Want to learn how to start an online store in 2020?
Well, that’s a good decision.
The eCommerce industry is booming and recent reports indicate that “51% of Americans prefer online shopping.“
In fact, according to Statista report “In 2019, online sales topped more than 3.53 trillion US dollars and they tend to keep increasing every year.”
This shows that there is so much money that is being made online and it just might be the best time to dip your toe into an eCommerce business.
When it comes to creating a full-fledged online store, It is not a very complex task as many people would think.
In fact from my experience (Who has been building website & blogs from more than 4 years now) I can say, even if you are a complete beginner, you can have your fully functional online store 🛒 in the next 30 minutes.
We’ll go step-by-step 🚶♂️ through the entire process to build an eCommerce website and make everything as straightforward as possible.
How to Start an online store in Nutshell
- Pick the right product to sell
- Brainstorm your business name and register your domain
- Select right eCommerce platform for your online store
- Get a reliable web hosting service.
- Install WordPress CMS on your Hosting account
- Select a WooCommerce Friendly Theme to give your site a new design
- Setup Your WooCommerce Store
- Add Products to your online store
Step 1: Pick the right products to sell
This may sound rather obvious, but picking the ‘right’ products to sell is absolutely important for the success of your online store.
From “Right,” I don’t mean the quality of the product, You should obviously avoid selling the poor quality product, but here I’m talking about the ‘uniqueness’ of your products.
Because when you set up an online store, you are going to compete with the widely popular eCommerce company selling everything under one roof. Just think of Amazon, eBay or Alibaba to get a flavor of the level of competition.
So, in general, you are going to have a tough time building a successful eCommerce site if you are simply selling stuff that is already widely available on those kinds of sites.
To build a successful online store, what you ideally need to do is – “Find your niche.“
Sorry if this sounds a bit too dictionary-like, Niche basically means a defined group of target customers who are willing to buy what you’re selling.
When looking for your niche, think people first. In other words, let’s find peoples who are interested in buying from you.
Here’s how to do that…
See, most probably you have a general idea as to what short of market you want to work in and what you want to sell – because there are very few people who go from complete scratch when starting an online eCommerce business.
But in case if you don’t have any idea then I’ll recommend you to work in an area that you already have a personal interest in, expert knowledge about, or passion for. It’s really hard to operate in a field that you know nothing about.
Once you have a general idea of your area, now the key is to narrowing down your ideal customer base and then understanding their need.
Luckily living in 2020, we have multiple online tools that will make our research process very easy.
The tool I personally use and I’ll also recommend you to use is – SEMrush.
It is a very powerful keyword research tool that will help you find related keywords from seed keywords and also allow you to find out how many searches per month are performed for each keyword in Google.
EDITOR’S NOTE: SEMrush is a paid (premium) tool, but it does offer a 7-day free trial, which should be more than enough for you to complete your research.
Now let’s say you want to deal in the “Shoes” industry. So, you can start your search with the seed keyword “SHOES“.
Here’s what SEMrush has to say about that one:
Now, as you can see according to SEMrush data, there are more than 1.5 million people is US and 2.8M people from all over the world are searching for “Shoes” on the internet.
But as I said earlier, if you’ll focus on a broad market like “Shoes” then most probably you’ll struggle to make sales.
So, here’s what you need to do.
Just scroll down and under “Keyword variation” click on Show all keywords.
Now SEMrush will show you all the related keywords to your main seed keywords along with search volume and keyword difficulty.
- Search volume – How many time a keyword is searched in a search engine like Google or Bing.
- Keyword difficulty score – How difficult it’ll be for you to rank on the first page of Google. (Lower is better)
What you can do now is browse through the list of related keywords and go deeper and deeper into your research.
For example, on the list of my “Shoes” related keywords, there’s a keyword “tennis shoes.” It has 55k searches a month, which is a good start.
I can click on it to go more deeper and choose a more specific market like “Tennis shoes for kids” or “Tennis shoes for womens”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Shoes is just an example, You can replicate the same process and find your own niche by narrowing down from a seed keyword and going deeper and deeper into related niches.
Once you have selected your niche, it’s also a good idea to perform some quick searches in Google to see how many online stores specialized in your niche product are already out there — and how established they are in the marketplace.
Though the presence of competition is a great sign as it’ll give you an idea that this niche works in e-commerce business. But in case if there are too many hugely popular online stores are already in existence, it might be time to think about selling a different product.
Once you find a niche that you think will work for you, proceed to the next step.
Step 2: Brainstorm a business name and register your domain name
When a parents give birth to a baby, they give him/her a name
The same goes for your “new-born” online store.
But is there any difference between Business name and domain name?
No there is no such difference, name is just a name of your business (Like the name of my blog is “Bloggingnova”)
Whereas a domain name is the address of a website. It’s what you write in the address bar of your browser to open a site (For example my blog domain name is “www.nerdblogging.com”
While getting a good name for your business is important, but that doesn’t mean, you should get too caught up in trying to achieve some imaginary perfection.
What you should focus on is coming up with a name that:
- Appeals to your target audience
- Doesn’t get in the way
- Fits your brand persona
Just think about who will buy your product and name something that your target audience can relate with.
👉 I have published a separate guide on how to come up with a blog name (You may read this guide)
How to find a good brandable name for your online store?
These name generators basically use automated artificial intelligence to create a short, brandable business name based on your target keyword.
Here’s how to use them:
Go to the business name generator of your choice and enter the keyword that resonate with your niche and audience.
Based on your keyword, the tool will return a range of possible business names for you.
For example, after putting “Shoes” into the Oberlo business-name-generator, I got these suggestions.
How to register domain name for your online store?
Once you have decided your online store name, now finally it’s time to register your domain name.
Though there are more than 50 domain name providers out there in the market, I’ll recommend you to register your domain name with Namecheap.
Here’s how you can get your domain from Namecheap:
Step 1: Visit Namecheap website and enter your domain name into search box.
Step 2: If your domain name is available, Just click on “Add to Cart button.”
Step 3: Review the items added to your Shopping Cart and once you are ready to order your domain, click on the Confirm Order button to proceed with the checkout.
Step 4: On the next screen, you’ll need to log in to your Namecheap account. If you don’t have an existing one then just enter your information on the right side to create a new one.
Step 4: Once you are logged in with your account, finally its time to make your payment.
Congrats you have successfully registered your domain…
Step 3: Choosing an eCommerce Platform for Creating an Online Store
Just like Android and iOS are the operating systems of your mobile phones, an eCommerce platform is the operating system of your online store.
If you are new to eCommerce business, then you’ll be surprised to know that there are more than 10-20 viable eCommerce platforms out there.
They all allow you to build your very own eCommerce store without any coding skills. However, not all of them are optimized for all kinds of users.
Three of the most popular eCommerce platforms that we recommend are Shopify, BigCommerce, and WordPress + WooCommerce.
Let’s quickly take a look at each of these popular eCommerce platforms.
Shopify is a fully hosted eCommerce solution that starts at $29/month.
Fully hosted means, you don’t need to install a software or manage your web hosting server, all you need to do is register for an account at Shopify.com, and then set up your store.
While it allows you to customize your store look and design with easy options, still customization options are limited when compared to a self-hosted eCommerce platform (I’ll talk about them in a moment).
With Shopify, you will also have to pay a transaction fee for every order you receive in addition to the monthly fee. This means that your actual cost on each product is going to be higher than $29 per month, and it’ll increase as your store grows.
BigCommerce is another fully hosted eCommerce solution. This means you can quickly build your online store without having to manage any technical aspects.
You can get started with BigCommerce for just $29.95/mo which includes unlimited file storages, products, and bandwidth. On top of that, BigCommerce does not take any additional transaction fees for using leading payment gateways, unlike Shopify.
However, one major drawback I found using BigCommerce is its ease of use. It uses a lot of complex terminology in its descriptions, which won’t appear user friendly to anyone who doesn’t have good knowledge of such specialist terms. As well as to design your online store, it comes with only 7 free theme and their paid themes can get quite expensive – often $145-$250.
WooCommerce is a self-hosted commerce solution that lets you build your online store using WordPress.
WordPress is by far the most popular and most used CMS for creating any type of site. Even the blog you are currently reading right now is also built on the WordPress platform.
WooCommerce takes the basic WordPress operating system and turns it into a fully-functioning eCommerce store.
Since WooCommerce is an open-source platform and a WordPress plugin, it’s free to download from the WordPress.org repository.
To get started with WooCommerce, all you need is a domain name and web hosting account.
(I’ve already talked about the domain name in step 2, I’ll discuss about web hosting in a moment)
Why I recommend creating your online store with WordPress + WooCommerce:
While fully hosted eCommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce are a bit easier to use and comes with everything you need out of the box to set up your eCommerce store, then it is obvious to wonder why someone should use WooCommerce!
Let me explain:
First thing first WooCommerce is the most popular way to build an eCommerce store. It powers 27% – a plurality – of the eCommerce stores in the top 1 million sites worldwide:
Working on top of the world’s most popular CMS WordPress (27 Million + Live websites), WooCommerce seamlessly integrates commerce with content.
Which means not just you can sell your product online, but with WooCommerce + WordPress combination you can also publish contents like the one you are reading right now.
And not to forget, Content marketing can increase your conversion rate by almost six times!
According to one of the recent case study, the average conversion rate with content marketing is 2.9%, compared to only 0.5% for sites not using it.
🔥 HOT QUESTION:
Why does content marketing improve conversions?
Customers crave connections, they want to feel engaged. And Content allows you to connect with your customers.
If you are successful in connecting with your target customers, it will increase engagement and brand loyalty, which will further boost conversions and increase sales.
With WooCommerce you can have full control over your online store looks and performance. Just like creating a website or blog on the WordPress platform gives you endless customization options, the same goes for making an online store with WooCommerce.
An online store with WooCommerce allows you to use numerous WordPress themes and plugins to add more and more features to your store. From physical products and digital downloads to subscriptions, content, and even appointments, you can sell anything with WooCommerce.
On top of that it is also one of the most economical ways to build an online store.
$29.95 / month
$0 for the software itself
To sum up, building an online store with WordPress and WooCommerce combination allows you to create exactly the kind of eCommerce site you want with minimal investment.
So, lets see how to create online store with WordPress and WooCommerce:
Step 4: Get a Reliable web hosting for your online store
As you have decided to create your eCommerce store with self-hosted WordPress CMS and WooCommerce plugin, you’ll need a web hosting to get started.
What is Web hosting?
Web hosting is basically where your website/eCommerce store lives on the internet.
Just like a retail store needs a physical location that customers can walk into, your online store/website needs a space on the web that your user/customer can visit too. Web hosting will provide that to you.
There are a gazillion different hosting providers out there, but the one I recommend to my readers is SiteGround.
Siteground is one of the few web hosting service providers which is both affordable and really freaking good, and it’s quite possibly the best web host out there for anyone starting a WordPress site.
Here are a few of my favorite features of Siteground:
- A technical support team knowledgeable in WordPress. (#1 Support in Industry)
- A built-in Content Delivery Network (CDN) to speed up your site.
- Free SSL certificates (so Google will know your site can be trusted)
- Daily backups (so you never lose your data)
And if you’re a new customer, SiteGround also offers a 60% discount.
The blog you are reading right now is also hosted on Siteground hosting.
How to Purchase Web Hosting at SiteGround
Step 1: Go to SiteGround and click on the GET PLAN button underneath the WordPress hosting plans that best fit your needs.
For beginners, I suggests the StartUp plan:
Step 2: On the next screen, select I already have a Domain option and enter the domain name you purchased earlier from Namecheap and finally click on the PROCEED button.
Step 3: On the final screen, you’ll have to complete four sections:
- Account Information (your email address and password)
- Client Information (your name, mailing address, and phone number)
- Payment Information (Visa, Mastercard, and Discover are accepted)
- Purchase Information (billing period, [optional] extra services)
After filling all the information, Click on Pay Now button.
Once you have got your hosting from Siteground, Now it’s time to connect it to your Namecheap domain name…
Step 5: Install WordPress on Your Hosting
Step 1: When you log in for the first time in your Siteground account, you will see the following screen: Click on “setup site” to proceed.
Step 2: Select ’Start New Website.’
Step 3: Now select WordPress. (You can also select WordPress + WooCommerce to make sure that Siteground automatically install WooCommerce plugin on your site. But even if you select WordPress, I’ve covered WooCommerce plugin installation in next step.)
Step 4: Enter an email address and a strong password.
NOTE: Make sure to note down this email and password somewhere in your desktop or paper, because it’ll be needed to login to your WordPress dashboard in the next step.
Step 4: Now you have to wait for few minutes to complete the WordPress Installation.
As soon as WordPress is installed on your hosting account, you’ll see something like this.
Now as you can see, Siteground has suggested that you should point your domain to your new hosting server to make your site live on the internet.
It is a very important step but don’t worry it’s pretty simple. Have a look at how to do this:
How to Point Your Domain Name to Your Web Host
To connect your Namecheap domain name with your SiteGround hosting account, follow the given below steps:
Step 1: Copy both NS1 and NS2 (nameserver codes 1 and 2 respectively).
Other way to get your Nameserver details:
- Go to your Siteground’s User Area > My Accounts >Click on Manage appearing next to your domain.
- Click on the vertical three-dot icon (appearing in the right side) and select server details from the drop-down options.
- On the very next screen, you’ll get your Nameserver details.
Step 2 : Now Sign in to your Namecheap account.
Step 3 : Click the Manage button appearing next to your domain.
Step 4: Find the Nameservers section and select Custom DNS from the drop-down menu.
Step 5: Enter the Nameserver 1 and 2 respectively you copied from Siteground’s server details page.
Finally click the check mark in the edited section to save your changes.
Note: Once you have made changes to your DNS at the registrar, It may take a few hourse (2-12 hours) for the nameservers to propagate everywhere. During which your website and email may not be available. So, don’t get panic during this period, once nameserver is updated, everything will get back to normal.
How to Log In to Your WordPress Dashboard?
Open your web browser and go to your WordPress login URL by appending /wp-admin to the end of your domain name.
You’ll be taken to your WordPress login page:
Here you’ll need to enter your email address and password which you selected while installing WordPress on Siteground.
After logging in, you’ll be taken to your WordPress dashboard, from where you are going to manage your whole site/store.
Step 6: Select a WooCommerce Friendly Theme to give your site a new look and design
In WordPress, your “theme” is the design of your website. It dictates how your WordPress site will looks when someone visits it.
There are literally more than 10,000 free and paid themes available for WordPress sites, but not all are optimized for eCommerce sites. There are only 5-10 themes which adds true value to an eCommerce store made on WordPress CMS.
Which WordPress theme is perfect for your online store?
Astra is a fast, highly customizable, and lightweight WordPress theme for WooCommerce that is designed to convert better and boost your store’s sales.
Research has shown that even a one-second delay in page load results in a 7% reduction in conversion, so it’s good to see that Asta scores pretty well across all the major speed benchmarking tool.
It features clean and performance-optimized code that ensures your online store loading time never gets in the way of your conversion.
Furthermore, this theme has been designed to be ‘mobile-first’ to ensure smartphone users are able to shop with ease at your online store. This mobile-first approach has incredible importance when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as search engines like Google gives first preference in their listings to sites that are mobile-friendly.
With an average industry cart abandonment rate of 69.57% and over 50% of those abandoners citing issues with the checkout page design, a poorly designed checkout page can quickly cost you a huge chunk of your revenue. Astra gives you the tools to cut your cart abandonment rate by offering a customizable and conversion-optimized checkout process.
Though Astra free version is capable of creating a professional-looking online store, but if you are able to pay $59 then you can get Astra Pro version which comes with plenty of unique WooCommerce centric features.
Few Notable features of Astra Pro:
- Off-canvas sidebar – It let’s you add helpful filters and widgets in off-canvas sidebars to improve user experience on your store.
- Grid settings – Display your product in a highly responsive and customizable grid layout.
- Dedicated Sidebar – You can easily add and customize sidebar for a dedicated page or apply them where they are most needed to boost user engagement.
- Quick View – This feature lets your customer preview each product in detail without having to open the complete product page.
- Gallery Options – You can display your product images in a responsive gallery that you can adjust vertically or horizontally.
- Checkout options – With Astra Pro, you don’t need to use those old one -step checkout. Astra gives you plenty of options like a two-step checkout, a distraction-free checkout and many more to enhance your user’s checkout experience.
- Premium templates – Astra Pro comes with plenty of pre-built but 100% customizable starter templates to make your store designing process fast and simple. You just need to Import your template, make it your own, and start getting sales!
Apart from all these WooCommerce specific features, there is lot more awesome features in Astra Pro (Like – Mega Menu, multiple Header Designs, Hooks & Filters, Flexible Footer Layouts and plenty of extra customization options.)
Step 7: Setting up Your WooCommerce Store
Now the time has come when we are going to set up our online store. As I mentioned earlier, WooCommerce is the most popular plugin to add eCommerce functionality to the WordPress site.
It has 4.6/5 rating from over 3,500 users and has been actively used on more than 4 million sites. It’s fair to say it’s pretty popular, and it’s easy to see why.
Now let me walk you through the process of installing and configuring WooCommerce on your site.
Step 1: Install the WooCommerce Plugin
Log in to your WordPress dashboard and head over to the plugin directory by clicking ‘Plugin’ on the left-hand menu:
Type ”WooCommerce” in the search bar, Once the plugin comes up, click the gray ‘Install Now’ button. Once Woo-commerce plugin is installed, you can click on the Activate button.
Step 2: Access the Setup Wizard
As soon as the plugin is activated on your WordPress site, WooCommerce will launch its configuration wizard, which will help you set up your store’s key settings.
First, you’ll need to fill some basic details about your business. Like the location of your store, Address, and preferred currency.
You’ll also need to choose which type of product you want to sell through your WooCommerce store. It can be digital, physical, or both.
Once you’re done, click on the Let’s go! button present at the bottom of the page.
Step 3: Choose Your Payment Processors
On the next page, you’ll be asked to choose your payment method.
You can enable online payment gateway options like PayPal, PayPal Standard, and Stripe by clicking on the toggle boxes. There are many other payment methods available for WooCommerce which you can install later as per your need.
In my opinion, the easiest way to accept payment is using PayPal standard. You just need to enter your PayPal email address and click on the continue button.
But most of the Online store owners use both PayPal and Stripe. By using the Stripe payment gateway, you can allow your user to directly make payments through their credit card information without having to leave your site and going to PayPal gateway.
Want to collect payment from customer offline? (Like – Cash on delivery)
Just click on the arrow icon appearing in right of Offline Payments, to view the different options available for offline payments and then enable the ones you would like to use on your website.
Step 4: Configure Your Shipping Options
If you are selling only digital product then there is no reason for shipping your product to your customer.
But if you are selling physical product then you need to ship them.
To set up shipping in WooCommerce, you first set up shipping zones, then add methods to those zones, and lastly, rates to your methods.
You can create as many zones as you like, and add multiple methods and rates to each zone.
Note: If you want you can also select free shipping option to not charge any additional money for product delivery.
Additional resource – How to Configure Your WooCommerce Shipping Options
Step 5: Review Optional Add-Ons
The next page of the setup wizard presents you with a few optional add-ons:
Though all of these tools can come in handy, but none of them are mandatory to run your online store.
Step 6: Install the Jetpack Plugin (Optional)
On the next screen, you’ll be asked to install Jetpack plugin on your site.
Jetpack is a handy freemium plugin that offers a wide range of features for your site security, analytics and more.
Although It can be a useful addition to your WooCommerce store but isn’t required – so it’s up to you whether you’d like to install it or not.
Step 7: Complete the Setup Process
Your WooCommerce store is now ready to rock and roll:
Step 8: Adding Products to Your Online Store
Once you have completed the configuration of your WooCommerce plugin, you can start adding products to your store.
Let me show you how to do it so you can start selling online.
To start adding product to your online store, you can either follow the link at the end of the setup wizard or go to Products > Add New. from your WordPress dashboard.
Either way, this will enable you to add your first product, using the familiar WordPress editor:
Add product title and description
The first thing you’ll want to do is add a title and a short description of your product.
Assign Category for your product
On the right side, you will see the ‘Product Categories’ box.
Click on the ‘+Add New Product Category’ to create a category for your product. This allows you and your customers to sort and browse products easily.
Product categories basically help in the grouping of your products. For example, if you sell “Sports Shoes“, “Formal Shoes“, “Boat shoes” and “Sneakers” on your online store. Then you can assign your every product to one of the four categories based on their “shoe type”.
This will help the customer to quickly locate products in the same category. You can create as many categories as you want and change them at any time.
Adding Key Details to Your Product
Scroll down a little to see the Product data box. This is where you can add details like price, inventory, shipping, and more.
At the very top, you can select whether your product is virtual or not (If virtual, shipping tabs will be removed from product box as Virtual product doesn’t require shipping)
As well as you’ll also need to choose whether your product is downloadable or not (Products like eBook, courses, PDF or other computer files)
In case if you are selling digital products (Downloadable products), you’ll also have to upload the file to be purchased, customize the download limit (leave it blank to mark it as unlimited), and set the download expiry (leave it blank to keep it available permanently)
In the General tab, you’ll be asked to enter the product’s regular price (Item’s normal/regular price) and Sale Price (Item’s discounted price that can then be scheduled for certain date ranges)
Next, in the Inventory tab, you can manage your stock by entering in the quantity of the product, Product stock status (in stock or out of stock.)
Next tab is related to Product Shipping. Here you can provide the dimensions, weight and delivery class of your products.
Next section is related to Linked Products. Here you can add related products and market similar products to the user. This promotes your product by using upsells and cross-sells.
Next, From Attributes section, you can add attributes to your product. For example, if you sell Shirts in different colors, you can specify the colors here.
The last Advanced tab allows you to create purchase notes for customers and enable or disable notifications.
Add Images to your product
On the right side of the page, you can add the main image of the product under the Product image box.
Note: You can also add extra images under the Product gallery box to showcase multiple images of a single product.
Once you are satisfied with all the information of your product, you can click on Publish button to make your product live on your site.
Repeat the process to add more products as needed.
How to start an Online Store: SUMMARY
And there you have it! The 8 steps to successfully launching an online store with WordPress and WooCommerce. Let’s recap them one last time:
- Pick the right product to sell
- Brainstorm your business name and register your domain
- Select the right eCommerce platform for your online store
- Get a reliable web hosting service.
- Install WordPress CMS on your Hosting account
- Select a WooCommerce Friendly Theme to give your site a new design
- Setup Your WooCommerce Store
- Add Products to your online store
How to Start an Ecommerce/Online Store: FAQs
When should a business start creating an online store?
Online shopping is growing so fast that the global online shopping market size is predicted to hit 4 trillion in 2020.
If you haven’t started your online store yet, it’s a great time to start. Last year (2019)it was estimated that there were 1.92 billion digital buyers, and eCommerce sales account for 14.1% of total retail purchases worldwide which is expected to rise from 14.1% to 22% till 2023.
How does an online store work?
An online store is basically a website on the internet through which customers place their order.
What Can I sell in my Online Store?
You can sells various kind of products and services on your Online store.
Physical Products – Like Computer, Guitar, Mobile phone, Book, Pencil, car, etc.
Consultation – Users can book their appointment to get one to one services you provide. (Like Online class)
Memberships – Memberships work much like subscription box businesses, relying on a recurring payment setup.
Digital products – Like Online course, ebook, PDF, PSD, Guides, etc.
Services: You can give services like website audit, photo editing, painting, or any other services through your online store.
How much does it cost to start an online store?
To start your online store with Shopify or BigCommerce (Two of the most popular eCommerce platform) you’ll need $30-$50/month.
However, if you set up your online store with the help of WordPress and WooCommerce you can get started with $5-10/month.
Can I start an online store without purchasing a hosting account?
You can’t store a website on the internet without hosting services. However, you can find several eCommerce platforms that allow you to build an online store with a premium subscription which includes hosting as part of it. (You’ll not need to manage your hosting account at all, they’ll do everything for you)
I hope you’ll find this in-depth guide helpful, and feel confident that launching your online store isn’t rocket science. If you follow the steps I have outlined above, you’ll be up and running in no time.
If you have any question about how to start an online store With WordPress and WooCommerce or want to share your e-commerce journey with the world.