WordPress +WooCommerce = eCommerce

Is it possible to open an eCommerce website using WordPress as the foundation?

Yes, but it depends on your specific needs. WordPress extends its functions using plug-ins and the plug-ins are numerous. Each with their own good and not so good aspects.

WordPress

History of eCommerce Plugins

In 2007, the choice of eCommerce plug-ins for WordPress was grim. My research revealed two true alternatives: the features were limited, and the options were shallow.

I was tasked to build an eCommerce website to sell U.S. and State flags. Being an avid WordPress user, I looked for a solution in their plug-in directory, first. There were three main requirements. It had to handle sales tax, shipping, and price variations.

Did I succeed? Not really. I launched the website with WordPress and the best available eCommerce plug-in available, but it was not adequate for my needs. I moved away from WordPress and used ZenCart. ZenCart is a robust, open-source shopping cart, but it is not as user friendly as WordPress. The flag store was then named Flags Bay.

flagsbay

Five Years Later – 2012

Demand for user-friendly eCommerce websites, continued to grow and the WordPress community took notice. The plug-ins for selling online became more powerful and offered more features. Soon, there were so many, it was difficult to decide which could fit your specific needs.

I decided to test twelve of the more likely candidates. I installed each on a test website and set up a test product with variations. Then checked sales tax settings and shipping options. Several plug-ins rose to the top of the list, while others did not make the cut.

I concluded the time was still not right.

Determine Your Requirements

How do you know which eCommerce option is right for your needs? Answer a few questions

  • Are you selling physical or digital products?
  • How many different products will you sell?
  • What are your requirements to collect sales tax?
  • How will you ship your product?
  • If digital, do you need secure download pages?
  • How will you handle multiple downloads?
  • Are you selling items with many options (or variations)?
  • Do you need variations with different pricing?
  • Do you have a merchant account? If yes, does it support selling online?

This list is not everything you need to know, but its a start. Some websites need more than others.

Two More Years – 2014

In 2014, my research of plug-ins abilities showed it was time to move the Flag Store’s website to WordPress. Testing for the metrics above, sales tax, shipping, and variables, were now available in an easy to use format.

Sales Tax

 The Daily Flag, located in Texas, has to collect sales tax on flags shipped inside Texas. The state collects 6.25%,  and local entities can add an additional 2% for a total tax rate of 8.25%. 

Out-of-state customers buying flags are not charged Texas sales tax, so the website needs to handle the difference.

Results, only a couple plug-ins handled this correctly, so the choice was down to two.

Shipping

Shipping is another issue to consider.

Do you offer:

  • free shipping
  • flat rate shipping
  • actual cost shipping
  • shipping by weight
  • shipping by price

What about other shipping options?

  1. Will you determine the carrier or allow customer  options?
  2. Will you allow shipping by USPS, UPS, and/or FedEx?
  3. How will you handle each carrier’s pricing?
  4. Is shipping free above a pre-determined amount?
  5. Will you charge for all shipping?
  6. How will you handle shipping zones?

These are important decisions you must make before choosing an eCommerce platform.

The Daily Flag chose to offer free shipping on all orders over $25.

Variations

Samples of variations of products are colors, sizes, and add-ons. Do these variations have additional costs, or are they the same price.

On The Daily Flag, one type of  U.S flag is available in ten sizes, each with a different price.  Very few WordPress plug-ins have the ability handle this issue easily.

a screenshot of The Daily Flag front page

What is Critical to you?

You can see the importance of making these decisions before launching store. So choosing the right software for your needs is crucial.

However, you need to be aware of a few things concerning current eCommerce plug-ins for WordPress. All the plug-ins are available as free downloads from the WordPress Plug-in directory, but the similarities end there.

Several plug-ins have no strings attached. They will work with different themes, offer access to support pages and forums, and have some kind of author support. A few plug-ins only work with the provider’s themes. Others only offer support with a fee—some one-time, some by a monthly subscription. There are a few plug-ins that are only tie-ins with hosted eCommerce products, using WordPress as the front-end.

None of this is unusual, but it is important you know before choosing the plug-in. The prices are reasonable and allow the author to make money from their work.

Available Plug-ins in 2018

Here is a short list of some of the eCommerce plug-ins currently available for WordPress. Several I tested in 2014 are gone, but new ones have been added.

The bold plug-ins are ones I tested four years ago.

  • TheCartPress eCommerce Shopping Cart
  • Orilla Cart
  • WC Marketplace
  • JigoShop
  • WP e-Commerce
  • WP Shop
  • Selz WordPress eCommerce
  • MarketPress
  • Shopping Cart & eCommerce Store
  • WooCommerce

There are more plug-ins available, so choose wisely.

Which Did I Choose?

So after my exhaustive research, which eCommerce plug-in did I choose? It come down to two, JigoShop and WooCommerce. Both were similar, but I went with WooCommerce.

The WooCommerce team continues to improve the plug-in and even more since they were acquired by Automattic, the company that owns WordPress.

WooCommerce now powers 28% of the world’s eCommerce websites. They must be doing something right.

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