We run into the “Shopify vs WooCommerce” question all the time. We work with both, so I’m happy to advise either way. However, in most instances the beliefs about WooCommerce are massively unfounded and in some cases routed in the marketing messages WooCommerce themselves put front and centre.
So it’s no skin off my nose whichever way someone we’re working with chooses to go, but when ecommerce platform decisions are based on inaccurate information that’s something I feel compelled to help clear up and help with.
That being said, it’s really difficult to overcome the tide of inaccurate information when WooCommerce itself is a contributor to the problem with it’s core marketing messages, outdated information and lack of clear path to international growth. So right here I’m going to outline to you, and to the guys behind Woo what needs to be addressed with WooCommerce’s approach to marketing their product.
WooCommerce needs a core marketing message that actually aligns with customer needs
Customisation is what some store owners think they want before they realise what they actually need is a proven platform, system and structure.
It’s not a discussion about whether it’s best to have an open or closed system powering your store.
It’s about whether the underlying core elements are actually setup for success without customisation.
Users actually don’t need or want customisation, they actually just want a system that delivers sales and profit.
And even if the store owner wants to “customise”, actually what they REALLY want is to OPTIMISE.
There’s a HUGE mental difference between these two words.
Ecommerce store owners are obsessive about optimisation – not about customisation.
Customisation is not the objective, optimisation is
If a platform prides itself on its ability to be customised, it leaves you begging the question as to whether it is, underneath it all, actually optimised.
If it needs so much customisation, it must be poorly optimised as standard, right!?
A customisable offering creates a job. (Or the perception that customisation is needed and therefore will require someone to “do it”)
An optimised offering helps build a business.
The ability to implement Customisation is a feature.
It’s not even an advantage.
And it’s certainly not a benefit.
Basic “Features, Advantages, Benefits” marketing 101 stuff.
Shopify have nailed it…
Shopify have nailed it with what can actually be seen as an inferior solution in many regards.
Their marketing is on point with ease of use being centre of attention. Backed up by the fact that you can access and install Apps to “help you sell more”.
Notice that’s not “Apps to help you customise your website”? (No-one actually cares about customisation! They care about sales!)
Even for complicated growth strategies such as taking your ecommerce store international, Shopify has a solution in Shopify Plus (but it starts at $2000+ a month to get started).
But Shopify get away with charging so much because they offer a simple solution. “Join Shopify plus and we’ll take you international, you don’t have to think about it, we’ll do that for you”.
WooCommerce has “mental” barriers to adoption
WooCommerce on the other hand have a mixture of potential routes for internationalisation and it’s largely left to the user to figure out which technology to use without a great deal of good documentation comparing routes from a business strategy perspective. As a result, this route looks complicated, it looks like it’s going to take expertise to be built, and like it’s going to be filled with potential for mistakes.
If you Google Search “WooCommerce International Store” the most relevant result is this one which was published in 2015! And it’s a thin article about “Tips” for starting an international WooCommerce Store.
On the flip side, Shopify has a “Global Ecommerce Playbook” that’s free to download and pretty damn extensive. This is the stuff that puts your mind at rest as an ecommerce entrepreneur – this playbook is probably doing a lot of the “selling” when it comes to onboarding people onto the Shopify Plus platform at $2000+ per MONTH. That’s an insanely valuable PDF download right there…
Automattic, take note!
These are massive barriers to adoption of WooCommerce.
If WooCommerce wants to grow with the market, they need to address this huge gap in their marketing.
There’s a huge number of ecommerce entrepreneurs who’ve started on the Amazon marketplaces who have built their businesses around the philosophy of simplicity.
Amazon handles the logistics and sales traffic, they handle the product development, finances and inventory.
For an Amazon Seller thinking of moving to their own Platform, most will see Shopify as an option that “uses up the least mental energy” and aligns with the business philosophy they started out with – “simplicity”.
That’s why Shopify will win the ecommerce software battle for SO many of these entrepreneurs.
WooCommerce isn’t the most attractive option because it’s the most customisable.
WooCommerce is the better option because it can adapt to your business needs at every stage of your business growth.
WooCommerce has adoption advantages it’s not leveraging
To a brand just starting out, you can setup a WooCommerce store for about $35 – and that gets your website hosted for the year. You can also just switch it to WooCommerce Catalogue mode or Affiliate product mode and direct your traffic to Amazon to enhance your sales rank on the Amazon platform during this phase of business growth. This is something we talk about in our 9 simple steps to build traffic from your brand from scratch.
You can add some bells and whistles to the site as you feel they’re necessary – mostly using free or freemium plugins available to download directly in the back end of your site, no complicated software installation etc. Perfect to help keep costs to zero when starting out.
In contrast even a basic Shopify will set you back $30 a month – you can still direct sales to Amazon from your Shopify product pages.
If you want to add any worthwhile functionality to your Shopify store you’ve got a much smaller pool of Apps available than with WooCommerce and there are far less free or freemium Apps on offer in the Shopify App Store, meaning monthly subscriptions for a basic website can stack up.
And there’s marginal convenience in setting up a Shopify store vs setting up a WordPress site on new hosting and installing WordPress.
But that marginal convenience is well worth the $300+ saving (in the first 12 months) for many starting their first website for their brand.
In fact, here’s a 52 minute video tutorial that walks you through the steps of setting up your website from scratch – including buying your domain and hosting. This is literally a beginners guide starting from nothing, ending with an online store powered by WooCommerce.
The Negative Impact of Shopify’s Cost & WooCommerce’s minor technical barriers
The worse side effect of these barriers; Shopify’s startup cost and WooCommerce’s convenience cost is that many Amazon sellers simply don’t start their brand website until much later down the road – compromising their SEO Traffic efforts when they launch their new site years later, only to find they’ll be waiting for the likes of Google and Bing to trust their site before rewarding them with any organic traffic.
Not mentioning the fact that many Amazon sellers will be paying monthly fees for coupon code distribution services, landing page hosting services and a whole range of other SaaS products which could be avoided if they had their own site setup – particularly if using WordPress and WooCommerce.
What WooCommerce Needs To Do
If Automattic want WooCommerce to be taken seriously by ecommerce entrepreneurs looking for an optimised solution they can plug and play – the bigger portion of the market on a user and revenue basis, they need to address their core marketing message.
My recommendations on the 3 areas Automattic need to tackle in their marketing message for WooCommerce;
- They need to look at the benefits their offering actually delivers – not the features.
- They need to approach the expansion of their user base as marketers – not software engineers.
- They need to provide clarity on options on routes related to store growth – particularly international growth.
Shopify can get away with charging $2000+ a month for Shopify Plus just because of the lack of a clear path to international growth provided by WooCommerce.
That’s a HUGE value advantage being demonstrated by the user base – that’s value that WooCommerce could capture, and help it’s developer base capture.
I Predict Shopify’s Dominance In 5 Years – Despite WooCommerce Being A Great eCommerce Business Solution
If Automattic don’t address this with WooCommerce, I predict Shopify will all but dominate this market in revenue and pure user numbers within the next half decade (they’re already a long way down this path).
Right now, it’s marketing message rehabilitation for WooCommerce.
Do they risk losing their developer and “software engineer” user base if they change their marketing message? Definitely not – Woo will most probably ALWAYS be seen as a highly customisable solution for ecommerce stores.
And customisation can still be sold as a feature – where it should be!
Leading with “optimised for more sales with less work” just makes plain sense regardless of who your target segment of the market may be.
Here’s a list of WooCommerce Podcasts Worth a Listen
Here’s a list of Shopify Podcasts Worth a Listen
UPDATE September 2020: WooCommerce Affiliate Program facilitated by refer.wordpress.com
I’ve not monetised any of my links to WooCommerce throughout this blog – it’s never seemed worth the hassle. Out of curiosity, I thought what the heck – let’s signup to their program and see how it compares with Shopify?
Further reasons why plenty of people join the Shopify Affiliate Program and leave WooCommerce in the dust.
- Massively uninspiring signup page – that’s administered by wordpress.com. Simply causing friction and confusion from the outset
- When you try and login with your existing WordPress.com login details it doesn’t work, you try then to create a new account and it takes you to your logged in screen for wordpress.com (So as of writing, I’m a member of woocommerce, wordpress.com, I build with Woo – and currently there’s no way for me to join the affiliate program because their software isn’t working on the front end)
- Commission structure is uninspiring and low end
- All of this together doesn’t inspire any confidence in this system whatsoever
This is a massive shot AGAINST WooCommerce.
It won’t stop me USING WooCommerce – but it certainly provides little to NO INCENTIVE to promote them in any way over and above Shopify.
Referring clients to Shopify is big money – there’s loads of passive cash in it.
Referring clients to WooCommerce has no passive benefit as a result of the lack of affiliate promotion.
WooCommerce – what are you doing? Are you actively trying to sabotage your own game?
I’ll update when I get a response from wordpress.com support