Written by Jodie Pride
2nd July 2015 • 12 min read
It can be difficult to choose an online sales channel, especially with the abundance of options available at the moment. They all have a ton of cool features and a pricing plan to suit every pocket, but which one is the right one for you?
We’re going to take a look at two of the most widely used web stores: WooCommerce and Shopify.
Both are incredibly popular with their customer bases, but which one is the best option for you? We are going to give an overview of the benefits of using each platform, and then compare their benefits and drawbacks.
WooCommerce is a sales plugin by WordPress which turns your website into an full-blown ecommerce store. You can sell anything on WooCommerce (including digital downloads like MP3’s and eBooks), and it’s easily customisable with a wide variety of storefront templates for you to choose from, so you can let your individual branding and personality flow. It also has hundreds of free and commercial extensions, so you can optimise your shop however you want.
Key features and benefits of using WooCommerce
So what makes WooCommerce so appealing as a webstore? Here are some of most attractive features WooCommerce has to offer.
The default storefront design is clean and simple, but it’s also highly customisable with hundreds of themes available, and plenty of add ons which allow you to optimise your store in whatever way you want. You can add product galleries, testimonials, 360 views of your product, and loads more, so your store can be as feature-packed or stipped back as you want.
WooCommerce supports PayPal for accepting credit card and PayPal account payments, BACS, and Cash on Delivery. They’ve also got a variety of specific payment gateway extensions.
You can easily manage your digital or physical products with the intuitive and WP centric UI. You can also assign dedicated store managers to handle the day to day management of your inventory.
You can easily keep on top of your incoming sales and reviews, stock levels and general store performance, all from your WordPress backend by using the reporting tool. Handy for sales forecasting and identifying which products you need to keep selling and which ones you need to stop stocking.
There are some solid marketing options available with WooCommerce, including campaigns offering a range of discount options, usage limits and product/user restrictions as well as free shipping.
There’s the option to have a WooCommerce eBay integration, plus others such as WooCommerce to Amazon, which is great for connecting your stores and marketplaces, maximizing your exposure and increasing sales.
WooCommerce supports responsive design, so your shop will look good on any screen, whether that’s a smartphone or a desktop computer.
The interface is very simple to use. This makes WooCommerce a great option for those less experienced with managing ecommerce stores, web design, or technology in general!
There’s no limit to the number of products and categories you can have.
Because it’s run by WordPress, WooCommerce stores are very SEO friendly (something WordPress is well-known for), so it’s much easier to get your shop to the top tier of search engines. Also, there’s excellent blogging capabilities on offer (again, thanks to WordPress).
And of course, WooCommerce is free, which is certainly a top selling point.
Drawbacks of using WooCommerce
Okay, so we’ve looked at the positive aspects of using WooCommerce as your webstore, now what elements aren’t so good?
There’s a definite lack of high-end features to support large inventories. This isn’t going to benefit you if you’re a very high volume retailer with a wide variety of products.
The standard shop is basic, so if you plan on jazzing it up with loads of slick features, you might have a nasty surprise in store – most of the extensions cost, so the more you need, the more the cost will add up, which means that although WooCommerce is free, you could end up shelling out a lot to achieve the store you have in mind.
There’s no free support option. This comes with the territory of offering a free product – you’re going to have to charge for support if you’re going to offer it. The good news is that there’s a large community of WooCommerce users who communicate through forums to help each other out.
You need to stay on top of updates which can be time consuming and downright annoying.
Shopify is a is another popular and powerful ecommerce marketplace which allows its users a great deal of freedom to customise their stores and inject their personalities into them. You don’t need to be a design wizard to create a great-looking store, and there’s a huge amount of support available. There’s also an extensive catalog of apps and addons you can choose from to add more features and functionality to your site, or to help with other elements of running your business.
Key features and benefits of Shopify
So what makes Shopify so popular with it’s users?
There’s a wide variety of themes to choose from, so you can make your store look professional. You also have full access to the HTML and CSS of your store, so you can customise it however you want.
You get a blog (as you would with WooCommerce) which has some SEO capabilities built in.
There is a very secure shopping cart with automatic carrier shipping rates. Shopify also offers abandoned checkout recovery and automatically emails any prospective customers with a link to their abandoned shopping carts, encouraging them to complete their purchase.
Customer profile feature which allows you to learn more about your customers and their shopping habits – great for customer understanding and tailored marketing
Customers can create an account at the checkout, which encourages repeat custom. Your customers can also check out as a guest without creating an account, so there’s less chance of abandoned carts. There’s nothing customers hate worse than a lengthy signup process or a checkout which involves more than 1 or 2 steps.
Shops are search engine optimized, there’s an email marketing platform and integrations with all the leading social media sites to cover your social media marketing.
There are plenty of integrations to choose from, plus software available to help with your Shopify Amazon integration.
You can sell digital products like MP3’s and eBooks.
There is an analytics tool which gives you reports on sales figures, orders, and traffic. This helps you gain insight into your store’s growth, you can see which products are selling — and which ones aren’t.
Shopify Mobile allows you to capture payments and fulfill orders right from your phone.
Drawbacks of using Shopify
The pricing system is compicated: there is a 14 day free trial available, then packages range from $9 a month to $179 a month depending on which features you want, storage capabilities, product numbers and so on.
It’s not multi-language and is heavily geared towards US/UK retailers – great news if you’re from the US or UK, but not so great if you’re from elsewhere.
There are limited payment gateways which can by annoying if you want to offer your customers a variety of payment methods.
Not as customisable as WooCommerce, so it could be harder to achieve your visions.
The blogging capabilities are only okay.
The Verdict – WooCommerce Vs Shopify
These are two big, capable platforms which offer pretty different features, so it could be an easy decision to make.
The biggest difference is cost: WooCommerce is free, while Shopify starts at £9.45 a month, and that doesn’t get you an awful lot. The advantage here is obvious – you get a solid ecommerce store for free with WooCommerce. You should really sit down and think about what you need from your e-store, assess the features of WooCommerce (basic, plus any extensions you’d need) and what Shopify offers for the same price. Remember that Shopify also has plenty of addons, but has more built in features.
WooCommerce tends to be more customisable than Shopify, with more themes and freedom to add features to the shop (sliders, product displays). However, Shopify might be better for those less experienced with coding and web design as they offer help to customise your own storefront designs.
Both have a blog built in – Shopify’s blog, and WordPress. WooCommerce has the edge here as it’s backed by WordPress’s powerful, SEO friendly platform. That’s not to say that Shopify’s isn’t SEO friendly, because it is, WordPress is just better.
Shopify also has the advantage over WooCommerce when it comes to support – they offer 24/7 support, while WooCommerce has no free support option.
Ultimately, WooCommerce is probably better for those who want to customise because of its abundance of plugins and addons, while Shopify is best for a ready-made, ready-to-use shop.
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