When people think of WordPress they often think of blogging, but the world’s favorite Content Management System has come a long way in the past ten years or so. In fact, with a plugin or two WordPress can be many things to many people — not least an excellent platform on which to build a web store.
There is no shortage of plugins to transform your WordPress installation into a web store. They range from free to not-so-free, and the quality of the plugins varies wildly. For the eCommerce newcomer, deciding which platform to choose can be a nightmare.
With that in mind, in this post I’ve decided to take a closer look at one of the best offerings on the market. It’s both free and exceptionally well built. I am of course talking about WooCommerce by WooThemes.
A Brief Overview of WooCommerce
WooCommerce is WooThemes’ enterprise level eCommerce software. It allows for the addition of premium extensions so that you can build upon the default installation in myriad ways.
Here’s a quick rundown of WooCommerce’s key features (as stated on the product page):
- Fully audited by WordPress security company Sucuri
- Comprehensive Store Management
- Extensive Reporting Options
- Simple One Page Checkout
- Multiple Payment Gateway Options
- Several Marketing and Promotion Options
These features only scratch the surface of WooCommerce’s functionality. While it covers the requirements of many online stores straight out of the box, when you consider the numerous premium extensions available, you should be able to build a store that completely suit your needs (regardless of how unique they may be).
Installing WooCommerce is as simple as installing any other plugin from the WordPress Plugin repository.
In your WordPress dashboard you need to go to Plugins > Add New and then search for WooCommerce. The plugin should be the very first one on the list. Simply click the Install Now option and once the installation has completed click Activate Plugin.
This will take you to the WooCommerce Settings page, which requires one final step before the plugin is completely installed.
At the top of the page there is a large notification asking you to install WooCommerce Pages:
Clicking the Install button will create all of the necessary pages for your online store.
Now that the plugin is fully installed, you should check the WooCommerce System Status to ensure there are no immediate problems.
This can be found under WooCommerce > System Status. If there are any problems then you will be given information on how to resolve them (which you should do before proceeding any further).
Now that the plugin is fully installed it’s time to begin configuring your store.
In the WooCommerce > Settings menu you are presented with numerous options. Let’s have a look at the options you can configure under each tab.
As you would expect, this tab gives you some of the basic configuration for your store. The options in this section include:
- Geographical location
- Default currency
- Discount coupon usage
- Decides whether you allow guest shoppers or if an account is required
- Various checkout options
- User Registration options
- CSS Styling Options
- Product Gallery Lightbox activation
- Downloadable Product Information and Restrictions
This section allows you to configure the way your products are displayed in your store. The options include:
- Product sorting and default page display
- Add to Cart actions
- Product data
- Pricing options
- Product image options
This section includes all of the pages that were setup for the store during installation. While it is recommended that you leave them as their defaults, you can change them to any other page you have created if you want to create your own versions.
This section also allows you to change the base page for your store as well as set a link to any terms and conditions you have in effect.
This page enables the stock management option and allows you to take advantage of the inventory management functionality of WooCommerce. The options available to you are:
- Hold stock for unpaid orders
- Low and Out of Stock notifications
- Thresholds for low stock
- Visibility for Out of Stock products
- In Stock display options
This page allows you to completely configure the tax options for the store. The tax settings are disabled by default but once enabled you can configure the following options:
- Prices entered include or don’t include tax
- How you calculate tax
- The default customer address
- Shipping tax classes
- Tax display during checkout
This is where you configure every aspect of the shipping process for your store (if you are selling physical products). As well as the shipping calculations display options, you can enable and configure the following shipping options:
- Flat rate shipping
- Free shipping
- International delivery
- Local delivery
- Local Pickup
Each of these options exists on their own page, allowing you to enable them individually and configure every detail of the shipping methods you choose to use.
There are five payment gateways available for you to use in your store. These gateways have their own page just like the shipping options. They are:
- BACS (direct bank transfer)
- Cash on Delivery
- Mijireh Checkout
The Mijireh Checkout option is an external gateway that allows you to use credit cards, SagePay, and several other options. In order to use this option you will need to create a free Mijireh account.
This section allows you to configure the email options and email templates used when communication with your customers. The emails can be configured for various triggers such as:
- New orders
- Processing orders
- Completed orders
- Customer invoices
- Customer notes
- Password resets
- New account creations
This section allows you to configure additional software integrations. The options available to you after installation are:
All of the above options require you to have accounts on these external services.
There is also a Coupon section under the WooCommerce menu that allows you to configure discount coupons for your customers. These can be a fantastic way to give loyal customers a reason to shop with you again. Many online stores offer discounts to newsletter members or returning customer discounts and it’s something worth considering.
Adding Your Products
Now that you have worked your way through the store configuration it’s time to begin adding your products.
The product creation process is almost exactly the same as creating a normal blog post in WordPress. You can create categories and tags for your products and add shipping classes to group your products by those that have specific shipping requirements. There is also an option to add additional attributes to your products such as multiple colors or sizes.
When you add a product you are presented with a page similar to the standard post page with a few additional sections. There is a section at the bottom of the page to add a short description of the product for SEO purposes, but the Product Data section is the important one.
This section allows you to configure everything about the product. There are four product types available for you to choose from:
- Simple Product
- Grouped Product
- External/Affiliate Product
- Variable Product
Each product type comes with multiple other options. The simple product type is the only one that allows you to make the product either a digital download or a physical product.
You should ensure that each product has an SKU, which is a unique identifier for the stock management options. This section is where you set the price of the product, any additional attributes the product has and the stock management options for the product.
There is also a fantastic section that allows you to link other products to allow you to up-sell and cross-sell to your customers. This is a great way to gentle push your customers to buying additional products from you. Amazon are masters of this technique and it’s worth spending time looking at how they approach the product linking to improve your own sales.
After your store is live and you have sold some products it’s worth looking at the reporting functions of WooCommerce. These can be found in the WooCommerce > Reports menu.
There are reports that break down your sales by day, month, product, category, and also your top sellers and earners. As well as your product sales it also has reports for the discount coupon use and various reports on your customers. There is also an area that monitors your low and out of stock products.
These reports are a great way to stay on top of every aspect of your business. Not only does this function allow you to find out your best sellers, it also lets you see which products aren’t selling. Such information can empower you to make profitable decisions.
Knowing all of this information is an important aspect of running a successful store and WooCommerce supplies you with all of the data you need.
A Simple One Stop Solution
There are many e-commerce solutions for WordPress out there, but WooCommerce is up there with the best. It’s free and comes with more functionality than many premium eCommerce plugins.
Do you use WooCommerce? What are your thoughts about the plugin? Are there any other plugins out there you would recommend instead of WooCommerce? Let us know in the comments below!
Image by InspirationDC