New Year, New eCommerce
Editor’s note: The following article was written by Neil Harner, Founder and CEO at Inverse Paradox, a WP Engine Agency Partner that specializes in eCommerce and custom WordPress websites.
The new year is upon us, which means you’re probably thinking about major initiatives for 2020 to enhance your business. This could be new product or service offerings, new hires, or adding tools to your workflow to create necessary efficiencies. Have you considered expanding your WordPress website to include eCommerce?
eCommerce is often confused for offering a large catalog of products and letting people buy online. Sure, this is a great option if you have a product to offer which you can ship to a buyer. But more practically, eCommerce is any way of doing business online, including facilitating financial transactions across the internet. Here are some different ways (yes, including building a store with WooCommerce) to get your 2020 eCommerce initiatives underway.
Online payments – Online payments have become exceptionally easy to add to any website and can lead to many positive results for a business. If you’re currently depending on your customer to receive an invoice and mail a check, sure there are little to no transaction fees, but the time to get paid can take longer than anticipated which can be disruptive. Adding a simple form to your website where a user can add their info, an invoice number, and a payment amount can greatly cut down the time between sending the bill and receiving the payment. They fill out the form. You receive an e-mail confirmation and the funds arrive in your bank.
Using GravityForms is your best bet and it offers integrations with a number of payment gateways if you have a Pro or Elite level license. The most important piece, though, is the gateway itself. Chances are you already have a merchant service provider. The first step is to speak with them about setting you up with a payment gateway provider since they generally broker this service. The most common service is Authorize.net. An alternative option, and generally the most flexible (but certainly not the cheapest), is Stripe. Because Stripe is full service, you can usually get up and running within an hour, ready to take payments. From there, building a payment form tied to the gateway should take little time and expense.
Online donations – Perhaps you’re a nonprofit organization looking to accept donations. There are many routes you can take from building your own form with a payment gateway to using a service like Network For Good’s DonateNow or Fundly. Both of these services provide easy-to-use prebuilt scripts (blocks of code) which can be copied and pasted into your website to start receiving donations.
Gift cards – It’s decently well known that gift cards can be a wonderful revenue source due to the rates of redemption. The first and easiest product that any business can sell is a gift card since it can be used for products or services. Much like adding a payment form, adding a “buy a gift card” form along with pre-defined values for purchases can give you a quick way to promote your business to new customers by leveraging existing customers to give a gift. Once an order comes in, you send a gift card or certificate. High-quality plastic cards can be easily and affordably ordered at a website like Plastic Printers or, your local office supply store will likely sell pre-printed certificates. The best part? Either can be mailed using normal postage in a #10 envelope.
Marketplaces – Brick and mortar businesses often try to pick up extra sales online. The hard part is that the internet has become overly saturated with stores, not to mention, there are behemoths like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay, which make it difficult to be found when people are looking for specific products. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. All three previously mentioned giants offer marketplaces where other businesses can sell on their platform. The costs are significant but now your products can be found on some of the largest retailers on the web. Depending on your costs and the popularity of your products, this route can be incredibly lucrative. Alternatively, if you happen to have goods that are hand-crafted, art, collectibles, or antiques, consider Etsy for a more niche audience.
Building a retail store – There are many ways to get started building a store. You can work with a freelancer or agency to build a robust store of your own using one of the countless platforms that are available, or you can go the DIY route with easy-to-use website platforms like WooCommerce or BigCommerce. Building the store actually isn’t the hard part, it’s getting people to your new online store. For this, investing in an online marketing agency with eCommerce experience and a strong understanding of advertising strategies including social media and product listing ads is essential. A good agency and the advertising they build will likely mean a new monthly cost, but it should also result in a significant amount of business in return.
Building a B2B or hybrid store – If you happen to be a manufacturer or wholesale business, building a highly engaging and easy-to-use store can be an easy win. Even in the B2B world, purchasers are looking for the instant gratification of an Amazon-like experience which can make old-school sales processes a major deterrent to ongoing sales. Also, many B2B operations have an opportunity to sell their products directly to retail customers where margins can be exceptional. And sure, you have to be careful to not alienate your B2B customer, but there are ways to approach the model in a way that is beneficial for you and them both. This can be a challenging initiative but it can also be extremely rewarding as a result of the savings from efficiencies created as well as the margins which are generally better than other retailers. To approach this, it’s best to discuss your business model and goals with an agency that has experience implementing these solutions. And before you ask, yes, WooCommerce can certainly fulfill this need.
These six eCommerce initiatives can support the growth of any business entering the new year. Get started by investigating the various platforms and tools available to you, and from there, determine the investment of time and cost for your business to get started. If you find that the potential solutions would benefit you, put a plan in place with your internal team as well as any web-professionals you work with
Start the conversation.