An E-Commerce website is a complex system that takes time and effort to set up. Sometimes, however, you just need something to work on your site TODAY, and you simply do not have time to set up a full-blown e-commerce solution. This blog post will help walk you through how to build an online store today. It won’t be perfect, and there’s some limitations, but is a good solution if you don’t have the time, or resources to set up something more robust.
The Strategy, and Caveats
Instead of using an E-Commerce plugin, such as WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads, we’re going to use a forms plugin to create one (or more) forms that will calculate the total price for a sale, and will use a service like PayPal or Stripe to finalize the transaction.
This blog post assumes your website is running on WordPress, or that you intend to build your site using WordPress. If you aren’t on WordPress, consider switching. There’s plenty of benefits, but we believe it is the best choice for small businesses because it can be extended to do just about anything you need.
This creates a very simple way to accept orders on your website, which is the most-essential part of E-Commerce. You are, however, going to miss out on other key features that many E-Commerce websites need to run properly.
One other thing. This solution will not be free. At minimum, you will pay a once-a-year fee for plugin updates and ongoing plugin support for the plugins you purchase. Alternatively, you can go with any of our maintenance plans. We eat these costs on your behalf, and will be able to help you figure out how to set up your store.
- You will not have a way to keep track of your inventory. This means that when you run out you have to remember to manually update the form to remove the product.
- There is no practical way to set up and use coupons, or apply discounts.
- This doesn’t provide a way to view a list of all products, with photos and in-depth details like a traditional E-Commerce store. Instead, the customer will fill out a form, and that’s about all they’re going to see. You can work around this by creating a sales page specific to that form.
- You can’t give your customers a cart. In other words, if they want to purchase two or three different things that are on separate forms, they will have to make two purchases.
Will This Work For My Business?
This solution works well for companies that don’t have a ton of product types to sell. Interestingly enough, this is sometimes the best solution for companies that need a lot of customization in their purchases.
If your business needs a comprehensive way for people to select a lot of different products, you’re probably going to need to bite the bullet and go with a full-blown E-Commerce solution. A good indicator that you should go the E-Commerce route instead of the basic forms route is if you need to create more than three purchase forms.
Even if this isn’t an ideal solution for your business, this can work as a temporary solution to hold you over until you get the actual E-Commerce version set up.
A good indicator that you should go the E-Commerce route instead of the basic forms route is if you need to create more than three purchase forms.
Here are a few examples of business types that will do will with a form, instead of E-Commerce:
Bakeries tend to work really well with this strategy. You can quickly set up an order form for a delivery of donuts. Specify the quantity, the type of donut, address, and payment.
You could create a form that allows customers “build their bouquet” to specify how many of each type of flower they want. Add a price per-flower, and limit the maximum number of flowers a bouquet can have. Ask for an address, and message and you’re in-business. literally.
If you want to-do online sessions, you can ask customers to fill out a form, select a session, specify an email, and submit the payment. From there, you can use a web conferencing tool like Zoom or Google Meet to invite everyone.
If you’re a consultant, and you charge for people to meet with you, you can ask customers to fill out a form, select a session type, and provide their email address. Once they make payment, you can include a special Calendly link so people can schedule with you online.
Which Forms Plugin Should I Use?
Both Ninja Forms and Gravity Forms are excellent choices for this solution. Each of these tools have robust totals options, and ways to create large, complex forms. If you have some creativity, there isn’t much you can’t do with either of these plugins.
Our basic subscription uses Gravity Forms. We selected Gravity Forms because we found it is a lot easier to extend and customize. These things aren’t that important when you get started, but it often becomes important as your business outgrows what your forms plugin can do out of the box.
Which Payment Processor Should I Use?
Each of these forms plugins support a myriad of payment processors. You are probably using a payment processor already. If so, the choice on which payment processor you should use is clear – use what you’re already using, if your forms plugin supports it.
If you don’t have one, we generally recommend Stripe. It’s by far the easiest payment processor to set up, and it has some awesome security features that outpace competitors. If you don’t want to use Stripe, PayPal is a perfectly fine option too, it’s just a little more difficult to set up.
Gravity Forms wrote a fantastic tutorial on how to set up a form like what we’re talking about in this post. I highly recommend that you start there – it has all of the technical information on build your online store today. The post talks in-depth about what plugin license you will need based on what payment processor you will use. It also walks you through what you need to make a legitimate form.
This solution will work with any of our maintenance plans. Not only do these maintenance plans provide the licenses necessary to get you up and running quickly, they also include professional consulting and support from our team. Learn more about our maintenance plans here.