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Welcome back to our series on using WordPress for eCommerce. In the first installment, we looked at the different types of eCommerce sites and customer scenarios that you are most likely to encounter. In this article, we are going to look at some favorable eCommerce plugins for WordPress and discuss their basic installation. In the next article we will take an in-depth look at the settings you need to be aware of; and then finally, in the last article, we will discuss how to add products and variants to your eCommerce site.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s get back to the task at hand and look at some of the plugins available.
WooCommerce has more than 2 million downloads to date, as well as a high approval rating, which makes it a leading WordPress eCommerce plugins. WooCommerce features a suite of tools to help you build and run your online business. Out of the box, WooCommerce offers the following features:
- PayPal standard gateway
- Payment options such as cash on delivery (COD), check and bank transfer
- Google Analytics
- Ability to customize to fit your store needs
- Basic shipping options
- Ability to add premium extensions for options such as FedEx, UPS, USPS, and others.
- Inventory management
- Numerous other Features
- Compatibility with any WordPress theme
Known as the original WordPress eCommerce plugin, WP eCommerce has greatly improved its product offering to return to their position as a viable and leading option for WordPress eCommerce. In addition to a website overhaul, the product has been enhanced while still maintaining its user-friendly format for setting up a working eCommerce store. While it shares many of the features that can be found in WooCommerce (as well as most eCommerce plugins), it does offer a few distinctive features:
- Membership and subscription extension
- Premium support
- Automated marketing
- Built in coupon management
- Multi-lingual support
Originally launched in 2008, Cart66 (originally called PHPurchase) was one of the first eCommerce plugins available exclusively for WordPress. It has evolved from its humble beginnings to a sophisticated plugin that features a cloud-based, managed hosting solution within its offering. Features of this product are similar to the aforementioned plugins; but include a few differentiators:
- Sell services
- Sell digital products via Amazon S3 integration
- Affiliate platform integration
Shopp, like Cart66, also launched in 2008 as one of the first eCommerce options for WordPress. Today, Shopp is free to use, and is developed and maintained by a community of volunteers including Jonathan Davis (no relation), the head of web design and development studio Ingenesis Limited.
Shopp has long been considered a very stable plugin and among its defining characteristics includes a suite of API tools.
Shopp is a free plugin, though there’s also a premium version available, which includes a premium support model.
Easy Digital Downloads
Easy Digital Downloads is one of the 60 or more plugins developed by coding guru, Pippin Williamson. As the name suggests, this free plugin is designed for selling downloadable products. This is the go to plugin if you are looking to sell digital products, such as eBooks, whitepapers, music, or any other product that would be exclusively available as a download. Among its more common attributes, users can also utilize more unique features:
- User purchase history and ability to redownload files
- Integration with major gateways such as PayPal and Stripe
- Multi-lingual support
- Email newsletter integration
Installing a shopping cart plugin
The method of installing an eCommerce plugin is no different than installing any other plugin, whether it’s by direct install from the repository within your WordPress site or by downloading the plugin directly to you computer and then uploading it to your site.
The key difference, however, is what happens after you install and activate the plugin. Most, if not all, eCommerce plugins have an option to install a number of pages as the first step in setting up your online store. The pages that are required for proper eCommerce functionality are Cart, Checkout, My Account, and Shop.
If you fail to install these pages, you won’t be able to offer customers the base functionality they have come to expect from an online retailer.
Once installed, you’ll see a new link in your dashboard for the plugin you’ve selected. Hovering over the link will allow you to configure (or view) some useful information—such as a comprehensive list of your orders, what coupons you have used or are currently offering, reports, and settings.
In the next article, we’ll discuss the settings involved in setting up your eCommerce site and help you walk through the struggles faced by many newcomers to the eCommerce industry. By having a solid understanding of the different settings, you’ll avoid making a rookie mistake that could end up causing you both grief and sales down the road.
Did we miss your favorite WordPress eCommerce plugin? If so, let us know in the comments below.