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In my last post, I wrote about how to set up a “cartless” buying process for your WordPress site using Gravity Forms. The setup I mentioned is great if you have one or two products to sell or are using the form to collect donations for a non-profit. Folks hoping to run a more conventional online store will greatly benefit from the added functionality of a true cart-based shopping experience.
So let’s talk about that! In this post, you’ll learn how to get started with WooCommerce.
The Foundations of Selling Online
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will be your online store. There are a few things to check off before you get moving with WooCommerce. First of all, to accept any form of payment directly through your site you must use SSL encryption. Check with your hosting provider for the fastest way to get this done…or become an Evermore customer and we’ll take care of it for you.
Second, set up a method to accept online payments. I will be writing about PayPal because it remains one of the best choices for getting money from one place to another.
I was serious when I said it will take more than a day to get your site ready for moneymaking. That’s not because any of this is hard, it’s because both SSL and setting up a payment provider take time. SSL can take up to 24 hours (usually closer to 48) to fully take effect on your site, and payment providers usually need some time to confirm that you are who you say you are. This is important when planning the project of turning your website into a webstore because you don’t want to wait to the last minute before a big sale, event, etc, and find out you have a few days to wait for everything to work.
Once this is all done, you’re ready to do one of the coolest things WordPress can do: add new stuff just by clicking a button.
This is super simple. From your WordPress Dashboard hover over Plugins, click Add New, and then search for woo. It looks like this:
WooCommerce has a great start up wizard that runs you through all of the basic requirements needed for you to use the plugin to build a store. One of the first questions you will be asked is whether or not you want to create Shop, Cart, Checkout, and My Account pages. I highly recommend that you agree to have WooCommerce build those pages for you simply because it saves you trouble down the line. If you have already created pages with these names, WooCommerce will not duplicate them and you’ll be left with however you have already configured them. You will need to reconfigure them with WooCommerce.
The wizard takes you through a number of other configurations. These mostly ask about the dimensions and currencies you would prefer to do business in. Obviously your situation can vary, but most people will want to work with USD, standard lbs (pounds), and inches rather than centimeters. The reason for these fields will become clear shortly.
Build Your First Product Page
Finish the setup wizard by entering all the appropriate data. Save it, and you’ll be rerouted to the Add New Product page now located as a submenu of your WordPress Dashboard.
The Add New Product page is fairly straightforward. There are fields for you to fill out to name your product, include descriptions, shipping options, etc, etc.
First, name and give a detailed description of the product. You can also change the Permalink to suit your liking (Hint: this is a good opportunity for SEO).
For reference, here is where the fields you just filled out will end up on your finished site:
The Product Data section has a handful of options for you to fill out. Let’s start simple. The Price field is exactly that, the base price you want to charge your customers. You can select a Sale Price and schedule the exact dates you want it to go into effect. If you don’t specify a date, your product will be “on sale” until you empty that field. You may notice my killer discount in the GIF above.
The Inventory field allows you to add a SKU (stock-keeping unit) if you use those for your business. This will typically apply to people with many products. You’ll also see the option to “Manage Stock at the Product Level.” I recommend most people check this box. As cool of a problem as it would be, you don’t want to have so many orders that it overwhelms your ability to fill them. Checking this box allows you to tell WooCommerce how many items you have, whether or not you’ll accept backorders, and how many of this item people can buy at once. If you choose to accept backorders or limit how many can be shipped even when you have plenty in stock, the nice thing to do is explain why with a few sentences in the Product Short Description you’ll see in a bit.
Here’s a quick look at the Inventory menu:
The Shipping menu is where you will enter details about the product’s size and weight for purposes of determining shipping cost. You may recall from my last post that needing to customize shipping cost for each product or each recipient is a good reason to use WooCommerce instead of Gravity Forms. The information you put in here can be used with the shipping plugin for WooCommerce that will calculate a price based on where you’re shipping to.
The next field is the Short Product Description field. What you enter here appears alongside the product near the top of the page. Again, this is a good place to notify people of any restrictions because it is front and center. Here is where the text you put in Short Product Description ends up on the final page:
You will also see that the number in stock and the SKU now appear on the page.
For the final step of the Add New Product flow, add a product image. The Product Image menu is directly to the right of the Short Product Description field. From here hit Preview or if you’re feeling lucky (or are a fast learner) hit Publish. Make sure it all looks good, and start selling stuff.
For added ecommerce flair, you can edit the four pages that WooCommerce created for you when you ran the startup wizard. In your WordPress Dashboard click pages. You should see this:
Hovering over each page name presents you with a range of options. For the most part, WooCommerce has done the work for you and there is little else you will really want to do to these pages. However, you can make edits to the templates and layouts as well as change text to personalize your various pages.
A true ecommerce platform may be preferred by website owners with many products or slightly complicated shipping. Whatever your reason, WooCommerce is a great step-up from Gravity Forms. Like all WordPress plugins, you’re actively adding a new feature to your site in just a few clicks. While there are many options and more than a few steps to follow to get up and running professionally, WooCommerce is straightforward. As always, build your online presence with your customers in mind and have fun (which should be easy, since Woo does do much of the work for you!)