The most famous platform, WordPress, is being used for various purposes. You can blog, run a full-fletched online business, have a portfolio website, build community. The list is endless. But essentially, a great many things come when you start generating income from this inexpensive platform.
Cue in, WooCommerce.
Right now with a presence in over half of the eCommerce websites on the internet, there’s no denying that WooCommerce will keep your cash-registers ringing. It is elegant, simple-to-use, and comes with every feature necessary for an online store. Not to forget the 4+ million active installs mark that puts it in the ‘Top 5 most-popular WordPress plugin’ list. So it’s about high time we take a closer look at it, don’t you think?
For that very reason, this article will entail everything and provide an in-depth view of WooCommerce – how to use it – and what you can do with such power and control.
A little bit of history first
WooCommerce was founded by WooThemes which soon became popular after its launch in 2008. WordPress users from all around the world started downloading this free plugin in order to set up their business online.
Later in early 2015, Automattic, one of the core contributors of WordPress acquired both WooThemes and WooCommerce, bringing them into the fold. WooCommerce collected their annual revenue north of $11 million last year alone making it one of the most successful plugins in the market.
But what makes it so successful and desirable? Well, it packs in some of the best features that allow users to have complete control over their online shop.
Features that make WooCommerce so special
It doesn’t matter if you have digital or physical goods. WooCommerce lets you sell everything. WooCommerce Bookings and Appointments plugin, for example, is a plugin that lets you convert products into Bookable products. Meaning, clients can book any resource or service right on your website.
WooCommerce allows you to have product variations based on colors and sizes. It also offers download functionality for products that are digital, keeping affiliate products as an option too.
Shipping is another area where this plugin excels. Capable of allowing shipping to a single zip-code or a range of countries, it allows you to manage drop shipping perfectly. There are other cool extensions that make shipping like cracking an egg. We’ll explore shipping in-detail later in the article.
Payment options include credit cards, PayPal, bank transfers and cash and it works with payment gateways like Stripe, Authorize.net, and Amazon Payments. Plus, WooCommerce has a detailed reporting module that will always keep you up to date on how your venture is faring.
Security and ease for developers
Security comes first in your mind when you let a foreign online solution access your personal and sensitive information. But there’s none with WooCommerce. The security patch is regularly audited by the developers which keep your website secure and updated.
For the developers, the plugin is a natural playground and they can customize it to fit your theme and likeness. Talking more about the look and feel, it also comes with a started theme called the Storefront, which is a default. Other than that, it comes with its own REST API that allows third-party service integration.
Plugins that make the room brighter
Introduced earlier, the REST API allows third-party plugin authors to integrate their plugins with WooCommerce. The obvious expansion of the plugin market with numerous plugins supporting WooCommerce is unaccountable. No surprise in its dominance over the current eCommerce platform market.
There a sea of extensions to choose from, both free and paid. There are presently hundreds of plugins in every category, and hundreds more that are about to pop-up this year. Here’s a small list of top 13 WooCommerce shipping plugins currently ruling the WooCommerce Shipping category.
It should be apparent by now why WooCommerce is so popular and widely used. Now’s the time we see how to use it, shall we?
Setting up and installing WooCommerce
Like any other WordPress plugin, you can easily download the plugin from the Add New option in the Plugins menu. Just type WooCommerce in the Search plugins section and tap on Install Now. You can later Activate it after the installation is done.
Right after the activation, you’d see the installation wizard.
1. Configure your shop
You need to enter your store details here. This includes important information like Store location and address, currency, and the type of product that you will be selling on your store.
2. Configure Payment Gateways
Here you will set up your payment options. Decide whether to accept PayPal (plus, enter your credentials) as well as payment via cheque, cash or bank transfer. As mentioned, these can be extended via add-ons.
3. Set up Shipping and Taxes
In this next step, you can set up shipping costs and whether to include sales tax in your prices.
Don’t worry if you don’t know these things yet, you can just skip ahead or change the settings later. Depending on your location, WooCommerce is also able to suggest starter tax rates.
We had to fly over the other two options(Recommended and Activate) as they were optional. But don’t you worry as you can set them up later.
5. Create a product
You now have your basic info set up. If you want, you may allow WooCommerce to collect diagnostic data and start creating your first product. If you click on the Create a product option, WooCommerce will move you to the following page:
However, to gain a better overview, we will use the Return to the WordPress Dashboard link at the bottom.
Upon clicking Add Product at the top or in the menu on the left you can start creating one. The following screen will look very familiar. It is basically the normal WordPress editor with a number of additional options.
At the top of the screen, you can give your product a title and add a description like in a normal post. This includes images and other media. The information here will appear on the main product page.
There are also a few other options that are very similar the ones found for posts and pages:
- Product Categories: Create and assign categories and subcategories to order your products and make them easier to browse.
- Product Tags: Distinguish products even further with tags.
- Product Image: Works like a featured image. Whatever you upload here will automatically spit out on the product and shop page.
- Product Gallery: In addition to the product image you can also add an image gallery, for example, to show different product variations, different angles and more.
So far so easy, however, the product creation screen has additional important options.
How to Manage Products With WooCommerce
Below the main editor, you will find a panel for additional product data. For your shop to work, it is crucial that you fill this in. First, you need to choose which type of product you are selling from the following options:
- Simple product
- Grouped product
- External/Affiliate product
- Variable product
Depending on what you pick, the configuration options will change. Overall, you can configure these settings:
- Virtual/Physical: If what you’re selling is not a real-life product but software of some sort, check this button. It will also remove the shipping options.
- Downloadable: In addition to that, you can determine whether your product is downloadable, upload the file and add information as well as download conditions.
- General: Give your product a Stock Keeping Unit (unique ID, mandatory), provide product URLs and button text for affiliate products, price, and sales price (if applicable) as well as the date range for any upcoming sales. You can also set up whether it’s a taxed product as well as its tax class.
- Inventory: Determine whether the product is in stock and — if it’s a physical product — note down the quantity available and whether you accept backorders.
- Shipping: Weight, dimensions, and shipping classes are configured here.
- Linked Products: In this menu, you can include related products that will get recommended as up-sells or cross-sells and create product groups.
- Attributes: This is where you define custom product attributes like color, size, etc.
- Variations: When you have set up attributes, this menu allows you to offer variations of your goods.
- Advanced: Here you can add a custom purchase note that will be sent to customers after purchase, change the product order inside the menu and determine whether to allow reviews.
The final step is to fill in the short description at the bottom of the screen. The content entered here will show up under the product title. When you have set everything up, the finished page will look like this:
Congratulations, you created your first product with WooCommerce and can now access it from the Products menu.
Other Product Settings
The other items in the Products menu are pretty straightforward. If you have used WordPress before, categories and tags should be second nature to you. The only difference worth mentioning is that in WooCommerce you can add thumbnail images to product categories.
What should also be brought to attention are the other two menus for additional product data named Shipping Classes and Attributes. The first one allows you to create product groups by shipping and can be used for calculating shipping costs by class.
We had already mentioned attributes above and in the corresponding menu you may create sizes, colors and other characteristics that can be added to products as variations.
Let’s move on to other things.
From here on out we will look at the menus available under WooCommerce. We’ll explain each and every menu item one by one so you know exactly what’s going on there.
As you can imagine, this screen shows the current order status of your shop. If you are strictly dealing in digital products there isn’t much to see here except for how many products you are currently slinging and who bought what. Physical goods, on the other hand, can be sent on to shipping and have their order status changed (pending payment, on hold, refunded, failed, etc.).
You can also modify billing or shipping addresses, resend order emails, add notes, change the content of the order and more.
This part should also be a familiar concept. Under Coupons, you may create and manage discount codes.
Determine the type and amount of discount, set expiration dates, restrict usage (for example, in conjunction with other coupons) and set limits on how many coupons can be used overall or per user.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. The report section is one of the highlights of WooCommerce. The plugin automatically creates detailed summaries on every aspect of your shop.
Check gross and net sales of the last seven days and other time frames, view orders placed, items purchased, refunds issued, shipping costs taken in and coupons used–all at a glance.
It doesn’t stop there. The same overview is available for customer sales, product stock, and taxes and can be exported in CSV form to import into your own books.
This section is where you control quite literally every aspect of your WooCommerce online store. Even the free plugin version offers loads of configuration options and I will go over them briefly to give you a good understanding of WooCommerce’s customization capabilities.
- Location Settings: Control the base location of your store, choose the countries you sell to or set to worldwide and create example address details for customers.
- Store Notice: Display a site-wide notice text for all customers.
- Currency Settings: Set the currency you will be paid in, change the currency format, thousand separator, decimal separator and how many decimals to display after the comma.
- General: Change weight and dimension units as well as settings for product reviews, ratings and who can leave them.
- Display: Determine the shop page and whether or not to display categories, change the category archive design as well as product order, shopping cart behavior, and image dimensions.
- Inventory: Enable or disable stock management, how long to hold unpaid orders, notifications for low-running stock and their recipients as well as stock thresholds and inventory display on the page.
- Downloadable Products: File download delivery method and access restriction for downloadables.
- Tax Options: Enable and disable taxes globally, determine whether to use the net or gross prices, configure the calculation method for product and shipping taxes, set up the rounding method, add Shipping tax classes, configure the price display in the shop and how to show tax totals.
- Additional Tax Classes: You can list additional tax classes below(1 per line). This is in addition to the default “Standard Rate”.
- Standard Rates: Set up different tax rates to use in your shop.
- Reduced Rate Rates: Same for reduced rate items.
- Zero Rate Rates: Same for tax-free items.
- Shipping Options: In this section, you can define how to calculate shipping costs, set shipping/billing address as well as shipping locations and methods. This section also has a Debug option.
- Shipping Zones: A shipping zone is a geographic region where a certain set of shipping methods are offered. WooCommerce will match a customer to a single zone using their shipping address and present the shipping methods within that zone to them.
- Shipping Classes: Shipping classes can be used to group products of similar type and can be used by some Shipping Methods(such as “Flat Rate Shipping” to provide different rates to different classes of product.
- Direct Bank Transfer(BACS): Enable and disable bank wire transfers and customize user messages as well as bank connections.
- Cheque Payments: Cheque payment options including description and instructions.
- Cash on Delivery: Determine whether to accept cash on delivery, for which shipping methods and give instructions for clients paying cash.
- PayPal: PayPal payment options, credentials, testing and debugging, advanced options and API settings.
Accounts & Privacy
- Account Options: Determine where users can check their account info, define unique identifiers for different actions on the account page, enable customer registration in different places and whether or not to automatically generate customer usernames and passwords.
- Personal data retention: With this section, you can choose how long to retain personal data when it’s no longer needed for processing. You can leave the options blank to retain the entered data indefinitely.
- Email Options: Determine the recipients and content of different important checkout email notifications, sender names and email addresses and configure the email template (header image, footer text and color scheme).
- Page setup: This option will allow you to choose from the various pages that WooCommerce has to offer.
- Checkout endpoints: Endpoints are appended to your page URLs to handle specific actions during the checkout process. They should be unique.
- Account endpoints: Technically, Account endpoints have the same concept but they can be left blank to disable the endpoint.
- API Settings — Enable/disable the WooCommerce REST API, set up endpoints and permissions for external applications to access your shop data and create event notifications for integrating third-party services.
The system status section provides you with an overview of the health and performance of your online shop. In the same place, you can also download a system report in case you need to get in touch with the WooCommerce support.
Apart from that, you will also find a number of tools for debugging and resetting cached data and the possibility to see data logs for your shop.
Finally, through the add-on section, you get access to the aforementioned extensions. Everything is ordered by category and a click on any extension takes you right to the website where you can purchase it.
You may look further out of WooCommerce Extensions option if you need additional or advanced features.
For example, WooCommerce FedEx plugin does not come with features like shipment tracking and printing shipping labels. Whereas our plugin, WooCommerce FedEx Shipping Plugin with Print Label, offers the above features along with a few additions like FedEx Freight and FedEx International services. You can compare them in this comparison article if you’d like.
Here are a few other cool plugins that should suit your business case:
- WooCommerce UPS Shipping Plugin with Print Label
- WooCommerce Canada Post Shipping Plugin with Print Label
- WooCommerce Royal Mail Shipping Plugin with Tracking
- WooCommerce Table Rate Shipping Pro
- WooCommerce Bookings and Appointments
- WooCommerce Shipment Tracking Pro
- WooCommerce Estimated Delivery Date Plugin
- WooCommerce Multi-Carrier Shipping Plugin
Well, now you’re ready
Although it isn’t often advertised as such, eCommerce is another strong suit of the WordPress platform and WooCommerce is clearly the star in this particular arena. The online shop plugin offers a powerful and free solution to build extensive online shops for both digital and physical products.
While the basic WooCommerce is all you need to get your shop up and running, users can also rely on hundreds of paid and thousands of free extensions to further customize their shop.
The overview above provides you with enough knowledge to get your own WordPress online shop up and running. All that’s left for you it is come up with a good product. Thanks to WooCommerce, the infrastructure is already in place.
Let us know if you found this article useful. Pour your thoughts in the comments below.