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I know it’s tempting to set up a store with all kinds of bells and whistles. When we browse through other online stores, we see how everything looks and works nicely, and of course, we want our online store to be beautiful, too.

Whilst WooCommerce as a plugin for WordPress is free, you should be aware of its limitations. It’s always better to know that before you start because high expectations cause disappointments just way too often.

Yes, WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress, and it is there so that you can set up an online shop quickly. But this online shop will be a very basic one. It will not be anything like the online stores you enjoy clicking through and buying from. It will work, but it will not have bells and whistles.

Of course, you can add bells and whistles. But here’s the point. You either need to be willing to spend a few hundred bucks (every year), — or you need to be smart.

Online Store with WooCommerce Tweet

Grow As You Go

WooCommerce offers all kinds of additional features as plugins. Whilst you can find a handful of free plugins, the majority comes with a price tag. From what I have spotted, a single license with one year of updates and support starts at $49 per year. – This is a bit of money, particularly when you consider that you need to do upgrades to plugins, in order to keep your website maintained and close possible security leaks that get disclosed from time to time.

It’s a classical lock-in situation. WooCommerce is the #1 player when it comes to online stores with WordPress. And it is using, and in my eyes abusing its pole position by requesting high prices for features that are quite simple in nature. I will provide a clear example to this statement later on in this article.

So, what do you do now?

My advice: grow as you go!

You will probably not need all the bells and whistles right from the beginning. There are basically two ways in which you can style and design your online store in such a way, that it reflects your brand and allows visitors a pleasant shopping experience.

The first is, there are a few modifications in WooCommerce you can do yourself.

And the second is, using a professional WordPress theme, like Divi*. Divi is a theme that is easily customizable and you don’t need any coding skills at all to create beautiful pages. The advantage with Divi is, that there are many tutorials and design inspirations freely available that support you in laying an excellent foundation for a fine-looking online store with WooCommerce. And that’s a smart decision.

3 Hacks to Optimize Your Online Store with WooCommerce

Let me talk about some of the challenges I came across when setting up my online store with WooCommerce, and how I made adjustments to create a better experience for my visitors.

In my online store, I am selling virtual products, only. People can either download eBooks or book one of my consultancy sessions or tech services.

 

1. Removing Billing Details from WooCommerce Checkout

That means, no shipping is needed, and hence I can optimize the checkout experience in such a way that visitors don’t need to provide their full address details or even phone number. All I need is the name and an email address.
By default, WooCommerce will request the full address details: name, first name, email, phone, street address, zip code, city, country. Everything. You can probably imagine that the checkout page looks respectively cluttered.

Regrettably, there is no option in the WooCommerce plugin that lets you turn off this information that is only relevant if shipping is applicable. Instead, WooCommerce offers an additional plugin. The Checkout Field Editor ($49 for a single site) provides you with an interface to add, edit and remove the fields shown on your WooCommerce checkout page.

If you know how to edit your functions.php file, or even better, your child theme’s functions.php file, you can save 50 dollars here. Simply open the functions.php file, and place the code (see below) in there.

But before you do so, have a look at the lines.
You want to remove all those lines from the snippet that carry information that you want to have from your customers.

  • Need the first name? – Remove this line:  ☞  unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_first_name’]);
  • Need the last name? – Remove this line:  ☞  unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_last_name’]);
  • Need the email address? – Of course you do, otherwise they get no electronic invoice, no download link or no calendar details for their bookings. – Remove this line:  ☞  unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_email’]);

 

The easiest way to remove lines is by copying this full code block into your functions.php file, and then remove all those lines that should not be displayed at checkout. Because that is what this code does. It suppresses all the billing information that is there. Every information you want to see on the checkout page, you need to remove from the code block before you save the functions.php file.

add_filter( ‘woocommerce_checkout_fields’ , ‘custom_override_checkout_fields’ );

function custom_override_checkout_fields( $fields ) {

unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_first_name’]);
unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_last_name’]);
unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_company’]);
unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_address_1’]);
unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_address_2’]);
unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_city’]);
unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_postcode’]);
unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_country’]);
unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_state’]);
unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_phone’]);
unset($fields[‘order’][‘order_comments’]);
unset($fields[‘billing’][‘billing_email’]);

return $fields;

}

2. Keeping people in the loop

When people buy from you, you already got their interest. It makes sense that you try to keep them on board. If they were interested in buying from you once, chances are that you can fulfill one of their needs with your products or services again.

One way to keep your store visitors connected, is by adding an opt-in checkbox to your checkout page that asks something like “Want to stay informed about specials on my products?”

A good way to achieve that is by installing a plugin that creates the connection between WooCommerce and your Email Provider. The free plugin Easy Forms for MailChimp from Yikes, for instance, captures email addresses from users who make purchases in your store and adds to a MailChimp list of your choice.

3. Letting your customers find the right piece of information

Another way to customize your WooCommerce store and make it stand out is by adding tabs to your product description section.

Let’s have a look at the anatomy of a product page in WooCommerce.

Online Store with WooCommerce anatomy product page

First, you have a product image and next to it a short product description. Underneath is usually a field in which you can select the quantity and a button that lets you add this product to the shopping cart.

Below that is the real product description. That’s the place where you can put in all the information that is relevant to this product. The more you put in there, however, the more cluttered it gets. It will be harder for prospects to filter the information and you are risking that they abandon your online store.

Online Store with WooCommerce Custom Tabs PluginThat’s why it would be handy to split the content and make information easier accessible for potential buyers. After all, information overwhelm is something we all struggle with. When you allow your customers a shopping experience that makes it easy to access what is most relevant to them, chances are they stick with you and not leave your site because they don’t find the right piece of information. Attention spans a short nowadays, so beware of that! Also, navigation becomes a lot easier.

 

To achieve that, you can add tabs next to your product description section. To do so, you can install another plugin from Yikes. The Custom Product Tabs for WooCommerce is a free plugin, with which you can not only add individual tabs, you can also create saved tabs and add them to multiple products as needed. The tabs use the standard WordPress Editor, so you can insert text, HTML, images or shortcodes to your liking.

Online Store with WooCommerce Custom Product Tabs

Useful Resources on Customizing your Online Store with WooCommerce

What I wanted to show you with this article is that you not necessarily need to spend a lot of money for pricey plugins. I said above “grow as you go”, and that was an equivocal statement! I meant it for your online store with WooCommerce, but it’s also a prompt for you personally.

There are basically two ways to customize further your online store with WooCommerce. The first is by installing plugins that do enhancements. The second is by inserting some code here and there.

Now, if you are not tech-savvy at all and feel overwhelmed with copying code snippets into your WordPress core files, it’s probably better you ask someone for help. (I may be able to help you, but let’s have a chat first)
But if you do have the confidence to work on that yourself, I would like to point you towards a few good resources.

Tip:

Just make sure you do make a full backup of your WordPress application before you start copying code snippets. It also makes sense to make a copy of the functions.php (as well as any other file you intend to insert code into) and store it locally. Just in case something goes wrong, you can simply copy the file(s) back and your website is up and running in no time.

Here’s a list of resources that will definitely help in setting up your online store with WooCommerce.

SkyVerge is a website that has an awesome blog – and it’s all about customizing WooCommerce.

☞ Another good resource is Sell With WP. They have a huge selection of HowTo’s with WooCommerce. You will probably find not just one tutorial that you find helpful.

☞ Here’s a page with 20 Tutorials on WooCommerce HowTo’s on SkyVerge.

FAQ on WooCommerce by WooCommerce:

12 Useful Free WooCommerce Plugins

Free Plugins and Extensions on WooCommerce

Overview of all Plugins and Extensions that WooCommerce offers

Huge Selection of WooCommerce plugins on ThemeForest

(* … That’s an affiliate link. So, if you purchase a license with this link, I will get a small share. Should you do so, thank you!)

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