Why Hasn't Every E-commerce Seller Heard This Yet?

Like a ton of online entrepreneurs - we started our e-commerce business (Liberty Jane) selling on eBay then added a Wordpress site. Then discovered Shopify in 2013.

Looking back, it's obvious now why Shopify is superior to Wordpress, but at the time, we weren't sure.

In this post, I'll share why (functionally) we prefer Shopify for e-commerce selling. But first...

Disclaimer: I use Wordpress sites, both hosted and self-hosted, for blogging - and really like them for that purpose. I'm not trying to bash Wordpress in any way. 

But if you're an e-commerce entrepreneur trying to decide on website options, I think this article will shed some light.

Achilles' Heel - There Is Really No Such Thing As A Self Hosted Wordpress Site

The first real problem we encountered with using Wordpress for e-commerce is, there is no such thing as a "self-hosted" Wordpress site. This confused us at first. What is "hosting"? But over time our thinking got clearer. What is implied by the phrase "Self Hosted Wordpress" is, 

"You keep (or host) your website code on your own server."

Quick question - Do you actually own a server?

No, neither do I.

So, unless you do, you actually just have to go to some random company - called a "Hosting company" and purchase a monthly subscription service from them so that you can store your website code on their server.

Most people gripe about this from an expense issue. But the expense of it isn't the problem. 

The control freaks among us will immediately get a tense feeling in their gut at this point - and begin to see the problem with this plan.

Let me outline it in a few points,

  1. You are now placing the entire success of your e-commerce operation on the back of some random company that promises to be super good at a whole bunch of important things. Can you go visit them? Meet them? Talk to them? (maybe). Do you trust them? Comfortable with this plan? No.
  2. Are these companies experts at E-commerce transactions? No, that's not one of the things they focus on. 
  3. Are they experts at customer account and site security on your behalf? No. They'll keep the server safe, but your website code is your responsibility.
  4. Are they experts at shopping cart security? No.
  5. E-commerce reporting and analytics? No.
  6. Integration with third party apps and software services? No.

But let's put those issues aside and judge them for just their part. Are these companies amazing at what they promise to do - host your site and keep it "live"?

Sometimes yes, but frequently no. As a business owner - you need to understand WHY these companies frequently fail to live up to their promises. 

They make money by optimizing expensive servers. Let's call that their "monetary goal". So site speed, uptime and a whole host of other technical things (like customer service) are the things they want to reduce, eliminate, minimize and/or optimize.

These are the very things you want to have work perfectly and have them spend lavishly on. But at the end of the day - their business goals are at direct odds with your business goals.

Uptime / Downtime

In our experience, how this would play negatively for us was in an incredibly important metric - uptime.

Our site would crash (for a variety of reasons) and we wouldn't even know it until customers started complaining via email or social media.

After we would troubleshoot why our site crashed (which is very hard to do when you're not a techie), we would have to implement a solution in partnership with the Hosting Company (if it was an issue with our code). Or wait for them to solve the problem if it was an issue on their side.

The Death Of Special Sales Days

When you plan a big short-term promotion, (such as Black Friday), even having just one hour of downtime will ruin your campaign results. And a big promotion puts you in direct conflict with the monetary goals of your hosting company.

This first issue should be enough to discourage you away from using Wordpress for E-commerce. But let's go deeper.

Wordpress Is Great For Blogs

The fundamental issue is - Wordpress is built to allow you to set up a website and/or blog that conveys information, but it's not designed to scale e-commerce transactions. 

Blogs are one thing, but e-commerce is another fish to fry all together. You need a whole bunch of additional features to make e-commerce work really well, including,

  • A shopping cart
  • Product pages
  • Product variants (sizes, colors, etc.)
  • Customer accounts
  • A back-end dashboard to run things
  • Customer review tools
  • Cross-selling functionality
  • Upselling functionality
  • Tax collection functionality
  • Ongoing security updates
  • Uptime monitoring and instant repair
  • A Recommendation engine
  • Analytics tools to help you understand behavior
  • And many more...

To overcome these limitations (or to serve this need) a whole bunch of companies offer a wide range of add-on shopping cart functionality to Wordpress.

But these companies cannot protect you from the fundamental vulnerability of a Self-Hosted solution. The Achilles' Heel still exists.

But All The Gurus Pitch Wordpress To New Online Sellers

The hosting companies are smart. They offer very generous affiliate sales commissions to the big online gurus - some of them are getting incredibly rich off of promoting hosted Wordpress solutions to new online sellers. 

The funny thing is - if you inquire further about the Guru's own technology usage - many of them don't actually use the services they recommend (for their own primary website). I won't judge them, but I wish they would promote Self Hosted Wordpress Sites for bloggers and corporate communication websites, and promote Hosted E-commerce platforms for e-commerce sellers.   

Enter Hosted E-Commerce Platforms

The solution is pretty obvious. You want to work with a e-commerce platform that hosts your site and offers you a ton of e-commerce functionality.

You get to focus on site aesthetics, products, marketing, and customer service. They focus on the technology to keep your site running.

What's The Catch? Yes, they do this in exchange for a monthly fee and a per-transaction fee. These can add up to be more expensive than a Self-Hosted Wordpress site.

But the transaction fee they take aligns their monetary goals with my monetary goals. They want me to sell as much as possible so we both win. I'm happy to pay it.

And in our experience, Shopify and their App partners do a ton of work, and provide a ton of value, for the amount of money they receive from us. 

The Best Hosted E-Commerce Platform

In our view, the best of these solutions is Shopify. Yes, I've worked on a few alternatives. We think Shopify is the best, (but the others are good too).

When we started our Shopify site, (June 2013), we immediately felt the difference in our gut. 

What feeling? The feeling of aligning our business with a technology partner that had a shared goal, rather than conflicting goals.

Mind-Blowing Scale

We've worked hard on our Shopify site since June 2013, but not on the technology. We've worked on the site aesthetics, products, marketing, and customer service. It's no a get rich quick story, it's slow and steady dedication toward an end-goal.

The results are blowing our mind. Last month we had 57,457 transactions go through our Shopify site - and it worked like a charm. We had 212,000 visits from 169,000 unique visitors. No drama. Here is a screenshot,

Conclusion

I'm sure you're experience will be different. But all I can tell you is our truth - our story - and if you're debating the pros and cons of Shopify vs. Wordpress for e-commerce. I would strongly recommend Shopify.

I wish you the very best on your e-commerce journey.

Jason Miles