Choosing the right e-commerce solution for WordPress
With a wide range of e-commerce solutions available for WordPress, it can be quite difficult to select the right option for your business. Simply activating the first plugin you find could yield a whole range of issues. We’ve helped build multiple e-commerce websites over the years and in today’s post, we are going to share a few of things to consider when choosing the right e-commerce solution for WordPress.
That’s right, we are going to get you thinking and asking questions about your requirements, as you are the person who knows your business needs the best. Having a clear picture of what you need makes selecting the e-commerce solution so much simpler.
Consider your product/service
In our experience, pretty much no business is the same. Everyone has their own unique processes and procedures internally, and products can range from a simple item, to a range of items available conditionally based on certain selections.
To illustrate what we mean, lets consider product variations. It can be quite common to offer multiple variations of a product or a service. For example, a t-shirt may have the following options:
- Colour (White, Red, Blue etc)
- Size (SM, M, L, XL)
- Style (Slim, Regular etc)
It is also likely that you would want to ensure you record stock against the different colour, size and style variations to ensure people are not purchasing when you are out of stock.
Variations can apply when selling a services online. Say you are selling a consultancy package as a bookable product, you might want to give the clients the option to select how many days, or other value add-ons to their experience.
Why is this important? Well if you do need multiple variations, then that would rule out some e-commerce solutions that only allow for one variation on a product, or simply cannot handle them.
We have illustrated thinking through variations, however other things you might consider are:
- Availability in certain countries
- Categorisation or grouping of products
- Product relationships
- Times the service may be available
- Public/company holidays that can restrict availability
The purpose of this exercise is to rule out a range of e-commerce solutions that would not meet your requirements so you can concentrate on plugins that might best suit your needs.
Sales process and requirements
Selling products/services can get complicated. Ask yourselves questions to really break down what your business needs. Here are some questions that have come up in two recent e-commerce builds we have been a part of.
Selling a product:
- During the purchasing process, do you need to send any information to your back office CRM system?
- Do you need to notify certain departments when an order comes in?
- Does an order need a specific status to start with before it is taken over by a different department for processing?
- Do you need to monitor stock and trigger replenishment when you hit a certain baseline?
- Is there a requirement for different shipping methods to integrate with certain carriers?
Selling a service:
- Would you like to give the option for people to book the time of specific consultants in your business?
- Do you need to limit the amount of purchases of a particular service to avoid over subscription?
- Is there a range of pre-screen questions you need to ask the prospective client before they make the order?
It is vital to map out the full sales process, including what happens in the business to service the order, and deliver it. Many e-commerce solutions may not be able to handle your unique business needs without attention.
Every week we encounter a new payment gateway. Some clients have to use a specific gateway, as their bank, or accounts software has dictated the requirement. This can again limit you to what solution you can select. We have found a product like WooCommerce has one of the widest range of gateway compatibly available, plus with extensions can match many of the previously mentioned complex sales processes.
If the e-commerce solution does support your gateway, then check your sales process. For example, are you taking subscriptions on a monthly or yearly basis? Will your gateway support such a setup? Also, check your gateway will allow the sale of your particular type of product through their service. (You can find this information in their terms and conditions).
Flexibility and future proofing
Your business is going to grow and evolve. (That is the plan right?) Then options for an e-commerce product that has everything under the hood you need now, but has no scope for expansion could leave you trapped in the future. A product like WooCommerce by WooThemes or Exchange by iThemes might offer you more future proofing than say an all-in-one product like MarketPress.
Both Exchange and WooCommerce have a large number of add-on plugins that add new functionality to your e-commerce platform and they can be bolted in at any time in the future. There is no denying that WooCommerce is the heavyweight when it comes to e-commerce plugins, and you will find over 1000 premium WordPress plugins here at CodeCanyon, as well as many free options via the WordPress plugin directory.
It is hardly surprising that WooCommerce tends to be the final choice of most of our clients due to the amount of plugins out there. If you can think of it, more often than not, a plugin has been made for WooCommerce. If it does not exist yet, then clients commission us to develop it as we have years of experience of WooCommerce development.
More and more people are using their smartphone to browse websites. If you are sending a marketing email about a product or service, then up to 70% of your audience could be reading that email on a smartphone (Source). If your site is not responsive, or your product and purchasing process cannot function well in a mobile environment, you could loose a sale.
It is so important to provide a user experience that matches the potential clients device to make the purchasing process smooth, and simple. Again, products like Exchange or WooCommerce output responsive HTML which work with many WordPress themes available on the market.
So you’ve got your work cut out for you! Get brainstorming with your team and start mind mapping out all the requirements for your business, both for now and the foreseeable future. Why not test out some e-commerce solutions in a development environment to test usability, and put them through specific business scenarios to see what will fit?
If you have any tips for the community, please share them in the comments below.
If you need help in choosing the right e-commerce solution for WordPress, we offer WordPress consultancy. Contact us today to discuss your options.