Shopify vs. WooCommerce: What to use for your custom ecommerce project

If you’re a startup, or an established brand without a strong ecommerce presence, we would recommend two main choices for running your online store – Shopify and WooCommerce.

Both are fine choices, and they each have situations where they are most appropriate. But we definitely have a preference between the two, and it probably isn’t the one you think.

Before we dive deep into the details, let’s first run through some of the basics.

Here’s a more thorough breakdown of the fixed and variable costs associated with the two services.

Cost Overview of Shopify Plus vs. WooCommerce

Shopify Plus
shopify-plus-yearly-costFixed Costs (Cost to Build)

  • Design + Development = $30,000

Variable Costs (Cost to Maintain)

  • Developer Maintenance Costs = $2,000/month
  • Domain + Hosting Costs = $2,000/month

First Year Cost = $78,000
Annual Cost After Development = $48,000

WooCommerce

woocommerce-yearly-cost

Fixed Costs (Cost to Build)

  • Design + Development = $30,000

Variable Costs (Cost to Maintain)

  • Developer Maintenance Costs = $2,000/month
  • Domain + Hosting Costs = $200/month

First Year Cost = $55,200
Annual Cost After Development = $26,400

It’s critical to consider not only the upfront cost of a ecommerce site build, but also the cost to maintain the website depending on the platform. For example: Despite an equal cost to build, a Shopify site may wind up being the more expensive option due to higher maintenance costs.

What is Developer Maintenance Costs?

You might be wondering about the “Developer Maintenance Costs,” and whether that’s necessary for your website. The answer is, yes, it absolutely is… unless you’re a professional developer. On average, online retailers ​spend about 7%​ of their online revenue on supporting and maintaining their ecommerce systems. The monthly retainer that we use for all of our ecommerce clients offers 20 hours of work for $2,000.

This ultimately saves you money as you have people on call to keep your online store running smoothly, and you’re also investing in improving functionality over time. So, to sum up, if you need a presence that is customized in any way, and you want to save money, ​WooCommerce is definitely the better option​.

However, what if you’re just getting started with an ecommerce presence, and you want to limit your initial costs, that might change.

Why is Shopify On-Going Costs More Expensive than WooCommerce?

Remember, of course, that these are the costs to BUILD the site – that’s not factoring in the annual savings of not paying Shopify’s $2,000 a month subscription fee for your custom theme!

There are several ways to increase AOV, but it usually stems from one of two things:

  1. Customers purchase more items
  2. Customers buy higher priced item(s)

If you can do either one of these things, you will be able to increase your AOV, and consequently, your total revenue.

With that in mind, let’s look at how to influence customer behavior in order to increase AOV in your WooCommerce store.

Why is WooCommerce More Customizable than Shopify?

Typically there is a plugin or app for the majority of use cases that ecommerce websites run into. If there’s not, you can either build it yourself or hire a WooCommerce expert (like, say, ​SG Web Partners​) to build it for you. This removal of constraints is a key differentiator from Shopify. ​If the nature of your ecommerce business requires something a bit different from the general shopping cart experience, WooCommerce may give you a platform that you can shape to meet your needs.

Reasons to use ​Shopify

Shopify is about as simple as it gets. You don’t need to worry about hosting servers, or backend stuff like ssl certificates and server upgrades. Shopify take care of all of this for you. Shopify’s basic plan starts at $14.99 per month, and is designed to scale with you. Many enterprise ecommerce websites with sales in the millions continue to use Shopify, such as Kylie Jenner.

That’s why ​we recommend Shopify for small or new businesses, or larger businesses with no current ecommerce presence. If you have no existing website, and you don’t have any intention of building one, then Shopify is a great option.

On top of your monthly costs, you will probably spend money on Shopify Themes to personalize your shop’s appearance. Themes typically cost between $100 and $200 for Shopify.

So for a one-time investment of $200, and then under $200 annually, you’re getting a world class ecommerce platform.

But that’s if you’re looking at a pre-designed, off-the-rack Shopify Theme.

Reasons to use ​WooCommerce

Regular readers of this blog will know we are especially fond of WooCommerce. In a few short years WooCommerce has become one of the most popular ecommerce platforms in the world.

Based on data from ​Built With​, 22% of the top 1 million sites using ecommerce technologies are using WooCommerce. That’s more than both Shopify and Magneto.

If you already have a WordPress site in place and have experience managing websites running WordPress, WooCommerce is an excellent starting point for both Small and Medium ecommerce websites with intermediate and expert ecommerce fluency.

It’s true that this is a bit higher than the costs for the entry-level Shopify plan. But with the Shopify plan, your options are highly restricted, while WooCommerce gives you customization flexibility and freedom from the outset. Remember, of course, that these are the costs to BUILD the site – that’s not factoring in the annual savings of not paying Shopify’s $2,000 a month subscription fee for your custom theme!

And speaking of which, let’s talk about the specifics of WooCommerce themes.

Here’s a more thorough breakdown of the Pros/Cons associated with the two services.

Pros and Cons of Shopify and Woocommerce

Shopify/Shopify Plus

Shopify is a great platform for users that want to start their own website by themselves (Shopify), or for those who want to do a lot of advanced customizations (Shopify Plus). Unfortunately the middle ground between the 2, doesn’t leave a lot of room for customizations.

Pros

  • Lots of functionality with their B2B/Wholesale system
  • Hosted ecommerce software
  • Takes care of the technical maintenance of running a store for you
  • Scalable ecommerce platform
  • Quality support 24/7
  • Do-it-yourself friendly
  • Robust set of features right out of the box.
  • Much better marketing and name recognition

Cons

  • Cannot do a wholesale/B2B site with normal Shopify Plans (Basic, Normal, Advanced), need to do Shopify Plus ($2,000/month)
  • Without Shopify Plus, you need to know coding to customize/make edits extensively
  • Proprietary coding language to learn if you want to make significant edits
  • Have to pay $2,000/month to have access to their B2B/wholesale capabilities
  • More expensive than WooCommerce when customized
  • SEO: If you have a blog or existing web presence, you will likely need to host on WordPress anyway – which means your WordPress and Shopify presences are split. This is disastrous for SEO and Google search ability.
  • Good Shopify developers are expensive, and many lack the skill set needed to make highly customized edits
  • Hosted service has limits to what you can and cannot customize, even at the highest service tiers

WooCommerce/Wordpress

WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce plugin for WordPress. It is designed for small to large-sized online merchants using WordPress. ​A study conducted in 2017 shows that WooCommerce stores collectively account for nearly $10 billion in sales.

Pros

  • Limitless customization with relatively little added cost
  • Can easily create a new B2C site and sync the inventory
  • Less expensive for most businesses
  • Our experience building it, will save you time/money
  • Unified website/blog/store presence provides powerful SEO
  • Saves money over time (far less hosting/maintenance fees than Shopify)
  • Best user experience for the end user (because we can customize it to your needs)
  • Availability of Developers: WooCommerce is based on WordPress/PHP, one of the most popular development platforms in the world. There is never any trouble finding a developer for anything you need.
  • Greater functionality – While WooCommerce doesn’t necessarily have all the features Shopify has right out of the box, the rich development environment ensures that there is a plugin, or a way to create one, to solve ANY problem.

Cons

  • Breaks more easily if the site is poorly coded
  • No phone-based customer support – only support via submitting tickets
  • This problem is mitigated by having a good developer and a maintenance retainer!
  • Weak marketing – WooCommerce is a open-sourced platform, and so doesn’t have a marketing machine to tout its own virtues
  • Requires a skilled developer – poor coding can expose security and functionality flaws in the site
  • Again, be sure to get people who can build your site the RIGHT way from the outset, and these drawbacks cease to exist!

Notable ecommerce Projets

Shopify ecommerce Projects:

BoomBoom​ (Aired on Shark Tank in October 2018)

This wellness company needed a beautifully-designed ecommerce website to support their appearance on the popular TV show Shark Tank.

Piff MPLS

The launch of Piff’s new digital storefront has enabled this reseller sneaker and streetwear company to consistently drive online revenue & increase profitability.

WooCommerce ecommerce Projects:

StormCreek B2B Site and S​tormCreek B2C Site

This outdoor apparel company required both a B2C and B2B ecommerce website with the ability to integrate everything with their inventory management system.

Branch Basics

Branch Basics creates high-quality cleaning products made from non-toxic, powerful multi-use cleaning concentrate that will solve all of your household cleaning needs without sacrificing your health.

CircleRock

We launched the first ever website for a new menswear clothing company that makes Custom made suits, sport coats, dress pants, and shirts.