The rise in online shopping has been growing year on year, but changing shopping habits brought about by Covid-19 have converted even the most enthusiastic high-street shoppers to retail ecommerce.
Retail ecommerce is experiencing tremendous growth, and so can you
Look no further than Amazon for evidence of this.
Amazon reported a tripling of profits and a massive rise in sales in the first quarter of 2021.
And while vaccination programmes continue at present throughout Europe, retail ecommerce looks set to build on recent successes.
Globally, ecommerce sales rose to $26.7 trillion in 2020.
But retail ecommerce is still a relatively young market, so if you’re considering ecommerce for your current or future business, now is the perfect time to get set up.
And naturally, you’ll want to know what the best ecommerce platform is for small businesses.
Today, we’re taking a deep dive into WooCommerce for retail ecommerce.
We’ll look at the platform’s history, what WooCommerce provides, who should use it, the advantages of WooCommerce and alternative ecommerce platforms.
And we’ll also look at some of WooCommerce’s limitations.
- Introduction to WooCommerce
- What is WooCommerce
- Who can use WooCommerce?
- Alternatives to WooCommerce
- Is WooCommerce suitable for me?
- How much does WooCommerce cost?
- Why should I use WooCommerce?
- How secure is WooCommerce?
- 11 Advantages of WooCommerce
- Limitations of WooCommerce
- Can I integrate AirPOS and WooCommerce?
Introduction to WooCommerce
Founded in 2008 as WooThemes, WooCommerce is an open-source, flexible ecommerce solution built on WordPress.
In 2015, the company was acquired by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.
Making a slight pivot in 2017, the company now focuses wholly on ecommerce.
In their own words:
“WooCommerce is committed to democratising commerce and putting you in control of your own livelihood. Our core platform is free and open-source, empowering anyone to sell anything, anywhere.”
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is an ecommerce platform that helps companies transform their website into a sleek, functional, professional ecommerce website.
In keeping with its origins, the intuitive platform is created for companies with a WordPress Content Management System (CMS).
Who can use WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is built on WordPress as a plugin, so you’ll have to have a WordPress CMS to use it. If you don’t have an existing website, it’s a great platform that you can use for it.
Hopefully, that’s good news for you; nearly half of the web is built on WordPress, so chances are you will be able to make the most of WooCommerce.
Alternatives to WooCommerce
Two of WooCommerce’s biggest competitors are Shopify and BigCommerce. Let’s take a quick look at them both.
With pricing starting at just $29 a month, it’s no surprise that Shopify now enjoys the support of over 1.7 million customers worldwide.
Customers of Shopify love the fact that they know what they’ll pay each month due to its clear pricing structure.
And they appreciate the ecommerce platform taking control of everything for you, including hosting and security.
With a catchy tagline of ‘Build Today, Grow Tomorrow’, Big Commerce offers an out of the box solution to selling online.
Trusted by over 60,000 merchants, you can get up and running for as little as $29.95 per month.
Unlike some of its competitors, BigCommerce customers enjoy 0% transaction fees compared to industry-standard fees of 2%.
Is WooCommerce suitable for me?
As we discussed earlier, WooCommerce is built for WordPress, so if you have a WordPress website, then it’s the perfect platform for your company.
In our opinion, WooCommerce is best suited to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).
How much does WooCommerce cost?
WooCommerce is free as long as you have a WordPress site.
But remember, you’ll likely need to buy some themes, plugins and extensions as your retail ecommerce business grows.
I own a retail ecommerce business, why should I use WooCommerce?
Firstly, you can sell lots of different types of products.
That includes physical products, subscriptions, digital products and much more.
Secondly, WooCommerce is highly customisable, so your ecommerce website can really stand out from the crowd and showcase your individuality.
Thirdly, WooCommerce is free, so you can save the thirty dollars in monthly fees that you’d have to spend for a Spotify or BigCommerce monthly cost.
Fourthly, it’s an excellent choice for those of us with tighter budgets, which, given the twelve months we’ve all just been through, is quite a lot of people.
Lastly, WooCommerce can integrate directly into your WordPress website, which is pretty handy, especially if you’re not technically savvy.
How safe and secure is WooCommerce?
If we’ve learnt anything over the last five years, it’s that even the most outwardly secure looking websites can and have suffered breaches and hacks.
So, the question isn’t, “Will I ever be hacked?” because, of course, there’s a chance.
Instead, you’ll want to know whether the hacking threat is minimised, taken seriously and flaws updated immediately when identified.
And WooCommerce is one of the safest and most secure retail ecommerce platforms in the industry.
That’s because they have a team of developers continually updating the platform and performing security updates, and keeping abreast of current threats and vulnerabilities.
Add in the fact that WooCommerce has the expertise of WordPress at its disposal, and you’ve got one of the best platforms for safety and security available.
11 Advantages of WooCommerce
The advantages of choosing WooCommerce as your ecommerce platform are wide and varied.
But let’s take a look at some of the most impressive benefits.
1. WooCommerce is the most used retail ecommerce platform in the world.
WooCommerce enjoys over five million active installations.
When something’s that popular, it means it has got many things right, and WooCommerce’s popularity is impressive.
2. WooCommerce is simple to set up, even without coding knowledge.
Most of us aren’t particularly technical, so we want simple, hassle-free set-ups, which is an area that WooCommerce excels.
And if you get stuck, the handy WooCommerce Setup Wizard will guide you through.
You’ll also be able to find answers to your questions on their helpful how-to videos and guides, as well as in the dedicated WooCommerce forums.
3. WooCommerce offers high-quality themes and plugins to suit every retail ecommerce company.
The beauty of being open-source is that everything is entirely customisable.
You’ll enjoy access to a massive variety of free and paid plugins that will take your business to the next level.
4. WooCommerce is SEO-friendly.
A great website needs to be search engine optimised to drive traffic (and sales!) consistently.
The thing is, most small ecommerce businesses don’t have the vast social media and Google PPC advertising budgets, so they need to ensure their SEO is on point.
And this is where WooCommerce stakes its claim as the best ecommerce platform.
Because it’s on WordPress, you’ll find it straightforward to optimise all content, whether that’s blog content, product content or product categories.
5. Access to a wide range of extensions.
Again, this is where the beauty of open-source at WordPress and WooCommerce is evident.
You’ll enjoy being part of a thriving, helpful community of developers, customers and WooCommerce experts, which is a tremendous advantage over retail ecommerce competitors.
And that’ll come in handy if you need to change aspects of your store; there’s always someone there to help you through anything tricky.
6. The WooCommerce plugin is free.
Sometimes in the tech world, people assume that free means poor quality.
But that’s not the case with WooCommerce; the company oozes class, and the platform is slickness personified.
And best of all, it’s free.
As your retail ecommerce business grows, WooCommerce grows with it.
And eventually, you might want to use some of the paid plugins to help your business become even more successful.
7. There are no limitations on what you can sell through WooCommerce.
Whether you’re an up and coming SaaS company with an exciting digital product or a retailer implementing ecommerce for the first time, WooCommerce is a great choice.
Some platforms will ban what products can be sold, which can limit who can use them, vape shops often have issues with setting up stores on some platforms.
8. Integrated payments on your WooCommerce retail site.
Customers in 2021 like things to be simple.
They expect seamless, hassle-free browsing, buying and checkout experiences.
And WooCommerce delivers this perfectly, with over one hundred different payment options.
Integrated payment options include stalwarts like PayPal and Stripe, major credit cards, bank transfers and Amazon Pay.
9. Integrated accounting, for example, Xero, to help your small ecommerce business keep on top of things.
No matter what industry you’re in, you’ll want a handle on your finances.
And Xero for WooCommerce is an excellent option, allowing you to create invoices for all sales on your ecommerce website.
It’ll give you a full 360-degree view of your finances, help you to manage your shipping, taxes, and keep records on the figures that matter.
10. WooCommerce offers world-leading retail ecommerce analytics.
Just like not being able to walk far with a blindfold, it’s challenging to sell online without understanding your customer, their journey and behaviour(s).
WooCommerce customers enjoy the ability to track everything, which means they can organise their website effectively for sales.
The platform’s easy-to-use analytic tools help you spot patterns, identify and sort out issues before they’ve escalated.
And most importantly of all, for retail ecommerce companies, the ability to understand your customers.
11. WooCommerce helps you succeed online with quality documentation.
Too often online, great platforms (** cough, Shopify, cough **) are let down by poorly constructed (or non-existent!) documentation.
But WooCommerce is arguably in a class of its own when providing helpful guidance documentation on making the most of the ecommerce platform.
And that’s a huge advantage of choosing WooCommerce over competitors.
You’ll find everything you could need to start, maintain, and thrive using the platform on the WooCommerce website.
Expect to find helpful how-to guides, video tutorials and troubleshooting tips.
Limitations of WooCommerce
It’s very rare to find a retail ecommerce platform that will be perfect for every person in every circumstance.
That is, of course, because we all have different companies that need different things.
And WooCommerce has its limitations too.
Here’s a quick summary of some of WooCommerce’s limitations:
1. You must have a WordPress hosted website.
We spoke earlier about this being an advantage if you were already a WordPress user.
Still, on the flip side, if you’re not a WordPress user, unfortunately, it’s a pretty significant disadvantage for you and the 59% of the web that is not built on WordPress.
2. Extensions can be costly.
We discussed earlier how WooCommerce is free (which is great!).
But, to really make the most out of the platform, you’ll find yourself – sooner rather than later – paying for extensions.
And while none of these will break the bank, costs do start mounting up, and suddenly Shopify’s $29 a month subscription won’t seem too costly.
3. You need to find your own hosting.
As we said, costs can start to mount up.
And just like there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there are caveats to WooCommerce’s ‘free’ plugin.
WooCommerce isn’t a standalone website builder like Shopify.
Ultimately, it’s an open-source plugin, which means you’ll have to find your own web hosting provider.
Hosting costs start from as little as £5.99 per month.
SiteGround’s GrowBig package is perfect for starting an ecommerce website or alternatively, Cloudway’s Starter Package.
Of course, if you already have a WordPress website, it costs nothing to convert it into an ecommerce site.
You’ll find a helpful list of WordPress endorsed hosting companies here.
4. No centralised support
Part of the charm of being an open-source plugin is also acknowledged by many as one of WooCommerce’s disadvantages.
And with WooCommerce, there is, unfortunately, no centralised support.
For you, that means if you encounter a problem not explicitly caused by the plugin, for example, a third-party extension, you may have to find and pay a developer for assisting you.
5. WooCommerce can be slow.
Slow-loading websites lose money. It’s sad but true.
And depending on several different variables, your WooCommerce website might be slow.
As your retail ecommerce website grows, outdated plugins, non-optimised images and increasing website visitors all play a part in slowing a website down.
And skimping on a hosting service could mean losing sales.
Make sure your hosting is fast, your plugins are optimised (and that you’re not using too many) and that your images are well optimised for the web.
How much does WooCommerce cost? Pricing and what you need to know.
WooCommerce is free, but you’ll most likely want some paid extensions, as we’ve discussed earlier.
The cost for those paid extensions vary but to give you an idea, here are the current prices for three popular extensions:
- WooCommerce Multi-Currency: $59.40 (billed annually)
- WooSlider Products Slideshow: $17.40 (billed annually)
- SeedProd: $39.50 per year
You will also have to factor in the fees for payment providers like PayPal, Stripe, Square etc.
You’ll find all the WooCommerce payment providers here, but both PayPal and Stripe charge a 2.9% +30¢ fee per transaction as a general guideline.
What are some examples of retail WooCommerce stores?
- J. Hornig (coffee roasters)
- Porter & York (butchers)
- Picky Bars (energy bars)
- EcoKitty (cat gifts)
- Fitgers (brewhouse)
Can I integrate AirPOS and WooCommerce?
Oh, we were hoping you’d ask that!
You’ll be happy to know our talented team are working diligently behind the scenes, and we’ve got big news…
AirPOS and WooCommerce integration is coming soon!
Conclusion: Is WooCommerce suitable for me?
Every platform has its pros and no shortage of quirks and things that leave us scratching our heads.
But on the whole, WooCommerce meets most retail ecommerce websites’ needs.
With a thriving and helpful community, a variety of intuitive free and paid themes and extensions and a highly customisable platform, WooCommerce enjoys the charm of open-source and the freedom and flexibility to do things your way.
After weighing up all the pros and cons of WooCommerce and some of its main competitors, we think WooCommerce is the best ecommerce platform for small businesses.
But everyone has their own expectations so if you want an all-in-one managed ecommerce solution, read our Shopify guide for retailers: Is Shopify The Best Ecommerce Platform For Small Retailers?