Job number one in these times is to keep you and your family safe and well and healthy.
Job number two is to figure out how to keep your business going in an online-only world.
Whether you’ve pivoted to curbside pickup, online classes, or video consultations, hopefully you’ve found some way to leverage your skills and knowledge into an online offer by now.
And if you’ve started to sell online, it’s time to think about scalability.
The quick solutions are working for now. But whether we’re all released from quarantine next week or next year, online shopping is here to stay. So how will you turn your website into a full-on website shop that will grow with you, now and in the future?
Choosing your base technology
I’ve talked before in this blog about some very simple ways to sell online.
You can do things as simple as adding a PayPal button, or using third party software like Acuity to book calls, or leverage things like Facebook groups to run your classes.
But eventually, if you get serious about eCommerce, you’ll want to bring everything under one roof – everything driven by your website. That means choosing a more complex base technology to drive your online shop.
If you have a very simple shop and want to build it yourself…
Consider a website builder platform like Squarespace, Wix, or Sitebuilder.
You don’t have to know anything about coding or technology; you can drag and drop elements into place. If you know nothing about website design or development, these are good options that will allow you to literally do it yourself.
Disadvantages of site builder shops:
- You don’t own your platform. It’s like renting an apartment versus buying a condo – your content is at the mercy of your landlord and you could technically be blocked, removed, or deleted at any time without your say so.
- Inflexibility. These builders offer only the most basic of shop options, and most of their built-in themes are not eCommerce ready, so your choice of design is limited, too.
- Cost. Although all three of these offer free plans, to add on an eCommerce shop you’re looking at buying their top-price plan, which will add up over time.
If you are a boutique shop with an established community, and you definitely do NOT want to do it yourself…
Consider an eCommerce specialty platform like Shopify or BigCommerce.
They’re both specialists in eCommerce, so you have a much wider choice of themes and options. And their customer support is top notch, so if you need help with setup or some customization, they’re on it. You don’t have to worry about things like software updates or maintenance, because they take care of all that on their central servers.
Disadvantages of eCommerce platforms:
- You don’t own your own site. Just like with the site builders, you’re renting a spot on their servers, meaning they actually have final authority when it comes to what you are and aren’t allowed to offer, how you’re allowed to price it, and can remove your shop at any time by changing their policies. This definitely does happen unexpectedly to shop owners.
- Expense. You’ll pay for that awesome service and support with high monthly fees – plus the highest per-transaction percentage fees in this market space. As your company grows, you’ll end up paying them more and more for your sales – which can end up taking a big bite out of your profits.
- Limited functionality. If you’re selling simple products, then all is well; but if you have a lot of variations (think: shirts that come in many colours and sizes, or bulk items that come in a wide variety of amounts), then you may hit the limit as these platforms restrict the number of variations you can have.
- No backups: Data on Shopify can’t be backed up or exported. If you ever want to move platforms, you’ll be starting from scratch.
- Poor SEO: While even a basic WordPress installation and WooCommerce shop are SEO-amplified, shop owners report poor search rankings for their Shopify based stores.
If you have a little tech skill, or a keen staff member, and want the ultimate in flexibility and cost effectiveness…
Then you want WooCommerce on a WordPress platform.
WooCommerce has the flexibility to sell just about anything online, through just about any kind of payment gateway.
You can sell physical products, but also:
- electronic downloads
- online consultations
- online courses
- patronage donations
- gift cards
- tickets to events
- and more!
You can also do cool things like set up automatic shipping rates – and automatically print labels; or set minimum and maximum amounts for any given product; or have people opt-in to your newsletter on checkout; or automatically calculate taxes across countries and provinces; and so much more. You can set up time bookings for curbside pickup, allow customers to create wishlists, and set up pre-orders or notification lists for out of stock items.
If you want your shop to do it – WooCommerce can!
Plus, it’s the least expensive option here. WordPress and WooCommerce themselves are free, so once you have a hosting package, you can set up a shop for no additional cost. Some of the advanced features require annually-renewed extensions for a small fee, but there’s no per-sale transaction so the overall cost is minimal – no matter how big your store gets.
Another bonus: you own it all. You pay for your own hosting, and everything on the site – the content, the information, the messaging – is yours and yours alone.
And on top of all that, you get all the benefits of WordPress at the same time, under the same roof – so you can blog, or integrate with an uncountable number of other apps, or host other functionality for your community, all in one place – with everything being SEO ready.
Disadvantages of WooCommerce and WordPress:
- setup can sometimes be challenging. Once it’s all configured, you can smoothly process orders with a lot of automation and relatively little interaction; adding new products and updating inventory is straightforward, as well, But you might need help just getting to the starting line.
- Maintenance is important. Since you’re running software installed on your site, it’s up to you to update WooCommerce and WordPress on a regular basis, which is something you might want to hire out if you’re nervous about potential breakages (but you can also learn to do this yourself).
Ready to get your own eShop?
Here at Sweet Smart, we’re WooCommerce experts!
We’re ready to help you build your own awesome website that includes a WooCommerce shop on WordPress. We can help you get to the point where it’s all just processing orders and maintenance – we set it all up so from your point of view, it’s almost mindlessly easy.
Sound good? Contact us today for a free quote.