Recently I found myself sharing the stage with this e-commerce expert that I respect a lot. I had just finished writing my Shopify review and was keen to know his preferred e-commerce platform. He was quite vocal in proclaiming that, "the only reason people do not use WordPress for e-commerce is that there is no one hard selling it."
So, does using WordPress for e-commerce make a lot of sense?
The foremost reason to use WordPress is that it is extremely popular. Just look at these impressive statistics:
- There are an estimated 75+ million installations of WordPress.
- Approximately 30 percent of all sites, in the top million sites by traffic, are powered by WordPress.
- WordPress is completely free, open source, and built entirely by volunteers.
- It easily integrates themes and plug-ins to customize the appearance of the front end and functionality on the backend.
- It is constantly updated to present better functionality and security.
- Most hosting providers allow a single-click installation of WordPress with third-party script installers such as Fantastico.
All of those websites cannot be wrong, right? Jokes apart, with the right add-ons, i.e., themes and plug-ins, WordPress can be a robust e-commerce platform.
Using WordPress as an E-commerce Platform
In addition to the benefits already listed above, here are some built-in features for WordPress that help make it a good platform for e-commerce.
An unbelievably large number of themes are available for WordPress. Only a fraction of those themes are suitable for e-commerce, but that still leaves plenty of fish for you. WordPress themes are editable, and this open source approach allows you to modify them to your heart's content.
When someone says that there is a WordPress plug-in for any kind of functionality that you would like, they are exaggerating but not by much. Given its widespread appeal, there are a large number of plug-ins available, usually free of charge, to add new functions to WordPress. Note: the word "plug-in" is just part of the jargon around WordPress. These plug-ins are indistinguishable from "apps" that other e-commerce platforms talk about, for instance, Shopify apps.
Reasons Why It's Not a Good E-commerce Platform
There are also a number of disadvantages to using Wordpress for E-commerce.
- Its popularity can also be the downfall of WordPress. Because of its large installed base, WordPress is constantly under attack from various kinds of hackers. Sure they release upgrades all the time, but who wants to live under the constant threat of getting hacked? Especially for e-commerce sites, security is a fundamental requirement.
- When your e-commerce business grows, and you have to process a large number of orders, the number of concurrent scripts that WordPress executes can overwhelm many web servers.
- Given that you will need to add a theme and several plug-ins to make WordPress work well for e-commerce, there could be a problem while upgrading your WordPress installation. Your installed theme and plug-ins may not be compatible with the WordPress upgrade.
- WordPress, its themes, and plug-ins need to be upgraded all the time. This means that some of the customizations you might make will get overwritten each time you upgrade.
It's true that WordPress was not developed to be an e-commerce platform. Its popularity as a blogging platform has caused developers to overlay the basic program with heavy themes and plug-ins to make it work for e-commerce too. That has led to most of the disadvantages mentioned above.
However, I have always admired WordPress for its rapid strides. It should only get better as an e-commerce platform over time. So picking it for its acceptable performance level today, will in effect be picking the winner of tomorrow. I say go for it.