WordPress may have started off as a blogging platform, but in its years of growth, it has transformed into a flexible platform to support just about any kind of website. Many businesses hesitate in setting up their e-Commerce websites on WordPress. But, the fact that WordPress is open-source, and seamlessly integrates with a variety of add-ons (WordPress plugins) makes it a top choice among eCommerce platforms.
Plugins obviously make life easy for both – the businesses and the developers. Business specific features, secure payments, customer retention, it can all be managed more smoothly with the right WordPress plugins.
In this blog…
We will first look at some simple tips for people who are building or managing an online store. Next, we talk about the various kinds of WordPress plugins that will help you optimise your website. There are various kinds of plugins that you can install and we will specifically look into the best WordPress plugins for:
- Secure transactions
- Smooth shopper experience, and
- Post-sale experience
Lastly, we talk about how to pick the right WordPress plugins. So let’s start.
7 Simple Tips for Any eCommerce Site
The following tips apply to any e-commerce website that wants to survive in the cacophony that online markets are.
1. Find your USP, and let the world know!
Before you sell, you have got to know your Unique Selling Point – what makes you special, how do you stand out of the crowd? It is critically important that your website clearly reflects your USP.
2. Transparency builds credibility
A series of questions pop up in the customers’ minds as they set off to buy goods online. ‘When will my package be delivered?’ ‘What is their returns policy?’ ‘Do they refund cancellations?’ Make sure that all important information is right where the user expects to find it.
3. Keep payments secure and clean
Any customer is more likely to complete a payment if they see trusted payment options before they press the ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Pay’ button.
4. Swift and smooth wins the race
Streamline the shopping experience for your customers. Optimize your data population and use plugins that are fast and reliable. A customer who is kept waiting may as well open a different shopping website on another browser tab.
5. Abandoned carts require a follow-up
Stay in touch with customers to remind them of their abandoned shopping carts, letting them know that they can still come back and complete the payment.
6. Offer live support
With lack of human interaction, your business may seem far out of reach to the shoppers. Live chat is a great way to bridge this gap.
7. Encourage reviews
Customer reviews not only build the reputation but also give you free unique content, which Google abundantly appreciates.
WordPress Plugins for Speed
Website performance is critical to your online business, and I am not referring solely to the customer experience. Google considers loading speed as an important factor in your website’s ranking. You cannot lose out on traffic if you want your eCommerce to grow.
Worry not, however, because some WordPress plugins are designed specially to speed up your website. Here are my top picks:
WP Fastest Cache strikes the perfect balance between ample features and ease of use, leaving behind the plugins that are either too basic or too complicated. Install the plugin, activate it, modify settings as you may please, and there you go! You can even set the expiration time of cache for specific URLs.
- Simple to work with
- Clear cache or compressed CSS in a second
- Minify HTML and CSS code
- Decide which pages and posts you want to be excluded
- Set cache expiration time for posts, pages and URLs
- Integrate CDN
You pay: Nothing
Perfmatters is unique in that it allows you to disable some unnecessary WordPress options which are enabled by default. The greatest woe of any website’s performance is its unused HTTP requests. With Perfmatters, you can disable scripts for each page separately. This is definitely a great addition, even if you already have a cache control plugin.
- Integrates with caching plugins
- Disable website-slowing WordPress options
- Decide scripts to disable for each page
- Light add-on
- Support for DNS pre-fetch
You pay: $19.95 a year
This is the most popular among caching WordPress plugins. The best part about using WP Super Cache is that it is easy to start off with and still includes some advanced configuration for tech-savvy users. Smartly enough, this plugin has created a wide customer base for itself.
- Various types of caching support (Legacy, PHP and Mod_Rewrite)
- Preload cache
- Static HTML file serving
- Integration with CDN
You pay: Nothing
Cache Enabler is impressive because it is light-weight and you can start off with it within minutes. This comes handy with its cache expiry setup, minification features, etc. You may think that this plugin has few features, but I see the glass half full – it is light-weight and has just enough for basic speed-boost.
You can always pair this plugin up with CDN Enabler to add CDN support.
- 1-click cache clearance
- Code minification
- Expiration time control
- Simple to start
- Control caching behaviour
- Exclude specific posts from the cache
You pay: Nothing
WordPress Plugins for Secure Transactions
Now, this is where an eCommerce website cannot afford to compromise. What good is your online store if it does not accept e-payments and do it super-securely? To get the most out of your website, you can use a reliable WordPress payment gateway plugin, allowing your customers to pay you through their cards, wallets, etc. Let’s look at the top 4 list:
Authorize.net is one of the most popular payment gateway WordPress plugins. It does not require you to have SSL or PCI Compliance, and it is super easy to install and start off with it. You can also set the message shown for successful and failed payments. Since the payments are processed on Authorize.net servers, it is very safe and reliable to use.
Customers do not like filling in credit card information again and again, and they shouldn’t have to. You may encrypt this information and store it on a separate server that is safe. But then again, for a simple non-tech person who wants the same feature without the hard work, Stripe is the best way to go.
It lets you accept payments without having to store information in your server because all the information goes directly from the user’s browser to Stripe’s secure server.
If you have installed WooCommerce to run your WordPress online shop, QuickPay would be your best choice as a payment gateway. Directly from the order overview page, you can manage secure capture, refunds and cancellations. A great plus is that QuickPay is frequently updated.
PayPal Pro payment gateway is another awesome add-on, especially for WooCommerce. It comes with an on-site card checkout feature to complete the payment without redirecting to payment website. The overall experience is pretty smooth, not only for the customers but also for those who install and configure it. Again, it is regularly updated and works great with the latest WordPress.
WordPress Plugins for Smooth Shopper Experience
There is a huge number of WordPress plugins available for shopping carts, and it can be obviously hard to pick one. We want the customers to have a flawless online shopping experience after all.
WooCommerce currently powers 28% of the total online stores worldwide, and there is a reason why businesses love it so much. It’s scale-able and is loaded with tons of useful features in a single package.
- Setting up is simple and efficient
- Separate control panel for sales and products
- Ability to sell physically as well as online
- Modifications possible for ticket-sale, membership, subscriptions, etc.
- Active community and hundreds of available extensions
- Awesome API support for smooth integration with existing platforms
If you want to convert a WordPress blog into a full-blown online store, WP EasyCart is one of the best options.
- Sell products as well as digital content
- Downloadable inventory and look-and-feel management software (besides the plugin)
- Integrated payment gateways
- Localization of payment gateways, languages, currencies and taxes based on country
- Native integration of shipping services like UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc.
- Native integration with Google Analytics to track sales and no-sales
- Social media widgets on all pages
Need something lighter than a complete eCommerce website? Integrate eCommerce into your existing pages and blog by adding a “Buy now” button with this plugin. This is especially useful if you want a minimalist shopping cart solution.
- Shopping cart to maintain a to-buy list for each customer
- Control panel for adding products and get shortcodes
- Compatibility with mobile devices
- PayPal Sandbox to test selling features before finalizing
A great variety of shopping cart plugins are available for specific sets of business feature needs, and TheCartPress brings them all in a single plugin!
- Features designed for all kinds of businesses
- Native integration with WordPress user roles (merchants and customers)
- Suitable for a multiple-seller platform, too
- Detailed setup of products and categories
- Compliance with search-engine and marketing standards
Post-Sale Experience on Your WordPress E-commerce Site
Completion of payment is not the last step for you. You need your customers to come back, and they will if you give them a great post-sale experience. Here are some simple ways to retain your customers.
Customer Balance and Credit Deposit History
If you are selling advertisements and subscriptions, your customers will want to see their credit status on your website, and premium plugins like WPDeposit come packed with such features. This plugin not only allows the admin to control credits and refunds, it allows customers to issue credits to one another.
This is an essential go for today’s online sales industry. Encouraging customers to review purchased products will not only bring them back to the website, it will build your credibility in the eyes of new customers. Here is a couple of my favourites among product review WordPress plugins.
- Review products, and grade different product details
- Choose which products to allow review for
- Choose whether product reviews should affect its rating
- Freedom to users, everyone can leave a vote
- Very easy to install
- Setting default options (useful when you want the same settings for all products)
- Choice of stars, points or percentage ratings
Abandoned cart reminders
The funny thing about online shopping is that customers start shopping and then go somewhere else to do something else, or maybe they’re just not sure about the selected products yet. Well, lest they forget, you need to remind them there is a loaded shopping cart waiting for them. Here are the two cart recovery WordPress plugins that I love most.
- Simple reminder emails if the customer leaves before completing payment
- Scheduled Emails
- Direct link in the email to the abandoned cart
- Management screen for an overview of abandoned carts and recoveries
- Premium plugin
- Set the cut-off time for abandoned carts
- Highly customizable email template
- Carts section on your dashboard for the list of abandoned carts
- Set special discount to bring back customers
In Conclusion… Picking the Right WordPress Plugins
Your business is unique, and you have unique requirements, so go for the WordPress plugins that are comprehensive and suitable for your needs. You may want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want a full-fledged e-commerce website or just basic purchase options on your blog?
- Are you selling products, subscriptions, digital content, or a combination of these?
- How wide is your customer base? Which currencies, languages and tax policies do you need support for?
- What does specifically my customer audience expect from the website?
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