In the past, whenever I was coaching a client on WooCommerce, I had my own list of questions to ask them. Of course, because there are so many variables, this list was only the start and more issues would likely emerge as we dove into their needs further.
But I have found that no matter the clients or situation, I always asked these seven questions. The reason is twofold:
- It better prepares them for what lies ahead.
- They will end up asking me these down the road anyway, so this helps them get ahead of the game.
In fact, if you are getting ready to set up your first eCommerce site, no matter the size, you may want to think about these as well.
Seven Questions To Ask Yourself Before Using WooCommerce
1. Do I know my current and future needs?
This one seems like a no-brainer. But thinking through not only what you want to do now, but what you may be doing six months down the road, will save you a lot of headaches. Understanding the scalability of WooCommerce and how it can help you grow is critical to your site’s success.
On the other hand, let’s say you are starting with a couple of digital downloads. And you plans on expanding to a dozen or so. Then Easy Digital Downloads may be a better option for you.
2. How easy is it to set up and use?
Easy is a relative term and means something different to everyone. I don’t use that word a lot when it comes to WordPress, or in fact most technology. Like any plugin or theme, the more functionality you want to accomplish, the more setup you will have.
Be prepared for a learning curve with WooCommerce. It’s not rocket science, but for some, it can be overwhelming. You can start out with some excellent ways to wrap your brain around the basics. Then be prepared to call in an expert to assist you if you need help.
3. Do I need to worry about taxes and shipping?
This is a huge one. WooCommerce has a great way to get your started when you firs install it. But as you grow, where you are selling and shipping to can make or break you. With all the crazy tax laws, and the fact that they change so much, often you can save yourself a lot of time and resources by simply using a tax service that works with WooCommerce—and that is what I always recommend. Consider checking out Avalara for your tax needs or ShipStation for your shipping needs.
4. Is it going to cost me too much?
As you may know, WooCommerce is a free plugin and does amazing stuff right out of the box. I find that most small eCommerce sites need very little additional functionality. The beauty of WooCommerce is that you can purchase extensions as you need them, rather than dealing with one bloated plugin. Sure, they do cost you some bucks, but consider this. Most online eCommerce stores don’t have to deal with a brick and mortar space.
But what if you did? Can you imagine all the money and resources you would need to invest in to furnish and build out that physical store? Your online store is an investment and a business as well. Expect costs with that.
5. What should I do about collecting payments online?
A lot of people who are just starting worry about the need to get a merchant account. Again, using Jetpack, setting the initial gateways is easy to do. Or if you don’t have Jetpack installed, PayPal built-in, or Stripe with a free extension may be all you need to get started. It’s always wise to think through what options are out there, what charges are associated with them and any possible needs for a change as your site and revenue grow. WooCommerce has a a lot of extensions, both free and paid that cover just about any payment gateway or option you may need.
6. Will I be able to switch eCommerce plugins easily?
To answer this question, you must understand the lock-in concept. Although it’s always possible to switch eCommerce plugins just as you would switch themes, it all depends. The more products you have, the more work that is involved. And if you are using extensions to build out bookings, online courses, or even smaller things, those will have to be dealt with as well. No matter what plugin you use, go back to #1 and really think through your needs—for now and into the near future. We don’t live in a perfect world and yes, stuff happens. Sometimes that can mean some unanticipated extra work. Just be as prepared as you can. Here is a podcast episode we had about switching eCommerce plugins and platforms.
7. Can I manage my online store?
I’ve touched on this a bit already, but unlike setting up a store on Shopify where you have their staff keeping things running smoothly for you, with WooCommerce and WordPress you should expect more hands-on upkeep. You will need to keep WooCommerce, WordPress, all of the extensions you are using and other plugins updated. That means testing, staging sites, backing up, all that good stuff to make sure your site doesn’t explode and your customers become stranded. There will be other needs you will have along the road as well, so you’ll need to find the time to deal with this yourself, or get staff to help you.
That’s it. A place to start. And I can guarantee you that even though you answer these questions honestly, and prepare yourself, more will arise. In the end, it’s all about planning. Because how well you plan can make or break you when it comes to starting your online store.
An audio option for this post.