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Selling Auto Parts And Accessories with WooCommerce – Part 1 – Setup

Many auto part and accessory etailers – including a number of our clients – use WooCommerce to power their online store. A popular ecommerce add-on for WordPress, WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce platform in the world.

While we don’t recommend WooCommerce for all applications, we do find that WooCommerce is an excellent option for manufacturers or retailers with a smaller catalog (less than 25,000 SKUs) who wish to sell directly to the public.

In a series of posts, we’ll be going over the ins and outs of using WooCommerce as your auto parts ecommerce platform. Today, we’re going to talk about setting up a WooCommerce site.

Find links to the rest of the posts in our series at the bottom of this article.

Setting Up A New Auto Parts WooCommerce Site

Getting a WooCommerce site off the ground has a few steps:

  • Setup hosting and install WordPress with WooCommerce
  • Figure out how you’re going to organize your parts
  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 $5.50/month.

The total cost of this stack starts at just $10.50 a month (a $5 droplet, free CloudFlare, and $5.50 for ServerPilot) to as much as you’d like to spend. Most clients don’t spend more than $100 a month, however.

How will you organize the products in your WooCommerce store?

Catalog Setup

Next, you want to figure out how to setup your store catalog. For auto parts retailers, it really comes down to:

  1. Are you going to have categories? If so, what categories go where?
  2. Are you going to have a year-make-model lookup?
  3. How are you going to deal with variations (like different colors of the same product, different lengths of the same product, etc.)

Are you going to have categories?

A lot of ecommerce sites use a traditional category “tree” to organize things. For example, they’ll have an “Engine” category, and then they’ll have sub-categories for parts that are part of the engine:

  • ENGINES
    • Pistons and Rings
    • Camshafts/Valvetrain
    • Cranks and Bearings
    • Belt Driven Accessories
    • Maintenance

This category structure can work great if your products have clear, distinct categories…but that’s not always the case.

For example, what if we sell water pumps? Do we put those under BELT DRIVEN ACCESSORIES, or put them under their own category under ENGINES? And what about engine air filters or oil filters? Do we also put them under ENGINES as their own category, or do we put them under MAINTENANCE? Where are your customers going to expect to find these parts?

Obviously, it can get complicated quickly. So, if you’re going to have categories on your ecommerce site, it’s a good idea to bust out a pencil and some paper and map out how it’s going to be organized.

Are you going to have a year-make-model lookup tool?

Next, how are consumers going to find parts that fit their vehicle?

  1. Add a year-make-model lookup tool, which will show the customer a list of products for their specific vehicle?
  2. Organize your products into categories for each fitment?

If you go with option #1 – year-make-model lookup – you’ll need to find a good plugin, get all your fitment data mapped to all our SKUs, and then manage that data going forward. It’s not hard, but it’s important to understand that managing your data will take a regular investment in time.

If you go with option #2, you’ll want to setup a category for each make and/or model, and then sub-categories for generations, e.g.:

  • MUSTANG
    • 1965-1973
    • 1974-1978
    • 1979-1993
    • 1994-2004
    • 2005-2014
    • 2015+
  • CAMARO
    • 1967-1969
    • 1970-1981
    • 1982-1992
    • …. etc.

This structure – where customers can find the parts they need based on category – can be great! But it’s also harder to manage (multiple parts will appear in multiple categories) and it can get cumbersome if you’re selling parts for more than a few models.

NOTE: We offer a year-make-model lookup plugin for WooCommerce that integrates with ShowMeTheParts.com for product and fitment data. You can learn more about our plugin here.

Are you going to list variations under one product page?

Many products come in a variety of sizes, colors, lengths, etc. If you’re selling valve covers, you might have them in both polished aluminum and satin finish aluminum (for example). Both of these sets of valve covers are identical except for the finish.

With WooCommerce, you can choose to either:

  1. List each finish as a seperate product
  2. List each finish as a variation of the same product

The second option – which WooCommerce calls a variable product – is the way to go, right? Consumers find it logical, you have fewer pages to manage, etc.

But the problem is that a lot of your data comes to you from the manufacturer with separate rows for each SKU…managing all the variations can be difficult as a result.

Sometimes, retailers do not use variable products because it’s too much work to setup and maintain…even though it’s the option that consumers would usually prefer. Both methods have merit.

Payment Processing

Another big question you want to answer when you’re setting up a WooCommerce site: What payment processor are you going to use?

The good news is that there are WooCommerce plugins for all the most popular payment gateways and providers. Some of the most popular options are:

  • PayPal Standard (included in WooCommerce) is one of the most popular payment options for WooCommerce. It’s popular because it’s easy to configure, there are no plugins to add, and no monthly fees for PayPal.
  • PayPal Checkout is also popular, only we don’t like it at Spork because it adds a lot of PayPal branding to your product detail pages. Still, for some retailers, it’s handy, and you can’t beat the price (plugin is free and no monthly fees either).
  • Authorize.net is another popular option, and many retailers rely on it for all credit card processing (in person and online). The plugin has a fee, as does the Authorize.net service. Larger retailers can usually save enough on credit card processing fees to make Authorize.net a good investment. But smaller retailers might find it expensive.
  • Stripe, which doesn’t get as much attention as PayPal, but it should. It’s very convenient for consumers (Stripe uses SMS messaging to make checkout easy), has good fraud protection, and supports recurring charges (like membership fees) without any extra expense. The plugin is free and there are no monthly fees either.

Whatever payment option(s) you want to offer (you can offer more than one), it’s a good idea to think about both plugin licensing fees (many cost $100/year) as well as monthly service fees. Both can add up.

Shipping and Fulfillment

There are lots of questions to ask about shipping and fulfillment – answering these is usually enough to help you figure out how you’re going to setup your site.

  • When the customer goes to order a product, will they pay for shipping, or will shipping be free? If shipping is free, will there be a minimum order amount (like $99)?
  • If the customer has to pay for shipping, how will it be quoted? Flat rate? UPS calculated rates? FedEx?
  • When the order comes in, how will you fulfill it? Will you use a tool like ShipStation to send orders to your fulfillment team? Or maybe an ERP? Or will you just send every order to a distributor for dropship?
  • Are shipping charges going to be marked up? Will you charge a handling fee?

If you’re going to calculate shipping, the good news is that there are plugins for all the major shippers – US Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, DHL – and a lot of smaller companies have plugins/integrations too. Just make sure all your products have dimensions and weights, and you can usually calculate shipping correctly.

Configure Email

Without getting too technical, it’s important to pay for an email hosting system:

  1. Email systems that are provided by website hosting companies often have trouble with getting past the junk or spam folder.
  2. Email systems that are provided by hosting companies aren’t as secure as we’d always like them to be.
  3. Email systems that are provided by hosting companies also lack valuable features that are found in systems like GMail, Hotmail, etc.

It’s cheap and easy to setup a Google Workspaces account for your business, and that’s the solution we typically recommend. The cost is $6 a month, and it includes an SMTP option that is great for your website (SMTP makes sure your website’s messages are delivered).

Configure Tracking and Analytics

Last but not least, you’ll want to setup analytics and tracking code on your site.

  • Google Analytics is an excellent analytics platform that is completely free and highly recommended by Spork.
  • Google Tag Manager is basically a “web bucket” you can put code into ( like a HotJar heat tracking snippet or a Microsoft Ads tracking code) and have it run on your website without having to edit code. All you do is install Google Tag Manager one time, and then use Google’s online management tool to add or remove whatever scripts you want.
  • Google Site Kit is a plugin that adds Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and a couple of other goodies into your site.
  • Pixel Caffeine is a plugin that adds Facebook/Instagram tracking to your site.

We would recommend adding the “Google Site Kit” and “Pixel Caffeine” plugins to most sites, and then making sure they’re configured correctly by following the instructions closely and checkin for results the following day.

In the next article in our series, we’ll tackle theme design and development.

Read the Rest of The Series

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