The world of shopping has moved at an alarming rate since the creation of the World Wide Web, and it continues to do so. More people are shopping online than ever, and their expectations of how an e-commerce store should function are rising daily. Simply put, if you do not keep up developing your online store’s functionality, then you could be at risk of missing out on those customers who expect the new standards.
Thankfully WooCommerce is a well-backed platform in which the latest technologies are made readily available through a simple plugin installation, if not already built into the platform as standard.
In this article, we are going to talk about improving the way in which your customers receive order notifications during and after their purchases. Whilst it might not seem like the most exciting topic around WooCommerce, keeping your customer well informed will not only improve the customer’s experience, but will also save on you having to respond to those who are constantly seeking order updates, and trust me they will.
If you are using the Twilio SMS gateway service, you would be looking at a cost of around $0.007 / £0.03p per message on average. You would also be required to rent a unique mobile number for use of the service at an additional cost of around $1 / 80p per month, or maybe higher depending on the number you choose.
Unless you are going to write the code yourself, you would also be looking at around $49 worth of plugins as well for the integration.
Emails Have Become Saturated
Quite a bold statement, but I am sure that almost all of you would agree that a majority of your emails nowadays have become the technical equivalent of those pizza leaflets that fill your letterbox. What started as an effective and efficient tool to communicate has been ruined by advertisers and spammy content to the point where those who check their emails probably spend more time deleting emails than actually reading them.
I am by no means saying that email is dead or should no longer be used, in fact, the right email marketing campaign will do wonders for your sales if executed effectively. Instead, emails have now become a far more complex communication path for online stores, where messaging and timing are critical to ensure engagement, that is, of course, provided it didn’t hit your customer’s spam filter and get missed altogether in the first place.
WooCommerce Order Notifications
For those of you who are new to WooCommerce, an order can have one of many statuses during the purchase process. Generally speaking, after a customer moves from your checkout page to your payment gateway, an order is created with a ‘pending payment‘ status, from which it moves into ‘processing‘ after that payment has been confirmed, and finally, depending on how you run your store, will change to ‘completed‘ once dispatched.
Each of these order status changes can trigger a large range of things to happen within WooCommerce, one of which is an order notification being triggered and sent to your customers to keep them updated.
As like most other e-commerce platforms, WooCommerce by default offers customer order notification updates via email. Within your WooCommerce admin if you navigate to WooCommerce > Settings > Emails you will see all of your existing order statuses, along with a button to manage their emails independently of each other. We are not going to go into the depths of email notifications here, but I would fully recommend you alter the default wordings and styles on your own store to help it fit your site branding, and ultimately stand out.
Moving From Email Notifications To Text Messaging
So you have your email notifications set up and running, but wouldn’t it be nice to offer your customers that extra touch of being notified via SMS updates as well. There is rightfully the argument to be had that moving from emails to text messages could potentially end up in the same dilemma of email spam, but I believe that used in the right way, an SMS update will be welcomed without agitation, provided they are limited to order updates only and nothing else.
So how do we achieve it? There are a number of services available to provide SMS support, and after trying a number of them I have grown to love Twilio for its simple dashboards, price, and integration options with WooCommerce. All platforms will charge you to use their service but at around 3p / 1 cent per message, it is without doubt, a cost-effective tool to improve your customer’s experience.
Getting Started With Twilio and WooCommerce
Let’s start by creating a free Twilio account, if you sign up using the link provided you will receive $10 FREE credit to start with, bonus! After email verification, you will then need to provide a mobile number for verification as well.
You should then be taken to your account dashboard which will look a little like this.
You will now need to navigate to the dropdown menu in the top left hand corner and select ‘Create New Project‘.
The next step is a very similar setup as before. First, you will need to give your project a name, I would recommend the name of your website.
Next up you will need to verify a mobile number to be associated with the account, no issue in using the same number you used when initially creating the account here.
Finally, you will be asked whether you are comfortable with code, this is the first step on working on the technical integration, but don’t worry we can skip over this as I will show you everything you need to know. You can answer ‘no‘ to the coding question and then on the next page hit the ‘Skip to dashboard‘ button.
You should now be taken to your newly created project which shows your account balance as well as two very important pieces of information, your Account SID, and your Auth Key, go ahead and copy those two values down, we will need those later. You will also need to hit the ‘Get a Trial Number‘ button and store that along with two previously mentioned keys.
Hopefully you are still with me, all being well you should now have a new Twilio account created, as well we the following three details put aside ready for the next step.
- Twilio Mobile Number
- Account SID
- Auth Key
Pairing WooCommerce and Twilio Together
Ok so now that is everything ready to go on the Twilio side of things, we now need to integrate this account into your WooCommerce store. Thankfully all of the technical hassles are removed from this process by using the Twilio SMS Notifications plugin created by SkyVerge of whom I have spoken with a great amount and they are always happy to help with any issues, highly recommended.
The plugin is available directly from the WooCommerce store for just $49 which in my eyes is a real bargain compared to the stress of having to write out the code and integration yourself.
Go ahead and download the plugin, install it on your site from the WordPress admin and then head to WooCommerce > Settings > SMS where you should find a page full of self-explanatory SMS notification options. The ones we are interested in are towards the bottom labeled ‘Connection Settings‘.
These values should look familiar, go ahead and enter the values we saved from earlier in the tutorial and click ‘Save Settings‘ at the bottom of the page.
All being well you should see a success message from which your values have been accepted, awesome!
Now we can finally get onto the fun stuff, let’s go back to that same settings page and send our first SMS message by using the ‘Send Test SMS‘ form right at the bottom. Don’t forget that all mobile numbers handled by Twilio must be in the E.164 format to work, and whilst in the trial stage of your account, you will only be able to send messages to the number you originally verified.
If all has gone well then you should soon receive that test text message and your setup is complete, nice work!
The hard work is done, you have now set up both the Twilio and WooCommerce integrations and can now send text messages directly from your store. The only issue is that so far this has all been performed within your Twilio trial account which is limited to only the single number you verified when creating your account, not ideal for your customers!
The next steps you will want to look at is purchasing a unique number to use within Twilio, as well as upgrading your account to a paid status so that you can open the restrictions and enable the full scope of WooCommerce order notifications, which is why you are here in the first place.
After this, it is just a case of working your way through those settings within the WooCommerce admin and altering the messages to a custom SMS message as you wish. When I am working on a new e-commerce store with SMS functionality I generally enable the notifications for both the ‘Processing’ and ‘Completed’ statuses so that the customer receives confirmation of their order, as well as notice when their order has been shipped, but of course, you can include others should you wish to.
If you are one of the many people who have also integrated the Custom WooCommerce Order Status plugin within your store, you will be pleased to hear that the Twilio plugin works alongside it seamlessly with no issues whatsoever.
Well, we have covered quite a bit here haven’t we! I really hope you have found this tutorial useful and are now well on the road to sending SMS notifications from your own WooCommerce store.
It might come across as quite a daunting task, but once you have gone through the process for the first time, you will find it to be very straightforward and ultimately satisfying when you receive that first test message.
If you are looking to use text messages in more ways than just WooCommerce order updates then I suggest you read our article on How To Send An SMS From WordPress Programatically.
Please let me know in the comments below how you have found this tutorial, and if you have any further questions please let me know and I will try my best to help!Buy Me a Coffee?