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Thinking about launching an ecommerce store, either as a full-time career shift or a side hustle to bring you a secondary revenue stream? If so, you’re not alone. The online retail industry is abuzz with entrepreneurial activity — and for good reason. While other industries have suffered hugely during the COVID-19 pandemic, ecommerce has gone from strength to strength. Many more people are shopping online, and online businesses can work even when times get tough.

The key to the rise of ecommerce entrepreneurs, though, is the overall accessibility of running an online store. It may have once been complicated and expensive, but the opposite is true today: anyone with a little time and energy can take advantage of fantastic online platforms that make it possible to get decent stores up and running quickly, easily, and cheaply.

In this post, we’re going to compare WooCommerce and Shopify: two of the most popular ecommerce platforms. Each of these platforms supports a lot of stores and brings a lot to the table, so there’s no wrong option — but if you must pick one, which should you go with? Which is better for the average entrepreneur? Let’s get into it.

The pros and cons of Shopify

Let’s start with Shopify, probably the most well-known all-around solution on the market today. Its meteoric rise should actually be credited in no small measure with driving the immense growth of online retail: many merchants launched their first stores through Shopify, and most of those stuck with it as they moved on to grander ambitions and greater success.

This platform is the perfect option for anyone who wants to cover all the bases with minimal effort. You can do it all through Shopify: run anything from a tiny side business to a massive enterprise-level operation. You can learn from the free range of detailed guides (before you try dropshipping, for instance, you can get up to speed on the structure of the model). You can take advantage of fantastic 24/7 support. In short, Shopify supports you from start to finish.

So what are the cons? Well, it’s a fully hosted solution, and that means there are some notable limits on your control. You have to use Shopify servers, and if something goes wrong then there won’t be much you can do aside from log a complaint. Otherwise, though, it’s really hard to fault the Shopify platform relative to comparable options. It’s reasonably priced, fast, efficient, and produces attractive stores that run well on all devices.

The pros and cons of WooCommerce

Next, we’ll look at WooCommerce: by far the biggest ecommerce plugin running on the WordPress platform. Yes, it isn’t exactly a conventional platform: WordPress is the biggest CMS in the world, powering countless blogs and business websites alike, and it can also serve as the foundation of a fantastic ecommerce site when extended with something like WooCommerce.

Most notably, WooCommerce is completely free to use. You do need to pay for the hosting for your site, of course (and for official support if you want any), but otherwise you can skip the bills. This is really appealing for first-time merchants who don’t want to make any big commitments or risk their savings. And because it’s an open-source system with no practical limitations on it, you can make whatever alterations you want: if you happen to have some coding skills and want to create a spectacular custom site, well, there’s a lot more freedom to experiment with this option.

Additionally, there’s the incredible range of WordPress plugins to help out. Most of them are fully compatible with WooCommerce, so you can actually customize your site in detailed ways codelessly if you don’t have any programming skills. Since the WordPress interface is so familiar to many, there’s a good chance that you’ll feel comfortable using WooCommerce.

As for the cons, well, it bears repeating that it’s free to use — and in many regards you get what you pay for. Even if you pay for dedicated support, the quality will depend on the service you use, whereas Shopify support is an in-house service that can get to the heart of each issue. Security is another concern. WordPress plugins can cause vulnerabilities, whereas Shopify apps are all chosen carefully and vetted to ensure that they’re safe for ecommerce use.

Why there isn’t a straightforward answer

We can compare and contrast these two options until the end of time, but it won’t get us to a clear conclusion because they aren’t true competitors. Shopify is a full-service solution for those who don’t want to get involved in the technical details of online store development, while WooCommerce is a flexible free tool allowing aspiring merchants to dig deep into complex customization and use whatever hosting services they prefer.

If you just want to minimize your stress as you focus on a well-honed ecommerce business plan, Shopify is the smart pick. It’ll cover all the structural elements while you execute your strategy, and grow seamlessly with your business as it gathers steam.

If you want to stay away from lengthy commitments, retain full control of everything you do, and tweak your store in interesting ways, then go with WooCommerce. It’s the dabbler’s dream, being decently intuitive while allowing you to get extremely granular with your modification.

In the end, both of these ecommerce platforms are outstanding and fully deserving of your time and attention, so you can proceed with confidence regardless of which one you choose.

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Jesse Brede

Jesse Brede is the founder of Lion's Share Digital, an Austin Web Design firm. His passion is helping people accomplish their goals and live their dreams. He is also the founder of Gravitas Recordings, Gravitas Create and Pivotal Talent Agency