E-commerce solutions and platforms abound in our digital age. I recently took the time to interview a dozen of development shops to learn more about their e-commerce workflows. Turns out each and every one of them had different setups. Some privileged more custom development and integrations; others, more turnkey solutions to increase the amount of sites they shipped.
A few of them, familiar with the popular CMS WordPress, worked with its #1 e-commerce plugin, WooCommerce. And when we discussed Snipcart, they legitimately asked me:
"Why should I use Snipcart over WooCommerce?"
The first time they asked this question, I babbled something generic about our product being developer-friendly and flexible. Now, I'm going to share a more elaborate answer with you.
In this post, I'm going to be discussing how WooCommerce differs from Snipcart, and which use cases are best suited to both.
The first version of this post was written in 2016, so we took the time to refresh it with both products' latest updates—including Snipcart v3.0.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is a comprehensive and open-source e-commerce plugin for self-hosted WordPress sites.
Its initial and free solution, WooCommerce Core, offers all the features needed to manage basic e-commerce operations. WooThemes (WooCommerce founders) run a large and diverse marketplace of paid extensions to customize online stores or augment their capabilities. They also provide a free e-commerce website theme, Storefront, to get started quickly.
See the GitHub repo for this custom cart theme.
How much do Snipcart & WooCommerce cost?
WooCommerce: free + payment gateway fees + paid extensions
WooCommerce Core is free for WordPress users, with many useful features built-in. To take their store further, site owners can purchase extensions paid on an annual basis. Merchants also need to pay payment gateway fees on all transactions (usually around 2.9%).
Snipcart: 2%/transaction + payment gateway fees
When using Snipcart's standard pricing, you pay 2% of your monthly transactions, plus payment gateway fees. If you were using Stripe as a gateway for your Snipcart store, for instance, you'd end up with a total of 4.9% + 30 cents/transaction.
Note: We do offer custom-tailored monthly pricing for merchants with high-volume & seasonal sales. See our pricing page for details.
Some native features Snipcart provides would have to be purchased as paid extensions for WooCommerce merchants. Here's a non-exhaustive list of some of these:
Getting shipping rates from a specific shipping carrier: 79$/carrier
Custom options for products: 49$
Recurring payments & subscriptions: 199$
Exporting orders and customers in CSV: 79$
No external redirection for checkout with PayPal Pro: 79$
Adding custom fields to checkout process: 49$
Min/Max product quantities: 29$
Composite products: 79$
The list ramps up to over 600 bucks in startup fee. Depending on your e-commerce needs, this amount could be far less, or far more. But maybe you won't need all these features. And if making your customers pay for these extensions on an annual basis fits within your business model, it's perfectly fine too.
To be fair, in terms of core features, the opposite situation is also true. WooCommerce has some out-of-the-box features merchants will find useful, such as point and click product creation. Snipcart does not offer this natively, but a few lines of code will do the trick.
How much autonomy does your merchant need?
With a good WooCommerce set up, a merchant can accomplish lots of things by himself within the WordPress admin. He can change basic store design, or manage and customize products, for instance. Extensions and integrations with third party marketing tools are normally user-friendly too.
On that level, a basic Snipcart integration offers less autonomy for the non-technical merchant. Creating and customizing Snipcart products is done using HTML attributes. However, if you'd like a merchant to be autonomous with Snipcart, you could very well make it happen. Using our API & webhooks, you could integrate Snipcart into WordPress to allow product and data management directly from within the CMS. Shortcodes for WP will do the trick too.
How do you want to get the e-commerce job done?
To be honest, I wouldn't dare to go toe-to-toe with WooCommerce on a feature level. This isn't what this post is about. We've got a pretty nice feature set ourselves at Snipcart. But it's far from the hyper-specific, voluminous 300+ extensions marketplace WooThemes run.
And like we've seen in the pricing section, the price a merchant will pay for a WooCommerce store can greatly vary. But the same thing goes for Snipcart: if a merchant uses Snipcart but needs to push it further (integration with external systems, fully custom shopping cart, etc.), he'll likely pay his developer for more development time.
So I think the key in comparing the two products here is asking yourself, as a developer, how you want to work.
Are you happy and efficient when working with PHP, shortcodes and WordPress themes? Are you comfortable with managing parent and child themes to customize your end user's shopping experience? Maintaining them to keep up with WordPress and WooCommerce updates?
These are all realities developers face when working with WooCommerce. And I'm not claiming they're good nor bad; like I said, it all depends on how you like to work.
With Snipcart, your workflow is totally different from the one we just exposed.
As far as product pages and listings go: it's your call. Snipcart is CMS-independent, so you only need to define a product over an HTML element where you want customers to add products to their cart. This also means no database is involved (we like to keep it lean!).
This stronger separation between CMS & e-commerce often makes it easier to adopt a modular approach and migrate the site later on.
You want to push e-commerce further with WooCommerce? You'll most likely pay to do that.
You want to push e-commerce further with Snipcart? You'll most likely write code to do that.
It all comes down to which scenario you prefer, really! :)
In a way, Snipcart gives you more creative freedom when it comes to project aesthetic and functionality. You're not using the full-page cart & checkout WooCommerce sites are using. You're not starting your design from WooThemes or WordPress themes. You get to decide completely how your cart will look and behave.
We launched Snipcart with developer freedom as a core value. We wanted you to pick the right tool for the right job; adopting a modular approach bundling tools you love. So if, as a developer, you love to work with WordPress and PHP, then WooCommerce might just be a solid fit. I've seen killer e-commerce sites running on WooCommerce, and I'm sure you have, too. After all, a solution powering a third of all online stores has to be a decent one!
But maybe you want to try something else than WordPress, or a different sort of e-commerce experience on a WordPress site. Maybe all the JAMstack talk is getting to you. Maybe you want to bundle WordPress, a shopping cart platform & a custom POS together in an omnichannel solution. Maybe you want to ditch databases and build a crazy fast e-commerce experience with a static site generator.
Well, if any of that sounds appealing to you, I guess that's why I'd tell you to use Snipcart over WooCommerce.
I hope this post helped put into perspective the positioning of WooCommerce vs. Snipcart. If you enjoyed it and found it valuable, go ahead and share it on Twitter. We'd love to know your thoughts and experiences with either WooCommerce or our own product in the comments.