Chapter 1

Introduction

Let's talk WooCommerce.

Boasting over one million downloads and counting, WooCommerce is one of the web’s leading eCommerce platforms. Since 2008, business owners and entrepreneurs from all around the world have relied on WooCommerce to start and grow their businesses. Presumably, you’ve landed on this page because you want to learn more about this wildly popular eCommerce platform.

Whether you already have a WooCommerce site up and running or you’re just considering opening a WooCommerce store, you’ve come to the right place. At eScale, we’ve been building custom WooCommerce sites for several years now, so this is one topic that we know a thing or two about.

And in this guide, we’d like to share with you the most important things that you should know about WooCommerce. You’ll also learn a bit about how to use WooCommerce—and how to not use WooCommerce. There are some things that you might already know. And some things that might not be of particular interest or relevance to you. So feel free to read this guide from start to finish—or skip to the section that suits your fancy.

Chapter 2

What is WooCommerce?

What exactly is WooCommerce? In this chapter, we'll tell you.

First things first, what is WooCommerce exactly? To put it simply, WooCommerce is a free, open-source eCommerce plugin built on WordPress, which is an open-source software tool used for creating websites.

Okay, So What Does “Open Source” Mean?

If you’re unfamiliar with software development, you might be wondering: What does “open source” mean? “Open source” basically refers to software where the source code is made publicly available, so anyone can review the software’s code and report issues; fix bugs; and contribute to the software’s code base. So there could potentially be thousands of developers working on the same piece of software.

But at least with WooCommerce, the code that is contributed still has to be approved and reviewed by a lead development team, which ultimately results in a very refined software. (Fun fact: Our Lead Web Developer, Caleb, has written some code that has been added to the WooCommerce code base!).

A few advantages to open source software are:

  • They are free to use.
  • You actually own your store (and its data).
  • There are fewer bugs, and the code is generally higher quality.
  • You have more control over the design and functionality.
  • There are no licensing issues (You can take the code that’s there, completely customize it however you want to, redistribute it, and you won’t be stepping on licensing issues of any kind.).

Keep in mind that while open-source software tends to be much more customizable and even capable than closed-source software, it does have a bit of a learning curve and for better or for worse, puts more responsibility in the user’s court.

What Does “Core” Mean?

When we talk about “core” WooCommerce software, we’re talking about the main, out-of-the-box software (without any plugins added). WooCommerce core runs basic store functionality; customers can visit the site, add products to their carts, go through the checkout process and receive transactional emails.

Then on top of WooCommerce core, you can customize WooCommerce functionality (by adding plugins or extensions, for example). Plugins are not part of WooCommerce core. Think of it like a house. When you buy a house, you have an empty house with all the basic features, like sinks, toilets and showers. And from there, you can customize the house however you like, by adding furniture and other things.

What’s the Difference Between a Plugin and an Extension?

They are virtually the same. You will hear them used interchangeably throughout this guide and on our website. But because WooCommerce itself is a plugin (for WordPress), WooCommerce uses the term “extension” to “identify plugins that extend WooCommerce’s functionality,” in the words of our Lead Web Developer, Caleb Stauffer.

What Does WooCommerce Do?

WooCommerce allows you to open an online shop and sell anything, from physical products to digital products. There are also over 100 extensions that you can choose from if you want to customize and add extra features to your site, like composite products, subscriptions or dynamic pricing.

What Themes Can I Choose From?

The official WooCommerce theme (made by WooCommerce) is Storefront. You can also pick a theme from an independent developer, but just be careful going this route, because themes can be poorly coded, causing issues down the road.

So make sure that your theme comes from a reputable developer. And of course your safest bet is to hire someone like us to build a custom site for you (real subtle hint there, huh?). We’ll make sure that your theme is well coded, unique and customized to fit your needs.

How Much is WooCommerce?

While the WooCommerce plugin is free of charge, there are often extra expenses required to run a WooCommerce store, like themes; hosting; domain name registration and renewal; security certificates; and extensions. The prices will vary depending on what you go with.

How Secure is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce software is updated on a regular basis to help fix any bugs, add new features and improve overall performance. Regular updates also help ensure that your website is not vulnerable to attacks from outside hackers.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

There are a variety of ways to collect payment from customers, including cash on delivery, check, credit cards and PayPal. WooCommerce can also calculate shipping costs and taxes after some setup, and you can ship based on weight, quantity, or however you decide.

Some other benefits include extensions for order fulfillment and inventory tracking (so you will be notified when it’s time to restock your store). WooCommerce also has a mobile app to help you stay on top of things from wherever you are. So now we’ve covered the basics…But there’s still a whole lot more to uncover about WooCommerce. Let’s dive right in.

Chapter 3

12 Reasons You Should Choose WooCommerce as Your eCommerce Platform

Find out just what makes WooCommerce so special.

Now that you know the answer to “what is WooCommerce?”, you might be wondering: Okay, so what makes this eCommerce platform so great anyway? From Shopify to Magento to WooCommerce, there’s no shortage of eCommerce platforms out there to choose from. In case you can’t tell already, personally, we’re pretty big fans of WooCommerce here at eScale. So we’d like to tell you the main reasons why we like it so much and why we think you would too.

1. It’s Free to Use

Whether you have $500 dollars or $20,000 dollars to spend, WooCommerce has got something to fit every budget. The plugin itself is free (!). If you want to add extensions (to customize it more), then you’ll end up having to spend some, but if your needs are very basic, then you might not have to spend anything at all.

2. It’s Highly Customizable & Flexible

One of the greatest things about WooCommerce is how flexible and customizable it is. Thanks to its many plugins and the fact that it’s open source, WooCommerce gives you maximum control over how you want your site to appear and act.

Want to provide your customers with shipping rates based on the number of items, price, weight, or location? You can do that. Want to give discounts based on the number of products or the order total? Or give your customers Buy One, Get One deals? With the extension, Dynamic Pricing, you can do that too. Want to have product sliders on your product pages? No problem.

Pretty much anything that you want to do, you can either do with one of the many WooCommerce plugins or customize a plugin to meet your needs.

3. You Can Sell Anything

Whether you want to sell physical products, digital products, online courses, subscription-based products or membership services, you can do it with WooCommerce.

4. There’s Inventory Management

If you’re selling physical goods, then you’re going to have some inventory to manage. Fortunately, WooCommerce makes this very easy. You can track your stock levels, hide items that are out of stock, get notified when your stock is running low, and more.

5. There’s Geo-Location Support

With geo-location support, you can identify where your users are, which helps simplify shipping and tax calculations.

6. Build Databases for Promotions/Marketing Campaigns

Want to build databases of contacts that you can promote your products or services to? WooCommerce has several extensions that let you do that. ActiveCampaign, for example, has deep data integration; so whenever a user makes an order, the extension shows you the products they bought, pages they visited, coupons they used, and other granular details about customer activity. That way, you’re able to better target your customers.

You could also use Dynamic Pricing, an extension that lets you set up offers based on item quantity, cart total, and other factors.

7. It’s Secure

WooCommerce code is audited, which means that code and functionality is reviewed regularly to make sure it’s secure and appropriate for the core software.

8. Blogging is Built In

If your blog is on a different platform than your website, this can potentially provide a disruptive user experience. It can also make it more difficult for you to manage.

One advantage of WooCommerce is that blogging is built into the platform through WordPress, the most popular content management platform in the world, which means that your users don’t have to navigate between different sites. And instead of having one account for your store and another one for your blog, you can manage both your store and your blog from one single account. Much easier!

9. There Are Over 100 Payment Gateways

A payment gateway is what processes your customers’ credit card payments and essentially what permits the transfer of funds between you and your buyers. WooCommerce has over 100 payment gateways that you can choose from. From PayPal to Stripe, and everything in between, you can choose the provider that best suits your business.

10. Taxes Are Automated

Breathe another sigh of relief. Because with WooCommerce, you don’t have to worry about calculating taxes yourself. Instead, WooCommerce has a built-in tax system that lets you set tax rates for different locations. If your needs are more extensive, WooCommerce also has integrations with third-parties that manage your taxes for you. One less thing for you to worry about!

11.  It’s SEO-Friendly

Having a site that’s ranked highly in search engines can mean the difference between a lot of traffic…and very little traffic. WooCommerce is designed using code that’s optimized for search engines.

12.  It Has a Huge Community of Developers

WooCommerce has a Slack workspace that anyone can join and ask questions in. There are WooCommerce meetups and conferences in cities all around the world. And there are thousands of developers from around the world continually working on WooCommerce to improve upon it and make it a better platform. If you choose WooCommerce, you will become a part of the massive and diverse WooCommerce community. You’ll have a supportive group of developers that you can pose questions to and talk to about all things WooCommerce.

Bottom line? WooCommerce is pretty awesome.

Chapter 4

WooCommerce vs. Shopify: Which Platform is Best for You?

Not sure whether to go with WooCommerce or Shopify? In this chapter, we'll break down the main differences between the two platforms, so you can choose the best platform for your business.

So by now, you know how great WooCommerce is. But you might be wondering…what about Shopify? WooCommerce and Shopify are two of the most popular eCommerce platforms on the market today, and many entrepreneurs and small business owners have a hard time deciding which one to go with.

So which one is the best fit for you and your business? The two are very different, and so the answer to that will depend on exactly what you need and what kind of site you’re looking to build. Here’s a breakdown of how the two platforms differ.

Price

With Shopify, you pay a fixed price per month. Plans range from $9 per month for the Lite version to $299 per month for Advanced Shopify (which comes with more features and gives account access to more employees). And how much is WooCommerce? As we mentioned in the previous section, WooCommerce is free to use, but you’ll have some obligatory fees that come with creating a website, like hosting and domain name(s).

Then depending on how you want to customize your site, you might have to pay for extensions too, which are usually either monthly or one-time payments that range from $49 to $79. Some extensions are free, however. Finally, depending on what type of theme you go with, you might have to pay for that, as well (themes can be free, but the better ones are generally paid).

Bottom line: If you want a highly customized site, you might end up paying more for WooCommerce. If you want to know exactly what you are going to pay upfront and don’t mind having a monthly subscription, Shopify might be a better option for you.

Design

Shopify offers a range of sleek and modern-looking templates that you can choose from, all of which are mobile-friendly and come with various color schemes. Just don’t be surprised if you see another shop out there that has the same (or a very similar-looking) design as you!

With WooCommerce, you can either choose from the official WooCommerce theme (Storefront) or a theme created by an independent developer. On top of that, you can also add what is called a “child theme” to the parent theme. A child theme is like a variation of the original parent theme; it allows you to customize your main theme a step further.

Bottom line: If you want an out-of-the-box, sleek design, and originality isn’t that important to you, then Shopify might be your best bet. If you want a design that’s more original, but takes a bit more work to create, then you’ll probably be better off with WooCommerce.

Ease of Use

One of the greatest advantages of WooCommerce is that it is highly customizable and open-source. But if you’re not a techie, and need to set up the site on your own, then this might prove to be more of a disadvantage than an advantage. Because Shopify is a hosted platform, it’s a lot easier to set up than WooCommerce. It has a drag-and-drop user interface that’s made for beginners. You also don’t have to worry about managing or updating software.

At the same time, just like home renovations, DIY Shopify isn’t for everyone. Setting up a decent-looking Shopify store will still require a bit of technical and design know-how. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

When it comes to setting up a WooCommerce store, there are definitely more steps and decisions involved. But the good news is that once it is set up, it’s just as easy to use as Shopify. Although keep in mind that WooCommerce does require a bit more work to maintain (more on that below).

Bottom line: If you aren’t very technical and are setting up the store yourself, then you might want to go with Shopify. But if you are more technical—or will have some help setting up the store—then WooCommerce is a good option.

Customer Support

One of the greatest benefits of Shopify is the support that’s offered. There is 24/7 support (via chat, email or phone) in case you have any questions or concerns. WooCommerce lets customers open support requests if they have questions, but they don’t have a support team on call 24/7, and the support isn’t as extensive as that offered by Shopify. But there are numerous blogs and forums (plus a Slack group) out there to answer any questions you might have.

And if you let us help you with your WooCommerce site, we’ll be your support team. We do sleep at night, so we can’t promise 24/7 support…but we can promise that we’ll be there (during normal waking hours, anyway) to take care of everything for you, whether it’s a small fix or an urgent problem. So you can relax and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that your site is in good hands.

Bottom line: If you’re someone that needs to have a support team on call at all times, then Shopify might be a good option for you. But if you’re more independent and okay digging around to figure things out (or you have a team of developers available to help you out), then the support provided by WooCommerce will probably be sufficient for you.

Control

With Shopify, your website is managed through the Shopify database. Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify is not open-source, so you can’t change the core code, and you will have to report any bugs to Shopify (rather than changing them yourself).

Because WooCommerce is open-source, you have much more control over your site. You (or your developer) can change the core code, and if there are any bugs, you’re able to fix them yourself, rather than having to report the bugs and wait for someone to fix them for you.

Bottom line: If you want more control over your website, go with WooCommerce. Otherwise, Shopify will probably be a safe bet.

Maintenance

Remember that even once your shop is all set up, you’ll have to maintain it. With Shopify, the technical maintenance is taken care of for you, so this isn’t really something that you have to worry about too much. WooCommerce on the other hand requires a bit more technical maintenance. You’ll have to update both WooCommerce Core and your plugins on a regular basis.

Or let’s say there’s a security issue on your site. Shopify would probably take care of something like that for you, whereas with WooCommerce, you might be responsible for getting that figured out yourself (but remember: if you let us maintain your site, we’ll take care of all that for you!).

Consider what kind of maintenance your store will require. If you’re just going to have five products and expecting maybe one to ten orders a week, WooCommerce might be a bit of an overkill, since there is more maintenance required. But if you already have a business up and running or you’re expecting to have a lot of orders, then the maintenance required from WooCommerce will probably be worth it.

Bottom line: If you don’t expect to be making a lot of sales and your site won’t require a great deal of maintenance (or you don’t want to worry about dealing with it), then Shopify might be best. But if you expect to be making a lot of sales, then your store will probably require more maintenance, and so WooCommerce might be a good choice for you.

Summing Up

Whether you go with Shopify or WooCommerce will depend on a number of factors. If you don’t have a lot of technical experience and want to build your own website with a support team that will be available at all times to answer your questions, then you might want to go with Shopify.

You’ll also want to give some thought to the maintenance side of things. If you don’t expect to be making a lot of sales right off the bat, then it might not make too much sense to go with a higher maintenance platform like WooCommerce. But the downside to going with Shopify is that your website won’t be as original and you won’t be able to customize as much as you might like.

If you expect to be making a lot of sales, want a store that you can have more control over, or want a website that’s highly customized and original, then WooCommerce will probably be a good fit for you. Just be prepared to get more technical—or make sure you have a support team available to help you out (like us!).

Chapter 5

Opening a WooCommerce Store: What You Need to Know

Before actually opening a WooCommerce store, there are several questions that you should ask yourself. In this chapter, we tell you the things that you should consider before opening your store.

So you’ve done your research, and now it’s official: You’ve decided that you want to build your online store on WooCommerce. Good choice! WooCommerce is highly customizable and flexible and will give you the control to create the store of your dreams. So…what next? Well, before you get started, there are a few things that you should ask yourself…

Do I Have the Support I Need?

As we’ve mentioned, if you’re planning on building your WooCommerce store without any help, keep in mind that you’ll have your work cut out for you. Unlike Shopify, you won’t have a support team readily available to answer your questions, so if you encounter any difficulties along the way, you will have to do a bit of research to figure out a solution.

And once your site is up and running, it will require some maintenance. If you have plugins, you will have to update those plugins each time updates become available in order for your site to remain secure and up to date. You’ll also have to update WooCommerce Core when updates become available.

If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you might want to look into hiring a team of developers (like us!) to create and maintain the site for you. Want a free quote or to find out how we can help? Get in touch.

How Do I Want My Site to Look and Feel?

Before moving forward, you’ll also want to think about how you want your website to look and feel in the end. What kind of color schemes and font do you want to use? How do you want the images to be displayed? What should the layout of the pages be? What is your brand’s personality?

Equally important as the “look” of your website is the “feel”—or how you want your users to feel when they interact with your site. The “feel” refers to your website’s navigation, the time that it takes your pages to load, how easy it is to find everything on your site…

Both look and feel should be taken into account when you are creating your site. Think about these things beforehand and consider what you can do to achieve the look and feel that you want for your online store.

How Will I Monitor Traffic and Conversions?

Once your WooCommerce store is up and running, implement a plan to monitor your traffic and conversions. Google Analytics is one way that you can do that.

What Will I Have on My Product Pages?

Your product pages are probably the most important pages on your entire eCommerce site. Your customer isn’t there to touch and feel your product, so it’s important that your product pages are as comprehensive as possible. They should be designed to convert visitors into prospective customers. So give some serious thought to the content and images that you want to have on your product pages and how you will display everything.

What Are My Payment Gateways?

Payment gateways are another thing to think about when setting up your site. If you use modern payment gateways (ones that don’t require a merchant account, like PayPal or Stripe), then you can expect larger transaction fees. Also, these types of gateways tend to take customers off your site to make a payment, which can potentially reduce your conversions.

The upside to modern gateways is that they are easy to integrate with your store. Our Lead Web Developer, Caleb, also likes them because they help increase credibility (I mean, everyone has heard of PayPal, right?). As a result, he believes that they can actually increase conversions in the end.

So do they increase or decrease conversions? Results vary from business to business, so you’ll have to test to find out what works best for your store. Classic payment gateways (like Authorize.Net and WorldPay) are more complicated to set up and require a merchant account. If you go this route, you’ll have to find a bank that offers merchant accounts, and then apply for one. Keep in mind that this process can take four to six weeks.

You might find that classic payment gateways are worth the hassle though, since the transaction fees are generally lower than they are with modern gateways.

How Will I Manage Shipping & Inventory?

With WooCommerce, you can offer your customers real-time shipping rates, calculate shipping rates based on the destination or tax, and offer free shipping based on the total cost. All of that and more.

Think about what shipping options you will provide your customers—and the extensions that you will use to do that. For what it’s worth, we’re pretty big fans of ShipStation, a free WooCommerce plugin, which handles all of your orders for you.

Side note: Keep in mind that while the plugin itself is free to download, the service is not; you’ll have to subscribe to a monthly plan in order to use ShipStation.

What’s My Marketing Strategy?

Having a well-defined marketing strategy in place before you launch your website is essential. Long before your website goes live, you should be promoting your products and upcoming website.

Determine what social media channels your buyer personas are on and publish with regular frequency to increase awareness about your brand. In addition to social media, you should also set up an email newsletter to send to your followers and remind them about your upcoming website launch. You could allow them to reserve certain products, as well. Then once your site is live, think about what types of emails you are going to send out.

How Will I Backup My Site?

Websites crash. And get hacked. Files get deleted. Stuff happens. For those reasons, it’s vitally important that you back up your WooCommerce store on a regular basis. Be sure to back up daily and back up off site; that way, if something happens to your entire site, you won’t be totally helpless.

You can make full or partial backups; full backups of course take longer, but give you the peace of mind knowing that your entire site is backed up. If you do partial backups, just make sure that you aren’t forgetting to back up important files or parts of your store.

How Will I Keep My Site Secure?

On that note, you should also make sure that you will be keeping your website secure. To do so, first find a reputable host. You should also create secure passwords that are different than your password used for other accounts.

Enable two-factor authentication with an app like Google Authenticator, so that whoever signs into your account will need both your password and another device to validate the login. This might make it a bit more of a hassle to log in…but at least you will know that your account is secure. You could also look into installing a security plugin, which will block someone’s IP address after they unsuccessfully try to log into your site a certain number of times.

Summing Up

When opening your WooCommerce store, there are a number of things to think about—and the aforementioned is only a starting point. Need some help? Remember: We’re only a phone call away!

Chapter 6

How to Use WooCommerce (and How to Not Use WooCommerce): Do's and Don'ts for Customizing Your WooCommerce Store

Once you've got your WooCommerce store up and running, it might be tempting to jump right into customizing it. But before you do so, make sure that you read this chapter to find out some WooCommerce customization do's and don'ts.

So you’ve decided to open a WooCommerce store. And you’ve got it up and running. Woo hoo! Now comes the fun part: customization. But before you start customizing, it’s important to know how to use WooCommerce…and how to not use WooCommerce. Because there are a few do’s and don’ts that you should keep in mind when customizing your WooCommerce store. Here’s what they are.

DON’T edit plugin files directly

The code for plugins can easily be edited, but if they are edited, then that new code would likely be overridden when a new version of the plugin is released. Instead, it’s better to use “hooks,” which allow you to properly customize the functionality.

DON’T run many queries at the same time

Let’s say you have 4,000 orders. If you run a query on all 4,000 orders at once, your server may not be able to complete that without sacrificing some other aspect(s) of your site. The server may crash and your site availability could drop. Not exactly an ideal situation.

Be mindful of how many orders and customers you have and the things you’re doing on your site. You don’t want to get into a situation where your site goes down and you are unable to fix it.

DO make your site secure

You’re collecting and submitting credit card information here. So it’s important that you make your site secure. Install a SSL certificate, which will encrypt your data, making it much more difficult to intercept and translate. Also, choose a reputable host. And as mentioned above, create strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication.

DO update plugins one at a time

If any issues arise during your plugin updates, you’ll want to know where those issues are coming from. If you update many plugins at once, it’s hard to know which plugin is causing the issue. But when you update your plugins one at a time, it’s easier to identify where that issue is coming from.

DO choose a hosting provider that can scale with your store

Make sure that you choose a reputable hosting provider that is not only familiar with WooCommerce and WordPress, but that is also able to scale with your store. For example, if you go with HostGator and get a $4/month plan, but want to process 1,000 orders per day, your plan likely won’t be able to handle all of that. The cheaper plans are spread more thin, helping many other sites, in addition to yours. So the more you pay, the more attention you get, per se.

When it comes to hosting providers, you really do get what you pay for. The good news is that, unless you’re in a binding contract, you can upgrade or downgrade from month to month, depending on your store’s demand. So which hosting provider should you go with? Personally, we recommend WP Engine and LiquidWeb, which are designed for high-performing websites. LiquidWeb even has managed WooCommerce hosting.

DO evaluate to make sure a plugin is a good fit

You wouldn’t buy a car before inspecting it beforehand, would you? Same thing goes for your plugins. Before installing a plugin, consider and evaluate if it’s a good fit for your site. Otherwise, your site might not accept it and could end up crashing.

So how do you evaluate if a plugin is a good fit for your site? At eScale, we have a certain process that we follow to make sure plugins will work with our websites. For each of our clients, we have a production site, which is the actual site. Then we have a staging site, which is another URL where projects are evaluated before being published; it’s used to show what the site looks like before it goes live. Then we have the development site, which, just like it sounds, is where the development takes place.

We perform all plugin updates on staging first. Every day for approximately 30 minutes, we test plugins and make changes to the theme to support the new version of that plugin. Then we process and review those changes, before doing another round of testing.

Finally, we release the changes to the live site (production) and do another round of testing on production, because while production and staging are very similar, they are not exactly the same. That way, if a plugin were to cause a website to crash, we would be able to find that out in staging, rather than in production (when it’s too late).

The good news is that, if a plugin isn’t a good fit for your site, most WooCommerce extensions have a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you don’t have to worry about your money going down the drain.

So now hopefully you know a bit more about how to use WooCommerce—and how to not use WooCommerce (at least as it relates to customization).

Now let’s talk about some WooCommerce extensions that you should get familiar with…

Chapter 7

9 WooCommerce Extensions That You Should Know

Extensions (which are WooCommerce add-ons or plug-ins) allow you to add additional functionality to your store. Read this chapter to find out the nine WooCommerce extensions that you should know about.

Chances are, you will be adding extensions to your WooCommerce store. Extensions allow you to easily customize your store and do all those little things that you otherwise can’t do with WooCommerce Core. So with that, here are nine WooCommerce extensions that should be on your radar.

1. Dynamic Pricing

Dynamic Pricing is a plugin that lets you give discounts based on a variety of factors, like the number of products in your user’s cart or the order total. You can also bundle products together or give your customers Buy One Get One deals.

2. ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign is an extension that allows you to automate your sales and marketing. Once installed, you can use it to create targeted email campaigns based on things like purchase history and cart abandonment.

3. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is probably the most essential tool for your WooCommerce site. It allows you to find out what pages your uses are spending the most amount of time on, what products they are most interested in and what types of things they are looking for.

And with Google Analytics Pro, you can track events from your WooCommerce store and find out more about important KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that you might want to be tracking, like conversion rate; number of sales by product or category; and average order value.

4. WooCommerce Subscriptions

If you have recurring payments that you want to manage, then Woo Subscriptions is the extension for you. This plugin offers store owners a variety of billing schedules and automatic payments with more than 25 payment gateways. Your subscribers are also able to upgrade or downgrade subscriptions on their own, without you having to intervene.

5. Product Bundles

Just as it sounds, this is a plugin that lets you bundle some products together and offer them at a discount. Keep in mind that all the bundled products must be chosen beforehand, so customers can’t choose from a list of options, like they can with the Composite Products extension.

6. Table Rate Shipping

If you aren’t careful, shipping charges could end up costing you. That’s why there’s Table Rate Shipping, a plugin which lets you charge shipping rates based on different factors, like subtotal, geographical location or the weight of products. You can also gift your customers with free shipping once the subtotal exceeds a certain amount.

7. Menu Cart

Menu Cart is a simple plugin that installs a shopping cart button in your website’s navigation menu. It lets you show the cart icon, items and prices, so that your users can always see how much they have in their cart and check out at the click of a button.

8. YITH WooCommerce Social Login

The less hoops that you make your users jump through, the more likely they are to convert into paying customers. This plugin helps you to minimize those hoops, by letting users register and login to your site via their social media accounts. It also helps you to quickly and easily verify your customers. A win-win for all parties!

9. User Switching Plugin

The User Switching plugin works with WooCommerce memberships. Just like it sounds, it lets you shift to a customer’s account, so if any issues arise from their end, you can hop on over to their account and see what’s going on without asking for their password. Since the extension lets you view things from the perspective of your users, it’s also helpful for testing out different things on your site.

Bottom Line

With WooCommerce, there are countless extensions out there—and countless ways to customize your shop. Choosing the ones that are best for your site can feel a bit overwhelming, especially since there are many extensions that overlap with one another and seem to do almost the same thing.

Hopefully this list helps a bit, but if you need some more help choosing the best extensions for your shop, get in touch. We’d be happy to help.

Chapter 8

Automating Your WooCommerce Store

Find out some of the ways that you can automate your WooCommerce store—and save time and money.

Once your WooCommerce shop is up and running, you might feel overwhelmed with everything that you have to do. You’ve got orders to manage, inventory to fill, phone calls to make…luckily, there’s automation to save the day!

Automating your WooCommerce store can help you win back lost time, save money and devote full attention to the things that only you can do. Curious? Here are just a few ways that you can automate your WooCommerce store.

Send Out Follow-Up Emails

If you aren’t sending follow-up emails, you are losing out on a huge opportunity to convert your leads into customers—and upsell your current customers.

WooCommerce will send out basic emails telling your customers that their order has been received, but if you want to enter your users in campaigns, you’ll have to integrate a plugin like MailChimp or ActiveCampaign.

We recommend the AutomateWoo plugin to automate your workflow, which is especially useful for abandoned carts. So let’s say, for example, your user adds a product to their cart and AutomateWoo collects their email address. Then after  five to 15 minutes, the cart is “abandoned.” You can then automate emails to go out after the cart has been abandoned for a certain amount of time.

A useful tactic (which surely you have been subject to at one point yourself) is to send out coupons to your users to get them to complete the checkout (which will only be valid for that one user’s email address and will expire after a certain amount of time).

Automate Your Shipping Process

With the ShipStation service integrated with your WooCommerce store, you can create and print shipping labels, mark your orders as complete and generate tracking numbers, amongst other things. Fulfillment and shipping made easy!

Export and Upload Order Data

You might need to transfer your orders in XML file format via FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Instead of doing all of this manually, the Customer/Order XML Export Suite can help take this off your hands—and make your life just a little bit easier.

Move Your Data Where it Needs to Be

Zapier lets you connect various applications together, so that data can easily flow from one point to another. Here’s an example: You get a new order. Create an invoice in Quickbooks. Send out a confirmation email. You can trigger these zaps based on: new orders you receive, changes in order status, line item additions or customer sign-ups.

There are numerous premade zaps that you can choose from, or if you prefer, you can create your own. Note that Zapier is great for simple automations, but if you want to set up more intensive email campaigns, for example, you’re better off using an extension like ActiveCampaign, because you’ll be able to track your campaigns better.

Send “Handwritten” Thank-You Cards

Everyone loves to get a card in the mail. Show your customers how much you appreciate them by sending them a handwritten card when they place an order with you. But don’t worry—we wouldn’t expect you to actually do all of this by hand. Luckily, there’s Thankster to do this for you. Thankster is a service that lets you create and send out letters that look handwritten. You can automate this through Zapier, so that a letter goes out automatically when your customers place an order.

Bottom Line

Your time is precious. Automation can help you save your precious time and increase your productivity. All it takes is a little work upfront to implement. So what are you waiting for?! Decide the things that you want to automate for your WooCommerce store—and get started!

Chapter 9

8 Ways to Optimize Your WooCommerce Store—And Boost Your Sales

Whether you have been running a WooCommerce store for ten minutes or ten years, you should always be thinking of ways to improve it. In this chapter, we reveal eight things you can do to optimize your store—and increase your sales.

Your WooCommerce store should never be considered a finished product. Even once your shop is live and you’ve customized it to your liking, you should always be thinking of ways to optimize it. What can you do to improve your store and increase your conversions? Well, we’ve got a few ideas in mind for you…

1. Simplify the Checkout Process

According to Baymard Institute, 69.89% of online shoppers abandon their shopping carts. That’s right. You read that correctly. That means that well over the majority of your prospects are putting items in their carts…and then leaving your site before they make a purchase.

By having a clear and simple checkout process, you can potentially reduce that percentage significantly. For instance, if you have a multi-page checkout process, then at least have a progress bar at the top of the page, so that your users can see where they are exactly in the checkout process. Especially when completing a relatively tedious task, everyone likes to know when the stopping point will be. Otherwise, people may get frustrated and give up halfway through.

You may (or may not) find it more effective to have your entire checkout process on a single page. This has the advantage of not overwhelming users—but at the same time, might feel a bit cluttered. Test to find what type of checkout page works best for your business.

A few final tips: Make sure that you offer your users a variety of payment methods and that your shipping costs aren’t too high. Limit the number of steps required to only the essentials, and always give your users the option to check out as a guest.

2. Let Your Users Compare Products

In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely says that “most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context.”

So if you want to get your prospects to click the “Purchase” button, present them with two choices—and let them decide which one they want.

Using the Product Compare extension, you can let your users compare various products of their choosing. After selecting the products they want to compare, they can view a chart with all the details of the products, like price, ratings, the amount left in stock, and descriptions.

3. Add a Bit of Social Proof

Research has found that around 70% of customers check out product reviews before making a purchase. Suffice it to say that social proof is one of the most effective forms of marketing.

So how can you add some social proof to your WooCommerce store? First, add reviews to each of your products. Once you build a strong following, you could also add the FOMO for WooCommerce plugin, which shows your customers what other people are buying.

4. Show Prices in Local Currency

If you have international customers, then you definitely want to consider using the Currency Converter Widget, which lets you show your users the prices of your products in their currency—so they don’t have to use a calculator or go off your site to Google it.

5. Let Users Pay on Their Own Terms

Offering payment flexibility is key and can mean the difference between getting a sale and not getting one. WooCommerce Deposits lets your customers put down a deposit or use a payment plan for the products you choose. This is especially useful and recommended if you have higher priced products.

6. Offer Free Shipping

In that same book mentioned above, Predictably Irrational, Ariely talked about the impact of FREE. He noted that when Amazon France changed the cost of shipping from one franc (just 20 cents) to FREE, the orders increased dramatically. Crazy, huh? But that’s the power of free.

Even if you have to increase the prices of your products to do so, offer your customers free shipping either for all order totals or order totals over a certain amount. Test to see what results in the highest amount of revenue for your business.

7. Implement Live Chat

Online users these days are impatient. They don’t like to wait around. If they have to email your customer support team to find out the answer to something—or call them up (and possibly sit on hold)—then you can guarantee that you are going to lose out on some sales. That’s where live chat comes in.

The LiveChat for WooCommerce plugin allows your users to reach out to you if they have any questions or if any issues arise. The result? Higher conversions and happier customers.

8. Optimize Your Website Speed

When it comes to your website load time, mere seconds can make all the difference. According to Akamai, if your website takes more than three seconds to load, you could end up losing over half of your visitors. Amazon even found that slowing down their page load time by just one second could cost them a whopping $1.6 billion in sales per year.

So how can you decrease your page load time? For starters, you can optimize your images by using an image compressor, like TinyPNG.

Also, if your host doesn’t provide caching, you can use a caching plugin, like WP Super Cache. A caching plugin generates and stores a static version of your store, so that when users return to your site, they don’t have to download everything all over again. Instead, they will see a cached (downloaded) version of your site.

Just make sure to keep certain pages, like your user’s account page, checkout page and cart, dynamic (not cached), since they will change with each visit.

Chapter 10

Conclusion

When it comes to WooCommerce, there’s a lot to know. And all of this is only a start. If you’re setting up a WooCommerce store all on your own, know that you will have your work cut out for you. But the upside is that, if you do it right, you will end up with a highly customized website that really reflects your brand and provides your users with a unique and high quality experience.

Need some help building your WooCommerce store? Or already have a WooCommerce store and want some help maintaining it or making it even better? Get in touch. We’d love to help you grow your shop!