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How to Choose the Right WordPress Shopping Cart – Part 17 – Choosing a Plugin for a Sample Project

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We are now going to consider a sample store to help you understand the process of figuring out your criteria for your eCommerce site and comparing WordPress Shopping Cart plugins.

Throughout the course of the summer, we’re actually going to build and work on a number of stores. And we’ll create a plan like this for each of them. Today, we’re going to work on creating a plan for the sample store and this sample store is essentially a books and training materials store.

Type of Store and Products

In terms of the type of store, this is going to be a large store with both digital and physical products. In terms of the types of products, we’re going to have physical products which include hardback books, softcover books, DVDs and CDs plus a couple of miscellaneous things.

For our digital products, they mostly are digital variations so that would be audiobooks and then kindle, it’s escaping me what they call the books for Apple, anyway, Apple books. Then it’ll probably include some videos and PDF files and PDF copies of the books. These are all digital downloadable variations. We don’t have any digital products that stand alone, they’re all variations of the materials that are being sold up here.

We do actually have a need for customer input. I use the example of the book signing or book signature and so we want a book inscription as an opportunity.

We are going to have fairly extensive variations and those variations are going to include ones that affect inventory, that affect shipping and variations that include digital products. This makes it a fairly specialized choice at this point and that’s pretty much it for our product definitions.

Extensive Product Catalog with Categories and Subcategories

In terms of our product catalog, we are going to want to display our catalog by categories and subcategories. And in our case, the categories are essentially the areas of instruction that the book has so we’re not making a category for digital books and a category for physical books and a category for hardcover books.

We’re making a category for books about specific topics so books about tennis, books about shooting, books about golf. So the categories are going to be based on the topic of the instruction. Some of those are going to have subcategories so you may have shooting sports and under that, we’ll have archery and clay shooting and marksmanship and stuff like that.

Sort Criteria Available and Purchase on Page

We are going to want to have the full range of product sort in the catalog so that when there’s a whole bunch of products in a given category, they can sort them by price or they can sort them by recency and criteria like that so we’re going to have a full range of product sort.

We are not however, going to use product attributes but we’ll let people Add to Cart directly from the catalog page.

In terms of the product page itself, we only need a single product image, we don’t need to manipulate more than one. We do want to display related products, we do want to display featured products and that’s pretty much it.

Order Processing, Inventory and Shipping

In terms of order processing, in this case, we’re going to be using authorize.net and we have a special requirement under that which is that we want the authorization only version of this. This means that when the purchase is made, we want an authorization for the purchase but we don’t want to charge their credit card until we double check the shipping.

Authorize.net does have the ability to have this authorization only and that’s actually one of the governing criteria of the site in this case. Other than order processing, we need some inventory controls and we want to be able to deliver digital goods from Amazon S3. I guess that’s about it in terms of order processing.

Actually, that’s going to come down here under order fulfillment. We want to deliver the goods from Amazon S3, we want detailed order fulfillment from inside the dashboard and we want automatic delivery of the electronic products.

In terms of shipping, we’re going to use the US Postal Service and it would be great if we could automatically generate packing slips, invoices and shipping labels. In terms of customer input, we want customer text input.

Marketing Criteria

Now, in terms of marketing criteria or our marketing plan, we’re not actually integrating with any of the email marketing systems. We’re not selling products from inside of emails. We are definitely doing product bundles and we’ll probably add some upsells in the shopping cart.

We will have a series of coupons and we’re going to add Facebook and Twitter integration.

Customer Management

In terms of customer management, we want them to be able to create a customer account although not have it required and we want that to save shipping information but not billing information. We do want them to be able to view prior purchases.

Complete the Requirements Checklist

So this is our plan, this is what that plan looks like. Now, we’re going to take this plan and apply it to our checklist. I’ve created a copy of the requirements checklist and duplicate tab and we’re just going to look through this.

Digital downloadable is essential, this is essential, subscription is not an issue, serial number and license keys are an issue. Donations are an issue, tickets and vouchers are an issue, we don’t really have anything else intangible so none of that stuff matters.

For product variations, we want them to affect price, we want them to affect inventory, we want them to affect shipping. We want to have digital variations and we want to combine the digital and physical. Actually, we’re not going to have digital variations because digital is always a variation of a product not stand alone.

For product organization, we definitely want it in product categories and subcategories. We don’t care about product tags although we’re going to put it under “Nice” and we might get around to custom product taxonomies so we’re going to say “Nice” to those too.

Product attributes are not really important here. In terms of the product display, we definitely want a long and a short description and we want a product image but we’re not doing multiple product images and we are doing customer input but we’re not doing free products.

Now, I’m putting these things in here as essential because I already know what plugin we’re going to be using so I already know we can put it in here as essential. In terms of our product catalog, we want a main store page and really, that is not important, we don’t care about the main store page but we do want to display products by category, by tag, potentially by custom taxonomy, we’ll just say that here potentially.

We do want to be able to display featured products, we want to be able to display sale products, popular products. We want to be able to sort by price, by popularity, by recency and I’m going to say by rating here as something that would be nice. I’m not sure what we’re doing about rating, that didn’t make its way into my plan.

We do want to display things in a grid format, we don’t really care about the list format I don’t think. Then our product page, we do want this to automatically generate a product page, we’re going to live with an automatic page layout.

Page layout easily customized without code would be nice but I know we’re not going to get it. Page layout customizable using code, that is possible. Displays the product image, that’s important to us but multiple product image display is not. Related products display would be nice, link products would be nice, digital previews doesn’t matter and at the moment, neither does multilingual support.

So when we look at order processing, the only one that matters here is authorize.net and then we do not need subscription payment support, we don’t need “Buy Now” buttons, we do want out of stock protection.

It would be nice to be able to do some free shipping but that’s not our big deal, the US Postal Service is.

In terms of taxes, we want to calculate taxes for orders. We don’t have a need for very complex tax calculation, we don’t need to mix taxable and nontaxable and we don’t need to include VAT.

Then we get down to order fulfillment and we definitely want to integrate with Amazon S3, we would like expiring downloaded links, it would be great if they were encrypted. Download limits, we’re going to include. We would like automatic delivery via email, we would like automatic direction to download page, we would like individual products to be individual files with links.

We don’t care all about pay per view, we do want the ability to easily resend the new download links to the customer but we’re not going to use a PDF security stamp.

We absolutely need detailed fulfillment management, we want both automatic and manual status codes. We want automatic emails to be sent out. We want to be able to do emails from the dashboard, we want shipping labels and order notes.

Our inventory control needs to include variations, it needs to be able to deal with bundled products and it would be nice if we can get inventory report. For our product specific customer input, text input is essential, file upload is not. You would use file uploads if you’re say selling mugs that have pictures of people on them then they need to be able to upload the file that would be the picture.

In terms of customer management, we definitely want them to be able to create an account, we would like it to be able to save the shipping info. We’d like it to be able to display all payment history, we would like it to include download links, we would like it to include a WordPress user and we don’t want them be a user before they make a purchase.

In terms of marketing, it would be nice if it’s integrated with one of these things but at the moment, we don’t have a plan for that. It would be nice if you could do it via HTML links but also that’s not part of our plan.

We definitely want to be able to sell digital bundles and physical bundles, we want to be able to do bundles that affect shipping cost and bundles that affect inventory.

We want some kind of coupon codes and automatic discounts, we definitely want to be able to insert the product image properly with Facebook. It doesn’t matter if it’s automatically included, it would be nice if the sharing buttons were automatically included but it’s not essential.

Then under automatically include reviews, I’m going to say it would be nice but we don’t actually have a plan for that at the moment and if we did do that, they would be customer only reviews and they would be moderated first. Now in this case, we’re going to be using the Thesis 2 so it needs to be compatible with Thesis 2.

So we’ve just whipped through this checklist of those things that are important to us. Now, we want to compare this checklist with plugin capabilities. We’re just going to bring it down here to those things that are essential and important.

Comparing Requirements to WordPress Shopping Cart Features

So if we look at product definition and management, we need something that supports digital downloads and so far, all three of them do that. Physical products, obviously WooCommerce and MarketPress do a better job of that.

We don’t care about the subscriptions so at this point, all three of these plugins are going to work. We don’t really have to start narrowing it down till we get down to product variations. We want product variations that affect price and affect inventory and I’m not quite sure why I failed to put shipping in because they need to affect all those things.

So we are excluding MarketPress from this at the moment because of variations. So we’re still looking at WP eStore and WooCommerce.

If we look at our product organization, we want products and categories and subcategories. We go to our product organization and product categories. But product subcategories are not supported and neither our tags or custom taxonomies in WP eStores.

Narrowing Down to One Plugin Choice

So now all of a sudden, we’re left with WooCommerce. So now what we want to do is just going to work our way down and look at all of the rest of these things to see whether or not WooCommerce continues to do them.

Let’s go down to product display and display products by category and by tag, those are essential.By custom taxonomy would be nice and then featured products, sale products, popular products, by price, popularity, recency, customer rating, those are all supported in WooCommerce. Those are either on our requirements list or our important list. We can display price in a grid format so we’ve got that catalog part down just fine.

In terms of the product page, we want to automatically create the product page which it does. I said automatic page layout but that’s not really important to us here in the store but that’s what happens in WooCommerce, you automatically get a layout for the page.

The page is not easily customized without code and that’s not an important aspect to us. The page is layout, you can layout using code then we said that would be important, so we’re still okay there.

We definitely want to display a product image and it will do that. We said we don’t care about multiple product image display but we do want related products and link products to show up and we can do both of those things with WooCommerce. We don’t care digital previews or multi lingual support.

So we step up over to processing and we want authorize.net and WooComerce does that with an extension.

We want out of stock protection and WooCommerce does that automatically. In terms of shipping calculation, we want US Postal Service primarily. I think I should’ve said free shipping up here as well, it would be nice to be able to do free shipping because probably we’ll offer free shipping in some contexts. And that is supported and the US Postal Service will be supported with an extension.

So we step up and take a look at taxes and we need to charge taxes for everybody inside the state of Texas and that works out of the box with WooCommerce.

Then we look to order fulfillment and in terms of integrating with Amazon S3, it does with an extension, it does have expiring download links. Now, it would be important I think to have encrypted download links but it does not provide them so we’re going to have to accept the fact that WooCommerce will not give us encrypted download links if we’re going to use WooCommerce.

In terms of download limits, WooCommerce does provide that. They do automatically deliver them via email. There is no automatic redirection to a download page so that’s something else that we’re going to have to keep in mind because these are two places where we’d do that. So we have to decide whether or not that’s a deal killer or not.

However, bundle products do come as individual files and links, we don’t care about pay per view, we do care about the ability to resend new download links and that says No as well and resend download links, so that’s also not included in WooCommerce. We don’t care about PDF security stamps.

Okay so in terms of physical products, we do want detailed fulfillment management. In fact, that’s a requirement, we’d like all the rest of that stuff and everything is possible especially if you’ve got a couple of extensions added to it.

So everything that we want to do is doable, inventory controls and bundled products are available, inventory reports are available and the text input field is available by default.

Then when we look at customer management, we do want to allow the creation of customer accounts, we want them to save shipping info and purchase history.

Now, this has product download links and so this is probably where the automatic redirection thing is going to work for us anyway. So it does include product download links inside of the customer page, it does create a WordPress user account. We don’t care about requiring a customer account so it doesn’t matter if that supports it.

In terms of marketing, well it’s not that important to us so it doesn’t matter in terms of AWeber and MailChimp and that kind of stuff. It does not support selling products from within emails, but we didn’t include that as being important.

We want combined physical and digital products and it does that and bundles that affect shipping cost and inventory, that does that. It’s got all the promotion codes and discounts available to it. It does require an extension to accurately take care of Facebook and Pinterest images but those extensions are available and we can get an extension to include sharing buttons and that kind of stuff.

It does automatically include all this review stuff and so if it works into our plan, that’s going to be fine. Since we’re using Thesis 2, it’s going to work with Thesis 2 as long as we’re using Serge’s extension.

The net result of this is that with a couple of exceptions, WooCommerce does meet all of our absolute requirements and meets most of our important requirements. So we’ve got this automatic link delivery via email. Automatically redirect to a download page and resend new download links as things that it does not do but what it does do instead is it replaces the download links on a customer account page so the customer can still log in to their account and get download links so that actually works.

Final Result of WordPress Shopping Cart Comparison

The result of all this process is that we’ve sorted through what’s the right plugin for the job and the answer is, the right plugin for the job is WooCommerce. That’s the process you’re going to want to go through when you are trying to decide which plugin to use.

You’re going to make your plan so that you have thought about all these things. Then once you’ve thought about them all, you just go step by step through this checklist and then once you’ve done that, you’re going to compare it to the plugins to decide which one is the right tool for the job. And at the end of that process, you’ve chosen the right plugin.

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