Evaluating Wordpress for E-Commerce

Evaluating Wordpress for E-Commerce

When you decide to build an e-commerce store, you want to know that you are making the right choices. Many factors are taken into account, including hosting, security, and ease of store management. To make it more confusing, different levels of features are offered at various price points. It can be hard to tell whether or not its worth paying for a premium service.

Drupal is not the only e-commerce solution available to those who want to create online stores. Whether you are already using Drupal for an existing site or deciding whether to use it for a brand new e-commerce site, it is only natural to explore all available options.

This article will focus largely on WordPress solutions, as those looking for CMS e-commerce are primarily concerned with the two most popular choices. Nevertheless, the same benefits of Drupal that are shown in these examples also apply to other cases.

osCommerce

osCommerce is a solution outside WordPress and Drupal entirely. It is free to use, as are the add-ons that have been developed for it. Extensive forums foster community support and templates are sold for relatively low prices. The project also has some partners that include developers, which can be hired to help build e-commerce sites.

However, it is limited and does not provide users with optimal solutions. If one uses osCommerce, he will not have nearly the same amount of flexibility as a Drupal user. Drupal has content management, forums, blogs, and user management, much of which is not present in osCommerce. In fact, this reason was cited as a primary motivation for the FireCore website migration to Drupal.

osCommerce problems have also included issues that many add-ons require different core versions and cause interference problems with other add-ons. This complication is likely caused by a smaller developer base than Drupal. Drupal offers stability as well as an infrastructure that supports whatever modules you use for a given core version. Most of the popular modules are also actively maintained and developed, so they will exist for whichever version of Drupal you are using. Developers can also develop for new versions of modules before a new stable version of Drupal is released.

Paid-For E-Commerce Providers

Many paid-for, full-featured e-commerce site creators have been developed, such as Volusion,Squarespace, and Shopify. Shopify is one of the most popular services; it charges at least $14 for a monthly fee, although the most popular plan is $79 per month based on the number of products. Not only will this fee end up being a large drain on your store profits, but Shopify also takes a cut of each deal made (1% for the $79 plan and 2% for lower plans).

The biggest problem with using these websites to create your e-commerce store is that they don’t provide the same additional functionality and extensibility that Drupal offers. You are extremely limited by their feature sets with little extensibility. With Drupal, the modules are always expanding in number and quality.

You also cannot rely on the same kind of dedicated community that is present in Drupal to provide you with support. Many of these solutions do require less setup time and initial effort. However, remember that you are making a long term investment in your e-commerce. Drupal is made to be extensible for the future of your site and in the long-run will cost less to customize.

WP e-Commerce

GetShopped.org’s plugin for WordPress, WP e-Commerce, is a popular choice in the WordPress market. It offers its users many benefits. With integration of the WordPress SEO Plugin, it offers Google Analytics and helps the e-commerce site gain standing in search rankings. A user has access to configurable shipping options, including flat rate shipping, domestic and global rates, and calculators. Furthermore, setting up discounts and coupons are built into the plugin.

The WP e-commerce plugin also allows for integration with other internationalization plugins to support multiple languages and multiple currencies. Many payment gateways are available to choose from. To assist with marketing, some social media options are also set up to share products on various social networks.

However, using this plugin has some significant downsides. Notably, a number of payment options are available, but most of them require you to pay to download a ‘Premium Add-On’. Without purchasing anything, a user can only have access to Google Wallet, PayPal, Chronopay, and manual payments such as checks and money orders. Shipping is also limited; requiring a $27 FedEx shipping plugin to use their services.

Some other key features of an e-commerce website are also withheld, such as formatting a catalog as a grid, the ability to quickly search the site for a product, and presenting multiple images of a product on its display page. Note that these are all issues focused heavily in our other articles, especially concerning how to optimize your e-commerce site.

These differences are significant in comparison to Drupal, where you don’t have to pay anything to configure these valued parts of any good e-commerce site. An even more important difference might be the $197 ‘Gold Cart for Developers’ plugin that opens access to the API. You also have prioritized support requests after purchasing it. Such a situation is a further stark contrast to Drupal, were all community members are encouraged to work with the APIs of modules and good support often does not need to be purchased.

Ready!

Ready! is another e-commerce plugin for WordPress. Along with their plugin download, they offer a few additional free WordPress themes. Though they have premium themes as well, the free themes are aesthetically pleasing and work well for e-commerce sites. It would be entirely possible for someone to use this plugin for their site without being charged anything.

However, it would not be possible for them to make a site nearly as configurable as a Drupal site or even a site using the WP e-Commerce plugin. Though good default catalogs and product pages are included, its extensions, costing $29 each, are much less comprehensive. For example, the PayPal Express Plugin and PayPal Express Buy Now button are two different plugins, each requiring payment.

It should also be noted that you can buy various licenses for the plugin that make these extensions cheaper in exchange for paying more up front. However, even though the extensions are less expensive than those in the WP e-commerce plugin, you will inevitably buy more of them since less is included.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a WordPress e-commerce solution created by the developers at WooThemes. A WooThemes plugin is an advantage since the company is an international, trusted contributor to WordPress since 2008. They offer a number of useful themes and plugins. They also had their product tested by Sucuri, a security firm specializing in CMS security.

Offering built-in ratings, social media, and product management, this choice provides WordPress users with a great place to start their e-commerce site. Moreover, they use Schema to increase SEO. Their ‘Extensions’ system, however, is very similar to that of Ready!.

Extensions range from $29 to $99 for a single-site license and total 260. Ranging from payment gateways to other extra features, the catalog is all-encompassing. Such a number and range might sound fantastic to a WordPress user. It does indicate that users have the ability to upgrade their site. However, the fact that so many features are not included is a negative. If you want to include features like ‘Per Product Shipping’ and putting a shopping cart button in the navigation bar, the site will end up costing a lot of money. FedEx, USPS, and UPS extensions cost $49 apiece.

Cart66

One more WordPress plugin is worth mentioning due to its uniqueness, Cart66. In their promotional video, they say, “You want plenty of payment gateway options, and not as a paid addon.” Thus, their idea is to offer annual and monthly subscriptions to the ‘Cart66 Cloud’, where users store all of their e-commerce data.

Using the Cloud, the e-commerce site itself does not need an SSL certificate and can be hosted anywhere. The Cloud is a secure place that incorporates cloud security best practices. Paying for the service means that all necessary functionality is part of the package, including payment gateways.

One downside of using this plugin is that any secure pages will be under the http://[YourE-CommerceWebsite].cart66.com domain. You are heavily reliant on Cart66 for as long as you have your e-commerce site. Reliance is not an ideal aspect of any e-commerce site. The idea, however, is interesting.

Conclusions: WordPress vs. Drupal

Many e-commerce plugins are available to use for WordPress. One might think that more choices means a better environment. However, clear downsides remain. Many of the differences between plugins are difficult to find. When faced with the decision of what to use, there is no easy way to tell which is best – all of them are hoping that you will choose their product. After all, each is an e-commerce site in its own way.

In addition to this issue, the fact that so many different solutions are being developed simultaneously means that there is no single goal that the community is reaching toward. Drupal’s solutions residing primarily in Ubercart and Drupal Commerce means that the amount of depth and cooperative development occurring is much higher.

The plugins included here are more complete than many of the plugins you can use to stitch together an e-commerce site. Nevertheless, the largest difference between them, perhaps with the exception of Cart66, is the pricing model used. All offer a lot of functionality.

This functionality, however, is something found in Drupal as well – and for free. WP e-Commerce sells a ‘Product Slider Image Carousel’ for $49 that one could set up very easily in Drupal in a matter of minutes using a Views Slideshow, Field Slideshow, or jCarousel. Ready! offers a $29 rating system extension that can be done in Drupal using the popular Fivestar module.

Sorting through so many choices and calculating the many different price points is not a good use of time, especially when Drupal is a free and equally feature-filled alternative.