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How to Build an Online Store

How to build a WordPress eCommerce Online Store

You already have a WordPress site, or maybe you want to have a simple online store for a side-hustle. Perhaps you have a nifty idea you think you can turn into a profitable online endeavor.

Congratulations! Now, let's not make the mistake of not having the basics prepared and planned for in advance, okay?

It isn't difficult to add eCom to WordPress with WooCommerce. But before we even get to the point of talking about all the options of eCom'ing your WordPress site, we first have to plan. Most noteworthy are the foundation, business policies, and product details to know what solution would work best for you.

eCommerce Business Basics

Some of these issues may seem like common sense, but the truth be told, I get inquiries every single day from those contemplating a new eCommerce venture. Unfortunately, when I ask about these issues, I can tell we haven't solidified our core plan.

Make sure your product or service is über niche.

Sites selling bunches of unrelated items or products that are not topically related will be much harder to market online. In addition, putting up a “me too” site for products or services where the online market has been saturated requires extra effort.

You must have a different angle or idea. The best ideas are born from hobbies, interests, and passions where the eStore owner saw an opportunity. Primarily because no one else was catering to that specific niche, or they knew for a fact that with hard work and dedication, they could do it better!

Don't underestimate the power of niche!

Research your competition.

Do a search at your favorite search engine for a handful of 2-3 word keyword phrases you believe your target market will use to find your new eStore.  Then make a note of the hundreds of thousands or millions of pages already online doing the same. 

Either get “nichier” to try and minimize your competition or plan on being a rabidly aggressive marketer who will cost you both in $$ and time. Look at what your competitors are already doing successfully. Again, see if there is an opening to do something better. Then investigate how you can integrate those concepts uniquely or differently.

Create your pricing profile.

Can you be competitive and still make a profit when all is said and done? You need to include all your costs to get to your bottom line.

  • SSL
  • Hosting
  • Platform
  • Domain
  • Email
  • Themes
  • Plugins
  • Extensions
  • Module Add-ons
  • Monthly Fees
  • Payment Gateways
  • Credit Card Processing Fees
  • Advertising
  • Inventory
  • Packaging Supplies, etc.

Create your shipping program.

Questions to ask and get answers to:

  • What carriers will you offer? 
  • Will you be shipping based on weight and location or will flat rate work for you?
  • Or is shipping formula based on type of product and all of the above?
  • What about a handling fee? 
  • Will you be shipping globally?  You will then need to know what customs paperwork and policies will need to be considered.

Shipping should not be a profit center and needs to be reasonable. Unfortunately, the perception of overly high shipping fees is one of the top reasons customers abandon their shopping carts.

Create your return policy.

Your return policy needs to be clear, detailed, and practical. Make sure your customers can easily find your posted policies. Detail the process, what you need them to do, and your criteria for a return to be accepted.

Create your privacy policy.

You must have a policy visibly posted that states what you do with your customer's information. This best practice allows you to build trust.   Be honest, upfront, and state exactly how you will manage, distribute and use customer information.

Create your security policy.

Your security policy should explain what you do in detail to protect your customer's payment information and data. For example, are you on secure servers? Do you use SSL?  Are you verified by a third-party verification service? 

The more information you can provide, the better to give your customers that warm fuzzy they need to trust you.

Product photos.

When it comes to selling online, visuals will make or break you. So make sure all your products have quality photos. 

If you do not have experience taking product photos for the Web — they won't be good enough. However, there are many great resources to learn how to make the best product photos possible.

You can also check with your suppliers to see if they have photos you can use or hire someone who can guarantee top image quality. For other graphics, check out Canva — that's what I use for social media and post images.

Product descriptions.

One-line generic descriptions won't cut it.  It would be best if you had details, sizes, colors, dimensions, along with some good marketing verbiage. You want to make the potential customer realize they need, want, must have that item(s). 

Will you be entering your products yourself?  If not, you need to plan on hiring someone to create an uploadable spreadsheet or do your data entry for you.

Marketing plan and budget.

Detail a plan that covers both time and $$s to market your new eStore.  What are you going to do, specifically, to get your site “out there?”  There is no “build it, and they will come” online — you'll be lucky if you ever get found with that approach. 

Pay Per Click campaigns can run from a few hundred to thousands of dollars a month, depending on how competitive your market is. To do that right will require massive time for you to test, tune and run effective campaigns.  

Don't want to deal with PPC campaigns? Then plan on spending tons of time doing social media and online networking online combined with aggressive traditional marketing efforts offline.  Without either, your new eStore will be a spec of sand in the desert.

Customer Service plan of action

Look at your schedule and plan for the printing, processing, and packing of orders.  This in of itself can be very time-consuming when done correctly. 

You'll also spend time answering customer e-mail inquiries (appropriately), updating order status, entering shipping details and ETAs so you can send customers that much-desired shipping confirmation. 

  • How will you handle phone inquiries? 
  • Do you have a merchant account to accept credit cards? 
  • What forms of payment will you accept? Visa, MasterCard, Check, Wire Transfer, Money Orders?  
  • How about PayPal or Stripe? 
  • Do you have a payment gateway to verify, approve and process charges real-time?

The Right Premium WordPress Theme.

A theme that is supported and keeps up with WordPress and any security issues that may arise is mandatory. The last thing you want is to invest time and money into a theme to find out it breaks with the next WordPress update or that the developer is MIA when you need them.

Here are my preferred WordPress Theme shops.

Managed WordPress Hosting.

Ever hear the saying you get what you pay for? This applies to WordPress Hosting * X10!

You will need a platform that caters to WordPress' unique database and resource requirements. A platform that is on top of network security and will offer support when you need it.

Visit my Toolkit to see the hosting companies I use and recommend (after many trials and error testing other platforms).

Now you are armed with the basics!

These are the core basics you have to plan for before deciding which platform to use for your new eCommerce website. Having this information nailed down will allow you to review themes, plugins, and platforms to know which will work best or your online store concept.

“Fail to plan; plan to fail.”  Do yourself a big favor, and do not proceed until you have the above issues all nailed down and ready to integrate.

Then, get selling!

At your service,

WordPress Consultant Judith