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Building a WordPress Plugin with BigCommerce

We worked with BigCommerce to integrate their world-class eCommerce platform into WordPress and push it into new boundaries that allow BigCommerce customers to manage a storefront from the convenience of their existing WordPress site with a free, open-source plugin.

We worked with BigCommerce to integrate their world-class eCommerce platform into WordPress and push it into new boundaries that allow BigCommerce customers to manage a storefront from the convenience of their existing WordPress site with a free, open-source plugin. Check out the BigCommerce site to sign up for the early access developer beta.

Scalable eCommerce for WordPress

BigCommerce is a leading platform for creating online storefronts. Thousands of merchants, retailers and businesses trust BigCommerce to drive product sales with an array of robust tools that allow them to manage inventory, process payments and report sales. It’s kind of a big deal.

The thing that BigCommerce is known for is its easy setup. Rather than spending hours (not to mention big development dollars) building an online store from scratch, BigCommerce is ready right out of the box and serves as a one-stop shop (pun intended) for organizations of any size to start selling products right away. They even provide a wide variety of ready-to-go themes that make design a cinch, while allowing for plenty of customization.

Modern Tribe was hired to combine the powerful eCommerce toolset of BigCommerce with the content management capabilities of WordPress. Thanks to years of experience we’ve racked up building and supporting successful WordPress plugins, this project was in our wheelhouse. We were eager to work alongside BigCommerce and build something awesome that would make the platform even more extensible and useful for their customers, while introducing the service to an entirely new segment of users.

Products as Native WordPress Content

Nothing excites us more than a challenge and that’s exactly what we had with this project. With a number of existing eCommerce tools already available for WordPress, we wanted to approach this plugin from a different angle that complements the core benefit that BigCommerce brings to the table: flexibility.

BigCommerce already has a brilliant solution for managing products and the beauty of it is that all the data lives in a secure, scalable place that removes the burden of WordPress site owners of having to worry about self-hosting that data and the memory limits and security concerns that might come with it.

That presented an ideal opportunity to tap into the BigCommerce platform and feed it directly into WordPress so that products can be embedded alongside native WordPress content. We created a custom interface that generates a WordPress shortcode based on products that the user selects from their own BigCommerce catalog and embeds those products into any WordPress page or post — all without having to know a lick of code or switch between WordPress and BigCommerce.

This means users can access their entire BigCommerce catalog directly in WordPress and publish anything in it to WordPress like they do any other content on their website, whether it’s one specific product or any entire category of products.

A Full Shopping Experience

A lot of work went into establishing a solid and reliable connection between BigCommerce and WordPress. Thankfully, BigCommerce has a robust API and we worked with them to extend it further to open up more possibilities. With the two systems talking, we saw opportunities to move the plugin beyond embedded content and into actionable shopping experiences that drive sales.

The first thing we developed was a handy “Buy Now” button on products that allows visitors on the WordPress site to immediately purchase any embedded product. Each click triggers an API call to BigCommerce and sends the customer to a personalized page for checkout.

That’s great for purchasing one product at a time, but we also wanted customers to be able to buy multiple items in a single transaction. We built an optional cart that, when enabled in the plugin settings, displays an “Add to Cart” button on products, allowing customers to place as many products in the cart as they like. We took to calling this feature the “smart cart” because it can be added to any WordPress menu and will tally up the number of items in the cart as they are added.

Automatic for the People

How can we make managing a store in WordPress as easy as it is in BigCommerce? By taking all of the setup and guesswork out of the mix.

We figured the most efficient way of setting up a store was to do it all automatically, and that is exactly what the plugin does. Importing products creates all the pages needed for an entire store, including individual pages for each imported product and a full product archive complete with the ability to search products by keyword, filter them by brand or category, and re-arrange the product display by a number of options, including name, price and rating among others.

The icing on the top? Products are automatically imported on a regular basis. It’s truly a “set it and forget it” process.

Ecommerce the WordPress Way

The BigCommerce team asked us to make sure that the plugin respects WordPress standards through and through and we couldn’t agree with them more. WordPress itself is supported by a large and active community of users and developers, ourselves included.

That means every line of code was written with WordPress standards and conventions in mind for the sake of make the plugin as flexible and extensible as possible while being mindful of how will play nicely with any other installed plugin or theme:

  • Users can customize everything from button colors to the number of products per page using the WordPress Customizer
  • The code for any template can edited by making a copy of it in the active theme
  • Hundreds of functions are included that developers can hook into to customize the functionality of features or even develop new feature of their own

The plugin is even developed with an eye toward the future by supporting Gutenberg, the new editor that will introduce a drag-and-drop interface to WordPress in Version 5.0.

To Infinity and Beyond!

If it’s not already obvious, this project has been an absolute blast for us. It has not only allowed us to flex our WordPress muscles, but also to up our game by pushing the boundaries of what is possible and being on the bleeding edge of new standards, like using the WordPress REST API bridge two systems or diving into React.js for Gutenberg integration. And, while these and other challenges are rewards in and of themselves, the best part of this project is that we have new friends and partners at BigCommerce and look forward to collaborating with them to continue making this plugin serve BigCommerce users and their customers better.