It has never been easier to start your own eCommerce site. With so many platforms to choose from, you’d have no trouble finding a suitable platform for your new store. As millions of entrepreneurs have already discovered, one of the best available eCommerce options out there is WooCommerce, a totally free plugin on WordPress. But, what is WooCommerce?
Introduction to WooCommerce
More than one-third of all eCommerce websites in existence today are powered by WooCommerce. Nothing to sneeze at.
One of the reasons for its extraordinary popularity is the fact that WordPress itself enjoys tremendous popularity. Those that already have a WordPress site need only download a plugin to start an online shop.
But the popularity of WooCommerce is not exclusively due to its WordPress affiliation. Its popularity springs from the fact that they provide outstanding applications for order processing, product management, and full shopping cart functionality.
In addition to these base functions, WooCommerce is one of the most highly extendable platforms on the market. There are literally hundreds of extensions for WooCommerce providing additional functionality in the form of bookings, composite products, VAT calculations, returns and warranties, and customer tracking, and much more.
It is widely considered to be the most highly customizable eCommerce platform on the market today. So, let’s dig in and explore the question more deeply.
WooCommerce: A History
WooCommerce was originally developed in September of 2011 by WooThemes, a WordPress theme developer. Four years later, WooThemes was bought out by Automattic, a development company started by Matt Mullenweg (who helped create WordPress in 2003).
WooCommerce then became part of the Automattic catalog alongside Gravatar, PollDaddy, and Longreads. The base code for WooCommerce was developed using the efforts of hundreds of contributors, many of whom were part of the Automattic team, and some of whom were developers from the WordPress community.
Since its original development, WooCommerce has had extensions developed by many contributors from various WordPress agencies and freelancers. Even today, new third-party extensions are continually added to the Woo ecosystem for various applications (with varying levels of quality). They come in the form of new website templates, unique storefront presentations, and custom code creations.
The fact that WooCommerce enjoys such a broad user base guarantees that it will continue to receive a lot of attention going forward. Because it is open source, developers can contribute their own improvements and enhancements, making the platform better all the time.
Advantages of WooCommerce
We’ve already covered the fact that WooCommerce is a highly extendable and extremely capable eCommerce platform. The advantages don’t stop there. For the following reasons, WooCommerce is an appealing choice for many to start their online store.
- Easy installation
- Large selection of themes
- Thousands of plugins and extensions
Is WooCommerce Free?
Technically, yes. WooCommerce is a free eCommerce plugin for the WordPress platform. And you can certainly find a number of free extensions and themes to get started with. But as your needs evolve, the free options may not exactly fit what you need.
Commercial extensions and themes can help push your site to where you want it to be. The truth is that many of these paid options pay for themselves in increased revenue. On top of this, you will definitely need to pay for hosting, domain name, and SSL certification. WooCommerce also requires an annual license for continued support.
Further, while WooCommerce can be added and run by the relatively non-technical, to make your store look and function exactly as you want it to, you will likely need to hire a developer to make it happen. There are tons of WordPress developers out there that can make quick work of improving a WooCommerce site, be it freelancers or a really great eCommerce agency.
Benefits of Being Open Source
While “open source” seems buzzword-y, it really is an important feature of development.
Essentially, where WooCommerce is concerned, it means that anyone who has a great idea for improving the software, they can. It is free to develop, test, and market amazing new extensions which can improve the ability of eCommerce companies to run their stores intuitively. You can learn more here.
Installation of WooCommerce happens from your existing WordPress site, in the plugins section. This takes a few clicks and it is done. You have a store! While you may need experts to bring your store’s vision to fruition, installing it takes no time or expertise.
WooCommerce Themes, Extensions & Plugins
In constructing your perfect store, there are thousands of ways to go. First, find a theme by poring through the vast jungle of WooCommerce themes available. Now you have a virtual storefront.
WordPress has plugins and WooCommerce has extensions. For the functionality of your store and accompanying blog, you will want to find a selection of both. There are a lot and research should be done to ensure you are getting the best. Each is rated and there are thousands of sites with numerous opinions about which plugins and extensions are best. Good luck.
While many are free (with premium upgrades), there are many that you’ll have to pay out for. Again, the resulting gain in revenue can easily outweigh the cost of certain extensions.
Is WooCommerce Right For You?
One of the advantages of using WooCommerce also turns out to be something of a disadvantage. Since it is an open-sourced product with many contributors, not all developed extensions are of the highest quality. As mentioned above, it is important that you do your research.
Further, this free eCommerce plugin has a number of expenses required to really stand up that storefront in full. But, this is true of any eCommerce solution out there of any weight. If you don’t want to pay to keep a website, use Etsy.
While WooCommerce is easy to install, there’s no getting around the fact that fully setting up a storefront will take a considerable amount of time. This will be true no matter which platform you use for your online store, though. So, it’s not a disadvantage exclusively for WooCommerce, but it should be known all the same.
As eCommerce businesses get bigger and more complex, WooCommerce may no longer be the best fit. This is based on what we call technical debt. The amount of development that goes into a WooCommerce site beyond a certain level of complexity becomes too great. Scaling a business to this level may require a different, more robust, platform.
One last thing worthy of mention is support. WooCommerce does have a great breadth of support options, from service tickets to active community forums. The immediacy of these support avenues can vary though and WooCommerce has no option to call for help.
Often this is not an issue, as many problems do not need immediate fixes. This is another good reason to secure the services of a great freelance developer or agency. Emergency situations can really be a drag.
WooCommerce Out of the Box
Before even bothering to research the tremendous number of extensions available for WooCommerce, you should be aware of its vast out-of-the-box capabilities.
- You can sell any kind of products you want from your WooCommerce storefront, including an unlimited number of products, product descriptions, and product images.
- You can categorize all these products, and add attributes like color and size, to make them more searchable for any user visiting your store.
- If you choose to, you can include product ratings and customer reviews along with each product, allowing for customer feedback.
- You can provide users with the capability to sort by rating, price, popularity, or any product attributes.
- WooCommerce will also allow you to embed checkout buttons on every page, making purchase quick and easy.
- You can automatically detect customers’ geographic locations so that shipping costs can be correctly calculated.
- You are able to choose whatever payment processing scheme you want to use, including credit cards, PayPal, or even cash-on-delivery.
- You have the capability to establish a number of different shipping options and tailor them based on customer location.
- Customer orders can be managed and tracked, as can checkouts and refunds.
- Customer accounts can also be stored and monitored on an ongoing basis.
All of these capabilities are part of the base functionality for WooCommerce, but it is truly capable of much, much more. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of extensions which can work in tandem with WooCommerce, to make your online storefront as flexible and full-featured as you want it to be.
If you’ve installed WooCommerce but need some help, we’ve created video tutorials to walk you through setting it up, step by step. If you need a development agency to bring your store to the next level, do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].