WooCommerce vs Shopify (2023) — Which is Better for Ecommerce?

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WooCommerce vs Shopify (the two logos side by side).

In this WooCommerce vs Shopify comparison, we take an in-depth look at two absolute giants of the ecommerce world. Read on to discover all their key pros and cons, and find out which of these leading store builders is better for your online business.


The quick verdict

If you’ve already got a WordPress site that you are happy with — but want to add ecommerce to — the better choice of the two tools is usually WooCommerce. Although you can integrate Shopify with WordPress via its ‘buy button’ feature or various plugins, doing so won’t give you a fraction of the sophisticated ecommerce features that WooCommerce provides.

If you want to create an online store from scratch, and particularly if you are new to web design, you’ll usually find that Shopify is the much better option of the two. It’s easier to use than WooCommerce; there are no plugin or security updates to worry about; it’s extremely scalable; and its ecommerce feature set is superb. In particular, it’s a great solution for dropshipping.


WooCommerce and Shopify — at a glance

WooCommerce and Shopify are two of the web’s most popular solutions for building an online store.

Shopify
Shopify

But they are very different platforms. While Shopify is an ‘all-in-one’ store builder that lets you create an entire website, WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress — in other words, it can only be used if you already have a WordPress website.

WooCommerce
WooCommerce

The tools have rather different histories too. While Shopify was conceived as an ecommerce solution that could be sold to other businesses, WooCommerce was developed as open source software.

This means that WooCommerce can technically be used for free (although, as we’ll see shortly, it’s not quite that simple).

In terms of popularity, the two platforms are market leaders in the ecommerce space. According to the Internet statistics company Builtwith, Shopify powers 4.4 million live sites and WooCommerce 7.2 million, and between them they power 42% of all online stores.

These large userbases mean that both platforms are a safe choice for building a website — neither product is likely to disappear any time soon.

Statistics on ecommerce platform usage — note the market share enjoyed by WooCommerce and Shopify (source: Builtwith)
Statistics on ecommerce platform usage — note the market share enjoyed by WooCommerce and Shopify (source: Builtwith)

But how do they work?


How WooCommerce and Shopify work

Using Shopify is pretty straightforward. It’s an app that runs in a web browser — you don’t need to install any software to use it, and so long as you’ve got access to the Internet, you can use Shopify to build and manage an online store from anywhere.

All the key tools needed to do so — themes, a content management system, payment processing — are provided ‘out of the box.’ You just start a Shopify trial, add your products and content, and upgrade to a paid plan when you’re ready to launch your store.

Managing products in a Shopify store
Managing products in a Shopify store

Using WooCommerce involves setting up a WordPress site first. There are two ways to do this — you can use

  • hosted WordPress; or
  • self-hosted WordPress.

Hosted WordPress — which you can access at wordpress.com — is, like Shopify, a software as a service (SaaS) tool. For a recurring fee, you get access to a wide range of features that let you build and maintain a simple website.

Installing WooCommerce plugin on your hosted WordPress website gives you access to ecommerce features.

(The video below contains an overview of the process for doing so).

Self-hosted Wordpress is a piece of software that you download from wordpress.org and then install on a server.

Like WooCommerce, it’s open source and available for free.

If you want to use self-hosted WordPress to build your site, there are three key steps involved in the process of turning it into a WooCommerce-powered online store:

  1. Buy web hosting
  2. Install WordPress
  3. Install the WooCommerce plugin.

In terms of web hosting, it’s generally best to use a ‘managed WordPress hosting’ supplier like Kinsta or WP Engine for this, as you’ll get a faster and more reliable store out of doing so (both good things from an SEO and user experience perspective).

Once you’ve got your hosting sorted, you can install WordPress for free from the WordPress.org website.

Then it’s a case of adding the WooCommerce plugin.

When this process is complete, you’ll be able to access WooCommerce from your WordPress dashboard and make use of its features.

Using WooCommerce in self-hosted WordPress
Using WooCommerce in self-hosted WordPress

When you’ve installed WordPress and WooCommerce or started your Shopify trial, you can start playing around with the visuals of your store.

So, let’s take a look at how how WooCommerce and Shopify compare when it comes to themes.

Have you seen our WooCommerce vs Shopify video comparison?

WooCommerce download | Shopify trial


Themes

With either a WooCommerce or Shopify store, the starting point for its design is a ‘theme’ — a pre-designed template that you apply to your store and use as the starting point for its design.

Quality and quantity of themes

WooCommerce themes can be obtained from a lot of different sources — the WordPress theme directory, the WooCommerce website or third party suppliers like Theme Forest to name just a few. This makes putting a precise figure on the number available difficult.

However, at time of writing, you’ll find 1,604 WooCommerce store themes in the WordPress theme directory and 64 on the WooCommerce website.

All 1,604 store themes on the WordPress theme directory are free; but only 3 of those listed on the WooCommerce site are.

Example of a WooCommerce theme
Example of a WooCommerce theme

As for Shopify, the best place to source a template is usually from its official theme store. This is because all the themes in there are supported (by Shopify’s cusotmer service team or the theme developer) and are guaranteed to work well with the Shopify content management system.

(Third-party themes are also available for Shopify from a variety of third-party template stores — but you need to tread carefully here, as getting support with them will be harder and the risk of them containing malicious code is higher.)

In the Shopify theme store you’ll currently find 11 free themes and 106 paid-for ones. The premium themes range from $180 to $350 in price, so most new merchants are generally better starting out with one of the free themes (all of which are very high-quality and easy to configure anyway).

The Shopify theme store
Browsing Shopify themes in the official Shopify theme store

These are more expensive than premium WooCommerce themes though — templates can be picked up from $39 in the WooCommerce theme store.

One thing I really like about the Shopify theme store is the filters it provides to help you sift through the available themes. These make it easier to spot templates that best match your brand and goals — for example, you can ask Shopify to only display themes that support age verification or EU translations; or show you themes that are best suited to a large or a small product inventory.

Theme filters in Shopify
Theme filters in Shopify

The equivalent filters you get on the WooCommerce website are much more basic — you are limited to searching by industry type, and you can’t sort templates by price.

These would be my key takeaways regarding the quantity and quality of themes in WooCommerce and Shopify:

  • In terms of quantity, WooCommerce wins handsomely — there are thousands of store templates for WordPress available.
  • In terms of quality, you can get similar results from both WooCommerce and Shopify, but to ensure you’re using the best quality template, it’s best to source one from the official theme stores (the WooCommerce website and the Shopify theme store respectively).
  • Shopify arguably makes it it a bit easier to find the best theme for your project — due mainly to its useful filtering system, but also possibly because there are less themes to consider when setting up your store.

Flexibility of themes

Both WooCommerce and Shopify give you controls to customize your theme — with WooCommerce, this is done using the standard WordPress ‘customizer’ controls, which typically let you edit things like colors, header images, background images etc.

Theme controls in WordPress
Theme controls in WordPress

Shopify gives you a similar range of settings to play with (pictured below), although depending on the theme involved, they can be a bit more granular in nature than those available in WordPress.

(For example, while every Shopify theme lets you edit your fonts easily, this not always the case with WordPress ones.)

Using theme controls in Shopify
Using theme controls in Shopify

The appearance controls in Shopify are, in general, easier to use too. A well thought-out set of options on the left gives you fine-grain control over your site’s appearance (which changes in real-time on the right) — but without things ever becoming too overwhelming.

Adjusting page spacing in Shopify
Adjusting page spacing in Shopify

In addition to the controls provided by Shopify and WordPress to customize your theme, there’s always the option of using code to do so. You can add edit the CSS code of a WooCommerce theme using WordPress’ ‘theme file editor’ (pictured below), and Shopify lets you access a similar theme editor too.

Adding custom CSS in WordPress
Adding custom CSS in WordPress

In the case of Shopify, theme files involve Liquid, a templating language designed specifically for editing Shopify templates — so even if you have some coding knowledge, you may need to spend some time getting accustomed to it.

As for changing themes, both platforms let you switch to a new theme (or preview one) really easily. This gives Shopify and WordPress / WooCommerce an immediate edge over key competitors Wix and Squarespace, neither of which permit you to switch to another theme at all.

The bottom line on theme flexibility is that you get a lot of it from both WooCommerce and Shopify. I’d argue however that if you are completely new to web design, you’ll find that the gentler learning curve when it comes to editing templates is to be found in Shopify.

Once you’ve got your theme in place, it’s time to start adding products to your store. So how does this work in WooCommerce and Shopify?

Let’s dig into that now — by looking at how the interfaces in Shopify and WooCommerce compare.

While you’re here…have you seen our Shopify vs WordPress video review?

Shopify trial | WordPress download


Interface and ease of use

Because WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, adding products and configuring content technically involves using the WordPress content management system (CMS).

The WordPress CMS
The WordPress CMS

The WordPress CMS and Shopify CMS work in a broadly similar way, each comprising a menu on the left containing options that is used to configure content on the right.

The Shopify CMS is a bit more contemporary in nature than the WooCommerce equivalent
The Shopify CMS

Once you’ve installed the WooCommerce plugin, you get access to a range of selling features that are not normally present in a WordPress site, however. A WooCommerce section — pictured below — becomes available in the main WordPress navigation, giving you access to orders, customers, coupons, extensions and more.

WooCommerce menu
WooCommerce menu

(Oddly however, your products sit outside of this menu, and are accessed via a separate icon / link.)

Within the products section you’ll get the usual options — the option to add or delete them, change inventory levels, assign them to categories etc.

Managing products in WooCommerce
Managing products in WooCommerce

Overall, the user experience in WooCommerce is fine, and the tool is easy enough to use. However, I would argue that the interface is a bit dated — it’s very text heavy and reminds me of a lot of CMS products that I used to use in the mid 2000s. It’s certainly nowhere near as pretty and contemporary as the Shopify interface (pictured below).

Shopify's minimalist interface
Shopify’s minimalist interface

(Perhaps WooCommerce’s ‘utilitarian’ vibe reflects its open source, developer led origins!).

And, although once installed the WooCommerce system is easy enough to use, the process for getting to that point is inevitably harder (and longer) than anything you’ll encounter in Shopify.

This is because before you can start using WooCommerce, you’ll need to download WordPress, buy some hosting, upload WordPress to your hosting, install the WooCommerce plugin…as you can see, quite a few steps are involved.

The Shopify interface, while not necessarily that much easier to use than WooCommerce, is certainly easier to start working with. This is something that will definitely appeal to web design novices.

Importing and exporting products into WooCommerce and Shopify

Both WooCommerce and Shopify make it easy to import and export products into and out of their platforms. This is done via CSV file.

In the case of Shopify, you can import 50,000 products at once on its standard plans — so long as the file containing them doesn’t exceed 15MB — and unlimited number on its Shopify Plus plan (more on plan types later).

WooCommerce doesn’t specify a limit on the number of products you can import at once, but the maximum file size you can use during the process is 50MB.

As for other CMS features in both platforms — blogging, image editing and so on — the best way to get a comparison of these is to read our Shopify vs WordPress comparison.

When you’re using WooCoomerce, you’re of course operating within the WordPress environment, so all the pros and cons of that apply.

However, for the purposes of this comparison the main thing to point out is that WordPress is by far the better option for content marketing — its blogging tool is arguably the best in the business, and if your key aim is to tie ecommerce to a serious online publication or magazine, there’s a huge amount to be said for using WordPress + WooCommerce over Shopify for that.


Ecommerce features

So far we’ve looked at how WooCommerce and Shopify stores look, and — in broad terms — how easy they are to manage. But now we get to the most important part of proceedings: a deep dive into their selling capabilities.

Accepting payments

One of the first things you’ll need to look at when setting up an online store is accepting payments.

In order to do this with either WooCommerce or Shopify you’ll have to connect your store to a ‘payment gateway.’

A payment gateway is basically a piece of software for processing credit cards online — well-known examples include Stripe, PayPal and WorldPay.

Shopify makes this process very easy, because it provides its own payment gateway — ‘Shopify Payments.’ The advantage of using this rather than a third-party one is that by doing so, you avoid transaction fees.

However, you should note that Shopify Payments is only available in certain countries, namely:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Czechia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong SAR
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

If you’re based outside of these countries, you will have to use a third-party payment gateway and transaction fees — discussed in more depth later in the pricing section of this comparison — will apply.

To select a payment gateway in Shopify, you just go to Settings > Payments in your Shopify dashboard; there you’ll be able to choose, activate and manage a payment gateway. In total, 100+ payment gateways are available (with the availability of each depending on your location).

You will need to answer some questions about your business, and provide some contact information before you can get started with a payment gateway, but in general, connecting a payment gateway to your Shopify website is a pretty straightforward process.

Managing payment gateways in Shopify
Managing payment gateways in Shopify

Connecting a payment gateway to WooCommerce involves installing a WordPress plugin. At time of writing, there are 84 payment processors for WooCommerce listed on the WooCommerce website, including industry-standard options like Stripe, PayPal, Square and Authorize.Net.

Unlike Shopify, no transaction fees are charged by WooCommerce for using a third-party gateway, but each payment processor will apply its own credit card processing fees.

WooCommerce payment gateways
WooCommerce payment gateways

As with Shopify, the easiest option when it comes to setting up a payment gateway for WooCommerce is probably to use the platform’s own one, WooCommerce Payments.

Installing this is very easy — you just click on a a ‘Set up payments’ option on the WooCommerce home tab in WordPress and you then get access to a one-click install option.

Setting up a payment gateway in WooCommerce
Setting up a payment gateway in WooCommerce

Alternatively, you can navigate to the plugins section of WordPress (pictured below), and search for specific payment gateways.

Looking for payment gateway plugins in WordPress
Looking for payment gateway plugins in WordPress

How smooth the process of connecting any of these will be depends on a few things:

  • the version of WordPress you’re using
  • the version of WooCommerce you’re using
  • the version of PHP (a scripting language) that you’re using on your WordPress site

If all the above are outdated on your WordPress site, you may encounter headaches.

So, depending on your existing WordPress setup, connecting a payment gateway to WooCommerce may involve a bit more configuration and technical work than in Shopify.

The bottom line on payment gateways in Shopify and WooCommerce is this: both work with a large range of them, but in general, Shopify makes it easier to connect a payment processor to your store.

WooCommerce wins however when it comes to transaction fees — unlike Shopify, it doesn’t charge them when you use a third-payment gateway instead of its own.

The types of products you can sell

The sky is generally the limit when it comes to the kind of thing you can sell with WooCommerce and Shopify (so long as what you’re selling is legal!).

By default, you can sell both physical and digital items with WooCommerce and Shopify — although oddly, for selling digital products, Shopify requires you to install its free ‘Digital Download’ app first.

This comes with a 5GB file size limit — if you need to sell larger files, you’ll need to resort to a third-party app (more on apps later!).

Shopify's 'Digital Downloads' app
To sell digital products on Shopify, you need to add its ‘Digital Downloads’ app to your store first

WooCommerce doesn’t limit downloadable products to a particular file size — however, your hosting provider may do so.

If you want to sell other types of products — for example, subscriptions, access to memberships etc., this will typically involve paying a recurring fee for a a plugin or app.

Sales channels

A ‘sales channel’ simply refers to a platform where you’re selling a product. This could be your own online store, a social network like Facebook, or an online marketplace like Amazon or Etsy.

Key sales channels that you get ‘out of the box’ from Shopify — and that you can manage without leaving the Shopify interface — include:

  • Your online store
  • Your ‘Buy Button‘ (this allows you to embed ecommerce functionality — via ‘buy buttons’ — on any website or blog).
  • Shopify’s ‘Shop’ channel (this allows you to make use of accelerated checkout features via the ‘Shop Pay’ system and sell on Shopify’s Shopping app.)
  • Facebook
  • Instagram

You can also add other sales channels to proceedings — for example Amazon or eBay — via third-party apps that are available from Shopify’s app store.

To manage sales channels, you just go to Shopify’s ‘apps and sales channels’ settings, where you’ll get the option to add and configure them.

Once you’ve installed a sales channel, it will appear in the main navigation of your Shopify store (see screenshot below).

Sales channels in Shopify
Sales channels in Shopify

As with much else relating to WooCommerce, sales channels are less ‘baked in’ to the platform than is the case with Shopify. However, a wide range of them are available as official WooCommerce extensions — and in a similar way to Shopify’s, let you sell on multiple platforms easily.

Some of the 'sales channels' extensions that are available for WooCommerce
Some of the ‘sales channels’ extensions that are available for WooCommerce

WooCommerce vs the Shopify ‘Buy Button’

As mentioned in the above discussion on sales channels, Shopify gives you a ‘buy button’ that you can use to embed products — individual ones or catalogs — on any website, and that includes a WordPress one.

So technically you can use Shopify to sell on a WordPress site. But should you?

Well, in truth the selling functionality you get with a Shopify Buy Button is very limited by comparison to WooCommerce. Although a Buy Button will probably work well for you if you just want to embed products here or there on your site, it’s not going to turn your WordPress site into a professional store the way the WooCommerce plugin will.

If you need an online store, you are better off choosing between using WordPress + WooCommerce or creating a standalone store using the full version of Shopify.

Product options

By default, Shopify limits you to creating 3 product options and 100 product variants.

A product option is a main aspect of a product — like color, size and material — and variants are the combinations of those.

So, for example, a blue suede shoe would count as one variant, a green leather one another and so on.

Creating product options in Shopify
Creating product options in Shopify

In WooCommerce-speak, product options are ‘attributes’ and product variants are ‘variations.’ In terms of limits, there doesn’t seem to be a limit to the attributes you can create, but by default, the overall variant limit is 50.

Now if these limits aren’t sufficient, both platforms let you increase them. In the case of Shopify, this is done by installing a third-party app (for example ‘Infinity options’). With WooCommerce, you can alter product option limits by adding a line of code to your WordPress’ site code (specifically, to its wp-config.php file) or using a plugin.

You have to be careful with increasing the variation limit in WooCommerce however, as doing so can affect site performance (particularly if you’re not using a good hosting service).

As for the actual process of adding and pricing product options and variants, I’d argue that overall, it’s a bit easier in Shopify.

To add product options and variants in WooCommerce, you have to create a separate ‘variable product’ and the steps involved in adding the options and variants to it are a bit tiresome, involving lots of sub-menus and drop-down lists.

Defining product variants in WooCommerce
Defining product variants in WooCommerce

By contrast, Shopify pre-populates a lot of the variant data for you and lays it out in a cleaner, more coherent manner.

It also gives you easy-to-use bulk editing tools (pictured below) — you can select the variants you want and immediately apply standard prices, inventory, product codes etc. to them all in one go.

Bulk editing product data in Shopify
Bulk editing product data in Shopify

Dropshipping

Dropshipping is a method of selling goods where you don’t manufacture, purchase, store or deliver any products yourself.

Instead, you take orders for products via your online store, and pass them onto a supplier. The supplier then ships the goods to your customer and charges you a fee for doing so.

WooCommerce and Shopify both let you dropship goods, and using a similar process — by installing a third-party app (Shopify) or plugin (WooCommerce).

How to dropship with Shopify — video guide

In terms of the number of dropshipping suppliers and apps you can work with, Shopify offers the far greater choice — at time of writing, over 440 dropshipping apps are available in its app store. These include apps for popular services like Ali Express, Spocket, Printful and many others.

Some of the dropshipping apps that are currently available for Shopify
Some of the dropshipping apps that are currently available for Shopify

The options available to you in WooCommerce are more limited — there are currently just 15 dropshipping-related options listed in WooCommerce’s extensions store. That said, if you search for dropshipping plugins in your WordPress dashboard, a lot more are surfaced, including some for key print on demand dropshipping services like Printful.

(I found 140 such plugins via the WordPress dashboard).

Overall though, there’s more choice in this area available from Shopify.

The Shopify dropshipping starter kit

If you’re interested in dropshipping, I’d recommend that you take a look at Shopify’s dropshipping starter kit — with this, you get several days of free access to Shopify plus lots of bundled resources and tools that show you how to launch a successful dropshipping store.

Point of sale

Point of Sale (or ‘POS’ for short) refers to the process of accepting payments for goods sold in person at a physical location (a retail outlet, market stall, pop up shop etc.).

When an ecommerce platform provides POS functionality, you can use a card reader and other in-person selling tools to accept payments for products, with each sale being recorded by your online store and your inventory levels being updated automatically.

What is a point of sale system?

You can use either Shopify or WooCommerce to facilitate point of sale selling, but the processes involved in setting this up are quite different.

POS plugins for WooCommerce
POS plugins for WooCommerce

While point of sale with WooCommerce always involves adding a plugin and working with third-party services and hardware (see screenshot above), Shopify bundles its own POS system with all its plans except its ‘Starter’ one.

Shopify POS comes in two flavors, ‘POS Lite’ and ‘POS Pro,’ with the second of these giving you access to more extensive point of sale features (multiple selling locations, sales attribution, custom receipt printing etc.).

The Shopify POS hardware store
The Shopify POS hardware store

WooCommerce’s approach means that you can use a wider range of selling hardware at point of sale — so this may suit some merchants better.

But Shopify’s more ‘baked in,’ tightly integrated approach to POS means that there’s less configuration involved and the system is arguably a bit more robust. And there is actually a lot of selling hardware available from Shopify, via its official POS hardware store (pictured above).

Plus, if you really need to integrate a third-party POS system with an existing Shopify store, there are some apps available in the Shopify app store that let you do so.

So all in all, when it comes to POS, I’d give the win to Shopify.

Abandoned cart saving

Abandoned cart recovery is where you identify visitors to your store who went part-way through a purchase, and encourage them to complete it — usually via an automatically-sent email containing a discount code.

Setting this up is very straightforward in Shopify — because it’s a built-in feature, included on all plans.

And it’s a good feature too — it gives you:

  • a huge amount of flexibility over the type of conditions that trigger an abandoned email
  • an easy-to-use email editor that lets you create attractive follow up automated newsletters.

The screenshot below gives you a little flavor of the sort of automated journeys and ‘workflows’ you can create with the feature.

Creating an abandoned cart customer journey in Shopify
Creating an abandoned cart customer journey in Shopify

As for WooCommerce, well you’ve probably noticed the pattern by now, but if you want to add abandoned cart features to your store, you’ll need to install a plugin (with many of the best ones involving additional fees).

Because its built-in abandoned cart saving features are so good, and because they’re free, it’s a clear win for Shopify here.

International selling

If you’re serious about growing a business that’s based around an online store, at some point you’re going to have to give some thought to multi-currency and multilingual selling.

Multi-currency selling

Shopify and WooCommerce are both better options than a lot of competing solutions for multi-currency selling — even the hugely popular Wix and Squarespace.

This is because it’s technically possible to get a Shopify or WooCommerce store to accept payments for products in your store visitor’s own currency, something that’s not the case with a lot of other online website builders.

In WooCommerce, this is done (yet again!) by buying a plugin. There are quite a few of these that facilitate end-to-end purchases in a visitor’s own currency, but you’ll have to make sure that any plugin you use for this purpose is compatible with your WordPress theme (not all will be).

A selection of multi-currency plugins that are currently available for WooCommerce
A selection of multi-currency plugins that are currently available for WooCommerce

You’ll also have to make sure that you’re buying a plugin that definitely facilitates checkout in a user’s own currency — some simply give you a country switcher that displays prices in a local currency, but reverts back to the store’s default one at checkout.

Shopify, by contrast, gives you a dedicated built-in feature, ‘Shopify Markets,’ for managing all aspects of international selling — currencies, international domains and languages.

It’s easily enabled — and for me represents one of the very best aspects of the whole Shopify platform. It lets you display the right version of your site to the right audience in the right currency — all without any extra costs or apps being needed.

Shopify Markets
Shopify Markets

Multilingual selling

While Shopify is the slicker choice for multi-currency selling, WooCommerce is technically the better option for multilingual selling.

This is because the platform that it sits on, WordPress, can be used to create a huge number of different language versions of a website, via the ‘WordPress Multilingual Plugin.’ This does come at an additional cost, but it’s a very flexible plugin that’s used by a lot of big corporations to translate their WordPress websites.

Shopify’s multilingual features are free and again don’t require the addition of any apps — but the number of languages you can translate your store into is limited to 20.

So, if you are intending to sell in a very large number of languages, the more flexible option is WooCommerce.

Automatic tax calculation

Tax calculations can cause a lot of admin for professional merchants — but given the legal requirements involved, they’re important to get right.

With Shopify, you can apply the relevant tax rates automatically for most countries — and this will come in particularly handy for merchants selling digital products to consumers in the EU.

Configuring tax settings in Shopify
Configuring tax settings in Shopify

This is because when your business sells a digital item to a consumer in an EU state, VAT MOSS rules (‘VAT Mini One Stop Shop’) require you to charge value added tax at the rate due in that purchaser’s country.

Shopify applies this automatically for you when you use its ‘Digital Downloads’ app — and this feature is a massive time saver.

As for WooCommerce, automatic tax collection is available too — and thankfully without the aid of a plugin! However, some tax collection will require sourcing a third-party tool — VAT MOSS, for example, or the removal of VAT from purchase prices upon the entry of a VAT number at checkout.

In short both platforms are pretty good when it comes to tax calculation, but because Shopify’s built-in tax calculation handles VAT MOSS better, it’s another win for Shopify here.


Apps and integrations

You can add extra functionality to WooCommerce and Shopify, or configure both solutions to work with other software. This is done by installing a ‘plugin’ in the case of WooCommerce or an ‘app’ in the case of Shopify.

Now, because WooCommerce is part of the WordPress ecosystem, you can technically enhance your store by using one of a huge range of WordPress plugins — at time of writing, there are around 60,200 available in the WordPress plugin store.

Of course, not all of these plugins relate to WooCommerce (or indeed ecommerce in general), and when I searched for WooCommerce specific plugins in the WordPress dashboard, around 1,000 results were returned. Still a decent number of course!

Searching for WooCommerce-specific plugins in WordPress
Searching for WooCommerce-specific plugins in WordPress

The Shopify app store contains a much smaller number of add-ons than the WordPress plugin-directory, but there is nonetheless a large range available: over 8,000 at time of writing.

The Shopify app store
The Shopify app store

(By comparison to similar hosted solutions like BigCommerce and Squarespace, the number available is very large indeed).

All in all, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to add-ons with either WooCommerce or Shopify. However, you will need to be prepared to pay for a lot of them.


Search engine optimization (SEO)

Comparing SEO features in a WooCommerce vs Shopify shootout is a bit tricky, because on the whole, you’re comparing Shopify’s SEO setup against WordPress’ — i.e., not that of WooCommerce itself.

And how good a WordPress site is from an SEO perspective depends on a lot of variables (how good the hosting is, what plugins are being used, how a theme has been coded etc.).

But it is possible to make some general observations about the how both platforms stack up against each other when it comes to search engine optimization.

First off, WordPress and Shopify tick all the main SEO boxes nicely, letting you:

  • change URLs, meta descriptions, page titles and other key SEO elements very easily (note however that to do some of this in WordPress you’ll need to the install Yoast SEO plugin first).
  • make use of proper heading tags
  • use blogging tools for inbound marketing purposes (with WordPress, given its origins as a blogging platform, being stronger here)
  • sense check your page copy from an SEO point of view using Yoast (note: Shopify users will need to pay extra for this).

Where things get a bit more complicated is when you start to look at technical SEO — website and sever optimizations that can speed your site up or improve its crawlability (search engines can reward both with higher rankings).

Again, Shopify handles the basics well here, giving you good-quality hosting, access to a content delivery network (CDN) and reporting tools to evaluate the speed of your store compared to other ecommerce sites.

However, if you have the technical skills (or access to a developer), plus the budget for a really good hosting service, you can create an absolutely super technical SEO setup for a WordPress site (and by extension your WooCommerce store).

Doing this typically involves coding a lightweight template; investing in managed WordPress hosting; and using a variety of technical tricks (like lazy loading, advanced image compression formats and code minification).

If you get all this right, you can end up with a site that from a technical SEO point of view can beat a Shopify one — and in some super-competitive niches, this could give you a slight edge in search results.

But you’ll need a lot of know-how and probably budget to get to that point — so for a lot of merchants, and particularly new ones, Shopify will often be the ‘safer’ choice from an SEO point of view.


Reporting and analytics

Both Shopify and WooCommerce give you access to reporting features that help you keep tabs on your store’s performance.

Key reports provided in WooCommerce include

  • sales by date
  • sales by product
  • sales by category
  • coupons used by date
  • customer downloads.
Sales reporting in WooCommerce
Sales reporting in WooCommerce

Shopify gives you a similar set of core reports, but a lot of others too. Even its entry level plans give you a huge range of additional insights — for example, a live view of store visitors, sessions by device, sessions by location, online store speed, top online store searches with no clicks and much else besides.

(The screenshot below of the Shopify reporting interface gives you just a hint of the sort of reports you can expect from the platform).

Examples of Shopify reports
Examples of Shopify reports

And as you go up the pricing ladder in Shopify, you get access to even more reporting features.

The reporting features in WooCommerce can be extended however — there are quite a lot of plugins available that give you more ecommerce insights. These come at an additional cost though.

Similarly, third-party Shopify apps are available that can enhance the platform’s reporting capabilities — or you can of course connect Google Analytics to either platform and use goals to gain additional insights.

Overall though, when it comes to ‘out of the box’ reporting features, the winner is Shopify.


Store maintenance and security

Store maintenance

Other than keeping content and products up to date, Shopify users don’t have to worry hugely about the maintenance of their online store.

All the key technical aspects of running a website — software updates, hosting, server configuration etc. — are taken care of by Shopify, and that’s a large part of its appeal.

With WooCommerce and WordPress, it’s a different scenario — you are in charge of ensuring that:

  • you’re using the most up-to-date version of WordPress
  • you’re using the most up-to-date version of WooCommerce
  • your hosting has been configured correctly
  • your theme and plugins are up to date

Although some of this work can be handled automatically, it’s still something you need to keep a very close eye on — if you are running an out-of-date version of the WordPress software or a plugin, your site can become considerably more vulnerable to being hacked.

Security considerations

With hosted solutions like Shopify, most of the responsibility for security lies with the companies who provide them.

So if you’re a Shopify merchant, the good news is that it’s essentially Shopify’s responsibility to ensure that your site does not contain security vulnerabilities and that transactions are PCI-compliant.

(Stores that are PCI compliant meet the security standards of the ‘Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council’ and process card transactions and cardholder data securely).

Shopify's PCI compliance details
Shopify’s PCI compliance details

You’ll still need to stay on top of security basics when using Shopify — i.e., doing things like enabling two factor authentication (2FA) and ensuring you use a strong password — but in essence, the main technical side of security is Shopify’s problem, not yours.

(You do need to think about data backups with Shopify however — the company doesn’t commit to restoring your store’s content or data in the event of a catastrophe! The best thing to do here is to invest in a dedicated backup app from the Shopify app store).

With WooCommerce and WordPress, if you’re not paying a developer to maintain your site, then the ultimate responsibility for all security belongs to you.

This means that it’s your job to ensure that your WordPress software and WooCommerce plugin are fully up to date, along with any other plugins or themes you are using.

Failure to keep on top of this can make a WordPress site vulnerable to being hacked.

You’ve also got to be aware that some WordPress themes and plugins can contain malicious code that can compromise the security of your site. Accordingly, you need to be careful about which ones you install.

You’ll also have to make sure that any plugin you choose for processing payments in WooComerce is PCI compliant (any reputable ones should be, though — the popular WooCommerce Payments certainly is).

And finally, you’ve got to ensure that you’re regularly backing up your site too. Helpfully though, various plugins are available to help automate this process for you, and high-quality hosting providers will usually back your site up automatically.

In truth, a well-designed, well-maintained WordPress site should be extremely secure.

However, I think it’s fair to say that Shopify sites are probably less vulnerable than WordPress ones, simply because there’s less scope for users to neglect security on their site — or add dubious code to it.

And, if something does go wrong, then Shopify’s team should be able to help resolve at least some the problems (I would still make your own arrangements regarding data backups though!).

So all in all, for most users, the safer — and certainly easier — option from a security point of view is likely to be Shopify.


GDPR compliance

Note: I’m not a legal professional — and the below observations on GDPR in Shopify and WooCommerce represent my personal view rather than formal legal advice. It is advisable to consult a lawyer when tackling GDPR issues on your website.

When the EU introduced GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in 2018, running an online store started to involve meeting a lot of extra legal requirements on data protection and privacy.

There are four key things that website owners generally need to do to become GDPR compliant:

  • Process and store data securely.
  • Provide website terms and conditions, privacy policies and cookie notices.
  • Get clear consent from people signing up to mailing lists that it is okay to send them e-newsletters.
  • Provide a means to opt into or revoke consent to use of non-essential cookies on a website (and log that consent too).

Shopify lets you the meet the first three requirements easily. Because it is a hosted ecommerce platform, the secure data processing and capture aspect is Shopify’s responsibility (although as a website owner, you still have an obligation to ensure that any data captured via your Shopify store is done so legally).

Example of a cookie banner
GDPR requires clear consent to cookies being dropped

Adding privacy and cookie policies to your store and making data capture forms complaint is easy enough to do with Shopify too.

When it comes to the fourth requirement, cookie consent, Shopify isn’t so great. It doesn’t come with a GDPR compliant cookie banner generator — to get one, you’ll need to buy a suitable app from Shopify’s app store or use a third-party GDPR tool like CookieYes.

With WooCommerce, although there are lots of WordPress plugins for capturing and storing data in a GDPR-compliant way available, it’s ultimately your job to choose the right ones and make sure your store is fully GDPR compliant.

This differentiates WooCommerce from Shopify — although Shopify is at pains to say that GDPR compliance is fundamentally the store owner’s responsibility, it’s probably fair to say that Shopify does take on some responsibility for ensuring GDPR compliance, at least when it comes to the basic aspects of data capture, storage and security.

With WooCommerce, you are more on your own — but that said, because of the huge WordPress user base, there are lots of resources and plugins available to help you build a WordPress site that is GDPR compliant.

But in terms of ‘out of the box’ GDPR compliance, Shopify gives you a bit more of it.


Customer support

Customer service is an area where Shopify beats WooCommerce comprehensively — particularly if you are building your store yourself.

When you buy a Shopify plan, you get customer support bundled with it. Live chat, email and phone support are included on all plans with the exception of the ‘Starter’ one, which limits support to live chat and email.

This means that if something goes wrong with your Shopify store, there is somebody you can turn to.

Customer support options in Shopify are more extensive than those available from WooCommerce
Customer support options in Shopify

A wide range of online support materials is also available, which come in 21 languages.

Shopify support materials
Shopify support materials are available in 21 languages

It’s a different story with WooCommerce: if you’re building your website yourself with the plugin and run into difficulties, it’s not always obvious where to turn to.

You may find yourself sourcing help from a variety of locations: for example, the WooCommerce blog or WordPress forums, a hosting company, a WordPress web designer, a plugin provider etc.

While there is technically some support available from WooCommerce.com, it’s email only, focuses mainly on dealing with enquiries related to premium extensions and there are no response times committed to.

So in my view, to get adequate support with WooCommerce, you ideally need to work closely with a WordPress developer or an agency specialising in WordPress development.

Many agencies offer support contracts and these are well worth investigating if you are serious about selling with WooCommerce. Although a support contract does bring with it additional costs, it can make a world of difference to the security and performance of your setup.

Ultimately though, if you’re intent on building your own ecommerce store, it’s fair to say that customer support is much more easily accessible from Shopify.


Pricing and value for money

So far in this WooCommerce vs Shopify comparison, we’ve largely talked about features. But costs matter, and it’s important to get an understanding of how the two platforms compare when it comes to financials.

There are 5 main Shopify pricing plans available:

  • Starter — $5 per month
  • Basic — $39 per month
  • Shopify — $105 per month
  • Advanced — $399 per month
  • Shopify Plus — negotiable, but usually costing around $2,000 per month.

(There’s also a new pricing option available in some countries — ‘Commerce Components,’ which Shopify describes as a ‘modular set of tools designed for the unique requirements of enterprise brands.’ A ‘pick and mix’ approach to Shopify features for larger companies, basically).

Paying upfront for a year entitles you to a 25% discount — when paid for this way, the average monthly cost of the ‘Basic,’ ‘Shopify’ and ‘Advanced’ plans works out at $29, $79 and $299 respectively.

The latest Shopify pricing table
Shopify pricing table

You can try out the main features of Shopify via its free trial.

How to get Shopify for $1 per month

If you’re interested in using Shopify, you can get an exclusive discount on your first three months if you sign up in a particular way. Here’s how:

  1. Start a trial using this link.
  2. When your trial is over, upgrade to a paid-for plan. If you’ve used the above link to start your trial, you’ll be able to avail of your first three months of service for $1 per month.

As you’d expect, the features you get access to on each Shopify plan vary according to the one you’re on, but a few significant differences to be aware of are as follows:

  • The ‘Starter’ plan allows you to embed products and product catalogs on an existing site (via a Shopify ‘buy button’), or sell via social channels — but you can’t create a standalone online store with it.
  • You can’t use point-of-sale (POS) features on the ‘Starter’ plan.
  • The number of users who can access your Shopify account varies significantly by plan.
  • Credit card fees and transaction fees decrease as the Shopify plans become more expensive.
  • You get more sophisticated international selling features on the ‘Advanced’ plan or higher (namely the ability to estimate and collect duties and import taxes).
  • The ‘Shopify Plus’ plan is an enterprise grade plan aimed at larger organizations, or those with more advanced requirements regarding APIs, server uptime, task automation and support.
  • Significant discounts apply when you pay upfront for a year, two years or three years of service.

And what about WooCommerce?

Well, as we’ve discussed earlier it’s an open source platform — so technically speaking, it’s entirely free to use.

In practice however, you’ll always face some costs to use WooCommerce.

This is because it sits on a WordPress site, which always involves some expenditure. Costs for using WordPress can include:

  • subscription fees (if using hosted WordPress)
  • hosting fees (if using self-hosted WordPress)
  • theme purchases
  • fees charged for maintenance by a developer / design agency
  • premium plugin fees
  • SSL certificate purchases.

Sure, if you use cheap shared hosting and free themes and plugins in conjunction with WooCommerce, you can get a store off the ground extremely cheaply with it. How good this will look and how it will perform is another matter, though!

In truth, when it comes to the costs of running an ecommerce store with WooCommerce, you’re dealing with a ‘how long is a piece of string?’ scenario that will very much depend on your own technical skills, your requirements, the number of visitors to your site and the volume of sales you’re likely to generate.

But it’s not uncommon for professional WooCommerce merchants to spend several hundred dollars on their site every month (premium hosting alone can cost this much).

The key takeaway when it comes to pricing is not to view WooCommerce as an entirely free option and Shopify as the ‘expensive’ one — it’s entirely possible to spend less on Shopify than a WordPress/WooCommerce setup, while getting a better product.


WooCommerce vs Shopify: conclusion

In most of our ecommerce comparisons, our final conclusion on which store builder is better usually hinges on their respective feature sets.

With a WooCommerce vs Shopify comparison, things are a bit different. The truth is that both of these tools give you access to excellent selling functionality and you can build a top-notch online store with either. So the decision on which of these tools is better depends not on features but the context in which you’re hoping to sell online.

If you’ve already got a WordPress site that you are really happy with, and want to add ecommerce to, then the obvious choice of the two tools is WooCommerce. Although you can integrate Shopify with WordPress via its Buy Button feature (or various third-party plugins), doing so won’t give you a fraction of the sophisticated ecommerce features that WooCommerce provides.

The other advantage of a WooCommerce + WordPress setup is that it is extraordinarily flexible. Its open-source nature means that as long as you have the development skills to do so, you can build any sort of ecommerce site you like using the two tools. While Shopify gives you more access to its code and APIs than most competing platforms, it does take much more of a ‘walled garden’ approach to web development than WordPress and WooCommerce.

But if you want to create an online store from scratch, and particularly if you are relatively new to web design and ecommerce, you’ll probably find that Shopify is the much better option. Its learning curve is gentle; it is extremely scalable; and by comparison to competing hosted solutions its ecommerce feature set is best-in-class.

Thanks to its wide range of apps and its free dropshipping starter kit, it’s also a particularly good option for merchants who want to start a dropshipping business.

While setting up an ecommerce store on WordPress will always involve a relatively steep learning curve and a lot of moving parts (hosting, CMS installation, plugins, updates), there’s little of that sort of thing to worry about with Shopify — you’re dealing much more with a ‘set and forget’ scenario.

As always with our side-by-side comparisons of ecommerce products, we encourage you to try both platforms out and make your own mind up — you’ll find links to WooCommerce and the Shopify free trial below.

Below you’ll find a list of the relative pros and cons of both platforms, along with a list of some suggested alternatives.


Pros and cons of WooCommerce vs Shopify

Advantages of using WooCommerce over Shopify

  • It’s available for free (although don’t forget to factor in any costs associated with WordPress — hosting, themes, third-party plugins etc.).
  • WooCommerce is a much better fit if you already use WordPress — and considerably better for ecommerce than using a ‘Shopify buy button.’
  • A much wider range of themes are available for WordPress / WooCommerce than for Shopify.
  • A much wider range of plugins is available for WordPress / WooCommerce than for Shopify.
  • Out of the box, you can create more product options with WooCommerce (Shopify does let you lift product options, but a third-party plugin is required to do so).
  • It lets you work with more POS software and hardware.
  • It lets you sell in more languages (via the WPML plugin).
  • With WordPress and WooCommerce, you have more flexibility when it comes to technical SEO.

Advantages of using Shopify over WooCommerce

  • If you’re building a store from scratch, Shopify gives you a much easier way to do this. It’s a better solution for new merchants and web design novices.
  • There are no maintenance issues or security updates to worry about — Shopify takes care of all the software and security updates on your behalf (although you will need to give some thought to product and content backups).
  • It’s a better solution for dropshipping — there are far more dropshipping apps available for Shopify than WooCommerce, plus you can avail of a free dropshipping starter kit too.
  • Its point-of-sale system is tightly integrated with your online store — this makes POS a lot easier to set up.
  • Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify features sophisticated abandoned cart saving tools out of the box (abandoned cart saving in WooCommerce requires use of a plugin).
  • As with abandoned cart saving and POS, multi-currency selling tools are provided as standard — in WooCommerce, you’ll have to source plugins to facilitate multi-currency checkout.
  • Shopify’s built-in reporting features are more comprehensive than the WooCommerce equivalents.
  • Customer support is considerably more comprehensive, and there are more support channels available too.

Alternatives to WooCommerce and Shopify

Although WooCommerce and Shopify are two of the best-known store builders available, there are lots of competing products to consider (many of which are listed in our Shopify alternatives guide).

When it comes to hosted solutions, BigCommerce is arguably the most obvious alternative to Shopify — it comes with a similar set of features and at a similar price point too. Check out our BigCommerce vs Shopify comparison for more details.

(Interestingly, BigCommerce now comes as a WordPress plugin too).

BigCommerce video review

BigCommerce trial | BigCommerce review

Wix is another popular hosted solution — check out our Wix vs WordPress shootout here, or read our Shopify vs Wix comparison — as is Squarespace.

In a hurry? Watch our Wix vs WordPress video comparison

Wix trial | WordPress download

As for ecommerce plugins for WordPress, Ecwid a popular choice. Unlike WooCommerce, it’s not open source though, and involves a monthly fee (on the plus side, this means you get access to much better customer support). You can learn more about Ecwid in our Ecwid review and our Ecwid vs Shopify comparison.

Other popular ecommerce solutions for WordPress include WP Easy Cart, Easy Digital Downloads and, as mentioned above, BigCommerce.

Now: over to you!

Got any thoughts on Shopify vs WooCommerce? Do leave any feedback on this comparison or questions you may have on either tool in the comments section below. We read them all and will do our best to help.

WooCommerce vs Shopify — FAQ

Is WooCommerce better than Shopify?

The short answer is that WooCommerce is a better option for adding ecommerce to an existing WordPress site than Shopify. However, Shopify is arguably the better choice for building a a standalone online store from scratch (particularly for those who are new to web design).

Should I move from WooCommerce to Shopify?

If you want to run an online store on WordPress then usually speaking it’s better to stick with WooCommerce. However, if you’re finding managing all the moving parts involved with a WordPress + WooCommerce setup challenging (hosting, plugins, security updates etc.) and want to consider moving to an entirely new ‘all-in-one’ setup, then there is a lot to be said for using Shopify.

Is Shopify safer than WooCommerce?

It depends on how robust your WordPress setup is. If you have chosen themes and plugins from reputable providers and are keeping them (and your WordPress CMS software) up to date, then you should generally be fine from a security point of view. But because there are less variables involved in running a Shopify store, and because Shopify manages all the key aspects of software and security maintenance on your behalf, you could argue that Shopify ends up being a safer choice than WooCommerce.

Can I switch from Shopify to WooCommerce?

Yes. You can easily export products from Shopify into a CSV file — and then use this file to import them all into WooCommerce. As for content, depending on the size of your Shopify website, you may need to make use of a third-party app to export your pages and blog posts into a WordPress XML file. Once you have this, you should be able to import your content into WordPress without much difficulty.

Is WooCommerce good for beginners?

Once WooCommerce is set up on a WordPress site, you’ll find that it is easy to use and has a learning curve that is comparable with those found in other ecommerce platforms. Beginners might struggle with the process of setting it up however — there is quite a lot of configuration work to do to get a good WooCommerce-based site off the ground (hosting purchasing and configuration, CMS installation, plugin selection etc.).

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