WooCommerce is quickly becoming the top plugin for creating a WordPress-based eCommerce site. With over 5,000,000 downloads, its popularity comes from both its ease of use and the companion plugins (or extensions, as Woo calls them) available. This high level of functionality coupled with the ease of use of WordPress makes just about any sort of eCommerce site within your reach.
Still, it takes an understanding of what WooCommerce can (and can’t) do – along with a healthy dose of planning to make sure your site lives up to its potential. Here are some tips to help you start and maintain your site.
What Type of Products Will You Sell?
WooCommerce allows for some great flexibility with the types of products you can sell. Products like digital downloads and products with variations (think t-shirts with different sizes and colors) are fairly easy to setup.
But if you have products that are a bit more complex, such as those that require conditional logic, you’ll need to find an extension that will help you create a product that will function the way you want.
For example, think of buying a custom-built computer. You may want the customer to pick out a motherboard first. After a motherboard is chosen, the customer will then go on to pick a compatible processor and so on. The customer’s first choice will have a direct impact on what options are available next. That kind of functionality is not included in a standard WooCommerce installation.
This type of situation is where planning becomes crucial. Find the right tools to make your store work in the initial stages and save yourself some grief later on!
Choosing the Right Theme
While WooCommerce will mesh pretty well with most themes, your store may really benefit from using a specialized theme that has been customized to take advantage of the plugin.
The Retailer – WordPress & WooCommerce Theme
For example, the standard WooCommerce layout is not fully mobile-device friendly out of the box. So finding a theme like The Retailer, which features a responsive design, will help ensure your store is ready for the all-important mobile traffic coming your way.
Many themes also have other custom features that enhance WooCommerce functionality built-in and without the need for extensions.
Payment and Shipping Options
This one may seem like a pretty obvious topic, but it’s still one worth mentioning. While there are an absolute plethora of payment gateways to choose from, WooCommerce only works with PayPal and the new Simply Commerce by default (not counting bank transfers, checks and COD – which I can’t imagine are that widely used).
The standard PayPal offering may be just fine if your site doesn’t have a lot of budget to start with. But ideally, you’ll want a payment method that keeps customers on your site during the checkout process. It looks more professional and provides a cleaner, less confusing experience for your customers. It is worth noting that these type of payment gateways often require having an SSL certificate installed on your site.
Shipping, I’ve found, is often the most complicated part of things for my clients to figure out. Simple flat rate and table rate shipping is rather easy to setup (table rates do require an extension in WooCommerce) but can sometimes lead to losing some money for orders shipped to faraway locales.
You can certainly use an extension to tie in with just about any shipping provider. But that may be a little more difficult to setup as you’ll most likely need to consider product weights and sizes.
My best advice here is to do what you’re comfortable with and try to at least break even with shipping costs. You certainly don’t want to come off as gouging customers and you of course don’t want to lose a chunk of profit. Do your best to find a happy medium and don’t be afraid to consult a shipping provider if you aren’t sure what to do.
If you’re looking for some design ideas for your eCommerce site, Jake has written an extensive article that talks about some of the lesser known ‘little details’ that go into building a successful shopping experience. You should check it out.
Keep a Daily Routine
Here is where I’ll assume that you don’t have a large, dedicated team hired out to fulfill all of the orders and customer inquiries that you’ll receive while running your WooCommerce site. It’s a big responsibility. Keeping customers happy and orders flowing out the door (and cash coming in) is no easy set of tasks.
That’s why you need a routine. Set up a time to respond to customer inquiries and make sure to check often for emergencies (or at least, what the customer considers an emergency). If you need to ship products, stick to a schedule of when orders will go out. Make sure all of your policies are clearly stated on your site.
Stay in Touch
Lastly, I’ve found that one of the least utilized features of WooCommerce is the ability to go in and mark an order as “completed”. Depending upon the type of products you sell, this simple (if time-consuming) task can help to improve line of communications with your customers. You may even want to add a tracking number at this stage, which can be done through a plugin.
Building and running your own eCommerce site is easier than ever, thanks to WordPress and WooCommerce. Even so, there are still challenges in getting everything to look and function the way you want. Take some time to map out your goals, find a theme and any necessary extensions to make it possible and lastly (but not least) put in the hard work to make it a success.
Next, you should head over to CodeCanyon and explore the huge selection of WooCommerce plugins that are currently available – from featured products scheduler addons, to bulk category discount plugins, to product sliders and carousels extensions – there are plugins for almost everything!
If you’re looking to extend the functionality of your eCommerce site, you might like to take a look at the 600+ WooCommerce plugins that are currently available on Codecanyon.
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