For businesses big and small, there are countless ways to sell products and services online. Sites like Shopify and Gumroad make it easy to sell digital products using their online platforms. And, if you sell tangible products, you may have considered Amazon, as it has made it easy for just about anybody to sell products on its website. These platforms might make it seem simple to get a store up and running, but that comes at the expense of having the freedom to personalize your customer’s digital experience. Plus, the costs of these third-party platforms take a bite out of your profits. A better alternative is taking advantage of the extendability of WordPress, combined with the perfect profit-making plugins. Here are recommendations for selecting the most trusted WordPress plugins for eCommerce and business success.
In general, there are three types of products people sell online: tangible products, digital products, and memberships/subscriptions. Each product type has its own set of hurdles. In this post, I’m going to look at these three product types and point out some of the questions you should be asking yourself before you set out on your quest to utilize WordPress plugins for your eCommerce business. I won’t be covering the generic business decisions you’ll need to make—like your return policy—but instead will focus on the questions that will determine how your online store will work.
Let’s dive right in!
If you were looking to start a business selling tangible products, such as shoes, housewares, art supplies, etc., in a brick-and-mortar store, you’d have to deal with leasing a space, getting proper licensing, buying showcases, staffing, security, and a myriad of other details. While you don’t have to deal with this same set of issues when selling online, there’s still plenty to consider. For example:
- What credit card processor will you use?
- Do you need to charge tax? For all sales or just in some states?
- Do you ship all over the world, or just to your country or state?
- What shipping methods do you offer?
- What are your shipping rates?
These questions are the tip of the iceberg. And, each time you answer one of these questions, it leads to another set of questions. It can be frustrating. Nobody ever said starting a business would be easy. If they did, they were probably trying to sell you something.
So, what WordPress plugin should you use to sell tangible products online? We recommend WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is an extremely powerful eCommerce platform. And, with roughly 300 add-on plugins available, it’s also quite flexible. Finding the exact set of add-on plugins you’ll need will mainly have to do with your specific shop requirements, but there’s little doubt that it can be handled by WooCommerce. Just be prepared to spend some time getting everything set up exactly the way you want. Or, hire somebody (like us) to help.
With digital products, the number of questions you have to answer declines quite a bit. Don’t get too excited. There are still plenty of mysteries to solve, but not having to deal with shipping physical products will make this process feel simple by comparison.
For digital products, you may want to sell individual items like an image or a PDF. Or, you may want to sell plugins like we do at Pluginize. No matter the type of digital product you are looking to sell, our plugin recommendation doesn’t change. For digital product sales, you need to check out Easy Digital Downloads (EDD). Powerful right out of the box, and with over 100 add-ons available, EDD is also super flexible and should be able to handle just about any scenario you can throw at it.
As a side note, if you plan to sell WordPress plugins, EDD’s Software Licensing add-on makes it easy for your buyers to update their plugins directly from the WordPress dashboard each time you release an update. WooCommerce has a similar option available that is far more complicated.
For memberships and subscriptions, it isn’t so much about what you are selling to your customers that’s important. What your customers need access to once they’ve signed up is where things can get complicated.
At it’s absolute easiest, I’ve seen WordPress used to sell memberships for groups that meet offline. The membership software was solely used as a simple way to collect monthly dues from members with no requirements for extra access to anything on the website other than the ability to manage their membership. Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what can be done.
Membership plugins can also make it easy to provide access to private content on your website. For some, this may be as easy as having one membership level where all private content is available to all members. But others may need something more complex with multiple membership levels, prices, and access to different content based on those levels.
For both simple and complex scenarios, my recommendation is Restrict Content Pro (RCP). With RCP, you can easily create automatic recurring memberships and provide your members access to just the right content.
One side note about creating memberships and giving users access to specific content, you may find yourself wanting to customize the menu items users see once they’re logged in. I found this plugin and this tutorial to be extremely helpful for customizing the menus for specific users and user levels.
These aren’t the only options
No matter how great these recommended plugins are, they are definitely not your only options. MemberPress is another fantastic plugin for handling memberships and subscriptions, and that’s just one example. You may need to test a couple out to see which suits you best, especially if you have unique requirements and need something hyper-specific. You may even want to reach out to the authors of the plugins to see if their plugin will suffice.
Selling products can be a daunting task. However, with the recommendations I’ve provided above, your eCommerce shop could be up and running in no time. Happy selling!