WordPress took off as a business tool shortly after plugins were first introduced in version 1.2, back in 2004. The inclusion of plugins was important for a couple of reasons. Most notably because it allowed third-party developers (whether that be an individual or a company) to develop add ons to WordPress, for both personal and business sites.

From a business perspective, this was a huge development, as, prior to 2004, WordPress was still seen as a personal blogging tool with no real business application. Sure, you could build a marketing or brochure site, but you really couldn’t do much more than that.

Plugins slowly entered the marketplace, allowing businesses to do more and more with their sites to help attract (and capture) customer information, and eventually equip them to sell online.

The real boom for WordPress businesses came as a result of eCommerce plugins. This allowed retailers to sell their products and services via their WordPress site. Over the years WordPress has evolved to the point where the back-end process is so smooth and easy to learn that solo-preneurs are jumping on the bandwagon in droves.

In this series, we are going to define some of the most popular types of eCommerce, and break down the different categories of eCommerce customers.

Types of eCommerce

Business owners (or prospective owners) often decides they want to be the next Walmart, without putting enough, if any, thought into what they actually need to do. This lack of planning is usually what causes new businesses to quickly fail. I preach it constantly in my classrooms on both web design and WordPress, but the initial key is lots and lots of planning. First off, let’s define the four types of eCommerce sites.

I’ve heard people try to define as many as 10 types of eCommerce sites, but it isn’t that complicated. What you need to do is identify which of the 4 types of eCommerce sites listed below most accurately matches your business model.

There are 4 types of eCommerce sites; and identifying which one matches your business model the closest is the first step to having a successful site. So, let’s take a look at the four types of eCommerce sites:

Offline Sales

This is where a business uses their website to generate leads, which are then given to their sales team to follow up and close the sale.

The typical online lead generation site usually has a very detailed description of the product(s) being offered, but you need to fill out a form and speak to a sales representative to find out things like pricing, delivery, and warranty. A traditional use of this type of sales is a car dealership.

Indirect Sales

This is one of the two most popular types of eCommerce websites. It allows you to place an order and, once the payment is processed, the seller sends you a physical product. Amazon has been very successful at this, and other major retailers are now jumping on the bandwagon.

Online Sales Direct

This type of site has really taken off in the last few years. It allows you to download a digital product immediately after the payment is processed. Theme marketplaces took their cue from companies like iTunes and Amazon Kindle after seeing their business models succeed beyond anyone’s wildest expectations (well, maybe the folks at Amazon and iTunes had these expectations).

Donation Sites

The final type of eCommerce site is relatively new to the game—it’s the donation site. You pledge money and get nothing in return (other than the good feeling you get from contributing to your favorite cause or project). Sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter are excellent examples.

Understand who you are selling to

As important as the type of eCommerce site you use, is the knowledge of who you are selling to and what their expectations are in terms of creating accounts, getting credit, and how you communicate your inventory management (if you have one).

So let’s take a look at the types of consumer scenarios you will find most often.


Also known as business-to-business, B2B can be one of the trickiest and most complex types of eCommerce stores. If I am in the business of manufacturing widgets and selling them only to other businesses for them to resell to end users or other businesses, I might need to be able to take orders in bulk and manage my inventory, among other things. There’s also the payment piece: do you invoice your clients, or make them pay upfront? This requires a bit of research to see what other companies that sell from the factory floor offer.


B2C, or business-to-consumer, is where a business sells to a consumer. This is the model that Walmart and Amazon (among many others) have great success with. You browse their catalogs choosing the items you want to purchase and, when you are done, you proceed to checkout, where your order and payment are processed. Once processed, your items are shipped to you directly with no brick and mortar store interference.


C2C is where a consumer sells directly to another consumer. Typically this is a one-person shop kind of product where the consumer buys directly from the producer ( usually a solo or entre -preneur).

Alternatively, intermediary companies, such as ebay, also foster this type of interaction.

Consumers are selling directly to consumers with the help of ebay or online classified ad sites like Craigslist. Here, individuals place their items (both new and used) on the site and sell directly to a consumer. Between the consumers, they negotiate shipping and payment—which is typically done via PayPal. There are a number of business who use both Amazon and ebay as a location to sell items, due to the large amounts of traffic they get daily.

We have discussed the types of eCommerce stores and the most common types of eCommerce businesses out there. In the next lessons, we will start to get our hands dirty installing and setting up the back end of our store, and then in the final lesson we will discuss adding products, and the different ways this can be done.

Any questions or comments? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

When not at his day job in the hosting industry, Al teaches WordPress at a Toronto, Ontario college and also does corporate WordPress training. As a freelance web developer, he is always busy building sites on the WordPress platform. All this leaves him very little time to ride his Harley and watch NFL football.

The post The ultimate guide to WordPress eCommerce: Part 1 appeared first on Torque.

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