Product owners, whether having digital or physical products, or a combination of the two, like to “set up shop” on the Internet as a “cheap” and effective way to sell their goods.
In the outlined process below, I will explain how, using WordPress as the platform, to set up an online store front. While there is shopping cart software, like Zen Cart, specific to the task, WordPress is a great, simple, flexible choice. On a side note however, for stores with lots of products (multi-100, or 1000s) and unique marketing requirements, providing the budget is there, I would opt for a hosted solution such as Shopify.
1 WordPress setup basics
Getting the domain and hosting setup first is necessary. After that, either using Fantastico, or perfroming a manual WordPress install is necessary. If setting WordPress up manually, perform the following steps:
- Create a MySQL database and copy down the DB name, DB user name & password, and DB host name.
- Download WordPress installation files from WordPress.org.
- Unzip the files onto your computer.
- Locate the wp-config-sample.php file and rename to wp-config.php.
- Edit the file using a text editor like TextPad and modify the values from step #1.
- If you know ahead of time which plugins and themes to include you can unzip them and put them in their proper location in the wp-content folder.
- Upload all files to the server in the proper folder (that you should have previously mapped an add-on domain to).
- The above step requires FTP. Another route would be to first zip all the files back up. Then launch the “File Manager” software within the Control Panel. From there you can upload the zip file and then “extract” the contents of it into the folder.
- Next, browse to the web site address and follow along the prompts for the last couple of steps for setting up WordPress.
2 Using the WooCommerce toolkit
The WooCommerce Toolkit, recently updated (March 18, 2013) is a free plugin that creates full eCommerce functionality into a WordPress blog. WooThemes also carries a couple free themes that are built to work with WooCommerce “out-of-the-box.”
Adding and editing products with full features such as attributes (color, size, etc.), plus keeping track of order details, viewing sales reports, creating coupons, managing inventory, setting up shipping (including local delivery), and configuring payment gateways are just some of the features the plugin offers. If the free basic features aren’t enough there are some premium extensions available. They include features for: table rate shipping, product import (CSV), extra shipping methods (like USPS and UPS), and more.
3 In conclusion
It really is that simple and “that free” to setup a store online with WordPress. Between the freely available Content Management System and the free Commerce pugin that includes custom post types for Products, plus the many other standard features, the only real costs are the domain name (~$10), hosting (~$100-$150/year), and time (depends how many products that you have). The above solution provides out-of-the-box SEO and a solid open source WordPress store front that is constantly evolving and improving.
It offers free updates when fixes and enhancements are made, and nominal paid upgrades for unique features. Plus for truly “custom” features you will not have a hard time finding someone that can work with WordPress and WooCommerce. Lastly, when deciding to “blog,” as anyone with an online store should, no extra tools will be required. You simply start blogging, and you can link people to the store, either on the homepage or in a /store/ folder, or even products within blog posts. Now, if you already have a domain name and hosting setup, the next stop is WordPress.org. Go now before you lose the desire!