WooCommerce vs Shopify: Which Is Better For Your Store?

Updated on May 07, 2018

Struggling with how to choose between WooCommerce vs Shopify? If you’re planning to launch an ecommerce store, we’re almost certain that you’ve come across these two ecommerce platforms as they are, by the numbers, the world’s two most popular ecommerce platforms.

Both platforms have their merits, which makes it a tough decision, especially for something as serious as an ecommerce store. To help you choose the solution that’s right for your store, we’ll spend this post digging into each platform and comparing and contrasting the two so you can be confident when you make your final decision.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: How Each Platform Approaches Ecommerce

Just like when comparing website builder platforms such as Squarespace and Wix to WordPress as a whole, WooCommerce and Shopify take two different core approaches to creating and managing your store:

  • WooCommerce is self-hosted. That means your store’s files are located on your own server and you’re free to modify everything on your store as you see fit.
  • Shopify is hosted. That means Shopify hosts and manages the software for you and, while you do have a lot of flexibility, you’re limited to only making the changes that Shopify allows you to make.

What’s the practical difference between these approaches?

WooCommerce is more flexible, but not as beginner-friendly. Shopify is the opposite – it’s very beginner-friendly, but has some hard limits that you won’t encounter on WooCommerce. As we go through some more specific comparisons, you should see this theme play out over and over.

Ecommerce Market Share

It’s also interesting to take a look at the ecommerce market share. Of course, you shouldn’t pick a solution simply based on popularity, but it can help to see trends on what your competition might be using. According to BuiltWith, as of January 2018, 40% of the web uses WooCommerce to power their stores. That’s followed in second by Shopify at 7%.

Ecommerce market share

Ecommerce market share

However, if we look at the top 10k websites, only 12% use WooCommerce, while 10% use Shopify. So it seems that Shopify is more heavily used on higher authority sites. But this also means there is still a lot of room in the enterprise space for both of these platforms to grow.

Looking at Google Trends for the past 5 years, we can see that both have had pretty steady growth, although Shopify seems to have slowly surpassed WooCommerce.

Ecommerce trends

Ecommerce trends

How Easy Is It To Launch a Store on Each Platform?

In terms of how easy it is to go from nothing to a fully-functioning store that’s ready to process payments and accept orders, Shopify is the definite winner.

WooCommerce

When you create a WooCommerce store, you kind of have to do two separate things:

  • Install WordPress and learn the WordPress interface (if you’re not already familiar with WordPress, that is)
  • Install and configure WooCommerce and learn the WooCommerce interface
The WooCommerce setup wizard

The WooCommerce setup wizard

In general, before you can start accepting orders, you’ll be responsible for:

  • Finding hosting
  • Installing WordPress
  • Installing and configuring WooCommerce
  • Finding a WooCommerce theme
  • Configuring nitty-gritty details like payment gateways, tax calculations, and more (though something called WooCommerce Services has made some of this simpler)

Now – none of this is too daunting, and the massive WordPress community makes it easy to find help (like our tutorial on how to install WooCommerce). But there’s a definite learning curve – especially if this is your first WordPress site. Make sure to also check out our massive WooCommerce guide to help boost your sales.

Shopify

With Shopify, there’s very little getting in the way of you creating your first product and starting to sell it.

Basically, all you do is:

  • Create a Shopify account
  • Purchase a domain or sync an existing domain name
  • Choose your theme

And assuming you’re using Shopify’s own payment gateway, it’s easy to start accepting credit card payments right from day one.

Shopify makes it easy to start accepting payments

Shopify makes it easy to start accepting payments

It’s tough to beat the simplicity of Shopify.

How Much Control Do You Have Over Your Website’s Functionality?

As far as hosted platforms go, Shopify is actually one of the more flexible solutions. But it still can’t come close to the control that you get with a self-hosted WooCommerce site, which is why WooCommerce is the clear winner in this section.

WooCommerce

With WooCommerce, you have a few ways to customize your store’s functionality:

  • Your theme
  • The 50,000+ WordPress plugins, including a bunch that are specifically designed for WooCommerce
  • Custom code (one of the benefits of a self-hosted solution)

So what does this let you do? Well, you can, for example, do something like Qüero Handmade Shoes and sell personalized products on a scale that would be pretty much impossible with Shopify.

Similarly, WooCommerce’s flexibility is also evident when it comes to things like product variations. With WooCommerce, there’s no hard limit on the number of product variations that you can use, while Shopify puts a hard cap of 100 variants per product and 3 total options per product no matter which Shopify plan you’re on.

Shopify

You already saw one limitation of Shopify above – product variations.

An example of product variations

An example of product variations

But how flexible is the rest of your Shopify store? Like WooCommerce, you can customize your Shopify store with:

Shopify also lets you add custom HTML but only to your store’s homepage, which is obviously a limiting factor.

While these tools do give you a good deal of flexibility for a hosted platform, you’re still going to hit some walls – like the aforementioned product variation limits – that are impossible to work around. That doesn’t happen with WooCommerce.

What Payment Methods Does Each Platform Offer?

Both WooCommerce and Shopify boast lengthy lists of payment gateways. Unless you have a very niche situation, you probably won’t notice a difference. Shopify does charge an extra fee if you use an external payment gateway, though, which should be a big consideration because that fee can be as high as 2% (on top of what your payment gateway charges).

WooCommerce

Because of WooCommerce’s open nature and large plugin community, you can find a ton of WooCommerce payment gateways.

First, WooCommerce supports all the popular gateways like:

  • Stripe
  • PayPal
  • Square
  • Authorize.Net
WooCommerce payment gateways

Some WooCommerce payment gateways

But beyond support for the big boys, one of the benefits of WooCommerce is that you can access tons of niche payment gateways like:

  • Postgiro (a Swedish gateway)
  • Przelewy24 (a Polish gateway)
  • Etc.

We know you’ve probably never heard of those last two – but that’s the point! WooCommerce has both the big names as well as the regional gateways.

Shopify

Shopify has its own payment gateway that essentially requires zero configuration. But if you’d prefer to use a third-party payment gateway, Shopify also supports all the biggies like:

  • PayPal
  • Stripe
  • Authorize.Net

And not to be outdone, Shopify also boasts its own lengthy list of local payment gateways.

Shopify will charge you extra if you use an external payment gateway, though. Like we said, this is definitely worth paying attention to.

Who Controls Your Data On Each Platform?

Because WooCommerce is self-hosted, WooCommerce gives you significantly more control and ownership of your data.

WooCommerce

There’s not much we need to write here – with WooCommerce you own everything. That means, if needed, you can even dig into your database and access the raw data.

Shopify

While Shopify does give you access to all of your data, the live copy still sits on Shopify’s servers. That means you never really fully control your data.

With that being said, Shopify does give you lots of ways to access your data, which is better than many hosted platforms. You can:

  • Export a CSV file of your products
  • Back up your site via an app (not the core Shopify interface)
  • Connect with your data via an API

How Does Each Platform Handle Ongoing Maintenance?

Because Shopify is a hosted solution, its maintenance is much more care-free than WooCommerce.

WooCommerce

Earlier we told you that WooCommerce gives you ultimate control and ownership of your store. Well, the tradeoff of all that flexibility is that you’re the one who’s responsible for maintaining and securing your store.

You don’t necessarily need to do this yourself – in fact, hosts such as Kinsta offer managed WooCommerce hosting. However, if you need development work done, that’s when you might have to outsource it to a professional.

Shopify

Shopify handles maintaining and securing your store, so there’s very little required maintenance for you to worry about. With that being said, you will need to stay on top of any apps that you use on your store to make sure they continue to function properly.

How Much Does Each Platform Cost?

Because of the variable costs of each platform, it’s hard to declare a winner here.

WooCommerce

It’s hard to pin down an exact cost for a WooCommerce store because there are far too many scenarios and edge cases. Technically, the only fixed costs are:

  • Hosting
  • Your domain
  • Whatever you pay your payment gateway

But you’ll also likely end up paying for:

  • A premium theme
  • Plenty of premium plugins

One upside is that WordPress plugins often are a one-time payment, whereas many Shopify apps use recurring monthly payments.

Shopify

Shopify’s core pricing is transparent and easy to plan for:

Shopify pricing page

Shopify pricing page

But there are a couple of things that may increase the cost of your store:

  • Premium themes – these are usually a one-off cost.
  • Apps – many of these require an additional monthly payment, though you can also find free apps.

Additionally, Shopify will charge you more if you use an external payment gateway (as noted in the pricing table above).

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Which One Should You Choose?

There’s not really one right answer here. So instead of trying to make a single recommendation in one way or another, we’re going to run through some scenarios where each platform makes the most sense.

3 Reasons To Use WooCommerce Over Shopify

The big reason to choose WooCommerce over Shopify is flexibility and control. If you’re planning to sell simple products with minimal variations, you probably won’t need that flexibility.

But if you’re planning to sell things that go beyond “simple” – either in terms of variations, checkout process, or pricing structure – you’ll probably appreciate WooCommerce’s flexibility.

Another reason is that some products just flat-out are banned from Shopify. Because Shopify is a hosted solution, you’re at the whims of Shopify’s decision-making team, which has seen some cosmetics manufacturers get banned.

Finally, if you like using WordPress and value the WordPress ecosystem of plugins and support, that might be another reason to go with a WordPress ecommerce solution.

2 Reasons To Use Shopify Over WooCommerce

If you just want the simplest, most beginner-friendly way to launch an ecommerce store, Shopify is definitely a good choice. As long as you aren’t planning to sell complicated products with lots of variations, you should be fine within Shopify’s ecosystem.

Additionally, if you don’t want to spend time maintaining your store (or just generally don’t want to have to think about technology at all), then that’s another reason to consider Shopify’s simplicity.

Migrate From Shopify to WordPress

If you’re currently using Shopify and are looking for an easy way to migrate to WordPress (WooCommerce), here are a couple plugins we recommend checking out.

So What Do You Think?

In the end, each ecommerce platform has advantages for specific situations. If you value flexibility and ownership – WooCommerce is probably your best bet. If you value simplicity – Shopify is probably the one for you. Now over to you all – when it comes down to WooCommerce vs Shopify, which do you prefer and why?

Shopify is a registered trademark of Shopify.

This article was written by Brian Jackson
Brian is the Chief Marketing Officer at Kinsta. He focuses on everything from developing new online growth strategies, content creation, technical SEO, and outreach within the community. He has a huge passion for WordPress, has been using it for 8+ years, and even develops a couple premium plugins. Brian enjoys blogging, movies, and hiking. Connect with Brian on Twitter.

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  1. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Geoff January 18, 2018 at 7:08 am

    Great comparison. Would love to see comparisons for some of the other ecommerce platforms as well (Magento and BigCommerce). These are extremely helpful when clients and prospects ask about the advantages and limitations of each.

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson January 18, 2018 at 3:11 pm

      Thanks Geoff! We’ll try to include some other ecommerce platforms in a future article, we chose WooCommerce and Shopify due to them holding most of the market share.

  2. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Luke Cavanagh January 18, 2018 at 11:37 am

    If only there was a managed WooCommerce hosting plan.

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson January 18, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      Yes, if only. ?

  3. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Alex shabu January 25, 2018 at 5:56 am

    I am a big fan of the way you do realistic content marketing to increase your sales.

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson January 25, 2018 at 5:10 pm

      Thanks Alex! We do our best to put out high-quality content.

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