Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

Building an online checkout with Stripe and React

Monday, March 13th, 2017 | Programming, Tech

Worfolk Anxiety recently launched its web store. We build this for a number of reasons. One is that it gives the customer a better experience because they can buy one eBook and get it in every format. Another is that it makes it a lot easier for us to offer upsells and tripwires.

Payment processor

We’re using Stripe as the payment processor. Stripe has become very popular over the past few years because it allows you to build an entirely integrated checkout process without any mention that Stripe is behind it.

How do they do this without requiring you to have PCI compliance on your server? It is all done client-side. You include their JavaScript library. This hashes the credit card details the customer enters and sends it off to stripe’s servers. Stripe then send you back a hash that you can then use to make server-side credit card charges.

Using React

Given so much of the work has to be done in JavaScript, React was a good choice for building the checkout. This allowed me to make it interactive and give the user clear and speedy feedback.

In the case of our checkout process, you are asked to enter your credit card details. Once you have done this, further fields are revealed asking you to enter your name and email address. This step by step approach is a better experience for the customer because they do not get overloaded.

Deploying with Webpack

The finally step is Webpack. This takes the JavaScript and packages it up for the browser. Because the JavaScript is written in ES6, and web browsers only support ES5, it first uses Babel to transpile it back to ES5, before loading everything into one single module and compressing it.

How to set up a web store with WooCommerce

Sunday, March 12th, 2017 | Tech

At the end of last year, I used Shopify to build an e-commerce store for Mountain Wallet. This worked well, but the costs quickly added up. The base Shopify subscription is only $30 but then there are themes and plugins that you will want to pay for on top of that. Last month, I ported it over to WordPress and WooCommerce, and I thought I would discuss my experience.

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress. Once installed, it provides you with a shop admin built into the WordPress admin, as well as front-end pages and a full checkout process. It installs like any other WordPress plugin making it very easy to get up-and-running.

Because of its popularity, many WordPress themes support WooCommerce out of the box. If not, you may need to play around until you find a suitable theme. I used a theme named Bento.

How easy is it to use?

As easy as Shopify. You add your products like you would add posts. It’s the same with adding product images: you use the media uploader. There was some messing around setting up shipping options and configuring payment integrations, but nothing too taxing.

Plugins I am using

As well as WooCommerce, I am using the following plugins:

  • Facebook Messenger Chat
  • Header and Footer
  • Instagram Feed
  • MailChimp
  • Social Media Flying Icons

There is nothing directly commerce related here. These allow me to add a chat link to the Facebook page, insert Google Tag Manager scripts, link the Instagram feed, add a mailing list sign-up form and some share icons.

I also have my standard array of security plugins installed.

Shopify

Thursday, February 16th, 2017 | Reviews

I have been using Shopify to build out an e-commerce store. It has a lot of love it and hate it features.

It is easy to set up. You create your store and select a theme. Then you upload your products with some images and at this point, you are basically done. They have an integrated cart system and credit card processing, or you can add in a third-party payment processor. They have an apps store where you can install add-ons to your shop.

All of this for $30 per month.

On the downside, there is very little customisation. Making basic changes to the layout are impossible. Just adding extra text, for example, is not possible. The only way you can really make the store look the way you want is to create a custom template. There is some good documentation for this, but it requires a lot of diving into code and the propriety systems that Shopify use.

The store configuration is also limited. Products get a description field and that it is. You have to put everything in there. There are no features or specifications, or anything you could use to filter on later. The only way to do it is to use product categories.

The add-ons are good, but most charge you an extra $10 per month. You can only accept payments in your local currency: so if you are based in the UK, you cannot sell in dollars.

Overall, Shopify allows you to get set up and selling very quickly. However, it lacks the customisation you will want down the road.

Are Amazon reviews useful?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016 | Thoughts

I have previously written about why review sites, such as Trip Advisor, are nowhere near as good as books like the Leeds Restaurant Guide. The problem is that the reviews are inconsistent, lack quality and depth, and may be written by someone who works for the restaurant.

It occurs to be that Amazon reviews might be similarly useless.

Recently, I was searching Amazon for some cake tins. There was plenty of options. However, working out which was the correct choice was a tricky business. Some of them had plenty of five-star reviews with short comments such as “amazing cake tin”. But they would also be accompanied by the odd one-star review saying “it leaks”. The same pattern was repeated over and over.

Then other products had no reviews, so you either had to take a chance or exclude these as options.

This results in me having a huge array of options, but no quick way of deciding which was best. I had to spend time looking through the quality of the reviews to try and discern which ones could be trusted and which could not be. I had to weigh up what the required numbers of reviews were before I could assume the star rating could be trusted.

This also places a huge amount of cognitive processing time on my brain. This kind of decision making is frustrating and tiresome.

Amazon reviews certainly can be helpful in validating our purchasing decisions, or, given a sufficient number of them, helping us make the decisions in the first place. However, I think do not believe they are a perfect replacement for reviews from trusted sources and can often cause more problems than they solve.

The Everything Store

Thursday, January 28th, 2016 | Books

The Everything Store is a biography of Amazon and Jeff Bezos. It is written by Brad Stone.

It discusses Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography and it is easy to make comparisons between the two. Both seem demanding people to work out. IN fact, Bezos more so. Life at Amazon is painted as relentless. Bezos speaks out against work life balance and seems to work every employee into the ground. I think I have come away being put off by the idea of working for Amazon.

This is an interesting contrast to Netflix. They claim they don’t care how long employees are in he office for as long as they do good work. How true that is in practice I am not sure though it is true that they do not track the amount of holiday staff take (you can take as much as you want), which suggests they do have a relaxed policy. Netflix have of course been hugely successful as well.

It also makes me wonder whether you have to be a bad guy to succeed in business. Though successes such as Richard Branson would suggest there are alternatives.

Bezos is a man driven to build The Everything Store. He wants every product to be available immediately for customers. This is why Amazon sometimes drifts away from selling directly (Amazon auctions, Amazon marketplace) but often comes back to fulfilled by Amazon. They want to be able to control the whole customer experience, just like Apple.

Amazon itself appears in a mixed light. It is an innovative company. It did a great job of bringing together online retail. Look inside the book, search inside the book, super-saver delivery, prime, affiliates and recommendations were all developed or popularised by Amazon. It was the first to get e-books correct with the Kindle, and it’s purchase of Audible has helped audiobooks as well. KDP and CreateSpace allows you to publish directly onto Amazon. Not to mention Amazon Fire, Amazon Web Services (AWS), A9 and the many technology fronts Amazon has. In terms of market share, AWS is huge and probably under-appreciated on that list.

Amazon’s core retail business has always been about books. Bezos has a passion for books, which probably partly explains why they have been so successful. Compare this to music where Apple dominated. Stone correctly points out that Steve Jobs loved music, whereas Bezos had no interest in it. Even when you have a giant corporation behind you, it would seem you still need to do things with passion to succeed.

Bezos does embrace the same view as Jobs on disrupting your own company. I love the Jobs quote, if you don’t canabalise your own company, somebody else will. This is exactly what Bezos wanted with the Kindle: he told his team to destroy Amazon’s core market of paper book sales. This had worked out as one of Amazon’s biggest successes.

They are also a relentless competitor. Like Walmart they are willing to stomach major loses to drive competitors out of business. They don’t treat their suppliers well either. Something I experienced first hand when publishing the Leeds Restaurant Guide. Amazon give me only around 30% of the sales price, whereas Apple give me 70%.

Getting an insight into Amazon’s logistics was fascinating. For example, super-saver delivery. I had lazily assumed it was that they used some kind of cheaper, slower delivery. Not necessarily so. The idea behind it is that they don’t even get it out of the warehouse until they have spare capacity. You might get lucky and they will have capacity straight away. Or you might not.

There is also the complexity of delivery. How often have you bought a USB stick and it turned up in box the size of a microwave? It’s amusing for the customer (ignoring the environmental effect, which we should not). However, for the business, putting the right products into the smallest possible packaging is actually an important part of cost-saving efficiency.

In some ways, Amazon could be seen as a bit of a mess. In the conclusion, Stone talks about how Amazon often has poor communication between departments and effort is also often duplicated. However, the company uses these things to their advantage. Different projects compete with each other on their own internal market, like their search routines did, with the best one surviving. Often companies are desperate to avoid duplication, but maybe it is not always that bad.

The-Everything-Store

O.W.L.S.

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 | Video

Following on from the video I posted yesterday regarding Amazon’s air shipments, Gareth pointed out Waterstones have announced plans to start delivering books by trained owls.

Amazon Prime Air

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 | Video

Looks pretty cool. I’m still expecting to find the bit where they say “only joking of course”.

Bristol Cameras review

Sunday, September 8th, 2013 | Reviews

Recently I bought myself a new tripod. I ordered through Bristol Cameras as they were one of the few retailers that said they had what I wanted.

My first experience wasn’t great. I had originally ordered a lens cap from Amazon, but they kept sending me emails saying there was a delay in stock arriving (they never said they had any in but I wasn’t in a hurry), so in the end I cancelled it and ordered from Bristol Cameras instead.

After doing that I got an email from them saying they didn’t have any in, the item had been discontinued and they could replace it with something else but they had no idea when the replacement would be arriving. They don’t have online cancellations, so I had to phone them up and cancel.

This time, when I ordered, I waited four days before they attached a note to my order saying that the item had been discontinued and they didn’t have any, but recommended a replacement item with similar features.

This cost £50 more so I had to phone them up again and make another payment over the phone.

Having done this, the item took another two weeks to arrive. I finally got my tripod, or at least a version similar to what I had ordered, 19 days after placing the original order.

On the positive side, they did answer their phone both times I’ve called them, and here was no big queue, they answered pretty much straight away. But it has felt like a bit of an ordeal, and I think they should be more honest and with no stock information, lead times are a bit of a mystery.