How to Start an eCommerce store in WordPress
In 2019, global retail eCommerce sales amounted to $3.5 trillion, That signals a very lucrative business area. The good side of it is that it has little or no barriers to entry and open to everyone who has an idea that can be commercialized.
In this post, we focus on using the most popular content management system (CMS) today, WordPress, and how you can convert your WordPress website into an eCommerce store. As mentioned above, the barriers of entry is low and you do not need any specialized training if you use WordPress. You need not be an expert in writing codes and you not go through any special education to learn how to use WordPress. You can do it yourself with careful attention to available online guides and videos.
Now, we turn to our major focus This guide will provide the needed information required of you to get your eCommerce website up and running on WordPress.
Phase 1: Tidy up the Preliminaries.
If you do not have a website already and you are getting started from scratch, you seriously need to put some basic and fundamental steps that can help you started on a sound footing.
1. Register Your Business.
The first step to starting an eCommerce business is to register the business with the appropriate registration agency or authority in your area. This is also the point when you start developing your brand. Much of your success will depend on the decision you tae at this stage. You will need to decide on your brand name at this stage, that could also affect the coice of your domain name which plays a role in how your website ranks in the search engines eventually. So you will need to carefully choose a brand name that can help you build and grow your business successfully. We will discuss more on this.
Clarifying your brand includes:
Decide on the products you will sell
You need to carefully look at you will sell, who your customers are and where they are dominantly located. Will your products be tangible products or intangible. How will the products be delivered. Are you going to deliver retail or wholesale quantities through the website? How will you maintain the inventory to serve your customers speedily. All these will affect the eventual design and how you are going to present your products to your potential customers.
Competitor research is is important for understanding the market and the signals to tae advantage of. You need to determine how successful competitors have been, you also need to look at whether there exist some who have failed or are failing and why they are either failing or have failed. You also need to determine if there be some actions your competitors took or failed to take which is causing their failure or success.
It will be important that yyou do what your competitors failed to do or do what they are doing in a better way to succeed. For instance, some eCommerce store have introduced the pay on delivery practice to encourage customer purchases and confidence in their store. But that also comes with some risk and should not apply to every product and location.
Competitor research can provide useful inspiration for marketing tactics and approaches to use. Your competitors have already done the work of researching your audience and testing out what works for them, you can borrow some of their insights and start out ahead.
Developing your unique selling proposition (USP)
Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), also called Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is the advantage you intend to promote which gives you an edge over your competitors. what sets you apart from other brands in the space. It’s a brief statement that encapsulates what you offer to customers, and why they should choose you over similar options. A good UVP is the foundation you’ll build the rest of your website and marketing on.
2. Register your domain.
Now you will be getting to the real thing. We advice that your domain name should be taken very seriously. We also suggest that you should look at the possibility of relating your domain name for your business name. So in registering our business, you should decide on the domain name and register the domain name as your business name or have the domain name as part of your business name. You can find available domains using our free domain search tool.
Once you are able to get a fine domain name, you proceed to register it. That should be done and completed in a couple of minutes.
3. Sign up for web hosting.
Now that you have decided on the domain name, you also proceed to place order for your Web hosting. Web hosting is a prerequisite to having a functional website. You will need to check your choice for uptime, customer support and the space available for the work you desire to do. Once you have your web hosting account activated, you can proceed to install WordPress and have all the files that make up your website uploaded. There is also a QuickInstall tool which automatically sets up your WordPress website in few simple clicks.
4. Install WordPress.
The particular details for this step will depend on which web hosting provider you chose, which installation method you are familiar with and choose to adopt. WordPress can be installed manually and by using a simple clics method via QuickInstall which is available in your cPanel control panel. For Todhost clients, follow our one-click install instructions for WordPress. For other providers, check their support materials and follow the instructions provided.
Phase 2: Build Your Website.
Now you have everything in place to move into the next phase of building your WordPress eCommerce site. In this post. we have provided a step-by-step guide on how to create a WordPress blog
You can choose to build your website yourself or hire a designer to do it for you.. If you are new to web design, it is always better to get a professional to do it for you so you get the best designs that can be competitive
Whichever approach you choose to go with, use this stage to figure out what tools, training, or people you’ll need to design and maintain your website.
5. Install your preferred eCommerce WordPress Plugin.
WordPress is a robust content management system allowing you to build simple and comple websites. WordPress by default does not have eCommerce features so you will need to install an eCommerce plugin that provides necessary eCommerce functionality. These funtionalities should includes:
- A shopping cart
- Secure payment processing
- Inventory management
- eCommerce themes
- Add-ons that provide any additional functionality you want
- Integration with marketing, accounting, and analytics products
There are a lot of different eCommerce plugin options compatible with WordPress.
3 Top WordPress eCommerce Plugins good for WordPress
- WooCommerce – The most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress, WooCommerce is run by the same company that owns WordPress. WooCommerce is free and easy for beginners to use. Because of how ubiquitous it is, you can take advantage of a lot of compatible themes, add-ons, and integrations.
- WP eCommerce – Another free and popular option, WP eCommerce is also open source, which means developers are always working to create improvements and add-ons that extend the functionality. It’s easy to use, but they also offer dedicated support for a fee for any website owners that could use the extra hand-holding.
- Easy Digital Downloads – For any infopreneurs planning to sell digital products rather than physical ones, Easy Digital Downloads is the primary eCommerce platform designed for that express purpose. Since it pares down features to just those you need for information products, it’s simpler to use for that purpose than the other options.
Since WooCommerce is by far the most popular option for setting up an eCommerce store in WordPress, most of our instructions below will cover how to use it to build your website. If you opt for another WordPress eCommerce plugin, the vendor should provide clear instructions for how to complete these steps within it.
6. Choose your WordPress eCommerce theme.
WordPress themes are the basic design template you build a WordPress site on. There are thousands of WordPress themes out there. Some are free and some come at a cost. They are all good but the coice is for you to decide on which one serves the essense and can drive home the vision for your eCommerce store. You can learn about theme installation in this post on How to Install and Setup Your Premium WordPress Theme
The other thing to consider is the compatibility of your chosen WordPress theme with the eCoommerce plugin you have chosen and installed.
Where to Find WordPress eCommerce Themes
The easiest place to find WordPress themes is within WordPress. Click on Appearance in the menu on the left side of the screen, then on Themes right beneath it. You can search for “eCommerce” to limit your options to themes built for eCommerce stores.
If you want to go with a free eCommerce WordPress theme for your website, it’s imperative that you choose a theme from within the WordPress library. All of these have been vetted to ensure they’re legitimate and secure. Choosing another free option could put your website at risk of getting hacked.
In addition to the many themes available within the WordPress library, a number of companies offer premium themes. Some of the best places to find premium WordPress eCommerce themes are:
The Best Free eCommerce WordPress Themes
If you’d like to skip browsing, here are a few popular options to consider.
The Astra theme has a perfect 5-star rating, with over 2,000 votes from users. It’s WooCommerce compatible and touted as the “fastest-growing theme of all time.”
OceanWP is free, has a perfect 5-star rating from nearly 2500 users, and provides WooCommerce compatibility.
The Rife free theme offers 7 demo layouts to choose from. It works with WooCommerce, and has a perfect 5-star rating from over 70 users.
Best WordPress Themes for eCommerce (Premium)
Divi from Elegant Themes is one of the most popular themes in the world due to its intuitive visual editor. It has drag-and-drop functionality and makes it easy to build a responsive web store. Customers get access to eCommerce layout packs that provide specific templates for different types of stores.
Shoppe from Themify comes with a drag-and-drop website builder tool and useful eCommerce features, like a wishlist function and gallery option. You can choose from different “skins” that provide a particular look and feel to start you with.
Avada bills itself as the #1 selling theme of all time. While it’s not exclusively for eCommerce websites, it can absolutely be put to that use. It comes with a number of pre-made web page designs and a website builder that makes customization easy.
Those are a tiny sampling of the many eCommerce themes available, so if they don’t meet your needs, get out and do some browsing. But if you’re overwhelmed by all the options available, they’re a good place to start.
7. Organize your site structure.
Site structure is crucial for good user experience and that could also help with your website conversion. A poor site structure is recipe for failure and nobody wants that. A well-organized website is important for providing an intuitive experience to visitors and that counts extra for eCommerce websites. You want it to be as easy as possible for visitors to find the products they like—since that’s the first step to buying them. Developing a good site hierarchy also helps with search engine optimization (SEO), which increases the likelihood of people finding your website in Google when they search for what you sell.
We suggest that in deciding on your site structure, keep it simple and straightforward. Figure out the main categories and subcategories (if needed) to divide your products into.
Decide which pages and categories are the most important, and should be highlighted in your main menu. For an eCommerce website, that may include your Home page, About page, top product categories, and possibly a blog or Resources category for content you create.
8. Create your main pages.
The theme you chose will supply a basic look and feel for your pages that you can customize for your brand. Three of the most important sections to create for your eCommerce website are Home, product categories and About us.
Your Home page should quickly communicate to visitors what your brand is and the types of products you sell. This is a good place to put your UVP, alongside high-quality images that communicate something about your brand. It can also be used to promote your best products and highlight any promotions you have going on.
Pro tip: Optimize allpages for SEO. Give particular attention to your Home page, since it’s the most important one to rank.
9. Create your store.
This is where you now begin to create categories, product types and begin to add products to your store. For those using WooCommerce, the plugin wizard takes you through the setup process step by step.
Simply provide the requested information on each page of the setup process. This will include:
- Choosing your preferred payment method. The main options are PayPal and Stripe.
- Providing shipping details. You can choose between offering free shipping or charging a flat rate within the WooCommerce app. If you want to charge full price for shipping, an additional extension is required.
You’ll also get the chance at this stage to easily link your WooCommerce with some recommended integrations, including an automated tax calculation app, MailChimp (for email marketing), Facebook, and Jetpack.
10. Add your product pages.
Each product page on your website has an important job to do: it’s where your customers decide whether or not to click that “Buy” button (or more likely, an “Add to Cart” one, but same idea).
Within WooCommerce, as soon as you finish setting up your store, the plugin suggests creating product pages as your next step. If you have your product information already saved in a csv file, you can import them. Otherwise, click the pink “Create a Product” button.
That will take you to the backend of your product page, where you’ll find fields for:
- Adding your product name
- Loading images (the “Add Media” button)
- Filling in the text of the page
- Price information
- SKU number
- Stock status
- Shipping details (weight and dimensions)
If you’re already familiar with WordPress, the page to create a product will look similar to what you use to create a new page or blog post, with an added section toward the bottom for specific product details.
Fill in all the relevant information for each product.
- Optimize for SEO – Figure out the best keyword for each product and optimize the page to rank for that keyword.
- Write customer-focused product descriptions – Find out what your customers care about by reading reviews of similar products.
- Add high-quality images – In eCommerce, people can’t see and touch items in person before buying, so a photo is the next best thing. Always include at least one high-quality image for each product. More is better.
11. Cover your bases.
Also work on a shipping and return policy to add to the site, so your customers know what to expect anytime they want to send an item back.
And absolutely invest in the proper tools to keep your website secure. Get an SSL certificate (they come free with all hosting plans on Todhost). Purchase security software, such as Sitelock, that adds an extra level of protection. And make sure the payment processing option you choose delivers top-notch protection.
Any website that accepts sensitive data from customers like credit card information is a potential target for hackers. Do what you can to protect your business and the customers that trust you.
12. Set up Google Analytics.
Running an eCommerce business is an ongoing learning experience. Each new visitor and purchase tells you something about what works. In order to learn and improve as you go, you need access to rich analytics. Luckily, Google Analytics is entirely free and provides extensive data on how people interact with your website.
Adding Google Analytics to a WordPress site is simple. Simply set up your Google Analytics account to get your tracking code, install a Google Analytics plugin like MonsterInsights, and make the connection.
Phase 3: Launch!
The first two phases involve a lot of work, but you’re just getting started. Running a WordPress eCommerce website can be profitable and rewarding, but only if you’re prepared to put the time and effort into it.
Once you publish your eCommerce store to the web, making it successful means committing to a whole new list of steps.
- Stay on top of WordPress updates – Both WordPress itself and most of its plugins release new versions every so often. These usually provide security updates, as well as new features. Make a habit out of updating every time a new version’s available to protect your website.
- Do price testing – Pricing is one of the hardest parts of a new eCommerce business to get right. But there are a few different testing strategies you can try out to see what pricing level produces the most profit.
- Figure out the best shipping options – In the age of Amazon, finding the right shipping strategy is also important. If your shipping costs look too high to customers, it can lead to cart abandonment. Test out different shipping options to find the right combination of affordability and speed that keeps customers buying, but still leaves profit margins.
- Create an online marketing plan – Selling online is competitive. People will only find your website if you do online marketing. Put together a strategy using tactics like SEO, PPC (pay per click), social media, and content marketing to ensure your website reaches the right people.
- Provide customer support – Making the sale isn’t the end of your job—you want that customer to keep coming back. Make it easy for customers to get in touch when they have questions or problems and hold yourself to a high standard for customer support.
- Use your analytics to improve – A great benefit of eCommerce is that it’s easy to track things online. Regularly check Google Analytics, along with the analytics of any marketing tools you use. Use the insights they provide to improve your website design and refine your marketing strategy.
Make the Best Out of Your WordPress eCommerce Site
Being an entrepreneur used to require a much bigger investment in upstart capital. The rise of eCommerce, combined with the accessibility of tools like WordPress and WooCommerce has lowered the barrier to entry.
That doesn’t mean running a successful eCommerce business is easy. You have to be willing to do your research and put in the work required to get your new business off the ground, then keep it successful over time. But if you have the gumption, work ethic, and at least a little money to invest to start out with, you can build an eCommerce website with WordPress and start selling.