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Many web developers are under the delusion that WordPress is (still) just a blogging platform.

This may have been true 10 years ago, but the software has outgrown than niche significantly, especially in the last 2-3 years.

All types of websites can now be deployed using WordPress and e-commerce sites are becoming a popular choice.

We’re not talking amazon.com scale shops here, but rather SMEs who are looking for a relatively low-cost and easily maintainable solution to sell products and services on-line.

There are many WordPress plugins and themes now which incorporate e-commerce shopping and checkout systems, including clones of websites such as GroupOn and advert directory websites where people place ads for a small fee (micro payment systems).

Let’s have a look at some e-commerce plugins and see how you can turn your WordPress site into an on-line shop.

WP e-Commerce

WP e-Commerce is probably the most well-known e-commerce plugin for WordPress.

http://getshopped.org/

The main shopping cart is free. It allows you to add items into the back-end and your customers to purchase them on the site using some of the main payment gateways such as PayPal.

The free shopping cart is limited in its functionality but will allow you to get a shop-front up and running pretty quickly. It handles physical as well as virtual products e.g. downloads.

There are plenty of add-ons for WP e-Commerce that further extend the system and shopping experience. Some are free although the best add-ons are classed as Premium and have to be purchased.

For developers, WP e-Commerce is fully themeable meaning that you can customise nearly everything the plugin send to the web browser. It also comes with shipping support for Australia Post.

On the down-side, the plugin is very large and complex. Response times can be an issue especially if you have multiple add-ons installed.

There are already many themes available to choose from for WP e-Commerce if you are short of time. See: http://tokokoo.com/ and http://storefrontthemes.com/

Tribulant WordPress Shopping Cart

This is a very powerful shopping cart with a small footprint that developers will love.

http://tribulant.com/plugins/view/10/wordpress-shopping-cart-plugin

This is a commercial plugin, so you have to pay a licence per site or buy the developers licence to deploy on multiple domains.

Although it doesn’t have a huge community, the plugin itself is very easy to work with.

Output is fully themeable and there are plenty of developer hooks to extend the product to your needs.

It supports both physical and virtual products and is a great choice if you are building European shops with its huge array of EU payment gateways not seen in other e-commerce plugins.

Supports Australia Post as a shipping module.

WP Online Store

This open source (free) WordPress shopping cart is a rewrite of the classic osCommerce on-line store.

http://www.wponlinestore.com/

If you’re a veteran to e-Commerce and looking to implement a new store in WordPress this may be the choice for you.

For years osCommerce was one of the leading choices of shopping cart systems on the web.  It’s storefront may look a bit dated now, but the system has been tried and tested over many years and it works.

Can the release of this plugin breathe new life into an old dog?

The store setup is relatively easy with plenty of hints and documentation to get you started as well as a good choice of payment gateways and other management features.

Both physical and virtual products are supported.

There are a limited choice of premium extensions, including priority support, that extend the system and that is likely to increase over time as more and more people implement this classic shopping cart.

WooCommerce

A fairly new product to the market, WooCommerce started out as an integrated module within WooTheme templates.

It is now available as an open source (free) stand-alone plugin, but does work best with WooTheme templates (of course it would!).

This is probably the sexier option out of all the WordPress shopping carts.

Being new, as you would expect, it uses latest HTML 5 and CSS3 to deliver a really nice looking interface for both the shopper and the store owner.

The out-of-the-box (hence free) payment gateways are a bit limited which is a shame, however, there is an extensive range of premium gateways for you to buy at USD $50 should you need them.

It’s a bit too early to tell what customers and developers think about the e-commerce system but it is definitely one to watch and if you are an existing fan/user of WooThemes then it’s probably a no-brainer.

eShop

If you’ve gotten this far and are thinking “Those are far too complex. I just wanna sell my 10 hand-made products through PayPal.” then eShop may be the choice for you.

This free plugin gives you the ability to add a very simple shopping card into your existing WordPress blog or website.

It is ideal if you have a few products and don’t want to pay a developer to integrate any of the larger e-commerce systems into your theme.

For a basic e-commerce system, the plugin actually has a good number of options and of course supports PayPal but not Google Checkout (out-of-the-box).

ClassiPress

This theme comes with a micro payment e-commerce system and allows you to create your own classified ads website.

http://www.appthemes.com/themes/classipress/

It’s much more than just a theme though.  The whole system is geared up to making money using a micro payment system.

This means that while the costs of placing an advert is small your plan is to make money with large volumes of customers posting ads.

ClassiPress is a premium theme that comes with regular updates and of course support.

There is a big community of users and developers for this system so you won’t be short of options for extending and tweaking your site should you need to.  Of course, most of that will come at a price as this is a commercial entity.

While there are a few colour schemes to choose from the default theme, your best option will be to create a child theme, branding the site as your own while retaining the core functionality of ClassiPress.

Developers will be pleased to know that ClassiPress is well documented and comes with plenty of hooks and filters allowing the content to be further customised and tweaked.  The developers edition costs USD $159 with the single edition costing USD $99.

Clipper

From the same company that created ClassiPress, Clipper is a popular Groupon clone running on WordPress.

http://www.appthemes.com/themes/clipper/

The setup and backend is similar to ClassiPress as you would expect from the same makers.

This integrated theme can support all manner of coupon codes management and handles the purchase and sales very well with a good choice of payment gateways built in.

A variety of widgets and page templates, including coupon scrollers and social media integration is included in the theme.

The admin dashboard also has a wealth of metrics and other tracking data making it easy to keep on top of how much money your store is making and how well the site is being used.

Clipper is also premium theme but the included features, great community and support the costs is just about right at USD $99 for the standard edition.

Shopp

This is the last option we look at in this WordPress e-commerce review article and is also commercial option.

By commercial we mean that it’s not free. You have to pay a licence fee to use it – USD $55 for a single site access and USD $299 for developer access.

Now before you start scrolling down, skipping past this product, there are a few good reasons to go with a commercial plugin.

  • Support – you should be entitled to/guaranteed a good level of support and a quick resolution if something goes pair-shaped with your e-commerce plugin.
  • Upgrades – most commercial plugins come with some level of automatic update entitlement. This ensures that, at the very least, security issues and bugs get fixed quickly and may also include new feature updates too.

Shopp is a great choice for a good stable e-commerce system that does it all.
There are plenty of extensions that can be purchased allowing you to tailor the shop to your needs.

The interface is very sleek and makes use of HTML 5 and CSS3 giving customers an overall great shopping experience.

Both physical and virtual products as available as well as discounts and promo vouchers.

For developers, this solution probably has the most extensibility over the others mentioned here. There are over 400 theme API functions as well as over 120 action hooks.

Being a commercial product you can be sure that the product will work on new and old web browsers alike as well as for mobile devices. Extensions are also quality controlled by Shopp engineers.

Free support is available with a an approximate 2-4 day response period, however, a priority service can be purchased. Bear in mind that core support hours are based on US EST.

Research Your Options

Always do a little bit of research into e-commerce plugins and themes to see how flexible and scalable they are, should you need to expand your business at a future date.

Write down the features you need your shop to support on a bit of paper then see which e-commerce system has the best fit for your requirements.

You should also be aware of the differences in using an open-source (free) system over using a commercial (paid) one.

While the developer community is usually very good at responding to support issues, there are no guarantees there. Is that a risk you are willing to take?

It’s also worth considering where the support is based; US, EU, Australasia and how that may impact your business should you need to use them.

Happy selling!