WordPress eCommerce

Many of your clients will be interested in adding eCommerce to their website.

There are a surprising number of options for doing this:

  • Adding PayPal buttons directly to your website
  • Using a Premium WordPress form plugin to create a simple shopping cart
  • Using a WordPress plugin to create a highly functional ecommerce experience for the user
  • Using a third party shopping cart for that extra marketing functionality and connectivity

How the WordPress Shopping Hangs Together

First it makes sense to see how the WordPress shopping cart is inter-connected and which functional areas are involved.

This is a simple setup using a WordPress shopping cart plugin.

WordPress ecommerce flow chart

Adding PayPal Buttons Directly to your Website

The simplest ecommerce functionality can be added to your site by simply creating a PayPal business account and creating buttons within PayPal.

PayPal creates the embed code which you can copy and paste onto your WordPress page or post.

You will need to manually add product images, product description, product title, product price text etc on your website.

The positives of this approach are as follows:

  • It is very simple and uncomplicated
  • It is easy for your site visitors to understand

The negatives are as follows:

  • You need to be able to create your buttons within PayPal and paste them on your website and add images, etc which adds some complexity for you
  • Every time you add a new product or change the price on an existing one you have to go through the process again
  • There is very little if any flexibility for sites with more than one or two products
  • There is little or no reporting apart from PayPal transaction receipts

We have used this process in a previous website and we would not recommend it.

Using a Premium WordPress Form Plugin to Create a Simple Shopping Cart

This is a relatively new option created by advances in the Premium Form Plugin Gravity Forms.

You can create a form with Gravity Forms that will add up the product items your client selects within that form and will provide you with a PayPal buy now button to allow the finished transaction to be processed through PayPal.

The positives of this approach are as follows:

  • It is very simple and uncomplicated
  • It is easy for your site visitors to understand

The negatives are as follows:

  • You need to learn how to build the form with Gravity Forms and set up the additional plugin required to make this functionality work correctly
  • There is very little if any flexibility for sites with more than a few products
  • There is little or no reporting apart from PayPal transaction receipts

We have used this process and it is ok for a very simple site with very few products.

Using a WordPress Plugin to Create a Highly Functional ecommerce Experience for the User

The ubiquitous usage of WordPress has made this an excellent option.

WordPress plugin developers have a huge potential market and those that are successful are able to channel profits back into the continued development of their plugins.

With the advent of custom post types within the WordPress core shopping cart plugins have gone from customised unique code to using the underlying WordPress methodology to create better more standards compliant products.

You can create categories of products and display them in different areas. Products can display in multiple categories (good for special offers etc).

Adding products is done in a manner that a moderately adept WordPress editor can understand and adding text descriptions, product images etc is not difficult.

Backend marketing functions such as coupons, email marketing etc still have some way to go to match the third party shopping carts, however, if this sort of thing is not of prime importance to you then this is perhaps a great choice for you.

The positives of this approach are as follows:

  • It is very simple and uncomplicated
  • It is easy for your site visitors to understand
  • Products can be presented in detail
  • Simple checkout process.
  • Multiple payment gateways are supported
  • Great plugins can be installed for free

The negatives are as follows:

  • Some of the marketing functionality is not as good as it could be
  • Product inventory management functions are not as good as the more expensive third party shopping carts

We use this on most ecommerce sites. The price and the functionality is a winning combination.

Using a Third Party Shopping Cart for that Extra Marketing Functionality and Connectivity

There are quite a few third party shopping cart websites available that will integrate in various ways with your WordPress website.

Integration can be as simple as copying a link from each product you have created on a third party shopping cart and pasting that onto your WordPress site or, even simpler, linking directly to the third party shopping cart t show all of your products and handle the entire product selection and purchase operation.

Backend marketing functions such as coupons, email marketing etc are commonly a great selling feature of this type of site and product inventory management is another feature that may appeal.

The positives of this approach are as follows:

  • Marketing features are commonly better
  • Inventory management features are commonly better
  • Multiple payment gateways are supported
  • if you change your website the shop does not have to be changed

The negatives are as follows:

  • Quite a learning curve to get the most from your shopping cart
  • Cost – can be upwards of $100 per month just for the shopping cart
  • You are sending people away from your website very early on in a transaction
  • You lose SEO value by not having products, images and product information on your website
  • Pain in the a*^& to move all your products to another cart supplier if you ever want to

We have used this solution from time to time and find it can be difficult for the end user to get used to adding and maintaining their products.

We actually use this style of solution on our own website.

Why? Because we use an affiliate marketing system which automatically correlates sales to various Agents plus it interfaces to our preferred email marketing supplier, aWebber.

Payment Processors & Payment Gateways

There are two basic types of Payment processors / gateways – those that have been set up by big players in Internet online payments such as PayPal and Google Checkout and organisations whose sole purpose is to provide a payment gateway to the financial institutions. This includes companies such as eWay, Authorize.net, FirstData/LinkPoint etc.

Commonly, for small businesses with a small to medium volume of transactions we recommend PayPal Payments Standard.

With PayPal Payments Standard, your clients can pay via their PayPal account or, for those without a PayPal account, you can accept credit card orders securely off-site so you do not have to worry about the storage of client’s credit card details.

Should your transaction rate and value increase you can investigate an option such as eWay (for Australian clients). This entails obtaining a merchant facility from your bank which comes with annual charges and a qualification process as banks do not provide this functionality to everyone.

Some Sample Sites

Here are a few shopping cart sites that SP Media has prepared earlier for you:

Sari Spice
Bluetongue Campers
Lifeline First Aid
Katfish Hand Painted Tiles
Behaviour Tonics
Reallogic
Colori