WordPress is the most popular content management system and website platform… so it’s only natural that you might want to start selling on WordPress.
Whether you plan to sell digital products, physical goods, services, or a mix through an online membership portal… You need to know what you’re in for when you decide to open up a shop using WordPress as the tech backbone.
In this guide you’ll learn about the key things no one talks about when it comes to selling online using WordPress, and the best options to get started.
Table of Contents
- The Obstacles of Selling on WordPress
- A “Buy Now” button won’t make you rich
- Selling Securely and SSL
- Speaking of hosts… what about crashing websites?
- The refunds will come, how you react is up to you
- Some checkout pages are more effective than others
- Speaking of abandoned carts… where did that cart go?
- Selling Multiple Products? Here’s how to streamline…
- Tracking pixels and analytics are key
- To PayPal or to Stripe… that is the question
- The 1-Click Upsell – Where most businesses leave money on the table
- The fortune is in the follow-up
- Now that you know what to expect, let’s explore your options for selling on WordPress
- Using the right tool for the job
- Here’s to selling successfully on WordPress!
The Obstacles of Selling on WordPress
Before we get into “how to sell on WordPress”, we need to address some of the challenges of selling on this platform. This is the nitty gritty stuff that no one talks about, but that could save you a lot of frustration later.
Let’s dive in.
Unfortunately, you can’t just put up a buy now button and expect people to buy. Selling on WordPress, or any platform for that matter, takes more than just technology.
Yes, you can’t take people’s money without a “buy now” button, but unless you’ve spoken to potential customers and really understood what makes them want to buy, it won’t take you far.
Selling Securely and SSL
For good reason! When you’re taking payments through your WordPress website, you want to make sure that the connection is secure enough to handle payment details from customers.
You’ll want whatever WordPress plugin or payment option you choose to also be PCI compliant. The last thing you want is to be caught in a security breach that affects your clients!
Dive deeper: why and how to set up an SSL Certificate.
Speaking of hosts… what about crashing websites?
If you’re planning to launch a program and send a slew of traffic to your WordPress website… you need to prepare for the possibility of a crash.
Cheaping out on your hosting is not a good idea when you plan to sell from your website. The upside is that when you choose a good host, you’re not at the mercy of a 3rd party server like you might be on a platform like Thinkific or Kajabi.
Dive deeper: choose the best WordPress host for your business.
The refunds will come, how you react is up to you
Yes, it’s true. If you offer a refund policy, you’ll have people take you up on it. It’s just part of doing business, and it doesn’t mean that you’re a less worthy human being.
Handling refunds means swallowing your pride and following through on your promises. But it’s also a technical process that you need to be able to execute, when the need arises.
Choose your WordPress shopping cart wisely, knowing that you’ll need to administer refunds and possibly manually handle some of these steps.
Some checkout pages are more effective than others
Trust is everything when it comes to selling online – and selling on WordPress is no exception.
Sure, you can use your WordPress theme to customize the look and feel of your checkout pages… but usually the payment plugin you’ve selected will come with some standard designs that you can’t alter.
You’ll want to make sure that you ask only for the pertinent information on your checkout page, to reduce cart abandonment and increase conversions.
The more you stay on brand, and the less it feels like a visitor left your website to check out and make a purchase… the better, and the more trust it builds.
Speaking of abandoned carts… where did that cart go?
The stats around abandoned carts are startling: 70% of online sales are aborted before they’re completed.
That means someone intended to buy, started the process, but left before clicking that “buy now” button.
Having a solution in place to capture these folks and follow up with them is key.
Selling Multiple Products? Here’s how to streamline…
If you offer many products, your experience with selling on WordPress might increase in complexity quickly.
Whether you need a sales page or item description page for each product, or you want to display all of them in an easily searchable format… you need a plugin to help manage that.
You might also need the ability for people to add items or remove items as they decide what they want to buy. Displaying all of your products in a neat way can be hard, and we’ll discuss some options below.
Tracking pixels and analytics are key
If you do any form of Facebook or Google advertising, then you’ll know that tracking pixels help you assess if your ad spend is converting to sales.
On WordPress there are ways to tap into Google Analytics as well as add tracking pixels… but most of the time you’ll need to create a separate “thank you page” to get the cleanest data.
To PayPal or to Stripe… that is the question
Everyone has a preference when it comes to how they prefer to spend money. For some, offering a PayPal option means more international sales because people can hold multiple currencies in their PayPal account and not suffer the conversions when purchasing abroad.
There’s also a benefit to using Stripe to handle subscription payments: people can’t cancel their subscriptions themselves unless you give them that option. With PayPal subscriptions, they can manage and cancel a payment plan even if they agreed to make all payments.
So which option is best? I recommend both because you get the best of both worlds. Not everyone has a PayPal account, and Stripe is available in many countries – so either way, you’re covered and you won’t be turning away customers.
The 1-Click Upsell – Where most businesses leave money on the table
If you only have one product or service, you might think that 1-click upsells don’t apply to your business.
But practically any product or service can benefit from a premium version or add-on. Being able to offer something additional right at the point of purchase, whether it’s through an order bump or a separate 1-click upsell page means you’re making the most of the excitement that happens during a sale.
By giving someone a chance to add an additional offer to their order before they finish is a great way to provide a more in-depth solution, and to add more revenue to each transaction.
The fortune is in the follow-up
When it comes to selling online, everyone focuses on getting the sale… but the real fortune is in the long term relationship with your customers.
Being able to follow up with new and potential customers is key to building a business that grows from year to year. It also leads to building better products and offering better services, because your clientele will grow along with you and your offerings.
So how do you follow up? I recommend using a marketing automation platform so you can customize your messaging to each client based on their interactions with you so far.
Now that you know what to expect, let’s explore your options for selling on WordPress
There’s no shortage of WordPress plugins and 3rd party integrations that you can choose from to start selling from your WordPress website.
Here are some of the most popular ones, along with a few things to keep in mind for each.
If you decided to go with a pure PayPal option, you can get away from using any WordPress plugins by embedding a regular PayPal buy now button directly on your pages.
This is the simplest method, it won’t cost anything, and it’s also very flexible. It doesn’t allow for a ton of customization, and it might increase in complexity as you add more products and services. You can’t do 1-click upsells, but if you’re just getting started it’s not a bad idea.
Dive deeper: Read the PayPal documentation on setting this up.
When it comes to WordPress shopping carts, WooCommerce is the big kahuna. It’s a free plugin that gives you ability to start taking payments right away on WordPress.
However, most people don’t end up sticking to just the free WooCommerce plugin because it is fairly limited once you realize you want to customize things to suit your goals.
That’s why WooCommerce has a thriving paid add-on ecosystem: you can purchase additional plugins to add more functionality, integrations, and customization options.
WooCommerce is best for physical products, but it can be used for any type of product too.
Dive deeper: Check out the WooCommerce ecosystem to see what’s possible with this framework.
3. Easy Digital Downloads
If you’re offering something downloadable or that requires a license key, then you’ll notice that the majority of WordPress businesses turn to Easy Digital Downloads.
It’s a free plugin with a paid upgrade that will run you $299/year if you want integrations and recurring payments, but it handles more than just the payment piece. It will also allow you to set up a download area for your digital products, and also tracking licenses if you’re offering any.
It’s a great option especially for selling software, ebooks, and the like. If you need something simple that works out of the box, this might be it.
Dive deeper: Check out the Easy Digital Downloads site for more details on what it can do for you.
If you want to offer a more personalized download area that includes a membership portal, online courses, member directories, or gamification… then AccessAlly is the full fledged payment and delivery solution for you.
Unlike some of the other plugins above, AccessAlly won’t require you to purchase additional plugins or add-ons: you get everything you need to open up your shop and deliver your paid client experience.
It’s ideal for you if you were planning to build a tech stack that includes an affiliate management plugin, an LMS plugin or online course component, and a CRM or automation marketing tool.
Instead of duct-taping different plugins together, AccessAlly lets you take payments, create logins for your members, track affiliate sales, create online course content, and follow-up automatically with each member.
Dive deeper: Check out the full AccessAlly guide and why people choose it as their long term WordPress solution.
Another option for taking payments on WordPress is brought to you by the ThriveThemes team, and it’s designed to seamlessly integrate with your WordPress site and layout.
With Thrivecart you can take payments on your WordPress website, and handle different things like taxes, subscription payments, and also integrate with other systems you might be using.
It’s a great option for those who don’t feel a full learning management platform or membership site, but who want more of a robust experience than EDD or WooCommerce provide out of the box.
Dive deeper: take a look at the Thrivecart page and get on the waiting list for when they re-open up registration.
Using the right tool for the job
What you plan to sell on WordPress is going to help you determine which of the options above will best suit your business.
Keep in mind that your business may shift over time, and what makes sense today may shift as your business grows or you add additional products and services.
If you can forecast a 12–18 months down the line, you might be able to select a tool that will grow with you – so you won’t need to re-do your set up work again once you outgrow your current solution.
Selling digital products
If you’re selling digital products you might choose Easy Digital Downloads, AccessAlly, or WooCommerce with add-ons.
If you’re selling memberships you might choose AccessAlly, WooCommerce with add-ons, or Thrivecart with add-ons.
If you’re selling online courses you might choose AccessAlly, WooCommerce with add-ons, or Thrivecart with add-ons.
Selling coaching, booking time/scheduling
If you’re selling coaching you might choose PayPal, WooCommerce with add-ons, or Thrivecart with add-ons.
If you’re selling services you might choose AccessAlly, WooCommerce with add-ons, or Thrivecart.
Here’s to selling successfully on WordPress!
We’ve covered a lot today, but the most important part to getting started with selling on WordPress is to start.
You won’t have it all figured out on day one, but each step you take will help you validate your ideas, and improve your process. Good luck!