Category: Web Development
. 63 Comments

“I want to build an e-commerce store … but should I use Shopify or WordPress?”

shopify_vs_WordPressThat’s actually a fairly common question that I get here at WebsiteSetup.org. In fact, I get them more than 2-3 times a day.

Reason? Every day, more and more people decide to launch their own e-commerce stores, but almost immediately they’re met with more questions than answers:

What platform should I use?

Will I have to pay any fees?

Can I sell ebooks and downloads or just physical products?

Can I “dropship”?

What are the pros and cons of Shopify vs. WordPress?

etc…

Like with most things in life, the short answer to whether you should go with Shopify or WordPress is this: It depends…

I know you hate that answer as much as I do, but hold on – with the short answer out of the way, we can now focus on the useful one. Let’s dive into the topic and see when it’s better to use Shopify over WordPress, for whom it’s going to be a better solution, and why would you even consider Shopify (or WordPress) in the first place.

Before you read forward, I just want to let you know I’ve also published a few guides and articles on Shopify and WordPress e-commerce:

  1. How to Install & Use Shopify
  2. Shopify Review
  3. How to Install & Use WordPress/WooCommerce

Is WordPress for everything, including an e-commerce site?

I’ve always been an avid WordPress fan, and my go-to advice whenever anyone needed a website for any purpose – any purpose! – was, “hey, why not WordPress?”

Looking through what’s possible with Shopify and how easy it all is, even I started having second thoughts.

I mean, WordPress is surely awesome as a website platform. It can easily cope with anything you throw at it and make your site accessible and available for the whole world to see.

At the same time, an e-commerce store is a very specific kind of animal, and it’s very very different from a standard blog or a news website.

WordPress is built around content – content that is meant to be consumed for free, more or less. You can publish blog posts, videos, pictures, and etc., but the main principle is that it’s all available to whoever happens to stumble upon the URL.

The reality of e-commerce stores is different.

What they offer sits behind a paywall. The whole site needs to be careful when handling the customer’s crucial data (like credit cards, personal info). It needs to be secure. To top it all off, it also needs to be able to handle incoming orders, process them, and make sure that nothing falls through the cracks along the way.

In other words, there’s a lot of stuff that’s different about e-commerce stores compared to standard publishing platforms.

At that point, even I have to be ready to accept the fact that WordPress isn’t perfect for everything. Sometimes, you just need a platform that’s been built for the purpose of handling an e-commerce store.

The main difference between Shopify and WordPress

In a sentence, the main difference between Shopify and WordPress is that Shopify is an online tool/service, whereas WordPress is a stand-alone software that you need to install yourself.

In order to use Shopify, all you have to do is go to Shopify.com and sign up to create an account. Once done, you only need to go through a quick setup, and your e-commerce store is up and running.

To use WordPress as your e-commerce platform, on the other hand, requires a lot more steps:

  1. First, you need to buy a domain and a web hosting account where you can have the default version of WordPress installed.
  2. You need to pick a theme (design) for your website, plus a handful of plugins to take care of SEO, social media integration and etc.
  3. After that, you need a plugin like WooCommerce to provide you with all the e-commerce features (those are not built into WordPress).
  4. Finally, you need to go through the configuration process of your e-commerce store (the store details, payment gateway integrations, products, and etc.). Those can take a while of its own too.

Last but not least, with Shopify, you also get support, which means that should you ever encounter any trouble with the platform, you can simply contact the support team, and they will (likely) solve it.

With WordPress, there’s no support, per se.

Think of it this way, Shopify is like going to IKEA, buying a table off the shelf, and then just assembling it at home. WordPress is like going to the hardware store, buying planks, nails, glue, tools, and then coming home and building the table yourself.

 

Shopify – what is it?shopify

Here are the facts:

  • An all-in-one e-commerce solution/tool. It allows you to build a functional e-commerce store from scratch, without a designer’s or developer’s help.
  • There’re no coding skills required to use Shopify.
  • It’s a paid tool – from $9 to $179 per month.
  • It allows you to sell whatever you wish (goods, services, products both digital and physical, as well as dropship).
  • Use it offline and online (you can use it as your online store, but also use something called Point of Sale with Shopify, which is their system for retail stores that allows you to integrate your on-location store with your setup in Shopify).
  • More than 100 online store designs to choose from (some of them paid).
  • Every new site gets a custom subdomain for free. For example YOURSTORE.shopify.com.
  • There’s 24/7 support.

 

WordPress (WooCommerce) – what is it?WordPress

First things first, WordPress is a lot of things, but for the purpose of this resource, we’re focusing mainly on the e-commerce side of the spectrum and omitting a big part of WordPress’ features and abilities.

  • An all-in-one website software. It allows you to build any kind of website, provided that you can handle the slightly technical setup – involving installing the software itself, installing plugins, installing a theme, and then installing an e-commerce plugin to handle the store operations.
  • Some website building skills are required. Depending on the customizations that you want to perform, you might need coding or design skills as well.
  • The WordPress software is free. In order to use it, you need to sign up for a web host and buy a domain name. When all is put together, you can get started with WordPress for about $5 / month.
  • Thousands of themes/designs to choose from, both free and paid.
  • Exceptional extension possibilities through plugins.
  • No direct support, but a very helpful support community.

 

When should you use Shopify over WordPress?

Shopify stands out as a tailor-made e-commerce solution for everyone. Whereby everyone, I mean people who might not have any website building or coding skills, yet still want to be able to create an awesome online store all by themselves.

The main benefit of working with Shopify is that you can get started in minutes and begin serving your first customers almost immediately.

Even setting the coding and website building skills aside – which you don’t need – you also don’t need to be entirely familiar with various realities of the e-commerce business itself. Shopify helps you set things like the inventory, taxes, shipping settings and so on. In other words – it solves every last boring aspect of the business.

Secondly, Shopify is also a really affordable solution. To get started, you only need $9 a month. For that price, you get access to more than enough site designs and customization options.

In-a-nutshell answer to “when to use Shopify?”:

  • Option a): Use it if you don’t have any kind of website and you want to launch a quality e-commerce store fast.
  • Option b): Use it if you don’t have any design, coding, or website building skills, and you don’t want to hire anybody to set an e-commerce store for you.
  • Option c): Use it if you want to integrate your online store with your offline on-location store.
  • Option d): Use it if you need a great e-commerce platform with access to customer support … just in case.

If any of the above describes you, go for Shopify.

It also doesn’t matter whether you want to sell physical products, digital downloads, services, or even do dropship. Shopify can handle anything. The number of products you offer isn’t a factor either (whether it’s 1 or 1000).

When to use WordPress over Shopify?

WordPress is a powerhouse. It’s nearly the perfect website platform, capable of running all kinds of websites.

But there’s a catch. Or, a couple of catches, rather.

  • WordPress is a piece of software = you can get it for free, but then you have to install it on a web host yourself, configure it, and ultimately launch a website with it.
  • Out of the box, WordPress is mainly a blogging platform. It provides no e-commerce features at all. Those you can obtain via plugins. Such as the popular WooCommerce.
  • Apart from the e-commerce plugin, you need a bunch of other plugins to handle some standard options like SEO and social media. You also need a good-looking and brandable theme (design) – to make your e-commerce store look unique and original.

What it all means is that WordPress is perhaps a solution for a bit more savvy user. You need to feel comfortable editing PHP files by hand, connecting to your server via FTP, and spending the afternoon in some settings panel.

That being said, the aforementioned WooCommerce is a great e-commerce plugin. It gives you all the features you might ask for, e.g shopping carts, product catalogs, online payments, coupons, and so on. Most importantly, the plugin is free!

You can find alternative WordPress shopping carts here.

woocommerce

In-a-nutshell answer to “when to use WordPress for e-commerce?”:

  • Option a): Use it if you already have a WordPress site and you’re familiar with the interface. For instance, WooCommerce uses the same admin panel organization for your products and orders, so there’s no additional learning curve.
  • Option b): Use it if you already have a WordPress site and you want to minimize costs by not having to invest any more funds in a new e-commerce platform.
  • Option c): Use it if you’re comfortable experimenting with source code occasionally.
  • Option d): Use it if you can cope without any fast-reacting customer support.

About that last part: Right now, you might feel that customer support is not such a big deal. But keep in mind that it’s your business we’re talking about here. For example, if something happens that causes your site to go down, not having it online for the whole day can and will mean a serious hit to your business income. Also, a lot of stress while we’re at it.

It’s those times when we tend to value customer support that’s operating 24/7!

WordPress or Shopify? An even shorter answer.

If the options above don’t satisfy your taste, I have an even shorter answer for you.

Just keep in mind that it’s a huge huge oversimplification. In many scenarios, you’re better off following one of the options above. But if you want an uber-short answer then here it is:

My motives for that matter are twofold: Saving both time and money.

Quite simply – if you already have a WordPress website running then it’s always going to be quicker and cheaper to just add an e-commerce component to that website instead of building something new. On the other hand, if you don’t have a website yet, then it’s quicker and easier to go the other route and launch an e-commerce store with a specialized platform like Shopify. That’s all!


Want to ask a question or leave a comment?


Ask me anything

captcha



  • +

63 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

  1. Thanks for such a informative post. Recently i decided to put my business online and was really confused in choosing right platform. Since i do not have any coding knowledge and no clue about website development and website design, So finding one such platform that will help me cope up with these things was little bit difficult. After going through this post, I can say that I would like to go with Shopify, as it would save me the trouble of web designing, coding part and other such stuffs that are required in order to start the website. Just pay and rest will be taken care by these guys. Also my business is small scale so wont be needing much space n technicality. Thanks again for the post. It really helped me in choosing the right platform.

  2. Hi, thanks for this info! I have a wordpress blog and it gets a bit of monthly traffic but I am now wanting to start an e-commerce site with a great blog. However the blog I have now is not my vision for the new e-commerce site so I’m wanting to rebrand it and start the ecommerce. Would you recommend migrating my current blog to the new store url/blog but keeping it in wordpress and using shopify for the store side of the site? I want the blog and store to help each other out. Being an experienced blogger I don’t really feel like shopify offers a great blogging platform. Just looking for some guidance. Anything is appreciated! Thank you!!

  3. Great article. We use WordPress for our ecommerce site. We landed on WordPress at the recommendation of a so called programmer 5 years ago. At first, it became our worst nightmare as we are not technical at all. However, we’ve learned to manage and I suspect that unlike Shopify, WordPress is a very powerful tool. I waned to point something about WordPress support and lack of support as you stated above. We host our site via iPage and they have a support line for sites that use WordPress. The support line is some type of fast pace support for members of iPage that use WordPress and so far they have been pretty good about helping us out in all our WordPress fixes. Of course, there is an annual membership fee but when you are not technical it does help. Again, great article. Cheers

  4. Very good explanation, I don’t have to look for more, I want to launch a ecomerce store and even I have WordPress and I know how to use it, I think with Shopify takes all the hard work and you can focus and other things, like more products research and advertisement.

  5. Great and informative post. It helps me a lot to know about the difference between WordPress and Shopify 🙂
    Much appreciated.

  6. Hi
    Thanks for the info above , but I still need your expertise. we have started a lot of traffic on instagram with health and wellness , yoga, recipes, essential oils, but we are extremely non tech , dont know if its better to do blog or website first. We dont have product yet , but definitley plan to do so. Probably will start with digital recipes, possibly coaching, jewelry in future. Lots of good ideas just trying to take this step for me and daughter has been a huge block. Could you offer any advice / guidance, it would be very appreciated.

    • Not sure what you mean by blog or website, a blog is a website. But WordPress is the most powerful and most used software for blogging, then you can add an ecommerce store later. You can use WooCommerce for your digital downloads and it’s a free plugin. For the Woo extensions, (extra functionality) you have to pay, but most are inexpensive. If you have other questions, I’d be happy to try to answer. elizabethannschilling.com

  7. Very useful information. I was searching for this kind of comparison as I’m in the e-commerce business.
    Thanks once again.

  8. Thank you so much for your unbiased opinion I was leaning towards shopify because of the e-comerce factor wasn’t quite clear on the details comparison wise. Again thanks a million

  9. Thank you for the is great article. I m not familiar with WordPress but I am studying it these days. I am using Shopify to build a ec-site with 2 languages, EN & JP, however none of my JP staff can update it because the interface is all in EN, however I found out WordPress has JP interface and is more convenient…. I know Shopify is more powerful n all round in e-commerce however if building a site in multi-language…. I dont know which is better…. any advice?

  10. HI,
    I Want To Know If I Started My drop shipping website with shopify, then is it possible to convert it in wordpres in future.
    If Yes, Then How?
    Thanks

    • This is a very complicated process, but it should be doable by a professional web developer.. It’s best if you choose one or another now than later :).

  11. The only thing I really DISLIKE about shopify which I am having problem now is shopify works only with credit card – they don’t even accept debit card payment – go figure!?!
    I was setting up a shopify store until I realize they don’t accept direct payment using my debit card nor would they allow me to set up my shopify store with my debit card…can someone please explain to me why can’t I pay them directly from my bank with money that I have, instead of having to pay them by credit card with money that i might not have in my bank!?

    • You CAN set up alternative payments in Shopify. In your case, you could do Manual Payments, which allows you to create payment methods using Bank Deposits, Cash On Delivery (COD), or Money Order.

    • Some debit cards can be used as credit cards. Check your bank to see if this is possible and list your card as a credit card. Sometimes when you shop with a debit card some stores will run it as credit. Don’t let that stop you. Sometimes your bank could be a good help.

    • Hey Jesse,
      Usually when making any purchase online you would use a Visa-like card. I can’t tell you exactly why as I’m not so sure myself, but when ever you make a purchase, whether its Ebay, Amazon or any other e-commerce transaction , it usually requires a credit card. I have a Visa-Debit allowing me to make purchases online with my Debit card, as it works like a Visa as well. If anything, you can always enter your Bank Account information in Paypal and pay that way.
      Hope it helps somehow.

  12. What are your thoughts about integrating Shopify into a WordPress site? Shopify has provided a way to embed products now, easily into WordPress by creating a Buy Now button.

  13. I’ve been on shopify for many years. I’m really tired of all the limitations. I want custom ssl? nope, not possible!!! I want customized to my domain cdn for assets such as images, nope, not possible either!!! I want calculated shipping, guess what I’d have to pay $250 monthly to be able to get that very basic feature.

    I really not sure how you can really compare shopify with woocommerce but hey you are a very nice person to shopify based on this writing. I’d only recommend shopify if you are a basic user and know nothing at all. Sooner or later you will feel the need for something more unlimited and customizable like woocommerce. And when it’s time to work on pagespeed etc. you’ll go grey real fast! This is my 18 months experience with shopify…

    • I agree. I am thinking of leaving shopify for woocommerce. Shopify has very limited build-in functions. You need to buy a lots of apps and those apps are mostly fucking expensive and they all charge monthly fees. Many of the apps are far more expensive than the shopify monthly fee!

  14. Hi Robert,
    You write good stuff. I am learning!
    I want to set up an affiliate marketing website. I originally thought of using shopify, but I believe you recommend WordPress? So I read your guides on WordPress and Woocommerce, but I can’t find any reference to affiliate marketing; apologies if I have missed this. I need to understand how customers go from my site to eBay, amazon, whatever.
    Also, how do I get paid? I understand that the seller must give me a unique HTML code, but where do I put that on my site?
    And how do I delete all the stuff that I don’t need – trolleys, taxes, shipping etc?
    Sooo many questions.

  15. I have a WordPress website, which I mainly use for my blog. However, I have a significant amount of spam coming from Russia. Blue Host tells me I need a fire wall, which will cost about $35.00, or so, a month. I can’t afford that. I am willing to try WooCommerce. However, I’ll still have the spam problem. Does Shopify have a fire wall in place? Any suggestions? Thanks.

    • Carol Burton, I think Askimet plugin can help you with this, or Jetpack, but I don’t like Jetpack, it slows down the site. Personally, I disabled all comments and that solved my problem. Send them to your contact page to send you direct email for comments, or to your FB page for comments.

  16. Thanks! Very informative! I am currently with wordpress.com on a personal plan. I am a local crafter and would like to sell my handmade items online and not just in local craft shows I go to. I am not tech savvy and still learning my ropes around wordpress.com. I am considering shopify for the ease of use. I found out that I can move all my wordpress contents to shopify using easy steps. I still want to blog so I don’t want to give that up, and learnt that I can still blog if I choose to switch to shopify. Here’s my question though… you have mentioned that if someone already has a wordpress website that it would be better to stick with it and just add WooCommerce. I need to upgrade to wordpress business plan (which is a few bucks more expensive than shopify) in order to add this free plugin. If I install WooCommerce, will they take care of all my needs (security, inventory, payments, etc.)? Or will it be better for a newbie like me to just switch to shopify even though I already have established and still struggling to manage my wordpress website? Thanks! I like how this article is very direct! Learnt so much from you! Keep posting!

    • Hello Zhi, considering that you’re a newbie and “not a tech savvy” person, I would suggest you switch to Shopify. WooCommerce is a great plugin but needs to be learned in order to be integrated well on your website, not to mention the additional cost for addons/extensions like Paypal integration.

      If it’s hard and requires a bit of technical knowledge, why would people choose it anyway? It’s because of WordPress, since WordPress is far more customizable than Shopify, and WooCommerce itself is a very customizable e-commerce plugin, with both WordPress and WooCommerce, you would surely get what you want for your business’ website.

      If you’re still not sure what to use, you can always compare the two products and see what they’re offering out of the box. There are also a lot of WooCommerce tutorials out there if you’re planning to use it.

  17. My 2c from two week experience with shopify, and wix.

    For anyone without any technical background and doesn’t need much customization, wix is a better option as it offers quite some free themes. and it’s cheaper.

    Shopify offers far less free themes but more room for customization. However if a little more sophisticated customization is needed, you will quickly find you would need to pay extra for third party apps, or get deeply involved in coding with html, liquid and javascript. I was a programmer many years ago but found it difficult to handle. BTW, the $9 plan from shopify doesn’t allow you set up a full online store. the basic plan for a full online store starts from $29.

    I think I will do some research on wordpress to compare.

  18. I loved this . I was a webmaster for 12 years. Sold all my sites to go to college. Now I’ve got the webmaster “itch” . I appreciate the reminder of the extra tasks that are needed with wordpress. While it was my go to platform for every website I had — Since I’m in college I don’t have the time to dedicate to building the platform up. I really appreciate this reminder. It was like an “oh yeah!” moment for me. Can’t thank you enough.

  19. Thank you for making it so simple on what platform to use. In the future I might want to do a blog and then I might look at word press. For now, all I want is a e-commerce store that will help when I am out doing craft fairs. Thank you for breaking it down into digestible pieces.
    Sherry

  20. Great article. I’ve always been using WooCommerce and WordPress and was wondering if I should switch to a different platform in the future. You help me realize that Woo&WP remains the best avenue for me.

  21. I would add to the “short answer”, if you have a WordPress site and an SSL certificate, then WooCommerce. We have the WordPress site via GoDaddy, experience with this platform and 7+ years with a different platform. The catch to launching our new ecommerce business, for me, is whether I should buy an SSL from GoDaddy and move forward or start with a basic package from Shopify. Our previous long-term experience was with YSB, so the struggle with SEO, etc would obviously be less than what we’ve experienced.

  22. Great article. I am trying to decide if I should use WordPress or Shopify for my online store. I thought this article was very interesting but not very informative in regards to the fees that Shopify charges. I want easy, but not sure if I can afford it. The basic plan that shopify charges is $29 for their basic store + 2.9 – 2.7% processing fee + $.30 on credit card transaction and if I want to use a third party payment processor like paypal I have to pay shopify 2% of each transaction. Any customization there is an app but you have to pay outrageous fees for some on them and some even have monthly fees that are just as much if not more than Shopify basic monthly fee. What I really need to know is is it cost effective to obtain Shopify or WordPress. With the true cost being considered, which would be the best recommendation for an eCommerce.

  23. Very helpful to help make a choice. Thanks!
    My question: If we’re done selling our creations on Shopify in a few years and want to keep our domain name for a content web site… do we own our domain name? Can we keep the Shopify template and rework it as a content site? Or do we leave everything behind and need to build a new site from scratch??
    Thank you so much!

    • Hi, it’s always possible to transfer your domain name away from Shopify later down the line. So you could transfer it to a web host and turn it into a WordPress site for example, you wouldn’t be able to keep the Shopify templates as they’re not compatible with other platforms – it’d basically be building a new site from scratch but on the same domain name.

  24. Really enjoyed this article. Great info. Love your writing style, very more-ish to read. I will look out for more of your work. Thanks for the help.

    • As I am starting a new business after reading the article and comments below it (which I had not for my previous comment – not that anything has changed, meerly explains my excessive commenting). I am thinking of setting up a Shopify site initially, and get the business to take off and really get going. From the get-go I will purchase a third party URL, should I later find Shopify is indeed too expensive or brings any other issues I can then move to a WordPress site with Woo. Also removes my concern of moving away from WordPress. I have built a few websites (not ecommerce) in WordPress and would like to try a new platform, espeially one setup specifically for the purposes of this new site, that being Ecommerce. Anyone else this this is a good idea/approach, or do you think I am nuts?

  25. Thank you so much for this very lucid article. My old website under Mr Site is no longer up to modern requirements and I prefer to administer my own website where I can. Having helped out a friend recently with his Shopify site gave me the confidence to have a dabble myself when I realised my old site is not going to take my business forward as I wish. But even after starting to make the new site on Shopify, I still had many questions going through my mind. Your article has clarified what I was wondering about and, having gone back to look at a previous go at a WordPress site from last year, I am convinced that the Shopify option is the way to go for my service-based business as I don’t want to get tangled up in wasting so much time fiddling with things I barely understand. Ease of use and compliance with fb/mailchimp etc is all I’m after.

  26. Great Post thank you! If I need an ecommerce site that is fairly straight forward, but will be directing to Amazon for sales, would you recommend WordPress or Shopify?

    • Hi, probably WordPress in this case since you just need something simple to grab visitors and direct them elsewhere and WordPress will be cheaper to use.

  27. Hi. Im planning on having an online business that can host other shops with their own admins. Something like AliExpress or Alibaba. Can Shopify support such?

  28. Great article. One thing you didn’t mention was about all the updates you have to deal with on WordPress. I am in a situation now where there are so many updates that need to be done that it’s going to cost $600 to have someone backup the site and do the updates and pray everything post ok. It is an ecommerce site, so if it goes down I have a big headache. I am considering bagging the woocommerce wordpress site and moving over to Shopify just to avoid this. Thoughts?

    • Hi Jody,

      There are some completely free backup options in WordPress such as the Duplicator plugin: https://wordpress.org/plugins/duplicator/
      It lets you create a backup of your entire site in a few clicks. Also, the process of updating the WordPress core + plugins is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require any particular technical skills so I wouldn’t advise anyone to pay $600 just for that.

  29. Great article Robert, thanks for sharing! I have had wordpress in the past, have shopify now but am thinking of changing back to WordPress! I have some technical knowledge but my main reason for shopify initially was time. it was so quick & easy to set up on shopify. I do alot of markets & events so love shopify for the inventory & sales tracking. I add all my offline sales to shopify which makes my book keeping & inventory tracking & product analytics a breeze.
    However, I do find like other people have mentioned shopify can be expensive. My ranking on google has gone down lately, and when i contact support they always advise to hire a shopify expert or buy an app for little things like image optimisation.

    • Hi Angelina! Yeah, Shopify can be expensive for smaller stores, whereas with WordPress there’s usually only the small web hosting cost to worry about. Going back to Woocommerce might be a good idea in your case