Thankfully, WordPress is designed for extensibility through add-ons called plugins. There are many eCommerce plugins available, enabling you to add an online store to any self-hosted WordPress site. By choosing and installing the right plugin, you can easily begin selling products within minutes.
This article first explains the benefits of eCommerce plugins for WordPress. We’ll then introduce several of the most popular solutions, and highlight their strengths and weaknesses. Finally, we’ll discuss how to choose the right one for your WordPress website.
Why Use a WordPress Store Plugin?
If you already have a WordPress website and want to get started with eCommerce, there are plenty of available plugins to choose from. By building onto your existing site, you can avoid the hassle of creating and managing a brand new eCommerce site completely from scratch.
In other words, WordPress eCommerce plugins make the switch from blog to online store a cinch. There are a number to choose from and each has its own benefits, so let’s take a look at your options.
WordPress eCommerce Plugin Comparison
Each WordPress eCommerce plugin has its own unique features and pricing model. However, the most popular strategy is to offer the plugin for free, then charge for any specific feature add-ons.
The following table highlights a few of the most common WordPress eCommerce plugins. However, while we’ll talk about Shopify later, the WordPress plugin has recently been discontinued so it is not included in this list:
Of course, every plugin will have its own unique features and strengths. Let’s explore each one.
One of the biggest benefits of working with WooCommerce is the access to a wide number of third-party extensions. As it’s an open-source plugin, any developer is welcome to build their own WooCommerce extensions and customize the platform. Most of the common payment gateways also offer a WooCommerce extension plugin – some even for free.
Overall, WooCommerce is a robust option for almost any kind of store, as it provides most of the features you need out of the box. Many advanced features will likely have an available extension, too. If you’re looking for a flexible store with a variety of options for growth, try WooCommerce.
Shopify is a separately-hosted eCommerce management service, which previously integrated into WordPress using an officially supported plugin. This has recently been discontinued, but you can still embed some of Shopify’s features into your WordPress site.
As Shopify is not a WordPress plugin, it’s not fair to directly compare it to the rest of this list. If you’re dissatisfied with the idea of running your online store from within WordPress, it may be a good solution for you to consider.
Shopify also offers a free trial period, so it may be worth trying both WooCommerce and Shopify yourself to compare.
Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) is yet another robust WordPress plugin offering full eCommerce functionality. As you can tell by the name, there’s a bigger focus on selling digital products than physical ones. As such, its options and add-ons are geared towards advanced digital product sales.
As EDD is particularly streamlined for digital sales, you may find the interface makes more sense if you’re selling products such as PDFs or software. EDD is also capable of selling physical items, but the process is not nearly as intuitive, and isn’t included out of the box unlike WooCommerce.
You’ll also discover that advanced digital features such as recurring subscriptions and software update APIs are readily available in add-on form – something that may be a bit harder to find in the competition.
iThemes Exchange pitches itself as a simple eCommerce plugin that makes selling easy. It features a clean interface, and all of the basic essentials such as shipping, coupon, and user management.
However, the plugin comes with incredibly pared down features in the free version. There’s an upgrade in the form of an add-on pack, which extends the basic plugin into a well-rounded eCommerce solution.
For those who don’t need anything but a basic online store, iThemes Exchange is a good choice to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Shopp is another easy to use and well-built WordPress eCommerce plugin. What makes this an appealing choice is that all its features are free! There are no add-ons or premium features, although you can upgrade if you want support and the convenience of automatic updates.
While Shopp offers powerful features such as easily-editable templates, it doesn’t have some desirable capabilities like memberships or recurring payments. If you want a solid, customizable plugin for free but don’t require any fancy extras, you should consider Shopp.
What’s the Best WordPress eCommerce Plugin for You?
If you’re looking for a eCommerce plugin that can handle any situation, WooCommerce is a good place to start. On the other hand, if you’re more focused on selling digital products, Easy Digital Downloads may be more suitable, and will also offer intuitive features specific to your needs. For simpler eCommerce solutions, try iThemes Exchange or Shopp.
If you’d like to avoid managing your online store in WordPress altogether, a managed service such as Shopify will still let you embed Buy buttons on your website.
Whichever you choose, it’s important to remember what drives your eCommerce site is the server it’s installed on. A stellar hosting provider such as WP Engine ensures consistent uptime and fast loading pages for your users, as does taking steps to protect your customer’s personal data.