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The eCommerce Guide to International Shipping Costs

The eCommerce Guide to International Shipping Costs

If a product in your ecommerce store has global appeal, start thinking about a plan for shipping internationally. Shipping overseas isn’t the same as shipping within the country. 

Here’s a primer on the customs issues, international shipping costs, and other logistics you’ll manage as you begin shipping around the globe. Keep in mind that there’s rarely universal truth in international shipping. Get individualized quotes for your own products so you know how much it’ll really cost. 

What is international freight and what is the cheapest international shipping? 

Since shipping overseas is usually more complicated than domestic shipping, international freight logistics can present some unique challenges for eCommerce businesses. Some companies specialize in international freight and handle the logistical challenges for you. 

For small orders sent to your customers, you probably won’t have to think too much about customs issues. Even if you do outsource this process entirely, however, it’s worthwhile to learn more about how international shipping works for your products. You’ll be more adept at troubleshooting and improving your shipping processes. 

Shipping domestically can be very straightforward. You pay a single amount and your package gets delivered. But costs associated with international shipping may include the following: 

  • Customs charges 
  • Customs brokerage costs
  • Ground transportation
  • Maritime transportation
  • Air transportation 

When you ship, you’ll need to choose a carrier to transport your package for you. There are three different types of carriers, and they all work a bit differently. They also frequently work together. Even if you choose one of these, it’s possible that your carrier will contract out part or all of the shipping to another one on this list. 

International Carrier 

If you choose an international shipping carrier such as FedEx or DHL for the entire route, some or all of your shipping costs may be rolled into your postage. International carriers are responsible end-to-end for shipments and generally permit more visibility across the entire process than a national carrier working with a shipping partner would. 

This option may be more expensive than the other two and doesn’t necessarily allow you as much flexibility, but it’s likely a simpler and less time-consuming choice. 

National Carrier

A national carrier handles your packages within a specific country. They may not provide service outside that nation’s borders, or they may contract with local carriers to transport packages through other countries. You can work directly with a national carrier, but you’ll need to ensure that someone is still transporting the packages once they leave national borders. 

One example of a national carrier is the United States Postal Service (USPS). USPS has international reach by working with local partners to transport your packages. When a partner is delivering a package, USPS may not allow as much visibility into the shipping process which means you may not have access to much information when you ship internationally. 

For a small package that only weighs a few pounds, choosing a national carrier might be cheaper than your other options. Larger or heavier packages may be better off with an international carrier or freight forwarder. 

International Freight Forwarder

A third party can organize the handoff between USPS and the final carrier while also handling any customs issues. This is what an international freight forwarder does. They have permission from you to take on freight and have their own agents handle the customs and shipping logistics along the way. 

You could use multiple carriers and arrange the logistics yourself but in practice, this may be too complicated and time-consuming. That’s where outsourcing can make sense. For example, you may decide to ship a package from within the U.S. to the Canadian border through USPS, then have another carrier take it from there. 

Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally

Shipping to other countries is not just one process. There’s so much that depends on the country. To send your products overseas, consider the end country destination and plan accordingly. 

Consider these country-specific sections for more information. This is just a starting point, so be sure to do your own research just to be safe. 

Cheapest Way to Ship to Canada

Shipping to Canadian consumers can be complex. Although you generally shouldn’t have a problem shipping to most Canadians, Canada is a diverse country with a variety of different shipping arrangements and options. Some Canadians live in very isolated, rural areas that may make shipping a more expensive process while others are in urban areas with an abundance of affordable shipping options. 

Retailers must be prepared to work hard in order to win Canadian customers. Having convenient shipping is a good start. Whatever you can do to make purchasing from you easier is probably worthwhile. 

Online purchases made by Canadians do incur customs duties and other taxes, and paying these is the responsibility of the buyer. Although these costs are not coming out of your own pocket, you should know that these expenses do directly impact how much your shoppers can spend with your business. By keeping costs for your customers low, you could even offset some of these expenses and make it more likely that you’ll win their business. 

Besides import costs, Canadians also pay sales taxes for their province and a Goods and Services Tax (GST) to their federal government. GST represents 5%  of the total. Local sales taxes bring this amount higher. 

If your products are relatively cheap, you probably won’t lose business because of import duties. Recent updates to customs processes and costs mean that Canadian customers ordering from American businesses are exempt from paying customs costs on purchases up to $150 CAD, with some exceptions. This is up from the previous $20 CAD limit set in 1985. The old $20 rules still apply with items shipped through Canada Post, so keep in mind the larger limit only applies to private carriers such as FedEx. 

When you ship to Canadians, you have a lot of options. 

Shipping Options for Sending Items to Canadian Buyers

Canada Post, the national postal service, is one great option for retailers. You can also use FedEx, UPS, DHL or Purolator. Here’s where you may also want to consider Canadian geography when you’re shipping. Some of your customers may live in isolated communities and you may need to account for longer shipping times. As a result, some carriers such as FedEx, have different policies within Canada. FedEx Ground ships in four days or less within the US, but in Canada, takes up to seven days for shipments. 

You can use an individual carrier or use a multi-carrier shipping option that hands off packages to a new carrier at the border. Although the usual U.S. carriers you’re probably familiar with are available, the additional choices you gain within the Canadian border may be worth it. Purolator, for example, is known for reliable next-day shipping by 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. to Canadian addresses. When shipping packages, having this option available to customers may be a helpful selling point. 

Cheapest Way to Ship to the U.K.

In the U.K., eCommerce businesses have several options for shipping within the country such as the Royal Mail and DHL. You also have UPS international, FedEx, and even USPS international shipping. Shipping to the U.K. can be an expensive venture with a USPS Small Priority Mail Flat Rate box costing $36 and a Large Flat Rate box costing $94. Your costs will certainly be higher than shipping domestically, but that doesn’t mean shipping to the U.K. is completely cost-prohibitive for retailers. 

Imported goods need to follow the U.K. guidelines. Some of this may involve more work and recordkeeping on your part unless you outsource part or all of this process. 

You should find out if you’ll owe Value Added Tax (VAT) and have to collect it for your customers. Many eCommerce sellers are required to create their own VAT registration and request information from customers to help with location verification and tax reporting — even if you’re not based in the U.K. 

These rules may change. At time of writing, the U.K. was planning to leave the European Union which could result in different policies. 

Cheapest Way to Ship to Australia

When you’re shipping to Australia, you have several options. You can use an international carrier such as UPS, FedEx, or DHL. You could also use USPS. With Flat Rate International options available, you can reduce your costs for shipping a package to Australia. 

Customs costs may not be as much of an issue for you if your products are valued at less than $700 — which is about the minimum taxable amount for Australians who are buying products online and having their purchases shipped. GST imposed by the Australian government applies for more expensive purchases. 

If you use a freight forwarder or shipper, they’ll provide a Self-Assessed Clearance (SAC) Declaration for the Australian government when your package arrives at the border. Otherwise, you’ll be responsible for providing the SAC. 

Cheapest Options for International Shipping

You can streamline your international shipping and save money by creating a process. If you want a game plan for how you’ll ship internationally when orders arrive, take the time to decide in advance which countries you’ll be selling to, and create a system for taking care of shipping. As your business operations grow, you may need a more formal internal process for packaging and shipping including designated job descriptions for team members you have in charge of the process. For automated or outsourced shipping, plan how you’ll transport packages to the carrier, or sign up for a pick-up service. 

Your cheapest overall option may be outsourcing your shipping to a service such as Parcel Monkey or Easyship. These services can take advantage of volume discounts on international shipping and pass the savings along to you. In some instances, this can cut half of your shipping costs. 

Before you make any shipping decisions, carefully consider your options and find out what every shipping service has to offer for your business and your customers. 

Choosing the Best International Shipping Service

Business owners should shop around and consider several important factors when looking for the right shipping service. Start with an example order and calculate the cost and options offered by several different carriers. 

Before you make a list of carriers to compare, you may want to consider what you’ll need in a package shipping service. Specifically: 

  • Product categories you ship
  • Countries you ship to 
  • Countries you plan to ship to later as your business grows 
  • How much of the regulations and customs process you need to outsource 

See how every option stacks up against the others and note any questions or concerns you have for further research. Of course, you’ll also want to compare: 

  • Price
  • Arrival time 
  • Convenience for your customers
  • Shipping experience for you 

Every time you ship internationally, you have the option of using one single carrier or using a multi-carrier shipping option. 

Automating Your Shipping with the WooCommerce Shipping Plugin 

If you’re using WooCommerce, a shipping plugin can help you ship more efficiently. Balance multiple carriers along with a busy array of incoming orders and have costs calculated for you. A variety of different plugins are available with various features designed to make shipping calculations easier and enable quick comparisons among carriers. 

With a plugin, your site can calculate shipping rates accurately and provide customers with multiple choices. This feature allows you to provide different price points and shipping times so buyers can make their own decisions. 

Once you’ve automated your shipping, your online store can run with less guesswork and greater simplicity for both you and your customers. 

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Using Google Shopping with WooCommerce

Using Google Shopping with WooCommerce

In the last 8 weeks, the world has been turned upside down. Major sports seasons were cancelled, summer concerts were cancelled, you can’t see or hug your friends, and business as we know it has been put on hold.

Many industries are completely shut down, but if you’re in ecommerce you can still do the vast majority of your job from home. The opportunity is massive.

US Bank released the percent of all retail transactions that happen online and ecommerce sales jumped from 16% in 2019 to 27% in April 2020. That’s an incredibly steep incline. There’s a massive demand for online shopping.

The trick is getting users to your site before they go to Amazon or Walmart. Luckily, a new service makes it easy to attract a whole new audience. A few weeks ago Google Shopping announced that they’re now allowing merchants on their platform even if you don’t pay for ads. In this post, we’re going to show you how to connect your WooCommerce Store to Google Shopping and list products on their marketplace.

What is Google Shopping?

If you’ve ever typed in the name of a product or type of product into Google, you’ve likely seen Google Shopping even if you weren’t familiar with the name. Let’s say you’re stuck at home and you’re looking for a 2 player board game on Google. You’ll see Google Shopping in two places:

The first is right beneath the organic search results. You’ll see:

  • A product image
  • Product title
  • Price
  • Star rating
  • Description
  • The online store where you can buy this product

And sometimes you’ll see even more. If you’re looking for clothes or paint you might see a filter for color and extra contextual tools.

The second place you’ll see Google Shopping is on the “Shopping” link at the top of the page.

If you click this shopping link, you’ll see the full Google Shopping view.

This view shows us Google Shopping ads at the top followed by a list of products. You can click on any of these products to get more information and then visit the store who sells the product to checkout.

Google Shopping is Now Free

As mentioned earlier, Google Shopping is now free. That means if you have any type of online store you can upload your products and have them show up in the shopping results.

What’s great about Google Shopping is it’s still wide open. A few big retailers with a Google ads strategy are already on their platform but many small retailers are not, which means yours could be one of the few products in a search making it more likely you’ll be able to make the sale.

Connecting WooCommerce to Google Shopping

Google Shopping works with any online store if you manually upload a CSV file or create an XML feed for your product information. Which is great but I’m lazy… and I’m guessing you are too. 🙂 

We’re going to use a direct integration between WooCommerce and Google Shopping. You can choose the official Google Product Feed ($79/yr) on WooCommerce.com or use one of the free plugins on WordPress.org

Since we’re in the middle of a pandemic let’s go with one of the free plugins, Product Feed Pro, so you can get the most bang for your buck – of course, if you need help setting up the plugin or have advanced needs the official plugin is likely a better choice for you.

Create a Google Merchant Account

The first step is to create a Google Merchant account. This will let you configure settings related to your store such as shipping, taxes, and a target country.

Once you create this account, add your store’s website and verify it using one of the methods Google suggests. If you already have Google Analytics installed and configured it only takes a few button clicks to verify your store in Google Merchant.

Get a Feed URL

In your WordPress admin you should be able to find your feed URL. Each plugin will do this a little differently. I had to create a feed, assign it as a Google Shopping feed, and map WooCommerce fields to Google Shopping fields. It took less than 5 minutes and even if you don’t know what you’re doing it will probably only take 10 minutes.

Once you’re done you should see your feed URL.

Add Product Feed to Google Merchant

Now we can add this feed to Google Merchant.

  1. Choose Products from the admin menu
  2. Click on “Create Product Feed” 

Then you’ll see a page where you can configure your feed.

  1. Select your target country and language
  2. Click continue
  3. Name your feed – I recommend the name of your store
  4. Configure a “Scheduled Fetch” so Google checks your store for product updates periodically
  5. Enter the name & URL of your file

Continue filling out the details for your product feed (we won’t show all of them here). Once you’re done you should see your feed under Primary feeds.

And if you click “View products” after waiting a few minutes you should see your products.

Note: this took maybe 10 minutes and I only uploaded two products. If you uploaded hundreds or thousands it could take much longer.

Enable Free Display

You might assume that any products you upload are automatically going to be displayed in Google Shopping. You actually have to enable this.

  1. Begin by clicking Get Started
  2. Fill out tax & shipping information
  3. Add a link to your refund policy
  4. Add a link to your shipping policy

The tax information is pretty easy since Google can determine that for you. Filling out the shipping information will take a few minutes.

Google Merchant has to process your feed and verify that your products have the correct information, so you may want to come back and do this step the next day.

And now if you search for your product it should show up in Google Shopping. Pay day! 

Strategies for Google Shopping

Getting listed in Google Shopping is now relatively simple. From here you can do some keyword research and optimize your listings so that you show up before your competitor.

But before you dive down the SEO rabbit hole, let me give you a simple piece of advice. Google Shopping is a very visual service. Make sure you have great product photography. If your competitors have clear, clean, and appealing photography it doesn’t matter if you rank slightly above them. Your audience is going to click on your competitors listing. 

Now is a great time to reshoot some products and touch up the primary image for each product. With a huge population stuck at home all day, every day, now is the time to get in front of those people. If you don’t make it easy for them to find you they’ll turn to Amazon or Walmart. So get out there with your products and grab a slice of all that brand new online shopping activity.

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Getting traffic from Google Shopping is great. You can also get more traffic through organic search by speeding up your store. See how much Hostdedi can improve your store with our 15-day performance challenge.

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What is WordCamp? – Hostdedi Blog

What is WordCamp? – Hostdedi Blog

If you’ve never heard of  WordCamp before you might think it involves playing lots of Scrabble in tents in the woods. But WordCamps actually have nothing to do with camping & nothing specific to do with words or spelling.

A WordCamp is (in non-pandemic times) an in-person gathering of WordPress fans in a specific geographic region with the goal to learn more about WordPress.

Who is WordCamp For?

WordCamps are for anyone who wants to learn more about WordPress. You could be a blogger looking for the best ways to edit, schedule, and update your posts. Or you could be a plugin or theme developer seeking information on security, performance, and best practices. Or you could be interested in starting a business on WordPress – like someone who wants to start their own WooCommerce store.

In short: if you want to use WordPress, you can go to a WordCamp. There’s no secret handshake and no entry test. Just come to a WordCamp and mingle with fellow WordPress fans!

What Topics are Covered at WordCamps?

WordCamps truly cover anything and everything related to WordPress. If you want to browse some of the content yourself, you can check out WordPress.tv where most WordCamps upload their videos. But to give you just a taste, here are talks you might see at your local WordCamp:

Beginner Topics

Blogging / Writing / Content Marketing

Business

Development

Design

WordCamps are Locally Organized

Every WordCamp is a little different and can have a different focus. That’s because they’re locally organized by volunteers. Each local community will have a different focus. So your local WordCamp will focus on issues that matter in that community.

Meet Your Local Community

WordCamps also feature speakers from your local community. You won’t be learning from a plugin developer from New York City or San Francisco. You’ll be learning from someone who lives down the street.

That way, it’s much easier to reach out to them, partner with them, or even hire them. To share a personal story, I met Brian Richards at WordCamp Chicago in 2013. We kept in touch for years, shared advice back and forth, and in 2018 when the stars aligned, we launched a collaborative project called WooSesh which we’re still running today.

How Much Does It Cost To Attend WordCamp?

If you’ve been to other tech conferences you know they can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Tech conferences are great but incredibly expensive.

Something that sets WordCamps apart from other events is that it’s organized by volunteers and there’s no corporation trying to make a ton of money. That means they’re incredibly cheap for attendees. WordCamps are limited to $25 per day, so if you have a three day WordCamp the maximum it costs is $75.

One of my first technology conferences was three days and it cost $2,000! Clearly, you get incredible value from a WordCamp.

WordCamps in a Pandemic

Up until this point I’ve focused on what WordCamps are like in typical times, but we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, so WordCamps have become virtual.

Obviously, an online conference feels different. You don’t have those hallway chats like you do at an in-person event. But they’re also more flexible. You can view the schedule, and jump in for just a session or two if you like. 

And of course you don’t have to drive or reserve a hotel room. This means they’re a lot cheaper. And virtual WordCamps are entirely free.

That’s right – a big fat zero dollars.

Find Your Local WordCamp

Are you ready to try a WordCamp? You can find a schedule of WordCamps on the WordCamp Central website.

You can also try WordCamp Denver which is virtual (and free) June 26-27.

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Split-Test WooCommerce With Google Optimize

Split-Test WooCommerce With Google Optimize

You know it is important to drive traffic to your WooCommerce store, since a portion of this traffic will become customers. However, how do you know whether your site is efficient at turning visitors into customers?

The number of visitors who become customers is called the conversion rate. Conversion rates are important for any growing WooCommerce store to track and work to optimize. One highly effective way to optimize store conversion rates is by setting up experiments using Google Optimize to see what makes your conversion rate improve. 

This article will help you set up Google Optimize split testing with your WooCommerce shop. After completing this tutorial, you’ll understand how you can test design parts and wording to increase your conversion rate. So follow along, you don’t need to be a developer or coder! I promise that I’ll keep things simple.

I’ve broken down this article into three sections:

  1. How To Set up your Google Optimize Account
  2. Integrate Google Optimize with your WooCommerce shop
  3. Configure your first split test in Google Optimize

I highly encourage any WooCommerce shop owner with a reasonable amount of traffic (at least 5,000 unique visitors per month) to set up split tests. They’re a fantastic tool to discover which parts of your site structure or wording limit your conversion rates. You can use Google Optimize to set up these tests for free, which is perfect to begin with. Examples of common split tests are testing which color the “Add to Cart” button should be to encourage clicks hiding or showing trust labels on the Checkout page, the wording of the “Checkout” button, and other important elements on your shop website. 

For this example, we’ll run an experiment on the “Checkout” button and will compare two different colors against each other. Let’s get started!

Set up your Google Optimize Account

Creating your Google Optimize account is straight-forward, especially if you’re already using a Google. Head over to https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/optimize/ and click on the “Sign in to Optimize” button in the top right corner. If you do not have a Google account yet, you’ll have to create one.

Google Optimize website

After you’ve created your account, you’re greeted with a wizard that’ll walk you through the setup process. Let’s go through it together.

The first step in the wizard is that Google asks you to subscribe to their various email newsletters. It’s up to you if you want more emails in your inbox – I certainly do not. So, I’ll tick “No” for all of these boxes.

Google Optimize newsletter signup

Step 2 is to configure your first Google Optimize account. You’ll be asked all sorts of questions related to data privacy and GDPR, which heavily depends on the physical location of your business. In the US, you have less strict rules that apply than in the European Union. Here’s a great article on what eCommerce retailers need to know about GDPR.

Google Optimize Account Settings

Since I live in Germany, I have to accept boxes about GDPR. I also do not want my data to be shared with other Google services that I have not linked into my account manually. You’ll want your Google Analytics account linked to Google Optimize – to get the most out of your data. But other than use-cases like that, I want to keep my data private.

That’s it! Your account is now set up and you’re ready to create your first split test experiment.

Integrate Google Optimize with your WordPress installation

After completing your account setup as described above, Google will ask you to create your “first experience”. Experiences are the way Google groups experiments that run on a single website. So if you have multiple sites or shops and you want to integrate them into Google Optimize, you’ll have to create one experience for each of them.

Google Optimize Create First Experience

As you can see in the section on the right, we’re 25% done with creating that experience. In this part of the tutorial, we’ll customize the name of our container, setting up the foundation for your split test, and link it to Google Analytics.

To organize containers, I like to use the target website’s URL as their name. You can easily change the container name by clicking on the three vertical dots right beside “Container information” in the right sidebar. 

Google Optimize Container Setup

Click on the “Edit container name” and enter whatever name helps you recognize the website this container is integrated with. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’ll go with “Woo Google Optimize Demo.”

Configure your first split test experience in Google Optimize

Now that you have your container appropriately named, let’s walk through setting up your first split test for your WooCommerce shop. First, click on the blue “Let’s Go” button, which will open a new area on the right of your screen.

Google Optimize Create Experience - Step 1

In that area, you can specify a name for your experience. I called mine “Checkout button color test” for this example. You have to specify the URL of the page you want to run the experiment on, which would be the Checkout page URL.

You can further specify what type of experience you want to run. Google Optimize offers four different types:

  • A/B test. This lets you create one variant of the original page and compares them to each other, by sending one part of your traffic to the original and the other part to the variation.
  • Multivariate test. This lets you create multiple variations of the original page. I would only use that when you have a serious amount of traffic, otherwise, it’ll take a long time to deliver trustworthy results.
  • Redirect test. You can redirect a part of your traffic to a different page than the original one. This is great if you want to compare two entirely different page layouts, or if you want to drive a part of your traffic to a subdomain of yours.
  • Personalization. You can use this type of experience to personalize your website’s content, depending on certain rules. E.g. you can target countries and provide information specific to those countries (like GDPR checkboxes only for EU-based customers on Checkout).

For this tutorial, we’ll set up a simple A/B test to compare two different checkout button colors against each other. 

Create variant

Click on “Add Variant” in the next screen and give the variant a name that will help you recognize what you are testing. In my case, I’ll switch the “Place Order” button on the Checkout page to a red background color – so “Red Place Order Button” makes sense for this tutorial.

Add Variant

Click on “Done” which will take you back to the overview screen. Before we can proceed to configure the test, we need to make sure that we actually have a product in the cart so that the Checkout page is accessible and we can do the change.

Targeting and Variants

Google Optimize will try to open the Checkout page as soon as you click on “Edit” to configure the variant. So you need to ensure that you have a tab open with your WooCommerce shop, and are on the Checkout page. 

Additionally, please make sure that you have the Google Optimize extension for Chrome installed. Here’s the link to the Chrome Web Store (the extension is free).

Place Order button

Ok, let’s continue and configure the A/B test by clicking on “Edit”. You’ll see that Google Optimize will reload and now open your Checkout page. That’s why we need to have a product in the cart so that we can actually see that page and do not get redirected to an empty cart page.

As soon as you start moving your mouse over the screen, you’ll see that each HTML component of your Checkout page gets highlighted. Navigate to the “Place Order” button and click on it. That’ll open the attributes window you can see in the screenshot above.

Changing the background color and text color is super simple. In that attributes window, scroll down until you see the fields for text color and background color, and update the values to whatever colors you want to test. In this example, the “Place order” button has a black background with grey-ish text. I’ve changed that to white text on a red background in the A/B test.

Place Order Variant

With that done, I have fully configured the A/B test variant and can hit “Save” in the top right corner of the variation editor. 

Sidenote: do not test more than one element per variant. When you do test more than one change per variant, you will not know which visual change actually caused a change in visitor behavior on your website.

Going back to your overview screen, you’ll now see that the Google Optimize variant will say we’re testing two changes – but don’t let that confuse you. It’s never recommended to test more than one element at a time, and that’s what we’re doing here. One change has been the font color, and the other change has been the background color of the button. It is still just one element that we’re testing.

The next step is to connect your Google Optimize account with your Analytics. Therefore, you need to click on the “Link to Analytics” button in the progress bar or scroll down to the section titled “Measurement and Objectives.”

Google Optimize Draft

There, you can click on the “Link to Analytics” button and pick the right property and view. Sidenote: please ensure that Google Analytics is set up properly on your WooCommerce shop before proceeding.

Link Property

You’ll then be presented with a code snippet that you need to put onto your website. How to implement this exactly depends on your Google Analytics configuration (universal tracking vs. global site tag). For this example, I’m using the global site tag integration, so all I have to do is to add one line of code to my site. Google Optimize does a great job of explaining here, so read through the instructions carefully.

One last step we have to do is to set up a tracking event for the “Place Order” button. We need to tell Google Analytics to track the clicks on the button so that Google Optimize can use the tracked data as a custom objective for the split test. Without that click tracking, Google Optimize will not be able to determine the winning variation from our test – because it will not have the right data to do so.

There are multiple ways to add click tracking to your WooCommerce site; my favorite way is using Google Tag Manager. I will not go deep into setting up the entire tracking process here, as that would be a post in itself. However, I highly recommend reading through this article on Medium if you haven’t set up click tracking before. 

Once you’ve set up Google Tag Manager with the right tags and deployed it on your WooCommerce site (e.g. using this free plugin), you’re ready to set up a custom objective in Google Optimize.

Measurements and Objectives

Click on “Add experiment objective” and choose “Create custom.” That will give you a screen where you define your own tracking rules.

Place order button clicked

Please note that the “Event Label” value has to match the label you configured in Google Tag Manager. For Google Optimize to be able to track this custom event – the click on the “Place order” button – the event labels have to match in Google Optimize and Google Tag Manager. You can also use “Event Action”, “Event Category”, or “Event Value” as rule parameters, but for this tutorial, the label will do.

After saving your custom objective, you can run the Diagnostics tool to validate that your Google Optimize experiment is set up correctly. Remember that Optimize needs Google Analytics to load on your page. So if you excluded your user from being tracked (e.g. blocking tracking for all admins in WP), it’s likely that this validation will fail. If that happens, I recommend that you include your user in the Google Analytics tracking temporarily. Alternatively, you can open your WooCommerce shop in an incognito window and verify that all the codes for Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics and Google Optimize are being loaded in the code of your shop.

At this point, your experience should be up and running properly. You can use the Live Debug Mode from Google Optimize and browse your site to validate the experience. You’ll see that Chrome shows you an area below the website that gives you insights on how Google Optimize is working on your WooCommerce site.

Live debug

In this screenshot, you can see that the experience has been applied and some additional information, like the variant I’m seeing and the URL that caused the variant to be triggered.

Finally, you’re ready to collect the test data and optimize your WooCommerce site for more conversions and revenue. This process can be confusing, so if you get stuck at any point, reach out on Twitter and I can help: @iamjankoch. Happy testing!

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Pros and Cons for the New WooCommerce Payments

Pros and Cons for the New WooCommerce Payments

The WooCommerce team released WooCommerce 4.1 in early May, and with it came two big new features: The Marketing Hub, and WooCommerce Payments. Today we’re going to look into WooCommerce Payments, how it can improve your business, some of the potential downsides, and under what circumstances you should look into using it.

Where You Can Find WooCommerce Payments

Before we get to what WooCommerce Payments does, it’s worth sharing where users can expect to find WooCommerce Payments. It’s built right into the welcome wizard, so every new store owner will see this as an option. And unless you already have experience with eCommerce, and you have a favorite payment gateway (pretty sure I’m the only one that nerdy), you’re likely to choose WooCommerce Payments because it’s made by the same company and has WooCommerce in the name.

WooCommerce Payments in welcome wizard
WooCommerce Payments in the welcome wizard

WooCommerce Payments is currently only available in the US for stores that use US dollars. So if you don’t see it in the welcome wizard and you are located outside of the US, that’s most likely why.

Their plan is to slowly add more countries and currencies over time. Based on WooCommerce’s international appeal, I expect support for Canada, the UK, and other Western European countries to come next.

Note: if you want to use WooCommerce Payments and you’re outside of the US, you can sign up to be notified.

What You Can Expect from WooCommerce Payments

Payment gateways do two essential things:

  1. Accept and process credit cards 💳 on your site
  2. Manage payments, refunds, disputes, and deposits.

And WooCommerce Payments does all of these. 😎 

Best of all, WooCommerce Payments does all of this within your site. So you can not only accept credit cards on your site (which is commonplace and best practice), you can also manage payments, refunds, and disputes from your WordPress admin.

Being able to do all of this reduces a lot of friction for store owners. First, it’s one less account you have to manage, and one less username/password you have to get from a client or share with a developer.

It also allows a store owner to do everything from one interface. Since it’s only two clicks to move from the order screen to the transaction screen where I can view the payment details, including fraud risk, previous transactions, and fees, it’s more likely I’ll check those details out. You can also view and manage deposits from WooCommerce Payments into your business bank account. 

This gives store owners a more well rounded understanding of their business, and when you do need to review potential fraud, see when your next deposit will hit your bank account, or dig into financial details it’s going to save so much time. 

This extension makes WooCommerce the hub for your business, instead of simply the place where you update your products.

Requirements for WooCommerce Payments

Before adding WooCommerce Payments, make sure your infrastructure meets these minimum requirements:

  • PHP 5.6+ 
  • WordPress 5.3+ 
  • WooCommerce 4.1+ 
  • Jetpack 5.3+ (this is a temporary requirement)
  • An SSL certificate (to use the payment gateway in live mode)

Note: PHP 7.3, free SSL certificate, and the latest version of WordPress, WooCommerce, and plugins are included for those on Managed WooCommerce hosting at Hostdedi.

Why You Should Trust WooCommerce Payments

I have used WooCommerce for years and trust them to build high-quality, functional, and customizable eCommerce software. 

But accepting payments is an entirely different field, so you may have some concerns.

Luckily for all of us, WooCommerce is focusing on what they do best: eCommerce software. WooCommerce Payments is a white labeled version of one of the best and most popular payment gateways on the market: Stripe.

If you’ve used Stripe, you know they’re incredibly reliable and offer transparent pricing. 

Limitations of WooCommerce Payments

Beyond being limited to the US and using US dollars, there are a few limitations to be aware of, including functionality, compatibility with 3rd party applications, loss of historical data, and your fees.

Limited Functionality

I’m a huge fan of recurring revenue, and one of the most powerful recurring billing features in the entire eCommerce landscape is WooCommerce Subscriptions. 

Right now you can’t use automatically recurring payment with this gateway. So if Subscriptions are a big part of your business, I recommend staying with your current payment gateway.

Compatibility with Apps

Another great thing about Stripe is that a lot of infrastructure has been built directly on top of it. Some applications, such as Baremetrics, have a direct integration with Stripe. 

So, if you use an application like Baremetrics or another bookkeeping or accounting application, you would have to enter all of that data manually. I’d recommend sticking with your current setup for now.

Cannot Import Historical Data

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m a huge data nerd. If you’ve been in business for a few years, you have a huge amount of data about your customers, including how much they purchase and how often.

A lot of this data should be in WooCommerce, but some data is saved in the payment gateway, and currently you cannot import historical data into WooCommerce Payments.

If you’re a giant data nerd, or have very invaluable data that you don’t want to lose, you might want to wait until WooCommerce Payments lets you import your historical data.

Negotiated Payment Gateway Fees

One of the last points could be one of the biggest depending on the size of your  store. The standard pricing with modern payment gateways like Stripe and WooCommerce Payments is 2.9% + .30.

What some merchants don’t know is that you can negotiate better rates once you start bringing in significant money. There aren’t any rates set in stone, but the rule of thumb is if you make over $80,000+ a month you can negotiate rates with your payment gateway. 

You might be able to go from 2.9% + .30 down to 2.5% + 0.30. That’s a huge jump and helps increase your profitability. This might not seem like a lot for smaller stores, but if you make $1,000,000 in revenue, you could pay $29,000 in fees. With negotiated rates you’ll drop that to $24,000. 

As much as I like the utility of putting a payment gateway directly in the WooCommerce admin, it isn’t worth $5,000 in additional fees. So, if you have negotiated rates, you’ll definitely want to continue with your existing payment gateway.

The Future

WooCommerce is putting a lot of effort into WooCommerce Payments as they expand territories, currencies, and compatibility with extensions and apps.

If you like the idea of WooCommerce Payments, it will very likely be coming to you soon. Some businesses will likely have to wait until the advanced features are added, or negotiated rates become possible, since that’s a huge money saver. But if you’re starting a brand new store, or you just started your store, I definitely recommend exploring WooCommerce Payments.

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Everything You Need to Know About WooCommerce Shipping

Everything You Need to Know About WooCommerce Shipping

Offering multiple shipping options is a great way to keep your customers happy and reduce your abandoned cart rates. With just the built in options in WooCommerce you can create a variety of shipping options for your customers and you can do even more with a few premium extensions. 

WooCommerce Specific Shipping Options Overview

The WooCommerce shipping setup integrates smoothly with your WordPress website. When you add the plugin and activate it, you can immediately configure a variety of basic shipping options and create combinations to suit your business. 

There are three steps to follow when setting up basic WooCommerce shipping: 

  1. Set up Shipping Zones
  2. Add Shipping Methods and Rates
  3. Assign a Shipping Class (Optional)

First, set up your shipping zones to specify areas of the world where you ship goods. You can also list countries or geographic areas where you do not offer shipping. 

Once you’ve set up your shipping zones, the next step is to add standard shipping methods and rate options within zones for a flat rate, free shipping, and/or local pickup. There are ways to expand these options, and we’ll cover them later. 

The last step is to assign a shipping class to each item in your product range. This helps you to customize the shipping method and rate for individual items. Let’s look at these steps in more detail. 

Shipping Zones 

These zones let you define specific areas around the world where you will ship goods, and the shipping methods and rates you will offer within that zone.

Zones can be wide-ranging areas such as countries or continents, or they can be specific zip codes or states.  

For example, you could set up three general zones e.g., U.S. Domestic, Europe, and other. Then within each zone, specify the method of shipping available.  

When you’re setting up your shipping zones, you will notice there’s a default zone installed called Locations not covered by your other zones

Shipping zones

This option will capture customers who don’t fit into any of the specified shipping zones. You’ll want to make sure you have at least one option in this default zone. Otherwise customers will get the message: No shipping methods offered to this zone and they won’t be able to checkout.

Shipping Methods

The core plugin offers three basic shipping methods: flat rate, free shipping, and local pickup. You can add various options within these three methods.  

The flat rate option is a fixed cost you can offer using product shipping classes or per order or by individual product items. 

Free shipping can be offered across your entire product range, or only if certain rules are met. 

For example, free shipping can become an option with a coupon code entered, or when the customer reaches a minimum total cart value. 

However, if you want to offer local pickup, you need to be more specific and identify the regions or zip codes that qualify for this option. One example would be a Los Angeles-based business offering local pickup within the southern California area.

Options could be even more specific and list zip codes within a 40-mile radius of L.A. where local pickup options would be available. 

With WooCommerce shipping you can create as many shipping zone and method combinations you need for your business and customize each zone.

Shipping Rates

The flat rate, free shipping and local pickup options come with the basic WooCommerce plugin. They’re quick and easy to set up and could be all you need when you start selling online. 

However, if you want to offer your customers a wider range of options, the WooCommerce table rate shipping extension lets you do this. For example, you can create a shipping rule based on an item’s weight by defining the minimum and maximum weight range or number of items per package. 

You can be even more specific by listing the shipping classes for which this rule applies, or add rules based on destination and price. You pay a monthly or annual subscription fee for this but many feel it’s worth it for the additional flexibility it adds to your WooCommerce shipping options. 

Assign Shipping Classes

If all of your products cost the same amount to ship, or you’re going to use some of the premium extensions for getting rates from providers, then you don’t have to setup shipping classes.

But if you have products with very different shipping costs such as t-shirts and framed wall posters, you can set up a shipping class for each product type. And you can use these classes to affect how much shipping costs in the checkout process.

Each time you add new products to your store, you can assign a unique class, or group them with other product lines under shipping classes you’ve already set up.

WooCommerce Extensions and Plugins for Premium Shipping

Using third party plugins lets you expand your range of WooCommerce shipping options and offer real time shipping methods from main carriers like FedEx, UPS, or the United States Postal Service (USPS). 

The WooCommerce Table Rate Shipping plugin enables you to set up unique shipping options using a range of variables e.g., product class, shipping zones, weight, or the number of items being shipped. It can be used for domestic and international deliveries. 

Several shipping carriers offer their own dedicated plugins (USPS and FedEx are two examples). Using these extensions with your WooCommerce store lets you offer real-time shipping quotes from your regular suppliers. 

If your business ships internationally or has distribution centers overseas, there are plugins that let you access local postal services in specific countries — like SAPO International Parcel Service. This gives you real time shipping rates within the South African postal service, and lets you offer shipping options by air or ground. 

ShipStation

ShipStation is another powerful WooCommerce plugin that connects smoothly with your WooCommerce store and helps you automate order fulfillment and sales processes. Although you still need to install shipping plugins (e.g., FedEx or USPS) to get up-to-date costs, ShipStation lets you monitor your business for order processing, invoicing, and inventory levels, and gives real-time analytics.  

If ShipStation is more than you need, WooCommerce shipping plugin Print Invoices & Packing Lists lets you easily manage invoices, packing lists, and customer emails within your store, and you can customize documents to mirror your business brand. Customers can also check their order status and invoices any time with the My Account option. 

If you run a dropshipping business, the WooCommerce Dropshipping plugin helps you manage your customer orders and dropshippers.

Shipping Extensions for WooCommerce

This list offers a few WooCommerce shipping plugins and premium extensions you can use with your online store. Explore their different features to find the WooCommerce plugin that’s ideal for your business.

How Does WooCommerce Calculate Shipping?

When a customer adds items to their cart, WooCommerce calculates shipping charges based on the products selected, shipping class, size, and weight. Once the customer enters their delivery address, the WooCommerce shipping calculator works out a cost based on their location and the shipping methods available. The customer can see this information on the cart page. 

You can also manually adjust your shipping rates and add additional charges for multiples of an item, discounts for purchasing specific products, handling fees, or taxes.

Let’s set up WooCommerce shipping for our T-shirt business, and create options for shipping using the ready-to-use features already loaded into WooCommerce. 

How to Set up Basic Shipping in WooCommerce

Here are the basic steps for setting up shipping in WooCommerce. This excellent WooCommerce Shipping How-to from FitSmallBusiness.com has additional details if you need them.

1. Create Your Shipping Zones 

On your WooCommerce dashboard, select WooCommerce > Settings > Shipping

Next, select Add shipping zone

WooCommerce Setup Shipping Zones

Give your new zone a name, add the zone region and set up as many as you need. 

When you’ve set up your zones, you can leave them as general regions, or edit them to list as regions or zip codes. 

To edit a zone, Go to the Shipping zones screen. Move the cursor over the zone name to see the Edit and Delete options.

Select Edit and add regions or zip codes on the next screen. 

Save your changes. 

2. Add Shipping Methods

Add shipping methods in WooCommerce

For each zone, select Add shipping method and highlight one option from the drop-down list. 

Select Add shipping method to save. 

By repeating these steps, you can offer multiple zone / shipping method options within your store.  

Edit Shipping Methods 

To edit shipping methods, hover the cursor over the zone name, select Edit then hover over the method you want to edit, and select Settings.  

Edit shipping method in WooCommerce
Set shipping method cost in WooCommerce

In Flat rate Settings, you have the option to set the Tax status to None or Taxable. Your choice will be applied to all flat rate costs for this zone, and tax rates are calculated using the business address you entered when setting up your store.

If you want to add extra charges within your flat rate shipping option, add them using the Cost field and the formats below.  

Flat Rate charge per order – to add a charge to every order, enter a number (e.g., 4).  You don’t need to add currency symbols as WooCommerce uses the currency you chose during the store setup. 

Flat Rate charge per item – to add a charge to every item placed in the cart, enter the formula, [qty]*1.50. For our T-shirt business, it means $1.50 is added to every shirt purchased. If a customer buys five items, then $7.50 will be added to the total cart value. 

Flat Rate percentage charge – to add a fee based on a percentage of the customer’s cart value, enter the formula [cost]*12. In this case, an extra charge of 12% will be calculated and added to the cart total. 

3. Add Shipping Classes

Use this option to group specific products together or create shipping methods for individual items. For example, our framed artwork will have its own unique class as it’s oversized and heavy. But our T-shirts could be grouped with other items in an existing class. 

Create Shipping Class in WooCommerce

Go to WooCommerce > Settings > Shipping > Shipping Classes  

At the bottom corner of the screen, select Add shipping class.

Enter the name of your class. Leave the slug field blank as it fills automatically and use the Description field for notes.

Select Save shipping classes. The new class will appear. 

Save shipping class in WooCommerce

The number 45 on the T-shirt line is the number of products grouped under that class.  

By completing all these steps, you have set up basic shipping options in your WooCommerce store, and can offer your customers flat rate, free shipping, and local pickup.

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Migrating from Shopify to WooCommerce

Migrating from Shopify to WooCommerce

In 2019 I ran a Kickstarter campaign for my game Fry Thief. I successfully funded and delivered 500 packages to my backers. That left me with a little under 1,500 copies remaining, which I hope to sell through conventions and through my website. In the interest of time, I set up a quick store on Shopify.

Laid Back Games Shopify Store
My Laid Back Games store on Shopify

Functionally speaking, the site works great, and I think it looks pretty good too. When people find my site they choose one of the two versions of my product they want, they place their order, Shopify calculates shipping costs, taxes, and processes the credit card. From end to end, it is a functional eCommerce store. However, I did have one big problem:

My site felt slow, but I didn’t know how slow, so I loaded up GTMetrix to evaluate my speed.

  • It took 6.4 seconds to load
  • My PageSpeed score was 71% (C )
  • YSlow score was 61% (D).
GTmetrix data for Shopify store
Performance on Shopify

If you think 6.4 seconds is a long time, to load you’re correct. It’s a very long time in the ADD world we live in.

And the data supports this. To look at just one example, according to Akamai, a two-second delay in page load time can increase bounce rate by more than 100%. That’s basically half of my potential customers walking into the store and immediately leaving without even bothering to look at my product. So speed is incredibly important.

Now that the fundraising campaign is in the rearview mirror, I want to move to a faster platform. My hope is that I can improve the speed of my store and therefore the number of sales (without having to do any extra marketing). 

Migrating to Hostdedi

The first step is to move everything over to WooCommerce. That includes products, customers, and orders. It’s easy enough to export all of those out of Shopify through the admin.

Unfortunately, each eCommerce software exports & imports data in a unique format. So there are two choices:

  1. Import the data yourself
  2. Use the free migration service on Hostdedi

I highly recommend you send all of the data to Hostdedi. They can import and validate the data for you since it’s incredibly easy, and there won’t be data loss.

In my case, since I only had a single product and a few dozen orders, I thought I’d want to learn how to do it myself. WP Import All comes with the Hostdedi Managed WooCommerce hosting account. It took a little over an hour to import my customers, orders, and products without errors.

Once I loaded all of my data, rebuilt the home page, and customized my theme, I took another speed test. This time my site loaded much faster!

GTmetrix performance report for WooCommerce on Hostdedi
After moving to WooCommerce on Hostdedi
  • It took 2.3 seconds to load
  • My PageSpeed Score was 72% (C )
  • YSlow Score a 66% (D)

It’s interesting to note that my site loads a whole 4 seconds faster just moving to the Hostdedi platform. This performance increase is mostly from moving to higher quality infrastructure. If you notice my PageSpeed Score & YSlow Score are still pretty terrible and there’s a lot of room for improvement.

“My site loads a whole 4 seconds faster just moving to the Hostdedi platform”

Performance Improvements on Hostdedi

One of the lesser known things about Hostdedi is that we have a 15 day performance challenge where we’ll copy your existing site over to our servers and show you how fast it could run.

I had one of the amazing engineers take a look at my site and in a single afternoon he optimized the site faster than I had hoped. 😍

{{image of speed test}}

  • 0.6 seconds to load
  • My PageSpeed Score is 97% (A)
  • YSlow Score a 87% (B)

The site now loads 10X faster than my Shopify site and performs all of the same functions.

GTmetrix performance report for WooCommerce on Hostdedi after optimization from engineers
After a Hostdedi engineer optimized the site

Since I’m a technology nerd there are still a few areas I can try to optimize to get my YSlow Score up to an A grade.

I can’t imagine any user abandoning a site while waiting ½ second. In fact, because the website is so snappy, users just have to read a few seconds, make their decision, and then (hopefully) checkout.

Other Benefits

The main reason I migrated from Shopify to WooCommerce was speed and that was definitely solved. But another reason that was annoying was that I could never receive email notifications.

I had to constantly check my store and eventually I installed the Shopify app on my phone so I would get a push notification. I reached out to support who were friendly and promised to send the issue to developers but I never heard back.🤷‍♂️

One of the advantages of an open system like WooCommerce is if something doesn’t work (like email notifications) you can switch that system out for a new system. You could hire a developer to debug the issue yourself, if you find an area to fix you can create a patch and either submit it to WooCommerce core to help everyone or if it’s something specific to your setup you can use it yourself. 

I love ♥️ being on an open system. The next time I run into an issue I’ll fix it myself or hire someone to help.

Wrap Up

There are lots of incredibly easy-to-set-up eCommerce platforms. And if you need to build a site quickly and you don’t want to worry about a thing then a closed platform could be great. But as soon as you want to customize or optimize your store in any way then you really want to look into an open platform like WooCommerce or Magento. 

Open platforms like WooCommerce or Magento let you replace any individual piece that you don’t need or any piece that’s underperforming. As you can see, I did most of this myself and moved my site from 6.4 seconds down to 0.6 seconds load time. Speedy sites make happy customers. And happy customers lead to more sales.

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The 11 Questions You Should be Asking Your WooCommerce Developer

The 11 Questions You Should be Asking Your WooCommerce Developer

As WooCommerce has grown in popularity, the community has seen an influx of web developers and designers offering their services to merchants. Within this group are incredibly talented and knowledgeable developers, as well as ‘green’, less experienced developers. Ensuring you’ve got a developer that can deliver what you’re looking for means this search can turn into a time-consuming task.

With a group this diverse you do not have to accept the first WooCommerce developer that reaches out. Selecting the wrong developer can mean problems down the line, with inexperienced devs unable or unwilling to complete a project to specification. To avoid this, it’s important to gain insight into the developer’s capabilities and background before committing and collaborating together.

Let’s take a look at some of the questions you should ask any potential WooCommerce developer, to ensure you find the right fit for your business.

1. Where Are They Known?

One of the first hurdles is figuring out who to even start talking to for your project. While WooCommerce does provide a list of experts, it won’t be an exhaustive list of all the people that can build great WooCommerce solutions for you.

WooExperts

If you’re building a specific type of store, start with a search to see who is writing about building WooCommerce solutions that match your needs. Not everyone can build that custom classifieds site you’ve been dreaming of building. If you find a specific author of interest on a blog like this one, it can be worth searching their name to find out what else they’ve talked about doing on their own site or on other blogs. This may also bring up talks they’ve done for local WordPress conferences (called WordCamps) or a YouTube channel where they talk about code issues they’re working on.

While not everyone that’s great writes or does videos about their work, it’s a good place to start.

2. What does their Customer vetting process look like?

As you start reaching out to different developers, take notice of their process to vet clients – because a good developer or agency will have a process. They should have a form to fill out, or a series of questions to answer before they start to dig deeper into your project.

It may feel a bit off-putting to jump through another hoop or two to get to talk to someone about your project. Remember, a process is an indication of an experienced shop. They have a way to gather information so they can have the best chance of delivering on what their customers want. If you send a single email and get an instant quote from someone that can start tomorrow, at least take a step back and verify that whomever you’re talking to isn’t promising they can do the work just to get the work. Good developers are often busy.

3. What makes a successful project?

Planning Notebook
Photo by rawpixel.com

Once you get in touch with a prospective developer, the first question I recommend you ask is what does it take to make a project successful? They should have a list of ways in which you’ll communicate, and they’ll likely they’ll have a project management system that they prefer and want you to use. Not having a project management system is not a clear signal that it won’t work, but expect more experienced agencies to have one.

One big red flag to look out for is if they deal with everything via email. It may be an indicator that they will work with your billable hours inefficiently. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! You want to know how your project is being handled. For example, popular freelancer Jason Resnick has all his clients use email, but all of that email gets sent back into a project management system that he uses to triage tasks. He works within the project management system while his clients deal with email alone.

4. Are we going to use an existing theme or build something custom?

For many sites, it doesn’t make sense to launch with a custom design. It will take longer to build, cost more, and doesn’t guarantee that you’ll earn any more than if you went with an off-the-shelf theme customized to fit your branding. In fact, many times online shoppers benefit from templates because they know where to find what they’re looking for. Make sure you ask if the agency you’re talking to is planning to build something custom, or customize an existing theme for you.

If you have your heart set on a completely custom theme, make sure you understand the tradeoffs you’re making and what benefits you may get out of something custom. No one may have your exact look, but you also won’t be getting updates for free for compatibility issues or to add features to your site. You’ll get both of these features if you go with an existing theme. Ask your developer if this is a possibility if you are set on a completely unique look.

5. What will it cost?

Outside of your initial development costs, there may be some ongoing fees that you’ll need to pay. Usually that will include hosting, email marketing, and perhaps backups. Some agencies will want to host your site for you and then offer updates or further work included in their fee. One huge red flag to watch out for: if the agency quotes you a one-time price and makes no mention of ongoing expenses, they are likely not truly knowledgeable about what it takes to be effective online.

This can also help you figure out how much access they plan to give you to the site. If they’re hosting your site, then you may only have access to update content. They can access files and make changes to your site, but often they don’t want to give that access to clients. While this may be fine, especially for less technical clients, long term it can be an issue if they go AWOL and you’re left with a site you can’t access, or if you decide to move to a new development team. Make sure you understand the tradeoffs.

I’ve had many site owners come to me unable to get access to their site so that we can start a copy of it and get going on a new project. To prevent this you can ask for access to your hosting, files, and the full WordPress admin panels. This puts you in control and allows you to grant access to others, or move the site without needing to wrangle it with the agency who may or may not be responsive.

6. What plugins do you generally include?

Unfortunately, sometimes you have to ask for every single function that you want on a site. Even the basics like having Google Analytics installed must be specifically requested and billed. You want to understand what the developer you’re talking to includes and what they don’t include.

I generally view adding analytics and hooking a site up to an email marketing platform like Jilt as table stakes – like tires on a new car. You just get these things because you bought the car. Make sure that your expectations and their expectations match.

7. How are we going to drive and ensure solid conversion rates?

Shopping on Mobile Phone
Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd.

Making sales is the lifeblood of your online business, and while WooCommerce does a decent job of making sales easy out of the gate, you should be making sure that more thought will be put into driving good conversions for your site. Asking about conversions is a great way to see if your potential WooCommerce developer understands that your site is an investment that needs to work for you.

Many of my clients are selling one-off products like a single book. This means that we send users directly to the checkout page skipping the cart page to reduce steps in the checkout process. In general, reducing steps in checkout will help you increase sales.

On The Sweet Setup, we use Smart Offers to show additional courses that may interest customers after checkout. This approach ensures that we don’t get in the way of checkout, but we still get to upsell other products to customers.

A good developer will have some of these strategies up their sleeve and be able to talk to you about which ones should work for your store.

8. How are we going to address site security?

ManageWP administration

While security is important for every single site, it’s extra important for your WooCommerce site because you’re storing customer data. No, WooCommerce doesn’t store payment details, but you still have emails, passwords, and addresses in the system. The developer you choose to work with should have a plan to deal with any security issues for your site.

In the same vein, they should also have a plan to deal with backups of your site. It’s entirely possible that your site could crash and leave you with nothing online. I always set up clients with a third-party backup plugin. I do this even if the host has its own backup system, because 1 backup isn’t enough – 2 backup location counts means you have a failsafe and a failsafe for your failsafe, too. This is also referred to as redundancy.

Editor’s note: Managed WooCommerce hosting on Hostdedi already has 30-day backups included with every plan.

9. How will we deal with theme and plugin updates?

If the developer you select is planning to host your site for you, this will often include them doing theme and plugin updates for you. A good shop will perform them on a staging server so that they can be tested and then rolled out to the main site. Not every client wants this though; in fact, most of my clients update things themselves.

Hostdedi’ Managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce hosting products include daily backups, and automatic updates with visual regression testing. What this means is that Hostdedi will automatically update your theme and plugins, and then test to see if anything looks different. If something goes wrong, you can roll the site back and get in touch with your developer to fix the issues and update the site when it’s ready.

10. What happens if I want to add features later?

If the agency you choose gives you access to everything and you’re paying your web host directly, then you are fully in control of future feature updates. You’ll likely start by reaching out to the agency you used to build the site for a quote and then get on their schedule to have the updates made. This is fairly standard, but sometimes you get stuck waiting for updates just because of other projects that have come up at the same time you’re asking for site changes.

If that happens, as long as you followed these steps to have access to your site you will be able to find another WooCommerce developer that can help you with the changes. In fact, you should ask a prospective developer about others working on the site in the future. The truth is that any competent WooCommerce developer should be able to deliver work that others can build upon in the future.

11. What’s your warranty?

Finally, you need to understand the warranty that is being provided on the work. Will the agency you use stand behind the work they do, and for how long?

Officially, my warranty is for 60-days as long as WordPress, the theme, and plugins are all the same. I say it like that because sometimes a plugin will update and change how it functions and I can’t anticipate that even when I build sites using best practices.

The reality is, as long as it’s a reasonable request and I feel that I likely should have caught that issue in the beginning, I generally fix things for my clients if things go wrong. Ultimately, I want happy customers and having someone fix things quickly for them is one way to make sure that happens.

Whatever the warranty is, make sure you see value in it and understand its limitations before you pay anyone to work on your site.

By using these key questions as you look for a WooCommerce developer, you can help ensure that you’ll be working with someone that fits the way you work, getting the project you want done on time and within budget.

Build your high-performing WooCommerce store with Hostdedi

Create a store that converts traffic with Hostdedi’ Managed WooCommerce hosting solution. It comes standard with Jilt to help you recover abandoned carts, performance tests whenever you need them, and the platform reduces query loads by 95%, leading to a faster store.

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Ecommerce Tips: How to Ship Large and Heavy Items

Ecommerce Tips: How to Ship Large and Heavy Items

When it comes to shipping, consumers definitely prefer fast & cheap (or free) — but determining how you ship your products & how you pass along or absorb that cost is tricky. And it becomes an even greater challenge if you sell large or bulky items.

In this article we’re going to provide clarity into:

  • How to pack boxes and calculate shipping costs
  • How to save money while shipping large and heavy items
  • What qualifies as a large item
  • And finally, how you can ship large item with the three major carriers in the US

How to Pack Boxes and Determine Shipping Costs 

Products that are bulky (heavy or not), can be a challenge to ship. Your packaging must account for the item’s size while still allowing for packaging materials and filler. In addition there are both weight & size limits. If your package exceeds either of these limits you may need to find a different carrier or service. 

Understanding Dimensional Weight

If you think about how shipping carriers move packages around they do so with trucks. And these trucks have two limitations:

If either of these are maxed out the carrier has to use more trucks & drivers which is one of their main expenses. To take both of these limitations into account carriers now use a formula combining both the dimensions & weight called Dimensional Weight.

How to Calculate Dimensional Weight

Here’s how to calculate dimensional weight: 

  1. Measure the package dimensions in inches. 
  2. Multiply package length by weight by height. 
  3. Divide by 139 for FedEx shipping and UPS Daily Rates. Use 166 instead for UPS Retail Rates. 
  4. The result is the dimensional weight of the package. 

Usually, carriers have you weigh your package and check the dimensional weight. They’ll generally charge whichever is higher. Make sure to compare the pricing and recommendations of carriers before shipping. 

Cheapest Way to Ship Large Packages

Depending on the shipping carrier and their specific requirements, costs can be calculated in different ways and packages can be categorized differently. You can do this in advance of customer purchases and set up your website to calculate shipping charges. 

All of the major carriers offer free web tools and APIs to make this easier. For instance, USPS allows you to customize your customers’ online shipping experience with their free tools. Both WooCommerce & Magento offer software to help you calculate shipping costs with major carriers.

You can also keep your shipping costs as low as possible by: 

  • Weigh and measure your packaging materials. 
  • Try a variety of different packaging types. 
  • Use the lightest, most compact and cost-effective packaging materials possible.
  • Customers like fast shipping, but consider offering a discount or incentive for longer shipping times since this may save you money. 

Shop around and compare carrier pricing for products you frequently ship. Keep in mind that these requirements are subject to local differences. These guidelines apply to most packages shipped within the US. For other countries, check with the carrier. 

Why Does Package Weight Matter? What are Heavy Packages? 

If you know which shipping carrier you plan to use and the basic dimensions of the item you’re going to ship, you can develop a plan and get an accurate cost estimate. Weight and outer package dimensions are a big deciding factor in how much you’ll be paying for shipping. 

Shipping Carrier Limits

Of course the packaging you use for shipping is part of the cost, too. Large and heavy products can be expensive to transport and may also require special packaging that’s durable and designed for heavy or bulky items. This may require custom-designed cushioning or reinforced box materials. 

Custom materials may cost more and can also add to the weight and bulk of your shipment. The added mass ultimately means more fuel and resources used by the carrier to transport your product. Carriers pass these costs along to retailers as higher shipping charges. 

Each carrier has their own definitions for a “large” package. Heavy items must be packaged appropriately before carriers can ship them, so be sure to read their requirements carefully.

USPS shipping requirements don’t allow packages heavier than 70 pounds. So, if you have an item over that threshold, you might want to consider using a private carrier such as FedEx or UPS. UPS has special packaging requirements starting at 70 pounds while FedEx starts at 75 pounds.

How to Pack Heavy Items for Shipment and Determine Shipping Costs

Each shipping carrier has different guidelines & requirements for heavy & bulky items. With this in mind, here’s how to pack those items and determine your costs. 

FedEx Guidelines and Pricing for Heavy Items

FedEx limits

Weight limits

FedEx Home Delivery ships packages up to 70 pounds. Packages that are heavier than this are considered “heavy” and may be shipped through FedEx Ground if they are under 150 pounds. For items above 150 pounds, consider using FedEx Express Freight or FedEx Freight instead — these services accept shipments that are up to 20,000 pounds. 

Outer Box

Use corrugated cardboard for the outer box and package non-corrugated boxes inside instead of shipping these boxes on their own. For instance, if a guitar you’re shipping came inside a non-corrugated box, you should place the entire box inside a corrugated cardboard box for shipping. Use double-wall boxes if the item you’re shipping is heavy but under 150 pounds. 

Inner Boxes

Separate items inside the box in their own sealed boxes if they may be damaged under normal handling conditions. 

Safety Labels

Boxes that weigh over 70 pounds must be shipped via FedEx Ground, or FedEx Express Freight or FedEx Freight. If a box weighs over 75 pounds, you are required to attach a FedEx yellow and black heavyweight safety label. These are placed over the diagonal corners of the package. To get these labels, contact FedEx or visit a FedEx location. 

Filler

If you use filler material to cushion items, center your items away from box corners and wrap items carefully with cushioning material. 

Pricing

Your charges for shipping are based on weight, the FedEx services you choose, and the destination. 

To get the most up-to-date information on weights and standards, view the general packaging guidelines from Fedex

FedEx Requirements for Large Packages

Size

FedEx Home Delivery and FedEx Ground services require packages to be under 165 inches in both length and girth. For larger shipments, you may use FedEx Express Freight services or FedEx Freight. Using FedEx Freight, you can ship packages up to 21 feet long. 

Large Packages That are Lightweight 

Compare the true weight of the package with the calculated dimensional weight. FedEx charges the heavier of these two. 

UPS Requirements and Pricing for Heavy Packages 

Box Strength

Packages weighing more than 70 pounds must meet the UPS Box Strength Guidelines. Use strong packaging designed for heavy objects. Choose brand-new boxes that haven’t been exposed to humidity. 

Sealing Boxes

Ideally, seams should be stapled or stitched shut. Glue may tear or break during shipping, and rip your package apart. Use heavy-duty, reinforced tape with three strips over the top and bottom seam and also seal the middle and edge seams completely. 

Safety Labels

The UPS safety label program begins at 70 pounds. Above this weight, packages should have yellow and black warning labels provided by UPS. The warning should be placed directly to the right of the address label. Write down the total weight on the white portion of the safety label. 

Filler

Avoid box filler that shifts or doesn’t protect heavy items. For instance, packaging peanuts and polystyrene pieces may not cushion fragile shipments enough if the items are also heavy enough to crush the filler pieces. UPS recommends that you consider alternatives that are more appropriate for shipping something heavy such as cardboard that’s custom developed for shipping. 

Pricing

Your pricing depends on the UPS service you choose, your package’s final destination, and your package’s weight. A “Large Package” or “Over the Maximum” surcharge may apply. 

Review the UPS guidelines for packaging heavy shipments. 

UPS Large Package Guidelines

Size

The maximum package size for UPS is 165 inches in both length and girth. Freight Services may allow for larger maximums, so it’s worth it to find out what specific requirements apply to what you’re shipping and where you’re shipping it. 

Large Packages That are Lightweight 

Compare the actual weight with the dimensional weight. UPS will charge you for whichever is higher. 

Large Package Surcharge 

UPS applies an additional charge for packages that exceed a length plus girth that’s over 130 inches. Unless you use Ground Freight Pricing, you’ll pay for at least 90 pounds. 

USPS Guidelines for heavy items.

USPS Limits

Weight

Packages above 70 pounds aren’t allowed. So any package you ship through USPS won’t technically be a heavy package. Under this weight limit, your packages could still seem heavy, so you may need to pack accordingly and be mindful of how you fill the boxes and protect your items. 

Boxes

Choose a durable box that’s large enough for the item and appropriate filler. If you reuse a box, make sure all logos and writing are completely crossed out. 

Closure 

Close the box with all flaps down and seal with tape. The packaging tape you use should be at least 2 inches wide. 

Pricing

Generally, pricing is determined through the USPS Flat Rates or through the package weight and destination. 

To get the most up-to-date information on weights and standards, view the general packaging guidelines from USPS.

USPS Guidelines for Large Packages 

Size

The Postal Service will ship packages up to 130 inches length and girth combined through their Retail Ground service. Normally, their limit is 108 inches. 

Large Packages That are Lightweight 

Flat Rate pricing applies for packages up to 70 pounds which allows you to use size to determine pricing. If you’re unsure, check with your local post office. 

Read more about USPS guidelines

By controlling costs and being smart about shipping, you can increase your profits. Don’t be afraid to experiment with shipping and look for the right shipping improvements for you. 

Are You Ready to Grow Your eCommerce Business With Hostdedi Managed Hosting?

In addition to the shipping strategies we’ve listed here, a great hosting plan can be instrumental to growing your business. Fortunately, Hostdedi has you covered.

Our Managed WooCommerce hosting plan is ideal for growing businesses. Specially designed to convert more sales, Hostdedi’s managed hosting for eCommerce is packed with cutting-edge technologies to reduce query load times and cart abandonment rates. Best of all, our plans arm you with more than 20 different performance tests so you’ll know you can accommodate tons of web traffic.

Hostdedi also offers a Managed Magento plan which makes sure your site stays safe, is backed up, gives you staging sites, and auto scaling so when you get a lucky traffic spike your website stays online to accept all of those payments.

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Supercharge WooCommerce with HubSpot – Hostdedi Blog

Supercharge WooCommerce with HubSpot – Hostdedi Blog

As a website / store builder, you know that tracking actionable customer interactions is key to increasing conversions. HubSpot is an industry leading suite of customer relationship tools designed to help merchants stay connected with customers during every part of the customer lifecycle. It’s no wonder then, that pairing the customer relationship superpowers of HubSpot with the technological and publishing superpowers of WordPress creates a powerful solution for staying in touch with, and marketing to future and current customers.

Let’s take a look at a few integrations between HubSpot and WooCommerce and see how they can improve your client’s online store.

So What’s HubSpot Anyway?

Think of HubSpot as a customer relationship swiss army knife that helps with marketing, sales, and service. Whether you’re tracking relationships with customers, creating landing pages, communicating with site visitors, or keeping tabs on customer service inquiries, HubSpot’s suite of tools can help.

Integrating with HubSpot

What’s even better than free expertly crafted tools? Tools that are easy to integrate. Here are two ways to integrate HubSpot directly into your client’s WordPress site.

1) The HubSpot WordPress Plugin

HubSpot’s WordPress integration is pretty awesome, and they’ve made it easy to get started. In-fact, the onboarding process is so good, all you have to do is download the plugin and follow the welcome wizard. 

When you’re done you can select which tools you want to incorporate on the site.

2) Zapier Integration

The more information you have about your customer the better. When you connect WooCommerce to HubSpot via a Zapier integration, you’ll be able to add new customers to deals, add prospects to workflows based on their product interests, and more. 

As data streams into HubSpot, you’ll be able to make manual and automated decisions on how to follow up with customers to close more sales.

The Zapier integration helps you get more data about your customers from WooCommerce into HubSpot so you can act on that data. But this integration doesn’t help you pull HubSpot features onto your site.

Incorporating HubSpot’s Free Tools

Once you have your website connected to HubSpot it’s time to pull in some of their great features.

Robust Form Builder

Building and integrating a form to generate leads should only take a few minutes with HubSpot. First, create a form in HubSpot using their drag & drop form builder. Then, embed the form on any page in your client’s WordPress site with a simple shortcode or Gutenberg block.

Live Chat

A great way to add additional value to a store is to give customers an easy way to communicate back and forth with the store owner. In fact, some studies indicate that conversion rate increases with the use of live chat. Hubspot’s Live Chat feature is a perfect way to quickly and easily integrate and test this valuable feature on your client’s website. 

In your HubSpot account enable live chat, choose a theme, and away you go. The best part is that the chat functionality integrates directly with your client’s HubSpot account to keep track of visitor interactions as they move through the funnel and become customers. 

In terms of extra setup there is none. The HubSpot for WordPress plugin takes care of the entire implementation for you.

Managing HubSpot Contacts

Finally, it’s nice to know that you can manage HubSpot contacts right within the WordPress dashboard. Keep track of online and offline interactions with contacts by using this simple yet powerful dashboard right inside the WordPress admin.

If you think the these free integrations are great, the premium integration by MakeWebBetter connects even more HubSpot functionality directly to WooCommerce like:

  • Syncing WooCommerce users, orders and products in realtime.
  • Syncing historical customer data with a click.
  • Quickly incorporating HubSpot workflows.

Hubspot is a well respected & incredibly powerful tool for any store or website owner. Their tools help store owners maintain great relationships with their customers to keep them coming back again and again.

Interested in integrating with HubSpot? Follow their documentation on how to integrate with WordPress.

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