Let's look at how the two platforms compare in these areas.
WordPress has been around for over 16 years, with the original version launching in 2003. At its core, it's designed for content websites - blogs in particular. It's designed to power websites with lots of written content that is freely available for visitors to read.
WordPress is stand-alone software that you install on your web server. Once it's installed, you have total control over it. You can make changes to the site layout using themes, add features with plugins, and even dig into the code and make more significant changes if you wish.
Because it's so widely-used, an entire industry has grown around it to provide add-ons, themes, extensions, support, and almost anything else you can think of. It's pretty decentralized though. Most of these add-ons come from third-parties so there's no single source for customer support.
WordPress is free software, in two senses of the word. First, it doesn't cost anything to use. You can download the WordPress software for free, install it on your web server, run its "5-minute" installation process, and your website is up and running.
It's also free in the sense of being open source. The company that owns WordPress doesn't limit what you can do with it. They make the source code available so you can dig into it and make any changes you want to your website.
If you've got the necessary skills, or have an in-house or third-party IT team that does, you can customize WordPress any way you want.
WordPress itself doesn't have any built-in ecommerce features. As we mentioned already, it's designed to be a content management system and it doesn't have any way of setting up an ecommerce site.
Its extendability is a big advantage here though. The WooCommerce plugin lets you add an entire ecommerce platform to WordPress. The plugin is free, the same as WordPress, but there can be costs involved to add some extra features through their extensions. These costs range from a few dollars and up, depending on what you need to add.
Shopify works quite differently from WordPress. Instead of being software that you install on your server, it's a service that hosts everything on Shopify's server.
When you set up an ecommerce store with Shopify, everything gets stored on their end of things. You don't have to worry about installing software, keeping your site updated, or any other technical stuff. All you need to do is load your products into the store and it's ready to launch.
The other big difference between WordPress and Shopify is the cost. You pay a monthly fee for Shopify, which ranges from $9 up to $299 per month. This gives you unlimited storage so you can add as many products to your store as you'd like without having to worry about running out of space.
Like WooCommerce, Shopify has add-ons and extensions that let you add features to your store or integrate it with other services. These extensions generally cost extra, and the prices vary depending on the feature.
There will also be fees for accepting payments through your store with both WordPress and Shopify, which we'll look at shortly.
And remember, unless you want to use a template and set it up yourself, you'll still need a Shopify designer and developer to create your unique look.
As you can probably guess from the previous section, Shopify is the easier of the two platforms to get set up. You don't have to install any software, add an ecommerce plugin, or worry about digging into the code. You just go through their sign-up process, add your products to the store, and you're ready to start selling.
With a WordPress/WooCommerce based store, you need to set up your website domain and hosting, install everything on your server, and configure WordPress properly before you can start adding products.
Once you complete those steps, WooCommerce isn't that much different than Shopify. If you have an in-house IT department to take care of the technical stuff, you can be up and running almost as quickly as you can with Shopify.
And if you don't have an in-house team but are considering WordPress and WooCommerce for your store, get in touch with us to see how we can help.
One of the most fundamental components of any ecommerce store is payment processing. Without a way to accept payments from your customers, you're not going to be in business for long.
Shopify and WooCommerce both support common payment gateways like Paypal and Amazon Payments as well as credit card processing. Shopify includes their Shopify Payments processing, which is powered by Stripe. WooCommerce has extensions that support credit card payments through your bank or another merchant account as well as directly from Stripe.
The biggest difference between the two is the fees you pay to accept payments, You'll pay fees to the payment gateway, bank, or merchant account provider regardless of what ecommerce platform you use but with Shopify, you'll also pay extra fees to them.
They charge anywhere from 0.5% to 2% of the transaction amount, on top of the fee you'll already be paying the payment processor. And if you accept credit cards in your store, Shopify's rates start at 2.9% plus a 30-cent flat-rate fee.
With WordPress and WooCommerce, you don't pay any extra fees beyond what you pay your payment processor.
Customer support is another significant difference between Shopify and WordPress, and Shopify has the upper hand in this area. Shopify offers 24/7 customer support by chat, email, and phone so you can get help any time, through whatever method you prefer.
WordPress and Woocommerce only offer forum-based support through their websites. You may or may not get a quick answer, depending on your question, so if you're faced with an urgent question you could be in limbo for a while.
This is another area where WordPress' widespread use is an advantage though. There are lots of forums and blogs that cover WordPress and WooCommerce topics so you can often find answers to your questions in these places. It means you need to spend some time searching for the answers, and separating the good advice from the bad (or simply outdated).
Search engine optimization (SEO) is important if you want to get new customers who are searching for what you sell on Google. SEO is a big topic so we're not going to get into a lot of detail here (check out our eCommerce SEO guide for more information) but there are a couple of differences worth mentioning.
Because WordPress is more flexible and there are so many plug-ins available for it, you'll have more control over the different factors of your site that affect your SEO. Shopify lets you modify a lot of the important components but you won't have complete control over everything the way you do with WordPress. Either way, we've had great success with SEO campaigns on both the Shopify and Wordpress platforms.
Once your store is open for business and you collect some data about your visitors, what they're looking at, and how well they're converting into buyers, you can start doing conversion rate optimization (CRO) to try to improve those results.
This is another area that WordPress has the advantage because of its flexibility. Shopify will let you test a certain number of things but you're limited by the fact that it's designed to host an ecommerce store.
With WordPress, you can test different types of content, specialized landing pages, and anything else you can think of. You can also install CRO plugins that add the ability to do things such as A/B testing automatically.
Shopify has a blog extension but it's very limited compared to what you can do with WordPress. That doesn't mean you can't combine your blog and Shopify store into one site though.
Shopify offers a WordPress plugin that lets you integrate your store directly into your WordPress blog. It's not as integrated as a WooCommerce store will be, but if you want to get the advantages of Shopify for your store while still having all the power of WordPress as a blogging platform, this can be the ideal solution.
There's no one-size-fits-all solution for ecommerce sites. When it comes to Shopify vs WordPress, it comes down to your needs. If you want an ecommerce site that's easy and quick to set up, with 24/7 customer support on call to answer any questions, Shopify is hard to beat.
But if you're looking for more flexibility and scalability, WooCommerce running on top of WordPress gives you a lot more control over your site. And if your website is already running on WordPress, you won't need to worry about trying to move your content into a different system or combine two different sites into one.
Setting up a WooCommerce store will take more work and you'll need some technical skills to do it right. If you don't have an in-house IT team and don't want to spend your valuable time learning a new skill, OuterBox can help.
We offer several eommerce web design services to help you get your ecommerce store set up and ready to take orders. Get in touch today and we'll send you a free quote showing everything we can do to help grow your business.
For more than 15 years we've been an award winning design, development and web marketing agency. Talk with us and see how we can help your business.