Want to start your own webshop in 2023? I'll help you choose between Shopify and WooCommerce

At the end of 2021, Belgium had 56,642 online shops. More than half of these were started since March 2020. It is clear that since corona, more and more Belgians have taken the step towards their own webshop. Have you also been dreaming of your own business for years? Then starting a webshop is an ideal first step. I help you choose between two popular e-commerce platforms: WooCommerce vs Shopify.


Content Article

E-commerce is booming business

We still have to wait for the 2022 figures, but never before did more online transactions happen in Belgium than in 2021 (150 million). This is evident from SafeShops.co.uk. The number of online shops increased by 17.5% in one year:

  • Number of Belgian online shops in 2021: 56,642 (+17.5% vs. 2020).
  • Number of new Belgian online shops in 2021: 10,000 (up from 20,000 in 2020)
  • Value of Belgian e-commerce market in 2021: €11.7 billion (up from €8.8 billion in 2020)

Shopify vs WooCommerce

Worldwide, Shopify, WooCommerce and Magento are the most popular e-commerce platforms. Given the popularity of WordPress and the user-friendliness of Shopify, chances are that when starting an online store, you're hesitating between Shopify and WooCommerce.

Below I provide tips for making the right choice Shopify vs WooCommerce.

Part 1: How does Shopify work?

Shopify is an e-commerce player of Canadian origin. The company celebrated its 15th anniversary last year. In terms of revenue, it has grown to the largest company in Canada (+- $ 3 billion revenue in 2021).

Why so many webshops are built with Shopify? Largely, this has to do with the ease of use of the e-commerce platform, as well as the many apps you can add to your webshop - for a fee or not.

Example of a Shopify webshop
Example of a Shopify webshop

1. Choice of free or paid themes.

When needed, Shopify allows you to build a perfectly working webshop in a very short time. This thanks to the ready-made themes offered in the "Theme Library. Either choose a free template here, built and supported by Shopify itself, or pay for a theme created by an external developer.

The difference between a free and paid theme is usually:

  • Customizability of your template: what possibility do you have to modify certain things without having to dive into the code to do so.
  •  Available optionsThe list of features of a paid template is often longer than that of a free template. For example: options in terms of displaying your images.

A plus to Shopify is that you can switch to a different theme fairly quickly without too much impact. Of course, this is not (or less) recommended if you've been around for a while.

Adjust your theme as needed

After installation, you can customize your chosen theme to your liking. Shopify works here with 'sections', 'columns' and 'blocks'. All building blocks to eventually shape your perfect webshop. Note: depending on your chosen theme, you will have more or fewer options here.


2. Shopify helps you be successful

Shopify's mission is to make every user successful with his or her webshop in the simplest way possible. You notice this, for example, in the 'Preferences' menu. Here Shopify offers its customers some very important functionalities ready-made:

  • Title & Meta description: important for the SEO (findability search engines) of your webshop.
  • Social Media Image: what image (or logo) to show when your URL is shared on social media?
  • Google Analytics: what code is needed to connect your webshop to your Google Analytics account?
  • Facebook pixel: useful when you want to do retargeting through Facebook, for example.
  • GDPR: enable this feature to be in compliance with Cookie and GDPR legislation.
  • Google reCAPTCHA: an additional check that you should enable for the prevention of spam submissions.

Shopify Analytics

Another nice functionality in the menu is 'Analytics'. This ready-made dashboard offers you a very extensive number of reports with, in my opinion, all the info you need as a starting webshop:

  • Financial insights: e.g. turnover & average order value
  • Customers: e.g. number of orders & percentage of returning visitors
  • Marketing: conversion rate, revenue by traffic source & number of newsletter subscriptions

Marketing module

Shopify also includes a marketing module by default. In addition to Shopify Email, here you can also third-party marketing apps install. For example, 'Google Channel' when you want to advertise your products through Google Shopping campaigns.

Shopify Email is pretty basic email package which works well on its own. If you want to start working with lead scoring and marketing automation flows, I recommend linking with a marketing automation tool. ActiveCampaign offers a connector for Shopify, for example.

3. Add or import products

Usually the trickiest thing about a new webshop: adding your products. Although even here Shopify helps you a hand. Numerous important features are included by default:

  • Product title
  • Product Description
  • Images
  • Cost price, selling price and pass-through price (comparison price)
  • Stock and stock history
  • Manufacturer's code (SKU) and bar code (EAN).

Importing products via CSV

Personally, I would never enter products manually one by one. It's better to choose the example CSV file after which you can enter all the necessary info via Excel. Afterwards you can re-import everything neatly in bulk. No doubt you will save a lot of time by being able to copy and paste info. Be sure to use these 12 Microsoft Excel functions.

Good to know: if you are missing certain info fields for your product(s), you can add them yourself at 'Settings' > 'Meta Fields'.

Incoming purchase orders

Even registering incoming orders from suppliers is provided in Shopify ('Transfer Suppliers'). By the way, you can also use this option to record inventory changes between two branches.

Want to flow this from your ERP package? That's another matter. For this you should probably hire a developer / Shopify Partner.

4. Managing orders & invoicing

To stand out as a start-up webshop, it's best to process incoming orders as quickly as possible. The order management system within Shopify gives you a good overview of your online orders.

For example:

  • Which orders still need to be paid for?
  • Which orders are still unprocessed?
  • Which orders are closed (i.e. fully processed)

In addition, you can create your own fully personalized view and add it to the menu. For example, a separate view to manage your 'Returns'.

Shopify-Sample Overview-Orders
Shopify - Overview of incoming orders

How do I receive payments in Shopify?

When you start an online store in Shopify, you have the following options in terms of payment provider:

  • You choose Shopify's own payment service, namely 'Shopify Payments'
  • You choose another well-known provider such as Mollie or MultiSafepay

Keep in mind that regardless of the payment provider, you always pay a small fee for each transaction.

How to send your order with track & trace?

For shipping your orders, there are numerous 'Fulfillment apps' available for download in the Shopify App Store. Sendcloud is probably the most widely used 'E-Commerce Shipping Software' within Shopify. But PostNL, for example, also has its own Shopify plug-in.

5. Shopify App Store

One particularly great asset of Shopify is App Store. For every functionality there is an app available. Where for the paid apps, you can always test for 14 or 30 days whether a plug-in actually does what you expect of it.

Almost all major technology companies can be found on it: Facebook, Google, Mailchimp, Snapchat, Pinterest, Klaviyo, etc.

Screenshot Shopify App Store
Screenshot Shopify App Store

6. Yoast SEO for Shopify

Since January 2022, Yoast SEO (the most widely used SEO tool worldwide) is also available as an app for Shopify as well. A milestone for the Dutch company that targeted WordPress users for years. You can test the plug-in for free for 14 days. Afterwards, you pay $ 29 per month.


Part 2: How does WooCommerce work?

WooCommerce is the most popular e-commerce platform worldwide. WooCommerce's success is partly explained by the popularity of WordPress. WordPress is an open-source Content Management System (CMS) that allows you to create your own website in a relatively easy way.

Moreover, WordPress itself is completely free. All you need to do is get a hosting package (e.g. One.com) and install WordPress on it. By the way, did you know that 40% of all new websites are created with WordPress?

The success of WooCommerce is partly linked to the success of WordPress. Of course, the quality of the platform and the fact that it is a free plug-in certainly play a role as well.

WooCommerce Example Product Page
WooCommerce Example Product Page

1. Is WooCommerce more complex than Shopify?

Still. Since in Shopify you start anyway from a template which you modify afterwards to your preferences, in WordPress you actually start with an empty box. Are you completely unfamiliar with WordPress? Then you will have your shop ready faster with Shopify. Do you like a challenge and want to personalize as much as possible? Then I would definitely consider delving into the world of WooCommerce.

2. How to get started with WooCommerce.

If you already have a WordPress website, you might expect that activating WooCommerce will be relatively easy? There's certainly an advantage to being used to working with WordPress CMS. However - because you may not have an e-commerce template - you are then going to have some work with designing product and category pages, checkout form, etc.

WooCommerce Templates

Are you not a seasoned or professional website builder? Then I think it's definitely wise to start from an existing template. WP Astra (a popular theme for WordPress) For example, offer you some ready-made templates, which you can edit with the most commonly used "page builders" such as Elementor, Beaver Builder or Gutenberg.

I myself find Elementor a nice page builder, as it allows you to design web pages with a lot of freedom and in a very visual way.

Sample WooCommerce Template (WP Astra)
Sample WooCommerce Template (WP Astra)

3. Managing products in WooCommerce

Once you have chosen a theme, page builder and template, you can - after personalizing your template - start adding products to your shop. If you have experience creating pages or posts in WordPress, you now have an edge. This is because the interface of WooCommerce is very similar.

Like Shopify, WooCommerce offers you several fields you might need when creating a product:

  • Regular price & promotional price
  • Article number
  • Product Description
  • Stock status
  • Option virtual products
  • Related products: upsells & cross-sells
  • Set up tabs to work (e.g. description, specifications and reviews)

Again, you have the ability to add custom fields ('product properties').

WoCommerce Example Backend
WoCommerce Example Backend

Import products via CSV

Do you already have an online store? Then you might be able to export your products to a CSV file and import it into WooCommerce (at the top of the product overview). And it has to be said: the wizard to import products works very pleasantly!

WooCommerce Products Import via CSV
WooCommerce Products Import via CSV

Inventory Management

Inventory management - which is strong within Shopify - is very limited with WooCommerce. Given the importance of having correct inventory on your shop, an inventory management plug-in (e.g.. ATUM) welcome.

4. Managing orders & invoicing

An item in the menu that you hopefully need a lot: orders. WooCommerce gives you an overview of your (new) orders here. Through 'screen options' you can add or hide certain columns here.

When you open an order, you see - in the familiar WordPress layout - more information about the order:

  • General info from the customer
  • Items ordered
  • Payment status
  • Order notes (history of order)

Graphically, there are undoubtedly nicer systems out there, but it does what it needs to do.

WooCommerce Overview Orders
WooCommerce Overview Orders

5. Additional WooCommerce Plugins

The power of WooCommerce is that - as with Shopify - you can add additional apps to your webshop. Useful WordPress plug-ins to provide your front- or back-end with extra functionality or tools to optimize your SEO (eg. YoastSEO).

Other useful plug-ins are:

  • CartFlows: Create attractive check-out pages
  • Checkout Field Editor: customize your checkout fields to your preference
  • Custom Product Tabs: add tabs to your product pages
  • Google Analytics Integration: Easily add your Google Analytics tracking code in WooCommerce
  • Google Feed Manager: useful when you want to offer your products through Google Shopping
  • LiveChat: a popular chat module
  • MollieJust like in Shopify, this allows you to receive payments online
  • Optimole: compress and optimize your images
  • PDF Invoices & Packing Slips: Create, print & mail PDF invoices & packing slips for your orders

6. Two more WordPress tips!

Tip 1: With WordPress plug-ins such as Pods or Advanced Custom Fields you choose which fields are important when creating a category, page, post or product. Definitely worth a look.

Tip 2: Do you choose Elementor as your page builder? Consider upgrading to Elementor Pro So you can work with "dynamic content. Info that you enter in the backend and automatically appear in the place you want.

For example:

  • Promotion of the month: "10% discount via discount code 123ABC"
  • Info on deliveries: "Ordered before 10 p.m. delivered tomorrow"
  • Corona update: "Due to busyness, your order may take just a little longer."

Never again worry that there are outdated messages somewhere on your webshop.

Shopify vs WooCommerce?

Hopefully this article has given you a good idea of both features and differences between Shopify and WooCommerce. In summary, it boils down to:

Shopify: a ready-made e-commerce system that is ideal when you don't want to spend too much time on the technical set-up, but above all want to be able to sell quickly.

WooCommerce: gives you complete freedom in designing your webshop (both graphically and in terms of functionality), but requires a certain amount of knowledge to make everything work well functionally.

Tom Hufkens

Tom Hufkens

Passionate about online marketing & founder of this blog. In daily life Marketing Manager at a Belgian ICT company.

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Given the popularity of WooCommerce and the user-friendliness of Shopify, chances are that when starting an online store, you're hesitating between Shopify and WooCommerce. I'll help you choose between these two e-commerce platforms.