The Ultimate Guide To Selecting an eCommerce Platform

By Will Wigram

 

Thinking of building a new eCommerce store or replatforming an existing one?

 

We’ve put together the ultimate guide to choosing an eCommerce platform to help your store get off to the best possible start from the get go.

 

1)        Getting Started / Business Objectives

 

So, what are the key considerations or questions you should ask yourself? Well…

 

What are the reasons behind the re-platforming? What are the key business objectives form this project?

 

Perhaps its your global growth ambitions that is spear-heading this, or potentially to reduce costs and management overheads.

 

Whatever the reasons are its key to make sure that these have been discussed, considered and that everyone is in agreement.

 

What are the key success metrics of the website?

 

Increasing overall sales is probably up there but what other metrics can you attribute to the success of the website?

 

Knowing these is extremely helpful for both you and us when we take on a project as we can link back all of activity and proposed work to these to make sure we are achieving these initial goals.

 

 

If applicable, how is the current website failing?

 

What are the current pain points? – This could be user experience / navigation issues, it could be inflexibility with scaling or a dated look and feel.

 

Whatever they are, it is imperative they do not crop up again and therefore need to be made clear from the get go.

 

But also think about the successes that we can develop even further going forward.

 

What are the main features and functionalities that you want?

 

Of course you will refine this as you go through this process (and we’ll discuss this more in a minute) but its useful to lay everything out on the table to start with. From here you can try to organise them into must haves and nice to haves.

 

Knowing what the priorities are is really useful as it can help point us to the most appropriate platform, and in cases where there are budget limitations, it can help us put together a phased project plan.

 

There are a huge amount of factors that can and will consider in this process, but beginning with the four points above will get you off to a good start.

 

I think one of the most important takeaway’s here is to make sure you involve all departments in these initial discussions. As you go through the process it won’t always be necessary to have all departments involved, but including everyone at this early stage is only going to result in a much more rounded view of the needs and objectives.

 

2)        Product Make Up

 

At the core of any eCommerce website are the catalogues of products. Again on the surface this may seem quite straight forward – items for sale, different colours, different sizes, prices, descriptions and images. But actually, the make-up of these catalogues can be quite intricate and there may be certain limitations on some platforms that could prevent you from running your business effectively.

 

Some of the SaaS platforms (like Shopify & Bigcommerce) are more suited to less complex catalogues than the likes of Magento. For example the number of variants a product can have cannot exceed 100 on Shopify. There are ways around this but it involves customisation and/or the use of a third party app.

 

In isolation this is not that much of a problem but if this type of customisation is needed throughout your product offering, it can become a bit of a pain to manage.

 

So, to alleviate the risk of this happening here are some of the the product questions you should be asking yourself:

 

  • How many products do you want to sell online? Quantity in isolation is rarely an issue but it’s good to know this nonetheless as it will have implications in various ways such as design and site speed optimisation.
  • How many categories and sub categories will you have? This could be quite small to begin with and then grow, so future ambitions is good to also bare in mind at this stage.
  • How Complex is your product taxonomy? Think about the number variants each product will have – colours, sizes, types etc. Will these be presented as single products or as SKUs within the products
  • Is there a requirement to be able to group / bundle products? This has implications for stock management so it’s good to know
  • Will products be sold on a subscription basis? If so, what are the rules here? What does this model look like?
  • Is pre order a requirement? If so should this be triggered automatically when a product is out of stock or manually? Can pre order be managed through other channels such as by phone?
  • Do you have a BTC and BTB product offering? How do these differ and should they be set up completely separately?
  • How will your product make up change and grow over the next few years? Linking back to what I mentioned earlier, what are the ambitions for all of the above?

 

Ultimately it is preferable to choose a platform that can accommodate as many of your requirements as standard features of the platform. Of course, one of the great perks of many of the eCommerce platforms out there, is the vast range of third party apps/plugins that are available that you can bolt onto the website to enhance functionality (we get to this later).

 

However from experience, it’s not advisable to have heaps of plugins as this can have a negative effect on overall site performance and speed.

 

If the majority of the functionality of your website comes from third party plug-ins, it’s probably a pretty clear sign that you are not on the most appropriate platform.

 

This is why it’s important to have all of this detail clearly available when selecting a platform, to alleviate the risk of choosing a one that restricts you and does not allow you to create and evolve in a hassle free manner.

 

3)        Content Requirements

 

Content is at the core of every website and different platforms offer different solutions to the variety of different elements that you may or may not require, some making it easier that others.

 

Types of Content:

Ediorial – Blog, News, Press – archives

Campaign – Projects, Case Studies , Look Books

Brand – About, Philosohy, Process / Craft, History,

Social – integrating 3rd party content

 

Again, try to think about how this will evolve as well as what you’re launching with. How often are you going to be adding new content to the site?

 

If this is regularly (as, of course, it should be to help your SEO rankings) it is so important that it is an easy to do, otherwise it will cause such a headache to whoever has this job, wasting their time going through a tedious process or even worse deterring them from adding any new content.

 

WordPress, is a great option for content rich sites as there is no real limitation from a creative or management point of view. We have historically connected this with WooCommerce to offer a powerful eCommerce solution for our clients – and this is definitely a combination we still recommend.

 

Bigcommerce has recently developed a WordPress integration that creates a really powerful solution giving you all the benefits of WordPress, but weaving this into a very capable and solid ecommerce platform.

 

Shopify is also improving as a content management system and whilst it used to be tricky to manage editorial style content, this is no longer the case.

 

4)        Technical Requirements/Integrations

 

You will find that a lot of the more common integrations are easily achieved with ready made plug ins available. These include:

  • Connecting to email marketing platform to capture newsletter sign ups
  • Connecting to Payment gateways – to allow a seamless check out experience
  • Feeding your instagram account onto the site to offer fresh and dynamic content

 

But it’s not always this straight forward. The recommend approach therefore is thinking about which integrations are going to add value for your customers and your business, rather than going off what you have on the existing site or copying current trends.

 

Once we have this list we can start to evaluate how these can be executed on different platforms, and what level of integration is needed.

 

As mentioned, on the one hand you don’t want to be in a position where you are having to completely customise and bolt on hundreds of apps to achieve your desired offering

On the flip-side you also don’t want to buy into an expensive enterprise level solution when you actually only need 2% of what they offer and are therefore hugely over engineering the situation.

 

We’d be here all day if I was to attempt to list all of the different types of integrations that could be incorporated into your site, but these are some of the potentially more complex but really useful ones that definitely need consideration, and will really help with the seamless running on your business:

 

  • Stock Management
  • Accounting
  • ERP Systems – he
  • Taxes and Duties
  • Multi Currency Check Out – internationalisation
  • Multi Language
  • Fulfillment / Shipping

 

Internationalisation especially, is often one of the biggest factors that will shape platform choice. Giving your customers a local shopping experience, and allowing your business operations to work efficiently on a global scale is essential.

 

Up until now we would only have suggested the more enterprise level platforms – like Magento or Shopware, for this type of requirement.

 

This said a lot of the SaaS platforms are now getting up to speed with this.

 

For example, implementing Shopify to target several countries around the world was always the biggest deal breaker as the only option available previously, was to clone the store in order to enable check out in another currency. However now, multi currency checkout is available through their premium offering -Shopify Plus. In 2019 the road map for Bigcommerce also has Internationalisation at the top of its agenda.

 

As the capabilities of every platform is constantly evolving, it is really important to think about what your technical requirements are and what integrations are needed so that we can help pair you with the a platform that’s the best fit, now and in the future.

 

5)        Costs and Timings

 

And last but by no means least – money! Ultimately one of the determining factors in this process is going to be the available budget and deadlines.

 

The time (and therefore cost) it takes to build an eCommerce website will vary hugely based on the size, complexity and platform you are using.

 

Whether you choose to disclose your budget with your agency at this stage is up to you – from our point of view this is helpful as we can tailor an appropriate solution.

 

Either way, though, it is just crucial to have these figures worked out in good time.

 

So, there are two key factors that must be considered and budgeted for:

 

  • The initial cost of the build of the website
  • Ongoing costs to keep the site running.

 

This initial cost can include:

 

  • Discovery costs – could be UX, brand work, concepting, SEO
  • Design and build costs
  • Data import
  • Content creation – copy writing and photo shoots
  • Third-party integration costs,
  • SEO Set Up

 

Once the implementation is completed, you have to account for the ongoing cost. Items included in this are:

 

  • Maintenance and support retainers,
  • Ongoing host fees,
  • Platform licence costs
  • Payment gateway related fees,
  • Third-party apps / plugin subscriptions
  • Ongoing SEO and marketing

 

Depending on the type of platform you choose, some of these costs might not apply which might be a deciding factor for picking one platform over another.

 

So, there we have it. Once you have a good idea about all of the above points, let’s organise a time to sit down and discuss which eCommerce platform will help propel your business forward.

 

 

What is Google Optimise and why you should be using it?

By Rupert Rowe

You may not have heard of Google Optimize yet. You may not even be familiar with what Landing Page Optimisation is. But, I’m guessing you understand why testing all your marketing activities is important…whether that is the ad copies on your Google Ads campaigns, your SEO keywords and perhaps above all else, the pages where you direct your marketing traffic to.

This is where Google Optimize (GO) comes in.

Similar to the first generation of tools such as VWO and Optimizely, Google Optimize is brought to you by Google to make the task of A/B testing your landing pages easier and in typical Google fashion, it brings you a range of enterprise-level software for free.

And, this really is the biggest selling point of GO.

Most of us are already using Google Analytics which means getting started with your A/B testing is not only super easy, you will get access to far more metrics and KPIs to measure, test and evaluate than you would with a 3rd party solution such as VWO.

This deep integration also enables the storage of most of your testing data in GO of course but also Google Analytics which is a huge time-saver if you’re running tests frequently.

The other benefit is the shorter learning curve in learning how to use GO compared to other tools.

If you’ve never setup an A/B landing page test you’re not alone. Although, majority of most small business budgets is spent towards traffic acquisition as opposed to conversion, landing page optimisation is extremely important as the cost of implementing any digital marketing strategy whether that is SEO or PPC or Social rises every year as competition heats up and after a certain point, maximising your website’s conversion rate is where you will get the additional rewards.

VWO and Optimizely are the 2 other biggest landing page testing tools and whilst  none of them are particularly difficult to work with, they aren’t as effortless as working with GO.

What’s more, if you’re familiar with the dashboard of other Google products such as Google Analytics or Google Ads, you’re likely to find GO rather easy to use.

Here’s a quote from Krista Seiden, Google, who looks after GO

“Your test stats are available in the Reporting tab within the Optimize UI. They are also available in Google Analytics in a number of ways: Every hit from Optimize is sent to GA with an Experiment Name, Experiment ID, and Variant number automatically attached. This means that you can get much more creative with how you analyze your test data outside of the Optimize UI. You can:

 

  • Segment and add secondary dimensions to a report with Variant #, Exp ID, and Exp name

 

  • Create audiences and segments based on previous test behavior, and even target to future test experiments based on being a part of a prior test” (via Digital Debrief)

 

Finally, GO offers quite a few options on what sort of test you want to set up and whilst that can be a bit overwhelming at first, esp. If you’re new to the world of A/B testing, getting the hang of it won’t take too long.

Here are some examples of tests you can carry out in Google Optimize:

 

Optimisely examples for split testing

 

A/B – The most basic type of test where you compare one element against another. You could test one landing page vs another or a headline or a call-to-action…the list is endless.

 

how to split test different web pages

 

Redirect tests – Similar to a A/B test excepting that you’re testing the 2 elements separately. For example, before launching your new website, you could test it with real users showing only one version to one set of users and another to a different set.

 

Split Testing Example three

 

Multivariate tests – Think A/B/C/D… You can test multiple variants of multiple elements at the same time. In other words you can combine testing landing page with the headline on one version with the call-to-action on another and so on….

And there you have it.

We hope this serves as an easy to use starting point if you want to try out Google Optimize.

We highly recommend it not only because it’s fairly simple to use once you get used to it but as importantly, because split testing is a great way to improve your conversion rates and your ROI from your marketing efforts.

Of course, if you ever need help with setting up Google Optimize or split tests for you, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

Future Proofing A Website

By Rupert Rowe

‘Future-proofing’…….. What a ridiculous term.

If you want to cut to the chase and jump straight into Diffusion’s tips on future-proofing a website, then skip the next few paragraphs to “FOR THOSE WHO DON’T CARE ABOUT THE MONKEY ON MY BACK”, because there is a monkey on my back and I want to get it off!

‘Future-proofing’ is often taken to mean making sure that something will not become ineffective or meaningless in the future.

As a small cog in a digital agency, I’d expect that everything we do would be in the interest of maintaining relevance and functionality down the line. There is no doubt we all – in our own particular fields -strive to create things that will stand the test of time, however, this is far easier said than done.

If you find yourself talking to an agency who promises you a ‘future-proof’ website, as I have heard from several people speaking to agencies in recent months, then proceed with caution as there is no way of definitively ‘future-proofing’ anything in the digital world.

The speed at which tech moves makes ‘future-proofing a website’ an almost impossible task and I believe, is one of those terms that’s used to pull the wool over potential clients’ eyes.

The reality is that what is in now, will likely be ‘sooo last year’ tomorrow, or in a year or so.

This is not for lack of ambition, creativity or skill – I work with some of the most talented designers, coders and UX-ers in the industry, and they’re all at the forefront of innovation within their respective fields, but their own ability in itself make their own ideas hard to future-proof against.

Trying to ensure that a product or system is future proof is often a fruitless labor. While certain aspects of a system remain fairly consistent - such as the materials used to build it – the design and capabilities are bound to be outdone as improved versions are released
Techopedia

 

 

(Admittedly, for someone who doesn’t like the phrase ‘future-proofing’, it might seem odd that I’ve mentioned it so frequently in such a short space of time.

I apologise. I’m actually a SEO and ‘future-proofing a website’ is where the search volume in this particular case is, and as an SEO I’d be going against my better judgement not using it.

This is not to say that the content isn’t relevant – it absolutely is! Sorry. Again. (I’m also British and have the tendency to apologise too much. Sor…..hmmmm)

 

Making your website future-proof

This all said, those of us who have worked in this game for a substantial period of time can see patterns form and make relatively sound judgements as to what will be happening over the coming year or two. From there we can attempt to make a product or service that will stand the test of time –  in our case, a website.

 

FOR THOSE WHO DON’T CARE ABOUT THE MONKEY ON MY BACK

(Long rant over – I apologise.)

In late 2018 into early 2019, as expected, we’ve continued to see a substantial move towards mobile first, the terrifying rise of AI continues, marketplace eCommerce is becoming more popular for big brands, the move towards voice-search continues, Google’s ‘E.A.T’ core algo update is becoming clearer, and so on. This is not to say that AI won’t be restricted down the line, or Google changes its algorithm again (it will), or voice search becomes defunct, but currently, this is where the trends are heading.

When it comes to web design/development there’re four key parts; the design, the user experience (UX), search engine optimisation (SEO) and the code. Each evolves at its own pace, however, each has its own intrinsic impact on the other elements. So, without further unnecessary to do….

CODE

You know what – as an SEO I’m not going to pretend to be an authority in this area. Coders are a rare breed of people and only they can fully explain the intrinsic world of computer language and more importantly, provide an insight into where this alien place is heading.

But if you’re looking for a quick fix then our friends at Forbes have written a concise judgement on where they think code is heading.

DESIGN

Whilst I know what I like and what I do not, my design experience doesn’t extend beyond my doodling, so again I must defer this to someone whose skills revolve a little less around a bic and notepad.

This said, I will say one thing…

Why are blogs posts often visually so dull? (This one included!)

For what’s worth I believe more attention needs to be paid to the design of blog posts. They need to be pretty (for want of a better word), engaging, even encouraging…. They’re often the first page new visitors land on your site and forgive a well-worn expression, ‘first impressions count’, whether you like it or not.

User Experience

In danger of sounding like a broken record, there are people who are better placed to talk about this and so, once again, one of my colleagues will contribute to this down the line.

 

 Search Engine Optimisation

 

Remarkably I’m not going to deflect this part onto one of my colleagues. No, I have arrived in my little world of expertise. So the following is an overview of areas that I believe will continue to be in focus over the next few years, or not as the case may be!

This is less of a ‘how to’, and more of a commentary of areas that I believe will be dominating SEO for the foreseeable future.

Voice Search

 

There is a lot of chatter around voice search and whilst people are starting to look into optimising their websites for voice queries, traction, as yet, has been quite slow as webmasters are being quite tentative in saying when they think it will be a front and centre consideration of SEO and indeed, UX.

Leading mobile, digital, online market research specialists Juniper predicts that 8bn voice assistants will be in use by 2023. Despite this, however, it is still unclear how much voice-search will be used as so far we’ve only seen a few highly specific types of questions being asked.

 

Where have we seen voice search gain traction so far?

 

Local search: Where is the nearest chemist? What is the weather like?

Regularly brought products that are easy to reorder and don’t require visual scrutiny so to speak: I.e. “Hey Siri, buy Aerial washing up powder”

Historical questions: i.e. How old was Mohammed Ali when he fought George Foreman?

Music: Alexa? What song was last on shuffle?

 

Beyond these sorts of questions, well, the jury is still out. Will voice search takes over the world as has been predicted?

I’m not so sure.

But once we get over the slightly uncomfortable feeling of shopping through voice search, which is inevitable, there is no doubt that those websites who have optimised for it will benefit greatly.

One of the focuses of the industry is how to design well for voice-based user interfaces (VUI). Once again, as a humble SEO I’m going to leave this one for a (VUI) designer to tackle, but essentially when designing for VUI, you’re using sounds or lights rather than images. Think of the beep and blue blinking light when Alexa activated – that has been designed by a VUID. (I made that acronym up I think – Voice User Interface Designer, I think it’s a winner!)

Facebook Pixels — Re-marketing

 

This obviously depends on your business and what products/services you are selling, and to who, but increasingly people are less likely to convert on the first visit to a website.

Pixel remarketing is nothing new, especially for websites whose products take a long time to sell, i.e. three or four visits before conversion. How many visits did it take you to a website before that favourite pair of trousers you are now proudly wearing? (No, well you know what I mean.)

Whilst social shop fronts are increasing, in other words, where people enter your store/website, organic search is still is the biggest driver of traffic, generally speaking, and the cheapest in terms of ROI.

Getting people to convert at visit #1 is tricky and, so as to not lose this potential customer,  a pixel allows you to track your visitors and market to them down the line.

Again, nothing new.

What is, however, is that we’re seeing SEO KPIs move towards volume being the most important metric (quality traffic of course), NOT conversions. The conversion KPIs fall under the remit of those who are heading up the remarketing. Once again this depends largely on the type of website but for most eCommerce sites this is increasingly the case.

 

 

Marketplace Optimisation

 

With products and services increasingly being delivered directly from websites to the SERPs (search engine results pages), optimising your site to ensure search engines are able to capture these products is increasingly important, especially as more people are converting directly in the SERPs.

Many SEOs argue that this is bad because the website in question is not receiving any of the traffic hits, thus potentially undermining its authority. However, the reality for most retailers is that, if they can sell directly on the SERPs then they should.

pursuit of excellent web design

Site Speed

 

We are impatient.

That is pretty much all I need to say about this.

But just to drive home how impatient we really are, here are a few stats from 2018:

  • 46% of users say waiting for a page to load is the most frustrating thing to them online.
  • It takes a shocking average of 15 seconds for mobile web pages to load
  • With websites that load in less than 4.5 seconds there is a 70% increase in session duration
  • A 100 millisecond delay causes a 7% drop in conversion
  • 79% of shoppers say that if they experience something negative on a webpage they will not return to that site – even bad grammar, so I’m buggered
  • Pages that load in under 2.5 seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%. This increase to over 38% if the load time takes longer than 5 seconds

 

 

Mobile First

 

It’s here and it’s here to stay.

If you aren’t already, then you should be prioritising mobile over desktop, or at least giving them the same amount of attention during the design phase.

Also, and forgive me for perhaps stating the obvious, it’s always worth bearing in mind that the design you implement on desktop, might take longer to load on mobile.

Read our article on how to build accelerated mobile pages 

 

Authority

 

Not page authority as in Moz’s mectric. No, Authority as in – are you an authority or expert in your field?

As has been crudely demonstrated in this post, don’t write about things you don’t know about.

Since Google’s medic update in 2018 (although there is still speculation as to the impact of it), being an expert or authority in your field is a significant ranking factor.

This doesn’t only apply to authors of blog posts/articles, your website as a whole should have a direction and theme that needs to be maintained if you are to see yourself move up the rankings. Nothing new again, but with search engines improving on understanding the meaning of their searchers’ queries, people with authority around the subject will naturally benefit. So, essentially, don’t write a load of tosh to try and boost you up the rankings. Keep it relevant. Keep it simple.

An example of this is that many people claim that post the update their rankings fell, but when they simply attributed their blog posts to the ‘expert’ who wrote it (I’m sure many fib), their rankings recovered.

We’ll write more about this in a later article.

 

Artificial Intelligence

 

This falls more towards UX but, improving your customer journey by putting relevant products in front of them more quickly, will naturally increase dwell time and the number of pages per session, both of which are taken into account in search rankings.

There are countless new softwares and plugins that can be used to improve the functionality and usability of a website, most of which are designed with one thing in mind – increasing conversion.

Read more about out top artificial intelligence apps to improve conversion.

CONTENT

Content has been and will continue to be at the forefront of SEO for decades to come. Who produces this content however seems to be changing. Whether it’s traditional copywriters, SEO writers or journalists, the role seems to be changing with the times.

Over the years UX has become an increasingly important aspect in web design and development. The importance of understanding customer flow and engagement is paramount to success in the ever more fickle world of eCommerce.

In 2019 though, UX seems to be pushing the boundaries further, and with a futuristic sounding topic like ‘future-proofing’, it only makes sense that the roles, or names of roles, evolve alongside.

Let me introduce you to the UX-writer.

(I sense a lot of tut-tutting scepticism. Or it could just be me….)

User experience is all about flow and encouraging a user to move down a page or through a website and towards the point of conversion.

Previously copywriters were responsible for creating the copy to fill in the gaps in the most engaging and entertaining (where appropriate) way, and indeed it still is, people are just creating new niches to try and upsell to their clients in order to add a little more to the profit margin.

But this new role may well be short lived I’m afraid. It seems before too long, robots and AI will be out-Shakespearing Shakespeare.

Security

 

Probably one of the more important areas and I’ve actually written an extensive post on this for another website. So if your nerves can take it – read more about keeping your eCommerce website secure.

We have to recognise change is coming and in doing so, we can build websites in such a way that they can absorb changes as quickly as possible.
Author

Conclusion

 

To quickly recap, whilst I wanted to offer a very brief insight into what we expect to come, my main point is that things change and change quickly, especially when it comes to design, functionality and programming. These are spaces that move astronomically quickly and this should always be taken into account when working in these areas.

We have to recognise change is coming and in doing so, we can build websites in such a way that they can absorb changes as quickly as possible.

I fully appreciate that the list above doesn’t cover the half of it, but if you think I’m way off the mark then please get in touch through the button below.

If you’d like to chat about how Diffusion Digital can ‘future-proof’ (grrrr) your website, then also follow the button below. As a leading eCommerce agency, we specialise in giving brands a digital presence that they can be proud of and their customers recognise and enjoy engaging with for years to come.

A List Of WordPress And WooCommerce Plugins For a Variety of Uses

WordPress came to life on May 2003 and few technological inventions in the internet age have become as ubiquitous as WordPress when it comes to website Content Management Systems (CMS).

 

This is what the WordPress home page looked like back then:

Old WordPress home page screen shot

 

And this is what it looks like now:

 

current wordpress home page screen shot

 

The rise of WordPress and WooCommerce as a CMS has mainly been due to 2 main factors: ease of use and scalability.

 

As a CMS, WordPress is an extremely versatile and easy to use CMS with a learning curve that is much less steep than say Joomla and esp. Magento.

 

Scalability has been made relatively easy due to the myriad number of plugins that have been built for it by WordPress and third parties around the world.

 

If you have a WordPress site there’s a good chance you have at least a few plugins installed already. However, the list of available plugins and their potential uses are almost too vast to count thus making WordPress even more functional and scalable.

 

In this post, Diffusion Digital will talk you through some of our favourite plugins for a shipping and SEO. Bookmark this page as we’ll be updating it with more plugins next month!

WooCommerce plugins for Shipping

 

Flexible Shipping for WooCommerce

 

Flexible Shipping for Woocommmerce

 

Download: 20,000+

 

First up, we have the Flexibility Shipping for WooCommerce which claims to be the most advanced shipping plugin for WooCommerce and whilst we’re not sure we believe in that claim, it does offer quite a wide range of features and customization options to choose from.

 

There isn’t much that the plugin can’t do and is an ideal solution for WooCommerce sites in the medium to high competition sectors where offering a wide range of delivery options is a must.

 

In addition to allowing the calculation of shipping costs based on cart total, you could also do so based on weight. Plus, it also offers COD (Cash On Delivery) shipping options which is something most other shipping plugins do not.

 

Additionally, you have options to integrate insurance options which again, could be a way to add a USP to your WooCommerce site.

 

The plugin comes in 2 flavours: the free version which gives you the tools that should be sufficient for most small retailer and a paid option for more advanced Ecommerce businesses.

 

For a full list of features and the differences between the free and paid version, check out their official site.

 

WooCommerce Delivery Time Picker for Shipping

 

WooCommerce Delivery Options

Next up, we have the WooCommerce Delivery Time Picker which is a good option to consider if your WooCommerce store offers shipping based on time slots.

 

Successful Ecommerce stores know that one of the ways you can increase sales is by reducing the amount of ‘friction’ between the user and the buying process and it is usually a good idea to offer as many shipping options as is possible.

 

This plugin is more like an ‘add-on’ to your existing setup, adding the functionality of allowing users to select when to receive their purchase, giving control to the user on both, the day as well as the time.

 

Of course, not all courier companies offer this feature so it’s a good idea to check that yours does.

WooCommerce Weight Based Shipping

 

Woocommerce-delivery-options-table

 

No. of downloads: 20,000+

 

Being able to calculate shipping charges based on weight isn’t exactly a unique feature by any means but the WooCommerce Weight Based Shipping does have a super-useful way of offering this option.

 

There’s a section for adding multiple shipping rules and you can set further conditions based on when certain rules should or shouldn’t apply.

You can also configure your shipping rates based on total order weight, price or a combination of the 2 and although most companies will probably end up using either one it’s a good feature to have.

 

WordPress Plugins for SEO

 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is to a website what the engine is to your car. Without it, no matter how amazing your product is, no one is going to see it.

 

The popularity of SEO has meant that this is area of plugin development is one of the most popular for WordPress which means there’s literally thousands of WordPress SEO plugins to choose from.

 

A thing to bear in mind is that no matter how good the plugin, they only offer you the tools to have the basic on-page SEO in place. If you’re hoping to attract a wide audience for your WordPress website, you will also need to undertake an off-page SEO campaign that encompasses important traffic-driving techniques such as link building and content marketing.

 

Yoast SEO

 

Yoast - SEO for everyone

 

No. of downloads: 5+ million

 

First up, we have the Yoast SEO plugin which is by far, the most popular SEO

plugin for WordPress around.

 

Yoast SEO comes in 2 flavours: the free option which offers you the basic functionality around keyword optimisation, page previews and duplicate content checks whilst the premium (paid) option offers you all of that and much more.

 

Here’s a snapshot of the comparison but for more on this head over to https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/.

 

Yoast price guidelines

 

At the time of this writing, the paid plugin costs £79 plus VAT.

 

If you’re asking “is the premium (paid) Yoast plugin worth it?” then our answer is going to be annoying yet inevitable: it depends.

 

For small WordPress sites in non-competitive sectors and where you don’t need to drive a ton of traffic to the site, the free option might be just fine. Or, if you have a professional SEO company who is looking after your site, both on-page and off-page as well.

 

However, if you want to do it all yourself and don’t plan on a link building and content generation campaign or traffic isn’t all that important, you may find the paid plugin adds a little bit of value.

 

All In One SEO Pack

 

All in One SEO

 

No. of downloads: 3+ million

 

The All In One SEO Pack is another WordPress plugin for SEO and just about as useful as Yoast.

 

All In One has a useful XML sitemap submission feature for those who don’t know how to work with Google Search Console or Bing (or simply aren’t inclined to).

 

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is becoming increasingly common-place on the mobile web and All In One has integration and monitoring capabilities for those 2.

 

Which is better, Yoast SEO or All In One?

 

The differences between the 2 are subtle and in many cases, comes down to your personal preference.

 

For example, whereas the various functions of Yoast are laid out on different tabs, All In One has then all listed on a single page (think of a multi-step checkout process compared to one where you enter all your info on the same page).

 

Another example is Social Media – Yoast does tend to offer a few more options for Social Media monitoring and integration than All In One.

 

WordPress Plugins for Marketing

 

Welcome back to part 2 of our list of essential plugins for your WordPress or WooCommerce website.

 

This month, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the best plugins around to help you super-charge your marketing efforts.

 

The popularity of WordPress has meant that there are thousands of developers around the world building plugins for it for pretty much anything you can think of.

 

From a marketing perspective, WordPress is designed for small to medium sized growing businesses which means no matter what your skill set when it comes to marketing, there’s sure to be a plugin that is right for you.

 

CAOS

https://wordpress.org/plugins/host-analyticsjs-local/

No. of downloads: 10,000+

 

First up on our list is the CAOS plugin built to make the task of Google Analytics integration easier.

 

If you’ve got a website, you’ve most likely have an analytics programme installed too which gives you data about how many people visit your website, where they come from, actions they take and so on.

 

Google Analytics (GA) is one such platform and perhaps the most popular one for most small to medium sized websites.

If you’re considering adding GA to your site, you should know that GA only works once you’ve added the GA code to all pages of the site and often you will need to get your web developer to do it.

 

This is where CAOS comes in. it is a plugin for Google Analytics which allows to you connect to it without the need for any outside help.

 

The plugin is natively compatible with WordPress which means that installing it on your site is going to be seamless and hassle-free.

 

What’s more, once you have this in place, it can also show you the basic info from GA right into your WordPress dashboard saving you a lot of time and clicks having to bounce around from once platform to another.

 

MailChimp for WordPress

https://wordpress.org/plugins/contact-form-7-mailchimp-extension/

No. of downloads: 100,000+

 

Mailchimp is for email newsletters what Google Analytics is for website analytics so it’s no wonder that we have a bespoke plugin for MailChimp available.

 

MailChimp is one of the most popular newsletter software around and until the arrival of this plugin, it wouldn’t be too uncommon to find your email subscriber data separate from the signups from your website which means each time you had someone signing up to your newsletter via your website, you will have to manually add them to your MailChimp database.

 

With the MailChimp for WordPress plugin however, all of that is history.

 

Once installed and connected, not only can you automatically sync your newsletter and website subscribers but you can also carry out some advanced functions such as offering the ability of people who make an enquiry via your site to sign up to your newsletter directly via opt-in checkboxes.

 

This is not only a great time saver but will also go a long way in enhancing the size and quality of your subscriber list.

 

OptinMonster

https://ps.w.org/optinmonster/assets/banner-772×250.png?rev=1145863

 

https://wordpress.org/plugins/optinmonster/

No. of downloads: 800,000+

 

Speaking of increasing your email subscriber list, another tool that is designed precisely for that is the OptinMonster plugin for WordPress.

 

Your website’s conversion rate is one of the most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and offering multiple ways for a conversion (aka call-to-action) to occur is a must.

 

For example, even though your most important call-to-action is going to a sale if you’re selling something or an enquiry if you’re a service business, secondary call-to-action such as a newsletter signup or to download a white-paper or brochure can also be very valuable in the long run.

 

OptinMonster offers the ability to create several different types of forms such as popups and light boxes and even ‘exit-intent’ light boxes which can help you increase the number of page/views, increase conversions and ultimately make your website work better.

 

Drip Marketing Automation plugin for WordPress

https://wordpress.org/plugins/email-marketing/

 

No. of downloads: 9,000+

https://ps.w.org/email-marketing/assets/banner-772×250.png?rev=1817747

 

If your website’s subscriber count is in the triple digits, you need to have a marketing automation CRM in place if you don’t have one already and Drip is one such option.

 

In addition to collating all your signups and subscriber info from a variety of signup sources, a software like Drip can also automate certain marketing tasks that you carry out on a routine basis.

 

For example, Drip will allow you to send out an automated email notification to a a visitor who signs up via your blog each time you publish a new blog post which is not only a great time saver but also helps you improve your return visit levels.

 

Or, you can create lead nurturing emails which are designed to gradually move your user from the ‘cold’ to ‘hot’ stage of the buying funnel. In the long run, this can mean more sales for relatively less effort.

How to choose a website design agency

The website design and development racket is a tricky field to navigate.

If you find yourself in search of web design agencies, it’s sometimes hard to tell the wood from the trees in terms of differentiating between the good and the bad.

The aim of this blog is to give you a few pointers on why it’s worth your while getting professionals to design and develop your website.

 

#1 How hard can it be? I’ll do it myself for a fraction of the price

 

Don’t get me wrong many people have successfully designed, developed and launched their own websites using one of the well-known platforms such as WordPress or Wix.

But, have they created something that truly reflects their brand or business? Well I’d bet that 99% of ‘self-built’ websites entirely misrepresent their brand/business or simply don’t do it justice.

A website is often the first place a prospective new client will look – the importance of making a good first impression is essential in building trust, driving conversion and encouraging advocacy.

 

 

#2 Due-diligence whether it’s a new business or an upgrade – don’t go rogue

 

So, you’ve made the right choice and realised what’s best for your business.

You must be careful though. As in every industry, especially overcrowded ones, there are those who have your best interests at heart, and then there are the crooks.

Owing to how diluted the industry is, the web design and development space is littered with people trying to exploit other peoples ignorance and make a quick buck and whilst most agencies in question provide a similar service offering to one-another, it’s up to you to differentiate between them all.

It’s important to try and choose an agency that will take as much pride in the client’s business and brand, as the client themselves.

This is obviously easier said than done but finding a team with enthusiasm for not only their work, but also their clients, will ensure a positive outcome further down the line.

An obvious place you can check this is in their case studies. If there aren’t beautiful examples of past work proudly placed on a pedestal on the agency’s website, alarm bells should be ringing.

Another easy way of finding reputable agencies is through industry related publications and the annual awards given out to leading website design agencies in London and globally.

 

#3 Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys

 

Monkey selfieWhen it comes to costs, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is and somewhere down the line you’ll end up in losing out either financially or being lumped with a mediocre, under-whelming website.

Always bear in mind the number of different elements it takes to build a good website – design, UX, development and SEO. Each are very specific skills that people spend years honing and as such you expect to pay!

So, save your time and don’t engage with any company who quote significantly less than all the other quotes that you have received.

Especially in regard to SMEs and start-ups, budgets can be restrictive, but, considering the importance of a website plays on client’s first impressions, every effort should be made to make them as well-crafted as they can be.

Websites are often more expensive than people think but when you take into account the expertise you are getting for your money, the juice is worth the squeeze.

75% of user judgment about your business’s credibility is based on your website’s design
University of Surrey

People are often taken aback by the costs of building a custom website. Whilst these costs are usually fair, the agency should provide fairly comprehensive breakdowns demonstrating how they are arriving at the forecasted costs, including an idea of additional development and post build costs should they be needed.

Getting several quotes from different agencies should give you a good idea of a ballpark figure you should expect to pay.

Whilst there are some very intuitive platforms out there that can walk you through every step to building an intuitive and responsive website for relatively little money, the chances of you creating a website that best reflects your business is hard with off the shelf templates. What’s more; by using the standard themes offered by the likes of WordPress and Shopify, it’s likely that your website will end up looking similar if not identical to someone else’s and correct me if I’m wrong, it’s in a businesses interest to stand out from the crowd, not mix about in it.

 

#4 Forming Lasting Relationships

 

Digital professionals helping ambitious brands thrive online.

This is the mantra at the core of Diffusion Digital’s ethos and fundamentally lays out our driving force, and, in danger of sounding self-righteous, it’s one that every digital agency should pursue.

people working happily

I say ‘pursue’ because – owing to evolving environments, demographics and products, to name but a few – this process is changes with the times and we must adapt with it. Having an agency aboard throughout will make your life easier in the long run.

Agencies should demonstrate that they take genuine pride in the websites they help craft. They should take the time to truly understand what the brand or business stands for and the client’s objectives or vision into the future, as well as Key Performance Indicators.

When a collection of brilliant minds, hearts, and talents come together… expect a masterpiece
John Ruskin

 

#5 Sit back and watch your business/brand evolve online

 

The beauty of using an agency is that you should expect all bases to be covered.

  • Appropriate platform

Magento, WordPress, Kentico, Salesforce, Shopify are just a few of the platforms that people host their websites on and which one to use depends on your business. Engaging the correct platform from the outset is critical to all businesses moving forward in terms of functionality abd scaling the business in the future.

  • SEO structure

It is essential to involve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) from the earliest stages of a website build. Creating keyword optimised landing pages will help Google recognise what your business is and subsequently, with an ongoing content strategy, high quality organic traffic will be driven to your site.

  • Clever custom animations

Being able to customise apps and other integrations is essential to truly bringing a brand to life online. Agencies make it their mission to tweak existing apps to best fit the profile of the business they are working for. This allows entirely bespoke interactions that will truly enhance the appearance and performance of the site.

  • Seamless user experience

Creating a site that is easy to navigate, with intuitive integrations and that’s pleasing both visibly as well as practically is a crucial part of attracting engaging and retaining visitors to a site.

  • Responsive design

Increasingly people use a variety of devices to access the internet making it essential to develop a website that transitions seamlessly from one device to another.

#6 Key considerations

 

  • Does this agency have the right expertise?

Choosing an agency cartoonThe agency doesn’t necessarily have to be old but it is worth checking the experience of the team who is going to be working on your account. It has been known that experienced people will be in the discovery stages in order to win the brief and subsequently pass the account onto less able juniors. Whilst this is great in teaching other people skills, it might not be ideal in terms of building your website.

  • Does this agency offer all of the services I require?

Where possible find an agency where all departments — SEO, Development, UX, Copy Writing to name but a few — are housed under one roof. In terms of simplicity, efficiency and ease of communication this is far better than working with agencies who sub-contact elements out to people who might be based on the other side of the world

  • Is my business important to them?

Find people who care. If it is a small project don’t go to a big agency because they might not assign the same amount of time as they do to other projects.

  • How many people will be working on my account?

This will vary throughout the build. Expect all sections to be involved during the initial discovery stages but once designs and strategies have been laid down the teams will work individually on the sections that are relevant to them before passing it onto the next to complete theres.

  • Who will be my main contact?

Ensure clear lines of communication are set up and you know who you speak to directly should you need to

  • What am I paying for?

You are paying for a team of experts in their respective fields to help bring your business to life on line. In a world where digital is taking over a little more each day, it is essential that we keep up with the times and by creating a beautiful website you will extend your reach enormously.

  • Do you like and trust them?

This isn’t just an agency who you need to help you in the short term. These individuals are going to be dealing with something which is incredibly important to you and as such you need to not only to like them, but more importantly trust them. You need to be able to look at them and tell that they are going to treat your baby – so to speak – with the upmost respect. Essentially a website design agency becomes intimately involved in the development of your brand/business and as such you need to see that they care.

  • Are they asking the right questions?

The agency should develop a deep understanding of the business and how it works during the initial discovery stage, this should also look into key performance indicators and future targets.

  • Are they able to provide testimonials and examples of work?

Whilst the agency doesn’t necessarily have to be too old, it is important that at least a few of the people who work there have considerable experience working in the industry. This can be tested by looking at the testimonials on both the individual as well as the work they have done.

Ultimately what you ant to ask yourself is whether or not you will form a good relationship with the agency and especially the team who are going to be working on your account.

Contact with an agency rarely ends after the build is complete and usually an agency will offer retainer packages to manage a website into the future. Moreover finding an agency who offers on-going SEO and content marketing retainer strategies that will help drive high quality organic traffic to your site.

 

Ecommerce solutions: Shopify vs WordPress

Much like Canon vs Nikon or Waitrose vs Lidl or Fiat vs Ferrari; choosing between WordPress and Shopify ultimately comes down to personal preference. It depends on what you are looking for in an eCommerce platform, and the performance you require to drive your site.

Define performance I hear you say. Well performance is driven by; convenience, complexity, cost, customisation, customer service, usability, the power to grow and the overall general aesthetic.

This article — with the help of some dubious metaphors — will compare two of the biggest names in eCommerce with the aim of giving you a better understanding of which platform will suit you and your business best.

Although WooCommerce is the most used platform by far, it is more cumbersome to maintain than a simpler Software as a Service (SaaS) solution like Shopify. This said, WooCommerce can be a great tool, especially for content heavy sites that also need an eCommerce element to their business and website.

Each of them have there positives and obviously — and perhaps more importantly — their limitations. Much like using a Swiss army knife in the rain forest; it might be ideal for lighting a fire with the little magnifying glass or sharpening a stick to make an arrow, but it’s no machete and isn’t very good at chopping down a path before you (I told you they were dubious!).

If you are looking at moving your business online then Shopify and WordPress will certainly cover your needs and by the end of this article, you should be able to determine which will propel your business forward most efficiently.

Shopify Website example

What to look for in an eCommerce platform?

  • Budget – the initial costing of starting a fully functional eCommerce store.
  • Ease of Use – It should be relatively easy to use, even for total novices.
  • Payment Methods – It should support multiple payment methods (Stripe, PayPal etc.)
  • Integrations – how many third party tools and services can you utilise to help grow your business
  • Scalability – as your business grows, your platform should be able to grow naturally alongside it.

These are the very basic requirements for choosing an eCommerce store. There are obviously other considerations that must be taken into account, such as shipping, invoicing and inventory management but, by asking yourself what your needs are in terms of the list above, you should end up using the most appropriate platform for you and your business.

WooCommerce example

Bang for your buck

Something that is at the heart of all business decisions is cost and these two platforms have varying approaches when it comes to pricing structures. Whilst Shopify’s pricing structure is relatively simple, WooCommerce is a little more abstract and can be frustrating. This frustration largely comes down to the open source nature of WordPress and the fact that WooCommerce, and many other features that are required to run a successful eCommerce site on WordPress, are plugins that must be bought.

Whilst Shopify offers various tiers that provide you with a ready-built, off the shelf eCommerce store that you can start using straight away, building a similar service to Shopify on WordPress can be complicated. A great deal of time can be spent building and managing a WooCommerce platform and as the famous phrase goes; time is money. Whilst WooCommerce might be cheaper on the surface, technically it is more demanding and this can lead to larger expenses.

Shopify’s smorgasbord of plans caters to all needs. Whether you want the equivalent to an egg and cress sandwich or filet of wagyu beef in freshly made Italian ciabata, fresh out of the oven – there is something to cater to all budgets and tastes.

Ranging from $29 a month for a basic site that provides all the fundamentals needed for starting a new business online, to $299 a month providing everything you need for growing a business as well as advanced features needed to help scaling up. (There is a free version, but this isn’t worth thinking about at this stage if you’re looking to move online seriously). With plans starting at 2000$ a month, you can join Shopify PLUS which will offers advanced solutions to scaling your business up to a global scale.

Advanced Shopify Features

Here is a list of the standard features you’ll have access to should you sign up to the Advanced Shopify plan; which is generally the tier we tend to use the most when designing and developing a Shopify website:

  • Unlimited products
    • There is no limit on the amount of products that you can upload and display
  • Unlimited file storage
    • Shopify offers unlimited space so you don’t have to worry about site speed and limiting the amount of content on your site.
  • Automatic fraud analysis
    • This allows you to flag an order that you suspect might be fraudulent so that you can review it before sending the product.
  • Embedded Oberlo integration
    • Oberlo is a drop shipping method that allows storeowners or marketplaces to sell their products without actually having to stock the products themselves. Amazon uses a similar business model.
  • Manual order creation
    • Manual orders can be created which allows you to manually enter customer’s details directly – for instance if they have passed them over the telephone or paid in cash.
  • Discount codes
    • Give an added incentive to your customers by offering them discounts that can easily be redeemed on you Shopify site.
  • Blog module
    • Whilst Shopify is principally an eCommerce platform, it is also becoming a platform that will allow its customer to write and maintain a lot of content that is designed to attract people to the site by using SEO techniques.
  • Free SSL certificate
    • SSL allows secure payments from a web browser to a browser. SSL are commonly used for secure credit card transactions, data transfer and logins.
  • Mobile commerce optimization
    • Use gestures to improve your customers experience on mobile leading to greater conversions.
  • Editable HTML and CSS
    • This allows for further customisation of your Shopify site and enhances usability and customer experience.
  • Credit card payments
    • Credit card payments fall between 2.4% + 30c and 2.9% + 30c, depending on the plan you are on.
  • Multiple languages
    • If you are looking at selling on a global scale you might require a multi language option on your page to fit the needs of all of your customers.
  • Adjustable shipping rates and taxes
    • Choose from a variety of shipping options from Free Shipping to Exact Shipping Costs to Flat Rate.
  • SEO-ready site structure
    • The structure of the site is optimised helping it to rank highly in search engines. It also gives you hints on your content by suggestion areas you need to improve or which areas are working in terms of Search Engine Optimisation.
  • Individual product reviews
    • Giving the customer the opportunity to have a say builds trust and increases conversion.
  • Facebook selling module
    • An important part of any online shop is the ability to connect easily to and sell on social media platforms such as Facebook.
  • Social media integration
    • Instagram, Facebook and Pintrest, including the ability to sell directly on these platforms
  • Physical and digital products in the store
    • Shopify is also an excellent platform for SaaS retailers.
  • Unlimited traffic to your store
    • Our servers will always be able to cater to the amount of traffic to your site; no limits will be put in place.
  • Daily backups
    • You can work safe in the knowledge that should the worst happen and you lose your site for whatever reason, Shopify will be able to regenerate it in a very short time frame.
  • Site stats and product reports
    • Manage your analytics dashboard so you can easily see the metrics that are relevant to you. Click rate, bounce rate, customer visits, conversion race etc.
  • Advanced reports
    • Integrate with Google Analytics to give the most precise data possible allowing you to tweak and optimise even the smallest elements of your site.
  • Fully featured mobile app
    • Ensure your site is optimised across all platforms so regardless of how you customer is accessing your store, the experience will be seamless
  • Product importing via CSV files
    • Comma Separated Values (CSV files) is a file format for spread sheets. Shopify accepts the export and import of CSV files for products, orders discounts and customers.
  • Different product variations
    • You can add a variant option to each of the products that come with multiple options, such as weight, size or colour.
  • Print orders
    • This enables you to print custom invoices, receipts, packing slips labels and more.
  • Gift cards Abandoned cart recovery
    • If your customer leaves your site with products in the cart, you can automatically send reminders letting them know they have products waiting at checkout.

Whilst there are plugins that replicate all of these features for WooCommerce; as I have already mentioned many of them must be paid for and you have to ensure they are all updated and correctly installed yourself, whereas Shopify manages all of these things for you. As far as pricing goes, it costs a relatively similar amount of money to set up a similar functioning WordPress site to a standard Shopify store, however further down the line when you come to more advanced customisation and require new plugins, this is where the charges will start racking up.

Checkout cartoon

Payment options

For any eCommerce site ease of payment is critical in providing a seamless path for your customer to take starting at the discovery of your product all the way through to conversion.

Shopify offers its own payment gateway called Shopify Payments, as well as allowing all major third party payment systems. However, depending on what plan you are on Shopify charges fees of up to 2% on each transaction made through a third party gateway. This is on top of the fees paid to the third party.

Woocommerce provides, by default, both PayPal and Stripe and it also supports all other third party payment gateways through plugins. Now, when considering the fees charged by Shopify for using third party add-ons, Woocommerce – as a self-hosted platform – doesn’t charge any transaction fees meaning you could save an enormous amount of money. This said, if you are a small store and Shopify’s default payment methods suits you, then these transaction fees make no difference.

Design and customisation

It cannot be denied that for most retailers starting out digitalising their business, time is of the essence and as Shopify offers an incredibly easy platform to design and develop you eCommerce site, within two shakes of a lamb’s tail you can be selling your products online. This said, users often complain that their site is similar to a competitor. Fortunately, besides the checkout design, which is fixed, almost all other aspects of layout and design are customisable – in the right hands, that is.

With this in mind and given that brands and business’ moving online for the first time want to make a positive and lasting first impression and so from the outset they’re keen to get the design spot on. This is where you will start looking towards a professional design agency to help craft a site that will directly reflect your brand, allowing it to truly stand out in an ever more crowded space.

Shopify offers a number of templates that can be tweaked to suit your needs or to fit better with your brand identity. This is limited though, and without hiring professional developers it is inevitable that your site will end up looking similar to another. Owing to the open source nature of WordPress however, you are able to completely customise your site as you wish, or choose from the hundreds of themed templates that people make, occasionally very cheaply.

WordPress is equally as customisable and options are limitless. However whilst Shopify is relatively intuitive, WordPress can become quite technical especially when you start diving into the source code in order to modify your site. If you are comfortable doing this however, then creativity knows no bounds.

This said, WooCommerce doesn’t come with a design, you must first set up a WordPress site and once this is in place you can add Woocommerce. Fortunately the plugin works with just about every theme WordPress has to offer, as well as fully customised ones.

Whilst there are many apps that will allow you to customise your Shopify website — as well as being able to adjust the palates and layouts — you ultimately are restricted to what Shopify allows you to do. For instance you cannot redesign the layout of the checkout area in Shopify. However, due to the open source nature of WordPress, your creativity is not bound by any restrictions and third-party developers are constantly producing new plugins that will enhance the usability and functionality of your website.

Content Management System

Content kings vs. streamlined Sales – which is easier to use?

There is no denying that Shopify is a eCommerce leader however — and despite the fact that it is getting better — content heavy sites will be better suited using WordPress, with WooCommerce as a plugin to make it transactional. As the world’s leading content management system, hosting around 28% of the world’s websites, WordPress’ versatility makes it hard to compete with when it comes to content management.

Even though WooCommerce allows you to do just about everything Shopify does, and whilst it WordPress may be a better CMS; Shopify is closing the gap. With ever improving, integrated SEO features the eCommerce native is opening up its arms to content heavy sites. Added to this the fact that, from the start, Shopify was designed to sell and as a result everything that the site offers is aimed at improving the stores functionality, and therefore the UX is very fine-tuned. Some WordPress eCommerce sites on the other hand are quite confused.

Given that Shopify is a subscription-based tool, it is incredibly easy to go from point zero — where you have no digital offering what so ever – to a live site with products selling online. Simply by signing up and following an intuitive setup wizard, you’re site can go live in no time at all.

Scalability — Planning on conquering the universe, or just the UK?

You’d be hard pressed to find any business that doesn’t aspire to greater things and a lot of the time this aspiration connects directly to growth. Ensuring you have a platform that naturally evolves alongside your business is critical to get right from the off – for instance you don’t want to be changing belts because it doesn’t have enough notches in it to allow for an overindulgent Christmas expansion.

So, just like when you select a belt that will hopefully see you out to the end of your days (depending on build quality of course) you must select an eCommerce platform that will expand as your product range and customer base increases.

When it comes to technical functionality, Shopify handles everything from performance, security and scalability, meaning you can concentrate on growing your business. Once your business inevitably starts to grow, you can simply upgrade to a more appropriate plan (much like notching up on your belt!) and allow your business to breath.

Of course by upgrading plans you will have to pay more, but this countered by the fact you will not have to hire an in-house technical team.

WooCommerce on the other hand is a self-hosted platform. This means you are responsible for everything from ensuring you have backed up your site, to the overall security of your website. As you grow it is your responsibility to ensure you have sufficient and suitable infrastructure in place to allow for safe and efficient expansion. This can give you more control in terms of having a greater variety of options available for each service you offer however, this can add to the hassle — particularly in the form of maintenance – and a lot of people want to avoid this.

So, if you are looking at taking over the world Woocommerce will certainly give you the flexibility that you inevitably require or indeed desire. However if you have smaller targets and you can settle with little old England, then it might be worth avoiding the aggravation and go with Shopify. This said, some of the world’s biggest brands such as Tesla, Redbull and Penguin Books all use Shopify as a platform.

Search Engine Optimisation Cartoon

Growing your followers or customer base. SEO

The ease that customers can find your store online is crucial to sales, whether you are launching a new product online or simply trying to build a web footprint leading to your retail store. By using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) you increase the likelihood that your product page or website as a whole will match with common search terms, and this will lead to a greater amount of quality leads coming to your website.

Shopify has a number of built in features that help when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation. By optimising areas such as title tags, Meta descriptions, alt-tags for images and URLs for blog posts, you appeal to Google’s algorithms meaning the page is more likely to be ranked highly.

Additionally most themes require you to link with social media and also come with various sharing options as standard, which allows you to easily market your product or store across different platforms online.

As with many other differences between WordPress and Shopify, when it comes to SEO with WooCommerce and WordPress, you have to download various plugins to ensure your site is operating to the max. Furthermore these plugins can be optimised even more by installing add ons. Although this can become cumbersome and difficult to manage, the end result can be extremely powerful.

In reality only a very small percentage of eCommerce sites need to do the extreme customisation that WooCommerce provides and unless you are so content heavy that you require a blogging focussed platform, you might as well stick to Shopify and have ‘somebody else’ take care of the boring parts.

crossroads

Decision time

So here you are, standing confused — or hopefully less so after this blog — in front of the fork in the road. Ultimately, the two paths in front of you, whilst similar; also have some fundamental differences. One of these two world-leading platforms will suit your business and allow you grow and flourish in ways that you only previously dreamt of, whilst the other will only cause further complication.

If you are still confused as to which route to take and you need more personalised advice, please get in touch with one of our experts and we’ll be only to happy to lead you down the path that will take your business to the next level. If you have started to form a better idea of which suits you best and you would like a quote, then – again – speak with our team of Shopify and Workpress experts and we’ll get the ball rolling.