006. Since then, Shopify has solidified its reputation for making it fast and easy to launch an e-commerce business even if you have little technical savvy. A few years ago, Shopify launched Shopify Plus and expanded into enterprise e-commerce markets. Despite the increase in capabilities, Shopify Plus continues to make it easy for its users to focus on the business (customers, marketing, sales) with optimized e-commerce user flows and a very approachable user interface. Tesla, Budweiser, Redbull, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ store all run on Shopify.


While there are over two million live sites using WooCommerce worldwide, Shopify has been quickly making its way up the ranks of e-commerce platforms. Shopify recently announced that the number of Shopify merchants passed the 500,000 mark, and since Shopify launched Shopify Plus for enterprise level businesses a few years ago, there are now over 2,500 Shopify Plus merchants.


HIGHLIGHTS
OPEN SOURCE & UN-HOSTED VS. LICENSED & HOSTED

WooCommerce and the platform it runs on, WordPress, are both considered open source software. Shopify is a hosted and licensed platform.


Hosted vs. un-hosted can become a very technical and complex subject quickly. There’s a reason why hosting companies exist! At a high level, hosting your own servers or website might entail purchasing your own computers to run as a server; ongoing maintenance and updating of hardware, software, and databases; troubleshooting and testing all these moving parts to ensure website speed; making additional purchases to scale; and especially lately -- liability for security risks. When you go with a hosted solution, all of these things are taken care of for you.


Hosting is one of the reasons why Shopify has been such an attractive solution to the less technical e-commerce business owners. As a licensed and hosted platform, Shopify takes care of all the hardware and infrastructure required to host an online store.


To launch a WooCommerce site, you’ll need to decide on hosting. Will you purchase a cloud hosting subscription? Will you purchase your own hardware and the IT services to support it?  The vast majority of companies tend to use a hosting service such as WP Engine.


Open Source Software: Technically, “open source” means that the core software is freely available and that any fees charged are related to hosting, support, extensions, and customization. WooCommerce and WordPress are both free, open source software. Any additional costs for WooCommerce come with the purchase of plugins and extensions to add capabilities.


Overall, here are some of the pros and cons to consider regarding open source software:


Pros of Open Source Software

Cons of Open Source Software

  • Freedom to customize anything
  • Community (in most cases)
  • Low product costs
  • Need developers! (This can become costly!)
  • Slow to release updates


Licensed Software: When a software is “licensed” this means you get a product that is owned and managed by a company that is working to sell, support, and improve their product. Since the product has paying customers, a company will work to keep its customers happy and on board. Shopify is a licensed and hosted platform.


Here are some pros and cons typically associated with licensed software:


Pros of Licensed Software

Cons of Licensed Software

  • Clean procedures, processes, and protocols
  • User friendliness
  • Proactive support
  • Security
  • Limited customization potential based on APIs and features provided by the company
  • Fixed pricing structure

Theme Marketplace

A “theme” is a set of code, or page-specific templates packaged together, that control a website’s layout and design features. A theme ensures that a website has a consistent look and feel. Essentially, the theme dictates the design of a website. WooCommerce (and WordPress) as well as Shopify Plus offer their own free themes and 3rd party themes for their platforms.

While you would have previously found yourself sifting through over a thousand e-commerce WordPress themes available on Themeforest or the WordPress Theme Directory, WooCommerce now offers their “Storefront” WordPress theme that features optimized e-commerce user flows with the ability to customize design to match your brand. There are 13 Storefront specific extensions available to help you further customize your e-commerce theme. Extensions range in price from $0-$19, or you can purchase all 13 extensions for $69.

While Shopify has fewer themes available in the Shopify Marketplace (59 total, 10 of which are free and made by Shopify), Shopify does maintain a strict approval process of themes in their marketplace, so purchasing themes from Shopify guarantees that a theme meets certain standards. There are also nearly 500 Shopify themes available in Themeforest as well.

At the enterprise level, most e-commerce companies that have a clear sense of their brand typically find themselves developing a custom theme to represent their unique identity on the web. With WooCommerce or Shopify Plus, you can develop a custom theme completely from scratch, or take an existing theme to use as a base and customize it.

App Marketplace

WooCommerce and Shopify both have marketplaces where users can find apps and extensions that add functionality to an e-commerce website. A website “plugin,” “extension,” or “app” is a packaged set of code that performs a certain function. It’s kind of like when you download an app on your phone to make to-do lists or send money to your friends. An app gives you the function, or ability, to make a to-do list (ex: Wunderlist) or to transfer money to others (ex: Venmo). You can add a plugin to a WordPress site (which is also what a WooCommerce site is), an extension to a WooCommerce store, or an app to a Shopify store to add a function -- say a Store Locator.

The Shopify App Store has over 2,000 apps while the WooCommerce Extensions Store has 313 extensions and WordPress has over 52,000 available plugins. In general, most apps in the Shopify app store cost between $5-$30, while some niche apps can cost a lot more. WooCommerce extensions range in price from $0-$299.

With both platforms, it is also possible to have a developer build a custom function for you. Here at Growth Spark, we always encourage our clients to pursue out-of-the-box options first.

EASE OF USE
EASE OF STORE SETUP

With any enterprise level e-commerce business, it will take time to add content and products; configure shipping, payment, and notification details; and complete any design customizations. Generally speaking, you can hit the ground running much more quickly with a Shopify store than you can a WooCommerce site simply because Shopify is a licensed and hosted platform whereas WooCommerce is open source. While with Shopify you can signup and start adding products and customizing your site almost instantly, with WooCommerce you need to:

  1. Purchase a domain name
  2. Sign up for web hosting
  3. Install WordPress
  4. Find and install a WordPress theme (remember Storefront!)

With Shopify, you essentially get everything you need to run an e-commerce website right out of the box. To get started selling with WooCommerce, you need to configure your website basics and install the e-commerce capabilities you think you’ll need.

Shopify makes it easy for a business or marketing-focused person to make changes to the majority of e-commerce tasks. And with Shopify Plus, you get dedicated Launch and Merchant Account Managers. With WooCommerce, once you get up and running, adding products and maintaining your e-commerce business via WooCommerce’s WordPress interface is just as accessible and easy to do as it is in Shopify. The challenge is making more of the upfront decisions about what you’d like for an e-commerce website if you aren’t experienced with user experience and e-commerce best practices.

User Interface

WordPress and Shopify both feature rather user-friendly admin panels.

WordPress WooCommerce Admin Dashboard View:

image source

WooCommerce Menus:


 image
source

Shopify Plus, Dashboard View:

WordPress WooCommerce Edit Product View:


image
source

Shopify Plus, Edit Product View:


WooCommerce Sales Report View:

image source

Shopify Plus, Sales by Month Report View:


WooCommerce Customer List View:

(image source)

Shopify Plus, Customer Profile Views:


Notice that both admin panels make it easy to:

  • Manage products, customers, and orders
  • Edit pages and content

Design Customizations

Shopify Plus and WooCommerce both use themes to meet a merchant’s design preferences. These themes come with the ability to add deeper levels of customization.

Shopify actually has its own coding language, .liquid, that is very easy-to-learn. If you’re comfortable with HTML and CSS, you’ll probably find Shopify’s .liquid theming language easy to modify. Depending on the level of design customization you’re looking for, you might consider customizing a theme on your own or finding a Shopify Partner Agency to help. Overall, thanks to .liquid, you won’t need a “full stack developer” to work on your Shopify store.  

WordPress is based on PHP and MySQL, so in the least you’ll need a WordPress developer, or a developer that is familiar with PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS, and possibly JavaScript to help you get your WooCommerce website up and running, and to keep it maintained!

Customer Service / Tech Support

Running an e-commerce store, you know how important it is to provide excellent customer service. Delay too long in responding to a customer’s request and you might be damaging their view of your company. Point your customers to an FAQ page that’s tough to navigate or missing an answer and you’re looking at frustrating interactions. What kind of customer support would you like to receive when your own customer experience is on the line? Top notch support, we’d think!

Shopify has always maintained a strong reputation for its support. Beyond Shopify’s extensive support documentation, E-commerce University, and discussion forums, each Shopify Plus customer also receives their own dedicated Merchant Success Manager in addition to a dedicated Account Manager and 24/7 priority support.

WooCommerce support can only be accessed via their Helpdesk, which requires submitting a ticket. You can take a look at WooCommerce’s support policy here, but overall WooCommerce provides support for WooCommerce products “as is” and does not seem to veer off into the world of 3rd party customizations or WordPress. This isn’t surprising for an open source software, which tends to rely more on its communities for crowd sourced support (try Github or stackoverflow).

FEATURES

As an e-commerce platform, Shopify offers pretty robust e-commerce capabilities right “out-of-the-box” (ready to go upon installation). You’ll notice that WooCommerce capabilities are more often available via an extension, which you can choose to download if you think the capability is necessary to your e-commerce site. You’ll also notice that more WooCommerce features may require some configuration. Again, this is something expected of open source software since one of the benefits is advanced customization. Check out our features grid below to see how Shopify Plus and WooCommerce stack up.


Key: available out-of-the-box   available via app or extension    requires configuration

Shopify Plus

WooCommerce

e-commerce backend

Inventory Management

Track inventory and automate inventory labels in your online store

Use inventory management apps to automatically hide out of stock products and link inventory across multiple online stores

Setup base rules for “product bundles” to adjust stock notifications on your site


Download an external inventory management service

Unlimited Products

No limit to the number of products you can add to your online store(s).

In theory, WooCommerce allows for unlimited products, but ultimately the number of products will be limited/dependent on website hosting limits.

Unlimited Customer Accounts

Shopify Customer Accounts

Depends on the amount of hosting purchased

Payment Gateways

Native Shopify Payments and integrations with PayPal, Amazon, Apple

100+ payment gateways including mobile, social

Download an extension to process payments: Stripe, Square, PayPal, Amazon, and more. 100+ payment gateways available

Payment Platforms

Native Shopify Payments platform

Shopify Pay’s one-field checkout

Shopify Gift Cards

You’ll need a coder who can program a Native Payment platform API for integration with your site.

An example of how a coder might approach implementing native payments into WooCommerce.

Shipping Carriers

Calculated shipping for USPS, Canada Post, FedEx, UPS

Shopify Shipping offers rate discounts for USPS and

Other shipping carriers available via app store

Calculated shipping for USPS and Canada Post when you install WooCommerce Shipping


Discounted rates



Shipping Management

- Overview of shipping considerations & more on shipping & fulfillment

Calculate rates

Print shipping labels

On-Site Order Status Tracking

Integrate with fulfillment services via app

WooCommerce Shipping allows you to

Calculate rates for USPS and Canada Post

Print shipping labels


Additional integration work may be necessary depending on whether you opt for an external Shipping Management system

e-commerce frontend

Sales Channels

16 Shopify Sales Channels integrated into core merchant dashboard

Password protected Wholesale Store

Integrate with Google Shopping via app store

Extensions available to sell via Google products and Facebook


WordPress plugin store gives you options to sell on Amazon


Need some workarounds for buyable pins on Pinterest with WooCommerce (there are WordPress plugins to connect Shopify & WooCommerce in order to do buyable pins)

Coupons & Discount Codes

Create, manage, and export discount codes

Create, manage, and export discount codes

Promotions

Use Launchpad to schedule promotions and site customizations for promos

Choose from 17 marketing and promotion related extensions to determine the best system for managing promos

POS

Shopify POS and Retail Package covers everything you need to sell in person

3rd party WordPress plugins available via WordPress plugin store and other sites


3rd party WordPress plugin available for WooCommerce POS


Another 3rd party plugin

Marketing Insights

SEO

SEO in Shopify

Update SEO data with API

Native integration with Kit app that automatically uses SEO Manager to suggest & execute SEO improvement recommendations

Create URL rewrites using the Traffic Control app

WordPress plugins available for SEO (Yoast is a popular SEO plugin!)

An in-depth guide to SEO optimization for WooCommerce

Analytics

Use Launchpad to track promo event metrics in real-time

Customer, Finance Reports in addition to a variety of other reports

Build custom reports

Native reports for orders, customers, and stock.


WooCommerce extensions and WordPress plugins available for varying levels of Google Analytics integration tailored to e-commerce

Customer / Inventory Segmentation

User allows access to customer info

✓ ↓

Basic customer reports to drill down into customer info


10 reporting extensions offered in the WooCommerce Extension Store


3rd party WordPress plugins for advanced WooCommerce reporting

Customer Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs available via app store

WooCommerce Points and Rewards extension available for an additional cost

Marketing Tools

Social Selling

16 Shopify Sales Channels integrated in core platform (Amazon, FB Messenger & Shop, Pinterest, Houzz, EBates)

Secure apps for Shoppable Instagram Galleries and more

WooCommerce extensions available to sell on Facebook or Google


WordPress plugin available for selling on Amazon


Many pointers to installing a WordPress plugin that will sync a WooCommerce shop up with a Shopify store so you can take advantage of Shopify’s integrated sales channels (Zapier triggers and actions to connect WooCommerce & Shopify)

Conversion Assists

Manual and automated Abandoned Cart Recovery

Setup email triggers to nurture, follow up with, and maintain customer relationships

Newsletter & Email

Use Bulk Account Inviter to email customers to activate accounts


Integrate with email and newsletter programs via app store

WooCommerce Follow-ups is a premium extension that allows you to create campaigns and customize trigger events to automatically send emails based on certain actions


If you’re comfortable with the WordPress interface, you’ll probably be comfortable creating, customizing, and maintaining WooCommerce emails and campaigns

Blog

Built in Blogging Engine

WordPress began as a blogging system, but has evolved into a powerful open source CMS

Technical

Apps & Integrations

Shopify app store

WooCommerce extensions store

Seamless Login

Multipass allows users to be automatically logged in to Shopify site when connecting from an external site

Configure social logins for WooCommerce

Multi Language Support

Avalara AvaTax automates tax calculations and filing


Manage checkout language


Download a language translation app for your store

1 extension available via WooCommerce Extension store

Media Storage

Unlimited: never charged based on number of site visitors, or files and photos uploaded.

Depends on the amount of hosting purchased

Security

Shopify Payments includes built-in fraud analysis and is PCI compliant

↓  Security plugins available for WordPress


↓  3rd party payment plugins and extensions are typically secure


WooCommerce tips for security. Additional WooCommerce security tips for post-launch.

Performance

Optimizing Shopify Themes

WooCommerce documentation on troubleshooting a slow WooCommerce site

Customer Service Support

- Dedicated Merchant Success Manager + Launch Manager


- 24/7 priority support

No support for customizations, referred to a WooExpert or Developer

Limited WooCommerce support via support tickets to the Helpdesk for WooCommerce products purchased as-is


PRICING

Shopify Plus pricing is much more straightforward than WooCommerce pricing. This makes sense, since WooCommerce is open source!

Shopify does also offer non-enterprise level platforms at lower costs. These lower price point offerings still come hosted, and there are a variety of price points and packages available that speak to different business sizes.

Shopify Lite
(Sell on Facebook only)

Basic Shopify

Shopify

Advanced Shopify

Monthly Price

$9

$29

$79

$299


For example, if you already have an existing blog and website and think you can run your e-commerce business completely on Facebook, you could go for Shopify Lite at only $9/month. If you’re just starting out and only looking for a safe, secure e-commerce store that can showcase products, process payments, offer discounts, and print shipping labels, then Basic Shopify would be a good place to start. If you’re ready to scale your e-commerce business and find that you need more than 10 staff accounts and are ready to take advantage of advanced reporting capabilities, then you’re likely ready for Advanced Shopify.

Shopify Plus starts at around $2,000/month and goes up depending on your specific needs, never surpassing a maximum fee of $40,00/month (you’d have to be selling upwards of $16M/month to hit the maximum fee). Since Shopify Plus fees depend on unique business aspects, the monthly fee will vary. A German Shopify agency, liquify.design, actually has a really nice comprehensive breakdown of Shopify Plus pricing that we’d recommend visiting if you’re looking for more detail.

WooCommerce, in its simplest form, is free, but to meet the needs of an enterprise level business, you’ll definitely be purchasing some additional extensions to increase your e-commerce site capabilities. Popular WooCommerce extensions range in price from $79-$250 per one year of updates and support for a single WooCommerce site. You’ll also have to calculate in the cost of monthly website hosting and, most likely, budget for a WordPress developer. We liked this post on WP Apprentice about WooCommerce pricing.

Conclusion

We hope this article helped you gain a better understanding of Shopify Plus and WooCommerce as e-commerce platforms!


In general, as a licensed and hosted platform, Shopify Plus offers tons of out-of-the-box e-commerce features that are at your beckon call once you’ve signed up. For WooCommerce, which is open sourced and based in WordPress, you will have to pick and choose from extensions and plugins as you take time to set up a WooCommerce site in order to achieve the same capabilities. Both platforms do pretty much cover the full gamut of e-commerce capabilities via apps, plugins, and extensions. If you’re really looking to get familiar with the platforms, we suggest taking time to click through the links in the Features Grid to the Shopify and WooCommerce documentation. This will help you compare the features and how to manage them.


Looking for other opinions? We thought this Ecommerce Platforms article offered a rather helpful and thorough comparison of Shopify Plus vs. WooCommerce.

If you’re interested in using making the move from WooCommerce to Shopify, we can help! Simply, give us a call! Your initial consultation is free of charge. 

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