If popularity were your main requirement for choosing an ecommerce website builder then WooCommerce, a WordPress ecommerce plug-in, would be your choice. WooCommerce is trusted by 30% of the world’s online stores, and for good reason- it provides the ability to launch and scale your ecommerce store for free (besides hosting costs).
While WooCommerce is trusted across the world to sell physical and digital goods online, there are key details you should be aware of. This guide will break down the basic pros and cons of WooCommerce, how to set up hosting and plug it into WordPress, how it compares with other options like Shopify, and how ecommerce, design, and SEO features work.
WooCommerce could be the right fit for your existing in-person store to sell online or to start a new ecommerce store altogether. Get started with the pros and cons you should be aware of or skip down to the section you’re most interested to learn from.
Pros and Cons: Endless customization with more setup upfront
If you know a little about WooCommerce or WordPress, these pros and cons should come as no surprise. WooCommerce is great for customization because it’s open-source and encourages plugin creation but because it’s free, you’ll have to spend more time on setup than a more costly, user-friendly ecommerce platform.
|Large number of high-quality themes and plugins available because of WooCommerce’s wide usage.Free, other than hosting and plugins.Ideal for ecommerce blogging. Excellent for customization and building a large store.||Setup process can be complicated.Maintenance won’t be simple as updates may present complications with WordPress or pluginsNot as much guidance or straightforward steps as you would have with a more costly but more customer-friendly builder.|
These pros and cons serve as an introduction to the advantages and disadvantages of WooCommerce but read on to learn in-depth details about the features you care about.
Hosting: Choosing a third-party hosting source
WooCommerce is unique among ecommerce website builders in that it doesn’t provide hosting included with a plan. If you choose WooCommerce, you’ll need to choose a hosting service and install WordPress (WordPress.org, not WordPress.com) with it manually.
WooCommerce recommends a number of hosting services for use, depending on your online store’s age and expected status. For new online stores, WooCommerce recommends SiteGround and BlueHost but you don’t need to choose these and should do your own research into hosting options based on price, compatibility with WooCommerce, and average site load speed.
SiteGround is a great hosting service with a good load speed and WooCommerce-specific plans.
Once your store has grown or if it’s already a good size, you may want to use another option like WordPress.com if you’re growing or WordPress VIP if you’re enterprise. WordPress VIP is used by major publishers and can handle your upgraded site traffic.
Once you’ve chosen a hosting service, follow their directions for connecting WordPress.org or use an online tutorial. WordPress is so commonly used there should be a tutorial for any major hosting service.
The basic steps for setup are installing WordPress.org, then installing the WooCommerce plugin, and finally installing any other needed plugins you need for success. We’ll cover the offered apps and plugins and some of the best options to start with in a later section.
Key Takeaway: There is more setup for WooCommerce than competing ecommerce site builders but there are enough online resources that it won’t be too difficult if you have some technical savvy.
Themes: Ecommerce store templates galore
One of the greatest perks of using WooCommerce is the high number of available templates from across the internet, both free and paid. Because WordPress is open-source, there are plenty of WooCommerce store templates to choose from but it’s important to choose one with solid reviews, a fast load time, the right SEO features, and a good look for your digital storefront.
Of course when choosing a theme, you should look for one built specifically for WooCommerce. WooCommerce itself offers 20 options through their Theme Store. This is a great place to get started in your search for the perfect template.
You can also do your research through third-party sites like ThemeForest which has more options if Theme Store’s choices aren’t right for your business.
Storefront is one of WooCommerce’s most popular theme options and is general enough that it can fit the needs of most ecommerce stores and is highly flexible for different product types. It’s also free which is a bonus.
Key Takeaway: WooCommerce is compatible with a large number of good-looking templates to serve your purposes. Many of these options can cost you under $100 but free options are readily available and work well.
Design: A Classic WordPress design experience
If you’ve designed a WordPress site, you’ll be familiar with changing the look and feel of your WooCommerce store. Once you’ve installed the WooCommerce plugin and chosen a template, you’ll use the design blocks editor of WordPress to make changes to your homepage and pages.
Depending on the template you choose, you may need to make technical changes when editing, similar to WordPress.org. Woocommerce will be easier to onboard with if you have WordPress experience already. Woocommerce comes with an onboarding wizard to help you get up to speed and because it’s so widely used, there are plenty of tutorials and guides online.
The Storefront theme is commonly used for WooCommerce and is likely the easiest way for you to get your WooCommerce store off the ground, perfecting your site’s look.
If you prefer more customization and the ability to drag and drop elements like Wix enables, you should consider using Elementor or Divi to design your ecommerce store. These tools are paid plugins for WordPress and are compatible with WooCommerce.
How hard is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce does require more upfront setup work than competitors but it can be accomplished relatively quickly with online tutorials, even if you have no technical know-how.
Key Takeaway: WooCommerce provides the same design experience as WooCommerce and while it doesn’t allow as much freedom in dragging and dropping elements as options like Wix, you can use third-party plugins to provide that experience.
Apps: 400+ plugins to choose from
Apps are a must-have for your ecommerce store to market your products, better engage your customers, and make the checkout process as seamless as possible. WooCommerce thrives in this department with 400+ offered plugins which can help you in general with payment integrations like Square or provide specific features like Dynamic Pricing to offer unique discounts depending on specific circumstances.
WooCommerce’s Extensions Store is an excellent source for these plugins and helps you to find the right store features with categories like Payments, Marketing, Store Management, and Subscriptions. The store also breaks down specific plugins into Collections like CBD Store Essentials or Grow Your Business to provide you specific plugins for your store’s stage of growth or industry.
Some essential plugins you should consider using on your new store are Stripe to ensure you accept all major debit and credit cards, WooCommerce Shipment Tracking to help customers track where their bought items are in the shipping process, and Google Analytics to monitor your new store’s traffic.
Key Takeaway: WooCommerce has many of the essential plugins you’ll need to upgrade your site right on their Extensions Store but you can find WooCommerce plugins across the internet to help you integrate the features you need for success.
Pricing: Free, besides hosting costs
As mentioned, WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress.org which is also free. The main cost for WooCommerce comes from hosting costs but can also include the cost of your paid theme if you choose one over free options as well as optional paid plugin costs. This guide previously covered a few of the hosting options you have at your disposal. Here are their costs:
For your first year using BlueHost, you can expect to pay $83.40 with each month costing $6.95. After your first term, the cost will rise to $167.88 at $13.99 a month.
BlueHost charges more for premium plans which includes hosting for multiple sites, more storage space, and more.
For your first year of SiteGround, you can expect to pay 83.88 with each month costing $6.99. After your first term, the cost will rise to 239.88 a year at $19.99 a month.
SiteGround similarly charges more for premium plans like BlueHost for more storage, site visits, and multiple sites.
Hostinger costs $47.88 for your first year at $3.99 a month. This price will rise to $95.40 a year at $7.95 a month.
For comparison to these plans, the basic Wix Ecommerce plan costs $23 a month and $276 for the year so you’ll see savings even with the most expensive of the above plans.
Is WooCommerce free?
WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress but you will have to pay for hosting which on average is less expensive than using a premium ecommerce store builder.
Key Takeaway: Even with hosting costs, WooCommerce is the most inexpensive ecommerce store builder option on the market with annual costs ranging from under $100 to $200 with basic hosting plans.
Ecommerce: Building a perfect store
WooCommerce provides all of the capabilities you need for a successful ecommerce store. Through this plugin, you can add an endless library of products, complete with the important details of your offerings. WooCommerce is highly scalable and organizing your new ecommerce store is intuitive once you’ve completed the Onboarding Wizard.
Through WooCommerce, you can add product variants to your offerings so if you’re selling different colors of a t-shirt you can add those different options. You can also associate SKU numbers with each of your products to make it easier to track your offerings and supplies.
An excellent feature of WooCommerce is the ability for customers to add reviews and ratings to boost your engagement and help you and your other customers learn what works or needs improvement for different products. You can also add a guest or logged in experience for your store if you want customers to make repeat purchases with ease.
Your ecommerce store can be skilled on WooCommerce through use of plugins. Through different plugins like UPS or FedEx, you can add different shipping carriers if you want to ship products through different fulfillment providers. You can also offer dropshipping through plugins like the AliExpress plugin.
If you wish to add digital products like music or videos to your lineup, you can do so through WooCommerce. Customers can checkout through PayPal or send you a bank transfer or check through the basic WooCommerce settings. You can also add the Stripe plugin for even more debit and credit card payment options.
Through WooCommerce you can also list products on eBay and Amazon, an excellent addition if you want to expand opportunities to sell your goods.
How does WooCommerce work? (explain WP plug-in)
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin which allows you to create an impressive ecommerce store with no cost other than hosting fees. To get started, you simply install WordPress.org with your hosting service then download the WooCommerce plugin and follow the provided onboarding instructions.
Key Takeaway: WooCommerce offers all the features you need to make your ecommerce store including a number of features like customer reviews and a logged in experience which normally would cost you extra with other ecommerce platforms.
Blog: The best option for ecommerce blogging
If you plan to launch a blog for your ecommerce store to engage your customers or earn new customers with organic-traffic earning content, WooCommerce is an excellent choice. Because WooCommerce is built on WordPress, you have access to the best blogging platform on the internet.
WordPress provides the ability to build a large content library and organize it efficiently like the top publishers online. To get started, after you’ve installed the WooCommerce plugin into WordPress, you can just create a new post from the WordPress dashboard, adding your title and blog content, and then optimize the content with plugins like Yoast SEO.
Blogging is an excellent marketing channel for ecommerce as you can organic search traffic for keywords in your space and lead readers to buy your related products. Blogging also is a great means to engage your customers on subjects they care about.
Key Takeaway: WooCommerce is hands-down the best choice for ecommerce blogging because it’s built on WordPress and provides all of the tools and features you need to build a content library.
SEO: The benefits of WordPress SEO
Due to its being built on WordPress, WooCommerce is an excellent option for those who want to earn customers through organic search. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of improving your site’s compatibility with Google search’s best practices in order to increase your site’s ranking for specific keywords. WooCommerce provides all the essential tools you need for great SEO from blog publishing tools to available plugins to ensure you’re meeting the latest best practices.
Some of the best SEO plugins you can download for your WooCommerce store are Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack. Yoast SEO helps you improve your page’s title according to your desired keyword, helps you set a metadescription for pages, and provides other helpful insights. All-in-One SEO Pack helps you to submit your sitemap to Google and Bing so all of your pages are crawled and rank for desired keywords. This plugin also provides other helpful SEO support like setting canonical URLs.
Key Takeaway: If SEO is a top priority for your ecommerce store, as it should be, WooCommerce is one of the best choices available because of WordPress’ architecture.
Final Takeaway: A cost-effective and customizable choice
As detailed in this guide, WooCommerce is one of the best options available for creating an ecommerce store. This ecommerce store builder is an ideal choice for business owners who wish to build a large and complex store with an extensive library of products. WooCommerce is also a great choice for those looking to blog extensively and optimize their store using SEO.
WooCommerce’s major flaw is that site setup is more cumbersome than other store builders and requires more upfront steps to find a host, connect WordPress and WooCommerce, choose a theme, then configure your store. In addition, design isn’t as easy as drag-and-drop competitors like Wix but with a plugin like Elementor you can enable this functionality.
Despite its complexity and more required hours to get it set up and maintained, WooCommerce is an excellent ecommerce store builder given the far lower price than competitors. The seemingly unlimited number of themes, plugins, and tutorials on how to make your store successful make WooCommerce an excellent ecommerce store builder option and well worth the upfront effort.