shopify vs woocommerce

The Ultimate Shopify Vs WooCommerce Comparison In South Africa


When it comes to eCommerce, it can get confusing which is the right platform to use. Shopify seems like the go-to, however, its fees can get quite high especially with the Rand-Dollar exchange rate. Over the past few months, we’ve had clients requesting to move from Shopify to WooCommerce. But, we’ve also had clients requesting their sites to continue with Shopify. Having knowledge in both, we decided to give you a breakdown into which one is right for you.

Shopify – easy to use, difficult to master

Shopify started in 2004, where a Canadian group weren’t able to find a suitable platform to sell their snowboarding equipment. What a bummer! Since then, it has become a household name when it comes to building ecommerce sites due to ease rapid setup.

Shopify Pros

  • Speed – you can have a Shopify site built within a matter of minutes, as they handle all the hosting, setup requirements, etc.
  • No monthly maintenance – no need for monthly backups, security checks, etc. It’s all handled by Shopify
  • Themes – there a few free themes and many paid themes to choose from, all designed specifically for eCommerce stores.
  • Dashboard – built-in dashboard to monitor sales, most viewed items, and website visits
  • Apps – tons of apps designed for ecommerce, such as market integration, dropshipping, etc.
  • Hosting – Shopify hosts the website for you, so no need to worry about technical aspects
  • Support – one of the best customer support eCommerce platforms

Shopify Cons

  • Inflexible – you will need to have good coding skills (mainly css/html) to make any special changes to the site. You can use apps (plugins) to assist with this, but they aren’t cheap and we’d only recommend getting these apps once your site is receiving a sustainable turnover.
  • Expensive paid themes – you only get a handful of free themes, while paid themes start at $180 (around R2,500). If you’re just starting out, this can be quite expensive along with the monthly subscription costs.
  • Subscription-based payments – you’ll need to pay a monthly amount to host Shopify and use their platform. The price of a Shopify store in South Africa starts at R430 per month (for their Basic Shopify plan, the middle tier Shopify plan will cost you R1200 per month while the price for the Advanced Shopify plan is R4500 per month. These are the fixed costs and exclude the Shopify transaction fees. You can read more about this here.
  • Apps aren’t cheap – To enhance your visitors’ experiences, you can use apps (plugins) to improve the look or functionality of your site. Some are free, but the majority have a 7-day free trial, then cost around R100 per month to use. Again, only recommended if really necessary or you have a sustainable income from the site.

WooCommerce – cheap but flexible

WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce plugin for WordPress that was released by WooThemes in 2011 (who was later acquired by Automattic in 2015). Its popularity grew quickly due to it being able to be installed on any WordPress site. WordPress makes up 70% of all sites today, therefore along with its popularity came its support and rapid development.

WooCommerce Pros

  • Low cost – you only need to pay for hosting, while WooCommerce and many of its themes and plugins are free.
  • Customisation – huge collection of themes, page builder frameworks, and plugins. Based on WordPress, so you can easily customise your site, providing you have some basic computer experience.
  • Flexibility – WooCommerce comes with a huge array of features to turn on or off. It takes a lot longer to setup when compared to Shopify, however, you can change almost every aspect of the online shopping experience.
  • Powerful SEO – based on WordPress’ blogging infrustrucure, you have the ability to dive deep into your code, change metadata at your will and greatly improve your Google search rankings.
  • Not just eCommerce – ride on the WordPress infrastructure to build unique content, such as blogs, informative pages and more. Shopify is built purely for eCommerce. It can handle pages like blog posts, however, you can have a fully functioning site without even WooCommerce.

WooCommerce Cons

  • Not so simple to use – compared to Shopify, there are a lot more hoops to jump through before everything can be ready. Shopify is more streamlined. WooCommerce has many different tools and features you might not require or understand at first.
  • More hands-on – regular maintenance such as database and plugin updates are required. Because it uses WordPress, not tending to your site can require monthly maintenance, plugin upgrades and more to keep it running smoothly.
  • Lack of customer support – there is a ticketing system, however, more coding knowledge is required if things don’t go right, which is where we can help. Also, you can become reliant on the plugins, which have their own customer support to deal with.

Tips for which platform will work best for you

Why choose Shopify?

We would recommend Shopify if you want the site to handle everything for you. If you can handle the monthly fees, both for the platform, its transaction fee and the app subscriptions, go with Shopify. Therefore, it is better for businesses that are already bringing in a steady income. In the end, it is all about time. The platform shines if you don’t have the time to update your site and tweak minor details. If you’ve never used Shopify or WooCommerce and don’t have a technical background, we would go with Shopify as it is much easier to use.

Why choose WooCommerce over Shopify?

We would recommend WooCommerce you’re on a tight budget. For small businesses that are just starting out, WooCommerce allows you to scale quickly without breaking the bank. It also helps if you want to be in complete control of your site, from SEO to blog content management. If you have someone in your team with some form of IT experience and don’t want to worry about monthly fees then choose WooCommerce.

Example of sites we’ve built using WooCommerce:


Rugby bricks website built with woocommerce

The Nappy Emporium

The Nappy Emporium website built with Woocommerce

Example of sites we’ve built using Shopify

Daliland Books and Toys

Daliland website built with Shopify


When it comes to choosing the right platform for you, it is best to look at your goals, objectives and budget. Shopify is great, but its high price and inflexibility mean that it suits a very certain objective. With WooCommerce, you get the value of low price and high customisation, however, you need an expert to help you get optimal sales and objectives. If you’re still unsure, contact us today and we’ll assist you with any questions you might have.

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