Beginners guide to WooCommerce

Beginners guide to WooCommerce

Johnny Greaves

If you’re looking to turn your site into an e-commerce store WooCommerce is certainly a plugin to consider.

Our WooCommerce guide will take you through the pros and cons of installing the plugin and let you know everything you need to do to get started with WooCommerce. And – hopefully – with our help, you’ll have your site selling in no time.

How does WooCommerce work?

WooCommerce is an open source WordPress e-commerce plugin helping you sell products, process orders and ship items on your WordPress site. It was launched by WooThemes back in 2011 and is the most popular WordPress e-commerce plugin on the market.

What does WooCommerce do?

For being essentially free, this WordPress plugin offers you everything you need to run your own online shop including:

Product listings:

Featuring price, photos, description and add to cart function

Variable product listings:

So you can add in things like size, colour etc

Grouped products:

To showcase products related to each other or bought as separate

A shopping cart system:

You can add an item to the online cart, proceed to a checkout page, fill out a form, and pay online, and get it shipped to your customers

An ordering system:

All the useful information is stored in a management table such as purchase, time, order ID and status of order for the admin and store manager to see

Reporting function:

Easily pull off or view a range of reports on your products and customers

A shipping area:

Add in costings and tracking here:

The ability to add useful extensions

As with the usual WordPress site there is a range of extensions to make your business run much smoother

Is WooCommerce free?

In short, yes, it is free to download and install on your WordPress site. You will have costs associated with the hosting and domain though, as with all other WordPress sites.

The pros and cons of using WooCommerce

There are definitely major pros to choosing WordPress and WooCommerce for your e-commerce business, but also some downsides. You’ll need to consider what you want from your e-commerce site before deciding which is the platform and plugin that best suits you.

Here’s our take of pros and cons below:

Pros

It’s familiar to use

With over 51% of the top million websites currently supported by WordPress, familiarity is one of WooCommerce’s biggest advantages. Past users are able to benefit from recognising the user-friendly content management system, saving confusion and ultimately saving time learning how to use it.

It’s flexible

WordPress is notorious for its flexibility, and WooCommerce is no different. Users have flexibility with their products without having to know too much about the technical side. Categorisation, independent attributes etc can all be added to products, with WooCommerce stores having the capability to sell virtual, physical and downloadable products, as well as external/affiliate products.

It’s customisable

WooCommerce isn’t a rigid platform; modifications can be made to customise the platform for it to be exactly customised to your requirements. Any of the 39 available themes can have colour themes changed, pre-set CSS styles altered, code tweaked and the special features within each theme experimented with.

It’s easily integrated

You can integrate your e-commerce store into your current WordPress site, presented together seamlessly and with all of the business’ online presence accessible in one place.

It’s professional

However simple the platform is to use, it is still a professional online store solution. The platform contains customer engagement tools allowing customers to track their products, view past and open orders, apply discounts and coupons, update delivery statuses and so on. Users are able to manage inventory, tax settings and anything else needed to build a professional e-commerce site.

It grows with your business

WooCommerce gives the opportunity to expand your online store in terms of products, management and customers. Themes can be modified, extensions can be built using various APIs as well as an extensive documentation library.

It’s searchable

WooCommerce can incorporate features such as fast load and mobile responsiveness which makes it very SEO friendly. Not only that, each page can be optimised individually to help them appear in search results.

It’s easy to use

WooThemes have a reputation of being reliable and professional, and we completely agree. Along with extensions and plugins, users can benefit from video tutorials and community forums, helping to share ideas and problems with other WordPress users.

The extra applications

A business can be set up easily, be presented professionally, and managed easily, with simple extra functionality extensions. Applications relating to anything from payment gateways, reporting, marketing, accounting and more can be added to enhance the functionality of the site.

It provides great analytics

Analytics tools are key for any website, WooCommerce doesn’t disappoint on this. A wide array of statistics are clear and easy to understand. Users are able to see their sales by date, total sales, customer statistics and much more without the user having to leave their admin panel.

Cons

Potentially a hacker’s easy target

The huge popularity of WordPress makes it a target to hackers who do like to try and attack the infrastructure. WordPress does a lot to lessen the impact that these hacking attacks have on users such as bloggers, but for an e-commerce business these potential issues are a lot more serious. To battle any potential hacks, the infrastructure is constantly updated, and with this customisations you may have made to your site could be overwritten. Of course, if you work with us we can take additional sensible steps towards ensuring your website is secure. You can also read our blog here general protection

It can cause slower or unresponsive sites

Large numbers of concurrent orders can overwhelm a web server that is running WordPress. It sounds like a nice problem to have, but if your site becomes slow or unresponsive because of this, you will be losing money. At such a point it may be time to graduate to Magento, which we can also help you with. Magento is a vast system designed with E-commerce in mind first, as opposed to WordPress, which is designed with content management in mind. Or check out our blog on making your site quicker.

Still interested in how to set up WooCommerce on your site? Let’s show you how with our WooCommerce tutorial.

How to add WooCommerce to WordPress

Once you are set up on WordPress, you need to download and install the WooCommerce plugin.

In admin go to: Plugins > Add new > Search for WooCommerce > Click Install now. Once the plugin has installed click the ‘activate’ button.

How to set up WooCommerce on your site

  1. Once WooCommerce is installed, you’ll be prompted to the setup wizard. It’s optional but a good idea to go through to sort out some key settings including what currency you’d like to use and what type of products you’ll be selling (physical, digital or both). You can always change these later in your WooCommerce settings if you need to.
  1. In the walk through, you’ll then be asked to decide what payments you’ll be using. By default you can use PayPal and or Stripe and cheques and cash. Click which ones you want to be available to your customers. You can also add further payment options by adding extensions to your site.
  1. You’ll then decide your shipping options and how much customers will be charged for shipping depending on location.
  1. You’ve now sorted out your set-up basics. The final page gives a list of optional add-ons. All are great for helping you to run your store, but you aren’t required to choose any of them if you’d prefer.
  1. Another optional add-on will be suggested: the Jetpack Plugin. It does come with a range of handy features including security functionality and analytics, but it’s your call.
  1. You’re now ready to start selling. As we already mentioned, it’s a really easy plugin to get going with and you’ll now be able to add products and turn your WordPress site into your very own shop.

Keep reading and we’ll walk you through the process of adding products below.

How to use WooCommerce

The first thing you’ll want to do is add new products. This will be in your ‘Products’ area, which will appear at the end of your setup Wizard, or by going to ‘Products>Add New’. It’s pretty simple and familiar to use, just fill in the details required.

To add more details, like prices, or sales discounts, scroll down on the same page past the post editor. If you’re selling digital products you’ll have to upload the file you want people to buy and set a download expiry. If the download limit is unlimited, leave this blank, or customise in the section provided. Hit ‘publish’ to make your products live on your site.

In the Inventory tab you can easily manage your stock. The Shipping tab will also easily walk you through how to send your products and how much you’ll charge to post.

Make sure to utilize the Linked Products tab, where you can cross-sell more of your other things which are relevant to your customer.

The Attributes tab, as its name suggests, will help you to describe your product. These will then appear on the product page.

The Advanced tab can help you to sort out the little details which will make your shop look professional, including creating custom purchase notes, which is a nice touch.

In the overall ‘products’ dashboard you can manage all your products once you’ve uploaded them. Here, like with your usual WordPress pages, you can add, edit or delete products.

In the ‘WooCommerce’ area on your site, you can also see your orders, create coupons, look at reporting and customise your settings and add new extensions through the different tabs. These are all really useful for the day to day running of your site, and like the other tabs, very self-explanatory.

Now you’re all set to start selling. We wish you the best of luck.

If you want to find out more, contact our specialist Woocommerce development team

Johnny Greaves

Author Johnny Greaves

Johnny has been building websites for 9 years, from small family-run company websites to internal web-apps for large enterprises. He has a management degree from the University of Manchester and likes to break things to see how they work. As far as we’re aware he can function solely on coffee and jelly-beans.

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