We’re frequently asked whether WordPress can be considered a reliable solution for deploying an eCommerce store, and we invariably reply that it all depends on the requirements of the website. There are many factors to take into account and before we embark into any project we always try to accurately understand what the goals and requirements of our clients will be.
As you’ll read below, there are quite a few eCommerce solutions for the WordPress platform, both free and commercial, that are not short of capable for many online shopping scenarios. In this post we’re only going to review some of the software that can be implemented for free, at least in its basic functionality.
It has to be said however, that although these extensions do run on top of WordPress, their interface can be at times not as user-friendly as that of their host. Many users complain that the back-end of these extensions is not as intuitive as they expected in a WordPress environment, but in the end it all depends on your level of experience with eCommerce software added to your understanding of the processes involved in any type of commercial outlet, be it traditional or Internet-based.
We’ll start with WooCommerce, our favorite Open Source solution and that of at least another 1,000,000 users who have downloaded it, making it become one of the most popular eCommerce solutions for WordPress, and for the right reasons. WooThemes had already built a strong reputation for themselves thanks to the combined beauty and functionality of its Themes and Plugins, before it ventured into the realm of eCommerce. Technically speaking WooCommerce is a Plugin, but its vast array of options makes it feel like a Content Management System on its own.
Although WooCommerce can be used for free, it will cost you money to customize it beyond its basic functionality with advanced Extensions, such as Subscriptions, Table Rate Shipping, CSV Import Suite, USPS Shipping Method, Authorize.net Reporting, Returns and Warranty Requests, PDF Invoices, and many others. However the developers have made available extensive documentation that any WooCommerce seasoned developer can make good use of, and as a result a number of free alternatives are also available.
WP e-Commerce is the most popular WordPress eCommerce solution available today, with over 2.4 Million downloads as of August 2013. Also a fully featured plugin that would qualify as a complete system on its own that covers all possible requirements of most online stores.
eShop defines itself as an “accessible shopping cart plugin for WordPress”. That in itself would be enough to merit our attention, but eShop also includes many advanced eCommerce features like multiple merchant payment gateways, a range of shipping options, sales tax by country or state, featured/sale items and discount options.
Compatible with WP Affiliate, WPMU/Multisite capable and translation-ready, this plugin can also be configured to be used as a product catalogue with no sales.
Ecwid stands for “eCommerce widgets” and is an awesome fully-featured shopping cart and eCommerce WordPress solution that can also be easily added to any other type of website, including seamless integration with any Facebook or MySpace profile, Wix.com website, and many other portals and social networks.
Ecwid is 100% AJAX-powered and responsive, and although that contributes to make it very appealing, fast, and mobile-ready, it could also raise some SEO issues, if not handled properly.
Ready! E-commerce is a newcomer to the WordPress eCommerce arena, but is doing quite well in terms of acceptance and reviews. As it name implies the Ready! E-commerce WordPress Plugin, is an out-of-the Box ready solution that allows you to immediately start working after installation.
Its developers have made it very easy to create, display and sell both real and digital goods. Additional options are the use of SSL certificates to build customer trust and ensure website security, beautifully designed and ready for eCommerce Themes, and easy customization.
There are dozens more eCommerce solutions for WordPress and we realize is probably totally unfair leaving some of them out of this article. Cart66, for example is an incredible piece of software that has recently moved into the Cloud, and the highly acclaimed Jigoshop needs to be at least mentioned, but the reality is that we haven’t tested those Plugins as extensively as the ones above. And no matter how comprehensive we try to make this post, we’ll be always leaving some package out, as many WordPress eCommerce Plugins keep coming out all the time.
In any case you need to keep in mind that the most important factors to take into account when deploying an eCommerce solution of any kind are the projected size of the online store in number of products, and the maximum number of expected concurrent visitors. Generally speaking and in spite of some of the hype, WordPress eCommerce solutions are limited by their host capabilities and they’re best suited for small and medium sized stores, which happen to be over 95% of all eCommerce websites anyway.
Although WordPress has evolved from a Blog engine into an extremely versatile and multi-functional Content Management System, if you’re trying to set up a large enterprise class shopping cart platform you should be looking at other dedicated eCommerce platforms such as Magento, that can handle up to 150,000 products and 800 concurrent users. PrestaShop, OpenCart or even a customized Zen Cart installation are other possible options. And if your CMS of choice is Joomla! or Drupal, you may want to check out VirtueMart or Drupal Commerce, all of which RackNine can also help you build and customize.
We have a proven track record in creating, customizing and maintaining online eCommerce sites for Canadian clients. Please contact us and we’ll be glad to assist you choose the right platform for your online store.