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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