WooCommerce now powers 30 percent of all online stores across 10 million sites. WooCommerce has earned this market position in just four years — a testament to its strength as an e-commerce platform.
What makes an e-commerce platform?
While you can sell items through some integrations online with payment processing services, the ability to take a credit card and provide a transaction doesn't mean that the solution is an e-commerce solution. E-commerce solutions have the following key features:
- Product pages that provide multiple views and levels of product specifications, along with dynamic pricing capabilities and quantity adjustments.
- Shopping cart — a page or object that contains all of the items added during the shopping session. Users can update quantities or delete items.
- Checkout page — a conversion point where users can provide payment information and submit an order for fulfillment.
- Account pages — the ability for a customer to set up an account, view orders, and manage pertinent contact, delivery and payment information.
- Payment integration — the ability to accept and process credit card data, or integrate with a system like PayPal, Amazon Payments or Stripe that provides that service.
WooCommerce provides all of these features elegantly within the WordPress platform.
WooCommerce is a free plugin, with hundreds of extensions that extend its capabilities to inventory management, payment gateways, point-of-sale systems, shipping, subscriptions, reporting and many external products or internal features.
One incredible feature of WooCommerce is that it will also automatically utilize your page template to create its product page, account page, shopping cart and checkout page. Of course, WooCommerce also offers a robust API that enables the user to customize each of those pages. A number of popular themes include WooCommerce-friendly template pages.
Install an SSL certificate
A key step before configuring WooCommerce is to install an SSL certificate. Security and encryption are critical when processing credit card or account data. Installing an SSL certificate can be a fairly technical process — unless you've signed up with GoDaddy Managed WordPress hosting on an Ultimate or Developer Package. In those cases, you can apply your SSL certificate easily to your WordPress instance from your My Account screen.
A properly installed SSL Certificate and SSL connection ensures that any communication between the user and the server is encrypted and not sent in clear text.
WooCommerce has an entire video series and detailed documentation that can assist you in installing, configuring and optimizing WooCommerce for your site. For the purpose of this post, though, we want to jump-start you and get you selling your first product!
We've shared detailed articles on How to Install Plugins, so we expect that you understand how to do that already. This plugin is a bit different, though, in that the first time you activate it, it launches a setup wizard to make things easier for you.
1. Search for WooCommerce.
2. Activate the WooCommerce plugin.
3. Click Run the Setup Wizard.
The setup will now generate the necessary pages we discussed earlier — the cart, the checkout, the shop page and the account page.
4. Click Continue.
5. Set up the location defaults for your online store.
6. Configure your shipping and tax settings.
7. Configure how you would like to receive payments.
Some options are provided out of the box, like PayPal, invoicing, cash on delivery or bank transfer. If you wish to process credit cards, you'll most likely need to purchase a payment gateway extension.
Setting up products in WooCommerce
Your store is now configured! Next steps are just setting up products and getting ready to retire in the Bahamas. (Your experience may vary).
Setting up a product is similar to setting up a page or post, just with many more options to configure. We recommend preplanning your store, your categories, and taking some amazing photos of your products, as well as providing rich descriptions of the products or services you'll be selling online.
Capture sales data and traffic metrics
You're not done quite yet! To monitor and improve your store sales, it's essential that you install and configure a plugin to add e-commerce metrics and data capture to your Google Analytics account. Install the WooCommerce Google Analytics Integration.
Paid marketing, re-marketing, abandoned shopping carts, upsells, related products and other topics are just a few in the lexicon of e-commerce marketing. Don't just set up your page and expect people to come and spend money; you've got to get savvy in marketing your products and increasing their value to your customers. I would highly recommend reading and subscribing to the WooCommerce blog and enabling Sidekick, a plugin for virtual learning that supports WooCommerce.
Learn about the four types of SSL certificates available: