When you sell through ecommerce, the biggest decision you have to make is which platform to use. With the many options available, it can be difficult to determine which one is right for your business’s needs. In a previous post, I discussed two platforms that are often considered the major players for large-scale ecommerce stores: Drupal and Magento.
However, considering that WooCommerce now powers more than 30% of all online stores — making it the most popular ecommerce platform on the web — it’s certainly worth a look if you’re researching your options. So if you’re a business owner on the hunt for the perfect ecommerce platform, here’s what you should know about WooCommerce.
Advantages of using WooCommerce
With such a large number of users, it’s clear that WooCommerce offers some attractive benefits. And although it would be difficult to list every last one, I’ll discuss some of the major ones here.
Simple for WordPress sites
First, it’s important to note that WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin. This means that if you want to use it, you need to either have a site that runs on WordPress or install it in a subdirectory. If you do use WordPress for your site, adding ecommerce functionality is a breeze with WooCommerce.
Just install the plugin like you would any other, then follow their step-by-step setup process to automatically set up your site. You can also choose to set up your store manually if you have experience as a developer. From there, getting your store up and running is as simple as adding products (much like you would add posts or pages to your WordPress site) and writing descriptions.
When it’s all said and done, you could be making sales by the end of the day. Beyond setup, though, the real advantage here is managing your site and store all in one dashboard. You can jump between writing a blog post and updating a product page without a problem, which is a convenience unique to WooCommerce.
Another major advantage of WooCommerce is that it’s completely free to install and use. This makes it a great choice for both small businesses and businesses whose main source of revenue isn’t retail. Of course, businesses of all sizes can utilize the plugin and its features – and after all, who doesn’t like the sound of “free”?
If you want people to be able to find your products in search engines, you need to optimize your product pages. But if you’re familiar with WordPress, you know that their editor makes it easy to edit body content, URLs, meta descriptions, alt tags, and other elements on your pages. The same goes for the WooCommerce plugin, meaning that optimizing your pages is a simple process even for someone with no coding knowledge.
Of course, you’ll still have to do keyword research and write copy as you normally would, but getting that copy exactly where you need it is extremely straightforward.
Disadvantages of using WooCommerce
WooCommerce has a lot to offer its users, but as with any product, it isn’t perfect. Here’s what you should know before installing it.
It isn’t supported by every theme
Although WooCommerce is easy to install on a WordPress site, there’s a chance that it may not be compatible with your existing theme. And if you’ve already set up your site, changing the look of your entire site can be a hassle.
Requires paid extensions
WooCommerce is a free plugin, but there are also many paid extensions, some of which are essential. For example, the default payment option is PayPal, meaning that if you want to accept credit or debit cards, you’ll need to purchase an extension that supports them. While many of the others aren’t as immediately important, extensions for subscription services, inventory management, marketing, and reporting can be extremely useful, especially as your business grows.
And for that reason, it’s important to understand up front that you may eventually end up paying for your ecommerce functionality.
Less advanced than other options
Because WooCommerce is a plugin for an existing a platform and not a platform of its own, it doesn’t have the advanced functionality as some of the other ecommerce options. It doesn’t support multiple languages or currencies or allow users to set up more than one storefront. The reporting and analytics features aren’t very strong, either.
Thankfully, this has been addressed with a few optional extensions – but you have to pay for them.
Maintenance is your own responsibility
From getting your store up and running to managing orders to maintaining your storefront, your WooCommerce store is entirely your (or your team’s) responsibility. And although this is also true for many of the other major platforms, it’s important to know who you’ll contact if you have an issue. As WordPress releases updates and you continue to change your store, there’s a chance that something may break.
And if you don’t have any coding knowledge, it can be nearly impossible to fix these issues without the help of a developer.
The bottom line
If you’re a small business owner or if you just want to sell a few products on your existing WordPress site, WooCommerce is a no-brainer. It’s simple, convenient, and (to a certain degree) free. However, if you’re looking to launch a large-scale ecommerce site with thousands of products, it may not have the advanced functionality you need.
Do you have a WooCommerce-powered store? Is there anything else that site owners should know about it before installing and using it for their own site? Let me know in the comments below!