Created by the New Zealand-based Instinct company, WP e-Commerce is an easy and elegant way to integrate an e-Commerce capability into WordPress. The Plugin is free (released under the GNU General Public License), though some additional modules are available as part of a paid upgrade.
WP e-Commerce is the product of over four years of development and testing. With over 1,400,000 downloads to its fame (as of this writing) and featured as one of the Most Popular Plugins for WordPress, WP e-Commerce is the most tried-and-true way to build an online store with WordPress.
It’s an ideal solution for selling physical goods, services, and digital products online.
Downloads are available at http://www.getshopped.org
Site and Business Possibilities
Just to whet your appetite and get your imagination running, let’s take a quick tour to see how people are using WP e-Commerce right now.
If you are an artist or photographer, why not get your product into the public eye via an online store? WP e-Commerce makes it easy to create listings of your product complete with sample images.Customers can not only see a preview of your artistic photos, but they can specify what size print they would like, and the price automatically updates to reflect the differing print size.
Music Shop with Digital Downloads
Perhaps you are a member of a band, a record producer, or a solo classical artist. With WP e-Commerce, it’s easy to sell both Compact Discs and digital downloads of your music. You can provide any sample image for the product that you like, such as album cover art or headshot of the musician. Customers can choose how they want the music delivered, either via a physical disc or by direct digital download.
If customers choose the digital download, WP e-Commerce provides a download link for them immediately. And don’t worry, you can restrict the number of downloads allowed by that customer to prevent unauthorized access.
Maybe you’re a small business owner who runs a clothing store, and you want to create an online portal to your store. With WP e-Commerce, it’s easy to create a front page that displays a gallery of products (using the optional Grid View module). Insert Image When customers click a specific product, it takes them to a page with more information. They can also choose a specific shirt size from a drop-down list.
Notice the additional image views that are available, plus the customized Add 2 Cart button.Insert Image
Finally, what if you want to sell any other types of goods, such as jewellery or pins?Here’s a unique store; notice once again that it’s easy to create an assortment of products right on the main page of the site. One neat aspect of this store is that it includes the optional DropShop, an AJAX-powered shopping cart that allows customers to drag an item from the page and simply drop it into the cart, which stays fixed and constantly visible in the WordPress footer.In the screenshot above, notice that there are several products now residing in the cart, which automatically updated to reflect the contents and the total price. Neat, huh?
These are only a few of the possibilities available. No project is too small or large – whether you have one product to sell, or 10,000, the combination of WordPress and the e-Commerce Plugin can handle it with aplomb. Unless you decide to spring for one of the optional modules, none of the software will cost you a penny.
WP e-Commerce Feature Overview
Now that we have seen the WP e-Commerce Plugin in action, let’s take a quick look at some of the overall features.
Organization and Layout
WP e-Commerce has a number of features to assist with organizing and displaying your merchandise. These include:
Easy theme integration
Want complete control over the placement of your e-Commerce elements? Using tags and shortcodes, you can arrange and display elements in any fashion you desire. For example, adding the [productspage] shortcode to any WordPress post or page will display a list of products.
Other tags and shortcodes give you control over the shopping cart, product categories, and “Buy Now” buttons.
Don’t feel like digging into the code to arrange elements? No problem. WP e-Commerce also comes with a number of widgets that allow you to graphically arrange the look and feel of your site. For instance, you can set a widget to display product specials, your newest products, or simply the location of the shopping cart.Depending on your chosen theme, you can drag-and-drop those widgets into your theme header, footer, or sidebars.
Easy integration with all WordPress themes
WP e-Commerce does not require any specific WordPress theme. In fact, provided that the theme is designed according to the official WordPress theme guidelines, the Plugin should work with ALL themes.
That said, some themes are more e-Commerce friendly than others, and a growing number of themes have been designed specifically with the e-Commerce Plugin in mind. Naturally, you are welcome to modify or design your own theme.
Some existing WordPress themes deemed to be WP e-Commerce friendly include:
Add themes in here
Other themes should likely work as well. If in doubt, just try it.
Products and Merchandising
The heart and soul of any e-Commerce platform is in how easily and efficiently you can add and manage your inventory. WP e-Commerce gives you full control over your product catalog. You can add a new product directly from the WordPress Dashboard, adding any descriptive elements with a rich text editor.
Groups are a handy way to help categorize your products. For instance, if you run a clothing store, you can set groups for such categories as T-Shirts, Pants, Jackets, and Shoes.
If you sell books, potential groups include Fiction, Literature, History, Romance, and Youth.
A photographer might create groups called Nature, People, Animals, and Abstract. You are free to create as many groups as you need. You can even create sub-groups.
If you have any attributes that can change for a single product, product variations can come in handy. Variations are options for your products that extend across multiple groups. For instance, a clothing store owner might create one variation for shirt size (small, medium, large, XL) and another variation for color (red, green, navy, black).
A bookseller might create a variation for the type of cover (hardcover versus softcover).
A photographer could create a variation for the print size or finish type.
Checkout and Payments
What shopping cart package would be complete without a way to accept orders and payments? In this category, WP e-Commerce certainly doesn’t disappoint. The Plugin not only keeps track of what items the customer wants to buy, but also calculates additional shipping and handling costs that you specify.Once the customer is ready to make the purchase, WP e-Commerce collects all the necessary billing and shipping information on a single page before transferring the order data to the appropriate payment gateway.
Speaking of which, WP e-Commerce allows for seamless integration with a number of payment processors, including:
- PayPal Payments Standard
- PayPal Payments Pro
- PayPal Express Checkout
- Manual Payment (checks/money orders)
- Google Checkout (Level 2)
Of course, the WP e-Commerce Plugin can also handle manual payments, but this requires that you have an SSL certificate from your web host, plus requires that you have access to the appropriate merchant tools to process credit card payments on your own. If you just want to keep it simple and let one of the aforementioned payment gateways handle all transactions, none of those additional tools are required.
Once you start making sales, the Plugin maintains a purchase log for you. All transactions are logged on a month-by-month basis. Additionally, you can download a full report as a CSV file for further analysis.
Once your shop is running, WP e-Commerce provides several ways to help promote your products.
For starters, you can create coupon codes that apply to either specific items or the entire store. You can also set an expiry time for the coupon, or designate a specific number of usages.
If you enable cross-sales, WP e-Commerce will suggest other items to your customers based on what prior customers bought when they viewed the same product. If you have a large product catalog, this feature is terrific for helping customers find related items.
Integration with External Sites
WP e-Commerce generates an RSS feed for your entire product catalog. Provided that you publish the feed on your site, loyal customers can easily subscribe to the feed using any RSS reader. Every time you add a new product to your catalog, subscribers will find out immediately.
On a broader scale, you can also promote your products on Google Base and on social networking sites such as Facebook.