WooCommerce powers a third of the world’s eCommerce websites — a total of more than 400,000 companies ranging from one-person ventures to mid- and large-size companies in niches of all kinds. WooCommerce is a free plugin for building a full-featured online storefront on any self-hosted WordPress website, and it’s easy to install and configure, even if you’re a new user with no web development experience at all.
Below is a complete guide on how to use WooCommerce to improve your online business. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to start selling your services or products within no time.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce isn’t a stand-alone hosted eCommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce. It’s a plugin — an extension that’s designed to add functionality to websites built with WordPress, the free and open source content management system that drives a majority of websites worldwide. Since it is a plugin, it’s easy to get started with WooCommerce once you’ve started building your website.
This platform adds all the essential features of a basic online store to any WordPress website, with options for customizing the look and content of your store. Those features include product display pages, shopping cart functionality, and multiple payment gateways. To add more specialized functions related to the needs of individual store types, users can install a variety of free and premium WooCommerce extensions. These add-ons to the plugin can integrate features such as specific payment gateways, added security features, and shopping cart management into the overall store framework.
WooCommerce works with virtually all of the many free and premium themes available for WordPress sites, but users can also install WooCommerce friendly themes designed to support major features such as product displays, slideshows, and galleries. This plugin can be configured directly from your WordPress admin dashboard with no coding required, so even inexperienced users can set up a fully functioning online store with little difficulty. But those with more web development experience can also work directly with the WooCommerce source code to design highly customized storefronts and add very specialized features. Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur on a budget or planning a larger venture, you can use WooCommerce to set up and manage your online storefront and scale your business over time.
Get Ready for WooCommerce
To use WooCommerce, you’ll need to register a domain name, find a web hosting package with a reliable provider, and have the core version of WordPress. Once you have your hosting account with a reliable web hosting provider, install WordPress on your domain. WordPress is offered by most hosts as a “one-click” site building option with your hosting account, or the core code can be downloaded for free from WordPress.org and installed manually on your domain.
After installing WordPress, you’ll need a storefront theme. Choose one of the hundreds of free WordPress themes in the WordPress Theme Directory that’s available from your site’s admin dashboard, or install one from the many free and paid options offered by third-party developers around the world. WooCommerce is supported by just about any theme, but you can also browse the Theme Directory and outside providers for a WooCommerce specific theme. Customize your theme as needed to reflect your brand.
From your WordPress admin dashboard, navigate to plugins and select “Add New.” This opens the official WordPress Plugin Directory that comes with every WordPress install. Search for WooCommerce, then select it. After it’s installed, activate it. The plugin then appears in your site’s active plugins list.
When WooCommerce is activated, all the tools for setting up your store will become available from the dashboard, along with setup wizards for many of the plugins more complex functions, such as setting up product pages, calculating shipping, and configuring your store’s preferred payment gateways. The basic e-store setup includes structures for selling a variety of different products, and you can add other kinds of offerings such as digital downloads, services, and subscriptions with the help of specialized extensions.
Build Your Store’s Pages
The basic version of WooCommerce includes all the code files for creating your store’s essential pages, including product listings, the shopping cart for making selections, and checkout, where buyers enter payment information for processing through selected gateways such as PayPal and Stripe.
Depending on the nature of your store, you might also need pages for customer accounts and profiles, special sale and event pages, or a blog. The WooCommerce setup wizards can walk you through the steps to create your pages and populate them with products and information. And if you have coding experience, you can customize them directly by working with the plugins code and style sheets.
Customize Your Store’s Appearance
WooCommerce works with just about any WordPress theme, so if you’ve set up your theme the way you want it, you may not need to make other changes. Your WooCommerce store will reflect those choices. But you may want to select a theme specifically designed to optimize the plugins key features. The default theme is called Storefront, and it can be installed for free from the WordPress Theme Directory. For more options, consider purchasing a premium WooCommerce theme from an outside developer. Because more online shoppers use smartphones and tablets than desktops and laptops, look for fast-loading, mobile-responsive themes that display well on any screen.
Add Extensions for More Features
WooCommerce includes the core features needed to run any kind of online store, but its many extensions allow online entrepreneurs to add specialized features such as additional payment gateways, sophisticated analytics, currency converters, or shopping cart management.
WooCommerce extensions can extend a store’s offerings to include digital downloads, subscriptions, and services, or add galleries, sliders, and advanced email marketing features. Users can access and install a number of quality WooCommerce extensions from the WordPress Plugin Directory, download them directly from the WooCommerce development site, or purchase them from third-party developers working from the WooCommerce source code.
Like WordPress itself, WooCommerce is open source software that anyone can use or modify. Support is available from a growing body of WooCommerce tutorials and guides and from a worldwide community of users and developers. This free plugin was designed to make it easy for any user to set up an online storefront on a WordPress site and start selling products right away. And with a menu of mix and match extensions to choose from, WooCommerce has the tools online entrepreneurs of all kinds need to succeed.