With today’s ecommerce growth, many businesses are considering putting their business products, services and downloads online. But which kind of ecommerce platform do you use as there are so many? First of all, these platforms are divided into two distinct types of online stores each offering benefits for both systems. One is an “open source” platform that is extremely flexible and expandable and the other an “all-in-one platform” that is easy to set up, manageable even for DIYers. Secondly, without going into too much depth, I have enclosed an explanation for these two platform types as well as a comparison list to help better understand these models.
Open Source Platforms
Open source is best explained as a free platform that required separate hosting and additional plugins or extensions for additional functionality. WordPress is an example of a free open source platform for websites. The two big names for open source ecommerce are Woocommerce and Magento of which Woocommerce is the most popular world-wide as it ingrates completely with the WordPress platform. If you need an online store that requires lots of customization and needs to be added to your WordPress website, Woocommerce would likely be your best choice.
There are plenty of all-in-one ecommerce platforms from simple WIX to enterprise level Magento. However, the king of online stores for most small businesses would clearly be Shopify, the leader in all-in-one online store setup and building. All-in-one platforms, also known as full hosting, provide complete ecommerce with hosting, themes, online store, shipping, payment gateways, POS systems and marketing. Having said that they do offer free and paid themes and apps to extend online functionally, but access in one location.
Since Woocommerce, a free WordPress plugin, is the most common open source and Shopify the most popular all in one platform, I have based the comparisons upon these two best of brand platforms. I’m only covering the key areas to help you understand the difference, as there are 100’s that could be compared.
Hosting – Woocommce along with WordPress requires that for an open source store, you pick a hosting company to install the Woocommerce software. You will need a secure, reliable and robust hosting company (Godaddy, Blue Host, Dream Host). Shopify has their own hosting that includes the online software.
Setup – Open source system using WordPress for the website and Woocommerce for the online store do require some web development and design skills and it’s best to use a professional and support by experts. Shopify online store can be set up quickly by most small businesses using Shopify’s training and support. However, usually time is more of a factor than ability and most hire a Shopify expert for setup, custom design and store functionality.
Design – Open source allows the most customization from themes to functionality with 1000’s of free and paid themes to choose from for WordPress and Woocomerce. Most of our designers prefer this type of platform to make a one of a kind online store. Having said that, Shofify has hundreds of paid themes that can be purchased “off the shelf” and you pay for a designer to create a custom theme to match your branding.
Products – both platforms offer products and downloads as well as options for categories, subcategories and multiple product images, product descriptions and videos. Both offer product imports from other platforms. However, Shopify does offer 100’s of drop-ship products if you want an online business but no products to sell.
Functionality – online stores compared to websites, require a high degree of functionally similar to a brick and mortar store that needs displays, inventory, purchasing, shipping, taxes and marketing setup. Both platforms offer out of the box settings for all of the above, however Woocomerce requires extensions or plugins for additional functionality. This can be a very detailed section for options, but for the most part, Shopify comes standard with more features out of the box and is likely the best if integrating a POS (payment/inventory) system for your brick and mortar store.
Convenience – Shofify has this one in the basket (no pun intended) as all the hosting, domain, payments and functionally in one spot. Woocommerce while more versatile, requires third party themes, plugins, extensions, marketing, hosting and domains.
Editing – For simple product adds or price changes, one-on-one platforms are the clear winners here. For functionality features, both open source and all-in-ones have plenty options in the back end of the online stores which usually need an expert to make these option changes.
Marketing – this is a broad topic that covers SEO to marketplace integration. Shopify comes standard with integrations for SEO, social media, blogging, email marketing, Kit for Facebook ads and marketplace integration with Amazon and eBay. Woocommerce can integrate with all of these as well but you need a plugin or extension to create the functionality. Woocommerce being open source, opens a world of API marketing integrations.
Conclusion and thoughts
Both platforms are the best of brand in the ecommerce or online store space for businesses today. For home based or DIYers, Shopify might be the best place to start for simple set up and editing rather than a more complex Woocommerce online store. If you want a one of a kind customized ecommerce store, then having an expert build an Woocommerce online and aligning a marketing plan should be your best bet. If you have a brick and mortar store and want to connect an online store with POS (point of sale), then Shopify would meet your needs.