Now more than ever, shoppers are going to the web for their purchases. These days, we can order pretty much anything online, from clothes and electronics to software and even groceries.
Customers appreciate the convenience of making purchases from the comfort of their homes 24 hours a day. There are several other reasons why more and more people prefer shopping online including better prices, wider variety, easier to compare prices and so on. It’s for these reasons, every major retailer is now offering their wares online instead of just in the shops.
Online shops also offer many advantages to their owners, mostly that they are cheaper to maintain. In contrast to brick-and-mortar businesses, there’s no need to rent space, take out insurance, or any of the other things involved in running an in-store business.
These days, you can open up shop online for the price of a hosting package. In addition, if you are selling digital products or choose dropshipping, you don’t even need storage room and can run your business from anywhere in the world.
Plus, technology has essentially leveled the playing field. An increasing number of high-quality and affordable eCommerce solutions have enabled almost anyone to get started selling stuff online. No wonder more and more business owners opt to do so.
To help you decide which solution is best for your online WordPress shop, we will have a look at four of the biggest players in the eCommerce game: WooCommerce, Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce.
Together, they power about half of all online shops and in the following, we will examine their strengths, weaknesses, and what purposes they are most suited for. All of these eCommerce solutions offer easy integration with your WordPress site. In the end, we want you to be able to make an informed decision about which solution to use for your own online shop.
Ready to rock ‘n’ roll? Let’s dive in.
The first one on the list is by far the largest of the bunch. The WordPress plugin WooCommerce powers almost 41 percent of all online shops. That doesn’t just make it the most popular eCommerce solution for the WordPress platform but the most popular eCommerce solution, period.
In 2015 alone, WooCommerce was downloaded more than 7 million times. In the same year, its parent company WooThemes was acquired by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com.
Pretty impressive, right? Now, let’s talk about what makes WooCommerce so popular.
The eCommerce plugin has a lot going for itself:
Cost effective – WooCommerce’s first advantage is its price tag: it’s free. You can download it completely free in the WordPress directory. Since WordPress is also free, you can build a full-fledged online shop for the cost of a hosting package. While some advanced features might be paid (more on that below) most extensions are quite affordable and, most importantly, only need to be purchased once and not subscribed to.
Easy to setup and use – Since we are talking about a WordPress plugin, setup is really easy. Download, install, and activate. After that, a setup wizard will guide you through the beginner-friendly setup. Once you are done, creating and managing products is as easy as other WordPress content. Detailed settings also give you full control over your shop. (For more information, read our WooCommerce tutorial for beginners.)
Feature rich – Users of WooCommerce can sell both physical and digital goods as well as affiliate goods. You can set up product variations, multiple shipping options, and payment gateways as well as coupons, take advantage of full inventory and order management and get detailed reporting.
Highly extendable – Besides the standard features, the eCommerce solution offers a plethora of free and paid extensions. For example, you can add PDF invoices, multi-language capabilities, membership functionality, additional payment options and much more. The price range for paid extensions is from free to $249 for a single-site license.
Customizable – WooCommerce integrates well with most themes so you are free to choose your own design from thousands of possibilities. There are also special WooCommerce-ready themes as well as child themes. Since everything is based on WordPress, with some technically chops you can basically customize everything and the plugin itself is also very developer friendly.
Well supported – The support structure behind WooCommerce is great. Users profit from regular updates and multiple support channels (WordPress forums, documentation, email support from WooThemes). It is also very well established, which makes it easier to find affordable hired help.
SEO and marketing – With WordPress in the background, users get to enjoy the search engine optimization of the platform and can take advantage of powerful SEO plugins like Yoast SEO. Most importantly though, the platform is a blogging powerhouse which shops can use for content marketing.
Full ownership – Finally, one of the main benefits of WooCommerce is that with a self-hosted WordPress website your online shop is fully yours and nobody else’s. With everything located on your own server, you have complete control over what happens with your shops and can always take it with you when you change providers.
Of course, nothing is without flaws, Woo Commerce included:
Advanced customizations need skills – Users can change a lot about their site via mouse clicks and the UI.What possibilities you have in terms of design changes, however, is highly dependent on the theme you are using. Advanced customization might require editing templates and styles, which beginners might find difficult and for which they will possibly have to hire someone else.
Dependent on WordPress – As mentioned, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, not a standalone software. For that reason, you have to be familiar with the WordPress platform and there will be a learning curve for those unfamiliar with the CMS. However, the same is true for all eCommerce solutions on this list.
True costs difficult to calculate – Running a WooCommerce-based online shop comes with different costs including as hosting, maintenance and security measures. Many of these have to be set up separately and are dependent on the providers you use. Some research will be required, however, there are also many all-in-one service offers.
Who is It For?
WooCommerce is especially suitable for anyone who wants to take full ownership and control over their venture. From SMB to enterprise, users can sell almost any product on there and anyone who has ever worked with WordPress will feel right at home.
However, even less experienced users should quickly understand how to set up their shop if they put in a little bit of time. With some extra effort and diving into templates and CSS, there is nothing that can’t be achieved.
Our next contender on the list, Shopify, last year launched Shopify For WordPress. With this plugin, users can sign up for their website and create a store right then and there.
After that, Shopify will host your shop for a monthly fee and take care of all things maintenance and security. It is one of the more popular solutions yet with five percent overall market share, much smaller than WooCommerce. However, 275,000 vendors on the site are nothing to scoff at.
So, what’s good about Shopify?
Easy to use – Shopify is clearly geared toward beginners with little or no development knowledge. Almost everything can be configured via the UI, even the design. This includes previewing your changes before making them permanent.
A wide range of features – Since Shopify is a paid service, it comes with lots of features out of the box that are premium in other platforms. Depending on your plan, you can take advantage of analytics, printable invoices, gift cards, abandoned shopping cart recovery and more.
Extendable – Besides the standard features, there is also the Shopify app store with additional options. These include image optimizers, recurring billing modules, apps for social media promotion and much much more.
Mobile friendly – Mobile purchases have recently eclipsed desktop buyers, therefore Shopify puts a big emphasis on being mobile friendly. It does so with mobile responsive themes, mobile apps for shop owners and other options. Even Facebook messenger can be integrated into the purchasing process.
Great support – Since we are talking about a premium product, we can expect great support. Shopify delivers in the form of extensive documentation, 24/7 email and live chat support as well as help to get in contact with Shopify experts for hire.
So far so good. But are there thing that could be improved?
Advanced customization difficult – The lack of control is also evident in the customization options. While, as mentioned, you can code your own theme, you need to get into Shopify’s custom code base for that.
Expensive – Another downside of Shopify is its price. While you can get a free trial, after that the cheapest of their plans starts at $29/month and it gets more expensive quickly. In addition to that, there are possible one-time payments for themes and recurring fees for apps and additional features. Plus, transaction fees for external payment gateways. In addition to that, hired help is probably more expensive. All these amounts snowball quickly.
Who is It For?
Shopify is absolutely geared toward beginners and people unwilling or unable to manage their own site. If all you want is to take care of your products while someone else worries about the technical stuff and you have the budget, Shopify is the place for you. It is also great for startups, to test business ideas or build an MVP as it allows you to get started super quick.
Similar to Shopify, Magento also offers easy integration with WordPress, enabling you to connect your WordPress site with your Magento store.
Magento is another open source platform that can be installed on your own server. Unlike any other entry on this list, it is specifically aimed at large-scale projects and is also the most technical of the four solutions.
The latter is probably the reason why Magento is especially popular among the top 10,000 websites on the net with a 13 percent market share. Overall, its piece of the eCommerce pie is about six percent.
Let’s see what this solution has to offer:
Free – Magento comes in two editions. The Community Edition is open source, free to download and can sustain small to medium-sized online shops. As with WordPress, costs are limited to the hosting provider, payment processor, domain and other things you need to run a website online. For larger projects, there is the enterprise edition which is paid and pricey (like $17,000 per year pricy).
Tons of features – As an enterprise-level solution, Magento is known for its extensive feature list. The platform is able to manage multiple storefronts, languages, and currencies, can integrate with Google analytics, comes with integrated newsletter marketing, product bundles and an extensive inventory management tool. It also offers multiple payment providers and can deal with both physical and virtual products.
Third-party integrations – Magento also has its own shop for extensions which contains anything from newsletter providers to social integrations. There are also lots of free extensions and the paid ones have a wide pricing range from $0.99 to $8,000.
Customizable – If you know what you are doing, there’s almost nothing that can’t be changed about an online shop built with Magento. Plenty of ready-made design templates make it easy to get started and you can find more around the web.
Marketing-friendly – The eCommerce tool comes with a lot of marketing features out of the box. SEO is configured automatically (with the option to make changes), you have email marketing and ad tools included as well as upsells, promotions, coupons, one-click payments, guest checkouts and more.
Scalable – As mentioned, Magento is the only solution on the list that is built specifically to power large-scale projects. It can handle thousands of products and is relied upon by some of the biggest sites on the net.
Well supported – The makers of Magento offer a slew of help options including the documentation, blog, knowledge base, forums and direct contact to the parent company. They even have a security center that you can turn to in case your shop got hacked.
What can Magento do better?
Unsuitable for beginners – Magento is only a valid option for the highly tech-literate and made with developers in mind, not casual users. Therefore, you either need to deal with a very steep learning curve or hire a specialist. Even the user interface can be overwhelming and needs some getting used to.
Who is It For?
Magento is a real powerhouse that can be used to build large-scale eCommerce websites. However, it doesn’t pretend to be anything else than that and is most suitable for large companies, people with a big budget or coders. Everyone else is probably better off choosing a different solution.
The last on the list is a website builder similar to Shopify but with more features. Sign up, design your shop and BigCommerce will host it for you and take care of the things in the background. Like the others, BigCommerce also offers easy integration with WordPress.
The platform boasts over 95,000 live sites in more than 150 countries and $8+ billion in total sales. It is popular in the middle range of websites with a market share of four percent, however, on the entire Internet, its share is very small.
Let’s see what BigCommerce has under the hood:
Easy to use – The platform sports a very clean and simple UI. In my opinion, it seems even easier to handle than Shopify and its intuitive interface is a constant recipient of customers praise. BigCommerce also offers video lessons on how to use its backend in order to make getting started even easier.
Feature rich – Like all solution on this list, BigCommerce comes with its own set of impressive features. For example, you can’t only sell products but also services and events across multiple channels including Facebook, Pinterest, and eBay. Users also get customer segmentation, custom domains, social sharing, filtered search, one-page checkout, product reviews and much more.
Great design options – As usual, the platform offers themes for changing your shop’s design and they have some good looking templates. Pricing is around $120 to $250 and customizations are possible via a WYSIWYG editor as well as HTML and CSS.
Customizable features – Additional features are available through apps from the official app store. There are loads of free options and you can find anything from cloud integration to shipping options to split testing. Paid options have a wide range of pricing options, often on a monthly basis.
SEO and marketing – BigCommerce has its own content delivery network for fast-loading pages and options to set page titles and meta descriptions right on the product page. It also integrates with Google shopping and you can run promotions, sales, and email marketing campaigns. Coupons, social media integration, and other options round off the feature list and there is even a decent option for blog integration.
Payment options – For payments, the platform offers over 60 gateways. Users can accept payments through their shop instead of third-party services and offer shopping in multiple currencies and with customizable shipping rates. The secure checkout is level 1 PCI compliant, however, your need to purchase your own SSL certificate when moving to a custom domain.
Customer support – Again, for a paid solution clients can expect grade A help. BigCommerce delivers with 24/7 support via phone, live chat, email and a forum. Plus, there’s BigCommerce university with loads of videos to help you make the most out of your site as well as a knowledge base and guides.
Confusing plans – BigCommerce offers several plans, all paid on a monthly basis. Once you hit a certain amount of sales or revenue, you have switched automatically to a higher bracket.This gets a little confusing. It seems like you will be upgraded to the Pro plan ($199.95/month) once you surpass 3,000 sales and need to pay extra for every additional 1,000 orders. Sounds like you can lose control of costs easily.
Pricing – Talking about money, BigCommerce’s pricing changed in 2016 to the tune of many complaints. After a 15-day free trial, the cheapest plan clocks in at $29.95/month (10 percent off if you pay annually instead of monthly). Once you sell more than $125k in revenue per year, your monthly fee increases to $79.95 which is quite the climb. Plus, there’s the switch to the Pro Plan after 3,000 orders which is even more expensive.
Lack of ownership – Since you don’t host the site on your own server, you don’t have full control over it. This becomes especially relevant in case you decide to make the switch to another platform (as many considered after the price hike of this year). With a hosted solution your data is always essentially on someone else’s computer.
Who is It For?
BigCommerce is suitable for small to midsize businesses and anyone who wants to get started quickly. You can literally set up shop in minutes. However, the costs grow together with your shop and BigCommerce’s pricing policy is one of its biggest points of critique.
All of these solutions offer easy integrations with WordPress, allowing you to have the best of both worlds. There are, of course, several amazing WordPress plugins that also provide eCommerce support.
Online business offers many benefits for both sellers and customers, most notedly reduced overhead costs and increased convenience.
When building an online shop, choosing eCommerce platform is vital. Though there are more and more good solutions available, not all of them are created equal or suitable for all types of markets and users.
Above we have compared four of the biggest players in the eCommerce industry, all of which can work beautifully with your WordPress site. Let’s recap our findings:
WooCommerce, the largest of the bunch, is especially suitable for beginners, startups with little budget and users who like both flexibility and having full ownership of their shop.
Shopify lets you get started quickly, works out of the box with little need for technical knowledge, and is for anyone — from beginners to enterprise — willing to pay for premium service.
Magento is the behemoth among the platforms and able to power enterprise-scale online shops. On the other hand, the solution needs serious technical chops or money to pay for them.
Finally, BigCommerce is another easy-to-use SaaS solution loaded with features. Yet, its pricing structure makes it suitable only for those willing and able to pay for them.
And there you have it. Ready to make your pick? Which solution will you go with? The choice is, of course, up to your needs. However, with the information above, you are now able to make an informed decision. Good luck!
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