The National Small Business Association’s most recent figures say that just about 28% of American small businesses (companies with 500 or fewer workers) use e-commerce to sell their goods and services online. This means that your gym, salon, practice, or small manufacturing company can step ahead of 72% of your competitors by offering your clients and customers the convenience of booking an appointment online or buying the equipment or items you recommend. WooCommerce can help you.
WooCommerce currently powers almost 40% of all the ecommerce websites in the world. Shopify, considered a major competitor, has just 5% market share. There are many WooCommerce sites that handle 60,000 SKUs and 100,000 purchases a day.
In short, the days when you would use WooCommerce for light e-commerce only are long past. If your dreams include an eventual e-commerce empire, your WordPress website can get you there. For many of our clients, though, e-commerce centers on a couple of books, some equipment, or a few hair care products. In such cases, adding a shopping cart to their current website makes good sense in comparison to working with the much more complex solutions like Magento or Volusion (both of which we’ve used).
Ask yourself some questions before you make up your mind.
Do you want to take on e-commerce?
WooCommerce’s Andrew Wikel says of WooCommerce, “It’s not simple, but it’s the simplest.”
E-commerce is a terrific opportunity for an additional income stream, but it’s not simple. There are hundreds of ways to configure your shopping cart. Each product has to be inputted, with good photographs and optimized content. You have to make decisions about how to handle sales tax, shipping, inventory, and customer service. You or your web team will need to keep up with updates and changes in products and regulations. And of course someone will have to pack goods up and get them to the post office.
Connecting up with a stock catalog of products is an option. Usually, that means less work for you… but also much less of the profits. You may also find that a stock catalog of exercise gear or supplements will include items you wouldn’t have chosen for your clients. You can also choose a third-party fulfillment house. Often, such companies turn out to be more cost-effective than packing and shipping from your break room or your dining room, because they have economies of scale that are not available to small businesses.
Most companies can handle e-commerce, especially if they think things through before they begin. Orders will come in slowly at first, so you’ll have time to make adjustments. But you don’t want to be in the position of failing to fill orders, or of being unable to keep up with your other priorities.
Are you starting from scratch?
Wikel says that 98% of all the problems people have with WooCommerce can be solved by using their theme, Storefront. It’s free, it’s modular so you can add on all and only the elements you need, and your web designer can still build you a custom home page.
If you don’t currently have a website or you know that you need a new one, starting with Storefront can be a very sensible choice. A service like Shopify will let you set up a store very easily, but it’s just a store. A full website that does all the jobs a website does for you requires something more. For example, if you’re a physical therapist wanting to build a retail section into the website you need for your practice, WooCommerce will meet your needs much better than an e-commerce platform.
If you already have a WordPress website, it’s an easier job to install and configure a WooCommerce cart than to build a new website.
What about other plugins?
WooCommerce is not your only choice for WordPress. We’ve used others in the past. In fact, until recently our advice was just to go with the platform your designer was most experienced with.
Since WooCommerce teamed up with WordPress, though, it’s our top choice. Here are some reasons:
- It’s free and open source, and will stay that way. That’s free as in free speech, not free as in free beer, as WordPress likes to say, but WooCommerce is also available at no cost. So is the Storefront theme. There are extensions you can pay for, but WooCommerce, unlike most e-commerce platforms, doesn’t require a monthly payment.
- You have access to the enormous, enormously helpful WordPress community for support.
- WooCommerce offers unparalleled flexibility. Wikel says that running 7 or 8 extensions is typical, and 20 isn’t a problem. That means that you can customize your cart to a much greater degree than you can achieve with most ecommerce platforms. A new, Jetpack-like interface that simplifies the process is on the way.
We’ve worked with Volusion, Magento, WP Ecommerce, Shopp, Easy Digital Downloads, and several proprietary carts. We think that WooCommerce is going to be more comfortable for most users than most of the alternatives. As Wikel said, it’s not simple but the it is the simplest.
One of the great things about WooCommerce is that you can try it out. You can install it at your WordPress website or have your web team do so, and play with it. If it’s not for you, all you’ve invested is some time.