How to supercharge your Wordpress themes for customer acquisition & sales (2020)

In this post I’m going to show you how to supercharge your website for ecommerce growth in 2020. By installing the following Wordpress plugins you can rapidly customize your Wordpress theme on the fly. That way, as you gather data from your target customers, you can update your website accordingly as your sales grow to find product market fit much faster. When building a brand, finding product market fit for your product is the  important task above all else. Why? Because time is money and cashflow is king.

Where to begin? Shopify, Wordpress, Cargo, Squarespace

Before I dive into Wordpress, I’d like to recommend 3 other popular ecommerce platforms. They are Shopify, Cargo, and Squarespace. Squarespace and Cargo are two beautifully designed, modern options that are common  in the media & design industry. They offer nicely designed modern website themes customizable to some extent. They also offer basic ecommerce tools. Whereas Shopify is focused heavily on ecommerce, so the features are build almost exclusively on the product and sales. Choosing the right platform ultimately depends on what you want your website to accomplish.

In my opinion, Wordpress is great for growing news and blogger type businesses. If you’re operating a new company, we suggest you build a customer base & following before you build a product. That’s the name of the game these days. How do you do that? By asking your website visitors what they want to see more of. It’s that simple.

If you’re looking to sell physical or digital products and already have an established customer base, Wordpress’ ecommerce plugins struggle to offer the same ease-of-use and connected tools as the Shopify platform.

Shopify is the most comprehensive, feature rich ecommerce platform IF you’re at the stage of selling an established customer base a product with the right product market fit.  But does that make it the best? As your sales needs become more complex, Shopify can require expensive add-ons and overall, requires a more technical approach to customize as you grow. So it may not be for your business. If you’re trying to design a website and need to reiterate the designs based on the customer data you are collecting, it can get expensive quickly and become a very technical job to manage.

Therein lies the solution. Today, influencers dominate the social selling space for good reason. Stories sell. It’s this powerful combination of content and ecommerce that will drive the next evolution of ecommerce in the 2020 digital world.

Why use Wordpress themes for ecommerce in 2020?

There’s plenty of Content Management Systems (CMS) options to offer people or businesses looking to establish a presence on the web. Today we dive into Wordpress. Wordpress is the most widely used CMS on the web.

Wordpress is easy to customize. This is good and bad. The most common gripe against Wordpress is a complaint similar to Shopify. As your website grows, Wordpress will require more ‘out of the box’ software extensions or add-ons, which they call plugins. The main hurdle for Wordpress is knowing the plugins to use. Many of the plugins can quickly slow down your website and become a gigantic pain the ass to manage. Much more so than Shopify. The good news is Wordpress’ out-of-the-box SEO is second to none.

So, we’re going to cut through the noise and showcase the optimal mix of plugins for your Wordpress theme. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of plugins by any means.

How’d we find the plugins? In short, by trying them out along the way but learning what works and what didn’t. The following is the playbook I used to transition a million dollar wholesale brand into a DTC (direct-to-consumer) brand and automated ecommerce business. We think this transition is going to become more common as brands and consumers spend more time and money on the web.

The speed of information.

Working in a traditional sale channel (where the brand sells to a 3rd party retail shop), customer feedback and sales analytics doesn’t always filter back to your brand quick enough. With a flexible, lead generating website, you can stay extremely close to your end customer base and uncover key insights that may end up in the next iteration of your product. The quicker you get this info, the more impact and success you’ll have in growing your business. A more famous example of this was shared by Joe Gebbia of Airbnb on Tim Ferriss’ podcast. Before they built Airbnb, The founders actually stayed overnight in stranger’s homes to gather feedback about the needs of their future customers.

So now apply this concept to your website. Unless you have a ton of experience in the ecommerce world, very few nail their customer assumptions on the first go around. Gathering detailed analytics of what is and isn’t working is absolutely critical for your company to find a product fit as quick as possible. Growth and financial success will follow.

With the integrations we outline below, you’ll have a perfect mix of flexibility & functionality in your Wordpress theme without using too many Wordpress plugins. The Wordpress theme we suggest below will allow for complete customization of your website designs without the need for coding. This will significantly reduce the amount of money and time spent going back and forth between designers or programmers.

Setting up & gathering your site analytics

Your website should remain focused around a few key performance indicators (KPIs) that are crucial to your website’s growth. Common KPIs could be unique views, customer sales, follows or subscriptions, or even email conversions. If you’re wondering what KPIs to track, here’s a great post about KPIs from Shopify’s blog.  Let me give you a quick real world example of KPIs in use.

Humanoid Wakeboards is a manufacturer of custom wakeboards. Last summer they offered set of wakeboard graphic option for sale on their website.

They used one simple KPI, total sales of a specific type of wakeboard graphic. This would dictate whether or not Humanoid would offer this type of graphic option for the next season. Once they collected the KPI, they could make a quick decision. Had they received this information in a traditional sales cycle it might of taken them many month or even years longer for it to filter back through their wholesale model.

The important takeaway from the example above is before you start promoting and driving traffic to your website, you’ll need to install software to capture your website’s KPIs [called ‘events’ by Google].

Installing analytics in your Wordpress theme with Google Tag Manager

OK, so understanding your website analytics is key! We recommend installing Google Analytics in all your website pages using Google Tag Manager.

This will showcase your Wordpress theme’s traffic stats among a multitude of other data points. Without website data like this to rely on, it’s like shooting in the dark.

For more detailed analytics we recommend you install Google Tag manager. Google tag manager handles all the scripts, called tags, you need to install in addition to Google Analytics. Tags can record custom events on your website. So for example, it shows you the ‘checkout point’ of your customers. We recommend you install a few Google Tag Manager tags Jeff Sauer talks about here. This will help you more effectively customize your website around the data being shown by the analytics platforms of your choice, the two most popular are Facebook Pixel & Google Analytics.

Choosing the right Wordpress theme

We keep stressing about the ability to customize your Wordpress theme. Why is that?

The level of customization offered by your theme is the most critical factor in our opinion. You need to stand out from your competitors. Good design is one way to do that.

The page templates offered by websites like Shopify, Cargo & Squarespace utilize great design principals. However, as your needs become more complex with gathering data, website features like customer chat, discount incentives, form & email submission forms can get expensive as you integrate them into your website. The ecommerce platforms mentioned above are limited in design options compared to Wordpress. Limiting your customization keeps your website looking clean and performing well, but it also brings about a host of other issues related to design and coding.

So, you’ll want to find a Wordpress theme that has a balance of good design and is also highly customizable. A nicely designed, fully optimized Wordpress theme can be hard to find because of the volume of options available. Here’s what we recommend.

Start with a nicely designed Wordpress theme and stock page templates

With Wordpress & their preferred ecommerce plugin Woocommerce, we find it’s a good balance of price and performance for small to medium size ecommerce businesses.

The key advantage for Wordpress & Woocommerce is the quantity of integrations, plugins, and support. The knock against Wordpress & Woocommerce is the constant updates required. The key is to optimize the amount of plugins necessary for your website’s needs. You can automate updates by using a managed Wordpress hosting service like Wordpress Engine. They’ll take care of Wordpress’ security updates, plugins, and version updates.

Another drawback against Wordpress and Woocommerce is speed optimization and a clunky admin. We tend to agree. However, with a little work to compress and optimize with Google Page Insights, then installing Minify & ShortPixel plugins, you can improve site speed significantly. We find it’s well worth the tradeoff with the flexibility and price of hosting.

The cost for running on Wordpress Engine is about $35.00 a month. You can research the technologies of any website you like by using Built With.

As far as Wordpress themes go, we customize our themes using templates from Uncode or Elementor. The Uncode theme comes packaged with 100’s of professionally designed post & page layouts for your website. The best part is you can import the Uncode page designs as needed and then customize to your page with a drag and drop editor. So no coding is necessary. The editor writes all the code for you.

Customizing your Wordpress theme with WP Bakery or Elementor drag and drop editors

First, install the Wordpress Composer plugin by WPBakery. The Uncode theme is packaged with a special version of the WP Bakery plugin called Visual Composer. Both the WP Bakery & the Elementor plugins are drag and drop visual editors. Drag & drop editors work with most Wordpress themes like Uncode. The Uncode theme comes packaged with Wordpress page & post templates. In short, with the Visual Composer, you can import and customize responsive Wordpress themes in a visual way, no coding is required.

The Visual Composer is the software to use if you want to bypass the back and forth communication between designers or developers. Crafting a custom page and connecting the following plugins / apps would otherwise require a ton of time and money between designers and developers using any other platform. That is the reason why drag & drop editors are all the rage these days. Almost all ecommerce software has a standard drag & drop editor included.

We find the level of control in our Wordpress theme and website is significantly more customizable versus other drag and drop visual editors offered by Shopify, Clickfunnels, Leadpages, and Squarespace.

Now, it does take a few hours of studying & learning WP Bakery or Elementor drag & drop editors. However, once you understand how rows, columns, and elements work together (called a grid), you’ll be able to customize any website that can rival some of the most advanced & polished websites on the web. In fact, this is the exact system many web development agencies use to handle their website development for clients.

Web chat is #1 For ecommerce

One of the first plugins you should have installed on any ecommerce website is a chat app/plugin like Intercom or Facebook Messenger. This gives you immediate transparency into the questions your customers are asking about your products and business. You can interact with your customers as they arrive. Kinda like the equivalent of a customer walking into your store. You can then use this info to make its way back into your website and business. Slack is another great chat tool that can manage private communication either internally at your business or with your customers.

Forms for capturing data & customer feedback in your Wordpress themes

Okay, After you finish customizing your web pages and installing a chat plugin, you’ll be ready to integrate web forms for capturing data.

The following software apps integrate seamlessly with your Wordpress design. We recommend using a combination of Google Docs, Mailchimp (free up to 2k customers), Typeform or Sumo, and Zapier to connect all the data we’re analyzing. Zapier is the tool that helps pass your website data between all the plugins so you can take that information and analyze it. So for example, if you want to be notified that someone signed up for your email list in mailchimp, or you hit a certain sales threshold, then Zapier can pass that info along to a chat messaging tool like Slack or Intercom.

Use quizzes and incentives to customer data with Typeform and/or Sumo:

We recommend Typeform or Sumo for embedding customer quizzes and customer feedback forms seamlessly within your Wordpress theme. You can then export this data with Zapier and analyze the data with Google Sheets.

Additionally, Sumo is a fantastic tool for building an email list or capturing visitor data with incentives & giveaways.

That’s it! You’re ready to start driving traffic to your website. We’ll dive into that in our next post?

Have some other Wordpress ecommerce or customer relationship plugins you’d like to share? Leave a comment below and I’ll check it out.