If you’ve got a product or service you want to sell online, or you are a web designer who would like to know how to go about offering an ecommerce store as part of your services, this guide to setting up an ecommerce site using WordPress will cover everything you need to know in order to get started.
While it might seem like turning a regular WordPress site into a fully-functioning online store is a major job, the actual process is surprisingly easy. Whether you are starting from scratch with a new site, or want to add online shopping functionality to an existing website, this guide should get you up and running in no time at all while spending as little money as possible.
How to Power a WordPress eCommerce Site
Whether you are starting a new WordPress site to sell products and services or want to be able to add a shopping cart to an existing site, a WordPress ecommerce plugin is going to be the quickest and easiest way to get started. The good news is that some of the most popular plugins of this type are actually free to use.
To make life easier, we’ve picked a few of the best plugins in order to make your selection process easier and help you find the right one for your project:
This is the ecommerce plugin from the WooThemes team and despite it being packed with features it is free to use. Why is it free? Revenue is generated through the additional features and extensions that can be purchased for the plugin. However, despite these upsells, out of the box, the free version will most likely surprise you with its excellent functionality and ease of use.
Once it has been installed, with this plugin you can manage your existing products, or create new ones. Adding new products is as simple as adding new posts in WordPress so anyone with the slightest bit of WP experience should be able to get started very quickly.
After installation the plugin adds some custom fields which are displayed underneath the familiar post editor which allow you to add additional information about your products and services. This could include things like the number of products available, the prices, whether backorders can be taken on out of stock products, listing any linked products for up sells or cross sells as well as the dimensions of the item and associated shipping costs. A product image gallery is also created allowing you to upload a number of images showcasing your products.
Setup is very simple and the plugin can be installed from within your WordPress admin area by going to Plugins > Add New and then searching for woocommerce.
While WooCommerce does have everything you need in order to add an online store to your WordPress site, the extensions are worth taking a look at to see if there are any features you would need amongst them and how much they cost. Some popular WooCommerce premium extensions include:
- WooCommerce Subscriptions: allows you to create and manage products with recurring subscriptions.
- Table Rate Shipping: add advanced shipping options to your checkout, extending the options beyond the default shipping rates.
- Product CSV Import Suite: import and export products and variations via a CSV to save you time manually creating an entry for each product.
- Payment Gateways: you can accept payments with the free version but with this premium extension you can increase the gateways available to you including Amazon Simple Pay, Google Wallet and many more.
To view the other free and premium extensions for WooCommerce click here to visit the website.
So while the plugin itself is free, if you want access to any of the advanced features you may have to pay for them so make sure you do your research into these extensions first before deciding on this plugin based on its price or lack thereof.
eShop is another free ecommerce plugin for WordPress but unlike WooCommerce, it doesn’t have any premium upgrades and is completely free. Once installed this plugin allows you to create new product posts or go back and include purchasing options to existing posts.
This is great if you have a craft blog or something similar and would like to sell the items you have featured on your blog in previous posts. For those wishing to start a new site or add new products the option is there too and custom post types are used to create product pages with additional text areas and their own layout, separate from regular posts on your WordPress site.
With the eShop ecommerce plugin, products can have multiple options for customers to choose from and downloadable products can also be sold using this tool. Shipping options can be added to each product, which can be defined using the products weight or other details. There is also a basic stock control system and eShop serves as a payment gateway with payments processed by PayPal.
If you want a plugin that has everything you need to sell items from your WordPress site and is completely free then eShop comes highly recommended.
As this is a free plugin it can be installed from your WordPress admin interface via the Add New plugins page.
This is a premium ecommerce plugin for WordPress that has a very easy to use wizard for setting up your ecommerce store. If you value simplicity and ease of use and don’t mind paying for it then Cashie Commerce is definitely worth a look and despite its premium tag the lowest price subscription package starts from as little as $5 a month.
The plugin is available as a free 15 day trial which should give you enough time to evaluate it before deciding if it’s for you or not. After the trial has elapsed there are a few price plans to choose from, each with increasingly advanced features and functionality and a higher cost.
You can do a lot with this plugin, including customising the appearance of the shop using the visual builder or you can enter your own CSS for more control over how your shop and your products are displayed. The shopping cart service is hosted too so it doesn’t run on the same server as your WordPress site.
Payments are processed using PayPal and depending on the pricing plan in use, you can accept payments directly on your site using credit cards, without customers having to leave your site and login to PayPal making the whole process feel more professional and less of an ordeal for your customers.
To find out more about Cashie Commerce, visit their website for the latest information.
Other WordPress eCommerce Plugins:
While these three options, one free, one free with premium upgrades and one requiring a payment, there should be a low cost solution for anyone wishing to start an ecommerce site. Like anything concerning WordPress, there are many ways to do something and there are many other ecommerce plugins available. Here are some other popular options you may be interested in:
- WP eCommerce: this free (with premium upgrades) plugin has been around for many years and has a great reputation.
- Cart66: this is a fully managed ecommerce WordPress plugin that supports over 45 payment gateways and it works with virtually all WP themes including free themes.
- MarketPress: this is a free plugin with premium upgrades from wpmudev. It supports multiple payment gateways and supports the use of discount codes and coupons as well as being compatible with Google Analytics Ecommerce Tracking.
- Jigoshop: this is a popular premium plugin that boasts elegant, lightweight code and lots of great features. The team behind the Jigoshop plugin also develop ecommerce themes and there are a number of extensions for the plugin to increase its functionality.
- Shopp: this is another popular premium ecommerce plugin for WordPress that is easy to use and get started with. As you’d expect it works with a wide range of payment gateways including PayPal, Google Checkout, and 2Checkout.com.
WordPress eCommerce Themes
Now that you are aware of the leading WordPress ecommerce plugins available, it’s time to look at the different themes on offer for setting up an ecommerce site. By using one of the above plugins, it is possible to use pretty much any theme to sell products, even the free WordPress themes, however, with many excellent themes designed especially for online stores, it is a good idea to look at some of the best options before making a decision.
Many of the leading theme developers have produced their own ecommerce themes for WordPress and there are certainly plenty to choose from. WooThemes, the developer of the popular free to use WooCommerce plugin covered earlier, have a selection of ecommerce themes designed to work closely with their plugin.
Some popular online store themes for WordPress include:
Shelflife | WooThemes
Sliding | WooThemes
Jigotheme | Jigoshop
Coolcart | Templatic
Cleansale | Obox
Sally Store | bluchic
Luckily, we recently did a roundup of the best ecommerce themes for WordPress which covers the best options available for ensuring your online store is a success.
Taking Payments through your Online Store
Gone are the days when a merchant account was needed with a bank before you could take payments online. Now with the rise of the online payment processing services and payment gateways such as PayPal and Google Checkout, creating an online store and accepting payments from customers is a much easier task.
The plugins covered earlier include integration with a range of leading payment gateways and although with some of the them, you do have to sign up to one of the premium pricing plans for more sophisticated methods of taking payments, taking payments online can still be done very easily and cheaply.
The ability to take payments online from your customers is now largely a very simple process that even free WordPress ecommerce plugins can take care of for you.
Hopefully this guide to setting up an ecommerce website using WordPress has given you enough information to feel confident about building an online store or adding this skill to your list of services as a freelance web designer.
While the list of plugins and themes that can facilitate setting up a WordPress ecommerce site is almost endless, the items covered here should give you enough options to get started and in some cases, without spending a penny.
If you have any questions about setting up an online shop and would like to know more, please leave a comment below.