Is WooCommerce really free? Find out the true cost of starting a WooCommerce store.
If an e-commerce website is powered by WordPress, then it probably uses the WooCommerce plugin to process orders. WooCommerce serves as a shopping cart system for WordPress websites. It gives online businesses the ability to add product pages and process payments through a number of different payment gateways. The most popular gateways include PayPal, Stripe, and Amazon Pay.
A recent study shown that when it comes to shopping carts, WooCommerce has the biggest market share in the world. There are three reasons behind this:
Firstly, it’s powered by the most popular and user-friendly website builder – WordPress
Secondly, it has one of the biggest community of developers with a lot of third-party support
And thirdly, it’s free to use. But is it really totally free or are there also hidden costs involved?
This article will explore in-depth any additional costs that you might incur if you wish to use WooCommerce.
In case you didn’t know, WordPress is an open-source content management system. Whenever you see the term “open-source,” it means the software is free to download, use, manipulate, and redistribute in any way that you would like. In other words, there are no restrictions on copying and reusing the software for different websites or projects.
WooCommerce is described as an open-source plugin for WordPress. An open-source license, once again, means that WooCommerce is free to download and install on as many websites as you would like. You don’t have to pay any monthly fees or commissions to the developer. That is good news.
Okay, so what’s the real catch? Is it completely free? Well, let’s examine what the WooCommerce plugin actually does first. It has the capability of installing a shopping cart and checkout system on your WordPress website, so it can display products and process customer orders.
Even though the WooCommerce plugin is capable of doing these things, that doesn’t mean it will come fully stocked with all the resources necessary to start an ecommerce website from scratch. When you install the WooCommerce plugin and activate it on your WordPress website, it is not going to automatically look presentable and feature the payment gateways that want it to have. These are considered “extras.”
Sure, there are lots of different theme designs and payment gateways available for the WooCommerce plugin. But these themes and payment gateways were not developed by the original developers of the WooCommerce plugin. They were developed by other people not associated with those original developers. As a result, these extra features may cost money and hold different licensing rights other than open-source.
Do you want to enhance your WooCommerce store to include an attractive theme and a variety of different payment gateways for your customers? If so, then you’ll need to purchase extra plugins in order to integrate these extra features into your WooCommerce store.
It might seem strange that a WordPress plugin needs to have separate plugins of its own to function better. That is the case with WooCommerce because it is such a popular software plugin for WordPress. Since WooCommerce has an open-source license, there are multiple third-party developers who create their own plugins for WooCommerce on a regular basis.
These plugins are not open-source because their developers have full copyright ownership over them. They get to decide how much to charge users for their WooCommerce plugins, as well as the licensing rights that are included. Do not assume that anything with the title “WooCommerce” is automatically open-source. You have to actually pay attention to who created the plugin extensions for the software. They are the ones who determine the rights.
For more information on how WooCommerce compares to other ecommerce website builders check out our new guide.
First, you’ll want to download and install the base software of WooCommerce. You can find it available for free in most WordPress plugin directories. In fact, you can search the main WordPress plugin directory in the administrative area of your WordPress platform.
Click on “Plugins” in the navigational menu and type in the keyword search term “WooCommerce.” You should immediately see the WooCommerce plugin available to download and install right from the administrative area.
After the installation, all of the default features will be available on the website. However, these features are not good enough to satisfy the customer demands of modern e-commerce websites.
This is where the true costs of operating a WooCommerce store come into play. The four primary costs that you will concern yourself with are the hosting, store theme design, marketing, and functions of the store.
Each of these four areas requires outside products or services to be purchased. If you shop around, then it shouldn’t cost you more than $200 to set up an attractive and fully functional WooCommerce store. It is certainly cheaper than setting up a brick-and-mortar store, right?
Let’s explore the four primary costs in more detail.
If you’ve ever operated a website before, then you should be familiar with the concept of web hosting services. These are services that sell you digital storage space and bandwidth on a web hosting server. You can upload all of your website files and folders to the hosting server.
After that, you need to link the domain name of your store to the hosting account. That way, the domain name will reveal a website that is based on the files and folders that you uploaded. But actually, you don’t even need to do any uploading if you’re using WordPress.
Most web hosting companies now give you a quick 1-click install option for the WordPress software. This saves you the trouble of having to upload all the WordPress configuration files manually. Instead, you can set up your WordPress directly from your hosting account without having to upload anything yourself.
When you go to select a web hosting company, you need to choose one that is WordPress friendly. There are dozens of web hosting companies on the internet, but a lot of them have inadequate servers for handling the demands of WordPress. You need to choose a web host with a good reputation for running WordPress websites.
The two hosting companies that we recommend are BlueHost and WP Engine. The cheaper of the two is BlueHost, which has a starting price of only $2.95 per month. For that amount of money, you will receive unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth. The best part is they allow you to install WordPress in one-click as well as WooCommerce in one click.
On the downside, BlueHost is better for small WooCommerce stores with no more than 10,000 views per month. If you plan to have a huge WooCommerce store with more than 10,000 views per month and hundreds of different products for sale, then you should choose WP Engine for your hosting.
WP Engine is a hosting service that is specifically designed for WordPress websites. Your WooCommerce store will run fast, no matter how much traffic it gets per month. Then you don’t have to worry about any downtime or interruptions to your store because of excessive amounts of traffic, assuming that you know how to drive traffic to your store, which we explain in detail here.
The cost of the WP Engine hosting service ranges from $2.95 to $29 per month. Choose the service option that is most suitable for your needs.
When we talk about the “theme” of your WooCommerce store, we are talking about its web design and appearance. The theme design refers to the layout, color scheme, navigational system, and other visual features of your store. Of course, the theme is technically a WordPress theme rather than a WooCommerce theme.
Remember that WooCommerce is a developed open-source plugin. The actual theme design of your WooCommerce store can be set to whatever you want from the WordPress platform. Just search the WordPress theme directory in your administrative area to find a theme that you like. Some WordPress themes are free, while others cost money.
But this is where things get tricky. You can’t just choose any WordPress theme that you like because not all WordPress themes are compatible with WooCommerce. Instead, you must find a WordPress theme that is optimized or designed to be compatible with WooCommerce.
For instance, the “Shoptimizer” theme for WooCommerce sells for between $49 and $99. It is advertised as the fastest WooCommerce theme available today. It comes with a plethora of features for increasing conversions and the search engine optimization of your website.
There are thousands of WordPress themes, so you’ll need to use the keyword “WooCommerce” when searching for themes in the directory. The paid themes often come with more features than the free themes. You shouldn’t have to spend more than $99 for a good theme.
There are lots of ways to market your WooCommerce store. One very unique way is to use marketing plugins that have features specifically for WooCommerce. The three main features you’ll want to focus on are digital advertising, email marketing, and social media marketing.
Digital marketing refers to things like Facebook Ads and Google Ads, where you pay money in exchange for clicks or impressions. Do not confuse it with social media marketing, which is where you share ad posts with your friends and followers. Social media marketing is free for the most part, but the social media marketing plugins for WooCommerce will cost you some money.
Let’s review our recommended marketing plugins for WooCommerce:
The best email marketing platform for WooCommerce is a plugin called Klaviyo. It integrates automatically with your WooCommerce store, so you don’t need to perform any complicated setups or configurations.
Klaviyo lets you send email marketing campaigns to specific customers based on certain behaviors or actions they’ve performed in the past. Since their buying behavior is recorded by the plugin, it makes it easier to target certain customers that you want to reach. Then you can increase your store’s revenue by making special offers to these customers.
Let’s suppose you want to promote a new product for every customer who has spent over $200 at your store. You can set up an email campaign to reach only those specific customers. In fact, you can automate your email campaigns so that customers demonstrating certain behaviors will receive emails automatically.
Here are the typical behaviors you can target:
Klaviyo charges you based on how many email subscribers you have. The first 250 email subscribers are free. After that, you have to pay $20 per month for up to 500 email subscribers, or $30 per month for up to 1,000 email subscribers. It just keeps going on from there. You can choose to upgrade your membership as you gain more subscribers, so start with the free one.
If you want a free alternative plugin to email marketing, then go with Privy. It allows you to fill your website with email signup forms as well as popup forms. Then you can send basic email marketing campaigns yourself. It just lacks the automation features of Klaviyo.
The “Facebook for WooCommerce Extension” assists you in retargeting your current shoppers on Facebook. The plugin basically helps you track your shoppers’ actions on Facebook if they have an account with the social media network. Then you can send targeted ads to them on Facebook based on the data in which the plugin collects. The purpose is to bring those shoppers back to your store.
This Facebook extension for WooCommerce is free!
The Google Shopping Plugin is essential if you want to run product ads from your Google Ads account. The plugin creates a product feed from your store automatically and uploads it to your Google Ads account. Then you don’t have to do as much work to launch your Google campaign ads.
You do have to pay to use the Google Shopping Plugin, though. The current cost is $79 per year. The price comes with a 30-day moneyback guarantee and 12 months of updates and customer support service.
The functional plugins for WooCommerce mainly revolve around its shopping cart feature. The standard free shopping cart that comes with WooCommerce is nothing special. It doesn’t come with multiple payment gateways, caching, analytics, SEO, or other advanced features. You need to install separate plugins to have these functions in your WooCommerce store.
On the upside, many of the functional plugins that you actually need are free to use! They were created by companies that either offer free services normally or they want to encourage more merchants to offer their services to their customers. You will understand why as you continue reading.
Here are the best functional plugins to use for your WooCommerce store:
Google Analytics is a feature designed specifically for webmasters. The standard feature of Google Analytics allows you to track the number of hits to your website and the demographics of your visitors. You’re supposed to add a specific HTML code to the header tag of your website’s home page. That is how the analytics are normally activated and tracked.
However, the Google Analytics plugin for WooCommerce makes things easier. You can obtain real-time statistics and information related to your store’s sales, customers, and the products which are the most popular. With this information, you can create a better sales funnel to convert more leads into sales.
The Google Analytics plugin is completely free to use. You don’t need to add the HTML coding to your header tag manually, either. By installing the plugin, the coding is inserted automatically.
PayPal is the number one payment gateway on the internet. You cannot successfully run an e-commerce store without offering PayPal as a payment option to your customers. The PayPal plugin for WooCommerce will allow customers to purchase your products with their PayPal accounts.
The plugin is free to download, install, and use. But remember, the actual PayPal service will charge you for every transaction that it processes. The standard PayPal fee is 2.9% of the transaction price plus a $0.30 service fee.
Stripe is a payment gateway that is gaining more attention. It is being described as the new alternative to PayPal. So, why do people love Stripe so much?
The most attractive quality of Stripe is that it allows customers to pay for products with their credit cards directly on your website. You might be saying to yourself, “So what? PayPal does the same thing.” Well, not exactly.
When customers want to pay with a credit card through PayPal, they are taken away from your store and to the PayPal website where their payment gets processed. This can seem rather unprofessional because the payment system is not integrated into the website.
Also, if a customer doesn’t have a PayPal account and they simply want to pay with a credit card as a guest, they don’t always see the button that lets them do that on the PayPal page. It is a grey button underneath the login box that people normally miss.
So, what normally happens is that people see the login box and automatically assume they’re required to log in to pay. This whole situation creates a terrible experience for the customer because they get disgruntled and confused. If they don’t see the “Pay as a Guest” box, they will click away and go somewhere else.
Stripe solves this problem because it allows customers to pay with their credit cards without going to a third-party website. They get to stay on your website while their credit card payment is processed. This enhances their customer service experience tremendously.
The Yoast SEO plugin helps to enhance the search engine optimization of your WooCommerce store. This is how you increase the search engine ranking of your store, so customers can find you in Google and Bing.
Yoast SEO makes it easy to modify your store’s meta descriptions and title tags without having to dig into the HTML coding yourself. The plugin also has a content evaluation feature that lets you know if the quality of your store’s content needs improvement.
This is another great plugin that you can download, install, and use for free.
If you are selling physical goods through your WooCommerce store, then you’ll need an easy way to print shipping labels for your customers’ orders. The ShippingEasy plugin for WooCommerce simplifies this process for you. With just a couple of clicks, you can print shipping labels with your customers’ information on them. You’ll even be entitled to some generous discounts on the shipping costs from major shipping companies like UPS, USPS, and FedEx.
If you ship 50 packages or less per month, then ShippingEasy is free to use. If you ship over 50 packages, then you must upgrade your membership and pay a monthly fee for it. For example, it costs $29 per month to ship up to 500 monthly packages through ShippingEasy. If you need to ship up to 1,500 packages, the monthly price increases to $49. The maximum price is $99 per month to ship up to 6,000 packages.
It’s hard to come up with a definitive price tag when it comes to starting a WooCommerce store. Even though WooCommerce in and of itself is completely free, just like with using WordPress, it is evident that you need to spend extra to get the most out of it.
Ultimately, the final price that you will spend largely depends on your wants and needs.
WooCommerce as well as WordPress offers a highly customizable, flexible and scalable solution for setting up your website. With that in mind you can easily compare a variety of different tools and pick the best solution that fits your needs.
Below is an outline of total minimum costs of running a WooCommerce store.
At the absolute bare minimum, you would pay $114.40 per year to start running your WooCommerce site. This total includes the hosting and Google Product Feed pricing. The payment processing fees only get paid when you receive money from buyers, so those don’t count toward your operational expenses.
Does this amount of money sound reasonable for starting a new online store? You certainly couldn’t run a physical store at this price. So, why not give it a try?
We hope that the information in this article was useful to you and if you want to know more about the general start up costs of starting a dropshipping businesses, check out our in-depth guide.