Setting up a new online business—or moving an existing business to the web—is a daunting process for most people. Not least due to the seemingly large and troublesome task of developing your own e-commerce store.
Thankfully, there is a solution out there that has helped over 1 million users in the exact same position to easily set up and operate their own e-commerce store. Enter WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is unrivalled in the space of free, open-source e-commerce plugins for WordPress, and has built up an impressive 4.5 user rating on WordPress.org. In a nutshell, the plugin lets you create, manage, measure, and maintain an online store with ease.
It would be easy to rattle on for hours about its benefits, such as the need for no coding skills (although coders can do much with its API), but rather below we have rounded up the five main reasons why someone would choose to use WooCommerce.
Why Choose WooCommerce
Availability and Extendibility
As WooCommerce is a free and open-source plugin, developers can—and have—introduced many new features and fixes that not only keep the plugin stable, but also allow for enhancements to the managing of accounts, payment gateways, sales reports, and more.
Security is top of the list when operating an eCommerce store. The last thing a merchant wants is to discover their customers’ credentials have been stolen, and payments have been redirected to another source. As the plugin is based on WordPress it is updated regularly, and you can be sure that any bugs will be patched right away.
A lot of experimentation and user testing has lead up to where the plugin is today. That means you don’t have to worry about being left behind industry best practices as WooCommerce has it all — including a variety of shipping options and integrated social sharing.
To start, the plugin works with many WordPress themes, not only WooThemes. You can find a list of supported themes over at Theme Forest. You will find WooCommerce offers a simple, user friendly back-end, along with a range of shortcodes, widgets, and supporting documentation. Merchants can choose to sell physical, virtual, downloadable, or even affiliate products, and can categorise them by a number of different filters.
Measurements & Tracking
With the in-built analytical tool you can record all the stats you could ever wish to know, including conversions, order status, coupon performance, and product trends. All the information is clearly displayed in graphs and pie charts, and will help to optimise your store’s performance.
There are four steps to setting up your e-commerce store — Installing the Plugin, Adding and Managing Products, Configuring WooCommerce, and Testing Your Store — each of which we will walk you through to get you well on your way to selling your first product.
Installing the Plugin
WP Admin > Plugins > Add New, search for ‘woocommerce’
From the WordPress dashboard, navigate to the Add New plugins page and find the WooCommerce plugin.
Once you have installed and activated the plugin, a notification will appear at the top of your dashboard prompting you to install WooCommerce Pages.
Now you will have two new tabs in your WordPress dashboards side menu: WooCommerce and Products.
WP Admin > Products > Add Product
The first thing you want to do is create your very first product, including adding a title and a product description. Use the image below as a reference to where the sections will display on the published page.
Scroll down the page and just below post editor you will find two new widgets: Product Data and Product Short Description.
WP Admin > Products > Add New > Product Data
In Product Data, under the General tab, you can select if the product is digital or downloadable. If it is neither, skip ahead and enter a SKU (Identification number), a standard selling price, and a sales price.
For digital products, you will be provided with the options to upload a file, enter a download limit (how many times a customer can download the product), and choose a file type.
Here you can activate stock management to help keep track of the product’s inventory levels, adjust its status (in/out of stock), and also mark whether or not the product is individually sold (allowing only one to be bought per order).
Linked Products Tab
Linked products is a great feature of WooCommerce which allows you to cross-sell and upsell products related to the customer’s purchase. You can even group certain products together which belong as a package, for example a three part ‘How To’ guide.
The Attributes tab is where you can list the reasons why a customer should choose your product, e.g reliable, durable. These will display in a table within the Additional Information tab on the published product page.
You can use the Purchase Note section to send a particular message to whoever purchases a product—Anything from thanking the customer and requesting product reviews, to recommending other products or services they may be interested in. You can also use the Advanced Tab to set the menu order of the product and enable/disable reviews.
Product Short Description
WP Admin > Products > Add New
With the Product Short Description widget, you can create a short tagline that will be displayed under the product title (as shown in the first screenshot in the Adding Products section).
Managing Your Products
WP Admin > Products > [various tabs]
The content of your product page is now complete, but before you move on you will want to add tags, place the product in a category, and set a featured image—as you would with a WordPress post.
Under the Products menu you will find everything you need to manage your products including categories, tags, shipping classes, and attributes.
WP Admin > WooCommerce
The next thing you will want to do is take advantage of the huge array of features on offer that can help you run your store. Under the WooCommerce tab you can manage orders, adjust settings, add coupons, view reports, and add extensions.
WP Admin > WooCommerce > Orders
This is where all your current orders are displayed. If you are selling digital products, there is not much you can do here, but in the case of physical products, you can use this area to organise and update order statuses. Under the Action column you can select which orders are being processed, on hold, or ready to ship.
WP Admin > WooCommerce > Coupons [> Add Coupon]
The Coupon tab is another powerful feature of the plugin that allows you to add coupons with custom discounts and purchasing restrictions. You can tailor your coupon by type and value—10% off total shopping basket amount, 20% off a particular product etc.—select whether the coupon includes free shipping and taxation, and set the coupon’s expiry date.
The Restrictions tab allows you to limit the use of the coupon through setting a minimum spend, a certain product or category it applies to, restricting its use in conjunction with other offers, or setting a maximum number of uses per customer.
WP Admin > WooCommerce > Reports
The final area we will cover is Reports. As you may have guessed, you can use this feature to track orders, sales, and shipping, over three defined time periods or a custom period of your choice.
The reports dashboard shows data visually with charts and graphs, and can even be adjusted to show sales of one particular product, category, or coupon. To make best use of this feature, export your data regularly to a CSV sheet (using the button in the top right of the page) and maintain a hard copy of your store’s progress.
Finally, the best way to check everything is in order and improve your site is through testing. Go through each product page as a user would — even placing a few test orders using a PayPal Sandbox test account —and use the WooCommerce reports feature to continuously look at where you can make improvements and turn more of your traffic into paying customers. If you are in need of a little inspiration to show you what is possible, check out these great examples of WooCommerce stores.