What makes WooCommerce stand out?
In the digital realm, eCommerce has proven to become a time-tested and reliable source both for customers to purchase the goods they need from the comfort of their home and for business owners to provide outstanding online services.
As such, since its introduction, online selling and purchasing has claimed its ground and it is estimated that the number of online buyers by the end of 2020 will reach 1.92 billion people.
In such a huge arena of different online eCommerce options, a great number of different platforms have shown up and claimed solid ground. They’ve managed to adapt to various changes both development-wise and other important aspects, such as user-friendliness.
Gaining rapid recognition in tough competition, WooCommerce has proven to become one of the most successful eCommerce developments and continues to offer secure and reliable features for eCommerce business owners worldwide.
WooCommerce is an eCommerce open-source plugin for WordPress-powered websites designed for small, medium and large-sized businesses. The plugin was initially launched in 2011, September 27 and become instantly popular for its solid features and simplicity.
WooCommerce – a short history
The plugin was first developed by WooThemes. Initially, they hired Mike Jolley and James Koster from Jigowatt to fork (start independent development based on a copy of source code) Jigoshop, which lead to the introduction of WooCommerce.
As said above, the plugin became instantly popular among eCommerce site owners and by the last quarter of 2014, WooCommerce powered around 17.77 percent of all online eCommerce sites.
In 2015, WooCommerce along with WooThemes was acquired by Automattic, WP operator and core contributor to the WordPress software.
Today, WooCommerce is the most popular to-go plugin for online merchants powering roughly around 40 percent of digital businesses, and as such has generated over 10 billion dollars in revenue so far.
The plugin powers a great number of high-traffic websites like the likes of Small Press Expo, just to mention one. It is the most popular eCommerce plugin on the market with millions of active installs. It held four percent of the top million HTML pages in 2015, and in 2019, the current market share is 22 percent in favor of WooCommerce of the top 1 million sites which use eCommerce features.
How to run WooCommerce and what to sell
Because of its huge popularity, it’s only normal to include a short guide for beginners who are considering using the plugin for their website or who want to get a WordPress site up and running from scratch in a few simple steps.
- Get a WordPress hosting name along with a domain – WP hosting powers your online business and makes it reachable to your customers. Your domain name is the address of your store on the internet. Hosting can cost anywhere from ten dollars per month and upward depending on the size of your site and the hosting package you choose to use (more on that later).
- Install WordPress – When you’re done with getting hosting, the next step would be installing WordPress. It’s an easy process and in some cases, hosts will do it for you.
- Install the WooCommerce plugin – After you get your basic WP site working you need to install the plugin and configure the basics. After you’re done with that, you have a functioning eCommerce store.
- Add themes and other extensions – This is where things get really fun. In order to customize your store you can either add different plugins that extend the core functions of the software’s eCommerce features, and you can add themes that let you customize the way your site looks.
What to sell?
In short, WooCommerce lets users sell pretty much anything with a price tag on it. The most popular selling items are physical products, but the plugin is also ideal to sell digital products and other things like charging for appointments, services, and reservations – for example, reservations and booking fees for a vacation rental by the beach.
Simply put, your options are pretty much limitless if you can fit it in the “sell-buy” frame.
Why is it so popular?
First of all, WooCommerce makes it rather simple to turn in a WordPress website into a fully reliable and functioning online storefront that hosts ideal features for businesses of all sizes. In addition to its simplicity, it hosts a great number of open-source and free extensions, plugins and different add-ons even further improving both running and using the website and gives entrepreneurs a great opportunity to expand and build their brand.
WooCommerce, being available from the official WordPress Plugin Directory, includes everything a business owner needs to set up an online store right out of the box. It also offers the option of running affiliate sites for handling shipping. It offers payment functions along with a shopping cart and additional handy features, like landing pages and product page setups, along with special events.
As already stated above, with the wide palette of additional features and extensions, WooCommerce can serve as an ideal platform for different enterprises. Plus, the base plugin integrates smoothly with existing WordPress features and it also blends perfectly with other WP features which support eCommerce technologies like WooCommerce-optimized WP text editors for product descriptions and specifically designed themes. All these different elements and features can translate into a highly customizable eCommerce website.
The plugin can run anywhere where WP sites can be hosted, meaning that owners can use basic shared hosting plans offered by most providers but it can also be used with higher-priced, dedicated WP hosting options which add more support and an addition of features that allow them to get the most performance out of their website. It’s also good to know that some providers also offer specialized WooCommerce hosting packages which can maximize user-experience and offer great options for site scaling and additional website support.
All in all, when it comes to hosting, generally shared options can provide all the space and support most businesses need for their site along with hundreds of other sites from different platforms. In this case, owners will receive support regarding basic shared-hosting problems but support staff might not be able to help resolve WooCommerce-specific issues, meaning that in most cases, site users are responsible for managing the aspects of the plugin.
In order to get the most out of WooCommerce and to help users run their websites more efficiently, some hosting providers offer WooCommerce-focused hosting for those businesses who want to scale their eCommerce site and need reliable support if particular problems arise. These hosting services can range from basic services to premium packages which offer even more services, better privacy and security.
Specialized hosting can also improve site performance, eCommerce security, along with other premium features like pre-installed templates and themes.
The tech-savvy features
Among the basic benefits of WooCommerce, we can also include tons of other great features that make it an ideal foundation for an eCommerce website.
- Trustworthy – being a WP plugin, owners can be sure that the site is secure and in good hands.
- Content-focused modular system without limits – great blending of content and commerce allows for remarkable user-experience, with the possibility of adding the options you want, and its open-source nature allows owners to customize every aspect of the website. This also means unlimited products (along with pictures, sorting, and filtering) and take unlimited orders.
- Huge community – with stores and more than 300 developers who engineer for the plugin can be found all around the globe which offer more than 400 official extensions from different payment options, to shipping, marketing, and accounting options.
- Almighty WordPress – The plugin is built on WP, meaning the same principles drive WooCommerce, which makes it easy to use and easy to find support for. It also uses the same tools most developers and users are already familiar with.
- REST API – for managing everything starting from your products to taking orders.
- Documentation – The plugin offers documentation for every filter, API endpoint, new release, extension, and hook, making all info immediately available whenever you want to make changes.
- Huge number of themes with endless customization options – The plugin works with your favorite WP themes without problems and also offering the same flexibility developers and users know and love from other WP platforms.
- The complete package – With built-in blogging, users can build a strong brand with unique currency and language features. They can also embed checkout and products along with other features on any page. By using shortcodes, users can add their products to their blog posts and can create unique landing pages going straight to checkout. Also, adding categories and tags make it easy for customers to find the products they want to purchase. Ratings and reviews are also features that site owners can incorporate to show and to get better customer feedback.
Themes – beyond Automattic
Apart from Automattic, a great number of independent developers have come up with different themes showcasing and selling them on third party websites, so it makes it pretty difficult to give an exact number of the themes associated with the plugin, but it’s safe to say that there around two thousand different theme options to choose from for eCommerce website owners who are looking for unique options.
Themes, apart from full customization features also include:
- Wide product palette – for selling both physical and digital products, with affiliate products which can be easily displayed with an affiliate link.
- Easy to use payment processing and shipping – PayPal, Accept Credit Cards, Stripe, Cash on Delivery, checks and Direct Bank Transfer options and set rates with the option of local delivery, pickup or shipping. You can also restrict options based on customer location and can add auto-detect options to simplify tax and shipping calculations.
As a free base product, WooCommerce has become instantly popular and received a great number of different extensions and additional plugins which are free and open-source. In 2018 alone, WooCommerce boasted nearly 330 extensions and more than a thousand additional plugins along with thousands more of fixed-priced add-ons.
Some of the most notable extensions:
- WooCommerce Bookings – allowing appointment setting (“selling” or scheduling) for costumers and clients.
- WooCommerce Memberships – allows giving or restricting access to certain parts of the WP site and to sell them as premium features for clients and site members.
Other extension features include:
- Adding customer registration and account creation
- Managing inventory and orders – Tracking stock levels, canceled orders, hiding out-of-stock items, mark shipped items, add customer notes, etc.
- Email templates and customization – Sending notifications to costumers, send out coupons, highlight related products.
- Integration – integrate Google Analytics, social channels to your store.
Putting it into perspective: WooCommerce vs Shopify
Going into all the details, it’s safe to say that both of these eCommerce platforms offer great features and can help any entrepreneur create a recognizable brand and can successfully scale it.
One of the most common pros for WooCommerce is its flexibility and the fact that owners can basically set it up and run it for free. It sports great support, a wide palette of different expansions and plugins to further improve functionality. It’s WordPress-based, meaning it’s easy to use right back to the core, meaning that those with little web development knowledge will also be able to learn everything they know to get started. It also gives outstanding customization features which can be great for those who want a one-of-a-kind website.
The only con in this respect (and one of Shopify’s strong points) might be the hosting process and general setup. From this aspect, Shopify is much more streamlined and offers premium support along with a domain name out of the box.
Instead of hosting a certification program, WooCommerce has an official partnership program, WooExperts, a group of verified developers or agencies who specialize in Woo products. These people and companies have extensive knowledge and experience with everything woo-related, starting from the plugin itself through themes and products and can offer first-hand experience when it comes to operating a WooCommerce website.
Beforehand, Automattic had Affiliated Woo Workers, which was pretty similar, however, it was hard to navigate and didn’t offer specific filters for users to create partnerships with the experts they really needed to get started.