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 best tools and options for using WordPress to sell online.
The Obstacles of Selling on WordPress
Before we get into how to sell on WordPress, we need to address some of the challenges of using this platform for sales. 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.
A “Buy Now” Button Won’t Make You Rich
Unfortunately, you can’t just put up a buy now button and expect people to buy. Selling online 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 With SSL
Most web hosts these days are offering SSL certificates with their hosting plans. (Some of my favorite secure WordPress hosts are WPEngine and Kinsta!)
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.
Prepare for Website Crashes
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.
Some hosts are better than others when it comes to a large influx of traffic. With hosts like WPEngine and Kinsta, you’ll be in good shape if your launch goes well and you see a spike in visitors.
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 LMS hosting for your business.
Prepare for Refund Requests
Yes, it’s true. If you offer a refund policy, you’ll have people who will request refunds. 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.
Optimize Checkout Pages
Trust is everything when it comes to selling online.
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 optimize the checkout process by only asking for the pertinent information on your checkout page. This will 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 greater the trust and conversions.
Proactively Manage Abandoned Carts
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.
Streamline the Sale of Multiple Products
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.
Utilize Tracking Pixels and Analytics
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.
PayPal and Stripe Payment Processing
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 for course payments, including handling recurring 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. However, with the right PayPal integration, it’s possible to automate following up with your customers and notifications of cancellation.
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.
Use 1-Click Upsell to Maximize Sales
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.
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.
WordPress Options for Online Sales
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.
1. Straight Up PayPal Buttons
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: PayPal documentation for setting up buttons.
When it comes to WordPress shopping carts, WooCommerce is the big kahuna. It’s a free plugin that gives you the 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: Review available WooCommerce extensions.
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 for selling software, ebooks, and the like. If you need something simple that works out of the box, this might be it.
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 to see 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 LMS platform or membership site, but who want more of a robust experience than EDD or WooCommerce provide out of the box.
Dive deeper: Learn more about Thrivecart.
Use the Right Software 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 online memberships you might choose AccessAlly, WooCommerce with add-ons, or Thrivecart with add-ons.
Selling Online Courses
If you’re selling online courses you might choose AccessAlly, WooCommerce with add-ons, or Thrivecart with add-ons.
If you’re selling coaching and booking or scheduling time, 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.
Time to Get Selling!
We’ve covered a lot today, but the most important part of selling online 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!