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With the announcement of the new Etsy Seller fees, as well as the shutdown of Etsy Wholesale, I’ve been seeing a lot of eCommerce shop owners scrambling to find the best platform to build their own websites on to sell their products. Selling with WordPress with Woocommerce versus Shopify is the most frequent comparison I see and there is often a lot of confusion around which is the best. (As well as some shop owners spreading myths about WordPress that are untrue. Read my post on Debunking the 8 Biggest WordPress Myths on the Internet here.) In this post, I will be explaining why Shopify isn’t the greatest eCommerce platform everyone makes it out to be while also sharing information on the amazing platform WordPress is to help those looking to build a beautiful eCommerce website for their business.
As a shop owner (check out my separate shop, The Wanderful Soul) I’ve tested and researched many eCommerce platforms, not only for myself, but for my eCommerce web design clients as well. Shopify seems to be the main contender versus Woocommerce, but when working with the platform, I was surprised to see how lacking it was for customizability. Because of this (and a few other reasons you’ll see below) I will only ever recommend WordPress + Woocommerce for eCommerce stores. I hope this information aids you in your decision making for your online store. Let’s get started!
(It’s important to note that when I say “WordPress” I mean a self hosted website or WordPress.org not WordPress.com. You can read about the differences between the two and learn more about everything you need to set up your self hosted website through my last post here.)
7 Reasons Why You Should Choose WordPress + Woocommerce over Shopify
1. WordPress is the #1 CMS in the World
WordPress is the #1 content management system (CMS) in the world as about 30% of all websites run on the platform. (And the numbers speak for themselves, data via W3 Tech.) With this in mind, the top 1 million websites on the internet are also using Woocommerce to power their online stores with over 48 million downloads. (Stats via BuiltWith). Even top businesses like the Airstream shop, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and many others use WordPress + Woocommerce. Knowing that WordPress is the leading system for building websites, why would you choose to go elsewhere? As Woocommerce’s user base continues to grow, updates are continuously being made to make sure to keep this free open-source system secure while still allowing users the freedom of building any kind of online store they can imagine.
2. Highly Customizable
As I mentioned before, if you want to customize your store in Shopify, it’s not so easy as it may seem. Shopify’s theme structures are pretty set in place. If you want a basic change like adding multi-columns in a single page or bolded text on the home page for example, you need to know how to code to integrate it into your website. You also have a limit to the number of product variations you can create. So if you need more than 3 variant category options or more than 100 variations within a product, you’re out of luck.
Oppositely, since Woocommerce is built within WordPress, you have the freedom that the entire platform offers. So when I say you have the ability to create any kind of online store and products you can imagine, I mean it. Not only are you able to completely customize the desktop view, but mobile and tablet responsiveness as well. You aren’t restricted to the confinements of your theme or the platform, because there aren’t any. Building can become even easier than Shopify if you utilize a drag and drop builder with a premium theme like Divi. No coding knowledge required.
An absolutely important decision of why you should not choose a managed eCommerce platform like Shopify is website ownership. If you look into the Terms of Service and search keywords like, “remove,” or “disable,” you’ll find multiple instances where Shopify can shut down your store and remove your content without warning. Read the Shopify TOS yourself. Conversely, with self hosted WordPress, you own the entirety of your website and never have to worry about losing content or being shut down without notice.
*Side note – I actually had one of my clients have her Shopify payments revoked because she sells hair extensions which Shopify decided they no longer accepted to be sold. She also received a warning of suspension as she used an app that was once approved by Shopify, but they changed the approval without notice.
On Shopify, you cannot revert back to previous revisions for a product or page. If you accidentally delete content and hit that “Save” button, your previous content is completely lost. The only way to backup your site is to duplicate your theme files and export them to email. With WordPress + Woocommerce, your product & page content automatically creates saved revisions with easy retrieval. If you update any content, you can always go back within the settings of that product / page and revert to your last revision. Your website host will also (this is true if you host with Siteground) perform automatic backups of your entire website where you can easily restore it if some kind of error or mistake occurs. On top of this, you can perform your own regular backups within WordPress itself with a few simple clicks in a plugin like Updraft.
5. Dashboard Organization & Navigation
An easy to navigate Dashboard is top priority for managing a website. In Shopify, the Dashboard is clean enough, but the organization is a bit counter-intuitive. You have to click to open up different sections to view items like your Pages or Posts. And don’t get me started on finding all of the Media you have uploaded into your website. It took me a while to locate the image uploads within the Settings tab all the way at the bottom of the menu.
With WordPress, almost everything you need is on the left side of the dashboard. If you aren’t seeing something, you can easily hover over tabs to reveal even more sub-settings. You cannot do this in Shopify and have to click each item individually to open and see what is inside.
6. Better Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Ranking higher in search engines is extremely important for eCommerce websites. With Shopify, the only type of search engine optimization you can do is change your page / product title & meta data, and add alt-text to uploaded images. In WordPress, if you have the Yoast Plugin installed, you’re able to alter your product, page, & image titles as well as their meta data. You can easily see which areas you should be adding your specific keywords to and it also provides you with helpful tips on how to improve your content to possibly increase your visibility on Google. You’re even able to customize how your shared content appears on social media like Facebook and Twitter.
7. Cost Friendly
One of the most important factors to any business owners is cost. We of course want to make sure we’re getting the best “bang for our buck” and there’s no question that when you go with Woocommerce, you most definitely are. Shopify is one of the pricier options I’ve seen for eCommerce websites with still limited features. Shopify starts at $348/year ($29/month) and goes up to a whopping $3588/year ($299/month) for more “advanced” features. Plus, if you wanted to use a payment processor other than Shopify (like Square or PayPal) you have to pay additional transaction fees on top of the transaction fees for each processor.
For a total of a little over $200/year (and 67% off your first year!) you could pay for quality hosting (Siteground $143.40/year), a premium theme (Divi $89/year), and Woocommerce (100% free!). Plus, you would still receive more out of the platform’s customizability. On top of that, you can choose whoever you want to process your payments, and you will never pay additional transaction fees, only those set by the processor itself. You’ll also receive 24/7 host & theme chat support, free custom domain email accounts, free SSL, free gift cards, free analytics, free email opt-ins, unlimited users, unlimited customization options, and the list goes on. You could even opt-in for the one-time fee, rather than yearly for your theme, and cut costs even further.
So, there you have it. My top 7 reasons why you should choose WordPress + Woocommerce over Shopify. I hope I provided enough explanation as to why I (and 30% of the internet) choose to work in WordPress to create professional websites for businesses and eCommerce. As a web designer who occasionally works on Shopify, I cannot deny that it is one of the top platforms for eCommerce websites. But, with the incredibly high costs, lack of features, and the biggest fact that you don’t actually own your site, it likely isn’t the best choice for your online store’s needs.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of a self hosted website and how to get set up in WordPress, check out my free eCourse, Understanding WordPress.