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Shopify vs WooCommerce: How to choose the best store software for your business

shopify vs woocommerce lead

What can these two leading ecommerce platforms offer the budding entrepreneur?

An online store is arguably the perfect work-from-home business. Whether you’re selling your own art or buying in stock from suppliers and selling it on, it can be a quick and easy way to earn an income while avoiding many of the overheads that usually come with running a business, like high-street rents and employee salaries. If you’re really successful, you can turn it from a side hustle into a full-time career.

Getting started isn’t difficult, with a wide range of shopping cart and store-front software packages to choose from. Shopify and WooCommerce are currently two of the most popular and, if you’ve been weighing up your options, they’re both likely to have made it onto your shortlist.

Here, we review how they stack up against each other, the services they offer, and what you can and can’t sell through each platform. We’ll look at membership plans, processing fees, and anything else you need to know before throwing wide your digital doors to your first rush of online shoppers.

Check prices at Shopify Check prices at WooCommerce

Shopify vs WooCommerce: Getting started

Shopify is an ecommerce platform that was founded in Canada, 17 years ago, and is now used around the world. It simplifies the process of setting up your store, listing products and taking payments, and has branched out to support pop-up stores and real-world retail locations with payment card readers. It’s a template system, allowing users to implement redesigns quickly and easily by swapping their existing layout for another. You can design your own theme or, if you’re not that artistically inclined, you can download one from a third-party store, or pick from a selection of bundled templates.

shopify vs woocommerce - shopify homepage

If you opt for Shopify, your hosting fees are covered by your monthly subscription. You can upload as much as you want to its network and then point your own domain towards it so that it looks like the store is actually running on its own server. This is true regardless of the plan you choose, and you can even purchase a domain name through Shopify (if you don’t already have one) so that your address, hosting, and store back-end are all managed through a single provider. Aside from some pictures of your products and some snappily written descriptions, you won’t need much else to get started.

WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress and was originally developed by the template studio WooThemes. WooThemes – and WooCommerce with it – was acquired by Automattic, the company behind WordPress, in 2015. Much like Shopify, WooCommerce simplifies the process of setting up a store, listing products, and taking payments. As well as its online stores, it can also help you sell in person using WooCommerce Payments and its tap-to-pay card reader. The WooCommerce software is open-source and available for inspection, and, again like Shopify, your store design is dependent upon your choice of theme, which can be quickly swapped out when it’s time for a change.

WooCommerce can be integrated with existing WordPress sites – you first need to set up a site with a commercial web host, then integrate the plugin through the WordPress dashboard. How much web space you’ll have will be determined by the limits of your hosting plan, unless you’ve opted for one of WooCommerce’s bundles – its Essential plan provides 50GB of storage, while the Performance plan stretches to 200GB; however, both include a free domain name. Then, as with Shopify, all you need to get started are some pictures and descriptions of your products. Anything else is a bonus.

Winner: Draw

It’s a strong case of horses for courses. If you’re already using WordPress, you might be tempted to pick WooCommerce as it should integrate easily with your existing design. However, you can also use plugins to draw Shopify listings into a WordPress blog, which rather levels the field. If you neither have nor want a WordPress site, Shopify might just have the edge thanks to its sharp focus on setting up stores and shifting stock, but there’s not much to recommend one over the other at this stage.

READ NEXT: The best website builders to use

Shopify vs WooCommerce: Listing products

Listing products and tracking stock is one of your key jobs as an online store owner. Fortunately, both of our ecommerce solutions take these tasks in their stride.

When it comes to how many products you can list, the “sky is the limit” says WooCommerce in its FAQ: “we’ve seen instances of shops with 100,000+ products listed”. As there’s no cap on the number of products you can add to your store, the only practical limit will be how much web space is included with your hosting account.

shopify vs woocommerce - shopify product listing

Shopify doesn’t count web space. Instead, it lets you add what’s known as “products” and “variants”, in which a variant is a version of a product. So, you might have produced a single design that’s available on red, blue, black, and white t-shirts. The first of those colours would be an original product, and the other three could be set up as variants that customers can switch between on your listing. You can create an unlimited number of products with a maximum of 100 variants for each one. Once you hit 50,000 variants across your store, you’re limited to only being able to add a further 1,000 per day, which is still a very generous number. But this doesn’t even apply if you’re using Shopify Plus, and if you’re not on Plus, you can ask for an exemption.

Winner: Draw

Although Shopify technically has a restriction on the number of variants you can list before it applies the brakes, it’s not a hard limit and you can always appeal. For most small businesses it’s not likely to impact the day-to-day running of their store. In that respect, it’s not a factor that’s likely to influence which solution you choose.

READ NEXT: The best shopify alternatives to use

Shopify vs WooCommerce: What can you sell?

For the most part, that’s up to you. Both platforms allow for the sale of physical products and digital downloads, as well as subscriptions. You can also link them to eBay and you can use them to host a drop shipping operation. Drop shipping is a model where, instead of holding stock yourself, you take orders from your customers and pay a fulfilment provider to produce and deliver the product or service. The difference between the provider’s fees and what you charge on your store – less any store fees and payment processing charges – is your profit.

Many drop shipping services can integrate directly with these platforms, to simplify the process of setup and adding stock to your store; however, not every supplier supports every platform, so it’s worth checking which ones your preferred drop shipper works with, and using that as a guide.

shopify vs woocommerce - woocommerce product listing

Both platforms restrict the sale of certain products, either outright or under specific circumstances. You can use WooCommerce to sell what’s known as “highly regulated products” – such as firearms, fireworks, or adult services – so long as you’re hosting it on your own or a third-party server (subject to your host’s Ts and Cs!). You just can’t sell them through a WooCommerce store that’s hosted at, a site that uses the JetPack plugin, or a store that takes payment using WooCommerce Payments.

Likewise, some products can’t be sold through a Shopify store. Shopify maintains a list of prohibited items – including cannabis-derived products, stamps, cash, and tickets – that you should read through before setting up your shop.

Winner: WooCommerce

Hosting your store through Shopify obliges you to work within its restrictions on the sale of prohibited items. While WooCommerce also regulates certain products, you can avoid the restrictions by not using its own hosting, payment gateway, or the Automattic JetPack plugin. Depending on what products you plan to sell, WooCommerce has a slight edge.

READ NEXT: Shopify vs Squarespace

Shopify vs WooCommerce: Price

You can download and install WooCommerce for free. If you’re self-hosting, the simplest way to do this is to hover over Plugins in the WordPress sidebar, then click Add New. Search for WooCommerce using the “Search plugins…” box at the top-right, then click Install Now, followed by Activate. There’s no charge to use the software, although there are processing fees if you want to use WooCommerce Payments (see below), and you’ll need to pay any charges levied by your web host.

If you prefer an all-in-one solution with hosting, domain name, security, and storage managed by WooCommerce, there are two Woo Express plans to choose from. Essential, at $39/mth (reduced to $25/mth, if you pay annually), includes 50GB of storage and all the tools you need to get started. Performance, at $70/mth (reduced to $45/mth for annual billing), offers everything in Essential plus an additional 150GB of storage, abandoned shopping cart recovery, automatic back-in-stock emails, and greater flexibility in setting up the mechanics of your store.

Shopify‘s primary platform is available on their Basic (£25/mth), Shopify (£65/mth), and Advanced (£344/mth) tiers, with the price of each reduced by 25% if you pay for a year at a time. Bandwidth and ecommerce hosting are both unlimited on each of these tiers, and most of the features are the same across the board. However, the Shopify and Advanced tiers provide access to Standard and Advanced reports, and increase the number of staff accounts from the two you get with Basic, to five and fifteen, respectively.

shopify vs woocommerce - shopify store

Shopify has also recently introduced another product called Starter. It costs £5/mth – there’s no discount offered for signing up for a year – and is aimed at vendors that primarily want to sell through social media. You get a simple shop front with a standard theme that you can link to your own domain, and tools for creating shortcode links that are easy to embed in posts and direct messages, but it doesn’t include unlimited ecommerce hosting.

Winner: Draw

It’s tempting to see WooCommerce as the cheaper option since you can download it for free, but you need to host it somewhere and that usually involves third-party charges. Shopify’s Starter plan is a seriously tempting proposition for micro-businesses – like artists working from home – allowing them to start selling for just a fiver a month.

Check price at Shopify Check prices at WooCommerce

Shopify vs WooCommerce: Payment options and processing fees

Shopify Payments is an integral part of the Shopify platform, through which you can accept all major payment methods. Customers can use both credit and debit cards, as well as the latest generation virtual payment options, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. However, it isn’t compulsory that you use this – if you prefer, you can integrate third-party payment services, such as PayPal, and even accept cryptocurrency.

You’ll pay between 1.5% + 25p (on the Advanced plan) and 2% + 25p (on Basic) for online credit card purchases, or between 0.5% (Advanced) and 2% (Basic) on purchases not made using Shopify Payments but processed by a third-party provider. You should note that third-party providers may also charge their own fees in addition to these. If you’ve signed up to run your store through Shopify Starter, you’ll pay 5% on every transaction processed using Shopify Payments.

shopify vs woocommerce - woocommerce product listing

WooCommerce Payments works in a similar fashion, acting as a link between your WooCommerce store and common payment gateways to give customers the choice of credit card, debit card, as well as non-card options, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. Again, you can integrate third-party gateways such as PayPal, Square, Amazon Pay, and so on, and accept cryptocurrencies from customers who prefer to pay that way.

For UK-based stores, WooCommerce Payments charges a base fee of 1.4% + 20p on card payments and in-person transactions, plus an additional 2% for international payments and a further 2% for currency conversions.

Winner: WooCommerce

There’s little to differentiate the services if you consider them purely on the range of payment options you can offer your customers. However, if you want to use their native payment services, then WooCommerce appears to be better value. Its base fee of 1.4% plus 20p for domestic transactions undercuts Shopify Payments’ cheapest option (1.5% + 25p), for which you’ll already need to be signed up to the Advanced tier.

Shopify vs WooCommerce: Verdict

With draws in three categories, and WooCommerce pulling ahead in two, the WordPress plugin has come out ahead. The fact that it’s developed under the same umbrella as the world’s most popular content management system obviously also counts in its favour, making it the ideal choice for publishers large and small who want to add a store to their existing site.

However, it would be a mistake to completely disregard Shopify. Managing your store, hosting, and – optionally – purchasing a domain through a single provider is very convenient. Not to mention that the £5/mth Starter plan is a seriously tempting opportunity for anyone just getting started – particularly since you can easily upgrade to a regular store plan if it should be a success.

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