E-commerce, digital items, and SSL certificates

So, you want to create an online marketplace for your goods or services. What do you need to know? At this month’s meetup we covered the basics of e-commerce.

For the presentation, I setup a demo site on my laptop using MAMP. I suggest setting up a development site so you don’t mess with your existing site.

To keep things simple I’m going to talk about e-commerce in for key areas

  • Storefront
  • Inventory
  • Payment
  • Orders/Shipping

What do do. First, setup a site. Pick a theme. For the demo I used the eStore theme on the WordPress.org theme directory. You can filter for themes that are tagged for commerce!

For the purpose of the demonstration I chose the WooCommerce plugin. Why?

  • It’s popular – 3 million installations
  • Owned by Automattic (previously WooThemes)
  • Great reputation
  • Flexible ecosystem

Once installed, WooCommerce walks you through the process of setting up the basics of your store. Once setup, and depending on the kinds of items  you’ll want to sell you may need to set up attributes, shipping, categories and other settings. You can do this at any time, but if you what you need to set up (like t-shirt sizes and colors) you should do this first. Then, start start adding Products!

During the presentation I roughly followed the handy guide for getting started from WooCommerce.

Payment Processing

And then there’s payment processing. This is one of the trickier aspects of e-commerce. For most people WooCommerce can do what they need 90% of the time. Even with built-in payment process solutions like PayPal and Stripe. However, There are a few things to consider.

Know your audience! What will they be more likely to use? You don’t need a thousand options if most folks your serve have an Amazon account.


What about digital items?

Tips for selling digital products with WooCommerce

SSL Secure Sockets layer

If you’re using a payment processor most handle the transaction and then return the visitor to the site. However, with some, like Stripe, you can perform the entire transaction “on site” (or the appearance of on-site). You’ll need a SSL certificate for it to work at all. You also are storing personal information (name, phone, address). Keeping as much information being sent over the wire secure is a good idea.

So, what does having a SSL certificate mean? It means that all communications between a user on their device and your website is encrypted. Think of it as a secret handshake between the two computers that prevents anyone seeing the information being sent (like over that open Wi-Fi at the local coffee shop!) during transmission.

There are many ways to add an SSL certificate. The easiest way, but potentially the most costly is to contact your hosting company. Bluehost and others companies offer it as an add-on – sometimes free, sometimes at a cost.

You can also setup other options, but they require a little technical know-how and time to implement.

  • Let’s encrypt! – https://letsencrypt.org
  • Cloudflare – https://www.cloudflare.com/plans/

Other reasons to have an SSL certificate

It builds trust. When people see that your site is secure they are more likely to trust the site and complete their transaction. Recently more modern browsers alert users when the site is not using an SSL certificate. Having a certificate ensures that your visitor won’t see conceding message about your site not being secure. Finally, Google rankings are slightly improved for sites that have an SSL certificate over those who do not.

Learn more about WooCommerce at WordPress.tv

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