WooCommerce E-Commerce Review for Bloggers: Is it right for you?
The available e-commerce choices can present a dizzying conundrum for a busy blogger who wants to add an online store to an existing blog.
But fortunately for the WordPress bloggers among us, the choice is pretty simple: the most popular e-commerce platform anywhere is actually the top e-commerce WordPress plugin — WooCommerce.
How Does WooCommerce Work?
WooCommerce won’t help you make a stand-alone site. As a WordPress plugin, it installs into your existing WordPress site to add e-commerce functionality to your blog.
So instead of signing up for one of those turnkey solutions, WooCommerce helps you build out your existing blog by adding on full online-store functionality in a sequence of steps.
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.
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.
The plugin’s current developer is Automattic, the same company behind WordPress.
WooCommerce Plans & Plugins
Open-source WooCommerce has no plans, and no pricing. It’s free. To begin using it, simply download the plugin (you can find it in the repository), then add it to your site and activate it.
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 and configurations for your products.
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.
Of course, this is the base plugin we’re talking about. 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.
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.
You can configure payment processing using a number of different methods, including 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.
How Easy Is WooCommerce to Use for Bloggers?
If you’re already a WordPress blogger, you’ll find configuring WooCommerce a pretty simple process. You’ll find the WordPress environment familiar, as well as the sub menus and options you’ll need to navigate around the plugin’s basic settings.
After activating your plugin, you’ll find on your sidebar menu two new menus: WooCommerce, which handles the general settings, and 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.
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, and enable or disable reviews.
You’ll find an extensive set of documentation on the WooCommerce website to answer most of your questions on how to install, configure, and work with the plugin’s options. If you’d rather watch a video than read, you can check out the Guided Tour videos, most of which are ten minutes or less.
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.
And if that doesn’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 incredibly vibrant, generous WordPress user community, in which you can always find someone who’s willing to help.
But if all that fails, WooCommerce does offer a ticket system for support for your base plugin, and most third-party developers will have some kind of support available as well.
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. It’s free, full-featured, and relatively user-friendly.
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 your existing site, but WooCommerce doesn’t quite fit the bill for you, your primary alternative would probably be Ecwid, which adds an online store to an existing site via code snippet or, in the case of WordPress sites, a plugin.
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.
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.
Self-hosted WordPress blogs with a WooCommerce-made store belong to you. You own the files, and you customize your buyer’s journey through your site, from browsing to checkout and beyond.
WooCommerce’s free price tag is also deeply attractive to bootstrapping bloggers, and that’s understandable. However, don’t get cheap on your hosting. WooCommerce requires a lot of resources, especially if you’re adding many products to a blog that’s already published hundreds of posts.
So anything you can do to speed up your site and keep its performance optimized is a good thing. If you’re not sure your current hosting plan is sufficient, explore an upgrade before you begin building your new online store. 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.