Create a WP eCommerce Site in Minutes
If you're in the business of selling something, be it a physical good or a digital product, you need an ecommerce website. Even if you have a successful brick and mortar shop, your business should have a digital storefront through which customers can buy your merchandise 24/7. So, let's talk logistics.
Launching a new website doesn't need to take very long. All you need is the right set of tools to get you started. It should then only be a matter of minutes before your online storefront is up and running.
10 Steps and 30 Minutes
If you're reading this article, then chances are good you've already established your business's name, logo, concept, and inventory. If not, then take some time to develop your retail identity, and then come back to this.
For the rest of you, let's get started.
Step 1: Set Up Hosting
Once you've decided on your website's host, sign up for an account and log in.
Step 2: Get a Domain Name
Domain names (ie, the URL) for websites typically match the name of the business (or is a simplified version of it). If you're unsure of what to choose, check out our quick video, How to Choose the Perfect Domain Name.
Most hosting companies offer domain services either for a small additional fee or for free.
- Log into your hosting account.
- The main dashboard screen is your control panel. You should see an area designated for "Domains."
- From there, you can search for your domain name, register a new one, or transfer one from another account (if you got it elsewhere).
- Secure your domain and make sure it's assigned to your host's control panel.
Step 3: Purchase an SSL Certificate
Long story short, if you're expecting customers to trust you with their payment information, you need to provide them with a safe place to do it. This is why every online retailer should run their website on secure HTTP (as indicated by the "https" in your site's URL). In order to do that, you'll need to purchase a Secure Sockets Layer (or SSL) certificate.
You can get one for free from Let's Encrypt or you can buy one from your host.
Step 4: Install WordPress
Most control panels are going to provide you with a number of content management system options. For ecommerce sites, go with WordPress. It's fast, relatively secure, and easy to use. It's also chock-full of the tools you need to get your site working ASAP.
Back in your control panel, look for something that says "Website" or "Install WordPress." Walk through the steps to get WordPress set up on your host's server. Then log in.
Step 5: Get a Theme
At first glance, WordPress may seem overwhelming. You've got a lot of tabs running along the left side of the page, weird symbols up top, and an empty dashboard and other widgets sitting in the middle. Just ignore all that for now. You've got to find your website a theme, which is website lingo for a piece of software that makes your site look good and operate well.
- Go to the Appearance tab on the left sidebar.
- Click on Themes.
- WordPress will have assigned you their default theme, which is named after the year. For example, in 2016, it is "Twenty Sixteen."
- If you want to use a free WordPress theme, click on Add New at the top of the page. You can search for retail-friendly themes and preview them there. When you've found a winner, click Install.
- If you want to use a premium WordPress theme, you will have to purchased it elsewhere. Then, click on Add New at the top of the page. Select Upload Theme. Finally, select the file for the theme you purchased and click Install Now.
Whatever you choose, be sure that the design is simple, clean, and easy to navigate. Many themes are created specifically for the ecommerce space, so you may also be able to find one with built-in retail features like shopping carts, payment integration, and more.
Step 6: Personalize Your Theme
Most theme developers do an excellent job at using default settings that look good out of the box. That being said, you don't want your ecommerce site to be out of the box and identical to what everyone else has.
Once your theme is installed, go back to the Appearance tab in WordPress and click on Customize. This screen will allow you to update settings for the key areas on your site: color schemes, fonts, menus, logo, navigation, and so on. These options will differ based on the theme you use.
Within this Customize tool, you can watch as changes are made in real time to your website. You can also switch between the three views at the bottom of the menu to see what your site looks like on computers, tablets, and smartphones.
Step 7: Add Content
The first thing you'll want to do is go to the Pages tab on the sidebar and click on Add New. This will enable you to create the first page of your website. If you want your site to just be a single page of inventory, that's fine. But if you want to add more depth to it, you'll do that under the new Pages. Make sure each page has a title, some text, and SEO associated with it. When you're ready to push the page live, hit the Publish button.
In order to add your pages to the navigation menu of your site, go to the Appearance tab on the sidebar and click on Menus. Here is where you set up any navigational menu you want for your site. Simply select the pages, products, or categories you want to show up in your Main Navigation menu.
When you're done, hit Save Menu.
Step 8: Get an eCommerce Plugin
After personalizing your theme and adding content, set your site up with an ecommerce plugin. This'll ensure you've got the necessities in place before you start working on the fun stuff.
To get your plugin, hover over the Plugins tab in the sidebar and click on Add New. Whether you're planning to add an ecommerce plugin or something else, all you need to do is search for the plugin or function you're interested in, and then click on Install Now when you've found it. There are a lot to choose from.
One important point to make is that WordPress carefully vets each theme and plugin that shows up in their directory. Customers also leave ratings and share their comments on how the plugin performed. Be sure to check those details before installing any new tool in WordPress. The rating should ideally be above four stars, the last update within the last six months, and there should be at least a few thousand installs.
Once your plugin is installed, you'll need to hit the Activate button. So long as you do this from within your WordPress account, you won't have to bother with downloading the plugin files and then uploading them into WordPress.
Step 9: Add Products
As far as ecommerce plugins are concerned, WooCommerce is the most well-known (and is the one we're using for the sake of this tutorial). With over a million downloads and a 4.4-star rating, this plugin is a good way to get your online inventory in tip-top shape with little effort.
Setup for this plugin is straightforward and WordPress will guide you through the process, helping you to define everything related to location, currency, taxation, payment methods, and more. If you need to make changes to those settings or want to investigate additional features, locate the plugin's tab on the sidebar.
Once you've got the settings defined, start adding new products to your site. Go to the Products tab and click on Add Product. From here, you'll need to enter the pertinent information about your product, including:
- Product data
- Categories and tags (for better organization and easier search on the site).
If you look on the right side of the screen, you'll see a spot where you can upload a product image. Once you've got all the details and your image ready to go, hit the Publish button and then repeat the process for each new product.
Step 10: Customize the Shopping Experience
You've got your website designed. Content pages are up (if any). And your inventory is always going to be a work in progress. Now, you've got to see what WordPress's free suite of plugins can do to enhance the shopping experience on your website. See below for some recommended plugins you might consider adding based on the type of shopping experience you want to create.
While the steps above are meant to get your website set up quickly, they are by no means the end-all, be-all. It's important to always be growing your site and adapting to the latest trends. (And once you're comfortable with WordPress, you should be exploring the other customizations available.)
Resources for Online Retailers
If you've chosen to build your website in Wordpress, you're in luck as it's full of performance-enhancing themes and plugins. Not only are these meant to wow your customers, but they also make your job of building a website a whole lot easier.
The following WordPress themes are all premium — tailor-made to suit ecommerce websites' needs.
- Atelier: this modern-looking theme knows what's important to you. That's why the focus of this theme lies heavily on the products.
- Basel: this theme is ripe with variety, so you never have to worry about other online retailers using the same theme and ending up with a website identical to yours.
- Merchandiser: if you're looking to stick to something sleek, simple, and elegant in design, this may be the theme you need.
- Mr Tailor: this WooCommerce theme is for the e-tailer with a funky side. So if you want to stand out, and you have a unique product set to sell, this is a good pick.
- Nitro: this WooCommerce-compatible theme has thought of every angle: mega menus, pop-ups, wish lists, social media integration, and more.
- The Retailer: this theme offers a lot of variety in how the site and products are laid out — which is great if you want flexibility in changing your site's design without having to buy a new theme.
- WooPress: this theme comes with over 20 different layouts, most of which are designed to work with different product types.
So long as you start with an ecommerce plugin like WooCommerce that covers the necessities for managing your shop, you shouldn't have to pay for many (or any) premium plugins. Here are some of the plugins you may want to start with:
- Easy Digital Downloads: this is an alternative ecommerce plugin for those of you selling digital products instead of physical ones.
- Wordfence Security: the SSL certificate is a good first step in keeping your customers' information secure. A security plugin is the next step.
- Yoast SEO: if you want people to find your online store and products on Google, you'll need to optimize all your pages (content and inventory) for search.
- W3 Total Cache: because a slow website may keep customers from ever reaching any of your product pages.
- WP Smush: because all those beautiful product images may be the source of your site's excessive weight (and slowdown).
- WooCommerce Popup, Marketing, Social Sharing, and Upsell: this plugin aims to help retailers cover as many bases as possible to entice customers to stay, buy, and tell a friend.
- WooCommerce Currency Switcher: planning to sell outside your country? Then you may want to give customers an easy way to switch their currency of choice.
- Abandoned Cart Lite: don't lose customers who have forgotten about a purchase or who may still be on the fence. Use this plugin to send them a gentle reminder about their abandoned cart.
Searches for "WooCommerce" or "ecommerce" in the WordPress plugin directory yield a lot of great results, so consider starting there if you're looking for a solution or enhancement for your site. Then check with your ecommerce plugin provider for paid upgrade options.
Launch Your WP Ecommerce Site Now
In today's digital age, it's absolutely essential for every retailer to have an online storefront. With just a few simple steps and less than an hour of your time, you can have that e-store up and ready to make you money!
Further Reading and Resources
We have more guides, tutorials, and infographics related to WordPress:
- You Get What You Pay For: WordPress hosting is free, but there are reasons why you might want to pay for it.
- How to Backup Your WordPress Blog: learn how to keep your website safe for those times when things go wrong.
- How Big is the WordPress Economy?: the WordPress economy is a lot larger and more varied than you probably realize.
How to Speed Up WordPress
Check out our infographic, How to Speed Up WordPress. Learn about databases, content delivery networks, and more.