When I first learned to build sites with WordPress, I stayed away from eCommerce for quite some time, because I thought it must be too expensive. Then I learned about WooCommerce and some sources said it’s completely free! I did some research on whether WooCommerce is free and decided to write this helpful article for those still searching for an answer.
WooCommerce is a free and open-source plugin that can be installed on a WordPress website. However, creating a WordPress website has some basic expenses like domain and hosting, and operating the eCommerce store has its own expenses like monthly fees for payment gateways and transaction fees.
There can be a lot of other expenses if you choose to have some additional, nice-to-have features on your site. There are many nuances about costs and expenses that you need to know before you start using WooCommerce.
WooCommerce, being free and open source, can be installed on your WordPress website for free. Thus if you already have a WordPress website and want to add an eCommerce store to it, you can install and start with WooCommerce absolutely free.
If, however, you want to start your website from scratch, you need to incur some expenses. You need to buy a domain and hosting to have a website in the first place. Then you can choose to learn WordPress yourself, for which you need to invest your time and efforts or hire a web designer which can cost anywhere from $1000 to $3000.
For hosting, the platforms that we use at Urban Moon and suggest to our clients are Bluehost or Hostinger. Both of these are user-friendly and easy-to-use platforms. The Bluehost basic plan starts at $4.95 a month, while that for Hostinger starts at $2.99 a month. As you go for more advanced plans, the costs increase accordingly as summarized in the table below.
In terms of performance, both hosting providers have their own strengths. Hostinger has better load speeds, while Bluehost gives 100% uptime. In terms of customer support, both Hostinger and WooCommerce offer good support, but Bluehost wins in this area because it is better if you need instant help.
Next, you also need to have a domain name, which is basically the unique address of your website on the internet. Both Hostinger and WooCommerce give you free domains, at least for the first year. However, in case you are going for a hosting plan that does not give a free domain, you can buy a domain from platforms like Namecheap or GoDaddy.
Next, come the payment gateways and the costs involved in those. Payment gateways are an essential feature of your website without which your eCommerce business cannot function. WooCommerce offers its native payment gateway called
WooCommerce payments. WooCommerce payments are a convenient way to accept payments where your customers can pay using debit or Credit cards.
For WooCommerce payments, there are no monthly rentals, however, you pay on every transaction. It charges you 0.30 cents for every transaction, plus 2.9% of the transaction value. If your customers are outside the US or are using non-US-issued cards, there is an additional charge of 1%.
On the other hand, if you want to give your customers the option to pay through their PayPal accounts over and above the card option, you can use PayPal as the payment gateway. Here again, you need to pay 2.9% + 0.30 cents per sale to Paypal.
In order to start and run an eCommerce business you only need to incur basic costs like the domain and hosting and the transaction costs that are charged by the payment gateways. Although the basics may get you started, they may not be enough to run your business smoothly and successfully.
The competition in the eCommerce space is huge owing to the low barrier to entry. Thus you might need to go the extra mile in order to differentiate yourself and build a successful brand. You may be able to build a basic online store on WooCommerce, and even start making some sales, but that will commoditize your store and it will be the exact replica of the thousands of other stores in your niche.
If you want your WooCommerce website to stand out, you can consider investing in some paid themes that match your branding or your taste. Besides looking great, paid themes provide great customer support if you face compatibility issues. They are also updated more regularly, which means you will get the latest features. Paid themes can cost from $25 to $110.
The next major component is your website security, which is all the more important in the case of an eCommerce website because you are dealing with your customer’s financial data. Most reputed hosting providers offer a free SSL certificate and good security features. However, it never hurts to be extra sure and go for a paid security service.
There are plugins like Sacuri, which costs $300 a year, and SiteLock, which quotes its pricing on a case-by-case basis but also offers a free basic version for WooCommerce users.
Next, you might need to invest in SEO and Marketing to drive traffic to your store and make sales. If you are running Google or Facebook ads, most digital marketing agencies recommend a monthly budget of $500. Most SEO agencies will charge you a minimum of $500 to $1000 a month. So you need to consider these expenses as well in order to build an eCommerce business using WooCommerce.
If you want to create a WooCommerce website from scratch and scale it up into a successful business, you might need to incur some of these costs covered in the previous sections which are summarized below.
Hosting will cost you $100 to $130 a year, and a domain can cost $10 to $20. Next, you can either choose a free theme or if you go for a paid theme, it can cost you $25 to $100. Payment gateways also charge some amount, which is mostly 2.9% + 0.3 cents per transaction.
Further, if you want to choose a good CRM service, it will cost you anywhere from $12 a month to $30 a month. Read our detailed article about the best CRMs for WooCommerce here.
Security services can cost you up to $300 a year and SSL is mostly free but can cost up to $65 a year.
If you do not want to learn WordPress yourself and are looking to hire a Web Design agency, they may charge you between $1000 to $3000. Marketing and SEO can cost you another $1000 to $2000 a month.
WooCommerce, though often referred to as the free WordPress eCommerce plugin, involves a lot of costs if you want to build a powerful website and run and manage the eCommerce business efficiently.
WooCommerce gained huge popularity within a few years of being launched as the native eCommerce plugin of WordPress, which was already a popular CMS platform. People trusted WordPress and so they placed their trust in WooCommerce as well, and it gave good performance in the initial years.
However, as your eCommerce business grows, it starts showing the limitations of WooCommerce. Many bigger eCommerce businesses have reported their WooCommerce websites getting slow or transactions getting stuck.
As per experts, the WordPress database structure is such that it is not optimum for complex querying which is typical for bigger eCommerce companies, which handle multiple transactions every minute. There have also been increasing reports of security lapses in WooCommerce in recent years.
WooCommerce is a good option for new businesses or businesses that have eCommerce only as a part of their revenue. WooCommerce is great if your business can benefit from other WordPress features, particularly content marketing, and blogging. But if eCommerce is the core of your business, you might consider choosing Shopify or Magento over WooCommerce.
Had WooCommerce been free, or particularly inexpensive, these would not have been such a big concern, but as covered thoroughly in this article, it is not. And it is not particularly easy to start with either, when compared to Shopify or Magento.
So if you choose to make these expenses and put in the effort to get your WooCommerce website up and running, you would not want to change your platform within a year or so because of performance issues.
So it’s recommended that you are clear with what you want from your eCommerce business, where you want to go, how fast you want to grow, and plan to choose your platform accordingly. After all, who wants to be in a sticky situation down the road after working hard on their business for months or years?