By its market share, WordPress is the most popular way to create an eCommerce store. And despite the overwhelming popularity of WooCommerce, there are actually multiple ways that you can use WordPress to create an eCommerce store, with Easy Digital Downloads being another stellar option.

That might have you wondering… when it comes to WooCommerce vs Easy Digital Downloads, which plugin should you use to build your store?

Well, the simple answer is that WooCommerce is for physical products, whereas Easy Digital Downloads is for digital products.

But while the above sentence is generally true, it’s also a little bit oversimplified. That is, you can still use WooCommerce to sell digital products, and it’s also possible to sell physical products with Easy Digital Downloads.

Because the answer isn’t always so simple, we’re going to dig into a full WooCommerce vs Easy Digital Downloads comparison in this post.

By the end, you should know which one is the right option for your WordPress eCommerce store.

WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads

There’s no arguing with the fact that WooCommerce is the giant in WordPress eCommerce. Acquired by Automattic for ~$30 million in 2015, WooCommerce has ~8% market share when it comes to all eCommerce sites on the Internet. And a whopping 21% when you look at the top 1 million sites.

WooCommerce was originally built to handle physical products, though you can now use it for digital products, as well.

Its popularity, combined with the fact that it’s backed by Automattic, means:

Easy Digital Downloads, often abbreviated as EDD, isn’t as popular as WooCommerce. By the numbers, it powers just ~0.2% of the BuiltWith Top Million. But that’s nothing to scoff at, and it’s quite popular with eCommerce stores that sell digital products.

As the name suggests, Easy Digital Downloads was built to handle digital products, though it does now offer rudimentary support for physical products. Like WooCommerce:

Google trends - WooCommerce vs Easy Digital Downloads
Google trends – WooCommerce vs Easy Digital Downloads

What Can You Sell with WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads?

Ok, so despite the simplified version we gave you at the beginning, you can use both WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads to sell both physical and digital products.

With that being said, there’s a reason that’s still a good rule of thumb:

Key takeaways:

What Payment Gateways Can You Use?

When it comes to big name payment gateways, you probably won’t notice any difference between WooCommerce vs Easy Digital Downloads. That is, both plugins support big names like:

With that being said, we’d like to highlight that both WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads offer gateways for Stripe and PayPal for free (in the past, EDD used to charge $89 for access to Stripe).

Using Square? Check out our in-depth comparison blog post: Stripe vs Square.

Additionally, if you need a different payment gateway – like a special local payment gateway – WooCommerce has a broader set of extensions thanks to its popularity.

You can find a large list of third-party payment gateways for Easy Digital Downloads, but many of them aren’t well-maintained.

Key takeaways:

What Add-Ons and Themes Are Available?

Because of its popularity, WooCommerce has a larger selection of plugins and themes. For example, some quick searches turn up:

Of course, you don’t need thousands of plugins – you only need a few key plugins or just the very best WooCommerce plugins from this curated list. So the disparity between those two numbers shouldn’t necessarily sway your decision.

The idea here is just to illustrate that WooCommerce has a much larger extension marketplace, which might be helpful if you need some special niche feature.

With that being said, Easy Digital Downloads has extensions for all the important functionality you need to sell digital products, as well as plenty of great-looking themes.

Key takeaways:

Is One Plugin Easier to Use Than the Other?

Both plugins make it easy to create an eCommerce store and there aren’t huge differences in usability. If you can use WooCommerce, you should have no problems using Easy Digital Downloads (and vice versa).

If you want to see a comparison of how it works to create a store with each plugin, we’ve written detailed tutorials for each plugin:

Both tutorials take you through the entire process of creating an eCommerce store, which should give you an idea of the ease of use of both plugins.

Key takeaway:

WooCommerce vs Easy Digital Downloads: Pricing

Finally, we come to price…

While both core plugins are free, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll need to purchase at least a few premium extensions, no matter which plugin you choose.

Unfortunately, there’s no blanket rule for which is cheaper – it’s kind of like asking, “is a red car cheaper than a blue car?”. The answer is, it depends…

Due to Easy Digital Downloads’ price increases in late 2016, individual WooCommerce extensions are generally a little bit cheaper, or sometimes comparatively priced. For example:

Easy Digital Downloads also sells bundles, though, which can save you a significant amount of money. For example, you can get access to all the extensions for use on unlimited sites for $499.50 for your first year (after that it’s $999/year), which saves you a ton of money, especially on multiple sites:

Easy Digital Downloads bundles
Easy Digital Downloads bundles (billed annually)

While there are several WooCommerce bundles, there’s nothing comparable to the value you get with Easy Digital Downloads’ bundles.

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So if you need to use lots of extensions, especially on multiple sites, Easy Digital Downloads’ bundle approach might actually make it more affordable.

Key takeaways:

eCommerce Performance

One very important aspect to keep in mind is performance. eCommerce WordPress sites are very demanding and generate a lot of cache-bypassing dynamic page loads. They function a lot like membership sites, for which we have an entire post dedicated to the do’s and don’ts in regards to hosting.

Because Easy Digital Downloads is more focused in its approach, it generally has better out-of-the-box performance. For example, here’s an optimized Easy Digital Downloads store loading in under 600 ms on Kinsta.

Easy Digital Downloads load times
Easy Digital Downloads load time example

If we take a look at a fresh install of WooCommerce vs Easy Digital Downloads we can also see a difference. We set up a shop page with a single product, shopping cart, and ran some tests.

Fresh Install of WooCommerce

Our fresh unoptimized WooCommerce install loaded in 774 ms. Here are the eight WooCommerce scripts that loaded on the shop page:

WooCommerce sites, especially large ones, sometimes encounter load time issues with the /?wc-ajax=get_refreshed_fragments script. The cart fragments feature and or AJAX request in WooCommerce is used to update the cart total without refreshing the page. The problem is that this request can’t be cached and sometimes comes at a cost.

One option you have to improve this is to dequeue the script. You can even do this on a specific page, such as your most important page, the homepage. This, of course, doesn’t have to be done, but can improve speeds. You can see this issue on GitHub and an example of a dequeue function you could use:

add_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'dequeue_woocommerce_cart_fragments', 11); function dequeue_woocommerce_cart_fragments() { if (is_front_page()) wp_dequeue_script('wc-cart-fragments'); }

Some other alternatives would be to use a performance plugin that allows you to easily disable the cart fragments feature or a JavaScript shopping cart solution.  And if you’re curious, all eight of the above scripts also load sitewide when WooCommerce is enabled.

Fresh Install of Easy Digital Downloads

Our fresh unoptimized Easy Digital Downloads install loaded in 717 ms. This is a decrease of 7.36% in total load time compared to WooCommerce. There are also only two Easy Digital Download scripts that loaded on the shop page:

So while there isn’t an enormous difference, EDD definitely is lighter weight just in terms of what is loaded on the shop page. Both of the above scripts also load sitewide when EDD is enabled.

Optimizing eCommerce for Performance

Both Easy Digital Downloads and WooCommerce can load fast if optimized correctly. However, WooCommerce usually requires more tweaking and WooCommerce-optimized hosting. Our WordPress team deals with optimizing high traffic WooCommerce and EDD sites on a daily basis. We have seen it all. Here are just a few ways we go further to find the perfect balance between performance and functionality:

At Kinsta, you also the ability to select a plan that has more PHP workers. PHP workers essentially handle all of the requests that aren’t served from cache.

Should You Use WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads?

In the end, it still comes back to the simple difference we set up in the intro:

Your store’s unique needs might buck the trends and make one plugin a better option than the other, but the above is a good rule of thumb for most stores.

What about you – have you used both these plugins? Which one would you recommend and why/when?

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