The Original: WP eCommerce Plugin Review
The WP eCommerce Plugin is the next heavy hitter in our lineup of WP eCommerce plugins, and is the grandfather of all WordPress eCommerce. It was launched about 8 years ago, so their crew has the benefit of several years of tweaking and debugging under their belts. It currently has the the most downloads of any WordPress eCommerce plugin (though it’s just shy of the top spot based on active installs). The core plugin has a lot of functionality packed in, so it does allow for a lot of customization right after installation. It seems to play well with a lot of different themes with a little bit of tweaking, so you’ll probably have a bunch of choices in design, but you may need some paid extensions/plugins to make this a fully functional business solution.
Skip to section:
- Base and Ancillary Costs
- Overview and Usability
- Customer Experience
- Built-in Payment and Shipping Options
- Reporting and Inventory Management
- Other Features and Comments
- WordPress eCommerce Plugin Review Wrap-up
- Read More
Base and Ancillary Costs #
The WP eCommerce Plugin is a free WordPress plugin, so you can easily download it and try it out to see if it works for your store. Spend some time testing features, adding different kinds of products, and playing with shipping options before you start building out a real store to see if it has the functionality you want. The built-in CSV import/export functions could also be very useful to add some products quickly and play around with functions. WP eCommerce has most of the features stores will need (including a few versions of PayPal to process payments) to get up and running, and adding a few premium plugins or some custom developed solutions can get the functionality you want.
As far as themes go, you probably won’t need to get crazy in purchasing “official” themes – it seems that WP eCommerce works with the themes we tested, but some design tweaking may be needed (we’ll cover this a little later). Costs will probably come from the fact that you may need a couple of the premium upgrades offered for your store to be fully functional.
Most users will almost certainly need the Gold Cart premium extension for $47 to get the product search capabilities and payment gateway integrations (major gateways included in the bundle are Authorize.net, SagePay, and iDeal); a premium support token is included in addition to a couple of other features (see our wrap up for the full list). However, most documentation says that the Gold Cart includes First Data for payment processing, yet the Gold Cart product page does not include it in the list of bundled gateways. It’s not included; you’ll need to purchase it for $49 if you want it. The developer version of the Gold Cart goes for $197, and gets you 3 API keys for other integration and a couple extra support tokens. You can get these from the Get Shopped site or within your WP dashboard (though pricing is incorrect):
There aren’t a lot of official premium plugins available, but there are many from other developers listed on the WPeC Get Shopped site. Other sites, such as Code Canyon, also offer third party WP eCommerce extensions from $10 to $25. Just as we stated in our WooCommerce Review, quality is varied; there are some gems (few and far between in my experience), but typical quality is just passable (and sometimes a complete waste). Developers are not required to provide support or updates for Code Canyon plugins, so it’s really a hit or miss market.
Free core plugin, which is awesome, but will need a few premium upgrades to get rolling. We estimate just under $200 for plugins, and cost of your theme is really up to you.
Overview and Usability #
WPeC has a lot of features included in the core plugin (You can see a full list of features on their site). You get a lot of functionality for free, but there are some actions that are a little buggy, which some users have noted in reviews. While playing around with some of the settings, I experienced some weird things a couple of times, such as not being able to insert shortcodes using their built-in button in the visual editor. However, you won’t have to worry as much about extending this plugin as you do with some others since you have a lot of possibilities at your fingertips, so there are positives and negatives.
In terms of setup, the installation and configuration is a bit longer than the advertised 5 minutes, and was a little bit confusing at first (I’m not a developer, nor do I play one on TV. I know just enough to get by, so take that for what you will). There’s a lot of potential for customization with this plugin, but if you’re not a developer, you may need to keep one on speed dial. General settings are easy enough; you can allow checkout as a guest (with the option to register at checkout), force a secure checkout, and more:
You also have a lot of presentational settings to play around with. This is where you’re taken after installation, so it was a bit odd to see this in front of me after activating the plugin, but whatever. You can move some files to your theme folder to customize them, so from a design perspective, this is a plus. Your store can have a more integrated “feel” throughout the experience. However, I would advise leaving the “Display per item shipping” to no – this confused me for a bit, since per item shipping will be added to the total shipping by flat rate or weight, which could potentially confuse customers. Maybe if you need a “shipping surcharge” for large items or something, I would include this and name it accordingly rather than just “shipping”.
One aspect which I found a little odd about usability (but this is definitely a personal preference) was that the store settings and information was spread throughout the WordPress backend. Store settings are under the WordPress “Settings” menu, but products are in a different menu, and sales information is in the dashboard. The theory behind this is to integrate your store into WordPress, but I prefer to see my store information in one place. Again, just a preference. I’m sure many people will like that your store is built-in to WordPress itself, and you can get store and order information right in the dashboard:
Tax options are included in store settings, but require some setup, and are not really flexible. You can set up “tax bands” for products and set general “tax rates”, which will probably meet the needs of most stores. Just something to be aware of if you’re selling internationally and may have to worry about complex tax rules. However, I will say that I didn’t spend as much time exploring this as I would have if I were actually setting up an international store. Let me know if you have tips for this!
New products are created as WordPress posts, so you have an individual product page with a short description and a “More Details” extended description. You can add simple, configurable/variable, downloadable, and affiliate products. Product pages offer a ton of customization, and you can set up a lot of product options in the product editor. A huge bonus is the ability to set quantity discounts without a paid upgrade. If you want to set this based on user roles, you can check out the Wholesale Pricing plugin.
You can edit how products are displayed, or use shortcodes to display them on different pages. There’s no built-in featured products display for shortcodes (there is, however, a widget you can use for featured products), so you could do this using a category, or set a featured products page and use shortcodes to display the products you want to display.
Product stock and shipping per product (this is what I was saying I’d disable or rename “shipping surcharge”) can also be displayed from on the shopping and product pages.
One cool feature that most other platforms don’t have built-in is the ability to set free products with a donation instead of a price. While I loved the flexibility and options in product settings, I would consider making some things, like a “donation” setting a free extension/plugin, and possibly selecting product type to display options, rather than have all options present on every single product page.
You can also add individual products (with a “Buy Now” PayPal button) or product categories to other pages or posts (or anywhere you can use shortcodes on your site – feature some products in your sidebar!). From the visual page/post editor, you can click the credit card-looking button for some help and to get ideas on what attributes are accepted.
For an example, here’s me adding an individual product by selecting it from a list, and adding some products from a category to a page:
And here’s what it looked like on the frontend. You can’t display new/recent products using shortcodes (at least not that I found – you can display them using a widget like featured products), but I added it as a product category (which would have to be continuously updated if you really wanted to do this) and put a few products in it:
Customer Experience #
Customers will have to browse products in list form unless you have the Gold Cart paid extension, so you may want think about that when setting up shop. Maybe you want to make different pages for product categories rather than have your entire catalog on one very long page. However, you can work around this with the free WP eCommerce Grid View plugin, as grid-style browsing is much easier for customers. I did not test this plugin, but reviews were mostly positive.
Adding products to the cart is easy, and customers have the option of going right to checkout after adding a product. However, there’s no cart page by default. If you want customers to be able to return to their carts, you’ll have to add the shopping cart widget to the sidebar (or somewhere else if you’re using a full-width display). For a plugin that touts it’s customizability as a bonus, relegating the shopping cart to a widget as a default (which limits display options) was strange, but I’m sure you can add this elsewhere if you want to.
The WP eCommerce Plugin uses a one-page checkout process, which is geared towards improving sales conversions. Giving customers more steps in the checkout process means more opportunities for them to abandon their carts. Simplifying check out is so important that Amazon patented the one-click checkout, which is now worth billions. Checkout was pretty painless, but the shipping methods displayed (and calculating shipping) were a little bit odd, and I managed to break this once by entering an invalid location. Refreshing the page worked, but adding barriers to buying isn’t something I want to do with my store. You may want to style this a bit yourself to simplify or hide some of the shipping information. The abundance of options is great, but I want it to be straight-forward for customers.
Overall, the rest of the customer experience is easy to understand and there’s not much else to confuse the customer. If you want to be able to display related products, you could consider the WP eCommerce Related Products plugin, which displays other products from the same category. Another useful plugin to improve the customer experience is the free WP eCommerce Dynamic Gallery plugin, which creates a sliding image gallery on every product page.
Built-in Payment and Shipping Options #
Payment and Shipping options are good and will get you off of the ground, but as we noted before, you’ll probably want payment gateway integrations to accept anything other than PayPal, and shipping will require some tinkering, as options are pretty good, but can be confusing at first.
WP eCommerce comes with PayPal Standard (which can be used in over 190 countries and takes customers directly to PayPal for purchases), PayPal Pro, and PayPal Express as default payment options, as well as Google Checkout, ChronoPay, and the option for a manual payment, such as cash or check on pickup/delivery. There are about 15 other payment gateways available as premium upgrades (such as Mijireh, TransFirst, FirstData, or Stripe) or as part of the Gold Cart upgrade (Authorize.Net, Sagepay, and a few others).
WP eCommerce offers a lot of stock shipping options, and has a few built-in integrations ready to go. You can ship by flat rate (with some pre-set international zones), by weight, or by order price, and can set a price for free shipping (however, you can’t set this for individual items).
There are also a few integrations for your use. Shipwire, Australia Post, UPS, and USPS are already integrated into the core plugin for you to use. This is something else I would have preferred to see as free extensions/plugins; it’s unlikely I’ll be using all of these services together, so they’re in the core plugin taking up space when they don’t necessarily need to be. However, some people will like the fact that they don’t have to download and install different plugins for all of their shipping providers, so this is really a matter of perspective. There’s also an official FedEx upgrade available for purchase.
If these don’t work for you, you can download the WP eCommerce Premium Shipping plugin for $29 to set up advanced shipping options, such as pricing bands based on total weight in cart, order value, and more.
Reporting and Inventory Management #
The WP eCommerce Plugin doesn’t come with any built-in reporting features, other than providing basic sales stats in the dashboard. You can download the WP e-Commerce Earnings Graph plugin for $15, which will show a bar graph for store earnings per month, but that’s about as far as reporting will get. There’s also a Store Reports plugin available, which allows to you generate reports for Count Sheet, Product Sold, and Customer reports on a monthly and all-time basis.
Basic stock management is included, and is accessible from product pages. You can enter stock while creating or editing a product, and get notifications if stock runs out (I couldn’t find any notification options for low stock, which would be helpful). You can also hide products from display if they’re out of stock as backorders are not accepted.
Support seems to be a hot topic with this plugin (see this or this), but I didn’t request any myself, so I’m relying on second-hand information here. WP eCommerce offers documentation for their plugins, but does not include any active support (except for reliance on the WP community), so you’ll probably want to be in touch with someone that can help with basic questions. I think some of the support complaints stem from misunderstanding this setup: support is not free or included, but relies on the community (unless you pay for premium support). Premium support is available for $47 per support token (each issue requires a separate token). However, reviews of premium support are varied; some people find it great, others say that they never received responses despite paying for support tokens. I’m not going to make a judgment on this one since I didn’t use it, but to be safe, I would just make sure I know or employ someone who can help with basic support.
Other Features and Comments #
While not built-in features, you can set wholesale pricing defined by user roles with the Wholesale Pricing plugin. If you want to sell memberships or subscriptions, you’ll need the Member Access Plugin for $47 to set content accessible for members or to create recurring subscriptions.
WP eCommerce does have a lot of marketing tools built in to the core plugin, such as Google Product Feeds and the ability to display Facebook “Like” buttons with your products so that customers can share with friends. These features are usually paid add-ons with other platforms, so their inclusion for free is a big bonus!
While you have a lot of opportunity for customization your design and frontend experience, be aware that some styling may be needed. Here’s our product page right after installing the plugin while using the WP TwentyTwelve theme:
Not exactly the display I was looking for, so you’ll want to do some tweaking before you go live. It provides great opportunity to blend in with most themes, but it probably won’t do it all on its own.
Currently, WP eCommerce has over 2.4 million downloads on WordPress.org, and is rated 2.8 stars. Keep in mind that this plugin has been around since, like, WordPress 1.5, so ratings may be slightly misleading. I’m sure that you couldn’t do nearly as much with a store upon the plugin’s initial release, and it’s had to evolve with WordPress, so maybe some reviews from it’s early days are influencing that.
WP eCommerce Plugin Review Wrap-up #
The WP eCommerce Plugin is an all-in-one eCommerce store solution that provides extensive functionality and customization options. The Gold Cart paid upgrade is probably something most users will need for the product search function, ability to upload multiple images for a product, create image galleries, display products in grid format, and payment processing options like Authorize.net and Sagepay.
Current pros include the built-in marketing tools, usable stock shipping options, extensive built-in functionality, and opportunities to extend the core plugin. We think people will like the ability to add a lot of different products and options with the basic plugin. Some cons are the lack of official support, and potentially slow paid support, as well as the probable need for a designer / developer if you’re not inclined to do some tweaking yourself to get ready to roll. As a matter of preference, the core plugin includes a lot of features, but some of these could be turned into free extensions to the plugin rather that bloating the core base. Overall, WP eCommerce is a solid general eCommerce solution, and we think many businesses will find that it can meet their sales needs and will enjoy the ability to blend in with themes they may already have.
Read more: #
- PressThis PressThat did a video review of WooCommerce vs WP eCommerce
- Vandelay Design’s 10 top WordPress eCommerce Plugins has a very brief review with highlights of each platform.
- Mashable’s Top 4 eCommerce Tools for WordPress is a bit outdated but has a good overview of some top plugins.
Like this WordPress eCommerce Plugin Review? Check out the rest of our WordPress eCommerce Platforms Guide.
Please Note: I did not test all of the paid upgrades/plugins that I reference in this article; If I didn’t test it, I’m basing my information on reading user reviews or other articles.
Full Disclosure: The author of this article also works for SkyVerge, who develops WooCommerce extensions. Despite this fact, every effort was made to be impartial and write this review from a neutral perspective.
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