The Throwback: eShop Review
The eShop plugin for WordPress offers another free, usable eCommerce platform for store owners to test out when deciding which plugin to use for selling with WordPress. With about 5 years of maintenance and tweaks under its belt, eShop has continued to add functionality and has amassed more active installs than many eCommerce platforms. The plugin has had to evolve with WordPress, so some features are in need of update, while others have improved as the plugin has matured. Its history and ability to blend in with most themes is what makes eShop a competitor.
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
- eShop Review Wrap-up
- Read More
Base and Ancillary Costs #
The WordPress eShop plugin is free from WordPress.org, so you know what I’m going to say — download it and try it out before adding real products and investing in development to make sure it’s a good fit. eShop is one of the less expensive platforms available for use, but that’s mostly due to the lack of extensions / add-ons available, which may limit options for some stores. Themes won’t be an issue as eShop works with many, and you can adjust the eShop CSS yourself in your WordPress Dashboard. There are a few eShop-specific themes and plugins available at Theme Forest and at Quirm.net, but options aren’t extensive. As a result, costs can be as little as $0, but may be around $50-100 to get a couple of add-ons.
Installing a theme and some paid and some free add-ons to increase store functionality will probably total $50 to $100, which will depend on the quality of your theme. If you’ve already got a theme, you could be looking at even lower costs.
Overview and Usability #
Setup and configuration of eShop isn’t as intuitive as other plugins, but it does allow you to make a lot of adjustments (though there are a few usability changes I’d make). The settings are spread throughout the WordPress dashboard, which is something I personally don’t like, but that will depend on the user. For example, most eShop settings are under the WP settings, so that it’s integrated into the rest of your site. However, I prefer to see store information all in one place. Not a big deal, and as I’ve said before, some people will prefer the integrated approach. You may have to explore a bit or view some documentation to find everything. Most information is available at the eShop wiki to help you out.
Basic settings are under Settings > eShop, and will allow you to set up display and product options. Keep in mind that these settings will be applied to all products, which can simplify things for some stores, but make selling inconvenient for stores with a variety of products and limits your flexibility in product setup.
You can also enable stock management. However, you can’t change this on a per-product basis. Let’s say for example you sell physical books and ebooks, and you want to manage stock. You’ll have to enter a stock of 999 or something similar for your ebooks to ensure that they’re displayed to customers, since you can’t turn off stock management for digital products. If “stock” of the digital product runs out, then you’ll have to add more, which could be inconvenient for stores moving a high volume of digital goods (especially because you won’t get stock notifications to know when to do this).
Product details can be customized as well from the same general settings page, but were a bit odd to set up. I needed experience shopping at my own store to understand what each setting did, and then I had to go back and adjust my product details and update product pages. For example, you’ll probably want more than three product options if you’re selling variable items, like shirts, bed frames, etc (more on this later). I would also recommend going to the cart page after adding products to the cart and not having users stay on the product page when they put items in the cart, as no notification or visual cue pops up to let users know that the addition has taken place. I added an item a few times before checking my cart page the first time I did this, and as a result I had a far larger quantity than I wanted in my cart.
Under Settings > eShop > Downloads you also have the option of setting your store up for downloads only, which modifies the checkout pages to a bare minimum since shipping address is not needed and could be pretty useful. You can also set up Tax Options, Special Pages, Discounts and more.
Tax options are basic (I believe they were added fairly recently, but couldn’t confirm this) and are therefore a little inflexible. You can set tax by shipping zone if needed, and set up “tax bands” within a zone (for example, for regular and reduced rates). If taxes aren’t based on shipping, you can select the band per item while creating or editing products. Rates can be set for your country, and you can create bands for other countries.
The first thing you’ll probably notice with eShop is that viewing eShop > Products won’t actually let you add products. Products must be created as pages or posts (rather than using a WordPress custom post type – eShop is “compatible” with this rather than just using it for simplicity), which can prove inconvenient. I’ll review the plugin as-is, but know that you could add support for custom post types if you’re inclined.
If you choose to add products as posts, you’ll benefit from using the post category and tags (which can be used in shortcodes), but you’ll have to do some fancy work to hide them from your blog if you’re maintaining one (work that you probably won’t want to/be able to do yourself, so this may incur additional cost). Since blogs are a great way to drive traffic to your site, you will probably want to be able to use it rather than give it up to product addition.
If you decide to use pages for products, you avoid the blog issue, but lose the ability to categorize and tag products. The free eShop Custom Types plugin is geared towards fixing this, but it really should be part of the core functionality; there’s no reason to make product addition harder than it has to be when you could benefit from using categories and tags without blowing up your blog by simply using a custom post type.
From the post / product editor, you can edit the “Product Entry” information to create a product. If you’ve enabled a field, like SKU, it must be filled in to display the product correctly. You can set product options and basic variations in this area, but remember, you can’t change the number of product options unless you change it for the entire store under “Settings”. You’ll also what to make sure that you check “Stock Available” to show your product, or it can’t be added to a cart.
Variations can get a little bit more involved by using Option Sets. You’ll have to create an option set under eShop > OptionSets, which can be used for any product. I would recommend making the option set the variable that doesn’t change price. Let’s say I want to sell tee shirts, and charge more for a XXL. I would probably want to make my colors an option set, then set the sizes as product options so that I could manually set pricing (I’ve done the reverse in the image below – changed price with color). Notice that you can also set prices for option sets if you want to do all pricing there instead, but doing so makes option sets less relevant to other products. It’s an odd system for complex variations, and I wasn’t a fan of having go through hoops to create something as simple as a tee-shirt. It also complicates stock management. You’ll have to take additional steps to hide your option sets table if you don’t want it there, as it’s included automatically, so this adds to the complexity.
The core plugin only allows for the addition of one image per product (the featured image), even if you have multiple options for a product, which could be inconvenient for users that want the image to change based on option. You could always create the gallery yourself on the product page and label them, but this won’t be interactive. To create a gallery automatically, some users recommend the free Image Gallery for WordPress plugin. This won’t get you an interactive gallery, but it will be better than the basic setup.
Shortcodes and Widgets
There’s no shortcode help available in the plugin itself, and there’s no shortcode button in the visual post/page editor. However, there is a shortcode reference available on the eShop wiki that you can review, and it includes the accepted attributes for each shortcode.
Shortcodes will be necessary to create shopping pages, and you’ll probably have to edit the layout yourself to get a polished display. This is where using posts for products would be helpful, as the shortcodes will accept categories and tags to display products. However, shortcodes will automatically generate a list display, which makes browsing difficult. You can create a “panel” display (seen below), but this isn’t a true grid display. One plugin that users suggested for doing so is the free Category Grid View Gallery plugin to create the grid layout for you, which makes browsing easier for users.
You an also make use of some built-in widgets. The “products” widget can be pretty helpful, as you can display best sellers, featured products, new products, and more.
Using the cart widget could also be useful depending on your theme:
If you’re not a fan of having your cart on a page or in a widget, you can also use the WP Menu Cart plugin to add a cart icon to your navigation menu instead.
Customer Experience #
The eShop plugin includes access to the eShop CSS under Appearance > eShop. Although it creates more work for you (or your hired help), this will allow you to change the frontend to update shopping pages or other eShop features.
As we stated previously, browsing can be improved from the basic list layout. You may want to also change product pages to automatically/dynamically size featured images. Otherwise, your images will use its actual size on the product page, which can give your store an inconsistent feel if your images are all different sizes. The page content will be displayed under the title, and you can also add a product description (and whatever options you’ve set under “settings).
Adding products to the cart is easy, and customers can adjust quantity from the product page before adding to the cart. Quantities can also be adjust from the cart page before proceeding to checkout. The included cart page will also display image thumbnails:
Checkout is advertised as a one page checkout; however, that’s not the case. Customers will enter shipping information, then have to confirm it (it’s not automatically validated) and acknowledge tax/shipping before an order can be submitted, so the process will be 2-3 steps.
Built-in Payment and Shipping Options #
Shipping options with eShop are pretty usable (though will require a lot of setup), but payment options with eShop are limited, and you may need some custom development if you want to use a popular payment processor.
Default payment options include PayPal, cash on pickup/delivery, and bank transfer. However, there are several gateway integrations built into core plugin that are no longer supported or actively developed: Authorize.net, Payson, iDeal lite, Web to Pay, and eProcessing Network. Ideally, I’d rather see these as free add-ons rather than part of the core plugin, especially since they’re not being supported, to keep the core plugin light. Aside from these built-in options, there are very few other gateway integrations available, so you may have to pay to develop one if you’re not happy with just PayPal.
Shipping options are pretty flexible, but will be intensive to set up. You won’t find them with other settings; instead, you have to go to eShop > Shipping. You can set flat rate shipping by zone (per item or order) and using different classes, or you can instead enable shipping by weight. You can override these features if you want more specific rates with the eShop Shipping Extension plugin, which will integrate with Canada Post, UPS, USPS, Fedex, and Correios for real-time shipping rates and services. Canada Post integration is free, and you’ll have to purchase the modules for other shipping services if you want them.
Shipping by zone and class can be very promising instead of getting exact shipping rates (especially since this is included!). First, you can set your zones and get an idea of differences between classes (for example, light items could be shipping class A, while heavy items could be shipping class E – this is up to you). You can also set a discount for multiple items if you’re charging per item. Free shipping can be added if the order amount is over a certain value, or for individual products by setting shipping class to “F”.
Once your rates are set, you’ll want to set your zones (up to 9 possible). You can change the zones based on country (for international sellers). You’ll then want to go to the last tab to set up zones or regions within your country. You’ll have to select your country from the menu on the right to set zones based on states or regions. This is essential; if you don’t have your country selected, your shipping zones will not work, which the documentation doesn’t tell you (and probably should be updated with more detail). So as an overview, you can delete or add countries and assign a zone, and you can assign zones by region within your own country.
Reporting and Inventory Management #
eShop doesn’t include any built-in reporting features or sales information (other than a list of top sellers in your WordPress dashboard). You can view orders placed, but sales reporting will have to be done manually.
You can enable stock management under your settings, and set quantities while adding or editing products. You can also change stock levels while viewing all products under eShop > Products. There are no low or out-of-stock notifications, so you’ll have to set these up yourself or just keep an eye on stock levels.
The eShop wiki has a lot of documentation published for users to sift through, and quality is pretty good, but could use some clarification. Sometimes it restates information that’s already in the plugin instead of going through a detailed explanation. There are also some videos posted to help with setup and usage. Reviews on WordPress.org seem to indicate that support is good and the plugin author is active in responding to support requests in the forums (20 of 22 resolved in the last month). Support is also addressed on eShop support forums. For a free plugin with very few paid add-ons, this is pretty impressive.
Other Features and Comments #
Under settings, there’s a page for “eShop Base” products, but I still have no idea what that does. You can also view the base in the eShop menu. Anyone have explanations as to what this is for? Looks like it’s intended for Google shopping feeds.
eShop Review Wrap-up #
As a general eCommerce platform, eShop will serve the needs of small stores, but probably won’t be a functional solution for larger stores unless you have an aggressive developer who wants to build on top of it. Costs are low and usability is pretty good, which will work for stores that are selling few products and don’t need to use a large merchant gateway to process payments or a lot of added functionality. It also plays well with many themes, and has had 5 years to mature.
While the core plugin has many good features, it leaves something to be desired in terms of extensibility, which is why larger stores will pass it over. Variations are difficult to add, and there are few marketing add-ons or methods to modify price (creating pricing tiers or bulk discounts, for example). Payment gateway integration with larger processors is also non-existent. Products are not added as custom post types (unless you want to custom code this), which makes your site and the shopping experience less flexible since you have to weigh the pros and cons of using posts or pages for product addition. Finally, a lot styling will be required to set up shopping pages for a user-friendly experience.
eShop is a viable option for small stores that are looking to sell basic products, but is unable to scale to meet the functionality that larger stores will need.
Read more: #
- Chris Planeta has an eShop Review that goes through some finer points of setup.
- Vandelay Design’s 10 top WordPress eCommerce Plugins has a very brief review with highlights of each platform.
- Winkpress also wrote an eShop Review that gives a general overview of plugin features and settings.
Like this eShop 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. Despite this fact, every effort was made to be impartial and write this review from a neutral perspective.
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