Do you want to start your own online store?
We know that building an online store can be a terrifying thought, especially when you are not a techy. Well, you’re not alone. Here at WPBeginner, we’ve helped hundreds of users start their online store, so you’re in the right place.
In this article, we will show you how to easily start an online store.
What Do You Need to Start an Online Store?
There has never been a better time to start an online business than today.
Anyone with a computer can get started within a matter of minutes and without acquiring any special skills.
The three things you need to start an online store are:
- A domain name idea (this will be the business name of your online store i.e. wpbeginner.com)
- A web hosting account (this is where your website lives on the internet)
- Your undivided attention for 30 minutes.
Yep, it is really that simple.
You can set up your own online store with WordPress in less than 30 minutes, and we’ll walk you through each step of the process.
In this tutorial, we will cover:
- Step 1. Set up Your Online Store Platform (Hosting & Domain)
- Step 2. Set Up Your WordPress Website
- Step 3. Set Up Your WooCommerce Store
- Step 4. Set Up Payments for Your Online Store
- Step 5. Add Products to Your Online Store
- Step 6. Select and Customize WordPress Theme
- Step 7. Extend Your Online Store With Plugins
- Learning WordPress to Grow Your Online Business
- FAQs About Starting an Online Store
Ready? Let’s get started.
If you don’t like the video or need more instructions, then continue reading.
Step 1. Set Up Your Online Store Platform
The biggest mistake most users make is not choosing the right platform for their online store.
Thankfully, you’re here, so you won’t be making that mistake.
There are two popular eCommerce platforms that we recommend: Shopify or WordPress + WooCommerce.
Shopify is a fully hosted eCommerce solution that starts at $29 per month (paid monthly or yearly upfront to earn a discount). It’s a hassle-free solution where you just log in and start selling.
The downside to Shopify is that it gets quite expensive, and your payment options are limited unless you pay additional fees.
This is why most users choose WordPress + WooCommerce because of the flexibility it offers. It does require some setup, but it’s worth doing it in the long run.
WordPress is the most popular website builder and WooCommerce is the world’s largest eCommerce platform. For more details, see our Shopify vs WooCommerce comparison and our guide on WordPress for eCommerce.
In this tutorial, we will walk you through how to set up an online store in WordPress using WooCommerce on some of the best WooCommerce hosting.
To set up your eCommerce store, you need a domain name, web hosting, and an SSL certificate.
A domain name is your website’s address on the internet. It is what users will type in their browsers to reach your website (for example, google.com or wpbeginner.com).
Web hosting is where your eCommerce website lives on the internet. It’s your website’s house on the internet. Every website on the internet needs web hosting.
SSL certificate adds a special security layer to your website, so you can accept sensitive information such as credit card numbers and other personal information. This is required for you to accept credit card payments on your eCommerce site.
Normally, a domain name, web hosting, and an SSL certificate can total up to a hundred dollars. That’s a lot of startup costs.
Thankfully, Bluehost, an official WordPress and WooCommerce-recommended hosting provider, has agreed to offer our users a free domain name, a free SSL certificate, and a discount on web hosting.
Basically, you can get started for as little as $1.99 per month.
Bluehost is one of the largest brand names when it comes to WordPress hosting because they host millions of websites.
Note: At WPBeginner, we believe in transparency. If you sign up with Bluehost using our referral link, then we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you (in fact, you will save money and get a free domain).
We would get this commission for recommending just about any WordPress hosting company, but we only recommend products that we personally use and believe will add value to our readers.
Let’s go ahead and purchase your domain + hosting + SSL.
Open up Bluehost in a new window using this link and follow along.
The first thing you need to do is click on the green ‘Get Started’ Now button to get started.
On the next screen, select the plan that you need.
For an online store, you can go with the Online Store plan. Go ahead and click the ‘Select’ button.
After that, you will be asked to enter the domain name for your website.
To create a new domain name, simply type it in the field. If you have one that you want to use already, there is a box you can enter that into, too.
Once you have chosen a domain name, click ‘Next.’
Lastly, you will need to add your account information and finalize the package info to complete the process. On this screen, you will see optional extras that you can purchase.
It’s entirely up to you whether or not you purchase these, but we generally don’t recommend purchasing them. You can always add them later on if you decide that you need them.
Once completed, you can log in to the Bluehost hosting dashboard.
Bluehost will typically install WordPress for you so you can get right to building your WordPress site. However, if you somehow skip this step, you can follow these next instructions.
How to Install WordPress in Bluehost
In the Bluehost dashboard, navigate to the ‘Websites’ tab and click ‘Add Site.’
You will now complete the WordPress installation wizard.
First, select ‘Install WordPress’ on the screen and click ‘Continue.’
Next, you will insert a title for your new WordPress site.
It can be anything you want, and you can change it later if you change your mind. Go ahead and click ‘Continue.’
Now, let’s connect your WordPress site with a domain name.
You can enter your chosen domain name or use a temporary Bluehost subdomain in the meantime. Once you’ve made your choice, click ‘Continue.’
You will now return to the Websites tab and wait for Bluehost to install the WordPress software for you.
If the installation is successful, then the new website will appear on this tab. You can go ahead and click ‘Edit Site’ to log in to your WordPress dashboard.
Congratulations, you have finished setting up your hosting and domain!
If you’re unfamiliar with the WordPress dashboard or admin area, here’s what it looks like:
Step 2. Set Up Your WordPress Website
Let’s set up your WordPress website.
First, you need to visit the Settings » General page to set up your WordPress site title and tagline. If you’re happy with the site title you’ve chosen before, then you don’t need to change it.
The tagline is also optional, so don’t worry if you can’t come up with something right away.
Set up HTTPS to Use SSL
Your WordPress hosting package came with a free SSL Certificate. This certificate is pre-installed for your domain name. However, your WordPress site needs to be configured so that it loads as https instead of http.
On the Settings » General page, you need to change your WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) to use https instead of http.
Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your settings.
Your basic WordPress setup is complete. Now, it is time to set up your online store.
Step 3. Set Up Your WooCommerce Store
WooCommerce is the best online store builder on the market. It is built on top of WordPress which gives the flexibility of WordPress with freedom to sell any type of products you want.
Simply go to Plugins » Add New page and search for WooCommerce. In the search results, click on the ‘Install Now’ button next to the WooCommerce listing.
WordPress will now fetch and install the WooCommerce plugin for you.
Wait for it to finish downloading the plugin, and then click on the ‘Activate’ button to continue.
Upon activation, WooCommerce will launch the setup wizard, and you’ll see the Welcome to WooCommerce screen.
This setup wizard will walk you through important WooCommerce settings.
First, you need to provide basic information for your online store, such as address, country, and region. If you are a retailer, then you can add your retail location information as the address.
After that, click on the ‘Continue’ button to move on to the next step.
Next, you’ll be asked to choose a store industry. You can choose an industry closest to the type of store you want to make.
Click on the ‘Continue’ button to move on.
After that, you’ll be asked to choose the types of products you’ll be selling in your store. For instance, if your products need shipping, then you can choose ‘Physical Products.’
You can also choose multiple product types.
For example, you can choose both Physical Products and Downloads too. Don’t worry about selling different product types. You can select which type of product you are adding for each product.
Click on the ‘Continue’ button.
Next, you’ll be asked to provide some business details like how many products you plan to sell and if you are selling elsewhere. You can choose the ‘I don’t have products yet’ option and select ‘No’ for the other option.
Now, you need to switch to the ‘Free Features’ tab.
You’ll see a box pre-checked to install free features for your website.
You need to uncheck this option, as it will install several other WooCommerce extensions that you may not need. If you need them later, then you can always install them on your own.
Click on the ‘Continue’ button for the next step.
Next, you’ll be asked to choose a theme for your online store. You can continue with your current default theme, choose ‘Storefront’ or any of the free WooCommerce themes listed on the page.
Don’t worry about choosing the perfect theme right away. We’ll show you how to choose the best theme for your online store later in this article.
That’s all, you have successfully completed the basic WooCommerce setup.
Step 4. Set Up Payments for Your Online Store
Next, you need to set up payment methods to accept online payments on your store. WooCommerce provides a bunch of payment gateways that you can easily set up.
Simply go to the WooCommerce » Settings page and switch to the ‘Payments’ tab. By default, you can choose from PayPal Standard, Cash on Delivery, Checks, and Bank Transfers.
Scroll below, and you will also see the option to install Stripe, PayPal Checkout, and WooCommerce Payments.
We recommend choosing Stripe and PayPal Standard as your payment options.
For each payment gateway, you can click on the Set up button and provide the required information.
For instance, you can enable Stripe and enter your API Keys (you can find this information under your Stripe account).
Don’t forget to click on the ‘Save changes’ button to store your payment settings.
Note: Instead of using WooCommerce’s default Stripe addon, we recommend using the WP Simple Pay plugin.
It comes with more features like a quick setup wizard, automatic webhook creation, one-click express payments, and more.
Step 5. Add Products to Your Online Store
Let’s start with adding the first product to your online store.
You need to visit the Products » Add New page to add a new product.
First, provide a title for your product and then a detailed description.
On the right-hand column, you will see the ‘Product Categories’ box. Click on the ‘+ Add new category’ to create a category for this product. This allows you and your customers to sort and browse products easily.
Scroll down a little, and you will notice the ‘Product Data’ box.
This is where you will provide product-related information like pricing, inventory, shipping, etc.
Below the product data box, you will see a box to add a short product description.
These product descriptions will be used when users are viewing multiple products on a page.
Lastly, on your right-hand column, you will see boxes to add a main product image and a product gallery.
Now, you just need to add the pictures that you think best showcase your products.
Once you are satisfied with all the product information you have added, you can click on the ‘Publish’ button to make it live on your website.
Repeat the process to add more products as needed.
Step 6. Select and Customize WordPress Theme
Themes control how your WordPress site looks to the users when they visit it. For a WooCommerce shop, they also control how your products are displayed.
There are thousands of paid and free WordPress themes available that help you create a stunning online presence.
However, not all WordPress themes are designed specifically for eCommerce stores. We have hand-picked some of the best WooCommerce themes that you can choose from.
Once you have installed a WooCommerce theme, you can customize its appearance to your own requirements.
If you are using a classic theme, then simply head over to the Appearance » Customize page. This will launch the Theme Customizer, where you can change different theme settings.
Most modern WooCommerce themes come with different customization options and work well with desktop as well as mobile devices.
Step 7. Extend Your Online Store With Plugins
Now that your store is almost ready, you may want to add more features to create a successful online store. For example, you can add a customer support form or promote your new business on social media to make your first sale.
This is where plugins come in.
Both WooCommerce and WordPress allow you to easily add new features to your website by using plugins or extensions.
Plugins are like apps for your WordPress website. There are thousands of them that you can use, both free and premium. The WordPress.org plugin directory alone has more than 59,000 plugins.
However, this abundance of choice also makes it difficult for beginners to choose the right plugins. How do you know which plugin to choose?
Here are some of our top picks for essential plugins that every online store should install.
All of them help to improve conversions, boost sales, grow your email list, and reduce shopping cart abandonment.
It has an intuitive drag-and-drop form builder that allows you to just point and click to create forms. See our guide on how to easily create a contact form in WordPress for detailed instructions.
WPForms also has a free version called WPForms Lite that you can use if you don’t need the Pro features.
AffiliateWP helps you easily add an affiliate program to your online store. This allows you to partner up with affiliate marketers to promote your products for a commission.
It comes with powerful affiliate tracking, no transaction fees, fraud detection, 1-click payouts, and an affiliate dashboard for your partners. For more details, see our guide on how to create a referral program for your online store.
With Advanced Coupons, you can create loyalty programs, scheduled coupons, Buy 1 Get 1 Free deals, shipping coupons, and more. For more details, see our guide on how to create smart coupons for your eCommerce store.
It comes with ready-to-use templates designed for conversions and sales. It also includes WooCommerce blocks that you can just drag and drop to create custom product pages, custom homepages, checkout pages, thank you pages, and more.
Plus, you can connect it to your email marketing service so you can grow your email list.
You can try the free version of SeedProd directly from WordPress.org.
With PushEngage, you can send personalized messages to your target audience, such as new product announcements, abandoned cart reminders, back-in-stock notifications, welcome messages, and more.
It comes with full eCommerce support, schema markup, sitemaps, breadcrumbs, and more. This helps you bring more traffic to your online store. For details, see our complete WooCommerce SEO guide for beginners.
There is also a free version of AIOSEO, which is still pretty powerful for those who are just starting out.
MonsterInsights is the best Google Analytics plugin for WordPress. It helps you see where your customers are coming from and what they do on your website.
MonsterInsights comes with WooCommerce tracking, so you can see the conversions and sales data on your website. This helps you adjust your marketing strategy and grow your small business with data-driven decisions.
HubSpot is one of the best CRM plugins for WordPress and WooCommerce. It allows you to automatically sync your forms, manage contacts, segment them into lists, and see every interaction your visitors have with your site. It also has a free email marketing feature built-in.
They also let you add live chat to your website pages and get analytics on the performance of your entire marketing program.
FunnelKit is the most powerful sales funnel builder and marketing automation platform for WordPress. It helps you create high-converting checkouts, sliding side carts, order bumps, one-click upsells, and other automation that help you boost your online store profits.
They also have a marketing automation plugin for WordPress eCommerce sites that lets you do timely follow-up emails, send broadcasts, build email drip campaigns, and more.
For more plugin recommendations, see our expert pick of essential WooCommerce plugins for an eCommerce business.
Learning WordPress to Grow Your Online Business
WordPress is incredibly powerful and flexible, but sometimes, it can be hard for beginners to set it up the way they want.
At WPBeginner, our main goal is to provide cutting-edge, helpful WordPress tutorials that are easy to understand, even for non-techy WordPress website owners (see more about us).
WPBeginner is the largest free WordPress resource site for beginners. We offer many resources, including:
- WPBeginner Blog – The central place for all our WordPress tutorials.
- WPBeginner Videos – New to WordPress? Watch these free video tutorials to master WordPress.
- WPBeginner Dictionary – Your one-stop to learn the commonly used WordPress terms and lingo.
- WPBeginner Engage Facebook Group – Get free expert support in the largest WordPress group on Facebook.
You can also subscribe to WPBeginner’s YouTube Channel, where we regularly share video tutorials to help you learn WordPress.
We also have a guide to show users how to make the most out of WPBeginner’s free resources.
Many of our users type their questions in Google and just add ‘wpbeginner’ at the end of it. This shows them related articles from WPBeginner.
FAQs About Starting an Online Store
Many of our users regularly reach out to us with questions about starting their own business with an online store. We have tried to answer some of the most frequently asked questions below:
1. Where do I find products to sell in my store?
There are different ways store owners source products. Some sell products like software, digital art, music, and other downloadable products.
Others source products from local or offshore vendors using online marketplaces like Alibaba or AliExpress. If you don’t want to handle your own inventory or shipping, then you could also look into starting a print-on-demand shop or dropshipping.
For more details, see our article on how to choose products to sell online.
2. Can I start an online store for free?
Yes, some eCommerce platforms offer limited free trials so you can start your online store for free, but after the trial is over, you’ll have to pay.
While WooCommerce itself is free, you’ll need a domain name and a web hosting account to run it, which will cost money.
3. How much does it cost to start an online store?
The cost of starting an online store depends on your business plan and budget. With our link, you can start with Bluehost for $1.99 per month and rely on free plugins and themes to limit your costs.
We recommend a business model where you start small and then spend money as your business grows.
For a detailed cost analysis, see our article on how much it costs to build an eCommerce site.
4. Can I create an online store without shipping products?
Yes, you can. For instance, you can make an online store using dropshipping plugins, create an Amazon affiliate store, or make an eBay-like marketplace. You can also use the same online store to sell external products as well as your own products.
5. How to manage shipping costs and taxes for my online store?
Depending on your region, you may be required to add sales tax, VAT, or other taxes. WooCommerce allows you to add taxes by enabling them under the WooCommerce » Settings page.
From here, you can also switch to the Shipping tab and create different shipping zones, add shipping rates, set flat shipping rates, and more.
We hope that this tutorial helped you learn how to build an online store. You may also want to see these actionable tips to drive traffic to your new WordPress site or see our comparison of the best business phone services for small businesses.