For those who want to transform their WordPress blog into a successful ecommerce store, it’s essential you install an ecommerce plugin.
But, this isn’t a quick or simple decision! There are so many different ecommerce platforms to choose from, all with differing features that have led to successful ecommerce stores.
Choosing the right ecommerce plugin will play a huge role in the growth of your store. Rest assured, you can migrate to a different platform if you discover you didn’t make the optimal choice for the first time. That’s completely natural and is a meaningful lesson, but migrating to a new platform will cost you time and money. It’s important you are patient and do the necessary research about the ecommerce choices that are available to you, and choose the plugin that best suits your business ambitions.
Base Level: Identifying Differences in WordPress Ecommerce Plugins
Always keep in mind the features of an ecommerce plugin should be useful to you! Don’t become blinded all of the potential benefits a feature has if it has no real use for you.
Some ecommerce plugins are created for selling purely digital products, i.e ebooks, subscriptions, images, videos or audio clips, while others are created under the assumption that the merchant will have a physical brick-and-mortar store as well as an online store. Differences like this are quick and easy ways of deciding whether you should consider going further with a certain ecommerce plugin. This will also require you to think ahead and consider whether you will want to provide digital or physical goods in the future.
There are some more factors that you should consider when choosing an ecommerce plugin:
- Payment Gateways: your ecommerce plugin of choice should support your preferred payment gateway(s). This will either be achieved by the plugin’s default functionality or be possible due to an extension.
- Customization Potential: especially when considering the design or theme of your store. You need plenty of different options at your disposal which are flexible and customizable to be optimized for your ecommerce store. This will become more important once you have customer data to make actionable changes with.
- Third-party Integration: third-party app integration can greatly increase the functionality of your store and can make business growth much more efficient. While some apps are multi-platform, it’s good to know whether the apps you want appear on your chosen platform.
- Tech Support: the platform you pick needs to have support options and a thriving community to draw knowledge from.
The Base Requirements for an eCommerce Store
Let’s just quickly cover the things everyone needs to launch an ecommerce store.
First things first, hosting! You’ll need to find a hosting provider that has a cost-effective hosting plan. Two affordable hosting providers for beginners are SiteGround or HostGator. If you’re well-established and are sure of site performance needs, go for Liquid Web or WP Engine.
Most hosting plans will also provide a free domain, which is another requirement for beginners.
Below we will discuss three of the most popular ecommerce plugins available to WordPress users. Explaining their unique features, positives and negatives you should consider in making the choice of best fit.
WooCommerce was built solely to work with WordPress, and to convert WP blogs into eCommerce stores—it’s the perfect tool for the job, and there’s a reason it’s the most popular WordPress eCommerce plugin.
WooCommerce has an abundance of themes and addons. WooCommerce was built for developers and resultantly has a developer community that is well invested into the platform. Many hosting providers who previously only provided WordPress solutions now provided optimized WooCommerce hosting plans as well.
There are plenty of WooCommerce themes, suited to everyone from an absolute beginner to a WP veteran. There’s a design and storefront format to suit the preferences of everyone, and these themes come with a lot of customization potential which a WooCommerce developer can take advantage of.
There are plenty of WooCommerce extensions to add new levels of functionality to your site. For beginners there are plenty of free extensions to take advantage of as well, such as Google Analytics, Facebook for WooCommerce and Amazon Pay. WooCommerce has the flexibility to sell both digital and physical products.
For those affiliate marketers who are looking to maximize the resources at their disposal, WooCommerce can easily integrate third-party addons to encourage a more satisfying user experience. There are plenty of affiliate marketing tools and plugins to choose from, such as OptinMonster or Adsanity.
Inventory management is made simple with free tools. Through extensions, you can become connected with popular international carriers such as FedEx or AustraliaPost, which can be easily integrated with inventory management and fulfilment providers.
Shipping options are highly adaptive—merchants are able to adjust things to provide free or flat rate shipping to customers. If you’d like to expand globally or restrict your shipping options, this can also be easily done.
The popularity of WooCommerce means it has a large support base. As well as documentation from the platform, there is an active knowledge base, community and help desk.
Before continuing, it’s important to make clear that Shopify is NOT an ecommerce plugin, but it can be integrated with WordPress through plugins such as WP Shopify (as well as the premium version). As integrating Shopify into WordPress has so many benefits, it’s well worth discussing.
Shopify has gained notoriety as one of the most popular ecommerce platforms because it removes almost all of the usual hassle of creating an ecommerce store. All setup and maintenance is done by Shopify, the tradeoff being that you may lose some flexibility and customization potential later on.
WordPress + Shopify Integration Positives
WordPress is a content management system and doesn’t come with many of the features needed to function an ecommerce store, so you need to install a lot of third-party plugins to do so. Integrating with Shopify removes the need for all these extra installations as you immediately gain all the functionality of Shopify.
As stated earlier, customization options can be limited when you’re working with Shopify themes. If you use a WordPress theme, you gain back that customization potential and can optimize design to best fit your audience and business requirements.
It can actually be more affordable to integrate with Shopify! This may come as a surprise as this integration means you’ll have to pay for both Shopify and WordPress subscriptions. However, when you consider all the potential addons, extensions and plugins that you may have to pay for when only using WordPress, you can actually end up saving money. Shopify Lite is the cheapest version of Shopify and will only cost users $9(USD)/month, while the basic version is $29/month.
For anyone who is worried about diving in the programming deep end, Shopify is beginner friendly and completely handles the technical side of things. You simply have to click on what features you want your store to have.
Finally, Shopify integration means that you can control everything from a single dashboard. You’ll find management of your ecommerce store suddenly become a lot more simple as you can process orders, integrate payment options, provide shipping, organize products and manage taxes.
One negative is that Shopify prefers it if you use their payment platform, ‘Stripe.’ If you’re not using Stripe then you will be charged an additional fee to use an alternative payment platform.
Bigcommerce is a highly scalable and fully hosted ecommerce platform that provides smooth WordPress integration. Its robust WordPress plugin makes it simple to embed products in your website. Furthermore, it takes care of shopping cart accounts, sign in and many other crucial ecommerce pages.
BigCommerce is one of the most scalable ecommerce platforms on this list—it’s a great choice for any user who envisions becoming an enterprise-level success! Maintenance is still kept low, because your ecommerce resources are still kept separate from your WordPress site.
Users are able to sell across a variety of popular platforms to maximize sales. This includes social media such as Instagram of Facebook as well as other selling avenues such as Amazon.
Most ecommerce platforms will charge you a small fee per transaction on top of the monthly subscription you pay for their hosting. However, with BigCommerce no transaction fees are charged. Giving users the liberty to choose whatever payment gateway they prefer and only have to pay the payment service provider.
There is one current time sensitive negative of BigCommerce. Although it integrates with most popular third-party apps, the app store is still developing—you may not be able to integrate with apps for more niche needs.
Optimizing Your Integration of Choice
Integrating with a new ecommerce plugin or platform brings a lot more functionality to your WordPress store and with that comes more flexibility and customization. You want to take advantage of this as much as possible to get ahead of your competitors.
To optimize your newly integrated store you want to hire WordPress developers at a cost-effective rate. You want to find WordPress development services that offer developer packages or plans that let you hire experts at an affordable rate. For beginners, hiring may not be a viable choice, so it’s recommended you stick to themes and extensions that can guarantee site performance on their own.
CodeClouds have found global success providing affordable developer packages with businesses of all sizes. They are a large development team that have specialists in a range of different ecommerce platforms and plugins, including WordPress, WooCommerce and Shopify. Their developer packages make their hiring WordPress website developers cost-effective when requiring more than just a single person (project managers, testers, designers, etc).
If you’re a future business owner wanting to go on your own ecommerce journey and would like to upskill yourself on the technical side of things, see these 5 Recommended Youtube Channels for Developers.