Shopify vs Woocommerce in 2020 – Which eCommerce Platform should you use to start your eCommerce business in 2020?
What is Shopify?
Shopify is a paid for eCommerce hosting platform. They offer fully managed solutions for eCommerce. Shopify powers over 800,000 online stores – this number is much higher in 2020.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is a free WordPress eCommerce plugin, that will transform your WordPress website in to an eCommerce store.
At a high level view, it seems the only major difference is that one is free and the other is paid for, but there is much more to this story and we are going to dig in to the nuts and bolts of the competition and let you make an informed decision about which platform is best for your business. There are a couple of eCommerce website functionality that I have picked to conduct the comparison on.
Ease of use
This is probably the most important element for most beginners and Shopify is a clear winner. It is easiest to create an online store on Shopify, even for non-tech people.
We have an online video showing you how you can set-up a dropshipping Shopify Store in less than an hour, from scratch:
However most people still hire developers to help them even with Shopify, because just because it is easy to do – it does not mean that beginners should do it without assistance, and I will tell you why?
Experience – You will be paying for experience with real money, eCommerce is a business and costs money. So if for example to pick a non-converting theme or your don’t get your landing page design optimised. You will pay for your mistakes and learning curve with real money. Instead hire real eCommerce specialists to help you along.
Ease of use – Shopify Wins by a long shot
We will include themes in here as well, basically we are looking at the ability to do custom things, make your store look beautiful and amazing, personalised to your individual feel.
Both have customisation options they are both equal in this regard, but WooCommerce is more equal than Shopify. You can do much more customisation on WooCommerce and for less or even nothing. You can do more for free on WooCommerce, I will give you an example:
You know these little badges you see on your checkout page or even product page, you can just add these to a WooCommerce store, easily. With Shopify, you have to purchase apps to do this for you? As a beginner you might not think this is important, and it’s probably something you will overlook. Majority of clients will not check-out of your store if they don’t see “security badges”.
I could give tons of similar examples, when it comes to customisation WooCommerce is a clear winner.
Let us dig in to the cost in great detail. This is a screen shot from the Shopify pricing page:
So as a beginner, you are going to pay approximately $29 for Shopify – per moth. BUT – you get a free trial for 14 days where you can set-up your Shopify store for free and test all their apps and tools.
What they don’t tell you: This price excludes vat, so in effect you will pay close to $33 in South Africa, in dollars – so every-time our exchange rate fluctuates, you are paying more rands or whatever your local currency is.
Something else they don’t tell you: The small fine print of transaction costs. You will pay in addition to your $29 – 2% of everything you sell to Shopify, and if you intergrate payment providers (which you need to get a store running). Those payment providers take their cut – up to 5% for credit card purchases (which is what most people use).
Other costs you did not know about: You will be paying for every app you install on Shopify, and they all come in monthly payment in US dollars. If you want to display similar products and recommended at the bottom of your product page: There is an app for that costing up to $29 a month. If you want to display client reviews: there is an app for that costing about $15 or more. If you want to display social proof, like show how many people are buying certain things at your store. There is an app for that costing $20 upwards. If you want to display those pop-ups, sale notifications, countdowns – there are apps for each one of those and they are not free. I mean i could go on and on.
But wait – there are free apps? Yes indeed, the majority of these apps offer you free installation and some free transactions, like for example you can have 1000 displays of the sales banner before you need to upgrade, but you will get through those free rations very quickly and soon need to pay or remove the app.
If you have come across a completely free app that is useful on Shopify, let me know in the comments below.
In reality, you will be paying a lot of $ just to get the basic functionalities of an eCommerce store.
Another thing they don’t tell you: Your monthly fees are payable whether or not you are making sales. When lockdown happened in 2020 and all selling was banned, we got a lot of people just wanting to migrate from Shopify – we got a lot of “get me out of this thing noooow” screams I tell you, it was not funny.
Is WooCommerce Free Really
No, I have not started with WooCommerce. WooCommerce is technically Free – in that you can install it for free, but it also has a lot of add-on paid features you need to get the store running. If you really want cool themes with functionality, you need to pay. If you want to sell subscriptions, non-pysical goods – the WooCommerce installation is not Free, you will need to pay a subscription fee yourself.
In the cost department, WooCommerce is a winner, although not really free – it is waaay cheaper, by orders of magnitude cheaper than running a Shopify store.
Store Features and Analytics
Here we cover analytics, reporting, tips and guides. When it comes to running a successful online business – The numbers are everything. You need to constantly analyse your store numbers, figure out what is selling, how people are finding your store etc. There are a lot of numbers you need to analyse on a daily basis, as a beginner you will not know what these metrics are or could miss an important metric.
Shopify is really good at showing you your most important metrics on your dashboard, with in-house analytics – your dashboard is customised to display to you, the most important things you need to know or take action on.
This is really useful for beginners, and for this reason alone – if I were a beginner, I would use Shopify. Because you would rather pay more, for a managed system that guides you along than save money and miss important things like – where do you need to be spending the majority of you marketing budget.
If for example you think Facebook is the best place to market, and spend all your money marketing on facebook – but miss that 99% of Facebook traffic do not purchase anything, while 60% of Google traffic makes a purchase because Google audiences generally already have “intent” when they google for something. You could lose more money marketing on the wrong platform. This will offset whatever savings you are making on the monthly fees.
As a beginner, Shopify is a clear winner here
I will leave the best for last. SEO is another very important factor to consider when deciding between Shopify and WooCommerce.
For some mysterious reason, i have not figured it out yet – your online store is better discoverable, even with the exact same content when it is on WooCommerce than Shopify. I have migrated multiple stores, selling the exact same items, using the exact same keywords and content – that store will jump up the rankings immediately.
WooCommerce also has a SEO plugins like Yoast, inherited from WordPress than hep you writing your content and give you tips and ideas on how to write good SEO product pages and the likes. So WooCommerce is a clear winner on Search Engine Optimisation, if you want to rank organically – it is the best option.
Some Other Surprises – They don’t tell you
Shopify can shut your store down at anytime without warning or reason. If you read the fine print in your terms and conditions, you will discover – you have no real power over your store, Shopify can basically do whatever they like. Trying to resolve issues with them, usually involves talking on email with some “Guru” somewhere in some other country who does not understand what you are saying and does not really care about your business.
You can loose valuable money and time trying to resolve these issues with Shopify.
Did i mention, you monthly payment is payable whether your store is suspended or not?
I am talking from experience, I had a store suspended on Shopify during Corona in 2020 because I was selling face masks? right? They just shut it down and removed it, but continued to charge my credit card, I had to cancel my card with the bank, get a new one just to stop the Shopify charges coming off.
What is the verdict?
It depends. If you are a beginner in eCommerce or just starting out online, please use Shopify. Although expensive, it is geared for beginners and will help you along your learning path and guide you towards your niche market and get you to optimise your store.
Purchase your own domain somewhere else, if you don’t get anything out of this article – get this. Purchase your own domain from domain providers such as Domains.co.za and just point the DNS records to Shopify. Then when you outgrow Shopify, and it will happen – you can now build your store elsewhere using your domain, just re-point the DNS elsewhere.
DIY – Willing to learn
If you still want to create a WooCommerce store, follow our online tutorial series:
We will add more and more videos over time on other tips, plugins to use for free – themes, marketing, numbers – etc. So if you want to do it yourself, there are resources out there to help you along.