WooCommerce is used on about 30 percent of all eCommerce sites and has consistently been a leading choice for online stores in the past few years. Its features are so extensive it’s taken on a life and ecosystem of its own apart from its WordPress ancestry.
So it isn’t surprising that we are often asked to build WooCommerce into other large platforms outside WordPress. Most often, we do this as a SaaS (software as a service) function and for larger software companies that want to offer WooCommerce to their clients.
So even if your eCommerce site runs on another platform, there are solutions (or tools) that can be built to integrate WooCommerce on it. It’s all because of WooCommerce’s dedication to maintaining a flexible API.
API Allows WooCommerce to Integrate Almost Anywhere
Let’s start with a definition of API. An API is an Application Program Interface, a nifty little instrument that lets website builders add tools to their websites created on the platform.
As Bob Dunn put it when he interviewed me on his WP eCommerce Show in April 2017, an API acts like a handshake between platforms like WordPress and WooCommerce and plugins, extensions, and tools created by third parties.
The WooCommerce API makes it easier for skilled developers to integrate it into other environments outside of WordPress. Remember, WooCommerce is actually a WordPress plugin and as such, it was created with an API to integrate with WordPress plugins. But this API also allows it to integrate with non-WordPress critters and to accept other eCommerce sites into its province.
You can even transform WooCommerce into a SaaS (software as a service) tool hosted in the cloud. Our company recently created a solution for ReferWordPress.com, an affiliate program for owners of WordPress websites. The website itself isn’t an actual WooCommerce site; it’s based in the cloud since it provides services rather than a product. But it uses several WooCommerce tools, including an intuitive dashboard and a rewards calculator.
It also happens to be the official affiliate system for all WooCommerce products sold through their website.
And of course, it’s possible to transfer (or re-platform) an existing eCommerce site to a WooCommerce and handle any hiccups that come up. Most of the time, transferring and integrating go fairly smoothly. While the WooCommerce API is designed to make integration as seamless as possible, APIs are not universal. We occasionally come across systems without APIs that require solutions to get them to shake hands with WooCommerce.
If there is a hitch, it’s usually with inventory management, which happens to be a big draw for owners who decide to switch to WooCommerce (although there are certainly lots of other benefits as well). You’d be surprised by the number of older, archaic inventory management systems still in use designed for just one platform. In fact, many of our first-time clients come to us for help integrating older existing tools and systems into WooCommerce.
At Mode Effect, we have the expertise to go into the existing system and know where to look to find something that resembles an API, or a “data bridge” that can serve the purpose. It’s good to know that WooCommerce already has a robust API that will work with us to take in the new system.
The WooCommerce API Opens It to Developers Who Make Useful Tools, Plugins, and Extensions
APIs are very important in the website world because so many plugins and tools come from third-party developers. While WordPress creates plenty of plugins, it’s always welcome competition, if you will, from developers who can zero in on specific services and needs.
For example, there are lots of ways to analyze website statistics, including Jetpack, created by WordPress’ owner Automattic. But given Google’s dominance in search, WordPress allows Google Analytics—and other analytical services—to use its API to create their own plugins that tie into their services. (And Google, in turn, allows developers to use its API to create their own Google Analytics plugins.)
Put simply, APIs help make the web a happier family. They allow tools and platforms to integrate with one another. In the WooCommerce world, this is even more important because eCommerce has so many functions and security concerns.
WooCommerce has been as open as the larger WordPress environment it sprang from about sharing its API. As a result, there are tons of extensions (as plugins are called in the WooCommerce world) to manage shipping, payment, inventory, shopping carts, wish lists, etc. You can even get apps for specific dashboard items if the one-size-fits-all default one doesn’t suit your needs.
One recommendation we make to customers is to use WooCommerce extensions instead of relying only on WordPress plugins. As we’ve noted, what works on WordPress might not be terribly useful on WooCommerce.
Here are two extensions we like because their APIs allow them to gather the best tools and services out there to deliver integrated services to WooCommerce users.
- Metorik, which provides one-click analytics and tools. It integrates Google Analytics to show current and historic conversion rates for customers and products. It also integrates with other useful tools like Zendesk for more in-depth customer data profiles and order history, Gmail, MailChimp, and Slack.
- Klavio, which pulls in data to use to boost marketing efforts. It integrates with Magento to get histories on purchases and checkouts and product and category views, Eventbrite to manage events, Amazon Marketplace and all the data that comes from that, Aftership trigger emails.
We’re also very impressed with AppPresser, an app development service with a WooCommerce extension that lets users create iOS or Android apps for their sites. No custom coding is required, but it allows users to fully customize sites. Another extension, AppWoo, adds additional styling options and other features.
Of course, all these extensions will work on WooCommerce as a SaaS product on other platforms. Functionally, there won’t be any difference except that as a WordPress plugin, WooCommerce updates frequently. Just be sure the platform you’re using will respond to update the information it receives.
WooCommerce Extensions are Nearly Endless and Deliver the Full Complement of Online Services
If you’re using an older eCommerce platform, switching to WooCommerce or contracting a business like Mode Effect to apply it to your platform will give you access to these tools and a lot more.
WooCommerce lists more than 300 extensions it’s developed that provide everything from email assistance to managing pre-orders. Here are some its staff recommends for online businesses (in addition to the examples discussed above):
- Smart Coupons, which focuses on creating loyalty with gift certificates, store credits, free shipping (flat or conditional) discounts, and of course, coupons. Its developer, StoreApps, says it delivers “Jedi marketing powers.”
- Authorize.Net CIM, a customer interaction management tool that lets customers save their payment information (credit cards or bank accounts), which in turn speeds up checkout. It meets PCI Compliance security standards, a joint venture from the major credit card companies formed in 2016. It also processes refunds, provides detailed decline messages, and supports functions like WooCommerce Pre Orders and Subscriptions.
- Dynamic Pricing, which configures discounts for bulk orders based on pre-defined quantities, creates Gold Members among frequent buyers and calculates when customers qualify for free gifts.
There are nearly 40 third-party extensions listed on the WooCommerce site as well. Keep in mind, though, that there are hundreds (maybe more?) of extensions with APIs that work perfectly well with WooCommerce even if they aren’t listed on the site.
I like Voucherify, a promotional toolkit that provides coupons and vouchers and also handles promotional campaigns and referral campaigns, something any business can certainly appreciate. Its API easily integrates with WooCommerce and other platforms.
WooCommerce Takes Security Seriously
WordPress has been just as tempting a target for hackers as anyone else online. It’s also been a lot more proactive than other platforms, and this stands true for WooCommerce as well.
One of the biggest changes came a couple years ago when WordPress’ core offering included a Generate Password button on the user pages that created strong passwords and a meter to indicate password strength for those who like to create their own passwords. Previously, passwords were created by site managers and emailed to new users who were prompted to create a new password without any guidance.
Passwords, in fact, remain the strongest barrier against hacking. Hackers look for ways to break into a site and weak passwords, or those that haven’t been used for years, are the easiest ones to break.
Ensuring a site is always running requires updated software and plugins and extensions for strong, steady security. A managed WooCommerce host follows the same standards WordPress recommends for managed WordPress hosts. This includes automatic updates to WordPress software and the WooCommerce plugin, automatic backups, and advanced configurations to protect against hacking. These hosts also send out emails to remind subscribers when extensions and other plugins need to be updated. Keep in mind that any WordPress release that ends in “2” is a security update.
Other eCommerce Packages Can’t Match WooCommerce’s Versatility
I can’t think of another eCommerce package that’s more versatile than WooCommerce.
- First of all, the basic WooCommerce plugin is free, as is WordPress itself. You don’t have to put out big bucks; hosting costs are quite reasonable while you decide if this is the best platform for your eCommerce business.
- It’s reasonably easy to scale up (or down) when you decide what functions are most important from a customer’s point of view, as I discussed in late 2017.
- It’s an open source platform, making it an obvious place for eCommerce developers to create new tools. Many of the popular tools aimed at small businesses like Shopify are closed platforms.
- You control your data. Closed platforms like Shopify own and control the data business owners put on it.
- I hadn’t thought about it, but I recently discovered that WooCommerce supports more languages than Magento. In our global economy, that can only be good, right? Both support English, (US and UK/Canada) and German. WooCommerce supports Japanese and Hindi as well. Considering that India and Japan have the fourth- and fifth-largest economies on the planet, this is a strange oversight on Magento’s part. I mean, even Shopify supports Hindi.
Add in that WooCommerce’s API allows it to run even on non-WordPress platforms (a service we will provide in 2018), it’s one heck of an adaptable tool. Business owners really have little to lose to at least give it a tryout as they consider new eCommerce platforms for products and/or services they sell.