WordPress is one of the most widely used blogging platforms on the planet. It's also widespread in its use for non-blogging sites. Why? Because it is as extendable as it is user friendly. And since WordPress has a large community of developers, it should be no surprise that you'll find an add-on for just about everything... including e-commerce.
That's right, with the help of a few plugins, you can monetize that WordPress installation with ease. Even better, WordPress offers quite a variety of e-commerce plugins. But out of the long list, which should you consider? I've got my top five right here for you. Maybe one will perfectly fit your needs.
Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.
1: Easy Digital Downloads
Easy Digital Downloads (Figure A), as the name implies, is the easiest way to offer digital downloads on your site. This can range from music to books to texts to videos—anything you need. What's best about this particular take on digital downloads is that it strips away all the useless features, so setting up purchase-able downloads is incredibly easy.
Add a powerful reporting tool (which tracks earnings and sales) and you've got everything you need, in one simple package, to make the selling of digital goods a breeze. Easy Digital Downloads is simple to install and manage, and it won't overwhelm your WordPress site (with either its size or its features).
2: WP eCommerce
WP eCommerce (Figure B) is a great plug-in if you need to sell just about anything from anywhere. You can convert visitors into customers with the help of this beautiful (and fully customizable) online store. It allows you to edit both the HTML and the CSS, so you can create your store to perfectly fit your needs.
If the basic WP eCommerce add-on isn't enough, you can always shop its Extensions Marketplace to gain even more power and flexibility.
WooCommerce (Figure C) is one of the most widely used e-commerce plugins for WordPress, and with good reason. Not only does it turn WordPress into a powerful online store, it also offers tons of additional free plug-ins and themes.
One thing I really like about WooCommerce (outside of its amazing feature set) is that it offers an easy wizard you can use upon installation to make store setup a snap. If that's not enough to entice you into using WooCommerce, consider the fact that the likes of Harley Davidson, Entrepreneur, and Cosmopolitan use this WordPress add-on.
4: iThemes Exchange
iThemes Exchange (Figure D) says it can help you sell your stuff in under five minutes. And it's right. This solution makes setting up your online store incredibly easy. With iThemes Exchange, you can sell digital downloads, physical products, and more. (Some of the "and more"—such as selling memberships—requires a fee.)
If you're looking for the WordPress e-commerce theme with the most user-friendly interface, this is what you want.
5: Cart66 Lite
Cart66 Lite (Figure E) is a stripped-down version of Cart66 Professional. What has been stripped away? Mostly just the ability to accept credit cards and use SSL. So if you're okay with a PayPal-only e-commerce solution, Cart66 might be just right for you.
Cart66 Lite lets you add custom fields to your products, sell variants of products, and generate customizable email receipts. And you don't have to select between digital or physical products: By default, Cart66 supports both. The Lite version of Cart66 also includes a powerful tool to help you promote your products with sales.
If you're looking to monetize your current WordPress site, you have plenty of options—and the five listed here are some of the best in breed. With these plugins you shouldn't have any problem selling products and/or services.
Have you used any of the solutions on this list? Do you use a different add-on that does a great job for you? Share your experiences and recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.