With all of the changes on TpT, have you considered adding a shop to your teacher website? Are you stuck because you don’t know which are the best ecommerce plugins for Wordpress?
Well, don’t worry…you aren’t alone.
If you have a TpT shop or have considered starting one, you’ve probably heard talk about some of the issues that have arisen on the TpT platform regarding search issues, security concerns, and the acquisition of TpT by the IXL platform.
And each of those can be super-terrifying, which is why many teachers are running scared. They are fearful…
- their income is going to tank, and
- all of their work will be for nothing
Therefore, many have decided to add an e-commerce shop to their own websites in order to sell their resources.
And if you’ve been listening to any of these conversations, one e-commerce solution is garnering a lot of attention in the teacher entrepreneur space…and that is WooCommerce.
I personally have a WooCommerce shop…but that is getting ready to change.
Why, you might ask?
Well, I reached out to my “go to” tech guy, Grayson Bell founder and CEO of iMark Interactive, with a couple of questions about setting up a WooCommerce shop for a client…
And he dropped a bomb on me when he said, “To be honest, Woo is such a terrible e-com system. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone anymore.”
To say I was shocked would be a gross understatement.
After recovering from that startling revelation, I knew I had to ask if he would be willing to come on the podcast and share his insight, reasoning, and suggestions for teacher entrepreneurs.
And trust me when I tell you that if the tech side of starting a blog or website scares you, then this is the guy you want in your corner.
So he is here today to share all of his insight regarding Woo Commerce and which e-commerce solution is going to be the best for teacher entrepreneurs.
My name is Grayson Bell and I have over 18 years of experience in the blogging and e-commerce space. I am the founder and CEO of iMark Interactive, and our mission is to help small businesses and bloggers (just like you) with tech support, diagnoses of issues affecting your site, and website fixes to make your website run well.
Why Don’t You Recommend WooCommerce?
WooCommerce, the most popular Wordpress ecommerce plugin, was built to fill a need back many years ago when someone decided that every Wordpress site should have the ability to add an ecommerce shop.
The fact that it has a free version is really enticing for online business owners. Unfortunately, its core functionality is quite lacking.
It doesn’t provide a very good user experience for the buyer. So to create that awesome user experience, a ton of plugins are required.
While you may begin with the basic free plugin, you end up having to add 25 more plugins to be able to provide the advanced features you want for your shop.
This is where people get into trouble.
Most sites with WooCommerce shops start out with three plugins, but by the time they reach full functionality they are up to 30 or 40 plugins. I have even seen an ecommerce website with 90 plugins because of all the different things they wanted on their site.
And unfortunately, this only adds multiple levels of complexity because WooCommerce doesn’t develop all of these plugins.
They are created by third parties, which means that if these creators are not keeping up with all of the WooCommerce updates then they are falling behind.
That is when your website can become an absolute mess.
Most blog owners who create content decide to add a shop on top of the blog that many issues arise. You have to install plugins for extra features connected to your blog like Yoast SEO and then more plugins specifically for WooCommerce.
But there is a workaround!
Is WooCommerce the Right Choice for Some Businesses?
It can be. You can absolutely use WooCommerce successfully and it work well for your online shop.
But you have to actually know what you’re doing. You can’t just blindly jump into it and think everything is going to work flawlessly.
Because you are taking credit card payments through various payment gateways and collecting people’s information, this is a big security consideration.
WooCommerce is one of the number one hacked systems in WordPress because it has all of the “good data” that hackers want! And it isn’t because WooCommerce is easily hackable. It’s because hackers get through one of the many WooCommerce plugins.
If you want to take advantage of the premium version of WooCommerce with additional features and extensions, WooCommerce might be the right plugin for your business…but just know there are risks.
How Can I Make WooCommerce Work For Me?
Create a Subdomain
If you do want to use WooCommerce, I would suggest separating your blog and shop by creating a subdomain dedicated to your ecommerce site. This allows you to contain some of the madness that can potentially ensue.
By having a subdomain, your branding and web address stay the same as your current domain. The only difference is the word shop or store gets added to the beginning of the domain name.
So with the blog happyteachermama.com, a subdomain would be shop.happyteachermama.com.
And because this is a subdomain, you don’t have to buy an additional domain name and pay for additional hosting.
Pay Someone to Set it Up Properly
Also, having a designer (or someone who knows what they’re doing) set everything up for you CORRECTLY is vital to avoid more potential plugin conflicts and issues.
If you are considering hiring a designer to set everything up, do your homework and be willing to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your designer…
- if all of the plugins they installed are necessary,
- what security plugins or safeguards are in place, and
- how they make sure to prevent issues from arising in the future with WooCommerce.
You need to know that you are investing in right ecommerce plugin and building your store (and business) on a solid foundation.
The Best Ecommerce Plugins For Wordpress
While you can find lots of shop plugins out there, I want to focus on the best ecommerce plugins for Wordpress. There are two that stand out above the rest.
This is a newer option created by Adam Preiser, who has been in the Wordpress space for a long time and created lots of other Wordpress resources including the Astra Wordpress website theme, CartFlows, Presto Player, and WPCrafter.
Obviously, the thing that makes this one of the best ecommerce plugins is the fact that there is a free plan. And depending on how many digital goods or resources you are selling, you may never have to upgrade to one of the premium plans.
It’s more of a software as a service and even though it is a plugin, it connects to their interface.
One of the things that makes WooCommerce frustrating is that you have to store your digital downloads on other platforms like Google Drive or Dropbox and then link those products. But with SureCart, your products can be added directly.
And because this is also a payment gateway, you can accept different payment methods like Stripe or PayPal.
They are actually in the process of making some HUGE upgrades and expansions with this particular ecommerce wordpress plugin that will include some key features teachers teachers will want.
Another good reason for potentially looking to this specific option is the fact that is also allows you to sell physical products. I am actually planning to transition into using this powerful ecommerce plugin on my own site because of its ease of use and essential features.
Easy Digital Downloads
This is what we have been using on iMark Interactive for awhile because I didn’t want the whole WooCommerce package.
Of course, it has some downsides, too.
It’s pretty rigid in what it can do because it is specifically for downloads. It will also require you to add some plugins if you want to connect this to your email list.
Other Great Options
There are other options like SendOwl, Ecwid ecommerce shopping cart, and BigCommerce that do similar things and have paid plans you can invest in.
The key is to do your due diligence and research these companies. They are all respectable companies that have a good track record, but it’s up to you to determine which one will be the best fit for your particular business.
If you want help deciding which option would be good for you, reach out to Grayson and his team.
The Best Alternative to a Wordpress Ecommerce Store
Another excellent online store option is Shopify. We have had many clients move from WooCommerce over to Shopify and they have been so pleased because it is a much better experience for customers.
And if that wasn’t reason enough to consider this option, they have also reported a bigger order value or increase in total expenditures per buyer as well as more checkouts.
This is a result of fewer issues in the checkout process. At the end of the day, Shopify was built as a shop platform.
The biggest downside to Shopify for many Wordpress users is the fact that Shopify is its own entity. It isn’t something you can “add” to your own website like WooCommerce.
But you can purchase the Shopify Starter plan which is less than $10 per month and this allows you to have a checkout page on Shopify that you link to your Wordpress website and products.
You can create your own shop (or hire a designer to build one for you) right in your WordPress website and when customers click “buy now” or “add to cart” they are taken to the Shopify platform to complete the transaction.
This reduces the craziness of all the WooCommerce stuff and just makes life easier!
If you want to build things on your site, there is a BigCommerce Wordpress plugin that connects your ecommerce shop to your site.
If I have a Wordpress Store, Do I Need to Collect Sales Tax?
That depends on your state. There are many states that require you to pay sales tax on digital downloads.
And these taxes can go as far down as county or city taxes that you might have to pay. So it is important to talk with a tax professional and learn what the specific requirements are in your state.
There is also the issue of VAT, which is value-added tax. This relates to customers who purchase your products from outside of the United States. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to determine whether or not this will affect you.
Some of these shop platforms actually do this work for you.
They have built-in support to provide you the necessary ecommerce functionality, customer service, as well as a knowledge base to help you as the owner.
This is one of the many things TpT does for teacher entrepreneurs. Because all of these systems and protections are built into the platform, you don’t have to worry about these things.
Is It Beneficial to Keep My TpT Shop if I Have a Website Shop?
The interesting thing about TpT, Etsy, or any other marketplace platform is the fact that they are marketing MACHINES!
They have built robust platforms that are designed to make buying a breeze and because of the name alone…customers feel safe and confident buying from sellers on their platforms.
While you do have to pay membership costs on TpT and they still take out a portion of your sales, the fact that they receive millions of visits a month makes it valuable to leave what you have there.
Then in the meantime, build out your own website shop and grow your following on your own platform.
Is There a Way to Prevent WooCommerce From Breaking My Site?
The short answer is yes. There are several safeguards you can put in place now that will help you prevent (or at the very least limit) some of the impact the inevitable WooCommerce issues will have your website.
These are four of the most important things you need to put in place now whether you choose to install WooCommerce or one of the top Wordpress ecommerce plugins we have discussed.
4 of the Most Important Things You Can Do for Your Website
Have an Off-Site Backup System in Place
If you have already paid a designer to create a WooCommerce shop or you have potentially created your own, you need to make SURE you have a good backup system.
The fact of the matter is that you WILL have issues. This is a guarantee!
Every website has problems with plugin conflicts or updates that go wrong. So it’s essential that you have an offsite backup available that you can roll back to when something doesn’t go as planned.
At iMark Interactive, we are fans of BlogVault, but Sucuri also has backups off-site.
Then there is Updraft Plus, which allows you to link your Google Drive, Amazon, or Dropbox account and store backups there.
The WooCommerce ecosystem has Jetpack backups, but Jetpack is one of those plugins that doesn’t “play well with others.”
Basically the whole point is to find an option that allows you to get the backups off the server.
Choose a Good Hosting Plan
You NEED a really fast host to be able to handle not only your blog, but your ecommerce shop as well. This is even more important if you are hosting a WooCommerce shop.
I used to recommend SiteGround (and that is who Jennifer uses), but they grew really big, really quickly and unfortunately the customer support has suffered as a result.
So now I recommend BigScoots because even though they have a strange name, they have excellent customer service and lightning fast hosting.
Invest in a Wordpress Maintenance Plan
Whether you have DIYed your website or have hired a designer to handle all of the customizations, you need to invest in a maintenance plan.
This covers a lot of the little things you might not consider until you have a disaster of epic proportions on your hands.
Grayson, and his team at iMark Interactive, have monthly support plans that will take care of all of the things we’ve discussed today.
They do off-site backups, plugin audits, site speed diagnoses, and more.
This is honestly one of the best ways you will find to invest in your business….and I know first-hand how amazing they are because I am on one of their plans.
Install a Security Plugin or Add Safeguards
One of the trickiest things about security is the game you have to play with WooCommerce. You want people to be able to check out, but you want to make sure that your site is protected.
Something that we are seeing a lot of is card skimmers throwing in orders on WooCommerce shops. These individuals have stolen a bunch of credit card numbers and are trying to place a bunch of small orders at a really fast pace to see which cards pass validation.
Because many WooCommerce shops have low-priced items, card skimmers have an ideal environment to use. Some additional safeguards you should put in place are…
- adding a Google ReCaptcha setup that would require one more step to validate,
- using CloudFlare, which is a free CDN security system,
- setting passwords that aren’t easy to hack, and/or
- installing a security plugin like WordFence to protect your site against some of this craziness by locking down certain things.
One additional thing as store owners and bloggers you need to consider is that everyone who has access to the backend of your website from authors and editors to admin and contributors need to have two-factor authentication.
And then make sure your host has the correct security headers on the server. This is something they do for you, so just ask them if this has been done.
The important thing to understand is that outside of plugin vulnerability, brute force hacking is the number one way hackers access your site.
So update logins, passwords, and then add some of these other safeguards to protect your blog and shop.
Then finally, make sure that your payment gateways, which are typically Stripe and PayPal, have two-factor authentication, as well. If hackers access your payment gateways, then you become liable for the fraud, and that is NOT what you want.
The last thing I want to mention that’s not directly related to the best ecommerce plugins for Wordpress, but is relevant to your business at large is business insurance. I know it seems like a waste of money, but make sure you have a good business insurance policy.
The reason I am mentioning this is because business insurance will SAVE you in the event your site gets hacked. And the reality is that even if you aren’t responsible, you can get pulled into a lawsuit.
As someone who has had this happen, I can promise you it will cost a lot of time and money without a good policy.
So do your yourself and your business a favor now and invest in a business insurance policy before something like this happens to you.
While a lot of the things we have discussed today may feel overwhelming, most of them aren’t that hard to implement.
Remember, you can hire Grayson and his team to do the things you need to do to ensure your site is secure.
And I promise, it will be one of the best decisions you make for your business.