Shopify vs. WordPress – Where to Start Your eCommerce Website in 2021
We've compared Shopify to other dedicated eCommerce and site builders in the past, but comparing them to WordPress is a different story. There are some similarities between the two platforms, and some very stark differences.
We're going to be taking an in-depth look at Shopify and what they have to offer, and how it differs from using WordPress to create your online store or your website/blog.
Either one of these could be the clear winner, it just depends on what you're aiming for, and what type of website you are looking to create.
Both options are easy to setup, easy to update and manage, and are superior to other options out there.
Before we get into it, it's worth pointing out that we're referring specifically to the self-hosted version of WordPress that you can setup with just about any hosting company out there. There's another closed-off version of WordPress that you can only use if you host it directly with WordPress themselves, but that's not an option that's worth exploring, especially if you're looking to run an online store or a business from your website.
Finally, we'll end this comparison by recommending a couple of hosting companies that can help you get setup and running on WordPress very easily, if that's the route you want to take. With Shopify, they host it themselves, so it's one less thing you need to worry about setting up.
The Differences Between WordPress and Shopify
WordPress is a CMS, which stands for content management system. It's the backbone of your website, and you can put any number of different themes or templates on top of it. WordPress is open-source software, which means that there is a huge community of people who work together to improve it, to fix issues with it, and to create add-ons and plugins to bring out additional functionality.
Out of the box, WordPress doesn't have any features built in for online stores. WordPress's core functionality is for managing a blog, a news site, a small business website, and so on. None the less, there are a number of popular plugins that allow you to open a shop right on your WordPress site. There are shopping carts, storefronts, themes that look beautiful for showcasing your items for sale, ways to track inventory, to accept orders and payments… Essentially, you can turn your WordPress website into a full-fledged online store.
Shopify, on the other hand, was built from the ground up for running an eCommerce shop. You don't need any additional plugins, and there's less to setup. On the other hand, Shopify isn't as good of a platform for running a blog or magazine. Shopify does have a blog feature, but it lacks compared to WordPress, which is the industry leader for big and small bloggers and website owners alike.
So on the one hand, you've got WP which is primarily a blogging platform that can also work great as a store, and you've got Shopify which is primarily for stores but is also serviceable as a blogging platform.
One key difference is the price…
WordPress itself is free, you can install it on your webhosting and you're all set. All of those additional themes and plugins that we mentioned for WordPress will vary in price, but there are free options for nearly anything you could want to add to your site or store.
WooCommerce is a popular platform for turning WordPress into eCommerce, and it has a number of free and paid add-ons. There are small fees here and there depending on which extra plugins or features you want, but overall, setting up your own store through WordPress using a standard webhost is the more affordable option, and you have a greater level of control and ownership over your website. If you want to get it hosted by a different company, you can simply pack up your site and move it to a new host. That's not so easy with Shopify…
Shopify stores are build using their proprietary platform, and hosted directly by Shopify themselves. This differs from WordPress, where you're using an open-source platform, and hosting it with any company you'd like.
On the one hand, this is advantageous since Shopify is able to perfectly optimize their servers for their own platform, and it's also good because there are potentially less things to go wrong. You don't have to worry about keeping your software up to date, or about being in huge trouble because of plugins that don't work correctly as new versions of WordPress come out, and so on.
There are pros and cons of both methods, and you're going to pay a bit more for Shopify, but at the end of the day there are many cases where Shopify will pay for itself in the money it saves you on payment processing fees, and the convenience.
If you're looking to really roll up your sleeves and learn the ropes of creating and managing a website, WordPress is a good option since it'll really hold your hand when you pair it up with a strong host (Like the one we'll feature at the bottom of this page.)
Now, if you would rather go with the platform that's already built and ready to roll for you, Shopify is the way to go in that case. If you're definitely going to be running an online store, and you're more interested in putting all of your energy towards getting sales and satisfying your customers, and you don't want to have to worry about actively managing and maintaining the behind-the-scenes stuff on your site, then once again, Shopify is a great choice and that highlights the advantages of their closed-off system.
Choosing a Host for WordPress
If you're leaning towards trying out WordPress, you'll need to choose a hosting company. WordPress itself is free, but hosting will cost a few dollars per month, or more as your site grows larger and more popular and has more people visiting it. At that stage, you'll want to upgrade to a higher-tier hosting plan, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, let's keep it basic for now.
We're going to assume that you aren't an experience web developer, but you're looking for something relatively easy that you can DIY in an afternoon or two. We recommend going with a webhost for WordPress that has their stuff together, and is fully optimized and integrated with WordPress.
Just about any host will support WordPress, but there are some that take it to another level by offering optimized servers and environments tailored directly to ensuring that WordPress performs as well as possible, and also making sure that it couldn't be easier for you to get setup.
There was a time when installing WordPress was a bit of a to-do, but these days, some hosting companies have made it so simple that it's practically automatic.
There are some more obscure and up-and-coming hosting companies out there, but for now we think you should stick to one of the big and established brands. You don't want to have to deal with some smaller host shutting down in the middle of the night, or not having anyone on staff to help you when you need it most. There's a time and a place to use smaller, less-known hosts who are working their butts off to serve their customers, but for your first site? Or your online store? Stick with the big boys for now…
BlueHost offers a variety of plans that are specifically meant for WordPress sites, and come with WP pre-installed so all you've got to do is sign up and you're ready to start working on your website within a matter of moments.
What really puts BlueHost at the top of this list of hosts to use with WordPress though, is the fact that BlueHost is strongly invested in the success of WordPress, and works closely with them. In fact, BlueHost even has full time staff working on the open source WordPress project, just to help improve the internet for everyone.
Since they're so experience with WordPress, BlueHost's support staff can help you with a number of different issues. You're never in this alone, even if you come across a rare bug, let alone simple problems that BlueHost has fixed for their clients countless times. Basically, whatever you need help with, they'll have your back, especially when it comes to WordPress.
We haven't seen a company that lets you get up and running with WordPress as quickly, easily, and affordably as BlueHost's shared hosting plans. It's super beginner friendly, but even experienced website owners like it because it just makes the job that much faster. You spend less time messing around filling in settings, and more time jumping right in and working on your new website. The sooner you get the doors open on your little slice of the internet, the sooner people can find you and start placing orders!
The Advantages of Shopify over WordPress
While WordPress is an excellent platform and has a lot going for it, there are some advantages to going with Shopify instead. Here are a few instances where Shopify is the better choice:
- Your main focus is eCommerce (Selling things on your website): Since this is Shopify's main focus, and they're the world's leading platform designed for helping anybody to start selling online, they make an excellent choice. WordPress requires a bit more tinkering, whereas Shopify is ready to go right from the start.
- You want to save money on payment processing fees: As we'll discuss in a moment, Shopify helps you get a better deal on processing payments and on shipping rates, especially with their more expensive plans. If your store is big enough to warranty the more expensive Shopify plans, then they're more or less going to pay for themselves just in money that you save everytime somebody orders from you.
- You want to get right down to business: Even thought WordPress on BlueHost is super simple to setup, Shopify is just one step ahead, since you don't need to add any extra plugins to get your store setup.
- You have more than a shoestring budget: Sometimes when you're starting a new business, in fact quite often, money can be kind of tight. You're making sacrifices to work on your goals and dreams. If the pricetag of $30 per month for Shopify doesn't frighten you, it's overall an easier way to start selling things online. If you're on a really tighet budget, no worries, the free WordPress options are good too, and you can find hosting from BlueHost starting at just a few bucks per month. You'll just need to put in a little more work behind the scenes before you can start building your store, that's all.
- If you also have a physical store: If you're also running a brick and mortar store, or doing pop-up shops, flee markets, or any other kind of in-person sales, then Shopify is the CLEAR winner. They have hardware you can use to accept payments from anywhere, and can integrate your online shop with your physical storefront seamlessly.
There are plenty of other reasons that Shopify is an excellent choice, and too many features to cover in this write-up or to list, so just know that Shopify is a complete package, it has everything you could need for the entire process of starting your shop, listing things for sale, getting setup correctly for taxes and all of that sort of stuff, finding customers, receiving orders, fulfilling the orders, labels, shipping, handling customer concerns, and anything in between. You can have sales, setup gift cards and coupons, and a lot more.
It's worth pointing out that you can do all of that with WordPress, too, it's just not going to be quite as easy to setup.
Choosing a Shopify Plan
Now that we've covered the differences and advantages of both platforms, we need to go over their plans. Both options have a number of plans to choose from, so let's cut through the noise.
Shopify has 3 main tiers of service, starting at $29 and going up to $299.
For $29, Shopify includes features like the ability to print shipping labels, discount codes, a website and a blog to go along with your store, fraud analysis to avoid being scammed, 24/7 customer support, unlimited products, accounts for up to 2 staff members, no transaction fees using Shopify Payments, and credit card processing rates below 3% + 30c per transaction. You get an SSL certificate for enhanced security, and more. You do, however, miss out on some features that you get in the more advanced plans.
For Shopify's standard $79 plan, you get everything from the previous option along with the ability to create professional reports to see helpful insights into your business, the ability to setup giftcards for your store, a better credit card processing rate so you keep more of your profit for yourself, and abandoned shopping cart recovery which reminds customers that they have items in their cart if they leave your store before placing their order. You also get upgraded to 5 staff accounts for larger companies.
Finally, for $299, you get all of the above, plus their lowest credit card processing fees, more advanced reports to further help you grow your business and reduce waste, and third-party calculated shipping rates to ensure you're always getting the best rates for your customers.
The gamut runs from about $1 per day, to $10 per day. For a busy online store, that's nothing. It also saves you from having to buy additional hosting for a website/blog, since it's all integrated together into Shopify.
From inventory management, receiving payments, fulfilling orders… Shopify makes it all as easy as possible, and they have hundreds of thousands of stores running on their platform, so they're super experienced and they know how to create the best experience for their customers, along with the people ordering from their customer's stores.
Choosing a BlueHost Plan for WordPress
We recommend starting off with one of BlueHost's very affordable shared hosting plans. The one you choose will depend on what your plans are. If you plan on simply having one website, then you can get away with the cheapest most basic plan for now, althought you'll probabally want to upgrade once your store starts to get some traction.
If you want to have a blog or website that's separate from your store, you'll want to go with one of the other options from BlueHost that support more than one website per account.
The Prime account comes with some additional features that Basic and Plus don't, but the biggest thing is just that Plus and Prime support unlimited sites, whereas basic only allows you one. If you only need one, it's a great way to spend less on hosting.
These plans all come with very cheap introductory rates, and they renew at the normal price, so Prime ends up costing a bit more than Plus does, even thought the intro prices are the same. Because of this, it's worth signing up for a longer term, since you'll get the cheapest rate on your initial order, but once that time is up, you'll go back to the normal price. So, the longer you sign up for, the longer you can lock in these substantial savings.
Final Thoughts and Choosing Between WordPress and Shopify
Just to really put an exclamation point on things…
If you're running an online shop, and you can afford the $30/mo for Shopify, and you're more interested in working on promoting and growing your business instead of tinkering with building a website, then Shopify is the perfect choice.
Running WordPress as the backbone of your online store is a totally viable option, and BlueHost is one of the best hosting companies to launch your first WordPress site with, but none the less – when it comes to strict ease of use, features, and overall performance for online stores – we've got to give the nod to Shopify.
Just planning on running a blog, or a small business website, and not selling anything through it? Then WordPress on BlueHost is going to give you better bang for your buck.
You can sign up for Shopify's free trial, and start working on your site right now to see how truly easy it is. Even if you've never done anything like this before, you'll be surprised how quickly you can get up and running, and ready to start taking your first orders!