WooCommerce: What is it? Is it Free?

WooCommerce is a free software that allows WordPress users to sell products or services directly from their own website.

It is one of the best WordPress ecommerce solutions for building and growing an online business.

It became hugely popular due to its flexibility and simplicity, as well as the variety of free and premium add-ons and a massive developer community. It is a dominating force in the global ecommerce world and accounts for over 20% of the total market share as of 2023.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the WooCommerce history, as well as its pros and cons as an ecommerce software.

Who Owns WooCommerce?

WooCommerce was founded by South Africa based WordPress theme shop WooThemes. They hired Mike Jolley and James Koster to work on a fork of the former WordPress plugin Jigoshop, which they later re-branded as WooCommerce.

Due to its tremendous success, WooCommerce was later acquired by Automattic, parent organization of WordPress, for $30 million.

WooCommerce History In Numbers

  • September 27, 2011: WooCommerce Launched
  • June 17, 2013: 1 Million WooCommerce Downloads
  • August 6, 2014: 4 Million WooCommerce Downloads
  • May 19, 2015: WooCommerce Acquired by Automattic
  • January, 2016: 6 Million WooCommerce Downloads
  • April, 2016: 7 Million WooCommerce Downloads
  • December, 2020: 5 Million Active Installations and 119 Million All Time Downloads
  • June, 2023: 5+ Million Active Installs and 252,998,030 All Time Downloads

What Can You Do With Woocommerce?

TLDR: Sell products and services using your WordPress website.

It became widely popular among WordPress users because it requires minimum input to process orders, cart, inventory, taking payments, sort taxes & shipping.

One of the major upsides of running an online store using WooCommerce is having a wide variety of useful extensions, plugins or add-ons at your disposal.

Whenever you need an extra functionality you can just browse the directory, as most probably the solution (extension) to your problem is already there.

Websites Built With WooCommerce

Check this article of mine and see what are the top websites powered by WooCommerce:

What Does WooCommerce Require To Get Started?

How WooCommerce Works
How WooCommerce Works

All you need to run a WooCommerce store is the following:

  1. Domain name e.g. example.com, usually $10+/year
  2. Website Hosting (see WooCommerce hosting recommendations), starting from $50/year
  3. WordPress (free)
  4. WooCommerce plugin (free)

Technically, you could get away with this little expense – but you also need to consider design, custom development, theme/template, possible premium add-ons costs.

WooCommerce Pros and Cons

If you dig deep, WooCommerce has obvious advantages over other platforms when it comes to setting it up and long term maintainability. To add the eCommerce functionality to your website you just have to install a WordPress plugin.

But like everything in life there are always strengths and weaknesses. And WooCommerce is not exempt from that. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of using WooCommerce to run your online store:

Benefits of WooCommerce:

  • It’s Free
  • Simple, easy to use
  • Huge Flexibility
  • Lots of customization options
  • Wide variety of themes & extensions
  • Security
  • Large developer community
  • Comprehensive Analytics
  • Complete control over website data
  • Gazillions of tutorials

WooCommerce Cons:

  • Maintenance is the responsibility of the store owner
  • Website can easily break if it’s not maintained properly
  • Paid add-ons may be costly

WooCommerce Community & Product Support

Due to its huge global adoption rate, you will always find available developers, community members and 3rd party products to help you customize WooCommerce according to your needs.

Important Links:

WooConf 2016 – Photo by WPEngine

What Are The WooCommerce Alternatives?

The major WooCommerce alternatives in 2023 are mainly two: Shopify and Magento/Adobe Commerce. They’re very different platforms and each one has its own benefits over the others.

On Business Bloomer we already covered the differences between WooCommerce and Shopify. On the Digital Silk website, also, you find a thorough Magento vs WooCommerce comparison. Either way, choosing the right ecommerce platform really depends on the business objectives, budget and resources.

The easiest decision would be to choose a platform that’s simple, that requires a low learning curve and low upfront & maintenance costs. In this case, WooCommerce is a strong contender.

Related content

  • WooCommerce: Custom Add to Cart URLs – The Ultimate Guide
    In WooCommerce you can add a product to the cart via a custom link. You just need to use the “add-to-cart” URL parameter followed by the product ID. This tutorial will show you how to create custom URLs to add simple, variable and grouped products to the cart – as well as defining the add […]
  • WooCommerce Visual Hook Guide: Single Product Page
    Here’s a visual hook guide for the WooCommerce Single Product Page. This is part of my “Visual Hook Guide Series“, through which you can find WooCommerce hooks quickly and easily by seeing their actual locations (and you can copy/paste). If you like this guide and it’s helpful to you, let me know in the comments! […]
  • WooCommerce: Disable Variable Product Price Range $$$-$$$
    You may want to disable the WooCommerce variable product price range which usually looks like $100-$999 when variations have different prices (min $100 and max $999 in this case). With this snippet you will be able to hide the highest price, and add a “From: ” prefix in front of the minimum price. At the […]
  • WooCommerce: Hide Price & Add to Cart for Logged Out Users
    You may want to force users to login in order to see prices and add products to cart. That means you must hide add to cart buttons and prices on the Shop and Single Product pages when a user is logged out. All you need is pasting the following code in your functions.php (please note: […]
  • WooCommerce: How to Fix the “Cart is Empty” Issue
    For some reason, sometimes you add products to cart but the cart page stays empty (even if you can clearly see the cart widget has products in it for example). But don’t worry – it may just be a simple cache issue (and if you don’t know what cache is that’s no problem either) or […]

Rodolfo Melogli

Business Bloomer Founder

Author, WooCommerce expert and WordCamp speaker, Rodolfo has worked as an independent WooCommerce freelancer since 2011. His goal is to help entrepreneurs and developers overcome their WooCommerce nightmares. Rodolfo loves travelling, chasing tennis & soccer balls and, of course, wood fired oven pizza. Follow @rmelogli

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *