Ecommerce (shop) Plugin

Update - We've just released the best ecommerce plugin for WordPress that you'll find - MarketPress! Enjoy :slight_smile:

Hi Guys,

A lot of you seem to be having trouble with the various ecommerce/shop plugins out there. We've noticed the threads on our forums as well as on others.

So if we were to build an ecommerce plugin that was coded with WPMU support from the start what kind of features would you like to see and what kind of features do you think are mandatory for such a plugin?

The more feedback the better!

Thanks,
Andrew

  • Well since I've been in rant mode this week, I think I'll just continue here haha:

    Ok, I've spent a LOT of time playing with various ecommerce plugins using a LOT of different technologies (from joomla to drupal to vbulletin to wordpress, etc. etc. etc., along with actual ecommerce solutions.)

    What I personally think the secret is? Do NOT try to make it too complicated!

    That is where ALL these solutions end up just failing and falling in on themselves. People start requesting more and more features, and the developers keep trying to hammer them out in hopes of increasing their userbase. "Ooh if you add X i'll use it, or I can't use it unless you add Y".

    The next thing you know, you have a giant convoluted heaping pile of bug-ridden muck. All you have to do is spend 2 minutes on the wp-ecommerce forums to see what I mean.

    At the end of the day, people shouldn't expect a plugin for these types of architectures to be a robust amazon-like ecommerce solutions. The expectation should be a simple get-the-job-done type of deal. There are plenty of great ecommerce solutions out there, and if you want to open up a giant mega-mart, Wordpress is probably not the best underlying technology for you.

    THAT all being said:

    One thing I believe would help, would be to make the plugin modular. That way if you feel pressured to add things, or if people want to develop for their own needs, that can be done without coding a bunch of fluff into the plugin core.

    Real-time UPS quotes, payment options, etc. etc. all, in my opinion, do not belong in the base code.

  • nightlyfe

    It would be nice if all $upgrades (services) were products that run through this system. Add supporter to your cart, membership to your cart, etc.

    This way if a customer also buys a shirt (product), they can see their purchases in one centralized record.. (invoices).

    Maybe more of a framework is in order. WMPUDEV payment processing/invoice core, then some gateway modules, then a cart plugin which needs core. (see ubercart.org)

    Would also be nice to be able to process advertising payments using the same system, allowing for a member to build up a credit in their account. Sell ads on your blog and your bank goes up (credit), add features / buy in the shop your bank goes down (invoice).

    Finally, allowing a member to create their own products would be an additional desired module. See bigcartel.com for a good example.

    I agree with the keep it simple angle. Leave the inventory tracking / advanced carts to the big shops. This includes digital file downloads, which can come as a later module if needed.

    MUSTS:
    + Single page checkouts
    + Order tracking / status updates
    + Credit card gateway processor (at least example)

    ----

    I'll check out eShop, as it might do what I need.

  • David

    I second John's comment about simplicity. I would also think that how the pages are used would be important. If you use existing pages, then you'd either need some page-type or post-type field to make sure that a store page doesn't show up elsewhere on the site.

    I'd also recommend as simple a database as possible. Everytime X-cart would upgrade, the database migration would be a massive hassle, and often you'd have to completely rebuild the db from release to release.

    One thought would be, since this is WPMU, to use a separate blog as the structure for the store. Since a blog has posts and categories and tags, you really already have all the data elements you need for a nice store. The idea would simply be to let the data from the store blog (in this case, think database, rather than blog) live nicely inside the regular blog.

    So, if I had a site discussing knitting (my wife knits), a second blog called knitstore would be set up. No one would ever go to knitstore, but when you do the store functions in the knitting blog, the data from knitstore would be used.

    Other features: an easy way to incorporate store links inside blog posts, and perhaps a way to tag an item in a blog post to link to the store. A store item widget, making it easy for one or more items to show up as a widget.

    The option to let a store work across blogs (like all the stores for the site, or just for a given blog).

    Links to payment processing sites like PayPal, 2Checkout, etc.

    Definitely, a clean and easy way to do digital distribution. One complaint we had with an early store is there was no way for buyers to check order status, so a "my order status" option would be helpful.

    Product thumbnails. Cross-sells. Comments/reviews/ratings.

    Smoothly integrated with other commerce-related doodads.

    And, the more I think about it, the more the idea of making the store use data from another blog, but interact through a bunch of useful widgets seems like the most power and the most flexibility.

    Top selling product list

    Discount percentages

    Some connection with your affiliate tool

    Recurring purchases (like for subscriptions)

    Shopping cart or one-click order

    Much lower priority: wish list, gift registry

    That should do for now. Good luck. Oh, it'd be great to integrate a cart with an ad management system, so if you sell ads, advertisers could use the cart to manage their purchases.

  • chelgeson10

    I will say we have gone through a LOT of opensource e-commerce solutions both standalone and plugins for wordpress, and the best one that we have worked with so far is the shopp plugin.

    It is simply too bad that the support for the shopp plugin falls really short of expectations and it has not been tested nor supported for wordpressmu. Looking through some of the lists from everyone above...I can tell you that shopp does pretty much everything that has been requested.

    It is released under general public license as well.

    In my opinion I would LOVE to see shopp brought over to the good side and built upon, perfected, and made compatible with MU by the team here WPDEV premium!

    Thanks!

  • drmike

    I've got to admit that if I was doing an ecommerce site, I wouldn't be doing it through wordpress. I'd be doing it with actual ecommerce software that can handle a SSL certificate, is built for product, etc instead of having it tacked on as a "plugin". That's just me though.

    Like using a Yugo as a dump truck. Sure you can do it but it's not what it's designed for.

    The electronic downloads would be a plus. Maybe have the ability to pass the buyer onto another site like megaupload as well.

  • chelgeson10

    One other thing that I forgot to mention...

    Piggy-backing on some of the other comments - it would be great to have it make its own custom pages (shopp does this!!). for a couple of reasons but most importantly (and I would absolutely love to have this on my current MU site!!) so that there could be a global product indexer. Just like you guys have developed for comments and posts.

    This way the main MU site could show site wide products! My mind is spinning thinking of the possibilities...

    haha Thanks

  • Mason

    Oh man. Big +1 from me as well.

    I've been talking with some of the devs on the wp e-Commerce plugin for the past week about some of the issues with WPMU. There support forum is pretty lame.

    I agree that simplicity is key, but I also love the many checkout gateways available through wp e-Commerce. The picture gallery is also very nice and ability to add different variations. I'd love to see something incorporated with Google Checkout:
    http://code.google.com/apis/checkout/developer/Google_Checkout_Store_Gadget_How_To.html

    Check out the info on this page to see how simple we could make this for users with some integration. I'd love to see something like this implemented where with a spreadsheet and merchant account, end users could have their own web store up and running.

    Anyway, I'm excited to see what happens with this!

    -james

  • Mason

    also, as someone who has recently been testing the 3.7.5 release of wp e-Commerce with the "gold cart" plugin and mp3 feature I can say that it work fairly well.

    Most of the features work correctly right "out of the box". The only hiccups I had were that the "update" function and "remove" button didn't work on the checkout page. Which is odd, cause the plugin actually uses the correct get_option('siteurl') but these functions still don't work when domain mapping is enabled. Anyway, otherwise, it works pretty well.

    -james

  • mezloh

    I have used the ecommecre plugin for a couple of years (gold cart files included)

    The plugin is always buggy and has been from the beginning. There is basically no support unless you pay for it through some other long time users.

    I had it working for a short time in WPMU but kept running into bugs. I loved it because it integrates seamlessly into your theme but it is not worth the hassle of spending all day in their forums with no answers and no support.

    Hundreds of open and unanswered support threads.

    Basically, I scrapped wp-ecommerce because of the lack of support and too many bugs.

    I built a standalone shopping cart with Zen-cart (open source) which has worked great for the past 2 years on autopilot. It can be as basic as you want or you can add bells and whistles to your hearts content.

    Plenty of support available in their forums too. I have processed over 500 sales through one of my carts without a single error. the other is waiting to be attached to my new project but with function flawlessly just like the other.

    I have two shopping carts built on zen cart and would not hesitate to build another if my project required it.

    Now if there was a tight WP or WPMU shopping cart plugin created that worked I would definitely switch it over.

  • iamzaks

    I have been looking for a good wpmu shopping plugin for a long time, have tried them all, and they all lack one main feature, multi-blog integration, they treat each blog as a separate store that in no way relates to any other, so, if a user is browsing the network, then they have to do different checkouts in each store, instead of one centralized cart, and global checkout.

    Also, it needs a way to integrate with the supporter plugin, in a way to limit the number of sales or products a blog can host for a membership, something like free blogs are limited to 5 items and 10 sales, supporters to 100 and 500 sales, perhaps a third VIP category that will allow unlimited sales? That functionality is imperative. How about considering commission percentages for the site? Example, 5% of all sales go to the site, bu only 3% if you are VIP.

  • georgeac

    I have been using shopp plugin for wordpress. gotta say that is an awesome piece of software. i have a developer license for it so if you guys wanna dig into it let me know and we can work it out.

    For a wpmu site with ecommerce i think these are the things i would like.

    1 sitewide feed for products
    2 all products can be indexed to main site or to a subdomain
    3 site wide default categories for products
    4 ability to set a percentage from each sale to go to the site.
    5 template short tags or better still dummy proof GUI to insert products into pages and posts shopp does this well
    6 ability for electronic downloads with a feature to preview mp3 before buying wp-ecommerce has this
    7 ability to choose between grid views and list views

    I will be looking forward to this one!

  • chelgeson10

    georgeac...great stuff! I I second your list, those are some great features that I am definitely missing with my current install. We are developing a wordpress mu e-commerce site right now using the shopp plugin, we are trying to work out compatibility problems as they come, but right now they seem to play pretty nicely overall together.

    I also think the shopp plugin is a great piece of development as I have stated above...I also have a developers key so I second Georgeac with the digging...

  • Mason

    As I've come back to this thought for different clients, I'm wondering about the advantages of doing something like this.

    I've had to do tons of custom code to get wp e-commerce going (and it's still rather pathetic) and am amazed at the complexity involved. By the time I get it working it's still a rather convoluted task for the end user to learn how to update their site through wordpress and additionally add items through the admin interface.

    I'm thinking about revisiting OS Commerce. Anybody here have any experience with that? Maybe not a relevant question for this post, but my thought was that I know OS Commerce and WPMU can both be installed on the same server. What if there was a way for them to communicate or share a database or something?

    Admittedly, I'm totally out of my comfort zone to even know if those ideas are crazy dumb or what, but this task is looking more and more complex both as a developer and as an end user.

    Anyone else have thoughts on this?

  • Christina

    Everyone seems to be thinking "plugin".....why not a shoppng cart "theme"?

    We tried that wp e-commerce plugin outfit from New Zealand ....even went with their "gold"option. Awful stuff...no support..etc... Just garbage in my opinion. Dumped it.

    We now use something called "Market Theme". Fully customizable theme...database driven shopping cart...lots of bells and whistles...

    Don't know if it would work in MU, but sure would like to see something like it for MU! We use it to sell our stabilized wood for knife handles and pistol grips. If you want to have a look at our site and beat up the shopping cart a bit, go to woodstabilizer.com (This isn't a plug...I doubt any of you make your own knives or even own guns, let alone want custom grips on them if you do happen to own one!) All I can tell you is that this theme really works for us, and I would LOVE to see something like it for MU.

    Mike (Christina's husband)

  • James Farmer

    Hi Mike,

    It's true, there is a lot of opportunities around themes that are there to be exploited (and that Tammie and Richard are exploiting at will :slight_smile: but I reckon that the real option is as a plugin so that peopel can use it in numerous difefrent designs / contexts.

    HOWEVER, you have given me a goo didea re: bundling a theme with it... now that could be cool!

    BTW, freel free to plug away :wink: We'll take a look.

    Cheers, James

  • notomato

    I think a wordpress ecommerce plugin needs to use the existing functionality of wordpress as much as possible. 90% of the cool stuff people want to do with their shop can be achieved by making a new post type (called products perhaps) and then letting the 1000s of plugins for ratings/similar items/who viewed this then viewed etc etc do their stuff. The ecommerce plugin should be all about making the cart/checkout/payment processing as painless as possible for the consumer and leaving the display of products up to the theme.

  • Patrick

    All great ideas but here's my problem. I have a couple of clients that need something like a store but don't actually sell online. Think cars or houses... They need a way to list inventory but not actually use a cart or checkout system. Just the catalog but no payments.

    I'm still pretty new with wpmu so maybe there is a plugin out there that does this well but I have been searching non stop and can't find one.

  • terry hall

    e-commerce wishlist/requirements:

    A simple e-commerce solution is like saying a simple plan to goto the moon. :smiley: A well designed set of core files designed for flawless checkout (payment & shipping) with flexible product display options fully integrated with customer service.

    The bar has been set very high and consumers/user expects lots of buying aides and intuitive user interface. "Amazon.com" seems to be the site most often mentioned by people who are dreaming of their online shop to make their millions!

    Here's my 2.5 cents. Ya gotta do the basics perfectly
    1) payment gateways (authorize.net, google checkout & paypal (all flavors)) must work flawlessly
    2) shipping: UPS, FedEx, USPS (including their negotiated rates), customer pickup - is the larger heart of the brick & mortar larger e-commerce sites, including printing shipping labels. NEEDS Robust Flexibility.
    2.1) Shipping & Order tracking.
    2.2) Configurable "Free" shipping options - (free shipping on orders above $50)
    2.3) Configurable "Added Shipping charges" (ie $2.50 per order)
    3) SKU/Product Number integration (in house & standard products)
    3.1) Product Options & Variations (sizes, colors, options)
    3.2) Cross Selling (related items & also bought)
    4) Advanced API to integrate with order fulfillment & inventory control & ordering systems
    5) QuickBooks Integration/Export
    6) Support for Products (shopping cart), Services (invoices), Digital downloads & site memberships.
    7) Support of for recurring orders, invoices, billing.
    8) Cart & site search-a-bility (seamless to the user)
    9) Multiple Product images & spec sheets templates.
    10) Kick Ass user/configuration manual - seems that 85% of the current e-commerce problems stem from lack of documentation (not that people would read it, but some would).
    11) Product Import/Export.
    12) Affiliates Marketing / Sales integrated from the beginning.
    13) Coupon Codes, Promotions & sales.
    14) Sales with & without customer accounts being required.
    15) FAQs integration (Terms of service, returns policy)
    16) Configurable Order Autoresponder - Follow-up email system.

    From my experience, most to e-commerce apps have been developed from a digital download very small boutique shop point of view. Then other "practical & essential" elements are bolted onto very weak & inadequately designed core files.

    The essentials of a store are:
    > Displaying/Merchandising the products (with a much or little detail as the customer needs to make their own buying decision)
    > Seamless checkout process with "back key support", "more details links", with all available shipping sales tax & payment options displayed & easily accepted.
    > Order tracking & Status.

  • Patrick

    Thanks. I've seen open-realty before but I'm not doing a real estate site. That was just an example.

    Basically its for a group of car guys that sell cars and need a MU product that can show their inventories. There are standalone things but I don't know which way to integrate them with MU. Kind of like a classified site but just for listings and not pay to list. I haven't seen any kind of plugin that works for this.

    Thanks.

  • Patrick

    After seeing what wpmudev has built in the past, I think I'll wait and see what they come up with. I've got a good feeling.

    Here's a couple of more ideas... After playing with shopp.

    They only allow one photo and don't allow a 'grid' style photo layout unless you upgrade. The problem is the upgrade is on a blog by blog basis and not as a whole. I think this makes it more difficult for my users.

    They also connect to googlebase and facebook marketplace. Both good things.

    Just sayin'.

    Keep 'em working James!

  • terry hall

    @James Thanks. it's a long list. zencart, magento, prestashop, cubecart, etc all started as carts/e-commerce and have pretty much the same issues that the WP plugins are having. WP e-commerce & shopp are very good starts as far as features and functionality, but the support and reliability are where the opening lies for wpmudev.org - (IMO)

    A WP e-commerce solution developed similar to the Parent / Child theme relationship where there is a rock solid set of core files, functions, hooks & apis that can be accessed for the different types of e-store needs I feel that would be nirvana.

    BTW: I have a really good guy who may be interested in developing your shipping modules. Let me know if you're interested and I will connect you.

    -terry

  • Aaron

    This is a HUGE undertaking and I'm working very hard on it. So many possible features and everyone seems to want something different. Here is my development vision so you can know what to expect:

    A simple shopping system base that will meet the basic needs for an online store. It will be a solid base that will allow for modular expansion by us or third parties in the future. We WILL NOT be trying to compete with the big boys like shopp or wp-ecommerce on features. If we did it would be just as bloated as them and would take 6 months to develop. I want it to be lean, simple, and beautiful.

    Instead our differentiating focus will be to integrate seamlessly with the unique community aspects of WPMU/BuddyPress, which is WPMU DEV's specialty.

    And I do have a few feature aces up my sleeve as well :wink:

  • GLCustoms

    I've been working e-commerce web-sites for a few years now. I mainly work with osCommerce. In my experience these are things that a shopping site should have to keep the customer shopping.

    Easy account creation
    Ability to purchase with no account
    Opportunity for discounts, be it coupon codes or a type of rewards program
    Clear cut checkout process. Customer should be able to see an estimate of what shipping charges or taxes will be without having to initiate the actual checkout. This is usually good to place on the shopping cart page.
    Simple way to checkout. Keep checkout pages to a minimum. Not necessarily a one page checkout, they can become cluttered or distracting.
    Multiple payment methods to satisfy the masses. Besides the norm of a CC processor being available, there should be PayPal, Google Checkout, and Checkout by Amazon. Like them or not, they are popular methods of payment, easy for a shop owner to sign up for, and they do lead to higher conversions. Checkout by Amazon is hot right now too. It is often overlooked as a payment module, but it is very good for customer confidence.

    Now all this is only a scratch in the surface, but IMO, meets the needs of a majority of shoppers. Things that an actual e-commerce application should do when it comes to product can get to be a long list, even when trying NOT to be bloated.

  • GLCustoms

    The way purchasing without an account works in the setups I use is as follows:

    Customer begins the purchase process, after inputing billing/shipping details they are temporarily logged in with a guest flag in the customer/user account database table. A session is set as guest too.

    Once they make the purchase, all contact, billing/shipping, and order info is saved to the orders database table. So this is where we can track everything about them.

    As the purchase goes through the final step of the checkout the code checks to see if the user/customer account has the guest flag set. If true the data is deleted from the customer/user database table and the session is unregistered logging the customer out.

    I suggest it as a critical element because I have seen a ton of sales go through using it on a couple of sites I manage. I never imagined it could be so important until I started using it. Sometimes the store owners use it to quickly input a new customers order over the phone too. Although this can be done in the admin, you cant charge the CC automatically that way, so it saves having to write down the CC # to be processed manually later.
    Notice I said "write down", PCI regulations frown heavily on placing such info into online storage. You have to be a big time player to afford to manage the setup they require to be able to store CC data.

  • terry hall

    Purchasing without an account is essential for conversions.

    2 additional I've seen tracking is by order/invoice # & shipping tracking number (which is entered via a order management system in the admin area).

    Depending on the source, requiring an account will decrease purchases by 50-75%. 100 sales vs 25 - 50.

    Order tracking is done via a page where Order/Invoice# or tracking number is entered for updates (independent of payment process - after payment has been completed).

  • Patrick

    One of the features I need for more than a few clients is the ability to turn off the payment part.

    I have not been able to find this in any plugin. I've done joomla sites with virtuemart and it does that.

    I know it sounds crazy to have a e-commerce site that doesn't do the 'commerce' part but I have several clients that need it. i.e. car dealers, boats, dog breeders. All want a way to show their 'inventory' or 'catalog' but don't have the need for a buy now or cart as it would cause problems for those that want to see before they buy or for things too large to ship.

    A lot like a single user classified ad system but only the admin can add. I've tried many of these but most don't do what I need since they are built to be used by many users. I'm trying classipress now but...

    Thanks for listening.

  • lightbeam

    hey ya'll

    i actually came in here to ask about the best way to integrate moodle, wordpress and nanacast, there is a lot of redundant technology and it seems like in order to connect moodle to nanacast i would need to have a special api connection made. i was wondering if there was a better way to simply lock out the entire moodle area using nanacast's wordpress plugin or wishlist member, and then i found this post.

    so i would like to state that at this point i see no reason to use any cart besides nanacast, i think it makes infusionsoft and 1shoppingcart obsolete. i would love to see a connection between mu, nanacast and moodle implemented. please let me know if anyone has any suggestions on how to go about doing it at the moment. we are basically looking at having no affiliate tracking for our moodle courses until i can figure this out.

    and for anyone who hasn't checked out nanacast, here is my affiliate link, check it out, it is a viral sales engine unlike anything else out there (that i've seen) and it integrates with all the good autoresponders and fulfillment houses.

    regards!

    justin

    http://justinparadise.com/UltimateCart

  • lightbeam

    I actually decided to can Moodle after writing that post. I should be able to do everything with Nanacast and the Wordpress plugin for it which has a pretty cool feature where you can show preview content and then bring people to your sales page. Another really cool feature is that since it has super affiliate tracking built in, any person who ever buys anything from one of your products (even it it costs $1) would be tracked via cookie, email and IP so that if they themselves ever decided to buy Nanacast, you would get an affiliate credit. Since I'm developing some sites based around Internet marketing, this is a major bonus for me.

    I don't get why it is funny though, excuse me for my ignorance haha.

    What I did find is that Moodle can easily connect to e-junkie.com, not sure if you are working on connecting with them.

    I don't see any reason to use anything besides Nanacast, Clickbank and the OS Commerce modification for all sales be it affiliate tracked or not. None of the other solutions provide any benefits that I can see...

    The main thing that is important about a gateway is that it look completely secure. People trust Clickbank, Amazon, Paypal, 1Shopping Cart and hopefully Nanacast because of the encryption etc...

    Now I'm very curious to see what you are working on. I'm sure it is a lot of work and I'm sure it will be cool :slight_smile:

    Justin

  • Todd

    I'm a WPMU newbie, but have been reviewing all of the eCommerce options for a very looong time. I agree that each has it's own pos/neg when it comes to actual implementation. Here's what I haven't found in any current solution:

    1) Needs to have a global cart & global checkout. Seems obvious for WPMU, but even the "top" WP options currently seem to treat it as one unique shop per user with no crossover. It's one of the few things that something like a Magento has over WP.

    2) Something that allows for an EBAY or ETSY payment model. As in, we can charge $x per items in stock upon posting, then charge x% as a percentage of sale. At least there should be the option to create these types of payment systems.

    I think these features in a plugin, along with the Supporter & Membership plugins, would give anyone the ultimate tools needed to develop and scale any type of site.

    Right now we're looking at possibly getting a developers lic. and using Shopp for our new WPMU site, but it's like crossing your fingers and jumping off a cliff. You know you're pretty much on your own from day one, and we don't know if it's even possible to configure it to utilize the two points above.

  • James Farmer

    Hi Todd & welcome to WPMU DEV :slight_smile:

    I think you are going to be deeply pleased by the new ecommerce plugin... hang tight for a bit longer and there'll be a beta on the way.

    a. you won't need any more licences
    b. you'll be as far from on your own as you can imagine
    c. as an early user you'll get to influence / request development items

    Although would be more than happy to hear a shopp vs. e-commerce comparison when it's out!

  • btray77

    I really cannot wait until this comes out.. I've been waiting patiently... And wondering if I will see it in my lifetime.. lol

    I would want this to be lean, and not bloated like some of the other e-commerce scripts out there. I was thinking you should make the core of it, and then additional plugins for each option people want to install. For Example I might not need shipping integration if I'm selling electronic downloads, but I might need some way of doing licensing (I'm thinking integrating with the membership module would work for this)

    -Brad

  • Olivier

    very interesting.
    I was just looking for a solution for my customers who want to sell something from their blog.
    I've just foundthe e-commerce plugin compatible with wpmu, but would you suggest that I wait to see what your plugin will be like ?
    I don't feel like getting my clients started with one plugin and then make the change with another one.
    I am looking forward to seeing what you guys are going to deliver.