As internet usage and penetration increase, the number of people who shop over the Internet increases accordingly. Because of this, eCommerce has become an essential part of the global retail market, generating $5.7 trillion worldwide in 2022.
On the other hand, WordPress is the most popular free and open-source content management system (CMS), powering over 40% of the web, including thousands of eCommerce sites. There’s a large market for WordPress-powered eCommerce sites, which may lead some to consider whether they should build their upcoming online store on WordPress.
This article answers whether WordPress is good for eCommerce and why you may consider using it for your business.
How is WordPress used for eCommerce websites?
WordPress started as a blogging platform but has become a mature content management system developers can use to create any website. However, given its origins, it’s clear that WordPress wasn’t designed with eCommerce development in mind.
The solution to this problem is using plugins for WordPress eCommerce development. These plugins extend WordPress features to provide an all-in-one solution for eCommerce functionality and allow developers to create online shops using the WordPress architecture. ECommerce plugins have the following benefits:
Product page customization.
Integration with multiple payment gateways, tax software, shipping solutions, and Google Analytics.
In-store search engines and product filters.
Membership and loyalty program features for customers.
Search engine optimization tools to avoid duplicate content.
Built-in analytic tools.
How to choose an eCommerce plugin for WordPress?
There are multiple ecommerce plugins for WordPress, such as WooCommerce (the most popular), Easy Digital Downloads, MemberPress, and BigCommerce. In fact, there are dozens of ecommerce plugins for WordPress. With such an extensive offering, it can be hard to decide which to use.
As with other plugin categories, certain ecommerce plugins are better than others for specific aspects of eCommerce development and management. For example, online stores selling products needing physical shipping benefit from plugins with built-in drop-shipping solutions, while ebook stores can thrive without such a feature.
Regardless of your specific needs, all eCommerce plugins should at least have the following features:
Support for your preferred payment options, either by default or with an extension.
Various templates and customization options to give your online store a unique design.
Integration with third-party services like CRM, accounting, and taxes software that helps you manage your business more efficiently from a single hub.
Easy integration with WordPress themes. That said, you should still use themes optimized for eCommerce.
Robust inventory management.
Shipping options (if you have to ship products).
Customer support for online shop owners.
Thoroughly explore the features, strengths, and weaknesses of the eCommerce plugins you’re considering before deciding. Research what each plugin is best for and determine whether it fits your needs.
For example, Easy Digital Downloads is specifically designed to sell access to digital downloads, making it ideal for an ebook store. On the flip side, it only supports digital sales, so any physical item that needs to be shipped is incompatible with this plugin.
WooCommerce does provide shipping alternatives, making it a better option if you’re selling clothes or any other item that needs delivery. Explore the most popular plugins to decide which is best for your store.
Pros and cons of WordPress for eCommerce
Pros of WordPress for eCommerce
No commissions to WordPress
Building an eCommerce site with WooCommerce or other eCommerce plugins means you pay no commission to WordPress per sale, unlike on eCommerce platforms like Shopify. The payment processor your site integrates with may involve fees, but those are not directly associated with WordPress.
Thousands of themes
WordPress has over 10,000 of them in the themes directory. Of those, approximately 1,200 are optimized for eCommerce.
WordPress is built with SEO in mind, enjoying features like clean code, customizable permalinks, fast loading speeds, responsive design, Google Analytics integration, image optimization, and many SEO-focused plugins like Yoast SEO. Of course, it’s up to developers to express this SEO-friendliness. Still, they have all the necessary tools to make it happen.
Excellent blogging platform
WordPress was initially built for blogging and still shines in this role.
Blogging is essential for eCommerce sites because it’s at the core of inbound marketing, using quality blog posts to drive traffic to your site and increase sales. Having an active and rich blog that informs customer choices makes you seem reliable and trustworthy, and WordPress has a robust blogging platform with the tools you need to create one.
A large developer community
WordPress offers access to perhaps the largest community of CMS-specific developers. With the community’s help, you gain access to support and resources related to all WordPress functions and those specific to eCommerce plugins.
This also means many WordPress agencies are available to develop your WordPress eCommerce site should you decide to hire a developer.
WordPress’s active community includes security experts developing free and premium security plugins: software add-ons that protect your site from security threats. Some of the benefits of using security plugins include the following:
Monitoring and scanning your website for malware.
Checking SSL certificates.
Protecting your site from zero-day attacks.
Repairing and restoring hacked sites.
Securing the authentication process.
Establishing a limit for failed login attempts.
Cons of WordPress for eCommerce
WordPress wasn’t built for eCommerce development.
While WordPress is amazingly flexible, some of the eCommerce feature your site needs are more complex than they would be with a specialized eCommerce builder. Some of the reasons WordPress may be more complex to use for online stores include the following:
It has a steeper learning curve. While built to be easy to use, advanced features require technical expertise that takes time to learn or require significant investment if you contract developers.
Maintenance. You’re responsible for your site’s maintenance, including regular updates to the core files and all plugins and themes you use. This may be time-consuming or require professional assistance.
Lack of customer support. WordPress has a large and active community but lacks central, dedicated customer service. That said, if you’re paying to develop your WordPress eCommerce site, your team should be able to provide all the support you need. Additionally, eCommerce plugins often have dedicated support teams.
Plugin and theme incompatibility.
WordPress has a massive software add-on directory with thousands of plugins and themes available. However, this diversity has the potential to lead to compatibility issues that can break your website entirely due to factors such as outdated software and conflicting code when customizing a theme or server configuration.
Because of this, you need to test plugins and themes before implementing them into your live site and always keep software components up to date.
You need to handle security.
The WordPress plugin directory has a wealth of high-grade security plugins which help you protect your site from common vulnerabilities. However, just as in the case of maintenance, you’re entirely responsible for keeping your website secure with security plugins and regular updates, whether by yourself or with the help of developers.
This is different from software-as-a-service (SaaS) eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, which handle security for you. Given WordPress’ popularity, you also must consider that it’s a common target for hackers.
That said, WordPress’s core files are extraordinarily secure and maintained by world-class security experts. Finally, the community is highly collaborative. Many dedicated security experts constantly monitor the ecosystem to find and disclose security vulnerabilities and help fix issues.
E-commerce sites are resource-intensive
E-commerce sites require significant resources to run on a server, which may lead to a need for managed hosting services. Managed hosting is generally more expensive than non-managed plans.
Alternatives to WordPress for eCommerce sites
WordPress is by no means the only platform developers use to create eCommerce sites. Developers can use any general-purpose CMS like Wix, Squarespace, Drupal, and Joomla to create eCommerce sites. Different platforms provide different options for eCommerce development, and you should explore which one fits your needs best.
For example, Wix and Squarespace are much more on the user-friendly side of the spectrum, relying more on graphical interfaces than code. On the other hand, developing eCommerce sites on Drupal and Joomla is more similar to WordPress, as code is more of a requirement for efficiency and performance.
Finally, there are platforms created specifically for eCommerce development, such as Shopify and Magento. Among these, Shopify is designed for user-friendliness, so even beginners can create their online store with a drag-and-drop interface, while Magento services enterprises.
Should you use WordPress for eCommerce?
WordPress is a flexible CMS with the tools to create any website. With its many eCommerce plugins, its library offers what you need to develop an online store. Also, the developer community is large enough that you’ll always have agencies and freelancers available to make your project a reality.
But does this mean you should use WordPress to build your online store? That’s up to you, your needs, resources, and preferences. WordPress is a powerful engine with everything you need, but there are also other platforms with the flexibility to create online stores and others specifically designed for the purpose.
Ultimately, the answer to the question, “Is WordPress good for eCommerce?” is “Yes.” WordPress is an excellent, rich platform for building eCommerce websites. However, you should compare its pros and cons with those of other CMSs and eCommerce platforms to make the most informed decision while considering that you can’t go wrong with WordPress for eCommerce.