WordPress e-commerce / Shopping Cart Solutions

Some WordPress e-commerce and shopping cart solutions I have reviewed include:

Comparing these is like comparing apples to oranges with Magento being a full robust solution and Market Theme being a  simple solution for a very basic store. A big difference between these solutions is whether or not the solution is really a full-featured store software that has reporting, gift certificates, cross selling, and other options. Which you choose will depend on your e-commerce needs.

For the most part, NONE of the WordPress plugins are full featured e-commerce solutions. They are simplified applicaitons with some of them having more features than others. When comparing WordPress solutions, they fall into five categories:

  1. Store products based on WordPress posts and pages. In other words, you create posts within a certain category, and these posts make up the products in your store.
  2. Store products managed in separate database table that is managed via the plugin interface. I prefer these solutions, because my clients have many products, and I don’t want to deal with the products in the WordPress Posts area as I want to keep my blog very separate from my store products.
  3. Theme based solutions. These work similarly to the post-based products, and perhaps are a good solution for someone who has very basic needs and doesn’t have to have customize a lot.
  4. Simply PayPal add to cart buttons that can be created on the fly. This would be for a site with just a few simple products.
  5. Full featured online shopping cart (not a WordPress plugin), like Magento, that could be hooked up with WordPress, so that WordPress could handle the overall look of the site while Magento takes care of all the shopping aspects.

Market Theme while touted as being a really great product is too simple for most of my client’s needs. It’s missing a lot of functionality with its lack of variations choices, pricing and shipping options for different variations, integrated shipping, checkout options, and payment gateways.

The Shopp Plugin is very nicely formatted out of the box. The templates can be copied to your local theme file and modified to your heart’s content. I like the way the user is taken to a checkout page after adding an item to the cart and being able to “continue shopping.” It has variations templates that can be used for different product categories and shipping options based on weight or price. However, I don’t like that notes cannot be added per product or that the checkout screen cannot be customized to add more fields. It also doesn’t have reporting. I will be testing this plugin with the integrated UPS module and Paypal Payments Pro and hope that Paypal can provide the reporting we need.

I recently installed the Shopp Plugin at http://www.brigittemars.com if you want to check out her Books/DVD section. Customizing the templates and CSS was easy enough, though I encountered some limitations with not being able to display products within a certain category on a given catalog page.

WP e-commerce has been a source of frustration for me as it is buggy with the variations for downloadable files and generally doesn’t look that great out of the box, particularly the way the checkout “box” is formatted and displayed. I do like that you can customize the checkout page with your own fields. It also has some nice, basic reporting.

Magento is kick ass but may not work well in a shared hosting environment. I did see that someone developed a Magento extension to integrate with WordPress. Smashing magazine reviewed many great templates for Magento recently.

I’m quite interested in Drupal using Ubercart as a great CMS, blogging, and integrated e-commerce solution, but I haven’t had a chance to play with it. I just purchased O’Reilly Media’s Using Drupal book which I’m very eager to read. It provides the first printed documentation of Ubercart with step-by-step instructions.

Many of my clients would like the ability to sell Gift Certificates redeemable in the cart. This is hit and miss with all of these solutions, with Magento most likely to handle correctly now and Ubercart developers working hard to get their GC module working properly. However, with Paypal, we can always sell Paypal Gift Certificates, but users must be logged in with their Paypal account when purchasing in order to redeem.

Generally, I am currently look for low-cost solutions that allow users to take advantage of the great easy-to-use WordPress interface and not necessarily have to leave the site to go shopping. Your feedback, comments, and experiences would be great appreciated.

Here’s another list of 10 e-commerce plugins: http://speckyboy.com/2008/10/23/10-powerful-shoppingecommerce-plugin-solutions-for-wordpress/

Here’s a nice site for e-commerce tips and choosing a good shopping cart: http://www.practicalecommerce.com/

22 comments on “WordPress e-commerce / Shopping Cart Solutions

  1. I think the best option for GC module is Drupal using Ubercart or Magento using the WordPress plugin to connect Magento with WordPress. GC Functionality is such a complex thing and many of the simple shopping carts for WordPress won’t accommodate that type of interactivity.

  2. i’m using wp-ecommerce
    I’m having a devil of a time trying to come up with a solution for a gift subscription to an email newsletter. something where the person getting the gift gets an email sort of like a gift certificate for amazon. . . appreciate any ideas (and your great research and info)

  3. Hi Christopher,

    Here are some options:

    1 – Use a real full featured e-commerce solution like Magento or some of the other ones mentioned on LinkedIn’s WordPress group. These would not be WP plugins per se, but you should be able to investigate to see which ones truly support Gift Certificates. I have not seen any of the simple shopping carts, like WP e-commerce support this.

    2 – Paypal has gift certificates, and you could issue paypal gift certificates. Paypal gift certificates can be used a variety of ways. I don’t know how many products you have, but you could “sell” a paypal gift certificate. This would not be a product that you would have in the WP e-commerece site but rather a separate button you would generate at Paypal and put the code on a Gift Certificate page of your site. You can read more about GCs on the Paypal site. I’ve suggested this to a few people, and I think it’s a good workaround, but it does require buyers to log in or create a Paypal account in order to redeem. So, for example, Betsy busy a GC on your site for Jane. Jane will need to have a Paypal account in order to redeem that GC on your site. Play with it and see if it will work for you! You’d still be using the WP e-commerce for all of your products, and people would check out as normal, but then, when they went to pay for the purchase, they would redeem the GC on the Paypal payment side of things.

    Let me know what you come up with!


  4. I’ve found the following page to be tremendously helpful. Thank you for posting it.

  5. I’m having trouble using wp ecommerce on wordpress. It tells me what is in my cart but when I go to checkout it doesn’t display my purchases.

    Any help would greatly be appreciated.

  6. Hi Alex,

    I don’t know what the problem might be with the WP e-commerce site. You should check their support forums as well as the forums on WordPress.org.

  7. I set up a paypal sandbox. Now I am able to go through the checkout process up until checkout. Where I get an error message.

  8. No problem, Alex. Let me know how the African Art site comes along! I’d like to take a look at it when you’re done.


  9. I want to add a small shop to my WP site to sell both digital downloads and physical goods. I’ve found that WP E-commerce lacks flexibility to handle downloads correctly and its faulty support. I could not make eShopp work with the downloads either. Do you think I should just take the plunge and integrate WP with Magento?

    Do you know of any other free option that will handle digital downloads and physical goods?

    I’ll greatly appreciate your insight!

  10. Have you tried the Shopp plugin? Is that what you are talking about above? http://shopplugin.net/ I’ve found that to be the best. If you’re having trouble with the digital downloads, you should definitely post something in their support forums. Another product I’ve recently come across is http://www.ecwid.com/ and http://www.phpurchase.com/. How large are your downloads?

    Magento might be too big a thing to bite off. It would definitely require more server memory than what you’re likely to find on a regular shared hosting plan.

  11. Thanks for your quick answer. You are right! I haven’t tried the Shopp plugin –I got it confused with eShop. I’ll definitely check your suggestions.

    I still not sure how big my downloads will be. This online store will sell ebooks, but I don’t have PDFs available yet. I will need a PDF stamper too, and I wonder if you or anyone have any suggestions.

    I’ll make sure to report my findings.

    Thanks a lot!

  12. @Pictrix, a couple things to consider:

    1 – Be sure your web host supports WordPress. There can be problems with some plugins not working properly when you’re using a hosting service that does not have their PHP set up correctly for WordPress. Blue Host, Host Monster, GoDaddy, Dreamhost, etc. are all okay.

    2 – You may have to contact your web host to have them increase the MB size you can upload via WordPress. Usually, this is limited to 5 – 8 MB, so you can have them set it higher. However, it is always faster to upload via FTP if the file sizes are large and then reference the URL in the Shopp plugin downloadable file path.

    3 – When using the Shopp plugin, be sure to check their list of incompatible plugins. They have a plugin you can install to make sure everything is okay on your server for running Shopp.

    4 – Depending on how many ebooks you are selling, I believe you could alternately use Paypal itself for the downloadable files and set up the buy now buttons at Paypal and embed the code on the page.

    I’ll let you know if I come across anything else! I don’t know about PDF stampers, but I know the person to ask.

  13. I checked your suggestions and they were all great. In the end I chose the PHPurchase plugin. After I’ve had a chance to use it for a while I’ll be able to comment on it some more. Thanks for your insight.

  14. I purchased Shopp for our travel website and I am having trouble trying to customize it. I am trying to use Firebug to see where I need to change code and then cannot find the code to change in the php files. When I have asked for support and specific questions I have not gotten any replies.

  15. Hi Nancy,

    There is an option in the Shopp settings in WordPress that will copy the template files to your theme folder. You can then look at the Shopp documentation online to see what the different template files and how to modify them. I really do love the Shopp plugin because of their nicely designed template files and how easy it has been to customize some things.


  16. Hi Shannon,

    I was testing an earlier version of Market theme. I do need to update this post to go over the new features.