Three Things Your WordPress eCommerce Plugin Needs

Now that you’ve decided you need an online store, you must make a few decisions. What will it look like, how will it work, and how will you collect money?

This article will focus on WordPress plugins for running your store and discuss a few important items you need to consider.

The eCommerce websites I’ve worked on all need three things. A way to show what you are selling, a place to keep the products they want and a method of payment. These three things are referred to as a catalog, a shopping cart and a merchant gateway. Let’s look at each.

Catalog – What you Sell

Whether online or off-line, prospects need to see what you sell to buy. Online we do this by displaying products in a catalog, which is what you think it is — a page with small pictures and short descriptions to pique the interest of shoppers. The “thumbnail” pictures link to the individual product pages where the magic happens.

Individual product pages are the most important selling tool you have online. Pictures, descriptions, technical specs, colors, sizes, etc., all need addressing so your prospect can decide to buy. The more information you provide, the better it is for the customer.

Pictures and video are becoming more common with eCommerce websites and serve several purposes. They add visually to the product description, and show details that might be difficult to describe in print. One picture is worth a thousand words can surely be true in eCommerce.

Shopping Cart – How you sell

Like the grocery store, a shopping cart is where the desired items reside until someone is ready to check out. Online it is the traditional location for shipping and sales tax information, too. Make sure your shopping cart includes this information. If you offer Free Shipping, make sure to display it prominently on the Shopping Cart page.

The Shopping Cart page is also the last chance to modify an order. The customer should be able to change the quantity on their items, add special shipping instructions or just click the Proceed to Checkout button, which takes us to the last requirement for a good eCommerce website.

Payment Gateway – How you collect

Last, but certainly not least, is the way the customer pays for the item. The payment gateway can be a link out to PayPal or enhanced to allow you to take credit cards at your store.

(This requires an SSL certificate (Secure Socket Layer encryption) to securely handle credit card numbers. This can be a separate charge from you hosting company, so check first.)

WordPress plugins offer a lot of options here, but not all are free. Most offer a connection to PayPal at no charge but have either subscription or one-time fees for more popular gateways. Most costs are reasonable and might include other features such as support or forum access.

The payment gateway is where people tend to get lost, and it can get complicated. The basics are that the free PayPal gateway will work for many solutions. It allows the customer to pay using either their PayPal account or their credit card on the PayPal website.

Bottom line, if you are opening a full-fledged eCommerce website, you will need a catalog, a shopping cart, and a payment gateway.

If you are going to sell only a few items without a lot of fuss, you might only need the shopping cart and payment gateway.

In my testing, not all WordPress eCommerce plugins have a catalog built in, but they all include a shopping cart and at least a PayPal link.

Who do you use for payments? Is it working for you?

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