Everyone looks for the cheapest, easiest solution to a problem.
Why wouldn’t you? When you are using a free platform like WordPress, having similarly “free” options in your plugins and themes is attractive, right? Not necessarily.
This is a look at WooCommerce vs iThemes Exchange — two of the most popular free WordPress eCommerce plugins — and the true costs of selling on a WordPress platform.
WooCommerce Positives & Negatives
In the last post that was released, we compared the likes of WooCommerce and WordPress to the most popular third-party solution — Shopify.
But if you are already using the WordPress system heavily or already have a WordPress website and are looking for an eCommerce solution, this post is for you. If you are looking at eCommerce solutions for WordPress, you MUST have heard about WooCommerce at the very least. After all, WooCommerce is active on over 1 million websites.
WooCommerce is one of the longest running plugins, but what are the positives and negatives of using WooCommerce?
You get a lot of function with WooCommerce
For a free plugin, WooCommerce provides A LOT of content.
Sure, there are a large number of paid “Extensions” to integrate WooCommerce with other services, allow for different shipping options, and integrate with many different payment gateways.
But out of the box, you can set up more options than in most other platforms. Without spending a dime, you can get a fully functioning inventory of products. You can capture customer information, accept payment in PayPal, and provide shipping options to your customer base.
WooCommerce is hard to setup
Getting WooCommerce to work as you want it might prove to be more difficult.
WooCommerce can be a bear to set up. There are tabs upon tabs to navigate, pages to build, and attributes to create before you can start thinking about your first product. There is no step-by-step tutorial or documentation built into the software that we could see, making it even more difficult to build. While we can breeze right through setting up WooCommerce, we aren’t quite sure why it has been made such a difficult process to initiate.
Thankfully, we have a guide that shows you the step by step process to selling products in WooCommerce.
WooCommerce and friends
WooCommerce also has more backing in the WordPress community. This means more available “Extensions” to meet specific needs and more free plugins in the WordPress repository to solve other issues you might have. Over 1 million websites using the plugin means more eyeballs on “Extensions” which means they are generally cheaper than alternative products, like iThemes Exchange.
The average price of a WooCommerce Extension is $79 and remember, these extensions are used to solve specific integrations with other payment gateways. You are getting almost all the function of eCommerce with the free plugin.
For the person who doesn’t mind getting dirty with a bit of learning and exploration on their eCommerce site, WooCommerce is the cheaper option.
WooCommerce is for developers
Coinciding with the large number of options are great ways to extend the platform with some development chops. In the most recent update to WooCommerce (at time of this posting) there is a new section for “webhooks” which makes it even easier to tap into WooCommerce and do some fun things.
Webhooks can be used in situations where a specific action needs to take place after a certain step is made or product is purchased.
This gets a bit more technical, but allows developers to craft unique scenarios on their WordPress website.
iThemes Exchange Positives & Negatives
Being a relative newcomer to the eCommerce plugin scene, iThemes Exchange is active on only 3,000 websites at the current moment of print.
If you are worried about longevity of product or support, don’t be.
iThemes has been at this for a while with lots of plugins and services. As a more younger offering, like anything else in life, iThemes Exchange has a lot of great ideas but is undermined by lack of experience and knowledge. Here is the full breakdown.
iThemes Exchange is easy
What we love most about iThemes exchange is the set up process.
Immediately after installing the product, you are approached with a simple to use setup process. You choose:
- What type of product you are looking to sell? (Physical or digital)
- Enter your payment gateway (PayPal email by default)
- Set up shipping (free or flat-rate if physical product)
After using the product for two minutes, your site is ready to rock. That’s it.
Creating products is also more visual than the WordPress-centric WooCommerce. For a new WordPress user or business owner, creating products is more visual and user-friendly than in WooCommerce.
iThemes Exchange invites you to create your first product, and starts with simple information (Product name and Price).
Once you have entered the name and price, moving down the editor is:
- A content area for more detailed information
- Visual tabs for inventory tracking, availability of product, and even SEO
- Featured image and gallery images section
- No bloat
The experience is streamlined, like a “Distraction-Free” product creator. If you want to make changes to the shipping options, you can do so as well. While there is a set shipping price in setup, the price can be adjusted on a product by product basis.
The REAL price of iThemes Exchange
To say that iThemes Exchange is “free” is a bit of a stretch. In fact, we have never seen such a great case for the freemium model of business.
Yes the plugin is free, but we have found that many of the core features of a software like WooCommerce are either missing or are part of a collection of add-ons that you need to purchase additionally.
In these specific cases, it is usually best to purchase the Pro Pack of all add-ons for $197. This means that in most cases, while the plugin is free, you are most likely going to need to spend $197 to get the features you require.
Variations with iThemes Exchange
One particular omission from iThemes Exchange is product variations. For those that are unfamiliar, a variation is applied at any time that you have a single product with multiple configurations or options. The most obvious example is a piece of clothing. A t-shirt may come in different colors or in different sizes.
This constitutes a variation.
To get variations, you need to purchase the Pro Pack for $197.
This might seem like a large upfront cost, but remember, you are paying for the ease of use of iThemes versus another platform like WooCommerce. $197 is also much more manageable than other options with monthly fees, like Shopify.
iThemes Exchange is clean
Lastly, iThemes exchange is also developed with a very modern and clean look, which automatically looks good with many themes. Below is a demonstration image of iThemes Exchange running with our free Simple Shop theme. No modifications made to the styling of Simple Shop or iThemes exchange.
We hope that iThemes continues the trend of easy to use and build as they continue to support Exchange.
WooCommerce vs iThemes Exchange
In short, if you have a simple product or two to sell, iThemes will get you going much more quickly than WooCommerce. It is also the plugin of choice for those who might not be as familiar with WordPress.
If you want more customization options or are on a really tight budget, you will want to stick with WooCommerce for now.
In the last article, we compared WooCommerce to Windows and Shopify to Apple. In the case of WooCommerce vs iThemes Exchange, you could almost make the same argument as well.
Let us know if you have any questions about either one of these solutions in the comments below!