How to Start an Online Store

How To Start an Online Store

 

Do you want to start your own online store? We know that building an online store can be a terrifying thought especially when you are not a techy.

Well, you’re not alone. After helping alot of users start their online store, we have decided to create the most comprehensive guide on how to build your online store with WordPress (step by step)

Easily start an online store

What Do You Need to Start an Online Store?

There had never been a better time to start an online business than today.

Anyone with a computer can get started within a matter of minutes and without acquiring any special skills.

The three things you need to start an online store are:

  1. A domain name idea (this will be the business name of your online store i.e bhosting.ng)
  2. A web hosting account (this is where your website lives on the internet)
  3. Your undivided attention for 30 minutes.

Yep, it is really that simple.

You can setup your own online store with WordPress in less than 30 minutes and we’ll walk you through each step of the process.

In this tutorial, we will cover:

  • How to Register a Domain Name
  • How to Choose the Best WooCommerce Hosting
  • How to Get a SSL Certificate (required for accepting payments)
  • How to Install WordPress
  • How to Create a WooCommerce store
  • How to Add Products in your Online Store
  • How to Select and Customize Your Theme
  • How to Extend Your Online Store with Plugins
  • Learning to Learn WordPress & Grow Your Business

Step 1: Setting up Your Online Store Platform

The biggest mistake most users make is not choosing the right platform for their online store.

Thankfully you’re here, so you won’t be making that mistake.

There are three popular eCommerce platforms that we recommend: Bhosting, Shopify or WordPress + WooCommerce.

Shopify is a fully hosted eCommerce solution that starts at $29 / month (paid monthly or yearly upfront to earn a discount). It’s a hassle-free solution where you just log in and start selling. The downside to Shopify is that it gets quite expensive, and your payment options are limited unless you pay additional fees.

This is why most users choose WordPress + WooCommerce because of the flexibility it offers. It does require some setup, but it’s worth doing it in the long run. WordPress is the most popular website builder and WooCommerce is the world’s largest eCommerce platform (see: Shopify vs WooCommerce comparison).

In this tutorial, we will walk you through how to set up an online store in WordPress using WooCommerce.

To set up your eCommerce store, you need to a domain name, web hosting, and an SSL certificate.

A domain name is your website’s address on the internet. It is what users will type in their browsers to reach your website (for example: google.com or bhosting.ng).

Web hosting is where your eCommerce website lives on the internet. It’s your website’s house on the internet. Every website on the internet needs web hosting.

Bhosting, an official WordPress and WooCommerce recommended hosting provider

Bhosting is one of the oldest web hosting companies. They are also the largest brand name when it comes to WordPress hosting because they host alot of websites.

On the bhosting site, select the plan that you need (Basic and any other plans).

After that, you will be asked to enter the domain name for your website.

Choose domain name

Lastly, you will need to add your account information and finalize the package info to complete the process.

Once completed, you will receive an email with details on how to login to your web hosting control panel (cPanel). This is where you manage everything from support, emails, among other things.

Once you are logged into the cPanel, you’ll notice that Bluehost has already installed WordPress for you and you can simply click on the ‘Log in to WordPress’ button.

Log in to WordPress

You just need to click on ‘Login to WordPress’ button, and it will take you to your WordPress site’s dashboard. It looks something like this:

WordPress dashboard

Congrats, you have finished setting up hosting and domain part.

The next step is to set up WordPress and your online store.

Step 2. Setting up WordPress

Upon your first login to your WordPress website, Bhosting may offer you help with setting up your website.

Go ahead and click on ‘I don’t need help’ link. Don’t worry we will walk you through all the necessary steps.

Let’s set up your WordPress website.

First, you need to visit Settings » General page to setup your WordPress site title and description.

How to Start an Online Store

You can use your store name as site title and provide a catchy description for your business. The description part is optional so don’t worry if you can’t come with something right away.

Setting up HTTPS to Use SSL

Your WordPress hosting package came with a free SSL Certificate. This certificate is pre-installed for your domain name. However, your WordPress site needs to be configured, so it loads as https vs http.

On the Settings » General page, you need to change your WordPress Address and Site Address to use https instead of http.

How to Start an Online Store

Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your settings.

Your basic WordPress setup is complete. Now it is time to setup your online store.

Step 3. Setting up Your WooCommerce Store

WooCommerce is the best online store builder on the market. It is built on top of WordPress which gives the flexibility of WordPress with freedom to sell any type of products you want.

First, you need to install and activate the WooCommerce plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Simply go to Plugins » Add New page and search for WooCommerce. In the search results, click on the Install Now button next to WooCommerce listing.

Installing WooCommerce

WordPress will now fetch and install WooCommerce plugin for you. Wait for it and to finish downloading the plugin and then click on the ‘Activate’ button to continue.

Activate WooCommerce

Upon activation, WooCommerce will launch the set up wizard and you’ll see the Welcome to WooCommerce screen. This set up wizard will walk you through important WooCommerce settings.

WooCommerce wizard

First, you need to provide basic information for your online store such as address, country, and region. If you are a retailer, then you can add your retail location information as the address.

After that, click on the Continue button to move on to the next step.

Next, you’ll be asked to choose a store industry. You can choose an industry closest to the type of store you want to make.

Choose store industry

Click on the continue button to move on.

After that, you’ll be asked to choose the types of products you’ll be selling on your store. For instance, if your products need shipping, then you can choose physical products.

Choose product types

You can also choose multiple product types. For example, you can choose both Physical Products and Downloads too. Don’t worry about selling different product types. You can select which type of product you are adding for each product.

Click on the Continue button.

Next, you’ll be asked to provide some business details like how many products you plan to sell and if you are selling elsewhere. You can choose that I don’t have products yet and select ‘No’ for the other option.

Provide business details

Now, you need to switch to the ‘Free Features’ tab. You’ll see a box pre-checked to install free features for your website.

Uncheck free features

You need to uncheck this option as it will install several other WooCommerce extensions that you may not need. If you need them later, then you can always install them on your own.

Click on the Continue button for the next step.

Next, you’ll be asked to choose a theme for your online store. You can continue with your current default theme, choose Storefront or any of the free options listed on the page.

Choose theme

Don’t worry about choosing the perfect theme right away. We’ll show you how to choose the best theme for your online store later in this article.

That’s all, you have successfully completed basic WooCommerce setup.

Step 4. Setting up Payments for Your Online Store

Next, you need to set up payment methods to accept online payments on your store. WooCommerce provides a bunch of payment gateways that you can easily setup.

Simply go to the WooCommerce » Settings page and switch to the ‘Payments’ tab. By default, you can choose from PayPal Standard, Cash on Delivery, Checks, and Bank Transfers.

Payment settings

Scroll below and you will also see the option to install Stripe, PayPal Checkout, and WooCommerce Payments. We recommend choosing Stripe and PayPal Standard as your payment options.

Install Stripe for your online store

For each payment gateway, you can click on the Set up button and provide the required information. For instance, you can enable Stripe and enter your API Keys (you can find this information under your Stripe account).

Stripe settings

Don’t forget to click on the Save changes button to store your payment settings.

Step 5. Adding Products to Your Online Store

Let’s start with adding the first product to your online store.

You need to visit Products » Add New page to add a new product.

Add new product

First, provide a title for your product and then some detailed description.

On the right hand column, you will see the ‘Product Categories’ box. Click on the ‘+Add New Product Category’ to create a category for this product. This allows you and your customers to sort and browse products easily.

Add product category

Scroll down a little and you will notice the Product Data box. This is where you will provide product related information like pricing, inventory, shipping etc.

Add product data

Below product data box, you will see a box to add product short description. These product descriptions will be used when users are viewing multiple products on a page.

Product short description

Lastly, on your right hand column you will see boxes to add a main product image and a product gallery.

Product images

Once you are satisfied with all the product information you have added, you can click on the Publish button to make it live on your website.

Repeat the process to add more products as needed.

Step 6. Select and Customize WordPress Theme

Themes control how your WordPress sites look to the users when they visit it. For a WooCommerce shop, they also control how your products are displayed.

There are thousands WordPress themes available on gplthemeshub that help you create a stunning online presence.

However, not all WordPress themes are designed specifically for eCommerce stores. We have hand-picked some of the best WooCommerce themes that you can choose from.

Once you have installed a WooCommerce theme you can customize its appearance to your own requirements.

Simply head over to Appearance » Customize page. This will launch theme customizer where you can change different theme settings.

Most modern WooCommerce themes come with different customization options and work well with desktop as well as mobile devices.

Step 7. Extend Your Online Store With Plugins

Now that your store is almost ready, you may want to add more features to create a successful online store. For example, you can add a customer support form or promote your new business on social media to make your first sale.

This is where plugins come in.

Both WooCommerce and WordPress allow you to easily add new features to your website by using plugins or extensions.

Plugins are like apps for your WordPress website. There are thousands of them that you can use, both free and premium. The WordPress.org plugin directory alone has more than 59,000 plugins.

However, this abundance of choice also makes it difficult for beginners to choose the right plugins. How do you know which plugin to choose?

Here are some of our top picks for essential plugins that every online store should install.

1. OptinMonster

OptinMonster helps you easily convert website visitors into paying customers. It comes with tools like lightbox popups, sticky header and footer banners, countdown timers, spin to win, and more.

All of them help to improve conversions, boost sales, grow your email list, and reduce shopping cart abandonment.

Note: You can get a free version of OptinMonster if you sign up from inside the OptinMonster WordPress plugin.

2. WPForms

WPForms is the best form builder plugin for WordPress. It allows you to easily create any type of form for your store including contact forms, surveys, login forms, gift cards order form, and more.

It has an intuitive drag and drop form builder that allows you to just point and click to create forms. See our guide on how to easily create a contact form in WordPress for detailed instructions.

3. AffiliateWP

AffiliateWP helps you easily add an affiliate program to your online store. This allows you to partner up with affiliate marketers to promote your products for a commission.

It comes with powerful affiliate tracking, no transaction fees, fraud detection, 1-click payouts, and an affiliate dashboard for your partners.

4. Advanced Coupons

Advanced Coupons is the best coupon code plugin for WooCommerce. It allows you to extend default WooCommerce coupon functionality and create highly effective coupons to grow your business.

With Advanced Coupons you can create loyalty program, scheduled coupons, Buy 1 Get 1 Free deals, shipping coupons, and more.

5. SeedProd

SeedProd is the best page builder plugin for WordPress and WooCommerce. It allows you to easily create custom landing pages for your online shop.

It comes with ready-to-use templates designed for conversions and sales. It also includes WooCommerce blocks that you can just drag and drop to create custom product pages, custom homepage, checkout page, thank you page, and more. Plus, you can connect it to your email marketing service so you can grow your email list.

6. PushEngage

PushEngage is the best push notification software for WordPress and WooCommerce. It allows you to easily send web push notifications to your website visitors on their computers and mobile phones.

With PushEngage, you can send personalized messages to your target audience such as new product announcements, abandoned cart reminders, back in stock notifications, welcome messages, and more.

7. All in One SEO for WordPress

All in One SEO for WordPress is the best SEO plugin for WooCommerce. It allows you to easily optimize your online store for SEO without any search engine optimization skills.

It comes with a full eCommerce support, schema markup, sitemaps, breadcrumbs, and more. This helps you bring more traffic to your online store. For details, see our complete WooCommerce SEO guide for beginners.

8. MonsterInsights

MonsterInsights is the best Google Analytics plugin for WordPress. It helps you see where your customers are coming from and what they do on your website.

MonsterInsights comes with WooCommerce tracking so you can see the conversions and sales data on your website. This helps you adjust your marketing strategy and grow your small business with data driven decisions.

9. HubSpot

HubSpot is the best CRM plugin for WordPress and WooCommerce. It allows you to automatically sync your forms, manage contacts, segment them into lists, and see every interaction your visitors have with your site.

They also let you add live chat to your website pages and get analytics on the performance of your entire marketing program.

Learning WordPress to Grow Your Online Business

WordPress is incredibly powerful and flexible, but sometimes it can be hard for beginners to set it up the way they want.

At Bhosting Solution, our main goal is to provide cutting-edge helpful WordPress tutorials that are easy to understand even for non-techy WordPress website owners (see more about us).

FAQs About Starting an Online Store

Many of our users regularly reach out to us with questions about starting their own business with an online store. We have tried to answer some of the most frequently asked questions below:

1. Where do I find products to sell on my store?

There are different ways store owners source products. Some sell products like software, digital art, music, and other downloadable products.

Others source products from local or offshore vendors using online marketplaces like Alibaba or AliExpress. If you don’t want to handle your own inventory or shipping, then you could also look into starting a print on demand shop or dropshipping.

2. Can I start an online store for free?

Yes, some eCommerce platforms offer limited free trials so you can start your online store for free, but after the trial is over, you’ll have to pay. While WooCommerce itself is free, you’ll need a domain name and a web hosting account to run it which will cost money.

3. How much does it cost to start an online store?

The cost of starting an online store depends on your business plan and budget. You can start with Bhosting for per month and rely on plugins and theme to limit your costs. We recommend a business model where you start small and then spend money as your business grows.

4. Can I create an online store without shipping products?

Yes, you can. For instance, you can make an online store using dropshipping plugins, create an Amazon affiliate store, or make an eBay like marketplace. You can also use the same online store to sell external products as well as your own products.

5. How to manage shipping costs and taxes for my online store?

Depending on your region, you may be required to add sales tax, VAT, or other taxes. WooCommerce allows you to add taxes by enabling them under WooCommerce » Settings page.

Enabling taxes in WooCommerce

From here, you can also switch to the Shipping tab and create different shipping zones, add shipping rates, set flat shipping rates, and more

How To Start an Online Store Second Part

Step 1: Choose Your Concept/Product

Before you start building your ecommerce business, you need to have something to sell. It’s essential to approach your online store with a unique selling position. What is it about your merchandise that will stand out among the competition? Of course you’d rather sell products you’re excited about, but you don’t want your business to get lost in the vast reaches of the internet.

When choosing what you want your own products to be, consider the following questions:

  • Are you going to sell something physical or offer a digital product?
  • If you’re making it yourself, can you keep up with demand?
  • Can you locate a quality manufacturer for components or the product itself?
  • Do you have the space to keep inventory if you have multiple products?
  • How narrow or broad will your product category be?
  • Is this a product you’ll still be excited about down the road?

Before spending any money on your online business, make sure that you’ve researched and tested your concept. Don’t hesitate to bounce the idea off a few friends or others who will give honest feedback.

An online store checklist

Step 2: Create a Business Plan

As you’re working through the details of your store, you’ll need to make a business model that encompasses the costs that will appear along the way. A sound business strategy goes a long way toward lessening bumps down the road.

Register Your Business

Depending on the state (or country) you’re setting up in, check to see if there are any business or sales tax licenses. Each region can have very different regulations when it comes to ecommerce stores and how you store inventory.

Should you bring a never-before-seen product to the internet, you’ll want to see if there’s anything patentable. Don’t let your great idea get ripped off because you didn’t take the time to protect it.

Whether you’re starting out solo or with a friend, you’ll need to define your business structure. For example, sole proprietorships link your business and personal assets together, whereas a limited liability company (LLC) lets you keep the two separate.

Partnerships are set up for two individuals starting a business together. Within a partner agreement, you’ll define each of your roles and responsibilities. If this process seems daunting, consider bringing in a business lawyer to help with the fine print.

Count the Costs

Your product is going to come from somewhere. Even if you make it with your own two hands, there will be costs associated with the materials you’ll need for a finished item.

  • Dropshipping or shipping (if you don’t pass costs to the consumer)
  • Domain name
  • Web hosting platform
  • Sales tax and income tax
  • Salaries for additional help

After you’ve chosen a shipping method, there may be fees for a dropshipper or even to send directly if you don’t pass along those costs to the consumer.

There will be recurring fees to keep your domain name and hosting platform up and running. These costs depend on the plans you choose for a site builder or web host you use to create your website.

Quarterly, you’re going to have to pay sales tax and income tax on what’s coming in and going out. Some tools can help you understand these expenses and keep you advised on what you’ll have to pay when the time comes.

You might be a one-person operation as you bring your own business online, but that may not always be the case. Should you hire additional help, you’ll need to budget for that as well.

Costs associated with starting an online store

Step 3: Come Up With a Name

Once you’ve worked out the details of what your online store is going to sell, you need to build the actual ecommerce website. To do so, you’ll need to create a business name that will represent you online. Make sure it’s something catchy and unique that will stick in a consumer’s head so they can remember it the next time they’re in the market for your product.

With a business name established, your ecommerce site will also need a domain name. This domain name is the unique access point to your own site and must be different from all other websites out there. Choose something that compliments your name and brand.

Since domain names have to be unique, your first choice may not be available. Should this happen, play with hyphens, move words around, or spell out numbers. Keep it simple, ideally to three words or less.

Step 4: Choose Your Online Platform

With a domain name in tow, you’ll need to make use of a web hosting service to turn your domain into a new online store. Some of the best Ecommerce platforms include a domain name with your plan, but you might prefer the do-it-yourself route.

Most website builders offer free trials, so you can try them before you buy. Each platform comes with different tiers of service, so study the features of each to determine which works best with your online store. Be sure to pick something that can grow with your small business.

Shopify

Shopify is a well-known ecommerce platform that doubles as an online store builder. Once you’ve created an account, you can choose from pre-constructed templates or build your own. Since you’re one of many online stores on Shopify, take the time to make yours stand out as much as possible.

WordPress + WooCommerce

WordPress, with the WooCommerce extension, is another website builder to consider. While the platform itself doesn’t cater solely to online shopping, WooCommerce adds all the tools you’ll need to create content for your online store.

Wix

Wix similarly has an ecommerce builder that online businesses can use to sculpt the site of their dreams. Although Wix is another hosting service that covers a range of niches, it has robust sales features for selling online.

Step 5: Build Your Site

Your website speaks loudly to potential customers, and a successful online store will make it as appealing as possible. Give yourself a unique identity to share who you and your products are while increasing the customer experience. First impressions are crucial and help develop a sense of brand loyalty.

Don’t immediately shy away from paid templates or taking the time to build (or program) the site yourself. Any personal touches will go a long way toward that unique appeal you need to succeed.

When building your site, determine your target audience and work around that niche. This target market should be an area you’re familiar with that you can inject your own personality into.

Keep Mobile Users in Mind

There’s been a trend of more sales coming from mobile devices, and you don’t want to neglect this group of shoppers. Not every template or style available on your site builder will run or look good on a smartphone or tablet, so be sure to choose one that offers mobile-responsive sites, which automatically resize and optimize your site for mobile.

Add Products and Set Pricing

With a template created, it’s time to start building product pages. When users shop online, they want to be able to quickly navigate to whatever they’re looking for and then be on their way. This is an important point to remember when deciding on a layout.

Your product descriptions need to capture the essence of what you’re selling in a minimal number of words. You’ll be lucky if potential customers get through a paragraph or two of text before losing interest. To go along with your concise description, quality photos are essential since customers can’t view things on a rack or try them on.

When first starting out, it may be better to start with a small number of items to test the proverbial waters. This will also help with initial inventory management. As you find success, you can open up your site to a more diverse selection of wares.

Step 6: Set Up Payment Methods

Now that your online business is fleshed out with the items you’re going to sell, you’ll need to choose how you’ll be accepting payments. While often overlooked, set the currency to use for each purchase. Your e-commerce business may reach international shores, and you don’t want any confusion about pricing.

The online store builders referenced earlier provide ways for customers to pay you. Depending on which hosting plan you choose, you may be able to accept payments from a check or bank transfer directly from the platform.

Customers will likely prefer to use a credit or debit card for purchases, so having this option available is key. For credit card payments, you’ll want to link up your site to a secure payment gateway. These payment gateways add the security necessary to process card charges online.

The most popular options to consider are:

  • Stripe
  • Square
  • PayPal

It’s not a bad idea to give customers access to multiple payment gateways, as your clients may have a preference. Having multiple options is also a benefit in the event one of the gateways goes down. Be sure to verify that your hosting platform integrates with whichever gateways you choose.

Step 7: Think About How To Ship Products

If your ecommerce store is selling a physical item, you’ll want to work out shipping details for getting the product into your customers’ hands. There are two routes to pick from here.

Dropshipping

You can hire a dropshipping company to handle all your shipping for you. These businesses will take a portion off the top of each sale but will deliver your product for you. Alternatively, you can choose products from a marketplace, such as AliExpress, to sell in your online store and never have to store inventory.

Ship It Yourself

Should you wish to handle your deliveries yourself, you’ll need to be able to handle any and all demands. You’ll also have to set shipping costs and work with your preferred shipping provider to ensure items arrive at the right location and on time.

2 ways to ship products

Step 8: Ready for Launch

With all these steps complete, your ecommerce website is finally on the verge of launch. Run through your links, check product descriptions, and make sure everything works as it should.

With one last click of a button, publish your online store. Congrats, your site is now live! You’re on your way to making your first sale.

Step 9: Create Online Marketing Strategies

Whether or not your products start flying off the shelves, you can’t rest on your laurels. You’ll need a good marketing strategy to retain existing customers and keep bringing in new ones.

Social Media Marketing

For new businesses, social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are the biggest paid marketing channels to promote through. Each advertising platform offers inexpensive ways to get the word out about your site. Strategic social media posts can pique interest in no time flat. Plus, you can sell products through your social media channels.

Offer Incentives

Shoppers will admittedly come and go, but don’t overlook what you can do with your marketing strategy. A structured email marketing campaign can remind people just what they’re missing. Getting the word out about daily deals or flash sales will likely bring clients back and boost the customer lifetime value (CLV) of your site.

Utilize Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Many customers will use search engines, such as Google or Bing, to find your site for the first time. Focusing on your site’s SEO can make all the difference between your site and a competitor’s simply because one of them is optimized in Google and the other isn’t.

Step 10: Allow for Customer Feedback

Customers are the lifeblood of your business, and a wise business owner will listen to what they have to say. Be sure to create a means to hear back from your shoppers, whether it be from a survey or a place for reviews. You may glean helpful tips to improve aspects of your business that would have gone otherwise overlooked.

Customer feedback illustration

 

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