Shopify vs WordPress: Which is Better for Ecommerce? (January 2020)

If you've been thinking about launching your own ecommerce store, then there's a good chance that you've already done some research into the tools that can help you do just that.

As the world continues to embrace the benefits and convenience of online shopping, ecommerce is becoming one of the most natural business options for today's entrepreneurs. After all, when you sell your products online, there's no need for expensive real-estate.

In the new digital age, countless vendors have begun to create solutions for a new time of mobile, simple selling. From Square payment terminals for your casual pop-up shop, to Shopify and WordPress for building online selling sites. Shopify and WordPress are two of the best-known brands in the ecommerce world, with a reputation of simplicity, flexibility, and great performance.

However, if you've looked into these tools before, you might be wondering why we would want to compare them. After all, Shopify is exclusively an ecommerce platform, while WordPress is a website builder that businesses can use to make virtually any kind of site they like, from blogs to publications.

The reason we're doing this Shopify vs WordPress comparison today is that both options have emerged as valuable choices for business owners to create sale-friendly sites.

Let's look at both of the options in closer detail.

Shopify vs WordPress: An Overview

Before we start the process involved to compare Shopify vs WordPress, it's important that you understand that they're both very different tools.

Shopify is a leading web application that was designed specifically to help merchants design and build reliable online stores. If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform that can give you a domain name, access to PayPal, your own ecommerce plugin, a shopping cart and other useful features, Shopify is it. The clue is in the name – it's all about helping people shop. Shopify comes with a wide range of templates to choose from, which you can customize to suit your individual requirements and branding needs. What’s more, there’s a different Shopify plan to suit everyone.

shopify homepage - shopify vs wordpress

A fundamental idea behind Shopify is that even if you don't have any design or technical skill, you should still be able to create a website where you can sell products. However, you can edit things like CSS and HTML with Shopify if you want to, which means that your coding skills can come in handy if you have them. Taking shopify payments is simple, and you can set up your own Shopify store in no time with a very limited learning curve. You’ll be ushering your customers through your checkout in no time.

Another point to note is that Shopify is a hosted solution. This means that all of your functionality comes to you from Shopify's servers. You don't need to worry about installing software or buying web hosting. The idea is that everything you need to build your store comes to you out of the box. Shopify is a SaaS tool, which means that you don't own a copy of the software, but you can pay a monthly fee to access it.

So, what about WordPress?

Well, the first thing you need to know is that there are two types of WordPress available. WordPress.com, and WordPress.org. The .com version of the tool is hosted by a separate company, whereas you host the .org option yourself. Like Shopify, the hosted WordPress.com is a SaaS tool that you pay for on a monthly fee. This solution is more of an all-in-one solution that you can use to build and maintain a wide selection of websites.

On the other hand, WordPress.org is a piece of ecommerce or website-building software that you'll install into your own web server. This open-source solution can be customized as much as you like. WordPress.org is an extremely flexible tool that's easy to use and tweak – particularly if you have a coding background.

You can install the WordPress.org solution onto your server for free, but there will be costs for hosting that solution, so it's not 100% free of charge. However, WordPress hosting solutions are very easy to find. What’s more, with your WordPress website, you get a bunch of fantastic features. WordPress comes with access to the WooCommerce plugin for ecommerce, as well as all the tools you need to make your own storefront and checkout. Thanks to plugins, you can easily access all the ecommerce features you need.

woocommerce homepage - shopify vs wordpress

On top of that, WordPress is incredibly extensible. Alongside free themes and add-ons, there’s a WordPress plugin for practically anything. You can use the web hosting service for everything from product reviews, to inventory management, and more.

For the purpose of this Shopify vs WordPress comparison, we're going to be looking specifically at the self-hosted version.

Further reading:

Shopify Pricing – learn about the actual costs you can expect when going with Shopify.

Shopify Review – here you'll find our full Shopify review.

WordPress.org Review – in this review we're going to be talking about WordPress.org in detail.

WooCommerce Review – is WooCommerce one of the best plugins for WordPress?

Shopify vs WordPress: Pricing and Value

When it comes to compare Shopify vs WordPress, there are a lot of things that you'll need to consider, from ease of use and customer support, to theme and feature options. However, one of the most important initial considerations for any business is how much a piece of software costs.

Shopify comes with a range of 5 pricing plans to choose from in total.

First you have:

  • Basic Shopify: Everything you need to start a new business for $29 per month.
  • Shopify: The complete Shopify experience for $79 per month.
  • Advanced Shopify: State-of-the-art features for a scaling business for $299 per month.

Recently, Shopify also introduced new options for pricing, which include Shopify Plus – with a negotiable, quote-based price, and Shopify Lite, which starts at $9 per month. Shopify Plus is the most expensive version of Shopify, so keep that in mind when you're checking your options. Most of Shopify's features are also available to try before you buy with a 14-day free trial.

To fully understand what you’re getting when you pay for a Shopify plan, you need to take a closer look at the number of products and features that come with Shopify. After all, you need a storefront and hosting provider that’s going to let you manage unlimited products with ease

As with most website building tools, the number of features you get on any given plan will depend on how much you're paying. For instance, the Lite plan gives you an option to add a Shopify “Buy” button to your site and sell via Facebook – but there's no standalone store available. On the other hand, the Phone support service is only available on the Basic package and higher.

All around, Shopify is a relatively affordable way to build your ecommerce website, particularly if you're sticking to the lower tiers. However, the advanced and Plus packages can get very expensive, very fast.

Now let's take a look at WordPress.

It's harder to say for certain what a self-hosted WordPress ecommerce website is going to cost for your business, because there are a lot of variables involved. Downloading the software to make a WordPress site is free, but the overall price of your ecommerce strategy will depend on things like:

  • The themes and designs you choose – some themes come with a premium price tag, and a professional designer will too.
  • Hosting – Lots of different companies offer hosting, and many of them come with a range of pricing packages to choose from.
  • Integrations – Many business owners need a wide range of integrations and plugins to help them run their stores. If that's the case for you, some of your plugins may cost money.

What's more, because WordPress often requires a bit more coding knowledge, at least for the self-hosted version, there's a good chance that you may need to pay for a developer to help you with the build. If you're going to need professional help, then you need to add the cost of a skilled developer to your Shopify versus WordPress comparison.

The one thing that you always need to pay for when you're building an ecommerce store with WordPress is hosting, so decide whether you're going to opt for a shared-hosting service, or a managed hosting provider. Managed hosting often gives you a more secure and faster website, but it's costly. On the other hand, shared hosting is cheap, but it's not ideal for larger corporate projects.

The average price of a WordPress ecommerce site may be:

  • Annual hosting (managed): $350 each year
  • Premium theme: $150 one-off
  • Ecommerce integrations: $180 per year
  • Plugins: $100
  • Part-time developer guidance: $500-$2000

Depending on how you're going to build your WordPress store, Shopify comes out as being a little cheaper overall.

Remember to keep your payment options in mind when you’re choosing the platform that’s right for you too. Whether you’re accepting Paypal payments or credit card transactions, you’re going to need a service with low transaction fees. Shopify Transaction fees start with the Shopify Basic plan for $29 per month with a price of 2.9% and 30 cents for every online transaction. Alternatively, the main Shopify plan costs $79 per month with a cost of 2.6% and 30 cents for every transaction.

Alternatively, the transaction fees that you encounter with WordPress will depend on the kind of ecommerce payment platform that you’re using.

Shopify vs WordPress: Features and Ease of Use

We've spent a lot of time talking about the pricing and value of Shopify vs. WordPress. However, there's more to an ecommerce site-building tool than it's cost.

Now's the time to look at what each provider can do to help you design and transform your site.

If you’re brand-new to the world of online selling, then any ecommerce solution is going to come with a learning curve. Whether you opt for a WordPress website and wordpress hosting, or you prefer the shopify plan, you’ll need to think about which one will be easiest for you to use.

Starting with Shopify, the thing that really makes a difference with this ecommerce site tool is the fact that it was built for one thing, and one thing only. Shopify isn't intended for any other purpose beyond online store creation and transaction management. In other words, you're dealing with a specialist.

To start using Shopify, you need to register for an account, but that doesn't take very long. Plus, there's the option to try Shopify for free for 14 days if you're not sure you want to choose it over WordPress yet. The free trial means that you can put both Shopify vs Woocommerce and WordPress hosting to the test if you choose to.

When you log into your Shopify account, you'll find a wide variety of tools that are all perfectly situated to help you make the most of your digital store. Whether you're looking for flexible settings, coupons, discounts, or payment delivery systems, Shopify has you covered. There's also the option to import information from CSV files and email marketing tools.

Shopify comes with access to a wide marketplace too, where you can find all the extra functionality that you need to really make your store stand out. For instance, you can track down marketing and SEO tools, inventory management services, social media buttons, product sourcing solutions and so much more. There are even integrations with accounting tools if you need help tracking your taxes. What's more, there are no coding skills required to use anything from Shopify. You can start taking credit card payments in no time, and Shopify offers one of the simplest shopping cart and payment gateways on the market too.

The flexibility of Shopify as an ecommerce store builder is great, and it's also a tool that's easy to use, regardless of what your background might be. If you've never dealt with code in your life, you should still be able to access Shopify and make a relatively good online store.

Honestly, Shopify offers one of the most convenient and straightforward website building tools in the segment. Any user can master creating their store in no time, and you don't have to have any special skills to get started. There's also a lot of knowledgebase materials and guides around if you do feel like you need some extra help.

So, how does WordPress fare from a feature perspective?

WordPress wasn't designed specifically for the creation of online stores like Shopify. Instead, the tool is intended to help you make a website of any kind online. It does this in several ways, by giving you open and flexible tools and plugins intended to transform your site.

For ecommerce site design, you'll have a bunch of popular options available, including WP Ecommerce, and everyone's favorite WooCommerce. WooCommerce and similar plugins add a lot of valuable online store features and settings that are similar to a standard separate website builder. These plugins come with things like shipping and payment setting options, SEO, and web design settings, as well as a range of niche templates to browse through.

Aside from the Plugins available for your online store, building a business with WordPress also means that you'll need to install separate plugins, just as you would for Shopify. Plugins like SEO services (Yoast) and interlinking services will help to keep your site in top condition. However, the more plugins you install, the more you're going to slow your site down.

WordPress definitely gives today's ecommerce leaders a way to create attractive online stores, but you're going to need some developer background to really get the most out of all the features. Newbies will have a hard time mastering all the functions, which means that it could take longer for you to take your business live.

WordPress is one of the simplest CMS systems around, but it does come with a number of challenges to overcome, like a basic knowledge of HTML, and a place to host your site. You're going to need to figure out where and how you want to host your site, which can be a challenge for some digital newbies.

The good news is that because WordPress is so popular, there are a lot of guides and resources available on the web to help get you started. You can find entire videos and webinars dedicated to teaching people how to use WordPress as a self-hosted solution. Not only will you learn how to use WordPress, but you could gain some other useful developer and design skills along the way too.

Unfortunately, despite all its benefits, WordPress still isn't better than Shopify for an ecommerce website owner. WordPress is all about giving you a content management system that you can use to handle any kind of site. You can use your WordPress website as a blogging platform, ecommerce solution, membership site, or something else entirely.

Ultimately, if you're looking for simplicity, it's best to stick with Shopify. In terms of flexibility, WordPress might give you more that you can do with your website, but if you just want an ecommerce site – you don't need those extra functions. All-around, WordPress is a better site builder, but for eCommerce, Shopify comes out ahead.

Shopify vs WordPress: Templates

Now we come to making your website look good with either Shopify or WordPress. After all, you could have the best domain name, access to paypal payments, and even an SSL certificate, and you still won’t get sales if your site doesn’t look good.

There's obviously a lot more to a great website than looks alone. However, anyone who has visited a shoddy looking site in the past and immediately hit the back button will know that aesthetics make a difference to your success as a business owner.

Both Shopify and WordPress give you ways to spruce up the way your website looks. Free themes are the easiest way to start upgrading your online business storefront. Shopify offers an elegant set of templates, with free and premium options to suit a range of needs. All of these templates are professionally designed and easy to edit. What's more, as you would expect from any site builder these days, the models are responsive for mobile users too.

With such a great selection of attractive themes to choose from, you can rest assured that you're going to look good when you get your business online. What's more, there's a range of other templates available from premium sellers too if you don't like the ones that come straight from Shopify.

Of course, as attractive as Shopify's templates are, they pale in comparison to the huge selection of options available for WordPress. WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, so developers have been making themes and templates for it for years. This means that there are literally thousands of options to choose from. Look at this image search for instance:

Not every template you can get for WordPress will be suitable for your ecommerce site though. You could spend days searching through options looking for a WordPress theme. Additionally, it’s worth noting that not every theme available will work with the tools you’re using from the app store. You’ll need to make sure that your WordPress theme still works with your WooCommerce plugin, social media tools, and anything else you have.

What's more, not every theme is as modern and classy as you might like. Another point to note is that because Shopify is designed for non-technical users, it's also worth noting that Shopify theme options are a little easier to use and customize. However, creating the perfect WordPress template isn't that difficult either.

In terms of customization options, WordPress is definitely the Winner in any battle between Shopify vs WordPress. Just make sure that you're picking a safe template from a reliable source, so you don't compromise the security of your site.

Keep in mind that both Shopify and WordPress offer premium themes and free options too. While free themes are great for beginners, premium themes are often much more appealing to professionals.

Shopify vs. WordPress: Ecommerce or Selling Tools

No ecommerce site building tool would be complete without a range of features specifically intended to help you build and manage an online store. After all, we’re looking at WordPress hosting and Shopify store options specifically with a focus on ecommerce.

Once you’ve found the shopify theme option that’s suitable for you, then you can get to work adding unlimited products to your shopify app.

Shopify and WordPress both have a lot to offer in this department. Let's take a look at just some of the features that you can expect from each contender.

With Shopify, you get all the amazing features that you would expect from a tool that was designed specifically for building ecommerce websites. From the moment you log in to your service, you're taken straight to a dashboard where you can load email details, product information, and more.

Shopify allows users to:

  • Effectively organize, track and manage their inventory
  • Insert in-depth product descriptions, images, and pricing details
  • Set up personal customer accounts for users that allow clients to share personal details and receive more customized suggestions on which products to buy
  • Category organizing tools that help users to find the services or products that they're looking for with ease.
  • An abandoned cart feature that integrates with your email marketing tool to follow up on potentially lost sales.
  • The ability to create additional blogs and web pages that enhance and positively impact your online presence.
  • More than 70 different payment processors, as well as the option for multi-currency process calculations.
  • Add extra blogs and webpages to build awareness for your brand and improve your reputation.
  • Customer and order detail tracking to help you follow through on orders.
  • Multiple staff login options for the delegation of staff responsibilities.

The features available for ecommerce from WordPress will depend on the plugin that you use with your WordPress account to access ecommerce functionality. Usually, most people will go for WooCommerce as their plugin of choice. WooCommerce comes with many of the same features as Shopify, including the option to sell both digital and physical products.

Additionally, with WooCommerce, you can create customer accounts that are specifically designed for individual users and sell affiliate products with added incentives too. There's also a transparent and flexible environment in which you can segment products and create product categories so that they're easier to track.

Other handy features include:

  • Geo-location tools to track customer addresses and send packages automatically to the right address at the right time.
  • Shipping variant options and pricing with options for local delivery, collection, and more.
  • Automated email templates to send customers messages at various points in the buying cycle, including when they abandon their carts.
  • Discount and coupon creation so you can offer a wider range of deals to your customers.
  • Product review functions that allow customers to leave reviews and boost your reputation
  • A host of fantastic analytical tools, including integrations with Google Analytics so you can track growth trends, traffic levels, and profits.

It's hard to say whether Shopify or WordPress is best in this instance, because the kind of functionality you get for ecommerce with WordPress is dependent on your plugin choice. However, you should be able to find something that offers you the same capabilities as Shopify, and then some in the app store. With so many ecommerce plugin tools to choose from, it’s hard for WordPress not to stand out as one of the most flexible hosting provider options around.

Shopify vs. WordPress: SEO and Content

Search Engine Optimization is an important part of keeping any business website running smoothly. After all, if you don't have great visibility in the search results, you're going to struggle with sales and traffic. While you can use paid advertising to ramp up your sales, SEO is usually the easiest way to maintain results in the long term.

Whether you’re building your website with BigCommerce, Wix, Shopify or a WordPress plugin, your strategy for speaking to the search engines will be crucial for long-term growth. It will help customers to find a number of products on your site, and it could boost your reputation too.

So, how do Shopify or WordPress help you to improve your SEO strategy?

Well, if we look at Shopify, the SEO features are pretty basic, but reliable. You can access things like SSL to keep your site secure and prove to Google that you deserve to be at the front of the search listings. Additionally, XML sitemaps are automatically created for you, as are 301 redirects if a page doesn't work, or you change a name.

Unfortunately, you can't use leading solutions like Yoast on Shopify sites, but there are a lot of handy SEO plugins available, which perform similar functions. You can also use advanced shopify editing to implement your own SEO strategies.

The main downside of Shopify for SEO is that it's hard to create super clean URLs. That's because you always get things like /pages/ before your pages, and so on.

As you'll see in the Google search console, Google far prefers a simple URL structure:

Still, there's a lot more to SEO than URLs alone, so you're not going to lose all chance of ranking just because your URLs are a bit janky.

Moving onto WordPress, this company offers excellent SEO options, particularly if you install Yoast – one of the most popular SEO tools available.

The Yoast WordPress plugin analyses your content in depth from a SEO perspective, then delivers step-by-step guidance on how you can improve your ranking. Additionally, with Yoast for WordPress, you can create SEO-enhanced sitemaps and create canonical URLs to avoid duplicate content.

WordPress is also way better at creating clean and simple URLs for your site.

Another huge bonus?

Because you can host WordPress sites on any server, you can choose something that's super-fast and reliable. You won't be restricted by the shared hosting from Shopify, which means that as your business begins to grow, you'll still have the support and bandwidth that you need.

Shopify vs WordPress: Customer Support and Guidance

Customer support and guidance are areas that are easy to overlook when you're investing in a new tool for the first time. You assume that you'll learn how to use a system pretty quickly, so customer service won't be necessary. However, it's always good to know that assistance is available when you need it.

Shopify is probably one of the best ecommerce website builders out there for customer support. When you buy a plan, you get support included as standard. Email and phone support are available for everyone but customers on the Shopify Lite plan. If you're with the Lite package, you only get chat and email support – which is still enough to get the basic assistance that you need.

Shopify also has a handy help center and a range of community forums that you can browse through to get answers to your questions. All-in-all, the service is really easy to get the hang of with all the support solutions:

So, what about WordPress?

Well, unfortunately, since you're opting for a self-hosted platform, when you sign up with WordPress, you're not going to get a lot of support.

Sure, there's support out there, but it's often in the form of WordPress forums and customer sites. If you want a more immersive form of support, then you'll need to work with a developer that specializes in WordPress.

On the plus side, because a lot of your WordPress experience will be delivered through add-ons and plugins, you'll be reliant on other third-party vendors for some of your assistance. As you're looking for ways to extend your ecommerce site with WordPress, it may help to look for plugins that come from vendors with a good history of customer support.

Shopify vs WordPress: Dropshipping Options

Alright, so we've covered most of the basics that you'll consider when comparing WordPress vs. Shopify up until now. However, we're missing something crucial – dropshipping options.

Dropshipping isn't something that's going to appeal to everyone, but it is an easy-to-use offering for those who want to avoid stocking and managing their own products. With Dropshipping, you get a merchant to complete the shipping part of your sales process for you, which seriously reduces the price of running an ecommerce company.

Both with WordPress and Shopify, the easiest option is usually to opt for a plugin tool.

Oberlo is the most popular dropshipping platform for Shopify. It allows companies to find products to sell, add them to a Shopify store, and start selling immediately.

Similar to Shopify, WordPress also uses plugins for dropshipping, like Airdropship.

This one-time-fee plugin allows you to find the perfect merchants to complete your sales, and there's no limitation on the number of products you can list, or orders you make each month.

Because both Shopify and WordPress provide plugins to help you manage your dropshipping experience, it's hard to say that one is better than the other. The chances are that you'll be able to find a suitable plugin, regardless of the CMS that you choose.

Ultimately, your decision between Shopify and WordPress for dropshipping purposes will depend on which plugins you like the best.

Shopify vs. WordPress: What Should You Choose?

There are a host of different solutions out there with their own basic plan for ecommerce today. Whether it’s Wix and Bigcommerce, or WordPress and Shopify, it’s always important to consider your needs carefully. For instance, both WordPress and Shopify come with access to a free SSL certificate and a number of fantastic add-ons to choose from.

However, while Shopify offers plenty of coding options, Shopify payments, and a focus on ecommerce, WordPress is all about building flexible sites.

It's clear that both WordPress and Shopify have a lot to offer for business owners that want to launch and run their own ecommerce environments. There are pros and cons to both tools, and there's no one-size-fits-all solution for getting the perfect eCommerce experience.

However, our trials of Shopify and WordPress have given us an insider view of who is best suited to each platform. Ultimately, if you're looking for a blog and startup website with ecommerce functions, then WordPress will give you the dynamic flexibility that you need. On the other hand, if you're searching for something that's specifically designed to deliver ecommerce functionality, and you want constant support along the way, then Shopify is the tool for you.

The good news is that both tools offer a wide range of rich features, plenty of templates, and a host of other fantastic solutions to offer. Additionally, Shopify comes with a free trial to help you get started, while the WordPress software is totally free to use – all you need to do is pay for hosting and plugins when you're ready to go.

The best reasons to use Shopify instead of WordPress include:

  • Shopify is easier to use and set-up than WordPress for beginners. Shopify also has its own Shopify payments solution.
  • Hosting is included with the product, rather than managed separately.
  • A lot of features that are sourced separately for WordPress come as standard with Shopify.
  • The technical aspects of managing your website are minimized.
  • You're at less risk of being hacked with Shopify, simply because WordPress is more popular, and therefore targeted more often.
  • Shopify is largely responsible for the security of your website. On the other hand, you'll need to manage your own security with WordPress.
  • Shopify is a better option than WordPress for users that require simple and quick performance.
  • Shopify offers a far better experience when it comes to customer service, support, and guidance for new and existing users.
  • The product is available to try for free for 14 days.

The best reasons to use WordPress instead of Shopify are:

  • The software is completely open-source and available to download for free.
  • You can build any kind of site using WordPress, which means that you get a much more flexible platform than Shopify.
  • WordPress comes with a more sophisticated system for content management, which comes with things like archiving and content versioning.
  • There's a vast selection of plugins available for WordPress, both premium and free, so you can choose the kind of features and functionality you need. Plugins are available from Shopify, but it's to a smaller extent.
  • There's a vast selection of options for ecommerce strategies in WordPress.
  • The number of variants and product options you can create in WordPress is a lot more flexible than it is with Shopify.
  • SEO in WordPress is generally a lot better because you have access to the leading plugin from Yoast.
  • WordPress gives you more control over your content and marketing strategies than Shopify. You might have a hard time starting with content on Shopify.
  • WordPress is a much better option than Shopify for multi-site projects or multi-language stores that need to spread across the world.

Will you be using WordPress or Shopify to build your ecommerce store? Let us know in the comments below!