Creating a new website on a new platform is tiring, let alone expensive. If you already have a WordPress website, and you want to convert it into a store, the best course of action is to download and install a plug-in that will turn your blog into an online store.
But what are the 7 must-haves when adding e-Commerce to your WordPress site? Here, we will be talking about the seven things that you must have on your WordPress website if you are adding e-commerce into your monetization strategy. We will not be talking about dynamic content, but we will be focused on the actual plug-is that you must use.
1. E-commerce Theme
Before you can sell, you must change your WordPress theme. This can mean a lot of work, but you need to use a new theme where you can display your goods.
The good thing about WordPress is that you will not lose your content if you change your theme. The blog entries will still remain, but some of the things will get lost if the new theme does not support what you have in the old one, like reviews and user comments.
Now, not all themes are free, so you must explore the best one for you before you start this change. WordPress hosts 75 million websites, and there are thousands upon thousands of themes that you can choose.
Here are some tips on how to choose an e-commerce theme for your WordPress website:
- Ease of navigation – make sure that the theme is not cluttered. The product pages, menus, and other contents must be organized neatly, so it is easy for customers to browse.
- Loading time – the theme must load quickly so customers will not leave your website. A theme that takes forever to load is like giving money away. Use tools like PageSpeed Insights to determine if the theme you want has a long load time.
- Security – although WordPress itself is secure, you must still choose a theme that cannot be easily hacked. Although your web host may already have the required SSL Certificate, some themes add another layer of security to this.
- Mobile-Friendly – the theme must automatically load into a mobile-friendly design if a customer browses your website. This helps people stay longer on your store.
- SEO-friendly – the theme must be developed with SEO in mind. What this means is that whenever you post a new product or blog entry, there must be some sections in there where you can add meta-tags and titles and apply your SEO strategy.
Your last consideration is cost. If you are just starting out, then it is alright to get the free themes, but if you have been operating for a while, or if you want a better website, you must buy the paid themes. There are themes that cost less than $60, and this is a good investment. Paid themes have more power and features than the free ones.
Remember, the theme you choose must be able to showcase your products with prices. It must have areas where you can change the prices, add variants, and so much more.
2. Shipping Plug-In
A shipping plug-in is the software that allows you to create shipping costs according to what you want. This is important, as the customer will see how much he has to pay for shipping during the checkout page. There are so many shipping plug-ins in WordPress, and most of them were designed to work with WooCommerce.
Here are the things that a shipping plug-in should do for you:
- Allow you to program your desired shipping prices according to conditions
- Have a form where the buyer can enter his shipping address
- Must automatically change the cost of shipping depending on what the buyer did
The shipping plug-in will let you put a price for the shipping cost, and then add this cost to the total of what the customer has to pay. If you do this right, you will not lose money, especially so if you are shipping overseas.
Here are some tips when choosing a shipping plug-in:
- You must be able to create shipping zones
- The cost must be automatically calculated
- Must enable you to create shipping prices based on weight, category, item count, location, and other possible rules
- No coding must be required; dropdowns must be the only way to program the shipping costs
- Must have an option for free shipping, flat rate, or based on a percentage of the cart subtotal
If possible, you must choose a shipping plug-in that can also show a customer real-time costs of the shipment. You can do this with apps like UPS.
You may also consider adding a shipment tracker. This is a plug-in that will help you communicate with your customer the status of the shipment. It adds credibility to your business, and your customers will not bother you with questions about where their packages are.
Most shipping plug-ins today are made to work with WooCommerce. WooCommerce, on the other hand, is an e-commerce plug-in that you must install on your WordPress site before you can convert your website into a blog.
While WooCommerce is the preferred plug-in by many business persons, WordPress itself has an extension or plug-in that will convert your site into a store. It is called WPeCommerce. You will have this once you are a subscriber of the Business package of WordPress instead of a Personal account.
3. Checkout and Payment Gateway
The checkout and payment gateways are the plug-ins that will enable a customer to type his billing address, credit card number, and then pay you.
There many payment gateways that you can use for WordPress, including Stripe and PayPal. Most of the time, you still have to use WooCommerce before you can install payment gateways.
Here are the things a payment gateway must be able to do:
- Calculate the total cost of the products a customer is buying
- Add this total cost to the shipping and taxes
- Charge a customer either through a credit card or other means
- Notify you if the payment is completed
- Transfer the money to your bank account as soon as possible
Most of the payment systems you will find on WordPress are PayPal and Stripe, and these two are owned by the same company. There are other tools where you can charge crypto-currencies, like GoURL Bitcoin.
Some apps or plug-ins offer a multi-channel payment system where you can charge with AliPay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
Here are some tips to help you choose the right payment gateway for your e-commerce store:
- Must accept payments internationally
- Must support many currencies
- The fee should be acceptable
- The payment gateway must be on-site, not off-site
- Secure and cannot be hacked
When we talk about on-site payment, what this means is that your customer must not leave your website at all. The problem with some payment gateways is that when a customer clicks on the “Pay Now” button, they are taken to a different website.
This scares many people, thinking that they are being hacked. Off-site payment gateways lack credibility as compared to on-site ones.
As far as the fees are concerned, the common practice is for these payment gateways to charge at least 2.9% of the cost of the transaction, plus an extra $0.30. Some will charge as much as 6%, especially if you are taking direct credit card payments.
If possible, choose a payment gateway that will also automatically send an invoice or receipt to the customer’s email address. This helps in managing customer complaints later on. As the seller, the payment gateway must also have at least two notification systems that you have received a payment.
Lastly, the payment URL must be secure. It must have SSL, and the payment processor must guarantee that it uses at least 128-bit encryption. This is the only way you can protect yourself and your customers from hackers who are trying to steal financial information.
4. Marketing and SEO Tools
When we talk about marketing, we are not referring to advertisements. What we want from a marketing tool is to enable you to get your customer’s email address, create a pop-up, and improve your website’s ranking in search engines.
Here are some reasons why you need SEO and marketing tools:
- Spy on your competitors
- Use back-linking strategies and see if they are working on your favor
- Determine which keywords to use for your blog posts and product pages
- Track the progress of your SEO campaign or strategy
- Check if your SEO keywords are driving sales
Now, SEO and marketing maybe two big things, but there are programs out there that will make your job easy, such as the plug-in called Yoast.
Yoast is a simplified SEO program that helps you determine if you are using the right keywords and SEO approach to make your website visible. This is important if you are converting your WordPress blog into an e-commerce store. Your website needs to be visible in search engines.
If you are selling black pants, then your website must appear on Google if somebody typed “black pants” in Google search. Yoast is going to help you do that.
As far as marketing is concerned, you need to download and install plug-ins that will allow you to take customer email addresses, and then program your content to be sent to these subscribers.
One of the best tools out there is MailChimp, and this plug-in is available on WordPress. However, you can only use this if you installed the WooCommerce plug-in. MailChimp is used by 17 million customers worldwide.
Here are the features and benefits of using MailChimp for your marketing efforts:
- It is free
- You can sync the data of purchases made with your audience
- Automate your marketing campaigns like email blasts, abandoned carts, or follow-ups on purchases
- You can use it to showcase product recommendations
- Create categories for your customers based on the products they bought from you
- Access to a reporting tool
- Find new customers with Facebook or Instagram advertisements
- Use it with Google Ads so you can drive traffic to your website
- Create pop-up forms for an email subscription
- Use discount codes in your emails
- Create landing pages for new products or existing ones
Marketing and SEO plug-ins are different from each other because they serve different purposes. However, these two always go hand-in-hand. If possible, choose the free ones first and learn the tricks. Once you are confident about your techniques and strategies, you can pay for the upgraded versions and use more features.
5. Product Sourcing Tools
Perhaps you are not creating your own products. If this is the case, you need a plug-in that will allow you to source products. This is very true for dropshippers, and having a plug-in such as this will make it easier for you to source products, check the inventory, and change prices.
An effective product sourcing tool must be able to deliver the following:
- Have a list of manufacturers or suppliers that are verified
- These suppliers must be willing to ship to the consumer
- The app or plug-in must give you access to a control panel or dashboard
- It must be flexible enough to be able to work with your chosen payment gateway
- Must have a management dashboard that makes product pricing easy
If you do not use a product sourcing tool, you will end up reviewing dozens of websites. You have to copy each picture and product description to your own website. One bad thing about this approach, apart from requiring a lot of work, is that you have no idea if the price of the product has changed.
With a product sourcing tool, you can program your dashboard to change the prices automatically if the manufacturer or supplier changed the price.
Usually, you will only find product sourcing tools in other platforms like Shopify. In WordPress, there are also tools like this, but the best one is Spocket.
Spocket is a tool where there are thousands of listed and verified manufacturers and suppliers. If you use Spocket, all you have to do is to add products to your WordPress store and set your pricing and shipping conditions.
Once an order is paid, Spocket will be notified, and all you have to do is to complete the purchase form Spocket, and the manufacturer will ship the item to your buyer.
Here are the features and benefits of using Spocket:
- It is free
- Thousands of products to choose from
- You can select international suppliers or local ones only
- International selection of merchants
- Access to a dashboard and control panel that is easy to use
- No inventory needed – you only pay for what you have sold
- One-click order fulfilment
- Automatic price changes
- Dedicated support team
- Easy import tools
- Has other plans if you want better services and features
With Spocket, you can set-up your store just once, and the products will self-update. It will free up so much of your time, and you can use that time to do marketing or write blogs to add content to your store.
6. Google Analytics
A business decision must be based on data, not feelings. This is why Google analytics was made. The problem with analysis is that it is difficult to gather data, especially for online transactions.
Here are the features and benefits of Google Analytics:
- Determine your traffic per page and website
- Find out where your visitors are coming from, the browser they use, where they found your website and many more
- See what links they are clicking on your website
- Find out what your bounce rate is; these are site visitors who never return
- Know what time of the day people are visiting your website
If you know all these things, you will be able to make business decisions based on data, not hunches. The thing is that on WordPress, Google Analytics itself has no plug-in. However, there are many plug-ins that will allow you to link your website to your Google account, like the ones shown below.
If you do not want these apps, you can use Google analytics separately. The first thing you must do is to sign up for the Google analytics program through your Google Account.
Once this is done, follow the steps below:
- Get your Google Analytics tracking code – log in to Google Analytics and chose which website you want to track. This website will be there because you typed it during the sign-up process earlier.
- Go to the Property column and click Tracking info, then click Tracking code
- Copy the code
- Go to WordPress admin and go to Appearance then Editor
- Click the header.php file
- Paste the tracking code before the closing </head> tag at the bottom of the header.php file
- Click on Update File
From here on, you will be able to see a report on your Google Analytics page about your website. Then, you can draw insights and conclusions from the analysis. The remaining thing to do is to take action or correct your errors.
For example, you find out that 80% of your site visitors are clicking on Product A, but no one is buying, then you need to start a new kind of analysis to find out why. Maybe your photos are great, but your product description is not so good.
Maybe the shipping cost is too high, or perhaps the price is too high compared to your competitors. It is really up to you to find the root cause of the problem, as Google will not tell you this.
7. Social Media
The last plug-in you need is social media. This plug-in must have several social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
While there may be a different plug-in for this, choose one or two that will fulfill these two functions:
- Allow your site visitors to share your website content
- Enable you to automatically share your posts on your website to your official social media channels
These two are just basic functions. There are other things that a social media plug-in can do for you. The plug-in must allow you to display the social media icons where you want. It is annoying if the social media icons are too small, or if they are too big that they block the view of your content.
You should also look for a plug-in that allows you to program the social media icons. For example, the social media icons may show the number of page likes for your Facebook page. For Twitter, the app can get live feed from your business Twitter account, and show a snippet of your Twitter page on your website.
There are also plug-ins where you can make the social media a floating sticky. What this means is that even if the customer scrolls up or down, the social media icons will be there.
You should also be able to choose your icon style. This is important because the icon shapes must match the theme of your website. There are rounded icons, square icons, and square icons with rounded corners.
Do not forget an important factor: scheduled posts. The social media plug-in must automatically share your website posts on your social media. This will help drive traffic to your site, and also improve conversion.
These seven plug-ins are not negotiable. You must have all of them if you are turning your WordPress website into an e-commerce store. The only exception here is the dropshipping plug-in. You do not need it if you are selling digital goods.
As a summary, the seven must-haves for an e-commerce WordPress website are:
- e-Commerce Theme
- Marketing and SEO
- Checkout and Payment Gateway
- Google Analytics
- Social Media
- Product Sourcing
Take the time when searching for the right plug-in, as there are hundreds of them. The other thing you can do is to explore the ones we recommended. As you explore the different plug-ins, find out if they are compatible with the others.
It is also important to know how much each plug-in will cost you per month, and then use the total cost in your pricing, so you do not lose money.