When it comes to setting up your online store there are two names that jump out right away. WordPress and Shopify are the two most popular homes of eCommerce stores but they’re surprisingly different in a number of ways.
So to help you choose the best platform to set up your eCommerce store, we’ll be running through the pros and cons of each – plus which kind of retailer their both suited to.
How we’ll be comparing WordPress and Shopify
To give you an idea of how we’ll be comparing WordPress and Shopify today, here’s a quick run through of the categories we’ll be covering:
- How WordPress and Shopify are different
- The pros and cons of each
- Which platform is better for small retailers
- Which platform is better for larger retailers
- Which is better for content management and marketing
- Final verdict
So let’s get started by looking at what makes WordPress and Shopify different.
How WordPress and Shopify are different
WordPress started out as a blogging platform that allowed anyone to publish content online without writing any code. Before platforms like this, even running a simple blog required basic HTML skills and anything more complex, like a comments section, would need more extensive programming skills. Of course, WordPress is much more than a blogging platform these days. You can use it to build websites, full eCommerce stores and just about anything an online business could need. But its roots always go back to being a content management system (CMS) first.
Meanwhile, Shopify was designed specifically to sell products online. Canadian snowboard store owners Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake weren’t happy with the eCommerce options available back in 2008. So they made their own and called it Shopify, which means everything about this platform is engineered to sell products.
WordPress vs Shopify: the pros and cons
As with any comparison like this, there’s no answer that fits for everyone. There are pros and cons to each and the right choice for you depends on your unique needs. So let’s start by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of WordPress and Shopify.
- By far the better CMS
- Easier to use for beginners
- Huge range of themes for you to choose from
- Huge range of plugins to add functionality
- Tons of marketing tools and integration with other platforms
- Unlimited customisability
- A whole community of professional WordPress developers for you to call on
- Easy to leave WordPress if you want to change
- Not designed for eCommerce (you need to use plugins)
- Quality of themes varies a lot
- Potential compatibility problems between theme and plugin updates
- WordPress is an easy target for hackers
- WordPress’ bloated code can cause problems for larger retailers
- You have to find web hosting, payment processing yourself
WordPress is the ultimate platform for features and flexibility. If you want something specific, you can either find it in a theme, plugin or create it yourself. Meanwhile, WordPress’ disadvantages are well documented and developers have come up with countless tools over the years to fix or minimise them.
It’s important to know that WordPress has zero eCommerce capabilities on its own. You’ll need plugins to bring that kind of functionality to your site and a theme that’s designed for eCommerce (or you can add these design features yourself).
The most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress is WooCommerce. It comes with everything you need to run an online store and probably the best place to start with eCommerce plugins for WordPress.
A couple of other points we should expand upon are security and performance. WordPress’ popularity makes it an easy target for hackers and you’ll need to take steps to protect your online store and the people using it.
As for performance, speed is a concern for any WordPress site, but eCommerce stores with complex functionality are always more susceptible. So you’ll also need to work on keeping your WordPress store in healthy running order.
- Designed specifically for eCommerce
- Has the edge on WordPress for performance
- Shopify provides fast, secure hosting for you
- Shopify also offers payment processing
- Setting up can be a chore
- Far less themes to choose from
- Customisation is limited
- Difficult to add/take away features
- Tends to be more expensive than WordPress
- Hard to escape Shopify if you want to try something else
- Incredibly limited marketing tools
Shopify provides some of the best eCommerce performance available. Which means you can spend less time on site maintenance and concentrate on selling products. Meanwhile, you don’t need to worry about hosting your site or finding a payment provider because Shopify can cover all of this for you.
Despite this, setting up your Shopify store is nowhere near as easy as it should be. Things have improved with updates but it still takes too long to get your store up and running – something the tech firm really needs to fix.
The other big problem with Shopify is features. It doesn’t come anywhere close to matching WordPress and you don’t get the same kind of freedom to customise your store either. So it’s important to know what you need from your online store because it’s pretty difficult to leave Shopify once you’re set up.
How much do WordPress and Shopify cost?
This is where things get a little more complex so – to keep things as simple as possible – we’ll compare WooCommerce (WordPress itself is free) prices vs Shopify.The first thing to note is that WooCommerce is technically free but this never works out in practice. You’ll have to pay for WooCommerce add-ons to get the features you need and
The first thing to note is that WooCommerce is technically free but this never works out in practice. You’ll have to pay for WooCommerce add-ons to get the features you need and its important you consider the cost of hosting, payment providers and any other additional costs involved with WordPress.
Shopify, on the other hand, is much more simple in terms of pricing:
Those prices cover pretty much everything you need – including hosting and the option of Shopify payment processing. You’ll still need to pay transaction fees and various other charges per sale, but you’ll also pay these to third-party payment providers by using WordPress.
In most cases, WooCommerce still works out as slightly cheaper than Shopify. It really depends on what you end up paying for hosting and payment processing. Just be careful you don’t leave yourself short by going for cheap hosting that doesn’t support the levels of traffic you expect to attract.
Either way, the price difference normally isn’t enough to swing the decision one way or the other. It’s normally a question of features vs performance that decides things for you. That said, it’s still a good idea to calculate the overall cost of WordPress (including some hosting and payment provider options) so you can compare it to Shopify and know where you stand.
Note: If you’re comfortable enough with choosing free plugins and customising WordPress yourself, it is possible to run your online store for a few hundred per year. Just remember this can be risky if you don’t know your way around WordPress and how to keep things secure.
Which platform is better for small retailers?
For the absolute smallest of online retailers, WordPress will always be the way to go. If you only anticipate getting a few hundred visitors per month, you might get away with a cheaper hosting package – and WordPress suddenly becomes the far cheaper option.
Things get a little more complex as your needs grow. If your plan is to expand as quickly as possible, you need to take hosting seriously and consider which payment options to provide. Shopify comes with speedy hosting as standard but you need to source your own provider with WordPress. However, Shopify doesn’t come with the same collection of marketing tools to help you grow as quickly as possible.
So it’s the same old question for small-medium retailers: do you want the best performance or the widest set of features?
Which platform is better for large retailers?
This really depends on how large you want to grow. Shopify is great for those medium-to-large retailers, as long as it has the features they need. In these cases, Shopify is about the best option you’ve got.
However, things become problematic if you end up needing something Shopify doesn’t provide “out of the box”. Building your own features into Shopify isn’t really an option like it is with WordPress and you don’t have all those plugins to fall back on either.
It gets even worse if you go from a large retailer to a huge one and outgrow Shopify. Once you reach the limits of Shopify Plus, there’s nowhere else to go and migrating to WordPress at a later stage is difficult.
This is where WordPress’ flexibility really comes into its own. The question is whether you think you’ll need it – either now or further down the line.
Which is better for content management and marketing?
This one is easy to answer. WordPress beats Shopify every time when it comes to content management and marketing. This is no surprise, of course, because WordPress is a content management system (CMS) and this is what it was originally designed for.
If you go from WordPress to Shopify, you’ll see how limited the latter is from the first page or blog post you publish. It isn’t bad at this side of things, but WordPress has the clear advantage on just about every element of content management and marketing.
Most of what you can do on WordPress can also be done on Shopify, but not always with the same convenience. You’ll often need to use third-party tools and most of them don’t support Shopify integration or vice versa. Marketing is seriously time-consuming and WordPress’ integration with third-party marketing tools and plugins makes it an incredibly powerful CMS.
Shopify does have a marketing ace up its sleeve though. Facebook and Shopify have developed a number of integrations over the last few years, including Shopify Store Pages on Facebook and the ability to sell products inside Facebook Messenger.
Again, you can do all of this with a WordPress site, but setting things up will take more work/time.
WordPress vs Shopify: Final verdict
Despite both platforms having their flaws, these really are two of the best options for a wide range of eCommerce needs. The best choice for you will depend on your needs so make sure you have a clear understanding of what you want before signing up.WordPress gives you just about every feature you could ever need for an eCommerce store. And, if you can’t find the right theme or plugin, you can always add the feature yourself. So there really is nothing you can’t do with WordPress and this kind of flexibility is difficult to beat.
WordPress gives you just about every feature you could ever need for an eCommerce store. And, if you can’t find the right theme or plugin, you can always add the feature yourself. So there really is nothing you can’t do with WordPress and this kind of flexibility is difficult to beat.Then again. If Shopify provides everything you need and you’re confident it will continue to do so, it has the edge on WordPress in terms of performance (speed, security, etc.). You can match this kind of performance with a WordPress site but you’ll have to put some extra work in, while Shopify does most of it for you.
Then again. If Shopify provides everything you need and you’re confident it will continue to do so, it has the edge on WordPress in terms of performance (speed, security, etc.). You can match this kind of performance with a WordPress site but you’ll have to put some extra work in, while Shopify does most of it for you.As for a final verdict, the overall winner has got to be WordPress. Shopify’s
As for a final verdict, the overall winner has got to be WordPress. Shopify’s all-round package and performance make it a really tempting option and it’ll work perfectly for many online retailers. However, WordPress really does work for any kind of eCommerce brand – as long as you take the time to keep on top of performance, security and any customisations that need adding.