WP eStore Review
WP eStore is one of the more mature WordPress eCommerce plugins available, as it’s been in development for about five years. While it works for stores with physical products, it seems to more frequently be a contender for stores with digital products or memberships due to the ability to encrypt download links and the inclusion of recurring billing (along with eMembers integration). Our WP eStore Review will cover how the plugin handles some basic eCommerce functionality.
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
- WP eStore Review Wrap-up
- Read More
WP eStore is a premium WordPress plugin, so you’ll need to purchase the plugin to fully test it out and see if it will work for your store. The initial purchase price is $50, which includes an unlimited license for the plugin (you can install it on as many sites as you own – not a developer license). The purchase price includes all functionality, so you won’t have to buy add-ons to get subscription pricing, variable products, or other features. However, this also means that you can’t use bolt-on extensions to customize your store, and you may not end up using all of the plugin’s features.
WP eStore worked well with the few themes we tested, so we don’t anticipate that theming would be an issue and shouldn’t incur a major cost.
Since all eCommerce function is included in the core plugin and theming shouldn’t be an issue, you can expect to stay close to the $50 price tag for your store.
One thing that sticks out about WP eStore is that there are tons of settings for you to slog through before your store is up and running. Almost every plugin on earth likes to boast about a “quick and easy installation / setup”, but many are lying – this one is unfortunately in that group. In it’s defense, many of the default settings will work, but I wouldn’t recommend setting up shop without making sure your store is set up to your exact specifications, nor would I invest the time in product creation or management unless this is done.
Installation and SetupWhen you install WP eStore, the plugin creates a new menu item solely dedicated to running your shop. This is where you’ll manage settings, products, coupons, and customers. You can also view sales stats and other pertinent store information.
I first went through all of the plugin settings after installing. There’s ample documentation available for setup, which you’ll probably end up using. Many of the settings link to the relevant documentation by way of explanation, so I found myself digging through the docs while making sure that all settings were configured.
There are also video tutorials you can follow along with for setup, though admittedly I didn’t use many of these (I almost alway hate videos and prefer reading – I’m not sorry 😉 ). Apparently they are “must view”, so I’m sure I broke some rules, but I did manage to set everything solely using the documentation.
One thing that surprised me was the need to manually create and assign plugin pages, as they’re not automatically created upon installation, nor are there any shortcuts to creating necessary pages. The theory behind this is to offer greater customization in store setup.
If you look at the plugin as an option for digital goods rather than a traditional shop, then you may like this setup. Rather than having a static catalog with all available products (though this is possible), you can instead create customized product or shopping pages, and can optionally create a customized checkout page. The ability to provide long-form copy and customized selling pages may work well for stores with a few premium products.
Other things of note: first, I appreciated that you can include a terms & conditions page, which is very helpful for your digital products. Along the same vein, you can also use a squeeze page to collect information (i.e., email addresses) for your free products. There’s also a setting that allows you to provide a minimum or maximum checkout price.
Settings for tax rates are included in the plugin, but are very basic. You can enter one default tax rate for your entire store, and decide whether to tax shipping or not. You can also override this tax on a per-product basis if needed (for example, if selling both digital and physical goods, which frequently have different tax rates). However, you can’t set multiple tax rates for stores with nexus in several states in the US or selling internationally.
Before you set up any products, I would create product categories first. Unfortunately, this will require you to plan how your product catalog should be set up before you actually get started, but there are a couple of reasons for doing this. First, you can’t add a new product category while creating or editing a product, so you need to have the categories available before doing this. Second, it’s far easier to assign categories while creating products than doing it later. As there’s no way to bulk-edit your products, you can’t massively assign products to a category after it’s been created.
(Side note: You can bulk upload products and categories via CSV, but this won’t help with editing, as you can’t export them, then re-import.)
After categories are out of the way, you can start adding products. There are a lot of options available, which has both positives and negatives. For simple products, this can be an overload and most options aren’t necessary. However, you can definitely customize the way you sell your products with the included options. I would have appreciated a way to select my product type first, then only seen relevant product options to simplify this screen.
You can add multiple images per product, set pricing, additional shipping charges (good for oversized items), and override tax rates. You can set up product variations from this screen as well. You may want to reference the documentation for some help setting up variable products, as there aren’t detailed instructions within the plugin and I screwed up a couple times before reading it.
One of the cool things you can do with variations is optionally add costs for each variation you enter. For example, you can add extra costs for both a certain size or color for each variation that will be in addition to the base product price.
There are some handy options for digital products, such as the ability to set download expiration times, download limits, and encrypting download links (which prevents customers from finding where your downloads are stored). WP eStore also allows you to set up licensing rules for those of you selling software or other licensed products (you’ll have to create a pool of license keys to choose from).
Shortcodes and Widgets
Shortcodes are going to be the most integral part in setting up your shop for browsing. There are several shortcodes included with WP eStore, so you’ll want to read the full shortcode reference that’s available to help out.
To add an ‘Add to Cart’ button for a given product, you can simply add
[wp_eStore_add_to_cart id=PRODUCT-ID] into your post, page, landing page, or wherever you’re selling the product. Replace PRODUCT-ID with the actual product id (example:
[wp_eStore_add_to_cart id=1] ). Product IDs for all your products can be found in the ‘Manage Products’ section of the WP eStore menu.
Using this shortcode won’t display product images or provide an attractive layout, so you can alternatively use the
[wp_eStore_fancy1 id=1] or
[wp_eStore_fancy2 id=1] shortcodes instead:
I didn’t like that there’s no feedback to alert the customer that the product has been added to the cart, as customers may end up adding an item multiple times before checking the cart (though you can add an AJAX action to provide feedback under “Advanced settings” for one possible solution). You can also get around this by adding a shopping cart to your product pages instead.
To add shopping cart that’s constantly present, you can use the
[wp_eStore_cart] shortcode (you can also use this to create a static ‘Cart’ page). If you only want the cart to appear when it contains items, then you can use the
[wp_eStore_cart_fancy1_when_not_empty] (fancy version) shortcodes.
Finally, that takes us to catalog display. WP eStore doesn’t create a shop page, so it will be up to you to create your product catalog. You can display a list of products in a category using this shortcode:
[wp_eStore_category_products:category_id:1:end] (replace with the appropriate category id), or you can display all products with this:
Note that all display shortcodes use a list format rather than a grid format (which is very helpful for browsing catalog with large numbers of products). I could not find a way to create a grid layout without manually creating a product catalog using my own columns / rows.
Finally, you can also display your shopping cart using a widget instead of a shortcode, which can also give feedback when a product is added to the cart:
The customer experience while browsing your store will be entirely up to you. You can create your own product pages with long-form sales copy, or create a catalog page for a category or all products. This will allow you to determine the customer experience, but may require some testing on your part to decide on the best layout and approach.
If you want to create individual product pages for each product, be aware that you need to create the product page manually, then add the URL of that page to the “Additional Product Details” for the product page URL. This will change the product name to a link wherever that product is displayed, which takes the user to the product page that has more details.
If you choose to create a catalog page, be aware that products will be displayed in a list form. I recommend using one of the ‘fancy’ layout shortcodes for your products if you go this route. If you want to create a grid catalog, you’ll have to do so manually (which may not be feasible for those of you with large product quantities).
One thing you should be aware of while structuring your products is how the image galleries work. Only the featured product image is shown to customers while browsing, and there’s no indication that other images are available. When you open the image in a lightbox, you are able to scroll through the entire image gallery. You should inform customers of this in the product description (i.e., include “Click for more images” right away in the description).
Since your product pages or catalog pages and store structure are really up to you, the customer experience will depend on your setup and decisions. This requires more planning on your part and more setup, but does afford you some customization on how your store is arranged.
After customers select the items for purchase, you can display the shopping cart on your catalog / product pages, or on an individual cart page by using the cart shortcode. You can choose from a regular shopping cart or from a ‘fancy’ cart layout:
Notice the save and retrieve buttons in the cart. This allows customers to save their carts for later purchase if enabled under your settings.
Finally, customers will go through the checkout process, which requires them to select a payment method and be redirected to the checkout page. You can create a customized checkout page for your checkout, but cannot rename your checkout methods on the page. For example, you can use Authorize.net for credit card processing. However, you can’t rename this gateway to “credit cards” so that customers understand what it’s for (as they probably haven’t heard of Authorize.net). The checkout options use a one-page checkout, so it should be simple for customers, but they’ll be redirected to another site for payment methods other than the “manual” method, which may result in a decrease in conversions.
There are basic built-in shipping options and payment gateway integrations available for WP eStore along with a paid upgrade for payment gateways. However, I couldn’t find any shipping integrations – what you see with shipping is what you get, so if you have complex shipping needs, then this may not work for you.
WP eStore offers a few payment gateway options, including PayPal, a manual payment method (i.e., checks), Authorize.net DPM (redirected to an Authorize.net pay page), and 2Checkout. Since these payment methods don’t collect sensitive payment information on your site (they all redirect the checkout through the payment providers’ servers), you won’t need an SSL certificate installed on your site.
If you want work with a different payment gateway, you can purchase a payment gateways add-on for $40 that includes other options from PayPal, Authorize.net, SagePay, Stripe, and more (the upgrade includes all of these rather than selling them individually). Keep in mind that you may need an SSL certificate if you use a different payment method.
WP eStore allows you to set basic shipping charges per order and additional shipping charges per each item. You can set flat shipping rates per order, then create a “shipping variation” that can optionally add costs to that rate. For example, if you create a flat $5 rate, you can then add additional shipping costs based on region (in the example below, I add a cost for the regions specified). Adding a cost will be in addition to the store rate plus any product rate/surcharge that’s set.
However, these rates don’t work perfectly. If you set a store rate, but the product doesn’t have its own shipping rate, then no shipping will be charged to the customer. This is so that you don’t charge shipping for digital products, but it makes setup a bit of a pain. The way I got around this was by making my store shipping rate $0.01, then setting a shipping rate for every product ($4.99 – or higher for oversized items – to bring the shipping total to the desired rate), then leaving the shipping blank for digital products so it’s not charged at all.
This could be solved by selecting a product type to begin with, then clearing any shipping charges for a digital product type. However there are no product types, which is why shipping must be configured this way.
While this isn’t a deal breaker, it certainly makes store setup a bit more involved. You can ready more about shipping options in the plugin documentation.
WP eStore has basic reporting and store stats capabilities built in, which include total sales by amount and item quantity.
Inventory management is included, and inventory is set on a per-product basis. However, there’s no alerts for low-stock so you’ll need to keep an eye on stock yourself. A “Sold Out” button is displayed to customers if the product has no copies / stock left.
This can help you set limits on the amount of “available” digital copies of a product if you’re trying to create scarcity (i.e., offering 50 copies at a reduced price, then the item at full price).
Support is included with a plugin purchase from Tips and Tricks HQ. Users have access to a support forum and the publicly available full plugin documentation for help. Anyone can view most of the topics in the forum, but only logged-in users can search or post threads for help (and view some protected threads).
I didn’t use the support forum, so I can’t really comment on response times or quality. I did use the documentation for the plugin in several instances, which I found helpful.
There are some interesting features and add-ons available for WP eStore. Customers can specify a price for a product, which can be useful for donations or “pay what you want” products, though you can’t set a minimum payment amount for these products.
If you want to extend the WP eStore functionality, you’ll want check out the free WP eStore add-ons. There aren’t many available, but there are handy add-ons for bulk discounts and subscription discounts.
WP eStore is also fully integrated with the Tips and Tricks membership plugin – WP eMember – so you can easily create a membership site. The structure for digital products and recurring billing is already included, so eMember helps with restriction and access rules. Integrations are also built-in for some email services (AWeber, Mailchimp, and GetResponse).
WP eStore also allows you to change product pricing easily. You can create coupons or discounts based on a number of rules. For example, you can offer free shipping based on cart total, and can offer other discounts based on cart totals or for specific products.
You can also change pricing by setting up recurring billing for a product based on a number of days, months, or years. You can also set free trial periods or signup fees.
As a final note, you can also view a list of customers, or a list of customers based on the products they’ve purchased. This can be useful for sending up-sell or cross-sell emails to customers based on previous purchases. You can also view and update the payment status, but the customer management is basic, and a new customer is generated for every order, even if purchases are made by the same person using the same email.
I see WP eStore as a far better for fit for digital products than for physical products (which is what the plugin is primarily geared towards). The plugin lacks bulk product editing options, effective order handling (or the ability to view all orders for a customer), or flexible tax and shipping options. Once more than a few orders are processed per day, order management will probably become more integral to the store admin process than this plugin can handle, so there are better choices for stores that sell physical products (though these options may be more expensive overall).
For digital products, WP eStore becomes far more compelling, as the limitations with shipping and tax options become almost irrelevant, and there are a lot of handy options for digital products. Encrypted download links, download link expiration and limits, as well as the ability to set license keys for products all provide great options for digital goods.
If you’re selling primarily digital products, then WP eStore may become a contender for you. Order management and limited tax and shipping options limit the usage for stores with physical products, but the inclusion of secure downloads, license keys, and recurring billing for a fixed price of $50 make WP eStore viable for stores with digital offerings.
- Here’s a Quick-start guide to setup that covers basic product and shopping cart addition.
- This review for WP eStore goes through some pros and cons for using the plugin
- This WP eStore review goes through more detail in settings and capabilities.
Like this WP eStore Review? Check out the rest of our WordPress eCommerce Platforms Guide.
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