There is a general perception that WordPress is free and easy to set up, and that one can rapidly set up an online store and start trading. The truth of the matter is, there are a lot of considerations one has to think of first before setting up an online store.
In this article, we will look at some of the general considerations and the functional and technical requirements of setting up a WordPress eCommerce website and eCommerce sites in general.
We shall look at all these components in order to find some direction on how to customize a WordPress eCommerce website that will run efficiently.
Have you ever sat down and thought about how your store should look? Your general theme design may change depending on the WordPress plugin you're planning on integrating to implement your eCommerce site (we've looked at plugins in another article in this series).
It is important to consider the design of your store first before choosing any plugin. A product catalogue that has been poorly constructed can be very difficult to work with, both for the site owner and the customers. Products on the website should be well arranged and match the look and flow of the whole website. This makes it easier for customers to locate or even search for particular items.
Cost of Setup
How much are you willing to invest? Yes, one may reason that WordPress is free and even most eCommerce plugins are free, but when implementing an online shop you will realize that there are a lot of other functionalities that require you to spend some money.
Even with the free plugins, they most of the time require very vital extensions and add-ons that turn out to be essential for the plugins to be of significance to the website. The plugin add-ons, hosting, SSL certificates, support and so on are all required in order to run an eCommerce site effectively.
With many people using mobile devices to access websites, this should be a top consideration for any eCommerce site. The shopping cart should be responsive, allowing customers to purchase using any device that suites them.
There are a number of WordPress theme marketplaces that stock themes and that have eCommerce integrated in such a way that it works both on desktop and mobile devices, which makes it much easier to select a theme that is suitable for your site.
What sort of product are you planning on selling? Is it physical, digital downloads, or affiliate product links? Various WordPress eCommerce solutions are suited for diverse product types.
You should look at the type of merchandise you’re selling before choosing the platform that's suitable for your eCommerce site.
Pricing Scenarios and Shipping
Even though most WordPress eCommerce plugin developers have put a lot of consideration into possible pricing scenarios, you need to think about the various ways you will put up prices on your site.
When creating an online store, you may need to keep in mind the various properties used when deciding how to price, for example, or when grouping particular items. And if you have shipping services on your website, you need an eCommerce plugin that will be able to integrate with other services such as FedEx.
Secure Payment Gateways
Once you have figured out the various pricing and shipping configurations, the next thing that should come to mind is how customers will pay for goods bought from your site.
All WordPress eCommerce integrates one or more payment solutions. It’s up to you, the site owner, to decide on a payment platform that you think your customers will be comfortable using when they make payments.
SSL and General Protection
Secure socket layer (SSL) helps encrypt important information shared by your clients on the website, for example credit card information. Using an SSL certificate on your website promotes a general sense of security and integrity. It’s a standard that has been accepted worldwide for website security.
In case you plan on collecting credit data on your site, you need a solution that is PA-DSS (Payment Application Data Security Standard) compliant. This will permit you to collect credit card information from your clients.
There are certain times when you install a plugin on a simple WordPress website and the site seems to be a bit slow. Now think of a scenario of implementing an eCommerce WordPress site. Most of the plugins are huge, require a lot of resources, and require a lot of memory to serve up the pages quickly.
As your site grows and traffic increases, this will even get worse, so it's important you do not host your site on a shared hosting server. Simply avoid the headache by having your website either on a managed virtual private server, dedicated server, or dedicated WordPress hosting service.
Scalability is about planning for the future. It's good to evaluate what you're currently selling on your site, and try and find out what will be the case a few years down the line when your products triple in number. You should at least be assured the WordPress platform you're using will support these scenarios later when your website gets more traffic.
We have highlighted some of the general considerations of setting up an eCommerce website. Some of them are WordPress specific, and others apply to all other available eCommerce platforms.
In the next article in this series, will look at the available plugins we have in WordPress, and their specific features.