When you’re just getting started building an eCommerce store, you’re going to have a lot of different options to choose from.
One of the options you’ve probably come across is WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress that can transform any WordPress website into a full-fledged eCommerce store.
It’s flexible, beginner-friendly, and widely used as well. But, when you’re creating an eCommerce store, you want to know that you’re using the best platform for you.
Below we dive into what WooCommerce is, how it began, and how it became so popular. Then, we’ll show you how to get started using WooCommerce for your own website.
What is WooCommerce?
At the core, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that can transform an existing WordPress website into a true eCommerce store. All it takes is a couple of clicks.
Essentially, WooCommerce builds upon the initial capabilities of WordPress and adds eCommerce functionality.
WooCommerce allows you to sell anything on your website. It’s primarily used to sell physical products, like jewelry, coffee, t-shirts, beard oils, and basically anything else under the sun. However, it doesn’t end there, you can use WooCommerce to sell digital products as well.
You can sell eBooks, courses, and even allow people to book appointments or make reservations.
Whatever you’re looking to sell through your website, WooCommerce can help you do it easily.
Here are a few reasons why the use of WooCommerce is so widespread:
- It’s entirely free to install on your site, just like WordPress.
- It’s also open-source, like WordPress, so you’ll find a massive library of free themes, add-ons, and more.
- It’s straightforward to use and built with complete beginners in mind.
- You have control over the final design, via a full library of WooCommerce themes.
- Your store is mobile-friendly right out of the box, so it will look and perform great no matter what devices your visitors are using to shop.
- You can add a ton of different features via the plugin library, just like how you usually add features to a standard WordPress site.
All in all, WooCommerce operates in a very similar fashion to WordPress, which makes sense since the same company, Automattic, runs it. We dive deeper into the origins of WooCommerce below.
The History of WooCommerce: WooCommerce and WordPress
The origins of WooCommerce started with a company called WooThemes, a premium WordPress theme company, founded by Mark Forrester, Magnus Jepson, and Adii Pienaar. They achieved success with a handful of their premium themes.
But things were about to change quickly when they brought on two developers, James Koster and Mike Jolley. They were working on a previous eCommerce software known as Jigoshop.
Once the company was sold, they got to work on WooCommerce.
The first version of WooCommerce was launched in 2011, and it only took two years to achieve 1 million downloads!
In 2015, WooCommerce was purchased by Automattic, the same team that’s behind WordPress. Since acquiring WooCommerce, Automattic has become the leading developer of WooCommerce. In that same year, the plugin surged to over 7 million downloads and powering over 30% of eCommerce stores online.
Today WooCommerce remains one of the most popular and most flexible eCommerce tools in the world.
Why Is WooCommerce So Widely Used?
Part of the reason WooCommerce is so popular is due to its ties to WordPress. With WordPress powering over one-third of the internet, there’s only one logical solution when you want to start selling products via your existing site–WooCommerce.
When comparing WooCommerce against other eCommerce platforms, there are some serious advantages as well:
- There are thousands of paid and free themes, making it suitable for a large number of websites.
- You’ll find over 500 extensions, and thousands of plugins, that let you add new features to your store.
It’s hard to find a more flexible eCommerce solution. Especially considering that you can accomplish a lot with WooCommerce entirely for free. All you need to do is invest in a domain name and hosting, and you can build a feature-rich eCommerce store without spending any other money.
The Benefits of WooCommerce
There are a lot of advantages to choosing WooCommerce as your eCommerce store platform.
Here are the biggest benefits to using WooCommerce:
1. It’s Easy to Setup and Install on Your Site
If you’ve ever installed a plugin on your WordPress site, then you can install and setup WooCommerce. You can download and install WooCommerce directly from your WordPress dashboard, or via the plugin directory.
Once you install and activate the plugin, you’ll be greeted with a setup wizard. This will walk you through a series of questions about your website and configure your store accordingly.
Other things, like the design of your store, are handled by your theme, which will be a similar process to how you set up your WordPress theme.
2. It’s Equipped With Nearly All the Features You Need
Right out of the box, WooCommerce is equipped with all the features you need to run a successful store. For example, here’s a quick look at some of the features it comes with:
- You can sell any product you like, whether that’s physical or digital
- You can add multiple product attributes, tags, categories and more to each feature
- You can add product reviews and star ratings to your products
- You can let your customers filter your store by type of product, overall popularity, star rating, and more
- You can integrate your store with multiple different payment providers like PayPal, Stripe, credits cards, and more
- You can quickly customize the layout of your storefront with the near unlimited selection of themes
- You can quickly add whatever feature you desire via the extension marketplace or plugin library
3. It’s Flexible and Scalable
Even though WooCommerce is a plugin in and of itself, there are thousands of extensions and plugins that will enhance the functionality even further.
This means that you can create an online store that functions precisely how you’d like it to.
There are all kinds of official WooCommerce extensions available from the WooCommerce website, both free and premium.
You’ll get access to improved marketing tools, store management features, payment options, shipping, and a lot more.
Your other option is to explore the WordPress plugin marketplace, even a simple search for “WooCommerce” will bring us results like this:
4. The Shopping Cart is Feature-Packed
The actual checkout process is an incredibly important part of running a successful online shop. A lot of your visitors will actually abandon their carts during checkout, so you’ll want to do everything possible to make this experience as seamless as possible.
Think about how easy it is to buy products from Amazon. All it takes is literally a couple of clicks, and the product is on its way to your door.
WooCommerce gives you a ton of different options to customize your shopping cart.
For example, here are a few different shopping cart features included right out of the box:
- Add a multitude of different payment gateways including, PayPal, Stripe, credit cards, and even cash or check
- Enable geolocation to calculate taxes based upon the location of your visitor automatically
- Checkout customization options like choosing the countries you’ll sell too, allow guests to checkout without creating an account, forcing a secure checkout and more
- Redirect your visitors to their cart once a product is added
5. Packed With a Ton of Product Options
Selling products online is a different experience than selling in person. When people go into a store to purchase products, they can actually see the item and how it looks and functions.
When you’re online, the only thing your visitors have to go by is your images, description, and maybe a product video. As a result, you’ll want the ability to custom tailor each product listing, so you can give your shoppers all the information required to make an informed purchase.
Here are some product features you’ll have access to right out of the box:
- You can add as many products as you’d like to your store, your only limits are your existing hosting account
- You can add as many product types as you’d like as well, whether that’s digital, physical, eBooks, product packages, and more
- You’ll have near unlimited product variations as well, from sizes, colors, images, discount pricing, and more
WooCommerce also makes it easy to manage your product inventory. You’ll receive email notifications when a product is running out of stock or is currently on backorder.
6. Multiple Shipping Options Come Built-In
With an eCommerce tool, you not only want something that makes selling easy but also shipping products to your customers. Fast and secure shipping not only makes your customers happy, but it makes your life a lot easier as well.
With WooCommerce, there are a ton of different shipping options built-in. For example, you can let your customers choose from international shipping, flat rate, local delivery, or even local pickup. There’s an automated shipping calculator built-in, or you can also offer your customers free shipping if it makes sense for your bottom line.
You even have the ability to hide the shipping rate until your customer enters their address, and even let your customers enter a separate shipping address.
Plus, with the myriad of extensions available, you can add even more options, like automated tracking, upsells after checkout, and more.
How Do You Use WooCommerce?
If you’ve used WordPress before, then installing and setting up WooCommerce is going to be a breeze.
Here’s all you need to get started with WooCommerce:
- A hosting account and a domain name for your store
- WordPress installed on your website
- A WordPress theme that’s compatible with WooCommerce
- The WooCommerce plugin
1. Get Hosting and a Domain
The first thing you’ll need is a hosting account and a domain name. If you’re starting fresh, then you can secure both of these here at HostGator.
Head over to our WordPress hosting page and choose your plan:
On the next screen you’ll be able to add a free domain name to your order. If the domain you like isn’t available, then keep searching until you find the perfect domain.
Once you’ve completed your order it’s time to move onto the next step.
2. Install WordPress
Installing WordPress on your new site will only take a couple of clicks. Navigate to your hosting control panel and click on ‘Build a New WordPress Site’.
The installer will run and you’ll need to enter information about your website. Fill out the information that looks similar to the image below and click ‘Install’.
3. Choose Your WordPress Theme
With WordPress installed it’s time to install a WooCommerce-friendly theme. If you’re unsure of what theme to install you can always start with Storefront. This is a free theme that was created by the WooCommerce team.
To install this theme login to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Appearance>Themes, then search for Storefront.
Click Install, and then Activate, and you’ll now have a WooCommerce ready theme as the face of your site.
4. Install WooCommerce
Finally, it’s time to install WooCommerce. Since it’s a free plugin, this is very easy to do.
Navigate to Plugins>Add New, then search for “WooCommerce”.
Then, click ‘Install Now’, and ‘Activate’ to enable WooCommerce on your site.
Once the plugin is installed and activated, you’ll have a new ‘WooCommerce’ tab on the left-hand side of the site.
This is where you’ll be able to manage orders, adjust your store settings, browse the extension library and more. Once WooCommerce is installed it will also automatically create new site pages, like your Checkout page, Cart page, and more. You can edit these pages by navigating to ‘Pages’ on the left-hand sidebar of your dashboard.
By now you should have a deeper understanding of WooCommerce, how it came to be, why it’s an incredible platform for your new store, and finally how to get started with WooCommerce today.
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