Best E-Commerce Platforms for WordPress Websites

WordPress, the free website-building software, is EVERYWHERE.

If you’ve dabbled in blogging, you’ve likely heard of it. (It’s widely considered “the standard” for blog sites today.)

I often come across people who started a WordPress blog– crafters, fashion enthusiasts, photographers, etc.– with no intention of selling anything on it, then sometime later they decide to turn their blog into a business.

And often these people feel very confused and conflicted.

Their site has already been built, after all, and they’re comfortable using it, so the thought of learning to use a brand new system like Shopify or BigCommerce totally bites.

The good news, though, is that you can leave your WordPress website alone. There are plenty of options that will let you sell straight from your existing WordPress site, no overhaul required!

Let me lay out some of these options for you below, along with my recommendations for who each one might best serve.

“Buy” Buttons

Do you have only a few items to sell? If so, “Buy” buttons might be for you.

And since using them is as easy as copy-and-pasting some code into your site’s posts or pages, I’d highly recommend this route for anyone who has lost a fight with a shopping cart before.

Going with the “Buy” buttons method means you can add or delete products on-the-fly, without the continued help of your web designer.

Some companies that offer “Buy” buttons are:

The Shopping Cart with Hosted Checkout

On the other hand, maybe you have more than a few items to sell– such that keeping up with “Buy” buttons would become a real hassle?

Still, you’re not very technical, or the responsibility of website security really terrifies you.

The answer then, I’d say, is to use a shopping cart with hosted checkout.

What this means is you can have the shopping cart appear to be on your website, but the complicated and secure part of the transaction is actually handled on somebody else’s site, so you simply don’t have to worry about it.

Some great companies that offer shopping cart software complete with hosted checkouts:

The Completely Self-Hosted Shopping Cart

The only problem with the above (hosted checkout) method is that you don’t have 100% control over your site’s whole shopping experience. If this bums you out, then the most ideal solution is going to be a fully self-hosted shopping cart.

Given this shopping cart will be hosted completely on your own site, you and/or your web designer can truly customize every pixel as you choose.

The price you pay for total control is that this route is more technical than the others. As long as the credit card payment form is on your own website, you’re going to need to have an SSL certificate installed for security. Also, if your checkout process ever becomes error-prone, it will be on you to take care of it.

That said, I truly believe that anyone can tackle maintenance of a self-hosted shopping cart with practice. It all depends on what you’re open and willing to take on.

The very best company I recommend for your full-featured shopping cart on WordPress is WooCommerce. You can check them out here:

Finally, I’d like to leave you with just a few more tailored recommendations, should they apply to your specific business!

For the Etsy Seller

For the Etsy seller who needs help getting their own website off the ground– or who currently owns a WordPress website that they never use since all their stuff is on Etsy– there is an incredible WordPress plugin called Etsy 360.

Etsy 360 displays all of your Etsy products exactly as a shopping cart would, but without any of the technical hassle of setting one up.

Also it updates just as your Etsy store updates, so it’s extremely low maintenance.

By auto-generating single product pages, Etsy 360 keeps the whole shopping experience on your website, up until a visitor clicks “Buy.” That means your visitors only leave to pay, and also, you don’t have to worry about security at all on your own site. For more details:

And that concludes my best e-commerce recommendations for selling straight from your WordPress blog!

As I hope I’ve convinced you by now, there’s truly some great options available.

As for which option you should go with, I suggest taking on what’s comfortable for you and working from there. After all, a shopping cart you don’t get around to installing is certainly no better than a simple “Buy” button that you do.

Photo credit: Randy Stewart / Flickr




5 PayPal Alternatives for Small Online Businesses

Fed up with PayPal?

You’re not alone.

PayPal has gathered a lot of hate from the small business community in the last several years.

Of course, the majority of PayPal users don’t run into serious problems. (With the exception of one very irritating phone call, I’ve never been affected myself.)

But the things PayPal has been accused of by other loyal customers is disconcerting enough– randomly freezing accounts, holding money hostage, providing extremely difficult customer service, even advising one merchant’s buyer to destroy a $2,500 antique violin

One thing that might help you breathe at least a little bit easier despite all this controversy is that PayPal has claimed to be fixing these issues as of late.

Sure, that does provide me with some solace because, fact is, a lot of customers prefer to pay with PayPal. And I feel I’ll always need to use them in some regard. (They’re simply too much of a giant to avoid. Which is, ironically, also what makes them so dangerous.)

But all in all, I’ve been taking great care not to keep all of my eggs in the PayPal basket.

And if you feel the same way as I do, I hope you’ll find my recommendations for alternatives to be a helpful guide in your search.

What Makes a PayPal Alternative

So what is it precisely that we need in a PayPal replacement?

The gist of what PayPal offers small online businesses is a combination of a payment gateway (“payment processor”) and merchant bank account.

A payment gateway reads your customer’s credit card information, electronically communicates with this account, and charges it the appropriate amount of money.

A merchant bank account is a special type of bank account that is permitted to collect funds from a payment gateway. So this is where your payment gateway deposits the money once it’s collected. Then, depending on the the time your merchant bank allows, you can have it transferred out into your regular checking or savings account.

So, when I talk of replacing PayPal, I mean replacing these two major functions with an equally low maintenance and easy-to-use service. (One that doesn’t require a difficult application process or have a monthly sales quota to meet, like the ones typically used by larger companies.)

With that, let’s get down to it!

1. Stripe

Stripe as a PayPal Alternative

Screenshot from Stripe.com.

Available for: Businesses based in the US and Canada (can accept payments from anywhere)

Cost: 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction

What makes it great: Using Stripe as your payment processor and merchant bank account, you can sell your products through a simple “buy” button on your site or through a full-fledged shopping cart.

While Stripe doesn’t have their own shopping cart out-of-the-box, they are well-integrated with most of the great ones. These integrations include Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and more, and hooking up is usually just a matter of copy-and-pasting some information into your shopping cart’s Settings page.

Stripe’s payment forms are self-hosted, which means that the checkout process takes place on your own site (rather than sending your customer off to Stripe.com to pay). PayPal typically charges an extra monthly fee to do this, which is one reason why Stripe is the better value.

I also find I pay less in fees for Stripe transactions, despite it having the same “per transaction” price as PayPal. (Likely due to a hidden list of special rules and exceptions.)

Finally, I think Stripe is great because it deposits your money into an outside bank account automatically, so you don’t have to manually initiate transfers all the time.

Downsides: Stripe was built with web developers in mind.

While this is great for developers (think: total control and customization), I know a less technical person is likely to look at the site and think, “So… what do I do with this?”

So here’s the deal. To use Stripe, you’re probably going to want to check out third-party help of some kind, such as The WP-Stripe WordPress Plugin (if you’re willing to install an SSL certificate) or Super Stripe App for WordPress (if you don’t want to handle an SSL but are willing to pay more in transaction fees). Or the shopping cart services I already mentioned above.

As long as you’re using one of these other services, you’ll never be required to touch anything too complicated.

Lastly, one final downside for Stripe is that– unlike PayPal and some of the other options I’m going to present– you have to wait seven days after purchase before you can take out your money. I should mention, though I use Stripe myself, I actually didn’t notice this until someone else pointed it out to me.

2. WePay

WePay as a PayPal Alternative

Screenshot from WePay.com.

Available for: Businesses based in the US (can accept payments from anywhere)

Cost: 2.9% + 30¢ per credit card transaction, 1% + 30¢ per bank account transaction

What makes it great: Using WePay as your payment processor and merchant bank account, you can sell your products through simple “buy” buttons on your site (there’s also “pay now” and “subscribe”) or through WePay’s own full-fledged shopping cart.

WePay’s payment forms are self-hosted, which means that the checkout process takes place on your own site (rather than sending your customer off to WePay.com to pay). And as I said earlier– PayPal typically charges an extra monthly fee to do this.

Another bonus: WePay will alternatively let you enter credit cards manually, so you can take credit card information in person or over the phone whenever the situation calls for it.

For a higher price of 4.9% + 30¢ per transaction, WePay will even host your site for you. To quote their sales page:

“Design a simple web store with WePay’s page builder. No technical expertise necessary. It’s easy to customize – with built-in support for shipping, taxes, and inventory. Also optimized for mobile devices!”

Finally, WePay will deposit your earnings directly to your bank account, so you don’t have to login and manually initiate it all the time as with PayPal. The typical one-time money transfer lands in your bank account within 1-5 business days, whereas setting up autowithdraw means you get your money each day as it comes in.

Downsides: WePay is very self-contained.

Offering every feature their customer could ever need definitely maximizes their ease of use. For someone who isn’t tech-savvy or simply hates having tons of different accounts, it can be comforting to have all these options under one roof. However, since WePay wants to “do it all,” it’s difficult to find integrations with other services (should you prefer them).

Because WePay has a public API, I assume that it’s conceptually possible to use it in conjunction with outside shopping carts like Shopify or WooCommerce, but the necessary integrations don’t appear to be available just yet.

3. Amazon Payments

Amazon Payments as a PayPal Alternative

Screenshot from Payments.Amazon.com.

Available for: Businesses based in the US (can accept payments from anywhere)

Cost: 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction over $10, 5.0% + 5¢ per transaction under $10

What makes it great: Using Amazon Payments as your payment processor and merchant bank account, you can sell your products through a simple “buy” button on your site or through a full-fledged shopping cart.

While Amazon Payments doesn’t have its own out-of-the-box shopping cart, it integrates with a few self-hosted ones such as CoreCommerce, 3dcart, and ShopSite.

Amazon Payments payment forms are technically hosted by Amazon, but it doesn’t give your customer the impression that they’re leaving the site to go to Amazon.com. This is kind of the best of both worlds, since you have the professional look of a self-hosted checkout but the world-class security of a hosted one.

Another cool thing with Amazon Payments is that, the way fees are structured, business owners can save money on micropayments under $10. There are also discounts for volume and registered non-profits.

Also, when you integrate the API into your site (From what I understand, a copy-and-pastable widget of some kind), customers will be able to pay on your site using their already-stored Amazon card and shipping information.

Finally, Amazon Payments conveniently deposits your funds into an outside bank account automatically. The typical time frame from payment to bank account deposit is 3-5 days.

Downsides: As is my critique of all Amazon web services, I find it a little overwhelming.

While I believe I got the gist of how it works, it took me several reads on the site to understand how all the moving pieces work together.

Another thing that might be a hindrance is that, in order to sign up for the service, you need to have a legal business name. So anyone who is currently in business as a sole proprietorship should be aware of that.

After some digging in their support pages, I also discovered that Amazon holds back a certain reserve of your earnings at all times as padding in case of customer chargebacks.

Finally, Amazon Payments doesn’t appear to be readily integrated into the popular shopping carts yet, so just be weary of that before you commit.

4. Braintree

(Added Note: Since this article was written, Braintree was actually purchased by PayPal. So please take the following review with a grain of salt.)

Braintree as a PayPal Alternative

Screenshot from BraintreePayments.com.

Available for: Businesses based in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe (can accept payments from anywhere)

Cost: 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction

What makes it great: Using Braintree as your payment processor and merchant bank account, you can sell your products through its integrations with third-party shopping carts like Shopify, WooCommerce, LemonStand, Easy Digital Downloads, and more.

Braintree’s payment forms are self-hosted, which means that the checkout process takes place on your own site (rather than sending your customer off to BraintreePayments.com to pay).

And Braintree is nothing if not competitive in its market. For one, it offers service to sellers outside of the US.

It even boasts the ability to get money to you super-fast: two business days for most transactions.

Downsides: However… Braintree is kind of mysterious.

Like Stripe, it was built with developers in mind. So to a less technical person, it’s not immediately obvious how to implement it on your website.

What I’ve gathered, though, is Braintree isn’t trying to be a standalone solution at all– with “buy” buttons and other out-of-the-box selling tools– but rather a hook-in with other carts (and developers’ custom projects). Which isn’t a problem as long as you needed a full-fledged shopping cart anyway.

5. 2Checkout

2Checkout as a PayPal Alternative

Screenshot from 2Checkout.com.

Available for: Businesses everywhere

Cost: 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction in the US, 5.5% + 45¢ per transaction for sellers in other countries

What makes it great: Using 2Checkout as your payment processor and merchant bank account, you can sell your products through simple “buy” buttons on your site or through 2Checkout’s own full-fledged shopping cart.

2Checkout’s payment forms are technically hosted by 2Checkout, but it doesn’t give your customer the jarring feeling that they’re leaving the site to go to 2Checkout.com– rather, it appears to be happening on your own site. This is kind of the best of both worlds, since you have the professional look of a self-hosted checkout but the security of a hosted one.

Importantly, 2Checkout works for businesses outside of the US.

It’s unclear whether or not 2Checkout allows automating the money transfer process, but funds are released to sellers every Thursday via EFT, wire transfer, or check for US currency, by EFT in seven currencies, and by wire transfer in other 19 currencies.

Downsides: I’m not 100% sure if I trust 2Checkout.

Some statements I found on the website skeeved me a little bit. For instance, they say:

“Payments must meet the selected release level and pass the verifications process [to be released to the seller].”

While there are links to explain what they mean by this– and their explanations sound pretty innocent– I can’t help but find language like this ambiguous and a little scary.

Note on Services That Didn’t Make the List

A few other services (of many) that I researched for this article include Dwolla, which I chose not to profile because buying from a Dwolla seller requires creating a Dwolla account. (And I find that to be too big of an obstacle for customers.)

Also Square is a good one, though I didn’t profile it here since it’s geared for in-person sales rather than online ones.

For international sellers, ProPay looks like it has potential but just didn’t make my top 5.

Anyway, I hope you found my roundup helpful! Please let me know in the comments if you have experience with any of the above, or if there’s a great one out there that I missed!

Photo credit: Andrey / Flickr




Why So Many Women Think They’re ‘Bad With Technology’

Photo credit.

Imagine this. A man and a woman are both learning how to use some new software. Maybe it’s WordPress. Maybe it’s a shopping cart. Or some kind of plugin or widget for their pre-existing websites– the specifics don’t really matter.

As is inevitable when learning something new, they both run into a problem. An error message. A technical glitch.

Their reactions are very different, though.

When faced with an error like this, the woman might say, “Did I break it??” or What did I do??” She’s very likely to blame herself– assuming some kind of “innate defectiveness” and that technology isn’t her “thing.”

Meanwhile, the man is more likely to blame the program for the error— charging it with being buggy or unintuitive. He’s thinking, “I did what I thought I was supposed to. This isn’t working properly!”

This distinction between how men and women (on a statistically-significant scale) react to problems with technology has been researched from many angles over the last several years. To quote the Huffington Post:

It’s very well documented that girls and women are more likely to internalize failure and mistakes while boys and men are more likely to externalize these. [Dr. Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women] cites a classic cartoon example where a woman tries on a pair of pants that no longer fit and she says, “I must be getting fat” while a man tries on his ill-fitting pants and states, “There must be something wrong with these pants.”

Blaming Ourselves = “Technology Is Not My Thing”

Clearly, this issue of women blaming themselves and internalizing failure isn’t just about technology, but technology is one case that’s very clear to see around us.

Have you ever met a woman who’s quick to identify herself as “not a tech person”? Many women? Maybe even yourself? Identifying oneself this way can start with just that very first technical glitch and last a lifetime in its wake.

Personally, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard and read women say something to the effect of, “Oh, my brain can’t handle this tech stuff!”

It’s just not true!

And that’s the good news. Because I would like to argue that unless you’re willing to turn Amish, opting out of technology is not an option. Technology is no longer a “thing” that can be yours or not yours. It’s simply the world we live in.

Those Who Embrace Technology Can Accomplish Anything, In Any Industry

It’s commonly accepted that the lowly computer geeks from our high schools are becoming the rich and successful among us as adults. Good with technology = success, money, and respect. We’ve all internalized this message already.

However, the success that comes from embracing technology doesn’t always look like Mark Zuckerberg.

It can look like anyone, in any industry; be it success in teaching or coaching, in fashion, or even charity.

For example, it recently occurred to me how many people in these industries started out as web designers or developers. Among them:

  • Laura Roeder, who’s a very successful social media teacher and consultant.
  • Mai Olivo, who founded and runs the successful fashion site, Ruche.
  • Dan Gigante, frontman of the sprouting one-for-one t-shirt charity site, You and Who.

You don’t have to actually be a web designer or developer to be successful in the same way they were. The main ingredient at work was their attitude as “technology people.”

Simply being open and willing to learn how to use new software that can help you achieve your goals (like WordPress or shopping carts or productivity apps) can be all it takes to qualify you as a “tech person.” Outsourcing as you need to, but not being afraid to delve into that world and become part of it, will take you a long way.

Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

It’s easy to be intimidated by the sheer number of software tools, programming languages, and the like. But, coming from an insider, I’ve got to let you in on a secret: even professional programmers only know a small fraction of them. Expecting to know the “entirety” of technology before attempting to use it is like attempting to know every person on earth before hiring an employee.

We can’t always see what’s coming down the pipeline next or intuitively know the new rules. But if anything is certain, it’s that technology has opportunities to offer anyone, and the only thing stopping us from taking advantage of them is ourselves.




In Search of ‘The One’? An E-Commerce Platform Comparison

An eCommerce Platform Comparison

Art Print by Eahkee.

Do you feel like prepping a website to function as a store and accept credit cards is a way complicated endeavor?

If you’re the researcher type, it’s almost impossible not to become paralyzed by all the choice available– the different methods, software, services for building an online store.

I have no doubt the headache drives many straight to Quitsville. Or perhaps it’s pushed you into the arms of one ecommerce platform for the most arbitrary of reasons— like your sister-in-law’s hairdresser’s cousin uses it, or you recognized the logo from a Google ad.

Expert comparisons (via articles, charts, whatever) should be the answer. But I personally have never come across one I could really stand behind. Either it’s over-complicated, or over-simplified, or it’s comparing based on factors that are mostly irrelevant to me.

It’s for that reason I finally created the graphic below, which aims to draw a fair comparison based on my own highest priorities.

A few things you should know before you dive in:

  • All the platforms I profile are good ones. Choosing is just going to be a matter of what’s best for you.
  • While I’m better acquainted with some than others, I have had at least a trial account with each of the services I’m presenting. I’ve done my best to portray them accurately, but I can’t guarantee my assessment is 100% accurate. All in all, my summaries will boil down to opinion.
  • You’ll notice that almost all of the ecommerce platforms I recommend are “hosted shopping carts.” A hosted shopping cart is the type of ecommerce platform that requires you to build your website on that company’s server, paying them a recurring monthly fee for hosting. This is opposed to the type of shopping cart software one downloads or buys for one flat fee and manually installs on her/his pre-existing website.There’s a really great article in favor of hosted shopping carts here that does a decent job of explaining my own feelings in case you’re interested.

Aaaall that said, I really do hope you find this useful! Here we go:

Wanna share this? Be my guest! Just copy and paste this code to your own website or blog:

Links:

Shopify | Bigcommerce | Volusion | Magento Go | Bigcartel | Storenvy | IndieMade | E-Junkie