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5 Pro-Tips for Managing Your e-commerce Site

Don't be as frustrated as this guy. Follow these steps to avoid this!

Don’t be as frustrated as this guy!

Earlier this week I mentioned that here at WP Valet we’ve invested quite a bit of time working with WishList Member

and ensuring smooth operations for our customers – particularly on managed platforms such as WP Engine. Today I want to share a bit about how we take care of our customers and provide some tips that anyone can implement on their own.

There are loads of articles available online discussing best practices of setting up an e-commerce site.  Yes. You should have attractive images (“call to actions”, etc).  Yes. Navigation and checkout should be as simple as possible.  Yes. You’re gonna have to spend time marketing the site.  This article assumes you’ve got all that.  What steps should you take to ensure the site is technically functioning on a regular basis?  Read on for our 5 best tips.

1. Proper server setup.

No commerce site should be at the mercy of cowboy coding. Seriously.  You’re ability to make money is completely dependent on your site being online.  You’re taking a massive risk anytime changes are made to the live site.  This is easily mitigated by having a development or staging area to test any new code (plugin updates included!).  WP Engine provides a staging area for this type of testing by default.  But even if you’re host doesn’t provide this, you should be testing locally or on a separate domain. There are plenty of tutorials about how to do this.

Note: A quick word on caching.  This can be tricky.  If your settings are incorrect you may find odd things such as a shopping cart being cached and shown to the next person who visits your site (we’ve seen this a couple times).  Whether or not you’re managing the site’s cache it’s important that you regularly test the checkout process and make sure everything’s working correctly.

2. Regular (at least daily) site backups.

You should be using a qualified backup service in place and recording the information to a location OFF of your main install.  Trusting that your hosting company will have a backup should the worst happen is never a good idea.  We set our customers up with a nightly backup to Amazon S3 and have found VaultPress to work flawlessly with managed WordPress hosting.

This is the wrong kind of shopping cart testing.

This is the wrong kind of shopping cart test.

3. Test the checkout process.

I literally just said this above but it deserves it’s own bullet point.  Every single time you update your e-commerce or subscription plugin or module you should run a live transaction to make sure things are still working correctly.  The more you test the more you can be sure your customers will have a successful checkout – and that’s pretty dang important!

If you run a subscription or membership site that may mean testing:

  • A new subscription
  • An “upgrade” to a new level
  • A person who has canceled and wants to resubscribe.

Now, if you’re on WP Valet’s Dedicated or Professional service, you can rest assured that this is happening for you every time there’s an update. But regardless, you need to test these transactions (preferably on a development install before pushing it to production) and ensure your customers are able to maintain a seamless checkout experience. Don’t wait until you’ve got an inbox full of complaints.  Be pro-active with testing and spend less time apologizing and risking the loss of a sale.

4. Make sure everything is up to date.

How are your product photos looking? Does your “premium” plan still include the same features?  When was the last time you changed your pricing?  If these things are out of date there will be immediate confusion on behalf of the potential buyer and likely a loss of trust.  Make sure you remove old, outdated copy and run broken link checkers on your site has good internal integrity. Your customers will appreciate it as will the almighty Google SEO.

5. Use Analytics and A/B Testing.

Many e-commerce tools allow you to track the entire process from how a customer arrives at your site to making that first purchase.  Use that information to your advantage and find what works and what does not.  Google analytics is free to use and is a wealth of knowledge about the folks visiting your site. Grab a few rounds from User Testing and get awesome feedback about how folks feel when they land on your site.  What draws them in? What stops them from checking out?

A/B Testing is a fantastic (though misunderstood) way to test out a new approach.  There’s a lot that can be said, but just remember to keep the scope of the testing as minimal as possible.  Small iterations over drastic site redesigns.  Read more about A/B Testing from WP Lift over here.

Hopefully these tips will help you maintain your site and provide a positive experience for your customers.  Is there anything we missed? Let us know your favorite tip in the comments.

We do this (and so much more) for our customers on a weekly basis.  To learn more about how we can make your life easier, get in touch!

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