A Review

WebStores Ltd has always created its own B2B wholesale shopping cart, but I’ve often been asked to build retail ecommerce sites for various stores. I’ve used a number of shopping cart applications over the years, both our own, and most of the popular off-the-shelf systems. But for many customers, what they really needed was a plugin that works with WordPress.

So, I investigated all the various WordPress plugins that provide ecommerce capabilities. After doing the research and trying several of these, I settled on Shopp. The reasons included:

  • the fact that Shopp could be used with any theme (it is a plugin, not a theme itself like WooCommerce)
  • the reviews indicated that it was the least buggy of the WordPress ecommerce plugins (compared for example to WP-ecommerce)
  • it resides within WordPress, not on another site (such as EC-wid)

I have built a number of sites using Shopp, and will continue to do so. It is a good general purpose program for small retail stores, but it is certainly not without its limitations. These are things I’ve learned about Shopp websites that I have not seen elsewhere, and wish I’d known upfront. Here is what you should know before deciding if this plugin is right for you:

  1. You need to use at least version 1.2.5. Earlier versions of Shopp are simply not reliable.
  2. You MUST be using a Linux server. While WordPress runs fine on a Windows server, Shopp is incredibly slow. On Linux, Shopp works like a charm (except for GoDaddy – you need a host with good reliable speed. Try NewTek, HostGator, or BlueHost instead).
  3. You MUST use pretty permalinks. Shopp seems to get confused if you use the standard WordPress permalinks.
  4. Do NOT store your images inside the database. By default, Shopp stores all product images inside the database. This both bloats the database and causes problems if you ever change servers. As soon as Shopp is installed, go to settings and change this to store the images as separate files on the server.
  5. Shopp does not have a method for bulk uploading products from a spreadsheet. If you have thousands or even just hundreds of products, Shopp is likely to not be your best choice. For small sites with 50 or so products where you can upload or create each product individually, Shopp will do great.
  6. Shopp does not have a category page, where you can graphically select a category, then have it display all the products in that category. Instead, Shopp expects that you will have a menu selection for each category. You can overcome this by creating your own category page (which I have done for many of the Shopp sites I’ve built), but it only seems logical that you would have a menu selection that says “Shop” or “Store”, and then you could click on an image of books to go to a books category. Without some custom code, Shopp lacks this basic feature.
  7. There isn’t an easy way to cross-sell products. You can do this through the product description and link to other products, but there isn’t a built in feature to display related items. (This would be a good add-on).
  8. There isn’t a customer ratings and review option. You can leave the WordPress comments box on for each product (which looks stupid), but there isn’t a way for customers to give products 4 out of 5 stars and provide product reviews. (This would be a another good add-on).

Some things that Shopp does exceptionally well:

  • Coupons and promotions.
  • Payment processors and shipping alternatives – these are both add-ons, but give you lots of flexibility. Note: If you use certain payment processors, you will be required to have your own SSL certificate – shared SSL certificates will not work with Shopp.
  • 3rd party add-ons, such as Affiliate Royale. Shopp has a developer API, which allows others to extend its core product – its a shame that more people haven’t created add-ons to add functionality such as bulk uploads or interfaces to accounting programs.

Because Shopp is a significant ecommerce application, it is a memory hog. You will need to allocate more memory to WordPress when using this add-on. I suggest editing your wp-config file to include the following lines of code:

/** Increase the WordPress Memory Limit */
define(‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ‘1024M’);

// Disable display of errors and warnings
define(‘WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY’, false);

As mentioned, Shopp is not for everyone. You can’t even bulk upload your products from a data file, which limits its usefulness to small retail stores. If you need a more full-featured ecommerce platform, look at a stand-alone application like BigCommerce for retail or WebStores Ltd for wholesale, rather than a WordPress plugin. But if you are aware of the points mentioned above, Shopp is perhaps the most viable alternative for small retail stores running WordPress websites. Its easy to use and allows you to sell products within a WordPress website. (**** 4 out of 5 stars).