Featured image on main blog page: ©Dezay
Many auto part and accessory etailers – including a few Spork Marketing clients – use WooCommerce to power their online store. A popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, WooCommerce is one of the most popular and fastest growing ecommerce platforms in use.
While we don’t recommend WooCommerce for all applications, we do find that WooCommerce is an excellent option for manufacturers with a small catalog (less than 5,000 SKUs) that sell directly to the public.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be going over the ins and outs of using WooCommerce for auto parts ecommerce. Today, we’re going to talk about setting up a WooCommerce site. In future posts, we’ll talk about theme development, helpful plugins for WooCommerce, and finally tips and tricks.
Setting Up A New Auto Parts WooCommerce Site
Getting a WooCommerce site off the ground has a few steps:
- Setting up hosting and installing WordPress and WooCommerce
- Configuring WooCommerce for your specific store
- Configuring payment and shipping
- Configuring email
- Configuring analytics
NOTE: This is not a tutorial series. We’re going to talk about the main actions that need to be taken and recommendations we have. If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to creating a WooCommerce site yourself, this is not it. This guide is marketing and business management folks who want to understand what a WooCommerce website setup entails.
Hosting and Installation
Installing WordPress and WooCommerce is very simple – the whole process will take a developer just a few minutes. Choosing the right “stack” for hosting? Much more complex.
At Spork, we recommend the following stack of hosting systems:
- CloudFlare – We like CloudFlare for a lot of different reasons (security, performance, ease of use). The free plan is excellent for most applications, but the $20/month version has features worth paying for if you have the budget.
- Digital Ocean – With excellent performance and pricing, a powerful “droplet” is available for as little as $10 a month. High traffic sites can obviously buy larger droplets.
- ServerPilot – A tool designed to work with Digital Ocean and WordPress, ServerPilot makes server management easy. It also includes a free SSL certificate, which makes it a great deal for $10/month.
The total cost of this stack is anywhere between $15 a month (a $5 droplet, free CloudFlare, and ServerPilot) to as much as you’d like to spend. Most clients don’t spend more than $100 a month, however.
WooCommerce Configuration Questions
Before you setup your WooCommerce store, you want to ask yourself a few questions.
What taxonomy are you going to use to organize your products? A lot of ecommerce sites use a traditional category “tree” to organize things. This works great if you have a large variety of products to sell, many of which are in different categories. However, if you’re a manufacturer using WooCommerce to sell a limited line of products, things are a bit different. You may want to organize your products around brand name or application.
Also, many smaller stores will organize by application…they’ll have a “Ford” category, then a “Mustang” sub-category, then a “2005-2014 Mustang” category under that. This type of category works well if you have a small number of products and you don’t want to have a typical “year-make-model” lookup tool.
Whatever you decide, keep in mind that your decision will have long-range implications. It’s not easy to change once you pick a direction.
Are you going to have a year-make-model lookup tool? Speaking of year-make-model, do you want to make it so your customers can search for products this way? If so, this is going to impact how you add data to your site. You’ll also need to find a plugin that works well for year-make-model lookups.
Are you going to list all variations under one product page, or have a separate product pages for each variation? Let’s say that we’re selling floor mats on our website. Are we going to have either:
- One single product page for “WeatherTech Floor Mats”, where the user selects the mats that fit their vehicle on that page, or…
- A unique product page for each WeatherTech floor mat application
The advantage in using a single product page is that it makes your site pretty easy to use. People will have no trouble finding the right part for their vehicle. The disadvantage is that you have to maintain a fair amount of product data as “variations” in WooCommerce, which can be tedious. Many WooCommerce sites choose the second option – a unique page for each application – because it makes managing product data much simpler.
Configuring Payments, Shipping, and Fulfillment
Another big question you want to answer when you’re setting up a WooCommerce site: What payment and shipping options are you going to offer?
As far as payments, there are WooCommerce plugins for all the most popular payment gateways and providers. PayPal Standard is one of the most popular payment options for WooCommerce, partially because it’s very easy to configure, and partially because there are no special plugins to add, and no monthly fees for PayPal.
Whatever payment options you want to offer, it’s a good idea to make sure there’s a WooCommerce plugin for each option you want to use before you get too far into your project.
Shipping and fulfillment is a similar question – are you going to use UPS or FedEx to quote rates? DHL? USPS? Maybe a 3rd party tool (like ShipStation) to manage shipping and fulfillment requests at the same time? Whatever you decide, make sure you have support for your chosen solution before you get going.
The hosting stack we’ve spec’d out in this article does not provide for any sort of reliable email system. That’s because, rather than “bounce” your email through a website hosting server (which can cause deliverability issues), we recommend using a 3rd party email system like G-Suite or Microsoft Exchange Server.
Without getting too technical, it’s important to pay for an email hosting system for the following reasons:
- Email systems that are provided by website hosting companies often have trouble with getting past the junk or spam folder.
- Email systems that are provided by hosting companies aren’t as secure as we’d always like them to be.
- Email systems that are provided by hosting companies also lack valueable features that are found in systems like GMail, Hotmail, etc.
It’s cheap and easy to setup a GSuite account for your business, and that’s the solution we typically recommend. You can get an email account just for your website for $5 a month, and then configure an SMTP plugin for your website to “send” from that account. This will ensure your customers get your website emails (like order confirmation notices, abandoned cart emails, etc.).
Last but not least, it’s important to setup an analytics plugin for WooCommerce. The free Google Analytics plugin for WooCommerce is good, as is the free Facebook for Woocommerce plugin. However, neither of these plugins give you the maximum level of analytics detail that’s available. That’s a shame, because there’s a lot more data available if you have complete control over your site (and you do).
The Google Analytics advanced ecommerce tracking option is available, for example. While Google doesn’t charge anything for this level of tracking, you have to buy a premium plugin to take advantage of it. There are also premium plugins available for tracking ecommerce data in a few different systems (Google Analytics, Facebook, MailChimp, Hubspot, Intercom, ZenDesk). The point? Before you set anything up, it’s a good idea to look at all the different tools your company is using to manage customers, and then see what you can do about getting website data into each one.
In the next article in our series, we’ll tackle theme design and development.