Learning how to sell on WordPress starts with setting up a domain, choosing the right ecommerce plugin, listing products to sell, and managing orders and shipments. Then, grow your WordPress ecommerce business with plugins and marketing tools. Expect to spend several hundred dollars upfront on hosting and plugins to get your WordPress store up and running.
1. Choose a Domain Name and Website Hosting
Before you can start selling on a WordPress website, you need to choose a domain name (such as YourBusiness.com) and website hosting. Your website host is where your business website will live—it’s also where you purchase the domain name. Bluehost is one of the most popular hosting options for WordPress websites, especially ecommerce sites.
When 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.
- Use a host that allows 1-click installation (such as Bluehost) for easy setup.
- Pick a host that will grow with you. By anticipating your future needs, you’ll save yourself the hassle of switching hosts later on.
- Choose your name carefully. You can change your domain name down the road, but it can be difficult to learn how to redirect traffic to your new name.
2. Install WordPress and an Ecommerce Plugin
After you have your domain and WordPress hosting, the next step is to install WordPress. If you use a hosting service like Bluehost with 1-click installation, log in through your hosting provider, and add a new WordPress site. For example, in Bluehost, click “Add a website” under the Marketplace tab. Then enter your site name and select the domain you already purchased. And that’s it—you’ve installed WordPress.
If you are using a different hosting service that does not have a 1-click installation, you will need to download WordPress (from WordPress.org, not WordPress.com) and install the bundle on your site.
Choose and Install a Shopping Cart Plugin
With WordPress installed on your domain, it’s time to add ecommerce functionality with a shopping cart plugin. Shopping cart plugins can list products for sale, accept orders, apply taxes and shipping charges, 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.
Here are the five best plugins that help you with selling on WordPress:
- WooCommerce: (Best Overall) WooCommerce is the most popular WordPress ecommerce solution with over 5 million active installations. It provides businesses with a robust online storefront or store section. WooCommerce is also open-source, free to use, and has plenty of integrations and add-ons for payment processing, shipping, and more.
- Easy Digital Downloads: Best for digital goods like e-books, music, and courses. It’s free to get started, but prices go up to $499 per year with additional extensions.
- WP Simple PayPal Shopping Cart: Best “buy button” for bloggers and affiliate sites. Businesses can add buy buttons to their WordPress blog posts with this free plugin.
- Ecwid: Best user-friendly shopping cart plugin. This close-sourced shopping cart software has free and paid plans that allow you to sell across multiple sites, social channels, and in-store.
3. Select a Theme
A WordPress theme or template sets the overall look and functionality of your small business website. 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 themes, which makes setting up a new store quick and easy. Or, you can find a vast 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. It’s not free, but Divi offers unlimited customization opportunities through both a drag-and-drop builder and CSS control. So, it’s great for businesses looking for an attractive ecommerce store no matter what your programming skills are.
4. Set Up Payment Processing & Store Settings
After installing a theme and customizing the appearance of your website, set up the back-end procedures, including payment processing, shipping, and sales tax settings. Many states also require specific customer service, privacy, and shipping pages outlining policies and procedures.
Choosing a Payment Processor
Online payment services process online payments for your store. Payment services include merchant accounts 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.
- Merchant accounts: If you already have a credit card processor or process more than $10,000 in payments each month, you may get better rates using a traditional merchant services account and payment gateway.
Tip: Regardless of how you accept credit cards, you need to make sure your business is Payment Card Industry (PCI) PCI compliant—including filling out the required annual self-assessment questionnaire and attestation of compliance.
Set Up Payment Methods
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.
Add Alternative Payment Options
In addition to accepting traditional credit and debit card payments, adding more user-friendly options can increase your online store’s conversion rate:
- PayPal: A PayPal study showed a 47% higher conversion on sites that accepted PayPal Express Checkout. Many shoppers already have a PayPal account. In addition to being a 1-click checkout, many shoppers view PayPal as a more secure payment option than typing in card information.
- eWallet checkouts: These 1-click checkout options, like Apple Pay and Google Pay, make it easy for customers to purchase without having to type in card number or shipping addresses. Most online payment processors, including Stripe and Square, have options to enable eWallet payments.
- Installment options: Payment plans allow customers to pay for goods over time, which typically translates to higher average orders and increased conversion rates. WooCommerce has a Deposits plugin for creating custom plans, other plugins like Splitit let retailers collect the total sale amount upfront.
5. Establish Shipping Policies
After payment processing, the next step is setting up shipping functions. Navigate to your ecommerce plugin, and there should be a tab or option for “shipping” under general settings or order management. The best method of shipping depends 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.
Shipping Rates & Sales
If you’re in a highly competitive market and shipping bulky or heavy items, charging customers the actual shipping 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.
6. 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: Make sure to turn on stock tracking, so your inventory counts are automatically updated as products sell. Automated stock tracking helps prevent sales of out-of-stock items, and knowing when to re-order or make new products.
7. Process and Ship Orders
Most WordPress ecommerce plugins collect and store your customer order information. You can easily see the status of orders such as “Processing,” “Completed,” or “Refunded.” All orders marked as “Processing,” or “In Progress,” need to be fulfilled.
Fulfilling an order includes:
- Print the invoice and packing slip
- Package the product securely in a box or padded envelope with cushioning
- Set up order tracking or notify the customer their order is on the way
- Print the shipping label
- Ship the product
- Mark the order as “Completed”
The details in how you manage this process depend on the ecommerce plugin and shipping solution you choose. Most WordPress ecommerce plugins have basic tools for managing orders. However, make the process easier, by installing a shipping plugin like ShipStation that streamlines operations with auto-generated shipping labels, deep USPS discounts, tools to set up email notifications for customers, and a branded tracking system.
8. Grow Your Ecommerce Store with Plugins
To grow an ecommerce site, you need a multi-pronged approach to marketing that includes search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, email marketing, a social media presence, excellent customer service, and a snappy website.
Achieve a multi-pronged marketing and growth strategy with help from free and inexpensive plugins:
- Store features: Improve the shopping experience for your customers with features like product search, wish lists, waitlists, and photo reviews. WooCommerce offers many of these add-ons for one-time fees ranging from $29 – $129.
- Performance boosters: Add plugins such as Yoast to manage your site’s SEO so customers can find your store more easily. Cache static elements of your site using plugins like WP Super Cache for faster load times, and compress images to boost site performance.
- Analytics: Use a Google Analytics plugin like MonsterInsights to see how customers are finding your ecommerce site, what they click on, and other helpful insights.
- Email marketing: Mailchimp is a free plugin for WooCommerce and WordPress that lets you set up automated campaigns for abandoned carts, product recommendations, and post-purchase follow-ups.
- Live chat: Add plugins like LiveChat or Freshdesk to connect with customers via live chat on your website to engage shoppers and provide faster service.
WordPress Ecommerce Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Building any WordPress website requires excellent attention to detail and if you are new to WordPress, a willingness to learn some technical skills. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions around selling on WordPress.
How do I test my WordPress site?
Testing your WordPress ecommerce store allows you 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 the 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.
How should I market my WordPress ecommerce site?
Here are a few tips for marketing your WordPress store:
- Send newsletters: Capture customers’ email addresses and send out regular newsletters with product updates, referral incentives, and links to blog posts.
- 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.
What are the benefits of using WordPress for ecommerce?
WordPress is one of the most popular platforms for ecommerce sites because its open-source software allows 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 do I select products to sell?
Start by considering what your niche is, what you’re passionate about, and if you want to have physical or digital products. Then, gauge customer interest with surveys, polls, or focus groups.
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—2 pounds to 3 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.
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.