Building an e-commerce website – Palatine Roses

A website update for a longtime client

Palatine Fruit & Roses has been a client of GAVAMEDIA’s since 2006. We have been their web developers for almost twenty years, before they even started accepting online sales. Our latest iteration we rebuilt everything using WordPress, Elementor, WooCommerce, and a series of custom-built plugins. This gave Palatine the ability to easily edit and maintain the website. This is important when building an e-commerce website.

An eCommerce website with a lot of products

Palatine sells over a thousand products, ranging from hundreds of roses, to fruit trees, fertilizer, and more. We initially built a custom product management platform for Palatine in 2009.

This served their needs for over ten years, but meant that changes to their website were more difficult to make than necessary. With WooCommerce, its just as easy to maintain their inventory as before, except WordPress and Elementor make it much easier to handle their website content.

Why WooCommerce?

Every business has different needs. For some businesses, something like Shopify might be the better choice. Palatine Roses has so many extremely unique needs, that a platform like Shopify would not be adequate.

Because WooCommerce and WordPress are completely open source, and completely editable, this opens the possibility for any kind of custom changes that Palatine needed. This also allowed Palatine to stick with their preferred payment processor.

Unusual Requirements

Due to the very volatile nature of roses, the website had to allow for a number of unusual features. Because Palatine mostly sells bare-root roses, this means that their target market consists of mostly rose gardeners. Because roses can only be planted certain times of the year, this means that the website had to allow for pre orders.

We used GAVAMEDIA’s plugin, Shipping and Pickup Dates for WooCommerce, to allow Palatine to set their own custom shipping and pickup dates. This requires customers to choose a shipping date closely to their growing season.

Because roses are extremely delicate and difficult to ship, Palatine requires that shoppers must have at least three roses in their cart in order to checkout. An acceptation is if a shopper has a rose labeled “Limit one per home”, these roses have an additional fee attached to them, unless more than three roses are in their shopping cart.

There are also regulatory fees for shipping products such as roses. For example, a twelve dollar Movement Certificate fee must be applied when shipping only to some provinces.

Due to the seasonal nature of roses, fruit, and other products that Palatine sells, they needed the ability to open or close entire product categories. For example, bare-root roses are only for sale during the winter and early spring months.

Accepting USD and CAD, with custom pricing

One of the main reasons why we chose WordPress and WooCommerce to build Palatine’s latest website is the flexibility. It was important to Palatine to offer completely different pricing for Americans and Canadians. This allows them to set a higher price when selling to Americans, because there are many extra costs and considerations when shipping a delicate rose from Niagara to California.

Additionally, it was important to Palatine that they accept USD and CAD into two different accounts. It’s currently not possible to do any of this with Shopify, or any other turnkey platform. While most e-commerce platforms will accept multiple currencies, the money is always automatically converted to your one native currency. However, Palatine has a more sophisticated accounting setup, and needed US funds to enter a different bank account than Canadian funds.

To allow different pricing for Americans and Canadians, we had to write a WordPress plugin. This now allows Palatine to set the price for any product both in CAD and USD, regardless of the currency exchange rate.

Pickup Only products

Palatine sells both potted roses and bare-root roses. When customers choose their rose, they’re given the option of choosing potted, or bare-root. Because of the volatile nature of roses, Palatine will only ship bare-root roses. Potted roses can still be purchased on their website, but they can only be picked up in person. By default, this is not possible with WooCommerce.

A product can be pickup only, but this affects all variations of that product. This would mean that both the bare-root and potted versions of roses must share the same shipping rules. To get around this, GAVAMEDIA had to write a custom plugin which categorizes products as Pickup Only based on their category. This means that Palatine can easily add roses to WooCommerce, making one bare-root, and the other Pickup, and the system will automatically allow shipping only for the bare-root version.

This also applies to some other types of products, such as trees, apple cider, and other categories of products that Palatine does not ship.

Strict limitations on limited roses

Some roses are grown in limited quality, and sell out very quickly. To help ensure that as many different rose enthusiasts can buy these roses as possible, it was important to Palatine that these roses could only be sold one per household. Although a basic version of this is available in WooCommerce, it does not take into account variations.

The problem was, customers would add the bare-root version of these rare roses to their shopping cart, and also add the potted version. By default, WooCommerce allows for this, essentially allowing customers to buy two of these very sought-after roses. To avoid this, GAVAMEDIA wrote a custom plugin that checks the customers shopping cart before adding an item. During this check, we look to see if any other variations of that same product are already in the customers shopping cart.

Now when customers attempt to do this, they are given a warning message. The second product will not be added to the shopping cart.

Showing only new products

It was important to Palatine to give their customers the ability to quickly see only their new roses. This is also not a default feature of WooCommerce. We built a custom plugin that adds a “show only new” filter to all rose pages.

Because Palatine wanted complete control over what they classify as “new”, we couldn’t simply list products added within a certain time frame. This is because products get added to the database months in advance, but aren’t actually visible to the public until later. Those products might not qualify as “new” with a filter based on dates. Instead, we created a tag called “new”, which gives Palatine the control to easily add or remove products from this filter.

As you can see, this is a very popular feature, as new roses sell out very quickly.

Unprecedented website traffic

Palatine is one of the top bare-root rose growers in North America. They specialize in roses that are more rare, or new to the North American market. Because of this, every year when Palatine opens their website for bare-root rose sales, they receive an incredible amount of website traffic, from both Canada and the United States.

It’s not unusual for them to have over three thousand visitors on the website trying to checkout at the exact same moment. This level of traffic is not supported by most website providers. GAVAMEDIA and Palatine met with several e-commerce hosting providers that believed they could provide hosting. That is, until they saw Palatine’s Google Analytics data.

Ultimately, GAVAMEDIA opted to build our own server using DigitalOcean. This allowed us to scale up the website power during peak seasons, and then reduce the power back down during slower seasons. This approach has proved very effective. This keeps costs down, but also insures the website has the ability to scale during extreme busy times.

How do we synchronize with their accounting software?

One of the most important aspects of this project was to make sure that the new website integrated perfectly with Palatines new accounting software, Spire. GAVAMEDIA custom built a plugin called Spire Sync, which synchronizes vital information back and forth between the website, and their accounting software. This was largely important because Palatine has a physical store that the public can go to, and buy roses and other products.

When someone buys some roses in their store, that reduces the inventory from their accounting software, which in turn reduces the inventory from their website. The reverse is also true. Sales made online instantly download into their accounting software, adding all of the order details, customer details, and it even reduces the inventory accordingly.

Building an e-commerce website

As you can see, GAVAMEDIA is capable of building e-commerce websites of all sizes and complexities. If you are looking for a more complicated or more customized e-commerce experience, contact our friendly support team today.

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