There is no question about it—Online sales are exploding. More consumers are now shopping online than ever before across all devices. Data from Statista shows that global B2C eCommerce sales will reach 1.92 trillion dollars in 2016. That figure is only expected to continue in an upwards trend as more people around the world connect online.
E-commerce is massive. And it will only get bigger.
The good news is that building your own e-commerce store has never been easier especially with open source solutions such as ZenCart, OpenCart, and osCommerce. Simply choose a solution to build your store and you could be reaching customers from around the globe. But what if you already have a fully built WordPress site for your business? Is it possible to turn it into a thriving online store? It is with WooCommerce.
Why WooCommerce?WooCommerce is a plugin that adds complete shopping cart functionality to any WordPress site.
It offers a stable platform for business owners to build their online stores and it comes bundled with a range of features. Visitors can easily add products to their shopping cart and complete their purchase with their preferred payment method. If you need additional features, there are hundreds of free and paid extensions you can install to extend the functionality of your store.
Perhaps the most appealing feature is that WooCommerce is completely free.
So with an existing WordPress site, you could install the ecommerce plugin and start selling online in a short period of time. Of course, extra functionality such as inventory management, credit card processing, and custom themes are available at an extra price.
Before getting started you will need a few things. These include:
- Domain name: A domain name that you own is absolutely essential. The cost is a fairly minor investment considering the growth potential it can deliver for your business.
- Hosting: There are no shortages of sites that will host your site for free (usually in exchange for putting ads on your pages), but these should generally be avoided as your own hosting solution is a much better option.
- WordPress: Obviously you will need WordPress installed on your site before you can start selling with WooCommerce. WordPress is a powerful content management system that also happens to be free.
- Theme: Design matters a great deal as you want a professional site that reflects your brand and gets visitors to buy. WooCommerce offers free themes but there are also plenty of paid themes that you can easily customise.
- Payment gateway: You need a payment gateway so that visitors can complete their purchase and for the funds to go directly into your bank account. WooCommerce already comes built in with PayPal but if you want an alternate payment processor you will need to pay for an extension.
- Shipping: If you sell any physical products, you will likely want to connect your store to the shipping company you use to see their actual rates.
1. Initial InstallationThe first step is to install the plugin.
Start by logging into your WordPress site, then navigate to Plugins on the lefthand side and click Add New. In the search box, type in “WooCommerce” and it should be the first result. Then click the Install Now button once you find the correct plugin.
Then remember to active the plugin on the next page.
2. Setting Up WooCommerceUpon activating the plugin, you will be prompted with a setup page for all the initial settings.
Click the Let’s Go button to get started.
Before you can start selling, your store will need a few key pages such as a shopping page to display your products and a checkout page for customers to proceed with their purchase. Click on the Continue button to have these created or skip the step to create them later.
The next page is where you can setup the location, currency, and units of your site. Make sure that all the details are accurate before moving on.
WooCommerce is primarily for selling products but it also gives you the flexibility to sell software and other digital goods. If you have actual physical goods to ship, you can enable that setting and sales tax if you plan on charging it.
The final step is to enable payments on your online store. WooCommerce already comes built-in with PayPal so you can start accepting payments right away. But if you are looking for a specific payment gateway, you will need to install a separate extension.
After the initial setup, your store is finally ready to go.
Now that WooCommerce is installed, create your first product to familiarise yourself with the plugin. On the product page you can set each of the following:
- Sale price
- Weight and shipping class
- Linked products
- Custom attributes
3. Install a Compatible ThemeNot every WordPress theme is compatible with WooCommerce. After installing the ecommerce plugin, you might see the following notification at the top of your dashboard:
A plugin like WooCommerce comes with a ton of functionality from being able to manage inventory to payment processing. This means that your current theme may not be able to handle all these additional features so your online store may not work properly. If you see the notification above, then look for another theme that is compatible.
WooCommerce has an entire section on its site dedicated to themes.
There are even free themes available if you are really on a budget. But chances are that hundreds, even thousands of other sites have the exact same design. Once sales to your store start picking up, consider investing in a paid design that reflects your brand.
Your online store is finally ready. But your site will be rather plain at first with only the bare essentials. This is why you should see your store as a work in progress as you will undoubtedly be adding and removing different things.
Here are some final points to maximise sales from your store:
- Store details: Consumers want to know that they are shopping from a reputable business. Include an About Us page with contact information so visitors can easily get in touch with any questions they have.
- Product pages: Make your product pages stand out with complete descriptions and images that show your products in detail. There is even data that shows adding video to a product page can dramatically improve conversions.
- Categories: Before adding in products, start by laying out the structure of your site. With WooCommerce you can create categories and subcategories to organise your products which is beneficial from an SEO and user standpoint.
- Analytics: Google Analytics is one of best tools to get more information about your visitors including where they are coming from and the pages they visit. Create an account and link it to your store by installing the Google Analytics Integration plugin.
- Extensions: Need additional functionality for your online store? Whether you are looking to add more payment gateways or more advanced reporting, chances are you can find it by searching the Extensions page. Keep in mind that some extensions are paid.
- Search engine optimisation: Finally, remember to incorporate basic SEO best practices. Higher rankings translate to more sales. So optimise your product pages for their target keywords to improve their visibility in the search results.