Not so long ago, if you wanted to sell your products online, you’d have to build a website, set up secure payments and wait for emails or check an online database to tell you if you had made a sale.
Then the eCommerce sector matured, and a slew of solutions arrived that helped you leap the various hurdles to setting up an online retail website.
Two of the most prominent are WooCommerce and Shopify. Although they are both designed to do the same thing – facilitate online selling – they go about it in slightly different ways. But which is the best?
It probably depends on what stage your retail operation is at, and how hands-on you want to be. Here, we’ll compare the main features of each to help you decide.
Shopify: simple and quick, at a cost
The idea behind shopify is that a seller can open an account, choose a template (or design one with drag and drop), and open a store in minutes.
Then, it’s just a case of running the site as you wish, adding and removing products with photos, descriptions, sale offers, vouchers and so on. All payments are processed by Shopify, so you don’t have to worry about the security side of things.
If you want your own domain name, you can use that too, although the site will still be hosted by Shopify.
Because Shopify handles all the transactions, it also takes a commission on sales. How much that is depends on the plan you have, but it ranges from a “free” account that takes a relatively high percentage of each sale and is available for new sellers, to an advanced account where you pay a moderate monthly fixed fee but keep more of the money you make from each sale.
WooCommerce: complete control, with some legwork
Another option is to set up and run your own site, in which case WooCommerce might be more appropriate. It’s a WordPress plugin, so if you’re familiar with that CMS, you could be set up pretty quickly.
The main difference is that you have to manage your own hosting, unless you operate through wordpress.com (rather than downloading a wordpress.org site), and set up your own payment processing system.
You can choose your own themes and plugins, but you’ll also be responsible for keeping the site updated and, most importantly, secure.
Which should I choose?
Both systems have their pros and cons, but we’d say your choice really depends on the kind of business you have, or want.
If you’re an established but small retailer, for example a market stall, boutique clothes shop, cottage business or food store, and you don’t want to get bogged down with tech knowledge, Shopify lets you augment your in-person sales with a digital version, and is a great choice.
If you intend to grow and want complete control over the whole site, and maximise the amount of revenue you generate from each sale, WooCommerce probably edges it.
That said, you will need to have a degree of expertise in WordPress, have an in-house development team or use a third-party WordPress developer, which will incur costs.
However, these costs tend to be one-off in nature, as once the site is set up and running, it will only need minimal maintenance unless it grows to making thousands of transactions per day, at which point it becomes a full-time job.