With free WordPress plugin WooCommerce neck and neck with Magento as the ecommerce platform leader in terms of usage among the Alexa top 1 million ranked websites, businesses may be wondering whether they should build their sales website using WordPress, go for something custom-made or look into a cloud-based solution.
WordPress is widely used for ecommerce websites because it’s cheap, it’s adaptable and it’s scalable.
WordPress and the relevant ecommerce plugins are mainly free, although development and implementation may not be, of course.
As an open source platform and the content management system (CMS) of choice for tens of millions of websites, there is a gigantic community of developers, which in turn means a vast library of resources, meaning potential savings on development costs. These include plugins which make the platform eminently customisable but also make it possible to quickly cobble together a simple, workable solution should the need arise.
Developers generally comment on its scalability and robustness – properly hosted (some recommend WP Engine, for example) and configured, WordPress can handle any size of website and any amount of traffic.
Others comment about its solid SEO capabilities both out of the box, thanks to things like search-friendly URL structures, and via plugins like Yoast SEO.
An aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked is that since WordPress is so simple to use as a blogging platform, it can make it easier for ecommerce businesses to enact a content marketing strategy that supports their store. Contributor Adam Gold of BlueJam Media recently gave us his tips for an industry-leading ecommerce blog.
At a fundamental level, WordPress is built as a CMS – it was made for blogging, not ecommerce. This means that various combinations of plugins that enable ecommerce functionality can also lead to bugs and security problems.
Popular platform naturally attract hackers, although it is generally held that the security of WordPress itself is “good enough”. The trouble is, with a WordPress, development and hosting is entirely down to you (permitting customisation), unlike with various cloud-based solutions: the constant drip of updates means that your site might face security challenges if not maintained properly.
Things to consider include ensuring registered users use appropriately complex passwords, SSL certificates/HTTPS, secure hosting, whether payment partners are trusted and avoiding free themes from dodgy sources.
WooCommerce, developed by WooThemes and launched in 2011, is the most commonly used ecommerce platform among the top 1 million websites ranked by Alexa. It is a freely available ecommerce plugin that enables shop facilities on your WordPress website. Extensions to WooCommerce, including storefront extensions, do cost.
Popular destinations to find themes, priced from $59, include Theme Forest. Top choices include the appropriately titled CleanSale (live preview) and the slightly more glamorous Glamo (for use with WooCommerce – live preview).
One example of what is possible is of course WooCommerce developer WooThemes’ own website.
There are thousands of other examples, from the simple (Smiles for the People) to the classy (Dark Horse furniture) to relatively big brands (The Spectator or Taylor Swift’s Official UK Merchandise Store).
There is a question mark over whether WordPress is suitable for the biggest ecommerce stores. After all, eBay, Amazon, Apple and Etsy don’t use it store-wise (eBay uses WordPress for its blog).
For SMEs, it is widely recognised that WordPress, via one of the ecommerce plugins, can provide a quick-launch solution. Of course, the needs of different businesses vary massively, so it might be wise to start a few conversations with website design firms or WordPress developers to get a better idea of what’s best.
For enterprise-level solutions, it is likely that firms like Hybris and Demandware and platforms such as Magento Enterprise (see our Magento updates hub for more info or check out our interview with a Magento expert) will prove more suitable.