Running an e-commerce website on WordPress

As the website matures it opens opportunities for trade and commerce. While WordPress as a website building platform was created with a focus on posts and blogs, it supports e-commerce features through plugins. An e-commerce-ready site would support a store front, cataloging, ordering, payment, shipments, and marketing related features. The WooCommerce plugin is used by many businesses to sell and service their clients through the internet on WordPress. WooCommerce is available as a plugin for WordPress websites and is supported by WordPress. There are other e-commerce plugins as well like, Easy Digital Download, Ecwid Ecommerce Shopping Cart, and WP EasyCart Shopping Cart and eCommerce Store to name a few, which could be considered before finalizing an e-commerce plugin.

Choosing what an e-commerce website may need to support

1.e-commerce Store: Usually consists of three components: store, shopping cart, and account that usually need to work across device interfaces, including desktops and laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. Based on the geographic spread, multi-language and multi-currency requirements may be needed too.

  • Store: As per business needs, consider what type of stock-keeping unit (SKU) or other type of inventory management listing is needed, and how or if product swatches that show your products in different colors and other options will display on your site.
  • Shopping Cart: Address the functionality of your shopping cart by addressing questions including: Would it be useful to allow customization of your shopping cart? Should you allow a potential customer to save a cart or retrieve an abandoned cart? How will you support subscriber, registered user and guest checkout? Should you require that there be an agreement of terms before the purchase?
  • Account: Determine if the shopper/user/subscriber will be able to edit orders, use subscriptions, redeem coupons, and use promotion codes.

2. Payment: Facilitate payment for orders through credit and debit Cards, payment processors such as digital wallet payments, and others. Provide a point of sale (POS) kind of interface that allows determination of the cost breakdown by showing and calculating the price, taxes, discounts, and other payment-related details. Setup taxes and rates based on region and countries can be configured to display for the potential customers or just for individuals with site administration privileges.

3. Shipping: Support manual and automated table rate shipping for price, weight, quantity and percentage-based options. Some solutions can provide live shipping integrations with logistics providers.

4. Order Management: Once an order is received, sales receipts, packaging slips, and shipping notes may need to be printed. Customers may need to be emailed confirming the order, delivery estimates, and invoice details. Customers will need to view order information, and be enabled to make changes, or cancel an order.

5. Marketing: SEO capabilities by product, menu, and category may be needed to help sell products or services. To automatically push the latest stock and product information, enable Social Media integration and feeds with Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

A brief look at accessing plugins for e-commerce

WordPress provides a repository of e-commerce plugins that feature pre-coded functionality that can be easily set up for your site. Evaluate a plugin based on the value and capabilities it provides to your visitors as well as you in the administration of your site. E-commerce plugins make it easy to create storefronts with themes, enable browsing of product catalogs, integrate with major global shipping carriers, utilize various payment solutions, and track sales, earnings, refunds, and more. All plugins are accessed by navigating on the Administrative page to My Site > My Home > Tools > Plugins.

  • By clicking Plugins, a menu of available plugins is shown. The plugins can be searched by category: Engagement, Security, Appearance, and Writing. Additionally, sorting by Featured, Popular, and New is available from a search function
Accessing plugins for e-commerce

WordPress e-commerce plugin: WooCommerce helps run an e-commerce websites

Best practice: Based on the final WordPress website content, structure, and visitor interactions allowed on the website, an e-commerce approach needs to be evaluated. For example, will there be a product listing? Will there be a store front? Which geographies can be served? Would shipping, packaging and payments gateways be needed? Will buyers be allowed to post comments and write feedback? Determining your current and future objectives will help you select the appropriate e-commerce components.

WooCommerce is an open-source e-commerce plugin designed for small to large-sized online merchants using WordPress. Launched in September 2011, the plugin quickly became popular for its simplicity to install and customize.WooThemes, the creators of WooCommerce, were acquired by Automattic in 2015, and is estimated to power 8 percent of all e-commerce websites online and 21 percent of the top one million sites. Some of the features and capabilities include:

  • Create storefronts with themes tailored to brand and industry from WordPress and multipurpose themes as well from the large selection offered by WooCommerce
  • Customize pages using modular product blocks. Product blocks allow:
    • Products by tag
    • Featured product
    • Hand-picked products
    • Best selling products
    • Products by category
    • Newest products
    • On sale products
    • Products by attribute
    • Top rated products
  • Allows showcasing of physical and digital goods, product variations, custom configurations, instant downloads, and affiliate items.
  • Provides flexible bookings, memberships, and subscriptions.
  • Leverages WordPress’ SEO capabilities to help products and store to get noticed.
  • A large number of plugins (currently estimated at more than 1000) and extensions targeting WooCommerce installations allow a choice of many tools.
  • Features by eCommerce focus areas:
    • Data storage: MySQL and MySQLi
    • General features:
      • Source code provided
      • Ajax use
      • Digital downloads
      • Bay listing integration
      • Bay order import
      • Multiple skins
      • Point of sale order management
      • Subscriptions
      • Taxation
      • Template engine
    • Customer features:
      • Guest account
      • Customer testimonials
      • Featured products
      • Glossary, tool tip words
      • Image enlarge
      • Mini cart
      • Multiple addresses
      • Newest products
      • Newsletter
      • News
      • Next-previous product links
      • Polls Popular products
      • Printing-friendly
      • Product image attaching
      • Product rating
      • Product reviews
      • Quotes
      • Reordering
      • Returns
      • Searching
      • Search as user types
      • Search cloud
      • Site map, viewable
      • Social bookmarking
      • Tell friends
      • Wish list
    • Customer reward features:
      • Coupons
      • Gift certificates
      • Membership discounts
      • Membership-only categories
      • Membership-only products
      • Reward points
      • Special offers
    • Administration area features:
      • Product import-export
      • Statistics
      • Stock control
      • WYSIWYG editor
    • Search engine optimization features:
      • HTML catalog
      • Meta tagging
      • RSS feeds
      • SEO URLs
      • Site map, XML
      • GoodRelations RDFa
    • Security features: Form CAPTCHA (add on)
    • Other features:
      • Affiliates
      • API (remote management functions)
      • Multiple vendor support
    • Payment gateway support:
      • Authorize.Net AIM
      • Authorize.Net SIM
      • PayPal Standard
      • Stripe
      • PayPal Pro/Payflow Link/Payflow Pro (add-on)
      • Sage Pay Form/Direct
      • WorldPay
      • Offline processing (add-on)
      • Offline methods
    • Alternative checkout support features:
      • Checkout by Amazon
      • Google Checkout
      • PayPal Express
    • Real-time shipping calculation features:
      • Canada Post
      • United States Postal Service
    • Shipment booking and tracking integration features:
      • Australia Post
      • Canada Post
      • United States Postal Service
WooCommerce Details:
  • Version: 5.1.0
  • Active installations: 5+ million
  • Works on WordPress version: 5.4 or higher
  • Tested up to WordPress version: 5.7
  • Works with PHP version: 7 or higher
  • Languages supported: 65

We take a broad look at three more e-commerce plugins available on WordPress: Easy Digital Downloads by SandHillsDev; Ecwid by Ecwid Inc.; and Shopping Cart & eCommerce Store by WP EasyCart.

1. Easy Digital Downloads

Easy Digital Downloads (https://sandhillsdev.com/) is an e-commerce solution for selling digital products on WordPress. For software, documents, photos, e-books, songs, graphics, videos, or any other type of media file, Easy Digital Downloads provides a system for selling digital products.

Some of the features supported:

  • Frontend shopping cart: Customers can browse your product catalogue, add items to their cart, and checkout when they are ready. Or, they can bypass the cart using Buy Now buttons.
  • Highly customizable and clean checkout: Buyers can complete their purchase with ease, directly on the site’s checkout page.
  • Payment flexibility: Accept credit card payments using PayPal as well as payments from Apple Pay and Google Pay which are included via Stripe’s Payment Request Buttons.
  • Complete customer management: View and manage detailed records of all customers and their purchase history.
  • Detailed e-commerce reports: Keep track of your earnings, refunds, sales, and more.
  • Protect product files: Prevent unauthorized visitors from accessing digital product files without paying.
  • Discount codes: Boost sales by offering potential customers coupon or discount codes which can be applied at checkout.
  • Works with any theme: Works with WordPress multipurpose themes.
Easy Digital Downloads details:
  • Version: 2.10.1
  • Active installations: 60,000+
  • Works on WordPress version: 4.4 or higher
  • Tested up to WordPress version: 5.7
  • Works with PHP version: 5.3 or higher
  • Languages supported: 18

2. Ecwid

Ecwid Ecommerce Shopping Cart (stands for ECommerce WIDget - https://www.ecwid.com/) an e-commerce platform plugin, it integrates with an existing website, business page on a social network, a blog, marketplaces, or a mobile app. Storefronts are synced and managed from one control panel. Ecwid lets you organize your products, customize your storefront, accept credit card payments, track, and respond to orders—all with a few clicks of the mouse. Credit card and transaction information are protected through certified Level 1 PCI compliance. Utilize real-time shipping integrations, and sell on Instagram and Facebook. The Ecwid e-commerce plugin integrates with major carriers including USPS, UPS, FedEx, Canada Post, Australia Post, and others to automatically calculate shipping rates. Taxes are also automated and can be set-up in a few clicks. Automated tax rate calculations are available for the USA, the EU, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. You can set up the tax rates for other geographies manually.

Ecwid Ecommerce Shopping Cart details:
  • Version: 6.10.11
  • Active installations: 30,000+
  • Works on WordPress version: 3.7 or higher
  • Tested up to WordPress version: 5.7
  • Languages supported: 3

3. EasyCart

Shopping Cart & eCommerce Store by WP EasyCart (https://www.wpeasycart.com/) is a free WordPress e-commerce store and WordPress shopping cart plugin that installs into new or existing WordPress blogs and websites. WP EasyCart offers payment solutions that are SCA compliant (Stripe, Square, and PayPal Express), as well as GDPR compliant. Features supported include:

  • Admin Solution: Integrated administrative area allows management of products, orders, user accounts, and marketing.
  • Product Editor: Allows control over aspect of items ,including title, pictures, options and reviews.
  • Order Fulfillment: Manage all orders, including line items, options, shipping, billing, and payment details. Allows sending shipping notifications and custom order notes.
  • Customer Accounts: Allows customer account management as well as setup and management of customer information.
  • Marketing Tools: Access gift cards, coupons, promotions, and abandoned cart details all from the administrative console.
  • Taxes Management: Offers state, country, global, duty, GST, HST, PST, VAT, and third-party integrations for TaxCloud features.
  • Live Shipping: Build table rate shipping (price, weight, quantity, percentage) or live rate calculations from UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL, Canada Post, or Australia Post.
  • Accept Payments Online: Offer customers PayPal, Square, Stripe, Authorize, or more than 30 payment gateways all integrated into EasyCart. SCA-Ready (Strong Customer Authentication) provided for European users.
  • International Support: Offers multi-currency and multi-language compatibility. Extensive tax and shipping systems also allow for a strong international platform.
  • Premium Extensions: Allows expansion with popular third-party extensions such asQuickBooks for desktops, Ship Station, Stamps, Mail Chimp, and others.
Shopping Cart & eCommerce Store Details:
  • Version: 5.0.4
  • Active installations: 6,000+
  • Tested up to WordPress version: 5.7

Summary

As trade and commerce requirements move to the website, implementing e-commerce features through plugins is practical for WordPress sites. An e-commerce ready site should support a store front, cataloging, ordering, payment, shipments and marketing related features. While WooCommerce is the most popular e-commerce plugin in use, other options can be considered. We had a look at other plugins, like Easy Digital Download, Ecwid, and Easy Cart.