One of the biggest questions you should answer yourself when your start an eCommerce business is this – which platform to use?
Of course, the options are almost limitless but those are the 3 most popular solutions – WooCommerce, Shopify and BigCommerce.
In this blog post, we’re going to compare them and to discuss the pros and cons of each tools so you know which one to choose for your business.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that allows you to create your own eCommerce store.
It currently runs over 1.5 million online stores. It is absolutely free and open-source which gives the freedom to make all the customizations that you want.
WooCommerce Comes with user reviews and ratings
WooCommerce comes with build in reviews and ratings. That way your customers can easily add a review and rate your product by leaving a comment.
You also have the option to add product ratings to items on your homepage.
Nicely organized reports
WooCommerce comes with nicely organized reports that helps you understand how well your online store is performing.
With its help you will be able to see your store’s performance from month to month using graphs and stats.
WooCommerce’s reports has four sections – Orders, Customers, Stock and Taxes.
Orders shows you your gross and net sales volume and totals, as well as top sellers, top freebies, top earners, and product downloads.
Over here you will be able to see sales per date. You have the options to filter results by by year, last month, this month, last 7 days, and a custom date range.
In the second tab of orders, you’re going to see sales per product.
That way you can select any product from your store and check out how well he’s performing with time. Again, you can filter results by year, last month, this month, last 7 days, and custom.
In the third tab of orders, you will be able to see sales by category.
In the fourth tab of Orders, you’re going to see Coupons by date. This shows you the total number of discounts and coupons being used.
You also have the option to filter results based on coupons being used, view the most popular ones and find coupons giving the most discount.
In the customer tab of your reports, you can see reports for Customers vs. Guests and Customer List with options to further sort by year, last month, this month, last 7 days, and custom.
In the Customer vs Guests report you can see what percentage of people bought as customers (registered users) or as guests.
In the stock tab you will be able to see which products are low in stock, out of stock as well as the total quantity of all products.
In the taxes tab, you will be able to see reports about taxes by code (state) and taxes by date. You can filter results by year, last month, this month and custom dates.
it’s a free plugin for WordPress
The best thing about WooCommerce is that it is totally free. It’s a simply plugin for WordPress that you can easily install on your website and start selling online.
However, you need to keep in mind that you would still need to pay for hosting. And this could get expensive as your traffic grows with time.
You need to pay for hosting
WooCommerce might be a free plugin for WordPress but this doesn’t mean it is completely free.
You would still need to pay for hosting to run your site and handle all the traffic that comes to it. And it could get expensive with time.
The bad news is that a typical shared hosting might not always be a good option for you. Typically you will need more resources, SSL certificate, and WooCommerce-centric support platform.
Now let’s give you some examples of how much this could cost you.
Option #1 for you is to use Bluehost which is officially recommended WordPress and WooCommerce hosting provider.
Their starter package starts at $13.99/month (currently discounted to $6.95). And their pro account costs as much as $31.99/month (currently discounted to $12.95).
You need to set it up on your own
The other disadvantage of WooCommerce is that you need to set it up on your own.
This means you need to first install WordPress on your site. Then you need to go and download the WooCommerce plugin.
If you’re not tech savvy enough, this might be difficult for you. That way you might need to hire a WordPress developer experienced with WooCommerce to setup your online store.
The thing is that you would also need more time to setup your themes and make your website working.
On the WooCommerce website you’re going to find a few themes available.
Unfortunately, over there you will see only 2 free themes. So if you’d like something better, you would need to pay for a premium theme.
The good news is that they are relatively cheap – pricing starts at $39 per theme. The bad news is that there are only 14 themes available there.
More WooCommerce themes you can find on ThemeForest where there over 1100 themes available.
WooCommerce Extensions is the official marketplace where you’re going find all apps that connect with the platform.
There are over 300+ over there divided in categories such as enhancements, marketing, payments, shipping, store management, subscriptions and bundles.
A lot of the extensions are free and for the premium ones you usually pay a one-time fee that comes with 1 year of support and updates.
They would usually cost you between $29 and $129 as most are on the cheaper side.
WooCommerce Payment Gateways
WooCommerce supports over 100 payment gateways including Stripe, Square, PayPal, Amazon Pay, etc.
A lot of the Extensions though will cost you money.
You would also need to pay for transaction fees and credit card rates.
WooCommerce Perfect for
WooCommerce is perfect for experienced WordPress users who have their own hosting.
This means it is more suitable for more tech savvy people who know how to use the platform and make all necessary customizations.
Once again, WooCommerce is totally free. It’s a WordPress plugin that you can install right away on your website.
However, don’t forget that you would still need to pay for hosting. And this could get expensive as your traffic grows with time.
The other thing is that setting up your website is not as easy as compared to other platforms. So if you’re not tech savvy enough, you will need to hire some WordPress developer to setup your site.
This adds a lot to your cost.
Shopify is one of the biggest eCommerce solutions out there currently running 500,000+ online stores.
Not only that but it’s easy to and intuitive to use, it has great features and has over 1,400 apps in its App Stores that expands its functionality.
Shopify Offers free hosting
The good thing about Shopify is that they take care of your hosting for free so you don’t have to worry about it.
That way you save a lot of money that you would otherwise spent on hosting costs and hiring people to manage your servers. This could literally be tens of thousands of dollars depending on the size of your store and the traffic that you generate.
Shopify’s hosting comes with unlimited bandwidth and 99.98% uptime. This means that you don’t need to worry about how much traffic you have or if there is going to be any downtime.
Shopify takes care of that.
By doing it, they allows you to focus on what’s important – managing and growing your business.
SEO options and social links
Shopify has great build in SEO features that allows you to easily optimize your stores for search engines.
This makes it easier for you to increase your traffic from search engines like Google so you can scale your business faster.
Modern and user-friendly admin area
Shopify probably has the most user-friendly admin area out of eCommerce solutions out there. It is easy and intuitive to see even by non-tech savvy people.
When you login into your account, the first thing you see is your Shopify Home page or the dashboard.
On this page you’re going to see information about daily tasks, your store’s recent activity, and the next steps you can take to build your business.
By navigating your side bar you can get access the different sections of the Shopify admin.
In the orders section, you can see reports about all orders made on your store
Over there you can the following info for each order – date when the order was made, name of the customer who purchase, payment status, fulfillment status and total value of the order.
In the product section you can view, add, update, and organize all of your products that you’re currently selling on your Shopify store.
This is the section where you can also add new products – you can do that manually or by uploading a csv file.
You can also add product details, add images and options for your products in terms of size or color.
In your customers section, you can see review all of your customers and manage their information.
If your customers create an account with your store, then they can add their address information to their account so that it autofill’s during checkout.
They can also view their order history with your store, and see the current order status for any purchases they make.
In the report section, you can get an information about how well your store is performing.
You can get an information about your sales, traffic, repeat customers, conversion rate, etc.
Biggest app-store (1,400+ apps)
Shopify has the biggest app store available out there with over 1,400 paid and free apps.
Over there you can find apps to extend the normal functionally of your store and help you do more stuff.
You can find apps to help you with marketing, sales, social media, shipping, inventory, customer service, accounting, reporting, etc.
Only three default product attributes
One of the main disadvantage of Shopify is that it has only three default product attributes. So products are defined only by size, color, and material.
So even though you can add a lot of options for these three attributes, you can’t really create any new ones which could be limiting.
It can get costly
The other big disadvantage of Shopify is that could get costly as you grow your business.
The first thing is the monthly costs you would need to pay. With the $9/month plan you can only sell on Facebook so you can’t really do much more with it.
That’s why you would need to pay at least $29/month for it.
Besides that, if you choose not to use Shopify Payments, you would need to also cover individual transaction processing fees.
For Shopify Basic, this means 2.9% + 30¢ for online payments and 2.7% + 0¢ with Shopify POS. The transaction fee for external payment gateways is also 2%.
Besides that, you will also probably spend a lot of money on paid apps extend your store’s functionality.
There are over 100 themes available on the Shopify Website.
All themes are mobile-friendly and super easy to setup and customize.
You have the options to edit them with a drag-drop editor or by editing HTML and CSS directly.
The bad thing is that there are only 10 free themes. Even though there are really well designed and they could work for someone who is just starting out.
If you would like to get a premium theme, it could get costly. A single Shopify theme usually costs $180
As we already said, there are over 1,400 Shopify apps available on their App Store that can help you extend your store’s functionality.
Currently they are divided in categories such as marketing, sales, social media, shipping, inventory, customer service, accounting, reporting, etc.
A lot of them a free but the paid ones usually require a monthly subscription which could get costly as you add more apps that you use with time.
Even though most of the apps are not expensive – a lot of them could cost you $19/month or even less.
Shopify Payment Gateways
Shopify has their own payment gateway that they call Shopify Payments.
With it they don’t charge you any transaction fees which is a huge advantage and it could save you a lot of money.
In this case, they would only charge you credit card rates between 2.7%-2.4% + $0.30 depending on your plan.
The bad thing is that it is only available for businesses established in United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and Singapore.
If you live outside of these territories, it simply won’t be an option for you.
This means that you would need to use a 3th party payment gateway. There are over 100 available currently for Shopify – including PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Payments, Authorize.Net, First Data, etc.
With a 3th party payment gateway, Shopify would also charge you between 2% and 0.5% transaction fee depending on your plan.
Shopify Perfect for
Shopify is perfect for beginners because it’s easy to get started and it’s fast to learn how to use it. It’s user-friendly so you don’t have to be a tech-savvy person to setup your store and start selling.
Shopify pricing starts at just $9/month but this plan allows you to only sell on Facebook.
Otherwise, pricing for Shopify Basic, that allows you to sell on your online store, starts at $29/month. Pricing can go for up to $299 for Advanced Shopify.
Besides this, there is also Shopify Plus which is designed for enterprise-level stores (revenue of $1M-$500M). To get the pricing for this plan, you would need to request a quote.
BigCommerce currently hosts over 55,000 online stores making it one of the leading eCommerce platforms.
It is a good options for those with a little bit of tech knowledge who would be able to use its full capabilities.
It comes with great build in features such as gift cards, reviews & ratings, etc.
User-friendly admin page
BigCommerce has a pretty easy to use admin page.
The control panel is made out of two areas – site navigation and main window. The main window changes depending on where you click in the site navigation.
This is a highlight of some important areas of the control panel:
Search/View store area – this brings you to the main dashboard and lets you navigate through it. Here you can also use the search option to find products, orders or customers.
Control panel navigation – here you have access to things related to store management, marketing/design, store settings and account.
Help section – this is your help center where you can search and find answers for problems and issues you’re facing. You also have access to various resources and guides to help you learn how to use BigCommerce and grow your store.
You have access to email and live chat support as well as to a Community forum where you can ask other members for advice.
BigCommerce offers you all the tools you need to build a beautiful and high-converting online store.
You can choose among hundreds of high-converting online store themes optimized for fast page-load across devices and designed especially for major ecommerce industries.
All themes included in the Akamai Image Manager automatically optimize all images for browsers and devices, at no extra cost.
Their website builder allows you to easily and quickly customize your eCommerce store. With its BigCommerce’s intuitive storefront editor you change your site’s look with no coding required.
Or with their industry-best theme framework you can build a completely custom online store with HTML, CSS and popular code libraries.
According to BigCommerce, with their website design platform you can build websites in half the time it would take you to do that with other platforms.
BigCommerce comes with a free hosting so you don’t have to worry about paying extra for that.
Normally, managing servers and the teams behind them can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. BigCommerce takes that burden away from you while allowing you to focus on what’s important – growing your business.
BigCommerce also makes sure that your hosting never goes does. They have an average uptime of more than 99.99%, compared to 99.5% for the industry.
Not only have that, your pages load fasted with BigCommerce. Their hosted ecommerce solution has an average response time of around ⅓ of a second.
Free and premium themes/code your own themes
BigCommerce offers over 100 themes designed for high conversions. There are also hundreds of paid themes you can use as well.
You also have the option to code your own themes within the site’s editor using HTML/CSS.
No cheap plan or entry-level plan – despite its great features, BigCommerce doesn’t offer a free plan or a cheap entry level-plan.
This makes it a less suitable option for people with a lower budget who can’t afford to pay the high monthly fees.
Themes could get expensive – BigCommerce offers you only 6 free themes. So if you want something better, you would need to pay for a premium one and it could be quite expensive.
Pricing for a BigCommerce theme starts at $170 and can go up to $250. These are a lot of money for a single theme.
No mobile apps – BigCommerce has no mobile apps to help you manage your store.
BigCommerce gives you a variety of well-designed themes that you can use.
The bad news is that there are only 7 free themes. So if you want something more, you would need to buy a premium theme.
Themes could also be costly – most of them sell for $195.
You also have the options to customize your theme with a drag-and-drop editor or edit it directly by customizing the HTML/CSS files.
What’s unique here is that you can also code your themes from scratch within BigCommerce itself.
There are over 550 apps on for BigCommerce on their marketplace.
They are currently divided in the following categories – accounting & tax, analytics & reporting, b2b/wholesale, catalog & order management, CRM & Customer service, Data transfer/Migration services, ERP, Marketing, Merchandising, Mobile, Payments & Security, Product Sourcing, Sales Channels, Shipping & Fulfillment, Site tools, Cross & Border fulfillment, etc.
The good thing is that there are a lot of free apps for the platform – almost 200.
The paid ones usually require a monthly subscription fee that could be as little as $9/month up to $299/month.
BigCommerce Payment Gateway
BigCommerce currently accepts payments from over 60 payment gateways.
This includes PayPal, Stripe, Square, Amazon Pay, etc.
Even though they don’t have their own like Shopify, they don’t charge you any transaction fees no matter which plan you choose.
BigCommerce Perfect for
BigCommerce is perfect for bigger businesses who sell products at scale. If you have only a dozens of products to sell, there are better alternatives out there.
BigCommerce offers 15-day free trial during which period you can test the platform and set up your online store.
After that you will have to choose among the 4 following plans:
Their pricing starts from $29.95 for their standard plan and can go up to $249.95/month for their pro plan.
For the enterprise plan you would need to request a custom quote.
You can also have 10% on the pricing by using their annual subscription plans.
So which is the best eCommerce solution out there – WooCommerce, Shopify or BigCommerce?
The truth is it depends. Everybody has different preferences, taste, needs and requirements.
If you’re someone who is a huge WordPress fan and you won’t be selling way too many products, it might be a good option for you to choose WooCommerce.
If you’re looking for more specialized solution that is easier to use and it is especially created for eCommerce – you might have better luck with Shopify or BigCommerce.
In case you want more options when it comes to apps that you can connect with your store, Shopify might be your clear winner here.
If you want to over paying transaction fees, it might be better to pick BIgCommerce.
In all cases, we suggest to try the three tools yourself as you can do that for free and choose the one that you like the most.
So which is your favorite eCommerce solutions? WooCommerce, Shopify or BigCommerce? Let us know in the comments below.
Martin Zhel is an inbound marketing expert and Founder of Orior Creative. He specializes in SEO, content marketing & conversion rate optimization.