One of the greatest strengths of WooCommerce as a platform is the ecosystem of powerful extensions that allow users to customize and adapt their online stores to address the unique needs of their businesses. In fact, there are very few stores out there that are running without any extensions.

There are 400+ extensions on the WooCommerce.com marketplace, which can be daunting for a user to dig through in order to discover the things that will help their business.

So, starting in WooCommerce 3.6, we are going to start suggesting relevant WooCommerce extensions to users based on details of their store. This post covers what these suggestions are.

What are Marketplace Suggestions?

We are calling this feature/function “Marketplace Suggestions”. They are contextual mentions of official extensions that may be relevant to a customer. This currently includes all extensions on the official WooCommerce marketplace, which is open for submissions and lists extensions written by Automattic as well as by trusted partners and third-party developers.

There are thousands of excellent WooCommerce extensions available on the .org repository and on the web, but there are also many that are not audited and put stores at risk.

It is ultimately the customer’s choice what to use and up to them to determine what best suits their business, but as their eCommerce platform provider, we can serve them by making sure they’re aware first and foremost of the vetted options available.

From our customer survey, we see WooCommerce being used by a growing number of entrepreneurs and small businesses. This segment rely on extensions to customize their stores, and we anticipate that contextual suggestions will be of service primarily to them.

Managing your suggestions

We have set Marketplace Suggestions up to be on by default, but we only show suggestions for users who can install and activate plugins (so could act on them) and only on screens where we think the action will be relevant (for example, extensions to enhance product pages when going to edit products).

We’ll work on making these smarter, more relevant, and more useful over time.

We also acknowledge that for developers building sites for others – who take on the responsibility of purchasing extensions for the clients – these suggestions might not be a good fit. For this reason, they can currently be hidden with the following script:

add_filter( ‘woocommerce_allow_marketplace_suggestions’, ‘__return_false’ );

If the above removal-by-script option proves to be difficult to implement – for example, for those who are not comfortable adding custom code – we will explore introducing a simpler way to turn them off and include this in a point release (e.g. a toggle in core settings).

A technical look behind the scenes

Below is some information about how Marketplace Suggestions work:

  • Phoning home: Suggestions are retrieved via an API endpoint. Filtering and context is handled on the store side so no personal data is sent with the requests, and no “phoning home” is performed.
  • Advertising: we read this as third-party advertising systems, which isn’t what we’re doing here. We checked with the plugins team and followed their guidance on this – which includes making them dismissable
  • Hijacking the admin dashboard: In addition to being dismissible (above) the guidelines state “Upgrade prompts, notices, alerts, and the like must be limited in scope and used sparingly, be that contextually or only on the plugin’s setting page”. In the case of the suggestions, they meet this criteria by being inserted only within WooCommerce UI components, rather than global or on non-WooCommerce screens.
  • Frequency:
    • We’ll only show 1 on the Products screen, and 5 on the Product – empty state, Orders – empty state or Edit Product metabox.
    • Each suggestion is dismissible, we are not providing an option to dismiss all suggestions (other than if you choose to hide them).
    • We’re only showing 1 suggestion at a time, if a customer dismisses this, they won’t see another one for 24-hours.
    • If suggestions are dismissed more than five times. No further suggestions are shown in that location ( i.e. Products Listing ) for a month.
  • Tracking: we don’t track sites that opt out or have no connection to WooCommerce.com, and we offer a setting under WC > Settings > Accounts and Privacy to change preferences at any time
  • GDPR: We don’t collect user data unless someone has opted in to share usage data with us.

We are listening to feedback on usefulness, frequency, and ways to improve extension recommendations. As with all thing open-source, they are subject to change.