WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, all stemming from its remarkable flexibility, versatility, community, and price point (it’s free). People from countless different fields use it to create all kinds of sites, from fashion blogs to business hubs.
Similarly, ecommerce is an industry for everyone. All you need is stable internet access and the willingness to learn as you go, and you can become an online merchant, whether you’re selling your own products or sourcing them from elsewhere.
What happens when you put the two together? Well, though WordPress wasn’t designed for ecommerce, it can certainly do it with the right plugins and tools. Let’s go through the leading contenders in major ecommerce-related categories to identify the top picks:
As noted, WordPress won’t inherently handle ecommerce, so you need some kind of ecommerce basket integration before you can start listing products. There are numerous such options available, including Jigoshop eCommerce (the first such plugin for WordPress), Ecwid (a tool that will integrate with almost any open-source CMS), and WP eCommerce — but the only logical choice is WooCommerce.
Having been around since late 2011 (it was initially developed as an offshoot of Jigoshop), WooCommerce has become not only the go-to ecommerce plugin for WordPress, but also one of the most popular ecommerce systems of any kind. The reasoning is simple: it demonstrates all the convenience of the basic WordPress platform, provides a solid range of features, and (by virtue of its popularity and support) boasts a vast range of compatible plugins.
Is it ideal for every ecommerce seller? Well, not exactly: someone looking for a simple hosted system might not want to engage with the required configuration, especially — for instance — when comparing Shopify and WooCommerce. And someone aiming for the enterprise level would likely find WooCommerce limited, opting instead for the sheer power of a system such as Magento. But that goes for any store running on WordPress. In any circumstance with WordPress as the base, WooCommerce is the smart choice.
Rock-solid performance is a must for an ecommerce site. Even the smallest delay in page loading, a period of downtime, or malfunction in the checkout phase can be enough to completely discourage a prospective customer from buying anything you’re offering. And though WordPress has solid performance by default (at least, when paired with strong hosting), there are plugins that will help you speed things along.
Firstly, there’s the matter of image compression. Images are vital for ecommerce, but the bigger and higher-quality a product photo is, the more space it takes up, and the longer its page takes to load. If you can cut down on the space occupied by your images, you can get your site running faster, and make it a much convenient experience on mobile devices in particular.
What are your options here? Well, there’s ShortPixel Image Optimizer, Compress JPEG & PNG images (from the TinyPNG team), and WP Smush — but I give the nod to reSmush.it Image Optimizer.
You don’t need an account, you can set it to automatically optimize upon upload, and it has a very simple interface. The only negative is the file-size cap of 5mb, but you shouldn’t need to exceed that size for product photos anyway.
Secondly, there’s SEO — tweaking your store to perform well in Google rankings, something that matters a great deal for bringing in a lot of traffic. A good SEO plugin will help you keep your content clean and functional, and there isn’t even competition worth noting here, because Yoast Ecommerce SEO is such a clear standout.
Yoast Ecommerce SEO, as the name suggests, is an ecommerce-centric version of the standard Yoast SEO plugin. It isn’t free, requiring a one-time fee, but it’s worth the investment, because it will allow you to mark all your products with the details required to have them show up with links to your site when referenced on sites like Pinterest, and implement a clean breadcrumb navigation for making internal searches easier and allowing search crawlers to more rapidly understand the structure of your site.
Curious how your store currently fares for performance? Why not run a technical audit? That way, you’ll end up with a much clearer idea of what (if anything) needs to be done, or whether your site is so poorly optimized that you’d be better served writing it off and starting again.
No matter how much you’ve polished your content, you sometimes need something extra to turn a visitor into a customer — and that something is often going to be an offer of some kind. Some added measure of value to tempt someone into taking action. And though WooCommerce is limited for this type of thing by default, it’s easy to find a great plugin to make it better: this time, the pick is Discount Rules for WooCommerce from Flycart Technologies.
Why this plugin in particular? Well, unlike some other discount plugins (such as ELEX Dynamic Pricing and Discounts Plugin), it has a capable free option as well as a premium option — and XAdapter’s Dynamic Pricing and Discounts for WooCommerce plugin might have been worth a look had it not been taken down from WordPress.org due to a guideline violation.
With over 10,000 active installations and an excellent overall rating, it’s clear that you can rely on it, and the Pro option comes in at a very reasonable $39 per year. Given everything you can achieve with it, that isn’t a lot of money to invest.
WooCommerce supports Google Analytics by default, giving all sellers free access to in-depth analytics data, but it’s a complex package that many find daunting. For that reason alone, you may find a lot of value in using another analytics solution — one with a more user-friendly approach and potentially other features that may suit your needs.
At the free level, WooCommerce Google Analytics is the obvious choice. All it does is walk you through connecting your site to Google Analytics and setting up a view. Another option is WP Power Stats, a plugin that provides a strong range of metrics and analytics views with a 1-click installation, but it wasn’t developed for WooCommerce, so you may encounter issues.
Past that, there are some great paid analytics plugins — particularly MonsterInsights and Metorik. MonsterInsights costs $99.50 per year for a single site at the basic level, and provides a full dashboard, real-time reporting, and enhanced link-tracking to give you a more well-rounded idea of where your store visitors are coming from (and where they’re going).
Metorik has a different pricing structure: the cost is tiered based on how many orders you make per month, so if you’re just starting out, you can still benefit from top-of-the-line analytics without having to pay a huge amount. It’s much more expensive at the cheapest level than MonsterInsights, but it’s a broader solution: Metorik can segment anything from customers to products, making it easy to work on your marketing strategy.
Overall, I’d recommend going for Metorik if you can justify the cost. Provided exclusively for WooCommerce (and developed by someone who worked on the WooCommerce core), it offers a much-improved interface and doesn’t use your WordPress database for storing your analytics history — meaning it doesn’t slow your site down over time, and you can access reports much more rapidly.
There are so many outstanding plugins for WordPress (and WooCommerce by extension) that it wouldn’t be possible to write a comprehensive overview that didn’t drag on for hundreds of pages, but these categories are the ones most valuable for the average ecommerce seller. If you can get your basic functionality sorted, optimize performance, provide a solid system for incentivizing buys, and track the most relevant metrics, you’ll have a great foundation upon which to build. Good luck!