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 10 different sections:
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Deciding What to Sell
- Chapter 2: Setting the Right Expectations
- Chapter 3: Choosing an eCommerce Platform for Creating an Online Store
- Chapter 4: Creating an Online Store – Technical Guide (Step by Step)
- Chapter 5: Getting Started with Your Online Store
- Chapter 6: Extend Your Online Store
- Chapter 7: Adding Your First Products
- Chapter 8: Before-Launch Checklist
- Chapter 9: Promote and Grow Your Online Store
- Chapter 10: FAQs
Chapter 1: Deciding What to Sell
Before you start building an online store, you need to decide what you’re going to sell. Choosing the right products to sell is important to the success of your online store.
Overall, you need to sell products that online shoppers will want to buy. To help you determine what to sell on your online store, you’ll want to look at a number of factors, including:
- Market Demand – Market demand describes the demand for a certain product and who wants to buy it. So, if the market demand for a product is high, then people are more likely to buy that product from your online store, and pay more for it too. You can research market demand by using a free tool like Google’s Keyword Planner Tool. Type in the keywords for a product, for example, “organic face moisturizers”. If there’s a high search volume for those keywords, it shows there’s a lot of online shoppers searching for that product.
- Competition – There may be a high demand for a product, but if there’s too much competition, your online store might not stand out from the crowd. So, it’s important to research your competition. Do a simple Google search for your product keywords and look at the companies that show up at the top of the search results. Determine how you’ll be different from them in order to convince shoppers to buy from your online store.
- What’s Trending – If you can start selling products on your online store that are trending, you’ll be able to capture online shoppers before the competition does. So, stay on top of what’s trending. You can look at websites like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, and browse their “What’s Hot” and “Most Wished For” lists to find the newest, most wanted products.
Remember, whatever you choose to sell on your online store, it should be something you’re passionate about. Starting an online store in the hopes of making money, but choosing to sell something you’re not interested in or knowledgeable about, won’t bring you success. Your passion for the products should shine through on your website. If you truly enjoy and believe in the products you’re selling, online shoppers will be more likely to buy from you.
To help you figure out what to sell on your online store, keep reading.
1.1. Digital vs. Physical Goods
First, you need to decide if you’re going to sell digital products or physical goods. Physical products have long been a popular choice for selling and buying online, but digital products are becoming increasingly more popular and valuable as well.
Let’s take a look at the differences of digital vs. physical products.
What is a Physical Product?
A physical product is a touchable, tangible product that you sell and ship to your customers. Clothing, furniture, food, beauty products, paintings, etc. are all physical products.
Some examples of popular online stores that sell physical products include Amazon, Walmart, Target, American Apparel, and Best Buy.
What is a Digital Product?
A digital product, also known as an e-good, is a non-tangible product or form of media that can be sold and distributed over and over again online without the need to replace your inventory. Digital products come in the form of downloadable files, PDFs, plugins, videos, streamable files, templates, etc. eBooks, software, audiobooks, music, and digital art are all examples of digital products.
Some examples of popular online stores that sell digital products include Amazon’s Kindle Store, iTunes, Shutterstock, and Themify which sells WordPress themes.
Pros and Cons: Digital vs. Physical Products
There are pros and cons to selling both digital and physical products, you have to weigh the pros and cons in order to decide what type of product you should sell on your online store.
So, let’s go over the pros and cons of each.
- Clear Value – Demonstrating the value of a physical product is very easy. The purpose of physical products is typically clear and easy to understand.
- Higher Perceived Value – Since physical products are tangible, shoppers often associate them with a higher perceived value.
- Easy to Use – With physical products, there’s typically not a lot of explanation, training, or follow-up involved. Just sell, ship, and the customer can use it right away.
- Shipping Costs – Since you have to ship a physical product, you’ll have to consider the costs of shipping and handling.
- More Time – Shipping a physical product to customers across the country takes time.
- Storage – If you’re selling physical products, most of the time you need a lot of space to store your products.
- No Inventory – With digital products, you don’t have any inventory. That means you don’t have to deal with ordering a certain amount of units and storing them.
- No Shipping Costs or Time – You don’t have to ship a digital product. Customers download digital products straight to their devices, which means they get the product instantly and you can send it for free as well.
- Easier to Scale – Since you can sell the same digital product repeatedly and don’t have to deal with inventory or storage, it’s much easier to scale and grow your business.
- Overall More Simple – For all of the reasons above, digital products are overall more simple to sell and easier to manage.
- Harder to Demonstrate Value – With a digital product, it’s harder to demonstrate value. It takes more work to convince customers that your digital product is worth buying.
- Lower Perceived Value – Because a digital product is not something customers can hold in their hands, they’re associated with a lower perceived value.
- Lots of Competition – Since digital products are so easy to sell online, a lot of people are doing it now. So, you’re likely to have a lot of competition. But there’s competition with selling physical products as well.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to selling both digital and physical products. Selling digital products is on the rise because it’s easy to get started selling digital products online. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started and you can sell the same product over and over again. But consumers are looking for physical products too. So, weigh the pros and cons, and decide which option is best for you.
1.2. Creating Your Own Products vs. Selling Established Products
Next, you need to decide if you want to create your own products or sell established products.
If you want to create your own products then you have to understand it will take up a lot of your time. For instance, if you’re selling handknit scarves, you have to spend time creating a lot of inventory ahead of time or spend weeks creating a new item every time someone orders one, which will result in the customer having to wait much longer to receive their item.
Aside from handmade products, creating your own physical product like the next best vacuum cleaner will take a lot of time, sometimes years, and you’ll have to spend a lot of money, which may not be the best route for you.
On the other hand, creating your own digital product is much easier. For instance, if you decide to sell templates, you can create a template in a couple hours and sell it over and over again — much easier.
Selling established products is the easiest way to go because you don’t have to spend any time building or creating the product. Plus, with certain existing products, much of the marketing is done for you as well. Shoppers will already be familiar with the product and its value, therefore, making the decision to buy will be easier for them.
1.3. Amazon Affiliate Store
Another type of online store you can create is an Amazon affiliate store. With an Amazon affiliate store, you can sell products on your website that Amazon carries. So, you don’t have to worry about creating your own products or dealing with storing inventory, shipping and handling, tracking stock, and so on.
Amazon affiliate stores are managed through the Amazon Associates program, which allows you to earn a percentage on each Amazon product that’s promoted and sold via your website.
Becoming an Amazon affiliate is free, all you have to do is sign up. Plus, you have the option of creating a new online store to list and sell Amazon products or you can use your existing website to sell their products and make money.
For a step by step tutorial on how to start an Amazon affiliate store, check out our article on how to create an Amazon affiliate store with WordPress.
1.4. Regular Sale vs. Subscription Model
When making an online store, you also have to decide if you’re going to use the regular sale model or use the subscription model.
A regular sale, also known as a 1-time sale, is when a customer buys a product and it’s delivered to them 1 time. If they want to order another product, they have to go on your website, buy it again, and then the item will be shipped to them a second time.
But a subscription model is when customers pay a recurring price at regular intervals for access to a product or service.
For instance, Hello Fresh uses the subscription model. Customers pay a recurring fee and every week meal kits are delivered to them.
Some other popular online stores that follow the subscription model include BarkBox, FabFitFun, and Netflix.
You can sell digital products through the subscription model as well. Many software and plugin companies charge monthly fees to customers for using the product.
When you sell a product to a customer 1 time, then you have to work hard to get them to buy again. But with a subscription model, you have monthly recurring revenue you can count on.
Chapter 2: Setting the Right Expectations
Before starting your online store, you also need to set the right expectations. If you’re new to eCommerce, you might not be aware of the common mistakes new eCommerce websites make. Avoiding these beginner mistakes will help put your online store on the path to success. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common eCommerce mistakes.
Unrealistic Sales Expectations
Obviously, most people want to make an online store to make money. Some expect that all they need to do is build their website, add their products online, and the big bucks will start rolling in. But becoming a successful online store with loads of revenue takes time and work. So, you have to set realistic goals for your online store. Setting revenue goals and tracking them will help you see how well your online store is doing and how close you are to making your online store a fully fledged business.
Set realistic goals for:
- Daily Sales
- Monthly Sales
- Annual Sales
With these goals, you also have to consider the costs of running your online store. Your store will only be profitable if your sales exceed your costs. As your online store grows, you can adjust your goals and expectations to match.
No Target Audience
Not everyone will be your customer. If you try to be everything to everyone, your online store won’t be successful. You need to decide who your target audience is and you need to design and market your online store with those people in mind. Plus, you need to give your audience a reason to shop with you instead of big websites like Amazon or Walmart.
Create a customer profile for your ideal customer that includes:
- Demographics – Basic demographics of your target audience such as age, gender, location, occupation, lifestyle, etc.
- Interests – What is your audience interested in? Cooking, camping, fashion, sports, etc.
- Values and Beliefs – Decide what’s important to your audience? Being ethical? Honest?
- Pain Points – What issues/problems does your target audience face? And how does your online store help solve that problem?
Defining your target audience will help your business connect with shoppers and make more sales.
Poor Site Design
Many new online store owners fail to realize the importance of good site design. Your website is often the first thing your customers will see. If the design of your online store is messy, unprofessional, and hard to navigate, shoppers won’t want to buy from you.
So, make sure your online store has a modern theme, is easy to navigate, and looks great on mobile too. A professional logo that you can display on your eCommerce site also helps promote trust between shoppers and your website.
Poor Customer Service
Good customer service is one of the most important parts of having a successful online store. Customers will want to know that you provide good customer service even before they make a purchase. You can prove this to them by adding a return policy to your website, providing support contact information like an email or phone number, or even adding live chat to your website.
If you don’t provide quick, efficient customer service, you risk losing your customers.
We’ll go over steps you can take to avoid these mistakes later on in the article. But first, you need to choose the right eCommerce platform and start building your website.
Chapter 3: Choosing an eCommerce Platform for Creating an Online Store
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.
3.1. Best eCommerce Platforms Showdown
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.
- User-friendly and easy to learn.
- Shopify manages your online store for you.
- Scaling your website is easy and affordable.
- You don’t have full control of your site.
- You have to pay transaction fees.
- Limited customization due to not being able to choose the features you want.
Read our full Shopify review.
BigCommerce is another fully-hosted eCommerce solution. That means you can quickly make an online store without having to manage any of the technical aspects. Simply create an account with BigCommerce, design your online store in an instant using 1 of their many sleek eCommerce templates, add your products, and start selling.
You can get started with BigCommerce for only $29.95 per month which includes unlimited products, file storage, and bandwidth. In addition, with BigCommerce there are no transaction fees for using leading payment gateways unlike with Shopify.
- User-friendly and easy to start a site.
- No transaction fees.
- It’s a fully hosted solution, you don’t have to worry about managing your site.
- You don’t have complete control over your site.
- Customization for your site is limited, only a few free themes to choose from for example.
- Annual online sale limits, if you exceed the limit you have to upgrade your plan.
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 free plugin, so if you are familiar with WordPress, then you can easily manage a store with WooCommerce. In addition, if you already have a WordPress website or blog, you can easily turn it into an online store using WooCommerce.
WooCommerce comes with a number of built-in features like shipping, payment processing, inventory management, coupons, reporting, and more. You also have the ability to purchase WooCommerce extensions to add more power to your online store or use a number of third-party free and paid WooCommerce plugins to help grow your sales.
Plus, since WooCommerce is an open source platform and a WordPress eCommerce plugin, it’s free to download from the WordPress.org repository. To get started with WooCommerce, all you need is a domain name, SSL certificate, and web hosting account. With some of the best web hosting companies, you can get all this for as little as $3-5/month, making WooCommerce the most low cost way to start an online store.
- Full control of your site.
- WooCommerce is an open source software, customization is endless with addons.
- More affordable than other eCommerce platforms.
- More affordable managed web hosting options that are WooCommerce-specific.
- No transaction fees.
- You have to manage your own site including security, updates, backups, and so on.
- The unlimited features can make it a bit overwhelming to learn.
- Scaling your online store is more difficult, since you have to manage your site yourself or pay more for managed web hosting.
It’s important to note that to use the WooCommerce WordPress plugin, you need to build your site with WordPress.org, not WordPress.com. Check out our article on WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org to learn more about the difference between the 2.
3.2. Why We Recommend WooCommerce to Create an Online Store
While eCommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce are a bit easier to use and come with everything you need out of the box to easily set up an online store, WooCommerce comes with a lower starting cost and you have more control of your site.
With WooCommerce, you have complete control of how your online store looks and performs. Just as we suggest making a website with WordPress because of the endless customization options, the same goes for making an online store with WooCommerce. An online store with WooCommerce allows you to use numerous WordPress plugins to add more features to your online store.
Plus, you get access to tons of amazing WooCommerce themes to give your store exactly the look you desire. It also comes with integrations, payment methods, add-ons, and more.
Since the WooCommerce and the WordPress community is so large, if you ever run into an issue with your online store, there are a ton of online communities and forums available to help you out.
Creating an online store with WooCommerce allows you to create exactly the kind of eCommerce website you want, without having to spend a large portion of your budget.
3.3. Prerequisites for Making an Online Store
As we mentioned earlier, when you create an online store with WooCommerce, there are a couple of things you need before you get started. Since WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, you need a self-hosted WordPress site along with these 3 things: domain name, SSL certificate, and web hosting. Let’s go over what each of these prerequisites is and why you needs them.
A domain name is the address of your website. Users can type your domain name into the address bar of their browser and get access to your website. For instance, some popular domain names you might be familiar with include www.IsItWP.com, www.Amazon.com, www.Facebook.com, and www.WPBeginner.com.
Without a domain name, users won’t be able to visit your eCommerce website from their own computers. So, if you want to create an online store, you’ll need to purchase a domain name that matches the brand name of your online store.
For a more detailed explanation, check out our article: What is a Domain Name and How Does it Work?
An SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer), also known as a digital certificate, creates a secure link between a website and a visitor’s browser. This ensures that all the data that’s passed between your shoppers and your website is safe and secure. An SSL certificate is needed on any website that will be accepting credit card information.
In addition, displaying an SSL certificate on your site builds trust between your website and your customers. If your online store isn’t secure, users won’t want to buy from you. But an SSL certificate shows them that their information is in safe hands.
When creating an eCommerce website with self-hosted WordPress and WooCommerce, you also need to purchase web hosting. When you make a website, all the files are stored on your computer and nobody else can view them. But when you purchase web hosting, a web hosting company stores your website files in a space on the web so that other users can visit your website.
Web hosting is basically where your site lives on the internet. Just like a retail store needs a physical location that shoppers can walk into, your online store needs a space on the web that users can visit too. Web hosting will provide that to you.
If you’re afraid that all of these prerequisites will be costly, don’t worry. We’ll show you how you can get a free domain name, free SSL certificate, and affordable web hosting in the next couple sections.
3.4. How to Choose a Brand Name
Choosing a brand name is important. A brand name is basically the name of your online store. Your brand name should typically match your domain name as well. For instance, think about the most popular online store on the web, Amazon. Their brand name is Amazon and their domain name is www.Amazon.com. Having your brand name and your domain name the same makes it easy for shoppers to remember and find your website on the internet.
But you can’t just pick a brand name at random. Instead, you need to choose a brand name that makes you stand out from the competition. So, how do you choose the best brand name for your online store? Here are some tips for picking the best brand name:
- Keep it Short and Simple – Your brand name should be short and simple so that it’s easy for your customers to remember and spell. Longer, complicated brand names can get misspelled when customers type your domain name into their address bar, resulting in them not being able to find your online store.
- Be Unique – With so many online stores on the web, your brand name needs to be unique to stand out from the crowd. Take a look at your competition, if they use the word “electronics” in their brand name, come up with a different word you can use to set yourself apart.
- Use Keywords – Using keywords in your brand name will help your online store get found by more people online. For instance, if your online store sells shoes, consider adding the word “shoes” to your brand name to boost your organic search results.
To boost your inspiration, here are some examples of awesome, unique brand names:
- Death Wish Coffee – The World’s Strongest Coffee
- Fuego Box – Hot Sauce of the Month Club/Subscription Box
- Super Ink Clothing – Printed Clothing and Accessories
- Tattly – Temporary Tattoos for Adults
- Hello!Lucky – Letterpress Greeting Card and Design Studio
If you’re having trouble coming up with a brand name, you can also use our free Domain Name Generator to help you come up with something awesome.
Simply type in a 1 or 2 keywords and the tool will provide you with a number of brand name ideas. The tool also checks for domain name availability, so you don’t have to worry about picking a name that someone else has already taken.
After you’ve found the perfect brand name, it’s time to choose web hosting and purchase a domain name.
3.5. How to Choose Web Hosting
Choosing the best web hosting is another important step in making an online store. You need to choose a high-performance web hosting solution in order to provide a fast and convenient shopping experience to your customers. If your eCommerce website is slow, even just a 1-second delay, it could decrease your sales by 7%. As you can see, it’s important to choose a web hosting that has top-notch speed and performance.
There are a few other factors you should consider when choosing the best eCommerce web hosting including:
- 1-Click Install – The web hosting you choose should offer 1-click, easy installation of your preferred eCommerce app such as WooCommerce.
- SSL Certificate – As we mentioned earlier, you need an SSL certificate to protect your online store. This should be provided by the web hosting company you choose.
- PCI Compliance – You also need to choose PCI compliant web hosting to securely accept credit card payments.
- Support and Backups – Pick web hosting that provides great support, updates, and backups whenever you need them.
But, since we suggest that you build your online store with WordPress and WooCommerce, we recommend choosing Bluehost WooCommerce.
Bluehost WooCommerce offers 1-click WooCommerce auto-install, 1 free domain name, free SSL certificate, dedicated IP address, and more. Bluehost also powers over 2 million websites worldwide and it’s officially the #1 recommended web hosting by WordPress.org.
Plus, 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.
Chapter 4: Creating an Online Store – Technical Guide (Step by Step)
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.
Let’s take a look at how to set up an online store in WordPress using WooCommerce.
4.1. Purchase a Domain Name and a WooCommerce Hosting Account
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.
4.2. 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.
4.3. 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.
4.4. 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 professional 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.
Chapter 5: Getting Started with Your Online Store
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
5.1. 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, use the ‘+’ button. Then select the image option. Now you can either upload an image from your local computer by using the upload option or add an existing one from the library using the media library button.
5.2. 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.
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.
5.4. 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.
5.5. 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.
Chapter 6: Extend 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 four most important:
- Enable customer tracking with MonterInsights
- Add online forms to your site with WPForms
- Improve your store’s SEO with Yoast
- Reduce shopping cart abandonment with OptinMonster
6.1. Enable Customer Tracking with MonsterInsights
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.
6.2.Add Online Forms with WPForms
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.
Next, go to your dashboard and click on WPForms » All Forms. You’ll now see all the forms that you’ve created. Just next to your form name you’ll see the shortcode of the form. Copy this shortcode.
Now go to the post or page where you want to add your form and click on the ‘+’ sign on the top left corner of your Gutenberg editor.
Using the search field look for shortcode. Select it when found. You will have the following on your screen.
Now paste the shortcode that you copied earlier and paste it in the given field and hit the Publish button on your right.
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.
6.3. Improve Your Store’s SEO with Yoast
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.
6.4. Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment with OptinMonster
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. But, you can reduce shopping cart abandonment with a plugin like OptinMonster.
OptinMonster is a popular lead generation tool that allows you to display targeted popups that convert abandoning visitors into subscribers.
For instance, 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.
To create a targeted exit-intent popup campaign, first create an account with OptinMonster on their official website. Once you’ve signed up for an account, you can start creating your first exit-intent popup campaign to reduce cart abandonment. First, click on the green Create Campaign.
Next, choose the campaign type by clicking on Popup.
After that, you’ll be prompted to choose a pre-designed template for your campaign. OptinMonster has a pre-built template specifically for shopping cart abandonment, so let’s choose that one, titled Abandoning Checkout. Hover over the template and click the Use Template button.
After clicking the Use Template button, you’ll be prompted to name your campaign and choose which website your popup will go on. Then, click the Start Building button to continue.
You’ll then be taken to the Campaign Builder. In this area, you can begin customizing your campaign to make it your own. You can change the colors, add your own image and text, and more.
When you’re happy with the way your popup looks, it’s time to set the display rules. Click on the Display Rules tab at the top of the screen. Then in the dropdown menu, choose exit detected. You can also choose the level of sensitivity of the exit-intent to be low, medium, or high.
You can also add other rules such as only showing the popup to users who have visited your checkout page as well. Play around with the rules to see what works best for you.
After designing your campaign, setting the display rules and making sure your campaign is connected to your email marketing service, hit the green Save button, then click on Publish.
From here, toggle your campaign to Live in the Status section.
In the platform section, select WordPress, and follow the simple instructions to embed the campaign on your website.
Now instead of losing precious sales, you’ll be able to convert those abandoning visitors into happy customers.
Some other ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment include adding security badges to your site and offering guest checkout. Adding a security badge helps instill confidence in your customers and guest checkout makes it easy for your customers to complete an order, so they don’t have to create an account.
Chapter 7: Adding Your First Products
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. 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.
Chapter 8: Before-Launch Checklist
Now that your online store is nearly completed, before you go live, you need to make sure you have everything in order. Launching your online store before it’s ready can cause problems for you and can even drive away your potential customers.
So, here’s a before-launch checklist that includes every step you should cross off your to-do list. Be sure to complete each of these steps before launching your online store to the world.
- Build Your Online Store – Build your online store and make sure everything looks perfect for your future customers. Be sure you have all the pages you need such as product pages, about page, contact page. As an online store you also need a shopping cart and checkout page.
- Prep with a Coming Soon Page – Get your audience excited about your online store before it’s even launched by adding a coming soon page to your site. You can easily do this using a WordPress coming soon plugin like SeedProd.
- Add Your Products – Add all of your products to your online store. This includes high-quality images, product descriptions, prices, etc.
- Optimize Your Images – Online stores are image-heavy which can slow down your site. Be sure to optimize your images using an image optimization plugin like reSmush.it.
- Adjust Your Tax and Shipping Settings – Double check your tax and shipping settings to make sure you’re charging the right price for the products you’re selling.
- Test for Mobile – Many consumers do their online shopping from their mobile devices, so make sure your online store is mobile-friendly.
- Test the Performance of Your Site – Test the speed and performance of your online store to make sure it’s optimized for shoppers. You can use our free Website Speed Test Tool to test your site and get suggestions for improvements.
- Install Analytics – Create a Google Analytics account and use MonsterInsights to track your website data. Test to make sure it’s tracking accurately before launching your online store.
- Optimize Your Site for SEO – Install a plugin like Yoast SEO in order to optimize your website for SEO.
- Set up Email Marketing – You’ll need to email your customers and vice versa, so make sure to set up your email marketing. You should also start growing your email list with a lead generation tool like OptinMonster.
- Place a Test Order – Make sure your shoppers can buy products from your store successfully by placing a test order using your payment gateway. You can refund the order right after confirming it works.
- Market Your Online Store – Start marketing your online store to drive more shoppers to your eCommerce website. For instance, start promoting your online store on social media and start blogging.
Chapter 9: 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.
- Resources to learn and master WordPress and WooCommerce.
9.1. 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.
9.2. 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.
9.3. 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.
Chapter 10: FAQs
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.