WordPress vs. Shopify: which one is better for you?
By Andres Monzant
13 Min read
WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, flexible enough to build any website. On the other hand, Shopify is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms designed specifically for these sites.
Which one is better for your online store? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? How much do they cost to use?
This article explores the answers to these questions and helps you decide.
What are Shopify and WordPress?
WordPress.org is a free, self-hosted, open-source content management system (CMS) released in 2003 and used to build websites of any kind. Originally released as a blogging platform, it has become the most popular CMS in the world, powering over 40% of all websites.
WordPress is customizable and flexible, making it an excellent choice for building any website, including eCommerce sites. It also has a large community of users, developers, and designers who create plugins, themes, and other add-ons to enhance website functionality.
Shopify is an eCommerce platform founded in 2004 that allows business owners to create and manage online stores. It has become one of the most popular platforms of its kind, powering over 6 million businesses worldwide.
Shopify is designed to be an easy-to-use solution for online selling, with features like website design templates, payment processing, inventory management, and shipping integration. Like WordPress, Shopify websites can extend functionality using the platform’s app store.
How much does it cost to use WordPress and Shopify?
Cost of using WordPress
The WordPress software is free, but to use it, you must first pay for a domain name for your site and a server for hosting it (hence “self-hosted”). Theoretically, you don’t need to pay for anything other than maintenance costs for these two services.
However, costs may start piling up if you need to use premium rather than free themes and plugins, managed hosting services with extra security features, or anything else you or your business needs. Here is a summary of the most common costs associated with running a professional WordPress website:
Hosting. As cheap as $1/month using shared hosting for personal use (up to about $20). It can ascend to $10, $20, or several hundred a year for more advanced business services.
Domain name maintenance. Many hosting services offer it for free during the first year. After that, between $1/year and $20/year.
Development costs. Depending on the complexity of the store, a professional developer or development team can build a website in anywhere from a few days to a few months. The rate for WordPress development is generally between $40 and $80 per hour.
Premium themes. From a few dollars to over $100. In our experience, they tend to cost around $60 for a one-time payment.
Premium plugins. From a few dozen dollars to several hundred a year. It will depend on how many and your plan on each.
SSL certificates. SSL certificates ensure secure online communications. Prices for SSL certificates vary from $5-$10/year to several hundred per year.
The more complex the store is, the more WordPress online stores cost per month. The largest stores may cost hundreds or thousands to maintain, accounting for all factors.
Cost of using Shopify
Shopify works more like a managed hosting service because you don’t need to coordinate web hosting for your website. Instead, Shopify works through multiple paid plans, which include hosting, domain name maintenance, security, and other features you’d have to coordinate with third parties if using WordPress.
The plans are as follows:
Three-day trial: free.
Starter. $5 per month.
Basic. $39 per month.
Shopify. $105 per month.
Advanced. $399 per month.
Plus. The price varies depending on various factors but usually starts at 2,000 per month.
Additionally, you may need to pay Shopify developers for your site if it’s large and complex or you have no time and knowledge to build it yourself. Shopify development rates hover around $50 per hour.
Benefits of WordPress and Shopify for eCommerce.
Now that we have explored each of these platforms and how much they cost, we know that WordPress wasn’t built with eCommerce functionalities in mind. Still, it’s so flexible that you can build any website with it.
On the other hand, Shopify exclusively supports eCommerce sites, making it more limited in scope and specialized.
Let’s explore the benefits of each platform for eCommerce development.
Benefits of WordPress for eCommerce.
No commissions to WordPress
Building an eCommerce site with WooCommerce or other eCommerce plugins means you pay no commission to WordPress per sale, unlike on eCommerce platforms like Shopify. The payment processor your site integrates with may involve fees, but those are not directly associated with WordPress.
The WordPress plugin marketplace has multiple alternatives for eCommerce development. Of the ones available, WooCommerce is the most popular and best-regarded one, with over 36% of the market share.
Designed to be user-friendly, it has a simple and intuitive interface that simplifies managing products, orders, and all other aspects of online stores. Some of the benefits of using WooCommerce include the following:
It has all the features you need to set up and run an online store, including adding product attributes and reviews, integrating multiple payment providers and credit cards, search and filtering systems for users, varied and user-friendly layout customization, and more.
It’s free and open-source.
It provides high security.
It’s SEO-friendly, allowing you to increase traffic to your products.
Thousands of themes
WordPress has over 10,000 of them in the themes directory. Of those, approximately 1,200 are optimized for eCommerce.
WordPress is built with SEO in mind, enjoying features like clean code, customizable permalinks, fast loading speeds, responsive design, Google Analytics integration, image optimization, and many SEO-focused plugins like Yoast SEO. Of course, it’s up to developers to express this SEO-friendliness. Still, they have all the necessary tools to make it happen.
Excellent blogging platform
WordPress was initially built for blogging and still shines in this role. Blogging is essential for eCommerce sites because it’s at the core of inbound marketing, using quality blog posts to drive traffic to your site and increase sales.
A large community of developers
WordPress offers access to perhaps the largest community of CMS-specific developers. With the community’s help, you gain access to support and resources.
Benefits of Shopify for eCommerce.
Built specifically for eCommerce
Since Shopify is designed specifically for building eCommerce websites rather than websites in general, all tools at your disposal are optimized for these kinds of sites. Some of the main benefits of Shopify include the following:
Built-in payments with Shopify Payments.
Shipping and tax management.
Inventory tracking, product data, and collection management tools.
Shipping label printing.
Marketing tools for Facebook ads, email, and abandoned shopping carts.
Integrations for dropship vendors and print-on-demand suppliers.
Multichannel selling on Amazon and eBay.
Social media selling integrations with Facebook Shops and Instagram.
Shopify POS for in-person and in-store sales.
24/7 customer service for store owners.
App store to extend website functionality with third-party software.
Ease of use
Shopify is built to be easy to use and acts as a quick-start online store design wizard. Users build their store with a no-code website builder (but more advanced users can edit HTML and CSS code). The interfaces are clear, clean, and very easy for anyone with basic computer skills.
While you won’t have a site ready in a few minutes, the builder is powerful yet accessible.
Being essentially a managed hosting platform specializing in eCommerce, Shopify handles all the technical side of cybersecurity for your site. Some of the security features Shopify provides are Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, SSL Encryption, fraud detection, two-factor authentication for logins, automatic website backups, ongoing security patches, and overall secure hosting.
All owners have to worry about is enforcing strong passwords and two-factor authentication.
Shopify is a very SEO-friendly platform, giving you the tools you need to rank in search engines. Some of the SEO-boosting features and tools Shopify offers are the following:
Title and meta description editing.
Clean URL structure
XML sitemap generation.
Google Analytics integration.
We already mentioned it, but Shopify offers 24/7 customer service to online store owners through various channels, including the following:
24/7 phone, email, and live chat.
Help center for common questions.
Support is available for all plans, from the cheapest to the most expensive.
Cons of WordPress and Shopify for eCommerce.
Both platforms offer plenty of benefits for online store owners but also have cons and limitations. Let’s explore each of them.
Cons of WordPress for eCommerce.
WordPress wasn’t built for eCommerce development.
While WordPress is amazingly flexible, some of the eCommerce features your site needs are not as straightforward as they would be with a specialized eCommerce builder. Some of the reasons WordPress is more complex to use for online stores include the following:
It has a steeper learning curve. While built to be easy to use, advanced features require technical expertise that takes time to learn or may require significant investment if you contract developers.
Maintenance. You’re entirely responsible for your site’s maintenance, including regular updates to the core files and all plugins and themes you use. This may be time-consuming or require professional assistance.
Lack of customer support. WordPress has a large and active community but lacks central, dedicated customer service. That said, if you’re paying to develop your WordPress eCommerce site, your team should be able to provide all the support you need.
Plugin and theme incompatibility
WordPress has a massive software add-on directory with thousands of plugins and themes available. However, this diversity has the potential to lead to compatibility issues that can break your website entirely, caused by factors such as outdated software and conflicting code when customizing a theme or server configurations.
Because of this, you need to test plugins and themes before implementing them into your live site and always keep all software components up to date.
You need to handle security.
The WordPress plugin directory has a wealth of high-grade security plugins which help you protect your site from common vulnerabilities. However, just as in the case of maintenance, you’re entirely responsible for keeping your website secure with security plugins and regular updates, whether by yourself or with the help of developers.
Given WordPress’ popularity, it’s also a common target for many hackers.
That said, WordPress’s core files are extremely secure and maintained by world-class security experts. Finally, the community is highly collaborative. Many dedicated security experts constantly monitor the ecosystem to find and disclose security vulnerabilities and help fix issues.
Cons of Shopify for eCommerce.
You pay a commission for each sale.
Shopify takes a cut of every sale you make on their platform. If you use Shopify Payments (the built-in payment processor), transaction fees range from 2.15% to 5% + 30¢ per transaction, depending on your plan. Payments done in physical stores also involve fees of 2.15% to 2.7%.
If you don’t use Shopify Payments and instead integrate your site with third-party processors, they will likely also involve fees.
Shopify offers fewer free or premium themes than WordPress. Shopify offers 11 free themes and a little over 100 premium ones. Premium themes often come with variants, making the effective number of themes several times higher. Additionally, there are third-party theme developers just like WordPress sites.
Still, the final number is much lower than WordPress’. That said, you can still find and customize a theme that works for your site.
In WordPress, the world is your oyster, but in Shopify, you have fewer customization options due to the limits established by the platform. Still, over 8,000 apps in the Shopify app store help you extend functionality and customize your site.
Ultimately, WordPress is significantly more customizable.
In WordPress, your website is yours, and you have a wide degree of freedom for the content you want to post. In Shopify, you’re ultimately using a managed hosting service with much stricter rules for the content you can post and control over the fate of your account.
WordPress web hosts can still decide to stop hosting your site if you’re using it to spread spam or run scams, but you still retain much more freedom.
While very functional and helpful, Shopify’s blogging platform is not nearly as robust as WordPress or even other eCommerce builders. For example, Shopify doesn’t have a built-in reversion history, while WordPress does. You’d have to pay for an app in Shopify’s app store for a similar function.
Details like this may be a setback for companies that focus on content marketing.
WordPress vs. Shopify comparison table
Here’s a comparison table that’ll help you contrast the pros and cons of each platform.
Ease of use
Built to be easy to use, but advanced eCommerce features require technical expertise.
Has a more gentle learning curve. However, you may still benefit from a professional Shopify developer.
Excellent built-in and third-party SEO tools.
Excellent SEO tools as well.
No central customer support.
24/7 customer support for all plans.
Unlimited multisite management with unlimited language options.
Limited to 20 languages, which is still enough for most businesses.
Extremely robust content management tools.
Excellent content management tools but far less robust than WordPress’ or other eCommerce platforms.
Themes and templates
Thousands of customizable free and premium themes.
11 free themes and a little over 100 paid ones, many of which come with variations.
One of the world’s most flexible content management systems, allowing you to edit every part of your online store.
Less flexible, with more limited variants and product options by default (can be extended with third-party apps)
Dozens of thousands of plugins and much more freedom to edit configurations.
Over 8,000 apps in the app store.
Built-in eCommerce functionality
Not built for eCommerce, but its flexibility allows developers to create online stores.
Specifically designed and optimized for eCommerce sites.
Core files are very secure, and you can install professional-grade security plugins to protect your site. You manage security by yourself or with the help of hired developers.
Shopify’s built-in managed hosting services handle all the technical aspects of security.
Website upkeep is entirely up to you or your hired developers.
Site maintenance is handled by Shopify and not by the store owners.
Should you use WordPress or Shopify for your eCommerce site?
After reviewing all these pros and cons, you are now better informed about which platform works better for your online store. Considering all factors, here’s the main takeaway.
Use WordPress if…
You prefer free and open-source software.
You want the utmost flexibility.
You want a more comprehensive range of themes to choose from.
You want more freedom and control over your content.
You need more options to extend your online store’s functionality.
You need a more robust content management system.
You need more product options and variants from the start.
You need more robust SEO and multilingual features.
You need a better page, post, and website export features.
Use Shopify if…
You want an easier-to-use platform with a gentler learning curve.
You want a more all-in-one platform where you don’t need to source as many components from third parties.
You don’t want to worry about hosting, maintenance, and technical security features.