The Most Important Plugins for WooCommerce: Subscription Shops, GDPR, Newsletters & Co.

Michael Firnkes Updated on 20.10.2020
9 Min.
WooCommerce plugins selection

There are hundreds of thousands of plugins for WooCommerce, for almost any task you can imagine. While you're spoilt assessing the quality of plugins is no easy task. In this article we'll show you the most important tools you need for common shop projects and also some free alternatives.

Having such a range of WordPress and WooCommerce plugins is a great advantage. It means you don't have to hire developers or an agency for every individual function in your online shop. In many cases, you can have existing solutions customized relatively easily to meet your specific requirements.

In many cases, you only tell on closer inspection whether a plugin is of high quality or even a potential security risk. This especially applies to free plugins. For example, free plugins on the largest marketplace WordPress.org. While there are great free solutions out there that are entirely stable and work well, you're not going to receive the same level of personal contact or support as you'd expect to have with paid plugins.

Tip

New to the world of WooCommerce? Thinking of starting your own online shop? Then check out our articles How Good is WooCommerce? and WooCommerce for WordPress Professionals for heaps of guidance and tips. We also have a comprehensive E-Book (currently only available in German) on the subject.

What makes a good plugin?

You can spot high-quality plugins by looking out for these signs:

  • Number and type of reviews on WordPress.org or marketplaces like codecanyon.net
  • Response time and quality of responses in the developer's support forums (or also on WordPress.org)
  • Number of downloads
  • Support in your language, ideally from a local support team
  • How quickly are updates rolled out after a WordPress or WooCommerce update?
  • Frequency of plugin updates
  • Have there been critical security vulnerabilities in the past and how quickly were these fixed?

You can also ask in expert WooCommerce groups and communities what experiences other users have had with a particular plugin. In Facebook groups, for example. Have a look at our Sources and tips for the community.

You can find plugins from WooCommerce on the portal from Automattic. There are also free tools available on this portal. Ones for easily connection to PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay or Google Analytics, for example.

I'll guide you through some well-known premium plugins and their free alternatives below. These plugins extend WooCommerce's functionality with features which, from experience, are in particularly high demand from both shop operators and agencies.

WooCommerce Memberships

If you sell memberships instead of physical items, or if you only sell your goods exclusively to selected customers, then WooCommerce Memberships is worth a look. You can implement member pages, closed customer areas, premium content shops and much more with this plugin (Picture: © WooCommerce):

WooCommerce Memberships
Managing subscriptions with WooCommerce Memberships

The options range from limited access to products and special content areas to free trial memberships. Create different offerings like "Silver", "Gold" or "Platinum" subscriptions.

Members can be rewarded with certain special offers and vouchers. In combination with WooCommerce Subscriptions (more on this in a moment), they can also upgrade or downgrade their memberships.

Mailchimp for WooCommerce

With Mailchimp you can send newsletters and automate your marketing emails. The plugin for WooCommerce integrates your online shop into this workflow. Incorporate your newsletter option at different points in the checkout:

WooCommerce Send newsletter
Newsletter option in WooCommerce with Mailchimp

But this is only the beginning. You can achieve the following with further integration:

  • Synchronize your customers' email addresses with existing lists
  • Segment your customers by the products in their shopping cart or by frequency of purchases
  • Evaluate the performance figures of your product and marketing emails in detail
  • Have integrated ad campaigns from Facebook and Instagram
  • Send product recommendations or vouchers based on previous purchases
  • Send email reminders to customers who still have items in their shopping cart
Note

Some of the functions above are not legally permitted in some countries, or only under certain conditions. In Germany, for example, you usually need explicit consent to send emails (Double-Opt-In). You should also be careful with customer segmentation. Clarify these points with your law firm.

While not as comprehensive, similar extensions are also available for MailPoet, the newsletter plugin for WordPress.

WooCommerce Subscriptions

Selling products in a subscription model is made possible with WooCommerce Subscriptions. In regular WooCommerce, you can't collect automatically recurring payments. You would need to do this if you sell software with monthly fees, additional services, or regular deliveries.

Here's a selection of the tasks made possible with this plugin:

  • Flexible payment periods per product
  • Integration of payment services such as PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay or Wirecard to make payments
  • Creation of corresponding invoices per cycle
  • Your customers can switch between different subscription models or take out several subscriptions at once
  • Reminders to renew subscriptions by email, or even discounted subscriptions or free trial periods

You always have an overview of when and how many subscriptions have been taken out, their expiration and how much revenue you're generating now or are set to generate in the future. Based on these figures, you can plan appropriate marketing campaigns and new models.

WooCommerce Bookings

Is your business model based partly or entirely on the distribution of events, training, rentals, consulting, holiday, health and wellness offers, webinars etc.? WooCommerce Bookings enhances the shop system with features for appointment-based services. This includes modules for event planning (picture: © WooCommerce):

WooCommerce Bookings
Plan events with WooCommerce Bookings

Your customers can specify their preferred dates and you display free and blocked slots. Bookings are made by days, hours or even minutes. You can assign individual sessions or group appointments and restrict the minimum or maximum number of participants.

Offer discounts for teams, early booking and for certain target groups. Or demand higher prices on weekends or at certain busy times. This plugin even supports different time zones if your customers book from abroad. You decide how bookings are confirmed, or if and how reservations can be canceled. Appointment reminders can be sent automatically by email.

WooCommerce product bundles

WooCommerce does support the creation of so-called grouped products to show simple product packages, also known as bundles. The standard functionality, however, doesn't include a deeper product logic:

Grouped products
Grouped products in WooCommerce: Not always suitable for everyday use

For example, Grouped Products allows your customers to place only a selection of the grouped products in their shopping cart.

This isn't if you want to offer product packages that include a price advantage or that only make sense together. Furthermore, you can't set logical rules in the standard version of WooCommerce, e.g. "Product A excludes product B" or "Product A may only be included x times". The paid WooCommerce extension Product Bundles is, however, designed to handle all of these different kinds of scenarios.

More Product Bundles highlights: Increase your cross-selling revenues with features such as "frequently purchased together", which you'll already recognize from shopping giants like Amazon. Add further products to the bundles, which can be added optionally to the shopping cart. For example, care products for clothing or cables and accessories for technical goods. You determine how the sub-products are displayed in the shopping cart, checkout and order emails (grouped or individually).

WooCommerce Dynamic Pricing

In WooCommerce, you can set different prices for different product variants. So the "blue" t-shirt, for example, could be cheaper than the "red" one. The voucher function of the shop system is also quite sophisticated. Discounts can be controlled by the minimum order value. Or certain products must be included in the shopping cart for the discount to take effect.

For complex discounts on the product itself, however, you'll need the additional tool Dynamic Pricing. This tool can initiate the following conditions:

  • Grant a five percent discount on a product if it is placed in the shopping cart a certain amount of times (bulk prices)
  • Increase this discount to ten percent for certain WordPress user roles, for example "Gold Members"
  • Discount a product if the customer adds another product from the same category
  • Add a special discount for a certain number of products from the same category

These actions can also be partly linked to each other. An example: "Discount for Category A if Gold Members purchase X number of Category B products". Used correctly, the Dynamic Pricing extension is a powerful marketing tool.

Note

In some countries, only some of these discounts are allowed while others may be subject to competition law. Please check this before you choose a plugin like Dynamic Pricing.

Product Add-Ons & Gravity Forms Product Add-ons

The sales of customized goods are increasing. From shoes in your personal favorite colors, self-mixed muesli to engraved jewelry. With the extension Product Add-Ons you can let your customers customize product data before they click on the "Buy" button.

This WooCommerce extension increases the input fields and checkboxes on the edit product page. Individual prices for special requests can be implemented as well as uploading graphics, building instructions, samples and sketches. You can even offer additional services. Gift packaging, for example, or a special delivery or maybe a dedication or signature for works of art.

Tip

Gravity Forms Product Add-ons is heading in a similar direction. It extends the popular and very comprehensive solution for contact forms Gravity Forms for WordPress to create a product configurator. The tool is especially suitable if you're already using the corresponding main plugin.

One more small note: In addition to the two paid extensions, there are free tools like the Personalized Product Option Manager. This tool is not quite as comprehensive but you can use it to add more building blocks to your product pages. For example, text and selection fields, checkboxes, date or number fields:

Individual products
Sell customized products with WooCommerce

The free plugin is a good way to test out selling customizable products. If the range of functions then isn't enough, you can still switch to a paid plugin. However, the product data entered by the customers up to that point can't be transferred.

Table Rate Shipping

You can use the so-called "shipping classes" settings in WooCommerce to determine very precisely what shipping costs need to be paid for by which customers, in which scenarios and for which products. The setup of these classes looks rather complicated at first. But after some playing around on your test system, you'll quickly understand the principle behind it.

In some cases, however, the standard solution just isn't enough. Especially if any of the following apply:

  • You need to further subdivide the shipping classes, for example by regions that are not represented in WooCommerce.
  • The shipping costs should depend on weight
  • The number of goods in the shopping cart plays a role
  • The shipping costs should vary according to the order value

For such cases, the extension Table Rate Shipping is worth considering.

Tip

In addition to the original WooCommerce Table Rate Shipping plugin, there are many imitators of the same name available. These may be cheaper but you should check first whether they offer the same range of features and support. My advice is to purchase the original plugin.

With Advanced Flat Rate Shipping there is also a free solution out there. You can use this free alternative to set special shipping costs per product, or for individual categories and countries.

You just want to make the option "free shipping" in WooCommerce subject to certain conditions? For example, depending on the products, the quantity, the weight, the dimensions, the shopping basket total or the WordPress user role? Then WooCommerce Advanced Free Shipping could be the right thing for you. This plugin is perfect for when you don't usually charge shipping costs and customers then order very large or particularly heavy goods.

Plugins for Europe

In the European Union, there are numerous legal requirements you need to consider for WooCommerce, particularly in Germany and Austria. One wrong setting and you face the quite realistic risk of a legal warning - from competitors, competition associations or authorities. This applies especially if:

  • The registered office for your online shop is in the EU
  • If you sell from your shop to EU countries

You cannot use WooCommerce with the standard settings in either of these cases. This also concerns the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Fortunately, various plugins and service providers can help with legal security for WooCommerce. Read more about these extensions in the blog post Make WooCommerce Legally Compliant.

Tip

Note that there is no 100% protection against legal warnings and you must have your webshop checked by law firm specialized in IT law. This should be done before you open your shop and needs to be an ongoing process thereafter.

WooCommerce Product
On the safe side legally: In Germany you have to provide very specific information for your products

Further WooCommerce plugins

In addition to the popular extensions, there are numerous little helpers that make your life with WooCommerce easier. This saves you the need for a costly individual development. But be careful: Too many plugins installed at once can slow down your WordPress system. Or the plugins can work against each other. If you're not sure, ask a service provider.

Note

This makes it all the more important for you to properly test each plugin in advance in a separate testing environment before activating it in your live shop. The same applies to updates from WordPress, WooCommerce and plugins from third parties.

High-performance hosting that is completely geared towards WooCommerce is equally important. This is the only way to manage the many processes that your visitors perform simultaneously in the shop. More on what you should consider when choosing hosting in our article Four Factors for WooCommerce Hosting. You develop online shop projects for your customers? Then use our free hosting for WooCommerce.

Here is a list of the most important places to find plugins for all manner of tasks, from performance optimization and product management to improving your webshop design:

Get more WooCommerce tips in our 70-page e-book WooCommerce for Professionals: Online shops with WordPress. This book is aimed at freelancers, agencies, WordPress professionals as well as beginners.

Are you still looking for a solution? You have questions about WooCommerce? Please use the comment function below. Would you like to keep up the latest WooCommerce news and advice? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook , or subscribe to our newsletter.

Pictures: Todd Quackenbush

Related articles

Comments on this article

Write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with * .