Is a WooCommerce store for you?
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While the SAAS (Software As A Service) platforms continue to encroach on the hosted eCommerce platforms, there are quite a few situations one would consider having a hosted online store, vs. a Cloud-based store. Not every platform plays by the same rules, and some are more suitable than others in regards to product categories, customizing the experience, and having full freedom to have a new business model.
WordPress and hosting
In today's hosting world, "spinning up" a server with WordPress including WooCommerce is as easy as a click of a button using cloud servers. So not totally out of the cloud network, however, without restrictions. The ease of use in being able to get started is in today's world way easier than the old Unix days of doing these installations by hand, with the configurations to be done manually. This makes the user experience in getting to an admin panel in 10mins is amazing.
Selecting your WooCommerce theme
Some images that are spun-up come with a pre-installed WooCommerce theme (ex. Storefront) which is an easy theme to work with. There are many WooCommerce themes available, some free, some fall in the Premium category (Paid themes). Most themes are of high quality and have been coded with the same rigor as any WordPress theme. The SEO features for selling products are included, with visual design elements that allow the user experience to flow from selecting a product to checking out. When it comes to creating an eCommerce website, the website builder tools are well built-in.
When unpacking your information architecture into the CMS of the WooCommerce Theme, filling out the product pages, and performing usability testing you will find the maturity of WordPress and WooCommerce when it comes to the system stability and the user interface design to filling out your store is relatively easy to figure out and fill in. Some user research on how-to's can be found through Google search results. If you need additional help in building up your store, there is a very large WordPress and WooCommerce community to ask questions. However, when adding additional capability, it is a plugin installation away.
Social Media Integration
An eCommerce website is not complete with its Social Media associated pages and accounts. Integrations with these platforms are considered a must-have when it comes to showing customer photos from Instagram to show how products are in use as visual testimonials. If you are managing a group on Facebook in assisting customers to get the information they need to operate and enjoy their products, getting FaceBook reviews can complement the other reviews you might be receiving through TrustPilot or Yelp. Using Social Media to show product acceptance is persuasive and helps your conversion rate.
One might want to know if there is a foreign transaction fee? Or is the English United States only supported? WordPress is a global platform, and so is WooCommerce, and it may take a Plugin or two for it to use Google Translate if you are starting from English US. WordPress Weglot (https://wordpress.org/plugins/weglot/) for example can get you to be multilingual in no time.
There is no shortage of payment gateways for WooCommerce - Stipe and all kinds catering to all currencies are available. Don't forget, unlike the SAAS variants, you will need to be PCI compliant by your own action to ensure your website is secure. This and maintenance of updates are some of the drawbacks of hosting your own eCommerce store. Sure, your business credit score will need to be handy when applying to a payment gateway, much like any online business. To find out what gateways that are available to transact your customer's credit cards or make other payments, see here: https://woocommerce.com/product-category/woocommerce-extensions/payment-gateways/
Tools are presented through Plugins, and there are many of them available. The aim is to have some additional features without adding too much complexity to the site. You might opt for a countdown timer when doing your sales events for example. You might want to increase the loyalty of your customers through reward points and reward cards. Whatever your incentive schemes might be, there will be a Plugin available.
WordPress Plugins are available here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/
Plugins for WooCommerce can be found here: https://woocommerce.com/products/
Search Engine Optimization - SEO
A must-have is to have On-site SEO features so that you can attribute and describe your products, your images and structure your content such that the right keywords are highlighted for Google bots to pick them up and associate your site's keywords with its Search Engine. In doing so, you enhance the searchability and also refine your audience from being generic and random to a re-enforced set of keywords that align themselves with your digital marketing strategy. The ability to have the fields to do this within the theme is extremely important, and you should check to ensure that all the SEO features are available as you pick out a WooCommerce Theme.
Overall, WooCommerce is very capable, can deliver a speedy site with a lot of control since you can access the full code base on your server. However, the drawbacks are maintenance (update WordPress, WooCommerce, and Plugins), updating the server OS, PCI compliance, and when something goes wrong requiring assistance including at times a programmer. While SAAS platforms might require a Shopify Expert or BigCommerce expert when you do get in trouble, you are alleviated for the most part on most of the continued long-term maintenance. If you have a WordPress site and you are looking to start selling, WooCommerce may be the upgrade you are looking for. If you are looking to sell "taboo" products that are banned by some of the SAAS platforms like firearms and ammunition, or other restricted products through licensing - then WooCommerce may be your only option. If you are unclear on how to approach a WooCommerce store - feel free to reach out to us and we would happy to discuss further with you at firstname.lastname@example.org
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