There’s a bewildering array of options available for businesses wanting to sell products online. In this series we will take a look at the most popular eCommerce platforms, to help you decide which one is right for you.
Today we’re looking at WooCommerce
WooCommerce is the world’s most popular eCommerce software, with a market share of around 26% at time of writing. If you shop online, chances are you’ve used WooCommerce even if you didn’t know it at the time.
Because it’s built on WordPress, a WooCommerce store will usually be fully integrated with the website’s design, so you probably won’t even know you’re using a WooCommerce store unless you know exactly what to look for.
Who is WooCommerce for?
It’s fair to say WooCommerce is the most flexible and customisable eCommerce platform around, so it can be used for just about any size or type of store.
It is arguably a bit overkill for a really basic store with just a handful of products and categories, but you don’t have to customise it; as long as your WordPress theme supports WooCommerce, you can use it right out of the box.
If you need to get fancy, WooCommerce will get as fancy as you want. A subscription website where customers buy products by weight or length instead of quantity, with special discounts for resellers? You got it.
You’re not going to be able to build a replacement Amazon.com with it, but for medium-sized sites and smaller ones with special design or feature requirements, it’s a great choice.
Should you use WooCommerce?
WooCommerce has the typical advantages and disadvantages of being the market leader.
On the plus side, it has a lot of plugins and extensions offering advanced functionality for <$100. A WooCommerce integration is usually pretty high on the priority list for services like credit card gateways, marketing platforms or content providers.
On the minus side, it’s a prime target for scoundrels and villains looking to steal data or compromise your site, simply because it’s such a big target and not every store is maintained properly.
Maintenance and security are up to the store owner (or more often their web developers) so it’s extremely important to keep the site up to date on a regular schedule. Do that and the site will be fine.
WooCommerce is open source software, so it’s a pretty safe choice on a strategic level. Even if woocommerce.com vanished tomorrow, you’d still have full access to your store and any competent web developer could help you get your data out.
Migrating to (or from) WooCommerce
Getting products in or out of WooCommerce can be very straightforward. The most basic option is the built-in CSV import / export, which lets you bulk import or update your products, or export them all to a single spreadsheet.
Other data is a bit more involved (eg orders, customers) but nothing is impossible or completely unavailable.
WooCommerce also has a comprehensive API which lets you integrate it with any other internet-friendly system.
That means you can potentially update your products, pricing or inventory in your existing CRM or inventory management software and have them automatically synchronised to WooCommerce – just as long as that third-party system can play with others.
WooCommerce does huge number of things out of the box, but for everything else there’s a plugin.
We have a trusted set of go-to plugins for requirements such as:
- Subscriptions and memberships
- Tiered pricing (discounts when buying in quantities of 10+ or 100+)
- Role-based pricing (give your resellers or wholesalers discounts tied to their user account)
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Selling per metre or by weight
- Fancy shipping (free for orders over $200 or under 5KG)
- Currency conversion
If you have really special requirements, we can also create custom WooCommerce plugins to do just about anything you can imagine.
The store owner experience
With so many options and capabilities, the only potential issue for a WooCommerce store owner is information overload.
Happily there are plenty of resources just a Google search away, which can guide you through whatever you are trying to do.
Most tasks can be completed in a few clicks once you know the process and where to find everything.
Order management is partially automated and the built-in sales reports are really good.
The developer / designer experience
I’ve already mentioned how customisable and flexible WooCommerce can be, so you know it works for developers and designers.
With more advanced features there is a bit of a learning curve, but almost everything is exposed via WordPress hooks, giving you plenty of ways to tap into exactly the right place to modify what you need.
You can also safely override the HTML/PHP templates used by WooCommerce and its plugins, allowing you to make more substantial modifications and keep them when WooCommerce is updated.
All in all, I think WooCommerce is an excellent choice for the middle 80% of online stores in terms of size, complexity and turnover.
At the lower end there’s some overlap with options like Shopify (see my Shopify post here) and at the upper end you are probably looking at a custom system which can handle serious scale, like hundreds of thousands or even millions of orders or customers.
If you are interested in a WooCommerce store, integration or just need some help, please get in touch – the team at Mogul specialises in creating online stores carefully designed for your customers.