WooCommerce E-Commerce Review for Bloggers: Is it right for you?
Want to launch an online store? There’s an overwhelming number of e-commerce tools and platforms out there. How can you make a good choice?
Fortunately for WordPress users, the choice is simple: WooCommerce. It’s consistently rated one of the best e-commerce platforms. And it leads all competitors with the greatest market share in the industry.
It’s also simple to use: in fact, it’s a WordPress plugin.
In this article, we will take a closer look at WooCommerce to see what it can do for you so that you can make an informed choice as to whether it is the best option for you or not.
- What is WooCommerce?
- Overview of WooCommerce
- Features: What Makes WooCommerce Special?
- WooCommerce Pricing, Plans, & Plugins
- How Easy Is WooCommerce to Use for Bloggers?
- Customer Service and Technical Support
- Should You Choose WooCommerce for Your Blog?
- Growing Your Business with WooCommerce
- Hosting (and Extras) for Optimal WooCommerce Performance
- Pros and Cons of WooCommerce
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce won’t help you make a standalone site. If you have a WordPress site already, you simply add the WooCommerce plugin in order to obtain all its e-commerce benefits.
Unlike turnkey solutions, WooCommerce enables you to turn an existing site or blog into an online store where you can sell physical products, digital downloads, or business services.
The plugin’s current developer is Automattic, the same company behind WordPress.
Overview of WooCommerce
If you opt for WooCommerce, what can you expect? Here’s a brief list:
- Built on WordPress, so if you’re familiar with WordPress, you’re familiar with WooCommerce
- Ability to use all of your existing plugins and even the WordPress command-line interface to manage your store
- Comes with everything you need to launch an online store, including product pages (with ratings and reviews), inventory and order management, unlimited image displays, payment processing, and tax and shipping calculators
- Sell both digital and physical products
- Open source, so you can contribute to the project (or change its source code, if that’s your cup of tea)
- Over 400 official extensions available to you so you can add additional features in the areas of payments, shipping, accounting, and marketing
- Ships with countless themes, which you can customize as much (or as little) as you’d like
- Search engine optimization features to make sure people can find your store when they search
- Easy implementation of coupons and discounts
- One-click refunds
- Reporting and data analytics features
Features: What Makes WooCommerce Special?
Let’s take a look at the selling power that WooCommerce can add to your site or blog.
How Does WooCommerce Work?
WooCommerce, the base plugin, is open-source and free. It takes care of the basic e-commerce tasks: adding products, product pages, a checkout process, and so forth. But you can extend the basic plugin’s functionality with several free and premium extensions and additional plugins that are made specifically to work with WooCommerce.
Sell Physical or Digital Products or Services
Importantly for bloggers, WooCommerce can handle selling both physical and digital products.
Not only that, but with WooCommerce you can give buyers instant access to their purchased digital goods, and you can create multiple variants (such as size, color) and configurations for your products.
Themes and Appearance
Since WooCommerce is just a plugin, not a site-builder itself, WooCommerce won’t have any impact on your site’s styles or overall design and appearance. For that, you’ll need to tweak your WordPress theme.
Want to change how your storefront looks? Fortunately, there are lots of free and premium themes available built specifically to work well with WooCommerce.
One of those themes is offered by WooCommerce itself: Storefront. It’s free, and integrates tightly with the core WooCommerce code to optimize your site’s performance.
Storefront is the official theme that covers all of the basics. There are also “flavors” of Storefront that offer a unique appearance.
If you’re interested in something other than Storefront, there are countless options available to you. In addition to the default WordPress themes, you can use options designed by third-parties. Everything is available for you to customize, so tweak as much as you’d like!
With more and more people shopping from their mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets, it’s important that you provide a pleasant shopping experience for all potential customers (regardless of the device they are using).
Many of the themes available for use with WooCommerce are responsive by default, but not all are. Be sure to check that yours is (generally, we don’t recommend ever choosing a theme that is not responsive).
Shipping Options and Calculators
Basic shipping options for the plugin include most standard configurations, including free, flat rate, and calculated options.
You can also set geographic limitations on your shipping availability, and you can pick and choose the vendors you want to offer to your customers.
Interested in drop shipping?
While WooCommerce doesn’t come with dropshipping features built-in, there is an official WooCommerce extension you can purchase that allows you to add the needed features to your website.
With this extension, you can have notifications automatically sent to your vendors whenever your customers complete their purchase.
Alternatively, you might choose to install extensions that work with specific drop shippers (e.g., AliExpress) — the choice is up to you!
Support for Payment Processing
One of the biggest reasons for using an e-commerce platform, rather than rolling your own solution, is for its payments-related features.
You can’t just ask a customer to provide their credit card and billing information — such sensitive information must be handled securely to prevent it from falling into unauthorized hands.
You can configure payment processing in WooCommerce using a number of different methods. You can choose to take any of the major credit cards, PayPal, bank transfers, and even COD (cash on delivery).
You can also take advantage of over 100 different integrations with payment processors, including Stripe, Amazon Payments, and more.
No Transaction Fees
Many e-commerce platforms charge transaction fees, which are assessed every time someone purchases from your store. WooCommerce, as a free-to-use, open source product, does not.
However, depending on the payment gateway you choose to use, you may still be on the hook for transaction fees. The specifics vary from vendor to vendor, so be sure to check with the companies you choose to work with to see how much you need to pay per completed transaction.
All-in-all, you won’t be eliminating transaction fees from your costs completely, but you’ll certainly be paying less than if you were using a provider like Shopify or BigCommerce, since you’d have to pay the company behind the e-commerce platform AND the payment processor.
Of course, the features we have been talking about come with the base plugin. You can add even more functionality with WooCommerce’s extensions. While some do have a price tag, others are also free.
With these extensions, you can add functions like letting your clients book an appointment with you, access a special members-only section of your blog or site, sell ongoing subscriptions for digital products, and more.
Here are a few of the most popular WooCommerce extensions:
- WooCommerce Bookings
- WooCommerce Memberships
- Amazon Pay
- Google Analytics
- Product Add-ons
Own Your Site, Change Hosts If You Like
There’s another advantage of WooCommerce we should probably mention, and it has to do with ownership. An e-commerce store hosted on your server (or your host company’s server) with your own files, powered by WooCommerce and WordPress, belongs to you, the blogger.
You can switch hosts if and when you like. So if, for example, the web host you’re using isn’t delivering the site load times you want, and you’re watching your SEO rankings decline, you can move to a faster hosting service.
You also have a high level of customization available to you — unlike with some all-in-one e-commerce platforms. With WooCommerce and WordPress you can design your buyer’s journey through your site, from browsing to checkout and beyond.
And if you’d like some help selling your products from other bloggers, you can even incorporate an affiliate marketing program into your WooCommerce-powered store.
WooCommerce Pricing, Plans, & Plugins
Because WooCommerce is open-source, it has no plans and no pricing schemes.
WooCommerce is 100% free to use.
To begin using WooCommerce, just download the plugin (you can find it in the WordPress Plugin repository, then add it to your site, and activate it.
How Easy Is WooCommerce to Use for Bloggers?
If you’re already a WordPress blogger, you’ll find that configuring WooCommerce is a pretty simple process.
You’ll find the WordPress-like environment familiar, as well as the submenus and options you’ll need to navigate around the plugin’s basic settings.
Getting Started with WooCommerce
After installing and activating your plugin, you’ll find on your sidebar menu two new menus:
- WooCommerce, which handles the general settings
- Products, which takes care of adding new products
The whole product-adding process isn’t terribly different from adding a new page or post to your WordPress blog.
Upsells, Cross-Sells, and More
In addition to creating product pages and the like, you can also:
- Create upsells and cross-sells using the Linked Products tab in the Products menu
- Create specific menu orders for your products
- Tag and categorize your products
- Add taglines for your product images
- Enable or disable reviews on your product pages
Customer Service and Technical Support
If you find yourself running into trouble when using WooCommerce, what can you do? You have several places to go for support.
One great option to start with is the documentation. You’ll find an extensive set of documentation on the WooCommerce website that should answer most (if not all) of your questions on how to install, configure, and work with the plugin’s options.
Not really sure what’s going on? If you do run into a problem that the documentation doesn’t address or solve, WooCommerce has also created a checklist for a basic troubleshooting process.
If you’d prefer to watch a video instead of reading the docs, you can check out the Guided Tour videos, most of which are ten minutes or less.
WooCommerce User Forum
If the resources above don’t help you figure out exactly what the problem is and fix it, you can check out the very friendly and active WordPress.org WooCommerce user forum.
It’s part of the vibrant, generous WordPress user community, in which you can always find someone who’s willing to help.
Bonus: Some of the posters on the forum are Automattic employees!
WooCommerce Ticketing System
But if all of the options we mentioned above fail, WooCommerce does offer a ticket system for support for your base plugin. If you’ve used third-party themes and extensions, the developers of these products likely will have some kind of support available as well.
If you’ve worked with free and open source products before, you’ll recognize how rare it is to receive product support in this manner.
Should You Choose WooCommerce for Your Blog?
Who is WooCommerce right for?
Well, obviously, its primary target audience is comprised of dedicated, experienced self-hosted WordPress bloggers who want to add e-commerce functionality to an existing blog’s domain.
For those users, it’s an obvious choice to use WooCommerce (or at least give it a try). It’s free, full-featured, and relatively user-friendly.
However, most WordPress users will find WooCommerce, either alone or in conjunction with its extensions and add-ons, accomplishes the basic tasks quite nicely without substantial effort.
Alternatives to WooCommerce
If you’d prefer a standalone store site, one that’s not connected to your existing blog, WooCommerce won’t help unless you first set up a new WordPress site on a separate domain. If that’s your intention, it’s a relatively simple solution.
Other alternatives for you would include just about any standalone e-commerce platform, such as Shopify.
And if you do want to add e-commerce to an existing site, but WooCommerce doesn’t quite fit the bill for you, your primary alternative would probably be Ecwid. With Ecwid, you can add an online store to an existing site via code snippet or, in the case of WordPress sites, a plugin.
A few other top blogging e-commerce options include:
Growing Your Business with WooCommerce
When choosing an e-commerce platform, it is a good idea to have an eye on the future — will the option you choose be able to grow with your store?
Scaling Up: A Nice Problem to Have
We have seen instances where WooCommerce has been used to power stores that handle hundreds of thousands of transactions per day — from what we’ve read of those use cases, the limiting factor is not WooCommerce, but the hosting and infrastructure that powers and supports the online store.
In short, you can expect WooCommerce to grow with you. However, you may need to upgrade the components you use to set up and run your store, but you won’t necessarily need to move to another e-commerce platform.
Hosting (and Extras) for Optimal WooCommerce Performance
WooCommerce’s free price tag is also attractive to bootstrapping bloggers. However, don’t get cheap on your blogging hosting.
Depending on the website in question, WooCommerce may require significant hosting resources (such as storage), especially if you’re adding many products to a blog that’s already published thousands of posts.
So anything you can do to speed up your site and keep its performance optimized is a good thing. (Hosting is part of this and performance and speed plugins are another.)
If you’re not sure your current hosting plan is sufficient, explore an upgrade before you begin building your new online store.
What is Managed WordPress Hosting?
“Managed” WordPress hosting typically offers optimized hosting technology. Translated this means your site will perform better: loading faster and being more reliable than non-managed WordPress hosting.
There are plenty of cheap “shared hosting” plans available if you are not looking for managed hosting. Some hosts offer both types of WordPress hosting so be sure you know which type you’re signing up for.
Learn what you need to know about WordPress hosting.
Get an SSL Certificate and CDN From Your Web Host
You’ll also need an SSL certificate if you don’t already have one installed, and it may also be to your benefit to explore a content delivery network (CDN) to help stabilize your site performance.
Pros and Cons of WooCommerce
Now that we’ve taken an overarching look at what WooCommerce is and how it can help you, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of WooCommerce.
- As a WordPress user, you have access to a full-featured, extensible e-commerce platform that integrates well free of charge
- The sky is the limit with WooCommerce — if you can dream it, you can build it. Your store can be as fancy or as simple as you’d like.
- For an open source product, WooCommerce offers excellent support options.
- WooCommerce is a WordPress-only option. If you don’t use WordPress, WooCommerce is not an option for you.
- If you opt for WooCommerce, you have a lot of decisions to make. Yes, it is a given that you need to implement the basic functionality of a store (product pages, inventory and order management, shopping cart, checkout), but above that, you’ll need to decide on your own what features you want to add and what features won’t contribute much to your store. WooCommerce is not good for those who have analysis paralysis.
- While WooCommerce offers excellent support, some people might like more assistance. By opting for an all-in-one platform (e.g., Shopify or BigCommerce), you’ll have access to pre-configured options and professional services to help guide you in the event that you find yourself stuck.
Powering over 2 million stores worldwide, WooCommerce is an established e-commerce platform.
With its 400+ extensions, you can grow revenue and create a memorable buying experience for your customers.
Price isn’t an issue (it’s free) and there are plenty of support options.
If you’re on WordPress, and ready to sell, Woo-Commerce is a natural choice.
Contributing Editors: Danielle Antosz and Sherrie Gossett