This is a beginner’s guide with step-by-step instructions on how to create an e-commerce website with WordPress for free. We have chosen WordPress specifically for this guide because it is currently one of the most popular content management systems being used nowadays by all kinds of users from beginners to gurus. The best thing about wordpress is its ease of use and its user friendly GUI that allows you to build websites on clicks very quickly. You can learn it in a short amount of time if you get your mind to it and with little or no website design / development experience you can still create an online store with WordPress themes and plugins. You will however need to get yourself familiar with its features and functionality. Here‘s a good tutorial you can read to know about all functionality.
To start an online business, you will obviously need to build an e-commerce website that allows users to order products directly from your website and we will show you exactly how to do that. Although it may sound very difficult but as you move along this wordpress ecommerce tutorial, you will see how easy it is to actually setup an e-commerce website with wordpress where you can add your products and accept customer’s orders. Below are the steps that you need to read and understand carefully.
1. Identify the Product
Obviously the first step is to identify the product you want to sell. If you want to start an online business you must have a product(s) to sell to the customers. It can either be a physical product or a digital product. It should be something that you can deliver to your customer without hassle. Also when choosing your product, you should consider conducting a competitive marketing analysis. It will help you identify the level of competition you will be facing with other sellers. There might be hundreds and thousands of other retailers offering the same product. Here‘s a good guide that can help you with it. Once you have identified the product that you want to sell online, its time to move to the next step.
2. Buy Domain and Web Hosting
In order to establish an online business you need to have a website and to build a website you need to have a domain name for the website, for example, xyz.com and a web hosting where all of your website files will be uploaded. You have to choose the domain name very carefully because you have to ensure that the name is appealing to the customers and it matches the description of your business. Domain name always has a big impact in online marketing. It should be attractive and easy to remember like “amazon”, “ebay” etc. There are a number of online domain registrars that offer domain name registration services. Some of the good ones are godaddy.com, name.com, hostgator.com. You can even buy Domain names for as low as $0.99 from GoDaddy.
For the sake of simplicity, we will assume that you have registered your domain at godaddy.com. Now what you need to do is to buy web hosting. For all the rookies out there, the purpose of web hosting is to host your website files. They may include web pages, photos, website themes, plugins etc. The domain name that you have registered must be mapped to the web hosting for the website to be available. If you have registered your domain name from another company and web hosting from another, then you will have to map your domain to the web hosting. It is always better to buy both domain and web hosting from the same company so you don’t have to face such issues. Here’s a good video tutorial on how you can register your domain and web hosting on go daddy and get started with building your website.
As you can see the procedure is very simple and you can have your website up and running within an hour. There are many advanced features you can use to manage and maintain your website but they will be covered in another article.
Cost involved: Approx. $60 per year
3. Install WordPress on your website (Using Godaddy)
As mentioned before, we will be focusing on using wordpress to build our e-commerce website. Wordpess is very easy to install and very easy to use and build up your website. It is also very efficient when it comes to performance. In terms of security, they regularly patch their bugs and vulnerabilities and there are many great plugins that you can use to boost up the security of your website. Now, assuming you have registered your website domain and bought the web hosting, the next step is to install wordpress on your website. Below is a great video tutorial that will help you with the installation.
Hopefully with this intuitive tutorial you will be able to install wordress on your website domain. After it’s done, you should be able to load wordpress directly from your website and start interacting with it. The best indicator for successful installation is you should be able to see the wordpress login page when you type and enter your website name in your browser. This is what you should see when you launch your website:
If you’re able to see this page that means wordpress has been successfully installed on your website and now you can move on with the next steps.
4. Install a Free WordPress Theme (E-Store)
After installing wordpress, the next step is to download a theme and install it on your website. It is totally up to you which theme you want to install for your website. It is best to select a theme that suits your website functionality. For instance, in our case we need to choose a theme specifically designed for e-commerce online shopping. The theme should have the necessary features required to run a full-fledged online shopping website. Since our priority is to launch an online shopping store with minimum capital, we will start with a free wordpress theme that is designed for e-commerce. EStore is a free wordpress theme that is designed purely for creating an e-commerce website. You can download it for free HERE. After the theme has been downloaded, you need to install in on your wordpress CMS. Follow these steps:
- After logging in to your WordPress CMS, Go to Appearance on the left sid-bar and then click on Themes.
- In the Themes window, click on the Add New button.
- In the next window, click the Upload Theme button.
- Then simply browse the theme zip file that you downloaded and click Install Now.
- The theme should install successfully in the next few moments.
In case you still find it hard to install the theme, here’s another video that should help you:
After watching this video, you should be able to install any wordpress theme that you desire. In case you run into any problems, you should always ask the theme provider that you bought it from. In case of a free theme, you can look for help in wordpress related forums.
Cost involved: $0 (With Free Estore theme)
5. Install an e-commerce plugin
Whether you are using the free Estore theme or another theme that you bought from another source, you will need to integrate it with a plugin that provides all the functionality you need for running an online business. Here are some important features that an e-commerce plugin should support:
- Functionality needed to sell both physical and digital items
- Automatic product delivery through download link for digital items
- Secure download manager to prevent others to download the digital product
- A shopping cart that allows customers to add and buy products
- Functionality to provide discount offers for your items
- Calculation of item prices and shipping delivery rates
- Support for popular payment gateways to allow customer to place orders online
- Support for cash-on-delivery mechanism for customers
- Customer accounts and profiles
These are the most important features that you should consider when downloading or buying an e-commerce plugin. Plugins are like engines that power the cars. That’s why you should choose it very carefully. Once again, in our case, we want to find a free plugin that incorporates most of the features mentioned above. Luckily for us there is a plugin called woocommerce that supports most of the needed functionality and the best part is it is fully compatible with the Estore wordpress theme. You can download the woocommerce plugin from HERE. Now we explain how to add woocommerce to wordpress:
- Go to Plugins tab on the left side-bar and click on Add New.
- In the Add new window, click on the Upload Plugin button.
- You can also search for your desired plugins through the search bar on the right.
- In the Upload Plugin window, browse for the downloaded plugin, upload it and install it.
- After installing the plugin, you can configure it according to your needs.
- The installed plugin should appear either on the left side-bar or under the Settings tab menu in the left side-bar.
Here’s another great video tutorial on how to use Woocommerce for wordpress.
Once you have installed and configured the theme and plugin, you are ready to launch the store. The hard part it over and now you only need to manage your customers, products and orders in your WordPress CMS.
Cost involved: $0 (With Free Woocommerce plugin)
6. Manage your online store
If you have completed all the above 5 steps then congratulations! You have successfully launched your online shopping store. What you now need to do is structure your website properly, test each and every feature that the theme and plugins have to offer, add some sample products, create some test orders to pick out the ambiguities and start marketing your website to real customers. It’s that simple. However, it is very important that you get familiar with using wordpress and utilizing all features that it has to offer. This is how your online shopping store should finally look like:
Hopefully after you have read this guide, you should be able to build a simple e-commerce business completely free using wordpress with basic functionality. If you still can’t wrap your head around the whole e-commerce system then perhaps you need to read some more tutorials and guides. The most important thing is to gain expertise over WordPress.
The learning process can be quite slow but at the end of the day you will be able to design and build any type of websites. Even if you are not able to run a successful online business, it is still a great skill to have and hopefully next time you will succeed.
This guide does not intend to turn you into a wordpress guru but to get a basic understanding on how to start your own business and take it on the world wide web. And the most important objective was to do all that will minimum cost involved. That’s why we focused on using free themes and plugins. Finally, here’s the total investment required to start an online business (with free theme and plugin):
Total Cost: $60 per year
As unbelievable as it sounds, it’s true. $60 per year is nothing compared to how much people spend to have their websites built by companies plus the regular maintenance cost that is involved when you hire someone else to do it. Most of the business owners spend thousands of dollars to do what we did in $60. It is always better to try to do stuff yourself before hiring others to do it. It creates a hell of a difference.
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