While, an online shopping mall for WordPress can potentially go on to become an extremely extensive and strong system that has an immense opportunity for mall owners, store owners and end users alike, it’s important that it should be built right.
We’ve previously spoken about creating an online shopping mall for WordPress. Here, in addition to understanding what an Online Shopping Mall really is, we discussed and reviewed aspects such as the difference between an online shopping mall and an online marketplace, the various users in an online shopping mall for WordPress, their interaction with the system and with each other and the benefits for all the entities involved.
But, as the Mall Owner or the Network Administrator, there’s a lot more you need to discern. So, let’s jump right in and discuss in detail, the various features that can be incorporated in an online shopping mall for WordPress and some aspects concerning the Management of multiple sites that you need to get acquainted with.
Features to include in an online shopping mall for WordPress
1. Application Form for Store Registration
- The most primary feature that will be needed in an online shopping mall for WordPress would be an application form for store registration. Users who want to be converted into store owners will use this application form. The application form will incorporate the store creation process which would include providing the required information, choosing the required subscription plan and making an initial payment. Once the application form has been completed and submitted a store will then be created in the online mall.
- In case you’re looking for a customized setup process, the application form can then be created using Gravity Forms for WordPress. Considering that store owners would function as paid members of your mall service, you could alternatively use the MemberPress membership plugin to handle registrations.
2. eCommerce Store Pages
- Once the store owner has successfully registered a store on the online shopping mall an e-Commerce website will then be created. This website will be built on WooCommerce, one of the most used eCommerce platforms in the world.
- Additionally, the store owner will also get access to other accessory functionalities that might be provided by the store owner on the multisite. Access to these functionalities can be based on the subscription plan that has been selected by the store owner.
3. Display Stores in Website
- The one thing that is common among all online users is that they have become extremely impatient and so as the mall owner it must be your constant effort to make the system simple for users. Users will always keep coming back to a website which they deem easy to use.
- One aspect where an opportunity can be created to make the system elementary is the search process. An option to search for stores in an online shopping mall for WordPress based on the store names would be beneficial especially for customers and mall owners as they would now be able to search for stores easily instead of scanning the entire list manually.
- Another option that can be provided is to search for stores based on products on the main site. This feature could store owners as well, who could search for their competitors to make important marketing and sales decisions.
4. Supplementary Pages
- The shop page is the most essential page for an eCommerce store. However, having said that it is also important that an eCommerce store should have other pages such as About Us, Contact, Support etc the usefulness of which cannot be denied from an end users perspective.
- Hence, a store owner should be provided with these pages at the time of store creation. The store owner should also be provided to customize the content on these pages from the back end as per his requirement.
- Furthermore, store owners can be allowed to create pages from the backend without having to contact the mall owner.
5. Custom URLs for Individual Stores
- A possibility should be provided to the store owner to specify a custom URL at the time of e-Commerce store creation. A custom URL would provide the store owner with an opportunity to create an individual identity while remaining a part of the online shopping mall for WordPress
- This feature can be provided to the store owner as an optional feature and can be provided as part of an advanced subscription plan.
6. Store Activation Option
- There could be a scenario wherein the store owner might want to activate the website only after the entire website has been set up. Hence, the store owner should be provided with an option to activate the store as per his requirement.
7. Store Closed Option
- You might have surely seen ‘Store Closed’ signs in malls. There could be a number of reasons for the store owner to make use of this sign. It could either be the store is under maintenance or it could be closed for a few days due to the holiday season. Similarly, it might sometime be required for an online store to remain closed too. In such a situation the store owner should be provided with an option to do so.
- The store owner can be provided with a store-hours plugin to provide this feature. The plugin should provide the store owner with a simple on/off option to keep the store closed as per requirement. However, while the store will be closed for users to make purchases it will be fully functional in the backend.
- The customer can additionally be provided with an inquiry form along with the store closed message for any inquiries that he might want to make. Remember, do not shut out customers completely ever!
8. Localization Ready
- Unlike a traditional shopping mall which might be located in a place which speaks one language, it might be easier for customers to find their way around the mall. However, when the same concept goes online you are essentially dealing with store owners who might belong to any of the 196 countries in the world catering to customers speaking in various possible.
- In such a case the store owner should be given an option to localize the website to a language of his choice. Using this localization feature the store owner can capture a customer base from a particular region thereby improving sales and cater to a vast group of customers.
9. Global Shop Page
- So, up until now, we have mostly spoken about features which will turn out to be favorable to store owners. And it makes sense after all your clients will be the store owners. However, the entire point of an online shopping mall for WordPress is to improve the online shopping experience for customers and provide diverse products under one roof.
- In that direction one absolutely incredible to have in an online shopping mall for WordPress would be a global shop page. This feature would fetch products from all the stores in the online shopping mall for WordPress and display them on a single shop page.
- Now, when an end user selects a product from the shop page he will be taken to the product page of that particular store.
- So, in spite of the fact that the development process for this feature would involve tremendous effort, it would definitely be worth every bit the effort and it would provide an extraordinary customer experience.
10. Single Sign-On
To increase customer experience, a feature that’s a must is an option for them to sign in across all sites at once. This can simplify the registration process too, wherein, they could register only once and be registered across all stores. This offers an advantage to store owners too, since they can market to customers of other stores.
Now that we’re clear about which features could help you take your online shopping mall one step closer to eCommerce success, let’s look at the other aspects and responsibilities that come with being the mall owner.
Managing a virtual shopping mall on WordPress
Since we’re using WordPress Multisite wherein, the parent website functions as a mall and the various subsites function as individual stores, all the sites can be managed conveniently from a single dashboard by you, the Mall Owner or The Network Administrator.
You’ll be charging your store owners on a monthly or yearly basis in exchange for the services and resources that you will be providing in terms of the hosting, themes or plugins. It makes perfect sense for a number of sites that have a similar functionality to share these resources.
All of your network’s themes and plugins are stored just once, no matter how many sites use them. This makes for more efficient use of server space and facilitates easy management of the multiple stores. Let’s try and focus on one aspect at a time.
1. Managing Plugins
Easier management on a multisite network comes at the cost of reduced flexibility and independence for the individual sites. That’s because, site admins can’t install themes or plugins specific to each store, but can only activate those that have been installed by the Mall Owner. It makes sense to have the WooCommerce plugin or another essential plugin like Yoast SEO to be network activated, so that it’s available once the store is created. Site Specific plugins can be made avialable based on the subscription plan an owner signs up for.
Network Security Plugins and Auto Backup Plugins (which allow you to make regular backups, so you can quickly replace any broken or hacked sites with a previous copy that’s unaffected) without which you absolutely cannot do, should be set up as must-use plugins.
Plugins are great to add functionality to your clients’ website. But not all plugins are compatible with WordPress Multisite. So that’s another thing you need to keep in mind as the mall owner. Considering this, it’s a good thing the individual store owners won’t be able to add unknown or malicious code in your WordPress installation. This factor offers one extra layer of security.
2. The Themes
WordPress allows you to activate themes in two ways. You can either activate a particular theme across the entire network or you can install themes on the main website and let the individual site owners choose to activate the themes that they prefer.
Considering the fact that each store owner would prefer a unique layout of their subsite to create brand awareness, sharing themes might not always be possible. Your best bet would be to provide options for store owners to choose a particular theme.
3. The Security and Updates
It’s important to keep your network secure. By secure I mean keeping it backed up, making regular security checks, and updating the themes and plugins you’ve installed.
Updating themes, plugins, and WordPress itself is straightforward. You’ll see a notification if any of your code needs updating and you simply install it and update. Another important thing to note is that you’ll be updating live sites which are critical to your clients. So we suggest you regularly backup all data using a plugin or keep a copy of your network on your local machine (or even better, on a staging server) which you use to test updates before you activate them on your live site.
The Last Word
Apart from the points we’ve covered above, you need to make sure your settings are right. For example, you can make the appropriate ‘Upload settings’ that determine the appropriate file sizes that are to be permitted.
All of this sounds pretty daunting, but if you’ve signed up to manage sites for other people, especially if you’re charging them, it’s essential that you do everything you can to create value for your customers and avoid downtime.
If you need help, be sure to add your question in the comment section below.