What is WooCommerce? ultimate guide 2020

What is WooCommerce? Quick Overview + Ultimate Guide 2021

Quick disclaimer: we are not associated in any way with WooCommerce, WordPress or Automattic.
We just like using their products 🙂

What is WooCommerce? A Quick Overview

WooCommerce is an E-Commerce plugin for WordPress.

In simpler terms, WooCommerce allows users to sell products and services using websites that are built with WordPress.

“WooCommerce allows users to sell anything.

From physical products and digital downloads to subscriptions, content and even appointments.”


The name WooCommerce is a combination of the plugin’s founding company (WooThemes) and the term E-Commerce (electronic buying and selling).

Watch a video from the WooCommerce team:

What Can You Sell Using WooCommerce?

As you may know, E-Commerce is growing worldwide.

Read more in our E-Commerce Guide.

More and more variety of products and services are being sold via E-Commerce.

Here are just a few examples of products that can be sold using WooCommerce:

  • Physical: Trainers, clothing, flowers, computer tech, jewelry, watches.
  • Digital: eBooks, music, films, software, photos, online courses, membership websites.
  • Services: Online personal trainers, accountancy, solicitor services, virtual assistants.

History of WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a former product of the company WooThemes.

In 2011, WooThemes (a commercial WordPress theme provider) hired James Koster and Mike Jolly to create an E-Commerce plugin for WordPress.

The first version of WooCommerce was officially released in September, 2011.

WooCommerce became a cheap and easy solution for users to open an online store. As E-Commerce grew around the world, so did the plugin’s popularity.

By 2013, two years after its official release, WooCommerce reached 1,000,000 downloads worldwide.


And it didn’t stop there…

By 2014, WooCommerce reached 4,000,000 downloads worldwide.


The plugin’s popularity continued to grow. So much so that Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com) purchased WooThemes in 2015.

WooThemes was then rebranded as WooCommerce, with the business’s core focus now on the plugin itself.

WooCommerce continues to grow today:

By 2020, WooCommerce reportedly reached 80+ million downloads.

It was the most popular E-Commerce platform in 2020, with a market share of 28.24%.

WooCommerce Statistics
You can download the WooCommerce ‘core’ plugin at wordpress.org/plugins/woocommerce/

WooCommerce ‘Core’ Features

The ‘core’ plugin of WooCommerce includes a full range of features and functionality to build and manage an E-Commerce website.

The WooCommerce plugin is open-source, meaning the software code is openly available for users to see and use. This allows developers to extend the plugins features and capability (also know as Extensions)

Extensions (both free and paid) can be installed to add further features to WooCommerce (more on WooCommerce extensions later)

Below are some of the main features found in the ‘core’ WooCommerce plugin.

1. Product Types

WooCommerce ‘core’ allows shop owners to sell the 3 main types of E-Commerce products:

  • Physical products: e.g. a t-shirt.
  • Digital products: e.g. a PDF eBook
  • Services: e.g. a proofreading service

WooCommerce also allows store owners to add further flexibility and options to their products.

Each product can be set as one of the following:

  • Simple product: the most common and as the name suggests, a standalone simple product 🙂
  • Grouped product: group products together and allow customers to buy a bundle.
  • Variable product: offer variations of a product. For example size, weight, colour etc.
  • Affiliate product: link to products available on other sites using an affiliate link

2. Payment Options

The core WooCommerce plugin comes with 4 customer payment options:

  • PayPal – customers pay via their PayPal account
  • Direct bank transfer – customers pay via BACS
  • Cash on delivery – accept cash upon delivery or collection
  • Check payments – accept checks via post or in-person

3. Shipping / Postage / Collection Options

Store owners can set which cities and/or countries they wish to sell to and the available shipping options. Or as WooCommerce like to call them, Shipping Zones.

“A shipping zone is a geographic region where a certain set of shipping methods and rates apply.”


For example, a store owner could set the following delivery conditions:

  • Local city = Local pickup or ‘Zone A’ shipping rate.
  • USA = ‘Zone B’ shipping rate
  • Europe = ‘Zone C’ shipping rate
  • Rest of the world = ‘Zone D’ shipping rate

Store owners can set an unlimited number of Shipping Zones. Customers will only see the available shipping options and prices set for their location

4. Coupons

WooCommerce allows store owners to create coupon codes to be used by customers.

Store owners can choose from a selection of coupon types:

  • Percentage discount: A percentage discount, e.g. 25% off any order
  • Fixed cart discount: A fixed amount off the total cart price, e.g. $10 off any order
  • Fixed product discount: A fixed amount off each individual product, e.g. $5 off every item

Additional options available for all coupons:

  • Free shipping / delivery
  • Coupon expiry date
  • Minimum & maximum spend
  • Include & exclude specific products
  • Individual coupon use only (can’t be used with any other offers)
  • Only allow specific email addresses to use the coupon
  • Limit the coupon usage by each person, by number of products or overall
WooCommerce ‘plugin’ extensions expand the features available for users.

WooCommerce Extensions

As mentioned earlier, the WooCommerce plugin is open-source.

This allows developers to build extensions in-order to add more features (commonly known as WooCommerce extensions & plugins)

There are well over 1000 WooCommerce extensions available, that all add different features to the ‘core’ plugin.

Some extensions cost money whilst many are distributed free of charge (sometimes with a paid upgrade)

Extensions can be found at the official WooCommerce extension marketplace or via third party plugin developers.

1. WooCommerce extension marketplace

The WooCommerce extension marketplace offers a variety of plugins. Some are free whilst the majority cost a premium (users pay for initial download + annually for updated versions).

Some of the extensions are developed by the Automattic/WooCommerce team while others are developed by external developers and distributed through the marketplace.

Some of the most popular plugins found in the WooCommerce marketplace include:

  • WooCommerce Bookings: allows customers to book appointments and reservations.
  • WooCommerce Subscriptions: charge customers a recurring fee for products & services.
  • WooCommerce Payments: accept debit & credit cards.
  • Amazon Pay: allows customers to checkout and pay using their Amazon account.
  • WooCommerce Shipping: print off your own USPS shipping labels.

2. Third party, external plugin developers

Both, third party individuals and companies develop WooCommerce extensions. Like the WooCommerce marketplace, external extensions can be free or paid for.

Some popular third party WooCommerce extensions include:

WooCommerce Pricing

The WooCommerce ‘core’ plugin is free to download and use.

Side note: the plugin itself is free, however users will need a domain and website hosting to use it (typically costing $30+ per year)

WooCommerce works on a ‘freemium’ business model. Free + premium (freemium) is a pricing strategy whereby the product is free with premium addons available.

Premium addons = WooCommerce plugin extensions.

WooCommerce plugin extensions range from free to $100+ per year.

WooCommerce + WordPress.com Integration

This is where things can get confusing…

There are two types of WordPress:

We will go into further depth between WordPress .ORG & .COM in future articles.

But for now…

Previously, WooCommerce was only available for WordPress.ORG users. For people who had websites on WordPress.COM, they only had limited E-Commerce options.


Recently, Automattic (the company who owns WordPress.com & WooCommerce) integrated the two together. Meaning, WordPress.COM users can now sell products and services using WooCommerce..

WooCommerce (E-Commerce) stores on WordPress.COM currently cost $45 per month.

WooCommerce Alternatives

There are many WooCommerce alternatives available.

As E-Commerce continues to grow, it is likely more and more E-Commerce website builders will be released.

Some popular WooCommerce alternatives include:

  • Shopify
  • Wix
  • Squarespace
  • Big Commerce
  • Magento
  • Weebly
  • Sellfy

What is WooCommerce? A Recap

So “what is WooCommerce?”… let’s recap.

  • We learnt that WooCommerce is a plugin used for WordPress websites. It allows users to sell products and services.
  • WooCommerce was developed by WooThemes and purchased by Automattic in 2015.
  • As of 2020, the WooCommerce plugin has been downloaded over 80 million times.
  • WooCommece was the most used E-Commerce software platform in 2020 with a market share of 28.24%.
WooCommerce “core” features
  • We learnt that you can sell physical products, digital products and services using WooCommerce.
  • Customers can pay using PayPal, direct bank transfer (BACS), cash and check payments.
  • Store owners can create ‘shipping zones’ and charge customers for delivery depending on their location.
  • You can create coupons for customers to redeem.
WooCommerce extensions
  • We learnt that the ‘core’ plugin can be extended using WooCommerce plugin extensions.
  • Some extensions are free and some are paid for. They are distributed either through the official WooCommerce Extension Marketplace or by third party developers.
  • Some popular WooCommerce extensions allow you to accept debit/credit card payments, charge customers a recurring fee, purchase gift vouchers and allow customers to checkout with their Amazon account.
  • The WooCommerce ‘core’ plugin is free to download and use (however, users have to pay for their own domain and website hosting)
  • WooCommerce Plugin Extensions range from FREE to $100+ per year.
WooCommerce + WordPress.COM integration
  • We briefly discussed the difference between WordPress.ORG and WordPress.COM (.ORG is where users host their own website and .COM takes care of the hosting for you)
  • Recently, Automattic integrated WooCommerce with WordPress.COM.
  • E-Commerce (WooCommerce) stores on WordPress.COM cost $45 per month.
What can you sell using WooCommerce?
  • Physical products: clothing, flowers, tech, jewlry, watches and more.
  • Digital products: music, films, software, eBooks, photos and more.
  • Services: online personal training, accountants, solicitors, VAs.
WooCommerce alternatives
  • Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, Big Commerce, Magento, Weebly, Sellfy + others.

Frequently Asked Questions about WooCommerce

P.S. Got a question or think we missed something?

Let us know in the comments. We are continuously looking to update this article with the latest WooCommerce news and trends 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.