Creating Unique Store Types Using WooCommerce Extensions – Part 2
On March 28, we published part 1 of this article, which covered unique stores that your could make with WooCommerce extensions, especially when selling in bulk, working with multiple providers or using complicated distribution methods.
This article is part 2 of the series. We’re going to cover some unique WooCommerce store types for items you probably wouldn’t normally sell with e-commerce. For example, services or items that don’t have pre-defined pricing because they need quoting first, come in multiple parts, or don’t exist yet. We’ll also look at interesting ways to use common e-commerce implementations, such as subscriptions or deals.
Freelancer project payments store
Sometimes, us freelancers think e-commerce is not for us because we don’t sell products with absolute prices and pre-determined costs – we sell services. This can be the case for freelancers of any type – writers, web developers, business coaches, translators, consultants and so on.
But the idea of easy online payment and automated orders sounds nice, doesn’t it? There are a few WooCommerce extensions that help freelancers accept payments and take orders for their services right on their own websites:
Offer a quoting option: While this plugin mostly allows shoppers to request a quote based on already-priced products, it can be handy for setting realistic expectations with sales leads. For example, they may want to buy a website from you. But they may not realize how much their list of requirements will take out of their budget. By using the Request a Quote extension, they can add items to their “Quote list” (like adding items to a cart) to get a running tally, then send off a message to you to get a more accurate quote, or ask for pricing on specific customizations. (Note: there is a similar plugin with more features undergoing crowd funding right now that you can support.)
Charge for payment gateway fees: One thing I hate as a freelancer myself are the enormous charges on electronic forms of payment, especially with credit cards and international payments. With the Payment Gateway Fees & Restrictions extension you can make your client projects downloadable e-commerce products (if they are file-based) and then require the purchaser to cover the payment gateway fees. You can also use the Restricted Category Access plugin mentioned in our last article, to make sure only certain users can access those files for purchase.
Set up recurring payments: If you have monthly clients that you service with a set number of hours each month, or with a retainer, you can use the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin along with IgniteWoo’s Subscriptions Sync plugin to get all your clients on a regular billing cycle, charging their credit cards automatically. More on this is discussed below.
Prices based on ‘how much you need’ store
Some people sell products that they traditionally didn’t think could be sold online because their prices vary based on customer need. For example, selling flooring, wires, or fabric. With the Measurement Price Calculator, you can solve this dilemma and enter the world of e-commerce, finally!
You won’t have to feel restricted to packaging your products in pre-set amounts, which may turn customers away if their needs are not going to be accurately met by packaged pricing. For example, let’s say you sell fabric. If you didn’t have a measurement calculator, you’d have to sell your fabric in pre-set lengths. But what if a customer needs a fraction of that length, or needs the fabric to not be cut at a certain length? They might just go somewhere else where they can buy the product in store and have it cut to size.
This Measurement calculator, or allowing people to sell by customer-defined units, is obviously useful for construction and trades materials (like floor boards, baseboards, and so on). But there are other creative ways it can be used. Such as:
Catering: With catering sometimes the price depends on a quantity. That quantity could be the number of people for things like wedding parties. But what if you are selling snacks and appetizers for a party and want to sell based on the weight of the cheese wedges and prawn skewers you are making? You can let your customers pick how much they want.
Farm food sales: Some farms sell their produce, dairy and meat fresh from the source. Using e-commerce, they can ship or allow for pre-paid pick up. For example, farms can continue to sell produce, meat and things like flour, nuts or sugar by weight, and not have to worry about carefully pre-packaging products for sale. This way the customer can order what they need, as they would in a grocery store.
This idea would work with any food store that sells in bulk, such as candy, coffee or spices.
Fabric and craft material: a clear choice for selling fabric without the overhead of needing a ‘real’ store to do so. If you import fabric with neat patterns and accessories such as zippers, lace and yarn, you can allow people to buy based on yard, as they traditionally have done.
Tradeshow and market space: Tradeshows traditionally sell by booth, and if you want to make a big impression at a popular tradeshow, you can rent more space. Local markets or pop-up shops can be the same way. With this plugin, you can sell space at your event based on square footage.
Commissioned art: Sometimes you want your own masterpiece, but painting on a small canvas is not the same price as hiring a painter to do a wall mural for you. With a measurement calculator, artists can allow their commissioners to price their projects based on the surface size of the painting.
Sometimes when you sell a product, it has many components that a customer has to pick from in order to complete the purchase. Creating variations of all the possible scenarios in WooCommerce is possible, but not really feasible to manage, and certainly harder to use. But you don’t have to let this hold you back from pursuing e-commerce sales. You can use extensions to solve and automate the ordering process for you! No more “call us for more info” messages on your website!
For example, let’s say you sell a woodwind instrument like a saxophone or a clarinet. The buyer needs to pick a reed to go with it, as well as a case and probably a mouthpiece. But the buyer has options – how thick do they want their reed to be? And what color case do they want? If selling a guitar, the guitarist will need a pick and capo, but there are different ones to choose from that will have different effects and probably come at different price points.
The Composite Products extension will allow you to create complex scenarios for selling multi-part products that have to go together, but depend on customer choices. Like SLR cameras and their lenses, dolls and their dresses, gift baskets and their bows or paint roller frames and their covers.
Using the Force Sells extension, you can automatically add additional items to a user’s cart that will be needed for a product in question, but that don’t come with options. For example, gift wrapping on a gift basket, or, as WooThemes explains, “if you are selling iPad glass repair as a service, you can link a new glass window as a forced sell product.”
Other times, multi-part items are not dependent on each other, nor do they require configurable options. However, you’d want to encourage sales by bundling static items together at discounted rates, since it would make more sense. For example, selling coffee with a coffee maker and coffee grinder. For instances like this, the Product Bundles extension for WooCommerce would be easier to use than Composite Products.
In another example, you may want to offer a needed item for free with a core product, or just as a “gift with purchase.” For example, free ink with a printer, or free lipstick with a perfume bottle. To do this, you can use the Chained Products extension. But remember, this is for offering free items after a customer purchases something else.
To understand the differences between these ‘build a product’ extensions and their possibilities with WooCommerce, check out their comparison chart here (which also explains how the “Grouped Products” feature works out of the box in WooCommerce).
Note: Along these lines, you may also want to check out the Fancy Product Designer plugin to allow people to make their own designs on customizable products.
This one comes in what I like to call two ‘styles’: Lean Startup style and Kickstarter style. Thankfully, there are WooCommerce extensions that can do something similar to both.
If you’ve read The Lean Startup by Eric Reis or even The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, you will have heard of the idea of selling a product before you’ve made it. It sounds crazy but it can work, and usually more effectively than ‘guessing’ what people will buy first.
AppSumo calls this “validation” and they did it with one “wantrepreneur” by using Craigslist. But you don’t have to use Craigslist. You can get more real than that. You can set up a store and, using the WooCommerce Pre-Orders extension, you can get an idea of how many people would actually buy your product before you make it. That means you can sell an e-book before you write it, or test out a new color of an existing product you sell before you start manufacturing it, plus more.
The great thing about this extension is that it doesn’t charge your customers until you “release” the order, so you don’t have to worry about refunds if the project doesn’t end up going through.
This might also work in place of a deal-style store, where the ‘deal’ doesn’t happen until a certain number of people buy into it (the traditional Groupon model).
But let’s say you want to take a twist on the “validation” technique and instead of pre-orders, you’d like to fundraise investment into a product using multiple backers, much like on Kickstarter. You can do this with the Name Your Price extension. With this extension, users can enter what they want to pay, not a pre-set amount that you set up for a product.
Note: the Name Your Price extension is not specifically designed to attract project investments, so if you want to show the total amount raised on your site, you may need to do this manually or have it specially coded for you.
Aside from the above, you can also use Name Your Price to fundraise for a charity or to sell gift-certificate-style vouchers for in-store usage later (as seen on its sales page). Museums that are by-donation for entry can also use this extension for example, as an incentive to pre-sell tickets to their venue so people could then avoid lineups.
Limited or daily deals store
We’ve all been amazed by the success of sites like Groupon and Living Social. Since then, many upon many daily deal sites have popped up around the web. Are they still as big of a trend as they once were? Well, the quality ones may still be. But the idea here can go beyond just copying what the daily deal sites are doing. With the Limited Deals extension for WooCommerce, you may be able to set up expiring deals within your existing store, or set up a single product on your entire site that has an expiring deal.
The timer countdown on products can be a motivator to buy before the deal is up. That’s also why products like Scarcity Samurai were created. This is a great strategy for selling intangible products like a software package, training or a download of some sort. You can see this being applied by Neil Patel on his Quicksprout sales pages too.
Another neat thing to do with this extension is to target niche territories in the daily deal marketplace. For example, sites like AppSumo or ethicalDeal (which first opened up in my hometown of Vancouver, woo hoo!) cater to specific types of people. Yes, that means their marketing turns some people away.
AppSumo deals are clearly geared towards ‘geeks’ and entrepreneurs that dig technology. ethicalDeal offers discounts only on items that are eco-friendly, or just generally good for humanity. These sites have a clear target market and aren’t trying to be the ‘every-kind-of-coupon’ store that competes with large companies like Groupon and Living Social (which probably wouldn’t be a smart move at this stage in the game). These are just two niche marketing deal site examples for you to be inspired by (and no, they are likely not using WooCommerce, but that doesn’t mean you can’t!).
Ahhh, subscriptions: the most popular way to make passive recurring income, right? Well, sometimes. Having a recurring stream of revenue is always going to be easier than continually investing and re-investing into making the sale or attracting new customers. It’s a great business model, especially if you have a product your customers can’t live without (or think they can’t, I should say!). And subscriptions don’t only work with magazine-style content or intangible products like training platforms and software access. They work with services (discussed above) and products too.
Here are some ideas: people need coffee (and other groceries) every month, so they could set their order to arrive regularly, without having to manually do their online shopping (which would likely cause them to forget, or go shopping elsewhere!). This could work with toothpaste, shampoo and beauty cream too! Or painting supplies for painters, or even inventory to stock up retail stores (see part 1 of this series for other plugins that cater to bulk ordering).
But subscriptions aren’t that unique, and we were almost going to exclude the topic from this article. However, we found some neat WooCommerce plugins that can make subscriptions highly customizable and flexible, which makes them worth mentioning.
First off, we should mention that yes, you can handle subscription payments with WooCommerce, using the Subscriptions extension. Keep in mind however, that this extension is going to be limited by PayPal’s subscription rules. The biggest hurdle I have found to this so far is that if someone adds both a subscription and a non-subscription based product to their cart, they won’t be able to check out in the same transaction (because PayPal doesn’t work like that). Also, if you want to offer a product as both a one-time purchase and a subscription option, you need to create two separate ‘products’ in the WooCommerce back end to do this.
People can log in to cancel their subscriptions, either on your WooCommerce cart or in PayPal. Also, if you want to use subscriptions with an affiliate program, some of the ones that integrate with WooCommerce can give out monthly recurring affiliate payments, or do so automatically. So if you don’t want this feature, make sure to contact your affiliate plugin author to find out how their commissions are triggered, or how to limit them to a first-time purchase only.
If you want customers to be able to say what day of the month, or how frequently they would like to make payments towards product purchases, or let’s say for a donation, you can also add in the Name Your Price extension mentioned above.
If you want to get all your clients on a same-day billing cycle, you can use the Subscriptions Sync extension by IgniteWoo (which requires the Subscriptions extension to work!)
If you are selling memberships and want to charge by subscription using WooCommerce, you should check out the Groups extension (which requires the Groups plugin from WordPress.org). Since some of you might be asking, keep in mind that while the Wishlist membership plugin is popular, its integration option with WooCommerce cannot take recurring payments, unfortunately.
Note: If you are aiming to sell training programs on WordPress, consider using a learning management system (LMS) that can integrate with WooCommerce or another paid membership style plugin. For example, try Sensei (which is made by the same company as WooCommerce), LearnDash integrations, or WP Courseware. You’ll need to check which ones can handle monthly payments if you do go this route and want to stick with WooCommerce.
To conclude: WooCommerce can do more than we think!
Have we covered every type of unique store you can make with WooCommerce? Certainly not! WooCommerce has become so extensive as an option for conducting e-commerce that the exploration of possibilities only seems to open more and more possibilities. And hey, it’s quite possible that shortly after writing this post, even more solutions will have been released! That’s the exciting part about it, and a great reason to choose WooCommerce for your online purchasing needs. Not only does it offer plenty of options, it also won’t compromise the e-marketing side of your business, which you can do exceptionally well right within WordPress.
If you have more ideas of how to use WooCommerce extensions, or experience with any of the plugins listed in this article, let us know in the comments below!
And be sure to check out part 1 of this series here!
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