WooCommerce is the most flexible open source e-commerce option that comes with a powerful CMS (Content Management System) built in. No other platform – licensed, SAAS, or open source has the community, backing, or momentum WooCommerce does. Backed by Automattic, WooCommerce is the de facto WordPress e-commerce platform.
Magento is the other popular open source e-commerce system in use today. While Magento is popular among larger companies looking for a more dedicated e-commerce system, it often is overkill and too complex for many situations. Magento lacks a mature CMS, so a CMS is typically run separately from the main corporate/marketing site, on a separate platform, essentially doubling the costs involved (hosting, development, etc).
Shopify is also a popular closed source (software as a service) choice, but also generally requires a separate store site, is less flexible than Magento or WooCommerce as far as customizations and complex workflows are concerned, and Shopify takes a cut of sales on the platform unless you’re paying a large monthly fee.
Here are a few of the reasons why WooCommerce is a great choice for most companies:
Off-the-shelf solutions require you to mold your data and processes to their predetermined model, and charge you if you go outside it (if that is even possible in the limitations of the platform).
WooCommerce provides a mature framework for building e-commerce sites that comes pre-configured for B2C use, but is built for expansion (as evidenced by the 300+ extensions already built). Just as WordPress often appears like “just a blogging tool” upon first installation, the power lies in its mold-ability, not its preconfigured abilities.
WooCommerce is also great for B2B e-commerce solutions. Because business-to-business commerce is less standardized than selling products or downloads to the public, they often need customizations – and WooCommerce provides a great base to build on along with a wide variety of extensions as well as the ability to build custom extensions or customize an existing offering. There are many factors involved in the decision to build a purpose built extension, and LuminFire can help you assess the trade-off between speed of development, maintainability, and total cost of ownership.
WooCommerce core (like WordPress core) is free and open source. LuminFire is your primary support, backed by the larger WordPress/WooCommerce community of hundreds of freelancers and agencies. Paid extensions also receive support from WooCommerce/Automattic or the plugin developer directly.
Automattic is a mature and stable company with a valuation of $1.16 billion as of 2014 and multiple rounds of venture investment as well as strong financials. The open source project basis for WooCommerce is always available or could be forked (creating an independent version of the software from the original source code) by other companies. WooCommerce was originally forked from a product called JigoShop by WooThemes, which was later acquired by Automattic.
The WordPress project values backwards compatibility, as is evidenced by the way WordPress core avoids breaking changes whenever possible and auto-migrates data when needed. While that doesn’t mean things never break, changes are generally predictable and manageable. Having a development and staging environment (with no additional licensing costs) via LuminFire’s performance hosting packages allows us to test updates before deployment to ensure the production site remains as bug free as possible.
As with most solutions, direct database integration is fragile and likely to break over time – which is why WooCommerce offers a PHP and JSON REST API for integrations.
WooCommerce is a rapidly growing and expanding product – which means you get new functionality with each update. Automattic continues to invest in the WooCommerce platform, releasing multiple minor and major versions each year. As WooCommerce stores have grown, the software has grown to support larger and more complex stores. As the defacto standard for e-commerce on the WordPress platform, hundreds of open source developers contribute code, patches, and features every year.
General WooCommerce Strengths
Built for WordPress: WooCommerce is built to integrate seamlessly with WordPress, making it the obvious e-Commerce choice for existing WordPress users and connecting you to the fast-growing WordPress ecosystem.
Sell anything, anywhere: From real products and digital downloads to subscriptions, content and even your time, you’ll be able to set up a WooCommerce store to sell worldwide (or by country, as you wish).
Mobile friendly: WooCommerce is designed to ensure your store and products look as good on a desktop computer as they do on your customer’s mobile phones. You can even turn your existing WooCommerce store into a mobile app with no custom coding by using a few third party tools/services. It even has an iOS app for managing your store.
Scalable: WooCommerce can scale with you as you grow your business. From selling one product to thousands, and from your first order to your millionth, WooCommerce will be able to scale and ride the wave with you.
Own your data: Keeping your data independent of any third party software platform gives you complete control of your business and future. It’s also a safer experience for your customers, as the only person they share their personal information with is you.
Secure code: WooCommerce is audited by Sucuri, the industry leader in plugin security, to ensure that it adheres to WordPress best practices and coding standards, and is kept secure and up-to-date.
Worldwide community: With more than 350 contributors to WooCommerce and over 7 million downloads to date, you’ll be joining one of the fastest-growing open source communities on the web.
Open source: WooCommerce is 100% open source which allows you to benefit from an active and growing community of contributors.
Customer support: A dedicated support team is available and committed to helping customers with whatever they need along the way.
Documentation: Comprehensive documentation covering topics like Setup, Extending, Snippets, Theming, Third-Party Plugins, Using Webhooks, WooCommerce Cookies, SSL and HTTPS is available.
Free and paid extension marketplace: With over 300 free and paid extensions to choose from, you can extend your WooCommerce store with a vast number of features and integrations.
Backed by Automattic: Venture backed ($190M) and profitable, Automattic is hundreds of employees strong and the force behind WordPress.com and WordPress VIP hosting trusted by global brands like TIME magazine.
Cost Effective: There is no monthly cost for WooCommerce and no large upfront licensing fees. Costs are contained in initial development, premium extensions and ongoing support primarily around major version upgrades.
Flexible: From the front-end user experience, to the design, and to back-end administrative tools, you will have complete and utter control of the look and feel of the online store. Few other tools give you the power to customize it like WooCommerce does, and those that do are generally not as easy to customize or maintain those customizations.
Standardized: Because WooCommerce uses the WordPress theming engine, plugin architecture, and hook-driven event model, it doesn’t require you to learn a new templating language, extension format, or event model to add or tweak functionality.
Modest Hosting Requirements: Magento is frequently compared to WooCommerce as a “free” PHP based e-commerce system, but generally requires dedicated hosting to achieve decent performance – which is another hosting bill and another server to maintain. Having a separate “store’ removes the ability to integrate content and commerce.
If you’re looking for a knowledgeable and reliable e-commerce technology partner, LuminFire can help. If you have an existing FileMaker application with product, order, or inventory information you want to expose to thousands of customers via WooCommerce, we’ve invested over 6,000 hours in building the right tools to make that possible. Contact us to see if we’re a good fit for your project.