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The Definitive Guide on Setting Up an Ecommerce Site

WooCommerce has just recently hit the 7 million download mark.

That’s right, 7 million people have decided to download WooCommerce, making it the most popular WordPress plugin for developing an online store.

Does this mean you should jump right into WooCommerce if you’re planning on making an eCommerce shop?

Yea. Pretty much. Because, in this case, those people jumping off a bridge in front of you are seeing some great results.

Luckily, WooCommerce has the tools and settings to get integrated with WordPress within a few minutes, and even a beginner can design a simple store without many problems. Heck, we even have a quick guide for the best WooCommerce hacks.

However, the trick is bringing your WooCommerce site from a blank slate to a beautiful, user-friendly eCommerce powerhouse.

Many developers struggle with finding the right extensions, constructing a solid homepage or even locating the right WooCommerce theme.

Therefore, we wanted to bring you through the process from start to finish. Keep reading, and feel free to bookmark this definitive guide on WooCommerce.

It All Starts With an Incredible Theme That You Set Your Branding Around

setting up an ecommerce site choose a theme

Although the WooCommerce plugin is designed to work with any WordPress theme you currently have on your website, we highly recommend that you choose an option that was built for WooCommerce. These will include integrated spots for your product pages to show up, along with many other cool design elements that are ready for WooCommerce to be installed.

When looking for a WooCommerce theme, it’s wise to understand the basics of choosing a useful theme (such as Responsiveness, good user comments and a design that matches your branding strategy). After understanding all of that, and after you’ve found some themes that meet your standards, feel free to test them all out and make a final decision.

Where are some places you can search for cool WooCommerce themes?

What are a few of the themes we recommend?

Once you’ve selected a WooCommerce WordPress theme, it’s time to get it installed along with the WooCommerce plugin.

For the sake of this article, we’re assuming that you’ve already found a hosting account and have installed a version of WordPress onto that host. This means that you should also already have a domain.

Go to the backend of your WordPress installation, and go to Appearance > Themes.

setting up an ecommerce site theme_tab

Select the Upload button.

setting up an ecommerce site upload theme

Click on the Choose File option and find the Theme’s file that you would like to upload.

setting up an ecommerce site choose file

Wait for the unpackaging and select the Activate link.

setting up an ecommerce site activate Theme

This completes the process of installing a WooCommerce theme, but with a new website you may have to remove the Coming Soon page with one click.

setting up an ecommerce site remove coming soon

The Easy Part: Installing WooCommerce

Now that you have a beautiful theme, you can install the WooCommerce plugin. Navigate to the WooCommerce plugin website. Click on the Install button. The Free Download button works as well if you’d like to manually upload the zip file to your backend. However, for this tutorial, we’re going with the quick install.
setting up an ecommerce site install page

Select the “I Have Hosting” button.

setting up an ecommerce site hosting

Paste in the domain name of your existing WooCommerce WordPress site. You must be logged into the wp-admin area on your computer. Click on the Install button.

setting up an ecommerce site install on domain

This brings you to the backend of your WordPress site. Towards the far, bottom right corner you’ll see a tiny Install Now button. Click that.

setting up an ecommerce site install now woocomerce

Wait for the unpackaging and select the Activate Plugin link.

setting up an ecommerce site activate plugin

That’s it! You’re now ready to complete the fun stuff for your online store.

Get All of Your Non-Product Pages in Order

This part of the WooCommerce setup was more manual in the past. However, the company has inserted a handy guide for walking through the most important parts of your website. There’s no reason to take any more time to develop, so let’s walk through this process. Start by selecting the Let’s Go button.

setting up an ecommerce site full site setup guide

With most eCommerce shops, you’re going to want a considerable amount of regular pages that don’t have products on them.

WooCommerce generates four of the most essential pages, including:

  • Shop
  • Cart
  • Checkout
  • My Account

setting up an ecommerce site page setup

There’s no reason to skip this automatic step, so go ahead and have these pages generated by WooCommerce.

However, these pages are only the foundation. After constructing your product pages we also recommend creating the following pages:

  • Homepage (This is automatically created through WooCommerce)
  • Category pages
  • Email signup
  • Returns
  • Shipping
  • Support
  • Contact Us
  • Store Locator (If Needed)
  • Blog
  • Terms of Service / Privacy
  • About Us
  • FAQs
  • A security information page
  • Measurement guides / conversion charts (If Needed)
  • Jobs (If Needed)
  • Testimonials

Configure Your Store Locale in WooCommerce

Upon completed the four primary non-product pages, move onto the Store Locale area. Specify where your shop is located and select the currency you plan on using. Units also need to be punched in for product weights and dimensions. Select the Continue button once complete.

setting up an ecommerce site store locale

Setup the Shipping Settings and Tax Strategy

Shipping and taxes are often some of the more tedious parts of managing an online shop. How do you figure out how much users are going to pay depending on where they live?

Luckily, the basics are laid out for you in this section, so you can punch in how much you want to charge for shipping when sending out domestic and international packages.

Charging sales tax is often required (but we recommend looking up your local laws). Consider importing tax rates based on the location you selected above.

setting up an ecommerce site shipping and taxes

Connect a Payment Gateway

WooCommerce has an extensive list of Payment Gateways that work with the system. Some of them are free, while others you have to pay for. Similar to shipping, it depends on your location, and the restrictions that come with that.

Some of the free payment gateways we recommend are:

  • PayPal
  • Stripe
  • Amazon Payments
  • PayFast

Note: The integration is free, but you will have to incur transactional costs with each gateway.

Setup your payment gateway on the next screen. For simplicity, we’re going to go with the PayPal option, where you only have to punch in an email from your PayPal account. Click on the Continue button to proceed.

setting up an ecommerce site payment processing

Now that you’ve walked through the primary steps, continue on by creating your first product.

setting up an ecommerce site store ready create product

Creating Your First Product

You may have a list of products you’d like to import, but we figure most webmasters are going to create each item by scratch. Whether you sell digital or physical products, the steps are the same.

Begin by punching in a product title and description. Keep in mind that these are crucial for SEO.

setting up an ecommerce site add first product

The next area is the most complex, and it all depends on the type of store you’re running. Decide whether you’d like to make a Simple, Grouped, Affiliate or Variable product.

We’ll be making a Simple product, since that covers many stores.

setting up an ecommerce site simple product

Fill in a SKU number, price, sale price (if needed,) tax status and tax class.

setting up an ecommerce site general product data

The Product Short Description is another way to improve SEO and convince people to click through on products. It’s the bit of text that shows up in a product gallery or showcase. So, it’s right before a user clicks through to the primary product page.

setting up an ecommerce site short description

The product image settings are located to the right side of the screen. The Product Image is the first photo that will show up. Click on that link to upload an image.

setting up an ecommerce site product images

All of your images are uploaded the normal way you would do so through WordPress.

setting up an ecommerce site product image


Since one of the best ways to increase conversions is by having lots of high quality images, you’ll want to create a gallery. Click on the Add Product Gallery Images link to upload however many images you have for the item. We recommend at least three, but you’ll find that more is even better.

setting up an ecommerce site product gallery

Moving up a bit on the right side of the screen, we recommend placing each product in a new category. This is essential for people to search for groups of items. It’s also not a bad idea to include a few tags.

setting up an ecommerce site product categories

Upon completion of your first product, click on the Publish button (or the Preview button if you’d like to test it out).

setting up an ecommerce site publish button

As you can see, the default Shop page reveals a little thumbnail image of your item, along with the title and pricing information.

setting up an ecommerce site product in shop

When clicked on, the full product page includes everything from Reviews to Cart buttons.

setting up an ecommerce site

Establishing the Most Effective Way to Get the Rest of Your Products Displayed

Note: From here to the end of this article, most of the customization we recommend is going to depend highly on the type of theme you chose from the start. For example, we would like to tell you that setting up a slider is the same with every theme, but it’s not. Therefore, we’ll simply recommend that you insert a slider (further down in this article) and leave you to figure out the process.

Having an individual product on a WooCommerce site is actually more common than you’d think. You’ll see inventors and app designers who put all of the focus on one product, and that’s completely fine.

However, many stores are looking to display dozens, or even thousands, of products. So, you have two options:

Create Every Product Manually

setting up an ecommerce site multiple products

New stores are almost forced to do this from the start. After all, it’s not that wise to create a CSV file and import it, because you’re still doing the same amount of work.

Therefore, we recommend hiring a freelancer to punch in all of the product data. If you don’t have the money, get to work!

Import a List of Products

The other alternative comes into play if you already have a CSV list of product details. These often bring in all of the items you need, like titles, images, categories and more. Some distributors can provide you with a list, while other webmasters may be transferring over products from another store or migrating an entire shop.

Either way, consider using the WooCommerce CSV Importer plugin for the job.

setting up an ecommerce site csv importer

It only takes a few steps and allows for thousands of product uploads. Afterwards, feel free to uninstall the plugin until you need to use it again.

Work on Your Site’s Navigation Capabilities

setting up an ecommerce site navigation

Site navigation is much more than your menu. Sure, you’ll want users to see exactly where to go once landing on the website, but it’s also prudent to think about how they can find their way out of the depths of your site.

Therefore, use the list below when constructing your navigational map:

  • Menu – The menu often uses product categories and a few of the non-product pages we talked about earlier.
  • Breadcrumbs – Customers need little links to backtrack through your site and remove some of the filters they have implemented.
  • Categories – The best sites have both a category list in the sidebar and category feature pages that serve as landing pages for users and search engines.
  • Filters – The filters are often shown at all times during the shopping process. Think about the types of products you have and break them into categories, sizes, brands, colors, pricing and more.
  • Search bar – On Amazon it’s at the top of the site, while other sites have the search bar as a widget in the sidebar. This assists those who know exactly what keyword they want to search for.
  • Footer – No one wants to see your Jobs, FAQ and Privacy Policy links in the primary menu. But they are necessary, so place them in the footer.

Situating What People See First on Your Homepage

setting up an ecommerce site home page demo

The homepage is a little tricky to talk about, because it’s such a crucial part of your strategy, yet at the same time, each theme is going to have a different setup. Therefore, we’re going to provide a list of the items we think you should consider when developing a solid WooCommerce homepage:

  • Image slider
  • A unique selling proposition
  • Details on your shipping policy
  • New product listings
  • Promotional banners
  • An email subscribe form
  • An optimized menu, categories and filtering options
  • Several product collections with beautiful images
  • A search bar
  • Previews to your blog posts

Your best bet is to find a WooCommerce theme that comes with demo content to install on your site. Basically, this means that the homepage items you see on the product demo can be imported to get you started on your own site.

Configuring and Testing the Shopping Cart and Checkout

It’s funny how frequently store owners don’t even realize when a problem occurs in the shopping cart or checkout area. In fact, usually, it’s not a broken page, but a slow loading checkout.

Since the checkout is your most important funnel for selling items, it’s required to test the process out yourself, several times before launch.

setting up an ecommerce site shopping cart

Make a list of items you’d like people to check, and have third party eyes try to make purchases. Are products adding to the cart properly? Does it take forever to load the checkout page? Is there a guest checkout option?

setting up an ecommerce site checkout test

Make a Blogging Strategy

setting up an ecommerce site blogging strategy

We understand that most of our readers know about blogging. It’s included in all WordPress sites, and your WooCommerce theme should have some pretty sweet post formats for getting creative.

However, we simply wanted to recommend a few strategies for blogging with an online shop:

  • Have a link to the blog towards the top of the homepage. Far too often we see the Blog link crammed down with all of the footer links. Let people know that you’re giving away free content!
  • Post useful articles on a weekly basis. Consistency is the key to making your customers feel happy and for boosting search engine rankings.
  • Use your blog to talk about some of your products. Don’t get too crazy with this though.

Examine Your Current SEO and Improve It

The good news about SEO in WordPress and WooCommerce is that the basics are automated. So, if you feel like leaving your URLs and metadata the way they are, go for it. However, customization of your search engine data is more likely the route you want to take.

We’ve already covered WordPress SEO in this guide (along with the best SEO plugins,) so feel free to take a look at those. As for quickly optimizing your site, go with the Yoast SEO plugin.

setting up an ecommerce site yoast seo

This way, whenever you make a new blog post or product page, you can manually go in there and optimize each page for the keywords you want to target. Yoast provides an SEO score so changes can be made afterwards.

Is Your WooCommerce Site Secure? Do Your Customers Know This?

People are more paranoid than ever when buying online. They’re concerned that their information will be stolen, and they have the right to be concerned.

WooThemes has a wonderful guide on the seven steps to take for securing your eCommerce shop.

The steps include:

  • Finding a great host
  • Creating and storing strong passwords
  • Enabling two factor authentication
  • Limiting brute force attempts
  • Adding site protection
  • Managing your settings on FTP directories
  • Make plans to address all updatesThis is all fine and dandy, but how do your customers know your site is secure?

It’s recommended you include a link to a Security page in your footer. This should outline the measures you have taken to protect customer information, along with any certificates that can backup these claims. Take a look at the Zappos Security page below:

setting up an ecommerce site security page

See if Any of the WooCommerce Extensions Are Right For You

Since WooCommerce runs on WordPress, one of the cool parts is that you can opt for extensions to scale up your store.

The WPLift website provides a solid list of about 50 plugins they find useful for most online stores, while the WooCommerce extension library comes in handy if you’re looking for more recommendations that integrate perfectly with the WooCommerce platform.

As for our thoughts, consider looking for extensions that address the following issues:

  • Social media sharing and following buttons
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Product add-ons
  • Bookings
  • Subscriptions
  • Better shipping rates
  • Dynamic pricing
  • Forms
  • Invoices
  • Product Bundles

Over to You…

Whether you’re starting a WooCommerce site from scratch or trying to optimize your current build, use this ultimate guide on WooCommerce to make it the best you can. Selling both digital and physical products is possible with the free plugin, and you have the opportunity to test, develop and learn from mistakes as you go.

If you have any additions to this list, please feel free to leave us a comment in the section below.


  • avatar image

    Nebulas Website Design

    12 May 2016

    Great and detailed post thank you will definitely be sharing this.

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    12 May 2016

    What do you suggest for a hosting solution that will be able to handle a 1000 SKU ecom store?

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    john divramis

    12 May 2016

    Hello, how about the size and colour in woocommerce? Do you have any ideas or a good plugin?

    • avatar image


      13 May 2016

      Hi John, You can change color with the help of this plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/color-filters/ As for the size, you can do it manually in the Product variations. Also, there is a paid plugin https://yithemes.com/themes/plugins/yith-woocommerce-color-and-label-variations/. Hope that helped.

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    John Paul

    16 May 2016

    Thanks for this in depth help information. It will be extremely useful for the project I have underway.

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    Gabriela_Get Bowtied Team

    17 May 2016

    Thanks for adding two of our themes, Shopkeeper and The Retailer, to your list of recommendations. We appreciate it. :)

  • avatar image


    17 Jul 2016

    Such a detailed guide for building an eCommerce site. It's indeed beginner friendly and easily understandable. Thanks for sharing.

    • avatar image


      20 Jul 2016

      Thank you. Consider sharing it with your friends on Facebook or tweeter.

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The Definitive Guide on Setting Up an Ecommerce Site