How to start selling online in 5 easy steps

If your business has been affected by the crisis, be it economic or health-related, you have probably thought that – at last – you should start selling online, either to compensate for losses from the sale in your store or to address new customers and business opportunities.

Launching yourself into Ecommerce, into online sales, can be the boost that your business needs in order to…

  • Recover lost customers due to unwanted closures of your business.
  • Offer an alternative to regular customers.
  • Increase sales.
  • Compensate losses.
  • Discover new sales opportunities.

And the fact is that online sales should not only be seen as a lesser evil, but as a real challenge from which to reach customers who usually do not come with your physical business, something that you should have encouraged you long ago but for lack of time or knowledge did not dare to do.

Fortunately, nowadays selling online is really simple, and the technical and economic requirements are practically non-existent, accessible to anyone who has made the decision.

You no longer have to ask for a credit to have a professional programmer create a custom online store for you. The popularization of free tools such as WordPress has democratized the creation of websites and online stores, being currently accessible to anyone.

In this simple guide you will see how easy it is to launch into online commerce, and that in a few hours you can have your online store up and running, your Ecommerce, in a few simple steps.

Choose domain and hosting

The basis of any online business is the domain name and a server on which to host the online store.

This, which until not so long ago was a complicated matter, with strange terminology, and which required specialized technical knowledge, has now become an almost trivial process.

Choose domain

The choice of domain is usually one of the most complicated tasks, and not because there are few of them, but because we find it difficult to decide.

When in doubt, acquire the domain name of your business, and if not some keywords that define what you offer.

So, for example, if your company is John Logistics S.L., and your business covers sales and distribution throughout USA, good choices would be something like this:

  • johnlogistics.com .co, etc.
  • usalogistics.com .co, etc.

As you may have seen, a domain consists of 2 parts:

  1. Domain name: The name of your business, without spaces, without accents, if possible without eñes (it can be separated by hyphens, e.g.: fruits-perez.es)
  2. The extension of the domain or TLD: The dot com, dot net, etc. Some time ago it was very relevant to have top level domains, such as .com or .net, but nowadays there are so many domain extensions that it doesn’t matter. I usually recommend that for exclusively localised businesses you should use the country domain (.uk, etc.) and for international businesses or without localisation the .com or any other generic domain, there are hundreds of possibilities, some of which are aimed at specific businesses or even cities.

You must know that the hiring of the domain is a purely administrative process, and does not guarantee you a presence on the Internet, it is only a registration.

By this I mean that you can hire the domain in any company registrar, no matter, and have your website hosted in another company specializing in web hosting (known as hosting).

However, the simplest thing, because there is nothing to configure, is to hire your domain in the same web hosting company, and this is the priority, that is … do not hire hosting + domain based on the price of domains but on the benefits of hosting.

Because to have an online store you also need a web hosting, associated with that domain, that is, when someone types your domain browser shows the installed in the accommodation you have hired, your Ecommerce.

Choosing a web host

Therefore, the other essential leg is to hire a web hosting specialized in WordPress and Ecommerce, which will facilitate the installation of all the free applications you will need to launch your online store and start selling immediately.

The essential requirements that you must take into account when choosing a web hosting company, which I recommend, must be the following:

  • Automatic WordPress + WooCommerce installer.
  • Free security certificate: Nowadays it is compulsory and essential that any online shop is secure, and for purchases to be safe your online shop must have an encrypted connection, which is what SSL certificates do, through which your website will appear as secure, with the padlock icon in the browser.
  • Unlimited emails, so you can create as many email addresses as you need.
  • Free daily backups.
  • Support by chat, email and if possible by phone, and that the support is not for experts, who know how to attend and solve incidents to any type of customer.
  • Advanced technology: That offers the latest versions of the applications you install, fast and powerful servers, and security against attacks and vulnerabilities, with good response capacity.

I recommend you without any doubt, to start with, the SiteGround Startup plan, which offers all this and much more, besides having specially designed hosting plans in online stores, with everything you need and more.

As for costs…

  • The domain is free the first year, and then it comes to cost an average of $14 per year, a ridiculous cost for something so important.
  • You don’t need to start with expensive plans with high features that your online business doesn’t require, so start with the basic plan, starting at $6.99 per month for the first year, and then for $14.99 per month.

As you can see, these are very low costs, and I also have good news: right here your costs to start selling online are over. From now on everything is free.

Install and configure WordPress + Woocommerce

Once you have your domain and hosting contracted, the next step is to install the applications that will allow you to start selling online immediately.

The winning combination is currently WordPress + WooCommerce.

WordPress is the free application that allows you to create websites, blogs, online stores, forums, everything. Its configuration and use is very simple, and if you know how to create a document in your computer you will know how to create a page on your website.

WooCommerce is an application, also free, that adds to WordPress the functionality of an online store, allowing you to create, in addition to blog entries and pages, products.

WooCommerce is a type of application called a plugin, which adds features to WordPress that it does not offer by default, and there are more than 50,000, all free, and very easily installed.

Installing WordPress + WooCommerce is more than easy, because as soon as you hire your hosting (at least in SiteGround) you will find an installer that does it for you in a couple of clicks.

Configure payment methods

Within the WooCommerce setup process it is especially important to activate payment methods, so that your customers can pay you online for sales.

By default, WooCommerce offers several payment methods:

  • Bank transfer: The simplest of all. Simply enter your bank details and the customer will receive this information after the order is placed so that they can pay you from their online banking.
  • Cash on delivery: Here there is nothing to set up, simply when the product reaches the customer and he pays mark the order as completed.
  • Payments by check: You just have to indicate where to send the check.
  • PayPal standard: Although the WooCommerce installation wizard encourages you to install PayPal (Express) by default you have the standard version, with which you only have to indicate in the settings your email address with which you are registered at PayPal (and register if you have not yet done so) so that your customers can pay entirely online with their PayPal account.

In addition, there are other recommended payment methods which complete the payment automatically:

  • Stripe: This gateway is one of the most popular today, because it is fully integrated into the payment page of your online store. All you have to do is register at stripe.com, install a plugin (free) and your customers can pay directly by card.

Note: All purely online payment gateways (PayPal, RedSys, Stripe) charge commissions for each sale. Check the conditions before choosing one or the other.

Choose a theme

A usual additional step would be to choose the theme, which is what WordPress calls designs or templates, but as the WooCommerce wizard already includes this step, so it will be really easy for you.

My advice is not to get complicated and choose the one recommended in the installation, StoreFront, easy to configure and fully optimized for WooCommerce.

Once installed you can click on the “Customize” button and configure various settings for its appearance.

Create the core pages

Before continuing, don’t forget to create some fundamental pages for any website, and especially for your online store.

The fundamental ones for the online shop to work are these:

  • Shop: Show the products.
  • Cart: Shows the products that the customer adds to the cart to buy them.
  • Account: Page where the customer configures their data and can review their orders.
  • Checkout: Page to make the payment, with the payment gateways that you have activated.

All of the above pages are automatically created by WooCommerce when installed, so a job you can take off your hands.

But there are at least 3 other pages you should create:

  • Contact: So the customer knows where to contact you in case of questions or any problems.
  • Privacy policy: Essential, and mandatory, where you indicate what data you collect from customers, the treatment you do with them and the rights of your customers.
  • Terms and conditions: Every online store must have a page with the conditions of sale, returns and customer rights.

To create the privacy page, WordPress itself helps you create it. From Settings > Privacy, you only have to complete the example data with the real data of your online store.

But the other two pages must be created manually, on your own, it’s very easy.

In the WordPress administration, go to Pages > Add New, give them a title and complete them with the information that each one should have.

It’s very easy, the WordPress editor is very intuitive.

On the contact page you should at least include your email and any other information that will help your clients get in touch with you quickly.

Besides the contact page, lately it has become very popular to offer direct contact by Whatsapp, something very easy with this plugin.

As for the terms and conditions of purchase page, the process to create it is the same, but as for the information you must include I can not help you, there you must ask advice from your manager, because each type of business is subject to different regulations.

However, you should always explain the payment methods you offer and how they are used, the legal guarantees of your clients, their rights, how to make returns, etc.

Create products

It’s about time you start creating your products and publishing them, so that your website visitors can buy them online, don’t you think?

It’s as easy as accessing the administration of your online store and clicking on the menu Products > Add New.

Once you specify the product name and description, the next step is to choose the product type in the product data box, which is just below the text box.

The products you will find by default are:

  • Simple product: Products without options such as size, color, etc.
  • Variable product: Products in which the customer can choose variations (size, color, etc.) and these affect the price … or not.
  • Grouped product: This is a grouping of products, to facilitate and encourage the purchase of several simple products at once.
  • External product / affiliate: Special products, which you do not sell in your store, but you put an affiliate link, for which you charge commissions.

In your products, don’t forget to configure the following:

  • Normal and reduced price (if applicable).
  • Inventory of the product, and whether the customer will be able to order with reservation if the stock runs out.
  • Tax rate applicable to the product.
  • Shipping configuration.
  • Attributes (colors, sizes, etc.) if it is a variable product.
  • Details of each variation if it is a variable product.
  • Organize your products in product categories.
  • Assign a prominent image to your product.
  • Add an image gallery.
  • Publish your product, when you have already defined the above.

In addition to these types of products there are additional ones you can create, depending on your business, but you must first install plugins (some free and some paid) that incorporate them, for example:

  • Subscription products: Great for gyms, training, clubs, all kinds of memberships.
  • Composite products: To create products from parts, like computer shops, pizzerias, etc.
  • Booking products: The most used by hotels, cottages, rentals, professional offices, online training, etc.

Start selling online!

And that’s it. Although there are many more things you may want to incorporate into your online store, this is the essential and fundamental.

In just 5 steps you can sell online and start taking advantage of the opportunities of Ecommerce.

I assure you that the feeling you will have when you get the first notice to sell online is incomparable, a joy.

From here, any need or doubt you may have about how to configure, customize or expand your online store can be found in the blog section dedicated exclusively to WooCommerce, and if you have problems you can go to the WordPress forums.

Read this post in Spanish: Cómo empezar a vender online en 5 sencillos pasos

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