eCommerce is a competitive arena, and the number of eCommerce websites is increasing at astronomical rates. All these websites need a hosting platform, constant updating, and secure payment portals, and the demand from merchants for new capabilities, from augmented reality to global crypto transactions, never ceases.
WordPress has experienced unprecedented success as a content management system, and its web builder add-on, WooCommerce, has powered its meteoric rise as an eCommerce hosting platform. But how sustainable is WooCommerce’s market position now that new market entrants are on the horizon? Has WooCommerce reached the maturity stage of its lifecycle, and is it embarking on a downward trajectory?
This article looks at the rise of WordPress and WooCommerce and explains what the future holds for this star performer and for merchants who use it.
The Rise of WordPress and WooCommerce
WordPress dominates the content management market with a stronghold of 64 percent. The second largest player is Shopify, but this competitor only claims 6 percent of the market. According to W3Techs.coms best estimates, WordPress is used by 43.1 percent of all websites.
WordPress was first launched in 2003, and WooCommerce, an ecommerce solution for WordPress, emerged in September 2011. Adii Pienaar, Magnus Jepson, and Mark Forrester were the original innovators of what was originally called WooThemes.
WooThemes was acquired by Automattic in May 2015 and renamed WooCommerce. This was WooCommerce’s most successful year. The product generated over $7 million in profits, 30 percent of which was from eCommerce stores.
WooCommerce is an open-source plugin for WordPress, which means that anyone can access and modify the code. The solution’s appeal has always been that it is customizable and straightforward to use, but other features have catapulted WooCommerce to its position as the market leader.
- There are thousands of free and paid WooCommerce themes and extensions.
- A wizard helps users build an online store that is up and running and doing business within hours.
- A range of popular payment facilities serves eCommerce merchants and their customers.
- Easy store design and branding with pre-built themes.
- A strong developer community willing to offer help on technical problems and answer basic queries, as well as educational guides and tutorials.
More recently, in November 2022, WordPress released its Dokan Plugin as a single-seller online selling platform but also as a base for multi-vendor selling platforms. With Dokan, merchants can create marketplaces similar to eBay and Amazon and earn passive income from commissions.
All this success, however, does not mean that WordPress and WooCommerce are not facing challenges.
For more on the pros and cons of WooCommerce, read “Looking for An ECommerce Platform? 15 Things Merchants Should Know Before They Commit to WooCommerce”
Criticisms of WooCommerce
Any fears surrounding WooCommerce are based on its slightly waning popularity observed following the COVID pandemic, growing competition, and security and maintenance concerns.
According to Barn2, a U.K.-based software company specializing in WordPress, the number of Google searches for “WordPress’ has been declining since 2014, implying that WordPress may have peaked. Meanwhile, several competitors, such as Shopify and Magento, have established themselves in the market.
Also, statistics by W3Techs, show that WordPress’s impressive market share dropped by 0.2% from February 2022 to February 2023. Are these indicators cause for alarm for merchants who rely on WooCommerce?
The answer is probably not.
The year 2020 saw a massive surge in the number of people using WordPress and WooCommerce because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As people lost their jobs and were placed on lockdown, many started online businesses and created WooCommerce stores.
WooCommerce competitors also benefited, and slower growth in 2022 because of competition and a slowing down in eCommerce activity was probably unavoidable.
That said, according to Barn2, WordPress has also been criticized for its lack of security and its high maintenance. In 2020, Wordfence reported more than 2,800 attacks per second targeting WordPress, which makes it the most-hacked website. But that’s not so surprising considering that WordPress is the most popular hosting software for eCommerce sites.
In terms of ease of use, however, other website builders are considered quicker and easier to set up. According to Barn2, WordPress is less user-friendly than some of its competitors, like Wix, for example. WordPress didn’t have a built-in page builder for a long time. Users needed to hire a developer or install a third-party page builder plugin. When WordPress did finally offer a page builder, it was highly criticized.
Ultimately, the companies that will stay the course in the eCommerce hosting space are the ones that continue to innovate and answer the call for new products geared toward future market and technology trends.
Let’s look at how WordPress and WooCommerce stack up on that score.
WooCommerce and Innovation
The innovators at WordPress are stepping up to the plate where innovation is concerned. The block-based editor Gutenberg has been improved, and other areas where WooCommerce is innovating and meeting the demands of its users are the application of artificial intelligence and augmented reality, progressive web application, voice search, personalization for products, security enhancements, and blockchain capabilities.
The Gutenberg editor has been running in WordPress since 2107, but it’s been updated for Version 5.9 It’s a long-term project released in stages. The goal for Gutenberg Editor is to simplify website creation for users who are not coders, which will widen the pool of potential users.
Augmented reality is already a tool used widely on eCommerce sites. Virtual dressing rooms and the ability to place products in virtual home surroundings are popular consumer functionalities.
Augmented Reality for WooCommerce plugin is a solution that puts 3D models in an interactive 3D model viewer and viewed directly in a WooCommerce shopping cart creating an interactive AR shopping experience.
Shopping and augmented reality (AR) together make a powerful combination. Home Depot and IkeaPlace have successfully integrated AR within their application and websites, giving customers the luxury to make the perfect choice for their home. Customers can use their store app and phones to see how colors and furniture would look in their homes.
Progressive Web Application (PWA)
WordPress is focusing on mobile users. The Progressive Web Application (PWA) allows websites to perform like a mobile app and serve the eCommerce service provider with no native mobile app. WordPress also has a mobile app that lets merchants manage their eCommerce sites from the palm of their hand.
With the introduction of Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, voice search has become a standard. WooCommerce offers a voice search plugin that can be used for over 130 languages.
Visitors to the Nike website can personalize their purchases by picking laces, changing Swoosh colors, and more. WooCommerce has numerous custom product designer plugins so that merchants can provide bespoke products. For example, Fancy Product Designer lets users upload their own media, select colors using a color picker, add their own text, or customize the image position, and size when customizing products.
While WordPress core software is secure and audited regularly by hundreds of developers. Security plugins for WooCommerce are constantly updated to safeguard websites from common DDoS attacks, phishing, and cyber threats. Popular plugins are Sucuri, Jetpack, and Wordfence.
As cryptocurrency transactions gain traction, WordPress crypto plugins help merchants with crypto payments on online stores. Popular plugins include MyCryptoCheckout, NOWPayments, and Blockonomics.
WooCommerce is striking out with new partnerships to further its product innovation. For example, an extension with Pinterest allows WooCommerce users to convert their product catalogs into shoppable pins on Pinterest. A new TikTok plugin for WooCommerce permits users to connect their product catalog, activate TikTok pixel tracking, create TikTok ads, and launch them from their WooCommerce dashboard.
The Future of WooCommerce
WooCommerce continues to be the powerhouse where eCommerce hosting is concerned. After a slight blip in operations following the pandemic, the platform has held its own against competitors and market entrants. It continues to innovate with new plugins and to update its existing products.
For now, merchants who choose to build their eCommerce sites with WooCommerce can rest assured that there’s life in the old dog yet.
WooCommerce users can also be comforted that thanks to open software and the vast community of WooCommerce developers, whatever their need, here is, or will be soon, a WooCommerce plugin for that!