The retail sector has grown and evolved massively over the years thanks to the introduction of ecommerce. And with the help of the WooCommerce plugin for WordPress, creating your own online store can be a piece of cake.

Simply put, ecommerce is the act of buying and selling goods and services online. The most popular form of ecommerce is online shopping. We’ve all used an online shop at some point and it’s become so popular due to its convenience and often great prices. In fact, in the past five years, internet sales have more than doubled – they made up only 14.7% of total retail sales in 2016 but this went up to over 30% in November 2021.

Graph showing the growth of online retail sales as a percentage of total retail sales from 2006 to 2021
Source: Office for National Statistics

With an ever-increasing number of ways to sell online, there are many high-quality store builder options to choose from. If you’re familiar with popular ecommerce platforms then you’ve likely already come across WooCommerce. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry, by the end of this post you’ll have all the information you need to decide whether the WooCommerce plugin is for you or not.

What is the WooCommerce plugin?

One of the most popular ecommerce tools, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that can transform any WordPress site into a fully-functional, eye-catching online store. It’s a great tool that’s flexible, beginner-friendly and as of December 2021 has over 5 million active installations (we told you it was popular).

It’s full of features like customisable pages, built-in tools to help you get found online, a range of convenient payments options, shipping options and the ability to sell both physical and digital products – and that’s just for starters.

Uses for WooCommerce

When it comes to ecommerce, people usually think of big online stores dedicated to selling stuff. But there’s a whole range of uses for ecommerce sites like those built with WooCommerce:

  • Having a business site with a shop section dedicated to branded merch
  • Selling digital products like artwork and photographs, training courses, eBooks and apps etc.
  • Creating an online store to support a physical shop
  • Set up a subscription service
  • Take online bookings and appointments

Is WooCommerce free?

Yes! It’s a free to use, open source platform which is one of the reasons it’s one of the most popular store builder tools.

There are other costs you might need to consider though. One might be needing to upgrade your WordPress package. An ecommerce website can get quite large and require more resources to run. The good news is that our WP Plus package is ideal for online stores using WooCommerce and it’s only £2.50 more per month than our WP Go package.

Advantages of WooCommerce

  • Easy to set up
  • Highly customisable (add functionalities with plugins)
  • Professional-looking free themes
  • Secure payment options (e.g. Paypal and Stripe)
  • Regularly updated
  • Active community for support
  • User-friendly (you don’t need to be a coding expert)
  • SEO-friendly
  • Sell a range of products (physical, digital, appointments, subscriptions)
  • Built-in analytics

How to set up WooCommerce?

On top of all of its features, one of the best things about adding WooCommerce to your WordPress site is how easy it is to set up. Simply:

  1. Head to your Dashboard
  2. Go to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Add new’ and search for “woocommerce”
  3. Click install and hey presto!

Once installed the WooCommerce Setup Wizard will help you get set up in a snap. It takes you through the setup process step by step. First you’ll be taken to the Store Profiler and you’ll be able to get all your store details sorted out such as where you’re based, what industry you’re in and the types of products you’ll be listing (physical, digital etc.). After using the Store Profiler, you’ll then get an easy-to-follow setup checklist to help you set up shop hassle-free.

Our WordPress Assistant tool makes it even easier to install WooCommerce. When you set up a new WordPress site, simply choose a design from the ’Online Store’ category and WooCommerce will be installed for you!

Customising with WooCommerce themes

Another extra cost you might run into is WooCommerce themes. There are a selection of free themes that will give you a stylish site in no time.

But if you want to go for something different, there are paid-for WooCommerce themes that you can purchase. These can be accessed through your settings, or you can have a quick look in the themes section of the WooCommerce website. You can also install WooCommerce extensions to customise your site even further. This can add more functionality to your site like grid/list views in search results, ‘quick view’ pop-ups, simpler forms in checkout and more payment options. There are some great extensions available for free as well as others that are paid for.

'Choose a theme' section of WooCommerce plugin setup
Source: WooCommerce Setup Wizard

Using other WordPress plugins with WooCommerce

The customisation options don’t just stop there. There is a huge range of WordPress plugins that are compatible with WooCommerce that can make customising your store and adding extra features beginner-friendly – no coding experience required.

The ever-popular Gutenberg editor makes it easy to alter how your shop looks with simple block editing. Plus you can add extra tools like add-on forms, variation swatches, custom checkout fields, advanced search and more.

Example of product customisation using a plugin
Source: Variation Swatches for WooCommerce

Think WooCommerce sounds right up your street? Log in to your Control Panel and get set up before you know it. Don't already have WordPress? Check out what makes our WordPress hosting so great.

And don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog where you can find even more guides on things like other essential plugins for WordPress and creating the best email address for your business. If you need a hand with any of your products, our support team is here to help 24/7 – if you’re up we’re up.

Looking to make your mark in the world of online retail? Why not choose a .store domain name for your website? It's a simple way to make your brand stand out online.