In today’s ultra-competitive, intricately connected world, things tend to happen as much in cyberspace as out of it. Things move much more rapidly and in much more fluid a manner than they used to – communications, media both social and journalistic, and commerce, it’s all digital and near instantaneous. Such a climate can literally bring the world to a person’s fingertips. After all, where else but the Internet can the average person create mind-boggling levels of innovation, trend-shattering phenomena, and near-instant fame (or infamy)? The Internet is truly a revolutionary place, and that’s probably why entrepreneurial types love it so much. Throw up a website and an “Open for Business” sign, and you can start making money in no time. Of course, nothing worthwhile comes to anyone without a little effort. There’s some work involved, especially for those new to the world of Internet business. Moreover, some methods are more effective than others. With that said, there’s no reason at all why this should be a daunting or frustrating process. In fact, one of the most effective strategies (and one of the easiest starting positions) for e-commerce success is to start an online store using WordPress. If you’d like to learn how to do just that with a minimum of fuss or technical jargon, just keep reading!
E-Commerce Website Creation: Paid vs. Free
Before we get into the figurative meat and potatoes of this guide, it should be noted that the quickest, easiest way to establish a great looking, fully functional storefront for (or as / in place of) your business website is simply to pay someone with the coding knowledge to do it for you. It’ll cost you, and if it involves a lot of customization, extra bells and whistles, non-standard features, and / or a large time commitment, it may cost quite a lot. Even so, getting your online store set up in this way affords you the maximum in control, customization and individual tailoring, and personalization. It’s the equivalent of getting a tailored suit as opposed to buying one off the rack.
On the other hand, there are plenty of free options that are perfectly adequate for the purposes of professional-quality online store creation, and they shouldn’t be lightly dismissed or brushed aside. This is especially true in the case of WordPress-based options, which, again, is what we’ll be using. Specifically, this guide covers a free WordPress plugin called WP Shopping Cart.
Why Use WP Shopping Cart?
There are plenty of reasons to use this plugin in lieu of other options. Here are the main ones.
Like its parent, the WP Shopping Cart plugin is a breeze to install. Just follow the simple instructions & menu prompts, and your store will be set up a few clicks later. You’ll have to flesh it out a little, obviously, but it’s quite possible to have the basis for your store established in less than thirty minutes. Stock the shelves, as it were, and you should be ready to start making money in about an hour from installation.
Product Customization and Display Options
This plugin is designed around the concepts of user simplicity and rapid deployment, so you won’t get a ton of super advanced features (this is where the paid option shines). Still, when it comes to showcasing your products when, where, and how you wish, WP Shopping Cart offers all the standard options. You can offer varied color, size, and quantity choices, customize the appearance of your storefront – where your products are displayed on your website, the use of standard / default or custom buttons and menus, and so forth – and more. Finally, if you want to display some or all of your products elsewhere on your WordPress site, this plugin can handle that, too. This gives you the freedom to write blog posts specifically tailored to a particular product or set of products, and it gives your customers instant access to them, all without having to visit your actual storefront.
Universal Shopping Cart and Simple Shipping
Being a part and extension of WordPress as a whole, WP Shopping Cart is able to display your customers’ shopping carts on every page of your site. As long as they’re on your site, they’ll always be able to view, access, and edit their shopping cart with just a couple of clicks. Again, this gives customers freedom to roam your site at their leisure, and it gives site admins / owners the freedom to create without undue constraint.
When it comes time to buy, WP Shopping Cart’s simple shipping set-up lets merchants charge shipping and handling in a variety of ways, including multiple iterations of flat shipping, graduated shipping, and of course, customer discounts!
With PayPal integration built into this plugin, payment is a snap for merchants and customers alike. Both parties can rest assured that their transaction will be swift, fair, and safe. What’s more, PayPal also allows the use of credit / debit cards, so visitors to a store that uses this plugin can buy safely and confidently even without a PayPal account. Meanwhile, because of PayPal’s low fee structure, sellers can do a thriving trade without a lot of overhead.
Ready to start an online store using WordPress? Great! Step by step instructions can be found below, with fully detailed technical instructions linked at the end.
STEP ONE: LAYING THE GROUNDWORK
There are a few things you’ll need to do – bricks in the foundation, so to speak – in order to set up your online store. You will need:
- At least one active WordPress site. Learn how to make a website with my step-by-step guide.
- An installed copy of the WP Shopping Cart Plugin on said WordPress site
- An active, verified, unencumbered PayPal account
Nothing will work if you don’t have these minimum requirements in place, so if you don’t have these things set up, now is the time to do it.
STEP TWO: UPLOAD YOUR IMAGERY
This is where you’ll upload your product snapshots and button images. No one will buy anything if they can’t see what it looks like, and while the plugin will insert standard / default button images in the absence of user-defined content, you want to stand out! It’s conceivably possible to skip this step, but it’s not wise to do so, at least not if you plan on making any money. Don’t worry, WP Shopping Cart makes this step really easy.
STEP THREE: USE YOUR MANNERS
Whenever visitors to your site buy something, they turn into customers, and that’s the lifeblood of your business. If you want to retain them and stay healthy and prosperous, the least you can do is say thank you! Create a new page, fill in the required fields with the title and text of your choice (try to make it friendly and informative), and presto, you’ve got a “Thank You” page. Giving your customers a post-purchase page to land on isn’t just a way to reassure them that their purchase was successful and on the level. It’s also a cunning way to recommend related products, direct them to partner content, and more. Don’t skip this step!
STEP FOUR: MAKE WP SHOPPING CART AND PAYPAL PLAY NICELY
PayPal is the platform that will handle all of your store’s transactions, so don’t neglect it! Integrating it with your existing site(s) is really easy, so don’t panic. Just follow the simple instructions and prompts, fill in the required fields and check boxes, and you’ll be good to go. A note about the “Return URL” field: This can literally be any valid URL / website address you want, but it should send people to the “Thank You” page you set up in Step Three since otherwise, there’s no purpose in having created it!
Once all the fields are populated as you want / need them to be, click the update button to save and apply your settings.
STEP FIVE: SET UP YOUR PRODUCT PAGES
This is the fun part – it’s time to set up the pages that allow people to buy your stuff! As before, simply populate the relevant fields, insert any relevant product and/or button images uploaded during the course of Step Two, add in some text so your customers can get a sense of what they’re purchasing and the HTML (and sometimes PHP) code that makes your shopping cart work correctly, and you’re set. Save and update your settings, refresh the page, and pat yourself on the back – you just created a WordPress store.
Conclusion / Closing Thoughts
Congratulations! You’ve just done a very cool thing. Starting an online store using WordPress can be daunting and frustrating without access to the right guidance, but with this handy tutorial guide at your disposal, you should be able to do it in about an hour. Thanks for reading, and good luck!