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Part 1 – Choosing the Right Shopping Cart Plugin

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Well, good morning everybody and welcome to this first lesson in our How to create an online store with WooCommerce series. Now, I would like to introduce you to Laura Crisci. Laura has been long suffering waiting for me to get to the point where I was ready to teach this course.

I think it was maybe ten months ago or something like that. She sent me an email saying, “I want to redo my site and I want to make it better” and “Is there something on my site that could help me do that?” And I said, “Oh my gosh! This is exactly what I want to teach, let’s figure out a time to teach it”, and here we are months later now with all the changes in Thesis 2. Finally, getting to a place where we can do that. Are you patiently waiting, Laura?

Laura: I am incredibly patient, but I know it’s worth waiting for as well and perfect timing because these things fell into place and you know, Thesis 2 came out. If we did it sooner, it would have been obsolete already.

The Real Life eCommerce Site We’re Building

Rick: So, tell us about yourself and what your site is going to do.

Laura: Okay, well, I’m the prodigal daughter of Asbury Park. A musician from Asbury, New Jersey and I’ve been playing for a long time. I stopped playing for a while, and actually, I did some graphic and web design and then came back to Asbury Park and started playing again and everything just fell into place when I came home, so I’m back in the music biz.

So now, the beautiful thing about this is that, now there’s all these options where you could have digital products and you can do videos… so there’s a lot of technology. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted and now I have the time to do it but I didn’t know what and how to do it. I’ve been studying a lot of social marketing and realize what I want to do but in order to put it together there’s always a missing piece which you have a solution for which is fabulous. So now I’m ready.

Rick: Excellent. How did you start making the soaps and lip balms and stuff like that?

Laura: Oh, well that, I met a gypsy, like you do. And he made soaps and lip balms. He’s a renaissance performer and we were doing some duet kind of things as well and he made it and I kept borrowing it, or actually, having him give me some to give to my friends for holidays and Christmas.

And I said, I got tired of borrowing it and asking for it so I said, “just teach me how to make it” and I’ll stop bothering you. And he taught me how to make it, I just fell in love with it. Then I have this room full of soap and wanted to make more, so then I said well, I better sell it. And it worked out great for the shows, especially. Asbury Park is the sound of Asbury Park, soap, so it worked out well.

With that, I just fell in love with the process so I’d sell it at the shows but not available for downloads, people would have to come to the show. But it got so popular that people wanted to buy it and I travel around a lot to other countries, so I had to actually turn it into a business.

Rick: Excellent.

Laura: Yeah, it’s fun. I love it.

Rick: Okay. Well, we’re just going to dive right in and I encourage you to ask questions as we go through this if there’s something that comes up that you’re interested in the answer to. Today we’re really going to be very generic because I want to just make it as simple as possible for the first step. Next week we’re going to take products and actually create them on your site.

Laura: Okay. Excellent.

Where You Should Begin – Choosing a Shopping Cart

Rick: Now what we’re going to do is talk very briefly about choosing the right shopping cart. This class pretty much presupposes that you have already watched and gone through this seminar on “How to choose the right WordPress shopping cart” because, there’s no “one size fits all” shopping cart or system available to us.

There are different choices that are available to you and have their different sets of criteria for making those choices. So I encourage you to watch this and go through the process of making sure that the shopping cart that you’re using or choosing is the right one.

The Store Plan

We’re going to follow the checklist for this and for the store plan that we talked about in here to make sure that WooCommerce is actually the right tool for this job. And really, this whole thing starts with what our store plan is. Now there’s a sample store plan in the seminar, but this is a store plan for this medium-size store that sells both physical and digital products.

Physical, Digital and Virtual Products

Now this whole set of criteria starts off with your product definitions. And we really only have one kind of digital product at the moment and that’s the mp3 download. We have the potential for couple of different virtual products, so they’re not physical products or downloads. For example, concert tickets and membership.

One of the things that will be added to the site in the fall is membership component to the site where her fans can join her site and that sort of thing. And there will be some premium level of membership that will provide them some extra stuff. So the store is going to have to be able to manage that aspect as well. Then we have the physical products, that is the soap, the lip balm and then the physical CDs of the concerts.

Product Variations

At the moment this product is not going to require us to take any customer input, but we are definitely going to have variations. At the very least, we’re going to have the variation in format so that people can either buy the physical CD or buy the full collection of mp3 downloads. So there will be that product variation, at the minimum.

Bundled Products

Then also, in terms of bundles, we’re going to have the opportunity and probably the interest in having any number potential combinations of physical and digital product bundles. So, buying an entire CD is one kind of bundle, where you’d buy all of the songs at a single price. You get 14 different download links because they’re actually individual files and that’s a product bundle. We may even do that with some of the physical products so we want the ability to bundle products as a critical aspect of this.

Product Display

Now, in terms of our product display, we’re going to have a product catalog. And that catalog will have a page that displays all of the products and then we’ll have the ability to display products by category. Unlike previous versions of this class, we will not be having department pages. Back in WP eStore we created different department pages but this store is not going to have that.

We have a main shop page and then we’ll have product category pages. The product page is going to be a standard WordPress custom post type. For beginners, that doesn’t mean anything to you. The fact that it’s going to be that is entirely transparent but that is what will happen. We’ll have actual product pages that will be created by the plugin.

Order Processing and Delivering

We will be using PayPal for our order processing and in terms of order fulfillment, we are going to deliver the goods from Amazon S3. We want that deliver to be automatic. We want the delivery to be encrypted, that is so the links can’t be shared.

We want the delivery to be expiring download links so that if they get the download link, they have a certain set amount of time which they will use it before that link is no longer valid. We also would like to deliver that both on a completion page, a thank you page or a download your product page and then download links and email.


In terms of marketing, we are going to want to combine this with a sign up to MailChimp and so we will have a mailchimp option aspect of this configuration. At the moment, customer management is not particularly high on our priority list but, as the store develops, we’ll talk more about that.

Store Plan Checklist

So this is sort of the end of the big general description of what our store plan is. We’re going to take this general description and we’re going to talk about it in the context of our checklist. If you go to the lesson page, you’ll see the lesson resources and the lesson 1 page under lesson 1 resources and there are a couple of links to this checklist.

Links to the Checklist

There is a link and you can view this cheklist just online on a live page or you can download this spreadsheet. Either way, you have access to this yourself. I’m actually going to do this in my excel spreadsheet.

Compare our Needs to Available Features

In any case, as we walk through the checklist it’s essential that we can sell digital products and physical products. We don’t need license keys, we don’t need donations. Well, I guess tickets and vouchers, there’s a potential that will be useful. We definitely want intangible products.

In terms of product variations, we want variations that affect the price. We want them to affect inventory. We want them to affect shipping cost. We want to have digital variations and we want them to be able to combine digital and physical products.

In terms of our organization of our site, we definitely want to use product categories. We actually want to use a subcategory for some of our products, oh we want that. Product tags are okay but at the moment, they’re not really critical. And we don’t really need custom product taxonomies.

We don’t really care about the product attributes in this condition. We do want a nice long description and a short description. We want to be able to display product images. In our case, well, I think multiple product images would be useful for the CD because we can display the front and back cover. We don’t need to get buyer input and we are ultimately going to be needing a free product so include that as well.

Now, in terms of the product catalog, we do want a main integrated store page. We want to display products by category. We don’t care about the tag or the custom taxonomy. We may want to do featured product so we’re going to say that. We may want to display sale products and popular products.

We may want to sort by price, by popularity, by recency and by customer rating. We probably don’t need to limit by attribute and at the moment, I think we just want to display our wares in grid format although the ability to switch to list might be useful.

We definitely want to create product page; it would be great to have a nice automatic page layout. We’re not going to be too worried about the page being easily customized without code and nor are we worried about it using code.

We do want to make sure it displays the product image, we want to be able to display multiple product images. It will be nice to have related products and link products. We’re not going to have digital previews and we don’t really need multilingual support.

In terms of payment gateways, we’re using paypal standard so none of the rest of this stuff really matters, although probably some sort of subscription payment support is going to be necessary. We are deliberately not using buy now so it doesn’t really matter.

Some out of stock protection might be nice. We do want to be able to calculate shipping; it will be nice to have some free shipping but what we really want to do is US postal service shipping. Then we do need to collect taxes for New Jersey, although it’s not particularly complex. We don’t need to include VAT in the price and we don’t need to have mix taxable and non-taxable income.

In terms of order fulfillment, we do want to fulfill Amazon S3; we want our links to be expiring and we want them to be encrypted. We want them to be download limits. We would like to have email delivery and we would like to have automatic redirection to a download page.

We want bundled products to be individual files with individual links. At the moment, pay per view will be nice. We don’t have a pay per view set up yet but it would be nice. We do want to be able to send download links, we don’t care about pdf security.

We do want detailed product fulfillment management for physical products and being able to keep track of shipping and that kind of stuff will be useful to us. Some automatic status codes probably doesn’t matter, but we definitely need automatic emails. It would be great to have in-dashboard email follow ups. It would probably good to have shipping label handling and order notes as well.

In terms of inventory control, we would like to be able to control inventory even with variations and bundles. It would be nice to be able to generate an inventory report. We don’t really care about either file uploads or customer input.

In terms of customer management, we want them to be able to create an account and we want them to be able to save their shipping information. We want them to be able to find their purchase history and download links. We do want them to create a WordPress user because we’re going to integrate that later into membership thing but we don’t need to require them to have an account, so turn that off.

In terms of marketing, we want to be able to integrate with MailChimp. It would be nice if we could sell products with html links. It’s essential that we are able to bundle physical and digital products and have those kinds of bundles. Coupon codes would be nice and some automatic discounts might be nice.

We definitely want to have the right kind of product integration with social networking and it would be good to be able to add sharing buttons into product pages. At the moment, I don’t have an opinion about the review situation, I forgot to talk to Laura about that so we’ll just decide about that a little but later.

It does need to be compatible with Thesis 1.8 or Thesis 2.1 and Genesis, Agency and Clip Cart. And that’s our checklist.

WooCommerce Features and Our Requirements

To compare plugins to see how that meets our checklist, we’d come over here and we’re looking at WooCommerce, right? So, digital download works, physical works, we can do the subscription with an extension. We don’t care about the license keys, there is an extension for tickets and vouchers and the whole intangible thing works just fine.

WooCommerce does have the whole complement of product variations both for physical and digital products. It has exactly the product organization system that we want including descriptions and multiple product images and that kind of thing. It does support free products.

It also has the product catalog setup the way we want it so anything that we might have wanted in here is available to us in WooCommerce. The same thing is true with our layout pages or our product pages with the exception of the customization. Now, we said that it wasn’t really necessary to have extensive customization of the pages at the moment without code or with using code. Actually, if you’re using code, you could customize it just fine but neither of those things are particularly important at the moment.

In terms of our product image and multiple products display, link products and related products, it’s got everything. In terms of our order payment processing, it does have paypal standard and it doesn’t require us to purchase it which is nice.

It does have out of stock protection and it does have the shipping calculations with the US postal service shipping so that’s going to work fine. It does handle any kind of tax situation that we want.

It will integrate with Amazon S3. It does not have an automatic redirection to the download page so this is the first place at which it doesn’t actually meet our desired criteria but that’s not an absolute requirement so I think it’s going to be okay. It doesn’t currently have pay per view.

It doesn’t have a system for re-sending new download links which is also something that would have been nice and this may end up something that we have to find a work around for. In terms of selling physical products, the whole physical product management thing is all there. It has the most extensive product management system of anybody so that’s the system that we want there.

It has the whole range of interests that we have in terms of customer management. It does have an extension available to us for MailChimp so that’s going to work just fine. It does not allow us to sell a product from within an html link but I think I may have learned how to get around that. I’ll share that as we look at how to add the email component to this.

It does the whole bundle thing. It does the coupon code just fine. It does do the social networking interaction thing just fine, although there is an extension that helps improve that. We can automatically include the sharing buttons in our product pages with various extensions.

It’s not compatible with Thesis 1.8.5 which doesn’t really matter but it is compatible with Thesis 2.1 and both Agency and ClipCart have built in eCommerce templates to go with it so obviously, WooCommerce is a very good choice in this situation.

Now, I suppose, one reason that you might not want to choose WooCommerce is because, with the new pricing structure, it’s probably the singly most expensive shopping cart system to use even though WooCommerce itself is free. By the time we’re done buying the add-ons that we want to use with this, it’s going to end up costing something like $200 for the various add-ons with support for those add-ons for a year.

Once upon a time somebody said they wanted me to teach WooCommerce because WooCommerce was free, free, free. Well, WooCommerce itself is free but for many situations, including ours, WooCommerce requires us to make some purchases and those purchases are really necessary in order for us to make this work. So you might choose to use a less expensive alternative and not have some of the bells and whistles that WooCommerce have but we’re not making that choice.

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