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Four New Countries and Launch of Multi-Currency for WooCommerce Payments

Our native payment solution, WooCommerce Payments, is available in four more European countries! If you’re a merchant in Spain, France, Germany, or Italy, you can now benefit from a secure and fully integrated solution that supports new local payment methods.

In this latest iteration of WooCommerce Payments, we’ve also introduced Multi-Currency. You now have the power to accept payments in multiple currencies on your store – without the need for an extra extension!

Get started for free. No set up costs or monthly fees – just a small charge per transaction.

Increase your conversion rate

Did you know that the average cart abandonment rate is over 84% across all industries? There are a number of reasons why this happens, but a poor checkout experience is almost always a contributing factor.

With WooCommerce Payments, you can streamline the purchase process for shoppers by keeping them onsite the whole time – no redirecting to a third-party payment provider required. And with the option to save their card details on your store, future purchases are even faster.

For an even speedier checkout experience, why not offer Apple Pay® for a one-click checkout?

Go global with Multi-Currency

Dreaming of international expansion? Or maybe you want to give your existing international customers an easier way to shop? With Multi-Currency, you can choose from 135+ additional currencies to add to your store, enabling your customers to shop and browse in their preferred currency.

Now available straight out of the box – no additional extension required.

New local payment methods

Attract new customers by offering additional ways to pay. WooCommerce Payments comes with the popular European payment methods giropay and Sofort – giving you the ability to tap into new markets and offer more flexibility to your customers.

We’ll be adding more local solutions to WooCommerce Payments later in the year. Let us know what you’d like to see!

Manage everything within WooCommerce

Get access to the important transaction data you need, without having to log in to another system. As a fully integrated solution, WooCommerce Payments enables you to monitor charges, handle disputes, track deposits, and manage recurring revenue with WooCommerce Subscriptions, straight from your store’s dashboard.

Where would you like to see WooCommerce Payments next?

WooCommerce Payments is currently available in 10 countries – the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, France, Germany, and Italy.

We’re continuing to launch WooCommerce Payments in more countries this year. Keep an eye out for future announcements, and let us know if you’d like to see your country on the list.

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How to Set Up a New WooCommerce Store

There are a variety of things entrepreneurs need to consider when starting an online store. Some of them — like developing products and figuring out a marketing plan — can be time-consuming and challenging. But WooCommerce ensures that adding eCommerce functionality to your WordPress site isn’t.

We’re going to show you everything you need to get your store up and running with WooCommerce. If you’re starting from scratch, head to WooCommerce.com/start to get a site in place. Or, if you already have a self-hosted WordPress site or a WordPress.com site with a Business plan, go to the Plugins section of your dashboard to search for, add, and activate the WooCommerce plugin.

Let the WooCommerce Wizard be your guide

Every new WooCommerce installation starts with a setup wizard that walks you through all the basics of setting up your store. It asks questions about your location, industry, and products to provide recommendations specific to your needs. You’ll also have the opportunity to install extensions that provide additional functionality for things like marketing and unique types of products.

screen in the setup wizard asking about product types

You’ll then be prompted to install a theme, which controls the design and layout of your site. If you already have a WordPress site and your theme is compatible with WooCommerce, there’s no need to worry about this step. But if you’re starting from scratch, select a theme that best fits the needs of your store and brand. The free Storefront theme is a great option — it’s simple and intuitive, but can be easily customized. For more information, check out our guide to choosing a WooCommerce theme. And don’t worry; you can always switch themes later!

list of available themes for WooCommerce

Then, you can enable WooCommerce Shipping and WooCommerce Tax. While these free extensions are completely optional, they provide a ton of great benefits that simplify your life as a store owner. WooCommerce Shipping offers discounts on USPS and DHL shipping labels and the ability to print labels directly from your dashboard. WooCommerce Tax automatically calculates sales tax based on your location so you don’t have to worry about configuring rates.

screen in the Setup Wizard asking you to enable WooCommerce Shipping and Tax

Finally, you’ll see a store checklist that serves as a template for setting up the rest of your store. If you click an item on the list, you’ll be taken directly to the appropriate settings page. While you can skip these and come back to them later, let’s look at each one individually.

setup checklist in WooCommerce setup wizard

Add products

If you click on Add my products in the wizard, you’ll have the option to add products manually, import a spreadsheet, or migrate from another platform (like Shopify or BigCommerce).

If you choose to add a product manually, you’ll be taken to a blank product page. Or, you can go to Product → Add Product in the WooCommerce dashboard. There, you can add a product title, description, and photo along with information about pricing, shipping, and more.

If you’re already familiar with WordPress, you’ll notice that WooCommerce product pages are laid out a little differently than traditional pages and posts. For example, the main text box you see on a fresh new WordPress page is not where you’ll put your product description. That very important piece of writing goes in the “short product description” field further down the page.

single product created the backend of WordPress

Instead, the large text block at the top is a great place for details about the product, like its construction, components, or country of origin — whatever secondary information you want to include that isn’t imperative to selling the item.

simple product options in the backend of WooCommerce

You’ll also need to set a product type. There are a variety of product types, but the most common are simple and variable. Simple products, like a book, don’t have options or choices. Variable products have options that customers can choose from, like a shirt with different sizes and colors.

For further instructions on adding products, check out our documentation.

Note: There are other product types with slightly different settings, like digital downloads, memberships, subscriptions, and bookings. Our complete documentation walks you through everything you need to know to set those up.

Set up payments

If you choose to set up payments through the wizard, you’ll be able to select a payment gateway on the same screen. Otherwise, go to WooCommerce → Settings → Payments. You can enable cash payments, check payments, or direct bank transfers. Or, to charge customers online, set up a payment gateway.

A payment gateway securely accepts your customers’ credit card information, validates it, then transfers the money to your bank account. There are a variety of options to choose from — common gateways include PayPal and Stripe.

WooCommerce Payments dashboard

For a simple setup you can count on, install the free WooCommerce Payments extension. You can get started in a few clicks, keep customers on your site during checkout, accept Apple Pay, and manage everything from payments to refunds directly in the WooCommerce dashboard. Plus, you get extra benefits like instant deposits and payments in multiple currencies.

Read more about choosing the right payment gateway for your store.

Set up tax

To set up taxes for your store, click Set up tax in the wizard, or go to WooCommerce → Settings → Tax. You can choose to enter prices for products with or without tax, select the address you’d like to base tax calculations on, and set your tax rates, among other things.

tax options in WooCommerce settings

You’ll need to do some research into tax rates based on where you’re located and the places you sell to and consider consulting a professional. Or, simply install WooCommerce Tax to take care of everything for you.

Read our full documentation on setting up taxes.

Personalize your store

If you click Personalize my store, you can quickly set up a homepage, upload a logo, and set up a store notice, which will display across all pages on your site. Don’t worry; you can always change these later.

Set up shipping

From the setup wizard, you can confirm your store location and set shipping costs for your country and the rest of the world. This takes care of basic shipping settings, but for more specific setups, navigate to WooCommerce → Settings → Shipping. There, you can set up shipping zones (areas where products are delivered) and options like free shipping.

shipping cost options in the setup wizard

For a quick, simple setup, easy label printing, and discounts on shipping rates, give WooCommerce Shipping a try. And if you need more complicated rules — like pricing based on weight or cart totals — install WooCommerce Table Rate Shipping.

Read our full shipping documentation for more information.

Beyond the wizard: design and functionality

Once you’ve wrapped up the steps in the setup wizard, your store essentials are ready to go. But, depending on your business and products, you may want to take care of a couple of other things.

Create additional pages

If you have an existing WordPress site, you probably have all of the important pages already created (e.g. a homepage, about page, contact page, etc.). But if your site is brand new, you’ll want to get those set up.

The theme you chose took care of a lot of the design work for you, which you can customize to fit your brand and store (see your theme documentation for details). You can also add visually-appealing content to any page with the drag-and-drop WordPress editor.

Add extensions

Extensions are similar to WordPress plugins, but are add-ons specifically for WooCommerce. Not every store will need extensions — WooCommerce provides all the basics out of the box — but you may want some for additional functionality.

We already discussed a few extensions for different product types (like memberships or subscriptions), shipping, payments, and taxes. But there are also great options for marketing, store management, and user experience. You can view all extensions in the WooCommerce Marketplace.

But, it is important not to get too carried away. You see, installing too many can slow down your site and clutter your dashboard. Instead, focus on ones that boost the user experience overall.

Not sure where to start? Take a look at WooCommerce Essentials — a handpicked collection of extensions designed to help new store owners launch their business. They’re grouped based on their purpose (growth, security, customization, etc.) and are fully vetted and trusted by the WooCommerce team.

Secure your store

Once you’ve set up your store, you don’t want to risk losing it! It just takes a few easy steps to secure everything, from content and order information to customer data.

For an easy, fast setup, consider purchasing Jetpack Security, which includes everything you need to secure your WooCommerce store from backups and malware scans to spam prevention. Or, take advantage of Jetpack’s free security tools, like brute force attack prevention and downtime monitoring.

Join the WooCommerce Community

A good community is invaluable and, though we’re (admittedly) biased, we think the WooCommerce Community is the best. It’s a great opportunity for you to learn from others’ experiences, share your own, and connect with stores that are encountering the same things as you. Plus, there are lots of great people who really want to help you succeed.

Ready to get started? Begin your WooCommerce journey today.

Want More Revenue? Improve Users’ Checkout Experience

Averaged across all industries, roughly seven out of ten shoppers will abandon their cart. If this number seems shocking, you’ll be disappointed to know that mobile users abandon carts at a rate of almost 86%. You can always try to win those customers back with abandoned cart emails (and you should), but preventing cart abandonment in the first place should be a high priority.

There are a number of reasons shoppers might leave your store without finalizing their order. If your site loads slowly, isn’t optimized for mobile display, doesn’t attract the right kind of traffic, or lacks quality product images and descriptions, you’ll certainly want to work to improve these areas.

But creating a smooth, easy-breezy checkout experience is even more important. No matter how amazing your site is or how irresistible your products are, if you have a cumbersome or confusing checkout process, you’re going to lose sales.

Many problems with your checkout’s UX can be solved with some simple design changes, added functionality, or increased transparency. Here are seven ways to improve checkout UX:

Be transparent with taxes and shipping costs

Encountering unexpected costs is the number one reason customers jump ship during the checkout process.

Just over a decade ago, people in the U.S. were used to online purchases being tax-free. The 2008 landmark Supreme Court case South Dakota v. Wayfair changed all that and, gradually, state after state began adopting similar policies that required many online merchants to pay sales tax. By early 2017, Amazon made the decision to charge sales tax for all purchases from any U.S. state. This pushed a lot of major retailers to do the same and has normalized sales tax on online purchases to a great degree.

Some people may still be surprised by sales tax, however, especially when purchasing from smaller shops. Being clear that your price is exclusive of tax on your product page, either next to the price or in your short description, will help prepare the customer for additional charges at checkout.

And just as big players like Amazon have conditioned many consumers to expect sales tax, they’ve also accustomed folks to free shipping. In fact, a 2017 report found that 75% of consumers in the U.S. expect free shipping — even when they’re spending less than $50 on an order.

Depending on how you configure your shipping charges, there are a few approaches you can take to increase transparency:

  • Include shipping costs in the product description. This is a great solution if you have just one or two flat rate shipping costs for all your products.
  • Add a shipping calculator to your product page. If you charge different shipping rates based on location or methods, you might want to add a shipping calculator on your product pages.
  • Simply mention “+ shipping.” This gives customers the expectation that shipping costs will be added to their total.

Allow guest checkout and single sign-on (SSO)

Creating an account can be annoying. Just when you’re ready to check out, you’re asked to enter your email address, wait on a confirmation email, and create a secure password. This is enough to keep 23% of site visitors from completing their orders.

In WooCommerce, you can easily allow users to check out as guests in WooCommerce → Settings → Accounts & Privacy:

guest checkout settings in WooCommerce

If you have products in your store that require an account (like software with license keys or wholesale products with restricted access), you can use WooCommerce Subscriptions and WooCommerce Memberships to manage these products and users without impeding checkout for everyone else.

However, you may still want to give customers the option to create an account for future use. In that case, make this as quick and painless as possible.

In your WooCommerce settings, enable the option “Allow customers to create an account during checkout.” This makes the account creation process as simple as clicking an opt-in style checkbox on the same page they enter payment information.

account creation settings in WooCommerce
Options in WooCommerce –> Settings –> Accounts & Privacy

Below is an example of how Badeloft USA, an online retailer of unique, high-end bath fixtures, has made account creation an easy option. Customers can choose to create an account while they’re entering the rest of their information. The only added steps are checking the “Create an account?” box and adding a password.

An example of simple, quick account creation during the checkout process from Badeloft USA.
An example of simple, quick account creation during the checkout process from Badeloft USA.

Another great option is enabling single sign-on (SSO) through third-party accounts. Many consumers prefer this method in an effort to:

  • Avoid filling out registration forms.
  • Limit the number of usernames and passwords they have to remember.
  • Use the same identity across multiple platforms.
Example of SSO from All Blacks
Example of SSO from All Blacks

If you think SSO would be a good fit for your store, WooCommerce Social Login gives users the ability to sign in through their Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, PayPal, Disqus, Yahoo, or VK accounts.

Keep your checkout process clear and simple

Long forms and visual distractions are a conversion killer, so try to keep the customer focused on completing the transaction, not forcing them to jump through too many hoops.

Set expectations with clear cues and prompts. Guiding your customer through the order process can be extremely helpful, especially when you have a multi-page checkout. Using visual cues, like numbering the steps, can help visitors know what to expect.

Eliminate visual clutter. Remove navigation, footer menus, and other distractions from your checkout page so that the customer isn’t tempted to stray from completing their order.

Example of a numbered multi-step checkout, free from distracting menus, search bars, or other links from Dr. Scholl’s.
Example of a numbered multi-step checkout, free from distracting menus, search bars, or other links from Dr. Scholl’s.

Minimize checkout fields. Asking customers to input their email addresses or other information more than once might seem like a good way to guarantee accuracy, but it’s also a good way to annoy users. According to one study, 30% of shoppers said they would abandon their purchase if they had to re-enter details. Improve conversions by limiting the fields a customer must complete to only what is absolutely necessary.

Implement a one-page checkout. With WooCommerce One Page Checkout, implementing a simple shortcode will add a checkout form to any page. This keeps the customer focused on the offer in front of them and simplifies checkout.

Allow customers to pay via convenient methods

Accept the payment methods that your audience prefers. This may mean offering several options to fit everyone’s needs, including:

  • Credit cards. This is likely the most well-known payment method offered on eCommerce sites, but not everyone might have their card with them when making a purchase. Or, maybe they don’t have a credit card.
  • Bank drafts (ACH). Some visitors might prefer to purchase directly with their checking account. An added benefit for store owners is that ACH payments often have lower merchant fees.
  • Digital wallets. Digital wallets store payment information that can be accessed across multiple devices. They’re more popular than you might think — twice as many eCommerce transactions are made with mobile wallets than credit cards. And this disparity is only expected to grow. Apple Pay, PayPal, and Amazon Pay are some popular examples.
  • Installment payments. If you have higher-priced items in your store or find customers prefer it, you might want to offer installment payments. PayPal provides installment solutions, or you can create your own custom plans with WooCommerce Deposits.

There’s no ideal number of options that any given store should offer. It’s completely dependent on what works best for your company and fits with the preferences of your audience. Whichever combination of payment methods you choose, you’ll want to make sure to present them clearly so as not to be overwhelming to the customer.

An example from Dryft of a concise payment options form with an accordion feature.
An example from Dryft of a concise payment options form with an accordion feature. Additional fields or details pertaining to each payment method are only revealed when selected by the user.

Provide a secure checkout experience

Some shoppers might abandon their purchase if they don’t feel like their information is safe. Providing a variety of payment options, as discussed above, can help people feel more confident in making a purchase, but there are also other things you can do to help:

  • Use an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate encrypts and secures the data that you collect on your site, including credit card data, addresses, emails, and more. Not only is this a must from a security standpoint, it also goes a long way towards increasing customer perception. Why? Because, with an SSL certificate, your site will show a lock symbol in the browser URL bar while, without one, it will display as “not secure.”
  • Highlight security features. Include reassuring badges and verbiage on your checkout page with terms like secure checkout and include badges for your accepted payment methods.
  • Keep users on your site throughout the checkout process. Some payment methods direct customers away from your website to their own portal to complete checkout. This can be a jarring experience and cause them to lose trust in your business. Using a payment solution like WooCommerce Payments keeps customers on your site the entire time.
  • Include product guarantees and statements of authenticity. If you have products that might be subject to high return rates or counterfeiting, consider adding reassuring icons or text to your checkout page. Remind visitors of your return policies or that items are guaranteed to be authentic.
A great example of featuring icons and verbiage that communicate security and product authenticity from GDY.
A great example of featuring icons and verbiage that communicate security and product authenticity from GDY.

Implement a hassle-free return policy

Not only should you create a return policy that’s cost-effective for your business, it should also be easy for your customers. Hassles with return merchandise authorizations (RMAs), multiple return stipulations, and making the buyer pay for return shipping, can all have a negative impact on your conversion rates.

Figure out a policy that’s simple for all parties to understand and accommodating to customers. Make it easy to find by listing it in a details tab on your product page, adding a link in your website footer, and including a brief summary on your checkout page.

Provide expedited delivery options

Another thing customers have come to expect is lightning-fast shipping. But most smaller online retailers don’t have the capability to deliver as quickly as giant conglomerates. At best, you’re probably looking at delivery within three business days unless you use expensive shipping methods like Next Day Air.

You might think that since customers practically demand free shipping these days, that they might not want to pay for other shipping methods. However, if they need a product in a certain time frame (for a birthday or other special occasion), they’re probably willing to pay extra to get their order quickly. Offering expedited shipping may help you convert those customers that simply cannot wait more than two days for that Father’s Day gift that they definitely did not forget to order until the last minute.

Make sure your checkout is actually working

Store owners can sometimes get busy and not make a routine habit of checking site functionality. Maybe your recent plugin update caused conflicts with your theme or WooCommerce itself. Perhaps a payment gateway’s servers are down (it happens!).

Even if your checkout still works, you may find that updates to your site occasionally cause unexpected changes to forms that might make the order process more awkward. Create a backup of your site before updating, then test your checkout process afterwards to make sure everything appears in the correct format and operates smoothly.

These suggestions for improving your checkout’s UX may feel like a lot to digest, but just implementing a few of them can make a huge difference in your conversion rates. Start with the ones that are the quickest and easiest for you to carry out and see how those changes make a positive impact on your customers’ experience and your sales.

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Ten Ways to Improve the Speed of Your WooCommerce Store

Imagine that you’re a shopper, searching for a gift box of chocolates. One of the websites you come across seems to take forever to load each page, and it quickly becomes frustrating to find what you’re looking for. So what do you do? You leave and go to another store.

This is the perfect example of why eCommerce site speed is so important. If customers can’t navigate your store and find what they’re looking for immediately (within two seconds, to be exact), they’ll shop somewhere else. That means that you lose customers that would have purchased your products. And who wants that?

Let’s take a look at how quickly your site loads and actionable ways to improve your online store speed.

Measuring site speed

Start by understanding how your site performs right now. There are a variety of tools that help you do this, including:

  • GTMetrix. This provides a performance score, breaks down metrics like “fully loaded time,” and offers detailed recommendations for speed improvements.
  • Pingdom Website Speed Test. This features a simpler, more direct interface, along with important metrics like load time and page size. You can also select a location from which to test.
  • PageSpeed Insights. This shows scores directly from Google, split between mobile and desktop.
GTMetrix report for WooCommerce.com

For the most accurate results, test using multiple tools. This gives you a good idea of how quickly your site loads and allows you to see how your optimization improves load time.

Tips for a fast eCommerce store

1. Start with a high-quality host

Your host provides the speed foundation for your entire website, so it’s important to choose one that focuses on performance. Look for features like:

  • Server-side caching
  • Enough resources for your site needs, like bandwidth and RAM
  • High-performance SSD drives
  • Updated software, like PHP and MYSQL

In many cases, if you’re on a shared hosting plan, thousands of websites are piled on the same server, using the same resources. Choose a hosting provider that limits the number of sites on each server, or consider upgrading to a VPS or dedicated plan so that you have your own server space.

Not sure where to start? Check out our recommended hosts.

2. Choose a fast, reliable theme

The more complex a theme, the more code it installs on your site, and the slower your site loads. This is especially true if you use a theme that includes plugins or page builders.

Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t use a “heavy” theme — you may need the additional functionality or design tools — but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Many themes also allow you to turn off features you’re not using, which is a great way to balance your site needs with speed concerns.

How do you know if a theme is fast? Try running its demo pages through the speed tools we mentioned earlier, or read through customer reviews to see what real users have to say.

Storefront theme and color customization settings

The Storefront theme is an excellent starting point. It’s simple and fast, but intuitive and flexible at the same time.

3. Limit the plugins you use

Plugins are one of the biggest benefits of WordPress because they allow for endless flexibility. However, this doesn’t mean that you should install all of them.

Plugins can impact speed by:

  • Sending additional HTTP requests. Many plugins add extra Javascript or CSS files to your site, increasing the number of HTTP requests sent to your server and thus slowing down your store.
  • Adding database queries. A lot of plugins pull information from your database to display elements on the front-end, which increases the load on your server.
  • Taking up hosting resources. The more plugins you have, the more server resources you use. And, if you go over your hosting plan’s allocated resources, your load time will suffer.
WooCommerce extension library

But it’s not just about the number of plugins you install — there’s not a right or wrong number — it’s also about the quality. Choose plugins that serve multiple functions, check reviews for information about speed, make sure that they’re regularly updated, and install options from reliable sources (like the WordPress.org repository or the official WooCommerce Marketplace.)

And if you want an idea of how a specific plugin impacts your site, try downloading the P3 Plugin Performance Profiler.

4. Keep WordPress, themes, and plugins updated

WordPress core, theme, and plugin updates often include more than just cool new features or security patches. In many cases, they’ll actually improve your site speed with optimized code.

Make sure that you perform updates every time they’re available. Or, if you don’t want to check frequently, you can turn on auto-updates in your WordPress settings.

5. Compress your images

Images are some of the heaviest, most difficult files for your server to handle, so you want to make them as small as possible. However, it’s also important to balance image quality with size. After all, you don’t want blurry product pictures! Here are some good steps to take:

  • Choose the right format. Unless your image has a transparent background, it’s usually best to upload JPEG files, which are smaller.
  • Only use the size you need. If the space you’re filling is only 500 pixels wide, don’t upload a 2000-pixel-wide image.
  • Run the image through a compressor. Image compressors strip your pictures of unnecessary data and information, thus reducing their file size. Plugins like EWWW Image Optimizer and Smush take care of this for you automatically. Or, if you use a Mac, you might consider running your images through ImageOptim prior to upload.

Read our post about optimizing eCommerce images for even more details.

6. Consider lazy loading images

If you have longer pages or a lot of images on your site, you may want to consider enabling image lazy loading. This functionality automatically delays the loading of images until a site visitor scrolls down to where they appear on the page. This means that your customers won’t have to sit around and wait for all of your media to load before they can consume your content (or purchase your products!)

There are a variety of tools available, including Jetpack’s free lazy loading feature that can be enabled with just one click.

7. Install a caching plugin

Every time someone visits your store, their browser has to load all of your site data: images, videos, Javascript, CSS, etc. Depending on the size of your site, this can take a while! But when you enable caching, their browser saves a copy of your site files, so that when they return, it will load much more quickly.

Some hosting providers offer this on a server level, but you can also use a plugin like WP Super Cache.

8. Set up a CDN

A content delivery network (CDN) is a network of distributed servers around the world. It downloads images, videos, and other assets from your site and serves them through its own network, taking the strain off of your server.

While this is a great solution for any store, it’s especially useful if you sell internationally. For example, if your server is located in New York and someone visits from India, your site would typically load from that New York server. But a CDN loads your site from the server that’s closest to each individual customer. This means that every single visitor gets the most optimal speed experience.

settings page, where you can turn on Jetpack CDN with one click

CDNs can be difficult to set up, especially if you’re not familiar with them. But Jetpack offers an excellent option for images, videos, Javascript, and CSS files that you can turn on with a single click.

9. Prevent brute force attacks

Brute force attacks occur when hackers use bots to try to access your site. They can try thousands of username and password combinations per minute!

But wait — this sounds like a security issue, not a speed issue.

Yes, it definitely impacts security, but when that many login attempts happen per minute, it can put a huge strain on your server and slow things down dramatically. Thankfully, preventing brute force attacks is easy. All you have to do is enable Jetpack’s free brute force attack protection feature.

10. Update your PHP version and increase your memory limit

You want to upgrade the version of PHP you’re using (the programming language WordPress is written in) for the same reason you want to update themes and plugins. Each update is faster than the last and can increase your site performance.

Your host determines the version of PHP that you use, and you can normally change it in your hosting control panel, though the exact steps depend on your provider. Or, simply reach out to customer support and ask them to do this for you.

You can find the minimum WordPress PHP requirements here. Note that we do recommend making a full backup of your site before updating your PHP version and testing everything to ensure it works properly.

Now, what about your memory limit?

Your website has a certain amount of memory allocated to it by your hosting provider. But, depending on your specific site, you may exceed that limit (e.g. WooCommerce recommends a minimum of 128 MB).

In many cases, you can increase your memory limit in your hosting control panel (see our guide on this) but, if not, you can always reach out to your hosting provider.

Don’t miss out on valuable sales

The last thing you want is to lose sales from people who intended to purchase your products. But if your site loads too slowly, then that’s a very good possibility.

All it takes is a few simple steps to dramatically improve the speed of your online store. Don’t wait until it’s too late — get started today!

Customize your store with official extensions for WooCommerce in our marketplace
Your Complete Guide to WooCommerce Coupons

Everyone loves a good sale! Whether it’s for your own store’s special occasion (your annual anniversary celebration, perhaps?) or for a larger event like Black Friday/Cyber Monday, there’s no question that giving your customers a discount will boost sales. Offering a discount can also increase customer loyalty and satisfaction —  a definite win for your shop.

When to offer discounts and coupons

There are two schools of thought when it comes to discounts. You can hold a promotion at busy times of the year to boost your already increased sales. Or, you can use a discount to lift purchases during a slow season or to help move a poorly performing product.

Either way, there are plenty of good times to offer a sale to your customers. Consider creating coupon codes or discounts specifically for:

  • Holidays. The biggest ones are the winter holiday season (including Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and other big gift-giving holidays like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and wedding season (think late spring through early fall). Connecting with shoppers who are already on the hunt for gifts — and who may be feeling a budget strain — is a great way to bond with them and show that you understand their needs.
  • New product launches. Make a big splash with your latest and greatest products by offering them at a discounted rate. Your customers will be more likely to try something new, and once you have your foot in the door, they’ll be ready to come back for more.
  • Items with sluggish sales. Looking to clear some space in your warehouse? Putting slow-moving items on a flash sale is a great way to create demand and get them out the door. This might also serve to boost sales overall, as customers will often buy non-sale items while they’re at it.
  • Shoppers who abandon their carts. When a customer puts something in their cart but doesn’t complete the checkout process, they might need a little extra push to finish their purchase. Why not send them a perk via email to nudge them in the right direction?
  • Fans who haven’t purchased anything recently. Keep an eye out for customers who have purchased in the past, but haven’t been back in a while. Offering them a discount code can help bring them back into the fold. MailPoet is a great tool to make this happen. 

How to set up discounts and coupons in WooCommerce

The basics

WooCommerce has native, built-in support for coupon codes and discounts. You can start offering simple sales to your customers from day one.

coupon dashboard inside of WooCommerce

Step One. Start under Marketing → Coupons in your WordPress. From here, you can see a list of all your coupons, and use the Add Coupon button to create a new code.

Step Two. Add your new coupon code — the string you’d like customers to enter as they check out. You can also add a description, which is for your own information and won’t be visible to customers.

Step Three. Set the rules for this coupon in the Coupon Data section. In the:

  • General tab: Choose whether your coupon is a percentage rate (percentage of total cart), fixed cart (set dollar amount discount on entire cart), or fixed product (set dollar amount discount for each product of a specific type) discount, and then enter the numeric amount. You can also use this tab to allow free shipping in combination with this offer, and to set an expiration date.
  • Usage Restriction tab: Set rules for your coupon including minimum and maximum spends, product inclusions and exclusions, and lists of specific customers that can use this discount.
  • Usage Limits tab: Limit the number of times this coupon can be used by an individual person.

Step Four. Save your coupon, and then you’re ready to promote it online. Publish your coupon code string, along with any restrictions for use, on your social media platforms, in online ads, or in a newsletter, and get it out to your core audience.

The next level

Want to do even more with coupons? Extensions like WooCommerce Smart Coupons add flexibility and functionality to your sales. You’ll be able to:

  • Set up coupons that are automatically applied at checkout, even without entering a code.
  • Fine-tune shipping rules and exemptions associated with each coupon.
  • Offer a custom, auto-generated code after each purchase.
  • Create “gift card” style coupons that have a fixed discount value and can be used multiple times.
  • Create coupons that offer a free gift with purchase.
  • Create location-based coupons.
  • Create coupons for use by first-time buyers only. 
a free eBook delivered from WooCommerce Smart Coupons

The more possibilities you can offer your customers, the more they’ll feel valued and the more sales you’ll generate. Consider taking full advantage of all options and trying different combinations of offers and timings to find the best fit for your audience.

What about flash sales?

There may be times when you want to make sale prices permanent, such as on slow-moving products that you don’t plan to restock. But in general, a sale is a limited-time event, often with limited quantities. The more limited the time and quantity, the more impulse buys it will generate.

When planning a flash sale, keep in mind these key rules:

  • Offer a deeper discount than usual. Flash sales usually involve bigger sales, justifying their short time period, so make sure your coupon rates match customer expectations.
  • Narrow your offerings. Flash sales are ideal for just a handful of products of a specific type or category.
  • Make sure you have lots of inventory. Although most flash sales involve a “while quantities last” rider, you don’t want to advertise your sale, only to cause a lot of disappointment with your audience. Choose items that you have a lot of — off-season items or products that haven’t been selling well are ideal.
  • Keep it simple. Make your coupon code easy to remember and use, and the savings clear and understandable.
  • Promote, promote, promote. Get the word out on all your marketing channels: think social media, online ads, email, and collaborations with your go-to influencers.

Flash sales can be a huge boost to your online shop, so consider working them into your overall discount and sales strategy.

Other powerful discount tools

Discounts don’t have to just be coupon codes. Special offers that show your customers that they’re valued and can expect good deals from your online shop are also ways to build loyalty and increase sales.

For example, you could offer:

  • Automatic discounts for lost shoppers. Send automatically-generated emails with discount codes to customers who abandoned their carts, haven’t purchased in a while, or have let subscriptions lapse with the powerful AutomateWoo extension.
  • BOGO deals. Give away one free item when a customer purchases an item of equivalent value, using the WooCommerce BOGO extension.
  • Free gifts with purchase. Allow users to choose their own free gift, tied to the amount of their cart, using the WooCommerce Free Gift extension.
  • Free shipping. Use the native WooCommerce coupon code functionality to create codes that grant free shipping for certain cart levels.
  • Birthday codes. Send loyal customers a unique coupon code for use on their birthday only with the AutomateWoo Birthday’s Add-on.
  • Loyalty points and rewards. Encourage returning customers to sign up for your points system and earn their own discounts with the WooCommerce Points and Rewards extension.

Coupons, discounts, and sales are a critical part of your overall growth strategy. Don’t be afraid to try different tactics and find out what works best for your own audience. Although it can seem counterintuitive, offering discounts can actually lead to more sales and a healthier online shop — so get discounting and get selling!

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How to Crowdfund with WordPress

It’s amazing what a community can accomplish when it works together. Crowdfunding has empowered like-minded people to join hands and, through many small donations, fund charity efforts, exciting new innovations, and artistic endeavors.

It’s easy to set up crowdfunding on your own website using WordPress and an eCommerce plugin like WooCommerce. Gather your audience with effective calls to action that will allow flexible donations and track your progress, whether you have one main goal or many different campaigns.

Why WooCommerce for crowdfunding?

If you’ll be crowdfunding regularly — be it an annual campaign or frequent drives to fund new projects — you’ll benefit from setting up a donation system on your own website. Using WordPress with WooCommerce will ensure your solution has the best possible features. It’s:

Cost-effective

You’ll save on the fees that other platforms charge by hosting your fundraiser on your own website. Kickstarter, for example, charges 5% of raised funds as its fee, plus flat charges per transaction and an additional percentage to cover credit card processing. If you’re fundraising for a large project, this can really add up.

When you crowdfund on your own platform, you’ll just need to cover credit card processing. There’s no extra charge per transaction or any hidden fees, so you can keep more of each donation amount — meaning you’ll be able to reach your fundraising goals faster and easier.

Scalable 

No matter how many people visit your site, WooCommerce combined with solid hosting can handle the traffic bump and increased data storage that comes from launching a new campaign. You can expand and grow, while WooCommerce keeps track of donation amounts and donor contact information. 

Want to allow your donors to create accounts and store their info for future ease of use? No problem — any user can create a profile and log in for a speedier checkout next time.

Customizable 

By keeping your crowdfunding push on your own website, you’ll have complete control over your brand. New donors will be able to learn about your cause or your company through on-site messaging, and your existing audience will be able to trust that they’re in the right place.

Keeping it all under your own umbrella means you can also ensure sure that your campaigns are the only ones being suggested for consideration. Don’t worry about shared donation websites distracting your community with other drives, ideas, or opportunities; your own content is all they’ll see when they donate.

WooCommerce welcome screen

Flexible

Want to do more for your community than just take donations? WordPress plus WooCommerce means that you’ll be able to integrate other services and functionality in one complete system. 

Consider enticing your donors by adding the ability to:

  • Purchase fundraising items or swag.
  • Gain access to exclusive content like videos, photo galleries, or downloads.
  • Be notified first when new crowdfunding opportunities arise, or receive updates on projects they helped fund.
  • Support your partners as they run their own third-party campaigns.
  • Donate in their home currency.
  • Learn more about your causes through your blog.

It’s all possible with the power of WooCommerce.

Ready for SEO

Don’t hide your campaigns and drives under the mask of another platform’s algorithms. There’s no need for your community to dig for your information.

WordPress and WooCommerce have excellent built-in SEO features that integrate well with search engines. Your own campaigns under your own brand will be directly searchable and findable.

Pair that with some fundamental SEO best practices and you’ve got a winning combination. Learn more about search engine optimization for beginners

Easy to analyze

With WooCommerce Analytics, you’ll be able to track who’s donating and how much. Built-in reports can show you where your messaging is having the most impact, and which campaigns are generating the biggest response. Use these powerful statistics to improve your marketing, increase awareness, and target your audience with precision.

How to crowdfund with WooCommerce

crowdfunding example on a product

To start, you’ll need the Crowdfunding for WooCommerce extension. You’ll be able to:

  • Create a product that represents your fundraising project.
  • Set a minimum and maximum donation amount.
  • Set an overall goal for the drive and track donations towards the goal with a customizable progress bar.
  • Control what gets counted as a donation. Add only completed orders or include ones that are on-hold or processing.
  • Embed your campaign on your homepage, landing page, sidebar, or blog post.
  • Link directly to your campaign from newsletters and social media.
  • Block campaign products from being displayed in your regular storefront.

With WooCommerce on the back end of your website, setting up a crowdfunding campaign is a matter of just a few clicks.

Additional functionality

Want to take your crowdfunding to the next level? 

offering a free gift on the checkout page

Consider extending your efforts with:

  • Free Gifts for WooCommerce. Give your donors a choice of gifts for making a donation — and tie your gift to their donation amount. Send gifts manually after the order has been processed or automatically add it to their cart at checkout.
  • WooCommerce Product Add-Ons. Allow your generous community to add a percentage to their donation to cover any credit card charges you’ll incur when processing their donation. 
  • Buy now, pay later. Consider choosing a payment gateway that allows benefactors to commit now, but have their card charged after a certain date.

Flexibility? Check. Cost-effectiveness? Check. Ease of use? Definitely. Crowdfunding with WooCommerce has never been simpler or faster.

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Tips for Successful Inventory Management

Do you sell physical products in your WooCommerce store? Then you already know that inventory management is key to a successful shop. Thankfully, you can take advantage of tools that go beyond the basics so you can fulfill orders with confidence and speed.

Why advanced inventory management matters

When you’re managing a sales system, all your income streams must work together cohesively. This will save you time and money, allow you to manage your stock levels effectively, and make sure that your customers are happy. Effective inventory management means that:

  • You’re not losing sales. Inventory tracking enables you to effectively manage your supply chain and make sure you never lose a sale due to out-of-stock products.
  • Your customers trust you. If your customers know that you’ll have what they want, when they want it, your shop will be their first — and only — stop when placing an order.
  • You understand what’s working for your business. Tracking your inventory means that you’re also tracking business growth. You can use this information to focus on your best-selling products.
  • You’re able to automate business processes. Don’t waste time manually updating inventory levels and trying to restock products before they run out. By automating this process, you’ll be much more efficient.

Ready to take your online shop to the next level? Then make sure your inventory management and order fulfillment is top tier.

Sync inventory with your physical location

One of the biggest challenges in managing inventory is balancing availability between your online storefront and your physical shop. You can overcome this challenge with the Point of Sale for WooCommerce extension.

WooCommerce POS screen on a tablet

Share one cohesive interface — and all of your data — with your WooCommerce store and physical location. Convert any tablet or phone into a checkout station, or use tools like credit card scanners. Your point-of-sale terminals can scan barcodes, enter customer loyalty information, and handle manual changes like discounts and refunds with ease.

When both stores share the same WooCommerce data, tracking your inventory is a piece of cake. You’ll keep your supply chain flowing, sales happening, and customers happy.

Update in bulk

Online shops can sometimes feature hundreds of products, and keeping track of inventory for each variation can become a full-time job. You don’t want to have to manually update stock information for each and every product when it comes in.

The Bulk Stock Management extension makes managing your shop much easier. Use bulk operations to update stock information for multiple — or even all — of your products at once. Also handy? The current inventory report feature, which gives you an up-to-the-minute snapshot of what’s in your store.

Automate reorder notifications

Don’t want to handle the day-to-day numbers of inventory yourself? Keep your support staff in the loop using the Advanced Notifications extension.

You’ll be able to let the right people know when inventory is low and it’s time to re-order, whether it’s someone on your own staff or a third-party supplier. Easy rules allow you to set up notifications for various thresholds and control exactly who receives which notifications.

Instead of hovering over numbers all day, you’ll be able to spend your time on the more important parts of your business, knowing that your inventory is being taken care of behind the scenes.

Predict your inventory future

As a business owner, you need to know where your business is now, and where its future lies. Managing your inventory means not just keeping items in stock, but knowing what’s selling well, what’s likely to sell well in the future, and what just isn’t working.

WooCommerce offers a variety of detailed analytics reports, which are key to understanding your business needs. They can guide your decisions by giving you complete access to your data in easy-to-read, sortable charts. You can learn:

  • What your total sales were for a given time period.
  • How many items you sold on an individual or category basis.
  • How many refunds you issued.
  • Which coupons were the most popular.
  • And more!

With these key metrics in place, you can accurately decide what to reorder, and when, for maximum profit margins.

Keep customers in the loop

Running out of your most popular items can — and will — happen from time to time. Make sure your customers are always kept up to date with the latest stock information, to avoid disappointment and encourage future sales.

product available for pre-order

Consider adding extensions like:

  • WooCommerce Waitlist. Notify customers when an item they want is back in stock and export a list of customers waiting for each product.
  • WooCommerce Pre-Orders. Make sure you have enough stock on hand for product launches by allowing your best customers to place their orders in advance.
  • Follow-Ups. Notify past purchasers about discontinued products or popular items that are back in stock.

Successful inventory management means a successful shop

When you’re on top of what’s coming in and going out, you can keep operations running smoothly. Reduce missed sales because of out-of-stock items while maximizing efficiency by identifying and eliminating underperforming products.
Most importantly, an automated, accurate, and efficient inventory management system is a major requirement if you want to scale your store. It allows you to delegate responsibilities and reclaim your time for the most important tasks.

Congratulations! With just a few of these tools, you’ll be on your way to a larger, more efficient store.

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Why a Service-Based Business Needs an Online Store and How to Set One Up

If you sell services, then you understand the importance of a strong online presence. It helps you reach clients, demonstrates that you’re professional, shares valuable information about your offerings, and gives you a platform to market your business.

But have you considered creating an online store to sell your services? That’s right: online stores are an excellent tool for more than just product-focused companies. They also help service-based businesses be more efficient, make more money, and keep their clients happy. 

Let’s take a look at why an online store is the right choice to sell your services and how you can easily add a WooCommerce shop to your existing WordPress site. 

Why a service-based business needs an online store

There are a lot of reasons to use WooCommerce to sell your services. It enables you to:  

1. Easily accept payments

It can be tricky to manage payments for a service-based business. You’re often left depositing checks, remembering to send and follow-up on invoices, and handling payment information from a variety of sources. 

But listing your services online automates that process. For example, if you sell graphic design services, you might have one “product” listing for logo design, one for business cards, and another for custom illustrations. If a client wants a logo, they can pay for it ahead of time online, so you’re not left sending invoices, coordinating payments, and following up.  

This also makes things easier on your clients. They can purchase your services from the office, from home, or even on-the-go with their mobile phone at any time. And if you enable multiple payment options, they can use their credit card, PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, or whatever’s easiest for them.

services listed on yourbenefitstore
Photo © https://yourbenefitstore.com/

For example, YourBenefitStore.com, an insurance company, listed all of their individual plans on their WooCommerce site. Clients can view all of them at once, purchase the exact plan they need, and even select coverage options. The entire system is seamless and easy for the business and the client.

If paid advertising is part of your marketing strategy, you can even send interested leads directly to product pages to purchase your services without requiring them to send an email or pick up the phone.  

2. Manage recurring payments 

Like many service-based businesses, you may charge recurring payments for maintenance plans. But remembering to send invoices every month or year can be a hassle and, if you forget, you could miss out on income.

WooCommerce Subscriptions automates this entire process for you. Let’s say that you sell pest control services, offering treatments every month. Clients can purchase a subscription to your service and WooCommerce will automatically charge their card on a monthly basis. If their card is declined for any reason, they’ll receive a notification to update the information on their account. No more following up! They can also upgrade or downgrade their plan by logging into their account without having to call or email your customer support team.

3. Charge for service upgrades

Some of your services may have optional upgrades that help your clients get exactly what they need for their unique situation. With the Product Add-Ons extension, you can easily include those on your product pages and automatically update the price of your services based on what clients select. 

extra options for airport parking
Photo © https://www.civapark.com/

CivaPark, a secure indoor airport parking lot, offers upgrades like vehicle cleaning and gasoline refills. These are optional for customers, but are great additions that make their services feel personalized.

4. Create a client portal

After a client purchases one of your services, they automatically get access to an account page. With physical products, this page would allow them to view shipping information, review and edit orders, etc. But with a few changes, you can also use this as a valuable client information portal!

If you’re a developer, or have one on-hand, you can make some PHP modifications to add custom sections for forms, documentation downloads, important information for each individual client, useful content, and more. Or, without any coding knowledge, you could use the WooCommerce Memberships extension to allow access to courses, content, and forms just for paying clients.

For example, if you’re a financial advisor, you might create a form that asks introductory questions about your client’s finances, include a helpful eBook about making good investment decisions, and share a set of videos about how to get started with your team.

5. Set up appointments 

In many cases, clients will need to book appointments, whether you deliver services over the phone, on Zoom, or in person. Streamline this process with the WooCommerce Bookings extension. You can set fixed times that you’re available and allow clients to choose the time that best fits their schedule. Plus, you can automatically send out confirmations and reminders to reduce the chances of a no-show.

ShadowTrader services listing
Photo © https://www.shadowtrader.net/

If you want more control or to ask your client questions before setting up an appointment, you could always simply sell an appointment as a product, then reach out to the buyer after purchase. This is what ShadowTrader does with one-on-one stock consultations. Rather than letting clients choose a time directly on the site, they can go ahead and purchase the consultation, then connect directly with a staff member to make an appointment. It’s all about what’s best for your business and your team.

6. Sell online courses

You’re an expert in your industry, whether that’s interior design, web development, watercolor painting, or baking. Have you considered sharing that knowledge with people who want to learn?

With the WooCommerce Paid Courses extension, you can create classes with videos, lessons, and quizzes, then sell them on your website. This is an excellent way to generate extra, relatively passive, income for your business.

7. Handle everything in one place

If you’re already running your site on WordPress — creating content, updating business information, and accepting contact forms — then adding your billing process to the same platform improves your efficiency. 

From the exact same dashboard you’re already familiar with, you can list services, accept payments, issue refunds, and manage clients. It’s seamless!

8. Display offerings in a visually-pleasing way

One of the best parts of selling services with WooCommerce is the ability to display all of your services in a compelling way.

grid showing options for guided motorcycle tours
Photo © https://motorcycletourspuertorico.com/

Showcase them in a grid, like Motorcycle Tours Puerto Rico, with big images and fun details. Or, make it easy for clients to add multiple services to their cart at once with the Product Tables for WooCommerce extension.

9. Market more effectively

Selling your services online opens up the opportunity for more advanced and effective marketing strategies. For example, you can:

All of these marketing tactics can lead to more revenue and happier clients.

How to set up your service-based store

So how do you get started selling services online? Well if your site is built on WordPress, then you’re already one step ahead. 

1. Install and set up WooCommerce

WooCommerce setup wizard

Your first step is to install WooCommerce, which you can do by going to Plugins → Add New in the WordPress dashboard and searching for “WooCommerce.” Once you activate it, you’ll be taken through a Setup Wizard that walks you through all initial settings, specific to your needs.

2. Create and display your services

Now, add each of your services as products using this helpful guide. In most scenarios, you’ll want to create virtual products, which don’t require shipping, but you can also choose to make those products:

  • Simple. A basic service without options, like a half-hour massage or a one-time consultation.
  • Variable. A service with options, like a drycleaning service with choices for shirts, pants, or suits. 

Make sure that, for each of your services, you include well-written descriptions and high-quality photos. This is an opportunity to showcase your work and explain exactly what clients will get. 

3. Accept payments 

Decide how you want to accept payments. Will your clients prefer to pay with a credit card, PayPal, Apple Pay, or Amazon Pay? Would you also like to accept checks? Generally, offering several options is the best solution because it provides something for everyone. 

Not sure where to start? Our post on how to choose a payment gateway provides all the information you need.

4. Set up extras, like subscriptions or bookings

Want to accept recurring payments, book paid appointments, or sell courses? You’ll need an extension, many of which we discussed earlier in this post. Extensions are essentially plugins designed to specifically increase the functionality of WooCommerce. 

Check out the WooCommerce extension marketplace for a full list of options. They include detailed documentation to get you started along with world-class support if you have any questions.

5. Market to your clients

Once you’re ready to sell, it’s time to market to potential and existing clients! There are a variety of ways to market your services and the best choice is most likely a combination of several strategies. Here are just four of the many options you have:

  • Email marketing. Reach out to your existing client list with deals, coupons, and upsells.
  • Social media marketing. Connect with people on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or other platforms. You can either post content and reach followers organically or pay for social media advertising.
  • Paid search advertising. Use tools like Google Ads to get your services in front of entirely new people you can turn into customers.
  • Content marketing. Create helpful blog posts, videos, eBooks, and more that educate your site visitors and convert them into paying clients.

Want to start generating revenue right away? Check out our post about quick wins for your online store.

Maximize efficiency and increase revenue

Creating an online store to sell your services is a great way to streamline your processes, generate more revenue, and keep existing clients coming back time and time again. And there’s no better tool than WooCommerce, where you have ultimate flexibility and ease of use.

Want more information? Check out this post for more details or review our documentation. Ready to go? Get started with WooCommerce today.

How to Take Professional Product Photos

Engaging, well-executed images have been a critical sales driver since the days of mail-order catalogs. Customers should be able to view your product from multiple angles, examine details, compare color and size options, and see the product in real-world contexts — so your online store mimics an in-person shopping experience as much as possible. 

It’s crucial that your photos are well lit and composed to present the product as clearly and accurately as possible, while also reflecting your brand’s style. For some businesses, the best solution is hiring a professional photographer. But if you’re on a tight budget, all you need to take high-quality product photos yourself is some relatively inexpensive equipment and basic knowledge of photography principles.

The equipment you’ll need

  • A digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera or smartphone with at least a 12 megapixel resolution
  • White paper sweep
  • Tripod
  • Surface to set your product on (platform, table, mannequin, etc.)
  • Natural light source
  • Room or area of a room you can dedicate to shooting
  • Masking, duct, or gaffer tape
  • White foam core or card stock
  • Photo editing software or smartphone app

Get to know your camera

Spend time learning about your camera’s features and settings. Whether you’re using your smartphone or a digital SLR camera, you’ll want to know what your tool is capable of and how to maximize its functionality. 

Take the time to learn about exposure, focus, and color balancing. If you’re working with a smartphone, download an app that allows you to manually control these settings so you can create more consistent images. Becoming comfortable with your camera’s features and learning how to use settings appropriate to the type of photos you’re taking will not only help you produce better images, it will speed up your process and keep you working more efficiently.

entrepreneur taking pictures of donuts with a DSLR camera

Choose the right lens for the job

If you’re using a DSLR camera, you’ll want at least a standard 35mm lens and a 100mm macro lens for detail shots. There are also third-party manufacturers that make lens add-ons for smartphones. Depending on your needs, you can add macro, telephoto, wide-angle, and anamorphic lenses to your smartphone to help improve the quality of your images.

Capture the largest file size possible

You can always downsize your photos, but if you take them at a low resolution, you won’t be able to increase their clarity and quality. You may want to use your photographs for printed marketing materials or as hero images on your website. These images will need to be higher resolution to display well in those contexts, so it’s always best to start with the biggest file size and create smaller versions as needed. 

If you have a digital SLR camera, shoot in RAW format and save edited copies as jpgs. If you’re using a smartphone, use your rear-facing camera to capture the highest-quality image and make sure your settings are set at the largest file size. 

Use a tripod

No one likes a blurry photo. A tripod will keep your camera perfectly still so your image is more likely to be clear and in focus. Set your tripod up in consistent positions for each angle you shoot. Mark your tripod positions so that you can set it up exactly the same each time. Keeping consistent angles and shooting distances across all your products will help your customers compare them and provide a more seamless flow when browsing your website.

Shoot on a white paper sweep

If you’re not familiar with a sweep, it’s a seamless background that provides a clean, unbroken backdrop for your product photography. Setting a product on a background with a hard corner (where the horizontal and vertical planes meet) produces a distracting line and shadow. A sweep eliminates that problem. While you can create a sweep with a variety of materials, a large sheet of white card stock or a white paper roll would be the most economical option. 

For small products, you can simply tape one end of your paper to the wall and the other to the floor or table top, making sure that there’s a gradual curve to the paper. Also ensure that your paper is large enough to frame your product within the white space with little to no outside background in the photo. You can always crop out small amounts of background that appear in the frame when the situation is unavoidable — like shooting large pieces of furniture — but minimizing additional background in your images will make editing easier later on.

Sweeps can be a variety of colors, but most product photos are taken on white backgrounds because:

  • They keep the focus on the product. A clean, white background eliminates visual interruption and keeps the customer’s eye focused on your product features.
  • You can easily cut and paste. They allow the object to be more easily cut out from the background and moved around or composited with other images.
  • They maintain color consistency. Using the same white sweep for all your products will keep your colors consistent. Colored sweeps will cast their hues onto the objects being photographed and while they may be fun, they can give an inaccurate depiction of your product’s actual color.
  • They minimize file size. Although you can and should optimize all your photos before adding them to your website, a white background will also help keep file sizes small.
photo of guitar on white background
Photo © https://godinguitars.com/

Keep in mind that when photographing on a white sweep, your result will not be a true white. Most often, your background will render as light to medium grey — depending on your lighting and exposure — and there will be shadow fall-off toward the edges of your images. If you want a pure white, you can use image editing software to select and remove the background.

Avoid mixed lighting

Whether you choose to use natural or artificial light, you should pick one and be consistent. Light sources have different color temperatures and can cast different hues on your subject. If you’re using a cool LED light on one side of an object and a warm incandescent bulb on the other, you’re going to get inaccurate color results that can be hard to correct. If you need to bounce extra light on an object, consider using a reflector card.

Turn off your flash

On-camera flash, when used correctly, can produce great results for certain types of photography. But if you’re new to photography, it’s best to turn the on-camera flash off and use alternate light sources that you can more easily control. Using your on-camera flash can cause a variety of problems:

  • Unwanted glare and reflections
  • Hard shadows
  • Difficulty working from a long range
  • Mixed lighting issues
  • Shorter battery life

Rather than using your on-camera flash, adjust your aperture, ISO, and shutter speed manually or use auto focus, auto exposure, and auto white balance. Automatic settings may not be quite as accurate or consistent as making manual adjustments, but if you’re not comfortable with manual settings, they’re your next best option.

Shoot indoors using natural light and a reflector card

The easiest and least expensive option for lighting your products is using natural light and a reflector card — made out of white foam core or card stock. For a little more money, you can purchase a folding reflector. They’re easy to store, portable, and some, like 5-in-1 reflectors, come with multiple covers to diffuse or reflect light in different ways. 

Using natural light indoors through a window has several advantages over shooting outdoors. While shooting on an overcast day can produce more even lighting, being indoors gives you greater control over the intensity and direction of the light. You can diffuse harsher light by adjusting the distance between the window and your product and using a sheer white curtain to reduce glare and create a soft, natural shadow. Also, you don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s windy or rainy.

Since this type of lighting will be single-direction, it’s important to note that your object will cast a shadow on the opposite side. Depending on how well you’re able to filter the light, you may get heavier shadows on the opposite side of your subject than you’d prefer. 

This is where the reflector comes in. Position your reflector on the opposite side of your product, facing the light source. This will bounce light back at the product and create more even lighting. You can play with your reflector’s positioning to get the effect you desire, then mark your reflector card’s position so you can use the same positioning for each product.

Purchase an inexpensive lighting kit

If natural lighting isn’t an option for you or it doesn’t work with your brand’s style, you can always purchase an inexpensive lighting kit. For small products, there are many table-top light boxes specifically designed for product photography that run in the $20-$150 range. For larger products, you may want to invest in a simple and inexpensive studio lighting setup, including light stands with continuous lights, soft boxes, background stands, and sweeps. A basic setup runs around $150-$200.

Check your images for sharpness, color, and exposure

Before you shoot hundreds of photos and upload them to your computer, check your images for sharpness as you go. Closely examine them on your camera and make sure that your product features are clear and in focus. Check your exposure and white balance to ensure that your images aren’t over or underexposed, and that they’re evenly color balanced.

photos of a purse from varying angles
Photos from multiple angles from https://manuatelier.com/

Shoot from multiple angles

Showing your product from multiple angles will help customers better understand it. In a physical store, you can pick up an item and examine the front, back, top, bottom, and inside. In your online store, you should try to give visitors that same experience. 

Move in close for detail shots or use a macro lens

Don’t rely on cropping a photo to show details of your product. The result will be somewhat out of focus at best. If you need to zoom in on extremely small details, like fabric weave, you’ll likely end up with very fuzzy images. 

If you’re using a smartphone with no additional lenses, simply move in as close to your product as you can while still being able to create sharp focus. You might not be able to achieve the same level of detail you would if using a macro lens, but it will still be much better than if you take the photo from further away and then try to zoom in with your editing software. 

If you’re using a DSLR camera or have the option to add a lens to your smartphone, choose a macro lens to get the clearest image with the best level of detail.

photo of water bottles with text on the left side
Photo taken with room for text from https://hydratem8.com/

Consider your composition

For both isolated product and lifestyle shots, pay careful attention to your composition. For your white sweep product photos, make sure your subject is centered in the frame for most shots that show the whole product. For detail shots where some of the product may be cropped out of frame, use a combination of photos placed to the left, center, and right of the frame. This allows you a variety of options for text placement if you’re placing text on your images.

Use a photo editing software or app

No matter how perfect your photographs are, you almost always want to do some type of editing. Even if it’s just to remove a piece of dust on a product, create a completely white background, or remove a stray hair on a model. 

There are many different photo editing programs that range from free to paid. Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Lightroom are the most well-known photo editing products and can be purchased on a subscription basis through Adobe Creative Cloud. GIMP is a free and open-source image editor that is also widely used. Another great option is Pixlr, which is browser-based and includes apps for Android and iPhone. 

Consider taking lifestyle photos

Product photos on a white background are great for clarity and informational purposes, but lifestyle photos can also sell your product. They demonstrate functionality and help the consumer imagine how they might use it in their own lives. Lifestyle images also tell the story of your brand and establish an emotional connection. 

photo of lettuce protector, demonstrating it used in context
Photo showing product in context from https://www.garantiauk.co.uk/

Consider how your images will be used before setting up the shoot, but here are few general rules of thumb:

  • Avoid busy backgrounds. Backgrounds with a lot of visual clutter and complex, high-contrast patterns, may detract from your product and limit any text placement that you might want to use over the image.
  • Capture multiple orientations. Photograph your lifestyle images in portrait and landscape as well as capturing the product placed on the right, center, and left. This will provide you a better selection of photos to use for different situations.
  • Use environments that provide context. Choose environments and props that show scale and demonstrate the feel of your brand.

Document your process

Once you’ve determined your lighting style, camera positioning, product angles, and overall look and feel of your photography, spend time documenting the details of that process. Mark where your tripod, light sources, tables, and reflector cards go for each type of shot. If you don’t have too many different setups, you can use colored duct tape, masking tape, or gaff tape to mark positions. If you have more than three or four setups, consider creating lighting diagrams on graph paper. 

Use those diagrams and other details about each setup to create a process guide so that you can work more efficiently and produce consistent results. This will also help you delegate the task of product photography to another employee. If possible, take photographs of your setups for a visual reference to include in your process guide.

Research and practice

The best way to achieve high-quality product photos is to use the right equipment, research tips and techniques, and practice, practice, practice. If you’re not getting the results you want, look up YouTube tutorials (B&H has a free series of beginner tutorial videos for product photography) or sign up for an online course from well-regarded e-learning sources.

Reduce Risk and Build Buzz: A Guide to Pre-Orders

When you accept pre-orders, you allow customers to order an item ahead of time, before it’s available, with the understanding that it will be shipped later.

Amazon, for example, often lets shoppers pre-order books at a discounted price a few months before they’re released. Phones, laptops, and video game consoles are often available for pre-order to generate hype and buzz. Restaurants offer pre-orders for holiday cookies and Thanksgiving turkeys.

But why? And how can pre-orders help your business?

The benefits of accepting pre-orders

1. Judge interest in a new product.

Launching a new product can be scary. What if no one likes it?

But pre-orders can take a lot of the uncertainty and risk off of the table. By sharing your product with people in your target audience, you can judge their interest and learn whether or not they’d actually purchase before you spend a lot of money on inventory. This is also an opportunity to evaluate your pricing and make any necessary adjustments before you officially launch.

2. Improve cash flow.

One of the challenges that come with launching a new business or product is managing cash flow. Have you ever heard the phrase, “You have to spend money to make money?” Well, it’s very often true. But it can be difficult to have the money needed upfront to manufacture in large volumes.

With pre-orders, you can generate revenue before manufacturing your products. You’ll also have a much better idea of how much inventory you need on hand.

3. Create buzz around a product launch.

People that pre-order want to feel special, like trendsetters. After all, they’re among the first in the world to get their hands on a brand new product!

That’s exactly why pre-orders are such a great buzz-generator. Not only do people want to set trends, they also want to tell others — their friends and family members — about the trends they’re setting. They’re excited and proud to share the news for you! That, paired with an effective launch campaign, can give your new product or business a huge head start.

4. Understand how many items you’ll need to create.

As we mentioned earlier, manufacturing can be expensive. You don’t want to waste money on too much inventory, but you also want to make sure you have enough. With pre-orders, you know exactly how much inventory you need to get started and also gain a good idea of how much to manufacture moving forward.

Learn more about why you should sell your product before you make it.

Tips for pre-orders

1. Create a landing page just for your pre-orders.

Yes, product pages are great, but landing pages provide an opportunity to deliver more information to potential customers. In most cases, your product (or even your business!) is unproven, so you need to convey as much trust as possible.

Start by including clear, high-quality photos of your product, from a variety of angles. Make sure that color and size are conveyed accurately and, if you sell clothing, consider including pictures of people wearing it.

Then, add details like measurements, ingredients and nutritional information, age ranges, and anything else that would help people make a purchase decision. Money-back guarantees, certifications, and testimonials (if you have any at this point) also go a long way towards creating trust.

Finally, make sure to include several purchase buttons, distributed throughout the page. Present your site visitors with multiple opportunities to buy without going overboard.

Want to write descriptions that sell? Check out this post for tips.

https://manuatelier.com/ clearly cites when their pre-order product will be released
https://manuatelier.com/ clearly cites when their pre-order product will be released

2. Be specific about when items will ship.

Pre-order customers are putting a certain amount of faith in you when they purchase, knowing they won’t receive their product right away. So, on your landing page, be very clear about when their order will ship and stick to it! Make sure that your manufacturing and delivery processes are in place to meet your timeline.

3. Build awareness ahead of time.

Create anticipation before you open for pre-orders with an effective marketing campaign. There are several ways to do this, and you may want to implement more than one!

  • Paid advertising. Pay for ads on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms to reach a new audience or people that have previously visited your site. Learn more about online advertising.
  • Social media marketing. Periodically share posts on your social media accounts in the weeks leading up to pre-order availability. Let followers know what’s coming up and how to purchase. Learn more about social media marketing.
  • Email marketing. If you already have a customer list, reach out to them via email to let them know about pre-orders. As existing customers, you can make them feel special by giving them the opportunity to purchase your items early. Learn more about email marketing.
  • Influencer marketing. Send social media influencers samples ahead of time in exchange for their honest review. This is a great way to reach a new audience and gather testimonials you can use on landing pages. Learn more about influencer marketing.

Read our article about generating quick wins for your online store for more marketing ideas.

example of product with discount for pre-orders

4. Offer an incentive.

So why should your pre-order customers buy something they won’t receive right away? Typically, you want to offer them some sort of bonus.

One option is a discount, like 10% off, for purchasing early. You could also throw in a free accessory or add-on when you ship the product. Or, sell an exclusive package only available for pre-order that includes multiple items that all go together.

5. Consider limiting pre-order availability.

FOMO (the fear of missing out) is a powerful motivator! Add this strategy to your pre-orders in a couple of different ways:

  1. Include a time-based countdown. Consider only opening for pre-orders for a few hours or days and make it very clear to customers that they’ll miss out if they don’t order within  a certain time window.
  2. Limit the number of pre-orders you accept. By only allowing a certain number of people to purchase your new product ahead of time, you establish the feeling of exclusivity that trendsetters are really looking for.

Want to learn more about this strategy? Read our post about creating urgency.

6. Track everything!

Make sure that you set up tracking on your site before you launch pre-orders. This will provide you with valuable information about who purchased your product and where they came from. You can use this information to market to those customers and reach new, similar audiences.

WooCommerce makes a lot of information available by default, but you can also install tracking codes from Google, Facebook, and other platforms.

7. Don’t stop marketing once products are delivered.

After you fulfill all of your pre-orders, the work doesn’t stop! Start by reaching out to the people who ordered your products to request reviews, encourage them to share their purchase with friends, and ask them questions about their experience. This helps you reach potential customers and gain valuable information that can help you improve iterations of your product.

You also don’t want to let the momentum die. Invest the revenue you generated from pre-orders back into inventory, product development, or marketing.

Which of your marketing strategies led to the most orders? Continue running ads, sending emails, or partnering with influencers when you officially launch the product.

Start accepting pre-orders today

Pre-orders are an incredibly effective way to generate buzz around a new product, earn money for manufacturing, and learn about the interest level in your item.

The WooCommerce Pre-Orders extension provides everything you need to accept pre-orders online. Choose to accept payments upfront or after your product has shipped, add release dates to product pages, send emails to pre-order customers, and more.

Get started with WooCommerce Pre-Orders today.

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