WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce platform built for WordPress. It’s a plugin that can be used with nearly any WordPress site, and it offers just about everything you need to start selling goods online.
WooCommerce’s intuitive design means that you can set up a basic store in minutes. It integrates credit card payments, shipping, and much more – all for free.
Beyond the basics, WooCommerce is fully customizable, thanks to a suite of extensions from the WooCommerce marketplace. This includes integrations with payment processors (PayPal, Stripe, etc.), marketing tools (MailChimp, Google Ads, etc.), and many more.
And although it’s a humble WordPress plugin at its core, WooCommerce is incredibly modern. For instance, it has a slick mobile app that lets you manage your store on-the-go. And as open-source software, it’s constantly being worked on and updated to be the best possible eCommerce platform it can be.
In this WooCommerce review, we’ll go over everything that business owners need to know about this popular eCommerce solution.
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What makes WooCommerce different
There are a lot of different options when it comes to running an eCommerce store. So what sets WooCommerce apart?
WooCommerce is 100% free. The only time you’ll pay money to WooCommerce is if you use the WooCommerce Payments plugin – which has no monthly fees, and charges the same amount per transaction as PayPal and other payment processing companies. Of course, you can choose to spend money on themes, third-party plugins, etc. but these are optional. You’ll also need web hosting, and you may need to pay someone to design your store for you – but again, these have little to do with WooCommerce itself, which is 100% free.
Built for WordPress
WooCommerce is 100% compatible with WordPress. In fact, it’s owned by Automattic, the same company behind WordPress itself. This means that WooCommerce will always be compatible with the latest version of WordPress, and security is top-notch. Plus, most hosts offer one-click installs of WordPress and WooCommerce, so it’s very beginner-friendly to set up.
WooCommerce is open-source, which means its source code is available to the general public. This makes it scalable, and allows it to be integrated into virtually any service. WooCommerce uses a REST API, which is both user-friendly but also advanced enough to suit experienced developers.
WooCommerce has a very active community of both users and developers. There are hundreds of third-party extensions, and various forums and discussion boards for WooCommerce users to discuss the platform. Hundreds of websites also feature detailed guides on how to use WooCommerce, so there is no shortage of learning resources.
Who WooCommerce is best for
eCommerce websites running WordPress
WordPress is the most popular CMS on the web, so much so that it’s thought to power about 40% of all websites. If you choose to use WordPress for your eCommerce operation, there’s really no better option than WooCommerce. Yes, there are certainly other options – but few are free, and none are made by WordPress’s creator like WooCommerce is.
If you’re looking to “bootstrap” your next project, WooCommerce is the way to go. The platform is entirely free and open-source. You’ll pay no setup or subscription fees, and the only real cost will be payment processing (which is a universal cost that’s unavoidable for eCommerce). Many eCommerce solutions have hefty startup costs as well as monthly fees, which can really dig into your profits – particularly for new shops.
Entrepreneurs seeking fully customizable solutions
One of the biggest strengths of WooCommerce is that it is nearly infinitely customizable. Because it’s built on the WordPress platform, you can use hundreds of different WordPress themes to customize the look of your shop (although, not all themes will work great with WooCommerce). On the backend, hundreds of extensions and integrations mean that you can customize nearly every aspect of your eCommerce operation. And in the rare case that you can’t find an add-on or extension to make the change you want? You can manually code a new solution, or hire a developer to help.
New eCommerce stores
WooCommerce is great for newcomers and experts alike, but it’s particularly valuable for brand new small businesses running eCommerce stores and WordPress websites. This is because of its pricing model. WooCommerce offers a pretty good solution right out of the box and doesn’t charge a penny for it. As your store grows, you’ll likely want to upgrade certain things – maybe a paid theme, or a premium extension. But when you’re just starting out, having rock-bottom costs can really help get your business off on the right foot.
Pros and cons of WooCommerce
WooCommerce is a great platform to use, but it’s always wise to weigh both the advantages and disadvantages of any product or service you are considering. Here are some key considerations for WooCommerce:
- Excellent customization options
- Completely free
- Dozens of WooCommerce extensions and WooCommerce plugins
- Integrations with popular payment processors, marketing tools, and more
- Relatively simple to use
- Built-in shipping system, with the option to add carries like USPS, FedEx, and UPS
- Advanced features for larger stores
- Easy to start with a free or low-cost model, and upgrade as your business grows
- Wide variety of design options through WordPress themes
- Excellent security
- Wide variety of templates and tutorials to get you started
- Shopping cart features are fairly basic out of the box
- Support is not centralized – you may need to get support from WooCommerce, from third-party extension developers, from theme developers, etc. all separately
- Add-on and extension costs can add up
- Doesn’t include a website builder – requires the use of WordPress themes and other tools
- The default WooCommerce theme is heavily used, making it difficult to make your site and product pages look unique
Basic eCommerce functionality
Right out of the box, WooCommerce offers all the basic features you’ll need for an eCommerce operation. You can create product pages, implement product variations (such as sizes or colors), host high-quality product images, create custom pricing structures, process payments, calculate shipping costs, and much more. The basic (free) WooCommerce is designed to cover all the basic features, with optional add-ons as paid features.
Customizable functionality via extensions
Larger stores and more experienced eCommerce entrepreneurs will likely appreciate the wide variety of add-ons to WooCommerce. Some are free, while many are paid – and each adds a unique feature or functionality to your web store. For instance, there are extensions that add third-party shipping options, and integrations with payment processors like Stripe.
Customer log-in or guest checkout
WooCommerce supports both the standard customer login and basic guest check-out features. You can easily decide whether or not customers will need to register for an account before making a purchase.
All product types
WooCommerce supports just about every type of product you’d want to sell. This includes physical goods that you stock and ship yourself, as well as dropshipped items from third parties. You can also sell digital products, courses, etc. via the platform.
Because of the sheer variety of WooCommerce extensions, there isn’t much that you can’t do with this service. Once you get the basics down, you can start expanding your store’s functionality through the wide variety of plugins – or even create your own.
Remarkably, WooCommerce is entirely free.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, and just like WordPress itself, it’s completely free and open-source. That means anyone can download and use the WooCommerce platform without paying a dime.
WooCommerce does offer a payment processing plugin that does charge a fee: 2.9% of each transaction, plus $0.30 per transaction. This is the same rate that PayPal charges, and very similar to most other payment processing options. WooCommerce Payments does not have any setup fees or monthly fees, so it, too, is quite affordable.
Of course, there are other costs associated with running an eCommerce business, whether you use WordPress or not:
- Website hosting
- WordPress themes (there are free options)
- WordPress website development costs
- Other plugins
- Cost of goods sold
- Email marketing
- Security, including SSL certificates
But really, these costs have little to do with WooCommerce and are just universal costs for running an online business. WooCommerce itself is completely free.
For a basic setup to run a WooCommerce site, at the very least you’ll need a hosting plan. This can cost anywhere from $5 to $50+ per month, depending on your needs, the size of your store, and the hosting services you use. Budget WordPress hosting providers like BlueHost cost as little as $3.95 per month.
At the start, you can certainly get away with just using free themes and free plugins, but eventually, you will likely want to upgrade to paid storefront themes, and potentially upgrade your e-commerce site with something beyond the basic free extensions. For instance, you may wish to upgrade to a one-page checkout (paid), or a cart abandonment email feature (also paid).
Marketing, search engine optimization, and other ongoing expenses can also add up – but again, this is completely dependent on the situation. You could likely do most of these tasks on your own, using free plugins like Yoast SEO and Jetpack. Other eCommerce plugins – many of which are free – can also help with these ongoing tasks.
WooCommerce customer service
WooCommerce offers basic customer support via email or support ticket. They have a geographically diverse team that can help with technical issues and other problems.
As a free service, WooCommerce does not focus on customer support as some competitors may. This is logical, and fair, as they are providing these tools for free.
What WooCommerce does offer is a massive library of documentation, how-to guides, FAQs, and more. If you have an issue, this library is likely where you should start trying to fix it.