It’s been said that the internet has democratized speech and the ability to get one’s opinions out into the world. WordPress has been a big part of that. The open-source blogging and content management platform has certainly made it a lot easier for anyone to publish whatever they’d like.
Well, WordPress is also making it easy for businesses of all sizes to sell their products and services online. Through its ability to use plugins (special pieces of software that allow WordPress to perform new functions), creating your own eCommerce site has never been easier.
The best plugin I’ve used to create a WordPress-powered eCommerce site is WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a free, easy-to-use shopping cart plugin that will allow you to sell both physical and digital (downloadable) goods.
Out of the box, it’s really quite powerful. You can set up different shipping and tax polices, payment options, customize emails that the cart sends to customers, create coupon codes and a whole lot more. And, if you need access to a special payment processing gateway (PayPal is included standard), shipping service integration or just about any other type of extended functionality, there is a marketplace of extension plugins available for purchase.
If you’re selling digital (downloadable) products, WooCommerce makes it quite easy to do. I recently self-published my own eBook and am using WooCommerce to handle delivery to customers. The plugin handles customer payments. Once an order has been processed, customers are directed to an invoice page that contains a link to download the eBook. Just in case, they also receive an email with the same information. I can set a limit to how many times a customer can download the file and a time limit (in days) for how long they’ll have to download it. The process is completely automated.
For physical goods, the plugin will work with all the major shipping companies through the use of extensions. That will allow your website to automatically calculate exact shipping rates from the likes of UPS, FedEx and the US Postal Service (other international shippers are also available).
I have tried a number of WordPress shopping cart plugins over the years, but WooCommerce has been by far the most impressive.