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All About Your E-Commerce Website

November 2, 2023

12 minutes

Here’s a detailed explanation of how your online store works, and how orders are processed. If your e-commerce website has been built under our Website-as-a-Service (Waas) plan, then your web store site has been built with Woocommerce, the de facto standard for WordPress e-commerce. We love Woocommerce, because like WordPress it is almost infinitely extensible—there’s virtually nothing we can’t do with it to build the web store perfect to best maximize revenue and customer satisfaction.

Customer Perspective

  • After a purchase is made, the customer receives a “processing order” email, which confirms the order has been received and informs them that you have begun processing the order.
  • The customer will be given the option of creating an account during checkout. If any of your products are subscriptions, account creation is not an option. If an account is created, a separate email is sent to the customer informing them of their new account and how to log in.
  • Customers can log in to their account during checkout for future purchases to automatically recall their shipping address, billing address and credit card.
A screen shot of the E-commerce website's my account page.
  • Customers can log in to the website and access their “My Account” page, which allows them to do the following:
    • View past orders
    • Quickly re-order previously purchased products again
    • View tracking numbers for shipments
    • View current subscriptions
    • Edit payment method for current subscriptions
    • Cancel subscriptions
    • Edit shipping or billing address
    • Edit or delete stored payment methods
    • Edit name, email address and change password
  • Once the order has shipped, customer receives a “completed order” email, confirming the order has shipped and providing them a tracking number.

Woocommerce Admin

There are three sub-menus in the WordPress sidebar related to Woocommerce that you need to be familiar with:

Products

Use the Products menu to view, edit and delete products (including physical products, virtual and downloadable products and subscription products. If you’re on the Website-as-a-Service (WaaS) plan, you may want to let us make any edits—just let us know what needs to change.
You’ll find a handy, one-click shortcut to the Products screen at the top of your screen.

  • Orders: see the details of every order, change the status to indicate fulfillment, enter tracking numbers, handle refunds, etc. You’ll find a handy, one-click shortcut to the Orders screen at the top of your screen.
  • Subscriptions: if you store sells subscription-based products, here’s where you can view all active and inactive subscriptions, and suspend or cancel them.
  • Customers: View the details of every past customer, or export their records to manipulate offline (such as in Excel).
  • Reports: Various basic analytics to track your e-commerce performance across orders, customers, taxes, subscriptions, etc. These have been superseded by WooCommerce Analytics, but some people find them simpler to use.

Analytics

This menu provides more powerful analytics than the Reports the Woocommerce menu. Various sub-items that let you review reports on various aspects of your store, including products, revenue, orders, coupons and taxes.

Marketing

The only item in this menu of consequence is Coupons, which lets you edit and delete coupon (discount) codes, and add new ones. Like products, blog posts, pages and all other content, we’re happy to add/edit coupons on your behalf if you’d rather not mess around with this, as part of WaaS.

Managing Orders

The Orders screen is where you can see all past orders that have been placed. You can sort the table, filter and search, and the information shown in this table and it’s layout is quite customizable, so if a different layout would help you be more productive, let us know.

A screenshot of an e-commerce website displaying a list of jobs.

Click the order number/customer name to open the order and view or edit the order details.

Click the “eye” icon (or “eyecon” 😉 to see a quick view of the order summary. In the window that pops up you can complete an order (which is something you’ll do when the product has shipped). Note that you can’t enter shipment tracking numbers into the pop-up window. For that, you’ll need to open the full order record (click the order number/customer name).

These icons (or they may be labels depending on how your store is configured) tell you the current status of the order. Hover over the icon for a reminder of what it symbolizes.

Click any of these buttons to filter all orders by that status.

Search for orders by customer name or order number.

You can select multiple orders (use the checkboxes) and then do a “bulk action”. This is useful for marking several orders are complete after a day of productive fulfillment.

Order Statuses

Each order can be one of the following statuses. The order status is displayed to you as an admin and to the customer, when they receive an email notification or when they log in to see their “My Account” page.

Pending payment – This status indicates that the customer has completed the checkout process, but payment hasn’t been made yet. The product stock has been reduced, but the order will be cancelled if the payment doesn’t go through within a certain time frame (depending on the payment gateway settings). You should monitor these orders to ensure payment is eventually captured.

Processing – An order is automatically marked as “processing” once the payment is received. It’s your cue to start fulfilling the order: picking, packing, and shipping the products. The admin should also be aware that customer invoices can be generated at this stage, and this status is usually used for physical goods that require shipping. 

On hold – It means that the order has been received, but there’s something that needs to be checked or confirmed before it can go further. This is typically encountered when an offline payment is used (like an Interac e-transfer or purchase order). Once the payment is received, you need to manually change the status of the order to “processing”.

Completed – Sometimes renamed to “shipped”, this status is manually set by the admin once the order has been fully processed and the goods have been shipped or the services rendered. The order is now closed, and no further action is typically required.

Cancelled – An order can be cancelled by either the customer, an admin, or automatically if a pending payment is not received in time. This status means the order is null and void. Item stock is automatically replenished. As an admin, you may want to reach out to the customer to understand why the order was cancelled to prevent future cancellations.

Refunded – If an order is refunded, the admin has returned the customer’s money for all or part of an order. The admin should ensure that the refund is processed through the payment gateway and that the stock levels are updated if the product is returned.

Failed – This status is automatically set when a payment is rejected by the payment gateway. The admin should check the reason for the payment failure (insufficient funds, incorrect payment details, etc.) and may need to contact the customer to arrange alternative payment or assist with troubleshooting.

Order Details

The order details screen shows you all order details and gives you control over every aspect of a single order. This is what it looks like for a completed order (one that has been shipped or “fulfilled”).

A screen shot of the invoice page.

You can change the status of the order here, for example to change it to completed/shipped when you’ve fulfilled the order.

Issue a full or partial refund to the customer. The amount will be credited to the same credit card used for payment.

Add a private note (reference information that only your staff can see) or a public note (information that the customer will see anywhere they can see their order (for example, in the My Account screen).

Click here to inspect the transaction in your Stripe dashboard (Stripe login required).

The order actions available include resending the order details to the customer or the new order notification to your admin email address. You can also delete the order record.

Here you can inspect the user profile for the customer as well as find all other orders placed by the same customer.

After the purchase has been shipped, enter the tracking number (along with the shipping carrier used) by clicking this button. The tracking number will be included in the order completion email sent to the customer, and it will also be available to the customer at any time along with the order details in the My Account screen.

You can enter multiple tracking numbers if the order was shipped in multiple packages.

After making a change on this screen (such as changing the status) always save the changes by clicking Update.

The Entire Process From New Order to Fulfillment

Here’s what happens and what you, as the shop admin, need to do for a typical physical product sale.

Order Placed

When a purchase is made, a “new order” email is sent to your designated administrative email address informing you of the order. To fulfill the order you can either work from this email or log in to the website to access the order details. The status of the order is set to “processing”. At the same time, the custom receives an “order confirmation” email acknowledging the order has been received and is being processed.

Order Shipped

Once the product has shipped, you need to log in to your website, access the order, enter the tracking number (if applicable) and set the status to “completed” (or “shipped”). This is the trigger thats sends the “completed order” email to the customer and completes the order fulfillment.

  1. Log in to your website.
  2. Navigate to Woocommerce  Orders (or click “ORDERS” at the top of the screen.
  3. Click the order number or customer name for the order to open the order details.
  4. Finally, change the order status to “Completed” or “Shipped”, then click the Update button. This will trigger the sending of the “order completed” email, which will contain a summary of the order as well as shipping information and the tracking number(s) entered.

Using Coupons

Coupons are a great way to attract new customers and get loyal ones to come back for more.

Let’s say your bookstore’s anniversary is in October. To celebrate another successful year, you want to give your customers a 50% discount on books for the entire month — but only for the first 200 customers.

To add a new coupon, go to WooCommerce → Coupons and click Add coupon. The opening screen will present you with the Coupon code and Description fields:

Coupon code is the code customers will enter to apply the coupon to their cart. Description is an optional field that’s not visible to customers, only to merchants.

Below these fields, you’ll see the Coupon data block. It has three sections:

  • General
  • Usage restriction
  • Usage limits

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

General

By default, WooCommerce comes with three discount types:

  • Percentage discounts apply a percentage discount to the entire cart.
  • Fixed cart discounts apply a fixed amount discount to the entire cart.
  • Fixed product discounts apply a fixed amount discount to selected products only. The discount is calculated per item and not for the whole cart.

Use the Coupon amount field to set the amount of the discount, the Discount type field to set the type, and the Coupon expiry date to set an expiration date. You can also offer free shipping to customers using the coupon. In the example above, we’ve created a coupon that gives a 50% discount to the entire cart and that expires on October 31, 2018.

Usage Restriction

If you don’t select any restrictions, anyone can add the coupon to their cart at any time, which probably isn’t what you want.

You can apply the a few different restrictions to your coupon:

  • Set a minimum or maximum order subtotal (that is: the sum of the cart subtotal + tax).
  • Include or exclude selected products or categories.
  • Limit by ‘allowed’ emails (verified against the customer’s billing email). WooCommerce also allows you to include a wildcard character (*) to match multiple email addresses, for example, “*@gmail.com” would make any gmail address.

In our example, we’ve restricted the discount to the Books category by using the Product categories field.

If you find you need to add further limits—for example, restricting to new customers or by country, there are additional plugins that we can add to enable this.

Usage Limits

Here, you can specify how many times the coupon can be used per customer and in total. You can also define the number of products it can be applied to at once. In the screenshot above, you’ll see that we’ve specified that the coupon once by customer, and by 200 customers altogether.

Now, if our shoppers add the “LUCKY200” coupon to their carts, they’ll get 50% off all products in the “Books” category as long as they’re one of the first 200 customers. Any other products are in the cart will remain full price.

Additional coupon functionality that can be added

Additional plugins may be required to add these extra features, so if you’re interested let us know what features you need and we’ll let you know if they are covered under your Website-as-a-Service plan.

  • Automatically generate and issue coupons / store credits / vouchers / discounts for future purchases when someone buys a product. Great to generate repeat sales!
  • Quickly generate links you can embed in emails or social media posts (or anywhere else)—with one or more coupons.
  • Automatically add products to cart when someone uses a coupon—along with discount of your choice.
  • Store Credits, Gift Vouchers, Account Funds, Gift Certificates (these are all essentially the same thing). You assign a monetary value credit to the customer. So they can make as many purchases as they want until the credit is exhausted or its validity expires. Credits are used instead of charging a card / PayPal.
  • You can use credits to provide refunds or compensation as well. This is a great way to retain customers.
  • People can purchase credits and gift them to others. This brings new customers, and they typically spend more than the voucher value!
  • Give a recurring flat or percentage discount with subscriptions or use store credits towards renewal payments.
  • Restrict coupon usage by user role, minimum spend, products, product categories, emails, payment methods, shipping methods, expiry time and more.
    Show coupons anywhere – on cart, checkout, order confirmation page, a blog post or another page on site!
  • Show a custom message when a coupon is applied to cart – or when it’s emailed. Great way to show coupon terms as well as upsell offers.
  • Set coupons to expire at a specific date and time, limit maximum discount amount for percentage discounts, and run automatic seasonal promotions.
  • Restrict who can use a coupon by their billing or shipping location – country, state, city or zip code.
  • One-click coupons: Users don’t need to type coupon codes to use them. They can just click on a coupon in the list of available coupons and it will be applied in the background.
  • New User / First Order Coupons: Reduce cart abandonment by offering a first-order discount to new users. Combine with any other restriction rules as well.

Your Store’s Custom Checkout

You may not have noticed, but your store does not use the standard Woocommerce checkout feature. Instead, we utilize a custom-designed checkout process that breaks the checkout process up into three discrete steps that keep users focused on one domain of knowledge at a time. This reduces the chance for confusion or form fatigue, helping customers to complete their purchases more often. It’s also clean and beautiful to look at. A frictionless checkout is key to maximizing conversions (sales).

In addition, the checkout dynamically recognizes if a user has an existing account and allows the customer to login to retrieve their stored information and avoid entering it again.

Address fields are autocompleted and validated. When a new customer account is created, it associates any past guest orders with new account (matching on the billing email address).

We’re proud of the checkout offered on our e-commerce sites, which we feel matches or exceeds the quality of the best checkout experiences available on top brands’ sites.

Extending Your Store

One of the best things about Woocommerce is now extensible it is. Basically, if you can image in it, it can be done, and far less expensive than with any other e-commerce platform. While we can’t promise that any feature can be added free of charge (it depends on the cost of the plugin required and if any custom development is required), we encourage you to enquire if there’s a feature you’d like.

Here’s a list of some features we like or have added in the past (but remember, anything is possible):

  • Automatic currency conversion
  • Comprehensive rules for cart cross-sells: a powerful tool for driving incremental and impulse purchases by customers once they are in the shopping cart. It extends the concept of up-sales and cross-sells at the product level, and engages your customer at the moment they are most likely to increase their spending.
  • Force related products to be added to the cart: allows you to link products together, so they are added to the cart together. This is useful for linking a service or required product to another. For example, if you are selling iPad glass repair as a service, you can link a new glass window as a forced sell product.
  • Restrict shipping methods and payment gateways using conditional logic: Control the availability of free shipping, flat rates and other shipping options per product, category or shipping class. Introduce country, state, or zip code shipping restrictions for specific products. Limit shipping and payment options to specific customers and customer roles, such as membership holders or wholesale customers.
  • Cart notices to help you easily and effectively increase sales and customer satisfaction by displaying dynamic, actionable messages to your customers as they check out. Encourage your customer to add just one more item with a message offering free shipping based on the amount in their cart. Or, create urgency to close that sale with a notice like “Checkout within the next 10 minutes and your order ships today!”
  • Charge additional fees such as handling fees and payment gateway fees to encourage customers to increase the order value. Encourage your customers to spend more to avoid cart subtotal fees.
  • Features for B2B wholesale customers: request for quote, wholesale pricing per user, tiered pricing, multi-product catalog table ordering, SKU search, RMAs
  • Quickbooks integration
  • Deposits or payment plans
  • Interactive product/package configurator
  • and so much more!