Since its launch in 2011 WooCommerce has become a major player in the e-commerce space.
According to recent data, it is currently used on 22% of the world’s top one million e-commerce websites.
Obviously, a portion of this impressive feat can be attributed to the popularity of the WordPress platform. According to several sources, WordPress currently dominates the CMS space, with a 50-60% share in the market.
It would be easy to close the book there but that doesn’t tell half – actually any – of the story, really.
The truth is that, despite being a WordPress plugin, WooCommerce is very impressive in its own right. As part of a rapidly growing market (e-Ecommerce), it has achieved nearly 60 million downloads.
60 million users can’t be wrong, surely?
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of using WooCommerce and see if it’s the right fit for you.
Positives of WooCommerce:
It’s free and open source
WordPress is open source free software. That means anyone can download and use it. This is perfect for businesses that are just starting out and for those that have limited resources. All updates are free, too, meaning you are unlikely to struggle with slow performance or security issues.
As soon as you download it you can start adding products right then and there in your WordPress dashboard. This makes it extremely easy to get things up and running, as well as scale your product lines as you grow. And did we mention it’s free? You can customise it however you like – ensuring your design is always in sync and your customers are always impressed with your branding.
Easy to use
We touched on this briefly in the first point but it is worth repeating: integration with WordPress makes WooCommerce absurdly easy to use. Anybody who is familiar with the WordPress backend will be able to install and start using the plugin with minimal effort. It’s nice when that happens with tech. Take advantage of the inherent simplicity and use your energy on other challenges, like marketing or logistics. You’re unlikely to get an easier ride elsewhere.
This ease of use extends to available functionality. Often people think that because WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that it will be constrained by its parent application. This is untrue. WooCommerce is so good because it is a WordPress plugin. It has inherited all of the functions, flexibility and user-friendliness that its parent is known for, only this time in the pursuit of e-commerce sales, and it does it all remarkably well.
For speed, reliability, and support, WooCommerce comes out on top.
Payment gateway support
Your e-commerce business wouldn’t get very far without the ability to collect and process digital payments.
Fortunately, if you are using WooCommerce, you are really spoilt for choice when it comes to payment gateways.
That’s because all of the major players integrate with WooCommerce.
Square, Stripe, PayPal – you name it.
With so many options you can take time choosing the right partnership for you. Who offers the best rates? What are reviews and support like for each platform? Reach out to people who are doing something similar to yourself and see what their thoughts are. With the luxury of choice comes the responsibility of a big decision.
Official extension library
WooCommerce, like its parent application WordPress, has a thriving ecosystem of developers that create and support it. Every day, high-quality developers and designers are adding new plugins and features to the WooCommerce extension library, giving you every opportunity to keep your site fresh, modern and to provide even more value to your customers.
To give their users peace of mind the WooCommerce team also personally review the plugins that developers create, ensuring they meet their quality standards and will meet the requirements of their customers. This level of vetting keeps competition high, pushing the level of creation even higher.
As the platform continues to thrive expect things to get even better.
Developer friendly documentation
Again, like WordPress, the developer documentation provided by WooCommerce is second to none. The majority of it can be viewed here, in the Developer Docs Archives.
If you are not technical having great developer docs might not mean much to you, but it will to your devs! Quality documentation makes reviewing, customisation, troubleshooting and development far easier to plan, manage and implement. It’s like having a map to where you need to go. Without it you’re in the dark. You can still get where you want to go but it is going to take much longer.
If you value speed and efficiency in your devs then make sure they have high-quality developer documentation of the type provided by WooCommerce.
The REST API is one of the most powerful parts of WooCommerce. It allows you to read and write different parts of WooCommerce data, such as shipping zones, products, orders and coupons.
By utilising the rest API you add an extra layer of functionality to a very powerful e-commerce platform, allowing you to customise data types and extend outwards to incorporate new software, thereby increasing the ability of your website to provide value to users.
You also add an element of antifragility to your site. The API will make it far less likely that things will break when new or third party data types are introduced.
E-commerce business thrive on data and numbers. What product category is selling the most? Is the free shipping offer working? Without these stats it can be very difficult to optimise your business.
Thankfully, WooCommerce is extremely generous with its reporting features (did we mention it’s free?). You can track all of your key business metrics from the WP Admin of your site, making it pretty simple to check progress daily. You can filter reports, too. The ability to filter via category, sales by date, product and coupons makes granular analysis an easily accessibile strategic tool.
Negatives of WooCommerce:
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin – but it’s a big one. Because of all the functionality, it offers and the crucial job it does for your e-commerce site it has the potential to eat up a lot of space. If you are trying to use it in conjunction with other big plugins you may experience a slow down in the page-load of your site. According to many digital data sources, this is bad news. If a page does not load correctly in three seconds people are liable to click away and go somewhere else. And they probably won’t come back.
The real solution here, however, is not to avoid WooCommerce but to invest in the right hosting plan. Too many business get seduced by cheap deals and put their sites on shared servers with no idea who their neighbors are. Then they complain when their site load is terrible. Don’t be one of those organisations. Allocate money to important things, like proper web hosting. There are a ton of managed WordPress hosting solutions out there now, which will keep your technical maintenance to a minimum and ensure your e-commerce offering is running smoothly.
Whilst WooCommerce offers a lot of features straight out of the box many business owners who shift product in volume will find they have a need for premium plugins to get everything they want. The premium extensions, which are offered by WooCommerce and third-party developers, give you the option to add different features, such as booking services or signing up to a subscription. Obviously, if your business operates a model that requires these functions, you will need to pay right away.
Then again, if sales are good, laying out a few hundred dollars every year for your core business model isn’t really that bad, is it?
Potential coding conflicts
Even though the ability to customise WooCommerce with other plugins is a huge plus, sometimes using plugins by different authors can cause issues.
This is because most premium WordPress plugins use script libraries. These, in turn, have the potential to conflict with the script libraries of other plugins. The problems this can cause can be various – and serious. PHP warnings and broken page layouts are two of the most common.
In the right hands, WooCommerce is an extremely powerful piece of kit. It allows you to sell anything, to anyone, anywhere – which is pretty cool, when you think about it.
If you are already using a WordPress site and want to start selling online then giving WooCommerce a shot is really a no-brainer. With its functionality and unrivaled support, you can’t go far wrong giving it a trial run. We’ve all heard the saying “the best things in life are free”. When it comes to e-commerce, maybe they were right after all?