You can learn how to sell on WordPress in seven simple steps. The process starts with setting up your domain, choosing the right ecommerce plugin, listing products to sell, and managing orders and shipments. As your store grows, you will also need tools and resources to help expand your WordPress site.
Here’s how to sell on WordPress in seven steps:
1. Choose a Domain & WordPress Site Hosting
Selling on WordPress requires that you set up your domain name (such as YourBusiness.com). While you can change your domain name down the road, it can be difficult learning how to redirect traffic to your new name. It’s best to pick a name that you plan on using for a long time. Many times your website host will provide a domain name for free.
Your website host is where your business website will live. Popular website hosts include Bluehost and Automattic. Another popular website host is Dreamhost. They provide a free domain name and site builder for as little as $2.59 per month.
Here are some considerations for choosing a domain name and WordPress hosting:
- Try to use a .com domain name instead of something like .net, as the latter can seem low quality.
- Hosts that allow 1-click installation make it easy to add WordPress without digging through a lot of documentation.
- While you can change website hosts down the road, pick a host that will grow with you. By anticipating your future needs, you’ll save yourself the hassle of switching hosts later on.
2. Pick a WordPress Ecommerce Shopping Cart Plugin
After you have your domain and WordPress hosting set up for your small business website, you need to add ecommerce functions to your WordPress site. For this, use a WordPress shopping cart plugin. This lets you list products for sale, accept orders, apply taxes and shipping charges, process online payments, offer coupons, and communicate with customers, all on your WordPress site.
The type of WordPress ecommerce plugin you need depends on the types of products you sell and how you want to sell them. You can sell digital downloads off blog posts, have a storefront full of items that ship, and even manage online memberships, as long as you have the right ecommerce plugin.
5 Top WordPress Ecommerce Plugins
There are many WordPress ecommerce plugins available to give small businesses a way to be more efficient while also increasing sales. These include plugins for those selling digital products and subscriptions, businesses selling on multiple channels, and businesses that use blog posts and pages as their product’s sales pages.
Here are the five best plugins that help you with selling on WordPress:
- WooCommerce: This plugin provides businesses with a robust online storefront or store section. The plugin is free, although you may want additional extensions that range from free to $249 per year.
- Easy Digital Downloads: You can easily sell digital downloads with this plugin. It’s free to get started, but prices go up to $499 per year with additional extensions.
- WP Simple PayPal Shopping Cart: Businesses can add buy buttons to their WordPress blog posts with this free plugin.
- Cart66: For $19 per month, businesses can have a subscription or membership site on their WordPress site.
- Ecwid: Plans start at free and go up to $99 per month, and the plugin allows you to sell across multiple sites, social channels, and in-store.
One of the most popular ecommerce plugins, WooCommerce allows businesses to have a full-featured storefront or store section on their WordPress site. Create item pages for each product, categorize them, and display them as a story section on your blog or as a complete storefront.
This plugin is great for anyone who wants to sell physical or digital items, or a mixture of both. It is compatible with many different themes, which are like templates for WordPress sites. You may also choose a great-looking free or a $39 premium WooThemes theme if you’re launching a new store or looking to upgrade your existing WordPress blog.
Without any add-ons or extensions, WooCommerce has a lot of functionality. It works with your WordPress theme, which means you don’t need to change your site design to use it. Most businesses only need the basic version, which lets them sell physical or digital products, collect payments using PayPal, accept coupons, and factor in flat rate shipping and taxes. Customers will each get their own account where they view orders, and if they have digital products, they are able to download them from their customer dashboard.
While it’s quite robust for a free plugin, users can add greater functionality to WooCommerce using over 400 extensions. Some of these are free, and others go up to $249 per year. These extensions let businesses do things like integrate shipping carriers with stores, create subscriptions, and manage inventory. Popular extensions include ShipStation, WooCommerce Subscriptions, and Mailchimp.
Easy Digital Downloads Plugin
If you sell digital goods like music, e-books, photos, membership sites, and courses, the Easy Digital Downloads plugin is a great ecommerce solution for your business. The plugin is free, includes everything necessary to power an ecommerce store, and even lets you accept payments using PayPal and Amazon Payments. You can create item pages for each product, categorize them, and display them in a store section on your blog or as a gallery-style storefront.
Additional functions are possible through the use of add-ons and extensions. Some of these are free, while others are typically less than $100. When buying extensions, you’re paying for licensing and support on a subscription basis, so you can expect to pay these prices annually. Popular extensions include Recurring Payments, Stripe Payment Gateway, and Software Licensing.
You may also purchase packages of extensions called Passes. Bundled based on your goals, examples of passes include the $499 All Access Pass, which works best for agencies and freelancers who do work for clients. Your best bet is to look through the individual extension catalog and make a list of the extensions you want. Also note which Pass bundle, if any, these extensions are in. If there are several extensions you want that happen to be in the same bundle, you might save money by going with the Pass.
WP Simple PayPal Shopping Cart Plugin
Bloggers who prefer to sell products and services directly from blog posts and pages should use WP Simple PayPal Shopping Cart plugin. Essentially, each blog post or page gets treated as a sales page. This plugin is free and works with any WordPress theme.
When working on a post, use this plugin to create a short piece of code, called a shortcode, which you paste into any blog post or page. This adds an Add to Cart buy button and links to the PayPal shopping cart. Customers are able to add one or multiple items to their cart, and finish their order via PayPal using a credit card or their PayPal account. After the sale, print shipping labels directly from PayPal for physical products. If a customer buys a digital product, they’ll download those items straight from your site.
While there are no extensions with this plugin, there are integrations available. For example, if you want to sell photographs from your gallery, you will use NextGen Photo Gallery plugin as an integration with the WP Simple PayPal Shopping Cart.
To sell physical goods, digital items, subscriptions, and memberships, you’ll want to use the Cart66 plugin. You’re even able to take donations and sell through social media sites like Facebook. Manage orders, inventory, and shipping, all from one dashboard. This plugin starts at $19 per month and goes up to $49 per month. Also, it works with any theme, so you can turn any post or page into a product page.
For the base plan, you have the ability to do things like sell e-books, have unlimited product variations, and sell event tickets. With the more comprehensive $49 per month plan, businesses get an email marketing system, live inventory control, and real-time shipping rate calculations.
Cart66 integrates with both PayPal and Stripe, although you can also use your own merchant account. After the sale, compare shipping rates and print labels right on the dashboard through its integration with third-party shipping service EasyPost.
The ability to sell physical or digital items, or a mixture of both, straight from WordPress, in-store, or from a social media site, makes Ecwid a popular plugin. If you’re looking for a seamless multichannel ecommerce platform, this is a good plugin for you.
The free basic version of Ecwid enables businesses to have an online store, a mobile responsive shopping cart, and the ability to sell simultaneously on multiple sites. This is helpful for businesses with sister sites because you only need to manage one store from a single dashboard.
More enhanced plans include the ability to sell via social media, point-of-sale (POS), and through your own branded iOS or Android shopping app. If you have a physical store, Ecwid also integrates seamlessly with Clover, Square, and Vend POS systems to manage all sales and inventory in one place.
You’ll create item pages for each product, categorize them, and display them on your WordPress site. Ecwid works with many WordPress themes and allows payments through popular gateways like PayPal and Stripe.
3. Select a WordPress Theme
A WordPress theme sets the overall look and functionality of your site. Many WordPress ecommerce plugins work with any WordPress theme, but some plugins work and look best with a compatible theme, like Storefront made for WooCommerce.
Some WordPress ecommerce plugins, such as WooCommerce, offer their own themes. This makes setting up a new store quick and easy. Or, you can find a huge selection of ecommerce plugin-compatible themes on ThemeForest, the largest marketplace for WordPress themes.
A popular theme that works with most shopping cart plugins is Divi by Elegant Themes. While it’s not free and has a learning curve if you’re new to WordPress, it offers unlimited customization options. It’s great for businesses looking for an attractive ecommerce store.
4. Configure Your Payments & Shipping
After downloading and installing your WordPress ecommerce plugin through your WordPress dashboard, configure your store data in the plugin’s settings. This is where you’ll control basic information such as your store’s name, payment processing methods, sales tax rates, and coupons.
Each plugin gets configured differently, but most are intuitive and simple to learn. You won’t need to change every setting before starting to sell. Instead, make sure you have your payments, shipping, sales tax, and store contact information set up. Many states also require customer service, privacy, and shipping pages that detail how each get handled.
Set Up Payments in Your WordPress Ecommerce Store
Online payment services process online payments for your store. Payment services include point-of-sale (POS) systems, your own merchant account, and all-in-one payment processors. The payment processor you should choose depends on your business’ needs.
Here are your online payment service options:
- All-in-one payment processors: All-in-one payment processors like PayPal and Stripe combine a payment gateway and processing in one service. Most startups opt for these since they are an easy, secure way to get started selling products in a WordPress store and work with most shopping cart plugins.
- Your own merchant account: If you already have a credit card processor or process more than $10,000 in payments each month, you may get better rates using your own merchant services provider and payment gateway. However, you may also need to meet the Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance standards, which is why many small and mid-sized businesses stick with PayPal and Stripe.
- Point-of-sale (POS) systems: If you already accept credit cards in your retail store or use a POS system, you can likely connect your WordPress Store and in-store sales in one system. Many other popular POS systems work with most WordPress ecommerce plugins.
Once you’ve decided on your payment provider, you’ll set up payment methods in the ecommerce plugin settings. Most payment methods require a “key” or “token,” which creates the connection between your store and the merchant processor. The plugin has fields for you to enter this information in the payment settings, and you’ll get these keys, or tokens, from your provider. After setup, you can run test payments by enabling the test, or “sandbox” mode, in your provider’s settings before going live.
Establish Shipping Rates in Your WordPress Ecommerce Store
Shipping options and charges are set up in the ecommerce plugin settings, usually under “Shipping” settings. The method of shipping you choose depends largely on your particular business needs and what your competition is doing.
Shipping charges are generally applied to orders in one of three ways:
- Flat-fee shipping: The same shipping fee applies to every order or added on a per-item basis.
- Table-based shipping rates: Shipping rates apply based on the total order value. Free Shipping can easily apply for orders over a certain value using table rates.
- Actual or real-time shipping rates: Shipping rates calculate in real-time using UPS, FedEx, and USPS rates.
If you’re in a highly competitive market and shipping bulky or heavy items, charging customers actual rates may hurt sales. Shipping is expensive, and many customers have no idea of the actual costs. Flat-fee or table-based rates are the most customer-friendly choice if your profit margin can absorb the shipping costs. However, if you sell unique, one-of-a-kind, or upscale items with little competition, charging actual rates can still be a profitable choice.
5. Enter Product Data Into Your WordPress Store
Once you’ve completed your WordPress store setup, you will enter your product information. Most shopping cart plugins include basic fields in the product entry screen. These fields include product ID, stock keeping unit (SKU), item name, price, product variables (such as color and size), description, and images.
Product entry can be time-consuming, so it’s helpful to get organized before tackling this task. Assembling product information in a spreadsheet or Word document beforehand is helpful, as is having product images sized, cropped, and organized in files for easy upload.
There are a few considerations to keep in mind when inputting product data:
- Product data importing: If you need to add many products to your site, you can use an import function. Most WordPress shopping cart plugins have an import feature that allows you to bulk import product data from a comma-separated values (CSV) file, which you can create in most spreadsheet programs.
- Product weights and inventory: Many shopping cart plugins include optional product data fields, such as item weight and size for shipping purposes and product counts for inventory tracking. Your business may or may not need to use these fields. If you charge shoppers flat-rate shipping fees or offer free shipping, then these fields probably won’t matter to you. If you use actual or real-time shipping rates to determine shipping charges, you need to fill in weight and size data for accurate shipping charges to apply.
- Inventory: You may manage inventory manually within various shopping cart plugins. Otherwise, you can use a back-end inventory system like Ordoro. To update inventory fields with accurate counts, you can also use QuickBooks
Even if you don’t use all of the plugin’s features at first, you’ll find it’s nice to have these product data options already built in as you grow.
Set Up SEO-friendly URLs
”When you are utilizing WooCommerce (an ecommerce plugin for WordPress), make sure your URL is SEO-friendly. This can drive a lot of organic traffic to your website if it’s optimized properly. For example, if you are selling vintage NHL gear of a former player, your URL should be something similar to the following: /wayne-gretzky-vintage-oiler-t-shirts. You’d be amazed how many WordPress ecommerce sites botch the URL when that’s one of the most important search engine optimization (SEO) components.”
– Jason Parks, President, The Media Captain
6. Process & Ship Your WordPress Store Orders
Most WordPress ecommerce plugins collect and store your customer order information. This is usually accessible through the plugin’s dashboard on WordPress. As orders come in, you can manage them by doing things like printing invoices, processing payments, and sending order updates.
Here are the different ways to manage store orders from a typical ecommerce dashboard:
- Search for orders and customers
- Print invoices and packing slips
- Change orders or enter phone orders
- Process payments and refunds
- Create internal notes on orders
- Email order updates to customers
The final order processing step is printing a shipping label. How you manage this process depends on the ecommerce plugin and shipping solution you choose, but most make the process quick and easy.
For example, some shopping cart plugins, like Cart66, print shipping labels within the plugin dashboard. Others, like Ecwid and WooCommerce, require a third-party shipping service, such as ShippingEasy, ShipStation, or Ordoro, to print labels.
Whichever solution you choose, it connects to your WordPress ecommerce plugin so you can download orders, compare shipping costs, print labels, upload tracking numbers, and send emails to your customers, all in a seamless process.
7. Scale With WordPress Extensions & Specialty Plugins
Most small stores can manage orders, shipping, inventory, and other tasks within the WordPress ecommerce plugin dashboard. As you grow, you’ll likely need advanced features like high-volume or multichannel order and inventory management, email marketing campaign integration, and mobile app selling.
Many WordPress ecommerce plugins offer expanded functionality through add-on features called extensions. These generally come with added costs, but if you need the feature to support a growing business, they can be worth investing in. If your WordPress ecommerce plugin doesn’t expand to support needed features, you can also find what you need via specialized plugins that provide things like dropshipping support, print-on-demand integration, and abandoned cart emails.
Plugins bring unlimited capabilities to WordPress, making it an ideal platform for growing a business. With added features, you can improve day-to-day operations, increase productivity, and scale to support seasonal demand or sales spikes as your business grows. Even if your business doesn’t need advanced features and functionalities now, knowing the capabilities of plugins, add-ons, and extensions will meet the demand when the time comes.
Benefits of Using WordPress for Ecommerce
WordPress is one of the most popular platforms for ecommerce sites because of its open-source software allowing third parties to create helpful extensions and add-ons. Many beginners enjoy using all of the free options for starting a store with WordPress, as well as the ability to scale their store with additional integrations as their business and profits allow. Starting small and scaling later creates a lower barrier of entry for these new ecommerce businesses.
Similarly, those seasoned in the art of ecommerce stores prefer WordPress because of its ability to serve many purposes. For example, WordPress can host your blog, videos, corporate website, and portfolio. With the right skills, your WordPress website and ecommerce store can evolve into just about anything.
How to Select Products for Selling on WordPress
The product you should sell on WordPress may take some time to figure out. There are a lot of considerations to think about, such as what your niche is, what you’re passionate about, and if you want to have physical or digital products. When you’ve decided on a product, you may discover that your ideal client isn’t all that interested in it. You might even launch several products and find they aren’t profitable. On the other hand, you may find success on your first try.
Products with the following specifications are a good place to start:
- Evergreen items, meaning they’re not holiday-specific
- Lightweight, easy, and cheap to ship—two to three pounds maximum, including packing materials and box
- Simple, unbreakable items that won’t break during shipping or in use
- Sales price between $10 and $50
- Wholesale cost is 25% to 35% of your sale price
- Expansion opportunities into complementary products so they can bundle later on
You can make the products yourself or source them using a marketplace like Alibaba. Factor in your expenses, time, and storage when deciding on a price for your product. Learning how to sell on WordPress in a way that’s profitable is important. Your products can help fund your store’s expansion, so it’s important to plan for profit instead of it being an afterthought.
Testing Your WordPress Ecommerce Store
After you’ve learned how to sell on WordPress and your store goes live, your work isn’t done. Testing your WordPress ecommerce store for conversion is one of the most important things you should do after your store goes live. The reason for this is because you want to identify what is working well in your store and what needs to be tweaked. Business owners do this by A/B split testing. The A/B part of split testing means Test A and Test B.
When split testing, you show a copy of your site that has a single change compared to the existing version to see which performs best. The site version with the highest clicks, conversions, or traffic—depending on your goal—is the version you keep. The key to split testing is to test one change at a time, rather than several things at once, so you know which specific change to make.
As a store owner, you don’t necessarily have to guess which things to test on your site. There are tools like Freshmarketer that use polls, session recordings, and funnel analysis to determine which changes to make. Freshmarketer also uses heat maps, which show a summary of where visitors click and scroll. Use this information to test placement of calls to action like buy buttons and sign-up forms.
Split testing should run for one to two weeks, depending on the amount of traffic your store gets. If your store doesn’t have a lot of traffic, you may need to run it much longer than this to get a better sample of data.
Marketing Your WordPress Ecommerce Store
There are many ways to succeed in ecommerce. You first need to expose your products and services to your audience, and then to new audiences. This is done by holding contests and using social media. You’ll need to capture email addresses and send out newsletters to your list. In these newsletters, include links to landing pages that show your products and services. You can also offer referral incentives.
These are some marketing suggestions for selling on WordPress:
- Create landing pages: When a visitor comes to your WordPress site, you want them to go to a landing page. These pages have no other links or information—it strictly talks about the product or service you’re promoting.
- Promote through email: One of the first things you should do is create an email list to update your clients and potential clients about new offerings. Social media platforms come and go, while your email list stays with you.
- Use social media: Share your products and services on social media, but don’t make that all you do there. Give followers a look behind-the-scenes so they know you’re not a robot behind a computer.
- Hold contests: One of the best ways to go viral is through holding contests. Be sure to follow the rules of each social media platform if you hold your contest on one—some prohibit you from requiring them to like or share your post.
Leverage the Power of Referrals
“My favorite marketing strategy is leveraging the power of referral. On the product sales page, I’ll present them with a social sharing button that has a unique tracking code and I’ll ask them to share it. In return, for every five sales they referred, I will ship the product to them for free, so they can either pay for the product or refer five sales to me.
“This strategy is working very well for me. Even though some people don’t feel like buying, they will still happily share my products on their social platforms to try out their luck.”
– GS, Founder, BrizFeel
Bottom Line – How to Sell on WordPress
WordPress ecommerce stores offer a versatile and low-cost online selling solution for businesses. When learning how to sell on WordPress, it’s important to review WordPress ecommerce plugins, payment processors, and shipping providers to find the best combination for your needs and budget. Once your WordPress store is up and running, you can easily expand functionality using ecommerce plugin extensions and specialty plugins.