In this post, I am going to be comparing Shopify vs WordPress & WooCommerce, to see which on is the better option for building an ecommerce store.
Shopify vs Opencart: What is the Difference?
Shopify is a fully hosted ecommerce platform, which means that the hosting, ecommerce software and 24/7 support are all included in the monthly package. Opencart is open source ecommerce software and this means that you need to buy some web hosting and then install the Opencart software in order to be able to use it.
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No Turnover Limit
2% Transaction Fee
Unlimited Data Storage
Free SSL Certificate
2 Staff Accounts
Dependent on Hosting
No Turnover Limit
No Transaction Fees
Dependent on Hosting
Dependent on Hosting
No Dedicated Support
Shopify does have a smaller plan that costs $9 a month but it lacks quite a few of the features that you get with the basic Shopify plan, which is why I haven’t included it in this comparison. Most people will opt opt for the Basic plan, when getting started with Shopify as it includes most features along with the website builder.
While Opencart software is completely free to use, you will have to pay for web hosting in order to be able to build an ecommerce site with Opencart and how much this costs, does depend on the provider that you choose.
Shopify offer a 14 day free trial of their platform to all users, with no credit card needed to get started.
As Opencart is open source software, you need to buy some hosting and install Opencart in order to try them out for yourself.
As two of the biggest names in the industry, it is expected that they all offer a good range of features for their users.
With Shopify being a fully hosted ecommerce platform, it is not surprising that it comes with a lot of ecommerce related features straight out of the box and all of the following are available on the Shopify basic plan.
- Dropshipping Integration
- Flexible Shipping Rates
- Product Reviews
- Digital Products
- Gift Vouchers
- Shopify Management App
Marketing & SEO
- Google Adwords Credit
- Sell on Facebook
- Discount Codes
- Abandoned Cart Recovery
- Auto Generated Sitemap
- Social Share
- Custom Meta Data
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Product Reports
- Traffic Sources
- Google Analytics
- Day, Week and Monthly Reports
- Shopify Payments
- PayPal Express Checkout
- Amazon Pay
Shopify App Store
What really does help Shopify stand out when it comes to features is their App Store, which currently has over 3,000 apps that you can choose from including dropshipping integration, Google, Ebay and Amazon integration, SEO and marketing tools and advanced reporting to name but a few. Obviously, with so many to choose from, it is nearly impossible for me to start listing them all in this post.
But not all of these apps are free to use as many of them are made and managed by third party developers. Many offer free plans but you are limited to the amount of features you can use in the particular app, to get all the features then you will need to use a paid plan.
So you do need to be selective when it comes to choosing your apps as you can soon end up with a very expensive store.
Even though it is completely free to use, Opencart does come with some really good ecommerce features and these are all included with the core software.
- Gift Vouchers
- Sell Physical or Digital Products
- Custom Filters for Product Categories
- Reward Points
- Recurring Payments
Marketing & SEO
- Multi Currency
- Multi Lingual
- Product Reviews & Ratings
- Email Marketing
- Custom SEO inc Meta Titles and Descriptions
Opencart Extension Marketplace
Outside of the features that are included as standard with Opencart, they also have their own marketplace for their extensions. There are currently over 400 of these extensions to choose from and they offer a vide variety of features, including marketing, payments and shipping.
Now, while this is great, the downside is that not all of these extensions are free. That is because all of the extensions within the marketplace have been created by third-party developers and the most expensive one is $120.
Theme Selection & Customisation
The Shopify Theme Store offers a selection of 70 themes that you can choose from but only 9 of these are free to use and the others range from $140 – $180. The Themeforst marketplace has over 1200 additional themes you can choose from, which means that Shopify has the largest theme selection of any fully hosted ecommerce platform.
When it comes to customisation, Shopify has always been one of the front runners as the customizer allows users a lot of control of the look of their site. With features such as being able to quickly add and removes sections, change the content within these sections such as the images and text along with being able to change the themes colours of font types.
Unfortunately though, this only really applies to your homepage, there are a couple of options for your collection and product pages but nowhere near as much and even less so when it comes to created pages such as About Me or Team. This is because the customizer doesn’t work with these pages, instead, you are limited to a pretty basic text editor, which has limited layout options.
Opencart comes with a default theme, which is free and there are an additional 18 to choose from in the marketplace but the biggest selection is found outside of the Opencart ecosystem. On themeforest alone, there are over 850 to choose from and there are many other developers out there who have also created themes. As these are made by third party developers, most of these are paid for.
Theme customisation in Opencart very much comes down to the theme that you are using. Popular themes like Journal, offer a decent selection of customisation options with their own customizer.
But as standard, theme customisation within Opencart is pretty poor and unless you know how to use the twig coding language, there is pretty much nothing you can do to change the look and feel of the standard theme.
What this means, is that to make your site look and feel the way you want it to, you are going to have to invest in a third-party theme and if you need specific customisation, then you are probably going to have to pay a developer to do the work for you. Unless you know how to code obviously.
Running an ecommerce website can be challenging at times and you require some help, so what support do you get from these platforms?
As Shopify is a fully hosted platform, you do get some very good support options including over the phone, via live chat and email along with twitter. This is offered to all users and is available 24/7.
Accessing their support is not completely straightforward as you need to go to the help centre, type in a search query and then the button will appear that shows all of their contact options.
They also have a community forum that is frequented by their support staff and other users will also offer help and advice where they can.
Due to being open source and free, the level of support you get with Opencart isn’t anywhere near as good as what you get from a fully hosted platform. With Opencart you can open a support ticket with them and they will answer you as and when they can.
Outside of this, they do have a community forum which can be a good place to ask a question but don’t be surprised if your thread is mainly developers offering to solve your problem for a fee, rather than telling you how to do it.
There is also plenty of videos and blog posts out there that can offer some assistance and these can be found by doing a quick google search.
Hosting & Performance
As I mentioned as the start of the post, Opencart is a self hosted solution and that makes comparing the performance against Shopify quite difficult as it all depends on the hosting environment that is being used to run Opencart.
Shopify on the other hand is a fully hosted solution and all of the hosting is taken care of by the platform and they also have a good hosting environment that offers the following:
- PCI Compliant Hosting
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- Unlimited Storage
- 99.9% + Uptime
- Global CDN
- Free SSL Certificate
This all looks great right? But, I don’t like to companies on their word so I decided to test Shopify out and used my tried and tested method! I took three of their customer example sites and ran them through Pingdom’s speed test tool (London server), once a day for three days to see how well they performed.
I also created a demo Opencart website, that was filled with demo content and ran a test of that website to give a sort of comparison.
Average Load Time
Website 1: 0.89 Seconds
Website 2: 1.71 Seconds
Website 3: 0.60 Seconds
Test Website Load Time
Shopify had really good performance, especially as I was using the London based server and the majority of their hosting is based in North America. The average 1.60 seconds is within the golden 2 second window, with only one site averaging over this.
Opencart is known for being a very lightweight platform and the 0.37 second load time is very impressive, but this should only be used as a guide due to the amount of elements that can influence the performance of open source software.
Ease of Use
Facts and figures are one thing but what are these platforms like to use and how do they compare to each other? Well that is what I am going to be looking at in this section.
Getting started with these two platforms is different due to the way that they both operate and I will explain this in more detail below.
Getting started with Shopify is really easy to do, as it is simply a case of going to the Shopify website and entering your email address and creating a password.
Once you have gone through the sign up process, you will be taken into your dashboard for the first time and be greeted by a short set up guide. But as you can see in the image below, the set up guide doesn’t include that many steps and is missing out on some important ones such as setting up your payment gateway and delivery methods.
Fortunately, they have created a very useful set of videos in their academy, that are worth watching as they not only show you how to get started with Shopify but also include some tips and tricks to get you up and running.
Outside of the set up guide, the Shopify dashboard is a very nice place to be. It has a simple, uncluttered layout and the sidebar navigation menu is clearly labelled, making it very easy to not only find out where everything is within the dashboard but also to move from one section to another.
Getting started with Opencart is a bit more involved than with Shopify, as it is not a case of simply signing up and you are good to go. Instead, you first need to buy yourself some hosting and then install the Opencart software.
Some hosts may do this for you but in most cases, you need to do this yourself. You will also need to get your domain name pointed towards your web hosting and also install an SSL certificate so that your site is running on the https protocol.
Once you have got your hosting set up and Opencart installed, you will be taken into your dashboard.
The image above is what you will be greeted by when you first log in and as you can see there is no tutorial or set up guide in place, this means that you either need to find a guide online or figure it out for yourself.
The dashboard itself is pretty well laid out but there are certain aspects that make it not overly easy to use, with main ones being setting up your payment gateways and delivery methods as you need to go in and configure them as extensions, rather than them being under settings as they are with most other platforms.
It is just things like this, combined with the lack of any types of set up guide or tutorial that doesn’t make the Opencart platform feel particularly welcoming to new users.
Adding and Managing Stock
Being able to manage your stock efficiently and effectively is a hugely important part of running an online store and for me there are three main areas to this and they are:
- Adding products
- Organising your Products
- Managing your inventory
When it comes to creating a new product, Shopify have made the process very easy for its users. This is because they have gone for a single page layout and haven’t over complicated things by adding too many sections.
Instead the page has a really nice flow to it and it really doesn’t take long to go through and add a new product.
When it comes to organising your inventory, Shopify do things a little bit differently to most platforms as they have created their own collections system, which can be set up in one of two ways.
The first and arguably easiest for people who are new to the platform is to create a manual collection and what this means is that you create the collection and then manually add the products to it, this is very similar to a traditional category system.
The second way is to create an automated collection and this works on conditions that you create and can be based off product tags, vendor and product type to name but a few. This method takes a bit more time to learn as there are quite a few options that you can choose from but when done properly, can be very effective.
When it comes to managing your inventory, Shopify have created a few different ways in which you can do this. The first is the Inventory page and this is great for quickly and easily updating the stock quantity of your listings.
But if you want to make more changes to your listings, you can use their bulk editors and these allow you to edit pretty much and field that appears on the product creation/edit page. And pretty much the only reason you would need to go back in and edit a product individually, would be to update the description.
Adding a new product in Opencart isn’t overly difficult but it is a more involved process than it is with Shopify, this is because of the layout that Opencart have opted for.
As you can see in the image below, they have gone for a tabbed layout and there are quite a few options and configurations you can set up within Opencart and it does take some time to work through it and make sure that you have set it up properly.
Organising your products is a more straightforward affair as Opencart have opted for a traditional category structure and it allows you to easily create parent and child categories.
To manage your inventory in Opencart requires you to go back in and edit the products individually as there is not bulk product editor available in the core Opencart. There is a filter system that you can use to quickly find your products but you still to go in and edit them one by one, not great if you have a large and constantly changing inventory.
Shopify – In its standard form, the Shopify order management system isn’t bad but it does miss one important feature as standard and that is the ability to print off invoices/packing slips directly from the order management dashboard. Fortunately, the team at Shopify have created the Order Printer App, that allows you to do this.
Without this app installed, you are limited to being able to update order statuses and exports orders via CSV format.
Opencart – Is pretty much the complete opposite of Shopify as you can print off your invoices in bulk but to update order statuses, you need to do this on an order by order basis. There is also no option to print your orders off via CSV in the standard Opencart.
One nice feature of the Opencart order management is that there is a section where you can create and manage returns and this could be very useful for online stores that have a large number of orders as it saves you from having to go through and find the order, you can instead just find the open return and manage it there.
• Theme Customisation
• 24/7 Support
• Easy to use Admin Area
• The App Store
• Very Good Performance
• Transaction Fees
• Automatic Collection system is a bit complicated
• Great list of features out of the box
• Selection of extensions
• Product management
• Good documentation
• Lack of theme customisation
• Not bulk update for orders
• Not easy to set up Payments and Shipping
For me, there is only one winner out of these two platforms and that is Shopify.
It is easier to use and offers a more complete package, plus you get the benefit of all of the technical aspects and most of the security taken care of for you. You also have 24/7 support available, should you run into any problems.
Opencart isn’t particularly user friendly, especially if you are new to building websites. The core offering feels very rigid and it hasn’t really improved since I first used it back in 2014.
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Check Out Opencart
Free Open Source Ecommerce Software