You all know of my love affair with WordPress, one of the principle reasons for which is its incredible extensibility through the use of plugins. Perhaps one of the most common requests that people want to know if WordPress can handle is the ability to sell goods online. And as usual, the answer is yes. My personal preference for doing so is to use the premium Cart66 plugin.
Now, there are a few free e-commerce solutions for WordPress, however, they don’t tend to be as well thought out, or nearly as comprehensive or powerful as Cart66, at least, not without the purchase of premium add-ons.
Cart66 has a lot of premium features that you either won’t find in other e-commerce plugins, or that will cost you extra. However, let’s start with the basics:
You can sell either digital products or physical products. I personally think it’s a bit over-the-top to buy Cart66 to sell just digital content – I would personally recommend something like Easy Digital Downloads instead. However, if you want to sell a combination of digital and physical products, then it’s nice that they have a good system for doing so.
You can also set multiple shipping options and configure tax options by state and/or country, to meet your own personal taxation requirements.
If you want to sell products with variable price options, you’re also covered: each product can be set with as many different price options as you need, if you have different sizes, numbers or types of the same product for instance.
To help promote your products, you can use coupons and promotions to give specific discounts on certain items, or combinations of items.
There’s also a number of other standard features that you would expect to find in any e-commerce plugin, like the ability to put products on any page or post with a shortcode, a shopping cart widget, the ability to add custom fields for products, the ability to sell internationally and customising your email receipts. But I want to move on to its more advanced features:
Where Cart66 excels is in its advanced feature set. It has built-in integration with a variety of services to make the most of your store.
For example, it has built-in connectivity with a variety of shippers (including UPS, USPS, FedEx, Canada Post ad Australia Post) to provide live shipping rates, contingent upon you entering weights for the items you’re selling. That way, you can offer the best and most reliable prices to your customers by charging the actual shipping cost instead of unnecessarily over-inflating it to cover yourself and make yourself uncompetitive.
If you want to provide support, or FAQs to your customers, you can integrate with the popular Zendesk to do so. You can also stay in touch with your customers with a number of mailing list providers, including Constant Contact and MailChimp.
If you have a license with iDevAffiliate, you can also integrate the two to provide an affiliate program for your members, enabling you to reward your members for selling your content or products to people in their own networks. Affiliate marketing is a huge tool in online sales and is sure to give people an incentive to recommend products and services that they already believe in.
You can also integrate with Amazon S3, to make delivering your digital content much easier, quicker and less burdensome on your own server; just enter your Amazon S3 credentials, and Cart66 will take care of the rest.
If you sell physical products, you can use the Cart66 plugin to track your inventory, warning you when supplies are low and disallowing customers from buying products that are out of stock.
What’s awesome is that Cart66 comes with all the payment gateways you could possibly need. Out of the box, it supports:
- PayPal (all varieties)
- Offline payments
- Eprocessing Network
- Merchant Warrior
- Sage Pay
That should cover you, whether you already have an existing merchant account, or you’re looking to start one up.
You can also use Cart66 to create membership sites, reserving certain content for paid members and beyond that, allowing different levels of membership access to different amounts of content. It also has the ability to support free memberships and supports subscription memberships, where frequent payments continue to give a user access to the site. Furthermore, your customers have control over their own memberships and are able to upgrade, downgrade and extend their memberships through their own accounts.
You really have to see Cart66 in action to appreciate just how powerful it is. To be transparent, I should note an annoyance that I have with it; you can’t categorize your products and have them automatically display on your site. Unfortunately, Cart66 just allows you to enter the product information and then you need to create posts or pages to display your products on the site manually. So in my mind, that’s a bit fiddly, but once you get over that, it really is a great system to work with. There’s also a load of Cart66 specific themes to work with that help get the products displayed on your site in the way you want, so all is not lost.
All in all, it’s a wonderful e-commerce solution for WordPress and really worth with moderate initial investment. Also, I should note that if you want to give it a test-drive first, you can always download their Lite version to take it out for a spin, for free.