6 Best WooCommerce Alternatives for WordPress

One of my favorite things about WordPress is when you find a reliable theme or plugin developer, and then you realize that the search for high-quality website-building tools is over. The only thing I worry about with these sorts of WordPress relationships, however, is that you never really know who you’re dealing with. Or how truly reliable they’ll be in the long run.

So, totally hypothetical situation here: let’s say you put all your eggs into one eCommerce plugin basket. Then you hear through the grapevine that the plugin developer changed their pricing model without notifying customers. You’re pretty sure you can’t reasonably afford that jump in price, but you feel stuck with the plugin because it’s the one you built your online store with. What are you supposed to do? Start all over again?

If that scenario above sounds familiar, it’s because this is what recently happened with WooCommerce. Oh, you haven’t heard about it yet? Well, you and probably the majority of their customers are going to find out about this major (and truly unfortunate) change very soon.

WooCommerce website
The WooCommerce website.

What the Heck Is Going on with WooCommerce?

As of writing this article, WooCommerce powers over two million websites around the web, making it the most used eCommerce technology in 2017. In all honesty, WooCommerce has been a pretty big deal since it was launched in 2010. Then when Autommatic purchased WooThemes and WooCommerce in 2015, well, you can imagine what sort of impact that had on the eCommerce plugin’s reputation.

Fast forward to today, and web developers and other users of the plugin are, to put it bluntly, pissed off. WooCommerce recently and very quietly announced that they were terminating the 50% discount that members receive with each year’s renewal of the plugin. They have effectively doubled the cost of using WooCommerce.

While this may not be a big deal for customers that are brand new to WooCommerce, this is a major source of contention with long-standing and loyal customers. And it rightfully should be. Why was there no notice given to current customers? Why was there no grandfathered pricing agreement made in order to keep long-standing customers happy? Does WooCommerce really believe that their plugin is so good and users so dependent on it that they won’t have any choice but to pay double the fees once it comes time to re-up their license?

This actually isn’t the first inconsiderate move the people behind WooCommerce have made. About four years ago, WooCommerce changed their pricing structure, without any warning and without any special treatment for long-standing, existing customers. Instead, they swiftly removed one of their more popular pricing tiers nor would they grandfather in those pre-existing pricing terms for customers. Needless to say, this move generated a lot of anger.

WooCommerce tried to justify the move by saying it would help the company cover the cost of support. However, based on their history, customers claimed they rarely needed support from WooCommerce and, when they did ask for it, that it sucked. WooCommerce ignored this backlash and instead focused on the bright side of the situation. Funny enough, they touted the 50% discount members received on yearly renewals as the silver lining, believing those annual cost savings would soften the blow of the pricing changes they had just made.

Now, in 2017, WooCommerce is taking that 50% renewal price away.

WooCommerce hasn’t publicly made the announcement yet, so customers likely won’t find out about it until it’s time for them to renew for next year. And then what do they do? WooCommerce knows their users are basically locked into the platform. Having to rebuild a basic WordPress site for a small, service-based business is one thing. Having to rebuild an entire store with hundreds or thousands of products is a nightmare.

So, where does this leave you if you’re currently running your online shop with WooCommerce, but have had enough of the clear disrespect they have for their long-time customers? If your yearly costs are doubling and profit margins are tight, you’ll either need to raise prices on your customers and potentially hurt the goodwill you’ve established with them or you’ll need to find a new eCommerce plugin. Customers probably won’t take too kindly to this, so let’s explore other options.

6 WooCommerce Alternatives

If you’re concerned that cheaper eCommerce plugins just won’t fit the bill, then let’s settle this once and for all today. I’m going to review six of the top eCmmerce plugins and see if we can find something that’s worth making the switch for.

  • Cart66

    If security is a major concern for your e-commerce store, then the Cart66 plugin is one you must look at. It comes chock-full of sales-enhancing features, all of which are protected by their PCI compliance, CDN, and secure hosted payment page.

    One thing to note about Cart66, however, is that they offer two subscriptions. The first one comes with the standard highlights mentioned below. The second one costs significantly more, but offers more in the way of being able to manage the entire shopping experience from start to finish (like mailing labels, drip campaigns, etc.)

    Highlights

    • PCI-compliant hosted payment portal
    • Built-in CDN for additional security
    • Includes over 100 payment gateways
    • Sell digital or physical products
    • Advanced shipping and tax rate calculator
    • Coupon integration
    • MailChimp integration
    • One-click Buy Now links for your other marketing platforms (e.g. email, social)
  • Easy Digital Downloads

    One of the very few e-commerce plugins for WordPress that’s available for free, Easy Digital Downloads is a great option if your site is in the business of selling digital products like software, ebooks, and images and if you need a simple store setup. Anything beyond creating products and adding discount codes will require a paid extension or upgrade (but that should be expected with a free plugin anyway).

    Highlights

    • It’s free
    • Works with most major payment gateways, like PayPal and Amazon
    • Create digital product pages the same way you’d create anything else in WordPress (which means it’s super intuitive)
    • Discount code creation
    • Built-in reporting system

    Interested in Easy Digital Downloads?

  • eCommerce Product Catalog Plugin

    This free e-commerce plugin is great for creating and managing a physical product catalog, which is made even more easy with its drag-and-drop catalog builder. Now, while you could spring for the premium extensions that give you access to things like quote forms, product reviews, and a shopping cart, you may be best off using this in conjunction with a safe and secure payment gateway instead.

    Highlights

    • It’s free
    • Drag-and-drop builder
    • Customize your design or use pre-made templates
    • Works with over 150 currencies and four price formats
    • Build a catalog for up to 100,000 products
    • Granular product catalog organization based on categories or tags
    • Control shipping options
    • SEO-friendly: includes metadata as well as separate catalog sitemap
    • Includes breadcrumb functionality

    Interested in eCommerce Product Catalog Plugin?

  • iThemes Exchange

    The basic iThemes Exchange plugin is a simple and intuitive way to set up your products and get your store running in no time, so, if time is of the essence, this speedy solution may fit the bill. However, it is important to note that there’s a lot more you can do with this e-commerce plugin, but it requires extension activation (and payment) in order to tap into that advanced functionality.

    Highlights

    • Unique but simple interface that streamlines product entry setup
    • Sell digital and physical products
    • Integrates with Stripe (their preferred payment gateway) as well as PayPal
    • Add-ons available for reporting, tax calculations, multi-item shopping carts, product metadata, and more
    • Pro Pack designed for membership websites and other recurring payment services

    Interested in iThemes Exchange?

  • WP eCommerce

    If you’re looking for something that is a step up from a free e-commerce plugin but not quite as robust as a premium one, you may be interested in the WP eCommerce plugin. They keep it simple in terms of setting up a new store, but have also built this plugin with the developer in mind, offering a number of APIs to extend the functionality of your online store.

    Highlights

    • Integrates with reliable payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe
    • Manage tax and shipping rates
    • Coupon management options
    • Configure for recurring billing, processing refunds, and more
    • Includes on-page marketing options, like “Share This” and “User Who Bought This”
    • Monitor sales from within the tool

Wrapping Up

Sadly, WooCommerce may still be seen by many to have a leg up on the competition, what with their long-standing presence as the top eCommerce plugin on the market. And for some of their customers, the price jump will simply be a drop in the bucket—but I’m sure those customers are far and few between.

For developers that don’t want to work with a plugin developer that doesn’t have their best interests at heart, just know that there are other options available that are just as (if not more so) reliable and feature-packaged. You don’t need to risk angering your own customers by raising your own prices in order to compensate for WooCommerce’s ever-shifting pricing structure. You also don’t need to work with a plugin that many customers have called out for lacking in support. Your business deserves a better partner than that.

Brenda Barron
Over to you: As a WooCommerce customer, were you already aware of this news? Now that you know about it, does it make you feel any differently about the company?

18 Responses

  • New Recruit

    While I in no way agree with removing the renewal discount, I think this article is being disingenuous to suggest that “They have effectively doubled the cost of using WooCommerce.”

    The core WooCommerce plugin is still free, it’s only the extensions that cost. Whereas MarketPress costs $49 per month. That’s a lot of WooCommerce extensions.

  • The Bug Hunter

    Great list of WooCommerce Alternatives, thank you Brenda :)

    I’m just a little confused about the intro-part of this article: I didn’t know that WooCommerce is a paid plugin! If my clients want to use it, they simply download it from the official WP-plugin-repo, install it etc. – for free.

    And now it seems that you receive a paid version at woocommerce.com and the free one at the plugin-repo. I understand that you need to subscribe to wordpresss.com in order to access a paid version on woocommerce.com.

    So what is the difference between the two?

    Have a nice day,
    Sascha

  • New Recruit

    Nice list, but a little misleading.

    The core WooCommerce plugin is free, unless I’m mistaken! Sure the extensions cost, and some are pretty expensive.

    I did work with Jigoshop a while back, and when I heard the news that WordPress were purchasing WooCommerce I pretty much immediately switched to WooCommerce. For me quality of code and documentation are key, and I get that with WooCommerce.

    Good to see easy digital downloads on the list, another very good plugin.

    Cheers,
    Gary.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    This topic has been hashed and rehashed on many slack channels and private Facebook groups in the past couple of weeks. I honestly don’t think it would have been such a big deal if we, the users of the premium Woocommerce extensions, felt like we were getting our money’s worth when it came to support. Each support ticket I have opened has been a lesson in agony – random closing of tickets, days of waiting for the next response, etc. usually with no resolution.
    The market is ready for an alternative if it has stellar support.

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    Actually, it is clear what OP (Brenda) intended is the ongoing cost of ownership, how this removal was just slipped in without notice, and that while a basic shop may be fine with a plain vanilla install of WC, many will find that the need for those plugins rise quickly, and now users are locked-in (yes, they can transfer, but really, try doing this with a live moderately successful site and you’ll see the pain in it).

    What’s more, who’s to say that this pattern is the first step in an escalating pricing structure. Yes, that’s their prerogative, that’s just capitalism and it’s a free country. But there is such a thing as a better and clearer announcement at least instead of you just getting a wild surprise at renewal time and realizing then (until this news is more widely known) about having to redo your budget at the very point of renewal instead of having had the time to prepare beforehand.

    Most of all, the support. That is indisputable. If you’ve tried getting their support, it really is an exercise in waiting and agony.

    • Ron
      New Recruit

      For us, the renewal notices said to hurry so we didn’t lose the renewal discount on the premium extensions, and even quoted the 50% discount still. When I logged in to renew, the same day even that I received the renewal reminder, the option to renew at 50% off was no where to be found. That’s pretty slimey to me, and I think as long as they are sending out renewal notices saying you’ll get the 50% discount for renewing before expiration, that they should honor those statements. It’s hard to trust a company that tells you one thing, and then doesn’t honor that statement on the same day even.

      I believe their tactic with not announcing this price increase more publicly is that customers will not have time to make changes before it is too late. That is what happened to us. We will be stuck renewing extensions used on our customer sites because it is too late to make a change even if we wanted to *this year*.

      For now, there’s no benefit in renewing before you need to update a plugin unless you need support before that. For that reason, I say make sure you’re up to date right before your subscriptions expire, and then let them expire. Buy the plugin again if/when they actually put out an update that justifies the price or you run into something that you are forced to use their *slow* support since the price is the same either way. Doing this will save you money in the long run since it will extend your window you can get updates in the future once you do pay again. It will also make them provide something for what you pay. Hopefully if enough people take that tactic, they’ll feel the backlash.

      Our managed customers are pissed about the sudden increase, and we could not give them a warning because we didn’t know either. Very poor way to do business in my opinion, and shows Automattic has no respect for their customers. I could respect Automattic’s decision to raise prices if it was clearly announced in advance of the effective date, and done professionally where at least their own story was consistent (and support was decent for what we pay). This appears rather haphazard and makes me question what is going on at Automattic that they can’t plan out a major change like this any better than they did.

  • Ben
    New Recruit

    The cost of Woocommerce has doubled? So 0x2=0
    The cost of using plug ins has doubled? No. They cost the same. The cost of renewing support for plug ins you already bought has doubled? Yes…
    And like it’s been said above, that wouldn’t even be an issue if the support at Woo was any good. But like many have said, it isn’t. It’s terrible. I will strongly consider using WPMUDEV for my next ecommerce project. If only to draw comparisons. The cost is negligible.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    I was a big fan of Woo Commerce when it started and I attended the first two Woo Conferences. And while some of you may feel this post was not factual in a few ways, what was very much on point and true was that there has been a sea change in the way Woo conducts themselves and their attitude toward the community. They act as if they have a corner on the market and I suspect they will find out how wrong they are. It really would not take that much for any of the six choices above or, some other option not yet known, to step in as a serious alternative. Funny thing about free markets and competition, there are no players too big to lose. I know I am looking seriously at switching my new ecom sites away from Woo.

    • Staff

      Hey, thinkDelaney.

      That is so true. Any company that starts doing this will be in for a rude awakening. In today’s market price is everything. Gone are the days that clients could just squander money. When I company are pushing their prices up the one thing that will make the clients stick is customer service. That is like the number one reason any company will make it or not. I will usually pay the price of a product if the product is good and the servers excellent, but even I have my limits price wise.

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    This post had me worried for a second! It’s kinda misleading.

    Anyone who reads this will think that Wocommerce charges an anual fee or it has some sort of a paid membership you have to pay for. You need to be clear and fair to make it easier for people to decide whether they want to go with Woocommerce or any other alternative.

    Woocommerce is a FREE plugin folks, you pay for extensions (some extensions are free and some are paid) .. I do agree with most of you that their extensions are expensive, that’s why I always prefer to buy altenative plugins rather than buying their extensions. Not sure why their extensions cost too much .. may be it’s their only way to justify their support & customer service (I haven’t tried to contact their support though) However I’d say from my experience building stores that you can build an awesome store using Woocommerce and few free plugins.. Extensions come into play depending on your needs or your clients needs/customizations.

    Marketpress is also a good plugin, I have tried it one time in the past. I must say that respect the fact that you are offering this plugin for FREE on wordpress repository. (I assume that it is not limited in features or functionalities compared to the one we get as WPMU members)

    All the mentioned alternatives are good, however I see that Woocommerce is still the best, not only because it is supported by WordPress team which means you get the best quality of code .. but also cause it is widely supported and can be integrated by many third-party platforms. If you think about building a huge brand or store and you want to expand your business with all the possibilites then i think Woocommerce is still on top of the game powering 28% of online stores.

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