Shopify vs WordPress, it’s the sort of question that gets asked a lot by anyone who works in eCommerce. Very similar to Godzilla vs King Kong, which actually comes out on the big screen this year but enough of that distraction! We regularly get asked which one should you choose and why? It is something we are happy to offer our opinion on because we have been there and done that with both platforms. As an agency we have built websites for clients and for ourselves on both WordPress and Shopify and the following are our thoughts.
We hope that this will help you to choose the platform most suited to your business. Before you start, here are some of the questions you amy want to ask yourself before you choose platforms for your eCommerce website:
- Who will be running the website going forward? – Agency, me or internal staff
- How much technical knowledge is available at your business? – Each request for changes will cost money if using external agency or freelancers.
- How much time do you have to spend running the website? – Will you be keeping an eye out for updating plug in and wordpress requests.
- Do you want a central platform with a single log in?
- How much do you know about hosting and domain configuration?
What is Shopify?
“Shopify is a purpose built application for selling products online.”
What is also known as an out-of-the box solution that will let someone without any technical knowledge get up and running quickly with very little hassle. You can choose to build your platform on one of Shopify’s free themes or pay for something more bespoke. The website is also hosted on Shopify’s servers so you can keep all of your activity within one ecosystem and not need to log in and out of a variety of websites, platforms apps etc.
Shopify is a web application which means you can access your website from anywhere in the world on any device. The Shopify App is a brilliant piece of kit and ensures you can run your shop from your phone.
What is WordPress?
“WordPress is a blogging platform that can be transformed into an eCommerce website through the addition of Woocommerce”
There are two types of WordPress websites and for the purposes of this comparison, we will focus on WordPress.org. This is the self hosted version of WordPress that allows you to build any type of website using a combination of themes, apps, plug ins and more. You also have to pay for the hosting separately. Not so easy to get up and running if you have no technical knowledge but in the right hands it can be a very powerful tool.
WordPress is an open source piece of software, which means anyone can edit the code behind the platform which is freely available. There are thousands of plug-ins to help you do anything from postcode look up to SEO alongside thousands of purpose-built themes available for a range of budgets.
Each platform has it’s own costs associated with eCommerce use. These vary greatly and depend to a large extent on how many paid plug-ins or apps you need and the cost of your theme. The basics though are hosting for WordPress which you pay directly to your own hosting company and Shopify which charges a monthly fee to cover hosting and use of the platform.
Shopify’s Shopify Basic monthly fee covers all of your hosting, use of the platform, Support, security, 2 staff accounts ( pay more for more staff accounts). You can upload as many products as you want and start selling immediately.
Shopify recuperates some costs through its card charging. This is called Shopify Payments and the usual transaction charge is 2.2$ +20p per transaction. Phone support on Shopify is fantastic and they are very quick and knowledgeable, another big plus for un techy businesses.
Shopify Plus is for much larger organisations and costs over £2,000 per month which is out of reach of most but the largest shops. For the purposes of this blog we will stick with Shopify Basic.
A new development for Shopify is Shopify Mail. This replaces the need for external services like Mailchimp which is a separate cost and platform. You can send emails out to 2,500 customers at no extra charge on the basics plan. You would end up paying extra to send this many emails on another platform. Again it is an inbuilt service and helps you recover abandoned baskets and collect customer data.
The actual software is completely free to install on your server. That is not to say you can start for nothing, you need to pay for hosting first and your domain. You may also need an SSL certificate if it is not free with your hosting. One of the keys to eCommerce success is speed. Cheap hosting may look good but if you are sharing a server with hundreds of other websites, your website speed may be terrible resulting in minus points as far a Google and your users are concerned. Make you sure you select a good hosting provider who offers good support. We use Siteground and have never had an issue that wasn’t fixed in minutes.
Other Set Up Costs
You could build your own theme for either platform but we would suggest you select one from the platform libraries.
You can choose from 9 free themes that are included in your monthly fee or choose from the 64 paid themes. Themes cost from $100 dollars to $180. If you want something a little bit special then you may want to find a theme not in the theme store. We have built several websites using the Impulse family of themes and Out of the Sandbox has created some very slick and fast themes. We currently use Turbo for our Dogs Dogs Dogs website. This website is built using the Impulse theme.
If you buy from within the Shopify eco system you can be assured that the themes are responsive and don’t contain malicious code. Support is also very good and can be given by either Shopify or the theme developer. Do your research and check the reviews before making your final choice.
There are literally thousands of themes available for WordPress. As you would imagine the costs run from Free to hundreds of pounds and some of the themes charge annually which you don’t have to worry about with Shopify. There are loads of good ones and quite a few that are rubbish so do your research and look at the reviews especially covering how much support you get with your theme.
Plug-ins and Apps
Shopify works with app s, these are extra add-ons that give your website more power and let’s it do the extra things not included with the basics plan.
There are currently 5,000+ apps available on the Shopify app store. These range from Live chat apps through to specialty product review apps like Loox. We have spent a lot of time testing out apps for our websites, so if you want to know what we think then please get in touch with us
Worpress uses Plug ins that work in the same way as apps. Some of them are free and others come with a monthly or annual charge depending on how complex a solution they provide. You can download plug ins like YOAST that will boost your SEO through to Akismet anti spam that prevents you from receiving mountains of spam synonymous with WordPress websites.
Building an eCommerce website on WordPress is the perfect example of why it is easier to use Shopify. To sell on WordPress you need to install a plug-in like WooCommerce to be able to do it. These plug ins are very powerful and enable your site to do anything Shopify does but are harder to use in our opinion.
With a purpose built and hosted solution like Shopify the security is largely down to Shopify. You need to keep passwords secure but it is the job of Shopify to ensure your platform is secure. Shopify also help with GDPR, they say it is totally your responsibility but you can rely on them to provide secure hosting of your customer’s details. All of which is easily accessible for use in keeping in touch with clients.
WordPress security is almost entirely up to you. You must ensure you hosting is secure, you have an SSL certificate and that your theme and plug ins don’t contain malicious code. So be careful of where you source them from. Due to its huge presence on the net, WordPress unsurprisingly comes under attack from a lot of hackers and if you don;t have spam filters you can expect to be swamped by spam emails in your contact forms.
Although they look fairly similar when viewed like this, we believe Shopify is the simplest to use from the point of view of the shop owner.
The app is one of the stand-out features for Shopify and it enables you to see everything you need within the click of a button. You can generate lots of useful reports from your phone and even edit products and the website without turning on your laptop. The app is always giving advice and keeps you up to date with returning customers and abandoned basket stats. It also has a wonderful ker ching noise when you complete a sale.
Editing and adding products is very basic and a new product can be added in a matter of seconds. Collections are very intuitive and you can build them via tags, price of type. Looking after the homepage is easy and the customizer page builder is easy to learn. With pre-built sections to each page you don’t need any code experience and you can view what it looks like on a mobile desktop or tablet as you build.
Blogging is simple with Shopify but not as comprehensive as WordPress. You can build several types of blog using tags and you can edit the Meta appearance of blogs for SEO purposes.
One of the cleverest things about Shopify is how easy it is to integrate with Social Media and Google Shopping. You just install the relevant app, click a few settings and you are ready to start selling on Facebook, Insta and Google.
Live view is a gem if your website is busy. You can watch sales coming from anywhere in the world and follow their journey from basket to checkout. On Black Friday this is a real treat if you have done the work upfront to generate traffic.
The key to wordpress is to choose the right theme and the right page builder if you have no coding experience. We would suggest something like Elementor which is the most popular. We have built lots of websites using this and it is easy to create responsive pages. Not as easy as Shopify’s inbuilt builder though.
The fact that you have to install plug-ins to start selling is a bit of a giveaway.
Building products is a little bit more complex than Shopify and harder to understand. Categories there is no live view feature apart from when you integrate Google Analytics.
If you are looking for an easy-to-use eCommerce platform that takes much of the headache away from owning and running an online store then Shopify is for you. It is especially good for small business owners with little time or extra staff on their hands. If you want to avoid the need for spending budget on bespoke coding and complete flexibility then it is Shopify. Almost everything you need is within a single log in and the inbuilt features are enough to give you a good start. The app store is well populated and makes it easy to install any number of apps.
There are some restrictions on Shopify that can prove annoying like the use of sections on the homepage that is not available when building internal pages. On WordPress you can build almost anything anywhere. There are workarounds however and apps like Shogun Pagebuilder let you get past this but for a fee.
WordPress is good if you are looking for total flexibility in your website build and have a large amount of content to control that is not shop-related. WordPress was originally built as a blogging platform, so is perfect if you are looking to add a shop onto a magazine type website. Controlling the appearance of your blogs other pages is easier with WordPress.
The cons of WordPress are that fact you have to self-host and look after the updating of software and plug ins. We felt this was one of the worst parts of WordPress, having to constantly update things and not knowing if your plug ins are going to work once you do this. We also believe product management is much harder to do with the Woocomerce back end.
As you may have gathered we are big fans of Shopify. Don’t get us wrong, WordPress has it’s place, however, if you are planning on selling something, why wouldn’t you use a bespoke shopping platform as opposed to a blogging platform with a bolt-on to enable you to sell products.
The key to either site platform is the UX (user experience) and we are here to guide you through the entire process, whether it be WordPress or Shopify. Do give us a call to chat through anything we have spoken about above – we’d love to help you on your journey!