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Shopify vs WooCommerce: a deep-dive guide to help you choose the right fit in 2023

As an ecommerce business owner (or a soon-to-be one), you have a long list of decisions to make.

Choosing a platform to host your store is a big one. Got Shopify and WooCommerce among your options and want a thorough comparison of the two? You’re in the right place.

Ecommerce

Last updated

14 Feb 2023

Jump in to learn exactly what you can expect from Shopify and WooCommerce and make the best decision for your online store’s needs:

  • Essentials: learn about setup, design options, support, and security

  • Value for money: learn about pricing plans, the total cost of ownership, and free trial options

  • Growth: learn about marketing and SEO, sales features, and scalability

  • Your customers’ needs: learn about payment options, shipping, integrations, and page speed

Learn what customers want from your ecommerce store

Use Hotjar to understand how your visitors navigate your ecommerce site, so you can create a delightful experience—and drive conversions.

Shopify vs WooCommerce: 13 differences to consider

When considering ecommerce platform options like Shopify and WooCommerce, you already have questions about the cost, usability, and possible limitations. But to make the best possible decision, you need to dive deeper and consider things like:

  • How long will it take me to start selling on that platform?

  • Will there be painful limitations when my store grows?

  • How easy will it be to manage my store in the back-end?

  • What level of support can I expect from the platform provider?

Let's take a look at 13 criteria to help you pick the better platform for your business and customers:

Essentials

The difference between Shopify and WooCommerce when it comes to building, running, and maintaining your online store is significant, and often the main criteria ecommerce owners rely on to make their choice. Here’s what you should know:

1. Setup and maintenance

Shopify is a hosted ecommerce platform—this means you can build your online store (no coding skills necessary) without leaving Shopify’s interface—because everything you need to get it up and running is already there. This includes:

  • Naming your store

  • Buying your domain (if you don’t already have one) and setting it up

  • Selecting and customizing a design theme 

  • Adding products and setting up payment options 

Follow Shopify’s Initial setup knowledge base to get your store up and running in as little as a couple of hours. 

WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce solution that lets you turn an existing WordPress website into an online store. But if you don’t already use WordPress, starting from scratch with WooCommerce means you need to:

  • Buy a hosting plan

  • Create a WordPress website

  • Buy a domain name for it

  • Find a design theme

  • Install the WooCommerce plugin and set up your online store

This can be a lengthy, complex process, especially for users with little-to-no experience with WordPress. To make this easier for its customers, WooCommerce has a Getting Started guide. 

For WordPress pros, of course, launching and maintaining a store on WooCommerce is the obvious choice.

2. Design themes, options, and customization

What’s the level of control, customization, and flexibility Shopify and WooCommerce give you when it comes to design?

Shopify has a library of over 100 templates, and 11 of them are free themes. Prices of paid options range from $200 to $350 as a one-time payment. You can browse templates for different industries, product catalog sizes, and features like store locator, infinite scroll, and event calendar.

Shopify’s themes are mobile-friendly and automatically get free updates. However, if you don’t have web development skills, you’ll need help from a developer who understands Liquid code to customize your Shopify theme because changing the code is the only way to do so.

#Shopify’s library of themes (Source: Shopify)
Shopify’s library of themes (Source: Shopify)

WooCommerce works with any ecommerce WordPress theme. This means you can rely on markets like ThemeForest (1,400+ WooCommerce themes) and Template Monster (900+ WooCommerce themes) to find the perfect theme for your store. WooCommerce also offers 69 templates in its theme store, three of which are free.

Unlike Shopify, the WordPress platform gives you plenty of control and flexibility over the look of your store—especially if you have the skills, time, and budget to do so.

#The WooCommerce theme store (Source: WooCommerce)
The WooCommerce theme store (Source: WooCommerce)

3. Customer support

If you need help with an issue you’re having with your ecommerce website, how easily can you get it?

Shopify’s support team is available 24/7 over email, phone, and live chat on all Shopify plans. If your online store has an issue that could lose you sales and customers, this is a huge bonus, as it means you get immediate assistance.

You can also tap into Shopify’s network of experts, help center articles, community forum, and a database of online courses to make the most of Shopify’s capabilities. But if you integrate your Shopify store with other apps and services, you’ll need to rely on support options from companies offering those products rather than Shopify itself.

WooCommerce supports products you buy on WooCommerce, which includes the WooCommerce plugin for WordPress, WooCommerce extensions, and themes.

However, WooCommerce support doesn’t cover WordPress in general, or any third-party products you purchase from a company that isn’t a WooCommerce reseller. Lean on resources like FAQs, a marketplace for hiring WooCommerce experts, WooCommerce tutorials, and the WordPress.org documentation to deal with issues you run into.

4. Security

Will Shopify and WooCommerce give you the comfort of knowing your store is safe from online risks, your payments are protected, and your customers trust you?

Shopify ensures all Shopify stores are PCI compliant, meaning they meet all the criteria for payment security standards. Your website also comes with a built-in SSL certificate, which encrypts all data between you and your customers.

With WooCommerce, you’re responsible for making your store PCI compliant—your hosting and payment providers can help you make sure that’s the case. The same applies to ensuring your WordPress site has an SSL certificate; some hosting providers will include it in your subscriptions, while you may have to pay extra for it with others.

Value for money

To make the best choice when it comes to an ecommerce platform, it’s crucial to consider the cost you’ll incur for it every month or year. Plus, if one option seems like the better way to go, you’ll want to try it out before a lasting commitment.

Here are the main differences:

5. Pricing and total cost of ownership

Shopify’s pricing plans range from $29 per month to $300 per month, with the option to save 25% with annual billing.

Even the lowest pricing tier includes rich features like multiple sales channels and abandoned cart recovery, as well as essentials like hosting and the SSL certificate. Higher tiers give you more staff accounts and advanced features like automations and tax estimation.

To calculate the cost of Shopify, don’t forget to add transaction and credit card fees. Check if your country is one of 20+ supported countries for Shopify Payments, as that removes transaction fees.

#Shopify’s prices may vary according to your location (Source: Shopify)
Shopify’s prices may vary according to your location (Source: Shopify)

With WooCommerce, your pricing depends on the individual elements you purchase for your online store.

This includes:

  • Hosting costs: between $15 and $30 per month

  • Domain registration and renewal: around $15 per year

  • Theme cost: between $0 and $100 per year

  • SSL certificate: around $80 per year

  • Payment fees: 2.9% + $0.30 for US-issued credit or debit card transactions, an additional 1% for non-US-issued card transactions, and other fees based on additional payment options you choose

The key difference between the cost of Shopify and WooCommerce is that Shopify packages most of what you need to run a store into one easy-to-understand plan, while you have to make your own calculations and decisions to figure out your running costs with WooCommerce.

6. Free trial options

Want to try out an option before you fully commit to either Shopify or WooCommerce?

Shopify offers a three-day free trial that doesn’t require a credit card and lets you take all Shopify features for a test drive. And, if you’re still not ready to pay the full price after three days, you can get the Basic Shopify tier for $1 per month for three months—which means you’ll be taking very little risk to give your online store a fair shot.

WooCommerce is an open-source platform, which inherently makes it free. But without hosting, you can’t run a fully functional site, so it’s difficult to really take advantage of a free trial. If this is something you’d like to have access to before making a final decision, explore hosting providers that offer a free trial or a money-back guarantee (for example, SiteGround offers a 30-day money back guarantee).

#WooCommerce hosting options and pricing (Source: WooCommerce)
WooCommerce hosting options and pricing (Source: WooCommerce)

Growth

How well-equipped are Shopify and WooCommerce to help you reach your potential customers? What marketing features do they offer that help you drive more sales? And as you grow, how will these platforms support or hinder your growth, both in the short-term and in the long run?

Let’s dive in:

7. Marketing and SEO

Shopify has built-in features for blogging, email marketing, social media integrations, and search engine optimization (SEO). You can build marketing campaigns for different channels from one place, without getting overwhelmed by dozens of options and tools.

Shopify’s SEO capabilities are limited; you can’t change the URL structure, edit the sitemap, or use specific structured data. You can edit your store’s title and meta description, set alt text for images, optimize your site structure, set up URL redirects, and edit your robots.txt file.

Use Shopify’s App store to find dozens of SEO apps that can help you make the most of your search presence.

WooCommerce lets you integrate your store with social media platforms through individual extensions, but blogging is where it truly shines. As it’s built on a dedicated blogging platform—some estimates say WordPress powers around 43% of all websites—your ecommerce store can reap huge rewards from this.

SEO is arguably WooCommerce’s biggest advantage. You can tweak URLs, manage metadata for any page, optimize images, rely on SEO plugins like Yoast SEO and XML Sitemaps—and manage every detail to your liking.

💡Pro tip: learn how your ecommerce site visitors feel about different pages, like product pages, the checkout page, and blog posts.

Instead of only relying on quantitative metrics—how long visitors spent on a page or how many bounced—dive into the context behind customer behavior that standard web analytics won’t show you.

For example, heatmaps let you see what gets ignored, like specific calls to action (CTAs) or website navigation links. Session recordings show you exactly what a user sees and does before exiting.

And surveys let you ask page-specific questions, like “What’s stopping you from finishing the checkout process today?” so you can prioritize the right improvements.

An example of Hotjar’s content feedback survey

8. Sales features

Shopify gives you powerful sales features as part of its core plans. Some powerful sales tools include:

  • Cart abandonment recovery: view all abandoned checkouts, so you can automatically or manually email a customer with a link to their cart

  • Discount codes: apply them automatically, send them as a promotional campaign, and synchronize discounts from your main store to other channels like your Instagram shop

  • Buy Button: embed a shortcut, like a product card or a checkout button, on a landing page or blog post

#Options with Shopify’s Buy Button (Source: Shopify)
Options with Shopify’s Buy Button (Source: Shopify)

WooCommerce lets you assemble your own custom stack of sales tools for your online store. For example, if you want to use abandoned cart recovery, you’ll need a plugin for that—an option like Abandoned Cart Lite is free, and a more advanced option starts at $149 per year.

The same applies if you want to add gift cards to your store, which is another plugin you’ll pay for annually. With WooCommerce, available sales features are broader compared to what you get with Shopify, but they don’t come as part of the default package.

#WooCommerce extensions for upselling and cross-selling (Source: WooCommerce)
WooCommerce extensions for upselling and cross-selling (Source: WooCommerce)

9. Scalability

Shopify merchants rely on the platform’s infrastructure, storage, and security that are ready to scale at any moment:

  • Higher tiers or Shopify Plus (the enterprise plan) give you access to advanced and more customizable features

  • A 99.99% uptime means your store won’t crash during busy seasons, like holidays and sales events

  • Expand internationally with global commerce functionalities

  • Expand into a brick-and-mortar store with an integrated POS system and continue managing every aspect of your business from the same user interface

Scaling on WooCommerce relies on the infrastructure and scalability of individual components of your ecommerce website, like your hosting provider. Keep in mind that:

  • Your hosting expenses increase as your traffic grows

  • You need to ensure the host can handle regular maintenance, updates, backups, and security

  • The more you grow, the higher the chance you’ll need a team of developers to maintain your website

  • Hardware options for physical retail are available to merchants in the US and Canada

Your customers’ needs

Customers have expectations, wishes, and must-haves when it comes to their shopping experience. The ability to choose their preferred payment method and shipping option is one of them, as is a smooth, fast customer experience.

Here’s what Shopify and WooCommerce offer:

10. Payment options

Shopify offers its users ‘Shopify Payments’, a built-in way to accept online payments at no extra cost, without using a third-party service or having a separate merchant account. This is available to businesses registered in one of these 22 countries.

There are also options like:

  • Integration with more than 100 payment gateways and providers worldwide, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay (availability depends on your country)

  • A PayPal Express Checkout account for all merchants

  • Shop Pay for paying in installments

  • Recurring payments through a subscription app from Shopify’s app store

#Shopify’s country-specific database of payment gateways (Source: Shopify)
Shopify’s country-specific database of payment gateways (Source: Shopify)

WooCommerce Payments allows you to accept credit cards, debit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and local payment methods. It’s available in 18 countries and more than 135 currencies without additional extensions, setup costs, or monthly fees.

#The WooCommerce Payments solution (Source: WooCommerce)
The WooCommerce Payments solution (Source: WooCommerce)

The WooCommerce extension store offers more than 80 payment-related plug-ins, which lets you offer customers worldwide their preferred payment methods.

Additional options include:

🔥Pro tip: instead of guessing which payment options and methods to integrate with your online store, talk to your customers. Lean on user interviews to dive into the shopping habits and payment preferences of customers in different markets.

Hotjar Engage lets you tap into a pool of 175,000+ verified participants for user interviews. You can narrow them down by location, age, gender, education, industry, and mobile device to learn how they shop.

Hotjar Engage filters for selecting user interview participants

11. Shipping options

Shopify offers you three methods to get your products to customers: shipping, local delivery, and local pickup. You can even set up shipping rules, like the zones you deliver to and shipping rates for different locations and products.

For businesses in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, and Spain, the Shopify Shipping feature connects your Shopify account with shipping carrier providers like UPS, USPS, Canada Post, and FedEx, and gives you discounted rates for shipping labels.

WooCommerce offers options for flat-rate shipping, free shipping, and local pickup. You can also use the WooCommerce Shipping extension to create and print USPS and DHL labels from your WooCommerce account and save on shipping rates.

For additional options like multiple shipping rates based on factors like location, weight, or the total number of items, consider extensions like Table Rate Shipping ($99 per year) or Distance Rate Shipping ($79 per year).

12. Add-ons, plugins, and integrations

Shopify’s app store boasts over 8,000 vetted apps you can integrate with your store. Here are Shopify’s app categories (with examples):

  • Finding products: printing on demand (Printful), dropshipping (CJdropshipping), buying wholesale (Handshake)

  • Selling products: selling methods (TikTok), purchase options (Recharge Subscriptions), product variants (Tabs Studio)

  • Orders and shipping: fulfilling orders (ShipStation), managing orders (Shippo), managing inventory (Stocky)

  • Store design: social proof (Yotpo), internationalization (Weglot), store pages (PageFly)

  • Marketing and conversion: email marketing (Klaviyo), advertising (Snapchat Ads), upselling and cross-selling (ReConvert)

  • Store management: support (Tidio), analytics (Supermetrics), privacy and security (Trust Me)

The WooCommerce extension store offers around 800 plug-ins. The easiest place to start is the curated collections, some of which include:

  • WooCommerce essentials: marketing automation (AutomateWoo), gift-wrapping options (Product Add-Ons), store backups (Jetpack VaultPress Backup)

  • DTC essentials: email marketing (MailPoet), gift cards and store credit (Smart Coupons), debit and credit card payments (WooCommerce Payments)

  • Grow your business: video hosting (Jetpack VideoPress), paying in installments (Afterpay), global commerce (MultilingualPress)

  • Launch your store: event tracking (WooCommerce Google Analytics), messaging (LiveChat for WooCommerce), post-purchase emails (Follow-Ups)

  • Top marketing solutions: selling on eBay and Amazon (Codisto Omnichannel Commerce), product videos (Vimeo for WooCommerce)

Other marketplaces to browse more than 1,000 WooCommerce extensions are CodeCanyon and Envato Elements.

13. Page speed

How do Shopify and WooCommerce compare when it comes to page speed? Here’s what a study comparing them revealed:

Shopify store pages load fast, in just 0.31 seconds. The checkout page loads in 0.22 seconds. Elements like streamlined themes and a lean, contained platform to build the entire online store definitely help Shopify’s case.

WooCommerce, however, has an average load time of 0.77 seconds, which can be slow enough for an average consumer to notice. The average cart page on WooCommerce loads in 1.32 seconds.

This is likely the case because of dozens of plugins and extensions customers can freely add to the WooCommerce website without considering their effect on page load time—be mindful and selective when it comes to each add-on.

Shopify vs WooCommerce comparison table

After diving deep into the different categories of Shopify and WooCommerce as ecommerce platforms, here’s a side-by-side comparison to help you decide which one to go with:

#The differences between Shopify and WooCommerce
The differences between Shopify and WooCommerce

Shopify vs WooCommerce: which one suits your business best?

If you’re ready to build your ecommerce store, WooCommerce and Shopify are fantastic platforms to get started. But they serve different types of ecommerce owners.

Shopify is for you if you’re looking for a solution that’s ready right out of the box. Everything you need is right there, from a secure and good-looking website to powerful sales features—and it works instantly.

But if you want a more custom-built online store, one you can assemble and tailor to your liking, WooCommerce is the better option. It takes longer to set up, requires more technical knowledge, and you’re the one responsible for maintenance—but you get control over every part of your site.

Whichever platform you choose, make sure you know what it is that makes your customers buy from you and keeps them coming back for more. Use tools like session recordings, heatmaps, and surveys to learn how they feel about your online store—and make the right improvements for maximum conversions.

Learn what customers want from your ecommerce store

Use Hotjar to understand how your visitors navigate your ecommerce site, so you can create a delightful experience—and drive conversions.

FAQs about Shopify vs WooCommerce