WordPress eCommerce Sites: Simple Steps to Get Started

In 2019, online sales topped $3.5 trillion worldwide. While you’re picking your jaw up off the floor, consider this: we’re just getting started. By 2021, global eCommerce sales are expected to reach nearly $5 trillion. Two years after that, expect online sales to be hovering around the $6.5 trillion mark.

This makes eCommerce the fastest growing industry on the planet, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Your job? Grab a piece of this epic pie by launching a dynamic eCommerce website! 

Even if you aren’t a designer or developer, building a professional, user-friendly eCommerce website is possible with options like WordPress.com and its variety of intuitive tools. 

So, really, what’s stopping you? The first step: choose your platform. 

How do I choose a platform?

If you were opening a brick-and-mortar store, you’d first need to find the right location — the perfect building or storefront to lease. As you’d weigh your options, you’d likely consider everything including amenities. Which landlord will deal with mail and ongoing maintenance? Which building comes with free customer parking spots? Do you have to furnish your own space? What about security?

When building an eCommerce website, it’s similar — except when you build an online store your “lease” is with a web hosting provider and domain registrar.

With a WordPress.com Business or eCommerce plan, you get everything you need to set up and manage an online store. You can take payments, ensure customer and data security, provide customer service, and even take advantage of targeted marketing opportunities, all in one platform. 

What you want. How you want it.

WordPress is open source, which means it is created and distributed not just for public use but for public updates, modifications, and distribution — not so with proprietary platforms and software, which are 100% controlled by the company that owns the copyright.

Because it’s open source, a wide range of developers and creators can design plugins of all kinds. That means more ready-made tools available, a list that’s constantly growing.

“When you choose open source, you don’t have to get permission from a proprietary vendor for the choices you make about your business,” explains Brent Shepherd, WooCommerce Payments Lead at Automattic. “For example, if you choose to add a new marketing email plugin, you can choose the one that suits you — let’s say it’s Mailchimp. If you choose a proprietary platform, you need that platform to give you permission to use the option you want. If the platform doesn’t permit Mailchimp, you can’t use it.” 

This choice, he notes, extends to all parts of the eCommerce experience, from which payment method you choose to offer, to which marketing, tax or shipping software you integrate with your store.

pick an online store platform

“WordPress is an industry leading content management platform,” Brent adds. “Many successful eCommerce sites now live on the traffic from their content. Combining the world’s most popular content management system, with the world’s most popular eCommerce software, in one site, is a recipe for success.” 

What should my site look like?

To begin building a new eCommerce website, most users start by selecting a “WordPress theme” — one of the thousands of pre-made templates that provide a template for your site. 

While you’re free to customize anything and everything about your site, starting with a theme that’s relatively close to your vision can significantly reduce your design and development time, and get you up and running fast — all while ensuring your WordPress.com website looks sleek and professional at launch. 

Within your chosen theme, you’ll be able to choose colors, schemes, backgrounds, fonts, and more, so your site syncs with your brand and brand vision. You can also easily upload your brand logo and images, customizing your site even more. 

That said, be sure your site doesn’t get too cluttered — this can distract customers and pull from your desired user experience.

“The experience for an eCommerce site is totally different from a ‘regular’ site,” says Gary Stout, Founder and Managing Partner of Buzzworthy Studio in Brooklyn, New York. “You have more products to feature — so plan to use less copy and focus heavily on imagery, video, and animations to help showcase and promote products visually. Use supporting copy to reinforce those visuals.”

Granted, not all images are created equal. Aim for professional-looking shots every time — images that are sharp, well-lit, and show products or other visuals in an appealing, engaging way. Avoid sub-par lo-res images haphazardly shot on your smartphone — or screenshots you snagged off of the internet. 

How do I list my products?

With your site’s basic framework hammered out, you’ll move into the next stage: listing products and customizing how and where those listings appear. On the WordPress.com platform, an intuitive interface guides you through the process — so you’ll never be stuck wondering, “now what?” as you’re building your eCommerce website.  

During this guided walk-through, you’ll have opportunities to customize how products appear, adding photos and descriptions, creating categories, and calling out specific products to feature as you go.

“It’s incredibly simple and intuitive,” Brent says. “If you can publish a blog post and categorize it, you can publish a product and categorize it. Categories are also really important for helping customers find your products, which creates a more frictionless experience.”

How will my customers make purchases?

ecommerce customer with credit card

The eCommerce process doesn’t stop when customers spot a product. You want them to actually buy it! The WooCommerce plugin offers full integration with all major payment gateways at no additional cost, from PayPal and Stripe to Square, Amazon Pay, and dozens more.

“I love to offer simple checkout experiences,” Brent says. “How quickly can a customer go from discovering your product to purchasing it? I’ve seen experiences where a customer can purchase a product with just two or three taps from their phone on a single page.”

If you don’t need a fully-loaded eCommerce site, and just want to sell a few digital or physical products, you can accomplish that with the WordPress.com Payments Block, which is available on all paid plans. With Payments, you can collect one-time purchases or recurring fees and subscriptions.

If you have a WordPress.com or Jetpack enabled site, use Payments to add a button to any post or page — once in place you can start taking Stripe payments for products, services, or donations.

“If you already have a WordPress site, you can use these features right away,” says WordPress.com Cognitive Engineer Artur Piszek. “You don’t need to register for a new service. You don’t have to manage different services or use custom code or even copy API keys. Just choose a button and it works. You can accept payments.” 

How will I manage shipping?

With payments rolling in, you’ll need to organize shipping — something WooCommerce readily supports with a range of shipping extensions, making it easy to not just sell but to ship products. Simply pick your extension and choose from shipping providers like UPS, FedEx, Amazon, or USPS.

When it comes to managing your shipping prices, one of the simplest solutions is to leave it up to your carrier. They’ll automatically calculate shipping charges for each order free of charge, allowing those charges to show up for customers when they check out.

Another option is to offer free shipping or a flat shipping fee for all orders. While providing free shipping will decrease your margin per sale, it can give you an edge over competitors and increase your number of sales overall.

Regardless of the approach you choose, with a WooCommerce-ready eCommerce plan from WordPress.com, you’ll be able to print labels, share tracking info, and even manage returns all from your dashboard. 

What can I do to help my products sell?

Granted this isn’t Field of Dreams — just because you build it, doesn’t mean they (your customers, in this case) will come. You need to be proactive and get the word out about not just your business but, now, your eCommerce site. 

WordPress.com gives you tools such as Publicize to automatically share new content on social channels like Twitter and Facebook. Plus, Subscriptions to your blog keep customers engaged and let them know what’s new with your business.

Using WordPress.com solutions, you can also tap into tools for SEO — search engine optimization — resources to drive more organic traffic to your eCommerce site.

“WordPress is one of the best ways to ensure your website will be optimized for search from day one,” says Gary. “Just using WordPress.com automatically renders your website crawler-friendly.”

Translation: more people actively searching online for your business, products, or services will find you. And that means more organic traffic and, likely, more sales. 

To boost your SEO even more, be sure to include relevant keywords and phrases in your headings and site copy — words or phrases people might be searching when they’re searching for your business or your type of business. For example, if you sell paint supplies, good keywords might include “best paint brushes for beginners” or “best acrylic paints.”

You can also integrate WordPress plugins like Yoast SEO for even more seamless SEO integration. Even if you aren’t familiar with search, this plugin will walk you through it all, helping your site appear in more relevant search results. 

What’s Next?

While this is a lot to take in, especially if it’s your first go at creating an eCommerce website, remember, WordPress.com has your back. 

“eCommerce can get complicated,” Brent says, “Whether you’ve done this once or 100 times. WordPress.com provides live chat so a human can help you through setting up to managing your store.” 

What’s more? Those who choose the Business or eCommerce plan also get a customized support session as an added benefit.

Are you ready to start selling online? Get started today and be online and selling fast. Or check out WordPress.com to explore your options and discover how you can create a powerful online store that perfectly suits your brand, audience, and business goals.

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