Selling your products online is serious business. I know a lot of business owners who are scared to death of the process. In fact, they can become so paralyzed by making the very first decision that they never actually get their store up and running at all!
I don’t fault them one bit. The platform that you choose can make your process go smoothly, or create a nightmare of administrative work for you. Before you commit to a solution, think carefully about the options and what features are important to you.
I generally break options down into two categories: third-party stores and WordPress stores.
Third-party stores are stores that exist on all-in-one platforms, such as Etsy, Shopify, Amazon, and eBay.
Third-party eCommerce stores are often easy to set up and maintain. These companies have built a specific selling platform that works along specific guidelines. They tend to have easy-to-use interfaces to help you post products and track your sales. Another big benefit is customer support that will solve problems for you. You can also benefit from the advertising the platform does. For example, people know to go to Etsy for handmade craft items. So you benefit from the exposure and traffic that Etsy pulls in for you.
There are two major drawbacks to third-party stores. First, they are less flexible. You don’t have as much control over how your products are displayed. Their interface is their interface and you need to operate within the functionality. The second major drawback is that you will pay higher fees. It’s usually some combination of a fixed rate to have the store and/or a percentage of the sale price for each item. This can take a chunk out of your profit if you don’t build it into your pricing.
Another major problem crops up when you want to integrate your store with your business website, such as a blog, membership site, service offerings, etc. Since you are using two different platforms, it doesn’t always feel cohesive to your visitors. It’s also a lot more to manage on the back end. Some of the more popular third-party stores do have plugins that allow you to display your store items on your WordPress website. That can be good, but I often hear complaints that the display is clunky and not flexible enough to look great.
WordPress Online Stores
To incorporate an online store into WordPress, you would use a plugin. Plugins are small programs that you install in your site to get more features.
Installing a WordPress eCommerce plugin to run your store is the ultimate in flexibility and control. You are able to manage every aspect of what you are doing, within the limitations of the plugin.
Some of the more useful features can include the ability to use multiple payment gateways, multiple shipping methods, and customize the purchase and checkout process. You can use a theme to give your pages any look you want, and use CSS to customize the look of your products and other store pages.
Another big advantage is cost. There are some excellent eCommerce plugins that are completely free or have a low yearly fee that includes customer support in case you run into trouble. You get to keep more of your profit in your pocket.
There are many WordPress eCommerce plugins and you should have no problem finding on that does exactly what you need it to do. I personally have found WooCommerce to be the most flexible and easy to use store plugin for WordPress.
The same thing that is a huge positive with WordPress eCommerce plugins can also be a negative depending on what you want for your business. WordPress plugins are not hugely difficult to use, but there is a larger learning curve than many of the third-party stores. You will need to spend some time configuring and understanding how your store works in order to use all of the features. This can be a challenge for someone who is not at all technical, and you should think carefully about how much setup and maintenance you can handle.
Making the Decision
To break it all down to the bare bones, it looks like this.
If you want a store that is simple to use and manage, and you don’t mind giving up control and having less flexibility, a third-party online store might be your best option. Yes, I’m saying this and I make my living on WordPress. That’s because I believe that you should always use the right tool for the right situation. So while I personally feel that a WordPress store is a better option, I have to admit that sometimes using a third-party online store is just the right thing to do.
If you are particular about how your store looks, what payment and shipping services you use, and how the store looks, WordPress is probably the way to go. It gives you the ultimate control over your business. If you’re worried about the learning curve, keep reading.
I’ll Help You Set Up Your Online Store
It’s normal to be a little bit nervous about setting up your online store by yourself. That’s why I’ve developed some options to help you with your online store setup.
If you feel fairly comfortable with WordPress and you just want someone to help you if you with specific decisions, I offer Private Online Coaching sessions where you can share your screen, ask questions and get our help on specific issues as you encounter them.
If you are local to Raleigh, NC you get an even better deal! How about spending a day with me, hands-on, setting up your store together? My Building A WordPress eCommerce Store class is exactly that. This is a full-day class located near Raleigh, NC where we walk you step-by-step through setting up WooCommerce on your live WordPress website. What could be better than having the WP Plugin Coach right there with you every step of the way?
If you have questions about the online or in-person training options, please reach out and drop me a note. I hope to talk with you soon!