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A primer on WooCommerce and how to use it

WooCommerce is the most popular shopping plugin for WordPress. Despite over 3.8 million websites using it, WooCommerce is completely free. It’s also used by tens of thousands of the largest eCommerce sellers out there – because it works. WooCommerce makes it easy to set up a web shop on WordPress with no need for coding experience.

While you’ll eventually want to invest in premium extensions, WooCommerce allows you to set up and tweak a WordPress store on your own domain, with no up-front investment other than time and merchandising. And, if you’ve already merchandised your products for Amazon or another store, actual investment will be minimal.

This primer will walk you through the basic steps of installing, setting up, and getting started with WooCommerce on WordPress.

Installing WooCommerce

First, you can only use WooCommerce on self-hosted sites. This means you can’t install WooCommerce on a WordPress.com site unless you’re using a premium site.

Step 1: Sign up for a WooCommerce account. You can do this after installing the plugin, but it’s a necessary step. You can also use your existing WordPress.com account to do so. 

Step 2: Install the plugin. You can use a pre-installed solution from a trusted host, however, most users will install the plugin from the WordPress plugin store. You might also download the plugin zip file, which you receive access to after setting up your WooCommerce account. 

To install WooCommerce from the plugin menu, log into your WordPress Admin dashboard. 

Go to: Dashboard > Plugins > Add New > Search Plugins > Install WooCommerce

Step 3: Activate the plugin by logging in. Once you do, you’ll have the option to follow the setup wizard. Make sure you have the following data on hand:

  • Address
  • Industry data
  • Product information
  • Store size
  • Business revenue
  • Other platforms
  • Ads and marketing

Here, you can choose a theme or a child theme from WooCommerce for your store template. The theme Storefront is a great place to start because it’s free, designed for WooCommerce, and offers plenty of plugins for extensions and added features.

WooCommerce extensions

Once you’ve installed WooCommerce, you should add extensions immediately. Many are free. Many are not. But, if you want to accept payments, take subscriptions, book retreats, or integrate shipping, you’ll need extensions. WooCommerce charges for these because extensions are how they make money. Others, like Stripe, are free.

The following include some of our favorite extensions:

You don’t have to stick with these, but can upgrade as your store grows and you add functionality. However, if you’re migrating to your own website from Amazon or another store, you likely want to start with full functionality to offer your customers the same experience they’d get on a marketplace.

Setting up your store

You have the option to add products immediately after finishing account setup. Products require a two-step process of building a product category.

Adding product categories

Product categories allow you to sort and organize your products in your store. You can start by simply adding products without categories. However, if you have more than a dozen or so products, you should have categories in place from the start.

Go to: Products > Categories > Add a Name > Add a URL Slug > Add a Product Description > Choose if the product category is standalone or a subcategory > Some themes also display product category images

Adding products

Once you have categories set up, you can easily upload products either manually one at a time, via a CSV import, or using Cart2Cart.

  • Manual upload – WooCommerce offers a very simple manual product form, where you can add data to products one at a time. This means uploading an image, adding a title and description, setting the cost, etc. You can always add extensions for more features, such as video or 360 images in the product page.
    • Most products fall under the “Simple” category. If you have a group of related products, use “Grouped.” If you have a downloadable or digital product, choose virtual or downloadable. WooCommerce also supports product variations, including different SKUs.
    • Add the SKU. Try to use the same one across your eCommerce channels for easier management.
    • Set the product data (price, product format, tax status, etc.).
    • Add inventory.
    • Allow or disallow back orders.
    • Add shipping data such as product weight, size, etc.
  • Cart2Cart – Cart2Cart migrates products and data from 85+ eCommerce stores, allowing you to migrate content quickly from one marketplace to your WooCommerce store.
  • CSV upload – WooCommerce natively supports CSV imports, which means you can export your data from Amazon or another marketplace and import it in bulk. WooCommerce recommends merchants avoid using Microsoft Excel because of formatting issues. Instead, use a spreadsheet like Google Docs. WooCommerce also recommends using the CSV Schema, found here.

Linking products for cross- and upselling

WooCommerce has a “linked products” section to connect products. These “linked” items are advertised on the product page and during checkout, much like Amazon’s “Other people liked” section. This allows you to cross and upsell, especially on products customers would want to buy together, like coffee filters with a coffee maker.

Further customization

Different themes allow for considerably different product customization. Furthermore, you can always incorporate new features to product pages through added extensions. Plus, WooCommerce supports plenty of customization, such as grouping products, adding product categories, setting child categories, and more.

For example, you can hide products so they only show up as featured products on a single product page (such as if you want to sell coffee filters, but don’t think they’re worth shipping on their own). Explore your options and see how categorization best works for you.

From there, you’ll have to set up payments and shipping, likely using an extension such as the free Stripe or PayPal options. Once you do, you’re ready to start selling.

Troubleshooting and considerations

WooCommerce is an easy way to start selling on your own domain. But it’s not for everyone. Here are some basic troubleshooting topics and considerations:

SSL required

If you want to set up and accept payments over WooCommerce, your site must have an SSL certificate. That means it shows up as HTTPS in the URL. If you don’t have one, acquire one through your domain registry, host, or a separate SSL provider.


To set up a WooCommerce account, you’ll need your own domain; you can’t use a free WordPress account.


You’ll also have to consider which payment gateway to use. WooCommerce provides its own payment solution. However, you likely want to use the same gateway you use on other shops. Stripe and PayPal are popular, but WooCommerce has over 100 integrations to choose from.


WooCommerce is similar to WordPress in that you’ll need a WooCommerce-friendly theme. Not all are compatible with the storefront. However, many are designed just for WooCommerce, including the popular “Storefront.”


WooCommerce maintains packages with domain hosts like Bluehost to offer deals on pre-installed WooCommerce setups. This means your host installs WordPress and the plugin, and all you have to do is use the content management system (CMS). This can be a great option if your technical knowledge is limited. However, WooCommerce installation and setup is easy, so you could save money by doing it yourself.

Wrapping up — Launch your eCommerce store with this primer on WooCommerce

WooCommerce is simple and user-friendly. It’s also close to free – although you’ll likely pay for certain extensions to gain new features. You’ll also have to pay for any payment provider you use, which incurs fractional costs. So, while WooCommerce is free to start, operating it long-term is not. And, if you’re trying to launch a shop on a budget, you also have to factor in the cost of hosting and your domain.

WooCommerce is a great tool if you want full control of your web shop and nearly endless customization options. But, if you want something less technical, a marketplace like Shopify offers easier setup without sacrificing functionality. Both are strong options, so once you decide your budget and preferred degree of control, you can confidently set up your eCommerce store.

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