Shopify vs WooCommerce, SaaS or self-hosted

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E-commerce is more popular than ever and new stores are created every hour. From small webshops with a single product to a big store with a lot of products. Here you are trying to make a decision that will decide the way that your customers interact with you. Will you start using a platform like Shopify for your webshop and be ensured of a user-friendly interface and great reliability, or are you going for a WooCommerce store where you can change almost anything? This is an important choice, lets get into it step by step!

To help you pick the right system for your needs, we will explore different categories to discover differences and similarities between WooCommerce and Shopify.

Requirements

– Shopify

Shopify is a service and is hosted on their servers. This makes the requirements to start very little. All you need is to create an account and you can directly start adding products to your store. This low barrier to entry represents Shopify as a whole, this system is built for ease of use and requires almost none technical know-how.

– WooCommerce

The requirements for WooCommerce are a bit more specific, however. Since you need to host this software yourself, web hosting is a requirement. Once you have set up your hosting-environment it is time to set up WordPress. This is the base where WooCommerce will run on. If you have any experience with WordPress, you will know that it can be pretty easy to set up but the system will need some maintenance from time to time. Once you have installed the WooCommerce plugin for WordPress you are all set to start adding your products. To start selling you will need to also add a payment-provider and you are open for business!

SEO

Search Engine Optimization is a big thing for most webshops. Optimizing your shop to generate more organic visitors will almost always result in higher conversion rates. This is because the visitor ended up on your site because of the search-query that was used, not because you paid for the click that got hem here. Both systems have very decent SEO capabilities out of the box, but it can be very interesting to search for some good extensions to improve your SEO.

– Shopify

Optimizing your webshop for Search engines is mostly build into Shopify, there are automatically generated sitemaps so your site can get indexed faster and there are a few nice features to get you started for a great SEO score. Their features include editable page and product titles and meta-descriptions. This can be very useful so you can always incorporate the right keyword into your title to boost your page. Another great feature is the automatic 301 redirect when you change the URL of a page. This is very important because you do not want to end up with an error 404 when someone follows an old link.

There is one downside to the way Shopify is built in terms of SEO and this is due to the URL structure. You do not have to flexibility to edit the URL structure making it difficult to set up your products hierarchical. Hopefully, this feature will be added in the future to improve the SEO capabilities but right now this is one of the restrictions that come with using a service instead of hosting a solution yourself.

– WooCommerce

WooCommerce can be a great performer in terms of SEO since it is built on WordPress which has great blogging-capabilities, this combination can be a great content-marketing tool for your business. To master SEO in WooCommerce you are probably going to need to use a plugin. Yoast SEO is one of the most popular plugins when it comes to SEO and WordPress. If you are searching for a free solution, please check-out Rank Math, this plugin is a great performer with a lot of customization options. The advantage that WooCommerce has is that you can do almost anything you want with it. This system can be tailored exactly to your SEO needs. An example of this is the ease way that you can add rich snippets to your site, without the need to pay for it every month.

Security

Websites are getting scanned for vulnerabilities and exploited every day. When you are handling the personal data of your visitors it should be the highest priority to keep this data safe. There are a lot of ways that your site can be misused by visitors that have malicious intentions. A big way in which these systems differ is in who is responsible for the maintenance and security. Please note that you are always responsible for keeping your accounts as secure as possible, please consider using a password manager and follow security best-practices when you are dealing with your own or the personal data of others.

– Shopify

Since Shopify is a Software as a Service (SaaS), the security of this service is handled by Shopify. Except for setting a good password, you will have to do nothing technical to maintain the security of your webshop. This is where the restrictions that come with Shopify become a strength. There is also an option for “2-factor authentication”, this way you can use a device like your phone as an additional way to authenticate yourself. Behind this layer of protection lives the data of your customers. We do encourage you to set up the 2FA method to keep this as secure as possible. Unfortunately, the price of security is mostly paid in user-friendliness, but this small interruption significantly increases your security.

– WooCommerce

Since WooCommerce is not a service, the security is tied to your hosting-setup. When you are choosing this kind of setup, please make sure that everything is properly set up and that the needed security-measures are in place. Additionally, we do recommend frequent penetration-tests to ensure the security of your webshop. To get you started we do recommend the WordFence Security plugin about which you can read more here. The great flexibility and endless options that are possible with a system like WooCommerce can also result in security risks. Of course, this does not mean that every WooCommerce store is unsafe or that you should never buy anything at a webshop that uses this software. WooCommerce can be a very safe secure and fast webshop-solution if it is set up and maintained right.

Cost

– Shopify

Shopify provides a webshop as a service with support included. There are costs related to this service. Prices for this service start at $29,- a month, this is only for the base platform. Most apps that you can use to extend or enhance your store also include a monthly fee. Overall the prices of extensions are higher within the Shopify platform compared to WooCommerce.

– WooCommerce

WooCommerce might be a free open-source project but there are the costs that you will have to pay for the requirements and possibly the custom development. Since the monthly costs are very low when you host this solution yourself, you can spend more on the specific features you need. Overall a WooCommerce store is cheaper in most cases compared to a Shopify store. This is because of the lower monthly costs and the lower cost for extensions and development.

Summary

These systems are designed with different end-users in mind. The system that suits you best will be dependent on the type of shop you want to run and the technical know-how that you have (or how willing you are to pay a developer). Shopify is a great and reliable system that will be great if you don’t want to code to much on your own store and just want to have a webshop next to your current business. WooCommerce is great if you do have some technical know-how and you want to use de flexibility of this system to your advantage. The options are endless and when implemented well, you visitors can enjoy beautiful custom experiences.