A lot of you have WordPress websites and blogs these days, so it makes sense for you to consider getting one of WordPress’ many ecommerce plugins to turn your site into an online store. It’s convenient. It’s inexpensive. But is it the best ecommerce solution for you? In the coming weeks, I’m going to review all the popular WordPress ecommerce plugins laying out the good, the bad, and the ugly. But for now, I’m going to go over a few of the most popular and also tell you why you may be barking up the wrong tree with WordPress ecommerce plugins at all.
The Problem With WordPress Ecommerce Plugins
The problem with using WordPress for ecommerce is that all the plugins available are extremely lightweight and best suited for entry level online stores. Why is that a problem? Well, because most WordPress ecommerce plugins have awful documentation and even worse customer support. WordPress ecommerce plugins are built for small and medium sized online stores, which are generally run by a less tech-savvy entrepreneur, and yet they can be incredibly difficult to setup, customize, run, and if you encounter a problem customer service is often impossible to get ahold of, or they charge extra money for each issue. There’s also the bug issue, which deserves an article to itself.
WordPress is awesome for blogs. Nobody can deny that. Its possibly the best CMS (content management system) in the world. I built the website you’re on right now using WordPress and I love it. But I’m not selling anything. This isn’t an ecommerce store. I don’t have to worry about inventory, payment gateways, shipping integrations, security concerns, credit card information, and more. These plugins aren’t dedicated ecommerce platforms, like Shopify, BigCommerce, and the likes.
Yes, WordPress ecommerce plugins come with some benefits, but they also come with some big drawbacks you should be aware of as well. Here are the 6 WordPress ecommerce plugins that I’m currently evaluating for an in-depth review. In the comments, please let me know which you’re most interested in reading about.
Top 6 WordPress Ecommerce Plugins
Shopp is one of WordPress’ first ecommerce plugins – it’s been around for quite some time. I really like how easy it is to customize your online store’s design with Shopp. This ecommerce plugin can be liensed for $55 – $299 and you also need to pay more for further functinoality. For instance, if you want a specific payment gateway, or a shipping module, or support, you’re going to have to pay a lot extra.
This one is easy to install and use, and I am impressed with their documentation, but don’t expect any type of customer support…. at all. I tried Shop. It’s a great product, but the customer service is dismal or non-existent unless you pay an extra premium fee for it. (Source) Not everyone agrees that Shop is “a great product” – here is an excerpt from a review that compared Shop with Cart66:
Why does Shopp suck? Because it is very misleading with the phrase, “Need to customize every aspect of the shopping experience without a bunch of code hacking headaches?” Shopp is nothing but a headache for a designer like myself, I guarantee the people who Love Shopp are coders. The response from the help desk is to go seek help in the forum or hire a coder. I wasted almost 2 years learning code, instead of selling and creating my artwork which is all I wanted to do in the first place! (Source)
WP E-Commerce is also known as “getshopped.org” and it’s easy to use and is definitely one of the most popular ecommerce solutions for WordPress out there. Many consider it the best option, and it has a strong community of developers ready to help you. You get the basic functions you’d want from a shopping cart without too much extra. You can download WP E-Commerce for free, but all features need to be purchased. It’s got a lot more features than eShop and yes, you can print invoices, but NO they’re not customizable. You get a good amount of payment options (PayPal, Manual, Google Checkout, Chronopay, etc, etc,) but if you need anything above super-basic functionality you’ll need to upgrade to their “Gold Version” which costs a lot extra.
Some more downfalls with WP E-Commerce are bugs. Depending on what you’re trying to do, you may or may not need to call an exterminator this plugin is so damn buggy. Also, support is widely regarded as horrendous.
While I loved the wp e-commerce because of its functionality, unless you are a PHP guru, be warned. Their support sucks big time. I bought the Gold cart and needed support and am still waiting after almost a week. The program has a ton of bugs that if you are good with PHP you can fix. Don’t expect them to do it! (Source)
Famous design studio, WooThemes, has now dipped into the world of ecommerce. Their plugin, WooCommerce, is free to download and use, but most extensions and functionalities cost money to use. Example: Basic accounting will cost +$50, Purolator shipping integration +$50, most payment gateways +$25 and up. You can see here for a whole list.
Potential issues include:
Shipping: The free version includes support for only flat fee shipping. Ie you can calculate shipping at a flat rate for the entire order or per item. There is an extension available for table based shipping prices and another for each of the realtime shipping gateways but this can add up quickly at $50 per realtime shipping provider.
Payment Gateways: The free version can only process credit cards via PayPal standard. There are also extensions here that can be purchased for different gateways.
Support: There is no support at this time for the free version, not even via the forum.
Inventory: Items can only be uploaded and managed one at a time. I was unable to find any sort of mass import. (Source)
Cart66 is a WordPress ecommerce plugin that offers a lot of super basic shopping cart functionality to your site. Cart66 is well known for handling recurring billing (subscriptions) and selling digital downloads (good for selling MP3s, video, and more).
I can’t stress how basic Cart66 is enough. If you go with this plugin, I hope you’re good with your hands – because you’re going to be doing a lot of manual labor (ie. manually sending emails with order status, copying and pasting packing slip info, copying and pasting addresses onto shipping labels, and more). Cart66 costs anywhere between $89 and $399.
Cart66 Lite is in many ways similar to previously reviewed Quickshop and wins in direct comparison. Nevertheless, I can recommend it only to small time merchandisers dealing in the US or Canada. It is not a good solution for retail sellers from other than the above-mentioned countries or ones selling more than few, unique items (no storage data). (Source)
I found eShop to be one of the eaisest to use WordPress ecommerce plugins. The admin area is nice, and they make it simple to add products, and check very basic stats. Again – like all WordPress ecommerce solutions, there is always a downside, and with eShop you’re extremely limited when it comes to payment gateways. With eShop you can only use PayPal, Payson, or their own payment system (they take a cut), and if you choose to use eShop as a payment method, you won’t be able to print an invoice for the customer, which… is kind of ridiculous.
Even though E-Shop is easy to use, I think it’s too lightweight and basic for almost anyone. There is a laundry list of things it doesn’t (and SHOULD) do. For instance, you can’t even do simple reporting:
Reporting in E-Shop is lacking and there’s no where to see your overall sales on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. It’s important to know how much business is coming in from your shop and most e-commerce software has at minimum a sales report function. (Source)
Picking an ecommerce platform isn’t an easy task. From my experience, using a WordPress ecommerce plugin is not ideal for building and running an online store.