But in this day and age it’s easier than ever to start up your own e-commerce store and sell products without the restrictions of just a few years ago.
As one of the pioneers of WordPress e-commerce plugins, we’ve decide to review some of the most popular e-commerce plugins on the market.
What do you need to get started?
Getting started is probably the scariest thing about setting up your own online store as most people are put off by words like hosting, DNS, SSL certificates and payment gateways.
Most places you host with nowadays will offer you a ‘one click install’ which means you just need to go to a website like TSO Host or WP Engine, set up an account and then click install WordPress. Normally they’ll even handle things like DNS set up for you automatically.
Once you’ve got your website set up, you’ll want an SSL which is usually a simple process of purchasing it and the company you’ve purchased it through installing it for you and then you’ll be able to collect payments securely.
But now you want an e-commerce plugin…
By far the most popular e-commerce plugin out there with over 1m installs, WooCommerce is probably the first plugin you’ll come across. During the Spring of 2015, Automattic the company behind WordPress actually purchased WooCommerce. But what makes WooCommerce so popular?
Woo also packs an awful lot into the regular install if you don’t want to get your hands dirty by adding extra plugins. You’ll find an easy to use shipping system, the world’s most popular payment gateway PayPal & PayPal Express pre-installed, an easy to use inventory / order management system and much more. But if you ever do find yourself wanting more the WooCommerce website has hundreds of well built themes and extensions, allowing you to easily have a beautiful looking site with the ability to add new features at the click of a button. Alternatively head over to Envato and have a look at what the community have built.
A nice feature that not everybody will take advantage of is the ability to sell digital goods, as well as physical goods. So perhaps you’re a photographer looking to sell photos or an designer trying to sell fonts online – they have you covered.
It’s also got comprehensive documentation readily available online, as well as community forums, a knowledge base and a customer help desk. Their support is also spread across the world in near enough every time zone, so if you’ve ever got a problem you’ll have your bases covered.
Easy Digital Downloads
If you’re selling physical products Easy Digital Downloads isn’t for you. As you can probably guess by the title, it’s exclusively for selling digital downloads. It’s easy to work with and has some great features.
Whilst most other e-commerce platforms can do digital downloads, EDD is built from the ground up to sell digital goods, meaning it provides a much better experience than any other plugin for digital products. Part of this comes into how easy it is to add and display products, you can see from there demo just how easy it is. EDD will adapt to any WordPress theme, you can see in the demo it’s working with one of the core WordPress themes, but there are some themes built specifically for it, but not as many or widely available as WooCommerce themes.
Support with EDD is fantastic, with free support forums and video tutorials with the optional of paying for priority support if you need it.
Obviously the fact that EDD is download only can be looked at in a negative light, but the fact it focuses on this one product type and nails it is hard to look past.
Built by WPMU Dev and providing users with a store without the need for extensions MarketPress certainly is impressive in some ways, but with only 5000+ installs how good is it?
Due to the nature of how it was built, it’s extremely quick for people with any CSS knowledge to tweak it’s styles. If you’re afraid of rolling your sleeves up and coding, it comes with some pre-packaged themes allowing you to tweak its appearance in other ways. They offer a handy step by step guide on how you can implement the plugin into your site and also has good documentation.
Whilst the base version of this plugin is free, WPMU Dev offer a premium version which offers extra features. Meaning you can find yourself feeling restricted with the base version, it’s extremely frustrating when setting something up with the free version to find out what you want to do requires you to pay extra. Due to the its lack of popularity it also has limited plugins and themes to extend its functionality and looks.
View more about MarketPress.
A simple, intuitive and easy to use plugin from iThemes, Exchange wants to provide you with the easiest way to have a shop.
The best thing about Exchange is how simple it is, they’ve cut down e-commerce to the very basics. This may seem strange, but it has a good reason. It’s split most of its features into add-ons. Which means you built the e-commerce plugin you want. It doesn’t come with any extra fat. You don’t need to deal with this to have a store though, in its most basic form it can do basic products, shipping, coupons etc. Also a nice feature, you can download Stripe for free which is usually a premium gateway which can be upwards of £30-£50. So if you do just want a very basic shop this may be something for you to consider, ask any developer and they’ll tell you the less code you have the better. It’s quality not quantity.
If you do enjoy the way Exchange works and want some extra features without adding extra plugins there is a premium version which packs in more features into the base version of the plugin. Again they offer good documentation and support which is good to know when investing time and money into setting up a shop.
The biggest thing letting Exchange down is its small community. It’s not been about as long as some of the other plugins, so not as many people are using it.
Shopp isn’t the most popular plugin but we have used it on sites before for some of its benefits.
One of the biggest selling points of Shopp is it was designed to be PCI compliant, meaning the plugin plays extra attention to the security and safety of customer information / payments. This is increasingly important because it can increase the trust a customer has in you if they can see how secure the site is, it means buying from your shop doesn’t show any form of risk. It also stores data different to all the other plugins which means queries run faster which in turn increase the page load time. It’s again shown in statistics that if your site takes too long to load, customers will leave.
But from our experience with Shopp it does have some downsides to consider, even though Shopp will work with any WordPress theme there are limited pre-built themes specially for it because it doesn’t have a huge user base and it’s also much harder to theme for than its competitors. Whilst it does have documentation it has a surprisingly small amount of free support before they will ask you to pay for help.
So what’s our favourite e-commerce plugin?
Whilst it may come at no surprise to you, we’ve had the best experience with WooCommerce.
It has a ridiculous amount of themes if you include what’s available on ThemeForest, the basic version of the plugin simply works and it offers huge amounts of flexibility. It is our go-to plugin when setting up shops and we even built our own product customisation plugin for it.
Probably the biggest selling points is it’s owned by Automattic, whilst other e-commerce plugins have come and gone, we can’t imagine the owners of WordPress wanting to let WooCommerce die any time in the near future.
Why not let us know your favourite ecommerce plugin is by commenting below or dropping us a tweet?