Last updated on October 26th, 2022 at 01:02 pm
You have several options when you want to launch an online business selling physical or digital products. You could opt for a website builder like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace; you could choose to go with an eCommerce website builder like Shopify or BigCommerce; or, you could use WordPress to build a WooCommerce online store.
I’ve been building WordPress websites and online stores for over a decade now and in this guide, I’ll be showing you how to build an eCommerce website using WordPress and the free WooCommerce plugin.
If you’ve been concerned that you need to hire a developer to build an online store with WordPress, you’ll be pleased to know that both WordPress and WooCommerce are a lot more beginner-friendly than they used to be, and you don’t need a ton of technical knowledge to launch your online store. Even WordPress beginners can set up eCommerce stores in less than an hour.
Step 1: Get Hosting and Install WordPress
Before creating a WordPress online store, you need to choose a web host and domain, and then you can install WordPress. Your domain name is your website address (e.g. example.com), and hosting is where your website lives on the internet. Once you have purchased your domain name and hosting, you can install WordPress with a few clicks. Some hosting providers are specifically designed for WordPress and WordPress may come pre-installed when you sign up.
Finding a quality eCommerce web host
This is important as you need a fast, reliable web hosting service to ensure your online store runs smoothly. If you’re on a tight budget, I recommend using Hostinger as your web hosting provider because you get a free domain name included for a super-low price. Plus, it’s really user-friendly, and WordPress can be easily installed.
A budget host like Hostinger is fine when you’re just starting out, but once your online store starts getting more traffic, you’ll need to consider a more powerful hosting solution. Cloud-based web hosting is a great option for eCommerce websites, as it uses a network of servers around the world to give fast speeds and excellent reliability.
My top recommendation for your eCommerce website is Nexcess. It offers dedicated WordPress hosting as well as hosting optimized for building a WooCommerce store – and although it’s not as cheap as shared hosting, its prices start at just $19/month. It includes all the essential features such as an SSL certificate and built-in search engine optimization tools.
(Nexcess also offers StoreBuilder, an eCommerce website builder that uses WordPress as its framework but is designed to be easier to use than WordPress with WooCommerce – a great choice if you’re a complete beginner!)
What to Look for in a WordPress Web Host
When choosing your web host for an online store, you should look for a host with the following features:
- Optimized for WordPress and for building an eCommerce store
- SSL certificate
- Good uptime record and uptime guarantee
- 24/7 customer support
- Additional eCommerce features like performance and sales monitoring
- Easy to upgrade to a more powerful hosting plan
Almost all web hosting providers have a 1-click WordPress installer that allows you to get started with WordPress with a few clicks (the 1-click is a myth, there are always more clicks involved!) Installing WordPress is quick, although the exact steps will vary depending on your host and which 1-click installer it uses.
Step-by-step guide to installing WordPress with Hostinger
Hostinger is the host I use, and I find it incredibly user-friendly. It has a really simple 1-click installer for WordPress that you access via your hosting account admin area. To complete WordPress installation, you’ll need to follow these steps.
- In the hPanel, under the Website vertical menu, choose the Auto Installer, and select WordPress.
- Next, fill in the required fields to set up your WordPress website credentials. You’ll need to choose a title for your website, add your main email address, choose a username and password, and (optionally) select https:// in the Installation path field dropdown.
- Once you click next, you can choose the installation options including the version of WordPress you want to install (always choose the recommended option, usually the most recent stable version). You can also choose to enable automatic updates, with the option to automatically update when minor version updates are released or to always update to the latest version of WordPress.
- Click the purple Install button, and you’ll be able to log in to WordPress via your Hostinger dashboard using the Edit website button. The great thing about logging in this way is that you’re logged directly in to your WordPress dashboard area without having to type in your WordPress login credentials.
Step 2: Install and configure WooCommerce to Create Your WordPress Online Store
WooCommerce is a plugin that allows you to turn your WordPress site into an online store. It’s the most popular eCommerce solution for WordPress and is free and user-friendly. There are other free plugins for eCommerce available in the WordPress plugin repository, but WooCommerce is my favorite for easily creating a successful online store.
What I like about it the most is that when you install and activate the plugin, you’re taken step-by-step through the setup process with a wizard that sets up your business details, enables the essential WooCommerce features, and helps you select the best WordPress theme for your eCommerce store.
Install the WooCommerce Plugin
Once you have installed WordPress, there are two ways to install WooCommerce, though I recommend you go with the first option as it’s the most straightforward.
The first way is to install the plugin from the WordPress Plugin Directory. To do this, log in to your WordPress dashboard and go to Plugins > Add New.
Then, search for “WooCommerce” and install the plugin. Make sure you choose the official WooCommerce plugin not one of the add-on plugins that are also available in the plugin library.
The second way is to download the plugin from WooCommerce.com and upload it to your WordPress site. To do this, log in to your WordPress site and go to Plugins > Add New. Then, click on the Upload Plugin button and select the WooCommerce file you downloaded.
Expert tip: Remember that when uploading files or themes to WordPress, you must upload a zip file or the upload won’t work!
Once the plugin is installed, click on the Activate plugin button. WordPress will redirect you to the WooCommerce setup page, which contains a series of steps that you need to take to be able to use WooCommerce for your own online store.
Setting Up WooCommerce
Setting up WooCommerce is incredibly easy, thanks to the setup wizard that launches when you activate WooCommerce.
- Enter your business information.
2. Select your business industry.
3. Select the type of products that you want to sell in your online store.
4. WooCommerce will ask you how many products you have to sell, and whether you’re just getting started.
5. Next, you can choose the features you want enabling in WooCommerce. The wizard will recommend a set of features depending on the type of products you’re going to be selling. I advise using the recommended settings, although you can pick and choose from the list.
6. The final stage is choosing a theme for your WooCommerce store.
Choosing a theme
Now that you have WordPress and WooCommerce installed, it’s time to choose a theme for your online store. There are thousands of WordPress themes available, both free and paid. Many themes are available in the WordPress theme repository.
WooCommerce has a set of recommended themes that work well with it. In the final stage of the setup wizard, you’ll be shown some theme options. You don’t have to choose these, but for the fastest setup, I recommend choosing the WooCommerce Storefront theme.
If you’d rather use a different theme, the good news is that WooCommerce will work with most themes. However, some themes are better suited to eCommerce. If you are shopping for a theme for your online store, consider Envato Marketplace, home to hundreds of eCommerce-optimized premium theme options starting at $13 for a single-site license.
Make your WordPress online store design user friendly
Your WordPress site should be easy to navigate and user-friendly. Pay attention to the layout of your website, the colors, and fonts you use, and most importantly, the images you use.
All of these factors play a role in how user-friendly your website is. Take some time to make sure your website is easy to use before launching it.
It’s vitally important that your online store is mobile-friendly (or responsive). A large percentage of online purchases are made using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, so optimizing your online store for mobile users is a step you can’t overlook. If someone finds your website difficult to navigate on their smartphone, they’ll shop elsewhere. You can read more about why it’s important to have a responsive website in my comprehensive guide.
Customize your online store with WordPress
If you’re using the Storefront theme, the WooCommerce Theme store has a range of child themes for Storefront that you can use to give your online store a different look.
No matter which theme you use, the WordPress customizer can be used to customize colors, fonts, layouts, buttons, and more, to match your business branding. The exact theme customization options you have will depend on the theme that you’re using. With all themes you can create a custom homepage,
Step 3: Selling Using WordPress and WooCommerce
Now that your WordPress site is set up and WooCommerce is installed, it’s time to start selling! You can add plugins to WordPress to customize your online store. Some popular eCommerce plugins for WordPress are Subscriptions, Memberships, Bookings, Add-ons and more.
WooCommerce includes a checklist of tasks to complete to get your store ready to be launched to your audience. The first stage is to add products to your store.
Adding products with WooCommerce
It’s easy to add products to your WooCommerce store. How long it will take you depends on how many products you have to add.
- Log in to your WordPress site and go to Products > Add New or choose ‘Add Products’ in the WooCommerce setup screen.. You can add manually or start with a template. You also have the option to import products from a CSV file or another service, but I recommend choosing the template option if this is your first time selling online.
Within the template menu, you’ll see that there are templates for physical and digital products, which have pre-selected fields suitable for the different product types.
- Add a product title, description, price, images, categories, and tags. The first time you add a product, you’ll be taken through a tour of the essential information you need to add. Firstly, you’ll need to add the product name – you won’t be able to save the product unless it has a unique name.
- The product description can be as long or as short as you like, but I recommend that you give your customers as much information as they need to know that they need you product.
Expert tip: Rather than just listing features, it’s a good idea to turn your product features into user benefits – i.e. to explain how a particular feature benefits your customer and why they need it. If your product is particularly innovative or does something that a competing product doesn’t do, highlight that.
- Choose the product type. It’s best to start with a simple product, but WooCommerce also has options for creating variable products, like clothing with different sizes and colors, or services with different tiers.
- You can use WooCommerce to sell virtual products – or services – such as virtual assistant services, copywriting services, design services, marketing services, and so on. Just tick the Virtual checkbox.
- If you’re selling digital products, you can upload the file(s) so that they can be automatically sent to the customer once checkout has been completed. Having an automated process for delivering digital products means that once your store is set up and the products uploaded, you can make money while you sleep.
- In the pricing field you can choose both regular pricing and sale pricing. You can schedule sale pricing to be activated on a specific date – making it easy to plan for seasonal sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- Adding a short product description is your chance to summarize the best feature(s) of your product. This will be displayed below the product in category pages.
- Add product images to your product, and choose one that you’re going to use as the main product image. It’s a good idea to add multiple images, but make sure to choose the best image for your featured product image.
- Add product tags to your product to make it easy for customers to search for products and so that you can use features like displaying related products at the bottom of each product page. You can also add categories to organize your products.
- Finally, publish your first product – then repeat the process for the rest of your products!
Choose a payment gateway
To start selling, you will need to choose a payment gateway – a service that allows you to accept online payments on your website without having to have a card reader or process payments manually..
There are many different payment processing options available, so do some research and find one that suits your needs. Some popular payment gateways that WooCommerce supports are PayPal, Stripe, and Amazon Pay. The easiest option with a WordPress website is to use WooCommerce Payments, which uses Stripe to collect payments.
You can also set up other payment gateways or choose manual options such as direct bank transfers or cash on delivery. I’d caution against using bank transfers as there’s no protection for you or your customers like you get with WooCommerce Payments or PayPal.
WooCommerce Payments uses Stripe to process payments and this is the recommended option when you’re getting started with WooCommerce. Setting WooCommerce Payments up only takes a few minutes and there’s setup wizard that takes you through the process.
Setting Up WooCommerce Payments
There are several steps to setting up WooCommerce Payments. You’ll need to provide your business information, your mobile phone number (for verification purposes), and the details of the bank account you want payments to be deposited into.
- Start by filling out your email address and mobile number. Your mobile phone number is used to verify your WooCommerce Payments account.
- Next add your personal details, including your date of birth.
- Next fill out some basic details about your industry
- Next, fill out your banking details, including currency, country, sort code and account number.
- Once you click the submit button on the banking details page, your WooCommerce Payments account with Stripe will be set up, and you’ll receive a confirmation email.
Paypal is the most popular payment gateway as it is easy to use and can be used with most eCommerce platforms, and there are no set-up fees. The biggest downside with PayPal is that the payment processing fees or commissions can sometimes be quite high – and they can vary from country to country.
Setting up PayPal Payments in WooCommerce
To use PayPal in WooCommerce, you need to add the free PayPal extension from the WooCommerce Marketplace. In the Payments section of WooCommerce settings, click the link that says Other payment methods.
In WooCommerce Marketplace, click on View details on PayPal Payments to go to the extension page.
Click the Free Download button to start adding PayPal Payments to your online store.
The first time you add a WooCommerce extension to your website, you’ll need to connect your WordPress website to your WooCommerce.com account. Even for free extensions through the WooCommerce marketplace you have to complete checkout (which I think is a bit frustrating, but it’s still pretty quick to do).
Once checkout is complete, click the purple Add to Site button to start the authorization and connection process.
You only have to connect the store once – for all further ‘purchases’ (whether free or not) from the WooCommerce Marketplace, you won’t need to complete this step again. Inside your WooCommerce installation, click the Approve button to continue.
Once connected, the extension will be available in WooCommerce, and you’ll find the set up options in the Payments settings section of WooCommerce.
Finally, you need to configure your PayPal payments options by activating the PayPal checkout and connecting your PayPal account to WooCommerce.
Other Payment Options
Choosing a payment gateway that suits your needs and is easy for your customers to use is crucial. While most people have access to credit cards and/or PayPal, if you know that your customers may require alternative payment methods, you can add those to your WooCommerce store.
There are dozens of payment options in the WooCommerce marketplace, including free and paid extensions, which offer specialized payment processing options for different countries.
Calculating Sales Tax In Woocommerce
Depending on where you are selling from and to, you may need to calculate sales tax on your products. Luckily, WooCommerce comes with a sales tax extension – although there are other options you can choose to use.
Setting Up Sales Tax Step by Step
If you are in the US, you will need to set up a sales tax rate for each state that you are shipping to. To do this, go to WooCommerce > Settings > Tax. Here you can add the relevant sales tax rates. Alternatively, you can enable the automatic calculation of sales tax option (the easiest option!) when setting up the WooCommerce Tax extension.
You can also add a tax rate for countries outside of the US. Additionally, outside of the US you can choose the ‘I don’t charge sales tax’ option.
Once you have added all relevant sales tax rates or enabled the automatic option, WooCommerce will automatically calculate and add the correct sales tax amount to each order.
Setting Up Shipping
The next step is to set up shipping for your products This step only applies if you’re selling physical products, of course. If you’re only selling services or digital products, you can skip to the next stage.
Setting Up Shipping Zones and Rates
WooCommerce allows you to set multiple shipping zones and rates, with options to have different options for different countries, and even to have different shipping rules for different parts of the same country.
To start configuring the shipping zones and rates, from your WordPress dashboard, go to WooCommerce > Settings > Shipping. Here you can add your shipping zones, rates, and methods.
You will need to add a shipping zone for each country you ship to. Within each shipping zone, you can add different shipping rates and methods.
For example, you could offer free shipping or charge a flat rate for shipping. Free shipping can be offered with coupons or minimum spends, too.
You can also set up shipping classes for different kinds of products, so that some will get free shipping and others will be charged at a different rate.
Once you have set up your shipping zones, rates, and methods, WooCommerce will automatically calculate and add the correct shipping cost to each order.
Step 4: Promoting Your WordPress Online Store
Now that your store is up and running, it’s time to promote it! There are many ways to promote your store, using digital marketing methods. While you can grow your audience organically (i.e. relying on traffic from search engines), it’s better to have a marketing strategy before you launch your eCommerce store.
Social media Marketing
One of the best ways to promote your store is through social media. People spend a lot of time on social media so you can’t afford not to promote your eCommerce store via social media sites.
Create accounts for your eCommerce store on all major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. You may not see great results immediately, but with persistence, you can grow your audience and boost your sales.
Be sure to include links to your store in your profile bio. Then start sharing interesting content from your store regularly. You could create a Facebook group for your eCommerce store
You could share pictures of your products, blog posts, infographics, or anything else that you think would interest your target audience. You can even use Instagram’s shopping feature to add products to your Instagram page to maximize your sales.
Don’t forget to use relevant hashtags and keywords so that people can easily find your content. You could also run social media ads to promote your store to a wider audience.
Investing in social media advertising can be a great option when you’re getting started, as it gets your eCommerce store in front of a lot more people. With social media advertising you can set daily budgets so you have complete control over how much you spend.
Another great way to promote your store is through Google Ads. Google Ads is a pay-per-click advertising platform that allows you to place ads on Google.com and millions of other websites.
When someone clicks on your ad, they will be taken to your website, where they can learn more about your products or services. You can create ads for your store using the Google Ads platform.
You will need to set up a Google Ads account and create a new campaign. Within your campaign, you can target people by location, interests, demographics, and so on, so that your ads are only shown to people who are likely to be interested in purchasing from your eCommerce store..
You can also set how much you are willing to spend on each click. Once you have created your campaign, your ads will appear on Google and the web.
WooCommerce includes a feature called Google Listings and Ads which enables you to start creating ads and adding your products to the ‘Shopping’ section of Google search engine results.
Another great way to promote your store is through email marketing. Email marketing allows you to send newsletters, product updates, and special offers directly to your customers’ inboxes.
You can easily start email marketing directly in WordPress using a plugin such as OptinMonster. By adding a subscription form to your website or using OptinMonster to create a popup for your mailing list, you can grow an email marketing list and send regular emails to your subscribers, promoting your products, offering discounts, and driving more traffic to your website.
Another option is to use funnel-building plugins for WordPress to create landing pages for your top products or to grow your email marketing lists by offering freebies in exchange for subscribing to your email newsletter.
You can find out more about using email marketing tools in my roundup of the best email marketing plugins, and learn about using funnel builders in my guide to the top WordPress funnel building plugins.
Launch Your Online Store Easily with WordPress and WooCommerce
By following the steps in this guide, you can start an online store using WordPress and WooCommerce quickly and easily. Of course, you’ll need products or services to sell (which I can’t help you with, I’m afraid) but once you have those, you can create your new online store within a few hours.
Compared to other online store builder platforms like BigCommerce, WooCommerce is much more beginner-friendly (with fewer options to navigate through). At the same time, the WooCommerce Marketplace has dozens of extensions that you can add to expand the features, such as Subscriptions and Memberships, making WooCommerce, in my opinion, the best online store builder for WordPress.
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