When I have worked with clients in the past, or I was coaching them on WooCommerce, I had my own list of questions to ask them. Because there are so many variables, this list was only meant as a star. I knew more issues would likely emerge as we dove deeper into their needs.
But I found these made a good starting point. The reason was simply this:
It better prepared both myself and the client for the journey.
If you are thinking of starting that WooCommerce store, you may want to ask yourself these questions. Trust me. It’ll help you focus:.
Eight Questions To Ask Yourself Before Using WooCommerce
1. Do I know my current and future needs?
It’s like this. Thinking through not only what you want to do now, but what you may do six to twelve months down the road, will save you a ton 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, a simple solution might be your best bet. Or perhaps, dare I say, a third-party platform. Nothing is perfect for every situation, and that includes using Woo.
2. How easy is it to set up and use?
Easy is a relative term and means something different to each person. 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, the more setup you will have.
Be prepared for a learning curve with WooCommerce. For some, it’s not rocket science, but for others it can be overwhelming.
If you want to wrap your brain around the very basics, check out the video series from WP101. From there, it’s up to you. Be prepared to call in an expert to assist you if you need additional help.
3. Do I need to worry about taxes and shipping?
This is a huge one. WooCommerce has a great way to get you started. But as you grow, the details of where you are selling and shipping to can make or break you. With the diverse and sometimes complicated 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 keep in mind: most online eCommerce stores don’t have to deal with brick and mortar-related expenses.
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. But using Jetpack, setting the initial gateways is easy. Or, f 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 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, myself?
This, of course, is up to you and depends on the size of your store. There are the technical maintenance pieces, but you will also need ongoing marketing, other support, and if you choose, someone to keep your content fresh and updated.
On the tech side, 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 way as well. I recommend that you check out a service like WPBuffs or GoWP to help you with peace of mind.
8. What should I consider when choosing my host?
Hosting is the elephant in the room. And everyone has an opinion. The fact is, speed, security and support is top on the list when it comes to your online store. You cannot risk downtime. Or servers that are not prepared for sales onslaughts. If you are just starting your store, consider Liquid Web’s Managed Hosting. If you have higher expectations, they have some excellent WooCommerce Managed Hosting built just for Woo.
With all the other hosting out there, I cannot say one way or another. The reason is we use Liquid Web ourselves, and know a lot of online stores that depend on them. (Also, you will get a deal if you follow our links)
That’s it. A place to start. And I can guarantee you that even though you answer these questions honestly, 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.