The devil is indeed in the details when it comes to setting up a WordPress eCommerce store. You need to get really specific with your needs – the ecommerce plugin you ultimately choose should meet all your business requirements. You must have a spot on definition of what you expect your online shop to achieve, long before choosing your shopping cart. Without a sound plan, you won’t get far. You will choose the wrong ecommerce platform, fail miserably if you don’t make changes, and then close shop.
In today’s post, we will shine light on some of the considerations you need to keep in mind when selecting a WordPress ecommerce solution. We will go a step further and review some of the best WordPress ecommerce solutions in the market, so you can start your online biz on the right note. Enjoy!
It takes money to make money, that’s very true. Don’t get it twisted, there’s nothing wrong with bootstrapping your business from the ground up, but you shouldn’t look into saving on your WordPress ecommerce solution. After all, cheap is expensive. For instance, there’s absolutely no need wasting time working on petty issues that premium support would resolve in a second.
Apart from Shopify, the WordPress ecommerce plugins we’ll cover in this post are free. That is if you’re looking to create a basic online store. To make the most of your WordPress estore, you’ll want to super-charge your shopping cart with extensions, which don’t come cheap. Plan beforehand, or talk to a web developer if you must, to ascertain the features you’ll need. Only then can you determine your budget.
At the end of the day, just remember each WordPress ecommerce solution (aka plugin) has a different price and/or different method of payment i.e. one-time versus recurring fee. No single WordPress ecommerce solution is really free. If you won’t put down your credit card, be prepared to pay in sweat – at least before you can plough back profits into your estore.
Unless you’re stuck in 1969 because the partying hasn’t stopped for you, you should know a huge chunk of your customers visits your online shop on mobile devices. It’s 2015, and mobile traffic and responsive web design (RWD) are two trends you have to keep tabs on.
The WordPress ecommerce solution you settle on should look great and work on all devices, be it a smartphone or the desktop computer. You wouldn’t want to lose a customer because they couldn’t add products to the cart when visiting your estore on their tablet, for instance. Now would you? Especially with the huge number of fully responsive WordPress ecommerce plugins in the market, would you risk it?
I know you wouldn’t leave the money on the table, so go responsive early on or watch your business die. Without a doubt, you can build a mobile version of your main site, but now that we have RWD, don’t you think that’s just redundant?
Your WordPress ecommerce of choice should be built around responsive web design techniques and best practices. Read the promotional materials alright, but don’t forget to test the demo for responsiveness. Your customers will thank you later.
User experience plays a huge role in the buying cycle. You want your customers to have a great time on your website. Whether you will build it on your own or hire a developer, you want your estore to look incredibly good. You don’t need the WordPress ecommerce solution you choose to break uniformity in design.
The shopping cart must marry your WordPress theme or template in terms of looks, and to a large extent, functionality. If the WordPress ecommerce solution doesn’t inherit your theme’s styles automatically, it should at least come with an options panel where you can add customization easily.
Ease of Use
Wouldn’t it be, you know, easy and so much fun if you could just install your WordPress ecommerce solution, go to sleep and wake up to a million orders the next morning? Well, that’s the stuff of fairy tales – WordPress ecommerce is hard work. The last thing you want is a WordPress ecommerce solution that makes managing your business the harder.
Behind every successful ecommerce store, there’s a slew of activities including but not limited to tracking orders, adding inventory, removing old products and changing prices. Is it obvious at this point or must I remind you that your WordPress ecommerce solution of choice should easily support all these “back office” activities?
You shouldn’t call back your developer to code new products into your e-store. It should be a matter of point and click – and this holds true for everything else, not just adding products.
If it’s hard to use, it’s the wrong solution for you. With time, perhaps you’ll learn, but when starting out, go for a shopping cart that’s in your ballpark in terms of skills required to run a successful business.
After everything else, you will need to take money from your customers. Many online entrepreneurs do everything right until you get to the checkout page. This is where hell breaks loose. For instance, you’re really interested in buying what’s on offer but when you get to the checkout page, the merchant doesn’t offer your preferred payment gateway. Perhaps it’s deliberate – they really can’t process your PayPal payments for instance. Perhaps their WordPress ecommerce solution is the problem – the number of payment gateways it supports is limited.
Also, most users don’t like it when you direct them to a third party website e.g. PayPal to make a payment, so they drop the cart and click away. Ensure your WordPress ecommerce plugin supports all payment gateways you need. The more the merrier doesn’t really apply here, but at least provide enough payment gateways to your customers.
You can always add payment gateways via extensions, so do your research well. I’m trying not to drop names, at least not until we start reviewing the available ecommerce solutions, but Mijireh is a great checkout solution that supports 90 payment gateways!
No, Mijireh is not a shopping cart. It’s the kind of solution (something like PayPal) that you put between the shopping cart and the checkout page for the sole purpose of processing orders. It beats PayPal ten to nil since PayPal is just a payment gateway, but Mijireh is a “collection” of payment gateways. Moreover, it supports all the major ecommerce plugins such as WooCommerce, MarketPress and Cart66 among others. Moving on…
Search Engine Optimization
When done right, SEO will bring you a great deal of web traffic for days, months and years to come. If you would like to do SEO yourself, consider checking out WordPress SEO Tutorial by Yoast, WordPress SEO: Ranking Higher in Search Engines, and this awesome SEO Guide at Google.
That aside, seeing we all could use a traffic boost from Google and the likes, it’s only appropriate to go for a WordPress ecommerce solution that’s SEO ready. It gives you a head start.
What are some of the things you need to look out for? Go for a solution that supports meta data in categories and tags, HTML5, meta titles and meta descriptions per product among others. Your choice should preferably work with your SEO plugin(s) as well. Anyways, with all the SEO plugins available, you should crack the WordPress SEO code easily.
The bad guys will always be there; lurking around, sniffing and waiting for a minor loophole in your website. Then they wreak havoc and you’re left to cry foul. Think of DDOS attacks and whatnot. DDOS is just a fancy acronym for Denial of Service attacks. You should take WordPress security seriously.
In other words, your WordPress ecommerce solution of choice should be secure. Your prospects personal information should never fall in the wrong hands. Just imagine how much damage it would cause if an unauthorized person got a hold of your customers’ credit card details.
Wait…could this be the reason why Google started using HTTPS as a SEO ranking signal a while back? You need a PCI DSS compliant ecommerce solution to collect and store credit card information on your site. PCI stands for Payment Card Industry and DSS for Data Security Standard.
There is so much to consider here. First of all, if a WordPress ecommerce solution has all the features but the features you need for your business, I would bet all my money it is the wrong solution for you.
But you’re a beginner, and are probably wondering what are some of the features you need to start your online business. No matter how basic your WordPress ecommerce plugin is, it should support inventory tracking, reporting, affiliate programs, pricing and your specific product type i.e. digital downloads versus physical products etc.
Above everything else, your ecommerce solution should support extensions and integration. Plan ahead so you know the features you need. While you’re at it, think of the future of your business, and determine the features that will serve you today and days to come.
One more thing. WordPress ecommerce solutions are often resource-intensive. For best performance and better SEO ranking, host your WordPress ecommerce store at WPEngine or with any of the hosts covered in best WordPress hosting.
Where do you see your business in five years? Unless you’re utterly pessimistic, you should expect at least some form of growth. Your WordPress ecommerce solution of choice should not fall into pieces when your inventory doubles or quadruples in volume. Is your solution of choice scalable?
You will be surprised the number of people waiting to buy what you’re offering, and as soon as you cut the ribbon, they will all come running – a million of them. Transactions on top of transactions; processing payments; tracking orders, coupons and discounts – name it. Through this all, your ecommerce solution should not give in.
Each one of us needs a little help once a while. Even the best of us get stuck and need bailing out. This is where technical support comes in. I know what you’re thinking but you might need a whole lot more support than you think. It happens.
Point is, when you’re stuck, you need immediate help since it is your business on the line. And it would suck if your threads went unanswered for days or weeks in the support forum.
As you shop around, check out those support forums and see who is actively fulfilling their duty. Don’t be quick to judge others (it’s hypocritical), you should ensure you’re providing the best support (technical or otherwise) to your customers. It’s good karma too if you believe in such things.
WordPress eCommerce Solutions
Now that you know some of the things you need to consider when choosing the perfect WordPress ecommerce solution, we’ll move ahead and review some of the platforms available in the market. I will try my best to break down each ecommerce solution depending on the considerations discussed in the previous section, so yeah get ready for a great ride.
This WordPress ecommerce plugin is built on the premise that selling anything should be beautiful. WooCommerce allows you to transform any WordPress site into a powerful, enterprise-level ecommerce store in no time.
It is built, maintained and provided free by WooThemes among other developers such as Claudio Sanches. WooCommerce is easy to use, has an average rating of 4.22/5.00, features the characteristic good looks, and comes with a host of features and payment gateways. Further, WooCommerce is extensible thanks to a plethora of free and premium extensions.
WooCommerce runs some of the smallest and biggest ecommerce sites you see around. It’s secure, SEO friendly and, from the support forum, we could determine the support is great. Overall, WooCommerce is the best WordPress ecommerce solution in the market with about six million downloads.
Easy Digital Downloads
If you’re looking to dispense digital products e.g. PDF eBooks, themes, plugins, audio and video files, you should go with the beautiful Easy Digital Downloads (EDD).
EDD is built for one specific purpose; selling digital content easily with WordPress. It comes with an intuitive user interface (UI), multiple payment gateways and reporting among other sweet features. For instance, you can track software license usage long after your users purchase your products.
Easy Digital Downloads is free, and you can enhance its performance using free and premium add-ons. This WordPress ecommerce solution has a rating of 4.8/5.00 and over 490k downloads. Check out the following video:
iThemes Exchange: Simple WP Ecommerce
Developed by iThemes in conjunction with Aaron D. Campell among other developers, Exchange is a simple WordPress ecommerce solution that allows you to set up your e-store in under five (5) minutes.
It comes with an easy to use interface, a host of features, and extensions as well as great support. On top of building ecommerce estores, you can create membership sites using Exchange, so yeah, that’s a great plus if you’re looking to build a community around your estore.
Exchange is free but you can purchase the Pro Pack at $197 or the Plugin Suite at $247. The ProPack features a few Exchange add-ons while the Plugin Suite includes all Exchange add-ons and 20+ plugins including BackupBuddy valued at $150 bucks. Choose on the suits your needs.
You can receive payments via Stripe or PayPal, offer guest checkouts (users can checkout without creating accounts) and add coupons among others.
WPMUDEV, the author, claims MarketPress will help you to “…give your shoppers a first-class shopping experience…” and I concur. They further claim “…MarketPress is not just a store…it’s a product management system and a customer relations specialist…” and with its extensive list of features, you can see why:
MarketPress is beautiful, secure, easy to use and supports all the major payments gateways. You can use any of the pre-made themes to style your store or just plug MarketPress into your favorite WordPress theme.
It has a rating of 3.9/5.00 and about 150k downloads, and knowing the WPMUDEV team and their range of products, MarketPress doesn’t disappoint.
Cart66 :: WordPress Ecommerce
Easy to use, Mijireh support, multiple product types, inventory management, custom currencies, affiliate program integration etc – Cart66 seems to have it all although it can’t rival the likes of WooCommerce.
Cart66 Lite is free, but you can enhance your e-store and user experience with the Cart66 Cloud that costs about $95/yr. Cart66 Lite has a rating of 3.0/5.00 and about 165k downloads. It’s worth checking out. Here’s a short video overview you should checkout if you’re considering Cart66:
Our honorable mentions are great WordPress ecommerce solutions that I won’t cover in detail since we did it in 20 Best eCommerce WordPress Plugins:
- WP e-Commerce – Free with a rating of 2.9/5.0 and about three million downloads
- JigoShop – Free with an impressive rating of 4.4/5.0 and 420k downloads
- Shopp – Free with great rating of 4.4/5.0 and 28k downloads
- eShop – Free; 3.5/5.0; 600k downloads
- EasyCart – Free with a rating of 4.2/5.0 and 54k downloads
- Shopify – Premium; powerful; over 140k satisfied customers; great value for money; modern; easy to set up; easy WordPress integration.
Learn More About WordPress eCommerce Solutions
There are definitely more WordPress ecommerce solutions out there, with varying features and more, and the only way you can choose the best one for your business is to educate yourself. The following resources will point you in the right direction:
- 25+ Considerations for Choosing a WordPress eCommerce Solution
- Ecommerce Plugins – Choosing the Right WordPress Shopping Cart Plugin
- WordPress eCommerce Plugins Comparison for 2015
At the End of the Day…
Choosing the WordPress ecommerce solution that’s perfect for you boils down to your specific business needs. Don’t pick an ecommerce solution with the hope of customizing it to your needs, pick one that meets about 80% of your most pressing needs. You can satisfy the remaining 20% using add-ons, extensions and plugins.
Which is your favorite WordPress ecommerce solution? What would you like to share with us concerning WordPress ecommerce solutions? Did we leave out something important? Let us know in the comments! See you around!