WooCommerce in a Data-Driven World

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WooCommerce recently made an entire overhaul of its highly visible dashboard screen in the WordPress admin available as a new plugin that can be downloaded free from the WordPress Plugin Directory. The new design is gorgeous, of course. I mean, anytime WooCommerce touches an admin screen, other plugin developers really pay attention because it influences they way many of them approach UI in WordPress.

But the real reason the new dashboard struck me is the sheer amount of data WooCommerce provides users. As someone who has worked on a fair share of WooCommerce (and non-WooCommerce) online stores, reporting is something that comes up quite frequently and it’s nice to know WooCommerce not only bakes it right into their product, but designs it so well that it’s easy to glean insights about sales, products and customers at a glance.

Here’s a clean shot of the new dashboard from the blog post announcing it.

If you’ve had to integrate custom reporting into an online store a la Google Analytics or some other tooling, you’ll know that it requires a fair amount of setup and know-how to make sure data is feeding into the right places, certain clicks or actions are getting tracked, and that the reports themselves are solid, including things like filtering by date and other variables. That’s a lot of work considering we can get that and more, directly from the makers of the e-commerce platform.

As Woo mentions in its post, the dashboard changes contained in the feature plugin are merely a preview of what’s to come and we have a lot of other fine features to look forward to, including new types of reports, activity feeds and more. There’s a lot of power and flexibility to be gained if setting up an online store is in your cards, then the fact that WooCommerce and these features are completely open source and free of charge in the WordPress ecosystem practically make it a no-brainer.

Try WooCommerce

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WooCommerce

(This is a sponsored post.)

I just read a nicely put together story about WooCommerce over on the CodeinWP blog. WooCommerce started life as WooThemes, sort of a “premium themes” business started by just a couple of fellas who had never even met in person. Two years and a few employees later they launch WooCommerce, and 2 years after that it hits a million downloads. A major success story, to be sure, but a collaborative and remote-work based one that wasn’t exactly overnight. Another 2 years and Automattic picks them up and the WooThemes part is spun down.

Now we’re 3-4 years into WooCommerce being an Automattic project and it’s looking at nearly 60 million downloads, 4 million of which are active. A number they are saying is about 30% of all eCommerce on the web. Daaaaang. I’ve used WooCommerce a number of times and it always does a great job for me.

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A Basic WooCommerce Setup to Sell T-Shirts

WooCommerce is a powerful eCommerce solution for WordPress sites. If you’re like me, and like working with WordPress and have WordPress-powered sites already, WooCommerce is a no-brainer for helping you sell things online on those sites. But even if you don’t already have a WordPress site, WooCommerce is so good I think it would make sense to spin up a WordPress site so you could use it for your eCommerce solution.

Personally, I’ve used WooCommerce a number of times to sell things. Most recently, I’ve used it to sell T-Shirts (and hats) over on CodePen. We use WordPress already to power our blog, documentation, and podcast. Makes perfect sense to use WordPress for the store as well!

What I think is notable about our WooCommerce installation at CodePen is how painless it was, while doing everything we need it to do. I’d say it was a half-day job with maybe a half-day of maintenance every few months, partially based on us wanting to change something.

The first step is installing the plugin, and immediately you get a Products post type you can use to add new products. We’re selling a T-Shirt, so that looks like this:

Note the variations in use for size. We even track inventory at the size level so our T-Shirt printing company knows when to re-print different sizes.

What is somewhat astounding about WooCommerce is that you might need to do very little else. You could set a price, flip on the basic PayPal integration and enter your email, publish the product, and start taking orders.

Or, you could start customizing things and do as much or as little as you want:

  • You could add as many different payment processors as you like. We like using Stripe for credit card processing at CodePen, but also offer PayPal.
  • You could customize the template of every different page involved, or just use the defaults. At CodePen we have very lightly customized templates for the store homepage and product page.
  • You could get very detailed with calculating shipping costs, or use flat rates. We use a flat rate shipping cost at CodePen almost as marketing: same shipping cost anywhere in the world!
  • You could get into integrations, like connecting it with your MailChimp account for further email marketing or Slack account to notify your team of sales.

If you can dream it, you can do it with WooCommerce.

At CodePen, we work with a company called RealThread that actually prints and ships the T-Shirts.

They work great with WooCommerce of course, and the way we set that up is that we use the ShipStation integration and blast the orders into their account there and they handle all the fulfillment from there. There are all sorts of shipping method plugins though for anything you can think of.

Within WooCommerce, we have a dashboard of all the orders, their status, and even tracking information should we need to look something up.

So essentially:

  1. We use WooCommerce
  2. We use the Stripe plugin to take our credit card payments that way
  3. We use the PayPal plugin to take PayPal payments over Braintree
  4. We use the ShipStation plugin to send orders to that system for our fulfillment company to handle

It was quite easy to set up and works great, and it’s comforting to know that we could do tons more with it if we needed to and support is there to help.

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