Ecommerce solutions: Shopify vs WordPress

Much like Canon vs Nikon or Waitrose vs Lidl or Fiat vs Ferrari; choosing between WordPress and Shopify ultimately comes down to personal preference. It depends on what you are looking for in an eCommerce platform, and the performance you require to drive your site.

Define performance I hear you say. Well performance is driven by; convenience, complexity, cost, customisation, customer service, usability, the power to grow and the overall general aesthetic.

This article — with the help of some dubious metaphors — will compare two of the biggest names in eCommerce with the aim of giving you a better understanding of which platform will suit you and your business best.

Although WooCommerce is the most used platform by far, it is more cumbersome to maintain than a simpler Software as a Service (SaaS) solution like Shopify. This said, WooCommerce can be a great tool, especially for content heavy sites that also need an eCommerce element to their business and website.

Each of them have there positives and obviously — and perhaps more importantly — their limitations. Much like using a Swiss army knife in the rain forest; it might be ideal for lighting a fire with the little magnifying glass or sharpening a stick to make an arrow, but it’s no machete and isn’t very good at chopping down a path before you (I told you they were dubious!).

If you are looking at moving your business online then Shopify and WordPress will certainly cover your needs and by the end of this article, you should be able to determine which will propel your business forward most efficiently.

Shopify Website example

What to look for in an eCommerce platform?

  • Budget – the initial costing of starting a fully functional eCommerce store.
  • Ease of Use – It should be relatively easy to use, even for total novices.
  • Payment Methods – It should support multiple payment methods (Stripe, PayPal etc.)
  • Integrations – how many third party tools and services can you utilise to help grow your business
  • Scalability – as your business grows, your platform should be able to grow naturally alongside it.

These are the very basic requirements for choosing an eCommerce store. There are obviously other considerations that must be taken into account, such as shipping, invoicing and inventory management but, by asking yourself what your needs are in terms of the list above, you should end up using the most appropriate platform for you and your business.

WooCommerce example

Bang for your buck

Something that is at the heart of all business decisions is cost and these two platforms have varying approaches when it comes to pricing structures. Whilst Shopify’s pricing structure is relatively simple, WooCommerce is a little more abstract and can be frustrating. This frustration largely comes down to the open source nature of WordPress and the fact that WooCommerce, and many other features that are required to run a successful eCommerce site on WordPress, are plugins that must be bought.

Whilst Shopify offers various tiers that provide you with a ready-built, off the shelf eCommerce store that you can start using straight away, building a similar service to Shopify on WordPress can be complicated. A great deal of time can be spent building and managing a WooCommerce platform and as the famous phrase goes; time is money. Whilst WooCommerce might be cheaper on the surface, technically it is more demanding and this can lead to larger expenses.

Shopify’s smorgasbord of plans caters to all needs. Whether you want the equivalent to an egg and cress sandwich or filet of wagyu beef in freshly made Italian ciabata, fresh out of the oven – there is something to cater to all budgets and tastes.

Ranging from $29 a month for a basic site that provides all the fundamentals needed for starting a new business online, to $299 a month providing everything you need for growing a business as well as advanced features needed to help scaling up. (There is a free version, but this isn’t worth thinking about at this stage if you’re looking to move online seriously). With plans starting at 2000$ a month, you can join Shopify PLUS which will offers advanced solutions to scaling your business up to a global scale.

Advanced Shopify Features

Here is a list of the standard features you’ll have access to should you sign up to the Advanced Shopify plan; which is generally the tier we tend to use the most when designing and developing a Shopify website:

  • Unlimited products
    • There is no limit on the amount of products that you can upload and display
  • Unlimited file storage
    • Shopify offers unlimited space so you don’t have to worry about site speed and limiting the amount of content on your site.
  • Automatic fraud analysis
    • This allows you to flag an order that you suspect might be fraudulent so that you can review it before sending the product.
  • Embedded Oberlo integration
    • Oberlo is a drop shipping method that allows storeowners or marketplaces to sell their products without actually having to stock the products themselves. Amazon uses a similar business model.
  • Manual order creation
    • Manual orders can be created which allows you to manually enter customer’s details directly – for instance if they have passed them over the telephone or paid in cash.
  • Discount codes
    • Give an added incentive to your customers by offering them discounts that can easily be redeemed on you Shopify site.
  • Blog module
    • Whilst Shopify is principally an eCommerce platform, it is also becoming a platform that will allow its customer to write and maintain a lot of content that is designed to attract people to the site by using SEO techniques.
  • Free SSL certificate
    • SSL allows secure payments from a web browser to a browser. SSL are commonly used for secure credit card transactions, data transfer and logins.
  • Mobile commerce optimization
    • Use gestures to improve your customers experience on mobile leading to greater conversions.
  • Editable HTML and CSS
    • This allows for further customisation of your Shopify site and enhances usability and customer experience.
  • Credit card payments
    • Credit card payments fall between 2.4% + 30c and 2.9% + 30c, depending on the plan you are on.
  • Multiple languages
    • If you are looking at selling on a global scale you might require a multi language option on your page to fit the needs of all of your customers.
  • Adjustable shipping rates and taxes
    • Choose from a variety of shipping options from Free Shipping to Exact Shipping Costs to Flat Rate.
  • SEO-ready site structure
    • The structure of the site is optimised helping it to rank highly in search engines. It also gives you hints on your content by suggestion areas you need to improve or which areas are working in terms of Search Engine Optimisation.
  • Individual product reviews
    • Giving the customer the opportunity to have a say builds trust and increases conversion.
  • Facebook selling module
    • An important part of any online shop is the ability to connect easily to and sell on social media platforms such as Facebook.
  • Social media integration
    • Instagram, Facebook and Pintrest, including the ability to sell directly on these platforms
  • Physical and digital products in the store
    • Shopify is also an excellent platform for SaaS retailers.
  • Unlimited traffic to your store
    • Our servers will always be able to cater to the amount of traffic to your site; no limits will be put in place.
  • Daily backups
    • You can work safe in the knowledge that should the worst happen and you lose your site for whatever reason, Shopify will be able to regenerate it in a very short time frame.
  • Site stats and product reports
    • Manage your analytics dashboard so you can easily see the metrics that are relevant to you. Click rate, bounce rate, customer visits, conversion race etc.
  • Advanced reports
    • Integrate with Google Analytics to give the most precise data possible allowing you to tweak and optimise even the smallest elements of your site.
  • Fully featured mobile app
    • Ensure your site is optimised across all platforms so regardless of how you customer is accessing your store, the experience will be seamless
  • Product importing via CSV files
    • Comma Separated Values (CSV files) is a file format for spread sheets. Shopify accepts the export and import of CSV files for products, orders discounts and customers.
  • Different product variations
    • You can add a variant option to each of the products that come with multiple options, such as weight, size or colour.
  • Print orders
    • This enables you to print custom invoices, receipts, packing slips labels and more.
  • Gift cards Abandoned cart recovery
    • If your customer leaves your site with products in the cart, you can automatically send reminders letting them know they have products waiting at checkout.

Whilst there are plugins that replicate all of these features for WooCommerce; as I have already mentioned many of them must be paid for and you have to ensure they are all updated and correctly installed yourself, whereas Shopify manages all of these things for you. As far as pricing goes, it costs a relatively similar amount of money to set up a similar functioning WordPress site to a standard Shopify store, however further down the line when you come to more advanced customisation and require new plugins, this is where the charges will start racking up.

Checkout cartoon

Payment options

For any eCommerce site ease of payment is critical in providing a seamless path for your customer to take starting at the discovery of your product all the way through to conversion.

Shopify offers its own payment gateway called Shopify Payments, as well as allowing all major third party payment systems. However, depending on what plan you are on Shopify charges fees of up to 2% on each transaction made through a third party gateway. This is on top of the fees paid to the third party.

Woocommerce provides, by default, both PayPal and Stripe and it also supports all other third party payment gateways through plugins. Now, when considering the fees charged by Shopify for using third party add-ons, Woocommerce – as a self-hosted platform – doesn’t charge any transaction fees meaning you could save an enormous amount of money. This said, if you are a small store and Shopify’s default payment methods suits you, then these transaction fees make no difference.

Design and customisation

It cannot be denied that for most retailers starting out digitalising their business, time is of the essence and as Shopify offers an incredibly easy platform to design and develop you eCommerce site, within two shakes of a lamb’s tail you can be selling your products online. This said, users often complain that their site is similar to a competitor. Fortunately, besides the checkout design, which is fixed, almost all other aspects of layout and design are customisable – in the right hands, that is.

With this in mind and given that brands and business’ moving online for the first time want to make a positive and lasting first impression and so from the outset they’re keen to get the design spot on. This is where you will start looking towards a professional design agency to help craft a site that will directly reflect your brand, allowing it to truly stand out in an ever more crowded space.

Shopify offers a number of templates that can be tweaked to suit your needs or to fit better with your brand identity. This is limited though, and without hiring professional developers it is inevitable that your site will end up looking similar to another. Owing to the open source nature of WordPress however, you are able to completely customise your site as you wish, or choose from the hundreds of themed templates that people make, occasionally very cheaply.

WordPress is equally as customisable and options are limitless. However whilst Shopify is relatively intuitive, WordPress can become quite technical especially when you start diving into the source code in order to modify your site. If you are comfortable doing this however, then creativity knows no bounds.

This said, WooCommerce doesn’t come with a design, you must first set up a WordPress site and once this is in place you can add Woocommerce. Fortunately the plugin works with just about every theme WordPress has to offer, as well as fully customised ones.

Whilst there are many apps that will allow you to customise your Shopify website — as well as being able to adjust the palates and layouts — you ultimately are restricted to what Shopify allows you to do. For instance you cannot redesign the layout of the checkout area in Shopify. However, due to the open source nature of WordPress, your creativity is not bound by any restrictions and third-party developers are constantly producing new plugins that will enhance the usability and functionality of your website.

Content Management System

Content kings vs. streamlined Sales – which is easier to use?

There is no denying that Shopify is a eCommerce leader however — and despite the fact that it is getting better — content heavy sites will be better suited using WordPress, with WooCommerce as a plugin to make it transactional. As the world’s leading content management system, hosting around 28% of the world’s websites, WordPress’ versatility makes it hard to compete with when it comes to content management.

Even though WooCommerce allows you to do just about everything Shopify does, and whilst it WordPress may be a better CMS; Shopify is closing the gap. With ever improving, integrated SEO features the eCommerce native is opening up its arms to content heavy sites. Added to this the fact that, from the start, Shopify was designed to sell and as a result everything that the site offers is aimed at improving the stores functionality, and therefore the UX is very fine-tuned. Some WordPress eCommerce sites on the other hand are quite confused.

Given that Shopify is a subscription-based tool, it is incredibly easy to go from point zero — where you have no digital offering what so ever – to a live site with products selling online. Simply by signing up and following an intuitive setup wizard, you’re site can go live in no time at all.

Scalability — Planning on conquering the universe, or just the UK?

You’d be hard pressed to find any business that doesn’t aspire to greater things and a lot of the time this aspiration connects directly to growth. Ensuring you have a platform that naturally evolves alongside your business is critical to get right from the off – for instance you don’t want to be changing belts because it doesn’t have enough notches in it to allow for an overindulgent Christmas expansion.

So, just like when you select a belt that will hopefully see you out to the end of your days (depending on build quality of course) you must select an eCommerce platform that will expand as your product range and customer base increases.

When it comes to technical functionality, Shopify handles everything from performance, security and scalability, meaning you can concentrate on growing your business. Once your business inevitably starts to grow, you can simply upgrade to a more appropriate plan (much like notching up on your belt!) and allow your business to breath.

Of course by upgrading plans you will have to pay more, but this countered by the fact you will not have to hire an in-house technical team.

WooCommerce on the other hand is a self-hosted platform. This means you are responsible for everything from ensuring you have backed up your site, to the overall security of your website. As you grow it is your responsibility to ensure you have sufficient and suitable infrastructure in place to allow for safe and efficient expansion. This can give you more control in terms of having a greater variety of options available for each service you offer however, this can add to the hassle — particularly in the form of maintenance – and a lot of people want to avoid this.

So, if you are looking at taking over the world Woocommerce will certainly give you the flexibility that you inevitably require or indeed desire. However if you have smaller targets and you can settle with little old England, then it might be worth avoiding the aggravation and go with Shopify. This said, some of the world’s biggest brands such as Tesla, Redbull and Penguin Books all use Shopify as a platform.

Search Engine Optimisation Cartoon

Growing your followers or customer base. SEO

The ease that customers can find your store online is crucial to sales, whether you are launching a new product online or simply trying to build a web footprint leading to your retail store. By using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) you increase the likelihood that your product page or website as a whole will match with common search terms, and this will lead to a greater amount of quality leads coming to your website.

Shopify has a number of built in features that help when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation. By optimising areas such as title tags, Meta descriptions, alt-tags for images and URLs for blog posts, you appeal to Google’s algorithms meaning the page is more likely to be ranked highly.

Additionally most themes require you to link with social media and also come with various sharing options as standard, which allows you to easily market your product or store across different platforms online.

As with many other differences between WordPress and Shopify, when it comes to SEO with WooCommerce and WordPress, you have to download various plugins to ensure your site is operating to the max. Furthermore these plugins can be optimised even more by installing add ons. Although this can become cumbersome and difficult to manage, the end result can be extremely powerful.

In reality only a very small percentage of eCommerce sites need to do the extreme customisation that WooCommerce provides and unless you are so content heavy that you require a blogging focussed platform, you might as well stick to Shopify and have ‘somebody else’ take care of the boring parts.

crossroads

Decision time

So here you are, standing confused — or hopefully less so after this blog — in front of the fork in the road. Ultimately, the two paths in front of you, whilst similar; also have some fundamental differences. One of these two world-leading platforms will suit your business and allow you grow and flourish in ways that you only previously dreamt of, whilst the other will only cause further complication.

If you are still confused as to which route to take and you need more personalised advice, please get in touch with one of our experts and we’ll be only to happy to lead you down the path that will take your business to the next level. If you have started to form a better idea of which suits you best and you would like a quote, then – again – speak with our team of Shopify and Workpress experts and we’ll get the ball rolling.