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How to Choose the Right WordPress Shopping Cart – Part 5 – Criteria for Choosing an Ecommerce Plugin for WordPress

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Now that we’ve discussed the types of eCommerce sites available, we’ll move on to discussing the criteria for choosing an eCommerce plugin for WordPress.

6 Areas of Criteria to Consider

I’m just going to take a look at the criteria for choosing an eCommerce plugin for WordPress. Now, there are really 6 areas of criteria to consider when you’re trying to pick the right plugin.

  • You have the definition of a product
  • You have the way in which products are displayed
  • You have the order processing ability
  • You have order fulfillment and order fulfillment management
  • You have marketing criteria and then
  • You have customer management

Those are really the main 6 areas that you need to consider in terms of what you want to do versus what your plugin can do when choosing an eCommerce plugin.

Product Definition

So we’ll start off with the product definition criteria or how you create a product and what kinds of products can you create. Of course, the first one is just the type of products that are supported.

  • Does it support digital downloads?
  • Does it support physical products?
  • Does it support intangible products?

Intangible Products

Really, they all actually support the first two product types but intangible products are a little bit more complex. Based on your site’s needs consider the following:

  • Can you sell memberships and subscriptions through them?
  • Can you take deposits or reservations through them?
  • Can you sell serial numbers or license keys through them?
  • Can you sell tickets or vouchers?
  • Can you take donations?

These intangible products are really one of the places where the plugins are differentiated.

Product Variations

While you may not think about this, actually the whole question of product variations has a very significant impact on this choice. Now by product variation, what I’m really talking about if it’s a physical product, a variation that affects what you stack.

So if we use the classic example of t-shirts and colors and sizes. In colors of t-shirts, you’ve got red, green and blue and sizes you got small, medium, large. That really constitutes 9 different potential variations, red, green, blue for small, for medium, and for large. So you have the color variation, the size is a variation and you may not have red for small, you might just have green and blue and you might not have blue for medium, you might just have red and green.

Do they Affect the Price?

So those are product variations. You have to ask yourself whether or not the product variation that is chosen can affect the price. Is a large t-shirt more expensive than a small t-shirt, for example, or can a product variation affect the inventory?

Are they Tracked in Inventory?

If you’re selling physical products and you’re not tracking inventory then that doesn’t really matter but you want to know whether or not variations can affect inventory.

Do they Affect Shipping Costs?

You also want to know if variations can affect shipping costs because it could very well be that the large t-shirt weighs more which therefore costs more to ship than a small t-shirt. So you need to know whether or not variations can affect the shipping costs.

Available for both Tangible and Intangible Products?

You may also need to know whether or not there are variations for both digital and physical. Imagine the example of a bookstore where the bookstore sells a hardcover copy, a softcover copy, a PDF copy, a kindle edition copy, an epub copy, a book on tape or audio copy. All of those are available for the same book.

Those can all be different variations and they are likely to affect shipping costs because in the first place, the PDF, epub versions, the kindle versions aren’t going to shipped at all so they won’t have any shipping cost. The audiobook version may be shipped or may be downloaded. The hardback version is likely to cost more to ship than the soft back.

This example just shows that when you’re looking at product variations you want to know whether or not those variations can affect all those aspects or not and it makes logical sense that it would but in point of fact, it can’t in some plugins. So these are things you need to consider.

We have a checklist for you to use where you can go through this hundred plus different points and determine whether the criteria is essential. Or if would it be nice or important or applicable. Then you’ll be able to compare that to this checklist that essentially follows the same pattern but says whether or not it’s supported by each of the different plugins that we’re talking about and in what way it’s supported, okay? You’ll find that under Resources on the sidebar of this page.

Today we’re talking about the underlying concept but we’re going to look at the specifics next week and then each of the weeks after that we’ll look at specific stores.

Product Attributes

In addition to things we talked about so far, we can look for product attributes. Does a plugin support product attributes like dimensions, say, 20 inches by 19 inches? Would it support attributes like resolution?

When we say attributes, what we’re talking about mostly, are things that can be used to sort through the products so a person can say, I want to look at a 20-inch monitor so they can look at the attribute of size to determine or to filter out the results.

Product Descriptions

You want to know whether or not the plugin provides you the opportunity to do a short description of a product or an excerpt. This can be used for a product catalog, it can be used as an intro to the main product page and that sort of thing.

Product Images

You want to know whether or not it supports product images. And if it does, does it support and manage multiple product images so can you have a slide show of the products? If you’ve got a product with 10 images, how does it manage those images?

Customer Input

You want to know whether or not the products can support customer input. For example, if you’re going to engrave something on a plaque or if you are going to sign the inside of a book cover, you may want the customer to be able to tell you what specifically they want when they make the purchase.

It could also be the case that you’re selling business cards or something like that and you want them to be able to upload files to you in order to do that. So you’ve got this question of whether or not products can be created that have customer input.

Free Products Supported?

You also want to know whether or not the system can manage and handle free products. You might decide that you want to give something away for free so can you create free products and can your shopping cart handle that?

Product Display – Catalog

So the second set of criteria is the product display criteria and what we’re really talking about there are really two pieces. First, how the catalog displays and then secondly, how the product page itself displays.

  • Can you display a product by categories and subcategories?
  • Can you display products by tags or by custom taxonomies?
  • Can you create it like a custom taxonomy say, manufacturer and then display all the products via that custom taxonomy?
  • Can you set up product tags and use those product tags as ways of grouping like products?

Product Display – Sorting Products

Can you sort products? If you’ve got a product catalog page and you’re looking at a hundred products, can you sort those products by price or by popularity or by recency or by customer ratings?

Can you, as I said before, narrow the results by attributes, is there some way for you to specify an attribute that allows you to drill down to look at a smaller subset of the products?

Does the catalog page have different types of display styles? Can you set them say to display in a product grid rather than in a product list or vice versa? Can you purchase directly from the catalog page? Sometimes you can add a cart directly from the catalog and not have to go all the way to the product page if you wish.

Product Display – Product Page

Then you switch over to the product page display and if you create a product does it automatically create a product page? You’ll be surprised to learn in a couple of cases, the answer to that is “No”, which maybe doesn’t matter.

Can the product page display product images or multiple images. Can a product page be set to display related products or featured products?

If you’re selling videos or if you’re selling audios, can you set it to play a digital preview of the video or the audio and can the product be set to have multi-lingual support?

And that wraps up our this part of our discussion on criteria to use when choosing an eCommerce Plugin for your WordPress website.

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