Are you looking to create an online store? We’re not surprised. How to start an eCommerce store was one of the most-requested tutorials from our audience.
The eCommerce industry is booming and current retail trends show that 51% of Americans prefer online shopping. This is the best time to dip your toe into an eCommerce business. If you’re wondering how to start an online store, then this guide is for you.
Below, we’ve created a step-by-step walkthrough for how to start an online store that you can use to create your own store. You don’t have to be a tech-savvy person. You can build an online store without writing a single line of code, we promise.
To help you easily follow this guide, we have broken it down into 5 different sections:
- I. How to start an online store – the technical guide
- II. Getting started with WordPress
- III. Add essential features to your online store
- IV. Promote and grow your online store
- V. FAQs
I. How to Start an Online Store – The Technical Guide
Just because this section is called “the technical guide” doesn’t mean you have to be tech-savvy. If you can point-and-click, then you can follow this tutorial and have your online store up and running in no time.
Step 1: Choose an eCommerce Platform – WooCommerce
Choosing the right eCommerce platform is critical for your business because it’s hard to back out if your decision turns out to be wrong. In fact, 60% of medium-to-large store owners agree that they should have conducted better due diligence before choosing their eCommerce platforms.
Two most popular eCommerce platforms that we recommend are Shopify or WordPress + WooCommerce.
Shopify is a fully-hosted eCommerce solution that starts at $29/month. Shopify makes it super easy to launch a store without having to install any software or maintain a web hosting server.
While it allows you to customize the design of your store, the customization options are limited when compared to a self-hosted eCommerce platform. You’ll also have to pay transaction fees for every order in addition to the monthly fee. That means that your real cost is going to be higher than $29 per month, and it’ll increase as your store grows.
On the other hand, with a self-hosted eCommerce solution like WooCommerce, you’ll get full control over your online store. WooCommerce is the platform of choice for almost 28% of all online stores. Best of all, it works on top of WordPress as a plugin, so if you are familiar with WordPress, then you can easily manage a store with WooCommerce.
Let’s take a look at how to set up an online store in WordPress using WooCommerce.
Step 2: Purchase a Domain Name and a WooCommerce Hosting Account
First things first. To be able to run an online store powered by WooCommerce, you’ll need to have a domain name and a web hosting account. This is a requirement for creating any type of self-hosted website.
Domain name: Your domain name is your online store’s address on the internet, like Google.com or IsItWP.com. It’s what your customers should type into their browsers to access your online store. A domain name will cost around $14.99 per year.
Web hosting: Your web hosting account is where your website files are stored. Think of it as the house for your website. When your customer tries to access your website by typing your web address (domain name), they’ll be directed to the website files stored in your web hosting server.
Although you can find tons of different web hosting companies, we recommend Bluehost because they are an official WordPress and WooCommerce recommended hosting partner.
Bluehost is one of the leading web hosting companies and hosts millions of WordPress websites, including some of our own sites.
They have agreed to offer our users a free domain, free SSL, and 50% off their hosting plan.
Note: We believe in full transparency. If you purchase hosting using our referral link, then we will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. You’ll actually get a discount on hosting + a free domain + free SSL. We can get a commission from just about any hosting company, but we only recommend products that we truly believe will give value to our readers.
To start your WooCommerce store, head over to Bluehost website and click the Get Started Now button.
On the next page, you’ll be asked to choose a plan. Every plan comes pre-installed with WooCommerce on top of WordPress along with a free SSL certificate.
SSL certificate adds a special security layer on your website, so you can accept sensitive information such as credit card numbers and other personal information. This is required for you to run an online store and accept credit card payments.
Since you’re just getting started, you can choose the starter plan.
You can either choose to use an existing domain that you have or get a free new domain. We recommend registering a new domain since it’s free.
You’ll now be prompted to enter your account information. For easy registration, you can sign in with your Google info with just a couple of clicks.
After entering your details, scroll down the page until you find the package information box. You can select the starter plan for 12 months, 24 months, or 36 months. You will also see that a few addons are preselected which are increasing your total price. We recommend that you uncheck these boxes because you can always add them later should you decide that you need these services.
Next, you need to scroll down the page further to enter your payment details. You will also be asked to Agree to their Terms of Service, and then click Submit.
You’ve successfully subscribed to a WooCommerce hosting plan. You’ll now receive an email with details on how to log in to your web hosting control panel (cPanel) where you can manage everything from hosting files to emails and support.
Go ahead and log into your cPanel. You’ll be greeted with a popup informing you that WordPress, along with WooCommerce, has been pre-installed. You can now click log into your site and start managing your online store.
Now let’s take a look at how to launch your online store with WooCommerce.
Step 3: Configure WooCommerce
Using the login credentials from your email, you need to login to your WordPress dashboard where you’ll see a welcome message. Go ahead and click the I don’t need help link. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through every step of the process.
The first step is to make sure that you specify the name and tagline of your site. To do this, you need to visit Settings » General page and insert your WordPress site title and description.
Your WordPress hosting package came with a free SSL Certificate. This certificate is pre-installed for your domain name. However, your WordPress site needs to be configured, so it loads as https vs http. You’ll also need to change your WordPress Address and Site Address to use https instead of http.
Next, you need to run the WooCommerce setup wizard. Simply click the Run the Setup Wizard button. The setup wizard will walk you through the basic configuration of WooCommerce storefront.
In the first step, you’ll be asked to specify your store’s location. You’ll also be prompted to select the currency you’d like to use. After completing the first step, you can proceed to the Payment step.
By default, WooCommerce only allows you to accept payments via PayPal. You can simply enter your PayPal email in this step without linking your PayPal account. If you want to add additional payment methods, then you’ll need to install respective addons (which you can do later).
If you choose to sell physical goods on your WooCommerce store, then you’ll be asked to setup shipping methods and shipping fees for both national and international shipping.
After setting up the shipping options, WooCommerce will persuade you to connect your site with Jetpack. Setting up Jetpack is not a necessary step for building a WooCommerce store, so you can skip it. You can find the Skip this step option at the bottom of the page.
You’re done with the setup wizard. You can now start listing your products in your store by clicking the Create a Product button. This will direct you to the Products editor in your dashboard.
Step 4: Roll Out Your First Product
Adding a product in your WooCommerce store is easy.
Just like creating a page or post, you’ll need to add product details like title, product description, product categories, product tags, product image and gallery by navigating to Products » Add New.
Just below the text editor, you can find a product data box where you can specify the product specific details like:
- Regular and sale price
- Manage inventory
- Shipping details like weight and dimensions
- Product upselling and cross selling details
- And more…
You will also find a short description box which is used when there are multiple products on a page.
Step 5: Change Your WordPress Theme
WordPress themes control the visual appearance of your website. To give a unique design to your website, all you have to do is find and install the right theme on it. With WordPress, you can customize an existing theme or even install a custom-built theme per your unique requirements.
By default, your WooCommerce store comes preinstalled with the Storefront theme. Storefront is a free WordPress theme offering deep integration with WooCommerce.
If you want to customize your Storefront theme without touching a single line of code, then you can get the Storefront Extensions Bundle that helps you delight your customers with a unique look.
Alternatively, you can easily find another WooCommerce-compatible theme in the free plugin repository. Before you choose a random theme from the official directory, it’s in your best interest to take a look at some WooCommerce compatible theme reviews, and decide which one would be a perfect choice for your needs.
A premium theme has to be downloaded from the theme vendor’s site and manually uploaded to your WordPress.
If you decide to go with a free WordPress theme from the official theme repository, then you can search and install it directly from your WordPress dashboard without having to download it to your computer.
To install a free theme, navigate to Appearance » Themes in your WordPress dashboard. Then click the Add New Theme box. You can now find some featured themes in your dashboard.
Before installing, you can preview your theme by clicking on the thumbnails displayed. You can also filter themes based on layouts, features, and niches by clicking on the Feature Filterbutton.
Since you are looking for an eCommerce theme, you can simply check the E-commerce option in the subject column. This way it’ll only show you eCommerce-compatible themes.
In the right-hand corner, type the theme name in the search bar. Once you’ve found the right theme, hover on its image and click the Install button. Then click Activate to change your website’s appearance.
Step 6: Extend Your Online Store With Plugins
WooCommerce supports tons of different addon plugins that let you enhance your online store without writing code or hiring a developer.
Just like WordPress themes, you can easily find and install free plugins from the WordPress plugin repository within your WordPress dashboard.
All you have to do is visit Plugins » Add New. Use the search box in the right corner to find a plugin and click the Install Now button. And then, click Activate.
II. Getting Started With WordPress
WordPress is a fully-featured website builder solution that gives you endless possibilities to customize your site the way you want. Unlike other popular eCommerce solutions, WordPress makes it easy to integrate a blog with your online store and create standalone web pages.
If you’ve never used WordPress before, then we’ll walk you through how to kick start a fully-featured website along with your online store. Below are the things we’ll cover:
- Add a blog to your online store
- Create standalone pages
- Add a navigation menu
- Add a widget
- Setup a static homepage
1. Add a Blog to Your Online Store
Do you want to help your eCommerce customers stay connected with your brand? Want to attract more website visitors, generate more sales and revenue? Then, you need to integrate a blog with your online store.
Every eCommerce business needs a blog. By integrating a blog with your store, you can update your brand’s news and stay connected with your customers. Keeping a regular blog is one of the best ways to drive organic traffic to your site as well.
Let’s take a look at how to create and publish a blog post in your WordPress website.
In the left-hand menu of your WordPress dashboard, you’ll find two similar options that may confuse you as a new user: Posts and Pages.
Choose Posts if you want to create a website post that appears in reverse chronological order (newest first) on your WordPress website. Posts are also organized into categories and tags. You can read the difference between categories and tags for more information.
To create your first blog post, head over to your post editor by going to Posts » Add New. You need to start by adding a title for your blog post. After that, you can start writing your blog post content in the post editor. To upload images to your website, all you have to do is drag and drop your images to the text editor from your computer. Alternatively, you can use the Add Media button to upload your images and videos.
2. Create Standalone Pages
Just like a blog, you’ll also need to add standalone pages to your site such as an About us page, Contact page, Terms of Service page, etc.
Adding a page is almost similar to adding a blog post. The only difference is that you’ll need to visit Pages » Add New to create a new page. Once you’re done, click the Publish button to publish the page.
3. Add a Navigation Menu
Your navigation menu sticks to the top of your website, so your visitors can easily find the most important pages and links.
To add a navigation menu, go to Appearance » Menus. You need to start by specifying a menu name in the Menu Name field and click Create Menu.
You can now choose from your existing pages, posts, custom links, and categories. After selecting, click Add to Menu. With drag and drop, you can position the menu’s structure. You can also use drag and drop to make nested dropdown menus. Once you’re done, select the display location and click Save Menu.
4. Add and Customize Your Widgets
Within your WordPress website, you can easily add the right sidebar widgets per your preference.
Adding a widget is helpful if you want to display dynamic content in your sidebar such as social media buttons, facebook feeds, testimonials, etc. If your WordPress theme has support for footer widgets, then you can use it to add copyright notices, links, and more.
Go to Appearance » Widgets and select from the available widgets. Next, you need drag your choices to the widgetized area of your WordPress site.
5. Set Up a Static Homepage
By default, WordPress shows your blog’s latest posts as your homepage instead of a static page. If you want to set a custom static page as your homepage, then simply follow the steps below.
After creating a page, go to Settings » Reading. In the Your Homepage displays section, you’ll need to choose A static page and then select the page you want to display as your front page in the dropdown menu. Once you are done, click Save Changes.
III. Add Essential Features to Your Online Store
Expanding the core features of your WooCommerce store is as easy as installing plugins (apps). While every online store is unique in terms of the product lines, target audience, etc., there are some recommended plugins that almost every store will have to use, such as a contact form plugin, Google Analytics plugin, SEO plugin, and more.
Below are some recommended WordPress plugins that you’ll find useful for your online store:
- Build contact forms with WPForms – Pro | Free
- Connect your site with Google Analytics using MonsterInsights – Pro | Free
- Improve your SEO with Yoast SEO – Pro | Free
- Add an extra layer of security with Sucuri
- Take a regular backup with Updraft Plus – Pro | Free
- Improve WordPress performance with W3 Total Cache
- Prevent spam comments with Akismet – Pro | Free
- Grow your subscribers and sales with OptinMonster
Since a detailed explanation about all the plugins would be overwhelming, we’ll explain just the three most important:
- How to enable customer tracking with Google Analytics
- How to add online forms to your site
- How to improve your store’s SEO
1. How to Enable Customer Tracking with Google Analytics
Want to know how your customers interact with your site? Want to track the sales and revenue of your store?
Then, you need to enable eCommerce tracking with Google Analytics on your store. Google Analytics is the most comprehensive tracking tool for your website. It gives you detailed insights into how your visitors find your site and interact with your pages. Best of all, Google Analytics is absolutely free to use.
The default Google Analytics setup doesn’t allow you to track complex user interactions like eCommerce transactions, form submissions, file downloads, etc. This is where the MonsterInsights plugin come in. MonsterInsights makes Google Analytics easy for your website. With just a few clicks, you can track complex user activities, including eCommerce transactions.
Read the complete MonsterInsights review.
Let’s take a look at how to enable Google Analytics tracking on your site.
Head over to Plugins » Add New. Search for MonsterInsights and, when the plugin shows up, click Install Now and then, Activate.
Head over to Insights » Settings to authenticate your site with Google Analytics. Click Authenticate with your Google account.
On the next screen, select your Google account.
Next, allow MonsterInsights to manage your account.
Finally, select the correct website profile for your site and click Complete Authentication.
After authentication, you can easily find how your website is doing by visiting Insights » Reports.
Get started with MonsterInsights today to easily set up Google Analytics on your site.
Want to start with the free version instead? Try MonsterInsights Lite.
2. How to Add Online Forms to Your Site
When you run an online store, you’ll need to build a lot of different online forms, such as contact forms, customer support forms, product review forms, survey forms, registration forms, custom login forms, etc.
The best way to create all the different type of forms for your site is by installing the WPForms plugin. WPForms makes it easy to create any type of forms on your site with its powerful drag and drop builder. Besides the ease of use, below are a few reasons why WPForms is the best WordPress form builder:
- Tons of built-in form templates: The plugin is bundled with tons of useful pre-made form templates, so you don’t have to create every form from scratch. With their Templates Pack addon, you get a huge variety of pre-built templates for every niche and industry.
- Integrations with your favorite apps: WPForms seamlessly integrate with your email marketing services and other third-party apps you use.
- Custom registration and login forms: Have a consistent branding throughout your site including your registration and login forms.
- And a lot more…
Read the complete WPForms review.
To create a form on your blog, first off, you’ll have to install WPForms by navigating to Plugins » Add New. Search for the WPForms plugin and, when it shows up, click Install Now, and then Activate.
You’ll now be directed to the beautiful welcome page of WPForms. You can either click the Create Your First Form button or click WPForms » Add New to create your first form.
Next, you’ll be prompted to choose a template. You can select one of the premade templates or start with a blank form. If you want, you can give a custom name to your first contact form.
WPForms makes it easy to build a form with drag and drop. Click on the appropriate form fields in the left panel to add them to your form. You can also easily re-arrange them and even remove any unnecessary fields with ease. After making the necessary changes click Save.
To add a form on your site, simply go to your post or page editor and click the Add Form button above the text editor.
Select the right form you want to publish and then click Add Form and then, click Publish.
That’s it! You’ve now successfully published a contact form.
Want to create a contact form the easy way? Then, get started with WPForms today.
Want to start with the free version instead? Try WPForms Lite.
3. How to Improve Your Store’s SEO
Do you want to expand the reach of your products? Do you want to drive more targeted traffic from search engines that are likely to purchase your products?
Then you’ll essentially need to improve your SEO. The best way to improve the SEO of your online store is installing an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO.
In your WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins » Add New. Search for Yoast in the search bar that you can find in the top right-hand corner. The Yoast SEO plugin will now have appeared on your page. Click Install and then Activate.
In your WordPress dashboard, you can now find the SEO menu in the left-hand menu. Simply click on it.
If the plugin detects any SEO errors, then you can fix them by following the suggestions provided.
Setting up Yoast SEO is easy using the configuration wizard. Simply click on the configuration wizard to get started.
In the first step, you’ll be asked whether you want to configure Yoast SEO yourself or hire an expert to do it for you. Select CONFIGURE YOAST SEO to do it yourself.
In the next step, you’ll be asked whether your site is ready to be indexed. You can choose option A. Then, click Next.
Next, you need to choose your website type. In this case, you want to select – An online shop. Then, click Next.
For Google’s knowledge graph card, you’ll be asked whether the website is run by a person or a brand. If Person is selected, then you’ll have to specify the name of the person. If Company is selected, then you’ll have to add the logo as well. Then, click Next.
You can now enter your social media profile URLs in their appropriate fields. Then, click Next.
In the Search engine visibility step, you don’t have to change the default settings because they’re set up to index your posts and pages. Simply click Next.
Author archives might create duplicate content issue for search engines. To prevent it, you can disable it if your blog doesn’t have multiple authors.
Next, you’ll be prompted to connect your website to Google Search Console, which is a free tool that gives you detailed insights into how your blog content is being perceived by Google.
Next, you can set up the title for your blog, and then, click Next.
You can now exit the configuration wizard because the other steps were created for promotional purposes such as signing up for Yoast’s newsletter.
Get started with Yoast SEO today to improve your store’s SEO.
Want to start with the free version instead? Try the free Yoast SEO.
IV. Promote and Grow Your Online Store
If you’re an eCommerce merchant, your ultimate goal should be to grow your sales and revenue. There are many different ways to generate more sales on your online store. Let’s take a look at a few of them below:
- Drive targeted traffic.
- Turn your visitors into leads and customers by building an email list.
- Reduce shopping cart abandonment.
- Resources to learn and master WordPress and WooCommerce.
1. Drive targeted traffic
Driving more traffic is the lifeblood of any online business, but keep in mind that more traffic doesn’t always equate to more sales. You need to ensure that you’re attracting targeted traffic who’s interested in your products.
A couple of ways to drive more targeted traffic to your site are:
- SEO: Improve your SEO and help your potential customers discover your products on Google and other search engines.
- Paid ads: SEO can be time consuming, so if you want a quick solution to drive targeted traffic, then you might want to spend your marketing dollars on paid ads.
- Affiliate program: Start an affiliate program and encourage people to promote your products to earn referral revenue.
2. Build and Grow Your Email List
One of the reasons you’re not turning your visitors into customers is that you don’t have a relationship with them. Your customers don’t know you, so they’re afraid to make a purchase from your store.
Building an email list is the best way to start and foster relationships with your potential customers.
Building an email list helps you qualify your leads, build a longlasting connection with them, and ultimately, helps you turn your visitors into leads and customers. In fact, according to a survey, email has an ROI of around 4,300%, so if you’re not taking your list seriously, then you’ll fall behind quickly.
With OptinMonster, you can skyrocket your email list by showing targeted list building campaigns by detecting their individual user behavior.
3. Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment
Did you know the average online shopping cart abandonment rate is around 70%? That means only 3 out of 10 customers are completing the checkout.
Evidently, shopping cart abandonment is the single largest obstacle for eCommerce business to overcome.
Some ways to tackle shopping cart abandonment are:
- Exit intent popup: When a customer is about to leave your site before completing the checkout, you can prompt them to complete it with a targeted popup campaign. You can use OptinMonster’s exit intent technology to display a targeted campaign.
- Build trust with security badges: Adding a security badge helps instill confidence in your customers which can help reduce shopping cart abandonment.
- Offer guest checkout: Guest checkout makes it easy for your customers to complete an order, so they don’t have to create an account.
4. Resources to Learn and Master WordPress and WooCommerce
To be able to run a successful online store, it’s imperative to learn and master WordPress and WooCommerce.
Below are a few resources you’ll find helpful.
- OptinMonster blog: OptinMonster blog is a go-to resource on the web for all things online marketing and conversion rate optimization.
- IsItWP: At IsItWP, we regularly publish WordPress tutorials, WordPress theme and plugin roundups, reviews, WordPress deals and a lot more.
- WPBeginner: WPBeginner is the largest free WordPress resource on the web for WordPress beginners. They regularly publish useful tutorials, videos, coupon codes for WordPress products and a lot more.
- WPForms blog: If you want to read tutorials that help you grow your business using the WordPress platform, you need to follow the WPForms blog. You can also find tips and recommended practices to build any types of online WordPress forms.
- MonsterInsights blog: The MonsterInsights blog is an excellent resource you can follow to get a handle on Google Analytics best practices and recommendations. You can find a lot of WooCommerce specific articles including setting up enhanced eCommerce tracking, individual customer tracking, etc. for WooCommerce.
Having helped many users set up their online stores with WordPress + WooCommerce, we’ve found that people often ask the same sort of questions again and again. This is why we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions, so you can easily launch your online store without hassle.
When should a business start creating an online store?
As online sales are rapidly growing, having an online store gives you a huge advantage over your competitors.
If you want to expand your business online and grow your revenue, then you should launch an online store as soon as possible.
How much does it cost to start an online store?
To start an online store powered by WooCommerce, you’ll have to purchase a domain name for $14.99 per year and a hosting account, which costs around $7.99 per month. Altogether, starting a site will cost you as low as $110.87 annually.
Can I start an online store without purchasing a hosting account?
No. Every website needs a hosting account. You can find several eCommerce platforms that allow you to build an online store with a premium subscription which includes hosting as part of it.
Can I start an online store without WordPress/WooCommerce?
Yes, there are a lot of eCommerce platforms that let you build an online store easily. However, the main thing that sets WooCommerce apart from the competition is its ease of use. WooCommerce works on top of WordPress, the world’s most popular website building platform. That means the interface will be familiar if you’ve ever used WordPress before.
Another benefit is that, unlike other self-hosted eCommerce platforms, WooCommerce doesn’t require you to go through a tedious installation process. In fact, most web host providers, including Bluehost supports WooCommerce hosting, so you can quickly get your online store up and running without any software installation or manual setup on your end.
How do I add a blog to my online store?
Adding a blog to your WooCommerce-powered store is easy. All you have to do is to create articles by navigating to Posts » Add New, and publish them by clicking the Publish button.
In addition, make sure to add a link to your blog in your navigation menu so your visitors can easily discover it.
How do I make my products Google searchable?
If you want your potential users to discover your product on Google, then you’ll need to improve your SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is the practice of increasing your website traffic from search engines by getting your web pages to rank higher in search engine results.
How can I learn more about WordPress terminologies?
Refer to this WordPress Glossary Terms for Beginners whenever you’re puzzled by strange WordPress terms or abbreviations.
What payment methods are supported on WooCommerce?
By default, WooCommerce allows you to accept payments via PayPal. To add more payment gateways to your store, simplify the find the right WooCommerce addon and install it on your store. You can use credit cards via Stripe, Authorize.net, Braintree, and several other gateways. You can also accept bank transfers, bitcoins, and more.
How do I manage shipping in WooCommerce?
WooCommerce supports a few shipping options:
- Free Shipping
- Flat Rate Shipping
- International Shipping
- Local Delivery / Local Pickup
If you’re selling a lot of products, then you can install a shipping addon like FedEx Shipping Method. This way you don’t have to worry about shipping the orders your customers’ make, giving you a peace of mind.
How do I drive traffic to my online store?
Some ways to drive traffic to your online store are:
- Search engine optimization
- Drive social media traffic
- Invest in online ads
We hope this article helped you create an online store with WooCommerce.