Sep 5, 2018
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What is WooCommerce? Getting started with the best free eCommerce plugin

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Want to get started selling products or services online? WooCommerce may well be your best option. This post will answer the question “what is WooCommerce”, and show you everything you need to know to make a start. WooCommerce lets you sell products and services from your WordPress site. It’s a free WordPress plugin with additional…

Want to get started selling products or services online? WooCommerce may well be your best option. This post will answer the question “what is WooCommerce”, and show you everything you need to know to make a start.

WooCommerce lets you sell products and services from your WordPress site. It’s a free WordPress plugin with additional features available as extensions. WooCommerce is made by Automattic, the corporate arm of WordPress, so when you use it, you’re in good hands.

What is Woocommerce plugin ad

What is WooCommerce? What’s it for?

WooCommerce is for selling products and services. Specifically, it makes doing these things affordable and accessible. You can sell digital and physical products, manage inventory and shipping, take secure payments, and sort taxes automatically.

You keep 100% control over all your data, there’s support for mobile devices, and the potential to scale your sites is limitless.

woocommerce

WooCommerce is by far the best designed and most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress. In fact, it’s now the most popular eCommerce solution across all websites, powering 42%, and counting, of all online stores (source, select “The Entire Internet”).

Before we dive into using this awesome plugin, let’s look at exactly why WooCommerce is the best option for selling products and services on your website.

Why should I use WooCommerce?

WooCommerce has been around since 2011 and has a strong development team behind it. Bolstered by this and its ever-growing popularity, WooCommerce keeps getting better and better. And more and more popular.

Just like WordPress, WooCommerce is free and open source. So despite it’s premium feel, it’s completely free for anyone to download, use and modify.

There are a myriad of ways to expand the functionality of WooCommerce

And, although it’s incredibly powerful and extensible, it’s also easy for beginners to use. With WooCommerce, anyone can set up and run a professional online store from their WordPress website. You really don’t need to know any code at all.

What is WooCommerce?

I’ll show you just how simple this is to do shortly, but first, I want to tell you about some of the best parts of WooCommerce in more detail.

Easy install and set up

Installing WooCommerce is as simple as adding any other WordPress plugin to your website. It’s available to download for free from the WordPress plugin directory, which is accessible right from your website admin.

Install the WooCommerce plugin

Once installed, WooCommerce is also incredibly easy to set up. Thanks to the inbuilt Setup Wizard, it only takes minutes to get crucial aspects of your store sorted, including payment and shipping.

Powerful eCommerce features out of the box

WooCommerce comes with an amazing set of features right out of the box. Here are just a small selection of these:

  • Sell any kind of products you like: physical, digital or even affiliate
  • Add unlimited products and images
  • Add categories, tags and attributes – including size or color – to any product to make them easier to find and search
  • Show product ratings and reviews on product pages, including a ‘Verified Owner’ label
  • Customize store location with currency, language and measurement units
  • Product sorting and filtering lets customers sort products by popularity, newness, rating, price or attribute
  • Embed products and checkout on any page
  • Geo-location auto-detects customers’ addresses to simplify shipping and tax calculations
  • Choose how you’d like to process payments: use popular providers such as Stripe and PayPal, credit cards, Direct Bank Transfer, checks or Cash on Delivery
  • Choose shipping options and restrict options based on customer location
  • Manage orders and customers with one-click refunds, customer accounts, and guest checkout

Don’t see all the features you need? That’s not a problem – WooCommerce comes feature-packed, but there are a whole host of ways to extend its features much, much further…

WooCommerce is highly extensible

Sometimes, when a plugin is easy to use, it’ll only have limited flexibility. But the opposite is true for WooCommerce. There are a myriad of ways to expand the functionality of WooCommerce via themes, plugins, extensions, or even  – if you’re particularly keen – by editing the plugin code itself.

This means you can can create a shop that looks and behaves any way you’d like.

The video below, made by WooCommerce, answers “What is WooCommerce”?

As you can see, WooCommerce has everything you’d want from an eCommerce plugin. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an advanced WordPress user – WooCommerce is ideal for any store. Whether you want to sell from an existing WordPress site or you plan to start an online store from scratch – WooCommerce is the obvious choice.

So now we’ve covered the whats and whys of WooCommerce, I’m going to show you how to set up your own WordPress WooCommerce store.

Get started with WordPress WooCommerce

As I’ve mentioned, WooCommerce makes it easy to start an online store. But it doesn’t work alone. You’ll need four things to get started:

  1. Hosting and a domain name
  2. A WordPress powered website
  3. The WooCommerce plugin
  4. A WooCommerce compatible WordPress theme

Let’s go through the set up of each of these now.

1. Get hosting and a domain name

To get your WordPress website online you’ll need “hosting” and a “domain name”. Hosting is storage space for your website – so a place to keep all the data that makes up your online store. Your domain name is the website address people will visit to find your website – for example, ours is wpzoom.com.

For convenience, you can buy hosting and a domain name from the same hosting company, and then install WordPress for free in minutes. There are lots of hosting companies out there, but we recommend SiteGround for affordable, quality WordPress hosting. As WordPress hosting specialists, they take care of the technical side, letting you get your site online quickly.

You’ll find their plans by heading to the SiteGround website, and choosing WordPress Services from the menu. Then scroll down, choose a plan, and click Get Started:

WooCommerce hosting plans

In the next screen you can choose the domain name you’d like to register. Type this into the box and click Proceed:

Choose a domain name for WooCommerce

You’ll be prompted to create an account and enter payment information. Once you’ve done that, scroll down and you’ll see two sections: Hosting Services and Extra Services.

Under Hosting Service, it’s a good idea to choose the data center located closest to where you think your customers will be. This will help minimize your WooCommerce store loading times. If you’re unsure or think your customers will be all over the world, just keep the default setting. You can also select the period of hosting you’d like to pay for: 1, 12, 24 or 36 months:

WordPress hosting services

Under Extra Services, I recommend you add Domain Privacy to keep your personal details (name and home address) off the public database of website owners, WHOIS.

Click Pay Now and your hosting and domain name are all set up.

Now you just need to get WordPress installed – which is also very easy.

2. Install WordPress

Installing WordPress is a breeze. It offers a “famous five minute installation”, but in reality you can actually be setup even faster than that.

Click Proceed To Customer Area then Set up in 2 min!, which you’ll find in the top right of your screen.

You’ll be guided through the Setup Wizard. With the default option selected: Get WordPress preinstalled on this account go ahead and click Proceed.

You can then choose your WordPress website login details. Lastly, skip past the section “Choose a web design template to be installed along with your WordPress theme”, as we’re going to choose a WooCommerce-ready theme shortly. Scroll down, click Submit and SiteGround will automatically install WordPress on your website in a few seconds.

Once this is done, you can visit your WordPress site by typing the domain name you chose earlier into your browser. And you can login by heading to yourdomain.com/wp-admin.

Now that’s all sorted, we’re ready to install WooCommerce!

(P.S. If you’re totally new to WordPress, check out our detailed video tutorial series for a full WordPress tour).

3. Install the WooCommerce WordPress plugin

Once you’ve installed your WordPress site (or you may have already had WordPress setup), adding WooCommerce to your site is even easier.

You can install WooCommerce straight from your WordPress installation, the same as any other WordPress plugin. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, you can check out our handy video tutorial on installing WordPress plugins. But I’ll run through it now.

To add WooCommerce to your website, head to Plugins → Add New and search “WooCommerce” to locate the WooCommerce plugin. Once you’ve found it, click Install Now then Activate. You’ll then be taken immediately to the WooCommerce Setup Wizard:

WooCommerce setup wizard

This will guide you through some of WooCommerce’s key settings. You’ll want to go through this setup straightaway and fill in all the details relevant for your store. If you’re unsure about which payment gateway you want to use, you can decide this later. I’ll cover payment gateways in more detail below.

Once you’re done with setup, head back to the main WordPress Dashboard. You’ll see the plugin has added a bunch of options and extra menus to your site. We’ve got the basic setup done, so we’ll come back to these new settings later on – including adding products. First though, we need a new theme.

4. Get a WooCommerce compatible WordPress theme

The next step is choosing and installing a WooCommerce-ready theme, which dictates what your site looks like. This is what your customers will see then they visit your site, so it’s the really important part. After all, they’re the ones who’ll be making the purchases!

You’ll need a WordPress theme that supports WooCommerce’s unique features: things like product display pages, storefronts showing off all your products, and the checkout process:

WooCommerce WordPress themes

When you’re considering a theme, be sure to check all WooCommerce pages – not just the shop page. This includes the ‘My Account’ section, the cart, and checkout page. Some themes will say they’re “WooCommerce compatible” or “WooCommerce integrated”, while not actually integrating the design of these much needed page layouts. So be careful when choosing a theme, as the wrong one can make your site look unprofessional.

Don’t forget also that your customers will view your store on a variety of devices, including desktops, laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. While WooCommerce is mobile friendly, it’s the theme which decides layout. This is why it’s vital to choose a responsive theme so you can be certain your store will look good, and function correctly, on every device.

Fortunately, WPZOOM has you covered with our selection of themes, which are 100% compatible with WooCommerce.

WooCommerce checkout page

You can start a new online brand with Balance. Sell from your fashion blog with Velure, or from your travel blog with Indigo. Sell from your portfolio with Inspiro or Reel. Or offer business services with Diamond. We have a full library of WordPress WooCommerce themes suited to literally every type of eCommerce store.

WooCommerce checkout

You’re going to need to use your WooCommerce compatible theme for your whole site, so it’s important you choose a design that you like. Other things to look out for are the product purchasing process, adding items to the cart and going through to pay (and how these all look).

Installing our WPZOOM WooCommerce themes is very simple, so I’ll quickly run through that now. First, you’ll need to buy your chosen theme. Next, log in to the WPZOOM member area, locate your new theme, click Download and save it to your computer.

In your site’s admin sidebar, go to Appearance → Themes, click Add New and Upload Theme:

Install fashion blog theme.

Click Choose file. Select the downloaded theme file from your computer, click Open and Install now. This will install the theme onto your new website. Click Activate. From here you can take the theme tour to learn more about the theme, including extra ways to customize it.

We’re now good to go ahead with the more minute details of WooCommerce usage!

Using WooCommerce

You’ll already have the core settings WooCommerce needs sorted from the initial Setup Wizard guide. We’ll now cover some of the extra things you need to get your store up and running. If you need any extra clarity on any of these points, WooCommerce have some extremely in-depth videos for WooCommerce users.

Adding products

The first thing to do is add some products! These are the things you’ll be selling. Go to Products → Add New and you’ll be taken to the product page. It’s similar to adding posts or pages, but specifically for WooCommerce products.

Add product to WooCommerce

You’ll want to add in all of the information there’s space for, including product name and description, product data, and some nice accompanying images. If it’s your first time adding a product, WooCommerce will provide some helpful prompts telling you a little about each section.

Once you’ve added in all your information, hit publish and you have your first product available on your site.

Payment gateways

Unless you’re giving your products away for free, you’ll need to take payments! To do this you’ll need something called a payment gateway.

WooCommerce comes with a couple of payment gateways built in, including PayPal. Most of the other option, such as check and payment on delivery, aren’t especially useful for an online store. But Stripe is another popular way to take online credit card payments. You can install the Stripe plugin either via the WooCommerce Setup Wizard or by heading to Plugins → Add New:

Stripe payment gateway

Both PayPal and Stripe will let you take credit card details securely. WooCommerce itself doesn’t charge any fees but all payment processors taking cards will have a fee. PayPal and Stripe both charge 2.9% of the value of the purchase + 30¢ per transaction. There is, however, no start-up cost for using either. I’d recommend doing some research in order to find the best option for you.

You’ll find your payment gateway options under WooCommerce → Settings Checkout. Choose either PayPal or Stripe and use the check box to enable your gateway of choice. Then follow the instructions to sign up for relevant accounts and connect them to WooCommerce.

With your payment set up, you’re able to start selling!

Add even more features with extensions

WooCommerce is hugely powerful out of the box, but sometimes you’ll have complex requirements for your site, which the plugin can’t handle. In that case, you’ll want to choose from one of the huge selection of free and premium extensions.

WooCommerce extensions

There’s a lot to choose from: from additional payment providers, to complex shipping arrangements, accounting, inventory, and marketing – it’s all there.

To get started with WooCommerce, you don’t need any extensions. But they are a great, easy way to add extra functionality later on.

Start selling with WooCommerce today!

You’ve now seen exactly how easy and affordable it is to starting selling online with WooCommerce, and you can now answer “What is WooCommerce”. 🙂 Just to recap, all you need to get started are:

  1. Hosting and a domain name (we recommend SiteGround)
  2. A WordPress powered website (install automatically via SiteGround)
  3. The WooCommerce plugin
  4. A WooCommerce compatible WordPress theme

Following our guide, you can literally get a professional store online today! And, thanks to the extensibility of WooCommerce, your store has limitless potential to scale in the future.

For more, make sure you follow us on Twitter and join our mailing list (box below).

Originally published April 2016, and last updated April 2018.

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