A match made in heaven

WooCommerce goes with WordPress like gin goes with tonic. A match made in heaven, these two applications are free to use and easy to combine with a seemingly endless number of plugins and extensions to help small business owners and bigger ones too, get things done.

Not sure what WooCommerce is?

If you’re not really sure what WooCommerce is, it’s an e-commerce plugin that according to recent statistics, has more than 5,000,000 active installs (as of March 2022) and powers 40% of the e-commerce sites in the world – ahead of Shopify at 28%.

It differs from Shopify in the following main ways.

  • Portability: You’re not locked into a subscription with the business that also creates and maintains the e-commerce software. You can host and move your WordPress/ Woo website anywhere you like.
  • Flexibility: Shopify works in a certain way and with certain add-on’s. The range of things that you can “plug in” to WordPress/Woo is almost endless and if that’s not enough, you can customise it with code in whatever ways you like.

Not sure what a plugin is?

Here’s a quick explanation to get you up to speed.

WordPress.org is a free content management system (CMS) that you download and install on an account with a web host and WooCommerce is a free plugin that you can install in WordPress.

(Not to confuse the issue, but there is WordPress.com, which is a hosted, limited version – you don’t want this one – and there is WordPress.org, which is just the content management system – you DO want this one – and that’s what we’re talking about in this article when we refer to WordPress.)

If WordPress is the skeleton of the creature that is your website, holding everything together, then on top of that skeleton are the muscles and fleshy bits, which are the theme and page builder, which determine the shape that your website takes from the outside.

What gives your creature/website the power to do things, are its nerves or plugins which are little applications that sit side by side inside your website making it do things on command. Most plugins can be found in a giant online listing called the WordPress Plugin Repository which can be accessed from inside your website.

Lots of plugins are free, some are paid or premium and all of them do useful things. Some of those things relate to the security and performance of your site and others extend the functionality of your site so that it can act like a shop, booking service, image gallery, video library or whatever else you need it to be.

Back to the story

Over the years I’ve helped clients use WordPress and WooCommerce to do a variety of things in their businesses from selling physical products to running international conferences. Here are just seven ways that you can use this winning combination in ways your clients are sure to love.

1. Sell physical products

In its native state, WooCommerce’s capability is fairly basic, but once you add a few marginally priced extensions (which is another word for plugins) like Dynamic Pricing, which lets you offer bulk or multi-purchase discounts or Australia Post WooCommerce Extension PRO which lets you work out the postage amount for each order, your shop can start becoming useful really quickly.

APIS Australia is an example of an online store that sells physical products. APIS makes Wound Wax, a salve used for horses and dogs. They mostly sell it to distributors around Australia, but if you don’t have a distributor close to you, you can buy Wound Wax direct from their website.

2. Sell virtual or downloadable products

Out of the box, WooCommerce can manage the sale of virtual products very easily, like the downloadable recipe books that Steam & Bake sell from their online store. Before adding the store capability to their website, Steam & Bake sold their books through Amazon to steam oven users around the world.

They still do this, and there’s no denying that Amazon exposes their product to a wider audience, but it’s more profitable to sell things direct from your own site where possible, without the substantial fees selling platforms take.

Steam and Bake

3. Sell online courses and programs

According to an article by FindStack , “the online learning industry has grown by over 900% since 2000” and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. This is largely due to opportunities created by the growth of the internet and the things that it enables us to do.

All-in-one learning management systems like WordPress plugin LearnDash make it relatively easy to create an online school with all the functionality of hosted platforms like Teachable or Thinkific.

At the opposite end of the scale, it’s possible to sell learning materials like templates, workbooks or email/downloadable courses through a simple online shop styled along the lines of a school or academy.

The Clever Copywriting School for example, which I was a member of for several years, sells a range of copywriting templates and learning materials as virtual items in a WooCommerce store.

4. Display a catalogue of products

Even if you don’t plan to take payment online at the time of your customer’s order, being able to display a catalogue of products for your clients to choose from, can be really useful in some kinds of businesses.

As an example, Replenish is a local wasteless retail store that sells individual items like bars of soap and books, but mostly sells pantry staples by weight. Examples include a wide range of flours, nuts, confectionary, granolas and even liquids like cooking oils and honey. Customers are able to order by weight in standard tiers based on the type of product, but they’re charged at the counter when they pick their order up, based on the actual quantity that ended up fitting into their brought-from-home jars or containers.

Replenish Online

5. Create an online community or membership

If there’s something that people want more than ever, it’s a sense of community around the things they’re interested in. Creating online communities that give members access to information, products or discounts is relatively straightforward once you know how you want it all to work and you have software that can accommodate the logic you’ve got in mind.

There are no shortage of WooCommerce plugins and extensions to help you do this including WooCommerce’s own Membership plugin or Paid Memberships Pro which we used for WA No-Till Farming Association.

6. Sell tickets for a live or online event

In conjunction with WordPress, plug-ins like The Events Calendar make it easy to host and advertise events, take RSVPs for events or sell tickets regardless of whether those events are a workshop for 5 people or a live show for 5,000.

I’ve set up The Events Calendar in particular to accept entries or sell tickets for  equestrian events for a riding club, small equestrian clinics run by an individual coach and a large rodeo run by an events company. By doing it like this, everything is under your control and if you’re going to be running events often or for a long time, the cost of creating and managing the site is less than the cost of some of the event platform fees which can really add up.

7. Host a conference

You’ll be spoilt for choice when you search in the WordPress plugin repository for solutions to help you run an event but Event Espresso stands on it’s own in terms of functionality when it comes to running conferences in particular.

I’ve worked with two agricultural organisations over the last 7 years that run regular local, national and international conferences for hundreds of delegates at a time. The Australian Controlled Traffic Farming Association (ACTFA) and the WA No-Till Farming Association (WANTFA). Since the beginning, we’ve used a plugin called Event Espresso to manage registrations based on a tiered pricing system, process registrations and payments and handle the refund process, which is what we had to do when an entire conference had to be cancelled due to a change in COVID restrictions.

While researching this article, I found another plugin with some interesting functionality, WP Event Manager which has been adapted to run virtual/ hybrid events!

WANTFA Conferences

If building a site for your business or venture is something that’s on the to-do list right now, why not get in touch to find out what that could look like for you?