Since inception, WordPress was not designed to create ecommerce stores but rather primarily used to design and manage content and information websites. But things have changed! Today, there are dozens of plugins that can turn a WordPress website into a professional ecommerce store. The best known and probably the most complete is WordPress’ WooCommerce store.
WooCommerce is the complete plugin to create an ecommerce website under WordPress. Before explaining step by step how to install WooCommerce on your WordPress, how to configure it and, more generally, how to set up WooCommerce store, some contextual elements are needed and more specifically, what is WooCommerce’s place among the myriad of existing plugins?
1. Why Is WooCommerce the Best Ecommerce Platform? ^
You will find dozens, even hundreds, of ecommerce plugins designed for WordPress: WP eCommerce, Cart 66, Jigoshop, MarketPress, Shopp, WP shop, and more. As everyone can offer their own plugin, there is, of course, everything and anything on WordPress plugin platforms. In this case, the few examples of ecommerce plugins that I just mentioned are all good ecommerce plugins. They have a lot of quality, some flaws, but they all do pretty well.
Note: You can also read a series of comparative articles between:
Nevertheless, WooCommerce as an ecommerce plugin stands out clearly. It was launched in 2011 by WooThemes (bought by Automattic in 2015, the creator of WordPress). It is the most powerful, the most flexible and the complete ecommerce plugin for WordPress. We can do almost anything with WooCommerce as we will have the opportunity to see.
Fact: Today, nearly 28% of ecommerce stores in the world are powered by WooCommerce, which represents more than 2.2 million websites.
Remember that creating a WooCommerce store is different than creating an ecommerce store from a platform specifically dedicated to ecommerce (Magento, Shopify, Prestashop, etc.). WooCommerce is especially recommended if you wish to:
- Have complete control over your store. With proprietary platforms, you are often limited. For example, you cannot always set SEO parameters (meta tag description, URL, etc.). And then, more generally, you are very limited in the modification of the code (example: the addition of tags in the header, etc.). WooCommerce is WordPress, so you can edit everything, customize everything, manage everything.
- Being able to have an ecommerce store that is not only a store, but also a website that hosts a blog, various pages, and so on. By using WordPress, you get the best blog editor in the world.
- Don’t pay commissions on your sales or a monthly subscription (like in Shopify) as it is the case on all proprietary platforms.
- Be able to start small and build your ecommerce store as your business grows. WooCommerce makes it possible to create very simple stores, but can also answer all the complex needs possible and imaginable. For example, with regard to payment management, you can start with tools that are very simple to manage, such as PayPal, Amazon Payments or Google Wallet, before implementing SSL at the end of a certain level of development.
Now that we have made our choice, let’s move on to the next step to set up WooCommerce store.
2. Sign up for Cloudways Platform ^
Now verify your email address to complete the signup process.
2.1. Enter Your Server & Application Details
Cloudways offers 4 different types of WordPress applications, i.e:
- WordPress with optimization
- WordPress with WooCommerce (optimized)
- WordPress with Multisite
- Default WordPress (without any optimization)
You have the option to choose from the above options. However, I choose the latest version of WordPress with WooCommerce (optimized), name my Managed App and Server and select my Project.
Note: For the purpose of this article, I name my Managed App, Server as My WooCommerce and the project as My Project. However, you are free to choose any other names for your Application and Server Details.
2.2. Select Your Cloud Infrastructure
Since Cloudways is a PaaS (Platform as a Service) provider, it has integrated top-of-the-line cloud infrastructures for its users. I choose DigitalOcean, which is one of them.
2.3. Select Your Server Size
With DigitalOcean server, you have the option to host WordPress website on 512MB to 64GB server. I choose 1GB server, which has 1GB RAM, 30GB SSD, 2TB Transfer, and 1 Core Processor.
2.4. Select Your Server Location
Choosing Server Location is of the utmost importance in this tutorial since it has the direct impact on your web load times and latency. Therefore, you should choose the location, which is nearest to your target audience.
2.5. Launch Your Server
After entering the server and application details, click Launch Now button.
Now, wait for a few minutes, till the server is ready!
Once the server is ready, go to Cloudways Platform and click Applications in the top-left menu.
Click on your WooCommerce application.
3. Log in to WooCommerce Admin Panel ^
Go to Access Details > Admin Panel. From there, you can find your login credentials and the URL for the WooCommerce store. Click the URL and use the credentials to log in to the WooCommerce Dashboard.
Copy Username and Password from the Admin Panel, paste them into WooCommerce Login Page and click Log In button.
After getting into WooCommerce Dashboard, I am welcomed with a message:
“Thanks for installing Breeze. It is always recommended not to use more than one caching plugin at the same time. We recommend you to purge cache if necessary.”
I get this message because I launched optimized WordPress with WooCommerce application. Remember?
4. Launch WooCommerce Store ^
You will see another message in the WooCommerce Dashboard: “Welcome to WooCommerce – You’re almost ready to start selling 🙂” a message asking you to Run the Setup Wizard. This is the easiest way to configure WooCommerce store, so press the button to start. If you accidentally hit the Skip Setup button, you can still run the Setup Wizard in WooCommerce > Help > Setup Wizard.
4.1. Store Setup
You must then specify the location of your WooCommerce store, the currency used, and the products you want to sell.
Payment setup is perhaps the most delicate step when creating an ecommerce store. I recommend adding Stripe and PayPal to get started. However, you can then add other means of payment.
This Shipping section will interest you if you sell your products around the world. Therefore, choose your Shipping Zone and Shipping Method carefully.
Depending on your requirements, toggle the most appropriate option to enable/disable automated VAT.
If prefer to skip this as it has no direct implication in launching WordPress’ WooCommerce store.
Congratulations! You have successfully launched your WooCommerce store. Now click Create a product button to add your first product or click Return to your dashboard. To familiarize yourself with the product page editor right away, click on Create a product button.
If you are already a WordPress user, then the product page editor should not distract you.
5. Choose WooCommerce Compatible Theme ^
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, we have seen it. A plugin is an extension (a kind of small software) that allows you to add new features to WooCommerce. The theme is the element that controls the design of your website, that is to say, the way your website appears to your visitors. WooCommerce adds many features to WordPress, but the concern is that some themes are not built to integrate these features.
You must, therefore, choose a theme that is compatible with WooCommerce. Otherwise, all the work you have done on the interface will have become useless. You’ll see at one point or another that your website is showing up badly and will have to start from zero with a new theme.
Tip: Order the Themes Framework such as Genesis by StudioPress. This will allow you to add functionality to your theme, synchronize all types of plugins, and make visual changes to your page without changing the entire look and feel of your website.
Also, check out WooCommerce add-ons; these give you access to a wide variety of extensions that add specific features to your ecommerce store so you don’t have to pay a lot of money to a programmer to find a custom solution for your store.
6. Configure WooCommerce Settings ^
Configuring your WooCommerce site settings is done directly from your WooCommerce Dashboard by going to WooCommerce > Settings.
You will notice that there are many default settings. These include the settings you have configured in the setup wizard, as well as settings automatically installed by WooCommerce. Start by peeling the sections and subsections of all the tabs on WooCommerce > Settings page to check the default settings and possibly modify them.
The product pages are, again, the most important elements of an ecommerce store. You must spend time on the trimming of these pages in the “Products” tab. Be especially careful about configuring the dimensions of the images! You must verify that the images of your products are displayed correctly on your store, on the product pages, on the catalog pages, etc. Spend time on this before you import the hundreds or thousands of images in your catalog. WooCommerce offers a complete documentation on the subject.
WooCommerce store settings are not made only from the “Settings” section of the WooCommerce tab. You should also consider the “System Status” and “Extensions” sections. The “System Status” section allows you to access technical information on your WooCommerce store and verify its configuration status. The “Extensions” section is what makes WooCommerce a great platform. WooCommerce offers a huge store of extensions (plugins) that add new ecommerce features.
The wealth of store extensions avoids having to contact a developer every time you want to add an item to your store (a new payment method for example). Some extensions are free while others are paid. But do you say that the price of the extension that interests you will always be less salty than the invoice of a developer?
Now that you have finished setting up and installing your extensions (which is time-consuming), you will have to create your product pages.
7. Add WooCommerce Products ^
There is no doubt: to have a functional WooCommerce store, you must first add products. But before going into the details, it is important to learn the basics of WooCommerce and to discover product categories, attributes, and types:
7.1. Product Category
Product categories can help group your products. For example, if you sell clothing, “clothing”, “sportswear” and “sleepwear” are product categories. They allow the customer to quickly locate products in the same category. You can create as many categories as you want and change them at any time.
7.2. Product Labels
Labels help filter products. Size, color, fabric, and tastes are product labels and help the user to choose the desired products easily. You can assign labels independently to each product or set up a global label for the entire web page.
7.3. Product Data
WooCommerce saves you time by having predefined product types:
- Simple: They are shipped without any options. For example, a physical book.
- Grouped: This is a group of similar items. For example, a dozen glasses.
- External/Affiliation: You present the product on your website, but it is sold elsewhere.
- Variable: These are products that have varying qualities like size, color, etc. For example, clothes.
- Virtual: These are products that do not require shipping, such as services.
- Downloadable: These are products you can download. For example, songs, pictures, videos, ebooks, etc.
With so many types of products, it can be confusing to add a product to WooCommerce.
But do not worry, adding products to WooCommerce is pretty much the same as creating a new post on your blog. To get started, go to Products > Add New and write the title of your product and add a description. The description includes the most important and relevant information about your product.
The Product Data section is where most of the work is done. In this section, you can customize your product. Using the drop-down menu, you can change its type. I recommend that you start with a Simple product to familiarize yourself with this section. It has the following options:
In the General section, set the price of the product you plan to sell. You can also set a promotion price and even schedule sales dates.
The Inventory section helps you organize Stock Management Unit (SKU). Fill in if the product is in stock or out of stock. Check the Sell individually option if you want to sell only one item at a time.
The Shipping section deals with delivery and logistics. Here you can provide the dimensions, weight and delivery class of your products.
7.3.4 Linked Products
The Linked Products section allows you to add related products and market similar products to the user. This promotes your product by using upsells and cross-sells. Just search for a particular product and select it from the drop-down list.
The Attributes section allows you to add attributes to your product. For example, if you sell t-shirts of different colors, you can specify the colors here.
The Advanced section allows you to create purchase notes for customers and enable or disable notifications. You can also specify the order in the menu here and choose custom order positions for your product.
After filling in all the details, Publish your product!
You see that creating a product page on WooCommerce store is a breeze. It does not take you long to take charge of this publisher. If you want to offer several products on your WooCommerce store (which is certainly the case!), you will have to organize these products into different categories. For this, you need to go to Products > Categories. What is very practical, especially if you have a big catalog, is that you have the possibility to create subcategories.
Wrapping Up! ^
That’s all for install and set up WooCommerce store! I wanted to emphasize in this guide the key points take into account to create a WooCommerce site: the first settings, the choice of theme, the particularities of the publisher of product pages, etc. I could have spent more time on some technical points, such as the setting of delivery options for example. But that would have lengthened this guide unnecessarily.