A friend was recently in touch about migrating an online store from Wix to WordPress. I shared some pointers with her which I later realized might be helpful for others as well. Are you looking to move or setup an online store? Maybe you have physical products to sell or maybe you want to collect membership fees or donations? Maybe you want to sell digital goods?
You’re in the right place! I’ll share a few things I’ve learned that will get you started in the right direction.
I’m assuming you’re looking for ongoing or even recurring sales. For one-off sales or if you really don’t want to fuss with any of this, simply use existing online marketplaces.
Haven’t scared you away? Okay, read on.
Finding the Right Platform
Firstly, determine the complexity of what you want to sell. Are you selling physical products, digital goods, access to content? What else do you want to do on the site? For example, if you want a site that allows you to sell simple physical products, in one currency and in one language, without anything else on the site (no galleries, etc), then I recommend Shopify. I’ve built and manage sites in Shopify and one of its strengths is that it just works. You can be setup and start selling with a (very) basic site in an afternoon.
Of course, most of my clients would like the site to do something more – like have galleries, blog posts, or a beautiful design. Shopify can handle the above but because it’s focused on selling, the core service may not be the best option when you need additional functionality.
If you’re looking for a beautiful site with more functionality and you are selling a few simple products, then I recommend a website builder like SquareSpace or Wix. These offer a user-friendly interface for building your site, including the non-ecommerce parts of the site.
Where does WordPress fit here? You know I was going there!
In 2018, I was approached by My Le and Rock of 1925Workbench. They had built a lovely site in SquareSpace and they wanted to add e-commerce. The challenge was that they offer highly customizable barn door hardware. They wanted to allow customers to select all the various options (finishes, dimensions, etc), the price to be dynamically calculated, and then the payment made online. We explored how to do this in SquareSpace but it wasn’t possible. We built a separate store website using WordPress for them with all this functionality. WordPress gave us this flexibility.
Similarly, we setup donation functionality for Women’s Brain Health Initiative (WBHI) using WordPress. This allowed WBHI to collect recurring donations, send charitable receipts, send email postcards, and more. When WBHI moved their main site to SquareSpace, we retained a separate WordPress site for the donation functionality since that couldn’t be duplicated in SquareSpace.
For Dance Ontario, we needed to build a very complex website including membership fees and donations but also considerable other functionality like an interactive searchable member directory, user-submitted listings and events. We needed WordPress’ flexibility to deliver all of this functionality including the e-commerce elements of member subscriptions.
I test early and often when developing a new website. That’s particularly important when building new functionality or complex functionality. E-commerce falls into that ‘complex’ category because there are many moving parts including third-party integrations with payment providers.
When building a new site with e-commerce functionality, I test as much as possible so that I can determine if the solution is viable, before I overcommit to it. No point in building a beautiful design in Wix and then discovering that the platform can’t handle some essential step.
If you’re building your own website, then I recommend that you start a free trial and then test, test, test. Make sure it can deliver everything you need.
For example, be sure to test:
- adding and editing products
- payment processing
- customer account setup and access
- coupons and discounts
- currency conversions
- tax calculations
I’m not trying to scare you but just trying to point out some of the things to test early on.
As I’ve said before, nail down your content and then you can determine how to visually present that. With certain platforms your design choices may be constrained so keep that in mind too when choosing what platform to use for your site. If you have a very particular look in mind, then test that when first evaluating the platform.
With Content Management Systems you can frequently do several things in parallel such as adding products, adding pages, and adding other content.
Once you’ve built the site then it’s time for…that’s right…more testing!
Hopefully, this gives you some insight into what’s needed and what’s possible when building your own e-commerce site. There are more and better options than ever before. And there are some great tools.
And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have – just get in touch!
Photo credit: wayhomestudio on FreePik