Shopify, and WordPress.
Shopify is one of the biggest commercial ecommerce platforms around:
Over a MILLION business use Shopify, and $183 BILLION in economic activity.
By the way, that massive second number? It’s only from 2016 to 2018. In just 2 years, Shopify has created value in the global economy larger than the GDP of MOST of the world’s countries.
Shopify’s a paid software service that focuses on ease of use and peace of mind—it’s kind of like a website builder, but for stores.
And then there’s WordPress. WordPress is one of the only other entities that can really counter Shopify in reach and influence.
But it’s a little more complicated, because there are actually TWO types of WordPress:
The first is WordPress.org. It’s the “original” WordPress, and it’s an open-source platform for managing website content (especially blogs).
WordPress.org is free, so as long as you’ve paid for hosting and a domain name.
Then there’s WordPress.com—it was cofounded by one of the guys who built the original WordPress, and it offers paid plans with a range of features.
But whereas the free version involves a lot more configuration and setup from the user, WordPress.com is more like a website builder: it offers hosting as well as the software, plus is easy to use.
In this article, I’ll mostly be talking about WordPress.com. But WordPress.org is still an important option, so I’ll mention it here and there.
So, these are our two heavyweights: Shopify and WordPress are immensely popular and have millions of users.
So which one is better for building your online business?
Worry not, my friend. I’ve tested both platforms, and I love them both.
And that also means I’ve got some clues as to which one is the best for you.
Let’s start with something that’s going to be at the forefront of your concerns:
Yeah, performance matters a lot with websites in general…but it matters especially if it’s online stores we’re talking about.
Sure, no one wants their website to go down too often. But if you’re running a business, downtime can easily translate to lost sales. So good performance is ESSENTIAL.
Let’s look at Shopify’s performance first. Shopify makes these guarantees:
99.98% uptime is pretty good. Most hosts guarantee 99.9% hosting, so for Shopify, whose main focus isn’t even hosting, to go a step above is pretty great.
This is what a bare minimum of 99.98% breaks down to:
On average, you’d get 8 minutes of downtime a month. I usually consider 99.95% and above to be “good,” though of course 99.99% or 100% is where I like to see companies.
But in real life?
Yeah, I’ve found Shopify always stays up. There’s the occasional rare bit of downtime, but it’s very scarce.
Shopify’s guarantee of 99.98% does NOT mean that’s the most you’ll get. In all, I’d say Shopify has some FANTASTIC uptime.
But while staying up is essential, speed is another major component of performance. In the screenshot I showed you earlier, Shopify claims to have “blazing fast servers.”
I wouldn’t say that I’ve found Shopify to be so stand-out in site speed the way it is with uptime.
But it IS decently fast, and there’s a good reason why:
Shopify uses a content delivery network, or CDN. A CDN means large clusters of servers are placed all around the world, so they’re always close to users.
Thus, when customers around the world use your site, they’ll get relatively solid speeds.
So overall, Shopify has GREAT uptime and pretty good speed.
Now let’s talk about WordPress.com:
WordPress.com actually doesn’t make any performance guarantees.
“Woah,” you might be thinking. “How is it so popular? Everyone guarantees good performance. It must suck!”
Not so fast, bucko! It’s certainly odd that WordPress.com doesn’t go out of its way to brag about great performance, considering the whole point of WordPress.com is to easily host WordPress sites.
But whatever the reason is, it’s never been an issue for me. Nor, I suspect, for the vast majority of WordPress.com users.
First off, my uptime and site speeds on WordPress.com have been great. They’ve been easily comparable to Shopify—any differences between the two would be within the margin of error.
And remember, WordPress.com is immensely popular. Millions of people use it: BILLIONS visit WordPress.com sites.
This isn’t a coincidence: it’s because WordPress.com performs super well. Most people don’t even worry about whether their WordPress site will be up.
If you’re curious about WordPress.org, I can’t quite tell you: WordPress.org is software you install on a third-party host.
Meaning, you choose your host, and then set up WordPress.org’s software on it. The performance then will mostly come down to your host’s performance.
Some hosts are better than others, though. Here are some of the best hosts for WordPress.
So like I said, there isn’t a clear winner between my Shopify site’s performance and my WordPress.com site’s performance.
This is good news! It means that either platform will likely perform wonderfully for you.
So the next point of consideration is:
Ease of Use
A lot of people don’t care for ease of use sections, but it’s extremely relevant to this topic.
In general, having easy to use software is essential to most small online businesses, and it’s a major part of the appeal of both WordPress and Shopify.
So starting us off is Shopify. Shopify is super easy—at first, you just need an email, name and password to get started.
Then you need to put in some basic info about the nature of your store:
And by the way, if you tell Shopify that you’re just playing around with the service (this would be the case if you’re doing the free trial, for example, or are just generally unsure), they’ll try to make things even easier:
Then you’ll enter in some additional contact information, and you can get started:
In all, this process took me about 3 minutes. And it would have been even faster if I wasn’t taking screenshots for this review!
Anyway, you can see from this home page that Shopify tries to keep things clear for beginners.
The home page tries to help you get the most important things out of the way first: having products, a domain name, and a theme.
If you’re a new user, clicking on any of the other menu options or main features will reveal a cute image that explains the basics and has a “get started” button:
Something else I really like is the settings:
There are a bunch of settings, but they’re all in one place and explained super simply.
Plus, even some of the settings are great ease-of-use features. For example, the “files” option gives you a central place for managing all your media content, even if it’s spread across different pages or not yet public.
Plus, the “legal” and “taxes” setting pages are some really nifty features.
Yeah, they may not be a substitute for handling your own taxes or legal documents, or hiring someone else to do them, but they can definitely save business owners a TON of time:
Especially if you’re shipping to different countries and deriving income from those areas. Shopify has figured some of it out for you already, and that’s a great help.
And while I’ll cover the main features more in the next section, it’s pretty easy to handle the basics of your store:
In this example, I can very simply manage lots of products at once from the central products page. I can also edit in more detail per individual product, of course.
This sort of easy management is consistent throughout the other features Shopify offers. And you’ll see more of that in the features section, so don’t worry!
So that’s an overview of Shopify’s user-friendliness…clearly, Shopify is hard to get the better of in this area.
But let’s see how WordPress.com does!
Like Shopify, you just need some basics to get started:
Also like Shopify, once you register some basic account info, you’ll enter in some info about your store:
You’ll then be asked what you want your domain to be, and will get some upselling by WordPress.com on domains that are free for the first year, but renew at a kind-of-high price.
Then you can choose the tier you want to pay for, which I’ll cover in the next section.
One of the reasons WordPress.com is so popular is that it has a free plan.
And while you’ll basically need to pay if you want an online store via WordPress, the fact that there’s a free plan also means you don’t need to rush into picking a tier:
You can actually always view your plans for quick upgrades, and the most important FAQs are listed right below the plans to help you choose.
So that’s a pretty handy feature, especially since WordPress.com doesn’t offer free trials for the paid plans.
Also, although our focus here is e-commerce, blogging is a major thing WordPress is known for. Plus, blogs and ecommerce go together all the time.
So this is what WordPress’s latest version of page and post editors looks like:
Pretty simple, right?
When you click the little plus sign, you can add a new “block”—that’s what the elements of the page are called—and then easily move it around between other blocks.
This isn’t just good for moving around pictures: it even makes it easier for you to move around text.
So if you realize one sentence goes better here than there, it’s super easy to move around. You don’t even need to cut and paste.
There’s also a lot of media you can add as blocks. These would be some of the most common:
But there’s way more:
Some of those blocks are insanely useful for ecommerce sites:
The “block editor,” as it’s called, is impressive not only because it gives you a lot of features and flexibility, but is super easy to use.
The same thing goes for customizing site appearance and editing themes:
I’m honestly not a huge fan of the WordPress site editor. I think “easy” customization interfaces should be focused more on drag-and-drop.
But this is because a lot of WordPress themes have free basic versions but have more features and styles when purchased—so this format works well with WordPress’ massive theme marketplace.
Another great point towards WordPress.com’s ease of use is how easy is to import and export:
Don’t get me wrong, Shopify has this too—but it’s not nearly as fluid as WordPress. WordPress is super popular, and is used to people going to and from it for whatever reasons.
Shopify makes it easy to import and export certain things—for example, contacts.
But WordPress makes it super easy to import your entire site and all its contents.
Aside from the importing, though, I wouldn’t say WordPress has an edge over Shopify.
If you want to manage a blog only, sure—WordPress is better at combining user-friendliness with blogging tools than Shopify.
But ecommerce? That’s Shopify’s whole deal. Shopify is intended to be an out-of-the-box solution.
And while WordPress does power MANY ecommerce sites, and while WordPress.com does have ecommerce tools, it doesn’t quite compete with Shopify’s game.
Let me make something clear, however:
For the vast majority of people, that won’t matter. Both platforms are sufficiently easy that just about any site owner will be able to manage their online store efficiently.
Don’t worry if it doesn’t. Features also heavily affect ease of use. So next up:
Pricing and Features Comparison
Pricing and features are where things get a little dicey. But they’re very important, and will be among the first questions prospective customers (like you) have.
So let’s get started! First up is Shopify’s prices:
Starting at $29 a month and ending at $299 a month, there’s clearly a large range that might initially seem a bit pricey.
Shopify can get a little pricey, and I’ll explain why later, but the BASE prices here are roughly consistent with competitors’ prices, so we can’t complain too much.
Plus, when you see the features that come with these numbers, it’s not so bad:
It’s a pretty solid feature set.
ALL of the three main tiers get unlimited products, sales channels through different social media sites and online marketplaces, discount codes, SSL certificates, and abandoned cart recovery.
That last one basically means if your customers exit your site while they still have something in their carts, they’ll get an automatic email with their cart still full, for a limited time—this is pretty essential for keeping up sales.
All tiers also get competitive shipping discounts and labels to print, reducing your cost of delivery.
The second tier expands the staff accounts you can have to 5, allows you to offer gift cards, and gives you professional reports.
You also get more competitive shipping rates and the fee Shopify takes when you make sales is slightly reduced.
Both the second and third tier also get USPS Priority Mail Cubic pricing.
In short, this lets high-volume shippers change how packages are weighted a bit: packages that are small, but still heavy, get certain discounts if they’re within package requirements.
The third tier gives you 15 staff accounts, even more advanced reports, show shipping rates at checkout, and competitive shipping discounts of up to 74%.
The third tier also pays the lowest percentage to Shopify per sale, at 2.4% + $0.30 for online card sales.
And if you use another payment provider that isn’t Shopify, you pay 0.5% instead of 2% (which is what the first tier pays).
These more advanced features are good, but I question how much they fit the scale up in price. After all, $299 a month is way more than $79 a month—you’d have to really make the most of those staff accounts for it to be worth it.
On paper it seems like these are pretty solid features. But what matters is how good they are in real life. So let’s take a look.
This is what it’s like to add a product in Shopify:
You start with the very basics. Not to rehash the ease of use section, but this is all very user-friendly.
Despite that, the simple user interface lets you manage stuff like where you sell it (for example, not just on your website, but on social media or other channels), the price per item (duh), how much you have, and so on:
Plus, there’s that useful stuff related to shipping, if it applies to you.
Adding customers is pretty simple:
You can also make notes about your customer, search tax exemptions related to purchases from that customer (based on where they are, of course), and add tags to group customers more effectively.
That’s all good, but I find this gets a bit basic.
There’s a lot of software around for contact management, and they have way more advanced features because they’re focused on that sort of thing.
So we can give Shopify a bit of a pass, especially because you can integrate your Shopify store with such aforementioned software.
But even so, that can get expensive quickly. With WordPress there are some potential ways to manage customers with more detail, but at a lower cost.
It’s not clear-cut, because it depends on your integrations and hosting plan or WordPress.com plan, but it can happen.
Anyway, Shopify also offers analytics that I’m kind of impressed by:
A lot of default site analytics are super basic. With Shopify, you can view quick graphs of many different aspects of your store.
You can also view them for any time range you want (my default setting is “today”) and even compare certain times with others.
Although the format of this is quite simple, there’s a ton of data you can look at without spending much time. It’s a great feature, and will be advanced enough for most small businesses.
Shopify also offers marketing features. Well, kind of.
Anyway, here’s what it looks like when you get around to setting up a new campaign:
It’s a pretty decent set of options, in that all the main venues are covered. Shopify even offers marketing campaign options for Snapchat and SMS.
But the thing is, these aren’t exactly from Shopify. They’re provided by third parties, and need you to install integrations:
It can be a little bit of a pain to install integrations and manage settings for them for the various marketing campaigns you want to pull off, especially compared to the idea of being able to manage everything out of Shopify by default.
But the reality is, anyone serious about implementing a campaign would need to be willing to interact with a lot of details, and would more likely than not use a third party anyway.
Plus, such extensions/apps usually install quickly and offer more features than Shopify would by default:
So it’s not a huge deal, even if it can be a tad annoying at first.
The same thing more or less applies to setting up automations: Shopify has a few easy options for you to choose from, but you’ll need to install some apps.
Otherwise, if Shopify’s choices aren’t good enough for you, you can go to the App store and get some other options for yourself anyway.
Which sounds like a natural point to transition to Shopify’s app store:
Now, Shopify’s app store was always solid, but it’s become especially impressive recently. That’s because Shopify’s app store offers a HUGE number of apps:
This means that there’s an app for just about every niche function you might need, and usually more than one.
And of course, the more popular extra features have lots of competition and thus clear solid integrations to use.
The main problem at this point is price:
Some apps are free, some are free for a limited amount of time, and many are paid. Most of the good apps are paid.
And when combining the cost of Shopify with your apps/integrations, and templates (which I’ll cover soon), things get expensive quickly.
Now, I’m not saying WordPress is necessarily cheaper.
It CAN be less expensive for roughly the same package, but WordPress can also get pricier, especially if you’re using WordPress.com and not WordPress.org
Now, we’re almost done looking at the nitty-gritty of Shopify’s features. But we still need to check out templates.
Templates are an essential thing to consider: just about everyone wants their businesses to look good.
And if you’re the type of person who’s pretty interested in Shopify, chances are you’d prefer an easier time customizing your site.
Luckily, Shopify keeps templates and themes as easy as every other part of its service:
When you start customizing a theme, you can choose from either free themes, paid themes in the Theme Store, or just customize the default plain theme.
But that’s roughly where our luck ends:
Look at the top left corner…
There are only 8 free themes to choose from.
And even out of the paid options, there are only 64. This is obviously much better than 8, but it falls short of some competitors:
For example, Wix has literally hundreds of themes. And WordPress? WordPress has THOUSANDS of themes. But back to Shopify:
Even though you could argue Shopify’s themes are classier and better-designed than some competitors, I’m not so sure.
Sure, they all look nice, but given how few there are, they don’t even stand out apart from each other that much. And if that’s the case, I’d rather have more options.
Still, it’s not the end of the world. Shopify gives you solid customization features, even if they’re not cutting edge, so you’re still able to set your store apart.
This is what it looks like when you customize your themes:
Important note: this isn’t a drag and drop builder, folks. In that sense, it’s kind of like WordPress’s customization interface:
The way you edit is by changing navigating through the menus and tools on the left side. This covers just about all of the site’s features:
But the problem is that this can still be a bit limiting. You can overcome it by installing page-builder apps that give you more flexibility, but this can add up quickly.
Now while this may not be every single feature Shopify has to offer, I think we’ve covered the fundamentals (and then some).
Shopify can be a little limiting at times, but it’s so beautifully designed and easy to use that it’s hard to find much fault with it. After all, the purpose is to get an out-of-the-box solution.
So now let’s look at what WordPress can give us.
Let me recap what I said in the introduction, because it matters here.
There are two types of WordPress. I’m mostly focusing on WordPress.com, the commercial version of WordPress.
The free version of WordPress works like this:
You pay for hosting on your own, and then install WordPress.org on it for free. From there, you install plugins that give you store functionality OR you make sure your hosting plan has ecommerce functionality.
The vast majority of the time, people using ecommerce through WordPress plugins use WooCommerce. WooCommerce is enormously popular, and can be a much lower-cost alternative to Shopify.
That’s actually why I’ve already compared WooCommerce and Shopify. In many ways, that review is a comparison of Shopify and WordPress.org.
So I’ll make continued references to it, as it is a valid option. But for now, I’ve got a primary focus on WordPress.com.
I’ll start us off with the prices:
Oh, and there’s a free plan, too.
Now you might have taken one look at this and said to yourself—the first two plans are $4 and $8 a month, which is WAY cheaper than Shopify’s starting prices!
Not so fast, buddy.
If you just want to start a blog or website without store features, those first two tiers might be okay. But if you want to start an online store?
You’re mostly looking at those last two plans. The fourth tier, of course, is the “eCommerce” plan, and it’s specifically designed to accommodate online stores.
But you can actually equip your site with shopping cart functionality through using plugins (the equivalent to Shopify’s apps).
To access plugins, though, you need to be paying for the Business plan. Which is pretty close to Shopify’s entry level plan anyway.
Technically, ANY paid plan can collect recurring payments. So you can still earn money on any paid plan.
Alternatively, you can use the Premium plan (second tier) to collect simple payments. It’ll be through PayPal and only within your country or a limited number of countries, to my knowledge.
But if you want to take ecommerce more seriously, you’re more likely going to go with Business or eCommerce.
My point here is that the starting prices are not far off. However, compared to Shopify’s high-end, which goes to $79 and $299 a month, WordPress.com is still OVERALL cheaper because it never gets close to that.
Now, clearly features are pretty important here. These are the basics:
Like I said, there’s a free plan, but it’s so limited I can’t really consider it within the scope of this article. Same thing goes for the first tier, Personal.
But that’s okay—because Premium onwards has most of the basics needed for a decent site. Shopify already had all those basics—unlimited storage, bandwidth, etc—because the focus is on the store and the prices already started high.
But with WordPress.com, the first plan that lets you sell stuff has 13GB of storage.
This is most likely plenty, and if you’re trying to save money by using Premium, you’re probably not going to get too close to the limit anyway.
But Business and eCommerce have 200GB, which is going to satisfy just about everyone reading this. You get access to premium themes with Premium, and more advanced customization abilities as well.
Like I said, you can take recurring payments and regular, simple payments with a Premium theme. You also get social media marketing tools, but they’re really basic.
The Google Analytics integration is nice, but nothing special. You can do that with Shopify, too.
Remember me saying that if you’re serious about doing an online store, you’ll more likely be considering the last two tiers?
Being able to upload themes makes it’s easier for you to make your own theme or hire someone to design one for you.
Removing WordPress branding? Makes your site look WAY more professional and trustworthy to visitors.
Now the ecommerce plan earns its price: you can accept payments in dozens of countries, integrate with shipping carriers, host unlimited products or services, access marketing tools that are suited for ecommerce, and have better customizable themes.
Here’s what this all means:
The eCommerce plan, at $45 a month, is the WordPress.com plan that is most comparable to Shopify’s starting plan. Which is $27 a month.
So all that stuff about Shopify being pricey? Seems a little less expensive now compared to WordPress.
Of course, here’s where the plugins come into play:
Using the Business plan at $25 a month, and installing plugins you need—some of which are free—could give you roughly the same features as a Shopify plan, for a lower or comparable cost.
The main plugin relevant here is WooCommerce. It’s up there as one of the featured plugins in the top left!
WooCommerce is actually from Automattic, which is the same company that provides WordPress.com. So it fits very naturally into both WordPress.org and WordPress.com’s ecosystems.
Here’s what it looks like in WordPress.org:
It’s updated all the time, and has 5 MILLION active installations. It’s free to use (and has more advanced features you can pay for), and it comes with its own optional integrations.
So the cost here is more customizable for you. If you pay for the Business plan, you can install WooCommerce and use its various free extensions to get an online store comparable to Shopify’s in terms of features.
Considering that WordPress.com’s business plan already comes with more advanced customization than other tiers, you could be roughly on par with Shopify’s costs or even lower.
Consider this: WordPress.com has WAY more free themes than Shopify:
Of course, not all of them are intended for stores, but most can support stores with the right plugins and customization.
And WordPress.org has even more themes—in fact, almost certainly the largest collection of themes for site management, period:
Most are free but with limited customization, and need to be paid to unlock more advanced theme features.
Note: WordPress.com and WordPress.org have overlapping themes. WordPress.org has a larger collection, and has WAY more free themes, though.
But still, if you’re trying to go for a mix of affordability and site/shop quality, using WordPress.com’s Business plan mixed with WooCommerce could be one of your best bets.
You could also do something similar with WordPress.org, but again—depends on your hosting plan, which is on you to figure out and set up.
The main downside to the strategy of lowering costs by using plugins is that you have to take care of a LOT more:
Whether you’re on WordPress.com or .org, you have to manage your WooCommerce plugin, and then manage a bunch of integrations for THAT plugin…not to mention other plugins for your site that you were interested in installing anyway.
And while it’s true Shopify’s free themes are so limited you might be forced to pay for a theme, WordPress.com’s free themes and WordPress.org’s free themes will require a lot of digging before you find one that lets you customize to your satisfaction.
My point here is that Shopify might be pricey because you’d more likely than not be forced to buy a theme, plus Shopify’s free apps are generally more limited than WordPress’ free apps/plugins.
BUT, you basically get it all in one, centralized platform. WordPress themes and plugins may be built for each other, but there are way more moving parts.
Now, there’s the other option:
You may be interested in WordPress.com’s eCommerce plan. If so, here’s roughly what we’d expect for it to be better than Shopify:
It would need to be better than Shopify’s first tier, since it’s more expensive, but it doesn’t have to be as good as Shopify’s second tier.
And on that, it’s tough to say. WordPress.com’s eCommerce plan’s shipping options and competitive rates are comparable with Shopify’s.
The marketing tools? They’re more advanced, I guess, but not so much more so. And in any case, most people will use plugins to boost their marketing game—both for WordPress and Shopify.
And remember when I showed you Shopify’s marketing tools? They basically have you install integrations. So it’s still pretty hard to mark important differences here.
One point in favor of WordPress is that it doesn’t take a cut of your sales.
While Shopify will reduce the cut it takes the more expensive your plan is, it’s still going to take at LEAST 2.4% and $0.30 of every online sell.
And if you use other payment providers, Shopify will also take a little more.
But WordPress.com doesn’t do any of those things, so you only need to worry about what the third party payment providers themselves take.
You could make the case that WordPress.com doesn’t have a built-in contact management tool like Shopify’s. But even then, you can just get a plugin for that.
So when I look at things holistically, WordPress.com’s ecommerce plan doesn’t exactly stand out on features.
It basically would be a good option for people who want an out-of-the-box solution like Shopify, but who like the WordPress platform.
Again, that’s not to say it doesn’t have solid features—just that it isn’t exactly a step above Shopify’s first tier in the features department. And when it has a notably higher price, that matters.
Overall, BASE Shopify might be better in features than BASE WordPress…but that’s an extreme simplification.
So there you have it. There isn’t a clear cut answer, given the range of features you can add to both Shopify and WordPress through plugins (especially WordPress) and the different tiers under consideration.
Don’t worry, friends. It’ll be easier to see which platform is better for you as we cover more ground. Next up:
So, customer support:
It matters a lot. The ease of use section might have convinced you that you’d have no real need of customer support, because the user-interface is so simple.
Think again. You’re managing a store, and any number of things could come up that would make quick responses not only relief, but cost-saving.
Not to mention, customer support can also help you make the most of the software you’re using.
So as usual, I’ll start with Shopify. Shopify has amazing customer support.
The live chat is always reliable. Here’s an example:
When you need to use live chat, you first enter in the subject matter.
You’ll then be shown related articles and common questions about the term, AND you’ll still get a contact button if you’re not satisfied.
It’s a little more drawn out than I’d like for a live chat, but it’s still fairly fast.
You’ll be placed into a queue in a chat page—I’ve usually been first when this happens, so I’ve never had to wait long—and then can get to chatting:
I know, I know—they didn’t answer my question!
It’s okay. I intentionally asked a tougher question.
Most live chat reps in most software companies can’t say any information that’s not already immediately available on the website or in the support articles.
And as the rep said, they could check if there were any related documents. I decided not to take them on it because I could do the same thing.
But despite the longer-than-ideal wait, the whole thing only took five minutes, and the representative was forthcoming and responsive.
This is just one sample chat, but most of the time, the reps have been able to help out whenever I needed it.
Overall, the live chat is fine, even though it’s not the best ever. But Shopify also has email/ticket support, phone support, AND Twitter support.
Frankly, this is more options than most people need, but whatever—it’s fantastic as a package.
The main attraction (for me) of Shopify’s customer support is not the representatives: it’s all the resources and information Shopify has readily available.
The primary resource is the help page:
It’s got a ton of articles. They’re well-written and informative.
Shopify’s forum is another great resource: it’s a community page that’s one of the best community forums I’ve seen for a software product.
There are over 580,000 posts, covering just about every topic. It’s not only useful for searching through previous posts, but for asking questions yourself.
That’s not all. Shopify has a YouTube channel with video tutorials, a section for webinars, and even a long list of free tools and repository of free stock photos to help you get started with your business.
Shopify has also been trying out this new tool called Shopify Compass:
It’s still in beta, but pretty cool. You can track your store’s progress on certain things:
And you can also set your own goals aside from the premade one.
It also makes it easy to attend free online workshops, a pretty great educational resource.
I know that’s a lot of stuff, but you can see why I’m a fan of Shopify’s customer support, right?
There are many ways to contact representatives, and when you do, it’s good. But the information and learning resources available are some of the best out there.
Can WordPress compete with all that?
In my opinion, yes. But in a different way:
WordPress has less tailor-made, first-party support content than Shopify. And where it exists, it’s less polished.
All the (paid) plans get email and live chat support. The Business and eCommerce plans can even get personalized help.
WordPress.com also has a community forum:
But it’s not nearly as well organized as Shopify’s. It’s still popular, so don’t skip on using it, but it’s not as streamlined as Shopify’s.
WordPress.com’s main support page/help center is nowhere close to Shopify’s:
It’s more poorly organized, meaning trying to browse articles is more of a pain.
There aren’t many articles either. The little support button can be helpful:
In fact, I often find it more helpful than going straight to the main support page. Which is unfortunate.
So how does WordPress come even close to Shopify in support quality?
Well, it’s certainly true that Shopify has better first-party support.
But WordPress.com is SO popular that you can find way more support articles, forum posts, and so on about it on the internet.
Same thing goes for WordPress.org.
You may have some natural concerns about trust. Sure, some information will be out of date, and some may be inaccurate.
But WordPress is such an immensely popular online topic that the biggest or most popular results, answers, and guides to WordPress are usually great.
Shopify has this sort of outside discussion too, but it’s nowhere close to the scale of WordPress (.com or .org).
Shopify and WordPress have comparable customer service representatives, though Shopify has more ways of reaching out to them.
And Shopify definitely wins for easy to consume information and first-party material. But there’s a lot more content on WordPress to consume in general, and that’s still worth something.
Ready for the last factor under consideration?
You’re going to handle a lot of customer data, not just your own, so I hope you don’t need an explainer on why security is important.
Unfortunately, I’ve found both Shopify and WordPress.com don’t do much to talk about their security.
Shopify talks about PCI compliance:
PCI compliance means being certified as safe for handling online debit and credit card info.
It’s the leading industry standard, and Shopify has the highest level of compliance.
This DOES mean Shopify is guaranteed a bare minimum of security.
I wish there was more information by Shopify about how they secure their servers and data centers, and what other digital defenses they have set up.
But having top level PCI compliance is much better than nothing.
Which leads me to the next contender…
This is what WordPress says:
This is basically nothing—it’s the same thing as saying “nothing’s perfect, but we’re secure.”
The only real thing of substance is that they say they monitor their services for vulnerabilities. But that’s kind of a truism, and something you should expect of any online company.
There’s some good news:
WooCommerce is secure. It’s not PCI-compliant, but that’s because PCI compliance applies more to payment processing than general ecommerce software (when you use WooCommerce on WordPress, PCI compliance is your responsibility).
WooCommerce is regularly audited by security professionals, so while I wish we could hear more from WordPress.com, at least the main integration is solid.
And WordPress.org? As the pattern has gone, this mostly comes down to your host’s security standards.
In sum: Shopify and WordPress both lack information on security measures, but Shopify has some solid vindication in its PCI compliance (it has to, as Shopify processes payments).
Ready to bring all of this together?
Here we are: the conclusion to a protracted battle between two ecommerce heavyweights.
Let’s recap what each of our contestants has going for it:
Shopify has great performance, has great customer support, and is overall intuitive and easy to use.
Shopify’s security is a little iffy, though not necessarily poor, and it can be a little pricey but not much more than its competitors.
As far as features go, Shopify’s basically fully featured, and has a lot of integrations available as well. Though when taking into account those integrations, plus premium themes, Shopify can come out looking a little pricey.
WordPress.com is roughly as easy to use as Shopify, though it’s geared more towards general website and content management.
It’s got decent customer support, as provided by the company, but way more material and discussion online from third parties. The security, we frankly don’t know much about.
When using WordPress.com’s eCommerce plan features roughly stack up with Shopify’s.
When using the Business plan and equipping WooCommerce and other plugins, users also end up with a feature set comparable to Shopify, for lower cost. But it still involves more management and moving parts.
There’s a lot to keep track of here: using Shopify, using WordPress.org, using WordPress.com’s Business tier with plugins, or using WordPress.com’s eCommerce tier (and perhaps that with plugins as well).
If you’re confused, here’s a little explainer that might keep things simple:
- WordPress.org: software itself is free, main shopping cart plugin (WooCommerce) is also free. Costs come in because you’ll likely pay for other plugins, upgrades to WooCommerce, and hosting. However, involves managing a lot more moving parts.
- WordPress.com: software is paid, but can be less expensive than Shopify. Like WordPress.org, has an enormous library of themes and plugins, including WooCommerce. However, WordPress.com is more “out of the box” than the free version.
- Shopify: more expensive plans, fewer themes, and somewhat limited default tools (though they’re still good). But, you get everything out of the box.
Put this way, you can think of WordPress.com as a sort of middle option between Shopify and WordPress.org.
It’s more expensive than WordPress.org, but cheaper than Shopify. It’s more focused on ease than WordPress.org, but Shopify is still best at ease of use from a store-management perspective.
So here’s my advice:
If keeping costs low is important to you, you should look into WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
This is especially true if you’re an individual or freelancer: you could probably take the time to learn WordPress.org and equip it with the necessary plugins or hosting features.
If you want to keep costs low, but you also don’t want to fuss over moving parts all the time, WordPress.com is better than WordPress.org:
You get a massive selection of themes and plugins, plus good features as you scale up tiers, but you won’t need to worry about hosting at all.
Shopify is best for people who prioritize simpler experiences. And there’s no shame to it! It’s not about being bad at technology, it’s about saving time and headaches.
Shopify is also better for larger businesses, because it’s easier to collaborate with people on the platform.
And while WordPress.com is still easy to use, Shopify brings everything together better. It starts on the pricier side and the upper tiers are very pricey compared to WordPress.
The limited selection of free themes usually means you’ll pay for a Shopify theme, or pay someone to make you a custom one. There are free and paid plugins, as with WordPress, but the emphasis is more on paid ones.
The bottom line (and yes, this is a simplification):
WordPress.com and WordPress.org are better for keeping your pricing flexible. Shopify is better for the all-in-one experience.
Still not sure?
The best way to find out is just to try them. WordPress.com has a FREE plan you can use forever:
And Shopify has a fully-featured 14-day free trial:
So what are you waiting for?
Go out there, build your store, and start making money!