If you’re looking to build an online store that can take your business to the next level, Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce are three of the best ecommerce website builders in the game. But of the three, which is best for your site?
At Website Builder Expert, we combine independent research with results from our user testing, where we ask everyday people to give each platform a try. This means we can provide comparisons that are fair and balanced.
This article will show you which platform is best for which kind of user. We’ll go over all the important things to consider when using an online store builder, including ease of use, design, sales tools, and pricing. Spoiler alert: Shopify is our top rated ecommerce platform and the overall winner. But does it win in the categories that are most important to you? Let’s find out! First, a quick snapshot of each platform:
|Shopify Pros||Shopify Cons|
|WooCommerce Pros||WooCommerce Cons|
|BigCommerce Pros||BigCommerce Cons|
Shopify and BigCommerce are what we call all-in-one ecommerce solutions. They have everything you need to start selling online, all in one place. Better still, you don’t need to know any code to be able to use them.
WooCommerce is slightly different. It’s a WordPress plugin, meaning you add it to your site to enable ecommerce functionality. It’s known as a ‘self-hosted’ software, meaning it gives you unlimited coding customization, but requires a lot of tech know-how to get a store up and running. For example, you’ll need to sort out web hosting and security (we recommend Bluehost).
You now know the difference between these platforms, but who are they best for?
Generally speaking, all-around ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce are far easier to use than self-hosting plugins like WooCommerce. The reason is simple: all the building tools are supplied for you, ready to go.
To find out just how easy each platform is to use, we asked everyday people to test them. These folk then scored the three builders on their ease of use.
Our results found that Shopify was the simplest of the three – it even scored an 80.7% in the “ease of use” category of our research, well ahead of BigCommerce’s 66.2%. Shopify has plenty of visual cues, consistent typography, and uses simple language. It makes setting up an online store feel like a walk in the park.
BigCommerce is a powerful platform, but with such power comes a learning curve. It throws you into the deep end slightly by using technical language, and provides a relatively cluttered interface.
One of our testers had this to say about BigCommerce:
Yes, it’s not overly simple to use, but you can see why – it’s because it’s basically there to run your business for you. But creating a website was not the easiest of experiences.
WooCommerce is the hardest of the trio to use. It’s designed for the technologically savvy who know how to code.
WooCommerce requires more effort than Shopify and BigCommerce, but you won’t be completely in the dark. WooCommerce comes with a setup wizard that will walk you through initial steps like creating pages, setting up payments, and choosing shipping options.
Ease of use: Verdict
Shopify takes the first round. It was our ‘most likely to be recommended’ platform thanks to its visual aids, clear interface, and use of simple language. BigCommerce is more complicated, with a more confusing editing page, while WooCommerce requires the most technical knowledge of all.
Build time is one of the more complicated sections for us to examine. Why? Because the time it takes to build a website with WooCommerce varies hugely.
Since WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, you will need to install WordPress before you can set up WooCommerce. If you already have a WordPress site, then build time is relatively quick, as it’s just a question of adding the plugin. If you don’t already have a WordPress site set up, it’ll take longer. But even if your host doesn’t automatically install WordPress, you can use an auto-installer that will let you do it with just a few clicks.
WooCommerce build time is also longer because you’ll have to sort out web hosting yourself, and do some of your own coding.
Want to save time and effort when setting up your WooCommerce store?
- Free 2-hour set up call with a WooCommerce expert
- Free domain name and SSL certificate
- Storefront theme pre-installed
- 24/7 support from in-house WooCommerce experts
And prices for new customers start at just $6.95 per month (usually $13.99)!
By contrast, Shopify and BigCommerce are both the complete package. This means that after signing up, you have all the components you need to build an online store in one place.
How do these two all-in-one platforms compare? A Shopify store can be yours in just a few hours thanks to its visual cues and simple language. Whereas building a BigCommerce store usually takes around a day or two, owing to a more complex editing interface.
Such speed shouldn’t be a surprise, though, given the results in our ease of use round.
Build time: Verdict
Shopify has the quickest build time, taking just a few hours to create an online store. BigCommerce requires a bit more thought, but doesn’t take too long to get building. WooCommerce has by far the longest build time, requiring users to host and code their site themselves.
Selling online isn’t just about the tools, features, and apps – your store needs to look good, too. If customers enjoy visiting your website, they’re more likely to make a purchase, and come back for more.
Shopify offers 10 free themes, and over 50 paid options which cost between $140 and $180. However, if you switch templates you’ll not only need to pay, but also reformat your whole site, which takes some time.
BigCommerce lets you pick from 12 free themes, and over 100 paid templates which range from $145 to $235. These may seem expensive, but with BigCommerce backing you up, your business is more than likely to succeed in the long term.
Design is where WooCommerce shines. You can really let your creative juices flow with its limitless customization, and even design your own theme. So, if you have the coding skill, you really can ‘woo’ your customers with a wonderful website of your own making. If you’re not comfortable coding, then you can use WordPress’ built-in theme customizer to create custom menus, change tiles and taglines, and update your homepage settings.
You can start with WooCommerce’s Storefront theme, a free ecommerce template built to integrate perfectly with WooCommerce. And if you power your online store with Bluehost, you can specifically choose a WooCommerce hosting package that includes the Storefront theme!
WooCommerce scored a perfect 100% in the “checkout and order status” section of our research, where we studied just how customizable a builder’s checkout page could be. WooCommerce lets you add and remove fields like “Company Name” and “Date of Birth,” and you can change input field labels and placeholder text as you see fit.
One last thing – it’s worth noting that all three platform’s themes are mobile responsive. This means that whichever builder you choose, the site you create will look great on screen of any size.
Design flexibility: Verdict
WooCommerce wins this one easily. If you know how to code, you have unlimited customization options at your fingertips. On top of that, its themes are considerably cheaper. Shopify and BigCommerce may be easier to design overall, but they’re also more rigid, so the result is clear.
It’s no use having a beautiful online store if you don’t have tools to sell with. Just think: you’re not likely to make much money in your brick-and-mortar shop if you’re hiring incompetent salespeople.
When it comes to sales tools, Shopify and BigCommerce are two experts in the ecommerce world. With both builders, there’s no real limit to what or how much you can do with your stock.
Their inventory systems are superb, letting you sell an unlimited number of different products on all price plans, while you can also print customizable shipping labels.
Shopify does, however, have stronger coupon capabilities. For instance, Shopify will allow you to display a discount as a featured product on your homepage, whereas BigCommerce cannot.
WooCommerce also has a lot of ecommerce tools to boast about, but you’ll need more technical knowledge to get the most out of them. Because WooCommerce is an open source software, your options for tools are limitless – if you’re comfortable tweaking some code!
That said, you can still get the basics without coding: WooCommerce offers automated tax calculations, live shipping rates from leading carriers, and the option to embed products into different store pages.
Sales features: Verdict
It’s a close one, but Shopify just wins. It has the most comprehensive range of sales tools on the market, so it’s a worthy winner – however, BigCommerce comes a close second, also offering unlimited products and great shipping options. WooCommerce offers great tools, but you can’t make the most of them without some technical expertise.
Accepting more payment gateways means more people can buy your products – it’s that simple. But which builder supports the most?
All three platforms support a wide range of payment gateways, including PayPal, Stripe, and Apple Pay. However, the key differences between the three involve the amount of choice on offer, as well as transaction fees.
Unlike the other two, Shopify imposes its own transaction fees on all gateways apart from its own, Shopify Payments. In terms of choice, BigCommerce is quite limited, whereas Shopify and WooCommerce offer over 100 more options.
Payment options: Verdict
WooCommerce bags its second win, offering 100+ payment options (unlike BigCommerce) without imposing its own transaction fees (unlike Shopify). While all three platforms have a solid choice of payment gateways, it’s a matter of variety and cost that wins this round for WooCommerce.
For any business, promoting your brand is vital for growth. In terms of ecommerce stores, having good marketing tools brings more clicks – and dollars – to your site.
Search Engine Optimization is the process that helps your website rank higher on search engines like Google. It’s an important aspect of selling online – if no one can find your website, how are they going to buy your products?
Luckily, all three platforms provide strong SEO tools. Each one lets you:
- Edit meta titles and descriptions (the text that appears in Google searches)
- Update URLs (this is the web page address, so keeping it relevant makes it easier for people to find online)
- Add image alt texts (helps Google identify the contents of an image)
However, where Shopify stumbles is its lack of keyword support. BigCommerce and WooCommerce both recommend words to use in product descriptions that will help them rank higher on search engines.
Having a good social media presence keeps you in touch in with your customers, and provides a great way of promoting new products or discounts.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce rely heavily on third party integrations. While this can add to your costs, it will give you precious flexibility. You can add sharing buttons, introduce social media marketing apps, and link your posts to your Shopify or WooCommerce website.
BigCommerce is a self-sufficient platform – it has the biggest choice of built-in features, but you’ll need to use separate apps to add social media feeds to your website.
Selling across more channels gives you a wider audience, so you can see the advantages already.
Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce all let you sell across multiple channels, including Facebook, Instagram, eBay, and Amazon.
However, we were particularly impressed with Shopify for its easy integrations with BuzzFeed, Kik, and Wanelo.
Marketing tools: Verdict
It’s a really tough call between Shopify and BigCommerce, but the latter just wins. The two platforms are extremely close in terms of marketing tools, but Shopify relies more on apps, while BigCommerce has the most built-in features of any platform. WooCommerce is unable to compete in this department.
Plugins and integrations are add-ons that you can install to enhance your ecommerce website. Everything from live chat boxes to affiliate marketing software falls under this category, and you’ll definitely want a good selection of plugins at your fingertips so that you can give your customers a great experience.
Shopify’s App Store and BigCommerce’s Apps Marketplace both offer hundreds of free and paid plugins across all kinds of categories, from shipping and fulfillment to CRM and customer service. You can easily go the extra mile, with services like geolocation for different languages and currencies or segmentation for email marketing.
But as far as plugins go, it’s WooCommerce that really impresses. WooCommerce itself is a plugin for WordPress, which means it’s built to add all kinds of ecommerce features to a WordPress website. But beyond that, WooCommerce offers hundreds of free and paid extensions, with even more possibilities than Shopify or BigCommerce’s app stores.
Plus, WooCommerce offers premade “extension collections,” or groups of extensions curated for different purposes. There’s a collection for everything, whether it’s launching a new store or selling CBD online.
Plugins and integrations: Verdict
While Shopify and BigCommerce both offer an impressive amount of free and paid plugins, WooCommerce’s volume and diversity of plugins just can’t be beat. And if you’re too overwhelmed by the options, then one of WooCommerce’s premade extension collections will have your every need covered.
When using any software, you’re bound to have questions, or need some help along the way. With ecommerce stores, it’s important to fix issues quickly so as to not miss out on vital revenue.
Shopify provides 24/7 phone and live chat support, as well as email assistance. It also has a brilliant help center, packed with loads of Shopify-related queries and answers. BigCommerce is able to match Shopify in what it offers.
However, WooCommerce takes the cake for help and support. Not only does it have its own small, in-house support team and ticket system, but you also get access to your hosting provider’s support services.
Most hosting providers don’t skimp on the customer service options, either. Bluehost earns a perfect 100% for customer support in our hosting research, and offers live chat, email tickets, and 24/7 phone support.
Help and support: Verdict
WooCommerce is pretty unbeatable for help and support. Between WooCommerce itself and your hosting provider, you’ll have double the support options to help you. Shopify and BigCommerce offer good options, but they can’t compare to having WooCommerce and Bluehost on the same team!
This section is where things get little complicated. While Shopify and BigCommerce have set price plans, so you know exactly what you’re going to pay, calculating your WooCommerce costs takes a bit more time.
What do we mean? Well, WooCommerce is a free plugin, so there’s no cost there. However, you’ll need to pay for extras like an SSL security certificate ($9 per year) and your own web hosting, which usually comes to around $10 per month.
You can get an SSL security certificate and hosting from Bluehost from just $6.95/month (usually $13.99).
Shopify has a 14-day free trial, so you can test out all of its brilliant features before spending a cent. To keep using the platform, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the three price plans, ranging from $29 p/m to $299 p/m.
Each plan lets you sell unlimited products, and provides you with all the brilliant tools we discussed earlier in the article. If you opt for the Advanced plan, you’ll gain access to awesome features like third party shipping calculations and lower credit card rates. See below.
BigCommerce also lets you try before you buy, with a 15-day trial. It has three core price plans to choose from after that, starting from $29 per month, going up to $249 per month. There’s also an Enterprise plan, which you’ll need a quote for.
You get unlimited bandwidth on all plans, and zero transaction fees. However, on the Standard plan, you don’t benefit from abandoned cart recovery features, which is an important tool for any business looking to scale. See below for BigCommerce’s price plans.
As you can see, BigCommerce and Shopify will cost more overall than WooCommerce, but their monthly plans are easy to manage because it’s just one lump sum.
WooCommerce wins. It’s a completely free plugin, and while web hosting is an additional cost, there are so many pricing plans to choose from that you can tailor it to your budget. On the other hand, Shopify and BigCommerce both have relatively expensive pricing plans – although they are two of the best all-in-one platforms around.
We’ve taken you through all the key areas for building a successful online store, comparing Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce.
Let’s quickly recap how each platform performed in each round, using our table below…
|Ease of use||Really easy to use, with simple language and lots of visual cues||Requires advanced tech knowledge due to self-hosting and coding||Bit of a learning curve at first, but still quite simple after that||Shopify|
|Build Time||Quickest build time, taking just a few hours to create a store||Will take a few days due to the technical demands of coding and self-hosting (if you don’t have a WordPress site already)||Takes at least a day or two, given the complicated language and initial learning curve||Shopify|
|Design||60+ free and paid themes, all mobile responsive, but need to reformat site if you switch||Unlimited customization, provided you know how to code. Creative freedom is otherwise unparalleled||Bit of a learning curve at first, but still quite simple after that||WooCommerce powered by Bluehost|
|Ecommerce Tools||The most comprehensive range of sales tools on the market||Small amount of sales tools due to function as a WordPress plugin||Matches Shopify in sales tools, but has less powerful coupon features||Shopify|
|Payment Options||Supports all the major gateways, but imposes transaction fees if you don’t use Shopify Payments||Gives you access to 100+ payment options, and doesn’t impose its own transaction fees||Doesn’t support as many gateways as Shopify, but doesn’t enforce its own transaction fees either||WooCommerce powered by Bluehost|
|Marketing Tools||Covers all the areas for successful marketing, including access to thousands of apps||Similar to sales tools, it doesn’t provide much in terms of features||Doesn’t rely on third party apps, unlike Shopify; has the most built-in features of any platform||BigCommerce|
|Plugins||Hundreds of quality free and paid plugins||Unbeatable, diverse selection of free and paid plugins||Hundreds of quality free and paid plugins||WooCommerce powered by Bluehost|
|Help and Support||24/7 phone and live chat support, plus email and social media help||Almost no customer support, apart from a help center||24/7 phone and live chat support, but doesn’t provide any email help||WooCommerce powered by Bluehost|
|Pricing||Three price plans ranging from $29 p/m to $299 p/m, plus a 14-day Free trial||Individual costs like SSL certificates, themes, and web hosting are tricky to calculate, but work out quite cheap||Three core plans ranging from $29 p/m to $249 p/m, plus a quotable Enterprise plan. Also offers a 15-day free trial||WooCommerce powered by Bluehost|
As you can see from the table, Shopify outperforms WooCommerce and BigCommerce, and is the platform we’d be most likely to recommend. Shopify is, therefore, today’s champion! It has the best range of sales features, it’s the easiest to use, and offers the quickest build time to boot. But it may not be the best choice for everyone…
You should use Shopify if:
- You want to get online with no hassle
- You value great sales tools
- You don’t mind transaction fees for most payment gateways
You should use WooCommerce powered by Bluehost if:
- You want unlimited freedom to customize your site
- You want great help and support options
- You don’t mind a little bit of coding
You should use BigCommerce if:
- You want to scale your business
- You value great marketing tools
- You don’t mind a small learning curve
…And don’t forget that each platform offers a free trial, so you can test any (or all) of them out risk-free.
How much does Shopify cost?
Shopify has three premium price plans: Shopify Basic ($29 per month), Shopify ($79 per month), and Advanced Shopify ($299 per month). You have access to world class sales tools on each plan, but the highest plans include features like lower transaction fees. It also offers a 14-day free trial.
Should I use Shopify or BigCommerce?
It depends on what you’re looking for. Shopify is our highest rated ecommerce platform, it’s really easy to use, and provides a huge range of sales tools and apps. However, BigCommerce has the most built-in features of any platform, and is ideal for ambitious businesses looking to scale massively.
Is WooCommerce free?
In essence, yes. It’s a free WordPress plugin, so there is no cost to actually installing it, but there are extra costs. If you don’t have a WordPress site already, you’ll need to purchase web hosting, a storefront theme, and a SSL certificate.