How to Start a Store: A Step-by-Step Guide to eCommerce with Shopify and WooCommerce

By Matthew Guay

You are reading: Chapter 4 of 8

You've wanted to start an online store for forever—perhaps as a new venture or as a way to expand your existing physical business to the web. You've done your due diligence: you've picked out a name, developed your products and inventory, started your real business, and even looked through the top eCommerce platforms that could power your store.

But you're still not sure where to go from here. Online sales are intimidating, and there are so many new things that you've never had to worry about before: Product listings, SKUs, payment gateways, website themes, SEO, analytics, and more. It seems easier to stick with selling products in your hometown or listing them on a marketplace site like eBay or Etsy.

That would work—but your customizable online store gives you the greatest opportunity to brand your products, create a relationship with more customers, and put your best face forward from the first time people interact with your company. And it doesn't have to be that hard.

With this step-by-step guide, you'll learn exactly how to start your online store—and will be ready to confidently publish your product listings and manage your store by the end.

What You Need to Set Up an Online Store

At the core of any store are products, people, and payments. You list products for sale, attract people's attention, and then get them to pay you money and purchase the products.

In the real world, you could do that with a stand at a market, by getting your products carried by a major retailer or even by selling products door-to-door. Online, you have similar options, with online marketplaces, social media stores, and more that we've explored in our guide to starting an online store.

But the best option—the way you can feature products the way you want, get to know customers, and attract repeat business with your hands-on support—is by starting your store. There are dozens of great tools for that, but we've picked two to feature in this tutorial that cover most use cases: Shopify and WooCommerce.

Shopify includes everything you need to start an online store, starting at $29 per month. In addition to managing your site theme and product listings, it also includes a payment processing service and can help you register a custom domain name. You can even use its Point of Sales app to bring a digital face to your existing real-world store's checkout experience or manage your store on the go from Shopify's mobile apps.

WooCommerce, on the other hand, gives you even more flexibility for free—but with the additional complexity of running a self-hosted store. You'll be able to tweak and customize everything but will also have to manage a website and handle things like payments and domains on your own.

We'll start out with Shopify—it's the best option if you're still unsure how to build your store—and will then look at what else you'd need to run the same store with WooCommerce.


Ready to build your store? In the next chapters, you'll find step-by-step guides to building your store in the platform you want:

Time to Build Your Store

Starting an online store isn't that difficult—with Shopify, it takes five steps, along with time to list each of your products. WooCommerce only takes a couple of extra steps, which shouldn't be too complicated if you're accustomed to managing your website.

The most challenging work is in running your actual business—as it should be. That's where your store add-ons and integrations come in handy. They take care of the most tedious work, letting you list your products in more places, and print labels or send emails without ever copying and pasting text. It's more than worth it to take the time to go through the best integrations for your eCommerce site and figure out where you can save time going forward.

After all, it may only take five steps to start your store, but you don't want to go through that many steps each time you get an order. Make your store work for you, and you'll get to focus on your products and customers. That's what you started a store for, after all.


Now, perhaps you'd like a different option than Shopify and WooCommerce. Maybe you want a simple store with fewer options—or perhaps you want something more powerful and customizable that will fit into your existing website. You might want a store that comes with a marketplace or one that handles orders without a full storefront.

Either way, there are a lot of options. In chapter 7, we'll look at the best features of 20 popular eCommerce platforms to help you choose. Or, if you're sure Shopify or WooCommerce are the store builders for you, you can jump ahead to chapter 8 to help you decide which payment processing tool is best for your store. And then, we'll come back to your store in chapter 9, with tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your online store.

Go to Chapter 5!

Published August 30, 2018

Written by Matthew Guay.

Image Credits: Shop photo from Alicia Zinn via Pexels.

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