Choosing an e-commerce platform for your business is no small thing. Start looking into it and the questions come on thick and fast: lease or buy? Open source or pre-made? What do you need your online store to do? Where are the pitfalls you need to avoid? Is WooCommerce right for you and your business?
Well, maybe not that last one. If you want into the fast-growing e-commerce sector, however, it’s something that you should consider. Things are heating up fast: in 2010, according to Digital Commerce 360, e-commerce made up 6.4% of all retail. A decade later, in 2019, that share had expanded to 16%. Sales climbed from $1.3 trillion to $3.4 in 2019.S
In search of a Goldilocks platform
If you’re looking for a piece of the pie but are unsure of what exactly you need, consider WooCommerce: a solid middle-of-the-road option that effectively straddles the space between many of its competitors. Sorting out what’s on offer and how they differ can be daunting. You have your plug-in-and-play options, like Shopify: less flexible, less customizable, but simple to understand and easy to use right from the get-go.
Shopify is free to use, but there’s a big caveat. A store built in Shopify is leased rather than owned, which means that your livelihood and that of your employees is out of your hands. If Shopify changes their terms of service or chooses to alter or remove a feature that’s important to your store, you don’t have any say in the matter.
That’s in contrast to open-source platforms like Magento, which are great for custom builds, packed with functionality for large-scale projects but daunting out of the box, with considerable assembly required. An open-source e-commerce store isn’t leased to you: it belongs to you. Changes on Magneto’s end won’t affect your bottom line.
WooCommerce falls somewhere in between. Although it’s open source, it’s somewhat simpler to set up than Magento, but more customizable than Shopify. We’ll look at some of the features it has on offer to help you make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is an open-source plugin for the platform WordPress. Someone looking to set up an online store can make a website in WordPress and use WooCommerce to add the functionality of a digital store. If you already have a website built in WordPress, you can use WooCommerce to add a store to your already-existing website.
The basic elements of a digital store are easily accessible through WooCommerce. The platform provides digital shelves to display products or services and a checkout system to provide for secure payments. You don’t have to be a programmer to set up these elements. With some time and tinkering, internet greenhorns can easily set up a professional-looking storefront.
Why choose WooCommerce?
Firstly, Woocommerce is free. You don’t have to buy it or pay a licensing fee in order to use it to build your online store. An online store that’s built out in WooCommerce belongs to you, as does the data that comes along with it. Because you own the store, you can do what you want with it.
Secondly, WooCommerce is open source. That means anyone can have a look under the hood at the code which makes it run: they can look around, make sure that everything’s working as intended, even make changes if they like. Open-source software tends to have fewer bugs, but if something’s not quite right, you can go in and fiddle with it yourself.
Because WooCommerce is open-source, it’s highly modular. The code is available to the public, so anyone can use it to build additional pieces of software that work with WooCommerce. These are called plugins. They’re pre-existing additions that you can plug right into WooCommerce to expand what it can do.
In considering whether WooCommerce is right for you and your business, you should think about whether you want to set it up yourself, and whether a modular open-source platform makes sense for you.
Not everyone has the time to tinker. That’s OK: many physical store owners don’t assemble every shelf, plug in every cash register, and stock each item themselves. If you’d like to contract out the setup, Arcada Labs can help you get everything up and running. We can help you build a bespoke storefront with you in mind. Before we get there, though, let’s spend some more time on what distinguishes WooCommerce from other e-commerce platforms.
If you’re thinking that WooCommerce is right for you and your business, that’s great. If not, don’t despair: there are plenty of other e-commerce platforms, some of which may be a better fit for you.
The Car Metaphor
If you read the above and the terms we’re using don’t quite make sense to you, it may be useful to think of a car. You can buy it and drive it off the lot without knowing exactly how it works. If you’ve got some car smarts, however, you can get in the engine to change things around. WooCommerce is similar: you can use it without extensive coding knowledge, or you can use it with coding knowledge.
Alternatively, you could reach out to a mechanic to help you make the changes you want. Arcada Labs would be happy to assist the curious and the ambitious with their projects. We do more than install pre-made themes. Instead, we work closely with our customers to build online stores that are customized to their brand and identity. If you’re trying for a store but have enough on your plate already, consider reaching out: we can help with all the little stuff to build out the machinery of your online store to spec.
Don’t be afraid to dive in if you’re interested in taking your business online. The tools are right at your fingertips. Watch this space to learn more about e-commerce, or WooCommerce in particular.