Thinking about setting up a WooCommerce site but not sure if it’s the right hosting platform? The choices for merchants setting up an online store can be confusing and overwhelming. Competitors to WooCommerce are numerous and include Magento, Shopify, Bigcommerce, G2 Deals, Shopify Plus, Salesforce Commerce for B2C, and Ecwid to name but a few. So, how do you know which to use.
WooCommerce is one of the leading names, but before you commit, we researched the question-and answer platform Quora and other online nooks and crannies to find out what the community is saying about WooCommerce. Some of the opinions conflicted, so we distilled down all the information to try to uncover the truth.
The following article outlines 15 things a merchant should know before committing to WooCommerce as a hosting platform and will help you decide if it is the right one for you.
What Exactly Is WooCommerce and How Does it Work?
WooCommerce is a plugin to WordPress. It allows users to create an online store, to enter and edit product listings, create a shopping cart, process payments in WooCommerce, and install WooCommerce chargeback protection or ecommerce fraud prevention tools.
WooCommerce is a self-hosted platform, as opposed to a managed hosted platform, which means that the user or merchant is responsible for the building, hosting, and data storage.
What’s the difference between self-hosted platforms and managed hosted platforms?
Managed hosting sites, like Magento, will do much of the work for you—manage the servers, deal with high traffic scenarios, and take care of security software and compliance. There are also independent service providers who will manage whatever platform you choose, hosted or self-hosted.
The other thing to know about WooCommerce is that it is an open-source platform, meaning that anyone can modify the code and customize their site. But this has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, you have complete ownership of your store and your code. On the other hand, you need coding expertise to manipulate that code.
As a rough guide, self-hosted platforms like WooCommerce are best if you meet the following criteria:
- You anticipate making various code-level changes to your site.
- You have a relatively low budget.
- You want more control of your search engine optimization (SEO).
- You are relatively self-sufficient and don’t need 24/7 technical support.
- You anticipate rapid growth with an increasing number of products.
Despite being open-source, the WooCommerce plugin is easy to download and install. Once downloaded, the plugin will initiate a Set-up Wizard that walks you through the process of creating an online store.
Sounds so easy, right? Let’s see what others have said about WooCommerce and what you should know.
1. “WooCommerce is free.”
If you already have a WordPress website, you can get the WooCommerce plugin for free and create your online store. WooCommerce is open source, which means that anyone can access the source code, modify it, and share it code.
Some experts consider that open-source software encourages a more open community of users and developers and a wider network that you users can reach out to for support. Also, with more people looking at the code, bugs in the software are found and fixed more efficiently.
2. “You need to pay for extensions.”
Wait. So, it’s not free after all?
Well, technically, yes. The core software for WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin. However, if you want premium features, like customized themes and specific designs for branding, you will have to pay for them.
The plugins for new features range in price from US$50 or $200. Some come as monthly subscriptions or a lifetime saver pack. You may find that, depending on the complexity of your store, you have significant extra costs.
3. “WooCommerce is dependent on WordPress.”
We established that you need a WordPress website to get the WooCommerce plugin, so yes, WooCommerce is dependent on WordPress. The disadvantage of that is users need some knowledge of both products. If not, and a merchant wants to use WooCommerce without WordPress, they’ll have to rebuild their website.
4. “Customization is limitless.”
WooCommerce is an open-source platform with accessible code, so anyone can take it and run with it. It’s possible to create a unique store with real personality and strong branding, and the core themes and designs are varied and customizable.
Other comments along this line were that WooCommerce can make your ecommerce store look “highly organized and professional.” The themes and headers can be changed in the tiniest detail. You can change colors, fonts, logos, and images, and automatically apply the changes to the whole site without needing to visit different pages for adjustments.
5. “Even though it is customizable, it is not out of the box.”
WordPress has a back-end interface that handles features such as product variations, tax calculations, and shipping options. Users also get free unlimited domains and subdomains when they sign up for a hosting package.
However, some plugins were reported to be problematic.
For example, implementing multi-currency. For merchants who sell globally, a WooCommerce multilingual currency switcher plugin allows prices to be displayed in the currency of the visitor to the site’s location. The plugins will automatically detect local currency and add exchange rates to your products. The checkout page will display the converted rate, and your customers can ultimately pay in their native currency or currency of their choice.
Wishlist functionality was also another plugin that is reportedly tricky to install for non-techies.
6. “You don’t need HTML or CSS knowledge to customize the site.”
So, this comment should come as a relief to merchants who lean more toward marketing and content management than software coding and technology.
The WooCommerce plugin is apparently easy to install, and once installed, the WooCommerce wizard leads you through the store set-up process. But what if you run into problems with additional plugins? Do you need knowledge of HTML and CSS? The next comments addresses these concerns.
7. “WooCommerce can be slow and challenging to set up.”
WooCommerce is a self-hosting platform without direct customer support. The overall tone of the comments we found imply that users should be somewhat technologically savvy to use WooCommerce, or they should use a third-party expert hosting service, even with the Setup Wizard.
Here are some of the challenges people reported in creating an online store using WooCommerce.
“The content doesn’t always look right.”
The person who reported this problem explained that if you make updates using the visual tab, the updates might not appear as you expect them to on the browser. Some users who are not familiar with HTML could be frustrated when text and images don’t appear as they wish.
“There is a steep learning curve.”
If a merchant has little technical experience, learning the ins and outs of WordPress and WooCommerce will take their focus and time away from their core purpose … selling.
“Expert knowledge is needed to add new functionality.”
Obviously, you can’t just set up a WooCommerce site and then walk away and leave it to manage and update itself. Ongoing maintenance is required. Also, some reports say that expert ecommerce site builders are needed to build and maintain a robust site.
Technical maintenance plugins will notify you when there are security updates. However, these plugins must be manually updated. Of course, you can hire a hosting provider to take care of maintenance and security updates for you.
8. “WooCommerce has strong community support.”
This comment offers potential WooCommerce users some reassurance. There is a wide community of developers, designers, and other store owners you can ask for help through online support forums.
Examples of WooCommerce forums where users can connect with other developers, designers, and store owners are Advanced WooCommerce, WooCommerce Help & Share, and WooCommerce Support Forum. If you need to find someone to help you with your WooCommerce store, these forums are a great place to get recommendations.
9. “Site performance can be hampered.”
There does seem to be a reoccurring theme that installing, setting up, and updating all the various WooCommerce plugins, extensions, and tools can be overwhelming to newbies.
There were specific problems cited regarding performance for stores with a high number of SKUs—from 500 to 1,000 items. Also, there were some concerns that WooCommerce plugins were not as quick to adapt to WordPress updates, which meant that the website did not perform as it should when the website was updated.
10. “WooCommerce can scale with your business.”
Check out a report by Tyche Software that reports in detail on WooCommerce’s ability to scale an ecommerce site. According to the software provider, four factors influence store scaling: server hardware, traffic to the site, how well-updated the code is, and how optimized the other plugins are.
The software provider conducted a study on WooCommerce stores with over 10,000+ products and found that the number of products doesn’t necessarily affect the website. Rather, website speed and page load time were mainly affected by the complexity of themes, unoptimized images, and images serving the same content from different URLs. According to the report, a WooCommerce site will scale if optimized, maintained, and not overwhelmed by traffic.
11. “Security aspects can be complex for those not familiar with web security practices.”
Ecommerce websites are a primary target for hackers and fraudsters. This means that merchants should update the WooCommerce software frequently to prevent cyber-attacks and encrypt backup data. Merchants should either possess the expertise to do so or hire experts who do.
For more on WooCommerce, chargebacks, and fraud, read “Running a WooCommerce WordPress Site? We Guarantee You’ll Never Get a Chargeback for Fraud”
12. “WooCommerce is flexible.”
Merchants can sell physical products and digital products on a WooCommerce site. Anything from furniture, books, external merchandise from Amazon affiliates, even webinars or coaching sessions can be hosted and sold. Also, for merchants, the software offers sales reporting, inventory management, and processing of ecommerce orders.
13. “Powerful SEO.”
The partnership between WordPress’s blogging infrastructure and WooCommerce facilitates powerful search engine optimization (SEO) so merchants can boost their Google rankings. There are additional extensions and plugins that will optimize SEO for merchants even more. It’s also easy to activate Google Analytics for a WooCommerce website.
14. “Lack of customer support.”
This comment, we presume, is based on the fact that WooCommerce doesn’t provide any customer support directly by phone or chat. However, users can submit tickets or turn to other users and developers on the many forums.
15. “It’s customer friendly.”
Finding the right payments partner for WooCommerce is easy, and WooCommerce hosts popular payment options that appeal to consumers, such as major credit cards, PayPal, bank transfers, and cash-on-delivery. WooCommerce also accommodates chargeback protection or ecommerce fraud prevention tools to protect merchants and their customers.
Find out more about fraud prevention, read “eCommerce Fraud Management: Best Practices”
WooCommerce stores have other features that appeal to consumers not just payment options. Because merchants can easily set up warehouse management capabilities and POS systems access, customers can easily track their orders and check the delivery status of orders.
Is WooCommerce the Right Platform for You?
WordPress and its extensive WooCommerce plugins are a good choice for small to medium-sized businesses. However, the level of the user’s technical capability needs to be considered. The merchant should be tech savvy-enough to build and maintain the site unless they rely on a hosting service. There is always the option of bringing in a hosting management service, but that will add to overall costs.
The less complex the site needs to be, the easier it will be to set up and maintain. For merchants who need more extensions, have a huge range of product offerings, or who expect to expand into global markets, another host platform might be better.
Cartis Payments wants to help your payments grow no matter what your ecommerce or payment needs are. Speak to a Cartis Payments representative today about payment solutions for WooCommerce.