WordPress is from Mars, Ecommerce is from Venus

Why NOT to Build a Store on WordPress

open source vs hosted ecommerceYour Question: I am planning an ecommerce site and I would like to use WordPress, since I’m already familiar with it. However, I’ve noticed that all the successful stores in my niche are built on ecommerce software and not WordPress. Why don’t more stores use WordPress? What are the pros and cons of WordPress ecommerce plugins vs. dedicated ecommerce software?

Answer by the New Edge Design Team: You are smart to ask this question now. It shows that you are doing your homework before making the big step in setting up your ecommerce store. I only wish that other people in your position were as careful…

So many people are familiar with WordPress nowadays, or have heard how easy it is to learn. The thought of simply adding an ecommerce plugin and working everything from your WordPress dashboard is tempting, it sounds good, but…

The reality is very different.

WordPress was originally a blogging platform, and it’s structure remains essentially suited to a content-based website. Though it has developed a lot in various ways, it remains a fundamentally unsuitable for ecommerce.

 It’s almost like they’re from different planets.

wordpress ecommerce problems

I love WordPress… but not on Planet Ecommerce (image: Zoran Ozetsky)

Don’t get me wrong. I love WordPress and use it every day for many sites. Heck, even this site is built on WordPress! It’s awesome for publishing content. And if you already have an established WordPress site, and are just looking to sell a couple of products, then perhaps one of the better WP ecommerce plugins could be a decent choice.

But for a serious ecommerce business, any ecommerce expert or developer will tell you to steer clear of WordPress. (And I asked no less than 7 of them their opinion before publishing this article.)

The Problem with WordPress for Ecommerce

Look at it this way:

WordPress is a content management system, with many optional plugins to add features to your content site, such as a store.

An ecommerce platform is a store management system with many optional plugins and extensions to add features to your store.

As a result, a dedicated ecommerce platform offers you many more features, greater robustness and flexibility than you can ever expect from a WordPress-based store.

Here are some features that you probably don’t want to miss in your ecommerce store:

  • Product images: Image zoom and multiple angles means more sales.  Your customers want to really see it before they buy it.
  • Product comparison: Your customers want to make sure they are buying the best product for them. If you don’t make this easy for them, they will leave.
  • Product management: If you need to upload, update and manage a large catalog, you need a dedicated ecommerce platform, otherwise you will waste countless hours and achieve little
  • 1-page checkout – How many customers will you lose if your checkout is long and involves multiple pages and redirects? A LOT!
  • Payment options – As a serious ecommerce business, you need control over your merchant account options so you can pick the best one for you
  • Integration with Amazon, Ebay, Google Shopping, etc. – You definitely don’t want to rule out these shopping giants as a source of sales
  • Advanced inventory tracking: to avoid sticky situations from selling products that are out of stock, you need to track size, color, and every possible variation of every product
  • Search Engine Optimization: Not all shopping carts are equal in the SEO department
  • Coupon codes and discounts: An essential marketing tool
  • Real-time customer reviews: You need these!
  • Social Media integration: Why miss out on the social shopping power of Facebook, Pinterest, etc.?
  • Mobile optimized store version: Mobile shopping is the next big thing. Will your ecommerce site be ready?
  • PCI compliance: Security! Say no more!
  • Extensive support from staff and community: How are you going to get help when you have issues? And, trust me, you WILL have issues!

This is just a starter list of some of the essential features that you can expect to easily integrate with any decent ecommerce software, such as Volusion, BigCommerce, Magento, and others. And yet there is no WP ecommerce plugin that provides them all, or even most of them.

And more features will become necessary as the ecommerce industry rapidly develops. Will your cart remain on the cutting edge?

We’ve spoken to other developers and ecommerce mavens who’ve investigated the WordPress option and they all agree: Forget WordPress for ecommerce.

Instead, start exploring options for dedicated ecommerce software, be it Open Source or SaaS. But that’s another topic.

Let’s put it simply:

WordPress was Born to Publish, and Ecommerce Software was Born to Sell

What do you want to do: Publish or Sell?

This post is part of a series of expert answers to frequently asked questions about ecommerce, helping you make the right choices for your business. For more expert ecommerce tips, subscribe to our free newsletter.

4 thoughts on “WordPress is from Mars, Ecommerce is from Venus

  1. Good article, but I disagree with the views. I had tried to setup a magento store and it seemed impossible to even apply a theme. WordPress does have it’s limitations when it comes to ecommerce plugins, but most of it’s plugins do have the features mentioned above. And ease of use is something I am not willing to compromise.
    I eventually built my site with wordpress and wp ecommerce plugin. And I plan to sell around 50 products through that.
    Dedicated Ecommerce softwares will always have more features as compared to wordpress plugins, but what matters at the end is what sells. WordPress sells because it’s easy. I don’t see a major competition to it except magento.

    1. Hi Ashok
      I totally agree with you that trying to set up a Magento store by yourself (unless you happen to be a top Php developer) is a nightmare, and that WordPress ecommerce plugins are easy in comparison. If you are building and running your store yourself, then you are very smart to say: “ease of use is something I am not willing to compromise.” As a web professional, that could be my mantra!
      I’m interested to hear what wp ecommerce plugin you’re using that has most of the features I listed. WooCommerce doesn’t have them. JigoShop looks promising but is pretty new and missing a lot. Yet those features are all found in the popular hosted ecommerce platforms Volusion and BigCommerce. Those are the major competitors to WordPress, not Magento, because they are relatively easy to learn and maintain yourself.
      50 products might be manageable in WP if you don’t need to update them too often but you are missing out on a lot features that will help you sell.
      Wishing you success!

  2. I am starting a webstore which I plan to have 100+ products and I am still not sure which way to go : Volusion or WordPress; and I have no experience in both.
    I am trying to learn WP since SaaS will be more expensive on the long run.. but if it will take lots of time, then I am willing to switch and use the time to sell products, not build a site.

    Again, as Naomi asked, which plugins are you using?

    1. Hi Mohamad,

      If you have a tight budget then I recommend going with Volusion or Bigcommerce. The monthly fees are not much and they are a much better option that WordPress. WordPress was not built to be an ecommerce platform, and you may find yourself spending more money using WordPress because of the development work to install different plugins and create features that you need.

      Volusion, Bigcommerce, and other ecommerce platforms have a nice list of built-in features that you can start using right away.

      I hope this helps.

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