It’s every business’s goal to convert more customers, scale, and reach (and even surpass) the bar set by the top companies in their industry. For e-commerce companies, that bar’s been set especially high with leaders like Amazon continually revolutionizing the online retail space.
That being said, 2016 taught us a very important lesson about e-commerce:
- With $385 billion generated in online revenue,
- and a growth rate of 16% within the first half of the year (compared to retail’s average growth rate of only 2%),
- e-commerce is in high demand.
In fact, BI Intelligence predicts that e-commerce revenue will almost double by 2020, with a total of $632 billion in annual online sales expected.
So what does all this mean for your e-commerce business? For starters, there is a huge demand for it. Secondly, industry analysts expect more online companies to take advantage of this opportunity in the near future—and that online consumer is more than happy to welcome it.
Knowing this, it’s important to understand that this opportunity will only serve to profit those who are prepared for it. And this means your online store needs to provide a similar shopping experience as the one your customers encounter on larger websites. If you’re looking for tools that will help you build, run, and manage a successful e-commerce store as well as to enable you to grow your business, keep reading.
WordPress Tools to Help You Run Your eCommerce Store
As luck would have it, WordPress developers and designers understand the needs of e-commerce companies very well. A little too well, actually.
Because there are so many themes, plugins, and third-party integrations built with e-commerce in mind, it can be difficult to determine which ones you really need. However, if your goal is to provide customers with a great-looking UI and a high-functioning UX, then you’ll want a comprehensive package of tools to help cover all your bases.
Below you will find the 15 WordPress tools to help you run your e-commerce store better, easier, and with higher success (conversion) rates. It doesn’t matter if you:
- Have little or extensive experience in building a website.
- Sell digital or physical products.
- Have a minuscule or oversized budget.
The following list of WordPress tools is affordable, flexible, and very easy to use. And they all start with WooCommerce.
WP Tool #1: WooCommerce
For anyone looking to launch a business in the online commercial space, one of the first questions you have to ask yourself is: which e-commerce solution is right for me?
If your business is new, you’re running on limited funds, or you simply want something that’ll run right from inside your WordPress CMS, WooCommerce is the perfect place to start. And, although this plugin is free to use, it’s not a cheap or lackluster tool by any means. It often ranks alongside the pay-to-play tools like Magento and Shopify and comes chock-full of features right out of the box.
Here are just some of the features e-commerce companies get with WooCommerce:
- Built-in Storefront theme
- Easy product page setup
- Shipping options galore (free shipping, flat-rate shipping, global shipping, and so on)
- Various payment integrations, including Amazon, credit cards, and COD
- Inventory manager
And because WooCommerce is such a popular and well-received plugin, there are plugins and themes built specifically to integrate with it.
WP Tool #2: eCommerce Theme
Web designers understand what it takes to not only create beautiful WordPress themes that align with modern design trends, they also understand what goes into a successful online shopping experience.
While WooCommerce offers a built-in and customizable Storefront theme, it’s important for business owners to find a theme that really speaks to their business’s identity. Keep in mind that if you do go that route, you may feel overwhelmed trying to sift through the hundreds of e-commerce-friendly WordPress themes on your own. The free and responsive (this is especially important) WordPress themes discussed here are a good place to start.
WP Tool #3: Plugin Performance Profiler
The great thing about working with WooCommerce is that it’s a fairly comprehensive eCommerce tool. It also happens to be well-supported by the WordPress developer community, so there are always new themes and plugins released to complement it.
However, because WooCommerce is so easily extended (and you want the power that comes with those extensions), you may run into trouble with slow loading times on site if you have too many themes and plugins installed on the backend. Be sure to have this P3 plugin set up so you can keep an eye on the bulk of your plugins and keep your system running lean and mean, no matter how much extensibility you add to your e-commerce store.
WP Tool #4: EWWW Image Optimizer
Whether you’re in the business of selling digital products or physical merchandise, you’ll no doubt be showcasing your inventory through high-resolution photos. Images, like plugins, tend to bloat and overload the WordPress platform, so you’ll need a tool like this one to keep your images looking crisp and clear without weighing down your website.
WP Tool #5: Booster for WooCommerce
If you’re already familiar with WordPress’s Jetpack plugin, you’ll have a fond appreciation for this Booster plugin. There are a variety of plugins you could use to tackle separate needs for your e-commerce shop, but why waste the server space and compromise your site’s loading time when you could have one plugin do it all?
This Booster for WooCommerce will help you set, manage, and control:
- Calls-to-action (Call us, Order now, etc.)
- Product SKUs
- Geotargeting (visibility and availability of your merchandise per country)
- Multilingual configuration
- Custom cart configuration
- Custom payment gateways
- Shipping tools (shipping options, calculator, form fields, etc.)
- Invoice and packaging slip generation
Now, if you’re not using WooCommerce, but still want assistance with all of the pieces included in this Booster pack, don’t fret because there is a WordPress plugin out there for you. It just probably won’t be as convenient as this all-in-one solution.
WP Tool #6: eCommerce Product Catalog
While the tools above will cover a good portion of your needs, there is still some functionality you may be missing out on. This one, for instance, makes the process of developing a high-quality and search-optimized product catalog much easier. This drag-and-drop builder also includes cross-browser compatibility, responsive layouts, and pre-made templates—which are especially helpful when you want a high-performance website without the excessive time and money spent on creating it.
WP Tool #7: Rating Widget
One of the most important lessons you’ll learn about your customers is that they want to be heard and, if you don’t give them a platform through which to do so, they’ll go to someone who will (like Yelp or social media).
Give them an easy way to share their feedback on your e-commerce site. There are a number of reasons this is a good idea:
- This shows them you want to hear what they think.
- This allows other customers to learn more about your merchandise from others who have purchased/used them.
- This keeps you well-informed of your customers’ opinions, so you don’t have to spend too much time worrying about what they’re saying about you elsewhere.
- This provides you with an excellent opportunity to learn more about what your customers like or don’t like, so you can adapt your shop accordingly.
WP Tool #8: Instant Search
Having a well-thought-out navigation for your website is essential. This will not only help visitors more easily find what they’re looking for, but this will tell the search engines what exactly your store sells. Sometimes, though, your visitors want a more instantaneous way to find what they’re looking for. This is where an intuitive search bar will come in handy.
Shopping Cart Optimization
WP Tool #9: WooCommerce Waitlist
Although a wait list may not be necessary for some e-commerce stores (especially if you sell digital products), there may come a time when you wish you had a way to keep up with excess demand. While it’s great to cater to the customers you can serve today, it’s also essential to cater to the customers that your store wasn’t equipped to serve just yet.
As an added benefit, a wait list plugin will allow you to gather information about your inventory (which items are in top demand) as well as about your customers (who they are, what are they willing to wait for, etc.)
WP Tool #10: Abandoned Cart
If you’ve spent enough time looking through your website’s analytics, you may have discovered a disparity between the number of site visitors and the number of sales. If you look close enough, you may even find that your visitors drop off midway through the shopping cart process.
There are a number of causes for this. Maybe you don’t have a wishlist option, and they wanted to store their items there for future purchase. Or maybe they became frustrated by an overly lengthy or complicated shopping cart process. Regardless of the reason, you need to have a way to gently remind them that they have items waiting to be purchased. You can do that with an abandoned cart reminder tool.
WP Tool #11: Live Chat
There is another way you can help prevent lost conversions on your e-commerce website. With a live chat, though, you can do so in real time. With this particular Live Chat plugin from Formilla, you can monitor your visitors’ activity in real time; find out which website they came from, which pages they’ve visited on your website, whether they’re new or returning, and so on.
By including a visible live chat widget on your site, your “live” presence will encourage visitors to speak up if they have questions or run into issues while trying to make a purchase from your site. This also gives you the option to proactively reach out to visitors if it seems like they’re in need of assistance but have yet to speak up.
Marketing & Sales
WP Tool #12: Free Gift Giveaway
Sometimes it’s hard to predict which of your inventory will be top sellers and which will be less popular than you anticipated. You already know what to do about those products that fly off of your e-shelves like hotcakes (add a wait list). But what about for those items that aren’t really going anywhere?
One of the ways you can prevent total product loss and foster greater loyalty with your customers is by turning that excess supply into a free gift giveaway. With this plugin, you can determine the rules for who receives the gift and what conditions may apply.
WP Tool #13: WooCommerce Marketing Tools
With so much time spent trying to get your website and inventory up to speed, it can be difficult keeping up with your marketing efforts. But if you build your marketing tools right into WordPress, there’s no need to let them fall by the wayside.
With this e-commerce marketing plugin, you can:
- Send new customers a welcome email after purchase.
- Use Facebook Messenger as a way to “live” chat with customers.
- Suggest personalized product recommendations based on what you know about your customers.
- Incentivize customers to spend more in order to receive a free gift.
- Use exit-intent popup messages that show up right before a person is about to exit your site. You can encourage social sharing in exchange for a free gift or give them a “limited time only” coupon code.
- Email customers with special offers meant just for them.
Marketing campaigns typically take a while to strategize and execute. However, with this plugin, you can work on the cross-sell, up-sell, loyalty boosts, and cart abandonment prevention all with just one tool.
WP Tool #14: WooCommerce Analytics
While every company should have Google Analytics set up and regularly reviewed for their website, it’s not always enough when you’re in the business of e-commerce.
With this WooCommerce Analytics plugin, you can keep better tabs on the conversion process, noting:
- Which referral websites (including social media) resulted in higher conversions.
- Which parts of the conversion process were completed on your site (items added to carts, orders completed, users registered, etc.)
- Where you’re losing out on conversions most frequently.
If you want to learn more about your customer’s journey through your site and better shape the pathway for them, you’ll need in-depth analytics to let you know how to do that.
WP Tool #15: A/B Testing
If you haven’t heard about A/B testing before, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to take feedback from your visitors (without having to solicit the feedback) and then use it to make improvements to your site. Here’s how it works:
- You have your current website.
- But you wonder if there’s something about your website that prevents visitors from converting to paying customers. Maybe it’s the length of the shopping cart process. Maybe the calls-to-action aren’t visible enough. Or maybe the wording on the site just doesn’t speak to them.
- You make a hypothesis regarding the problem area.
- Then you create a “B” alternate version of your website where a single element (color, image, font, sizing, spacing, process steps, etc.) is changed.
- Using an A/B testing tool, you can then share both the A (original) and B (alternate) versions of your website to different visitors.
- You’ll monitor their reactions to the change (Do “A” visitors click the button more often? Do “B” visitors spend more money?) over a set time period.
- Then you make either the A or B version of that element a permanent fixture on your website.
A/B testing allows e-commerce companies to find out what really makes their visitors happy. And with this particular Nelio A/B Testing plugin, you also have heatmap functionality built in. Heatmaps are another passive way to observe your visitors’ activity. They show you where they look, hover, and click most frequently on each page of your website.
If you want insights into why you’re not converting more of your visitors, this tool is an absolute must.
As the demand for e-commerce grows, you’ll want to ensure your website is prepared to cater to your audience’s needs—which means creating an experience, not unlike the one you’d find on major online retail sites. There’s no need to spend excessive amounts of money or time hiring others to do this for you if you can make use of the wide array of WordPress tools already available at your disposal.
Nathan Oulman contributes around the web to tech-related websites. He owns and operates the www.dailyhosting.net blog where the focus is on reviews for hosting companies.