When extending the functionality of a WordPress website, the most common we come across is an online store. WooCommerce is the plugin Moreton Bay Websites uses to add online shopping to our customer’s website.
The WooCommerce plugin is free to install and has all of the essential features built-in to get your online shop up and running. Like WordPress itself, WooCommerce has a large collection of plugins and extensions available, starting from free to paid pro versions. If you have specific needs that are not supported out of the box, there is likely plugins available to change and extend the functionality of WooCommerce to meet those needs.
The core feature of any online store is the product. Products in WooCommerce can be physical or intangible, such as a service. It also supports digital downloads made available after payment.
The basic details of the product are the title, description, price, and the product image. Extending the basic details is a separate short description to display a brief description to appear next to the product image, and a gallery of additional images displayed under the main product image.
The basic features extend with a vast set of options and provide functionality for other features of WooCommerce. Like many types of items within WordPress, the product can be assigned categories and tags to help organise products.
Each product has a sale price with an optional schedule, so for example, a special price for next month can be set now and it is automatically shown and applied at the beginning of next month, and reverts back to the normal price at the end of the month.
Varying prices based on retail and wholesale or bulk quantities is not supported directly. For either requirement (or both), we use WooCommerce Tiered Price Table. It lets us define unit prices based on a quantity or quantity range, as well as by the role the user is a member of.
For wholesale customers, a separate table of prices can be defined for different user roles. Whole Customer user role needs another plugin to create it. We use the User Role Editor plugin to create it, although any plugin that creates additional user role will work with it.
The product can be marked as in stock, out of stock, or on backorder allowing customers to order and wait for stock to come in. Choose to manage the stock levels and WooCommerce will automatically reduce the stock level when purchases are made. You can then choose if you want the product shown as out of stock or make it available on backorder.
Shipping is a feature of WooCommerce. The product details can include the weight, dimensions, and even a shipping class that varies the rates of delivery. Depending on your requirements, delivery and shipping features can be configured with varying prices. For example, you can offer free local delivery, express same city delivery, and general nation-wide delivery.
Attributes is a way to provide additional product data or features that can be assigned to the product. The attributes can be the brand, colour, size, or any feature that can be used to either compare different products or define variations of the same product.
For example, a colour attribute can be set on shirts, hats, sports bags, and other products. The colour can then be a selection available to the customer when they are buying the item, or used as a search to only show products that are blue.
Attributes can be a global setting, selecting each attribute value that applies to the product, or a custom attribute that applies only to that product.
One of the most powerful features of WooCommerce is the product type. The two main product types is Simple Product and Variable Product. A variable product lets you define several products from a single title and description.
Attributes play a big role in variable products. Each attribute of the product is optionally used to create the variations. Each variation can then have its own price, stock levels, and shipping details. You can even use a different product image for each variation.
For example, let’s say you have a shirt that comes in four different sizes and three different colours. This creates 12 different product variations. The price may not vary, however, if you are using stock levels, the availability of each size and colour can vary. This lets you set the stock level for each size and colour for the shirts.
An eCommerce solution is useful only if there is a way customers can pay for their purchases. WooCommerce comes with several by default and the ability to additional payment gateways. A payment gateway is the method used to make the payment.
Most of the common payment methods are available without any plugin or extension. Cash on delivery, Cheque, Direct bank Transfer, PayPal Standard, and WooCommerce Payments are the ones available to choose from by default. PayPal Standard and WooCommerce Payments covers credit card payments, the first depositing funds into your PayPal account, the later into a nominated bank account.
The most common additional payment gateways Moreton Bay Websites has helped customers configure is Stripe, Square, AfterPay, and ZipPay. There are over 80 payment extensions available from the WooCommerce extensions store, although not all of these are available for Australian business.
Shipping is one of the tricker parts to set up in WooCommerce. It isn’t because it is particularly difficult, it is that the needs of shipping varies considerably and some features need extensions to the default set of features.
Shipping Zones create the geographic areas where different shipping methods can be defined. You may offer free shipping to local areas, basic shipping to the wider city area, and courier delivery Australia wide, and another courier service for overseas deliveries. These become four different shipping zones.
Shipping zones can be defined by country, state, or postcode. Suburb can’t be used for setting a zone, which sometimes forces a compromise as some postcodes can extend across a large geographic area of multiple suburbs.
Under each shipping zone, the available shipping methods can be defined. Basic options to set up include Local Pickup, Free Shipping, and Flat Rate Shipping. Variable rate shipping is not available out of the box.
Plugins can create additional choices for shipping methods, such as Australia Post WooCommerce Extension Pro. This plugin creates an Australia Post method that can calculate the postage required based on the delivery address and the product’s weight and dimensions.
Why We Choose WooCommerce
WordPress continues to grow as the most popular Content Management System in the world. WooCommerce is the most popular of any type of plugin on WordPress, let alone the most popular eCommerce plugin.
With popular usage, the supported systems around it are also well established with lots of choices.
Flexibility of the WooCommerce features lets us build a full online shopping experience suitable for the business. It also lets us build a presales quotation or enquiry system without the online purchasing. The features not available out of the box are usually available with a plugin or using our own customisation features.