The percentage of people who prefer to shop from the comfort of their homes has been on the rise year after year, only to be accelerated by the pandemic. Unlike browsing through a brick-and-mortar store while shopping, online customers are less likely to catch the virus while saving some of their time and money and enjoying a wider selection of products and services.
Now that the novel coronavirus has been losing potency around the world, going back to normal no longer looks like a distant dream but closer to reality. Despite that, ecommerce businesses continue to grow rapidly and show no signs of slowing down. So, if you wish to start an ecommerce business and set up an online store, now would be the right time.
However, before getting your hands dirty you should know what tools you are going to use to build your ecommerce store. If you don't have much time but are ready to pay a pretty penny, then an ecommerce platform could be a solid choice for you. It’s an end-to-end software solution that will supply you with all the nuts and bolts (web hosting included) you’ll need to run a successful ecommerce business.
On the other hand, if you care more about having tons of themes and templates, piles of plugins for pretty much anything, and complete freedom to customize your store any way you wish, then WordPress might be a better choice. Being a free-to-use open source content management system (CMS), it will let you save something for rainy days to boot. However, these are just a few reasons why WordPress and ecommerce sites are a perfect pair. To find out more, check out our top five reasons below.
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1. WordPress is the king of ecommerce and won’t be giving up the throne any time soon
Released to the public in 2003, WordPress powers over 43% of all sorts of sites across the world today and is considered to be the world’s most popular CMS covering more than 62% of all sites. Created by Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg, WordPress was conceived as a personal blog-publishing system but later evolved into a full-blown CMS built on PHP and MySQL with an aGPLv2 license. Beloved by veteran webmasters and newcomers alike, WordPress is now used for creating, managing, and running all kinds of personal and business sites, ecommerce sites included.
Given the fact that there are so many WordPress sites around, it is only natural to take WordPress into account when picking out a platform you’re going to build your ecommerce store on. However, considering that WordPress has been around for almost two decades alongside the tenacious march of technology, it’s also natural to wonder what the future holds in store for WordPress.
Some have argued that WordPress might face a grim future with the upcoming generations, but the majority agrees that it’s actually brighter than a thousand suns thanks to its free-to-use open-source nature and the ever-growing community of dedicated developers, web designers, and content creators. They are all making it into one of the most avant-garde, most flexible, and most fan-favorite site-creation tools in the industry. In addition to minimizing the cost of design and development, WordPress is continuously being tweaked by the developers who are using it. And they are not only improving the code but also adding new plugins, building new extensions, creating new templates and themes, and spreading the word. There are thousands of plugins for WordPress today, and most of them exist just to make your life a bit easier.
Another feature that goes in favor of WordPress’ long-lasting career as industry-leading CMS is its SEO-friendliness. WordPress is SEO optimized by default (meaning your site will be more likely to pop up among the search engine results), but if you hand-pick an SEO-friendly theme and grab one of the SEO plugins WordPress has to offer, you won’t only be good to go but ready to win the Internet with flying colors.
Although we’ll elaborate on this later, as the number of WordPress-powered sites continues to grow (as does its market share) it’s safe to say that it isn’t going anywhere but forward in the foreseeable future.
2. WordPress is free-to-use open-source software that makes you a true owner of your online store
Thanks to tons of cost-effective CMS’, site-creation tools, and ecommerce platforms that are at our fingertips nowadays, the cost of creating a site is lower than ever before and merely a few systems can say they’re as cheap and cheerful as WordPress. As mentioned before, WordPress offers a free version of its CMS without any strings attached, but to start your site you’ll need a domain name and a web hosting solution (you’ll probably have to pay a few bucks for both).
Once your WordPress site is all set up, to turn it into a fully-fledged ecommerce store you’ll have to find the right ecommerce plugin. Whether it’s free or goes for a hefty fee, there’s a wide variety of options in either case. One of the boons of using WordPress is a low barrier to entry, particularly in comparison to closed or proprietary ecommerce platforms. Those who are just starting to set up their first storefront probably have a tight budget to worry about, so it’s no surprise WordPress is a superstar among small businesses.
Another benefit of using WordPress is that you’ll pay only what you actually want to use, which happens once in a blue moon with most proprietary ecommerce platforms. Most of the time, when you pay for a platform you’ll get a specific set of features some of which you’ll never get to bring into play. In contrast, WordPress gives you complete control over what you wish to use on your site, and what you don’t.
Yet another benefit of WordPress is that it will treat you like a true owner of your online business, and more importantly all of your data. Considering that you won’t be renting your ecommerce store from a supplier which can change everything about its product in a heartbeat, you’re less likely to find yourself in a sticky situation. In a particularly unfortunate scenario, you might miss a monthly payment by mistake and have your site taken down and all of its content gone for good. With WordPress, you’ll be the one controlling every section of your site so the chances you’ll end up in such a scenario are pretty slim.
3. WordPress is simple to set up and offers a superior level of customization
Although WordPress isn’t the kind of platform that will do all the work for you, it will make the challenge of setting up your store fairly simple. WordPress itself can be installed with a single click, and there is a good chance that your web hosting provider’s technical team will install it for you. If you’re willing to pay big bucks, then you can keep the technical stuff at arm's length with a managed WordPress hosting package. However, if you’re working on a tight budget, this package could blow it to bits before you know it.
Upon installing WordPress you’ll be able to take advantage of a wide variety of features and functionality that will facilitate the development of your website. WordPress’ easy-to-use back-end interface is sure to make the learning curves smooth even for first-time users. From there, you can visit the theme library and download a ready-made theme that fits the vision of your site (and for free to boot), or go straight to the plugin library and download one for ecommerce. In either case, with an amazing amount of choice WordPress puts forth you should feel like a kid in a candy store.
Another area where WordPress’ open-source nature gets to shine through is customization. Since your storefront is the first thing your visitors are going to see, it’s your objective as a store owner to capture their attention, make a sale, and keep your customers coming back for more. With over 9,000 free themes in WordPress’ library, we’re sure you’ll find something that’ll make your store stick out in the crowd. And if that isn’t enough, with the right plugin (such as WooCommerce) in addition to tackling themes, templates, and color schemes you can further customize your store by picking out plugins, add-on applications, or other features. All in all, if a superior level of customization is one of your top priorities when setting up an ecommerce store, WordPress is a superb choice.
4. WordPress offers plenty of powerful plugins
If you've heard that somewhere that WordPress has a plugin for more or less everything, you heard it right. As we write, the WordPress plugin library contains 59,385 free plugins and the number keeps growing day after day. Needless to say, there are lots of paid plugins as well, but thanks to the natural flexibility of WordPress you won’t have to break the bank to install a few integrations, add a few plugins (let’s say one for ecommerce, another for SEO optimization, and the third one for web analytics), and pick up the perfect theme for your online store. Most of these plugins will add additional functionality to your site while staying simple to download, install and use.
Although WooCommerce is the most widely used WordPress plugin for ecommerce, there are other plugins you might want to pick up as well. The most notable are OptinMonster (which comes with over 50 good-looking templates and a drag-and-drop site builder), Easy Digital Downloads (a lightweight ecommerce plugin made for selling digital products), and Cart Recovery for WordPress (a self-explanatory plugin that works well both with WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads).
To safeguard your online store from scheming cybercriminals, heartless hackers, and malignant malware you’d want to throw in a couple of security plugins as well. Sucuri Security is one of the commonly used ones and it comes with a free version as well, although you’ll probably want to upgrade to a paid plan as your online business begins to boom. It will stand watch over malware scanning, security auditing, and security hardening, and all without making you live beyond your means. To stay on the safe side, don’t forget to include a WordPress backup plugin among others.
What about WordPress plugins for marketing? As you can imagine, there are tons of plugins made to make you a master of marketing starting with social media integration, paying for ads and sponsored posts, keeping up with your customers via newsletters, running promotions, handing out coupons, creating space for reviews, and much more. In short, there is a plugin for pretty much anything you can think of, you only need to know where to look for it.
5. WordPress is safe, secure, and with community support close at hand
It is widely believed that every open source software is cursed to be short on security, but this is not the case with WordPress. In contrast, it’s considered to be one of the safest software suites for site creation, which also includes the creation of ecommerce sites. However, this doesn’t mean you should take a totally laid-back attitude towards security (of your site or its customers), because you're going to be sorry when your store gets caught off guard by a cyber threat. To avoid this, keep everything up to date, come up with a strong password, set up an SSL certificate, pick out a few security plugins (as mentioned above), add a web application firewall, perhaps a two-factor authentication (2FA) as well, and stop downloading stuff from unknown or suspicious sources.
If it isn’t already clear, WordPress is a mighty site-building tool and a robust CMS that won’t only allow you to build any sort of site you wish but also assist you by offering more options than you might imagine. However, with great power comes great levels of complexity, which might scare off some of the less tech-savvy users. Fortunately, behind WordPress, there is one of the most colorful, most committed, and most creative communities known to modern man, and one that is ready to share its resources and come to the rescue when rescue is needed.
However, if you would rather stay somewhat self-reliant, you should check out WordPress’ official support site, WordPress support forums, WordPress Development Stack Exchange, Advanced WordPress (AWP) Facebook group, or any of the WordPress-related YouTube channels. It’s safe to say that if you find yourself in need of a helping hand, you’ll find it closer than you might think.
Perfect for ecommerce
All things considered, whether you’re considering to kick-start your first ecommerce business or to bring the business you own online, this is going to be the crucial step into the massive online marketplace. You’ll want an ecommerce solution that will supply you with all that is needed to create an attractive, one-of-a-kind, simple-to-use store, and without dealing big blows to your budget. This is where WordPress comes into play. You’d have to look under every rock to find as flexible, as customizable, and as much of a fan-favorite solution as WordPress that won’t only power your store today, but also in the years to come.
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Mirza Bahic is a freelance tech journalist and blogger from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the past four years, Mirza has been ghostwriting for a number of tech start-ups from various industries, including cloud, retail and B2B technology.