WooCommerce vs Shopify: which is better for small business ecommerce?

You could create a successful online store with either WooCommerce or Shopify, but which is right for your business?

Our experts

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WooCommerce and Shopify are ecommerce giants, but very different beasts. Shopify is an ecommerce platform that allows anyone to create an online store with very little need for technical skills, while WooCommerce is an open source plugin for WordPress that requires a little more skill.

Both are aimed at the more advanced ecommerce operations. But having tried and tested both, we can confidently say that, for most small businesses that just want to get online and start selling, Shopify would be your best bet.

Still, that doesn’t mean Shopify is right for your small business. We’ve put these two ecommerce behemoths head to head and compared them on the areas that we know are most relevant to our readers.

0 out of 0
Best for
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
Pricing
Key features
Visit

Customisation and scalability

Best range of apps and extensions

4.1
4.6

Free to download but themes and plugins cost extra

£20-£211 per month

Offers more than 50,000 integrations and extensions through its app store

Highly customisable

100 payment gateways and no setup or monthly fees

  • Fantastic in-built sales features
  • 80 themes to choose from
  • 100 payment gateways
  • No transaction fees with Shopify payments

WooCommerce for small businesses

4.1 out of 5
  • Website features
    4
  • Sales features
    4
  • Design flexibility
    4
  • Help and support
    5
  • Value for money
    4.2
  • Customer score
    3.5

The main benefit of WooCommerce for growing small businesses is its near limitless customisability and scalability. Shopify is also great for scaling businesses, but it doesn’t quite have the same flexibility to allow for more bespoke requirements.

The main disadvantage of WooCommerce is that, unless you already happen to have some coding skills, in order to get good results, you’re going to need to spend time and money upskilling or hire someone who can edit it all for you.

Also, although it’s free to install, the cost of the extensions you need to add to your WooCommerce site can really add up.

Shopify for small businesses

4.6 out of 5
  • Website features
    4.2
  • Sales features
    4.5
  • Design functionalities
    3.9
  • Value for money
    3.0
  • Help and support
    3.8
  • Ease of use
    3.5

Shopify, although still quite expensive, has more predictable pricing. It's aimed at the more advanced end of the market for ecommerce platforms for small businesses, and is designed more for scaling online stores that are targeting tens of thousands, or even hundred of thousands, in annual sales.

Check out our full Shopify review.

Best value for money: Shopify

WooCommerce might be a free plugin, but if you want to make the best use of it for your ecommerce business, you’ll probably need to spend a lot more than you would on even the most expensive Shopify plan.

We’re not ruling out WooCommerce for everyone. If you want the more expensive themes and features that make this platform a great choice for large online stores, then they’re worth it.

But if you’d prefer predictable, tiered pricing, Shopify is the better option than WooCommerce.

WooCommerce pricing and plans

WooCommerce is free to download as a plugin for your WordPress website. But you’ll need to pay for hosting and a domain name.

  • Hosting – can cost anything from £2 to £400 a month or more depending on the size of your online store and whether you choose shared, VPS, or dedicated hosting. If you are going to use WooCommerce, we’d recommend choosing one of Bluehost’s two dedicated WooCommerce plans, which have been designed for an optimal experience with this ecommerce plugin.
  • Domain name – On average, a domain name is going to cost you around £7-£12 per year

Optional costs:

  • Themes – £0-£70
  • Extensions – £70-£300
  • Plugins – £20-£110
  • Security – £5-£350
  • Developer – £4,000

Find out more about WordPress website costs here.

Shopify pricing and plans

Shopify offers three plans for businesses: Basic Shopify (£20 per month), Shopify (£56 per month), and Advanced Shopify (£211 per month). It also offers a 14-day free trial, though you can’t start selling until you start paying.

The advertised price of Shopify’s plans is for a monthly billing cycle. You can significantly reduce the cost of your plan if you choose an annual, two-year, or even three-year subscription. For example, with a three-year billing cycle, your Advanced Shopify plan would be reduced in price from £211 to just £155 per month.

Basic Shopify £20 per month

For those just starting out in ecommerce, you can create an online store with 20 themes to choose from, manage orders, and access reports into finance, customer behaviour, and marketing.

Shopify £56 per month

You get much more powerful reporting tools with the Shopify plan as well as lower transaction fees and international selling support, making it a good option for scaling businesses that want to go global.

Advanced Shopify £211 per month

For larger businesses making loads of sales, the Advanced plan gives the lowest rates so you’re getting more for your money with every sale. It also gives you access to Shopify’s most advanced reporting and international selling tools.

Read more about Shopify’s pricing here.

WooCommerce vs Shopify: Which has the best free plan?

It’s hard to compare WooCommerce’s free options directly. Shopify has a 14-day free trial period (during which you can build your store but not start selling), and while WooCommerce is free to download, you’ll still need to invest in hosting and a domain name, and download paid-for themes and extensions if you want a more sophisticated online store.

Best for website features: Shopify

WooCommerce offers more than 50,000 integrations (compared to Shopify’s 1,200). This can be seen either as an advantage or a disadvantage. On the one hand, WooCommerce gives you near limitless options, and the scope to really make your website your own; on the other hand, it’s much harder to sift through all the rubbish to find the good stuff.

Shopify also has a lot of in-built features that are as good (if not better) than anything you could discover in WooCommerce’s vast library of apps.

Best for sales features: Shopify

Shopify’s victory here isn’t so much because it has superior quality features to WooCommerce, but more in recognition of how much more accessible its in-built, ready-to-use features are. This makes it much easier for someone to get their online store up and running.

WooCommerce still offers nearly all the features Shopify does, but in many cases, you’ll have to pay for and install them separately.

Payments

WooCommerce doesn’t charge you any setup or monthly fees, it just charges 1.4% + 20p (as well as 2% for currency conversion when the customer’s currency is different to the deposit currency). In contrast, Shopify Payments doesn’t charge any transaction fees, you just pay the credit card payment processing fee of 2.2% + 20p. However, if you’re using any other payment processor, you’ll pay an extra 2% transaction fee on top of any credit card processing fee levied by the payment gateway.

Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer you a dizzying choice of over 100 payment gateways, including Stripe, PayPal, Apple Pay, Square, and credit/debit cards.

Inventory

WooCommerce has some excellent inventory management plugins, including ATUM, Z Inventory Manager, and Smart Manager. But Shopify is more convenient: as soon as you’ve chosen your theme, you’re ready to start uploading an unlimited number of products in its easy-to-use back end (and can avoid the agony of choosing the ‘right’ inventory manager from WooCommerce).

Shipping

Shopify Shipping is an in-built suite of features that make it easy and affordable to fulfil your customers’ orders. This includes discounted rates with major delivery providers, a costs calculator, and printing labels. All of this can be managed from your dashboard, which you can also use to track the status of your parcels that are out for delivery.

WooCommerce’s free Shipping extension actually provides some basic shipping functions – including flat rate shipping, free shipping, and local pickup – ‘out of the box’. However, incorporating more advanced shipping options into your online store comes at a cost. Check out WooCommerce’s full list of shipping extensions here.

Best for design flexibility: Shopify

The key difference between WooCommerce and Shopify when it comes to design is that, while it’s easier to get great results with Shopify, WooCommerce gives you a lot more scope for creativity – it just requires a lot more work.

Shopify has 80 themes to choose from: 10 are free, 70 are available for a one-off payment (ranging in price from around $180 [£130] to $350 [£250]). All have been carefully selected to be a great option for anyone looking to build an online store.

WooCommerce has literally thousands of themes, templates, and CMS products available through ThemeForest. Some are free, while the paid ones cost between a few pounds and hundreds of pounds. However, they’re of varying quality and generally require a lot more technical input from you to get great results.

Best for help and support: WooCommerce

If you’re using WooCommerce powered by Bluehost (which is what we recommend), then you get access to Bluehost’s excellent 24/7 customer support. This includes phone and live chat support, and a knowledge centre that’s packed with useful information. Through WooCommerce itself you can access a range of setup guides and send tech support tickets.

Compared to many other ecommerce platforms, Shopify’s help and support is up there, with everything from 24/7 phone and live chat support to email and an online forum. It’s hard to compare the platforms directly beyond that, as they both operate in very different ways. But because of the additional support available through Bluehost, WooCommerce probably takes this one.

Best for ease of use: Shopify

Shopify is our ease of use winner, allowing you to pick a theme, edit a few elements and get live within minutes. WooCommerce is a much more complex platform that requires at least some technical knowledge.

As we’ve covered extensively above, one of the main things that gets in the way with WooCommerce is the sheer number of plugins, themes, and integrations available. Great if you have a very specific idea of what you want and you like the variety, but overwhelming if you’re inclined to be indecisive.

Shopify also has plenty of plugins, but everything you need to get started is built-in and ready to use.

How do WooCommerce and Shopify compare to other ecommerce platforms?

0 out of 0
Best for
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
Pricing
Key features
Visit

All-round ecommerce platform for small businesses

Best sales features

Customisability

4.8
4.2
4.2

£13-£22 per month

£22-£216 per month

Free to download, integrations and extensions cost

Easy to use drag-and-drop builder

Extensive app market

Inbuilt SEO and CRM products

  • Top of the range sales features
  • Mulitchannel integration
  • Sell unlimited products

Highly customisable

Running costs are relatively low

Thousands of useful integrations

Wix £13-£22 per month

As a website builder first and foremost, Wix is a very different kind of platform to either WooCommerce or Shopify. It still has excellent sales features, and makes it very easy to create a great-looking online store, so Wix is a great choice for very small ecommerce businesses. However, if you start to scale rapidly, you might quickly discover the limitations of its sales features.

BigCommerce £24-£240 per month

With similarly priced plans and a similar target market, BigCommerce is a direct Shopify rival. Shopify trumps BigCommerce in most of the areas our researchers assessed, including sales features and help and support. The one thing we really like about BigCommerce is that it automatically moves you up the pricing tiers if your monthly sales exceed each plan’s limit, so you’re paying the best-value fees for your turnover.

OpenCart – Free

Like WooCommerce, OpenCart is a free open-source ecommerce platform that businesses can use to create an online store. It’s targeted more at medium-sized ecommerce businesses, and you’ll almost certainly have to hire a developer to make the most of the software, whereas you could probably get by with surface level technical skills using WooCommerce.

Read our full guide to the best ecommerce platforms here.

Verdict

For the majority of small businesses, Shopify’s ready-to-use templates, in-built sales features, and affordable pricing make it the smart choice. You could be uploading products into the inventory of your online store within minutes.

WooCommerce has a much steeper learning curve, and requires a lot more time, money, and attention to get great results. That makes it a better choice for businesses that have niche requirements and more resources.

You can try Shopify free for 14 days, so why not get started with a free trial today? You don’t need a credit card to sign up – you’ll simply lose access to your site after the two-week period if you decide not to upgrade to a paid plan.

WooCommerce doesn’t have a free trial, but is free to download. If you already have a WordPress website, then why not try it out?

FAQs

Which is better: WooCommerce or Shopify?

If you want to create an online store in minutes and have all the vital features you need included from the outset, then Shopify is your best bet.

If Shopify is like a ‘build your own’ kit, WooCommerce is more like building something from scratch. It gives you much more freedom, but that comes at the cost of time and money.

Is WooCommerce or Shopify better for small businesses?

Shopify is better for small businesses. With its predictable, tiered pricing and off-the-shelf themes that are ready to use after populating with your brand info, small businesses short on time and resources will find Shopify a much more accessible option.

Is WooCommerce cheaper than Shopify?

If you really want to make the most of what WooCommerce has to offer, then no, it’s not cheaper than Shopify. In theory, you could download WooCommerce as a free plugin, use a free theme, and use exclusively free apps and extensions, but you’ll end up with an online store that’s vastly inferior to Shopify.

Who should use WooCommerce and who should use Shopify?

WooCommerce should be used by businesses that have much more bespoke requirements than could be achieved with an ecommerce store builder like Shopify, and that have the resources to commit to ongoing design and maintenance.

Shopify is for small businesses that expect to make tens of thousands in annual online sales, and that want to get up and running with minimal fuss.

Henry Williams headshot
Henry Williams Content Manager

Henry has been writing for Startups.co.uk since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also acted as project lead on many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Business Ideas, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides.

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