There is no shortage of e-commerce platforms available for you to build your online store. From RedBubble and Society6, where all you have to do is upload your artwork or design to be sold on hundreds of products, to Etsy where you’re more involved in the creation of your store and fulfilling your orders, to your very own e-commerce website, which is all you, all the time — the choices are boundless.
In this post, I’ll be focusing on two options: Shopify and WooCommerce. I want to say a couple of things at the outset. One, I’ve never used Shopify. I have researched it and investigated it and even signed up for the seven-day trial at one point, but never felt that it met my needs, so my opinions on it are theoretical and academic. Secondly, I don’t think you can go wrong with either of these options. They both perform the same function — creating an online shop — and do it equally well. The differences come down to how much money and time you want to invest in your shop’s creation, and how much control you want to have over the whole thing.
One of the biggest differences between Shopify and WooCommerce is their set up processes. Shopify is basically an “out of the box” set up. You sign up for your account and start building your store. Because WooCommerce requires WordPress, you’ll need to have a host and domain name, and a working WordPress install in order to start building your online shop. Because WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, it’s fairly easy to integrate setting up your online shop with building your website.
This is one area where there is a marked difference between the two platforms. Shopify has three pricing tiers for $29, $79, and $299 (say wha?!) per month. There is also Shopify Lite for $9, which you can use to sell on Facebook or add a “buy” button to your WordPress website, but I’m focusing on the version of Shopify which lets you build a complete online store.
Comparatively, WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin, with the same selling features as a Shopify store. Both platforms have add-ons (“apps” in Shopify, “extensions” in Woo) to increase their functionality, which can be either free or paid, depending on the function. For both platforms, these costs are, as far as I know, a one-time occurrence. If you choose to go with WooCommerce, you are still responsible for paying for your hosting service and domain name registration. You can register a domain name on Shopify for $13 per year, in addition to the monthly fee.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Shopify’s monthly fees do not take into account any credit card processing fees, transaction fees, or shipping costs that you incur. You still have to pay those fees with Woo, but not on top of a monthly fee, as well. So although Shopify’s $29 or $79 per month may seem doable, you have to take into account potential costs. In my opinion, $299 a month is crazy. If you’re already a big business with a major following and you know your profits will far exceed your fees, then maybe, but for an entrepreneur or small business? Every penny counts.
This is the difference that most affects my decision to use WooCommerce versus Shopify or something similar. With Shopify, you can only modify and customize your online store within parameters allowed by Shopify. You can’t migrate your site to another host if you become less enamored with Shopify. You only own the content you add to your Shopify site, specifically, your words and images. You do not own the site’s design or features.
With WooCommerce, being that it is used with WordPress sites, it’s ALL yours. Don’t like your host anymore? Back up your site and migrate it somewhere else with little to no loss of content (there will always be glitches in the Matrix). There are no constraints holding you back from customizing your site however you see fit, provided you have the ability or a programmer on retainer. You own everything. You can make changes to the layout (again, if you have the ability) without being constricted.
Just to be perfectly clear, I prefer WooCommerce over Shopify. Between the cost and control aspects, it is my preference to pay less and have more say over what my site looks like and how it works. If you can afford it and like the convenience of Shopify (which I totally understand) then Shopify is an equally good choice.
Ready to start the journey to your own online shop? I’m here to help you consider your options.