How to Start an Online Store in 2021 (Step by Step)

Do you want to start your own online store? We know that building an online store can be a terrifying thought especially when you are not a techy.

Well, you’re not alone. After helping hundreds of users start their online store, we have decided to create the most comprehensive guide on how to build your online store with WordPress (step by step)

What Do You Need to Start an Online Store?

There had never been a better time to start an online business than today.

Anyone with a computer can get started within a matter of minutes and without acquiring any special skills.

The three things you need to start an online store are:

  1. A domain name idea (this will be the business name of your online store i.e wpbeginner.com)
  2. A web hosting account (this is where your website lives on the internet)
  3. Your undivided attention for 30 minutes.

Yep, it is really that simple.

You can setup your own online store with WordPress in less than 30 minutes and we’ll walk you through each step of the process.

In this tutorial, we will cover:

  • How to Register a Domain Name for Free
  • How to Choose the Best WooCommerce Hosting
  • How to Get a SSL Certificate for Free (required for accepting payments)
  • How to Install WordPress
  • How to Create a WooCommerce store
  • How to Add Products in your Online Store
  • How to Select and Customize Your Theme
  • How to Extend Your Online Store with Plugins
  • Learning to Learn WordPress & Grow Your Business

Ready? Let’s get started.

Video Tutorial

If you don’t like the video or need more instructions, then continue reading.

Step 1: Setting up Your Online Store Platform

The biggest mistake most users make is not choosing the right platform for their online store.

Thankfully you’re here, so you won’t be making that mistake.

There are two popular eCommerce platforms that we recommend: Shopify or WordPress + WooCommerce.

Shopify is a fully hosted eCommerce solution that starts at $29 / month (paid monthly or yearly upfront to earn a discount). It’s a hassle-free solution where you just log in and start selling. The downside to Shopify is that it gets quite expensive, and your payment options are limited unless you pay additional fees.

This is why most users choose WordPress + WooCommerce because of the flexibility it offers. It does require some setup, but it’s worth doing it in the long run. WordPress is the most popular website builder and WooCommerce is the world’s largest eCommerce platform.

In this tutorial, we will walk you through how to set up an online store in WordPress using WooCommerce.

To set up your eCommerce store, you need to a domain name, web hosting, and an SSL certificate.

A domain name is your website’s address on the internet. It is what users will type in their browsers to reach your website (for example: google.com or wpbeginner.com).

Web hosting is where your eCommerce website lives on the internet. It’s your website’s house on the internet. Every website on the internet needs web hosting.

SSL certificate adds a special security layer to your website, so you can accept sensitive information such as credit card numbers and other personal information. This is required for you to accept credit card payments on your eCommerce site.

Normally a domain name costs around $14.99 / year, web hosting costs around $7.99 / month, and SSL certificate costs around $69.99 / year.

That’s a lot of startup cost.

Thankfully, Bluehost, an official WordPress and WooCommerce recommended hosting provider, has agreed to offer our users a free domain namefree SSL certificate, and a discount on web hosting.

Basically, you can get started for $2.95 / month.

→ Click here to Claim this Exclusive Bluehost offer ←

Bluehost is one of the oldest web hosting companies, started in 1996 (that’s before Google). They are also the largest brand name when it comes to WordPress hosting because they host millions of websites.

NOTE: At Fledge we believe in transparency. If you sign up with Bluehost using our referral link, then we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you (in fact, you will save money and get a free domain). We would get this commission for recommending just about any WordPress hosting company, but we only recommend products that we use personally use and believe will add value to our readers.

Let’s go ahead and purchase your domain + hosting + SSL.

Open up Bluehost in a new window using this link and follow along.

The first thing you need to do is click on the green Get Started Now button to get started.

On the next screen, select the plan that you need (Basic and Plus are the most popular).

After that, you will be asked to enter the domain name for your website.

Choose domain name

Lastly, you will need to add your account information and finalize the package info to complete the process. On this screen, you will see optional extras that you can purchase.

It’s entirely up to you whether or not you purchase these, but we generally don’t recommend purchasing these. You can always add them later on, if you decide that you need them.

Uncheck hosting addons

Once completed, you will receive an email with details on how to login to your web hosting control panel (cPanel). This is where you manage everything from support, emails, among other things.

Once you are logged into the cPanel, you’ll notice that Bluehost has already installed WordPress for you and you can simply click on the ‘Log in to WordPress’ button.

Log in to WordPress

You just need to click on ‘Login to WordPress’ button, and it will take you to your WordPress site’s dashboard. It looks something like this:

WordPress dashboard

Congrats, you have finished setting up hosting and domain part.

The next step is to set up WordPress and your online store.

Step 2. Setting up WordPress

Upon your first login to your WordPress website, Bluehost may offer you help with setting up your website.

Go ahead and click on ‘I don’t need help’ link. Don’t worry we will walk you through all the necessary steps.

Let’s set up your WordPress website.

First, you need to visit Settings » General page to setup your WordPress site title and description.

WordPress online store title and description

You can use your store name as site title and provide a catchy description for your business. The description part is optional so don’t worry if you can’t come with something right away.

Setting up HTTPS to Use SSL

Your WordPress hosting package came with a free SSL Certificate. This certificate is pre-installed for your domain name. However, your WordPress site needs to be configured, so it loads as https vs http.

On the Settings » General page, you need to change your WordPress Address and Site Address to use https instead of http.

Use HTTPs for your WordPress store address

Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your settings.

Your basic WordPress setup is complete. Now it is time to setup your online store.

Step 3. Setting up Your WooCommerce Store

WooCommerce is the best online store builder on the market. It is built on top of WordPress which gives the flexibility of WordPress with freedom to sell any type of products you want.

First, you need to install and activate the WooCommerce plugin.

Simply go to Plugins » Add New page and search for WooCommerce. In the search results, click on the Install Now button next to WooCommerce listing.

Installing WooCommerce

WordPress will now fetch and install WooCommerce plugin for you. Wait for it and to finish downloading the plugin and then click on the ‘Activate’ button to continue.

Activate WooCommerce

Upon activation, WooCommerce will launch the set up wizard and you’ll see the Welcome to WooCommerce screen. This set up wizard will walk you through important WooCommerce settings.

WooCommerce wizard

First, you need to provide basic information for your online store such as address, country, and region. If you are a retailer, then you can add your retail location information as the address.

After that, click on the Continue button to move on to the next step.

Next, you’ll be asked to choose a store industry. You can choose an industry closest to the type of store you want to make.

Choose store industry

Click on the continue button to move on.

After that, you’ll be asked to choose the types of products you’ll be selling on your store. For instance, if your products need shipping, then you can choose physical products.

Choose product types

You can also choose multiple product types. For example, you can choose both Physical Products and Downloads too. Don’t worry about selling different product types. You can select which type of product you are adding for each product.

Click on the Continue button.

Next, you’ll be asked to provide some business details like how many products you plan to sell and if you are selling elsewhere. You can choose that I don’t have products yet and select ‘No’ for the other option.

Provide business details

Now, you need to switch to the ‘Free Features’ tab. You’ll see a box pre-checked to install free features for your website.

Uncheck free features

You need to uncheck this option as it will install several other WooCommerce extensions that you may not need. If you need them later, then you can always install them on your own.

Click on the Continue button for the next step.

Next, you’ll be asked to choose a theme for your online store. You can continue with your current default theme, choose Storefront or any of the free options listed on the page.

Choose theme

Don’t worry about choosing the perfect theme right away. We’ll show you how to choose the best theme for your online store later in this article.

That’s all, you have successfully completed basic WooCommerce setup.

Step 4. Setting up Payments for Your Online Store

Next, you need to set up payment methods to accept online payments on your store. WooCommerce provides a bunch of payment gateways that you can easily setup.

Simply go to the WooCommerce » Settings page and switch to the ‘Payments’ tab. By default, you can choose from PayPal Standard, Cash on Delivery, Checks, and Bank Transfers.

Payment settings

Scroll below and you will also see the option to install Stripe, PayPal Checkout, and WooCommerce Payments.

To accept payments in Africa, We recommend choosing Rave by flutterwave as your payment options. They accept VISA, MasterCard, Mobile Money, MPESA, etc.

For each payment gateway, you can click on the Set up button and provide the required information. For instance, you can enable Stripe and enter your API Keys (you can find this information under your Stripe account).

Don’t forget to click on the Save changes button to store your payment settings.

Step 5. Adding Products to Your Online Store

Let’s start with adding the first product to your online store.

You need to visit Products » Add New page to add a new product.

Add new product

First, provide a title for your product and then some detailed description.

On the right hand column, you will see the ‘Product Categories’ box. Click on the ‘+Add New Product Category’ to create a category for this product. This allows you and your customers to sort and browse products easily.

Add product category

Scroll down a little and you will notice the Product Data box. This is where you will provide product related information like pricing, inventory, shipping etc.

Add product data

Below product data box, you will see a box to add product short description. These product descriptions will be used when users are viewing multiple products on a page.

Product short description

Lastly, on your right hand column you will see boxes to add a main product image and a product gallery.

Product images

Once you are satisfied with all the product information you have added, you can click on the Publish button to make it live on your website.

Repeat the process to add more products as needed.

Step 6. Select and Customize WordPress Theme

Themes control how your WordPress sites look to the users when they visit it. For a WooCommerce shop, they also control how your products are displayed.

There are thousands of paid and free WordPress themes available that help you create a stunning online presence.

However, not all WordPress themes are designed specifically for eCommerce stores. We have hand-picked some of the best WooCommerce themes that you can choose from.

Once you have installed a WooCommerce theme you can customize its appearance to your own requirements.

Simply head over to Appearance » Customize page. This will launch theme customizer where you can change different theme settings.

Customizing your WordPress theme

Most modern WooCommerce themes come with different customization options and work well with desktop as well as mobile devices.

Step 7. Extend Your Online Store With Plugins

Now that your store is almost ready, you may want to add more features to create a successful online store. For example, you can add a customer support form or promote your new business on social media to make your first sale.

This is where plugins come in.

Both WooCommerce and WordPress allow you to easily add new features to your website by using plugins or extensions.

Plugins are like apps for your WordPress website. There are thousands of them that you can use, both free and premium. The WordPress.org plugin directory alone has more than 58,000 plugins.

However, this abundance of choice also makes it difficult for beginners to choose the right plugins. How do you know which plugin to choose?

Here are some of our top picks for essential plugins that every online store should install.

1. OptinMonster

OptinMonster

OptinMonster helps you easily convert website visitors into paying customers. It comes with tools like lightbox popups, sticky header and footer banners, countdown timers, spin to win, and more.

All of them help to improve conversions, boost sales, grow your email list, and reduce shopping cart abandonment.

Note: You can get a free version of OptinMonster if you sign up from inside the OptinMonster WordPress plugin.

2. WPForms

WPForms

WPForms is the best form builder plugin for WordPress. It allows you to easily create any type of form for your store including contact forms, surveys, login forms, gift cards order form, and more.

It has an intuitive drag and drop form builder that allows you to just point and click to create forms. See our guide on how to easily create a contact form in WordPress for detailed instructions.

Note: WPForms also has a free version called WPForms Lite that you can use if you don’t need the Pro features.

3. Easy Affiliate

Easy Affiliate

Easy Affiliate helps you easily add an affiliate program to your online store. This allows you to partner up with affiliate marketers to promote your products for a commission.

It comes with powerful affiliate tracking, no transaction fees, fraud detection, 1-click payouts, and an affiliate dashboard for your partners.

4. Advanced Coupons

Advanced Coupons

Advanced Coupons is the best coupon code plugin for WooCommerce. It allows you to extend default WooCommerce coupon functionality and create highly effective coupons to grow your business.

With Advanced Coupons you can create loyalty program, scheduled coupons, Buy 1 Get 1 Free deals, shipping coupons, and more.

5. SeedProd

SeedProd website

SeedProd is the best page builder plugin for WordPress and WooCommerce. It allows you to easily create custom landing pages for your online shop.

It comes with ready-to-use templates designed for conversions and sales. It also includes WooCommerce blocks that you can just drag and drop to create custom product pages, custom homepage, checkout page, thank you page, and more. Plus, you can connect it to your email marketing service so you can grow your email list.

Note: You can try the free version of SeedProd directly from WordPress.org

6. PushEngage


PushEngage is the best push notification software for WordPress and WooCommerce. It allows you to easily send web push notifications to your website visitors on their computers and mobile phones.

With PushEngage, you can send personalized messages to your target audience such as new product announcements, abandoned cart reminders, back in stock notifications, welcome messages, and more.

7. All in One SEO for WordPress

All in One SEO for WordPress

All in One SEO for WordPress is the best SEO plugin for WooCommerce. It allows you to easily optimize your online store for SEO without any search engine optimization skills.

It comes with a full eCommerce support, schema markup, sitemaps, breadcrumbs, and more. This helps you bring more traffic to your online store.

Note: There is also a free version of AIOSEO which is still pretty powerful for those who’re just starting out.

8. MonsterInsights

MonsterInsights

MonsterInsights is the best Google Analytics plugin for WordPress. It helps you see where your customers are coming from and what they do on your website.

MonsterInsights comes with WooCommerce tracking so you can see the conversions and sales data on your website. This helps you adjust your marketing strategy and grow your small business with data driven decisions.

9. HubSpot

HubSpot WordPress CRM and Marketing Automation Plugin

HubSpot is the best CRM plugin for WordPress and WooCommerce. It allows you to automatically sync your forms, manage contacts, segment them into lists, and see every interaction your visitors have with your site. It also has free email marketing feature built-in.

They also let you add live chat to your website pages and get analytics on the performance of your entire marketing program.

Learning WordPress to Grow Your Online Business

WordPress is incredibly powerful and flexible, but sometimes it can be hard for beginners to set it up the way they want.

At Fledge, our main goal is to provide helpful WordPress tutorials that are easy to understand even for non-techy WordPress website owners. Whenever you need our agency to help you create the site / modify it. You can contact us here

FAQs About Starting an Online Store

Many of our users regularly reach out to us with questions about starting their own business with an online store. We have tried to answer some of the most frequently asked questions below:

1. Where do I find products to sell on my store?

There are different ways store owners source products. Some sell products like software, digital art, music, and other downloadable products.

Others source products from local or offshore vendors using online marketplaces like Alibaba or AliExpress. If you don’t want to handle your own inventory or shipping, then you could also look into starting a print on demand shop or dropshiping.

2. Can I start an online store for free?

Some eCommerce platforms offer limited free trials but after that you’ll have to pay. While WooCommerce itself is free, you’ll need a domain name and a web hosting account to run it which will cost money.

3. How much does it cost to start an online store?

It depends on your business plan and budget. You can start with Bluehost for UGX 10,500 / $2.95 per month and rely on free plugins and theme to limit your costs. We recommend a business model where you start small and then spend money as your business grows.

Can I create an online store without shipping products?

Yes, you can. For instance, you can make an online store using dropshipping plugins, create an Amazon affiliate store, or make an eBay like marketplace. You can also use the same online store to sell external products as well as your own products.

6. How to manage shipping costs and taxes for my online store?

Depending on your region, you may be required to add sales tax, VAT, or other taxes. WooCommerce allows you to add taxes by enabling them under WooCommerce » Settings page.

Enabling taxes in WooCommerce

From here, you can also switch to the Shipping tab and create different shipping zones, add shipping rates, set flat shipping rates, and more.

We hope that this tutorial helped you learn how to build an online store. If you liked this article, You can also find us on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.