Why most Shopify vs WooCommerce comparisons are biased.

Just recently, a fellow PM from a partner company sent us a post for a review about this subject. What immediately caught my attention, although it was very well written, was the emphasis on the strengths of one platform and the weaknesses of another. After my question about the reason for this post (promote Shopify onboarding among their large client base) was answered affirmatively, and a quick google search showed a similar pattern, the need for clarifications and an alternative take arose.

Lots and lots of content are written about comparing these two platforms and around it as it attracts attention from people who are interested in entering the ever-growing e-commerce market and investing in it. At the same time, the modern age of informational noise gives little room for untrained eyes to distinguish between valid critical pieces and paid content or agenda-driven narratives, even if these pieces are published with distinguished media names on their domains.

That said, both platforms are solid in what they do, hosting millions of websites each. Most points presented in the popular articles about them are valid, so you go and check them if you need some basic information. But they can also be misleading. These 2 platforms are different animals and it is important to understand the circumstances – what and who you are comparing them for. Shopify is more of a precision tool for no-hustle e-commerce on a smaller scale, while WooCommerce is a flexible instrument that allows basically any customization with a larger room for mistakes.

With this article, we by no means try to highlight the shortcomings of one in favor of the other. Instead, we try to outline some often overlooked aspects and present a fresh take based on vast experience in e-commerce and the latest technology developments.

Shopify spends billions on marketing, while WooCommerce is an open-source platform that managed to create a strong community around it.

Automattic, the parent company behind both Worpress and WooCommerce, has raised US$846 million in six funding rounds. The last round of US$288 million was closed in early 2021 and subsequent private stock buyback valued the company at US$7.5 billion. As the most popular extension of the world’s best CMS, WooCommerce has grown a significant community of developers and users around it and grabbed the largest share of web checkouts. It takes just a low-level coding experience to set up and customize it while creating extensions and themes for it is a separate industry.

Meanwhile, the market value of Shopify is currently over US$190 billion. Although we couldn’t find reliable information on Shopify’s marketing expenses for 2021-2022, older data shows over US$100 million annual spent in the mid-2010s when their financial capabilities were lower at an order of magnitude compared to late 2022. The company also managed to grab a large share in the world e-commerce market.

Consistent MRR Growth, Accelerating YoY in Q3 2020
Shopify MRR growth. source: sleeknote.com

Besides the extent of their complex marketing efforts, there is another reason many agencies promote Shopify and advise it to their clients: development on Shopify is more expensive, while simple shop creating and onboarding is less resource-intensive. Hence, it is more profitable. To give you a perspective, the most successful add-on/plugin for WooCommerce can generate a few million US$ for creators, while there are Shopify extensions bringing 100s of millions. The development costs are also higher in North America, where the most Shopify users are located, as opposed to WooCommerce, which is popular across the world, including in most developing economies.

Why WooCommerce and WordPress get a bad rap.

In short, there are a lot of low-quality websites and development on Woo, and the ‘customer journey’ for getting a good e-commerce website is more complex. The large infrastructure around WooCommerce that non-pros struggle to navigate includes questionable quality coding both in custom development and extension. Arguably, the expectations for affordable e-commerce solutions with Woo are a bit misplaced, as you can end up making a wrong technical decision about your stack early on, which would hinder your business. On the other hand, with the correct approach applied from the start, WooComerce can be the best tool for all from smaller businesses to high-end enterprise e-commerce.

source: builtwith.com

WordPress in general, as an open-source platform gets a lot of negative exposure from corporate competitors – just check the famously hilarious WIX ads campaign targeting it. The reason corporate providers choose to target open source is self-evident, but worth noting the extent of their efforts.

Actual pros and cons


  • Best for SEO
  • Unlimited customization
  • Data ownership


  • Some developers’ support required for customization and maintenance
  • Too many options and easy mistakes for non-pros


  • Good for microbusinesses
  • Little choices to make, little room for mistakes
  • Easier maintenance


  • Increasing charges
  • Lack of customization
  • Expensive development


With Shopify, you pay very little initially, but for every added feature, which is many on successfully selling sites, you pay extra. Then there are 2.4-2.9% credit card rates and 0,5-2% transaction fees. When your business grows, the costs grow exponentially easily exceeding US$1000 per month for more or less decent small businesses. ‘Share the wealth’ logic therefore applies and giving an additional % of your revenue to add an app seems unfair.

With WooCommerce, you should invest in the beginning to pay less later on. With proper future-proof solutions applied on as low as a US$3-5k development budget, you can then limit your monthly spend to US$100-200 with great hosting, extensions, and updates. At any time, you can have full control over your expenses with correct technical decisions. Many payment method providers would also charge a percentage of revenue, but options are vast and costs are different depending on your location and business model.

Worth noting, that this comparison is not based on large data, but on actual experiences with similarly performing online stores.

Simplicity to set up and manage

Popular opinion states that if you are comfortable using WordPress, Woo will be an easy catch. But for newcomers, there is a learning curve. We would argue, however, that creating an online business ipso facto requires getting familiar with the technology. Store management is simple, while content management, especially if your website is built with a native Gutenberg block builder, is seamless with Woo. Some added complexity can appear on more advanced stores with multiple features, but our experience shows that with enterprise-scale clients with half a million monthly sales just 2 store managers can suffice. The downside here is the need to keep your stack up to date.

With Shopify, it is much easier from the get-go. The features, reporting, and all the other aspects are predefined so the setup is super easy. The same can be said about technical maintenance. Meantime, your management decisions are strictly tied to what Shopify plans offer.


Both platforms are known for scalability. However, in practice, it is not that simple. Both platforms have weak points here as with growing business owners usually embrace complexity and prefer custom solutions to fine-tune the website for their business model. In the case of Shopify, any customizations pose a challenge that makes them migrate to different platforms.

Flexibility and features

E-commerce best practices


Any service

Data ownership

What is the most important asset in any e-commerce business? Customer data. Period. The more the better. With Woo, you have full ownership. With Shopify…

As for the website content, you can migrate from Woo to any other platform with relative ease, while Shopify is famously complicating this process, making it extremely hard to leave. Only recently, such services have appeared.

WordPress revamp and the future of WooCommerce

In the last couple of years, WordPress has been steadily moving away from outdated technological approaches to its native block editor and Full Site Editing features. The process was slow but 2021 showed great progress as most features went to the core and became the default, while most better 3rd party providers reorganized their products and services around it.

The most important asset in e-commerce – customer data. https://www.ecommerce-mag.com/customer-data-killed-the-shopify-mailchimp-partnership

To conclude – there is room for both, especially considering the fact that E-commerce global market is rapidly expanding. However, there are ‘bad’ stores on WooCommerce and there are ‘good’ ones. The good ones easily overperform Shopify for SMBs in almost every aspect: performance and mobile speed, SEO, scalability, flexibility or features, and design, price, management, ect. – it just takes some skill and imagination.

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