Your website is built out, it has a great design and content, but the eCommerce experience is broken. The transition from content to store isn’t seamless, the two experiences are different, and managing both is troublesome.
Relying solely on a collection of plugins to get a store running is tricky. How can you best connect WordPress with an eCommerce platform that will work both today and in the long term?
There’s more to the process than simply picking an eCommerce plugin and calling it a day. You’ll likely find that you have plenty of commerce options to choose from – the problem is knowing which to choose. Use the following criteria as guidelines for choosing what will best fit your business needs.
Go beyond a plugin. If you’re going to be running enterprise-level eCommerce - think eCommerce platform - not plugin. Of course, you want the eCommerce platform and your WordPress setup to work well together, but you’re going to need a complete set of functionality.
Before searching for a specific eCommerce option - create a breakdown of the feature and functionality set you’ll need. If you’re upgrading to a more robust eCommerce solution, you already know what you have, what doesn’t work well, and where you’re missing out on opportunities.
First, make sure the plugin has the specific functionality you need. Many plugins promise specific features but don’t deliver in the way you expect. For example, a commerce plugin might allow you to set up and sell downloadable products through your store, but it doesn’t provide native functionality for subscription products. Thus, you’ll need an additional integration to enable subscription sales on top of your original plugin.
Additionally, pay attention to whether or not your desired plugins can integrate with your storefront. This is a common problem for users who go with WordPress-based sites and add in commerce functions after the fact.
You can build an amazing WordPress plus eCommerce storefront, but if it’s not fast, it’s not going to work for customers. eCommerce platforms bring a new feature set but should not do so at the cost of website performance.
Make sure your eCommerce connection doesn’t slow down your page too much and detract from your customer experience overall. 47% of customers expect a webpage to load in two seconds, and 40% will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Typically, with plugin-heavy implementations, you’ll see this slowdown when they can’t integrate seamlessly with your web presence. You may also start to notice this when you add too many plugins and APIs to your commerce engine. The more pieces you need to coordinate, the longer it’ll take – so make sure each plugin performs a function that justifies its inclusion.
Be wary of eCommerce platform options that can integrate directly into existing WordPress tables. For example, adding thousands of products into any of the content tables in WordPress is not only going to create a slower eCommerce experience but will slow down any content specific queries.
Are you able to leverage the connected eCommerce platform to build the front end experience your customers want? How well does it integrate into your existing web presence?
Your goal is to enable a seamless shopping experience across all products and functions. Ideally, customers shouldn’t be able to tell which functions are native to your commerce engine and which are added by a third-party.
Research into eCommerce usability attempted to understand what customers expect from an eCommerce experience, with several trends standing out:
Include easy to find search and filter functions
Make product substitutes, alternates, or add-ons readily available
Provide lists of recently viewed items
Determine which products are compatible with purchases and suggest those as supplementary purchases
Keep these issues in mind as you coordinate your storefront presentation with your commerce platform choice.
Cost is an obvious sticking point for commerce options. Get familiar with each of your proposed plugins and their total cost of ownership. Many plugins renew on an annual basis, and some may charge additional fees for support and service. Make sure you have some idea of each plugin’s ongoing costs before integrating one into your system.
Costs can spiral significantly higher than expected if you spend too much time building out and customizing plugins or platforms that aren’t meant to do what you’re asking. In fact, your best investment will often be to select an existing platform -- one that already includes the functionality you’re looking for -- and investing time into creating the best type of connection possible.
If you’re following the guidance in factor #1 above, you should already be aware of the updates and platform investments needed for customization before beginning any implementation.
Your business relies on the security of your entire web presence, and the security of the eCommerce platform must be a top priority in your consideration. No amount of added commerce functionality is worth exposing your company to security threats through unsupported or outdated connections or services. In fact, outdated plugins are the most common attack vector for hackers targeting WordPress sites.
Clearly, companies should prioritize plugins that receive regular and ongoing support from its developer. You should also look for providers who have a documented history of managing and responding to security threats. The more information you have about each provider’s ability to secure its own assets, the better chance you’ll have of keeping your commerce storefront safe and secure.
For the sake of security, it’s better to keep commerce separate from your content management functions. The less integrated and monolithic your architecture, the easier it’ll be to protect. Of course, you’ll also want to make sure your platform meets other essential security standards, including PCI compliance for data handling and maintaining a secure hosting environment.
Related to the above, any plugin you choose should be updated regularly by the developer. Look at each plugin’s changelog and see how often it’s reviewed. Typically, more updates are better, as it’s a sign that the plugin receives regular development support for emerging issues. If it’s not receiving regular support or updates, it doesn’t bode well for the plugin’s long-term viability.
Additionally, look at what type of development support is offered by your commerce platform provider. The right partner will help you select commerce options and plugins that are trusted and effective, taking the guesswork out of the equation on your end.
Connecting WordPress with new commerce functions doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be approached with care. Keep these tips in mind throughout your project.
There are many factors influencing your WordPress eCommerce plugin decision, so companies need a methodical way of assessing and selecting each option.
In general, pay attention to each plugin’s functionality, performance, ease of use, cost, security, developer support, and community support.
The above variables will give you a good idea of what to expect from each plugin – and how likely it is that you’ll get the functions you need.
If WordPress is your preferred content management system, you have plenty of great commerce options at your disposal. And with a little planning, you’ll have no trouble setting up an online storefront. But remember, not just any plugin will do the job. Assess each of your choices with the above guidelines and take a methodical approach to building your store. And if you need help planning your WordPress eCommerce experience, or if you’d like to explore other types of platforms – such as headless commerce for WordPress – give us a call at Slatwall. We’ll assess your sales goals and guide you through the implementation every step of the way.