Shopify vs WordPress – Which is the best for eCommerce? (2021)

Shopify vs WordPress – Which is the best for eCommerce? (2021)

Deciding on where to build your website can be a difficult decision, especially if you’ve never done it before. 

There are a ton of website builders to choose from and a whole lot of questions to answer before you can make the final decision. The good news is that if you have shortlisted Shopify and WordPress as potential candidates to build your eCommerce store, you’ve already made a good choice. 

Combined, they power nearly 40% of all online stores, and for good reason!

We’ll be honest with you and let you know that both platforms are fantastic. However, there are some fundamental differences between the two brands which means they are best suited to slightly different users. 

While it’s possible to migrate from one platform to the other, it’s a big hassle, and one you want to avoid if possible.

 So, we’re going to help you make the right decision the first time around by discussing their core features in-depth. This will enable you to make a decision on facts and choose based on your needs and requirements.

To kick off our Shopify vs WordPress comparison, let’s look at a brief overview of each of these website builders.

WordPress overview

There are two branches of WordPress. WordPress.org, which is a free, self-hosted, open-source website builder software, and WordPress.com, which is a paid-for, hosted website builder platform that runs off the WordPress.org software.

This comparison article is going to focus on WordPress.org and from now on, whenever we say WordPress, we mean WordPress.org.

It’s the most popular website building software, powering over 35% of the internet when the two branches are combined, and 20% of all self-hosted websites. On top of that, it also runs over
1.5 million live online stores through the popular eCommerce plugin WooCommerce.

Before its internet domination, WordPress started out as a humble blogging platform in 2003.

Since then a community of WordPress enthusiasts has built upon the existing open-sourced code to create a complex content management system (CMS) and a development framework that allows anyone to design custom modules and plugins. So, now it’s possible to build any type of website on WordPress and it is often regarded as the most flexible website building tool.

You can use it to build an online store, run a blog, sell online courses, create a membership site, or develop a marketplace. Whatever type of website you want to build there will be a bunch of WordPress themes (web templates) that you can use and thousands of plugins to build the functionality you need.

If you’re new to building websites, you should be aware that WordPress has a steeper learning curve than some other platforms because it is so flexible. However, this means it requires more than just a point-and-click approach to building a website and although you don’t have to, it’s likely at some point you will need to adapt the HTML or CSS code. 

It’s not as scary as it sounds as there is a ton of free information online to help you learn. The reward of complete control over your website is worth the additional skills needed.

Shopify overview

Shopify is often referred to as the go-to eCommerce platform and has been adopted by huge brands like Bulletproof, Hasbro, The Economist, Pepsi, and Heinz. So, if you were to ever question the ability to scale on the platform, there’s some proof that it’s possible!

Shopify has more than one million merchants worldwide across 175 countries. Together Shopify merchants have generated $319 billion worth of sales with the number of online shoppers buying from Shopify merchants increasing month-on-month. They hold about an 11% market share of the eCommerce landscape, in third place to WooCommerce and Squarespace who top the leaderboard.

It started out just a year after WordPress in 2004. It was founded by three Canadians who were determined to change the industry after a poor online shopping experience when shopping for snowboarding gear. Although you could build different types of websites on Shopify, it’s a dedicated eCommerce website builder with a huge variety of special features to help build the perfect online store. 

While the platform has the ability to scale and support multi-million dollar businesses, you don’t need to be an expert to use Shopify. While you can use Liquid (Shopify’s own template coding language) to have complete control over your website, the simple WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website editor makes the platform great for beginners. So even store owners that have never built a website before will be able to get up to speed in no time.

What to look for in a website builder

We will be comparing the two platforms across all of the important criteria points that are relevant in helping you make a decision on which platform is best for you. 

However, before we get stuck into the review here’s a summary of 10 factors you should consider when choosing a website builder. If you can evaluate which factors on this list are most important to you, it will help you to quickly identify if Shopify or WordPress is best for you.

  • Ease of use
  • Web template options
  • Is it mobile-friendly?
  • Design & customization options
  • SEO features
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Customer support
  • Tutorials & educational resources
  • Plugins and apps
  • Scalability

Ease of Use

Whether you have advanced web developing skills or you’re just starting out, choosing a website builder that’s easy to use can save you lots of time and stress as you create your online store. So, is Shopify or WordPress easier to use?

WordPress

The cost of extremely customizable designs, features, and functionalities is that WordPress is more difficult to use than lots of other website builders (including Shopify). It will require technical knowledge to set up and manage hosting or to make edits to your theme. 

For example, if you wanted to change the style of your navigation menu, you will need to use and edit HTML and CSS or hire a developer who could do it for you. You can avoid technical changes for as long as possible. However, as your business grows and develops, it’s inevitable at some point you will need to engage with the code that sits behind the pretty WordPress themes.

WordPress is not a WYSIWYG website builder which means that you have to publish and preview your pages and posts before you can see what they will look like to live visitors. Also, it doesn’t have a built-in drag and drop editor although there are plugins like SeedProd, Beaver Builder and Elementor that enable this type of functionality. Combined this makes WordPress less intuitive and it will take more time to have an understanding of how any changes will look like on the live website.

However, WordPress isn’t some cryptic enigma code that only elite developers can crack. Although it might take a little longer to get up to speed, editing, and building websites will be second nature once you learn how to use it. You just need to be prepared to put in the time and learn some new skills.

Remember ‘The best things in life don’t come easy, but those things are the ones worth the sacrifice’. 

Shopify

So, what about Shopify?

Well, as we mentioned in the overview it has a lower barrier to entry than WordPress and has been developed with the first-time store owner in mind. Shopify utilizes a WYSIWYG interface with some drag and drop functionality too. This means that you don’t have to touch any code if you want to rearrange your Shopify theme and that you are effectively making edits onto a page that looks exactly like your live website.

Shopify also has a clean, slick, and simple dashboard that makes managing all aspects of your website really easy. The dashboard is filled with checklists when you first start out to help you complete all the tasks necessary to set up your website. There is also a really useful series of ‘how-to videos that cover everything from designing your eCommerce store through to advanced marketing techniques.

The fact that hosting, security, and domain registry are all done automatically and during the on-boarding process is a big factor in what makes Shopify easier to use than WordPress. Setting up hosting for your website, ensuring you have the right security, and registering a domain can be very time-consuming and requires some technical knowledge to do it correctly. With Shopify, all you need to do is fill out a couple of forms and type your credit card details, and it’s taken care of. 

Best website builder for ease of use - Shopify

In a Shopify vs WordPress battle, Shopify comes out on top in terms of ease of use.

The fact you don’t even need to think about hosting, security or domains, straightaway simplifies the process of creating a website on Shopify compared with creating a website on WordPress.

Finally, although you can add drag and drop functionality through plugins on WordPress that would be better than the drag and drop features available on Shopify, there’s no arguing that WYSIWYG website builders are easier to use than the back-end/front-end model that WordPress operates with.

Themes & Design

A great web design will take your business to the next level and enable you to start building a brand. Web design also plays a huge role in affecting the trust between your business and your customers. Often it’s the only thing they see of you before they decide to buy. A 2004 study found that 94% of respondents who distrusted a website said that it was related to the website’s design. So, making the design of your online store as good as possible will help you to sell more products.

Let’s have a look at what our two brands can offer in terms of design features.

WordPress

There are thousands of WordPress themes available that you can use to kickstart your website layout and design. 

WordPress users will be able to find over 2500 eCommerce-ready themes that have been optimized to convert visitors into paying customers.

The most popular premium WordPress theme is Flatsome which has been downloaded more than 95,000 times. The most popular free theme is called Storefront which was developed by WooCommerce and has been downloaded more than 3.2 million times.

In terms of design options, you have complete control and flexibility over what your website looks like. There isn’t anything that you can’t edit which makes WordPress the best website builder for anyone looking to create a complex, bespoke web design. However, you will need to edit HTML and CSS files if you want to make any major changes to your theme. 

If you’re a beginner user who doesn’t have the budget to hire a developer it’s even more important to choose a theme that is perfect for your needs. This way you can just replace image and text content and not have to worry about editing any code.

Shopify

Shopify offers nine free themes and 64 paid themes at their official store. You can also find thousands of themes made by third-party developers on platforms like Theme Forest. However, we recommend using the Shopify themes so you can get the Shopify customer support team to fix any bugs if something goes wrong.

All of the Shopify themes are packed full of features and look very professional. Even though there is definitely less choice than with WordPress, there is still enough variety for you to find the look and feel you’re after.

Shopify themes are also fully customizable if you learn to use their Liquid coding language. Even beginner users can adapt the themes significantly to create a bespoke look and feel. However, they will be limited to the style of the content blocks that come with their chosen theme. 

Make sure you check out the list of theme features before choosing a Shopify theme to check that it matches what you need from your website. For example, will you need a live search filter, story-focused product pages, or advanced product filtering?

Best Website Builder for Themes & Design features - WordPress

All of the themes available on the Shopify and WordPress theme directories will be mobile-friendly (although there’s no harm in double-checking). So, they are even in that respect.

We think WordPress comes out on top in terms of themes and design features because it has the most flexibility and offers the most theme options, with a lot more free options compared with Shopify.

However, although you can edit everything, only people with coding skills or the budget to hire a developer will be able to make significant changes to the themes.

So, if you’re a beginner user with a small budget, you might prefer the Shopify platform to have more control over your designs.

Plugins & Apps

Having the ability to add functionality to your website via additional plugins and apps is crucial to create a website that works well for you and your visitors. Both WordPress and Shopify have impressive app stores, but which is best?

WordPress Plugins

In terms of the variety and depth of features available on the WordPress plugin directory, no other Website builder comes close

There are more than 54,000 plugins available for you to install on your WordPress site. There is a plugin for literally anything you can think of but if you can’t find something that you’re looking for, you can work with a developer to create a plugin using the open-source app development framework.

If you want to have eCommerce features like the ability to take payments, list products, and manage orders, you will have to install a plugin like WooCommerce.

WooCommerce alone has over 900 plugins that provide you with all the eCommerce features you would ever need.

Our advice is to always use up-to-date apps and download from reputable sources to ensure the best security for your website.

Shopify Apps

The great thing about Shopify is that you could launch an eCommerce business with the built-in features that are already available on the platform.

It has been designed so that you have everything you need to start selling right away. However, every business is unique and will need specific features. The Shopify platform can help with that too.

The Shopify app marketplace has more than 4200 apps that are ready for you to download and install.

Similar to WordPress, anyone can create and sell a Shopify app. However, all Shopify apps are vetted by the Shopify team to ensure quality and security protocols have been met.

You’ll find apps that will help you with store design, marketing, sales & conversions, shipping, security, productivity, reporting, and more. While lots of them require you to pay, there will also be a free version that you can use if money’s tight.

Which is the best website builder for plugins & apps? WordPress

This particular Shopify vs WordPress category battle is as close to a draw as we will get in this comparison review. 

Both platforms have a huge variety of additional plugins that you can use to boost the functionality of your website. Also, it’s possible to design and create apps if you can’t find what you need on both Shopify and WordPress.

However, we gave it to WordPress because there are simply more options. So, it will be much less likely that you won’t be able to find an app that you need. 

SEO Comparison

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the practice of improving your website’s visibility in search engine results pages that helps you to bring in visitors for free. If you follow SEO best practices, you will improve your website’s security, user experience, and the quality of your content.

Again, WordPress and Shopify are two of the best in the game in terms of the SEO features they provide. Let’s find out which is the most SEO-friendly website builder platform.

WordPress SEO

Just like with the control over the design of your website, WordPress also gives you complete control over your website’s SEO.

Having some technical skills are necessary to be able to create and edit all SEO features. However, apps like Yoast and Rankmath are popular plugins that do some of the hard work for you and simplify how you can optimize your website for search engines. 

WordPress allows you to set up categories and tags which help you organize your content to help search engines to understand what’s on your website more easily.

You can also create SEO-friendly URLs for every page or post you create on WordPress without breaking a sweat.

Finally, the WordPress editor allows you to adapt your text into HTML headings and subheadings. This signals to search engines how important different parts of the text are and that you care about creating a better user experience for your visitors.

These are just a few of the more basic things that you can do on WordPress to improve your SEO. However, you can also create sitemaps, 301 redirects, caching, meta-data for rich search results and so much more

If you know SEO is going to be an important part of your strategy and you have the technical skills or the budget to pay for them, WordPress is the platform to go for if you want to maximize the amount of organic traffic because you can control and optimize every possible SEO feature.

Shopify SEO

Shopify has one of the best SEO offerings out of all the drag-and-drop builders on the market. It has an extensive range of SEO tools that make it simple to optimize your site. It doesn’t cover every trick in the book, for example, you can’t create minified code, access the FTP, and there is no RSS feed available.

However, all of the basics and more are covered. You will have no issues with ranking well if you use all of the SEO tools available to you.

Shopify websites start with a decent page speed which is a significant factor for your SEO, especially when compared with other drag and drop builders. The platform also provides an online speed score to help you manage your loading times which is affected when you edit the code and install additional plugins. 

Just like with WordPress, you can edit HTML headings and subheadings, create friendly URLs, and categorize your content with tags to help with organization.

Shopify vs WordPress -which is the most SEO-friendly? WordPress

Just because WordPress wins this battle, doesn’t mean that we think Shopify is terrible for SEO. 

It has fantastic SEO features that will allow you to grow excellent organic traffic if you follow best practices. However, with WordPress, you can optimize every aspect of your website to help boost your rankings. This is why WordPress remains the number one choice for SEO experts who are looking to drive the most organic traffic to their website.

Security Comparison

Security is an important aspect of any website, especially eCommerce stores that handle customer’s financial details. Website security is handled very differently between Shopify and WordPress, but which is better?

WordPress

he WordPress platform doesn’t do anything for security as such. You have the freedom to manage it however you want and the level of security will come down to the hosting service you choose and the WordPress security plugins you install.

WordPress users can choose to use a self-managed hosting service which will require the website owner to install an SSL, carry out any updates to software and perform regular backups. 

This is the cheapest way to host a website with costs starting around $5 but everything is down to you, and there isn’t any customer support to help you out when things go wrong.

Alternatively, WordPress users can choose to go for a fully managed hosting service that takes care of all of the technical and security aspects for you.

Although it’s more expensive, this is the better method for less experienced developers and for those that want a flexible hosting plan that can scale easily as your website starts generating more traffic.

There are a ton of WordPress security plugins but not all are made equal. If you want to find out which ones you should use, check out our post on the best WordPress Security plugins in 2021. 

For those of you who don’t have the time to read another post right now, our top three rated security plugins are BlogVault, iThemes Security, and Wordfence.

Shopify

If WordPress security sounded a bit scary or way too much responsibility for you, then you might like the sound of how Shopify security works. 

Shopify websites are automatically secure. The team in the head office is in charge of protecting Shopify users against cyberattacks, running updates to the platform, and making sure that requirements for handling online payments are taken care of. 

All Shopify websites come with SSL security, level 1 PCI DSS compliance, and the ability to create backups of your website with just the click of a button. You also have the benefit of accessing 24/7 customer support at no extra cost to help out when things go wrong or if you experience an attack.

So, Shopify has pretty much taken the stress out of website security and you won’t have to give it a second thought if you build your site with Shopify.

The More Secure Website Builder- Shopify

It’s possible to create a secure website on both platforms that is protected from hackers and other cybersecurity threats. 

However, Shopify takes care of everything for you and has a team constantly working on updating and improving the platform’s security. 

Also because WordPress is the more popular platform it is targeted more often by hackers. The hackers know that there are more weak points and vulnerabilities on a decentralized platform like WordPress than on a centrally managed platform like Shopify.

Customer Support

Customer support is another area where the two brands vary quite significantly. There are pros and cons to both methods but ultimately it will come down to personal preferences and the type of support you are likely to need. However, we’ll give you our own two cents worth on which we think is the better method.

WordPress

Just like we discussed with WordPress security, the platform doesn’t provide any form of centralized customer support

WordPress users have to rely on their own knowledge, the collective wisdom of other WordPress users, and the customer support offered by third-party software or plugins that run on the WordPress platform to overcome problems.

There is always a way to find help and there are a bunch of forums where WordPress users will help each other out and share how they overcame similar problems.

The benefit of this style of support is that you will learn how to fix problems yourself, making you better equipped for future issues.

However, having to rely on the goodwill of others or researching how to fix problems yourself, often means that it can take some time to resolve problems when they arise.

Shopify

In contrast, Shopify has a variety of dedicated support channels. 

Shopify offers 24/7 live chat & phone support where you can talk to an agent directly about problems you are experiencing.

You can also get help via email and you can expect a reply within 24 hours in most cases. There are also social media channels that you can use to find help as well as a community forum, a help center with how-to content, and video tutorials.

With a Shopify plus plan you will also get access to advanced specialist support which gives you a dedicated agent who will be there to help overcome any issue whenever you need them.

Shopify vs WordPress customer support - Shopify wins

There’s no doubt that Shopify wins this round. 

It has a variety of dedicated customer support channels which means that there will always be someone or something to help you overcome any problem you face straight away.

Lots of WordPress users will be able to troubleshoot and fix problems themselves but for those who don’t, having to rely on forums and research is not the best method to get support, especially in times of crisis.

E-commerce Features

If you’re reading this review, it’s likely that you are planning on creating an eCommerce store sometime soon. As we’ve already discussed, WordPress and Shopify are two of the best platforms to build an online store. For the sake of this Shopify vs WordPress comparison, there can be only one winner. Is Shopify or WordPress the best for eCommerce features…?

WordPress

To have eCommerce features on WordPress you will need to install a plugin to give you the functionality and tools you need to collect payments, manage orders, set shipping rates, etc.

The go-to eCommerce plugin is WooCommerce which powers more than 1.5 million eCommerce stores running on WordPress.

There are other WordPress eCommerce plugins like Ecwid and WP EasyCart. However, WooCommerce is the best and most popular. So, for this comparison, we will compare the features of WooCommerce to Shopify.

WooCommerce allows you to sell anything from physical products to digital downloads, and from subscriptions to appointments. There are also no limits on the number of products you can list or orders you can take. This makes it great for businesses with a high volume of sales. 

Like WordPress, it’s also an open-source software so you can edit everything and have complete control over how your store looks and works. WooCommerce also has more than 400 official extensions to provide you with every eCommerce feature you could ever need including things like marketing and accounting tools. 

You have to bear in mind that WooCommerce was built for developers so it does require some technical skills to build an online store with WooCommerce.

Additionally, while there are a bunch of plugins, they are not all free. So, it can get quite expensive if you are building a complex eCommerce store. 

Shopify

As you might expect from a dedicated eCommerce platform, Shopify’s list of eCommerce features is impressive and exhaustive. 

Almost everything you need to run a successful online store is built into the platform and is ready to use straight away. For more niche eCommerce features, the app store has more than 4200 apps, most of which have been built to help online stores sell more products and improve their offering.

To give you a flavor of what a Shopify website offers in terms of eCommerce features out of the box, take a look at this list of features.

  • Mobile-commerce ready
  • 100 payment gateways
  • Abandoned checkout recovery
  • Custom & automatic shipping rates
  • Automatic taxes
  • Dropshipping integrations
  • Order fulfillment
  • Refund capability
  • SEO-friendly product reviews
  • Offer product variations
  • Unlimited product listings
  • Display 3D and video product imagery

Honestly, this list is just scratching the surface of the eCommerce features available.

The award for the website builder with the best eCommerce features goes to… Shopify

Not surprisingly Shopify offers the biggest variety of eCommerce features. Most of them are already set up and ready to use but the app store provides anything else you might need. It is possible to have the same features with a WordPress site, however, it will take more time to set it all up. 

 

Something WordPress has going for it compared with Shopify is that you get more control over the eCommerce features with open-source plugins like WooCommerce. 

You have the ability to adapt them to suit your specific business needs. Whereas with Shopify you are pretty much stuck with the way things are and your business will have to work around the features and not vice versa.

Pricing

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… it’s time to talk about how much all of this is going to cost you. Depending on your business, the price it costs to build a website on either platform could have a big influence on your decision. So, let’s dig into how much it will cost to build a website on WordPress and Shopify.

WordPres Pricing

The WordPress software is completely free, and it is possible to find a free theme and choose a cheap hosting provider to create a website for under $5. However, if you’re trying to build a professional website with complex features or an online store that is safe, secure, and profitable, you’re going to have to get your wallet out.

For WordPress sites, the costs fall into three main buckets.

  1. Hosting & Security
  2. Themes
  3. Plugins & Tools

It’s hard to put an exact figure on it because it really depends on the size and scale of your website or online store.

Themes can cost anywhere between $0- $500, domains and hosting can cost between $30-$1000, and each plugin will cost somewhere between $10-$200. So, you could be talking $100’s or $1000’s depending on what you need. WP Beginner estimated that it would cost between $1000-$3000 to create a WordPress eCommerce website. It could be more or less than that depending on the number of plugins you use and if you need help from a developer. 

Shopify

It’s much easier to estimate how much a Shopify will cost because of the fixed pricing plans, however, there are also some hidden costs if you plan on using additional apps and plugins. Let’s start with the fixed pricing plans.

The entry-level plan starts at $29 per month which gives you a free SSL certificate, 24/7 support, and access to all of the basic eCommerce features. This is a great plan for first-time eCommerce store owners and new business owners. 

The next plan is $79 per month which unlocks the more advanced features like professional reporting and international domains & pricing. It also reduces the sales fees from 2% to 1% per sale. So, as long as you’re making enough sales, it's worth the upgrade.

Finally, the premium plan is $299 per month. It reduces fees further to 0.5%, provides you with 15 staff accounts, and enables you to link with up to 8 warehouse inventories. This plan is great for large businesses with a high volume of sales and more than 2 retail stores.

You will also have to factor in the cost of a domain name which is around $15 per year and around $15-$200 for additional app subscriptions. Plus bigger businesses might need to factor in the cost of working with a developer if they want to create a bespoke template or feature for their website. This can cost up to $5000.

Which is the most cost-effective website builder? WordPress

While Shopify can provide a cheap way to build an eCommerce store on the surface, there are some hidden costs that will occur as your business grows and if you require the use of additional apps and services.

The reason we have chosen WordPress as the most cost-effective website builder is that it is possible to create a website for under $5 and you have more control over the monthly costs.

Final verdict - Shopify vs WordPress - which is the best for eCommerce?

As we mentioned at the start of this Shopify vs WordPress comparison review, both brands are great for building an eCommerce business. It’s been hard to pick a winner. 

The two platforms tick all of the boxes you would want them to and each brand excels in areas over the other. However,  WordPress is the best choice for someone looking to build an eCommerce website.

This is largely due to the fact you are completely in control over every aspect of your website with WordPress. This may be a little daunting when you first start out and you might have to upskill yourself to get the most out of the platform. However, if you’re serious about growing your business, this extra control will be really helpful as your business scales. 

On the other hand, Shopify is a great choice if you don’t have the time or desire to upskill and if you’re looking for a fast way to get an eCommerce store up and running. There’s a comprehensive list of eCommerce features that are ready to use straight out of the box and will enable you to start making sales quickly.

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Joquim

Great article! As someone who has had a Shopify site there is one factor that people often do not take into consideration when deciding between Shopify or WordPress is the blog function. A blog is a blog or so the thinking goes. Sadly that is not the case if you elect to go with Shopify you won’t find out until it’s too late. You won’t find out that your blog cannot handle threaded replies. You won’t find out that you aren’t even being notified of comments on your blog. You won’t find out that the spam filters on a Shopify… Read more »

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