WordPress & WooCommerce – For Serious Business Use

WooCommerce, the free shop plugin for WordPress, now has over 750 plugin feature add-ons. This is more than any other cart on earth. Some enhancements are cosmetic, others providing highly advanced tools. And recent updates to WordPress mean it’s becoming even easier for developers to do even more.

As well as extending functionality via normal plugins, updates to WordPress and WooCommerce in late 2015 included improved APIs (Application program interface). A bit geeky and hard to explain, but this lets developers provide options once thought impossible or just too costly. This ability allows the site to more easily link with other open systems, especially business cloud services. It could mean easier workflows, even a ‘dashboard’ for sales, marketing and client management activities. To extend WordPress from a marketing tool, to a business application.

Already developers have used these tools to link WordPress sites into high-end Corporate ERP systems from Microsoft and others. Normally such extensions to any website cost tens of thousands, taking months. Now it’s all done safely on a smaller budget with much less complexity. But most needs are more modest…

Start building with a WooCommerce Shop

bookings-main@2xWooCommerce is a good place to start with the most exciting business possibilities. A shopping cart is more a transactional engine, not just a selling and marketing tool. WooCommerce can be built to not just sell physical or digital products, but also time, content and services. ‘Products’ could include bookings, events, photography, books, donations, pdf coupons etc…

These APIs mean more is being done in ‘realtime’ too. Compared with other traditional carts, WooCommerce lacks some visual finesse, but makes up for this is many other ways. i.e. A low setup cost, easier, quicker updates and improved ability to integrate with other open systems – To help grow and semi-automate a modern business. Here’s a few examples from the hundreds of possible options:

  • link to accounting systems like Xero
  • integrate with offshore or NZ Post shipping
  • store management in your pocket – IOS & Android apps
  • better Facebook and social media integration
  • link with Mailchimp and SMS marketing options
  • improve sales & client support using helpscout

WooCommerce Subscription, Membership & eLearning options too

Recent, little-known add-ons to WooCommerce are Membership and related eLearning tools like Sensei or Learndash, two great e-learning plugins and viable alternative to the old clunky Moodle systems used by universities. WordPress has dozens of membership plugins too like wishlist, but most are limited to Paypal or US Stripe as a payment method, should you want to charge people to access private areas for content or training on a subscription basis. There’s even new tools to help wedding and event photographers to add private collections, then sell these images online.

As part of the WooCommerce cart, content or access is simply sold as a special product, with API-driven payment gateways to local providers eWay, Paystation, SwipeHQ, Polipay, Payment Express etc. No longer are we limited to using Paypal or the US banking system, although Sprite is coming here soon, which will shake up the locals, who need serious competition. Clients who have moved to local gateways for payments report 25% or more increase in on line sales. Seems many New Zealanders are still not comfortable using Paypal and entrusting them with their credit card details.

Perhaps you need a CRM?

But wait there’s more….  What about adding a CRM (Customer relationship management) option to the website? Why a CRM? To better track actual sales in realtime, as well as sales leads and customer support calls. A forgotten benefit is to the company goodwill value and price, should the business be sold later.

zohocrmYet asking any CMS website platform [like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal etc] to also act as a CRM is seldom a good idea. Not only will there be website performance issues, but security concerns too.

A better option is to integrate WordPress (or WooCommerce) with a cloud-based service like Salesforce.  Alternatively you could consider lower cost options like AgileCRM,  Vtiger CRM or my favorite Bitrix24

Consider too some low cost add-ons like LeadinDripWishpond or Sendinblue to enhance visitor analysis, signups and engagement. But these are just some examples. First you need a plan, a strategy and an ample allowance for training. Remember, it’s not the tools, but how we use them that makes the biggest difference with new technology…

WordPress for Business –  Safe, affordable and future-proof

mailmagnet-iosI believe the above options are a safe, fast to implement, utilising reliable ‘best of class’ providers. Safer than using niche market, high risk customised solutions (often built by a tiny development team), who could easily disappear tomorrow, leaving you stranded – Clunky, often costly, somewhat unfriendly systems which inevitably have fewer features, as well as being more costly to install, support and upgrade.

But, putting aside the huge business benefits of the WordPress application, a hidden gem for me is the stunning mobile apps that these established sister applications like WooCommerce, Zoho and Salesforce can provide users and managers – Increasingly important in today’s quick-response, mobile-driven world…

Costs? It varies as each business need and opportunity differs, which is why WooCommerce especially holds such promise. A WooCommerce/WordPress package would typically save a business 50-70% compared with proprietary or other open source options. Ample pre-planning and setting user expectations is the key.

We’re presently building a demo system that shows you exactly how all this can work for small business and non-profits. In the meantime, for more information just add your details to the form below.

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