E-commerce is a big deal, a 200+ Billion dollar big deal.
Untill WordPress 3 came out with custom post types, the options for e-commerce in WordPress were very limited.
The systems that were there were very juvenile with public perception and practical usage of the WordPress system being little more than a solid blogging platform.
With the custom post types the doors opened for WordPress developers to create solid e-commerce systems. Now all the major e-commerce systems have moved or been built to use post types.
Cost: Free with premium support and Add ons available for various prices and hours upon hours tearing your hair out.
Cons: Buggy and hard to support.
Available At The WordPress Repository
This is in our opinion a terrible e-commerce platform, It is no longer considered by us a player but as it is still getting several thousand downloads a day it is still a popular choice for the unenlightened.
If you want to use your site as an e-commerce system without hours or stress for you and / or your developer we highly recommend you steer clear of this plugin.
Cost: 55 USD with gateways and Add-Ons available for extra cost.
Pros: solid platform for scalable e-commerce.
Cons : a recent major re-write of the base functionality has meat that a lot of bugs have found their way through the system. This will likely be solved in the future, but there is another player in the market now which might just take over as the dominant system.
Available At shopplugin.net
This was the pick of the bunch at the start of the year. It is a reasonably solid e-commerce system but it has been plagued with various bugs since the recent update moving the products to post types.
The code is relatively complex and adding functionality can get be confusing trying to trail the code around the system.
Theming of this plugin is very easy to work into almost any given design and is intuitive. You still have to learn about how to handle the
shopp() template tag.
Shopp also generates several other database tables to handle various elements around the system. This is great for scalability, it means that the system can grow beyond what normal wordpress website would be able to handle without performance loss and without the need for heavy caching.
Cost: Free with optional Add-Ons available at a cost.
Pros: Tightly integrated with WordPress core functionality and a very nice UI for both front and back-end.
Cons: Early in its life cycle and very heavy reliance on the posts and postmeta tables which could lead to performance issues in large sites.
Available At: The WordPress Repository
This is a very young plugin and despite its lack of age ( it was only released this year ). It is a solid stage for you to sell anything online.
The code base is much simpler and easier to read and decipher than Shopp and adding functionality is a little easier due to the less complex code base.
Templating is almost native to WordPress due to the heavy use post types, so is very easy for the developer to tweak as needed.
As the system relies very heavily on post types and taxonomies, it feels very natural to developers who don’t really have to learn a new API to add custom functionality for the system.
The administration side of this plugin is well catered for and quite easy to add to with a solid API for creating administration options and tabs.
The biggest drawback to this plugin is the heavy reliance on the WordPress posts and post meta database tables. This problem has been alleviated a little by the database query improvements in WordPress 3.4.
The products, orders, variations and multiple others are all stored as posts and taxonomies with data being attached as post meta. This can lead to the posts, terms and postmeta tables can get rather large rather quickly.
If you want to scale a woocommerce site, you are likely going to need to use a caching plugin like WP Super Cache
In short, it really depends on what you are looking for in an e-commerce system. If you are planning a large site with thousands of products and 150000 unique hits a day, then perhaps a WordPress based solution is not ideal, It might be better to look at Magneto, OsCommerce, Prestashop or any of the hosted, dedicated e-commerce solutions.
If you want a WordPress site and need to have the ability able to have a reasonable to large shop with a lot of traffic, we recommend working through the bugs and sticking it out with Shopp
If you want a site that is very easy to use, setup, maintain and update, and are planning no more than 50 – 100 products, than WooCommerce is the perfect solution.
With caching provided by something like WP Super Cache, There is no reason that WooCommerce could not handle a large amount of products, categories and traffic. It is by far the best system available out there at the moment.