What started in 2011 as a way to help WordPress users sell products through their website has turned into the most popular ecommerce platform in the world. In fact, about 30% of all ecommerce stores use WooCommerce.
Despite its popularity, many business owners are unfamiliar with WooCommerce. If you’re interested in learning more, this WooCommerce review is here to help. We’ll explain what WooCommerce is exactly, its features, pricing, alternatives and more.
First, let’s break down some pros and cons of the platform, which we’ll explore in more detail below.
- Price: WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin, so while you’ll have to pay for associated costs (like web hosting, payment processing, etc.), this is an incredibly affordable option.
- Control: Because this is an open-source platform, you can customize it to your exact needs.
- SEO tools: WooCommerce, as well as WordPress overall, offers comprehensive SEO tools to help your business website stand out in search—helping you find more customers.
- Learning curve: Because it’s an open-source platform, you’ll need some coding knowledge or developer resources.
- Maintenance: While all-in-one ecommerce platforms handle everything from web hosting to site security and more, that onus is on you with WooCommerce.
- WordPress-reliant: If you don’t use WordPress, you won’t be able to use WooCommerce, as it is a plugin specifically for WordPress.
- Customer service: While there are many online resources to help you set up your WooCommerce store and troubleshoot any issues, there is no traditional customer service number you can reach out to for help.
What Is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is a free WordPress ecommerce plugin, meaning it allows you to turn your WordPress website into an ecommerce store with shopping cart functionality.
An ecommerce shopping cart allows your customers to select and virtually hold products, as well as process their payments when they check out.
With the free Wo0Commerce plug-in, you can sell physical and digital goods; track inventory, orders, and customers; print shipping labels; offer coupons; and process payments. You also have the option to expand your WordPress website with paid WooCommerce add-ons, which allow you to sell subscription and membership services, among other features.
Who Is WooCommerce Best For?
As you can likely tell right away, WooCommerce isn’t for everyone. We would recommend WooCommerce to any small business owner who already operates a WordPress website and wants to start selling online.
If you are interested in launching an ecommerce business but need to do so on a tight budget, we would also recommend WooCommerce, as it can be a very affordable option.
However, larger, more established businesses might find it easier to scale using an all-in-one ecommerce platform provider, as these provide more tailored solutions for businesses of different sizes. You’ll also benefit from one-on-one support and a larger variety of built-in features.
As we mentioned, WooCommerce is a free ecommerce shopping cart plugin. You may be limited in terms of features with the free version; however, you have the option to expand your functionality as much as you want with integrations and add-ons. Keep in mind, though, these will likely come at a cost. meaning you are limited in terms of features.
With that said, here are some WooCommerce features to consider:
- Mobile-friendly design: Your ecommerce store is optimized for both mobile and desktop.
- Sell anything: From physical products and digital downloads to subscriptions, content and even appointments, you can sell anything with WooCommerce (although, as we mentioned, some will require paid add-ons). You can also upload an unlimited number of products, as well as unlimited photos and variations for each.
- SEO: Your ecommerce store will benefit from WordPress’s excellent SEO tools and plugins. Additionally, you can add categories and tags to products to help customers find them more easily.
- Discounts: WooCommerce allows you to create discounts and coupons for your products.
- Shipping options: Set a flat rate or define specific rates for different products, as well as offer free shipping; give customers the option of pickup, local delivery or shipping.
- Tax calculation: Automatically calculate major country and state tax rates and show taxes based on your customer’s shipping address, billing address, or your business’s location.
- Inventory management: Track stock levels, get low- and out-of-stock notifications, hide out-of-stock items, and more.
- Analytics: WooCommerce has some built-in analytics, along with what WordPress offers. You can also integrate with Google Analytics for free.
- Built-in blogging: If your business website also includes a blog, this will work seamlessly with WooCommerce, and you can even embed products on blog pages with easy checkout options.
- Theme compatibility: WooCommerce is designed to work seamlessly with each year’s default WordPress themes, as well as many popular themes from around the web
As you can see, WooCommerce has countless capabilities; however, not all of them are part of the free plugin. That’s where various plugins and extensions come in. The WooCommerce Extension Store features over 400 selections, allowing you to do everything from create a subscription service to make your products available for purchase on Amazon and eBay.
Each extension is purchased on a subscription that gives you access to support and product updates. Each subscription is billed annually. Prices range from free to $299. Also remember that there are lots of additional plugins available in the WordPress app store.
Thus, the sky is the limit using WooCommerce extensions; however, the price can quickly get out of hand. At that point, using an all0in-one ecommerce platform may be the more economical choice.
WooCommerce also comes with what is known as a REST API. Without getting too jargon-y, you should know that the REST API allows those with programming experience to write various parts of WooCommerce data such as orders, products, coupons, customers, and shipping zones.
The REST API allows for an even deeper level of customization than what you would get by just adding extensions. You can access the REST API via the settings tab.
Keep in mind that if you or someone on your team does not have developer knowledge, this will be another expense to consider.
PayPal and Stripe integrations are built-in with WooCommerce, but you can also add many other gateways and online payment options via free and paid add-ons. You can accept credit cards, direct bank transfers, checks, or cash on delivery. You will, of course, have to pay the associated fees of your payment processor; however, WooCommerce does not charge any additional payment processing fees of their own.
Additionally, WooCommerce is working on their own payment processor, known as WooCommerce Payments. While this is only available through invitation for the time being, the per-transaction fee is currently 2.9% + $0.30 for U.S.-issued cards with no monthly fees.
Throughout this review, you may have been wondering, how much is WooCommerce really? As we mentioned, WooCommerce and WordPress are both free to use. However, the final price you pay for WooCommerce depends on the level of functionality you want out of it. Keep in mind, you will pay additional fees for your domain name, web hosting, and SSL certificate, all of which come included with some other ecommerce platforms.
You can also get your theme for free, but if you want to stand out, you will likely need to invest a little bit of money. Then it becomes a question of how many additional features you need to run your store the way you want. Buying extensions and add-ons (which can reach upwards of $299) is where you will spend the bulk of your money with WooCommerce, so it is important to decide beforehand if it is worth it to pay for the extensions or find a different platform where those features come included.
You’ll also want to consider payment processing fees and any developer resources you may need when coming up with your final WooCommerce price breakdown.
We mentioned some pros and cons of WooCommerce at the start of this review, but here is some more context around each.
- Price: While associated fees can quickly climb, the initial WooCommerce plugin is completely free. If you’re running a small ecommerce business and don’t need a ton of functionality, you may not need any additional extensions, which can make this an extremely affordable option.
- Control: By virtue of being an open-source application on the WordPress platform with lots of extensions and a REST API, those with programming knowledge (or those willing to hire someone with programming knowledge) will have an extremely high level of control over every aspect of their ecommerce website. The options are truly limitless with WooCommerce and their over 400 extensions.
- SEO: The SEO features offered by WordPress and their plugins (like Yoast) are a unique feature that you won’t find on every ecommerce platform. Not to mention that WordPress offers one of the premier content management systems on the market. Regardless of which ecommerce service you are using, creating an SEO strategy for your business can pay huge dividends in terms of exposure.
- Learning curve: Because WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, it isn’t exactly the easiest system to learn, especially if you’ve never used WordPress before. In fact, there are several steps involved to set up a WooCommerce storefront. You also have to understand more about the world of ecommerce itself in order to set up a store that works for your business, given that WooCommerce gives you limited features to start.
- Maintenance: Besides having to coordinate your own web hosting, site security, and more, you will also have to maintain all of these aspects of your ecommerce store to make sure they are all up to date and working correctly. You’ll also need to make sure you’re keeping all of your extensions up to date and ensure that they’re all compatible with one another.
- WordPress-reliant: While WordPress is an incredibly popular website builder, not everyone uses it. For those who don’t, WooCommerce isn’t an option for you, as it’s a WordPress-specific plugin.
- Customer support: Since WooCommerce is a free open-source product, your support options are limited. There is no live chat or call option, although you can send an email with inquiries. However, they do offer robust documentation on their website. That said, you won’t benefit from a one-on-one support system that many other ecommerce platforms offer.
Whether you think WooCommerce is the right solution for your business or not, you should always consider your other options before making a final decision. Here are two WooCommerce alternatives to consider.
WooCommerce and Shopify are at opposite ends of the ecommerce spectrum. WooCommerce will provide you with the basics, but Shopify will provide you with all the bells and whistles. When you work with Shopify, you can expect a fully integrated ecommerce solution with an abundance of features, broad customization, and 24/7 customer support.
You will be able to more easily set up and maintain your Shopify store and can leave the heavy lifting—from web hosting to site maintenance and security—to them.
Shopify prices start at $29 per month, which may be less expensive than WooCommerce if you’re using multiple extensions.
If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform that won’t break the bank, Volusion is a good option for you. You can build a respectable ecommerce website on the Volusion platform that will only cost $15 per month. While you are limited in the number of products you can sell on Volusion (at least with the lower-tiered plans), all plans include marketing tools, sales analytics, 24/7 customer support, shipping logistics, customer and inventory management, and free integration with major ecommerce marketplaces.
The Bottom Line
WooCommerce provides easy entry into the ecommerce market, especially for those who already operate a WordPress website. With such a low upfront cost, we recommend trying it on for size. As you start exploring paid extensions, though, keep on eye on the total cost. It may make more financial sense to opt for a different WordPress ecommerce plugin or another ecommerce platform altogether.