Throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic so far, we have seen a continuous rise in the number of customers opting to shop online. Since the UK government re-tightened social distancing restrictions mid-September, it is only natural that retail businesses of all sizes across the UK are starting to worry about in-store sales for Q4, especially over the Christmas period.
With footfall having the potential to be significantly reduced, now is the time to ensure you are making the most of the thousands of people opting to shop online this festive period. If you do not yet have a solid, optimised and reliable eCommerce system in place now is the time to get ahead of competitors by striving towards that.
In this article, we share our tips on the ways in which you can make your WordPress website eCommerce friendly ahead of the festive period.
How to Make a WordPress Website E-commerce using a Plugin
If you already have a WordPress website, then you can easily integrate eCommerce with your site by adding plugins.
A plugin is commonly referred to as a piece of software providing a group of functions that can be added to a website.
Such plugins are able to extend functionality, implement redirect maps for you, help to maximise optimisation opportunities and much more.
WooCommerce for WordPress
The most reliable option when using a plugin to make your WordPress website eCommerce is often considered to be WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is incredibly versatile, very simple to add products to and has all the parameters you should need when setting up an eCommerce store such as various payment options and shipping information.
You can also add virtual products without shipping costs, applied and downloadable products such as digital music, PDFs and photos. Adding additional variables, such as colours or sizes of a certain product is also possible with this WordPress eCommerce plugin.
All stock is managed from the back end as well as your customer’s order information, making it easier than ever to keep track of where you stand.
Whilst the plugin is free, payments come into play should you wish to add a higher level of functionality i.e. the WooCommerce side cart allows users to access the cart anywhere on the site by a handy icon in the bottom corner.
The number of extensions you can add to WooCommerce is vast and using these can really customise your shop to your exact vision and requirements. For example, if you are a photographer wanting to add a shop to your website then you can add extra plugins that will allow users to access products via a password, downloadable digital photos and allow users to zoom in on each photo.
Pros of using WooCommerce to make a WordPress Website E-commerce
- There are many extensions to choose from if the out of the box WooCommerce plugin doesn’t exactly match your needs.
- Inventory tracking, abandoned cart saver, physical and digital products, promotion and discount creation, all of which are included or can be added with additional extensions or plugins
- Wide range of payment systems available to shoppers including Stripe, PayPal & Square
- Free to use, unless you buy additional extensions or plugins to work alongside which may require a fee.
- Great for SEO – there is even a Yoast WooCommerce SEO plugin available to maximise search visibility for your newly created eCommerce store
Cons of using WooCommerce to make a WordPress Website E-commerce
- The plugin can be a little more difficult to set up as a beginner who doesn’t know a great deal about plugins. However, there is great documentation and online support available, or you could always hire a WordPress professional to handle the initial set up.
- WooCommerce is not a standalone product so you will need a WordPress site as well as the plugin.
“WooCommerce is perfect if you want a cost-effective long-term solution with all the customisation requirements you could need”
Ecwid Ecommerce Plugin for WordPress
Unlike WooCommerce which is built specifically with WordPress in mind, Ecwid allows businesses to sell their products on any website or platform, including WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Facebook, Instagram and more.
You can add Ecwid to WordPress by using the Ecwid Shopping Cart plugin and same goes for Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. The Ecwid support pages give detailed information on how to set it up on all the different platforms.
Ecwid is free for up to 10 products, any more and you’ll need to pay a monthly fee.
Ecwid is built for integrating with your existing website – you don’t have to create anything new or worry about hosting. Simply add Ecwid to your WordPress website and you’ll be running an eCommerce site in no time!
Pros of using Ecwid to make a WordPress Website E-commerce
- It can be used on any type of website so if you don’t have a WordPress site then this is a great alternative to the previously mentioned WooCommerce
- Ecwid’s interface is extremely beginner-friendly
- Perfect for small businesses who want to add a simple online store without the need for a complex eCommerce system
- Integrates with the current website theme, so it will look identical to your current site – no need to stress about picking a new theme
- Fast set up and little to no downtime
- Inventory tracking, abandoned cart saver, physical and digital products, promotion and discount creation are all available
- Available payment options include PayPal, Stripe & WePay
- Doesn’t charge transaction fees when you make a sale
Cons of using Ecwid to make a WordPress Website E-commerce
- Limited in comparison to WooCommerce and fewer customisation options available
- Perhaps not the most efficient option for larger shops – best for small scale businesses
- If additional functionality is required, the plan must be upgraded to a paid version
- Fewer features in comparison to WooCommerce and Shopify
“Choose Ecwid if you have a website built with Wix/Joomla/Drupal and/or wish to sell on Facebook and Instagram”
Alternative options to make your WordPress website Ecommerce
Should you wish to move your WordPress website to a dedicated eCommerce CMS or are looking to build an eCommerce website from scratch, then you may well be interested in opting for an alternative Content Management System that has been built with eCommerce functionality in mind.
Alternatively, you could look at combining WordPress with another CMS as discussed below.
Shopify is an eCommerce platform that will allow you to set up your own shop and add your own products without the requirement for additional plugins or extensions.
If you already have an existing website and are wanting to add a shop, there are two ways you can set up an eCommerce shop with Shopify:
- You can create a subdomain on your existing website which can point to your Shopify shop domain. Therefore giving you a professional-looking domain i.e. shop.example.com. The advantages of this are that the domain is the same as your current website, so users won’t feel like they are being taken to an unsafe website or that it is completely unrelated to your own. Shopify provides some great documentation on this here.
- If you don’t want to fuss about domains, the alternative is to add a buy button to your existing site. This is a good option if you have a site with WordPress, Wix or Squarespace.
- Create your products with Shopify
- Create the buy button in the Shopify dashboard
- Copy the HTML code which you will put on your existing website and this will display the product and a button to buy the product
- The payment will go through Shopify
You can also add the button to blog posts, so if you are writing about a specific product, just add the code to the end of the blog post and users will be able to purchase that product. You can add the code anywhere whether it be landing pages, your dedicated 404 page or in a sidebar.
All orders are tracked from the Shopify dashboard, so it provides a great central place to manage your orders and sales.
Pros of using Shopify to make a WordPress Website E-commerce
- Shopify is fast and easy to use making it suitable for beginners
- Hundreds of themes available to choose from
- Stock management, numerous payment and shipping options
- Supports digital and physical products
- Hosting included as well as all the updates, SSL, maintenance and domain if needed
- Great support available to eCommerce store operators
Cons of using Shopify to make a WordPress Website E-commerce
- Transaction cost for every product sold and monthly payment which can get costly in the long run
- Subscription-based with a monthly fee
- Not as customisable as WordPress + WooCommerce
- No control over the hosting unlike with WordPress
“Select Shopify for your eCommerce store if you want an easy, beginner-friendly set up with lots of customisation options or want to feature products on existing web pages/blog posts”
Prestashop is an eCommerce platform with a wide range of themes available and supports all major payment gateways.
Unlike Shopify, it doesn’t require you to use a specific web server and is fully customisable. However, because it is not a hosted solution like Shopify it will require you to set up your own hosting and ensure it is secure for online transactions.
If you decide to opt for Prestashop, you will either need to install Prestashop manually by creating a database and uploading the files through FTP, or you can install it with a one-click install with Softaculous.
Similarly to Shopify, Prestashop can be set up as a subdomain on your current domain if required e.g. www.shop.example.com.
It is user friendly although requires a little more technical knowledge than Shopify to set up.
People do, however, love the fact that Prestashop is free to set up, so you don’t have to bother with any monthly costs.
You can see all your orders in the back end and manage your products, it’s easy to add new products and modules all from one place.
Pros of using Pretashop to make a WordPress Website E-commerce
- Sell digital and physical products
- Stock management
- Free so a cheaper alternative to Shopify
- Very customisable
- SEO built-in
- Lots of themes and functionalities you can add to make your shop suit your needs
- Lots of payment gateways such as PayPal, Amazon Pay
- Directly link to Google Analytics
Cons Pros of using Pretashop to make a WordPress Website E-commerce
- Best for small-medium websites not ideal for large sites
- Requires a little more technical knowledge to get the platform set up
“Opt for Pretashop if you have a small/medium business but want your own hosting and want to keep costs down”
How to make flat sites (HTML/PHP) eCommerce stores
If you do not have a CMS system, don’t worry, you can still add a shop to your HTML or PHP site.
One method is to create a shop with an eCommerce system such as Shopify and then use a subdomain or your own custom domain for that website.
You can also install WordPress on your website on a subdomain i.e. shop.example.com and run an eCommerce plugin on that shop domain.
These are slightly harder to implement yourself so we recommend seeking help from a knowledgeable developer.
We hope this article has given you a base understanding of some of the options available to you should you wish to make your WordPress website eCommerce.
If you require further support or would like to have your WordPress website turned into a functioning eCommerce website ahead of the 2020 festive season, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team who will be more than happy to advise you of your options.