Last updated on March 26th, 2019 at 06:56 pm
Online shopping has completely changed how consumers find and purchase their products over the past decade.
Running an online store can lead to financial success and a satisfying career, but it can also be difficult if you don’t know where to start.
Many people don’t realize that starting an online store is actually very easy to do, even if you don’t have advanced technical skills. All you need is a domain name and a way to host your store.
There are many web platforms out there that support online stores and provide you with all the tools you need to start one, such as WordPress’s WooCommerce or Shopify.
Choosing a Platform
The first step to setting up your own online store is choosing a hosting platform that supports online sales. There are pros and cons to each option, depending on what you need for your store.
Shopify is a very popular online store platform, because it comes with everything you need to run a store without much hassle.
They offer a variety of packages and plugins that you can use to customize the store, and it is very easy to set up.
However, all this convenience can be very expensive in the long run, which means that it’s not always the best choice for those who are just getting started in online sales.
Another popular platform for creating an online store is WooCommerce. WooCommerce is run by WordPress, which is one of the world’s largest platforms for website and blog creation.
WooCommerce is a great choice because it is very affordable. We also love WooCommerce because it is very flexible and customizable, so you can use it to fit your personal sales needs.
It can take longer to set up than Shopify, but it is not difficult to operate and results in a beautiful and easy-to-use online store.
Getting Started with WooCommerce and BlueHost
To create an online store using WooCommerce, you will need a web host, domain name, and SSL certificate. This gives your store a home on the internet.
The domain name is the address that visitors type in to access your store. It is important to have a good domain name, because customers will be more likely to visit your store if it has a domain name that is easy to remember.
The SSL certificate is essentially a tool that gives your shop increased security.
This ensures that your financial transactions are secure and safe for both you and your customers.
You are required to have an SSL certificate to take credit card payments online. Finally, you’ll need a web host. Web hosts provide a space for your site to live online, and essentially keep the site up and running.
All of these things can get very expensive over time, particularly for entrepreneurs who are just starting out. It can also be difficult to find good providers for all three of these essentials.
We recommend using BlueHost, which is recommended by WordPress and WooCommerce. Essentially, BlueHost provides you with a domain name, SSL certificate, and web hosting services for as low as $11.95 per month.
This is a great way to get started with one convenient package. To start using BlueHost, all you have to do is go to their website and select a plan. There are a few different plans to choose from to meet your needs.
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Once you’ve chosen your plan, setting up your site is very simple. The first step is to choose a domain name and then head to the cPanel with your new login. This is where you will set up your store.
Once you’ve accessed your site, you will notice that WordPress and WooCommerce are pre-installed for you.
It does come with a setup wizard that will help you through the process of putting your site together. However, you won’t necessarily need to use it, as it is quite simple to set up your own site.
The first step is to give your site a title and description. That lets visitors know the name of the site and what they can expect to find. You can do this by clicking on the Settings tab and then choosing the General subtab.
Next, you’ll need to activate your SSL certificate so that your site can host secure transactions. On the same General settings page, just go to the website URL and change it so that it starts with ‘https’ instead of ‘http’.
This tells the site to run the SSL certificate. Then, scroll down to the bottom of the page and save your changes. Your site is now functional, and it’s time to customize it so you can start selling.
Using WooCommerce to Customize Your Store
To activate WooCommerce, go to your WordPress dashboard. You should see a purple tab asking you to run the WooCommerce setup wizard. Select this option to start setting up your store.
The WooCommerce setup wizard will run. First, you will automatically create essential pages for running an online store.
Including Shop (which displays your products), Cart, Checkout, and My Account. These pages streamline the customer shopping experience.
Next, you’ll need to enter in your store’s home location and select a currency. You’ll also select other unit measurements that are most used in your location to display with products when applicable.
You’ll then need to decide whether you will need to offer shipping and whether you will need to charge sales tax.
If you are selling physical goods, you will need to activate the shipping option, which automatically creates shipping forms for customers to fill out when they purchase a product.
Keep in mind that you’ll legally need to charge sales tax if you are based in a state or country that requires them.
WooCommerce will automatically calculate and add in the sales tax for you when customers make a purchase, based on the location information that you gave them previously.
The final step of the basic setup is choosing what types of payments you will accept. The setup wizard gives you the option of using PayPal or Stripe to accept payments on your site.
Both accept credit cards, while PayPal also accepts payments from user’s online PayPal accounts. If you would like to add other payment methods to your store, you can install them later on, as WooCommerce does support a wide variety of payment methods.
Stocking Your Store: Adding Products to Your Site
Now that your basic store pages and functions have been created, the next step is to add products to your site so you can start selling. The process of adding products to your site using WordPress is very straightforward.
After finishing the setup wizard, you will need to go back to your WordPress dashboard. On the toolbar on the left-hand side, you should see a tab labeled Products. Select that and then select the Add New subtab.
On this page, you will need to fill out a title for your product, as well as a detailed description. This process is very self-explanatory.
You can then scroll down to add more product data. This is where you will enter pricing for the product, as well as your current inventory, shipping information, and more.
You can also create categories for your products. We recommend sorting your products into categories, as this makes it much easier for your customers to find what they are looking for.
Select the Categories subtab, and then there will be an option to add a new product category. All you have to do is enter the name you’d like for the category, and then you can sort all of your products into it.
You will also need to enter a short description for the product that will show up when users hover over the product on the home page or a category page.
It is important to have good short descriptions, because this is often what entices people to want to learn more about the product.
To complete your product listing, you need to add pictures of the product. This is another very crucial element of the user experience. All you have to do is go to the product gallery and click on it to add featured photos from your computer.
To make a product live on your website, click the Publish button at the bottom of the product page. You can always go back to the products later and add more details or changes as necessary.
Choosing a Theme For Your Site
The theme is a very important aspect of your site, because it is what controls how the site looks to the user.
WordPress offers a huge variety of highly professional and appealing themes to choose from.
When you start your site with BlueHost, they automatically install the StoreFront theme to your site. This basic theme makes it so that customers can start shopping right away.
You can choose to either customize this theme, or look for another theme that better fits your needs. There are thousands of WordPress themes available online. Some themes are free, while others cost money.
To change your theme, go to the Appearance tab, and then click on the Themes subtab. There you will be able to browse tons of available WordPress and WooCommerce themes to use. You can search to find a theme that fits your store.
If you want to stick with the StoreFront theme, you can go to Appearance and then click the Customize subtab. You will then be given several options to help you change the way the theme looks and operates.
These customization options are available for all themes. They are very easy and straightforward to use, and take the guesswork out of customizing your own online store.
You can continue to customize your WordPress site using plugins. Plugins are the easiest way to add extra tools to your website that enhance the way that it looks and runs. There are plugins available for both WordPress and WooCommerce.
Comparing WooCommerce and Shopify
There are pros and cons to both platforms, so we will compare them here to help you decide which one is the best fit for you.
It is very important when creating an online store to ensure that the design of your pages is visually appealing.
Customers have a huge variety of choice when it comes to where they shop, and they are going to be much more likely to spend their time and money on a store with beautiful aesthetics.
Shopify is known for having beautiful theme quality. All of the themes are highly responsive and work on mobile devices, and have a minimalist approach that is very trendy without being overbearing.
They offer roughly 20 free templates and over 100 paid templates. The paid templates can be a bit expensive, however, with some options costing several hundred dollars.
The other downside to Shopify’s design options is that they all have a similar aesthetic, so sites using the same templates will start to look very similar. You may have to put in extra time customizing the site to make it fit your needs.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, so you have access to a huge variety of WordPress themes. Most WordPress themes will work with WooCommerce as a store.
So you can choose from any of the options out there and really make them work for you.WooCommerce also has their basic StoreFront theme, which is what your site will start off with.
There are many subthemes that are designed to help you customize StoreFront even further, and they are very affordable as well.
WooCommerce is great for anyone that wants a huge amount of customization for their store, and is willing to put in the time to make their site look perfect.
There are thousands of WooCommerce compatible themes out there, so you really have tons of options to choose from.
Both WooCommerce and Shopify offer a variety of features to help you promote your products. Shopify is much higher in price, so they do offer some features that WooCommerce does not. However, WooCommerce is more customizable.
The biggest difference between WooCommerce and Shopify is that Shopify offers the option to sell both on and offline using their retail sales kit, while WooCommerce only offers online sales.
However, the cost to run an offline retail operation can get expensive. Shopify also does offer a greater support system than WooCommerce does.
Shopify offers email, online chat, and phone support. WooCommerce offers only ticket and forum support. However, WooCommerce gives you much more control over your store.
WooCommerce is open source, so you can make modifications to your store as necessary to get it looking and functioning exactly how you want it to. If you use Shopify, they technically control your data as the host.
In terms of payments, both WooCommerce and Shopify offer a variety of options. Both accept PayPal, credit cards (via Stripe and other processing mechanisms), bank transfers, and cash on delivery.
WooCommerce also allows you to take checks. Both platforms have currency support for a huge variety of countries.
To get your store’s name out there, you’ll need to use some basic marketing techniques to ensure that potential customers are finding you.
Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer search engine optimization (otherwise known as SEO) strategies to help you.
WordPress has tons of plugins available to help you optimize your site. A quick online search for SEO plugins will yield tons of results, so you can essentially do whatever you need with your site to ensure that you have the best SEO possible.
Shopify is slightly more limited when it comes to SEO because it is not open source, so you can’t change the coding of the site. However, Shopify has very clean code that is naturally very SEO friendly.
Shopify is known for having a very easy setup process, which makes it very simple to put your store together quickly.
The setup wizard prompts you with various questions about your store to help get it up and running right away. The customization dashboard is also quite easy to use, as there are guided texts throughout the process to help you.
Once you have your store set up, it is very easy to make changes to it or find information that you need from the store.
There are very clear tabs on the left side of the home page to help you find what you are looking for.
Overall, this is a great option if you want a very simple set-up process and easy day-to-day management. You need very little computer knowledge in order to use Shopify properly.
WooCommerce is slightly trickier to set up, but that can actually be a good thing for savvy store owners who want tons of customization options. You do need to find a web host on your own (we recommend BlueHost’s easy all in one package).
You also have way more choice when it comes to picking a theme for your store, as you can choose from the huge range of WordPress themes that are out there.
There are many online marketplaces where you can purchase WordPress themes or even download them for free. It may take longer to find a theme for your WooCommerce store, but the level of choice you have is often worth the extra time.
Once you have WooCommerce up and running, the platform is very straightforward. It is very easy to add products to your store and customize it to fit your needs.
The platform automatically generates many pages that are essential for running an online store for you, and it is very easy to maintain.
Help and Customer Support
WooCommerce does offer support online via form inquiries. This means that it can take time to get a response from the actual WooCommerce team.
This may be a turnoff for those who are inexperienced with websites and web design and want to rely on highly accessible help.
However, if you are willing to do a bit of work, there’s tons of free help and support out there on the internet for WooCommerce.
There are official WordPress forums where you can ask your questions, and there are many WordPress and web design guides online to help you.
Shopify does have amazing customer support, which is reflected in their higher prices. They have three ways to get in touch – phone, email, or live chat online.
If you want to count on getting an answer right away, this is one area where Shopify might be beneficial.
Pricing (Shopify vs WooCommerce)
Overall, Shopify is a much more expensive option than WooCommerce in terms of operating your online store.
This cost is somewhat justified in terms of the number of services and features that are offered, but it still may not be the best option for an entrepreneur looking to save money.
Shopify’s basic package costs $29 per month, which has basic features. They offer many other packages that are much more expensive than this, some of which cost over $100 per month.
However, the packages include web hosting, SSL, and your domain name. With WooCommerce, the software is free, but you need to pay for a web host, an SSL certificate, and a domain name.
Although this can get expensive in some cases, it does not have to be. We recommend using BlueHost, which offers you all of these things for $11.95 per month – much cheaper than Shopify.
However, we recommend using Shopify to create your online store. It is a very affordable way to create a custom store easily and quickly.