WooCommerce is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms out there, with a global market share of more than 21% and an ever-increasing adoption rate.
But just how scalable is it?
Can it accommodate a shop with 10,000 products?
Can it handle high levels of website traffic or multiple concurrent transactions?
Is there a point where it simply grinds to a halt shouting “enough is enough!”?
Our specialist WordPress Developer, Mike Onslow, has all the answers.
What do we mean by “scalable”?
Scalability generally refers to increasing the size or capacity of something. In this particular case it could mean one or more of the following:
- Increasing the number of products – How many products can WooCommerce support?
- Increasing website traffic – How many concurrent users can WooCommerce accommodate before performance drops?
- Increased transactions – How many customers can be working through the checkout process at the same time without being interrupted?
- Codebase size – Is there a limit to the amount of code a WooCommerce system can contain? Each new plugin added increases the codebase and each new image uploaded takes up disk capacity. How far can you go?
- Database size – Every product, every customer and every transaction that gets added to the site generate additional database rows, but how much database is too much?
Let’s tackle these one-by-one.
How many products can a WooCommerce website have?
Theoretically, there is no limit to the number of products a WooCommerce website can have. There are many instances of stores with tens of thousands of products, which suffer little-to-no adverse effects as a result.
The Greek electronics store inter-shop.gr reportedly has over 160,000 active products, tarox.co.uk has c40,000 and soulbrother.com c30,000.
But how well do these sites function? Using gtmetrix.com’s performance and speed checker we can see a gradual decline in performance for those sites with more products. But crucially, not to the point where usability suffers noticeably.
Most WooCommerce sites won’t come close to that many products. So, it’s fairly safe to suggest that the size of your product catalogue, within reason, does not have a direct impact on the scalability of your WooCommerce installation.
At Fellowship we’ve worked on countless WooCommerce sites. Some of the larger ones are Baldwin’s, with over 5750 products, SaveMoneyCutCarbon with c1800 products and The Beauty Academy with c500 products, all continuing to grow their product catalogues successfully.
How many visitors can a WooCommerce site handle?
Visitors to your website use server resources, there’s no way around that, but there are things we can do to lessen the impact and enable the site to cater for more concurrent users.
Caching plugins to serve cached files and pages to visitors are the primary way to do this. Properly optimised images and other assets also reduce the strain on the server. Additionally, maximising the efficiency of database queries or utilising a content delivery network (CDN) can reduce wait times and generally improve performance.
Traffic volume is one of the biggest contributors to website speed issues or high server resource usage. While there are ways to alleviate this – some of which we’ve detailed above – there will always be a limit to what a server can handle.
Aftership.com lists the top 100 WooCommerce sites of 2021 by their “global rank”. It also includes statistics on their monthly visitor numbers. Most of these sites welcomed upwards of a million users a month – roughly 33,000 a day. All of them on this list run on WooCommerce.
The key is to have the right server setup to handle any expected volume of users (there’s no harm in having plenty of extra resources ready to go). And to use as many on-site techniques as possible to keep the speed up for each and every individual visitor.
How many transactions can WooCommerce handle?
This is trickier to quantify, as there are lots of variables. WooCommerce state:
“We’ve seen instances of shops with 100,000+ products listed, handling thousands of transactions per minute. In those cases, they had great hosting support and their own developer team focused on optimization.”
Thousands of transactions per minute shows what is possible. A well-optimised website, substantial and appropriate hosting platform and a quality payment gateway provider are all key to being able to process numerous concurrent transactions easily and quickly.
With the right infrastructure, there’s no reason that a WooCommerce store cannot handle multiple checkout transactions at the same time.
Do I have too many plugins?
The more plugins and third party code on your website, the more you run the risk of slowing everything down. The physical disk space of a website is easy enough to measure and often easily adjusted via a hosting platform. But the more files you have on your server, the more files that users have to download – and that takes time.
Most plugins are built with a “one size fits all” approach, packing in all the functionality for everyone’s needs. They often include features that 90% of users won’t ever use, but the code is still there. And that’s slowing down the website for your visitors.
It’s impossible to say how many plugins are too many. Every WooCommerce installation will have its own set of specific needs and requirements, many of which can be more easily addressed using plugins. By taking a moment to consider whether that functionality could be more efficiently provided through custom development – or even omitted altogether – could make a big difference to the user experience.
How big is a WooCommerce database?
In its current form, WooCommerce writes almost everything to the database. Products, customers, orders and associated information is all stored in database rows, out of sight of store managers and, therefore, often out of mind.
Optimising a WooCommerce database can massively benefit performance, as well as being a helpful house-keeping task. Every time WordPress needs to look something up, for example a user’s order history, it will need to trawl through the various database tables to find what it’s looking for. The more data there is, the longer this process can take.
Of course, it’s not as simple as saying “just delete all orders that are over a year old”. That data is invaluable to both store managers and customers. But there are less destructive ways to optimise a WooCommerce database such as clearing out transients and other cached data which can, if left unchecked, accumulate very quickly especially on high traffic sites.
The WordPress-specific tables that benefit from regular review are the postmeta and options tables. These contain metadata for every product, user and order within the site (as well as more generalised WordPress data) and have a tendency to grow quite large especially when using some older or poorly coded third-party plugins.
A good hosting partner should be able to advise on further optimising the database for WordPress and WooCommerce and monitoring its performance by increasing query caches as necessary and advising when slow queries occur. WooCommerce is, reasonably, resource intensive so investing in high quality hosting is a must.
Here at Fellowship we have built and maintain several WooCommerce websites with databases well in excess of 1.5 gigabytes in size with no discernible impacts on performance.
Automattic, the company that makes WooCommerce, are confident that their solution is fully scalable, and there are real-world solutions to back that up. Sites can contain tens of thousands of products, support 30k concurrent users and have customer and order histories going back 10 years. But keeping on top of these areas and ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place are vitally important to keep the website performing as well as possible.
Constantly adding features and functionality to a website without re-factoring or removing redundant items can also have an adverse effect. Taking time to regularly audit the codebase, remove unused plugins and optimise the database is an invaluable process and should be factored into the lifespan of all WooCommerce projects.
If built the right way and managed properly, WooCommerce is completely scalable to suit the needs of almost any organisation.