A re you planning to start an online store? Whether you want to sell a single product or multiple ones, you're in the right place.
With more and more people shopping online in recent years, NOW is the best time for starting a business so you can make money online.
What if you don’t have any technical knowledge?
Don’t worry! I’ll walk you through the step by step process of how to start an online store without any hassle.
Let’s get started!
How to Start an Online Store in 7 Easy Steps
In This Guide:
1. Choosing the Best eCommerce Platform
First, you need to decide the platform for your online store. The decision should be based on the features available, ease of use, pricing, and user-friendliness.
Currently, WooCommerce and Shopify are the 2 most popular eCommerce platforms in the market. But which one should you use to start your online store?
I know it can be a bit overwhelming to decide the right one for your needs.
Thankfully, I’ve done the hard work for you and compared the features of both the platforms. Let’s take a look at both of them.
WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce platform on the web. You can customize it as per your needs and start your eCommerce store quickly.
It’s an open-source platform and is available as a free plugin in the repository. So all you need is a domain name and a web hosting account to get started.
Some of the important features of WooCommerce are:
- Add unlimited products to your online shop along with product images
- Allow customers to sort and filter products based on different parameters
- Easily add reviews and ratings on the product page
- Sell physical, digital, or both types of products without any hassle
- Accept payments via Stripe, PayPal, and other popular providers
Apart from the above, you can also add extra features to your WooCommerce store with the help of hundreds of free and paid extensions.
The only drawback of this platform is you’ll have to control everything including backups, security, and SEO. However, you can easily some of these processes by using WordPress plugins.
Overall, this is a feature-rich eCommerce platform and can be recommended to most users to start a successful online store.Get Started with WooCommerce Today!
Shopify is a popular fully-hosted eCommerce platform and online store builder. So you don’t have to install any software or manage everything, unlike WooCommerce.
It allows you to easily start an online business. You can also customize your store with the help of a drag and drop builder.
And you can either use your existing domain or purchase a new one through Shopify.
Let’s take a look at some of the features of Shopify:
- Comes with 70+ fully responsive themes
- Offers secure and mobile-friendly checkout system
- Can be integrated with over 2500 apps to extend its functionality
- Offers a free tool to create logo for your business
- Get started with a 14 day free trial
The biggest disadvantage of Shopify is it’s expensive compared to WooCommerce. The basic plan will cost you $29 per month which can be difficult for most people.
Also, it comes with limited features when compared to WooCommerce. Plus, you don’t have full control over your store as it’s hosted on the Shopify server.
However, you can always test their service as they offer a 14-day trial for free.Get Started with Shopify!
Which eCommerce Platform Should You Use?
After comparing both the platforms, I recommend you use WooCommerce to start your online store.
It offers all the essential features required for managing an eCommerce business. And you can always add extra features with the help of extensions.
Unlike Shopify, the WooCommerce and WordPress combo gives you total control over your website.
Finally, starting a WordPress site is cheaper compared to Shopify. All you need to purchase is a domain name and a web hosting account.
Now that you’ve selected the platform for your online store, I’ll show you how to start an online store with WooCommerce and WordPress.
2. Getting Started
The next thing you need to do is purchase a domain name and a web hosting account for your online store.
Why do you need them?
Well, a domain name is the address of a website. It’s what you write in the address bar of your web browser to open a site.
Some examples of a domain name are blogtryant.com, google.com, wpbeginner.com, etc.
On the other hand, a web host is a place where your website files are located.
When someone enters your domain name in their web browser, the website files of your online store will be fetched from your hosting account, and then it’ll be displayed to the user.
Now, there are many domain and web hosting companies out there. Most of them will charge you $14.99 per year for purchasing a domain name and $7.99 per month for a web hosting account.
This can prove to be costly for a lot of people.
That’s why we recommend to use Bluehost for starting your online store.
We’ve partnered with Bluehost to get 60% OFF for our readers! You can purchase their WooCommerce-optimized hosting service at $6.95 per month and you’ll also get a domain name of your choice for free. Isn’t that great?Get Started with bluehost today
It’s one of the few officially recommended web hosting services by WordPress.
Plus, you’ll get a free SSL certificate, free domain, 100 GB SSD storage, domain privacy protection, business email service, and a dedicated IP address with every plan.
So without further ado, let me show you the step by step process on how to start an online store on Bluehost.
First, you need to head over to the Bluehost website.
We’ll be using the Bluehost web hosting service that is powered by WooCommerce and not the shared one.
This will allow you to use a WordPress hosting service that is fast and optimized for eCommerce stores.
On the Bluehost homepage, you need to click on the Choose Plan button to get things started. This will take you to the pricing plan section.
The Starter plan will be suitable for most small businesses.
However, if you want to start more than one online store, then you’ll have to choose the Plus or Pro plan.
So go ahead and click on the Select button to proceed.
In the next page, you’ll be asked to register a free domain for your business.
You should always select a brandable and easy to remember domain name for your online store. You may check out this guide on how to choose a domain name to make your decision easier.
In most cases, you should use your store name as your domain name, if available. You may use Nameboy to search the availability of a domain name.
Once you’ve decided your domain name, you should enter that name in the textbox under the Create a new domain section. Also, you need to select the preferred domain extension and then click on Next.
If your domain name is available, then you’ll be redirected to the next page where you’ll have to enter some details to complete the process.
Under Account Information, you’ll have to enter your personal details like name, address, email address, phone number, and business name (if any).
Next, you’ll have to select the account plan that you would like to use.
Also, Bluehost will ask you to purchase extra features under the Package Extra section. You should uncheck all the boxes and avoid any unnecessary expenses. And you can always purchase them later if you want.
Finally, you should enter your payment details, click on the Terms of Service checkbox, and click on the Submit button to complete the process.
If you want to pay using PayPal, then you should click on more payment options to use that payment method.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully registered a domain name for your online store and also purchased a WooCommerce-optimized web hosting account.
You’ll now receive an email from Bluehost with all the account details including the cPanel (Control Panel) log in credentials.
So go ahead and log in to your Bluehost cPanel.
On the cPanel dashboard, you’ll see a popup with the success message that WordPress and WooCommerce are pre-installed on your website.
Great! Let’s process to the next step now to do some essential changes to our newly created WordPress site.
3. Setting Up Your WordPress Site
In this step, we’ll do some basic changes to our website like changing the site name and tagline. We’ll also set up SSL so we can use https instead of http. This will make your site more secure for accepting payments online.
First, you need to log in to your WordPress dashboard using the login details present in your Bluehost welcome email.
Next, head over to Settings » General from the left sidebar of your WordPress admin panel.
On the General Settings page, you can change the website title and tagline of your online store.
Next, you should modify the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) from http to https.
Why? Well, Bluehost already installed SSL on your website. However, you need to change to https to finish the SSL configuration.
This will make your website secure for online payments, something which is mandatory for an eCommerce store.
Once done, you should scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the Save Changes button to store the settings.
These changes are sufficient for the time being. However, you can make additional changes to your site by visiting the other settings pages.
4. How to Start an Online Store with WooCommerce
It’s time to set up WooCommerce on your website.
Bluehost will already install the WooCommerce plugin at the time of installing WordPress on your site. That’s why you’ll see a notification on your WordPress Dashboard asking you to run the configuration wizard.
To start the process, you need to click on the Run the Setup Wizard button. This will open the configuration wizard on a new page.
First, you’ll have to provide basic details like the location of your store, address, and preferred currency. You’ll also have to select the type of product you want to sell. It can be digital, physical, or both.
Once you’re done, you should click on the Let’s go! button, present at the bottom of the page, to proceed.
Next, WooCommerce will ask you to select the methods using which you’ll accept credit card payments on your site. You can enable online payment gateway options like Stripe and PayPal by click on the toggle boxes.
And you can add extra payment options later by installing different WooCommerce extensions.
Want to accept offline payments? Just click on the arrow icon, beside Offline Payments, to view the different options available and then, enable the ones you would like to use on your website.
Once done, you need to click on the Continue button to go to the next step.
WooCommerce will now ask you to decide whether you want to charge for shipping your physical products or not.
However, you’ll see this section only if you’re planning to sell physical products.
In the next step, WooCommerce will recommend you to install specific plugins on your WordPress site. You can skip this part by going to the bottom of the page and then click on the Skip this step link.
Don’t worry! You can always install plugins later if you want.
Next, you’ll be asked to install the Jetpack plugin. Again, it’s not essential to use Jetpack, so you can skip this step just like you did before.
That’s all! You’ve completed the WooCommerce setup process. You can now click on the Visit Dashboard button to close this window.
5. Adding Products to Your Online Store
Once you’ve completed the basic configuration of WooCommerce, you can start adding products to your store.
Let me show you how to do it so you can start selling online.
First, you need to go to Products » Add New from the left sidebar of your WordPress admin panel. This will open a new page where you can write the name and description of the product.
Next, you need to scroll down to see the Product data box, present below the page editor. This is where you can add details like price, inventory, shipping, and more.
You can also specify if your product is a virtual and downloadable item by checking the boxes. This will open extra options where you can add the downloadable file, expiry date, and download limit.
On the right side of the page, you can add the main image of the product under the Product image box. You can also add extra images under the Product gallery box.
Finally, you can add a category for your product and then click on the Publish button to make this product live.
You can follow the same process to add multiple products to your online store.
6. Customizing the Theme of Your Online Store
WordPress themes control the way your website will appear to your visitors. And you can easily customize or change the theme if you want.
Bluehost automatically installs the Storefront theme while setting up your WordPress site. It’s a free eCommerce theme that works perfectly with WooCommerce.
To make changes to your theme, you need to go to Appearance » Customize from the left sidebar. This will open the WordPress Customizer using which you can easily customize your website and see the changes in real time.
The left panel of the Theme Customizer allows you to make changes to the typography, colors, layout, header, footer, and more.
For example, you can change the background color by clicking on Background and then, select the color from the color selector. Similarly, you can change other settings based on your needs.
Once done, you need to click on the Publish button to store the changes.
7. Essential Plugins You Must Use
Although now you know how to start an online store with WooCommerce and add products to your site, there are certain things that are missing from your website.
For example, when you create an online store you need to add a contact form so visitors can get in touch with you. You should also monitor the traffic on your website with the help of Google Analytics.
This is where WordPress plugins come in handy. You can install a plugin to add extra features and take your site to the next level.
However, there are more than 54,000 plugins available in the WordPress plugin repository. Which one should you use on your website?
Here are some of the most essential plugins that you should install on your WordPress site:
- WPForms: It’s the best form plugin for WordPress. You can use its drag and drop interface to build different types of form including contact form, survey form, and feedback form.
- OptinMonster: Planning to build your email list? You should use OptinMonster in that case. It’s a powerful lead generation software for marketers, eCommerce sites, and businesses.
- MonsterInsights: It’s the best Google Analytics plugin for WordPress and helps you monitor your site traffic from your admin panel.
- Beaver Builder: If you want to design pages for your site without the help of a web developer, then Beaver Builder is the plugin that you need. You can use its drag and drop page builder to build high quality designs within minutes.
- UpdraftPlus: You should always back up the files, images, and other resources of your website even if your web host is doing that for you. And UpdraftPlus is one of the best plugins you can use for this purpose.
- Sucuri: It’s a popular WordPress security plugin that helps you protect your site from hackers, malware, and DDoS attacks. It also provides CDN service using which you can improve the loading time of your website.
- SeedProd: This plugin allows you to create beautiful coming soon and maintenance mode pages for your site.
- Yoast SEO: It’s the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress. You can use it to optimize your pages for search engines.
- TrustPulse: Did you know that adding social proof can increase your site conversions by up to 15%? TrustPulse is a social proof notifications app and can help you to grow your eCommerce business.
Apart from the above, you may even follow our expert roundup of the best WordPress plugins you must install on your website.
Also, you can check out these 20+ free plugins for WooCommerce to enhance your eCommerce site.
How to Start an Online Store: FAQs
Now we’re near the end of our guide, but before wrapping up I’d like to address some common questions that a lot of beginners have.
How to start an online store with no money?
Unfortunately, when it comes to opening an online shop, you have to spend money to make money. Some platforms, like Shopify, offer free trials so you can get started for free. But once your trial is up, you’ll have to start paying. Their plans start at $29 per month.
The cheapest way to start an online store is by using WooCommerce, which is free. All you need to pay for is the web hosting and domain name.
With Bluehost, you can get started for just $6.95 per month and get a free domain, which is as close to free as you’ll find.
How to start an online store without inventory?
There are plenty of ways to open an online store without handling the inventory yourself, such as print-on-demand services and dropshipping.
Spocket, for example, is a dropshipping marketplace where you can choose from thousands of products to sell on your site. They handle order fulfillment, shipping, and tracking for you.
For more information, check out this guide to dropshipping with WordPress.
How to start an online store legally?
When starting a business, it’s smart to be aware of any potential legal issues so you don’t get into expensive legal trouble.
I can’t offer legal advice here and definitely recommend talking to a lawyer for legal advice, since every situation is different.
In general, here are some legal concerns to be aware of when starting an online store:
- Privacy: When you’re handling sensitive data like credit card numbers, you need to make sure you’re doing it safely. That’s why using SSL and a reliable payment gateway is so important.
- Trademarks: Make sure your store name and logo aren’t violating someone else’s trademark. Consider registering your own store’s trademarks.
- Spam: You’ll want to read up on spam laws in your area, such as the CAN-SPAM act in the United States. You can find out more info in our guide to email marketing.
- Taxes: Talk to an accountant to find out what kind of taxes you can expect to pay, so you’re not stuck with a surprise bill at the end of the year.
That’s all! I hope this step by step tutorial helped you learn how to start an online store.
If you liked this article, then you may also want to check out the best SEO tools to increase your traffic in 2019.
Also, please feel free to comment below if you have any questions.