What is WooCommerce & Why You Should Use It
Chances are, your eCommerce website serves a higher purpose beyond flexing your web design skills—as great as they may be. Your platform is used to sell merchandise or services directly to customers and expand your organization. To do this successfully, however, you’ll need a reliable method of displaying and managing your products.
Let’s take an in-depth look at this all-in-one eCommerce solution to help you start selling online in a few clicks.
What is WooCommerce?
First released in 2011, WooCommerce is a platform designed to turn any WordPress website into a fully functioning online store. By adding the WooCommerce plugin to your site, you can instantly sell your goods and services—no web design experience required.
Automattic (the company behind WordPress) acquired WooCommerce in 2015, making it the official eCommerce solution for WordPress users. And with good reason.
WooCommerce is powerful, easy to use, quick to set up, and (best of all) free.
Who Needs WooCommerce?
If you plan to make money from your WordPress website, you need WooCommerce.
Any business that sells products or services can benefit from a WooCommerce store. The plugin caters to everyone, so busy entrepreneurs with little web or WordPress knowledge will find it as helpful as seasoned programmers.
What Does WooCommerce Do?
WooCommerce streamlines the online shopping experience from start to finish for businesses and customers alike. The free version of the plugin contains all of the core functionalities you’d expect from an eCommerce platform, including:
- Visually pleasing product displays
- Inventory management
- Promo codes
- A secure and customizable checkout system
- Shipping calculators
- Tax management
- Detailed analytics
In short, WooCommerce does everything required to run an online shop.
With that said, one of the best aspects of WooCommerce is its modularity. Numerous extensions allow you to further customize your eCommerce store experience, from added payment options to marketing capabilities. Between free and premium extensions, you can create a one-of-a-kind WooCommerce storefront that suits your needs.
If that’s not enough, you can also install WooCommerce themes to give your entire site a shop-centric makeover. Extensions are even easier to integrate when you replace your current WordPress theme with a dedicated WooCommerce theme.
What Are the Benefits of WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is far from the only WordPress plugin that offers eCommerce functionality. But it is one of the best.
Here are some of the benefits of WooCommerce.
Right from the get-go, WooCommerce makes online sales as straightforward as possible. Install the plugin, and a Setup Wizard takes you through the basics in minutes. All you have to do is answer a few questions about your store.
After setup, your WooCommerce hosting plan remains uncomplicated. Adding products is a breeze, and you can easily change payment and shipping settings anytime. With an uncluttered layout and an accessible support team, WooCommerce makes selling simple for everyone.
#2 Infinitely Customizable
From a backend perspective, you can personalize your store to suit your business needs. Restrict payment methods, disable guest checkout, sell locally or globally—the choice is yours.
Add a WooCommerce extension or two, and the possibilities are endless. Extensions range from “buy now pay later” options to loyalty programs.
With some CSS knowledge, you can further customize the appearance and functionality of your store. WooCommerce is open-source, so the sky’s the limit.
As one of the most popular eCommerce plugins around, WooCommerce enjoys frequent updates that include security patches. Additionally, customer credit card data is never saved, unless you use a payment gateway that allows users to “store” their card. Credit card numbers are then securely tokenized.
Making your WooCommerce site PCI- and GDPR-compliant is straightforward, too—resources from WooCommerce’s developers are readily available. Your customers can shop with confidence.
#4 Optimized for WordPress
Because WordPress owns WooCommerce, the two are intimately compatible. Nearly any WordPress theme can accommodate WooCommerce, and once installed, the plugin runs quickly and smoothly.
What Can You Sell on WooCommerce?
So, what is WooCommerce designed to showcase?
Perhaps a better question is: “What can’t you sell on WooCommerce?”
The platform allows you to offer your customers just about anything. However, some options require a paid extension. Let’s break it down by category.
Right out of the box, WooCommerce lets you display, sell, and ship physical merchandise. Whether it’s clothing, art, food, or cosmetics, if you can hold it, you can sell it on WooCommerce at no extra charge.
A digital or virtual product is anything that can’t be physically handled by your customers. Think of video games, songs, and mobile wallpapers. Digital goods are just as versatile as physical ones—and you can also sell them on WooCommerce without paying for an extension.
Appointments and Services
If your business is service-based, you can still take full advantage of WooCommerce. There are two ways to proceed.
You can use the “Virtual Product” category for anything unscheduled and treat your service as a digital item. For example, a graphic designer could take on projects through this function, and there would be no additional cost.
For bookings and appointments, WooCommerce offers the Bookings extension for an annual fee ($249). This powerful extension lets customers reserve a time slot and cancel appointments through your store. You can also send reminders and manage bookings through the add-on.
Subscriptions and Memberships
You’ll need to install the Subscriptions extension ($199/year). Traditional subscription-based businesses such as gyms or print publications can use this feature to manage users, offer free trials, and more.
Even if you sell physical or digital goods, your brand can leverage memberships to create unique loyalty opportunities. There is a reason brands from Netflix to Dollar Shave Club have blossomed due to a subscription model—it works!
Whether your events are virtual or online, you can now sell tickets through WooCommerce using the Box Office extension ($129/year). You’ll be able to follow up with attendees, offer promo codes, and analyze layers of customer data to improve your next event all through your eCommerce site.
How is WooCommerce Different from Shopify or BigCommerce?
So how do WooCommerce and Shopify differ? WooCommerce is a self-hosted eCommerce platform. In other words, you can’t have a WooCommerce store without having your own site and domain already built. Instead, you add it to a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress.
Services like Shopify and BigCommerce are standalone platforms. You sign up for a store through these companies, and you sell your products through an extension of their eCommerce site. There’s no need to sign up with a web hosting provider and purchase a domain name—these services handle this for you.
There are pros and cons to both sides, but a WooCommerce website does allow for more freedom. And of course, while WooCommerce is free, entry-level pricing plans for Shopify and BigCommerce start around $29/month and increase from there.
Why is WooCommerce so Popular?
Small businesses and household-name businesses alike love having a WooCommerce website, and it’s not hard to see why.
For a product that starts completely free, it’s unbelievably feature-rich and user-friendly. It’s also open-source, making it transparent and easy to personalize. The storefront is even mobile-friendly, and with more and more customers shopping on phones and tablets, that’s a must-have feature.
And perhaps the most significant reason behind WooCommerce’s success is the popularity of WordPress itself. With over 40% of the web’s top 10 million sites running on WordPress, WooCommerce is the obvious choice for millions of businesses worldwide.
How to Get Started with WooCommerce
You may already be convinced that WooCommerce is the perfect solution for your online store. If so, great. Hop onto your WordPress site, and let’s set up shop.
If you’ve yet to start building your website, check out our comprehensive guide on how to use WordPress to learn more. Once you have a WordPress website, you’re ready to install WooCommerce.
Step 1: Install and Activate WooCommerce
Installing the WooCommerce plugin involves the same steps as installing any WordPress plugin.
To begin, open your WordPress Dashboard. On the right-hand side, navigate to Plugins > Add New. On the following page, click the search bar in the top right and enter “WooCommerce.” It should be the first plugin to appear.
Click Install Now, and wait a moment for the plugin to download. Once complete, the button will change to say Activate Now. Press the button, and the Setup Wizard will open automatically.
Step 2: Complete the Setup Wizard
The Setup Wizard acts as a checklist for a fully functioning store and takes just minutes to complete. You’ll follow on-screen prompts to tell WooCommerce about your store and configure settings based on your needs.
First, you’ll enter your location and industry, then decide if you want to share data to improve the plugin. Next, you’ll choose your product types and answer a few questions about your business, such as annual revenue and the number of products to be sold.
Finally, you can choose a WooCommerce theme to display your products (or continue with your current theme). The Setup Wizard finishes with a list of other tasks to complete, helping you add products, set up payments, design your homepage, and more.
Step 3: Customize Your WooCommerce Site
After handling the basics, you have the option to add extensions to your store. Extensions allow you to enhance the WooCommerce experience for you and your customers, with features like marketing, SEO, order management, and more.
This step is optional, but it’s worth exploring the hundreds of extensions that make WooCommerce so versatile.
WP Engine Makes WooCommerce an Even More Powerful Tool for eCommerce
Whether you’re a small-time seller or a booming business, WooCommerce is the ideal solution for your online store. And when you pair it with our eCommerce hosting platform, you increase its efficacy.
With our high-speed hosting and customizable themes, you can drive sales and expand your eCommerce store like never before.
Contact us today to elevate your WooCommerce shop.