Whether you intend on building a fully functioning online store or want to add eCommerce functionality to a website, there are a number of solutions within WordPress that enable you to do so.
But what WordPress platform is best suited for eCommerce sites?
Although you may have heard of solutions like PrestaShop, Magento, and BigCommerce as possible shop-building alternatives, however, we all know the ones we are familiar with. Shopify and WooCommerce. But which one is best for you or more importantly, your clients?
At the end of the day, you want to use the very best eCommerce platform to build your client’s store.
In the following post, we're going to show how WooCommerce and Shopify perform against these critical decision-making factors:
- CMS management
- Use cases
- Inventory management
Let’s dig into the WooCommerce vs. Shopify battle breakdown.
WooCommerce vs Shopify
Just because you’re a WordPress developer, or you’ve heard people say that WooCommerce is the best for eCommerce, does that automatically make it so? As we compare WooCommerce vs. Shopify, you’re going to find that each eCommerce platform has its own unique strengths (and weaknesses).🏘️ You want to build a kickass eCommerce store - WooCommerce vs. Shopify, which do you pick? #WordPress #eCommerceBattle Click To Tweet
What Is WooCommerce?
This is WooCommerce:
It is a plugin you can download from the WordPress repository or from the WooCommerce website. This means you cannot use WooCommerce on its own; you must have hosting as well as a WordPress installation in order to use it.
According to Built With, WooCommerce has edged out all the competition to take the #1 spot for most popular eCommerce solution among the top 1 million websites:
Currently, it holds 22% of the market share.
What Is Shopify?
As you can see in the graphic above, Shopify isn’t too far behind WooCommerce, carrying 17% of the market share.
This is Shopify:
Shopify is an eCommerce software. Although it’s been entirely independent of WordPress since the beginning, Shopify did attempt to help its users integrate their stores with WordPress a couple years back with a Shopify plugin. However, it appears that Shopify has since killed the plugin and now only offers Shopify button integration for WordPress.
It's also interesting to note the growth of both relative to each other. Joost de Valk of Yoast crunched his own numbers and found that although WordPress owns the biggest market share of online eCommerce stores by far, Shopify continues to grow rapidly (it brought in ~$1B of revenue in 2018).
Joost has also been a guest on the WPMRR WordPress podcast! We talk about WordPress - what it is and how it got so big, and our projections for the future of the platform, as well as some tips for new businesses. Like prioritizing design and the power of branding early on.
That said if you find that you’re on the fence about moving to Shopify, or it’s too late to abandon WordPress, know that there are ways to bring the two experiences together. We’ll talk about this a bit more later.
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Let the eCommerce platform battle begin.
1. Hosting 😇
With WooCommerce inherently tied to the WordPress ecosystem, you (or, rather, your clients) will be responsible for procuring a web hosting plan for the website. However, because of the high performance and security needs of eCommerce websites, in general, you must be careful about which one you choose.
While there are a number of high-quality hosting companies out there to choose from, your safest bet is to go with one that offers WooCommerce hosting. This way, you know the server environment was configured specifically for the needs of an eCommerce site.
These companies provide the most reliable WooCommerce hosting plans. Here is just a taste of the security and performance features included in each:
All Shopify websites are hosted from Shopify’s servers. The company promises unlimited bandwidth and super-fast speeds (as well as a number of security and PCI compliance features), with the exception of Shopify Lite customers.
If you’re worried that you’ll lose control over your store because Shopify handles all of the hosting and server configurations, don’t be. Although there is no way to tailor your hosting and storage capacity for what you need at the moment, Shopify has you covered.
Whether your store is brand new with a couple dozen visitors a day or is a booming marketplace with thousands of daily visitors, its servers are primed and ready to handle the traffic.
The only concern you might have should pertain to your data. With WordPress, you can manage and modify your content and databases readily from the control panel and CMS. With Shopify, you don’t have that option. The best you can do is export your site data as a CSV and, even then, it won’t capture everything for you.
We’ll talk more about data manipulation and storage under Backups.
2. Domain 📋
Domains, like web hosting, are not included with WordPress, so you or your clients will have to purchase one of these separately.
That said, you can get them for relatively cheap and many web hosting companies provide domain registration services. Of the ones mentioned above, SiteGround is the only one that offers it if you’re hoping to get all your hosting and domain taken care of at the same place.
You have a number of options when it comes to domains on Shopify.
- Subdomain - Shopify provides all customers with a myshopify.com subdomain straight out of the gate.
- Custom Domain - You can go to a website like GoDaddy and purchase your own custom domain. Pricing will be the same as if you were to buy one for a WooCommerce store.
- Other Sales Channels - Shopify enables customers to sell through other channels as well. So, if you know you’ll be doing the bulk of sales through established domains like: Online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay and Social media sites like Facebook
Or you intend on selling in-person through a point-of-sale, a custom domain name might not be all that big of a deal. Just note that there are sellers’ fees on these other channels.
3. CMS Management ✔️
WooCommerce CMS Management
Aside from providing WordPress users with a stable and intuitive platform to build and manage websites from, the content management system does require ongoing maintenance. That’s why companies like WP Buffs and tools like GoDaddy Pro exist!
So, if you build your online store with WooCommerce, do plan to have a system in place for managing the CMS. WordPress regularly sends updates to its core software as do its plugin and theme developers and it’s absolutely critical to keep your software updated if you want your store to be secure and speedy. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to:
Handle the updates yourself or outsource with white label maintenance.
Manually manage the updates or automate through WordPress.
Shopify CMS Management
In another attempt to simplify the process of building and managing an eCommerce store, Shopify has promised to handle all of the CMS management. Part of this is likely because it doesn’t want users to be able to tamper with any of the software’s code, but there’s also the convenience part of it to consider.
So, if you go this route, you can forget about having to:
- Update the software.
- Manage security.
- Monitor performance.
- Keep an eye on bandwidth.
4. Price 💰
Plain and simple:
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin. So, WooCommerce is free to install and use.
But as we already pointed out, users have to purchase web hosting and a domain before they can do anything with WordPress or WooCommerce. The corollary costs don’t end there either.
Here are some other things you might end up having to pay for with a WooCommerce store:
- SSL certificate
- Premium theme
- Premium plugins
- Payment gateway fees
- WordPress website maintenance
- WooCommerce dropshipping software
So, while you can get the WooCommerce plugin and WordPress CMS for free, there are plenty of additional costs to consider. Depending on which providers and plans you use, costs will vary from website to website.
Shopify, on the other hand, has set plans already priced out based on your needs:
That said, Shopify is not as all-inclusive as it might make itself out to be. Sure, it includes things like a subdomain, web hosting, SSL certificate, and Fastly CDN in the cost of the plan. However, users still have to spend money on things like:
- Custom domain
- Premium template - which generally cost close to $200
- Premium apps (plugins) - cost depends on how many orders your site gets a month
So, again, while it might be easy to say that Shopify is a more all-inclusive service, there are other fees to consider if you’re that concerned with the cost of running your shop.
5. Use Cases 📓
WooCommerce Use Cases
Granted, both of these eCommerce platforms can be used to build online stores. But there’s a significant difference between what exactly you can create with either of these and a lot of that boils down to the flexibility of the platform itself.
WordPress, for example, is open source, which means that anyone can contribute plugins and themes to extend the capabilities of even its most basic functionality. And while WooCommerce itself is a very simple plugin out of the box, what you can accomplish with it — much of which is available through free WordPress plugins or WooCommerce extensions — is pretty incredible.
Then there’s what you can actually build with WooCommerce. This CloudWays article explains why WooCommerce has more use cases:
“In terms of content, the big difference between WooCommerce and Shopify comes from the side pages. Shopify is mainly a shop with just product pages. If you want to create pages about news, your company, know-how or even a blog, then WooCommerce is a better choice.”
As we mentioned before, Shopify has since removed its WordPress plugin integration, so it’s not like you can do a best-of-both-worlds scenario here if you need those additional pages. You can either:
- Use WordPress to build a business website and layer WooCommerce on top of it to sell products.
- Use WordPress to build a website and then add Shopify button shortcodes to allow people to “Buy Now”.
For those of you strictly building stores with product listings, the choice isn’t as black and white since WooCommerce and Shopify can both accomplish the same thing.
Shopify Use Cases
Okay, so you know what Shopify is good for: building an online store. But what about flexibility? Are you limited in terms of what size of store you can build or what kind of product or service you can sell through it?
In terms of sales, there’s absolutely no restriction there. You are free to sell unlimited products on all Shopify plans.
However, you are limited in other ways. Namely:
“To make serious changes to your Shopify store, you will need to learn the company’s own coding language, Liquid. This requires at least some technical skill on your part.”
So, if your goal is to build a completely custom store for a client, think again with Shopify. While it does come with a wide variety of design templates, there’s just not a lot of wiggle room here.
Then again, if cost matters more than something like customization, WooCommerce might not be the ideal choice as hosting and EV SSL certificates can be quite costly for larger eCommerce sites. And Shopify ultimately has a cap on how much users pay, no matter how much their business scales along the way.
So, make sure you understand what the real purpose and goal of this store is before you make a gut decision based on flexibility.
6. Setup 🔨
Getting started with WooCommerce is simple enough.
Log into your WordPress site and locate the WooCommerce plugin under Plugins > Add New:
Click “Install Now” and then “Activate”.
Upon activation, WooCommerce will ask if you want to run the Setup Wizard. If you say “yes”, it’ll walk you through these steps:
In addition to setting up the location-specific details of your store, you can quickly configure presets for:
- Payment gateways
- Shipping methods
- Tax automation
- MailChimp integration
- Jetpack setup
In no more than a few minutes, you’ll have most of your settings configured and WooCommerce prompting you to create your first product.
There are additional settings under the WooCommerce > Settings menu, but those don’t take long to configure either. Everything is well-organized and easy-to-follow within the plugin.
Creating New Products
As you can see, new products with WooCommerce look just like the classic WordPress editor:
WooCommerce also provides some handy tooltips your first time around to show you what to do.
Scroll down the page and you’ll find the spot where you can enter all of your product data.
This is where you’ll define:
- Physical or digital products
- Single or grouped products
- Affiliate products
- Pricing and tax
- SKUs and other identifiers
- Inventory status
- Shipping notes
- And more
On the right-hand side is where you will upload either a single product image or a gallery of images.
And, just as you would with posts in WordPress, you can create product categories and tags for better organization and easier search.
Creating Your Store
Adding new products to WooCommerce is easy enough. Setting up your store is a whole other story.
When WooCommerce is first installed, the above shop pages will automatically be added to WordPress.
Step inside your Shop page, however, and this is what you’ll find:
This is what we mean when we talk about the flexibility of WooCommerce. Unless you install a theme that comes with pre-built Shop pages, you’re going to have to do much of this from-scratch. So, set your expectations accordingly.
Shopify Setup📑 Shopify seems to be a pretty easy eCommerce platform to use. Its interface is clean, well-organized, and not at all intimidating for your clients. Boom! #WordPress Click To Tweet
To get started with Shopify, you must first create an account. If you’re not ready to purchase a plan, you can start with a free trial. All it asks for is login information and your store name. Then, it takes you to the setup wizard.
The wizard is going to ask you questions to gauge what your intent is with Shopify. Are you building for yourself or for a client? Is this your first time or have you done this before? Do you know what you want to sell or are you just playing around?
Take the time to fill this out so Shopify can better tailor the shop-building experience to your needs.
After completing a short form with your store’s contact information, you’ll be taken to the main dashboard from where you’ll work:
Although Shopify will help you get started, there are a bunch of settings you’re going to want to configure before you get too far.
Set aside 10 to 15 minutes to go through each of these modules and fill out the necessary information.
Creating New Products
When you’re ready, go to the Products menu to add a new one and get started.
Unsurprisingly, Shopify and WooCommerce share a lot of the same product configurations, which makes sense. There isn’t going to be a whole lot of diversity in terms of what type of information is displayed in your store.
There are some variations between the two. For instance, Shopify:
- Allows you to define the Product Type, Tag, and Collection for organization and search.
- You can attach a third-party vendor’s name to the product if it's sold by someone else.
- Enables you to designate a fulfillment center (if there is one).
- Create variations of the product.
- Change the pre-written search metadata (which you can only do with an SEO plugin in WooCommerce).
Creating Your Store
With your first product created, Shopify will prompt you to choose and customize the design of your site with a theme. It will also ask you to decide on a domain name (if you’re not bringing a custom one with you).
Shopify will automatically give you the following theme to start from:
It’s nothing too exciting, but it will certainly help you get a store online quickly since there’s nothing to think about in terms of layout or, really, design.
7. Themes 💎
Designing with WooCommerce
As far as we’ve seen when comparing WooCommerce vs. Shopify, you can get a store online in no time with Shopify. Of course, there’s the tradeoff of how much you can actually do to that store, but we’ll get to that shortly.
For now, let’s focus on the design/build aspect of WooCommerce so we can complete the “setup” phase.
So, let’s say you’ve configured your settings and added your products. Great. While WordPress does give you a default theme to start with, it’s very basic and it’s not meant for eCommerce stores. What you need to do next is find a WordPress theme to not only add a design to your site but also to get some much-needed store page layouts in there.
The number of options you have to design a WooCommerce site are impressive. Let’s cover the basics:
Free Theme - Within WordPress, you can hunt for free themes from its repository. Just remember to narrow down search results to “eCommerce”:
These are going to be extremely basic designs with limited customization options. If your store is small and you don’t anticipate any growth, you can start here.
Premium Theme - If you need something more robust that allows for greater customization as well as variety, you might want to try a premium WordPress theme instead.
You can find them in theme marketplaces like ThemeForest:
Or get them from a theme developer like ThemeIsle:
Storefront Theme - Although WooCommerce won’t automatically install its default Storefront theme at the time of plugin installation, it is available for free from the WooCommerce theme store.
It’s a comprehensive enough theme without overwhelming users with too many options. That said, if it doesn’t give you as much as you need, you can extend it with:
- A (premium) child theme
- Pre-made layouts for the home page and hamburger menu
- The Storefront PowerPack
Here’s an example of the pricing for a Storefront child theme:
Page Builder - If you’d prefer to build a custom design for your website, you can use a page builder plugin to do so instead. Beaver Builder and Elementor are the leaders in the market and will make it easy to build your own store — especially if you take advantage of their premade page templates.
We had the chance to sit down with Robby McCullough of Beaver Builder on the WPMRR podcast and pick his brain on all things travel, why living minimally is key, and how he believes experiences are much more valuable than material things.
Here’s what Elementor’s selection of free and pro “shop” page template selections look like:
Clearly, you have a good many options for designing a WooCommerce website to choose from. And it gets even better.
Once you’ve chosen a theme for your website, either install or upload it to WordPress. Then, enter Appearance > Customize.
From this screen, you can adjust all of your branded and key store elements while watching the site reflect those changes in real time.
When you’re done and happy with the store you’ve created and products you’ve filled it with, you can hit the Publish button here. This will push your eCommerce store live.
Designing with Shopify
Next, let’s look at what it’s like to design a website with Shopify.
Immediately after you create your first product, or upload your list of products, Shopify is going to tell you that finding and customizing a theme is the next step.
Out of the box, you’ll be given Debut, Shopify’s free default theme. Shopify does have some other free themes available, but there’s less than a dozen to choose from:
Shopify also has a premium theme store where you can find dozens of more design options:
What’s nice here is that you’ll find well-organized collections and categories of themes to sift through. They’re also quite stunning to look at, which might be why most of them will run you $180 a pop.
If you have your heart set on using Shopify to build your client’s store but don’t want to pay that much for a premium theme, look online for more affordable options. Themeforest has some terrific Shopify themes and is always a good place to start:
Once you’ve settled on a theme, upload it to Shopify and get to work on customizing it.
The Customizer tool for Shopify is a lot like WooCommerce in that you have customization options on the left and real-time updates to the content of the website on the right:
That said, one key difference when looking at Shopify vs. WooCommerce customization is that this isn’t just where you configure theme settings. This is where you’ll build and edit your pages. You can only get this type of visual page-building in WooCommerce if you install a page builder plugin.
So, in that sense, Shopify is inherently much easier to design with than WooCommerce is.
If you’d like, you can add blog posts and pages to your Shopify website so it’s not just a single catalog with product listings.
The only catch is that Shopify’s new page creator is very basic.
If you’re hoping to build out eye-catching company pages with various block sections, engaging media, and CTAs, think again. Shopify is a store builder software; not a website builder software.
Even so, good design is possible using Shopify. Check out LeetBuds (use discount code BUFFTASTIC for $10 off your order!), for instance, an online shop dedicated to selling affordable earbuds.
The design is crisp and eye-catching. Coupled with an in-your-face CTA (in a good way) and a prominent product listing and you have a recipe for a site that quite literally sells.
All of this is to say, choosing the right eCommerce platform for your situation has more to do with functionality than with design. A great designer can make a stunning site on Shopify or WordPress + WooCommerce.
8. Plugins 🔌
Don’t forget about the extensibility that plugins bring with them, too. Page builder plugins are just the start of what you can do to improve upon the design and functionality of your WooCommerce store.
“With WooCommerce, you can sell both digital and physical products. You can also use regular WordPress themes and plugins alongside it, which means the platform is almost endlessly customizable.”
Curious to see what your options are? Just take a gander in the WordPress repository at Plugins > Add New:
Plugins in the repository are all free to use (to start, anyway) and will help you accomplish pretty much anything you can imagine for your store.
WooCommerce also has its own extensions store:
These mostly premium add-ons let you do even more with WooCommerce, especially if you’re interested in integrating functionality from third-party software into WooCommerce.
There’s really no limit to what you can do with a WooCommerce store. The only catch is that it’ll take you more time, and possibly more money, to pull it off.
There is a bit more you can do to build out the functionality of your Shopify store, and you can do this with Shopify’s plugin counterparts: Apps.
From inside Shopify, you’ll automatically receive app recommendations based on the survey you filled out when getting started.
Feel free to visit the Shopify app store to explore options. Just be careful.
Some of these apps are free to install. The ones marked “Free plan available” you’ll want to dig deeper into. Here’s why:
This is for a product reviews app, which, by most accounts, is an essential part of getting your products sold online. However, the free plan only allows for 10 products to be reviewed and 5 reviews per each. Unless you have a small number of services or products for sale and don’t expect more than a small handful of testimonials, this free app isn’t going to be of much help.
As you can imagine, these costs can add up. So, while it is possible to extend what your Shopify store can do and what kinds of elements are included in the design… many of those options come at a great cost.
9. Inventory Management 💻
WooCommerce Inventory Management
When your client’s store is brand new, they’re not likely to think about managing their inventory just yet. They need traffic to the store first. However, once things get moving, you want to ensure they have a system in place to help them manage all of it.
Out of the box, WooCommerce’s inventory management settings are okay.
Beneath each product, you can configure inventory management settings, if you prefer. For digital products, this will be much easier as there won’t be any caps on how much you can sell. But with physical inventory, you might find this additional step tedious — especially since it fails to put the inventory in the context of the entire sales fulfillment process.
With brand new stores with smaller physical inventories, managing stock levels manually and from the Products dashboard may suffice. However, if your client intends to scale its inventory, you’ll need a premium extension in order to more efficiently handle all of this.
While the WordPress repository has a few inventory management plugins you can try for free, you’d be much better off using one of WooCommerce’s own extensions:
As you can see, they don’t just open your WooCommerce site up to clearer and easier-to-manage stock levels. It aggregates all of your sales and fulfillment tools so you can automate much more of the pipeline.
Shopify Inventory Management
“With Shopify you can sell all sorts of products, including physical items, digital downloads, drop shipped products, and even services. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you can integrate it with your Shopify store thanks to their Point-Of-Sale devices.”
Although many reviewers and fans of Shopify tout this multi-channel sales approach, this isn’t what you get in terms of Shopify inventory management or sales out of the box.
Here is what you’ll be able to do:
Add product variants and set stock levels for each:
Manage where the product can be purchased from:
Note that the brick-and-mortar, online marketplace, and social media options are not defaulted options and must be added on with a Shopify app.
See a high-level overview of your products and how much inventory remains for each:
Manage inventory in bulk from the Inventory admin menu:
So, if your client solely wants to sell their physical goods online, Shopify is certainly a great platform for managing inventory levels of all sizes. That said, if you want to add any complexity to the sales process — e.g. new fulfillment centers, other sales channels, putting items on backstock — Shopify will require you to add more apps to the site.
Like WooCommerce, if you want a more comprehensive system for managing inventory levels and post-sales activities, you’ll have to pay to do so.
10. Payments 🎉
Of course, there’s no point in doing any of this setup or putting inventory online if you can’t easily accept payments from customers.
Within WooCommerce’s Settings, you’ll find a tab for Payments. You’ll also find ones for Tax and Shipping — be sure to configure those since it’ll simplify how much work you have to do to price out your products (and ensure your clients get paid the right amount).
As for Payments, here is what WooCommerce allows for to start:
When you walked through the setup wizard, you had the opportunity to choose which payment methods you wanted to use: Stripe vs. PayPal (or Stripe and PayPal). You’ll find them here.
If your client needs additional payment types — especially serving a global audience — you’ll want to activate those options here. (Stripe includes a wide array of international payment options.)
If you can’t find what they need or you want to explore further options, you can go to the WordPress repository first to see what’s available besides direct pay, PayPal, and Stripe. These are some of those options:
WooCommerce extensions offer even more, many of which are free to use:
Just like any other WordPress plugin, these payment gateways are very easy to install and get started with. Just keep in mind that plugins can add a lot of weight to a website, so don’t go overboard in installing as many free ones as you can find.
Either way, you’ll need your WooCommerce store optimized for speed at every turn.
As for how much this will cost you, payment gateways are typically free to sell goods through. That’s because payment processors take a fee for every purchase made through them, so make sure your client is aware of this.
If they’re hesitant to pay those fees, thinking that taking credit card payments over the phone or accepting checks by mail makes more sense, explain that their time is of value too. The time they spend processing payments for a healthy-sized store will cost them.
Within Shopify’s Settings, you’ll find a tab for Payment Providers.
Now, this is definitely one of the drawbacks of using Shopify to power your store.
By default, every store on Shopify will accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa payments through Shopify Payments.
It’s easy enough to set up Shopify Payments as it simply requires some information about your business and where you want your money sent to.
However, what if your clients want to sell to clients that want to pay through another method? They can certainly do so by adding a different payment portal to their store. However, the fees almost double when they do:
Depending on which plan your client buys, they could realistically get a better payment processing rate than they would be using a gateway like PayPal or Stripe. However, that’s only if they’re willing to use Shopify as their payment provider. If not, those 2.9% fees get an additional 2.0% tacked on to them.
“Shopify makes it easy to accept and manage online payments, but only on their terms.”
11. Analytics 📈
Because WooCommerce lives within WordPress, users have the advantage of having two robust analytics tools to track the performance of their websites.
The first analytics tool all WooCommerce users gets is the Reports admin menu within the plugin:
The data in these tabs report specifically on WooCommerce-related activities like:
- Sales trends - by date, product, and category
- Percentage of customers to guests
- List of customers and corresponding sales data
- Inventory trends - in stock, out of stock, and over-stocked
- Taxes assessed
Each tab includes preset date ranges you can use to study your WooCommerce statistics or you can set your own custom range.
Plus, for easier reporting and manipulation of the data, you can quickly export the current table to CSV.
The second analytics tool WooCommerce users should take advantage of is Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is divided into a small handful of modules — and eCommerce business owners and developers are able to leverage all of this data to assess the quality of the website experience they’ve built as long as you know how to read and create GA reports. This includes:
- Audience insights - who visited, where they came from, what kinds of devices they used, etc.
- Acquisition insights - which channels drove the most traffic to the site, how successful is organic vs. paid search, etc.
- Behavioral insights - what do visitors actually do when they’re on the site, which pages lead to the most conversions (and which have the highest bounce rates), what path do they take upon entering the site, etc.
- Conversions insights - individual product performance, overall sales tracking, time-to-purchase ratios, etc.
Rather than focus solely on the total sales number, Google Analytics is the tool that helps you see the bigger picture and how it all ties together. This, in turn, helps you build a better experience that will lead to more sales since you better understand the customer journey.
With more data, your clients won’t have to spend as much money trying to target too large of an audience or one that’s perhaps not a good fit. They also won’t have to deal with design or content overhauls in the face of floundering sales. WooCommerce and Google Analytics will enable you to make smarter decisions over the long haul.
Shopify has a similar setup internally as WooCommerce does. Once your store is set up and live on the web, you’ll start pulling data into the Shopify Analytics Dashboard:
To update the date range of all dashboards displayed, click on the “Today” calendar button and you’ll found a good many preset date ranges as well as a custom calendar to choose your dates.
Once you’re happy with the date range, you can view all reports at once using this dashboard or you can visit individual ones to take a deeper dive and do further customization of the report:
You can actually do a lot of the data filtering and display manipulation from right here in the dashboard. That’s definitely a helpful feature to have if you want to save custom configurations as reports you can easily pull from in the future.
There’s also the option to export your data as a CSV if you’d like to share your reports with others or perform further assessments of them that Shopify doesn’t allow for.
Similar to Google Analytics, Shopify arranges its categories by:
- Sales insights - by product, by discount, by location, by customer name, etc.
- Acquisition insights - by time, referrer, or location
- Customer insights - by first-time, return, most loyal, most at-risk, etc.
- Profit margin insights
- Behavioral insights - pertaining mostly to store searches and sessions
- Finance insights - related to sales, payments, and taxes
- Marketing insights
While there is abundant data related to your shoppers and sales trends, you’re not going to see much big-picture data here as it’s a bit one-dimensional. That said, you’ll find even more ways to track and manage your store’s analytics within the app store.
Again, same as we’ve seen before, Shopify has monetized many of the upgraded features you’d need to make the most of your store. However, if your main goal is sales and profit margins, the default Shopify reports will suffice.
12. Security 🔒
Most anyone who’s ever tried to build a legitimate money-making enterprise in WordPress has asked themselves:
The answer to that is somewhat complicated because it’s not as though WordPress is an inherently insecure content management system. In fact, WordPress developers (those that work on the core as well as those that contribute plugins and themes to it) do everything they can to write secure code and keep it patched up whenever vulnerabilities are detected.
That said, WordPress does deal with a lot of security issues simply because of its popularity in the CMS space. And, unfortunately, the WooCommerce plugin has had some problems as a result.
In fact, it’s listed as the top plugin with noted vulnerabilities in the past by WP Scan:
So, when we talk about WooCommerce vs. Shopify security, we do have to start there since the underlying code is one that’s ripe for attaching.
Then again, WooCommerce and WordPress developers work very hard to remove security threats the second they are detected, especially eCommerce security threats. However, it’s ultimately up to the WordPress user (i.e. you and your client) to implement those updates in a timely fashion.
But debugging of code isn’t enough and, unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t give us anything else to protect our stores. So, you’re going to have to look elsewhere to secure your WooCommerce site.
Your web hosting provider is a good place to start. If you’re using a managed WordPress hosting plan like Kinsta, then you’ll already have some security resources on your side like an SSL certificate and an ultra-secure server.
You still have to look at securing your website from the WordPress and browser side of things though. And because you’re building an eCommerce site, you have to find a payment gateway solution with rigid PCI compliance procedures to cover you there.
The WordPress Security Blog and 21-step security checklist are good resources to have on hand to ensure you’ve secured your clients’ WooCommerce websites from every angle. If they or you are nervous about the additional cost of WooCommerce security and you’re thinking of bypassing it, please don’t. It costs far more to repair a hacked website than it does to secure it in the first place, so don’t put your clients or yourself through that trouble.
This is one of those areas where Shopify claims to have all its users covered. Here’s what you need to know about Shopify built-in security:
To start, Shopify handles software updates. There is absolutely nothing for you to do as Shopify owns the code.
Plus, every Shopify plan comes with a free SSL certificate, so you’re covered there.
In addition, Shopify is PCI compliant, which means all payments processed through Shopify’s cart are secure. On a related note, Task Husky explains how Shopify has added an extra layer of security to its checkout process:
“What also helps is that Shopify doesn’t retain credit card or personal customer info from your eCommerce transactions. The data needed to authorize a transaction is passed directly through to the banks. So ‘hacking’ in to the Shopify network just won’t pay off because there is nothing in there to get to.”
That said, encryption, PCI compliance, and off-site credit card storage aren’t the only ways you need to protect a website.
For instance, what about password strength? So far as we can tell, users are able to log in with nothing more than a simple string of characters and numbers. Will that be enough to keep a hacker from breaking in and hijacking your store or injecting malicious code into it? Most definitely not.🔒 Security is key with #Shopify, it's up to you to pick and choose the other customizations and make it really pop! #WordPress Click To Tweet
What is encouraging, however, is that Shopify has a page on HackerOne dedicated to the detection of bugs in its code.
It’s listed bounties that it pays security researchers who are able to find vulnerabilities in Shopify. Unlike WordPress which is open source and doesn’t pay contributors (even ones who detect serious vulnerabilities), this probably helps keep Shopify more accountable to its code as well as better tuned into what’s happening within it.
As a best practice, you should see about securing your Shopify store when possible (and when it fits in the budget). Shopify’s app store does have a wide range of security apps:
So, something like McAfee, anti-spam, and two-factor authentication may be of help.
13. Performance 🕺
Performance is a huge deal for online shoppers. Slow down the time it takes for them to open your site, read about a product, or make a purchase, and you can expect the chances of that sale happening to plummet.
WooCommerce developers have a lot cut out for them, in that respect.
WordPress itself is not a slow content management system. It’s everything you have to add to it that creates slow loading speeds — including plugins like WooCommerce. There’s also the sheer act of adding products to the store that can negatively impact speed.
“WooCommerce excels at listing dozens or hundreds of products, and even does well with product ranges in the thousands. As you exceed these numbers, however, it becomes difficult to continue scaling without additional assistance. This typically requires better-performing servers from web hosts, the use of Content Delivery Networks, and working with a professional developer to optimize your site.”
Exactly. So, if your client has any intention of scaling their inventory and growing their traffic, they’re going to need to be willing to pay to scale for speed.
While there are a number of optimization plugins for free from WordPress, the rest that’s needed will add to the cost of building a WooCommerce store. Use the WordPress Speed Blog and 12-step optimization checklist to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.
According to Shopify (and pretty much any source you read about this online), it’s taken care of performance already. In order to make this promise, Shopify has had to build the following into its plans:
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Content delivery network
- 99.98% uptime guarantee
However, that doesn’t mean that speed is guaranteed. While it’s something you hear a lot about with Shopify, a store containing thousands of products with dozens of variations each and an image for each (if not a full gallery) will most definitely slow down your store.
Review Shopify’s apps to see what sort of speed or performance optimization options are available:
Image optimization is one you’ll certainly need. But is there anything else of value that won’t drive your costs up too much?
14. Backups ☁️
WooCommerce doesn’t come with a backup system out of the box. However, there are plentiful backup plugins that are free or, at least, reasonably priced. What’s more, you can save your backups to any storage location you want.
- This guide demonstrates how to save your WooCommerce website backups to Google Drive.
- This guide demonstrates how to save your WooCommerce website backups to Amazon S3.
Restoring a website from backup is just as easy, too, and you typically don’t need to use a different plugin to do it.
Similar to managing updates for WordPress, you have a choice with backups. You can automate them or you can manage them on your own. Either way, it doesn’t take much more than the click of a button to capture a copy of your WooCommerce store. Just make sure your online storage has enough room to store them!
Storing backups of a Shopify store are a bit trickier since Shopify owns all its own code. And Shopify will not store this data for you like your web host.
When you use the export to CSV option provided by Shopify, here is what exactly you’ll get:
- Discount codes
- Gift card codes
In other words, any of the data you entered into Shopify can be retrieved. Website configuration and theme settings… cannot. At least, not with the export to CSV function.
If you want to save full backups of your Shopify store, you’ll have to turn to an app:
Unfortunately, there are no backup apps available for free (unless you have a really small store), so this is an expense you’ll have to account for if you’re nervous about losing data or access to your site at any point. With a large store making thousands or millions in sales every year, this is definitely something you won’t want to gamble with and go without.
15. SEO 📲
WordPress has a small handful of highly rated SEO plugins, each of which will do a fantastic job of enabling you to easily optimize your product pages for search.
Here’s an example of what sort of metadata controls the Yoast SEO plugin gives you over your product listings in search:
One thing to keep in mind with any kind of eCommerce SEO, however, is that it goes beyond individual product page listings that show up in search. Products have a chance to shine in other key blocks of Google search results, and one of the ways to get them there is through schema markup.
Maria Ansari put together this great guide to schema markup and rich snippet WordPress plugins, which will help you create these shortcuts to the top of search results. Here is what you can do with product rich snippets using the All in One Schema plugin:
Imagine how impressive your product listings will be in search when you add these extra eye-catching descriptors. If organic search is going to be a big part of your marketing plan, then WooCommerce’s SEO plugins are going to help you win there.
🙅♀️ Real talk: #SEO in #Shopify is much more simplified, sometimes it hinders sometimes it helps. #WordPress Click To Tweet For instance, here is what you have to work with beneath each product:
There are a number of issues with this in terms of efficacy of search engine optimization:
- The character limits for the Page Title and Meta Description are too high. You’ll run the risk of creating unattractive and overly long metadata if you follow the guidelines.
- There’s too much control over the URL. Your URL should follow a consistent and logical structure. If someone were to mess with this, it might make it difficult to find your products or simply hard to re-locate something of interest if the slug is too long.
- There’s no extra guidance. WordPress plugins will assess the utilization of a focus keyword along with readability and overall optimization of a product for you.
Also worth mentioning is that there is no SEO component for the site as a whole. So, your best bet in ranking in search will come down to how well optimized your individual product pages are.
Thankfully, Shopify does have a good set of SEO apps you might want to try out:
But you know the drill. Be mindful of costs…
16. Support 👋
Last, but not least, let’s talk about support.
With WooCommerce being both open source and free, support is not something that’s necessarily easy to come by. At least, not if you’re hoping to get it from WordPress.
Instead, you’ll have to look to the WordPress and WooCommerce community at large for assistance when you run into trouble. Here are your best options:
- WordPress Codex - This guide from WordPress explains all of the basics of building websites with WordPress.
- WordPress contextual help - For immediate questions or issues with a plugin or theme.
- Plugin or theme support forum - For more severe issues with a plugin or theme.
- WordPress help chat - There are a number of resources where you can find someone to chat with live about your WordPress-related issues.
- WordPress support forums - To look up fixes to common scenarios or seek out the guidance of others.
Your web hosting company could also be a good resource, especially if your client’s site is on a WooCommerce hosting plan. Their support team may be able to assist you based on the issue you’ve run into.
And, of course, your WordPress maintenance provider can help and will most certainly have more contact channels available than most.
In its mission to be a more convenient and user-friendly solution for online store-building, Shopify has gone above and beyond in terms of support.
To start, you can connect directly with Shopify’s support team through a number of channels:
Support is available 24/7.
Users may also want to talk to other Shopify users in the community or search through old questions-and-answers.
And for the DIY users, Shopify has a Help Center that’s stuffed full of information about every aspect of the platform.
I’d just advise caution with this route as it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole here. Each new page seems to open up dozens of more options to click through, so you might be best off using the search function.
Overall, though, Shopify does customer support better than most SaaS we’ve seen.
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Ensure a 99.9% Secure WordPress Website
eCommerce Platform Comparison: Time to Make Your Decision
If you’re looking for eCommerce store building software to help you and your clients more easily build and manage their online stores, it comes down to two:
WooCommerce vs Shopify
But are both equally viable solutions for your next eCommerce website project? Kinsta aptly sums up the answer:
“WooCommerce is more flexible, but not as beginner-friendly. Shopify is the opposite – it’s very beginner-friendly, but has some hard limits that you won’t encounter on WooCommerce.”
If we’re talking about this in more exact terms…
Who exactly is WooCommerce best for?
- Developers who’ve built their businesses around WordPress and are uncomfortable deviating.
- Developers who sell an end-to-end store-building and management offering.
- Clients who intend on managing their own stores and are tech savvy.
- Small- to medium-sized stores with stable inventories.
- Websites with a small store component.
- Stores that sell to an international audience.
- Stores that require a greater footprint in Google search (usually because they have a strong brand behind them).
- Stores with high enough profit margins that can afford the costs of higher bandwidth and storage limits, professional maintenance, and premium add-ons.
- Stores that require greater customization and flexibility in all things.
Who exactly is Shopify best for?
- Developers who prefer a more done-for-you approach.
- Developers that want a high customer churn rate while still getting a high-profit margin from each project.
- Developers who’d rather focus on product and sales management than on design or development.
- Clients who intend on managing their own store and need something that doesn’t require any coding knowledge and has little to no learning curve.
- Small and mid-sized businesses that don’t require much more than the basics Shopify provides.
- Large enterprises that want easy scalability, but that can also afford the high cost of all the Shopify apps needed to do so.
- Businesses with online and bricks and mortar locations.
- Stores that target more local audiences.
- Brands where the products are more important than the company’s name or reputation behind them.
We wish it were a clear winner, especially since here at WP Buffs we’re all about WordPress. But that’s really not the case. There are very different situations in which WooCommerce makes more sense for eCommerce than when Shopify makes sense and the roles are reversed at times, too!
Try to focus on the WooCommerce vs Shopify points above that matter most to you and your clients and determine your own winner based on the distinctions between the two. While there are some similarities since they ultimately serve the same purpose, these eCommerce platforms are totally different beasts and you should choose the one that fits your specific needs.
In other words, chose your own eCommerce adventure!
Want to give your feedback or join the conversation? Add your comments 🐦 on Twitter.
Brenda Barron is the blog editor for the WP Buffs WordPress blog and a freelance writer from southern California. When not working, she’s spending time with her family, homeschooling her kids, knitting, and getting outdoors. Find out more about her at Digital Inkwell. If you want some freebies, check out our free speed and security ebooks, webinars for WordPress professionals, WordPress blog or WordPress podcast all about building monthly recurring revenue.