Now that I’ve given you a brief summary of all of the 5 WordPress Shopping Cart plugins that we’ve talked about and have been comparing here today, we’re going to move on to figuring out how to choose the right plugin for your needs.
What’s Your Plan for Your eCommerce Website?
We’re going to start talking about how to choose the right Shopping Cart plugin and when choosing the right plugin, you have to start with a plan. Well, maybe this should seem self evident but it’s been painfully clear to me that most people don’t start off with a plan.
They start off underestimating the complexity of selling products online and they dive right into one thing or another maybe because they think they don’t have time to figure it out. Maybe because they think that it’s going to be really simple but they don’t start off with a plan and you need a plan in order for you to figure out what it is you’re going to sell and how you’re going to sell it.
Plan Part 1: Choose the Type of Store
The first part of your plan needs to be what type of store are you going to have and there are essentially, by my definitions, 6 types of stores.
- You have a small store that only sells digital products
- You have a small store that only sells physical products
- You have a small store that sells both
- You have the large stores that either sell only digital or only physical products
- You have the large store that sells both digital and physical products
Each of those things has its own set of requirements and so, it’s a whole lot easier to start by making a decision what type of store you’re going to use.
Plan Part 2: Product Definition
Then you have to decide how you want to define your products or what kinds of products you’re going to sell. That includes, for example, the types of products. So are they physical products or digital products, are they downloadable products or are they intangible product
You need to decide what role variations play. So for example, if you’re selling books or you’re selling a hardback book and a paperback book, are those variations of the same product? How about an audio book, do you have a hardback, a paperback and an audio version and how does all that work together as variations?
You also need to consider questions of customer input. If you’re selling books, are you providing autographs for those books? And so are you giving the purchaser the opportunity to enter the name that they wish the book to be autographed to? If you’re selling t-shirts, do you need to collect information for a monogram or something like that?
All that stuff is wrapped up in product definitions. You need to clearly define the products that you’re going to sell because that’s going to help you identify the different characteristics or needs in a plugin.
Plan Part 3: Product Display
Next you want to figure out how you’re going to display your products. Product display usually has a couple of different aspects to it. It has the product page where you’re going to go take a look at the details of the product. Then it can also have a catalog.
If you’ve got a small store, you don’t need to worry about a product catalog but if you’ve got a large store, you do need to consider the product catalog and how you want that catalog to be organized. Do you have certain attributes you want the product catalog to be filtered by? Do you want to organize it by product category or are there other ways in which you would organize your catalog. How do you want to sort products when they’re displayed on your catalog? These are the kinds of issues that need to be thought through.
Plan Part 4: Order Processing
Then you have the question of order processing and the question of a “Buy Now” button arises. “Buy Now” essentially takes you directly to the payment page when you click on it, bypassing the shopping cart. It takes you directly to the payment page. “Buy Now” buttons can significantly reduce a cart abandonment especially if you are generally selling an individual product.
There is no shopping site on my site. If you buy a subscription to the site, when you click on that button, it takes you directly to PayPal, that’s a “Buy Now” button. Do you want that or do you want everything to go through the shopping cart?
Again, in order processing, is the plugin going to need to maintain inventory control and is it going to have to address shipping and taxes? I mean while the orders are being processed, is it going to calculate shipping and taxes?
Plan Part 5: Order Fulfillment
Then you have order fulfillment criteria or order fulfillment aspects of the plan. So if you’re selling digital products, how important is security to you? Are you going to sell subscriptions and if you are selling those subscriptions, what are they subscribing to and how does that integrated in your site?
If you’re selling physical products, do you need a detailed fulfillment management inside your dashboard? Are you going to have multiple shipping methods? What kind of shipping method do you intend to use? Are you going to collect customer input and what kinds of customer input do you want to collect? Those are all aspects of your order fulfillment plan.
Then there’s marketing. How important is it to you that the shopping cart integrate with an auto responder? Do you want customer contact information automatically added to your email list when they make a purchase? Do you want to sell products from emails or from your Facebook page? These options give customers the opportunity to make the purchase without actually going to your store and going through that store process.
How important is social networking integration to you and how do you want that integration to work? It is a critical aspect of marketing because the shopping cart plugins all address this in different ways.
Then product reviews. Are product reviews going to play a role, are you willing to use something that’s not part of the shopping cart plugin to manage that or do you want that to be an integral part of the shopping cart?
Customer Management Criteria
Finally, you need to consider customer management which is essentially, are your customers going to create accounts on your site or not? And if they create an account, what kind of information do you want them to be able to store? Those are the kinds of elements that need to go into your plan really before you start looking at the plugins criteria.