Which platform is right for you? Shopify vs WordPress

Shopify and WordPress (with the WooCommerce plugin) are well-known solutions for entering the e-commerce market with your own online shop. However, the two platforms are suitable for different target groups. We take a closer look below.

This article was last updated in February 2024.

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An overview of Shopify vs WordPress

Shopify WordPress with WooCommerce
Easy to get started as a beginner Easy to get started as a beginner (but background knowledge is recommended)
Ideal for getting started in e-commerce, ideal for small to medium-sized online shops Also suitable for larger, complex projects with many variations and flexible content
7,000 plugins, more than 100 themes 55,000 plugins, 20,000 themes
First-class support Support exclusively from the very active WordPress community
All necessary SEO tools included; can be extended for a fee SEO tools must be researched and implemented for a fee, if necessary
Security and maintenance is Shopify’s responsibility Security and maintenance is the user’s responsibility

How different are Shopify and WordPress?

Not sure whether to opt for a shop system or CMS? While WordPress is a classic content management system (CMS), Shopify falls into the category of shop systems. Shopify is mainly specialised for small and medium-sized businesses who want to sell their products via an online shop. A CMS like WordPress is primarily used to run websites and blogs. However, with the WooCommerce plugin, you can also add a store function to your WordPress website or design it entirely as an online shop. While WordPress offers its users more flexibility, it is less optimised for online shops.

Shopify vs WordPress = Shop system vs CMS

Pros of WordPress CMS

The CMS WordPress is available in a basic version as open-source software free of charge and can be installed using almost any hosting service. However, it’s also important to mention that this only refers to the CMS WordPress.org. Users need to organise additional themes and plugins as well as the hosting of the store themselves.

On the other hand, you can also use WordPress.com, which you pay for. Although this also uses the .org software, a paid user account is required, and only a limited range of themes and plugins are available. In return, hosting is included as part of the service.

If you plan to create an online shop with WordPress, you only need the free open-source version and a suitable online store extension such as WooCommerce. No programing knowledge is required to create a WordPress website. Users manage, organise and publish their content in the form of text, images, videos and more on an easy-to-use graphical interface.

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In addition, functions and designs can be flexibly extended thanks to a pool of more than 55,000 WordPress plugins as well as more than 20,000 WordPress themes. These can easily be installed in WordPress, allowing WordPress to be adapted to almost any project, whether it be commercial or private.

WordPress is ideal for beginners and advanced users. The very active WordPress community offers help and this means that pretty much anyone can join. There are many ways to further optimise and expand a website, for example with WordPress SEO plugins, WordPress caching plugins and WordPress chat plugins.

Cons of WordPress CMS

There are several advantages to WordPress, however, there are also some disadvantages that WordPress has in comparison to other CMS solutions, including Shopify. Although WordPress plugins enable more flexibility, they increase the loading time of WordPress websites. Compared to a system developed ‘from scratch’, this can be a significant disadvantage. For certain website projects, WordPress may be less suitable, depending on which website functions are required.

In most cases, WordPress requires a lot more time and effort to learn when compared with a partly pre-made shop system such as Shopify. And while you don’t need to be an expert in content management systems to use the CMS, it’s best to have a basic understanding of how CMSs work in order to be able to optimally design your website. With WordPress, the sheer number of plugins and the effective management and optimisation of a website can be difficult for inexperienced users. However, this knowledge can be acquired through numerous tutorials made available by the WordPress community.

The risk of spam and hacker attacks is also higher with WordPress. WordPress software and all plugins that are used must be kept up to date at all times, whereby the latter must be updated individually. In addition, the further development of a plugin may cease, making the plugin obsolete and resulting in it no longer functioning correctly. In the worst case, this makes the website vulnerable, which can have significant consequences for an online shop.

WordPress pros WordPress cons
Flexibly customisable with themes and plugins Too many plugins increase website loading time
Easy to use Basic knowledge of website functions needed
Extensive community support Time needed to learn more complex CMS functions
Free open-source software Updating the software and all plugins and themes must be done independently

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Pros of Shopify

For small to medium-sized businesses, creating an online store with the Shopify shop system is a good choice. This is a proprietary software, the counterpart to the open-source idea. The Shopify service is only offered by the company of the same name. The shop system can be tested for the first 3 months for one pound per month. After that, you have several plans to choose from that differ in scope, price and range of services.

Basically, Shopify (in direct comparison to WordPress) is less designed for flexibility, since the hosting runs directly through the company. However, this results in the great advantage that the store’s maintenance work and the IT security (including regular updates) are handled by Shopify.

This approach runs through the entire Shopify experience. Unlike WordPress, you pay for a certain service and can take care of day-to-day business in the online shop yourself.

Functionalities are explained and documented in extensive tutorials and guides. If you simply want to set your sights on e-commerce and marketing instead of spending unnecessary time on website maintenance, this is the right place for you.

Shopify already has sales channels integrated via social media. There are ready-made designs for a wide variety of divisions, and the store website is expandable, including all scalable data. International selling is also easy with Shopify. In addition to 133 currencies, up to 5 languages are supported.

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Cons of Shopify

What you don’t have to invest in time is usually reflected in the cost of a website. You have to factor in the monthly fees for the Shopify subscription. Additionally, you have to invest some time into an online store when using Shopify, depending on how demanding you are when it comes to design.

While Shopify also gives access to a wide range of different themes, it’s nowhere near as many as WordPress. However, Shopify users have the option to create their own themes, as they get full access to the code. This then requires appropriate programming skills or support from experts.

In addition, Shopify’s payment options incur transaction fees. Third-party shipping costs are only included in the Advanced package, which costs several hundred pounds per month and is therefore only suitable for larger online stores.

If you want your online store to operate internationally with Shopify, you need to opt for at least the middle of the three available packages. International domains and country-specific pricing are otherwise not possible. The reporting function is also only available from the middle package and higher.

Shopify pros Shopify cons
Store software from one source including 24/7 support Paid subscription model
Maintenance and hosting included Additional transaction fees for all payment transactions
Website, blog, and social media integration included International domains and pricing not included in basic package
Different packages available (depending on shop size) Fewer customisation options than WordPress

Which system is better for beginners?

In our Shopify vs WordPress comparison, we’ve considered beginner-friendliness as an important category, and Shopify wins out. Since you sign a contract with Shopify for the use of the software, you also buy into first-class technical support. Hosting is taken care of, you get important updates applied automatically (and transparently), and you don’t have to worry about other technical matters either. In addition, features and processes are explained in detail, so that even new users can quickly find their way around.

As an operator of an online store, you need little to no background knowledge to use Shopify or WordPress. However, it is much quicker and easier to find your way around Shopify than WordPress if you don’t have any technical knowledge, as most of the technical tasks are already completed and you don’t have to rely on the community forums. However, WordPress offers more options for individual design.

Tip

Both Shopify and WordPress with WooCommerce are suitable as a storefront for dropshipping businesses. WooCommerce even offers plugins that are optimised for dropshipping.

Themes in Shopify and WordPress

If you go by the sheer number of available templates or themes, WordPress is clearly ahead. Many of the 20,000 themes are free of charge and can be installed, activated and exchanged by users easily. So you have the most freedom when it comes to finding the best custom look for your new online shop. However, this large selection can also be disadvantageous for insecure or inexperienced users.

While the selection on Shopify is significantly smaller in direct comparison, that doesn’t mean it’s not as good. The themes available on Shopify are more than enough, especially for beginners. The theme selection is pre-sorted for different industries, and additional themes can be purchased. In addition, experts have the option to create their own templates using code. However, the smaller selection of themes at Shopify may come at the expense of the individuality of your store as store operators from similar industries often opt for similar themes. Shopify experts can be commissioned to create a customised theme, but this doesn’t come cheap.

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Plugins/extensions in Shopify and WordPress

A look at the extensions (also known as ‘plugins’) of the respective systems reveals a similar picture to that of the themes. WordPress offers a larger selection of plugins, but not every one of the approximately 55,000 plugins is really useful. In addition, WordPress plugins entail increased maintenance costs and you have to do your own research. You definitely need a plugin for the store function of a WordPress website. WooCommerce is a popular choice. After installation, a new online store can be set up and put into operation with just a few clicks.

Tip

We’ve made a detailed comparison of Shopify and WooCommerce in a separate article.

As mentioned, with WordPress you have to take into account that too many plugins can affect the performance of an online shop. It may be worth investing in a better hosting foundation, for example, special WooCommerce hosting.

While Shopify users can currently only find just over 7,000 extensions, this more than covers the full spectrum of needs. If that is not enough, there are (paid) options for customisation.

Which platform is easier to use?

For beginners with little technical experience, Shopify is definitely the more suitable system. Inexperienced users get much-needed help from Shopify’s support and don’t have to deal with tasks like hosting and updates.

WordPress with WooCommerce is aimed more at experienced users. It also gives users maximum control over all settings. This increases the level of customisation, but it also means that you have to know what you are doing.

Tip

Run an online shop but don’t have any product photos yet? We give you some tips on product photography so that you can present your products in the best possible way.

Which payment methods are supported?

If you decide to create your online store with Shopify, here are some of the different payment methods that can be used:

  • Amazon Pay
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • PayPal
  • Meta Pay
  • Shop Pay
  • Credit card
  • Debit card
  • Bank transfer

Generally, Shopify charges a small flat fee, plus a share of the revenue generated by the respective payment system. Other payment providers or gateways (such as PayPal and Bitcoin) are included in the payment options, however, Shopify applies separate fees for these.

WordPress via WooCommerce, on the other hand, supports all common payment methods without additional fees.

Tip

Dropshipping is one of the best-known business models for online store operators. We show you how to get started with dropshipping and how to find suitable dropshipping products and dropshipping providers.

Security and maintenance for Shopify and WordPress

With WordPress, security and maintenance are almost completely in the hands of the users. There are corresponding plugins for this, but you always need to make sure that they are up to date and deactivate and replace them if necessary. Although the community meticulously collects all known security vulnerabilities and errors, there is no universal protection against attacks. The most important thing is to keep all programs, themes and plugins up to date. If you don’t want to do this yourself, you can get external service providers to do it for you, but you’ll need to calculate the corresponding costs for this in your business plan.

In contrast, Shopify automatically takes care of the security and maintenance of the system. This means that users benefit from consistently high security standards.

Which platform is best for good SEO?

The basic version pf WordPress offers almost no possibilities to optimise content for search engines like Google. To do this, you need extensive SEO plugins like Yoast, which is available in a free basic version and in a premium paid version. Again, you can learn how to optimise your SEO strategy from the active WordPress community.

Tip

In addition to typical SEO measures, there are also some advanced strategies that you can use to promote your website. We go over the most effective ones in our Digital Guide.

Basic search engine optimisation features are included in Shopify. These can be extended by apps like the SEO Booster. All relevant features are available in Shopify, even if the selection and extension options are smaller than in WordPress.

A special case is page speed, i.e., the loading time of the page. With Shopify, load time optimisation is included in the all-inclusive package. With WordPress, the user has to take care of this themselves and make sure that the plugins they are using do not increase the page load time too much.

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Which platform offers better support?

Shopify offers excellent customer support. Designated contact persons are available, and there is also 24/7 service. WordPress users can rely on the huge community for answers to their problems or questions. There is rarely a problem which hasn’t already been solved in a forum, tutorial or guide. The disadvantage is, however, that you have to search for help on your own.

Shopify vs WordPress summary

When choosing between Shopify and WordPress, your project’s requirements and your technical knowledge will determine which system is best for you.

Shopify: Technically inexperienced users who have the budget are better off with Shopify. Here, they get the service they need and can devote their remaining resources to their project.

WordPress: For those who are technically inclined and want to take care of every aspect of their project themselves, WordPress with WooCommerce offers a wide range of options for implementing ideas. For those who are already running a WordPress site, it is easy to add a store area with WooCommerce.

Alternatives: Shopify is not the only system you can use to build and manage an online store. We look at Shopify alternatives in more detail in a separate article. If you don’t want to deal with the technology any more than absolutely necessary, but still want to take advantage of all the benefits and flexibility of WordPress, you can outsource hosting and software support.

Tip

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