It took a very long time, but the coronavirus has actually caused many jewelers to finally realize they need an ecommerce website.
If you’re a jeweler, you’ve likely heard the debate about what the “best” website platform is. The short answer, in my opinion, is that the website platform matters way less than your marketing does. But we’ll get to that soon.
However, there are definitely benefits to choosing a reliable, easy to use website platform.
There are two main ecommerce platforms on the web today – Shopify and WooCommerce (which is WordPress).
Magento is the third big ecommerce platform, but this is often a huge, complex solution that is unnecessary for all but the largest of businesses (usually a headache). So I don’t really recommend them ever.
This article will hopefully help you make an educated decision between WordPress and Shopify.
Shopify is a complete website solution built exclusively for e-commerce. You can create your store, accept payments, and manage your inventory from a single location. You don’t need to worry about technical components of managing a typical website like web hosting, keeping your site speedy, or fixing performance issues. You pay a monthly fee to Shopify and most of the technical stuff is done for you.
WooCommerce is the e-commerce solution for people who use a WordPress website. WooCommerce acts as an extension to your WordPress website, so I may use the terms WordPress and WooCommerce interchangeably. In this scenario, you’d have a WordPress website, and WooCommerce would be a free add-on to the site that gives you fantastic e-commerce capabilities (WordPress sites on their own are not e-commerce sites).
WordPress is the most powerful content management system (CMS) in the world and it powers roughly 30-40% of all websites in the world. WooCommerce is open-source. This means you can customize every aspect of your store and easily build custom extensions.
Both options give you tremendous online selling power, but there are some major differences that will impact your decision.
Shopify makes it super easy to start your online store. However, you need to pay a monthly fee and you may give up extra profit in payment processing feees.
Plans start at $29 per month, and you can upgrade to a $79/mo plan or a $299/mo plan.
The basic $29 plan comes with everything you need to set up a new online store. You can add unlimited products, a couple user accounts, unlimited file storage, and more.
Though, this doesn’t include third-party tools like extra plugins or add-ons you’ll likely need to improve or customize your site.
Payments processing is another factor that impacts your costs. Shopify offers their own Shopify Payments solution which costs 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction. If you want to use third-party payment gateways or your own merchant account, then you will be charged a flat fee of 2.0% for all transactions. This is on top of the transaction fees charged by the payment gateway. (You can lower this fee by using the $299/month Shopify Advanced plan).
These extra fees are expensive and definitely something to consider. However if you don’t mind sticking to Shopify’s payment processing, you can avoid it.
WooCommerce is free out of the box. You simply “add” it to your WordPress site (most WordPress themes come with WooCommerce already installed and styled to match the theme).
You’ll still web hosting and an SSL certificate, but these costs are minimal ($10-$20/month for web hosting and $100/year for an SSL certificate, though most web hosts offer free SSL certificates).
Unlike Shopify, WooCommerce also doesn’t charge you a percentage fee of your transactions which is obviously great.
Most jewelers are not web designers. Therefore, ease of use is a huge factor for considering which platform to use.
Shopify is completely self-managed. You don’t need to manage software, or worry about typical website issues like security or performance. Everything is done for you as long as you keep paying Shopify your monthly subscription.
Shopify is also very easy to use – it comes with a very easy drag and drop interface. Managing your products and inventory inside Shopify is simple.
One downside of this simple and highly optimized user experience is that it limits your control. You can only use the design and development tools provided by Shopify or add-ons available in their marketplace.
WooCommerce is not a hosted platform like Shopify. Your website sits on your own web host (GoDaddy, etc) and its up to you to maintain your website. It’s your job to manage updates and and make sure it’s performing well.
So, the incredible flexibility you get with WooCommerce does take a little bit of learning. Adding products and managing inventory is simple, like in Shopify. But managing the other “website” type stuff (designing other pages, maintaining the performance of the site) is something that jewelers may leave to their web development team. However, WordPress is well received by small businesses and most find it very simple to use (one of WordPress’ main strengths).
Whether you choose Shopify or WordPress/WooCommerce, you’ll need plugins (add-ons) for your website. These will help you grow your store. For example, email marketing software, lead generation or analytics tools, etc.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce have an extensions directory, and they integrate with many third-party services. Though WordPress’ is way bigger.
Shopify has an App Store where you can buy third-party add-ons for your Shopify website. They have hundreds of apps in the store covering a lot of areas. Some are free, some are paid.
Despite having these solutions, they are dwarfed in comparison by the sheer amount of customization options and third party plugins you’d get on WordPress.
This is my biggest problem with Shopify. While Shopify may be very simple for ecommerce for those who don’t want to bother with website/technical stuff, you’re limited to the type of designs and flexibility that they give you. Plus – if you’re trying to grow in the ecommerce arena, the “tech stuff” needs to be a part of your expertise anyway now.
If you’re a specialty brand without a storefront and selling online is all you do, Shopify’s standard templates and limited customization may be all you need – and it may be very simple for you.
Though, most retail jewelers need other pages and elements on their website. The limited level of flexibility with Shopify may prevent you from getting your site exactly how you want it.
Running your store on WooCommerce means you’re running a WordPress site. This gives you an absolutely mind boggling amount of freedom, inexpensive customization options, and flexibility to add any kind of design or content you want.
You have full control of the whole WordPress platform. You can add any functionality imaginable to your website with the help of more than 50,000 WordPress plugins.
You can use these add-ons to add payment gateways, lead generation, SEO, performance optimization, and almost any feature you can think of.
Due to the low barrier of entry, there are a lot more integrations and add-ons available for WooCommerce than Shopify. Almost all third-party tools and service providers have their own plugins to seamlessly integrate with your WooCommerce store.
WooCommerce is a lot easier to customize.
Tough question. Ultimately it depends on your, budget, your comfort with technology, how much time you’re willing to invest into your success, and whether you’ll be working with a web development/digital marketing agency.
WooCommerce (WordPress) is the more expansive platform with the most capabilities. Shopify is the easiest.
Since Shopify is strictly built for eCommerce, jewelers will appreciate the simplicity of running an ecommerce store here. Everything is done for you and its made exclusively for online sales. The drawback is you’re limited to Shopify’s templates and add ons. If Shopify makes a change, theres not much you can do about it.
WooCommerce may take a bit of learning, though it’s not terribly difficult by any means. If you’re willing to put a bit of time into learning how to upload your own inventory and manage your site, I’d recommend you choose WordPress. It’s the more expansive and flexible platform without being too complex. Especially if you plan on working with a web development team – because they can handle all the technical stuff you’re not comfortable with.
Let’s make one thing clear – the choice if your website platform isn’t whats going to drive sales. Your marketing is.
Having a website means nothing without the right marketing behind it. Whether you have a WordPress or Shopify site, they’re both stationary pieces of landscape that sit there and wait for traffic to come. There is no inherit marketing benefit to choosing one over the other.
The success of either website is going to depend on the ability to use the web properly to drive relevant traffic to the site.
Both types of websites have different ways they can assist in your marketing. Shopify has Smart Ads which are a simple way to get some Google Ads up and running to your ecommerce store. WordPress has a huge array of plugins and marketing tools, too.
Ultimately, knowing how you’re going to drive traffic to your site is more important than which website platform you choose.