E-commerce will forever be one of the hottest topics in digital advertising. More sites than ever before have started to sell merchandise in some capacity. Becoming an online retailer can be complicated though. There are a lot of great tools out there to help with e-commerce, but choosing the best option for your business can be tricky. Below we have outlined the pros and cons of the two most popular e-commerce platforms used today.
Before we get started let’s outline a few terms that might be jargon to those not familiar with web development and design.
SSL: SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. In the most basic of terms, it creates an encryption layer from your computer to the website you are using so any data that transferred is protected from potential hackers.
CMS: CMS stands for Content Management System. It is a system that manages the content of your website. WordPress is an example of a CMS.
SEO: SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the practice of using linking strategy and keyword placement to help your website rank higher on Google, and other search engines when users search for words related to your business website.
SEM: SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. It is using services such as Google Adwords which allow your business to host ads on the results pages of Google searches.
WYSIWYG: WYSIWYG (pronounced WIz-EE-Wig) stands for What You See Is What You Get. It is web design jargon for the ability to edit your website (or in this case, your online store) from the perspective of a customer. WYSIWYG editors are helpful for those not familiar with coding or the backend set up for content management systems like WordPress.
WooCommerce vs. Shopify
WooCommerce and Shopify are the two most popular E-commerce resources that exist today. But depending on your needs as a retailer, one can make much more sense than the other. So how do you choose? It can be hard to determine relevant information when visiting the sites for each service, as they are arranged to be a sales pitch. To make it easy for you we have extracted precisely what you need to know to make an informed decision that best fits your needs.
Many developers know WooCommerce for being the go-to WordPress plugin for online sales. It is the most popular shopping cart system in the world. It unbelievably serves over 30% of the stores on the web! It comes standard with almost all WordPress themes. But WooCommerce might not be the best fit for your business depending on your web development skill set. Let’s take a look at the specifics.
WooCommerce is advertised as a free plugin on WordPress. To get a store up and running there are no fees. Some additional features you might be interested in do have built-in costs though. So what is the breakdown of WooCommerce expenses? You just might be surprised.
If you want to set up shop with absolutely no costs, WooCommerce offers quite a bit for free. Without forking over any cash, you can:
- Sell goods and services
- Calculate flat rate shipping to any location
- Calculate taxes based on your location or the buyer’s location
- Accept payments through PayPal
- Accept credit card using the Stripe gateway (more on that in a moment)
- Customer account area; where customers can see their orders and processing status.
Now, WooCommerce does offer a fair amount of premium services as well which you can receive by paying annual fees (all fees listed are for single site annual plans). These include:
- Groups for WooCommerce: $79
- Allows you to grant memberships based on products
- WooCommerce Subscriptions: $199
- Allows you to create recurring subscriptions for customers
- WooCommerce Memberships: $149
- Similar to groups but allows deeper control of content stream and membership options
- Table rate shipping: $199
- Allows for much deeper control over shipping options and can calculate rates based on weights, location, and delivery service.
- Product Add-Ons: $49
- With Add-Ons you can add offers such as laser engraving, unique embroidery and so much more for your products.
- Bookings: $249
- Offer the ability to book specific time slots for your business
Payment Processing and SSL Costs
WooCommerce can be free to set up a basic online store, but they do make money through their payment processing options. Their free Stripe credit card processing will take 3.0% of the costs as well as 30 cents per transaction.
If you plan on using WooCommerce, you will also need an SSL to make sure your site is secure. Depending on what service you use for your SSL the price can range from $49 to $300. Keep this in mind when tallying up the costs for a WooCommerce storefront.
Set Up and Themes
WooCommerce is convenient as the plugin is compatible with most premium WordPress Themes. Therefore, you have a wide range of options to choose from when designing your store. The WooCommerce storefront will match the overall look of your website, making for seamless navigation for your customers.
WooCommerce directly connects to your website which allows for a few added benefits. Your store will be in the same domain as your website. This is crucial for some digital advertising techniques such as SEO and SEM.
WooCommerce is a powerful tool that will allow your online store to be incorporated into your current website’s domain. It will also give you complete ownership of your online store. It has several free options that will allow you to sell products for no added costs outside of credit card processing fees (at rates similar to Paypal). It also has many paid options that grant you the ability to offer subscriptions, memberships, and added product offerings to your customers.
While WooCommerce has a lot of great offerings, it is important to remember that with Woo you will be responsible for the security of your website. While WooCommerce includes many themes for free, it can be difficult to customize these themes for those who are unfamiliar with web design.
WooCommerce gives you great control in some areas but limits you to others. Overall, it is one of the most trusted online store platforms that owns the majority of the market share of online storefronts.
Shopify is an online store platform that is great for individuals who do not know about web development or design. Shopify has hundreds of customized templates which allow users to edit the front end of their online store. In the web design industry this is known as a WYSIWYG (wiz-ee-wig), or “what you see is what you get,” as when designing your storefront you see precisely what your customer will see – no messy code or backend complications. Shopify does require an annual subscription to get up and running though. These plans increase in price usually related to the amount of inventory you want to sell.
The most basic Shopify starter plan is only $14 a month. This allows you access to a majority of the themes, free email support, a custom domain name (usually “store.YOURSITE.com”), 1GB of storage space (for pictures of your products) and the ability to sell up to 25 products. The fees for credit cards on a basic Shopify plan are 2.9% with a 30 cent transaction fee.
For $29 a month, Shopify offers a mid-level plan. The most significant difference from the starter plan is that it allows you to use the Shopify Point of Sale system in a brick and mortar location as well as online. Shopify will send you a card reader and offers fraud analysis. The mid-level plan also lowers the credit card fees to 2.7% with the same 30 cent transaction fee.
Another difference between the lowest level plan and this one is that with the $29/month plan your store space goes from 25 products to unlimited. It also includes 24/7 support instead of just primary email and chat support.
Professional and Unlimited Plans
Shopify offers even more extensive plans, but be warned the price jumps drastically. The Pro plan is $79 a month, further lowers transaction rates to 2.5% and gives you the ability to create gift cards and recover abandoned shopping carts.
The unlimited plan is $179 a month, drops credit card rates to only 2.25%, and offers infinite storage space. One of the most significant bonuses of the unlimited plans is that it allows for real-time shipping updates from a variety of carriers.
Go Big With Shopify Enterprise
Shopify does offer a service even higher than their monthly plans. This is known as Shopify Enterprise. You must contact Shopify to obtain pricing, though they tailor plans for your business’ needs. While the enterprise level plans are costly, they come with great options such as a staggering 0% transaction fee, a dedicated priority support specialist, a dedicated SSL (vs. the general Shopify SSL of other plans), early access, and beta testing of new features and much more.
Set Up and Themes
Shopify has hundreds of customizable themes for each pricing package that they offer. As noted above, the shop set up is much easier for those not familiar with web design and development as templates and front-end editors are available. This makes setup much more manageable than WooCommerce.
It is important to know that when using Shopify you do not own your storefront or domain. Instead, you are more or less renting that digital space through Shopify. This is convenient as you do not have to worry about obtaining an SSL, but can be troublesome as you will not be able to migrate your store in the future. You will have to start from scratch.
Shopify is a great platform for those not too familiar with web design. It allows for anyone to jump on online and create a store in a few hours, with all the essential options. Their pricing plans are affordable, but over time they can get expensive. It is crucial that you work out the numbers and see if the higher level plans are worth the added expense based on how much product you are selling online, in short – will the transaction fees for credit cards outweigh the price of the higher level plans?
Since Shopify will host the website, they supply you with an SSL. This is a considerable expense that is spared compared to setting up an online shop through WooCommerce. It is crucial to remember that when using Shopify – they own your store. This means that if in the future you want to set up your shop through WooCommerce or have a web developer build one from scratch – you will have to start from the beginning.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) What Should I Pick?
Why You Should Pick WooCommerce
WooCommerce is great for individuals who have some experience with web design and development and for those who want the most control over their online store. WooCommerce the best option for those who already have a website using the WordPress CMS.
- Allows for more customization
- Overall more affordable (unless you are creating subscription/membership service)
- You will own your domain and storefront
- Seamless integration with your current website
- Will be hosted under the same domain as your website, allowing for seamless SEO and SEM.
Why You Should Pick Shopify
Shopify has more additional costs than WooCommerce but is much easier to use for those inexperienced with web design and development. It is the best option for merchants who want to set up an easy to use online store and are okay not having total control over the backend of their site. When choosing to use Shopify, make sure you are OK using Shopify for the foreseeable future.
- More intuitive set up than WooCommerce
- Several monthly plans available for different needs
- Easier customization
- Included store security such as SSL
- Ability to use Shopify as a brick and mortar POS
If you have more questions or want to talk to a professional about which option might be the best for your online store we can help. If you have made your decision but are not sure how to get started, we can help as well. Contact us today to start the process of your getting your online store live!