When should I use WooCommerce?

Should I use WooCommerce For My eCommerce Store?

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce solution that is used in conjunction with WordPress. WooCommerce allows you to turn your WordPress powered website into an online store. WooCommerce was launched in September 2011 and according to builtwith.com, it is used by 7% of all eCommerce websites.

How much does it cost to use WooCommerce?

WooCommerce itself is free - an open-source plugin that anyone can download and use. What you get for free is the base eCommerce platform that's fine if you have a simple and straightforward eCommerce store. Quite often you'll need to use plugins in order to expand the core functionality WooCommerce offers. These plugins can add a multitude of advanced functionality, for example, the ability to offer subscriptions, have advanced tax rates or shipping options.

Even if you have to pay for the plugins you use, the costs when compared to virtually all other eCommerce solutions is minimal. Plugin costs usually range from $5 to $200 max, which works out to be a lot cheaper than alternatives such as Shopify, which ranges from $29 to $299 a month, or Shopify plus which starts at $2000 a month! We cover some very well known plugins below.

Who is WooCommerce aimed at?

WooCommerce is promoted as a solution that can handle any number of items and sell virtually every product type. They state that there are websites using their platform with 100,000+ products that are selling thousands of items each minute.

WooCommerce does have restrictions on certain types of goods and services that are not permitted. When you sign up to the payment gateway for WooCommerce, you agree to not sell these items. These include:

  • Adult content and services
  • Virtual currency
  • Drugs
  • Weapons such as firearms

If they become aware that you are trying to sell these items, you are likely to have your account closed.

WooCommerce Plus points

  • Freebase – The WooCommerce download is free, there are no costs associated with its use and there are no ongoing licensing fees. There are also 31 free WooCommerce extensions available.
  • Advanced features – Due to the popularity of WooCommerce, there are thousands of plugins with great functionality.
  • Free designs – There are many free themes that can be used for your website design. This is great as it can save you money, however, the designs can stick out as themes and are nowhere near as attractive as a well-designed custom-built one.
  • No payment fees – WooCommerce does not charge you any fees for sales made through their platform, payment gateways may well charge you a percentage but the actual WooCommerce plugin takes no commission or fees from any online sales.
  • Fully opensource – Being an opensource platform, this provides you with immense flexibility and options to tailor the eCommerce experience to suit your business. ID Studio is a London web design agency that has a lot of experience working with WooCommerce.
  • Easily adaptable and allows for growth – You can use WooCommerce to sell virtually anything, from gift cards to cars. There is also no real limit to the number of products that can be listed and sold.

Contentious Point!

One of the main issues with WooCommerce (and WordPress) is that a hacker may try and enter your website through the front door (the login address). However, this can be made more difficult by changing the URL address, so that only you or your team are aware of it.

You can also hide the WordPress login page by using .htaccesss to create an additional security door for potential hackers. You are going to see a regular pattern here, there are potential security issues, however, if you take reasonable security steps these threats can be minimised or completely removed.

By installing an SSL certificate, you can protect all the information that is being shared between the web browser and the server your website is being hosted on. Make sure that you use a difficult password for your database, if you are not sure, just use a third-party application such as LastPass to make one for you. Here is one just suggested containing 22 characters ‘LtjMshTYlsqlt3CN8*12$c’.

Some other good security practices include:

  • UPDATE! These updates will contain new patches and fixes for known security issues, by ignoring or not fully updating your plugins you are leaving your website vulnerable to attacks. Do not just wait until you are told about one, constantly be on the lookout.
  • Employ multilayer security, also known as security in depth. By employing several walls of defence, you make it a lot more difficult for hackers to penetrate your site.
  • Make sure your payment gateway is employing P2PE – point to point encryption
  • Have regular and several backups of your complete site, if you can have them at separate locations even better
  • Ensure that your customers or clients use strong passwords, this can be enforced during the registration process
  • Use a strong firewall with advanced security scanners looking out for malware
  • Hide the WordPress installation file that holds important information, this can be done easily by moving it higher up the root directory
  • Update your password on a regular basis, keeping them complex as shown above
  • Regularly inspect your audit logs

If you complete all updates, patches, maintenance and only use reputable third-party plugins (and not too many), in our opinion, WooCommerce is very secure.

Some great WooCommerce plugins

Plugins are a great feature of WooCommerce and allow you to quickly and efficiently add additional features to your online store. Some plugins are free, others consist of a one-off fee, others require a license. WooCommerce plugins cover every scenario you can imagine, below we have mentioned a handful that we believe are worthy of a mention.

Yoast – Yoast is a WordPress SEO plugin tool that has a lot of users, it aims to help you achieve the maximum SEO standards for your website. Some of the core features include optimisation of keywords, phrases, linking, Google communication, detects duplicate content, add no-follow links to name but a few. The premium package at the time of this article for Yoast Premium is $89 per year.

WPML – The WordPress Multilingual plugin, they offer a 30 day no question asked refund. We have used this plugin before and cannot really fault it. If you research the WMPL reviews, they are virtually all incredibly positive. The plugin starts at $29 for the blog solution and $79 for the complete WordPress solution. They also offer support 6 days a week, 19hours a day.

PW WooCommerce Gift Cards – Gift cards can be a great way to help increase your sales, and WooCommerce has a great solution in PW WooCommerce gift cards. The gift cards can handle 12 languages, with the ability to add currency switcher plugins. Functionality includes set delivery time, default amounts, expiration dates, balance adjustments and more. 

WooCommerce multi-currency – If your customer base is worldwide, then it is likely your WooCommerce setup will need to incorporate the ability to handle international transactions. This plugin stops the need for your customers to calculate the conversion rates and stumbling upon unexpected costs during the checkout process.  

Stripe – allows you to accept payments on your website, Stripe covers all major credit and debit cards and supports 135+ currencies. It is fully customisable and has some great fraud detection technologies.

WooCommerce main alternatives

Shopify – One of the more well-known and popular online eCommerce platforms. Shopify has a lot of themes to choose from and is aimed at users that have no design or coding skills. The main issue with Shopify is that it is a hosted solution, so it is not your property and there are monthly fees that apply. One of the main issues that bother me with Shopify is that if you refund a product, they will not give back your card processing fee that they charged!

Wix Online Store – A slightly less well-known online store, which is aimed primarily at small to medium-sized stores. There are quite a few templates to select from, with prices starting from $23 a month. In addition, Wix does not take any commission from sales. One of the downfalls I have often heard about is the slow loading speeds. Wix websites start off as free, however, this will then contain 3rd party adverts, which does not look great for a reputable business. Basic plans start at $13 a month.

Magento – Magento is part of the Adobe group, it has quite a large fan base and is something that we have experience with. It is an enterprise-grade platform that over time it has created quite an extensive community for itself. It has an impressive client base, Samsung, Nike and Ford to name just a few.

Bespoke eCommerce – Many off the shelf eCommerce systems are unable to integrate complex assimilations such as delivery control, CRMs, bespoke delivery, tax and payment options, stock control etc. So, if you have the funds available, the time to work with the development team and very bespoke requirements, then this may be the best solution for you.

Are there compelling reasons not to use WooCommerce?

At ID Studio we are a fan of WooCommerce, that being said, we do not suggest it as the solution for all eCommerce projects. WooCommerce can offer a cost-effective and relatively quick solution, however, when we are tasked with a more complex eCommerce build, it sometimes just does not make the cut. If you are looking for a bespoke solution to integrate with your backend warehouse, with specific reports, integration with ERPS and complex systems then WooCommerce is probably not the best fit for you. In addition, if you need to add numerous plugins to achieve your desired requirements, this can lead to potential issues due to ‘conflicts’ between the third-party plugins. To compound this issue, if one of the third-party plugins ceases to exist, then there will be no updates or support for this product.

If you do not have the time or budget to pay someone to manage your hosting, security, maintenance and backups, then WooCommerce would probably not be the solution for you (although it may work out a lot more expensive paying a monthly license fee for alternatives such as Shopify).

WordPress is lacking actual dedicated support, it was initially aimed and built for the blogging community and there are no actual employees there waiting to help you. If you are running a business that needs 24/7, immediate support response then you will need to look elsewhere unless you employ someone internally or use an agency.  Although there is no actual dedicated support, there is a community of many thousands that are willing to help and offer their valued input. There are literally hundreds of sites where people upload their issues, and you can view the detailed responses.

Conclusion

WooCommerce is not successful by chance, it is offering a solution where there is a demand in the market and has filled this gap with ease. Is WooCommerce right for your project, it depends upon the type of project and the budget you have? If you have ‘standard’ eCommerce website requirement, then WooCommerce is likely the best solution. There are thousands of customisations that address most requirements. If are looking for a quick, reasonably priced, versatile solution then WooCommerce could be the right fit for you.

If you have any questions or would like impartial advice with your eCommerce website build, just give us a shout at ID Studio.