A Complete Guide to Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

Have you been wanting to start an online store? Maybe it’s been on your mind for a few days, months, or even years.

We know that the task of starting a store may sound or seem overwhelming. Thanks to platforms like WooCommerce, it’s easier than ever to build an e-commerce store into your WordPress website.

Why WooCommerce?

As you may know, there are quite a few different plugins you may use to build an e-commerce site on WordPress. WP Ecommerce, Jigoshop, and Ecwid are just a few of the many options. If you’re still wondering why you should choose WooCommerce, here’s why:

  • WooCommerce is free
  • There are hundreds of extensions available to add to your store
  • You can use templates or custom designs
  • It’s quite easy to setup and use
  • You own and control your site
  • Developer friendly
  • Customize it any way you like

Aside from the huge benefit of being free and relatively easy to use, WooCommerce allows for so many customization options. Because it has such a big market share, there are hundreds of developers and even more plugins/extensions developed to add features to WooCommerce sites. As you can with regular WordPress pages, you can choose to either use pre-made templates, or your own custom coded designs. We love how much control WooCommerce gives you – especially the fact that unlike other e-commerce solutions, with WooCommerce you have full control over function, data, and security.

Plus, you can sell just about anything! Including:

  • 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 start monetizing your website!

What you need:

  • A WordPress website
  • WooCommerce (free, open source plugin)
  • Products to sell
  • Knowledge of tax rules for your product type
  • PayPal account (recommended)
  • Stripe account (recommended)

How To Get Started

Once you’ve made the decision to use WooCommerce to build your e-commerce store and you start getting set up, you’ll realize just how easy and intuitive this plugin is.

Step 1:

Search for WooCommerce in the plugins page, install, and activate it.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

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 setup your WooCommerce store.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

Page Setup

First you will have to allow WooCommerce to create a few default pages needed for your store. This includes the ‘my account’, ‘cart’, and ‘checkout’ pages. Once created, these will be visible in the ‘pages’ tab in your WordPress Admin.

Store Settings

Next you will be prompted to set a few store settings, including where your store is based, the currency your store sells in, and your units of measurement for shipping purposes. If you don’t sell physical products, you don’t have to worry too much about these units of measure, just set them to a standard.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

Taxes

Next you will prompted to setup your taxes. This step is very important, so don’t rush through it. WooCommerce uses prior information you provided to calculate your taxes, but you should always make sure that their calculation is correct and make any changes needed. If you’re not sure about your tax settings, skip them and move on until you do your research or speak to a tax professional. You can always go back to your WooCommerce settings page and complete them when you know what the correct tax settings are for the nature of your products. If you set these up incorrectly, it could be messy to deal with later on.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

First off, you can select whether or not you will be shipping your products. If you tick the box, WooCommerce will populate the remaining shipping options.

Next, you can select whether or not you’ll be charging taxes. Luckily, WooCommerce helps you set these up based on your store location – which you set earlier.

If you plan on charging tax, tick the box next to “Yes, I will be charging sales tax”. Then, a new set of boxes will appear, and WooCommerce will have filled out your tax settings.

Note: Although WooCommerce pre-fills your tax settings, you should check with a tax professional. Like we mentioned earlier, a small mistake here could bring you a LOT of headaches later on.

Payments

The last setup step is to set up your payments. WooCommerce gives you the option of 5 different payment methods: Cash on Delivery, PayPal Standard, Cheque, Bank Transfer, and Stripe.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

This step will allow you to enable the payment methods you’d like.

It’s recommended that you enable PayPal and Stripe (a credit card processor), as most online shoppers use either PayPal or credit cards to pay for their purchases.

Note: Turning PayPal and Stripe on will populate both account options in your WooCommerce admin, so you will have to visit the payments settings page to connect your accounts. To accept PayPal and Stripe, you will need to have an account with each of these. The good news is, they’re both quite easy to set up. Just head over to their respective sites and create an account, if you haven’t done so already. Then, follow their instructions to connect each account to your WooCommerce store.

Completing Settings

Although the WooCommerce Setup Wizard guides you through initial setup, there are still a few more settings you need to complete in order to be ready to sell. To locate your settings pages, go to WooCommerce → Settings. You may notice there are several additional settings, but we will go through the most important ones: taxes, shipping, payments, and emails.

Shipping Zones

This page is important if you plan on shipping products. This page lets you set different shipping settings for each shipping zone. If you have different shipping zones/settings, define your zones, options and classes here.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

Payment Methods

Next, it’s time to configure and test your payment processors. If you still have more payment processors to setup after your initial steps, go to WooCommerce → Settings → Checkout to edit your Payment methods.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

Here you’ll see a list of payment methods in a horizontal line across the top. If you scroll down, you will see the same list with a symbol on the right indicating whether or not you have them enabled. You may click any of these to expand it and view your options, which will differ slightly by each payment method.

If you will be accepting PayPal payments on your site, click on the PayPal tab, and then make sure that the box is ticked to enable it. If you haven’t already, fill out the fields in the page and provide API access. You’ll also need to decide whether you will be using test or live mode. Test mode allows you to test the checkout process with a test payment account – so that you can make sure that everything is functioning correctly without having to purchase actual products.

Do the same for Stripe, and note that any info you may need will be found within your Stripe account. To test your checkout, set it to test mode. (Don’t forget to change it to live once you’re ready to bring your site live!)

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.)

If you’re familiar with WordPress, this page will probably look familiar to you, because the WooCommerce layout quite similar to the WordPress layout!

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

You’re going to see quite a few fields here:

1. Product Name

This one is pretty straightforward.

2. 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!

3. 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.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

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.

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’.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

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:

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

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.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

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.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

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.

Note: Like 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!

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

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.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

Emails

Before making any sales, you should configure your emails. At WooCommerce → Settings → Emails you may edit and configure ell 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.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

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.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

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.

Building a WordPress WooCommerce Store

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 e-commerce 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 setup 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.

Design Tips

If your goal is to engage your visitors and sell products, your site and store design is 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 desktop.
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.

Recommended Extensions
  • 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! Pro Tip: Use Ordoro to manage your shipping/fulfillment! You can use our custom integration with Ordoro to automatically add tracking information to your WooCommerce Order – and notify the customer, as soon as you create a label in Ordoro!
  • WooCommerce Sync for QuickBooks – The WooCommerce Sync for QuickBooks Online is a must if you want to save time, minimize errors, keep your books under control, and your accounting and store data in sync. This plugin syncs all of your data from WooCommerce straight over to QuickBooks, and vice versa. Without it, you would have to enter all of your sales data and customer into your books manually, as well as try to keep your inventory levels matching across platforms… Messy! Available for QuickBooks Desktop Pro, Premier & Enterprise and well as all versions of QuickBooks Online, this plugin is a real time saver!
  • 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 URL’s upon login. This plugin is all about customer experience, because the easier the checkout process is, the lower your cart abandonment rate will be.
  • Sequential Order Numbers Pro – WooCommerce normally creates random order numbers, so as you may guess from the name, this plugin lets you set sequential numbers. You may set order number prefixes or suffixes, include dates, make it as long or short as you want, and more.

Note: While there are hundreds of great extensions for WooCommerce, try to stick only to the ones you need. Wondering why? Read about the effect of too many plugins on your WordPress site.

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