Case Study: WordPress & WooCommerce shop featuring 25,000+ products

WordPress as a sophisticated shop system – unthinkable for a very long time. With the implementation of WooCommerce, even the largest shops can now be operated with optimized performance. The Quagga Illustrations Online Shop is perfect proof: The online shop offering comprises over 25,000 products.

Dr. Rita Gudermann, Managing Director of QUAGGA Media UG, did the implementation of the virtual sales stage herself using WordPress. We talked to her about the challenges in a project of this size.

You created a WooCommerce shop with over 25,000 products. You yourself have called it a “daring feat”. Why? And why did you feel you still wanted to do it?

By now, we actually have 28,000 products online, and several thousand more are in the pipeline …

Yes, it did seem like a daring feat to take this on, as our online research had not returned any examples worth mentioning in terms of similar shops with 10,000, 20,000, or more products. Plus our online shop was to be unlike any other, because we were not going to sell “ordinary” products. We sell image licenses for graphic designers, publishing houses, and agencies. We don’t need any warehousing or material management – we need razor-sharp image definition, quick data loading, and an option to provide staggered pricing options for each item (image) depending on use.

We did take the leap, because we needed to become more responsive to the needs of our customers and market trends. All that has become possible because of the active WordPress developer community and a whole lot of the latest plugins, including those for social media integration.
WordPress shops of such a huge size are (still) pretty unusual. “We did run into a few teething problems”, you wrote. What were the biggest challenges you faced? And how did you manage to get around them?

The actual shop was done in an hour – well, I am exaggerating a little. After that came the adaptation of the themes (Avada) to suit our specific requirements. That took about three months. A real challenge was optimizing the image sizes for thumbnails, popups, and the large detail view (including watermark) in such a way as to get them to load as quickly as possible.

We faced another difficulty when it came to choosing a plugin to adapt the shopping cart to drop the number of items for each product and for the WooCommerce checkout (completely unnecessary when dealing with image licenses). We also use Gravity Forms Pro for price calculations depending on image use, and the WooCommerce Checkout Manager (for example for the tax ID). And last but not least: the shop had to be adapted for use in German and in compliance with German law. WooCommerce German Market was a great help for the latter.

Quagga Illustration
One illustration from Quagga shop (c)

How did you manage to integrate all 25,000+ products? You surely didn’t do that by hand?

We use the WP All Import Pro plugin, plus the associated WooCommerce extension – and I must say – our experience has been very positive: It offers comprehensive and reliable functionalities and excellent support.
WooCommerce doesn’t have to shy away from any comparison with your previous shop system, which was “rock solid, but also very cumbersome”. Would you be able to support that statement with numbers? What kind of long-term cost savings are you hoping for with regards to the new solution?

I don’t even dare dream of cost-savings as yet, because expectations will obviously grow alongside the options (of WordPress and WooCommerce) we now have at our disposal … We will use license-based plugins where they make sense, which we don’t see as anything negative as they will help us save work time and a lot of fiddling.
You implemented the WordPress online shop yourself. How did you come by the necessary know-how? Is there any reading material or online sources you would recommend to others?

Well, we aren’t complete novices when it comes to implementing online projects … We mainly relied on the documentation provided by the developers of the theme and of the various plugins. And of course we relied somewhat on their support here and there, when online forum searches didn’t give us the answers we needed.
Your top three tips for preparing a project like this: How to implement a WooCommerce as stress-free as possible? What are the most important points to remember?

  1. Make sure to choose a theme that will definitely work well with WooCommerce, in terms of the necessary developer know-how, a framework will be the best choice (next time we will be choosing Genesis …).
  2. Use only a handful (no more than five!) products for your import optimization until each and every product information reaches the exact point it should.
  3. Go live with the shop with a small number of products and then start adding products bit by bit – the worst errors and best ideas happen only after customers start using the shop for real.

What does the future hold for your Quagga-Shop? What other functions are you thinking of offering your customers in future?

Dr. Rita Gudermann
Dr. Rita Gudermann
Instant image downloads are our top priority for the future. For reasons of security, we have not been able to offer that service to date. We are also planning to implement a “deliverable lightbox” – an option to dispatch selected images directly from the shop to a client.

And of course the shop will have to go multilingual at some point: That is going to be a pretty exciting project, as there will be over 25,000 product descriptions, image texts, keywords etc. to translate!
What about your own background and that of the shop?

Quagga Illustrations is an image agency that was created from a research project of the Free University Berlin, which to date deals mainly with (historical) illustrations in black & white. Colored illustrations are to follow shortly! Our customers are creative people – mostly professionals in agencies and publishing houses – who are looking for something different from the same old microstock images.
Editor’s note: We are looking forward to comments regarding your own experiences with large WooCommerce shops, and also about any questions you may have on the top.

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Editor at MarketPress. Passionate blogger, corporate blog expert and book author (e.g. "Blog Boosting"). Co-organizer of WP Camp Berlin.

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