WordPress powers over 43% of the world’s websites (yes, over 43% of the whole internet) and many people either are using it to sell online or considering using it for their online store but is it actually good for ecommerce websites?
To answer this, we are going to be looking at the pros and cons of WordPress for ecommerce based on our own experience of using WordPress for an online store and trying out all of the ecommerce options that are available for WordPress.
Just to be clear, we are talking about the self-hosted version of WordPress, not the hosted one that is available through wordpress.com.
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Why WordPress is Good for Ecommerce?
We are going to start with the pros of building an online store with WordPress.
One of the biggest advantages that WordPress has over many of the other ecommerce platforms out there is its flexibility as WordPress can be used for all different types of ecommerce websites, including:
- Subscription/membership sites
It can also be used to sell all different kinds of products including physical, digital and service-based products.
So it doesn’t matter what type of ecommerce business you have, you will find a solution for it with WordPress.
Not only can WordPress be used for all different types of ecommerce businesses but there are also plenty of plugins available for each of these different types.
For example, a business looking to sell physical products via WordPress could choose:
As their plugin of choice and this is something that other platforms don’t offer.
An additional pro for this is that if you start using an ecommerce plugin but find that it isn’t right for your store, it is relatively easy to move to another plugin (just make sure you set up the correct redirects if they have a different URL structure), which prevents the headache of having to move your whole website over to a new platform.
This isn’t just limited to the ecommerce options as there are numerous options for each type of plugin that you may want to use for your site along with possibly the largest selection of themes to choose from of any website builder.
Related Post: The Best WordPress Ecommerce Plugins
3. Control & Customization
Self-hosted WordPress sites give the owner of the site much more control as it is their site, they aren’t basically renting their site like they would be with hosted options such as Shopify or Wix.
And with WordPress being open-source, site owners can choose to customize/modify it however they want, including:
- Installing plugins
- Installing themes
- Changing/adding the site code
This provides near-endless possibilities when it comes to customization, which once again is something that isn’t possible with a lot of other ecommerce options.
Another area of control is that you aren’t locked into your hosting provider and should you need to move to another host, you can do this without having to completely rebuild your site.
4. Online Resources
Due to WordPress being the most popular website builder in the world, there is understandably a huge community, which has resulted in a huge number of online resources to help you with your site and this includes:
- Theme & plugin developers
- WordPress developers
- YouTube Channels
- Facebook Groups
- Forums, whether private or public like Reddit
This means that should you run into any problems with your site, Googling the problem will usually provide an answer as there aren’t many problems that haven’t been encountered before.
And if you can’t find an answer, you could always post the question in a Facebook group or forum and you will likely get an answer.
There is no way we could talk about WordPress and not mention SEO as it is one of the things that it is very good at and if SEO is part of your marketing strategy, then WordPress should definitely be a platform you are considering.
This is because WordPress is a blogging platform at its core and is known as one of the best platforms out of the box when it comes to SEO and this can be improved with the addition of an SEO plugin, even though things like:
All play a very important role.
And this applies to online stores as well as many of the plugins take advantage of WordPress’s built-in SEO ability to provide you with tools to help you try and rank your pages in search.
Why Is WordPress Not Good For Ecommerce?
As you can see, there are some very good reasons why WordPress is a very good option for building an online store but before you go building one, there are some reasons why WordPress isn’t a great option…
The main negative when it comes to using WordPress for an online store is security as it is one are where it struggles against hosted options and there are a few reasons for this:
Most WordPress sites, including online stores, are run on shared hosting, which isn’t ideal for ecommerce sites as it isn’t designed for ecommerce, neither are many of the managed WordPress hosting options either and this type of hosting will usually fail a PCI compliance scan.
And while many web hosts do their utmost to ensure that their servers are secure, ecommerce websites should be run on very secure hosting, which is why ideally your store should be on PCI-compliant hosting, which is usually quite expensive due to the security required to pass a scan and the limited number of sites that can be run on a server.
#2 WordPress, Plugins and Themes
The second issue when it comes to security is the software you are using for your store and due to WordPress being open source, it means that the not-so-nice people are constantly looking for any weaknesses that they can exploit and while you can use security plugins to help secure your site, there may still be vulnerabilities.
Outside of WordPress itself, plugins and themes can also be points of weakness as poorly written or maintained code could easily leave a way for someone to hack into your site (it has happened many times over the years) and the more plugins you use, the higher the chances of this happening.
For blogs and business websites using WordPress, getting hacked can be frustrating and stressful but it can have serious consequences for ecommerce websites as being hacked could give them access to customers’ personal information, such as:
- Email Address
- Phone Numbers
This can result in a loss of customer trust in your site or potential fines or worse if you are found to be in breach of any rules or regulations. We don’t mean to scare you with this, just being honest.
2. Technical Responsibility
Due to WordPress being self-hosted, it puts the responsibility on you as the site owner to ensure that:
- Your store is setup correctly
- It is secure
- It is optimized (so it loads quickly)
- It is maintained
And if you are brand new to building a website or have never run a self-hosted site before, then this can be quite daunting as you need to learn how to do this or pay to outsource this to a developer (you should really learn the basics even if you outsource it).
One of the problems that we found when it came to the technical side was that we spent a lot of time figuring out problems or learning how to do certain things, which was time that could have been better spent on running the business or on marketing rather than managing the website had we gone with a different platform.
There are ways you can make life easier when it comes to managing a WordPress ecommerce site, with the main one being having a staging site, where you can test updates and any changes before rolling them out on your main site.
Another issue with WordPress can be reliability as from our experience, they can and do break and this is down to the number of different elements that are involved with running a WordPress site, with some common reasons for sites breaking being:
- Plugins or themes not being compatible with the latest PHP versions
- Plugin conflicts either with other plugins or themes
- Core updates causing plugins or themes to break
These issues may be very obvious such as your site not loading or things not displaying properly but with some ecommerce plugins, it can cause the checkout to stop working and you might not become aware of this issue for a while (we had this happen with WooCommerce) and once again, having a staging site can make life a lot easier.
Plugins with hosted carts like Ecwid and SureCart do minimize many of the ecommerce related issues as they manage and maintain the checkout pages and you only need one plugin for all of your ecommerce needs.
The Future of WordPress Ecommerce
As we test all of the main ecommerce plugins for WordPress, we like to stay up to date with the latest developments.
And when it comes to the future of WordPress ecommerce, there is one area that we find quite exciting and that is the evolution and adoption of headless ecommerce by some plugins.
The reason why we like this is because headless ecommerce means your site has two components:
- Your WordPress site where all of your pages and posts are hosted
- An ecommerce platform that hosts all of your ecommerce pages such as product and checkout
And these work seamlessly together on the front end of your site to provide a fast and secure store for your customers.
This helps eliminate some of the issues around security and reliability that can be found with traditional plugins like WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads that store and run everything on your WordPress site, especially if no customer information or business setting can be accessed through the WordPress dashboard.
Ecwid was the first company to offer this and SureCart has built their offering around this as well but we really hope that more companies look to embrace this technology in the future as it has the potential to make WordPress a much more viable option for ecommerce websites.
So is WordPress good for building ecommerce websites?
Well, it isn’t a straightforward yes or no as it most definitely can be used for ecommerce and will be a very good option for many stores, especially websites that already use WordPress for their website and want to add an online store to it.
But it won’t be a good option for others and for anyone looking to build their first ecommerce website, WordPress wouldn’t be our first recommendation due to the learning curve and a fully hosted solution such as Shopify or Wix will make it easier, quicker and less stressful to launch your store and leave you more time to focus on marketing and managing your business.
It also depends on how you are setting up your website, if it is a business or portfolio website that you would like people to be able to buy your products or services through, then WordPress can definitely work, similar to if you have a blog and want a store with it.
But if you are planning on building just an ecommerce website, then we think that purpose-built ecommerce platforms are a better option as they are designed for ecommerce and in many cases can be scaled, whereas WordPress is a website builder that can be used to sell online.
So as you can see, not a straightforward answer but hopefully this post has given you some idea as to the pros and cons of using WordPress for your online store.