December 15, 2021
What is WooCommerce? How does WooCommerce work?

Want to start an ecommerce business? Look no further than WooCommerce.

Thousands of new ecommerce businesses are launched every year. New online retailers have no shortage of options when it comes to picking a platform. Should you choose a hosted platform like Shopify or a self-hosted application like Magento or WooCommerce? Should you choose the simplest possible solution or one capable of growing with your business?

Used on about 5.8 million ecommerce stores around the world, WooCommerce is particularly friendly to new ecommerce merchants because it combines ease of use with incredible power, flexibility, and features.

Keep reading to learn about using WordPress with WooCommerce, or jump ahead with these links:

What is WooCommerce?

First, what is WooCommerce? WooCommerce is an ecommerce plugin for WordPress. It makes creating and managing an online store simple, with reasonable levels of flexibility and several vital features such as inventory and tax management, secure payments, and shipping integration.

Why use WooCommerce?

WooCommerce offers many helpful features, like order tracking, customer engagement, delivery status updates, inventory management, and more. With over 27 million downloads to date, WooCommerce powers 99% of all WordPress stores. WooCommerce has a low degree of difficulty. It’s easy to use for beginner site owners.

WooCommerce is the most popular and arguably best ecommerce plugin for WordPress, and its integration provides great SEO for ecommerce websites. Because it is open source, it offers limitless customizations. Using WordPress with WooCommerce means you'll have the support of the robust open source community.

Below you’ll find 10 benefits of WooCommerce and its advantages over other ecommerce platforms.

WooCommerce is an ecommerce plugin for WordPress

History of WooCommerce

Now that you know what WooCommerce is, let’s take a look back at its origins. In 2011, two developers Mike Jolley and James Koster released WooCommerce after having worked on a replica of the ecommerce plugin Jigoshop. In 2015, WooCommerce and its sibling plugin WooThemes were both acquired by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.

When WordPress and WooCommerce joined forces, this only further propelled WooCommerce’s growth. Today, Automattic continues to be the active developer for WooCommerce and is taking the plugin to new heights.

How does WooCommerce work?

WooCommerce is a free plugin. It lets you turn a WordPress website into an ecommerce store. WooCommerce is fully compatible with the functions on your WordPress site. It means you can have a WordPress ecommerce site with products, a shopping cart, and checkout options. Now that we’ve addressed how WooCommerce works, let’s take a look at the installation process.

How to get your WooCommerce store up and running

WooCommerce’s ease of installation is perhaps what has so many site owners asking, “What is WooCommerce?”

If you don't know how to setup WooCommerce already, don't worry. It's easy enough for anyone to learn.

The four step process is simple: go to your WordPress dashboard, select “Plugin Options,” search for WooCommerce, and download the plugin to your WordPress site. Then, the Setup Wizard will walk you through the quick and easy process of creating your online store.

10 reasons to use WooCommerce for your online store

There are plenty of ecommerce plugins to choose from, but WooCommerce is the best choice. WooCommerce offers WordPress site owners unparalleled compatibility, flexibility, and ease of use.

But let’s dive a little deeper into the benefits of WooCommerce. Here are 10 reasons to use WooCommerce for your online store.

1. WooCommerce pricing

When a new retailer is choosing a platform, price is likely to be a major factor. Ecommerce applications range from free to many thousands of dollars per year, but that difference in price isn’t necessarily related to the capability of the application. Thus, the first reason to choose WooCommerce that we’re highlighting is that it’s free to use.

WooCommerce is a plugin for ecommerce and also works with many payment options

WooCommerce is competitive with leading enterprise ecommerce applications, but because it’s free, any business or entrepreneur can take advantage of its capabilities without having to commit to expensive support contracts or proprietary software licenses.

You should note that certain third-party applications for payments with WooCommerce and other extensions may cost money, but this will not be directed to WooCommerce themselves. You'll also need to power your online store with WooCommerce hosting.

2. WooCommerce is modular

To really understand what WooCommerce is, we have to examine its modular framework. Just like WordPress, WooCommerce includes a rich set of features that can be extended with the addition of plugins. Retailers who use WooCommerce benefit twice from this modularity: they have access to thousands of WordPress plugins and themes as well as hundreds of ecommerce-specific extensions built just for WooCommerce.

The genius of a modular system is that it helps to cultivate a community of developers who build extensions to add specific WooCommerce and WordPress functionality, something that isn’t possible with monolithic applications. With the right plugins, WooCommerce can be the perfect open source ecommerce platform for every retailer.

Those plugins can expand functionality in regards to shipping, payments, how products are handled, and more. WooCommerce developers themselves have developed and recommend several additional plugins when using their store.

WooCommerce is used for selling products online

3. WooCommerce is WordPress

“But isn’t WooCommerce just WordPress?”

The implication here is that because WooCommerce is constrained by its parent application, it can’t be as good as a purpose-built ecommerce application.

In reality, the link between WordPress and WooCommerce plugin is actually a benefit of WooCommerce. WordPress is hugely popular because it’s so flexible and functional. Millions of businesses choose to use WordPress because it provides the best foundation for their sites. It’s fast, secure, and easy to use. The compatibility between your existing WordPress themes and WooCommerce themes will make for a very smooth integration.

WooCommerce inherits all of the strength and reliability of WordPress and uses it to build a world-class ecommerce experience for retailers and their customers.

Adding a product in WooCommerce

4. WooCommerce can be used to sell anything

Another fun way to answer someone who asks, “What is WooCommerce?”— It’s a way to sell anything.

WooCommerce is incredibly flexible. The reality is that you can make a website to sell products — and that means just about everything. If you want to sell something, whether via WooCommerce dropshipping or by creating digital products to sell, you can do it with WooCommerce.

There's also physical products, subscriptions, memberships, appointments, and much more. Whether you intend to sell a single digital product or an enormous variety of physical products, WooCommerce is the Swiss Army Knife of ecommerce applications.

WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin with a vibrant community

5. WooCommerce has a vibrant developer community

Both WooCommerce and WordPress are open source, which means that retailers are free to change or add core features, build new extensions, and create custom themes. For some less popular ecommerce applications, it is difficult to find developers capable of doing that work and if you can find a developer, they are expensive to hire.

The WooCommerce advantage here is that retailers benefit from a large pool of developers and WooCommerce professionals. If you need to make changes to your WooCommerce store, it won’t be hard to find someone to do the work for you. And further, its widespread use and network of developers makes achieving optimal WooCommerce security much easier.

How to use WooCommerce to add products to your site

6. WooCommerce includes powerful analytics

Another way to address the question of “How does WooCommerce work?” is through analytics. Built-in analytics are another WooCommerce advantage, because the more you know about your customers and the way they interact with your store and its products, the better.

For example, you can use your sales data to learn a lot about your customers. You can even learn how to create customer profiles to sell even more.

Out of the box, WooCommerce provides an extensive set of WooCommerce analytics displayed in a clear and intuitive interface. Additionally, it’s straightforward to integrate WooCommerce with external analytics services like Google Analytics ecommerce with extensions.

7. WooCommerce grows with your business

You may be just starting out now. But soon, your store will grow. You'll need an ecommerce growth strategy.

When choosing an ecommerce application, it is a good idea to think about the future of your business. It might be small now, but in time it will grow, and you should choose an application that is capable of supporting a busy store without imposing too much complexity in the early days.

One of the benefits of WooCommerce is that it supports stores ranging from the tiny to the immense. It can scale from a few products to many thousands and from a handful of shoppers a day to hundreds of shoppers per second. As your WooCommerce website grows, so can the functionality of your online store.

Example WooCommerce online store

8. WooCommerce provides world-class content management

As you might expect from an ecommerce application based on the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), WooCommerce is no slouch where content is concerned. That's good news, because ecommerce content marketing is key to a high-performing online store.

Content is an important component of ecommerce marketing, sales optimization, and search engine optimization. Together, WordPress and WooCommerce offer a wide variety of content management options, including blogging, landing pages, email marketing, and product descriptions. WooCommerce-compatible SEO plugins like Yoast WooCommerce SEO make it easy for retailers to optimize their content for search.

9. WooCommerce is fast

WordPress and WooCommerce can provide a fast and responsive ecommerce experience for online stores of all sizes. This is a key benefit of WooCommerce.

You can also speed up your WooCommerce store by combining it with performance-optimized WooCommerce hosting that’s specifically engineered to maximize performance. Standard web hosting is capable of supporting WooCommerce, but it cannot provide the highly optimized PHP, MySQL, server, and network environments necessary for a responsive low-latency ecommerce experience.

10. WooCommerce is made for selling

Another WooCommerce advantage is that it’s designed for selling. It includes everything a new ecommerce retailer needs to get up and running:

  • Over 100 payment gateways that can be easily integrated with your store.
  • Multiple WooCommerce shipping methods with configurable shipping zones and shipping classes.
  • An intuitive backend for stock management, refunds, order management, email management, and everything else you need to efficiently manage your ecommerce store.
  • Choose from thousands of configurable and mobile-friendly free and premium WooCommerce themes, or build a custom theme to give your store a unique look.
  • World-class documentation that provides guidance for new ecommerce retailers that need to get up and running.

Bottom line: Why choose WooCommerce?

In short, WooCommerce provides a complete ecommerce solution that is fast, easy to use, and can adapt to the needs of your ecommerce business.

So, what is WooCommerce? It’s the best way to grow your ecommerce site as a WordPress user.

Experience fully managed WooCommerce hosting from Nexcess, where better is built in. We’ll get you set up with a WordPress-based website and a professional ecommerce platform so you can start growing your business today. We offer WordPress hosting as well if that better fits your needs.

Get started with a scalable package to find out why retailers around the world love building their websites with us — or give it a try yourself.

Check out our fully managed WooCommerce hosting plans to get started today.

WordPress with WooCommerce FAQs

Why is WooCommerce so popular?

WooCommerce is popular for a number of reasons. It is easy to use, free, offers advanced customization, and is beginner-friendly. WooCommerce also comes with helpful built-in features. Based on WordPress, it boasts an active online community filled with resources and continual improvement.

Does WooCommerce come with WordPress?

Yes, WooCommerce comes with WordPress, because it is a WordPress plugin. The WooCommerce plugin turns your WordPress website into an ecommerce website. Fortunately, both WordPress and WooCommerce are free and easy to use.

Why is WooCommerce the Best Ecommerce Platform?

WooCommerce is the best ecommerce platform because of its flexibility and ease of use. Customizations are endless due to WooCommerce being open source. Easily update product information and get useful features like inventory management, delivery updates, and shipping integrations with WooCommerce.

Why is WooCommerce better than Shopify?

WooCommerce is better than Shopify. Not only is WooCommerce open source and free to use, but it also offers much more advanced customization. WooCommerce also boasts better features, such as better SEO than Shopify.

How does WooCommerce work on WordPress?

WordPress is the platform that WooCommerce works on. WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress. By installing the WooCommerce plugin on your WordPress website, you gain ecommerce functionalities that allow you to sell products on your website.

What is the difference between WooCommerce and ecommerce?

WooCommerce is a free platform for selling things on WordPress websites, while ecommerce refers to the buying and selling of goods and services that takes place online. WooCommerce is the top ecommerce platform, with many customizations and features.

What is the difference between WooCommerce and WordPress?

WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS). WooCommerce is an ecommerce plugin that works with WordPress. WooCommerce turns your WordPress website into an online store, where you can sell products. Both are free and easy to use.

Is WooCommerce good for ecommerce?

WooCommerce is a good ecommerce platform. In fact, it’s the most popular ecommerce platform and is widely used. WooCommerce is free and open source. It provides limitless customization and strong SEO value, in addition to many other ecommerce advantages.

Can I use WooCommerce for free?

WooCommerce is free to use. Built off WordPress, it’s an open source solution.

Do I need WooCommerce in WordPress?

Yes, you need WooCommerce in WordPress if you want to sell products from your website. WooCommerce is the plugin that turns a WordPress website into an online store.

This blog was originally published in June 2018. It has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


Nexcess, the premium hosting provider for WordPress, WooCommerce, and Magento, is optimized for your hosting needs. Nexcess provides a managed hosting infrastructure, curated tools, and a team of experts that make it easy to build, manage, and grow your business online. Serving SMBs and the designers, developers, and agencies who create for them, Nexcess has provided fully managed, high-performance cloud solutions for more than 22 years.

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