You can use countless platforms to build your site, but the most popular among e-commerce merchants are Shopify and WordPress, and for a good reason. These two are a mile ahead of peers in terms of ease of use and features. They’re accessible, customizable, and, more importantly, profitable.

But these two are made for different kinds of users. The Shopify vs. WordPress battle is a common problem among merchants — which one is better at selling goods online?

Let’s break down their pros and cons to help you choose between these two e-commerce giants.

What is Shopify?

shopify on phone

Shopify is a web application tool that’s specially designed for e-commerce. It’s a website builder (a tool that builds a site from scratch). It’s also a Software as a Service (SaaS) tool, so when you get a Shopify site, you get a copy of the software. You pay a monthly fee to use it and keep your site live.

Who Uses Shopify?

It may not seem important, but the number of users is a deciding factor when choosing a website builder. If a platform has many users, you’ll find more support forums, resources, apps, and plugins. Also, there’s a smaller chance of the platform shutting down and taking your online store with it.

You won’t have that problem with Shopify. It currently has a 20% market share, powering over 1,000,000 online stores. As a matter of fact, some of the world’s biggest brands use Shopify.

  • Gymshark – Outgrew Magento and moved to Shopify
  • Lindt – Opened its first e-commerce store within five days
  • Heinz – Launched a new direct-to-customer site in seven days
  • Jenny Craig – Pioneered an e-commerce subscription model
  • Rebecca Minkoff – Used 3D design to increase conversions

What Industries Use Shopify?

Shopify is a favorite in the retail industry, among other e-commerce sectors. Here are the top industries that use Shopify:

  1. Retail
  2. Fashion and Apparel
  3. Wholesale Industry
  4. Restaurant
  5. Consumer Goods
  6. Health and Wellness
  7. Food and Beverage
  8. Computer Software
  9. Furniture
  10. Design

What is WordPress?

wordpress conceptWordPress comes in two different forms: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

  • com is the blogging platform that works the same way as a website builder. Using this tool, you can create your own website. It’s a hosted solution, as well as a SaaS that requires a monthly fee.
  • org is a self-hosted solution that you download and install on your own web server. This is the WordPress form that you can use to create any website, including online stores.

In this review, we’ll use WordPress.org because this is the WordPress version that can be used for e-commerce.

Who Uses WordPress?

WordPress powers almost a third of all websites on the internet. So in terms of stability and user base, you have nothing to worry about.

Name any industry, and there’s at least one key brand that uses WordPress. Some brand giants that patronize this platform include:

  • BBC America
  • Sony Music
  • TechCrunch
  • The Harvard Gazette
  • Usain Bolt
  • The Official Website of Sweden

WordPress vs. Shopify

We’ll pit WordPress against Shopify in five aspects: e-commerce features, themes, pricing, payment gateways, and SEO.

Element No. 1: E-Commerce Features

The main thing you have to consider is that Shopify has e-commerce functionalities built-in in every template. On the other hand, WordPress doesn’t have e-commerce tools built-in; you’ll have to install a third-party plugin. Unlike Shopify, WordPress isn’t a website builder dedicated to online stores. You’ll have to do more work to make your site suitable for selling.

But don’t set WordPress aside just yet. Given the right third-party plugin, WordPress offers more extensive e-commerce options than Shopify.

So when choosing between the two, all boils down to 1) how much time and resources you have and 2) how extensive you want your e-commerce store to be.

Shopify Features

The immediate advantage of Shopify is that it has all the sales tools a business needs.

  • Any Kind of Product – You can sell both physical products and digital downloads.
  • Any Volume of Product – You can sell an unlimited amount of products on any pricing plan.
  • E-Commerce Tools – You have marketing, inventory, shipping, and analytical tools at your disposal.
  • Abandoned Cart Recovery – You can send email reminders to customers who abandoned their carts.
  • Discount Codes – You can create discount codes to encourage conversion.
  • Multi-Channel Integration – You can integrate your site with social media platforms (like Facebook) and international marketplaces (like Amazon).

WordPress Features

Because e-commerce plugins offer different features, the functionality options are virtually limitless with WordPress. This gives you greater flexibility compared to a standard Shopify site. You can even use a Shopify plugin for your WordPress site if you want all the e-commerce tools mentioned above.

Here are some of the most popular WordPress e-commerce plugins, as well as their features.

  • WooCommerce
    • Sell unlimited products
    • Sell various products (physical and digital)
    • Create blogs (for content marketing)
    • Display product reviews and ratings
    • Let visitors sort and filter the catalog
  • Ecwid
    • Let users save favorite products
    • Enable guest checkouts
    • Display a shipping calculator
    • Enable multilingual translation

Features: What Platform to Choose?

When it comes to convenience, Shopify is the way to go. If you have no time to search for the perfect plugin, Shopify offers all the essential tools you need.

When it comes to customization, WordPress knocks it out of the park. If you have time to spare and you are looking for a distinct set of e-commerce features, then WordPress is for you.

Element No. 2: Themes

There’s a vast difference between Shopify and WordPress themes. Shopify offers over 70 themes (9 free and 64 paid), while WordPress has over 1,000. You definitely have a lot more options under WordPress, but Shopify templates are not lacking in terms of aesthetics and user experience, either.

Shopify Themes

Shopify’s templates are all well-laid out and take advantage of graphics. Paid themes range from $100-$180. You can choose from a wide array of template styles:

  • Number of Products – Themes accommodate single-product stores to brands with large catalogs.
  • Layout Style – You can display products in a collage, grid, row-type catalog, and more.
  • Navigation – You can choose from a sidebar, horizontal, multi-column, multi-level, or slide-out menu.

Shopify also recommends themes based on your industry, including:

  • Fashion and Apparel
  • Photography and Art
  • Food and Beverage
  • Electronics
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Health and Beauty
  • Home and Garden

The important thing about these templates is that they’re all mobile responsive. No matter what Shopify theme you use, you can be sure that it will adjust to the screen’s size.

WordPress Themes

Shopify’s theme selection pales in comparison to WordPress. On top of over a thousand paid and free choices, you can also look for WordPress developers’ themes. You have your choice of template styles:

  • Layout – Choose from grid, one-column to four-column, wide blocks, left or right sidebar, and more.
  • Features – You can filter your options according to specific site features, like:
    • Featured Image Header
    • Flexible Header
    • Footer Widgets
    • Threaded Comments
    • Translation Options

If you are well-versed in coding, you can customize the site to your heart’s content. The downside, however, is that not all WordPress templates are mobile responsive.

Themes: Which Platform Wins?

With WordPress, you are spoiled for choice, plus you have the freedom to customize them as you please. But this comes at a price, as you have to be vigilant about mobile responsiveness. Shopify offers limited choices, which you can only edit so much, but they are all mobile responsive.

If you have a steadfast vision for your site, you have a higher chance of achieving that with WordPress.

Element No. 3: Pricing

Shopify offers different e-commerce pricing plans. Meanwhile, pricing is a little trickier with WordPress because it carries separate expenses.

The Cost of Shopify

Shopify has three pricing tiers. It also offers a free, 14-day trial that requires no credit card.

Pricing Plan Price Per Month
Basic Shopify $29
Shopify $79
Advanced Shopify $299

The Basic Shopify plan is in itself an all-in-one solution, covering 24/7 support, unlimited products, a free SSL certificate, hosting, and more. But it’s also worth investing in the pricier tiers. Here are some key differences:

Features Basic Shopify Shopify Advanced Shopify
Staff Accounts(access to Shopify Admin and Shopify POS) 2 5 15
Locations (warehouses, pop-ups, etc.) 4 5 8
Shipping Discounts 64% 72% 74%
Additional Fees (if you’ll use a payment gateway other than Shopify Payments) 2.0% 1.0% 0.5%

The Cost of WordPress

Unlike Shopify, which has a single price tag, WordPress doesn’t have a distinct e-commerce pricing plan.  Thus, it’s more difficult to determine the cost of running a WordPress site.

You get the content management system (CMS) for free, but there are other things you have to pay for:

  • Hosting – Since WordPress.org is a self-hosted solution, you’ll shoulder hosting expenses. Prices depend on whether you get shared hosting or managed hosting. The latter gives you a faster and more secure site, but it also comes at a steeper price. Monthly managed hosting is anywhere from $25 to $100, while shared hosting falls between $5 and $20.
  • Template – The template that’s perfect for your business might not be free.
  • Plugins – As mentioned earlier, WordPress doesn’t have e-commerce tools, so you have to purchase plugins to extend your site’s functionality.
  • E-Commerce Integration – You might have to purchase other tools to improve functionality further.

You can get away with free templates, plugins, and tools for e-commerce integration, but you can’t escape hosting costs. Also, quality comes at a price, so it’s usually worth investing in paid templates and plugins. Basic templates range from $35 to $50 (though it could reach thousands of dollars for a custom design). Then come the plugins: some e-commerce plugins have an annual cost of over $100. Then, if you hire a developer to build and maintain your site, your expenses would be higher.

Overall, you could spend hundreds of dollars on a custom WordPress site. Pricey as it sounds, you will have an exceptional and stunning storefront.

Pricing: Which One Is More Affordable?

Shopify is generally more affordable than WordPress. At $29 per month, you have everything you need to run your site, and you have quality assurance, too.

With WordPress, you can get away with affordable hosting and free templates and plugins, but you might not be confident about the end-results. People choose WordPress over Shopify for the limitless possibilities in functionality and aesthetics — all of which will be for nothing if the seller is limited to free templates and plugins and with no assistance from a developer.

Element No. 4: Payment Gateways

e-commerce payment conceptThe choice of payment gateways affects the motivation to buy. If the experience of paying is inconvenient, the customer simply opts out.

The good news is that both Shopify and WordPress can offer major e-commerce payment gateways, so you’re covered whichever you choose.

Shopify Payment Gateways

Shopify supports over 100 payment gateways, including popular options such as:

  • PayPal
  • Amazon Pay
  • Apple Pay
  • Stripe
  • Square
  • Credit and debit cards.

Shopify also has its own payment gateway, Shopify Payments. If you use Shopify Payments, you won’t need to do any configuration, and you won’t be charged an additional transaction fee. All other payment gateways come at a fee, depending on your pricing plan.

WordPress Payment Gateways

The payment gateways for WordPress depend on the plugin you use. If you’re using WooCommerce, the payment gateways are almost similar to the ones Shopify offers (credit/debit cards, PayPal, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Stripe, Square, etc.). Overall, you have over a hundred payment gateways to choose from, including niche, regional gateways.

In comparison to Shopify, WordPress with a WooCommerce plugin won’t charge additional fees.

Payment Gateway: Which Wins?

It’s a bit difficult to choose which platform wins in this situation because they have comparable offers. It all depends on the specific gateway you prefer.

When it comes to diversity of choices, however, you have a lot more to work with at WordPress (with a WooCommerce plugin, to be exact). They also won’t charge extra.

Element No. 5: SEO

seo website conceptSearch engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing a site’s visibility on Google by changing some aspects of the website. Both Shopify and WordPress enable SEO, but the latter needs the help of plugins to incorporate SEO elements.

Shopify SEO

Shopify enables you to add specific titles and descriptions for each webpage. This is important because inserting keywords (phrases that users type into Google) increases the chances of ranking. Google also prefers sites with an SSL certificate, XML sitemaps, and 301 redirects, all of which Shopify provides. Moreover, no matter how big your Shopify site is, you can arrange the pages into categories. Shopify allows you to create a well-structured, easy-to-navigate store, which makes you more favorable in the eyes of Google.

The downside is that the URLs aren’t as clean and pared-down as an SEO analyst would want it to be. Google prefers a simple URL structure, but Shopify adds prefixes to some of the pages.

But overall, Shopify is an excellent platform to create an optimized site.

WordPress SEO

You can only make SEO changes to your WordPress site through an external plugin. It counts as extra work for most small entrepreneurs.

The most popular option is Yoast, which in itself is a leading SEO tool. Yoast analyzes your site extensively and shows the exact steps needed to improve ranking. It also allows for sitemaps and sets canonical URLs (this helps avoid duplicate content). You can get Yoast for free, but to use advanced features, you’d have to pay $75.65 for Yoast SEO Premium.

WordPress also shines where Shopify fails: it allows you to create clean and short URLs.

Shopify Or WordPress: Which Is Better for SEO?

If you’re short on time and looking for convenience, Shopify is your best bet. It has built-in SEO capabilities that can be utilized by people with little to no SEO experience.

If you’re willing to give a little more time and resources, WordPress will do.

On the Winning Platform: Which Is Better?

We hate to break it to you, but we can’t say whether Shopify or WordPress is the “better” e-commerce platform. You just have to figure out which one meets all your needs.

When Should You Pick Shopify?

In a nutshell, Shopify is suited for small businesses with limited resources. You’re not looking for anything extraordinarily unique and mind-blowing — you simply need an online store that works.

Go with Shopify if:

  • You need an all-in-one solution that doesn’t need many configurations
  • All you need are the basic e-commerce tools — nothing too fancy
  • You’re not looking for extreme customization
  • You want the more affordable option
  • You’ll use a popular payment gateway
  • You want fuss-free SEO

Shopify is designed specifically for online businesses, which is why it is an ever-popular choice for new and growing merchants.

When Should You Pick WordPress?

In sum, WordPress is ideal for businesses with more time and resources to spare, in the name of customization and more advanced e-commerce tools. Because they require plugins, a WordPress store offers more possibilities in functionality, aesthetics, and payment gateways.

Go with WordPress if:

  • You’re willing to invest more to find the perfect e-commerce plugin with all the e-commerce tools you need
  • You have a distinct brand image that requires a customized look
  • You’re willing to spend separately on hosting, plugins, themes, maintenance, etc.
  • You prefer a niche payment gateway
  • You’re willing to expend more energy on SEO

WordPress requires a little more resources, but the results are worth it. This is the reason the world’s most iconic brands trust it.

Do You Have Alternatives?

There are countless website builders out there, so if Shopify and WordPress aren’t good enough, explore these platforms:

  • Wix – It’s effortless to use, SEO-friendly, and scalable.
  • Squarespace – It enables easy social media integration, blogging, and page building.
  • BigCommerce – It lets you sell service-based products.
  • 3DCart – It offers designs for single-product stores.
  • Volusion – It supports global currency, customer reviews, and recurring payment options.

There are many newcomers every year, too, so we won’t be surprised if the contenders of this list are dethroned in a couple of years.

Ultimately, the choice of a website builder depends on your needs. Determine the exact features your store has to have, find the platforms that offer all of them, and choose the most cost-effective option. This exhaustive and time-consuming effort will pay back in the long run.

Browse our site for more insights about building the best website for your store.

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