Starting your own ecommerce site in WordPress is simple; just choose the right platform, set up your store and tell the world about your new webshop. However, choosing the right ecommerce plugin can get a little confusing when you’re just starting out.
Let’s take things from the very beginning. First things first, you need hosting. I suggest you choose the best WordPress friendly web hosting you can afford.
If you’re on a budget, BlueHost’s ecommerce package or even small shared hosting packages by Godaddy will do fine.
If budget is not an issue then I recommend going with a managed WordPress hosting provider like WPEngine.
It is also highly recommended to get an SSL certificate with your hosting package. When you’re taking orders through your site directly, it might even be required by law.
Lastly, you’ll need some paid WordPress plugins to build your subscriber list (e.g. Aweber or MailChimp) and perhaps some other paid subscriptions, depending on your business. For example: many startups use services such as Freshbooks for their bookkeeping or Buffer for their social media scheduled posts. Keep these possible overheads in mind when you’re just starting out.
That being said, let’s look at the top 4 ecommerce plugins for WordPress:
As you may already know, this is by far the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress. Often when people refer to ecommerce in WordPress, they’ll simply name WooCommerce instead.
The free WooCommerce plugin has over 1 million active users (yes, that’s a lot) which results in plenty of community support and a huge amount of support topics online.
Let’s look at the pros and cons for using WooCommerce as your WordPress ecommerce platform:
Documentation & Support – As a result of its popularity and wide useage, there is a staggering amount of documentation and troubleshooting topics to be found online. I have never found myself in a situation where I searched a WooCommerce support question and drew a blank.
Sell Digital + Physical products – WooCommerce lets you sell both physical and digital products all through the same plugin. You can even sell both, right next to each other.
Sell external products – Want to start your own Amazon affiliate store? No problem! WooCommerce supports the sale of external products just as easily, which makes it a great platform for affiliate marketers. You can even sell your own stock along external affiliate items, all in the same place.
Payment gateways – WooCommerce natively supports multiple payment options and many, many more through the use of addons. When you first install WooCommerce, payment methods such as PayPal, bank transfer, cash on delivery and cheque are already supported. Further payment methods such as Autorize.net, Stripe, PayFast and many, many more can be added through free and paid addons.
Too many options – WooCommerce can be tweaked in many ways and comes with a lot of options. This can be a little overwhelming for new users
Theme Support – The theme that you currently use may not be optimized for WooCommerce so they won’t work well together. Whenever you’re building a new online store, make sure you choose a well supported theme that is compatible with WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is a great ecommerce plugin and perfect for almost every online store. WooCommerce is updated regularly and comes with a huge knowledge base online.
As the name already suggest, Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) specializes in digital downloads. You can use this plugin to sell downloadable products like ebooks or music or simply as a payment gateway for your clients if you provide services.
Easy to use – Setting up this plugin is very self-explanatory and a simple process for beginners.
Flexible – EDD is quite flexible in its use and can be tweaked in many ways. For example, you can link users directly to the checkout page, cart or use the built-in way of displaying your products.
Themes & Extensions – There are 100s of extensions available for EDD. These include more payment methods, tweaks to your checkout process and many more. There are even custom themes available that are fully tailored towards selling through EDD.
Features – Some features that are available in WooCommerce may only be available as paid addons in Easy Digital Downloads. Because WooCommerce has such a large userbase, there are many more free addons available than for EDD.
Digital Downloads Only – EDD will not work with physical products. Well of course it doesn’t, that’s why it’s called Easy Digital Downloads. But if you want to start selling Amazon or even your own products at a later time, just know you won’t be able to.
Easy Digital Downloads can be your one-stop solution if you’re looking to sell digital products. It is perfect for online stores that only need to sell a handful of services or downloads. The community support as well as the developer’s support is very good as well.
You may not have heard of Exchange before. It is a brand new ecommerce platform for WordPress. It’s easy to use and comes with all the basic features you need to get started selling online.
Exchange supports both digital and physical items and even has a premium add-on that allows you to sell memberships on your WordPress site.
Easy to Use – iThemes Exchange is very easy to install and configure. There is also a series of video tutorials as well as written documentation on the iThemes website in case you get lost.
Free Stripe Addon – If you already know that you need to accept payments through Stripe, this plugin might be on your list for that reason. Most ecommerce platforms charge a premium for their Stripe payment addon but it comes free with iThemes Exchange.
Small Community – Compared to giants like WooCommerce or even EDD, iThemes Exchange has a much smaller community so user support will be less.
iThemes Exchange is a great new platform with lots of potential. With its easy set up and simple layout, it’s a great plugin for newcomers, too.
This plugin puts its emphasis on security and the fact that is passes PCI vulnerability scans more than other platforms. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of using this lesser known ecommerce platform.
Product Types – Shopp allows you to sell digital downloads, physical products and external products, all under the same hood. In addition to that, Shopp allows you to sell subscription type products without having to buy an addon.
Security – The developers of this plugin really want to stress this point. Their entire plugin is designed to be PCI compliant, which is a legal requirement in some jurisdictions if you are accepting payments directly through your site.
Limited Support – Unfortunately, there is very little support for this plugin. Only after purchasing a premium support subscription will you be able to open tickets and get direct support from the developers.
Shopp might be a good plugin if you are specifically aiming to be PCI DSS compliant. Having the ability to sell subscription on the get-go is also a huge plus for some starters, especially if you are looking to sell a monthly service or membership website.
However, if you are looking to get support when you need it, expect to pay.
If you are looking to start your own online store using WordPress, I strongly suggest using WooCommerce. It is your best bet 90%+ of the time.
If you are looking to sell digital downloads only, Easy Digital Downloads might be an option, depending on the amount of premium features you will need.
I hope this gives you a better idea of how to get started with ecommerce in WordPress. Got something to add? Leave a comment below.