How to Build an Online Store

After building quite a few online stores and seeing the amount of potential they have to provide income, freedom, and location independence, we have decided to create this guide to show you how to do it!
 
We understand that not everyone has the budget to hire a designer or they simply prefer to DIY these things… so this guide is made for all of you!
 
There are so many possibilities for online businesses, and the great thing is that you can start one with minimum investment. Just a few hundred dollars (and sweat equity!) and you could have your store set up!
 
If you want to start your own store, read on! This is our guide to building an online store with WordPress and WooCommerce.
 

Why WooCommerce?

As you may know, there are quite a few different platforms available to build an e-commerce store. Here’s why it’s our favorite and that of 42% of online store owners:
 

  • It’s free
  • It’s scalable
  • You grow and pay only for what you want
  • It’s customizable
  • It’s quite easy to set up and use
  • You own and control your site
  • It’s developer friendly
  • You can customize it any way you like

 
WooCommerce is a free, open source software. While the other popular option (Shopify) spends millions on advertising, it also charges you a monthly fee to use your store… so it’s only yours as long as you pay.
 
You most likely will need to purchase paid tools and add-ons for WooCommerce, but the great thing is that you only pay for what you need when you need it. Who doesn’t love low
startup costs?
 
WooCommerce stores are compatible with hundreds of templates/themes, and it’s also completely customizable – so your store won’t look just like thousands of others on the internet. It’s simple and intuitive to use, yet completely customizable and developer friendly.
 

What Can You Sell?

  • Basically ANYTHING!
  • Digital products like books, software, courses etc.
  • Services
  • Physical products
  • Subscriptions for physical or virtual products
  • Affiliate products
  • Dropshipping products
  • Variable/Custom products
  • Bookings for appointments

 
The options are endless. You can sell anything you put a price tag on! You can even ‘sell’ free products. After a few simple steps, you can get to selling!
 

What Do You Need?

  • A WordPress website
  • An SSL Certificate (to be purchased through your host)
  • An LLC/EIN number (not required, but recommended – this

may vary by country)
 
The only thing you REALLY need to get started is a WordPress website. If you don’t have a WordPress website, check out our guide to creating a website, follow the steps, and then come back here.
 
Click here for our guide to building a WordPress website 
 
You will need an SSL Certificate to be able to process payments online, but you can add that after building the site structure and design. (we do recommend that you purchase
your SSL before setting up tracking on your site, as http and https sites are treated as completely different websites).
 
If you didn’t know, an SSL certificate is a security certificate, and it’s what gives websites that green “secure” icon and the “s” after http.
 
An LLC and EIN number are recommended. LLC’s are important for protecting your personal assets, and you can easily file for one by using LegalZoom if you’re in the US. If you file for an LLC in the US you will have the option to order an EIN number, which is basically a tax number. If you don’t have an EIN number, you may use your social security number.
 

How to Build an Online Store

 

Step 1

Sign in to your WordPress Admin, click on Plugins on your sidebar, click ‘Add New’ and then search for ‘WooCommerce’. Hit ‘Install Now’ and then activate the plugin.
WooCommerce App

Step 2

 
Once activated you will see a setup wizard pop up on your screen, which will guide you through a few initial steps to set your WooCommerce store up.
 

Store Settings

 
You will be prompted to set a few store settings. You will need to state where your store is based, your business address, currency, and the type of products you plan to sell. Fill these fields out based on your information. Make sure that the address you use is from the same state as your business is registered in, or will be registered in.
WooCommerce Store Setting

Payments

 
The next setup step is to set up your payments methods, which your customers will use to pay for their orders.
WooCommerce Payment
On this step, you may set up your Stripe and PayPal accounts. Stripe is a credit card processor, and PayPal allows you to take PayPal payments. Both of these processors are safe, secure, and trusted. In order to provide your customers with options, I recommend enabling both. If you don’t have accounts with PayPal or Stripe, enter your email in the fields provided.
 
Would you like to take offline payments?
Offline Payment
WooCommerce gives you the option to enable check payments, bank transfers, or cash on delivery. If you enable these, your customers will have the option to select any of these payment methods at checkout. If you’d like to allow your customers to order a product without paying, enable the “Cash on Delivery” option.
 
If you only plan to allow a select few (or none) people pay offline, I would recommend keeping these turned off, because otherwise, anyone will be able to select an offline payment method and check out without submitting a payment.
 

Shipping

 
Next, you will be prompted to fill out your shipping settings.
 
As of October 2018, this is what the page looks like – you just have to enter your unit of measurement and you add the rest of your shipping settings later. This may change as it’s changed a few times in the last couple of years…
 
Once you complete the setup wizard, you will have the option to go to WooCommerce -> Settings -> Shipping to set up shipping zones and prices.
WooCommerce Shipping

Recommended Enhancements

 
On this page, you will see the option to install a few recommended enhancements on your store.
WooCommerce Enhancements
Storefront theme: If you haven’t yet installed a WooCommerce compatible theme on your WordPress site, go ahead and tick the box to install Storefront Theme (our
favorite theme is Flatsome, which you can find on Themeforest for $49)
 
Automated Taxes: I recommend ticking the box for this – it will handle all of your taxes!
 
MailChimp: Unless you plan on using a different email sender, tick this box. You’ll be able to set up all of your email marketing via MailChimp, and it has a fantastic WooCommerce integration!
 

Connect with JetPack

 
JetPack handles a lot of things for you, including taxes, security and stats. Go ahead and connect your store to JetPack by clicking “continue with JetPack. You will have to create an account with them, but it just takes a few minutes!
 

Creating Products

 
Once you’ve completed your initial settings, it’s time to setup your products! To add a new product, head over to the products tab in the admin sidebar, and click on add new (or click on the button under ‘Next Steps’ in your setup wizard. If you click on that button, WooCommerce will guide you through creating your first product.)
 
Otherwise, click here:
Creating Products Menu
If you’re familiar with WordPress, this page will probably look familiar to you, because the WooCommerce layout is quite similar to the WordPress layout!
 
WooCommerce Layout
You’re going to see quite a few fields here:
 

  1. Product Name – this one is pretty straightforward.

 

  1. Product Description – this field functions the same as a regular WordPress field, so you’re free to use html, add text, images, headings, or any media!

 

  1. Product Data Section – this section is where you will add price, dimensions, shipping info, product type, inventory and more. The section is divided into a few subsections.

Product Data Selection
Within the product data section, first, you will have to state your product type. The options are: simple product, grouped product, external/affiliate product, and variable product.
 
Simple Product: a regular product with no variations or attributes. It can be physical, virtual or downloadable. Simply select this option and then check the box for virtual or downloadable, or leave boxes unchecked if it’s a physical product.
 
Grouped Product: a group of related products.
 
External/Affiliate Product: a product that is sold elsewhere, and you gain a commission by referring the buyer to that site.
 
Variable Product: A product that has a few different variations/specifications. For example, a t-shirt that comes in different colors, sizes or both.
 
The following options may or may not all appear as they are based on product type.
 
General: Set prices and taxes. If you’re not sure about taxes, check with a professional… but installing JetPack should help do it for you!
 
Inventory: Set SKU and inventory quantities if you’d like to manage stock levels. Once you sell all of your stock, the item will automatically be set to ‘out of stock’. Go ahead and create SKU numbers from the get-go – it won’t hurt, and you might need them in the future.
WooCommerce Inventory
Shipping: Use this section to set product dimensions and shipping info. If you don’t see shipping options, you need to configure these in your WooCommerce settings.
 
Linked Products: You know when you see sections that say “you might like this” or “customers who bought this also bought…”? This is where you would set those linked/related products. You may add up-sells and cross-sells.
 
Attributes: This is where you can set product attributes. If you’re selling different sized t-shirts, or different colored shirts, for example, you would list those attributes there.
 
To add a new attribute, click the ‘Add’ button. A new field will populate where you may state the name of the attribute, and the different variations/options. In this example, our attribute is size:
WooCommerce Attributes
The values/options need to be separated by this symbol: |.
Once filled, click ‘Save attributes’.
 
If you’d like, you may add a second level of attributes.
WooCommerce Attributes
Creating Variations: Those attributes you created will allow you to create your variations – so your individual T-Shirts by size, and by color. If you’d like to create those variations, change your product type from “simple product” to “variable product” and then you will see the variations tab. On that tab, you’ll be able to “create variations from all attributes”.
 
Advanced: You don’t have to worry about filling this section out unless you would like to send a note to the customer after purchase, change the menu order, or disable reviews.
 
4.Short Product Description: This field is for a short summary/descriptions of the product. It will appear under the product name on the product page. You will notice this field
looks like the general WordPress page fields, so you may add any elements you’d like.
 
5.Product Categories: Just like WordPress categories for posts, you can set up categories for your products to group similar items. You can create new categories from here as well.
 
6.Product Tags: This is like the WordPress tags option – an optional additional way to group items and make them easier for your customers to find.
 
7.Product Image: This is the main product image that will be displayed on the page, as well as the preview image on the shop page. If possible, use a horizontal photo, as vertical photos will be cropped/resized.
 
8.Product Gallery: Use this section to add additional product images.
Product Gallery
Note: As we mentioned earlier, you can sell just about anything – and your setup will depend on the type of product you’re selling. Some of these fields may not be relevant for your product type. For example, size dimensions won’t be relevant for downloadable or virtual products, so you can simply leave these fields empty.
 
Once you’re done setting all of the above settings, simply click publish and voila, your first product is done!

Viewing Your Product

 
After publishing, go view the page to check how everything looks on the front end. A lot of the styling of the page elements will match your WordPress theme, but if there’s anything you don’t like, make note of it and go back to the admin and simply change it. Keep in mind that there are
hundreds of plugins to add extra functionality to your site, and we will discuss those after we cover the basics of your WooCommerce store setup.
 
After posting and checking your first product, repeat these steps as many times as necessary, until you have all of your products listed!
 
If you go back and click on the products tab in your dashboard, you will see your product dashboard with a summary of your product info listed. You can ‘quick edit’ from this dashboard page just as you would a WordPress page or post.
 

Emails

 
Before making any sales, you should configure your emails.
 
At WooCommerce → Settings → Emails you may edit and configure all customer facing emails/notifications.
 
The first thing you will see is the list of pre-made email notifications that WooCommerce has created. As you can see in the ‘recipients’ column, some of these are sent to customers, while others are internal.
Email List
Below this list, you will find your general options. The top two settings will apply to all of your emails/notifications. The email template settings will create your default template, but you can also edit each email’s individual template.
 
Set your “from” name, which will appear as the sender for each email, as well as the “from” address, which is where they will be sent from (keep in mind that this is where any
replies will go).
 
For your email template, we recommend uploading your company logo as the header image, adding custom footer text, and using your brand colors. Before making any sales,
you should configure your emails. At WooCommerce → Settings → Emails you may edit and configure all customerfacing emails/notifications.
 
The first thing you will see is the list of pre-made email notifications that WooCommerce has created. As you can see in the ‘recipients’ column, some of these are sent to customers, while others are internal.
Email Recipients
 
Then, you may go ahead and configure each individual email. You can enable or disable the email, change the subject and heading, downloadable subject and headings, and upload an email template. If you’d like to drive more sales, you may want to investigate options to send up-sells or cross sells within your email. Or, check out our follow up email recommendation at the end of this guide.
Individual Emails

Theme

 
Now that you have your store populated with products, you may view your entire site and how it looks and how your current theme is integrating with WooCommerce. Although it is made to work with any WordPress theme, WooCommerce looks better with themes that are developed with ecommerce in mind.
 
If you already have a theme, are happy with it, and it’s not causing any issues with WooCommerce, then you will probably want to stick with it.
 
If you don’t have a theme, or you’re not happy with how it looks, you may want to search for a WooCommerce compatible theme. Yes, all themes are technically compatible, but those that are made with WooCommerce in mind will integrate much better.
 
Storefront, the default/official WooCommerce theme is free, and it has all of the features needed to set up a basic store.
 
Themeforest also has a huge library of themes available for purchase. Just head over to their e-commerce section and browse until you find the theme you like.
 
Our favorite theme is Flatsome 🙂
 

Design Tips

 
If your goal is to engage your visitors and sell products, your site, and store design are very important.
 

  • Easy to navigate – the ideal navigations and product shop setup will vary by your type and amount of products, so think about your buyer and their journey – and then make sure that your site and store design make it as easy as possible for the visitor to find products, as well as any information they need.

 

  • Responsive – nowadays, most people view pages and shop from their phones, so make sure that the theme you choose will look just as good, if not better, on mobile!

 

  • Intuitive menu structure – It’s imperative that your site is easy to navigate on all devices, so make sure that your theme’s menu is clear and easy to grasp, both on mobile and on a desktop.

 

  • Have clear call to actions – guide your customers through the sales process by showing them where to click and go next.

 

  • Easy to find info – make all the important information easy to find – contact information, return, sales, FAQ, and all the information your customers might need should be easy to find!

 

  • High-quality images – good photos sell!

 

Shop Pages

 
Next, it’s time to personalize your pages and add any design or copy needed to complete your store.
 
Before working on your site design and copy, think about your ideal customer. What’s their pain point? What problem are you solving? What do they like? What can they relate to?
 
From here, decide what colors, elements, and language to use as you design your site. What you like may not be exactly what your audience will like – so with everything you do, think of them. Do your best to serve them.
 
Your shop is your chance to ‘wow’ your customers, so make sure your design and copy are built to sell!
 
If it makes sense to add information and explanations at any point, do it.
 
Make sure you use high-quality images that show all the important aspects of your product. Use engaging copy to sell, and clearly highlight the value of the product while keeping it to the point.
 
Having a distinct brand voice definitely helps – making it fun keeps your customers engaged.
 

Recommended Extensions

 
Abandoned Cart Lite – Great plugin to get insight into abandoned carts! You can see what products have been abandoned in the carts, as well as email customers about their abandoned carts.
 
Facebook for WooCommerce – This plugin allows you to publish, promote and sell products on Facebook, as well as link them to your Instagram to tag those products on Instagram.
 
WooCommerce Extra Product Options – This extension adds more functionalities and options to your WooCommerce product pages. You may add forms, radio boxes, fields, hide prices, and more. If you find that WooCommerce out of the box doesn’t allow you to provide the options you need, try this extension out.
 
WooCommerce Shipment Tracking – A must have for any store shipping out orders. Notify your customer as soon as the order ships – via email, and allow them to track their order in their
account on your site!
 
Social Login – This plugin simplifies the account creation and login processes by allowing customers to use their social media to create an account. It easily integrates into your checkout page, can send account details to the user, and set custom redirect urls upon login. This plugin is all about customer experience, because the easier the checkout process is, the lower your cart abandonment rate will be.
 
Google Analytics Dashboard for WooCommerce – Use this plugin to easily set up your Google Analytics account to get more insight on your site traffic, performance, page views and
more. This one is a must!
 
MailChimp for WooCommerce – Makes connecting your store to MailChimp super easy and simplifies your email marketing!
 
Pinterest Verify – A must if you plan on promoting your store and products on Instagram. This allows you to verify your site and makes your pins look better.
 
WooCommerce Variation Swatches – If you sell variable products with different colors, you can use this plugin to show the actual color bubbles on product pages.
 
WP Live Chat Support – Free plugin to add live chat to your site!
 
WP Mail Logging – At some point, your emails might not send for sooome reason so it’s always good to have this plugin logging your emails so that you can dig into what’s going on.
 
Yoast SEO – This is the ultimate tool for SEO, and the basic/free version will do what you need it to do.
 

What’s Next?

Get Started!
 
You don’t need to have every step figured out – just the first one. I promise you’ll figure everything out on the way. The first step is probably the hardest, but it gets easier from there, believe me! Be prepared to spend a lot of time on this… but also be prepared to reap the rewards! Building something for yourself is so exciting and rewarding!
 
If you get stuck or need help along the way, feel free to email us at hello@dawningdigital.com
 

 

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