Shopify vs WordPress: Which is Better? Complete Comparison [2020]

Shopify vs WordPress

Shopify vs WordPress, the battle of ultimate eCommerce power. In this post, I am going to put these two powerful eCommerce platforms to the test.

And hopefully put your questions to rest. 

So stick with me as I give you the most complete and thorough comparison between Shopify vs WordPress. I will compare them according to the following:

  • Pricing
  • Ease of Use
  • Other features
  • Themes & Design Flexibility
  • Integrations and Add-ons
  • Payment Processing & Checkout
  • Support & Help

And lastly, I will tell you, once and for all, which option may be a better option for you. 

Deal? Lets jump right in. 

Introducing Competitors: Shopify vs WordPress

In the blue corner, meet WordPress – the world’s popular, and powerful, content management system (CMS). 

WordPress screenshot
WordPress – Free Content Management System

WordPress is a free open-source solution. Meaning it allows you to build your site on its platform for entirely free. For the most part that’s what makes it so popular (currently powering more than 38% of all websites on the internet) but most importantly it offers total design freedom –  possibilities are literally limitless with customizations (that is, if you know how to code). But, do not despair, you do not need to know it to build a simple and elegant website. I will show you how.

However, to build an online store, one needs a plugin called wooCommerce (more on it later) which, of course, is also free to install and use. wooCommerce is an extension of WordPress specifically designed to add online store capabilities to WordPress. Pardon me, from now on, I will use the two interchangeably.

What are compelling reasons that has led so many to choose WordPress with wooCommerce, you ask? Besides the fact that it’s free, here are others reasons others choose WordPress wooCommerce: 

WordPress Best Features:

  • Stylish and modern themes. Thousands of free, and mostly paid world-class themes available 
  • Scalibiity. WordPress is known for its uncapped design flexibility which means it can grow with your business.
  • Large Collection of Extensions/Add-ons. Built-in features usually suffice for starting out but when you expand and scale, you may need additional functionalities and that’s where add-ons come in. 

In the green corner, meet Shopify. 

Although not as popular as WordPress, its undoubtedly just as powerful, if not more, in the world of eCommerce. 

Shopify

Shopify is an eCommerce platform that specializes in helping all kinds of businesses to expand their reach and serve new customers online. It’s thoughtfully designed and highly intuitive platform is packed with all the tools one will ever need to succeed online. 

Here are few reasons why 1M+ users choose to use Shopify:

Shopify Best Features:

  • Ease of Use. Shopify is extremely easy to use. Long gone are the days where only web designers can build an online store. Now anyone can do it with Shopify.
  • Affordability. Shopify offers a laundry list of powerful features for a very small price. Their plans start at $9/month (for buy buttons only, no online stores). 
  • Modern and Customizable themes: Shopify’s themes are not only futuristic and minimal, but they’re also customizable to fit your design preferences. 
  • Excellent Support & Help. Building an online store can be unchartered territory for many, even as easy as Shopify makes it, one will almost always need additional help and support. 

Key Differences Between Shopify vs WordPress

WordPress (wooCommerce) Shopify
More flexible, steeper learning curveLess flexible, flatter learning curve
Free open-source softwareSoftware as a Service (SaaS) – Self Hosted
Hosting & updates requiredHosting & updates provided
Less beginner-friendlyMore beginner-friendly
Free to use, extensions not freeMonthly subscription-based
Main Differences Between Shopify & WordPress

Because WordPress is free software, that means you have to find a hosting provider and the cost with that can vary widely. However, there are many budget-friendly web hosting providers such as Bluehost or Dreamhost. 

These hosting providers does most of the heavy lifting for you, and includes:

Included Features with Hosting:

  • A free domain name for the first year
  • Take care of hosting and software updates
  • Provide SSL security and WordPress support
  • Some even provide custom email 

To learn more about WordPress with Bluehost see this beginner’s complete guide.

On the other end, these services are normally included with platforms like Shopify. 

Now, lets get to the nitty-gritty stuff, shall we?

Getting Started

One of the starkest differences between WordPress and Shopify is getting started. Shopify makes it uber easy to get started while with WordPress there are few things you have to get out of the way before you get can start. 

Let me take you through each step.

WordPress/wooCommerceShopify
To get started with WordPress, here are the steps in order:

1. Get hosting for your site. There’s plenty out there but Bluehost is recommended by WordPress, plus it’s super affordable starting at $2.59/month with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Bluehost, and many other hosting platforms, make installation very easy. Learn more here.

2. Decide on a domain name. This should fairly be easy. Most hosting providers offer a free domain name for the first year, plus a free SSL certificate. 

3. Choose a theme. Once you have decided on a hosting plan and domain name, the next thing to do is decide on the theme. There are plenty of free and paid themes to choose from. The most important thing to note is that the theme you choose gotta be compatible with wooCommerce – an online store plugin.
As you can see from the list on the left, WordPress requires a laundry list of things to do which can be overwhelming if you’re a beginner.

Contrary to WordPress, once you signed up with Shopify you can start right away with their 14-day trial as your get your toes wet and get used to it. 

Once you sign up, you can choose a theme from their collection of free and paid themes.

This is part of what makes Shopify so beginner-friendly. You don’t require any tech skills to start, you only need to sign up.

Shopify’s entry-level plan includes unlimited storage & bandwidth, and everything else in their advanced plans except advanced reporting.
Getting Started: Shopify vs WordPress

Getting Started Summary: Shopify vs WordPress

Starting with WordPress can sound intimidating, but it shouldn’t have to be. Like anything, at first, it may sound a whole lot complicated but once you get used it, it becomes such a breeze. So is with WordPress. To learn more see this Complete WordPress Guide for beginners.

Pricing

Pricing puts everything else in perspective right? Right. Now lets get into it.

WordPress/wooCommerceShopify
WordPress is free. But free doesn’t always mean free, it’s not free of all expenses. Shopify pricing starts at $29/month, included is unlimited storage & bandwidth
First, its hosting costs which range between $3 – $100/monthDomain name costs between $8 – $20/year 
A domain name costs between $8 – $20/year. Although free for the first year. Unlike WordPress, Shopify has transactional fees between 0.5% – 3%
Themes, if you decide on paid one, can cost between $59 – $129 (once-off price). Free well-designed themes are available. Third-party apps can cost between $5 – $60/month. You probably won’t need additional apps in the beginning but once you do there’s plenty to choose from.
Plugins & Extensions, which will almost always come up, cost between $25 – $100. Some.
Pricing: Shopify vs WordPress

Pricing Summary: Shopify vs WordPress

As you can see, although WordPress itself is free, there are other costs you’ll have to budget for and they can quickly add up and end up being pricey. And to get the best out of WordPress and wooCommerce you may have to spring for various plugins and extensions. 

One can also say the same about Shopify. You may need to add apps for more features.

It’s safe to say, for both platforms, initial costs are fairly decent but once you need added features be prepared to pay more for add-ons (wooCommerce) or apps (Shopify). However, someone with a simple online store can get away without having to pay for additional apps and extensions.

Ease of Use

There is a common misconception that one needs to know coding in order to use WordPress. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although the platform doesn’t have the easiest learning curve, it’s possible for less tech-savvy folks to navigate.

For example, this same blog you’re from it’s hosted on WordPress and I never had to write a single line of coding. Truth? WordPress isn’t as hard as it’s said to be. Period.

WordPress/wooCommerceShopify
WooCommerce is WordPress’s eCommerce plugin. Meaning it has to be installed to add online store capabilities.  

It works seamlessly with WordPress and it’s fairly easy to use if you’re familiar with WordPress dashboard.

The installation is super easy too. Within only a few clicks you can install and activate it.
From Shopify’s control panel to its website editor, everything is thoughtfully designed with beginners in mind.

Its traditional drag-and-drop editor makes it intuitive to design and customize. 
Ease of Use: Shopify vs WordPress

Ease of Use Summary: Shopify vs WordPress

Both Shopify and wooCommerce have a setup wizard to guide you step-by-step on getting started. In addition, wooCommerce also provides video tutorials that are helpful and I normally recommend them for beginners.

Features

Both WordPress wooCommerce and Shopify feature a core + extensions model, meaning they both have built-in features you can use without paying additional for add-ons and apps. The big difference is how many built-in features each come with, and that can mean the difference between a pricey and non-pricey option.

WordPress/wooCommerceShopify
SEO & Blog
The best SEO features and blogging platform on the planet. It doesn’t get any better.

Yoast SEO it’s a freemium plugin with handy SEO features.
Offers decent blogging features and plenty of SEO best practices.

There are also freemium third-party SEO apps available
Shipping & Taxes
A handful of shipping options and carriers available, also included in the shipping calculator.

For real-time shipping rates from FedEx, UPS, USPS, etc., you have to install a paid extension for it.
All shipping options and many carriers available but a real-time shipping calculator is not available with their basic plan at $29/month. Only available at Shopify Plan at $79/month.
Email Notifications
Allows limited customization for confirmation emails for customer orders, cancellation, fulfillment, etc.Shopify allows you to edit and customize your logo and email texts. Wide variety of confirmation emails available.
Sales Channels
Only Facebook store extension is free. Google shipping, Etsy, Amazon, eBay are all provided by third-party and cost as much as $200/year.All sales channels are available free of charge on all plans. That includes Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, eBay, Walmart, etc.
Inventory Management
Track your stock levels and sync automatically with order statuses like order cancellation or out-of-stock update.Track inventory and stock levels across multiple locations and automatically sync with other sales channels.
Cart Recovery
Additional cost for integration with extensions to send out automatic cart recovery emails.Available on all plans. Emails are fully customizable.
Products
In addition to physical and digital products, you can also sell access, time, and tickets products. Additional extension costs ($200/year) may apply.Allow both physical and digital products. For subscription-based products you have to install third-party apps, starting at $16/month.
Dropshipping
AliDropship plugin available for additional functionality but costs $89 one time payment.Shopify’s very own Orbelo app has generous features for free use and it’s great for dropshipping.
Coupons & Discounts
Wide range of coupon and discount types and usage restrictions & limits, including email address-based discount & coupon.Although not as comprehensive, Shopify still offers more than decent discount & coupon type with various limits & restrictions.
Mobile Responsiveness
Themes are mobile responsive and can access store manager on a mobile app.Themes are also designed to respond to mobile users, I would even opine that they look better on mobile.
Features: Shopify vs WordPress/wooCommerce

Features Summary: Shopify vs WordPress

These are a few I deemed important to mention but there is a lot more. To be fair, pound for pound, WordPress vs Shopify are neck-on-neck with regard to features. So then why did I give Shopify a bigger score, you may ask.

For one reason and one reason only, Shopify offers more out-of-the-box features that come with all their plans while WordPress, although has the same features, many of them aren’t built-in – that is, you have to add paid extensions to access them. 

Although Shopify is built to scale with your business, the costs of using third-party apps can also increase substantially with growing business.

Themes & Design Flexibility

Many beginners struggle with selecting the “right” theme, more so with WordPress themes. I am saying the “right” theme because that’s totally subjective. One theme maybe right for someone and not be okay for another. 

However, there is still a common thread on choosing the “right” theme regardless of your unique circumstances.

WordPress/wooCommerceShopify
Choosing the right them is a challenge, and it’s even compounded by the vast collection of WordPress themes available. But, it doesn’t have to be.

I recommend using themes provided by WooCommerce for compatibility reasons. Their free theme called storefront themes works just fine and will take you far to start off with. WooCommerce also has premium themes available at a cost of between $39 – $79.

Although you can somewhat customize these themes to your liking, such editing is limited. Need to make more changes to your theme? WooCommerce offers what they call Powerpack extension (starts at $59) that allows you even greater design freedom for your themes.
Selecting an appropriate theme for your Shopify store is really easy. 

Their collection of 110+ free and paid themes are all compatible with your store. So here, I recommend choosing a theme that’s most relevant to your industry and one that’s visually appealing to you.

Once you do that, it’s now time to customize your theme which is also fairly easy to do through Shopify’s drag and drop editor.

Note that once you select a theme, although you can switch it half-way through, you’ll have to repopulate it with content. So you have to choose the right theme from the word go to avoid this.

Themes Summary: Shopify vs WordPress

Unless you’re a non-beginner or web designer working for a client with very specific customization needs, the built-in features and design flexibility for both WooCommerce and Shopify themes are sufficient for many people.

But should you need extra customization, you can achieve that through extensions (for WooCommerce) and apps (for Shopify) to totally customize your store.

Integrations, Apps & Add-ons

For any advanced features you may need, there are plenty of WooCommerce extensions for that, 400 and counting. But, as you now know, those come at a price and can quickly add up. 

Similarly, as robust as Shopify’s built-in features are, you may still need to rely on third-party apps to add additional functionality to your store. From their vast collection of 2500+ apps, it’s safe to say you’d probably find one that meets your needs.

WordPress/wooCommerceShopify
To be honest, WooCommerce’s core + extension model is leaning much more towards extensions in comparison to other platforms, like Shopify. And that can be a pain in the pocket.

Even though a fair number of their extensions are priced for a one-time purchase, they’re still a lot more expensive than other platforms. In fact, we found this to be one of the biggest complaints from customers on G2crowd.

On the bright side, WooCommerce is open-source, meaning there is no limit to how much you can customize its code, either through page builders like elementor or coding.
Shopify’s core + extensions model is well balanced on both sides.

Their core features are more than enough to get you started and grow with your business. If it happens you need additional capabilities, you have 2500+ apps to choose from, many of them offering free plans, though limited.

Shopify’s apps, from virtually any category you can think of,  can range in price from as little as $3/month to a pricey  $100/month.
Extensions + Apps: Shopify vs WordPress

Extensions + Apps Summary: Shopify vs WordPress

Payment Processing

To serve customers in the 21st century comes with its own challenges, one of which is letting them pay through their most convinient payment gateway. wooCommerce and Shopify understands that well. Spoiler alert: Shopify clearly understands it better, and here is why:

WordPress/wooCommerceShopify
WooCommerce comes with 5 out-of-the-box payment gateways: 

– PayPal
– Stripe
– EFT, bank transfer
– Check payment
– Cash on delivery

No transaction fees.

Apple pay is also included with Stripe. For a decent number of businesses, these payment solutions will be sufficient.
Shopify offers 100+ payment gateways in all their plans. If you live in the US and Canada than the number goes to as high as 150+ payment solutions. 

More choice can sometimes mean analysis paralysis right?

Shouldn’t have to be. Simply choose 2 or 3 payment solutions that will work well for your customers and you’ll be alright.

Support & Help

As I mentioned before, free doesn’t always mean free. This is especially true when it comes to WordPress. Although the software itself is free, hosting, themes and add-ons will costs you.

But there is also another intangible cost that one may easily miss. And that is to do with customer support and help.

WordPress/wooCommerceShopify
Since WordPress is free, open-source software, there is no centralized customer support to handle all your queries. For example, for help with extensions and add-ons, WordPress cannot help so you’ll have to contact support for that particular extension. Worse, if the extension is free, their customer support is almost always poor. 

WooCommerce comes with limited customer support. The only available channels of support are:

– Tutorial videos (which are great)
– Forums & Blogs
– FAQ’s
– Hire an expert (which can cost thousands of dollars)

Unfortunately, you can’t get help via chat, phone or even email. You have to submit a web ticket and that can take up to 48 hours for a response. In worse cases, some customers waited as long as a week. Not good. 
Shopify’s customer support is excellent. You can get help through:

– Email
– Social media, very active on – twitter
– Chat
– And phone

And most of these services are available round the clock. 

In most cases you may not even need to go as far, their Help Center is full of helpful tutorials and articles for help. 

You can also visit their Youtube channel for video tutorials or ask your question in the community forum for help. 

In short, I wish WooCommerce service was half as good as Shopify.

FAQ’s

Verdict: WordPress or Shopify?

WooCommerce can be a low cost solution, if you can keep your extensions cost low. But as your business grows your add-ons cost will invertably increase as well. If you’re a small business, perhaps already using WordPress for your website, then I would recommend using WooCommerce since you’re already familiar with WordPress. But again, the cost can quickly spring up as the business grows and needs expand. 

Shopify is by far an overall better alternative to WooCommerce, both in terms of pricing and core features offered. It’s easy to use which means you can get started right now. Best part? It can scale with your business without having to pay a fortune for it. I highly recommend Shopify. I have had great success with it, and never had any problems with it.

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