Between SEO and scalability, add-ons and plugins, drag-and-drop editing versus full-on customization, there's a lot to consider when selecting an e-commerce platform for your online store.
Here, we'll look at three of the leading e-commerce platforms in today's market and compare which one you should be using for your own store.
First we'll breakdown the key features of Shopify, explaining what it is and how it works, and then compare WooCommerce vs Shopify, and BigCommerce vs Shopify.
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Shopify - what is it and how does it work?
OK, what is Shopify and how does it work exactly? Let us break it down for you.
Shopify is one of the best-known e-commerce platforms there is and has a reputation for being an easy, all-in-one solution. Users of all technical abilities can select a theme, add products, and be up and running in no time.
Additionally, the platform offers security features, caching, and web hosting, so business owners don't need to worry about managing these important, yet somewhat technical considerations.
Shopify is a great tool that works for store owners from the one-person startup to the e-commerce enterprise; however, there are some things you should know before committing to this solution. Here's a look at the pros, cons, and key features you can expect from Shopify.
Editing & Customization Options
Shopify's intuitive drag and drop interface may well be one of the defining features of the app. This makes it easy to quickly add SEO pages and new products while maintaining a consistent look and feel throughout the site.
Of course, the simplified editing tools also mean you're giving up some control in favor of consistency and pro-grade web design. You can only use the design and development tools provided by Shopify or add-ons available in their marketplace.
Still, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most users will be thankful for the full range of pre-designed themes and extensions that save them the expense and the time investment of building a store from scratch.
Shopify themes range from free to premium, which generally costs between $160 and $180. Premium themes are designed by Shopify's user community, which is made up of users with a track record of creating stores for clients that drive results.
Tons of Apps & Integrations
Shopify's App Store is home to something like 500+ different apps, which are developed from a mix of third-party and in-house developers.
There, you'll find extensions for everything from optimizing conversions to adding products to your Instagram feed, tracking orders, and designing a loyalty program to keep customers around for the long haul.
Shopify Payments allows users to accept credit cards directly from Shopify, no need to connect third-party payment processors. The platform processes all major credit cards, plus Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Shopify Pay, which allows customers to save their information for easy checkout on Shopify sites.
Additionally, the Shopify Payments feature allows shop owners to track their cash flow with the mobile app, which brings orders and payments into one central location.
Ease of Use
Shopify's key selling point is that the platform is designed to make starting an online business super easy. The user interface is clean and straightforward.
As is the case with many of the "easy" landing page builders, marketing automation tools, and other SaaS products that promise great design to users with little technical experience, there are some trade-offs. Shopify isn't the most flexible platform.
For example, if you look at the tool's product variant feature, you'll need an extension to add more than the three default variants; color, size, material.
WooCommerce vs Shopify
WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce plugin built for WordPress. Unlike Shopify and BigCommerce, WooCommerce is technically a free shopping cart plugin that allows you to monetize an existing WordPress site.
One of the key benefits here vs Shopify is that WooCommerce allows you to combine WordPress' powerful content management system (CMS) with your online store. Additionally, because WooCommerce is open-source, those users with more advanced technical know-how can build extensions from scratch or customize existing ones to suit their needs.
Editing & Customization Options
WooCommerce comes with free 14 WooThemes, which are attractive, mobile-responsive, and offer clean, image-centric design, and a selection of paid themes designed by the community.
While the other options on this list offer far more in the way of themes, WooCommerce's Design Customizer offers unlimited customization options, allowing full control over everything from CTA buttons to layouts.
App Store & Add-Ons
WooCommerce's open-source platform is built using WordPress, which means that you can connect your store to WordPress's massive collection of add-ons and extensions.
That said, due to the sheer volume of plugins available, there's a wide range in quality and functionality. WooCommerce has its own app store with about official 400 extensions, which, unlike the general add-ons, are designed to work with the e-commerce platform.
Additionally, WooCommerce users gain access to full documentation on GitHub, where they can build on other users’ contributions or share their own with the community.
Like Shopify, WooCommerce accepts payments via Stripe and PayPal by default, and you'll also have the option to add the full spectrum of popular payment methods through add-ons.
While you'll get more customization options with WooCommerce, every feature is billed separately—some are free while others are offered as a monthly subscription—meaning, if you're not careful, the cost of doing business can add up fast.
Even though you can download WooCommerce for free, you do need to pay for several add-on components to run an e-commerce store using the platform. You'll need to pay for hosting separately and make sure you have a hosting solution that can scale alongside your business.
Ease of Use
WooCommerce has a steeper learning curve than you'll find with Shopify or BigCommerce. However, ease of use depends on what you want to do with your store, though they do offer several guides and an active community of users you can turn to for support.
Getting started is relatively simple if you have experience using WordPress. WooCommerce connects with your WordPress platform, like any other WordPress plugin. You'll click "Add New" on the plugins page and search for the add-on, click Install, and Activate.
From there, WooCommerce launches a setup wizard that will walk you through the process.
You'll then be able to purchase a WooTheme or download the free Storefront theme and begin adding products. The process is a lot like adding a blog post or SEO page to WordPress, with the added ability to indicate product categories and attributes.
BigCommerce vs Shopify
BigCommerce is another top e-commerce platform that aims to make it easy to set up and run an online store. Like Shopify, BigCommerce is cloud-hosted and comes with several features, templates, and easy editing tools that make this an accessible solution for beginners and seasoned sellers alike.
BigCommerce is unique in that it runs on an open platform that allows users to build on top of their APIs and create commerce apps and experiences in other platforms including WordPress, Adobe Experience Manager, and more.
Several features cater to B2B sellers, including quote management, purchase order processing, and additional payment options that support client terms.
Editing & Customization Options
BigCommerce brings a strong design game to the table, much like Shopify, and offers a similar setup—with themes, a drag-and-drop editor, and a gallery of customer stores you can draw on for inspiration.
Users can also customize the checkout process and build the site on WordPress. The benefit there is, existing WordPress users can use BigCommerce's servers and security tools without migrating their online store.
Ease of Use
While you won't be welcomed to the platform with a guided tour or tutorial, your dashboard is populated with a list of to dos that will help you get to know your way around the platform.
Clicking on each task takes you to each section on your dashboard, and while the process is pretty intuitive, it could benefit from a bit more background information.
That said, you can always dig into the video archives on the BigCommerce University page, which can help you with both the basics and the more advanced features. Compared to Shopify, which follows standard UX best practices, BigCommerce kind of does its own thing, here—both for better and for worse.
For instance, adding a new product is a lot more work than it needs to be, whereas Shopify makes this process super straightforward. On the flip side, BigCommerce offers more advanced options for customization—which can be harder to master but allows users to make their e-commerce store their own.
BigCommerce has a much smaller app store than Shopify. But the trade-off is, it comes with more features baked into the system. Ultimately, this means you can essentially accomplish the same goals with both platforms.
Shopify offers far more options by category than BigCommerce, but BigCommerce offers more convenience.
WooCommerce vs Shopify vs BigCommerce - Which is Best?
Ultimately, we'd say that Shopify and BigCommerce offer very similar features, functionality, and ease of use. Though BigCommerce brings some unique features like its headless API, B2B features, and customization options, while Shopify stays focused on B2C sellers.
Both offer cloud-hosting and can scale up as your store grows, without the need to manage hosting solutions yourself.
WooCommerce is the outlier here. It's a little harder to master, though there's plenty of documentation to help you out, and things aren't too complex if you follow WooCommerce's recommendations. That said, you're on your own when it comes to hosting, and as a result, you'll need to monitor your server usage to make sure your solution can accommodate your store as it grows.
Additionally, given that BigCommerce can be integrated with WordPress, WooCommerce really only makes sense for those seeking full-customization.