WordPress continues it’s growth as the most popular website CMS and blogging platform, and here we look at the most popular and effective ecommerce plugins available.
Updated May 2020
With the ongoing government restrictions due to COVID-19, the ability for businesses to sell online is clearly gaining in importance. With over 14 years experience in helping clients move into ecommerce, we would like to help businesses should they wish to make the step to sell online. We are offering free phone call consultations, simply call our office on 01249 561010 to arrange a callback or video meeting.
By far the leading ecommerce plugin for WordPress, with over 29% of market share according to Datanyze most recent report, WooCommerce is still the leading solution for selling online with the framework. It’s a go-to platform for 4D Digital, and we have extensive experience in developing and extending it’s capabilities.
With a large selection of extensions, WooCommerce can cover most website needs and it’s huge contributor base means that any security updates are monitored and released with good regularity.
Easy Digital Downloads
As it’s name implies, Easy Digital Downloads offers a solution for those who are looking to sell download files such as music, articles or eBooks. With an easy set up, website owners can relatively quickly have their very own digital sales platform running.
With the basic plugin free, the premium very of Easy Digital Downloads offers extended functionality regarding email marketing and payment gateway integration.
BigCommerce is a standalone ecommerce software solution that has gained popularity in recent years. Many would argue that it’s checkout experience is superior to WooCommerce. Now that the WordPress plugin for BigCommerce has moved out of beta, this is going to be a serious option for WordPress retailers in 2019.
As the New Year festivities fade and we all head back to work, inevitably thoughts can turn to plans for 2019 and how to progress your business. One of the main factors in a sales and marketing strategy has to be to optimise your company’s online presence. We might well be a bit biased – but there are a number of ways we can help you and we’ve outlined some options below.
Most companies and organisations will have a website in place, so mainly we’re looking at a website redesign. Unless branding and logo have changed, typically a second, third- or fourth-generation website just needs to be refreshed, with perhaps a look again at the focus of the content. Responsive design is often a key, to ensure focus is given to mobile and tablet view. Depending on the industry sector, over half of traffic to a website will be on mobile. This also guides us into making sure the content is as clear as possible, with key action points as a focus.
Website Audits & Consultancy
From our basic website audit to a more in-depth consultancy role, we try to use our experience to help you ensure your website or mobile app is delivering the results you need. Focus is given to planning improvements and then measuring the performance over coming months and years.
Digital marketing, which includes a wide variety of areas such as SEO, Social Media and PPC campaigns, is the method of marketing your website or app online. With such choice of channels to use, it’s key nowadays to ensure the most effective route is used, and most importantly, to measure the success of the campaign. With analytics and insights metrics available to measure the finest detail of traffic source and flow, it’s possible to accurately show any return on the investment.
2019 and beyond
If you feel that any of the options we outline above may be of use please contact us, we’re always happy to chat through any enquiry. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of our #blogmas articles this year, and wish everyone good fortune in 2019.
When ASOS issued a profit warning just prior to Christmas due to poor online sales in November, many feared that this year was going to be a tough period for eCommerce retailers. With Black Friday falling in that November period, did this mean that other retailers would reflect the performance of one of the UK’s leading eCommerce lights? Was the Brexit effect having a tangible effect on sales and profits?
A good indicator of general retail performance is always how early stores, in the high street and online, switch into the sales period. Long gone are the days of sales starting on Boxing Day. Even in stronger economic times of a few years ago, many online retailers (Amazon in particular), would launch massive promotional campaigns on Christmas Day itself. No sooner had presents been opened than we were busily seeking bargain replacements!
But with some of the big guns such as Next and John Lewis holding off launching sales some confidence grew that the general economic concerns weren’t hitting online sales as much as predicted.
Reports from Next and John Lewis however, have both showed good online sales over the period. Next overall sales were up 1.5% on 2017, but online sales were up a whopping 15.2%, taking many ecommerce analysts by surprise. John Lewis’ figures were up 4.5% in the week to 29th December, but as no separate online figures were released, it’s less easy to assess.
So what can we learn? That online sales, done well, are forging ahead despite uncertainties in the economy and high street concerns.
In the first of our 12 Blogs of Christmas we have a look back at 2018 and pick out our top five website trends from 2018. These are website and app design and functionality that we’ve seen grow through the year, and may just give a pointer as to where we need to look in 2019. So if these are the top trends – are they the best way to enhance your website and make the most of your online presence? Not necessarily, and we give our verdict on each.
We’re sure you must have experienced the popup welcome when visiting a new website – ‘Can we help?’. Usually on the bottom right of the screen, these advice-offering widgets often feature thumbnail photos of the support person and their name. Nine times out of ten these are automated ChatBots, trained by Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning to automatically respond with guidance to common visitor requests. The suspicion is that these bots can be helpful, but tend to become an annoyance when continuing to appear on further browsing of the website. So are these ChatBots an annoying passing fad, or can they offer real value to your website visitors? Well, we think they are here to stay and will play a growing part in our web experiences over the next decade. A bit annoying currently, but when it becomes difficult to tell the difference between the bot and a real person then the value of a ChatBot really kicks in. Companies who’ve invested the time in ‘training’ these automated helpers will be a step ahead of their competition.
Verdict: Needs to be used with care currently, but a good investment for the future.
2. Original Illustrations
Website frameworks offer a fantastic way of helping clients get projects up and running quickly, and keeping maintenance costs low. One of the drawbacks though is that website styles, layouts and typography can become very similar unless time is invested in making the project stand out from the crowd. This is where original illustrations have taken a role in adding a wonderful bespoke element to the best of the web.
Verdict: We think illustration can make a real difference, and is well worth the additional initial cost.
3. Data Visualisation
Having worked this year on a large Data Visualisation Portal, we’re perhaps a little biased in thinking that Data Visualisation has been a growing trend for 2018. However, the growth of infographics, mapping and data charting can only help users get the information they are looking for and is a great example of new techniques pushing the boundaries of user interaction. Coding tools including ChartJS, more advanced software such as Tableau, and mapping frameworks similar to MapBox make this a fascinating area to work in.
Verdict: We may be biased, but new techniques make this an exciting field to be involved with.
Microinteractions are those subtle, almost imperceptible, effects that occur when buttons change when you hover over them, or images fade in when scrolling down a page. Although often seen as a ‘nice touch’ that gives a website an added design element, these microinteractions can really help guide and prompt the user through a website path. More advanced interactions can show detailed animation and even morphing of images and text. Developments with the use of SVG images and typography in modern browsers have enabled web developers to let their imagination run free.
Verdict: Becoming a key design element and if used carefully can help guide the user and create a unique style for a website.
5. Progressive Web Apps
Progressive Web Apps or PWAs, are websites which have increased functionality that enables them to give a more app-like experience to the user. On mobile they can give the similar performance of a native iOS or Android app, but run from a website or web app. The huge benefit to client and developer is that the PWA uses only one codebase or set of files, keeping development and maintenance costs much lower than would be needed to maintain separate native and web applications.
Other features which are typical of a PWA are the ability to work offline with locally stored data until a data connection is available, access to device hardware such as camera and geolocation. Our blog post from earlier this year outlined in more detail the rise of the website PWA.
Verdict: The future of the the web and mobile app.
Top 5 Summary
These are the top five web trends that we’ve picked out from 2018, and maybe give some insight into what to look for in 2019. If we were running a top ten then just missing out on the charts were: Content Marketing, Responsive Design (yes, still), Reactive Design and Push Notifications. There’s another blog post in the making!
This year we are joining the #blogmas campaign and will be running our own 12 Blogs of Christmas over the festive period. Featuring articles that look back on web developments in 2018, looking ahead to 2019, guest posts from friends of 4D, and a few offers thrown in for good measure!
We’ll be running our blog over social media using the hashtag #4D12days – keep a look out and let us know what you think. Any feedback on the articles is welcome!
Every day from Christmas Day we’ll release one blog, articles will cover web design, mobile apps, social media marketing, SEO and all things web! From in-depth assessments of the state of web development to a more light-hearted look back and ahead we hope you’ll enjoy the blogs.
Baileys of Salisbury are an independent, family-run bed retailer based in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Baileys approached 4D Digital looking to set up a new website for the business, wishing to ensure the quality of the website reflected the mid- to high-end bed ranges they offer in store.
With a relatively short project time, 4D worked closely with the client in order to co-ordinate with the store opening at the end of November 2018. Launching on time and with on-site client training and an ecommerce framework, the website is all set to grow and go from strength to strength.
The website was built with a particular focus on mobile and tablet device layouts, with larger lifestyle images being more prominent on desktop browsers.
With an ecommerce framework at its core, the website system will be well-set to expand the ranges of beds featured in-store and online. Custom settings have been applied to enable the store owner to easily add and update page content and enquiries.
We’re extremely pleased with the website and look forward to working together with Baileys of Salisbury over the coming years.
No, you probably haven’t. Unless, that is, you’re one of those lucky souls who remembers to buy cheap wrapping paper and cards in the January sales. The rest of us though, will probably start thinking about it as the nights draw in and the crisp Autumn air rings with the sound of fireworks being let off a month early.
The vast majority of our festive purchases will be made online, a sign of how quickly ecommerce has become the norm. If you own or run an ecommerce store you will know that the next few months sales make up a large chunk of your annual turnover. As these crucial weeks approach, we’ve put together a few tips on how to make your life easier and keep those orders flowing.
Automation is the key here. Make the most of scheduling tools such as Buffer, HootSuite and MailChimp to schedule your content. Set up your Social Media activity and promotions a week ahead and then leave it to run itself. You may need to respond to any customer enquiries in these channels but the majority of the work can be done in one hit.
Don’t be afraid to give your customers plenty of offers over this period. We’ve all received the daily Amazon email in the run-up to the big day – and it’s done for a reason – people are ready to buy.
Predict and prepare for your busiest periods. Unless this is your first Christmas selling period, you’ll know pretty well which weeks, days and even hours are the busiest for orders and enquiries. Half of the population will leave their buying until, at most, ten days before the 25th of December. This may not be ideal from their point-of-view, but it gives the store owner a heads-up on when to expect their busy time.
Black Friday is an American thing, right?
Not anymore. This year Black Friday falls on November 23rd and the big online stores will be hoping to maximise sales. With a little preparation you can set yourself up to make some sales here also. It might be a bit annoying for so much focus to be given to one day, but people love a bargain – why not make the most of it?
Christmas website embellishments
My personal favourite. Christmas for me only starts with the first client that asks for the animated snowflakes to be added. In truth, the flakes have been there waiting all year to be reactivated, but the sight of those digital flakes slowly drifting down the screen never fails to lift my spirits. Which it does for many people, and is why adding a few tastefully-designed Christmas graphics to your website can freshen it up and add a little sparkle to your orders.
Try to avoid the Santa hat on the logo though…
Christmas Offers and Sales
The days of the January Sale being the only time goods were discounted are long gone. Did we all really wait to go out on Boxing Day for a good bargain? Maybe it was just to get away from the relatives and experience some fresh air. Why not create a Christmas Offers page? Most ecommerce frameworks, such as WooCommerce, Shopify and Magento, let you create a new category and copy existing products into it within minutes. People love a bargain!
You know that Uncle who’s a pain to buy anything for? Gift Vouchers. We’ve all done it, and it’s a great option to add onto your ecommerce site. The upside of Gift Vouchers is that a decent percentage never get used. That’s a little sad but at least it’s good for your profit margin…
If you do own or manage an ecommerce store then best of luck for 2018, maybe one or two of these tips will have been of use. Merry Christmas and Happy Black Friday!