Miss Popular: WooCommerce Review

Note: WooCommerce has been updated since publishing this review. More details on the latest version can be found in this article.

If you’re searching for a WordPress eCommerce solution, WooCommerce has definitely entered the conversation. There’s a reason why: WooCommerce currently has the most active installs out of any WordPress eCommerce plugin. The ease of use and reporting are huge bonuses, and the light core codebase gives you a highly functional, extremely extensible, and customizable product. However, gearing up to full functionality is going to require some paid extensions and probably a good WooCommerce-compatible theme.

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Base and Ancillary Costs #

WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin, which means there are absolutely no barriers to you downloading it and playing around to see if it fits your eCommerce needs. Out of the box, it’s very functional and will probably be able to handle the needs of small stores with minimal additions. However, for stores that are going to require more features other than basic shopping and product pages and checkout, you’ll need to purchase some premium extensions, and will probably want a WooCommerce-compatible theme. Since WooThemes owns WooCommerce, you should take a look at their themes, which range from free to $100, to ensure compatibility with all WooCommerce features. Some other WordPress theme sites, such as Theme Forest, also make WooCommerce compatible themes. Prices on ThemeForest are usually somewhere from $40 to $60. However, you’re not guaranteed compatibility with all features or extensions when buying a third party theme; be prepared to see a couple features or extensions not work perfectly with your site.

Same goes for premium extensions. Your best bet is to get them from the WooCommerce Store to ensure maximum compatibility, future-proofing, and in-house support. You’ll end up needing basic things like payment gateways, CSV product/customer importers, or the importers available for WPEC or Jigoshop. However, official extensions get be pricey (depending on how many you’re using). Prices range from $29 to $199 for single site licenses, which include updates and support for 1 year. Renewal prices for support and updates are about 50% of the original extension cost after one year. Other sites, such as Code Canyon, offer third party WooCommerce extensions from $5 to $31. Quality is varied; there are some gems (few and far between in my experience), but typical quality is worse than official WooCommerce extensions (sometimes to the point where it’s a waste). Developers are not required to provide support or updates for Code Canyon plugins, so it’s really a hit or miss market.

Cost summary:

Free core plugin (thumbs up!), but up to $100 for a good theme, plus an estimated $600 in basic extensions, and another 50% annually (about $300) for updates/support. It’s a premium product, but it’s actually a competitive monthly price (our estimate breaks down to $50 per month for the first year, $25 per month after that). Obviously, the extent of customization you need will dictate your price.

 

Overview and Usability #

One of the strongest selling points for WooCommerce is the ease of installation and use. WooCommerce is not a hosted shopping cart service; it’s available as a WordPress.org free plugin, which means you’ll have to download it and install into your WordPress dashboard, and you’ll be responsible for PCI compliance. Once the plugin has been installed, you’ll be able to go through some basic settings:

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Admin Settings

Backend: Admin Settings

You can configure user options such as the ability to checkout as a guest, as well as some management options, like forcing a secure checkout. However, some of the best setup options in WooCommerce are the tax options. With WooCommerce, you can allow local taxes based on postcodes, or set standard and reduced tax rates manually. You can also apply tax based on your store location or the customer’s shipping address.

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Tax Settings

Backend: Tax Settings

Products

Products are really easy to add and update as well. New products are created as WordPress custom post types, so you have an individual product page with a short and extended description, as well as some tabs for product information. You can add simple, configurable/variable, downloadable, virtual, affiliate, and grouped products. This makes WooCommerce a viable option for to stores of almost any type, and is great for stores that have a variety of products they’d like to list.

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Edit Products

Backend: Editing Product Details

There are also some good extensions, such as the WooCommerce Product Bundles Extension, WooCommerce Chained Products Extension, or the WooCommerce Composite Products Extension, to group products together or offer kits made from individual products. You can also bulk edit product details, which is great for stores with hundreds (if not thousands!) of products.

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Product Manager

Backend: Product Manager

Shortcodes

You can also add individual products or groups of products to other pages or posts (or anywhere you can use shortcodes on your site – sidebar widget for best sellers, anyone?). From the visual page/post editor, just click the “Woo” button for some help and to get ideas on what attributes are accepted. For an example, here’s me adding an individual product by SKU and some newly added products to a page:

Sell with Wordpress WooCommerce Product Shortcodes Backend

Backend: Using shortcodes to add products to other pages / posts

Here’s what it looks like for the customer:

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Frontend Product Shortcodes

Frontend: Products displayed using shortcodes

Variable Products

Adding variable products takes a little bit more effort, but was easy enough to figure out with a little bit of tinkering. First, you have to add the “attribute” that will be variable (such as size or color), as well as all of the possible values for that attribute:

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Create Variable Product 1

Backend: Creating Variable Product Attributes

Once you’ve added the attributes you need to add, you can then edit the variations of that attribute, such as changing price (maybe you want to charge more for a 2XL shirt or a different color) and quantity in stock to display on the front-end:

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Add Product Variations

Backend: Adding Product Variations

Aaaannd…here’s the finished product:

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Displaying Product Variations

Frontend: Displaying Product Variations

There are some useful default options for product display, such as a short and extended description, as well as some stock tabs for other product information (dimensions, weight, etc). Related products can also be displayed based on linked products, category, or tags. WooCommerce also includes cross-sells and upsells for products in the core plugin. However, many aspects of the product page, such as product information or pricing, can be altered with extensions to display products in any way you could need. Some favorites are:

  • WooCommerce Dynamic Pricing: creates bulk discounts and product discounts or pricing tiers based on membership or purchase quantity. This is really difficult functionality to find! I don’t think any other platform we reviewed supports this much pricing customization.
  • WooCommerce Tab Manager: allows you to add customized tabs to your product page to display information. Create global tabs for all products, or specific tab layouts for individual products.
  • WooCommerce Product Documents: display product documentation (such as sample chapters, assembly instructions, or warranties) in the product short description, or anywhere you can put shortcodes.

 

Customer Experience #

WooCommerce uses a one-page checkout process, which is geared towards improving sales conversions – more steps means more opportunities for customers to abandon your checkout. How important is simplifying checkout? So important that Amazon patented the one-click checkout, which is worth billions. Browsing your product catalog is also simple, and all product information is displayed prominently for customers. The shopping interface is intuitive and easy to figure out so customers don’t get frustrated while browsing and leave your site.

Basic product information is always displayed, and if you’re selling a physical product, a stock “Additional Information” product tab can also be displayed with dimensions, weight, and customized attributes.

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Product Page

Customer Experience: General Product Page

“Add to Cart” buttons are prominently displayed as a call to action, and you have the option of sending customers right to the cart page after they’ve added an item to the cart. From the cart page, checkout is just a click away, and is as simple as possible for the customer to complete. Overall, the customer experience is straight-forward, and works just as you’d expect it to.

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Cart Page

Customer Experience: Cart Page

Want to be able to make more changes to the customer experience? Try the free WooCommerce Customizer plugin, which allows you to change the number of products per row, button text, and more.

 

Built-in Payment and Shipping Options #

WooCommerce offers good stock shipping options, and of course, there are plenty of shipping extensions to add other options. Stock payments options are okay, but you’ll probably need a payment gateway if you’re planning on selling more than a few items a day (my personal favorite is Stripe).

Payment Options

Out of the box, WooCommerce can accept Bank payments, PayPal Standard (which can be used in over 190 countries and takes customers directly to PayPal for purchases), Checks, Cash on pickup/delivery, or Mijireh for credit cards (which is a bit expensive per transaction). However, there are 107 payment gateway integrations for WooCommerce available from popular processors, such as Braintree, Stripe, First Data, and Authorize.net.

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Standard Payment Options

Backend: Standard Payment Options Settings

Shipping Options

WooCommerce offers several stock shipping options (more than most other platforms). Flat rate and free shipping are available as stock options, but the addition of international flat rate shipping, local delivery, and local pickup provide shipping solutions that many stores will need. Flat rate shipping can be set up by country, and additional costs, shipping classes, and handling fees can be customized. However, you may want an integration with a shipping service, or something like the WooCommerce Table Rate Shipping Extension, which can provide shipping zones within a country to calculate costs more precisely (among many other cool features).

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Standard Shipping

Backend: Standard Shipping Options

 

Reporting and Inventory Management #

One of the areas that WooCommerce can really blow the competition away on is reporting. It has easy-to-read, detailed graphs for sales, top sellers, and more in the dashboard. Graphs are beautiful and provide good insight into your sales metrics, but are also very user friendly. These reports are great for small business that don’t integrate with a larger accounting service so that stores can keep track of, and gain insight into, sales data.

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Sales Reporting

Backend: Built-in Sales Reporting

You can also get insight into product sales, such as information on top sellers or worst sellers:

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Product Sales Reporting

Backend: Product Sales Report (very pretty, we might add!)

A really helpful reporting extension is the WooCommerce Cost of Goods extension, which gives you insight into costs and profit in addition to revenue. This can also show you data for your most profitable sellers, which could be helpful to determine advertising focus on high-margin goods.

Inventory

WooCommerce provides inventory management options, which can be activated from the product page. Low and Out-of-stock items can be viewed from the “Reporting” tab. Backorders are allowable with WooCommerce (rare for most platforms), which can be helpful for merchants who keep small stock volumes on hand. Backorders can be allowed for a specific product by changing the Product Data. You can opt out of this feature as well in your stock management options under “Product Data”. You can also enable alerts for low inventory, and provide stock information to customers.

Sell with WordPress WooCommerce Stock Display and Backorder

Frontend: Stock Display and Backorder Allowed

 

Support #

Woo-Ninja_joy-small

WooThemes offers pretty high-quality support for their themes and extensions. They will work with you to make sure that your issue gets resolved, and have an 88% satisfaction rating on all tickets. However, they aren’t always timely about it. Their recent stats showed that only 68% of support tickets receive responses within 24 hours (which is up 14% from the previous month), and the average first response time is 24.50 hours (down from the previous month’s 33.4 hours). Support has been an area causing growing pains for WooThemes, as it seems they have insufficient support staff, but the fact that they’re up-front with support statistics and share them openly is a good sign for the future. Since WooThemes has publicly committed to improving support, hopefully new statistics will show further decreased wait times, but some patience will be required in the meantime.

Other Features and Comments #

There are a ton of built-in widgets that will make displaying your products easy and professional, such as a price filter, featured products widget, and more. This could be useful for widgetized homepages (especially if you’re not using a WooCommerce-specific theme) or to help customers navigate large catalogs easily.

Sell with WordPress | WooCommerce Widgets

Built-in WooCommerce widgets

Although this is not a built-in option, WooCommerce does allow for recurring purchases or subscriptions with the very flexible WooCommerce Subscriptions Extension. Set up is very easy, and this extension is constantly updated. This functionality has tons of potential uses, and helps widen the circle of potential businesses that can easily use WooCommerce to meet all of their needs.

Currently, WooCommerce has over 1.3 million downloads and a four-star rating on WordPress.org, a volume which is second only to the WP e-Commerce Plugin. However, WooCommerce is just shy of two years old, while WPEC has been around for almost 8 years. The fact that WooThemes also builds beautiful official themes with guaranteed WooCommerce compatibility is a plus in my book.

 

WooCommerce Review Wrap-up #

WooCommerce is a great all-around WordPress eCommerce platform that should appeal to a wide range of online business models. In addition, WooCommerce 2.1 is expected to drop by the end of this year, which could possibly include an API to integrate with external systems along with some other requested functionality. Current pros include the flexible tax and stock shipping options, awesome reporting, and an incredible number of opportunities to extend its functionality. We think people love the intuitive admin and customer interfaces, which are both easy-to-use and look great, as well as the ability to add just about any kind of product or functionality. Some cons are sluggish support, and recurring annual billing for updates and support (which is by no means unreasonable, just different from some platforms and something to be aware of). Pricing is slightly higher than some options, but value is still high even at current prices and quality should factor into that equation. Overall, WooCommerce is a great general eCommerce solution that supports many types of businesses right out of the box, and we expect it to be even more competitive when 2.1 is released.

 

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Like this WooCommerce Review? Check out the rest of our WordPress eCommerce Platforms Guide.

Full Disclosure: The author of this article also works for SkyVerge, who develops WooCommerce extensions and owns some (but not all) of the extensions referenced in the article. Despite this fact, every effort was made to be impartial and write this review from a neutral perspective.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Providing the most comprehensive and objective WordPress eCommerce resources is our mission. Have more questions? See our affiliate policy. You can use the plain links below if you prefer that we not receive a referral commission:

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Posted by Beka Rice

Beka Rice manages the direction of Sell with WP content and writes or edits most of our articles to share her interests in eCommerce. Or she just writes as an excuse to spend more time jamming out to anything from The Clash to Lady Gaga. Who knows.

6 Comments

  1. Awesome review Beka! WooCommerce has really improved leaps and bounds, I think by 3.0 it will be a real contender to Magento etc..

    1. Thanks so much! I agree that what started as a good product has just gotten better, and the growth indicates that it can be a large competitor (maybe even before 3.0 is developed). Currently, WooCommerce powers 5.6% of the top million eCommerce sites, while Magento is used on 13% (see this: http://trends.builtwith.com/shop). Not bad for two years, and it’s closing the gap. I’ll be curious to see if growth can be sustained at the current rate.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Hi Beka

    Just doing some research for a potential client into WooCommmerce (which I’ve used once before, and like because of its WordPress connection). Just wanted to say this is easily one of the best blog posts I’ve read in the web design/development sphere: informative, unbiased, useful. Just great.

    Thanks
    Dom

    1. Hi Dom, Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m glad it was helpful 🙂 I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment – I hope the project goes well!

  3. Hello Beka,

    Great series of articles here. My company is about to start building online shops, and have been looking hard at WooCommerce. BUt it seems to be very poorly documented, from a theme builders point of view. What’s your experience with that side of WooCommerce?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Drew, thanks for your comment! I think WooCommerce is a bit more complicated than other platforms to learn at first from a theming standpoint, but you do gain a lot of flexibility once you’ve learned what hook / filter does what. This is something we plan to cover at some point, as I do think more resources would be helpful since it does take a time-investment to learn. Downloading some of the free WooThemes themes with WooCommerce compatibility has proven useful in the past and a great way to learn about WooCommerce actions.

      In case you haven’t checked them out yet, these two resources may be helpful: http://tokokoo.com/knowledge-base/getting-started-with-woocommerce-theming-and-styling/ and http://docs.woothemes.com/documentation/plugins/woocommerce/woocommerce-codex/theming/

It's been over 2 years since this post was published, so comments have been closed. Thanks for reading!