Practical Ecommerce

Does WooCommerce Fit B2B Companies?

WooCommerce is among the fastest growing platforms. We’ve addressed it many times, including with columnist Richard Stubbings’ series on migrating from Magento to WooCommerce. B2C merchants, especially, value WooCommerce’s flexibility and plugin options.

My expertise, however, is with B2B companies. I own a web development firm that focuses on that niche. In my experience, companies with meaningful B2B sales should not choose WooCommerce.

To be sure, my company does not build WordPress or WooCommerce sites. We recommend other platforms because our firm focuses on manufacturers and distributors with $50-$500 million in annual revenue. We don’t believe that WordPress and WooCommerce is the right solution for these companies. There are successful B2B merchants using WooCommerce. In this post, however, I’ll explain why it is not the best choice.

In my experience, companies with meaningful B2B sales should not choose WooCommerce.

Security Concerns

A customer once contacted my company in a panic. The customer’s WordPress site had been compromised and was being used to host a phishing attack on other businesses. We had not set up that site, but we worked with the customer to clean and harden it as an initial step. Eventually, we moved the company to a different platform.

That customer is not alone. WordPress continues to be the most infected content management system — 83 percent of infected websites in 2016 were on WordPress, according to a report by Sucuri, a security platform.

Security vulnerabilities can also be introduced by the more than 55,000 WordPress plugins. The availability of these plugins is often seen as a benefit. While WordPress’s core software is created by a skilled development team, the ability of plugin developers varies, in my experience.

There are ways to improve WordPress’s security. I am not willing to assume that risk when setting up an ecommerce store, nor do I feel comfortable recommending it to a company that is responsible for protecting its customers’ data.

Doesn’t Scale

As a website grows — with more visitors, products, orders, and customers — its speed and performance cannot suffer. This is a problem for many WordPress sites, where growth equals slower performance. Speed matters. A delay in load time reduces conversions.

Certainly many WordPress sites can handle a large number of traffic and transactions. But it typically requires heavy configuration, including hosting tweaks and development effort.

Free, or Not

WordPress is an open source platform with a community of contributors, but not a lot of controls and not a lot of support options. There are companies that specialize in WordPress support. But support from WordPress directly, via its VIP support program, starts at $15,000 per year. For that kind of money, use a stronger platform than WordPress, especially for B2B.

B2B Specifics

B2B companies often have custom needs that don’t fit WooCommerce. Here are a few examples.

  • Multiple users per account. B2B companies can have multiple people who serve as buyers on the same account. They all need to log in and obtain special pricing. They may need to see each other’s orders. WooCommerce is not set up for this. Customizing it could be messy and expensive.
  • Non-standard checkout. Many B2B companies have special checkout configuration requirements. Certain chemical products cannot ship to some states, for example. There are WooCommerce plugins that will enable a merchant to restrict shipping in this manner. But we once worked with a company that wanted the checkout process to recommend another product if the original one was restricted. We were able to implement this in a straightforward way in the software we chose. It would have been more difficult in WooCommerce.
  • Ongoing maintenance. In software development, there is usually a way to get things done. But it may make the application more difficult to maintain, costing time and money. It is important to use a platform that enables scalable innovation instead of piecing together plugins and layering your customizations on top and then maintaining them across updates to the core product and the plugins.

The Right Tool

Don’t pick WordPress because it is well known, or it seems inexpensive. Understand your company’s B2B opportunities and unique requirements. Pick a platform to get you there.

Lori McDonald

Lori McDonald

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  1. BRKLYNWEB April 25, 2018 Reply

    Any site, no matter what platform it is developed with. can be vulnerable to hackers simply by virtue of the fact it is connected to the Internet. WordPress is very popular and hence attacked more often. That is simple statistics. It is very easy to lock down a WordPress site even to IP level if needs be and anyone experienced with eCommerce would know to do that from the get go. Only an inexperienced developer would fail to address security concerns.

    WordPress can scale. WooCommerce can scale. There are no software nor database limits that would stop it scaling. As to speed, any site with high traffic needs appropriate infrastructure. Certainly any high traffic eCommerce website, whether B2B or B2C, should use a dedicated server or go cloud regardless of actual platform. Again standard approach for high traffic sites and/or eCommerce.

    As to “free or not”, WordPress is free. WooCommerce is free. And there are numerous companies and developers who can support them. Same applies to the numerous ecommerce platforms in the market today. I do not know of any platform that locks you into the actual vendor. Mind you, when it comes to WooCommerce, WordPress is NOT the vendor so the $15K example is moot.

    As to your B2B requirements , all can be catered for using WooCommerce. Any experienced LAMP developer could tell you that. It is software. It is open source. It can be augmented via plugins, hooks and filters to do anything without any need to resort to modifying core. The bottom line here is WooCommerce is quite capable of handling B2B.

    However as you say, picking an eCommerce platform comes after determine requirements and doing a proper gap analysis as well as cost/benefit before making a final decision. Don’t NOT choose WooCommerce due to lack of understanding as to its true capabilities.

    There is an ecommerce solution out for everyone and WooCommerce remains one of them even for B2B!

    • Lori McDonald April 25, 2018 Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to read my article and sharing your thoughts. Clearly, we see things a bit differently, but I am happy to have your comments shared here.

      Yes, I agree that WordPress is hacked more because of the fact that it is such a popular platform. That doesn’t make me feel any better about it when I am trusting customer data and credit cards to it. To state that only an inexperienced developer would let that happen seems flawed when the Sucuri report shares that 28,000 of 34,000 infected websites were WordPress. Securing a website is something that requires constant vigilance. I am not comfortable with the added risk of WordPress and the community of plug-ins. Others may be comfortable with that based on their experience with WordPress.

      In terms of WordPress scaling, I acknowledged in my article that there are sites with large numbers of products and orders. You share that high traffic sites require a dedicated hosting environment. I agree with that. But scaling is not simply a matter of a hosting environment, it is also a matter of code architecture.

      In terms of free or not, my point was not of being locked in with a particular vendor, but rather having confidence that you can be supported by experts on the platform. The platforms I choose to work with are supported by the companies who create them in addition to being supported by other partners. I want to have a backup of support by the platform creators to know that we will be able to get any issues resolved that are critical to a customer.

      B2B Requirements – my point wasn’t that these things couldn’t be done but that WooCommerce. Most things are possible with software. My point was that WooCommerce is not architected for these types of customizations. There are platforms that are a better fit to support this.

      Again, thank you for your comments.

      Best,
      Lori

  2. Wellington Duarte April 27, 2018 Reply

    I think there’s no point in saying Woocommerce is not good for B2B business if you don’t compare with another tool. I’d like to know which plataform would be a better option for an ecommerce.

    • Lori McDonald May 2, 2018 Reply

      Wellington – Thanks for your reply. Each platforms have their pros and cons. I put together a training video here comparing different software platforms for B2B eCommerce http://go.brillianceweb.com/CompareB2BeCom

  3. Nicolas Keller May 2, 2018 Reply

    I think the main point should be that B2B solutions have to integrate with the back-office systems to take full advantage of the already implemented business logic including price calculations and customer data. Most B2B companies I know have complex pricing algorithms you don’t want to re-implement online. You also don’t want to get into trouble by syncing two or more databases especially if you want to create a omni-channel experience. So your online platform has to have a direct connection to you backoffice (erp) systems which is not the way WooCommerce and nearly any other B2C shop system is build.

    • Lori McDonald May 2, 2018 Reply

      Nicolas – Integrations are an important part of B2B eCommerce and making sure you are building a solution that has a strong foundation for integrations is key. That would have been a good point for me to include and I am glad you mentioned it here.