Setting up an online store has never been easier. However, it can still be confusing. There are just so many different platforms and services available for you to start selling your products online that it becomes hard to make the right choice. This is especially true for beginners who have never set up an eCommerce store before.
In this article, I’ll compare two of the most common names—Shopify and WordPress—that keep popping up when you are looking for tools to set up your own eCommerce store. I’ll compare the platforms in the following categories:
If you just want the final results, you can skip ahead to Which One Should You Pick?
Before we dive any deeper, it is important to understand what exactly these two platforms were created to do. This will help you figure out which of them is more suitable and aligns better with what you have planned for your own online store.
What Is WordPress?
WordPress is meant to be used as an all-in-one tool for website development. It started as a basic CMS but kept on expanding through its robust plugin ecosystem to build almost everything that you want. This includes news websites, forums, simple blogs, eCommerce stores, and much more.
What Is Shopify?
Shopify is different from WordPress in two key aspects. First, it is not open source. Second, its primary focus is on being an all-in-one tool for commerce. The founders of Shopify created it over a decade ago to sell snowboards online. So its development headed in that direction from the beginning. It will manage everything for you to help you set up a store as soon as possible.
Shopify also has an app store of its own, but it is not as extensive as WordPress when it comes to the number of available choices for extending and customizing your website.
In short, Shopify is a good choice if you plan on focusing almost exclusively on commerce. You can also add some other elements like a blog to your store, but using WordPress would be the way to go if you want a lot more freedom in the direction of your website or online store.
Let’s say you want to have an eCommerce store up and running as quickly as possible. The definite choice in that case would be Shopify. This comes down to the fact that Shopify was built with eCommerce in mind. As a result, their whole process of creating an online store is geared towards making it easy to sell things online.
Creating an online store requires you to figure out a lot of things like domain name registration, hosting, creating a website, collecting credit cards, and integrating payment solutions. Shopify will handle almost all those aspects for you.
WordPress, on the other hand, requires considerably more effort from your end, especially if you are just starting out. There are service providers out there that will handle all these things for you. However, this means that you will no longer have control over every little aspect of your store.
Just go with Shopify if you don’t want to worry about the nitty-gritty details and time is of the essence.
The primary purpose of themes is to give your website a unique and refreshing look. They allow you to quickly add all the necessary markup and styling to change the visual appearance of your website.
Both Shopify and WordPress offer a decent collection of themes. While all the listed themes in WordPress directory are free, the themes listed on Shopify store include a mix of free and paid options.
As well as free themes, WordPress also has a huge ecosystem of premium themes. These are very feature rich and cater to every design taste and website niche. Free themes might not be as good looking or as feature rich as premium ones.
While WordPress might offer a wider range of choices, Shopify is more organized and makes it easier to find themes that are tailor-made for your particular niche when it comes specifically to eCommerce. It is almost a tie when it comes to available themes.
It isn’t feasible for either Shopify or WordPress to include all the functionality that you need for your eCommerce store directly in their core. This means that you will need a system of plugins and extensions to access additional features.
The comparison here is similar to available themes. You have a lot of options to choose from in both the Shopify app store and in the WordPress plugin directory to find an extension that provides the functionality you like.
Shopify App Store
Both the Shopify app store and WordPress offer a mix of free and paid extensions. All the plugins that you find in the WordPress plugin directory are free, but many of them also include additional features in their pro or paid versions. You can also directly go to marketplaces like CodeCanyon to find premium WordPress plugins.
WordPress Plugins Directory
The plugin system in WordPress is a bit better if you want to include functionality beyond eCommerce.
Shopify is a closed system when compared with WordPress. You can definitely customize different aspects of your websites in Shopify, but it comes nowhere close to what you can do with WordPress.
When you are using WordPress, you can get direct access to the source code of a theme and plugin that you install on the website. This means that you have the option to make all kinds of changes to the code and upload it back on your server. For example, let’s say you have installed a product review plugin for your store. WordPress will allow you to modify the behavior and appearance of the reviews as much as you like by directly changing the source code.
This type of customization is not ordinarily possible with Shopify.
Therefore, people who want complete customizability and control should consider using WordPress.
The cost of developing and running an online store can vary considerably, depending on a lot of factors. You have to take into account things like hosting, theme and plugin prices, customization, etc.
As a result, it is really hard to predict which option would be cheaper for you beforehand. Also remember that the cost of a project cannot always be measured directly in terms of the money you paid for a product or service. It should also include the time spent to get everything up and running. Things like losing out on a $500 sale to keep initial costs down by $50 might not be a good idea.
That being said, one big factor that will determine the cost of creating your online store is its customization. WordPress will be a cheaper option if you have basic technical know-how and can make minor changes to themes and plugins yourself.
Everyone needs to access technical support at some point for any products and services that they use. This is certainly true for something as big as setting up an online store.
While WordPress does have a large community of people supporting the platform, the support you get isn’t comparable to Shopify. This essentially comes down to their business models. WordPress is free and open-source, so those developers of free themes and plugins will most probably only be able to help you in their spare time.
Shopify, on the other hand, will have a dedicated team ready to help you resolve any issues related to your online store. Pick Shopify if this is your first time setting up an online store and you have almost no prior experience in web development.
I hate to say this, but it would be impossible and incorrect to tell you whether WordPress or Shopify is the right choice for you without looking at your project requirements in more detail. This is why I broke down the article into different sections which covered one specific aspect to help you make an informed decision. Here’s a summary of the results.
Setup Time and Ease of Use
WordPress (depends on customization needs)
In short, Shopify is easier to set up and use for complete newbies. WordPress will most probably be a better choice for people who want to control almost every aspect of their store and already have experience with web development.