The eComm Platform Plunge: How Deep Do You Need to Dive Before Deciding?
The quest for the perfect eCommerce platform is fraught with frustrating moments, but with some insights from those in the know, it’s possible to survive (mostly) unscathed. Attempting to evaluate all the possible eComm options may not be impossible, but it’s undesirable. To get the most out of this comparison exercise, isolating the top couple of platforms and putting them side-by-side makes a lot of sense. WooCommerce and Shopify are both used by some of the biggest brands in the world. Sony Music and The Walt Disney Company are under the WooComm client list and Tesla and Budweiser are under Shopify.
But will simply following the leaders mean you’ll wind up in the right place? It’s doubtful, because these brands roll with enormous financial and human resources behind them, bearing little resemblance to most businesses agonizing over the infamous Martech 5000 Supergraphic (now actually over 7,000 companies are represented). Mostly the big brands have served to introduce the platforms they have identified as solid for their purposes. So, while it’s tempting to compare your enterprise to Sony or Tesla, it’s smarter to see your business as it is and get to work finding the e-commerce solution that fits.
Shopify vs. WooCommerce: What’s the Difference?
Fundamentally, WooCommerce and Shopify don’t really identify as the same thing even though they are both e-commerce platforms. Shopify is a turn-key, a comparatively easy way to spin up an online store with built-in payment processing and inventory management. With Shopify you don’t ever have to deal with tech management of a website such as hosting, security, caching, etc. Alternatively, Woo-Commerce is not an all-in-one platform. It is an open-source plugin built for WordPress. You can use it to run an online store that leverages the most powerful content management system (CMS). But with more power, you need more knowledge. Open-source means you can customize every aspect of your store, so for businesses who come to the table with a higher level of technical skills on hand, it can be tooled into a solution that doesn’t require compromise. It’s not a great fit for the less tech-savvy, but a good fit for some!
The fees associated with each platform bear consideration. What are the true costs to getting up and running? What happens as your business scales? Shopify for example has built-in payment processing with tiered monthly fees combined with a per transaction cost. That cost can be reduced if you decide to run this through a 3rd party service, but generally Shopify is considered the more costly option. Processing fees for a business that’s just getting started would be the same as many platforms, but with increased growth, the fees can become steep. WooCommerce is also known as self-hosted WordPress because it’s splits out things like hosting, SSL certificate and domain costs. Since most of these items are relatively inexpensive, and because you can often find free themes, add-ons that plug into WooComm, it can be less expensive than Shopify. WooCommerce also lets you control your budget because you can add tools and plugins on an as-needed basis. The cost-benefit analysis would really come down to how much and how fast the business grows and how important the ease-of-use factor is to the team responsible for managing the platform.
When it comes to drag and drop convenience, the Shopify interface is pretty breezy. It’s fully hosted so there’s no need to install, manage or update software. Compatibility issues, backups, security and platform performance are not your problem, and you don’t need to be a designer to get a slick looking shop. Woo-Commerce offers full control of the entire platform. It’s incredible when it comes to customization and virtually unlimited functionality plugins. It’s perfect for a business that prefers hands-on management of their e-commerce and who are not daunted by the significant learning curve for non-technical team members.
Growing pains are so-called for a reason. Scaling often brings new complications and challenges to a business and can turn a positive turn of events into a major source of suffering if there is no plan. The Shopify infrastructure works to go with the grow, so finding the more zen moments as your business accelerates means simply upgrading your plan. Inefficiencies are another bane of businesses in the middle of expansion. It’s not uncommon to discover resources that are adding to the costs while being underutilized or not used at all. WooCommerce offers more control over this problem area as the self-hosting features allow more flexibility when deciding what functions and features stay and which ones need to go.
Data ownership is another area where these two platforms diverge. Self-hosted WooCommerce is entirely under the control of the business and total ownership of data. On Shopify, you can freely and easily access your data, but you never really have complete control of it. The live copy of it sits on the Shopify servers. However, this fact has not done much to dampen the Shopify detections online. In 2018, WooCommerce was the worldwide champ of e-commerce detections, but looking at Google Trends over the most recent handful of years, Shopify appears to have slowly overtaken it. While both have seen steady growth, by zeroing in on the top 10,000 websites, it’s apparent that only about 6% use WooCommerce as compared to Shopify’s 23% share of those sites.
For some marketers however, the highly controversial banning of certain products by Shopify is good reason for caution. In 2017, Shopify shut down stores containing certain “pseudo-pharmaceutical” ingredients. Many of these products were in the supplement, natural health and beauty category and the ingredients in question are widely in circulation. Like the question of data collection, management and ownership, product censorship is a thorny issue that the banned businesses did not expect to encounter. This could represent a big reason for some businesses to go the way of WooCommerce. Another reason could simply get down to a general preference for the WordPress ecosystem of plugins and support. Businesses with a high level of variations in products, checkout processes or pricing structure, and who want complete control, will probably get more out of the flexibility offered by WooCommerce. If the plan is to sell simple products with minimal variations, Shopify can save a lot of frustration related to onboarding by being a comparatively fast and easy process with tons of convenient features and infinite scalability. Taking the platform plunge doesn’t have happen from the high dive. Taking the time to take a closer look at the layers under the surface will help the commitment feel safe.
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