Shopify Vs WordPress.org: which is better for small businesses

Both of these household ecommerce giants have amazing online store builder capabilities. But, when tested head-to-head, which one is best for small businesses?

Our Research

When recommending the best ecommerce platforms, our expert team of writers and researchers focus on the features that matter most to small businesses. We rate platforms on their value for money – including setup costs and ongoing transaction fees – design features, including store templates; inventory management; payment processing options; help and support, plus customer feedback.
Written and reviewed by:
Robyn Summers-Emler Grow Online Editor

Our independent reviews are funded in part by affiliate commissions, at no extra cost to our readers.

When it comes to ecommerce, Shopify is, without a doubt, the best choice for small businesses. It was built specifically for merchants to sell products online, and it’s also a closed-source platform, making it extremely easy to use – plus it has great value pricing plans.

In comparison, WordPress.org was originally built as a content management system (CMS). It requires integration with ecommerce software, such as WooCommerce, before you can get going. It also operates as an open-source platform.

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BEST FOR

Best range of apps and extensions

BEST FOR

Best for small businesses that want near limitless customisability and flexibility

Overall Score
4.6
Overall Score
4.4
Pricing

£19 – £259 per month

Pricing

Free to download but themes and plugins cost extra

Key Features
  • Preempts and predicts what a merchant might need next
  • Best range of apps and extensions
  • Perfect for dropshipping
Key Features
  • More than 50,000 integrations and extensions through its app store
  • Highly customisable
  • 100 payment gateways and no setup or monthly fees
Try Shopify Try WordPress

This can make building an ecommerce business challenging for Joe Bloggs, who wants to sell his gimmicky slogan t-shirts online with minimal fuss. But it is great for any user who wants ultimate control and customisability.

Both are giants in the ecommerce space, but both cater to very different needs. It’s important to identify which platform matches the needs of your business, as the last thing you want is to start building an online store with software that doesn’t tick all the boxes.

This is why we’ve independently tested, and researched, both platforms in the areas that matter most to our readers, including value for money and website features. Our findings will help you make an executive decision regarding which platform is right for you and your ecommerce store.

So what are you waiting for? Read on to find out how Shopify came out on top when the two platforms went head-to-head.

Need to know

WordPress.org is different from WordPress.com. WordPress.com helps you build a website with managed hosting using the WordPress software.

On the other hand, WordPress.org is the source of the software, and enables you to build and maintain a website without any assistance. This article focuses on WordPress.org – not WordPress.com – in combination with the WooCommerce ecommerce software integration.

Shopify vs WordPress.org: key differences

There are two fundamental distinctions between these platforms that you should be aware of: Shopify was built as a dedicated ecommerce platform.

While WordPress.org requires an ecommerce software plugin to operate as an ecommerce platform. For the sake of this comparison review we have reviewed WordPress and WooCommerce together.

Another important difference between the two platforms is that Shopify is closed-source. This means it was built as a dedicated ecommerce platform and everything you need to operate your online store is already built into the software. This is perfect for small businesses and entrepreneurs just starting out, as it makes setting up your online store super easy, and relatively quick.

With WordPress.org, an open-source platform, you are required to build your website from scratch, including all of the sales features.

This can be time-consuming and difficult, particularly as you will need knowledge of coding and web development.

For medium-sized businesses, or smaller businesses looking to scale, having the budget and time to develop its online store from scratch is a luxury that can be afforded. But for startups and micro businesses, unless you have coding experience, it will be more of a hindrance.

Shopify for small businesses

Shopify
4.6
Shopify’s superb features and extensive app market give ambitious ecommerce businesses everything they need to scale rapidly.
  • FREE TRIAL 3-day free trial
  • PRICE FROM £19 per month
  • Preempts and predicts what a merchant might need next in all aspects of creating a website
  • Best range of apps and extensions
  • Perfect for dropshipping
Summary Shopify is perfect for users looking for that all in one online store solution. Its ability to predict what a merchant will need next when creating a website is a brilliant feature, and its countless apps give you complete control over your business, enabling you to grow through diverse multi channel integration options and automated SMS and email marketing. It is definitely better suited to store owners with complex, larger inventories and because there are fewer built in features, using the platform can get expensive compared to other feature-filled competitors like Squarespace and Wix.
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Shopify ranked second in our top ecommerce platforms for small businesses, scoring an impressive overall rating of 4.6 out of 5. It is ideal for small businesses for a number of reasons.

Its standout feature is its range of apps and extensions that aim to help businesses improve sales through useful add-ons – like abandoned cart recovery, multiple currencies, and dropshipping functionality. These features work in tandem to create a seamless and enhanced customer experience.

In contrast, WordPress.org has zero built-in sales features. However, by combining the platform with ecommerce software, such as WooCommerce, you will be able to purchase extensions that will help you make those all-important sales. These include subscriptions and appointments, and local payment gateways.

For an in-depth look at Shopify, be sure to check out our review.

WordPress.org for small businesses

WordPress.org (with WooCommerce)
4.4
WordPress.org (with the addition of WooCommerce software) is a great ecommerce platform for small businesses that want near limitless customisability and flexibility.
  • Pricing from FREE
  • Offers more than 50,000 integrations and extensions through its app store
  • Highly customisable
  • 100 payment gateways and no setup or monthly fees
Summary WordPress.org (with the addition of WooCommerce software) is a great ecommerce platform for small businesses that want near limitless customisability and flexibility. Because it is an open-source platform, you have the ability to create an abundance of unique and practical features that can make your online store stand out from the competition. This is in comparison to Shopify, which does have lots of great sales features, but that are already built for you - so are uniform across its merchant’s websites. It is also free to use, although you will have to pay for a hosting provider (as it is self-hosted). The cost of a web development team, or a coding crash course to design your store from scratch, may add up.
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WordPress.org (with the addition of WooCommerce software) is a great ecommerce platform for small businesses that want near limitless customisability and flexibility.

Because it is an open-source platform, you have the ability to create an abundance of unique and practical features that can make your online store stand out from the competition. This is in comparison to Shopify, which does have lots of great sales features, but that are already built for you – so are uniform across its merchant’s websites.

It is also free to use, although you will have to pay for a hosting provider (as it is self-hosted). The cost of a web development team, or a coding crash course to design your store from scratch, may add up. Shopify can’t match the zero price, but £19 per month is not very expensive when you factor in hosting costs for WordPress.org users.

Bluehost is our top choice hosting provider for anyone using WordPress.org.


Best value: Shopify

On paper, it appears that WordpPess.org is the best value for money, considering you can download the software completely for free. Whereas with Shopify, you will be set back at least £19 per month for its basic plan, and £49 for its standard plan. As you well know – every penny counts for a small business.

But don’t let the ‘free’ element of WordPress.org fool you. Although the platform itself is free, as is the WooCommerce plug-in required to set up your online store, the costs do begin to add up.

This is because WordPress.org is self hosted, meaning you need to purchase a domain name and hosting provider. Without a hosting provider, your site won’t be available to customers, so this is integral.

You will also need to factor in the expense of any store extensions you want to install so that you can sell to customers. These include payments, shipping, and store management. Each of these can set you back between £0 – £275 per year.

Shopify, in comparison, hosts itself and also has a built-in range of sales features, apps, and extensions included in all its plans. Without the need to purchase add-ons, and the unpredictability of a hosting provider upping its prices, you can save a lot of money.

Shopify pricing and plans

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Starter

Basic Shopify

Shopify

Advanced

Price
Price

£1 per month for 3 months

Then £19 per month

Price

£49 per month

Price

£259 per month

Features

A simple, instant storefront
Unlimited product pages
Fast and secure checkout

Features

Unlimited products
Abandoned cart recovery

Features

Professional reports and analytics
5 staff accounts

Features

Advanced reports
Calculated shipping rates

Online card processing fees

2.9% + 30p for online sales

Online card processing fees

2% + 25p for online purchases

Online card processing fees

1.7% + 25p for online purchases

Online card processing fees

1.5% + 25p for online purchases

Shopify, although not the cheapest ecommerce platform available on the market, certainly lives up to the saying that ‘you get what you pay for’.

It offers five plans for businesses, although we won’t go into detail about the enterprise plan as it's only suitable for large businesses.

Its other plans suit businesses of all sizes, from micro to medium-sized. They include the Starter plan at £5 per month, basic at £19 per month, standard at £49 per month, and advanced at £259 per month.

It also offers a free 3-day trial so you can try out any of its plans to see if it suits your needs. However, keep in mind that you won’t be able to sell on the platform until you choose a paid plan.

You can also save on costs by purchasing a plan annually rather than by paying monthly – Shopify will apply a 10% discount to any plan taken out annually.

Starter Shopify – £5 per month

Shopify’s starter plan is incredibly affordable, but also very limiting. It is designed primarily for businesses that want to sell via social media. It allows users that don’t have a website to sell products on social platforms, through emails, and on Whatsapp.

However, it does have a limited shelf-life and, as your brand grows, so too will the importance of creating a website for your business. Once you need to create a website, you will need to upgrade your Shopify plan.

Basic Shopify – £19 per month

Shopify’s basic plan is not one of the cheapest starter ecommerce plans on the market, but it comes with some great sales features, and is ideal for businesses just starting out in the realm of ecommerce.

You get access to 24/7 customer support, multiple sales channels, and gift cards – some of which are not offered on the basic plans of other platforms. None of these are available on WordPress.org’s plan.

Standard Shopify plan – £49 per month

At £49 per month, Shopify’s standard plan is quite expensive, particularly when you compare it to a free platform like WordPress.org (even with the cost of a hosting provider).

However, the features you get on this plan make it a great option for those businesses that are running a busy ecommerce operation. You have access permissions for up to five staff members, meaning multiple users can make changes and update the pages if required.

Unlike the basic plan, you also get access to ecommerce automation. This will allow you to manage workflow and streamline manual tasks that could otherwise take up your precious time.

Advanced Shopify plan – £259 per month

This is where things get expensive, but for a good reason. Shopify’s advanced plan is for ecommerce businesses that are looking to scale. Typically, these businesses need access to in-depth reporting and analytics to make important decisions around stock, product re-ordering, and expansion.

With Shopify’s advanced plan, users have access to real-time reporting, as well as custom pricing by market (for internationalisation).

To learn more about Shopify’s pricing and plans, visit our dedicated Shopify pricing page.


WordPress.org pricing and plans

WordPress.org and Woocommerce (the ecommerce plugin required) are both entirely free to download, which makes them immediately cheaper than Shopify’s basic plan.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any cost factors involved. To get your ecommerce store up and running, you’ll need to:

  • Pay for hosting – as WordPress.org is self-hosted, it is your responsibility to set up hosting for your website. This can range in price from £2 – £400, depending on the size of your online store, and whether or not you choose shared, VPS, or dedicated hosting. Bluehost is our top recommendation for any business needing hosting. To find out more, read our in-depth Bluehost review.
  • Pay for a domain – you’ll need to purchase a website name before you can set up your store. This can set you back anywhere between £7 – £12 per year. Bluehost and GoDaddy both provide affordable domain plans.
  • Purchase an SSL certificate – this is required to securely transfer customer data such as card information, passwords, and usernames and will set you back at least £10.50 per month

There are also other costs to consider: the price of extensions (add-ons) to allow for marketing, payments, shopping, and store management, all of which could set you back between £0 – £270 each per year.

To learn more about how much a WordPress website will set you back, visit our WordPress website cost page.

Shopify vs WordPress.org: which has the best free plan?

Technically speaking, WordPress.org has the best free plan, because it is free to use the platform. However, to make your ecommerce site fully operational, you will need to pay for hosting, a domain, and SSL.

Shopify may not offer a free plan, but it does let its users trial the product for 3-days, free of charge.


Best for website features: Shopify

Our in-depth research shows that Shopify narrowly wins this head-to-head, scoring 4.2 out of 5 for website features, in comparison to WordPress.org, which scores 3.9 out of 5.

The main reason Shopify edges this one is that our user testing revealed that the platform preempts and predicts what a merchant might need next in all aspects of creating a website. This kind of automation is unmatched in the ecommerce space, and means small businesses can feel confident they are setting up an online store perfectly tailored to the needs of their customers.

If you compare this with WordPress, which is quite literally like working from a blank canvas, its users must plan and pull together different components of their website themselves with no guidance.

Integrations

Shopify also offers a vast range of integrations and apps, including ones tailored to dropshipping and order fulfilment – if your ecommerce store wants to specialise in these areas.

However, WordPress does have a similar range of third-party integrations and extensions, and it is particularly strong in terms of its internationalisation features. Your site can be translated into 24 different languages, and you can offer international shipping and tax amendments by region. This is ideal for ecommerce businesses that want to begin selling products overseas.

Shopify also offers these features, be it on their standard plan or above. In addition, Shopify has a cleverly customised ‘shout out’ feature that allows you to send a message to someone who purchases a product, or signs up for an on-site profile.


Best for sales features: Shopify

Out of all the research areas, Shopify is the standout performer across the ecommerce board for sales features – scoring a solid 4.5 out of 5.. Even though WordPress + Woocommerce isn’t far off, scoring 4.1 out of 5.

If you lined the features of both up, they would look pretty similar. Both offer multi-channel selling, as well as unlimited products. Although, with WordPress, you will need to pay for integrations with the likes of Amazon, eBay, and Instagram.

What primarily sets the two apart is the fact the majority of Shopify’s sales features are at your fingertips, ready to use in an instant. Features like gift cards, abandoned cart recovery, and discount codes are available to encourage shoppers, and they are all included in the basic Shopify plan.

The same can be said for WordPress.org, however, you’ll need to install third-party integrations, or purchase extensions, to make use of them. This is frustrating and impacts costs, as some of these features are important to maintain a positive post-purchase customer experience.

Perhaps the only win for WordPress in this area, when compared to Shopify, is its fully customisable checkout. Unlike other ecommerce platforms, which are only partly adaptable, WordPress allows users to edit all aspects of the page. This is why we scored full marks (5 out of 5) in the checkout area of investigation.

This is great for small businesses that want customers to enjoy a fully unique buying experience, from start to finish.


Best for design flexibility: WordPress.org

When it comes to design flexibility, open-source platforms, like WordPress.org, are impossible to beat. Providing you have the skills to do so, you can literally build any element or feature for your website that you desire.

You have full control over how the website looks, and can even create a unique checkout page, which you can’t do with any closed-source platforms, including Shopify.

This enables your customers to have a truly unique shopping experience with your business, and this is an important factor that may entice them to shop with you again.

In contrast, Shopify certainly has its limitations. Scoring a respectable 3.9 out of 5 in this category, customers are required to choose from one of Shopify’s templates before they can begin setting up and building their store.

Although there are plenty to choose from, you are still building upwards from a foundation created by Shopify. It definitely feels less unique and creative than WordPress.

However, what is very useful and flexible, is the fact that Shopify users can change their theme at any time. Information such as navigation buttons and products will be reconfigured in your new theme. This is great if you suddenly decide to change your branding, or move into a new industry and want to give your website a different look and feel.


Best for help and support: WordPress.org

WordPress.org scores full marks in this category (5 out of 5), and for a good reason. Customers have free access to hundreds of support guides and documents on the WordPress forum that help to answer queries ranging from themes and plugins to developing your storefront.

If Woocommerce is your ecommerce plugin, you can also submit tickets for general support. And for all hosting and domain queries, Bluehost offers 24/7 phone and email support to its customers.

It's hard to match all that customer support at your fingertips, but Shopify gives it a good go. Scoring 3.8 out of 5 in this category, the ecommerce platform allows users to request help within the editor.

Its from there that you can access the knowledge and help centre, although the Shopify offering is nowhere near as extensive and detailed as WordPress.org

Specialist advanced support and a dedicated support agent are available with Shopify’s advanced and enterprise plans, but this will prove costly, particularly for small businesses.


Best for ease of use: Shopify

Although these two ecommerce solutions have clearly different rankings, when it comes to ease of use, both of them scored an average of 3.5 out of 5. However, on a granular level, Shopify just edges out the winner with a score of 71% compared to WordPress, which achieves 70.5%.

With Shopify, users were appreciative of the consistent typography and simple, understandable language. Icons are easy to identify, and there is a feature undo button so you can remove any element that doesn’t fit your site. These features make things easy, identifiable, and most importantly, reversible.

But it is the abundance of apps and extensions that have given users a headache. Although sales features are this platform’s definite selling point, when it comes to ease of use, it can become quite convoluted to set up your website with all the features you need.

Some extensions are offered by third parties, which confuses things further, like enabling dropshipping.

Although a caveat of this, and the reason Shopify beats WordPress in this category by the skin of its teeth, is that the platform preempts and predicts what a merchant might need next when creating their website. This helps website building beginners ensure they have the right tools and features for their online store.

As for WordPress.org, the user experience is similar. Although the installation process is noted as being incredibly simple, users need to install the Woocommerce plugin before they can begin building their ecommerce shop.

Woocommerce does come with a setup wizard that assists you with initial support, including information on creating pages and setting up payments. However, because of its open-source nature, you need to spend plenty of time coding and designing elements in the back-end before they can be added.

At the end of the day, neither platform oozes ease. So, if you are looking for an easy web builder to create your online store, be sure to check out our review of the best easy website builders for small businesses.

How do Shopify and WordPress.org compare to other ecommerce platforms?

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Wix

Shopify

Squarespace

Square Online

BigCommerce

GoDaddy

BEST FOR

All-round ecommerce platform for small businesses

BEST FOR

Best range of apps and extensions

BEST FOR

Best for ease of use and great design

BEST FOR

Best value – start selling for free

BEST FOR

Best sales features

BEST FOR

Creating a simple online store

Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.8
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.6
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.6
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.3
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
4.2
Overall Score
Based on our in-depth research and user testing
3.9
Pricing

£14-119 per month, billed annually
£13.50-£107.10 with code “GET10!”

Pricing

£19 – £259 per month, billed annually

£1/month for 3 months

Pricing

£17-£35 per month, billed annually

Use code “STARTUPS10” to receive a 10% discount on all Squarespace plans

Pricing

£0-£64 per month

Pricing

$29-$299 (around £23-£240) per month

Pricing

£12.99 per month (first term savings available)

Wix – from £15 per month

Wix is not only our number one ecommerce platform, but it is also our number one website builder, and for good reason. The platform is your comprehensive online store builder solution. From its incredibly intuitive drag-and-drop interface, to its ADI functionality, you will be able to build a website in minutes.

Squarespace – from £17 per month

Squarespace is one of our most highly regarded ecommerce platforms. When it comes to design functionality, it ranks second highest out of all platforms (scoring 4 out of 5). It offers a range of beautiful, stylish templates that are best for creative businesses, like photographers, graphic designers, and artists.


Verdict

In conclusion, after matching these two ecommerce goliaths head-to-head, it is Shopify that comes out victorious.

To recap, Shopify is better than WordPress in the following areas:

  • Value
  • Website features
  • Sales features
  • Ease of use

When small business owners or startups are considering ecommerce platforms, it is the above criteria that are of the utmost importance.

You want a platform that is of good value, has great features to help you convert, and is super simple and easy to use.

Whereas WordPress has the ultimate design flexibility, but it becomes expensive when you begin adding in features and third-party extensions. It also requires expertise in coding and web development.

But don’t just take our word for it. You can try Shopify for free for 3 days to see if the platform is right for your business. You don’t need a credit card to sign up – you’ll simply lose access to your site after the two-week period if you decide not to upgrade to a paid plan.

WordPress.org, on the other hand, doesn’t offer a free trial, but is completely free to download. If you are a coding whizz, and want to start with a fully blank online store canvas, why not download WordPress today?

FAQs
  • Is WordPress better than Shopify?
    For small businesses, WordPress is not better than Shopify. Because of its open-source technology, it isn’t the easiest platform to use unless you have coding knowledge or a web developer on your team. You also need to install extensions through Woocommerce that will allow you to take payments. This can get expensive. Although, when it comes to design flexibility, WordPress beats Shopify outright.
  • Which is cheaper, Shopify or WordPress?
    On paper, it appears as though WordPress is the cheaper option. This is because the platform is free to download. However, to create a fully functioning online store, you will need to purchase a domain name and set up hosting. You must pay for both of these, although they are quite cheap. However, you must also install extensions to use sales features, and they can cost up to £250. You get all of this with Shopify for just £19 per month - so Shopify is cheaper.
  • Is Shopify good for SEO?
    Yes, Shopify offers an excellent set of SEO tools. This is because it covers all the necessities required to get a ranking on search engines. If you want advanced features, these are readily available on Shopify’s extensive app store. Shopify SEO basics include meta titles, meta descriptions, custom URLs, headings, SSL security, and Google analytics.

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Written by:
Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website. Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Condé Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism. Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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