Do you remember what it was like to get a new pair of shoes when you were a kid? In my family, it was something like this.
My mom would take my brother and I shopping for back to school clothes and we’d get to pick new shoes. She always let us pick them out. There was a catch though. See, we’d go shopping in July and school for us didn’t start ’till the end of August. All I could think about until school started was how badly I wanted to wear my new shoes.
Once you’ve made your decision on using WooCommerce for your store, you are ready to get going. But let’s be honest. There are many more decisions that you need to make before you’re really ready to go with your WooCommerce site. Let’s go through the top 4 decisions you need to make after you’ve installed WooCommerce.
1) Selecting a Theme
Whether you have an existing site such as a blog or a marketing site, or you are building it from nothing, you’re going to want to make sure the theme you are using or want to use supports WooCommerce. But where do you go to get a theme that supports WooCommerce? Here are a few options for you.
The official WordPress repository has some great free options if you are wanting to stay on the cheap side when selecting a theme.
WooCommerce’s Official Theme
WooCommerce has an official theme called Storefront. Storefront is built on a responsive grid system and works well with the WordPress customizer so you are able to add some custom design like colors, logos and even fonts to your site. Storefront is a base theme and does have a number of child themes if you are looking for something with a bit of out of the box design for it.
If you’re looking for pre-built, designed sites you can always check out Array Themes. What I like about them the most, is that you can use them right out of the box. Upload your logo, make some quick color scheme changes and you are ready to go.
OceanWP is a free multi-purpose theme that keeps performance in mind. It also works with some of the largest page builders out there, giving you endless possibilities on what your site will look like. You can download the theme right from the WordPress theme repository, giving you the ability to play with some of the free features. If you go with this theme though, you’ll really want to pro features.
Astra is a super clean theme and integrates really well with WooCommerce. It offers great options for easy customizations and comes with amazing design features. As a performance-centric hosting company, we love the fact that it is developed with speed in mind and would recommend it to anyone looking for a reliable WooCommerce theme.
We actually like this theme so much that it’s included with our Managed WooCommerce Hosting plans.
2) Picking a Payment Gateway
With WordPress, WooCommerce and a theme installed, you need to start focusing on your WooCommerce installation. The biggest thing you need to setup in WooCommerce is your payment gateway. After all, you do want to get paid.
PayPal is a must for any eCommerce site these days. People don’t think of PayPal money like they think about their credit cards or bank accounts. People that are using PayPal see it as discretionary money and will be more impulsive in their purchases.
Now not everyone will use their PayPal account. Others might not have PayPal. And to be quite honest, the process of using PayPal for non-PayPal customers, is a bit clunky. So having a way for someone to use their credit card right on your site is a great option. For that I choose and recommend Stripe.
Stripe is perfect for most businesses getting started. There’s not a lot of work involved with setting it up because it comes with WooCommerce. Just add your API keys (after creating a Stripe account) and you are ready to rock and roll.
3) Picking an Email Gateway
If you intend to send any email, you want to make sure you push all that processing power off to another set of servers. The biggest reason is due to the fact that your IP address will be used for both sending emails and serving your site. And if you send emails with the same IP address and your email gets marked as spam and reported, you could jeopardize your site as well.
Our best practice recommendation is to offload all the emails being sent to another server. Thankfully there’s several inexpensive options for you.
In any eCommerce store you are going to have different types of emails that you send. Typically they fall into one category or the other. Transactional Emails are emails that you receive as a customer because you have purchased something. These are emails like order receipts, shipping notifications, membership (login credentials) information.
For transactional emails, WooCommerce already provides you with a template system and allows you to even customize the text that goes in the emails. In most cases you just want something other than your web server to send these emails. Thankfully, there’s a couple of options for you.
Mailgun is a service that allows you to send transactional emails through their servers. You can get a free account for up to 10,000 emails sent per month. There’s a little setup after creating your Mailgun account, like installing and activating the WP Mail SMTP plugin. But once that’s complete, you just configure the settings and you are good to go. Our friends over at WP Forms have a full length tutorial to help you get your WordPress site up and running with Mailgun.
If you don’t want to use another service to send your transactional emails, you can always use Google’s SMTP servers. This is fairly easy to setup as well and can work with your free Gmail account or your Google Apps for Work. Our friends over at WPBeginner created a full length tutorial to help you get setup with Google’s SMTP servers. It even uses the same WP Mail SMTP plugin that you could use for Mailgun.
Promotional Email is a little different than transactional emails. These are typically emails that you send to your email list to notify them of new product. The emails are very much geared towards buying and informing your list about something you are working on. This is the type of email that your readers need to opt-in on. While there are a variety of ways for someone to opt-in to your email list, you typically send these emails through an email marketing provider. We have a few favorites below.
MailChimp is pretty much the defacto standard when it comes to email marketing providers. And rightfully so. With MailChimp you can create a free account for up to 2,000 subscribers. You can even send 12,000 emails a month! MailChimp gives you an awesome editing interface for creating, editing and sending your emails. You’ll quickly see why so many people enjoy using their service.
If you are looking for a little more control over your lists, like list segmentation, sending by time zone, you’ll have to fork over some money. Plans start at $10/month.
ConvertKit is an email marketing provider for professional bloggers built by professional bloggers. It features automations, tagging subscribers and segmentation. All features I feel you need as someone selling things online. Plans start at $29/month and features a WordPress plugin that takes the hard work out of setting up forms, tags, and segmentation. I personally use this on multiple websites I own and manage.
Drip is an eCommerce CRM that is built more for sales than sales teams. It is similar to ConvertKit but features better custom field integration (hence the CRM features), automation workflows and more. It integrates with social media platforms and allows you to create some interesting automations that I’ve not seen before. It’s also completely free, in that you get all of the features, for 100 subscribers. So you really get to try it out and see what works for you. After 100 subscribers, plans start at $41/month.
4) Purchasing an SSL Certificate
You need to provide trust and security to your customers shopping your eCommerce store. The best way to do that is to provide an SSL Certificate. This not only covers the trust and security from the customers perspectives but it also covers you. The last thing you want to do is start accepting payments on your site without a SSL Certificate and risk a security breach.
Thankfully SSL Certificates come in a variety of ways. For most sites, you are able to use Let’s Encrypt. And Let’s Encrypt is free. In fact, most hosting providers now offer Let’s Encrypt certs so there’s really no reason any of your sites shouldn’t have an SSL Certificate. Both our Managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce Hosting comes with SSL certs. And what’s great about that, is that you don’t need to do anything to get them. They come automatically.
If you don’t host with Liquid Web (and we get that), you’ll want to check with your host to ensure that they offer SSL certs. If they don’t, I’d recommend you talk to your domain registrar to find out what type of SSL certs they provide and what they will cost you on a yearly basis.
Bonus: Setup Analytics and Various pixel tracking
The last thing to consider setting up for your site are analytics. I’ve never met a person that doesn’t want to know how well their products are selling. So you are going to need some analytics setup on your site to provide you with that data.
Google Analytics is the software of choice, because it’s free. But you should definitely take a look at Heap Analytics or even Glew. Both of these options might surprise you and provide better analytics than Google.
Finally, if you are doing any type of retargeting or building campaigns around social media, you may want to look at adding the various pixel tracking code to your site. Facebook, Twitter, Google AdWords, all require some sort of pixel tracking to be setup on your website. This is to give you the coveted conversion metrics we all want to know. After all, it’s important for us to know how much we’re spending on conversions.
This list isn’t exhaustive by any means. In fact, there are a number of things I left off of this list. The biggest that comes to mind is which plugins you should install. But that’s so hard to recommend because each store is different and unique. One person might be selling physical products that require shipping plugins to be installed, while another might be selling software and require software licensing plugins to be installed.
The goal of this post is to give you a good foundation for your WooCommerce powered store. It helps you to create the right foundation to build your store on top of. After all, you wouldn’t ask a builder to start with the frames of your house without a solid foundation, would you?