Multisite Ecommerce with WordPress and BigCommerce
For ecommerce retailers whose footprint extends to multiple languages, regions, or brands, multiple storefronts managed under a single admin can be a great strategy for providing distinct shopping experiences for the various segments within your customer base. A multisite approach can bring a significant ROI for the business. The real question is — what route and configuration will be best for your business and achieve the results you’re looking for.
There are two strategies you can use to achieve multiple storefronts on WordPress: you can use a WordPress feature called a Multisite Network, or you can use multiple separate WordPress installs. The choice will depend on your business needs and the level of technical complexity you’d like to introduce. In this post, we’ll take a look at both options and walk through how to set up WordPress multisite with the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin.
Multisite Network vs Separate Installs
You may already be familiar with the popular WordPress feature called Multisite. This feature gives the ability to group a network of sites with shared resources under one WordPress installation. With all sites under one shared set, Multisite makes it easy to spin up clone sites and reduce the time needed to update WordPress themes and plugins. Some great examples of WordPress multisite installs are WordPress.com which has over 37 million sites on one network, and Varsity News Network, which has nearly one thousand.
With a Multisite Network, there’s one install of themes and plugins, and every site on the network has access to them. This means that when there are updates, the site administrators only have to update one set of themes and plugins and the entire network benefits.
Although sites on a Multisite Network share the same theme, you can customize each theme individually through the customizer, including adding CSS to the editing block. With these customization options, you can make each site in your Multisite Network look distinct.
The alternative to a Multisite Network is using separate WordPress installations for each single site, with no connection or shared resources between them. With separate WordPress installs, each site gets its own copy of themes and plugins. This is a good option when you need to use completely different themes for each site.
To decide which option is best for you, there’s a simple test. From a technological standpoint, if your stores are going to do a good job sharing a theme and collection of plugins, then your setup is a good candidate for a real WordPress Multisite Network. If they do NOT do a good job using the same theme and plugins then you should have multiple distinct WordPress websites.
Multisite and BigCommerce
BigCommerce’s built-in support for Channels allows store owners to use a single BigCommerce account as a product engine serving different products to different WordPress storefronts. In the same way that a merchant might list products to Omni channels like eBay or Amazon, each WordPress site connected to the store also becomes a channel. Merchants can manage an almost unlimited number of storefronts with a single BigCommerce account.
The channels feature has two key elements: the ability to pick and choose which products are listed to each WordPress site and the ability to attribute orders to the channel they originated from. This means that you can segment your catalog among different WordPress sites, for example, a Retail and a Wholesale site, and you can also see in your Order View which orders were placed on which site.
How to Set Up WordPress Multisite
In order to prepare your WordPress installation to allow Multisite, start by backing up your database and files. You’ll also want to deactivate any active WordPress plugins.
Once your installation is ready and you’ve completed your backup, start by enabling the Network Setup menu item. Simply put this code (see below) into your wp-config.php file to create a very nice user interface for building your network and managing multiple sites.
/* Multisite */
define( ‘WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE’, true );
After completing the WordPress Multisite menu installation, you can use the WordPress user interface to create and manage your network from the My Sites menu:
Sites, Users, Themes and Plugins are now managed at the Network level:
For complete instructions, refer to the WordPress Codex for more detail on how to install and configure Multisite networks.
Domains in a Multisite Network
When creating a network of WordPress sites, you can use three different styles of domain names — subdomains, subdirectories, or fully qualified domain names.
Let’s imagine that you’re making a domain-based network of sites selling sports memorabilia. You want a WordPress site for football, one for baseball, and one for basketball. You could do fully qualified domain names like this:
In that scenario, no one would know that the three network sites are related in any way. Alternatively, you could designate subdomains like this:
This keeps each site separate, but all part of the example.com network. Lastly, you can use subdirectories, like this:
This makes it look like one site, with three areas in it.
You may choose any domain mapping style you want, but you may only use one per network. So you CANNOT have this:
How do I Enable Multisite using BigCommerce for WordPress?
Once you have multisite enabled for your WordPress installation, it’s time to install the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin at the network level, configure it for each site, and start managing your product visibility for each site.
1. Install the plugin.
Since Plugins are now installed at the Network level, you need to go to ‘My Sites’ → ‘Network Admin’ → Plugins to install BigCommerce for WordPress. When there search for ‘bigcommerce’ and install it from there:
You’ll notice that instead of Activate being the call to action after installing, it’s now Network Activate. Click that and you’ll be sent to the installed plugins page for the Network.
2. Configure the plugin for your first site.
Navigate to your first site:
Within the first site’s admin, you’ll see BigCommerce in the side nav. Each new site you add will have the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin installed, and each plugin maintains its own configuration.
To start configuring the connection from the site to your BigCommerce account, click Get Started on the related notification that shows in the admin or click on the side nav item for BigCommerce:
When you click Get Started, you’ll see the welcome screen where you can choose a type of connection. Choose the Enter your API credentials option:
Now you’ll have to enter a set of BigCommerce API credentials:
Read more about generating BigCommerce API here. Once you’ve entered your credentials, click Connect using API credentials.
This will connect to BigCommerce, import your product catalog into WordPress, and set up your ecommerce-specific pages, like cart, checkout, and customer account login.
3. Configure which products show on the site.
By default, all products in your catalog will import into WordPress and a products archive ‘All Products’ page will be created for you at /products (this URL, the page layout, and available filters can be configured in the Customizer):
However, you can set the Plugin to only import products into WordPress if you have listed them to the specific WordPress storefront channel, from within the BigCommerce control panel:
For WordPress Multisite implementations, it’s a good practice to update this setting to ‘No, I’ll select which products should be listed on this Channel within BigCommerce’.
4. Set up additional sites.
To add more sites, go to ‘My Sites’ → ‘Network Admin’ → ‘Sites’ and click Add New:
You’ll then add a few details to define your new site:
Note: to set up a site using a separate domain, you’ll need to following this guide that details how to enable WP Multisite domain mapping.
After clicking Add Site, WordPress will now show more than one site within the ‘My Sites’ top level nav. At this point go through step 2 for this new Site. Everything should be the same except for the fact you’ll be asked to set up a new channel:
Now, this channel can be used within BigCommerce to control which products are listed for sale on the new WordPress site you just created:
For this example, we’ll hide Product 1 on the new site, which shows up as the ‘new-brand.com’ channel we created while setting up the plugin, by selecting the checkbox to the left of it and choosing the Hide Products on Channels action:
Now, when we go to the new site, you can see that Product 1 is no longer there:
For developers willing to take on the complexity of WordPress Multisite, multiple sites can unlock a lot of flexibility for the business.
- Quickly boot up new ecommerce sites based on a shared template and catalog
- Manage all WordPress instances under one admin dashboard
- Streamline user permissions to ensure each department has access only when needed
Whether you decide on multiple websites using a Multisite Network or separate WordPress installs, the BigCommerce for WordPress channels feature makes it easy to segment your product catalog among your storefronts.
Have you set up multisite with WordPress? What business use cases did it help you solve for? Do you have any tips or tricks to manage multiple sites? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @BigCommerceDevs!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I sell using multiple currencies?
To enable a multi-currency setup, you need more than one BigCommerce store, each with its own currency, shipping and payment configurations. You can then map each store to a site using a subdirectory, which will enable the ability to add a geo selector into your WordPress theme.
BigCommerce is working on ways to simplify this so you only need one store, so stay tuned!
How can I create storefronts in multiple languages?
Although the BigCommerce product catalog will be stored in a single language, you can customize the presentation language among each of your WordPress storefronts. One great option is to use a WordPress plugin for translation. There are some great plugins for this like WPML, Polylang, and Weglot. Additionally, you can override product titles and descriptions from the WordPress admin, and those changes will be persisted in WordPress across future product imports.
Does using WordPress Multisite affect my BigCommerce plan pricing?
The BigCommerce for WordPress plugin is free to download and use — no matter how many WordPress stores you connect to your BigCommerce store. While there’s no cost to set up multiple WordPress storefronts, sales through your WordPress channels do count toward your store’s 12-month trailing GMV, which is used to calculate plan pricing tier. For more information, see our Pricing guide.