Part 2: WooCommerce

In Part 1 of our article series, “How to choose an ecommerce platform for your business,” we explained the advantages and disadvantages of the Magento ecommerce platform. Magento is one of the four enterprise-level platforms that we cover in our series, including Shopify, BigCommerce, and the topic of this article, WooCommerce.

What is WooCommerce?

On its home page, WooCommerce describes itself as, “[t]he most customizable eCommerce platform for building your online business.” In fact, WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, one of the world’s most popular open source content management systems (CMS) available. An estimated 28% of all websites—more than 74 million websites—are created with WordPress.

It’s impossible to talk about WooCommerce without talking about WordPress too. If your website isn’t already built with WordPress or if you don’t want a WordPress site, then you can skip this article in our series. WordPress is a prerequisite for WooCommerce.

WooCommerce provides all the core functionality needed for an online store, including:

  • Shopping cart that works with pre-installed payments gateways and support for other gateways
  • Support for thousands of products, different product types from physical to digital, and inventory management
  • Options for shipping, postage, and delivery
  • Native tax features
  • Support for discount codes and coupons
  • Basic reporting and analytic tools
  • Checkout registration and customer accounts

With WooCommerce and a WordPress website, you can have an online store up and running in no time.

Advantages

If you like what you hear so far, then you may find more to like in WooCommerce.

It’s free!

You read that right. WooCommerce is free to download and install. If a basic online store is all you’re after, then WooCommerce may be an ideal ecommerce platform—nothing to purchase initially and no recurring fees each month.

If cost is an issue, the fact that WordPress is also free makes this ecommerce platform almost irresistible. Freely available, freely supported, and updated regularly to deliver optimum results—what could be better?

WordPress

Maybe one of the greatest advantages to WooCommerce is WordPress. Around for well over a decade, the WordPress community is extensive. According to WordPress.org, more than 45,000 plugins exist today.

It’s easy to customize and doesn’t require coding experience to manage your content. Purchase a template, install WooCommerce, and you can get started selling online in a matter hours or days and not weeks and months.

With WooCommerce and WordPress, your business website and online store are one site. No need to send your customers to a separate online store.

And did we mention that WordPress is free too?

Coupon & discount codes

Earlier, we mentioned support for discount codes and coupons. Surprisingly, this common functionality seen on many online stores isn’t freely available on all ecommerce platforms. On some platforms, you have to pay extra for this functionality.

This kind of functionality along with other integrated marketing features, such as email marketing support, gives you greater control over on-page marketing and conversion strategies. Marketing features are crucial to the success of your online store. Why pay extra for those features if you don’t have to?

Extensions

On the WooCommerce site, there are over 300 extensions for the plugin, some free and some paid. If out-of-the-box functionality isn’t enough for your store, you can visit the extensions store to add more features and functions.

Can’t find exactly what you need in the extension store? A skilled developer or agency like Mahalo Media Group can help you add custom functionality, specifically tailored for your needs.

To make it even faster for you to get started, WooCommerce offers a free theme for your online store. It has everything you need to create an online store, just add content.

Disadvantages

By now, you may have already downloaded WooCommerce or you’re wondering is this ecommerce platform too good to be true? There are some disadvantages to WooCommerce.

WordPress

How can WordPress be both an advantage and a disadvantage? If your business outgrows WordPress and you want to migrate to a new CMS, you can migrate your content, but not WooCommerce. The ecommerce platform is exclusive to WordPress. If you decide to move to Joomla, Drupal, or another CMS, you’ll need another ecommerce solution.

Not as comprehensive as some other ecommerce platforms

When compared to some other ecommerce platforms, such as Magento, you won’t find WooCommerce as rich in features. Because of that limitation, WooCommerce may be better suited for small ecommerce stores rather than enterprise-level stores.

WooCommerce has a basic set of functionalities to run a store and is easy to learn because it’s not as overwhelming as other ecommerce platforms. However, you often need to pay for plugins or custom development to satisfy your ecommerce needs.

One good thing to know is that WordPress development to add or customize features for WooCommerce is usually less expensive than customizing other ecommerce platforms.

Premium upgrades

While there are many free extensions for WooCommerce, there are also plenty of premium or paid plugins that you may need to customize your site.

For instance, if you want to integrate PayPal Advance, a feature that uses the PayPal gateway to allow your customers to pay via credit card on your site without having to go to the PayPal site, then the extension will cost you $99 annually. The cost may be small, but if you have several premium plugins needed to operate your store, then the costs add up over time.

Is WooCommerce right for you?

If your website is currently built on WordPress, you have more than one ecommerce platform to choose from, but WooCommerce is by far the most popular.

Another advantage that WooCommerce has over other ecommerce platforms is that the learning curve is low. If you already know WordPress, the WooCommerce interface will look familiar to you.

If you want to learn more about other WordPress ecommerce platforms, see this article, “5 Best WordPress Ecommerce Plugins Compared,” for a look at other platforms.

What’s next?

In Part 3, we’ll look at Shopify, a self-hosted ecommerce platform that bundles both web hosting with an online store. If you missed our first article in this series, check out, “How to choose an ecommerce platform for your business, Part 1: Magento.”