We’re working on an ecommerce website right now, and in a meeting with our smart and successful client, I realized that she didn’t have a clear idea of how ecommerce works in WordPress. At the same time, Rosie was meeting with another wonderful client about a second website his company wants. She asked if he wanted ecommerce and he allowed as how he had been wondering about ecommerce. “How does that work?” he asked.
Seems like a fair question.
Of course, we know how ecommerce works from the point of view of the consumer. Most sales still take place in a physical store, but ecommerce — unlike physical retail sales — is growing rapidly, and most Americans have bought something online at some time. You pick what you want, pay with a credit card or other electronic payment option, and get your item in the mail in a few days.
But how does it work on your website? If you have a WordPress website, it’s all about pages, posts, and products.
- Pages at a WordPress website are the permanent things: About Us, Contact, your team pages, and so forth.
- Posts are generally blog posts, though posts can also be customized for individual team member pages, real estate listings, and much more. The idea behind posts is that they are things that change rapidly. You may keep them around for years — a good blog post can certainly bring traffic for years — but you don’t put them in your main navigation.
- Products or product pages are usually part of your ecommerce plugin. You may use WooCommerce, WP eCommerce, Jigoshop, Bigcommerce, or any of many other ecommerce solutions designed for WordPress, but most of them use product pages.
These are special pages you create just for your products. The example below is typical. It includes the name of the item, a picture, price, description, categories (more on that later), and the all-important “Add to cart” button which is connected with the ecommerce shopping cart.
Creating a product page like this — henceforth to be called a Product — is usually a matter of filling out a form at the page on the back end.
The specific fields you fill in will depend on the specific ecommerce solution you’re using, but you will generally just fill things in. Any real styling of the page will be done by your designer along with the other pages and templates in your theme.
Creating the Product is just the first essential step.
Once the Product is saved, you have lots of options. For example, you can make a Page for one type of customer which features links to Products designed especially for that customer. You can write a Post that answers a common question you hear from your customers, and link to Products that will help solve the problem the question relates to. You can link to a Product from your homepage or in social media posts. You can create additional Posts and Pages relevant to a Product and link to the Product from those Posts and Pages.
You can also create Category pages. The example Product above is part of a category called “Regional Native Wildflower Seed Mixes.” If we click on that Category on the Product page, we will see the Category page below:
Now, it may look as though we pasted all those pictures in and made links for them, but actually, the ecommerce solution pulls all the Products in the Category together for us, just as your WordPress site can pull all the Posts in a Category together.
This means that when we check a Category box for a new Product, that new Product will automatically be included in the Category page people see when they click on that Category — from now on.
We can also link to a Category page, secure in the knowledge that all the Products in a given Category will be shown when someone clicks on our link.
If we add a new Category in the future, we can just click the Category boxes for the products that should be in that Category — and we can do it in bulk, in just a few minutes. We don’t have to put all those Products back in again as new Products with a new Category.
There are plenty of other things we can do, especially with a custom WordPress site, but this is the basic mechanism that makes wrangling products for ecommerce so straightforward for WordPress. The combination of Posts, Pages, and Products is very powerful.