While platforms like Shopify and Volusion are easy to setup, they’re difficult to customize and expensive. If you want to change the sales funnel for your customers, it’s going to take a lot more than changing a few links and re-configuring your menu like you can do in WordPress.
You don’t have to use WPEngine for hosting and you can go with a shared option like Fatcow, but for an e-commerce site it’s recommended. With WPEngine you get automatic backups and unrivaled customer service so that when you run into errors they can help you out.
The tools in the toolbox
E-commerce plugin using WooCommerce
WooCommerce is a free e-commerce plugin that let’s anyone sell things from their WordPress store. There are a ton of free themes with integration built in and paid options as well. Unless you feel like paying for customer service, I strongly advice that you use a theme that’s built to use WooCommerce instead of downloading a free one that isn’t. It will save you a lot of time searching for answers online.
There’s also a ton of WooCommerce extensions that give you complete control over the buying experience. There are extensions that allow you to bill for recurring subscriptions, take backorders, payment gateways like Authorize.net, bulk variation forms, etc. So no matter what you’re selling and how you want people to pay for it, there’s a way to do it. These extensions also go as far as integration with whatever email marketing software you’re using ie Mailchimp or Aweber.
When you’re looking for any kind of technology solution, you want it all to fall under one umbrella. There are different payment plugins you can use to sell things on a WordPress site, but they don’t work very well with one another. When you’re using all of these extensions with WooCommerce the systems integrate smoothly and rarely do you experience issues.
Custom Design using Headway Theme
I love working with Headway because you can build custom WordPress websites without having to know any coding. If you want to place an advertisement in a certain location or change the font color specifically in one box, you can enter the visual editor and select the option to change it. With standard WordPress themes you have to mess with the CSS or work with the options that they’ve provided. Some of these are more comprehensive than others, but I haven’t found one that gives you the options that Headway does. I used Headway to build this blog, WhiteRaverRafting.com and the e-commerce site.
With the Headway Editor you can directly customize what each page looks like. When you start using WordPress you become familiar with the different sections like the post, page, header, footer and widgets. These are referred to as “blocks” and you can move them around or add custom blocks.
So with WhiteRaverRafting.com our single posts have been customized to look like this:
While our new section for rave clothing has a Pinterest style where users can infinitely scroll and see all types of different products.
Unless you’re a developer you cannot do this with any regular WordPress theme and none come with the options Headway does.
A single license for the product runs at $87 per year while a developer license (unlimited websites) is $174. The one time payment of $174 may seem like a lot, but you’re going to be able to build incredible custom e-commerce websites without knowing how to code.
There’s a WooCommerce block (just like the Pinterest styled one) available for download so it integrates perfectly with the theme. So if you want to control what the homepage looks like and the funnel for channeling your customer from to the product page to checkout, purchase Headway today. If you do, let me know and I’ll be happy to jump on a Skype call to give you some tricks & tips that I’ve picked up using it for the past few years.
You don’t have to use Headway, you can go with one of the many free WooCommerce themes or even a premium model. I however like to be in more control of what the site / flow is like and since I’m not strong at coding, it’s what I like to use.
Hosting with WPEngine
WPEngine is fully managed WordPress hosting. That’s all they do. You’ll have to run your business email separately and should probably just use Google Apps.
I’ve been using WPEngine for my main authority sites for over a year now and couldn’t imagine a reason why I would switch. Even if they started charging me double, I still wouldn’t even look anywhere else (If anyone for WPEngine team is reading this, please don’t do that).
When you’re running a blog or e-commerce website, your main focus should be on growth and profitability. You can’t be bothered by things like backups, uptime, caching, malware, restore points, etc. If you’re thinking about things that aren’t growing your business, you’re missing out on opportunities.
We chose WPEngine to do the hosting for this e-commerce site for all of those reasons above. Dealing with customer information and handling transactions online, it’s of absolute importance for us that we’re secure, online and well optimized. Their backend handles all of that and we don’t really have to worry. It’s a lot like that rotisserie oven commercial… “set it and forget it”.
Step by Step Process
1.) Signup at WPEngine and setup WordPress.
Installing through their platform is easy and you need to pick a name for your WordPress install. This doesn’t have to be the same as your actual domain name. You can signup here.
2.) Move your domain name over to WPEngine.
With Fatcow or other shared hosting sites, you have to switch the Nameservers for your domain over. With WPEngine all you need to do is change the A Record with the IP Address of your WordPress install. This might sound complicated, but it’s really easy.
Getting your WPEngine IP Address:
Configuring WPEngine domains with Namecheap:
I register most of my domain names through Namecheap because it’s affordable, they don’t try and spam you with a ton of shit like GoDaddy, they’re all for internet freedom and they come with a free whoisdomain guard. My name and contact information is hidden from all of the domains that I buy online. This is great because of how sketchy I am.
3.) Change the address in WordPress
Now go back into your WordPress dashboard click on settings and then general. There are going to be two sections that say WordPress Address URL and Site Address URL, change this to whatever your website may be. It’s up to you whether you want to include the www. or not. I prefer to leave it out, but that’s just me.
4.) Upload your theme / WooCommerce
You can grab WooCommerce for free right here and then upload (hopefully Headway) to your site. You should be able to do this on your own, but if not start tinkering around in WordPress. I like to tell people that if you can use a Windows computer, then you can be a master at WordPress. They’re both pretty simple.
Once you have WooCommerce installed you can begin adding products to your site. You add products just like a regular post or page so if you’ve been using WordPress, it has a learning curve of about 0. Even for total beginners, it’s very simple and intuitive.
After you’ve added a product, jump into the settings and setup the options like shipping for domestic and international customers. If you’re selling a digital product like an Ebook and want them to be able to download it after paying, you can set that up too.
5.) Configure WooCommerce to Accept Paypal
By default WooCommerce will allow you to accept Paypal for items that you create on your site. All you need to do is enter the email address and click the enable button. On the default payment gateway page, you probably want to disable the other options and keep just paypal.
If you want to accept credit cards or Paypal on your own site, you’ll need a merchant payment gateway like Authorize.net. There are WooCommerce extensions that integrate with these different payment providers. Here’s how to get an SSL license for WPEngine.
After you’ve setup your website and Paypal, you’re ready to sell. So whether you have tens of thousands of products or just want to sell consulting services, you’re ready to go.
Why this is so awesome
With WooCommerce + Headway + WPEngine, you have a custom e-commerce site and it’s fully backed up and supported. You’re not going to find that ANYWHERE else on the web. There’s a ton of addons and options where you can easily incorporate things like social sharing, discount coupons (for free) and email marketing.
Whether you need help implementing this method or would like to hire me to build you a custom WooCommerce Store, contact me and we’ll do a Skype chat to get things going.
A WPEngine Story:
When I was setting up this last website the configuration was a little bit different than what I’ve done before. I submitted ridiculous customer support tickets to WPEngine over and over again. I abused the caps lock button on a few occasions. With a normal webhost my requests would have been ignored or handled whenever they had time, but they actually fixed the WordPress specific issues. You’re not going to find that kind of help anywhere else!
Yeah, this happened too. Follow me on twitter @ben_hebert.
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