Woo vs. Shopify, The Definitive Discussion

So, as per usual, I was chatting with someone about the inner workings of WooCommerce. In this case, it was Patrick Garman. Reason being, I get a lot of questions of whether or not a business should use Shopify, or WooCommerce. For me, the answer is simple: with WooCommerce, you own your shit. That alone is enough reason to end the conversation. However, let’s take it a bit deeper. More often than not, this boils down to technical expertise vs. convenience.

Please note that some text has been redacted and replaced with equivalent statements, omitting references to individuals or projects.

cally
Hey Patrick amigo, quick q for you..

I’m working on getting a pretty good sized retailer onto WooCommerce. They’re very much a recognized brand. However, for bandwidth/usage it’s not too intense1.

cally
They asked about “clunkiness” in WooCommerce, and I was wondering if you had a chart, or threshold where you start to see this?

pmgarman
Really depends on the site and how it’s built, to be honest REDACTED [we’ve built and run WooCommerce sites with databases over 100GB in size, which ran better than some sites that have databases less than 1GB].

Do you have new relic or anything running?

cally
It’ll be built from scratch and put on an entry level dedicated box at WP Engine, so we could run New Relic.

At this time they’re contemplating platforms, and it’s between Woo and Shopify.

They’re familiar with REDACTED. 😉

pmgarman
Well if you need to bring in some expertise,
I’m not longer at REDACTED 😉 REDACTED is my sole focus.

cally
I saw.
I creep you once and a while, y’know? 😉

pmgarman
Ha keeping tabs on me

cally
Lol
Mostly wanna know what you have your hands in!

pmgarman
We’re working with REDACTED on their managed platform and part of that is *the* feature plugin for custom order tables

cally
Deep down tho, you still hardcore Woo? Or, if a large brand lands on your doorstep, would you ever recommend Shopify? What would that tipping point be?

pmgarman
Just to start 😀

cally
I’m like 100% against Shopify, lol. But I haven’t put it all into words yet.

pmgarman
I work heavily on both now, depends on their level of customization and how much they want to “manage” it

cally

*the* feature plugin for custom order tables

You’ve always got your hands in something good!

pmgarman
It’s good for someone who has a simple site and doesn’t want to deal with the headache of WP/WC

cally

depends on their level of customization

How far can you customize Shopify? For example, could you easily add subscriptions, or multi-language as an add-on? I’ve never built on it.

pmgarman
multi language basically means you run multiple stores, thats essentially your only real option

customizations, you can customize the html essentially. and then whatever you can do via the API.

with enterprise “plus” plans, you can do a bit more. but thats minimum $2k/mo. and that is now going to go up a lot from my understanding

unless you are paying $2k/mo, your checkout URL is my.shopify.com or something

cally
Yea they’re definitely considering Plus, and it’s funny you mention price, because that is definitely an uncertainty I wondered about.

pmgarman
plus: it can handle a significant number of orders/min. REDACTED

con: all customizations are significantly more involved

cally
To me it sounds like the advantage of Shopify is:
– Allows for a lot of orders.
– No worries for maintenance

Is that about it?

pmgarman
apps have long term costs you can’t ever get away from. customizations of your own if it touches the API means you need to host and run your own custom application

yeah thats the main points

a lot as in, it handles the biggest flash seller in the world

cally
lolol
Good to know.

pmgarman
REDACTED

cally
So a very extreme edge case.
What about the payment gateway, too? I think they penalize you for not using their’s, correct?

pmgarman
they don’t “penalize” you, but, you don’t get the benefits their white label stripe offers.
stripe won’t even talk to you if you are using shopify, you *must* use their shopify payments

cally
I heard they add a % point for using a 3rd party.

pmgarman
which you don’t get your own stripe
yeah you have transaction fees unless you use theirs. but i’m not sure if plus changes that

cally
So the benefits really aren’t that much.
IMO
Then concerns if the company goes bankrupt, restricts features, etc. It’s a lot to pay for some convenience.

About Woo scalability, progress is being made then, as you’re working on it now?

pmgarman
the benefits to the lay person is “you dont have to manage your site, they do it for you” where WP/WC you *really* have to manage it. you need someone monitoring it if you are doing any sort of volume or want to run it right, you need to deal with updates/etc

cally
Okay, so assuming they have a Saucal or Patrick Garman, they’re covered. Plus, all the benefits of full flexibility and ownership.

Patrick Garman REDACTED

pmgarman
yeah basically
tl;dr – if you are paying more than $2k/mo to run your site (hosting and maintenance), then it’s worth considering, if you have a simple site that doesn’t require much customization.

without plus you can’t even use the discounts api
so you can’t create coupons unless you do it by hand
$2k/mo to have the power to import coupons

at the end of the day i’ve worked on the largest WC site ever, and now the two largest Shopify stores ever. I’ve broken things on both, Shopify has banned my API keys because i was stressing things.

cally
Lol, you’re the man.
And that’s at current pricing. If pricing goes up at Shopify, things change.

What are the two sites on Shopify?

pmgarman
Which, it is going up
i don’t know if they have publicly said it or not. plus is now also a transaction or % based model

cally
You know by how much?

pmgarman
let me look it up, i can find out from some other people. REDACTED was grandfathered in

REDACTED was #2 at shopify, REDACTED was #1

cally
That would be great. And, is it okay if I share this information? Ofc, I want to ask you first.
Dude, how do you land these all star customers?

pmgarman
REDACTED wasn’t a client, REDACTED was my full time job, REDACTED was under the umbrella of REDACTED and REDACTED was the second brand. REDACTED < i built that site

cally
I’m gonna wear a Patrick Garman t-shirt at WooConf2

pmgarman
theres a lot of separation and similarities at the same time. but at the end of the day architecturally what my role became when on shopify was connecting things together and building internal tools and applications

ha you should. some mindsize jerseys, garman on the back

cally
hahahaha, i was thinking more like those rapper t’s.. your face on the front.
Maybe wearing a crown ?

Notorious B.I.G.

my role became when on shopify was connecting things together and building internal tools and applications

And these were hosted off-site, therefore putting you back in the realm of maintenance, etc.

pmgarman
haha

yeah it was a custom application that i developed myself (built on laravel spark) from the “ground” up

thats how we did reporting, i exported all shopify data through the API, thats why ops hated me

would run 20 threads of API calls

cally
wow, so exporting the data pounded the API and they didn’t like it..
ha damn.

pmgarman
their API kind of sucks for large data

cally
Metorik for that type of thing.

pmgarman
yep – which doesn’t support shopify, yet
bryce has promised me an API 🙂

cally
lol

So, there you have it. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to need some technical chops. Might as well suit up, or let us handle it. Trust me, it’s a lot better than censorship, or this.


  1. I have a breakdown of this, but I cannot share it all. However, per day, it’s estimated to be 600-800 page views and 30-40 orders. 

  2. I guess you’ll know how to find me! 

3 comments on Woo vs. Shopify, The Definitive Discussion

  1. Hey, Mitchell. Great conversation on this.

    I think it’s safe to say that a majority of businesses that are wrestling with this decision (Shopify or Woo) are early on in the life of their ecommerce store. So their reality is that they have a long road ahead before they are profitable enough to be considering running their site at the 2k/month level.

    In those cases, I find that the biggest struggle for Woo is that Shopify has raised the bar on launching a store.

    You pay $80/month + a $150 for a theme and within a week could be selling your products with a fairly streamlined customer experience.

    Woo simply is not competing well with that right now. Even with the most compatible themes, there’s still a lot of work and WordPress expertise required to get to catch up. It’s a tough sell to those shops ramping up with little capital and profits.

    I’m a big fan of Woo (attended/spoke at WooConf16) and I’m very hopeful to see them close the gap on this soon.

    • Mitchell Callahan

      Hey Michael! Though I agree that most businesses are in the early stages of building their store, I digress on the latter comment about being on a long road to be profitable enough to afford 2k/month. That entirely depends on the business coming on board.

      For very small sites, Shopify is good for this, I agree. However, for $80 a month + $150 for a theme, Woo easily competes. Head to WP Engine, and pay $29/mo and load up Storefront for free. A child theme can easily be found for less than $150. Sure, it might take a little more expertise, but that’s a small price to pay to be in control. Although, in Shopify’s defense, I think they’ve great work with their on-boarding process, and gameifying their experience, which could make it easier to get started.

      All that being said, as our focus tends to be on larger stores, we have to factor in hosting, maintenance and support as part of their projections.

      Cheers!

  2. “All that being said, as our focus tends to be on larger stores, we have to factor in hosting, maintenance and support as part of their projections.”

    Yup, that’s a totally different ballgame. And overall, I think Woo has taken some steps in the right direction with Storefront for the stores that need to get online quickly and cheaply. Appreciate hearing your thoughts, Mitchell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *