WordPress vs. Shopify for Ecommerce

If you are wondering how to get started with your online store, you have probably come across discussions of what platform is most suitable. While there are many options for success in the ecommerce sphere, the two most prominent choices are Shopify and WordPress. As with any comparison, there are pros and cons to both options.

WordPress vs. Shopify for Ecommerce: Pros and Cons

The Pros of WordPress for Ecommerce

WordPress is the biggest content management system on earth, and its corresponding ecommerce engine, WooCommerce, is used by millions of shops. There are lots of reasons to choose WordPress for ecommerce, but here are just a few.

Infinitely Customizable

The biggest and most widely touted benefit of WordPress is that the options for customization are basically limitless. When you use Woocommerce, you gain access to the entire WordPress ecosystem, which consists of several million people who are all building plugins, managing sites, and making WordPress better. Plugins are an incredibly easy way to make your site unique. You can add custom functionality, design, and other elements that can put you head and shoulders above the competition. Do you have a unique idea for marketing, sales, promotion, or ads on your website? There’s almost certainly a WordPress plugin out there that can help you implement it (and track its success)! If you rely on WooCommerce for your online store, with a little elbow grease, you can have almost any feature you’re interested in.

Unique Yet Familiar

While you will reap the benefits of having a fully customized site unlike any other, the familiar look and feel of WordPress are perfect to inspire trust from your customers. Sites built with WooCommerce are common and reputable, so anyone visiting your website or interacting with your business for the first time will feel at ease and will have an easy time navigating what you have to offer. This is one of the biggest advantages of WordPress for ecommerce – you get a site that looks unique and has unique features, but your customers won’t be confused or put off by a system they aren’t familiar with.

Huge Community with Lots of Help Available

For the same reason that WordPress is easy to customize, it’s also easy to find a great community that has answers to all your questions. Since so many people use WordPress, there’s a broad array of places for you to ask your questions and get advice on any problems you may have. You can also have your pick of different developers. Since WordPress experts are many, it’s relatively easy to find one who fits your price point, values, and needs.

The Cons of WordPress for Ecommerce

Although WordPress is a popular option, it’s not always the right one. If you’re looking for a fuss-free, set-it-and-forget it option, WooCommerce might not be the right fit for you.

Not Built for Ecommerce 

One of the main drawbacks of WordPress is that, while it can certainly be suitable for ecommerce, that isn’t its primary purpose or the reason it was developed. Unlike other options that operate with what you might call an ecommerce-first mentality, WordPress is a content management system first and an ecommerce system second. This means that not all of its features come pre-programmed with ecommerce in mind.

Complex Development and Maintenance Needs

With regular updates to the WordPress software itself as well as most plugins and other add-ons, WordPress requires a pretty detailed maintenance routine monthly, at a minimum. In addition, the more you customize your site with external features like plugins, the more likely you are to run into complex development needs and potentially compatibility issues. This means that, unless you are willing to put in a fair amount of effort and learning or have a trained developer you can rely on, WordPress may not be as easily customizable as it seems on the surface. 

The Pros of Shopify for Ecommerce

Shopify is a large and growing platform, and for many people, Shopify is what instantly comes to mind when they think of ecommerce. In 2021, reports from Shopify show that merchant sales on the platform were up 47% from 2020, reaching new heights of over 175 billion dollars. This ecommerce platform definitely has benefits worth considering, although it also carries some drawbacks.

Dedicated System

Unlike WordPress, Shopify was created for ecommerce. When you use the Shopify system, you know that everything was designed to attract customers and make sales. Setup is easy, with clearly indicated areas for your products, payment gateways, and everything else that comes with an ecommerce store.

Easy to Build the Basics Yourself

While adding complicated elements will require some technical know-how, the fundamentals of a shop are easy to build in Shopify. The process is fairly intuitive, and if you don’t want to modify your theme or add anything more complex, you can set up a very basic Shopify site on your own. The product editor is very user-friendly, and the photo management and display is arguably simpler than it is in WordPress.

The Cons of Shopify for Ecommerce

While Shopify clearly has many benefits, some people would be better off steering clear. The main reason for avoiding Shopify is the difficulty of making changes to your site, both in terms of customizing the look and feel and changing platforms after you have established your store. To make a really unique and customized store with Shopify, you will need to hire a developer.

Customization Challenges

Shopify does have limited options for customization built in, but since most people stick with existing themes and use the default tools, it’s difficult to achieve a unique look and feel using Shopify. If you are willing to hire a developer to help you achieve more individuality, there are more options available, but Shopify may never be as fully customizable as WordPress.

Inflexible Exit Strategies

Shopify wants to keep you as a client and wants your website to stay with them. On the bright side, this means they put a lot of effort into retention. However, it can also mean that it’s difficult to migrate your data if you ever do decide another platform is better for you. Its export features are designed to lock you in, which means you can only export a .csv file of your products and info. This means that if you do decide to change platforms, you may end up building everything from scratch all over again.

Limited Features with Low-cost Plans

If you opt for one of the less-expensive plans, you may not have access to everything you need. Many first-time Shopify users opt to start for the Basic plan, which absolutely makes sense if you are starting a new business or running a small operation – it helps to keep your costs low. Unfortunately, the Basic plan lacks some of the features that could help you grow your business over time. There are a few drawbacks to Shopify basic, but the biggest one is having fewer reports and less access to customer behavior data. Without having these insights into customer trends, it can be difficult to fine-tune your store for improvement.

Every business is unique, so it’s impossible to recommend a single ecommerce solution without knowledge of an individual business’ needs and goals. To find out which ecommerce platform is right for you and what it will take to build it, fill out our getting started form to automatically set up a consultation with us.

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Chantelle Gossner

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