Welcome back to our series on WordPress eCommerce. In previous installments, we learned about the different types of eCommerce as well as some of the shopping carts available. In this post, we are going to walk through the different settings you need to configure before launching your online store.
This article features WooCommerce, arguably one of the most, if not the most, popular WordPress plugins, with more than one million active downloads worldwide.
Once you’ve installed and activated the plugin (just like you would with any other plugin), you’ll notice two new tabs on your left navigation bar—WooCommerce and Products.
Now that we are set up and ready to go, let’s dig in.
The first thing I do with any eCommerce store I’m building is install the theme. Why, you ask? I do it to make sure the site looks like it’s supposed to before adding the products (which we will do in the next installment). Too many times I have seen students start adding products to an existing theme that isn’t compatible with the shopping cart they have selected, and subsequently waste a lot of time trying to get the site looking good.
It’s like trying to put a square peg into a round hole—and should be avoided at all costs. Instead, by installing a compatible theme before adding products, you’ll not only see what the site will look like, but you won’t need to make any tweaks to the design.
When you first install WooCommerce, you will be asked if you want to install the WooCommerce pages. These include your Cart, Checkout, Shop, and My Account pages. You should install these pages by default unless you have the skill and desire to set up custom pages.
For this article I’m using the WooCommerce compatible Storefront theme—which is available for free from the WooThemes site. Obviously, this theme is WooCommerce compatible, as it comes from the same dev shop. Once the theme is installed, I skip the customization of it (for now) so that I can focus on getting the backend set up properly.
The first step in any eCommerce installation, in my opinion, is to go through the settings and make sure the backend is ready to go, before I add any products. By doing this, I am closer to being ready to launch the store when I’m done adding my products. So let’s get started, shall we?
When you click on WooCommerce in the navigation bar, you’ll see a few different options. For now, we want to focus on getting our settings in line. Navigate to the Settings tab, and you’ll be greeted by a screen that looks like this:
The first thing you’ll notice is a number of different tabs across the top of the screen. You’ll need to go through them before your store set up is complete.
The first page of settings breaks down into two separate sections: general options and currency options. The general options section allows you to set your base location (where your store is located), as well as where you plan on selling, and whether or not you’re going to use the WordPress REST API.
Pro tip: leave this box checked, as it allows you to do things like disable suggested products related to the product your customer is currently looking at.
For the currency options it allows you to determine your standard currency, as well as how to display currency based on your market location.
The Product Settings
This next section will help you get your product information setup. There are a number of pages within this product settings:
- General: This is where you can set up your base product information and determine things like if you are going to allow product reviews, for example.
- Display: This page enables you to set up how and where your products are displayed. It also allows you to set up your image dimensions. It’s extremely important that you take some time with your product images to ensure that they’re all the same size, orientation, and have the same (preferably no) background. This is a huge trust builder with customers, as it helps make your site look more professional—which, in turn, goes a long way in building trust; and trust is one of the main triggers for customers to purchase from an online store.
- Inventory: Here, you can configure things like how your inventory is managed, how long to hold products in a customer’s shopping cart (for those times when they leave the site and come back shortly after leaving), and so on. It also allows you to configure your stock notifications, both on the site and internally, as well as whether or not you want to show how much stock you have on a particular item.
- Downloadable Products: This section is strictly for products that your customers download, like ebooks and music tracks. here you can force the download after payment, and allow additional downloads after the initial download has happened.
This section could be an entire article on its own and, as a store owner, it’s likely the most important as well as the most confusing. Similar to Product Settings, there’s a number of different pages found in this section.
- Tax Options: This section allows you to set the basic settings, such as whether or not you are charging tax (check with your base-location government on how to handle this based on your products). You can also set things like whether or not to include tax in your product price, calculate tax based on the customers location, and how to display tax totals.
- Standard Rates: Here, you can set the various tax rates you need based on different locations. For example, each state has their own tax rate, which you can set as well as a general rate for each different country you sell to, if required.
- Reduced Rates and Zero Rates: As the names imply, these two settings allow you to configure countries that offer either a reduced rate, depending on the product, or no tax at all. For example, some areas charge no tax for items like children’s clothing; but charge a premium tax for things like alcohol. These two pages allow you to set up a tax rate for each instance.
As the name implies, this is where you’re going to set up the different options available at checkout, including payment options.
- Checkout Options: This is where you set up your base checkout settings such as whether or not you’re going to offer coupons, which page you want to use for your terms and conditions, as well as which payment gateways you are going to accept.
Once you set up your gateways, you can then use the other pages in this section to configure your different accepted gateways.
Similar to the checkout section, the shipping section allows you to set various shipping options, and then configure them.
- Shipping Options: The first page under the shipping section allows you to set up your base shipping options, such as shipping calculators, display mode, and how to set the default shipping location. You can also select the countries you won’t ship to and choose which shipping options to offer. Once you’ve enabled the options, you can then configure them. The shipping options offered are:
- Flat Rate Shipping: One price for shipping, regardless of size or weight.
- Free Shipping: As the name implies, shipping is free.
- International Shipping: This is where you choose which countries you will ship to.
- Local Delivery: If you are going to hand deliver your products you can choose which locations based on zip/postal code, as well as what fee you’ll charge for this service.
- Local Pickup: Similar to local delivery, this setting allows you to have customers pick up locally (and save on shipping fees). You can also set up a fee for this service, which is typically called a handling fee.
This section is where you set up how customer accounts are handled. Most of the options here are preconfigured and include things for your default account page, the URls for things like lost password retrieval and where to allow registration for an account from. Only in the rarest of occasions will you need to make any changes in this section.
This section is where you’ll be setting up automated emails for things like order completion, cancelled order, invoices, new accounts, and so on. The first page in this section is the Email Sender Options page and this is where you will set up the following:
- From Name: This refers to the name you will use for all outgoing email. For example, if I’m the owner of Widget Manufacturing I might use a name such as “ Widget Manufacturing Customer service.”
- Default Email Address: As the name implies, this is the email address you’ll be using as the default address for your store.
- Email Template: This is where you will configure how your emails will look. You can accept the preconfigured choices or customize them to make the email more reflective of your brand.
This is the final section for the settings. Here, you can create various webhooks such as coupon creation, product updates, customer creation, and more. You’ll need to go through each option here to get a better understanding of how to set this up.
This concludes the general settings for setting up an online store. There are a lot of things to consider and configure before you go live with your store, and it requires a lot of pre-planning, which is certainly beneficial when it comes to setting up your store.
In the next and final installment, we will go through the final step in setting up an eCommerce store: the process of adding products to your store.
Have a specific question regarding the settings? Leave them in the comments below.