Wordpress Shopping Cart Plugin Reviews
If you want to turn your WordPress blog into a store, the easiest way to do so is to add a shopping cart plugin. But be forewarned, they're not all created equal! Branching out from just having a blog into e-commerce can be daunting -- it certainly was for me -- so I thought a shopping cart software comparison would be helpful for others who are considering going down that path.
This hub covers three popular WordPress shopping cart plugins, because they're the ones I have experience with -- experience that was radically different with each.
There are reviews on this page for the following WP shopping cart options:
- WP e-Commerce Plugin
- Digital Access Pass (DAP)
Each of these has their benefits (one has some considerable deficits too), but you'll see when you read the reviews that I ended up really being excited about the last one I tried.
Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see a features comparison chart.
I began my journey into shopping cart plugins when I wanted to use PayPal to sell my digital scrapbook images and printable party kits online. I downloaded a WordPress shopping cart theme and then proceeded to try to find the best WordPress shopping cart for my needs. Being a kinesthetic learner (someone who learns by doing, rather than reading or hearing), I narrowed the field to what looked like the cheapest and easiest option and decided to try it. The first one I tried was the WP e-Commerce Plugin.
WordPress Shopping Cart Plugin Reviews
If you're just getting your feet wet with e-commerce and want a simple plugin with limited functionality, the free version of the WP e-Commerce plugin might work for you. You can see the features here. They look good,right? Well, you have to keep in mind that there's no such thing as a free lunch. To quote their FAQ:
"But you give the software away for free – shouldn’t you help us for free?
HA! Oh wait, you were serious, weren’t you."
Fair enough. But if you have a problem with the plugin and you can't get an answer in the forum, there is no other recourse but to contact one of the developers on their WP Consultants page and I strongly suspect these people charge for their time. They also refer out to the WordPress Help Center, which charges $100 an hour. According to the WP e-Commerce site, they may eventually have the ability to buy a premium support token that will get you direct access to the developers, but that's not in place now.
All of the above makes sense considering it's free software. They shouldn't have to provide free support for something that's free. But it's how they treat their paid customers that really turned me off of the WP e-Commerce plugin:
I needed a key element that wasn't in the free version but was included in the $40 upgrade, so I paid for it. That's when my lengthy trip down the long, dark hallways of WP e-Commerce hell began. Right off the bat, the transaction was screwed up. The API key I received didn't work, and I couldn't log into their premium support system to report it, because a valid API key is required to submit a support ticket. You also have to give them your WordPress blog login info so they can look at the back end of your blog to fix it if they need to. There's no option to contact them without this info, so I was pretty much screwed because of the broken API key. So I left a message in the forum, which produced no response. I then decided to leave a comment on their blog, which caused me to finally get an e-mail from one of the developers. He apologized for the poor communication and promised to get me a new API key, which never arrived. After waiting a few days, I left another message on the blog, which was responded to by another developer. The API key he provided didn't work either, but after some wrangling, he finally managed to activate it.
I suspect there was an incompatibility between the plugin and the blog's theme, because when I tried to make the plugin work, hundreds of lines of code appeared on a field of black on my blog's home page. I wrote to the second developer who had helped me before and he spent some time trying to help me again. When it couldn't be fixed, he basically threw up his hands, told me it was something I had done wrong when putting other plugins on my blog and suggested I send him a PayPal donation to compensate him for his time. (He seemed to forget that I was owed a support token for purchasing the $40 upgrade.) I proceeded to deactivate the few plugins I had on the blog (it was new, so there were only a few) and found out that the black area on the home page only cleared up when the WP e-Commerce plugin was deactivated. I wrote to the developer to tell him this and to ask for a refund and he said he would pass my request onto the appropriate party. When I didn't get a refund or any kind of communication within a week, I requested a refund through PayPal. PayPal contacted them and I still didn't receive a response. Because PayPal will only take that one step to intervene if a transaction is digital, I was now on my own. To this day I still haven't received a refund.
So the moral of this story is: Proceed with great caution when it comes to WP e-Commerce.
My next experience with a WordPress shopping cart plugin was much more pleasant. After doing a lot of research, I found Ecwid, which is short for "e-commerce widget." I liked Ecwid's features right away: it works with PayPal (and many other payment processors), comes in three color schemes and is configured for dragging products
into their stylish shopping bag without doing any code tweaks. And the plugin was easy to install if I just wanted to use the out-of-the-box features.
I ultimately decided to upgrade to the paid version, though, which is $17 per month. I did so because there were features I wanted have that weren't in the free version: the ability to sell more than 100 products, and the functionality for affiliate links and discount codes. (At the time I used Ecwid, they didn't have the ability to make expiring links for sales of downloadable products, which they have now. That also would have been on my "reasons to upgrade" list had it been available at the time.) Their argument for the monthly fee as opposed to a one-time purchase price is that they can spend more money on development if they have continuous income coming in. And $17 a month isn't too much, so I decided to go for it.
I found the Ecwid interface easy to use and the plugin operated well on my site. There were some reasons that I started to feel it wasn't quite the solution I needed, however: the fact that it didn't have community, e-mail and forum capabilities and that all my information resided on their servers, instead of mine. Ecwid is Web-based, which makes upgrading the plugin unnecessary. But it also means that you have to enter all your product information onto their server, over which you obviously have no control. At first those concerns didn't bother me, because I liked Ecwid's easy-to-use interface, and I had already implemented free MailChimp newsletter software. I figured I could find a solution for adding a forum later. But when I wanted to add the functionality another site, I thought I had to pay another $17 a month. So that was a factor at the time. I've since found out there's a way to use Ecwid with multiple sites. See the comments on this hub for a message from Eugene of Ecwid with a link to instructions to use it with more than one site.
Even though I ultimately decided to go elsewhere, I was impressed by the fact that several people had suggested in the Ecwid forum that expiring download links be added to the functionality set and several months later that feature appeared. So they seem to be keeping their promise of putting those monthly fees to good use. I also liked that Eugene took the time to address my concerns in the comments below.
My final take on Ecwid? If you aren't looking for integrated community, affiliate and e-mail features and you're comfortable with having your product information on someone else's server, go for it. Site owners who want to add some stylish-looking e-commerce functionality for a limited number of products (for the free version) and who aren't too picky about where the information resides (for both free and paid versions) will probably love Ecwid .
Digital Access Pass (DAP)
The DAP plugin is like a shopping cart on steroids, which is why I fell in love with it. I'll describe below the features I use, but to see everything it does, click the link above and scroll down to the table that lists its functions. You'll see that it does everything but wash your socks.
I ran across DAP when I purchased MyWebmasterInaBox.com, which is also authored by DAP's developer. I had another site that was more urgent to develop, so I temporarily put aside the e-commerce site I had used WP e-Commerce and Ecwid on, moved away from WordPress and was using an HTML e-commerce template provided by my friend, web developer Bob Crawford. I really liked the way the HTML site looked and decided that I just wanted to find some software that would allow me to protect my downloads by allowing me to configure them to expire.
But after installing My Webmaster in a Box, I was having trouble getting it to do what I wanted. So I called Ravi, the developer. It turns out the reason it wouldn't work is because that product wasn't made to do what I wanted it to. Ravi then suggested that I switch to WordPress and use DAP. After some discussion with him, I decided what he said made sense and purchased the one-site version for $167 (an unlimited use license is $297). Ravi refunded the amount I paid for My Webmaster in a Box right away and even offered to fax my bank a letter when they erroneously recorded the sale twice in my checking account. The error had nothing to do with him, so the offer was made out of the goodness of his heart. This was the first clue I had that the glowing testimonials I read about Ravi's customer support were accurate.
The next thing that impressed me was that I didn't have to install the DAP software. Ravi and his wife Veena work together, and Veena installed it for me. They offer this service to all their customers.
Once installed, I set about configuring DAP for my purposes. By reading their support documentation and viewing their videos, I learned how to add products and protect my downloads with one of three options (to expire on a particular number of days after purchase, by date or by the number of times a download link has been clicked). I also learned how to tie PayPal to DAP, which is just a matter of adding an extra line of code when making a PayPal button. (DAP also supports many other payment processors.) After this step, the sales were automatically routed through DAP.
Once a new user pays through the payment processor via DAP, he's sent a unique password to pick up his downloads. You may have it do something different, but this is how my site is configured. This password, along with the products purchased and e-mail address, are stored in DAP in the Users section. By default the new user also has affiliate information on their login page. This allows anyone who buys from you to automatically become an affiliate without any additional work on your part.
DAP also does so a whole lot more than I use it for. I haven't even begun to explore all the features, but I know it will automatically handle subscription cancellations, drip content to users at whatever intervals you choose, and handle multiple user levels, including trial memberships. And the next version, DAP 3.9, which will be released as beta in October 2010, will include V-Bulletin forum integration, HTML e-mails and other enhancements.
To be honest, several glitches came up with the initial transactions on my site through DAP. Some were caused by my ignorance about how the software worked and one that was due to a very minor issue with DAP. But these issues were resolved quickly by opening support tickets. Due to Murphy's Law, two of the most important glitches happened on the weekend. Both times I received prompt responses, even though the support system is supposed to be closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Again, I was impressed. DAP customers are treated almost like family, which stands out in today's world where bad customer service is the norm.
Ravi and Veena take an unusual level of personal pride in their work and have said they won't stop expanding the features and improving the software until DAP is the best WordPress shopping cart and user community plugin available. From what I've seen so far, I think they'll achieve that. In fact, they probably already have.
Update October 15, 2010: DAP 3.9 beta has been released. Here are the new features, which, of course, are on top of DAP's existing functionality:
- vBulletin integration
- ClickBank INS support
- Ability to send HTML copy in double-opt-in, thank you, autoresponder and broadcast emails
- Ability to input offline orders (manually create a transaction)
- Referring affiliate ID shows for every user
- Manually give credit to any affiliate for a sale
- New configuration to disable affiliate commissions for “Free” users
- New “user_name” field in user table, which is used for forum integration. Once chosen, neither user nor admin can change their username. This is in compliance with vB forum rules.
So to wrap it up, let's see how these three WordPress shopping cart plugins stack up against each other:
WordPress Shopping Cart Software Comparison
WP e-Commerce Plugin
Digital Access Pass (DAP)
Free option available
Basic upgrade is $40, developer plugin is $195, affiliate plugin is $99, price comparison engine plugin is $39, drag-and-drop cart is $100 and Fedex shipping module is $25. There are also 6 other modules totaling an additional $170
$17 per month
$167 one-time payment for one site, $297 for unlimited sites
Ease of installation
Free version is easy; paid versions require some customization
Requires customization if you want it to match your site, but one of its three color schemes may work for you without customization
You can use their forum, their secure system that requires your API key and WP login info (for paid users) or take your chances with e-mail; they refer you to the WordPress Help Center ($100 per hour) if you need help with customization
Support ticket system with direct, speedy access to DAP's developers
Ease of communication
I didn't need to contact them while I was a customer, but as you can see from the comments at the bottom of this page, they are responsive
Where your content is located
On your server
On the Ecwid server
On your server
Ease of adding other features
Expandable in many ways, but it can be costly to add all the features
They focus exclusively on shopping cart and limited affiliate functionality; no extra features available
Community, affiliate and other features are included at no additional charge
The prices above were in effect at the time this was written, which was October 12, 2010.
I hope you've found these WordPress shopping cart plugin reviews helpful! Best of luck with enabling your e-commerce site.
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Thanks to Icons, Etc. for the shopping cart image used in this hub.
Note: Although I used an affiliate link for DAP, that did not bias my review. I'm impressed with the value I receive from the plugin and think it's well worth the money. If WP e-Commerce and Ecwid had affiliate programs, I would have used affiliate links for them too.