October Meetup – eCommerce on WordPress – Part 1

With Christmas around the corner, we step into the big world of online shopping carts. And we couldn’t cover shops until we’d talked about site security!

But with WordPress it can be somewhat easier for small business looking to start out with something simple. Some good features, without the complexity or massive costs. And running on an enhanced, interactive blogging platform, you’ll probably get more traffic too than those more costly, high maintenance shopping cart solutions!

However a shop site can be a lot more work and everyone has a view on what they want in terms of looks and features. Many see the big $1ook+ sites like Fishpond and believe they can have all this on a $1k shoestring budget. Sorry, no. But what is possible with a WordPress store? How does it stack up against those instant shop sites like Shopify, Bigcommerce or against specialist open source scripts like CS Cart, Cubecart, Magento?

There’s a dozen cart add-ons for WordPress. There’s three carts well suited to NZ:

Easy Digital Downloads is also good. One site we found that listed the 300+ extensions for woocommerce is www.woo-com.com  We may discuss this in more detail in the new year. But it does indicate the explosive growth of the woocommerce platform on WordPress, allowing a more cost-effective alternative to the complex options like Magento.

Or, let others do the complex bits

Sometimes the better option, especially for newcomers, is to use a hosted third party eCommerce system. Good ones integrate well with WordPress via a plugin. This keeps everything simple, since the cart technology is not on your site, but being run and maintained separately by another company on their servers. You just pay a monthly subscription. Three such solutions I like that integrate well with WordPress are:

However key things you need to think about are before deciding on any cart are:

  • Am I technical?
  • How much time and money have I set aside?
  • Can I afford a developers help, if needed?
  • Am I selling downloads? Or shipping products?
  • How many products will be displayed on the site?
  • Payment options: Direct banking, account, credit cards, paypal?
  • What are my invoicing needs? Integration with accounting software?
  • Any special product bundling, wholesale or discounting requirements?
  • Am I creating a marketplace, where others provide the products?

And What are your Goals?

  • Get people to come in to a physical store
  • Get people to contact or purchase online
  • Get people to call you on the phone, or not

rebeccaMost eCommerce projects fail to deliver the expected outcomes. Poor communication and lack of planning is commonplace. Another skilled WordPress developer, Rebecca Gill recently wrote up her own analysis on eCommerce, outlining what’s really needed to succeed.

p.s. Designers struggle too – The inherent complexity perhaps explains why web designers, marketers and agencies really struggle with eCommerce. Why? It’s less about the visuals, branding and more about features, functionality. Employing a web developer who understands coding, structure and [hopefully] SEO is better. The visual design is just the thin layer of icing added at the end – Not the cake.

Part 2 on eCommerce will likely happen in a mid 2014 in a developer ‘tech night’ meetup, discussing migration, upgrade, integration options etc.

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