There are a number of different types of eCommerce sites. We’re going to talk about these different types of eCommerce sites because a big part of this process or perhaps the biggest part of what we’re going to be doing next week is evaluating our online store needs. That is to say, what are the needs of our store and then we’ll be comparing those needs to the capabilities of the Shopping Cart plugins.
You need to understand the different possibilities in eCommerce stores in order for you to be able to determine which one is right for what you are selling and where you are selling.
Classified by What They Sell
First off, we’re going to talk about eCommerce sites based on what they sell because you can classify eCommerce sites that way. Some eCommerce sites only sell digital downloads and some only sell physical products.
While others sell intangible products which would include things like memberships and subscriptions or deposits and reservations for events or for booking rooms. Some of them sell tickets or vouchers that can be redeemed in specific places.
Some of them may sell serial numbers or license keys for software so you’d have plugins that you might sell that require a license key in order for them to be able to start up or to work. In this case you need to be able to sell individual license keys that goes along with that. Some may just take donations but overall different types of intangible products.
All of this information really informs the type of shopping cart you’d choose for your WordPress site.
Classified by Size and Organization
eCommerce sites can also be classified by their size and their organization. The size and organization are two sides of the same coin. By size I really mean the number of products that it sells and how it displays those products.
Simple Sites – No Product Catalog
For example, you can have simple sites with very few products and really no product catalog. You can think about this as a site that has maybe 1 to 10 products. It’s not going to use product categories, you’re not going to browse products by going to a catalog page, you’re not going to sort products or search for products because there’s just a handful of products.
You can see its product listed on a page and so you don’t really need a system for organizing the display of the products and typically, you’re not going to use the plugin to display the product. You may just use the plugin only to process the transaction and my site’s a good example of that, right? So in a non logged in state, if you click “Join Us”, here’s how you can buy in, you just click one of these “Join Us” buttons.
Well, this page is not managed by WP eStore which is the shopping cart that I use for this. This page is just a page and WP eStore is only used to process the transaction. So you don’t end up with the transaction when you hit the “Join Us” button. Otherwise, there’s no product catalog and WP eStore is not displaying anything. WP eStore is responding to the link in this “Join Us” button and that’s it. So, that is a potential simple site with few products and no product catalog.
Larger Sites – Integrates Product Catalog
The next type of site, of course, is the larger site. A larger site may have many products and probably does integrate a product catalog. You might think of this as a site with roughly anywhere from 11 to a hundred products and where the site will use product categories and product tags to organize them
A page may have a listing of product categories and if you click on that list, you get to all the products in that category that kind of thing and it probably uses product categories and tags. It also creates catalog pages based on those categories. So if you click on the category of books, it brings up a catalog page showing all the books in that category, that kind of thing.
And it may include some kind of sorting of products so the products you display on the page, might be sorted by price, or by how recent the product is, or by product review or by popularity. There may be just different filters for sorting your view of the product catalog and may include product level searches such as searching for specific products based on certain criteria. That is a larger site that integrates of product catalog.
Complex Sites – Multifaceted Product Catalog
Then finally you have the complex sites. A complex site usually is going to have more than a hundred products and it has a multifaceted product catalog. It uses categories but it probably has subcategories as well so you might have a category of books and then you have a subcategory of ebooks and a subcategory of kindle books or a subcategory of printed books.
Another way to look at it using the book example is that you might have a category of fiction, a category of non-fiction, a category of special interest or something like that. But each of those ends up having subcategories below them and then those subcategories are really where you display the products.
This is essentially a department page which would be similar to say, a big clothing store where you have men’s department, women’s department, children’s department and then say, men’s casual wear. And there would also be a department page but then when you click on that then you’ll have casual pumps and slacks. And so you don’t get down to the products on our catalog page until you’ve worked your way through the department pages and that’s typically how categories and subcategories get used in these larger stores.
The same thing is true with the possibility of creating custom taxonomies. Maybe you want to show all the products of the manufacturer or something like that. So you have your own custom taxonomies that you’re using for organizing products as well.
It typically will involve some kind of sorting of catalog pages similar to the sites before but it also may include the ability to drill down by attribute. For example, you may want to look at all computer monitors that are 20 inches wide. So you’d have a category called “Computer Monitors” but you’ve got an attribute of size and so you can filter the results by showing only a specific attribute of a product. That’s an attribute of a large and multifaceted complex site and we’re going to talk about doing that as well.
Matching an eCommerce Plugin’s Capability with Store Needs
The whole reason for understanding that each of these different styles of sites exist is because what you’ll need to do is to match the plugin’s capabilities with the store’s needs. So you need to match the plugin’s ability to sell certain type of products and the tools that it gives for displaying those products. That’s going to end up being the major part of the criteria that you’re going to use for choosing this.
No “One Size Fits All” eCommerce Plugin
Now, this may come as a surprise to you that there’s not a one size fits all solution but that is absolutely the case, there is no one size fits all solution for eCommerce. WooCommerce is not going to be the best application for all stores. WP eStore is not going to be the best for all stores.
I talk about all these different solutions because some solutions are better at one thing than another. If you are a web developer or web designer and you have clients that you work with, you’re not going to be able to take care of them properly and only have one store that you offer them because this is not a one size fits all business.
If you try to do something that should be done with WooCommerce using WP eStore, you’re doing your client this service. So it will be critically important, necessary for you to be able to evaluate your specific store’s needs and compare that with specific plugin’s capabilities to make a decision about which plugin you’re going to use in which condition.