Starting an Online Shop with WordPress and WooCommerce
You might think on starting an online shop either for selling clothes, computers, furniture, books or any other products. An online shop built with WordPress and WooCommerce can also be used for service providers, especially for those who offer a high number of services online.
The steps for starting an online shop with WordPress and WooCommerce are:
- find the right web host
- installation and setup of WordPress
- installation of WooCommerce plugin
- installation of additional plugins
- adding products (images, description, prices)
Choosing the Right Web Hosting Plan
A reliable web hosting service is crucial for every website, especially for websites that sell online. An eCommerce website will quickly loose its visitors and customers if the hosting plan is hosted on can’t keep up with the users demand. I’m talking about speed, up-time and security.
At first, you will want to have a fast loading online shop, so your potential customers can quickly browse through your products and make a purchase. On the second, you will want to ensure that your website will always be online, accessible anytime a user want to buy something. No hosting provider will guarantee you with 100% up-time (if you see such guarantees, probably you should read carefully their terms), but there are hosting companies who will ensure that in case of an outage everything will be online as quickly as possible. The worst case in the life of an online shop is data leak. Unauthorized users can steal your customers’ data (personal and financial information) that is stored in your database. Some times they can brake into your website through a security hole of your system, but in most cases they do it at the server level. If you choose a hosting provider that can’t secure its servers you will quickly lose business and data leak can lead to major consequences.
So it is important to pick the right web hosting plan before you start an online shop. I highly recommend getting a VPS plan, but before please read the following article to see why: Shared or VPS Hosting or WooCommerce shop.
Recommended VPS Hosting Plans for starting a WooCommerce Shops:
- BlueHost: the “standard” VPS plan from BlueHost is enough to get started with your online shop. ($29.99 per month, includes 1 Dedicated IPs, 2 CPU cores, 2GB RAM, 30GB storage, 1TB bandwidth)
- InMotion: the “VPS-1000S” offered by InMotionHosting is great for starting your online shop. ($29.99 per month, induces 2 Dedicated IPs, 4GB RAM, 60GB disk space, 2TB bandwidth)
- HostGator: the “Snappy 1000” plan is good enough for a small eCommerce website. ($49.95 per month, includes 2 Dedicated IPs, 1 CPU core, 1GB RAM, 60GB storage, 1TB bandwidth )
Once you got the hosting plan you need, you are ready to get started building your web shop with WordPress and WooCommerce.
Installing and Setting up WordPress
The first step in starting an online shop is to install the content management system (CMS), in this case WordPress. You need to find a proper web hosting company with enough space for all your products, enough bandwidth for your customers and a lot of speed where you can install WordPress. Also you need a proper domain name, something customized and unique indicating that your website is an online shop and eventually what you sell. The domain name can include a original name, maybe yours or a new brand you just created.
After that, you just download and install WordPress using the auto-installer script named Fantastico from your Cpanel. You don’t forget to write the correct and required information in order to install. These are the following: database name, database username and database password. After installation you need to enter the administrator’s e-mail address and his password, in this case you.
Both the installation and the setting take a couple of minutes, but your attention is necessary, especially if you aren’t used to make them. However you don’t need to panic or to rush things. All the settings are located at your WordPress Dashboard and you can access it if you just add /wp-admin at your website’s link, for example http://example.com/wp-admin . Attention, the link of dashboard works only if your WordPress is installed in the usual way and not in sub directory. In this case, you need to add the name of the installation sub-directory as in http://example.com/subdirectory/wp-admin. After you login, you need to go to the Settings tab and to update each one as you want.
Even if WordPress comes with 3-4 themes and 2-3 plugins, you will need to install WooCommerce. You can either install the plugin WooCommerce or a theme that has WooCommerce integrated. I recommend you the second option for a professional online shop.
You can find the WooCommerce plugin at the developer’s official website. With almost 10.620.000 downloads, WooCommerce powers over than a third of all online stores and is now the most popular eCommerce platform on the web.
WooCommerce gives you the control to sell anything, anywhere and is also an extendable, adaptable and open-sourced platform. Any WordPress and PHP programmer can extend it, can use the REST API or any webhook system together with custom AJAX endpoints. It is also built for WordPress so compatibility is 100%. WooCommerce is mobile friendly and it can scale together with your business. The code used for creating WooCommerce is secure and also has a modern and clean interface. As any other shopping platform, it has pre-installed payment gateways, automatic taxes, checkout process, multiple currencies, cart behavior, reduced page loading and the possibility to manage products in the way you want: add, delete, edit, product types, product variables, inventory management.
With WooCommerce you can easily make shipping calculations, cart calculations, tax calculations, select customer address, control taxes, see all shipping prices, restrict sales and use multiple shipping methods. The platform is even SEO friendly, has discount coupons and codes and simple visitors can review your products and even choose to verify or not every review. If you need stats, you can use the sales reports, the dashboard reports and the products and orders reports. And it even supports customer accounts, automatic passwords, one-click refunds and product variables. Other features are the improved experience for store owners, integration with WordPress content, theme extensions, 300+ plugin extensions and child themes support. WooCommerce has an iOS app for your iPhone.
Some very interesting themes with WooCommerce integrated are Neighborhood, at $64, has unlimited layouts and colors, integrated wishlist and it is 100% Translatable, Cheope at $64 with 2 custom checkout pages, zoom effect included, catalog mode, unlimited sliders and Flatsome, at $59, is the best selling WooCommerce theme ever with incredible user experience. These themes come with additional plugins such as page builders, sliders and so on. All three of them have a very interesting design, the first one is good enough for an online jewelry or shoe shop, the second one is recommended for a furniture shop and the last for a cloth shop, but they are ok to use for any type of shop.
Installing Additional Plugins
Both WordPress and WooCommerce are very useful platforms, one for content management and the other for online shop, you still need to install some additional plugins that will optimize at maximum your online shop’s performance. These are Akismet – for antispam, Breadcrumb NavXT – for breadcrumb navigation, Contact Form 7 and Flamingo– for contact forms and contact agendas, Floating Social Media Icon – to show floating media icons, Jetpack – for visitors and articles stats, Newsletter – for updating your visitors, Slideshow for slideshows. If you already purchased a theme with integrated WooCommerce, there is a chance to have some of this plugins already installed. Else you just need to install them going t the Plugins tab from your Dashboard and to choose them and use the install button. At the end, you need to activate them and look around their options.
The fourth and last step, as important as the other, is adding your products on the online shop. You need to try to add a fixed number of products each week, even if at beginning you have a high number of products. You try to use unique descriptions, photos and videos for each product.
When you write the description of a product use as much details as possible, starting with a real story that contains keywords about your website and product, including what is your product and what it makes. After that, you should write the technical details. At the end of the page of a product you should put a slideshow with compatible products and another slideshow with related products.
Every new added product means a new article on your shop, so a new chance for you regarding a new visitor to come or an old one to return. Google Bot doesn’t forget to return to your website if you have new content and it will help you at indexing and especially at raising your website’s position in different search terms.
You need to offer the possibility for visitors to ask questions about your products and shop, but also to review the product they bought. You also need to give feedback yourself to your visitors, especially those who are unhappy or ask questions. You need to share each product to your social media pages from Twitter, Facebook and so on. If you do this, there will be at least 3 websites, including your online shop, with your products. Please be patient because income and traffic will increase in time and not from beginning.
At the end, I can tell you that starting an online shop takes a lot of time and you also need to have patience, especially at adding products. Imagination is another element you need when you make decisions regarding the layout of the entire website. So if you are planning to open a web shop, start your project in time. The comment section is open for any questions or suggestions. Good luck with creating your shop!