Online retail has taken precedence over traditional retail. Whether you are a starting a new retail venture or already selling on popular platforms such as Amazon & Ebay, you still need your own online store to dilute your dependency on large e-commerce marketplaces.

Thought you do not have any choices with the features and working of big marketplaces, you have many options when creating your own online store.

Every online store is powered by a shopping cart software of some kind. In early years of dot com era, shopping carts were developed by computer programmers for individual customers as per the customer’s liking. The process of shopping cart development got generalised over a period of time with developers creating reusable with standard features and functions. These software modules can be used to create online feature rich online stores with substantially less effort than it used to be with custom software development.

As a result, there are many shopping cart software available today with the two most popular ones being Woocommerce and Shopify.

Both Woocommerce and Shopify can be used to create feature rich online stores. Each one has its own strengths and understanding them could get mind boggling for anyone who does not have a prior working experience.

In this blog, we have tried to differentiate between Shopify and Woocommerce based on specific business cases. Reading through the following points will be of immense help to anyone wanting to create a new online store.

1. Type of Products

In the online realm, we classify products into three types – virtual, physical and physical with variations. Virtual products are those which can be downloaded directly from the store. These products do not require any customisation and are sold as is. For example, caller tunes. Physical products are our usual everyday products that need to be shipped to the customers. Such products can once again have multiple options like colours, sizes and other specifications.

Both shopify and Woocommerce are designed to sell every type of product. For physical or even virtual products with multiple variants, shopify may need additional modules of software called “apps” that are billable separately on a monthly basis. Woocommerce may also need additional software modules called “plugins” which are either free or have a one time cost. Based on your product needs, Woocommerce might turn out to be more suitable and economical than Shopify.

2. Overall Cost of Ownership

Woocommerce has a free community edition whereas Shopify is a paid software from day one. But this does not decide the overall cost of ownership. There are several other factors you need to consider while deciding the overall costs.

2.1 Hosting Charges

Shopify charges an all inclusive monthly/yearly fee for its hosting as well as software (excluding apps). Woocommerce is free but you still need to pay hosting charges to a hosting company. These hosting charges vary from company to company.

2.2 Charges For Store Features

Most new owners of online stores do not realise the kind of features they need. An online store is very different from a traditional retail business. Things you don’t do in traditional retail are possible to do in online store. One such thing is CRM (customer relationship management). Every online customer leaves their contact information for the store to ship items or communicate back with them. Today there are powerful tools to use customer contact information to reach out to them for various offers and new product launches/availability. Another important feature needed by online stores is return and refund management. With the growth in customers and sales, an online store owner may need many more features that they may not have initially thought of.

When it comes to the cost of adding such features to your online store, Woocommerce often has a much lower cost of ownership than Shopify.

3. Design Customization

Both Shopify and Woocommerce uses themes which are customised in accordance with your store design preferences. Shopify themes are quite rigid in structure and cannot be easily modified. All you can do is replace the text and images per your liking. Woocommerce themes are much more flexible and can be customised in structure and form to a greater extent. However, chances are that you will find a Shopify theme of your choice (the way you want each page to be structured). In that case this difference does not become a barrier if you want to go with Shopify.

4. Technical Proficiency Required

Shopify scores more on this aspect as anyone with lowest level of technical proficiency can easily use and manage a shopify store. With Woocommerce, you or a member of your team needs to have a certain level of technical proficiency to manage your online store. You can also hire a web design company to manage the technical aspects of your Woocommerce store.

There is no straight answer to which shopping cart should be used for a specific online store. One needs to list down all the present and future features, design style, their budget and reach out to a specialist to figure out which platform would suit them best. Remember, your store is your own business which you would run in your own specific way. Do not fall in the trap of looking at other competitors and mimic what they’re doing. You do not want to end up committing the same mistakes as they would have.

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