The Complete Guide To Starting An E-Commerce Site

A few days back, Megha shared an exclusive guide on launching your first online store. Today, I’m extending the series by sharing this complete guide for launching an e-commerce store.

There’s a ton of work that goes into setting up an e-commerce shop, but it’s worth the effort.

Offering your products online means they can reach anyone with an internet connection. It also means that more people will be able to discover you, maybe from a Google search, or from social media.

Whether you’re selling physical goods (t-shirts, posters) or digital goods (e-books, illustrations), an e-commerce site will help you find your customers.

Thanks to WordPress, building an e-commerce site is easy. With the right tools, your online shop can launch in just a few days — or even a few hours.

WordPress has provided two major e-commerce platforms for creating shops online:

  1. WooCommerce
  2. WP eCommerce

In addition to these two, hundreds of plugins have been created to add extra functionality to each of these platforms.

It can be overwhelming to get started with the technical side of building an e-commerce website, so it’s good to start with the basics. You can figure out later which extra features or functions you want to add to your online shop.

Best E-Commerce WordPress platforms:

Platforms refer to the application, tool, or plugin you’ll be using to run your shop. There are many e-commerce platforms, but only a few are worth using for the long haul.

Each business owner has a different need, so it’s important to understand one’s needs before choosing a platform.

 1. WooCommerce

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WooCommerce is the most popular and most user-friendly platform for WordPress e-commerce sites. It’s easy to use, supports both physical and digital products, and has lots of add-ons and plugins.

In 2015, 78.4% of e-commerce sites built on WordPress used WooCommerce.

In addition to its user-friendly interface, WooCommerce is packed with excellent features and constant product improvement. The newest version of WooCommerce is probably the best one yet.

2. WP eCommerce

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With WooCommerce leading the pack, why would anyone want to use something like WP eCommerce?

Because features like advanced checkout and table rate shipping are free, while you have to purchase an add-on to use the same features in WooCommerce.

Some business owners might find that while WP eCommerce is not their primary choice, it may be more beneficial to their selling process.

3. Easy Digital Downloads

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While the first two platforms allow you to sell both digital and physical products, Easy Digital Downloads focuses on digital products only.

This platform suits artists, authors, and other entrepreneurs who sell non-physical products like e-books, digital art, and music.

Downloading products requires a specific way of purchasing, and this plugin makes that process as simple as possible. It supports multiple and repeat downloads, as well as payment gateways like PayPal, Stripe, and Amazon.

4. Shopify

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If you want the easiest and fastest way to build an online store, Shopify is your best option.

Not only does it provide you with simple steps to start selling in minutes, it also offers free hosting. This means you only need to buy a domain name for your shop, and Shopify will give it a home on the web.

This service is offered with a monthly subscription, starting at $13/month. With the basic account, you get unlimited product uploads, unlimited file storage, and 24/7 customer support.

Also see: Top eCommerce Platforms compared for Small business

E-Commerce Payment Gateways

A payment gateway is the feature that allows payment for your products. This is usually done with PayPal, credit card, or online payment services like Stripe or Braintree.

Not all platforms offer the same payment gateways, so you need to look at this feature when selecting a platform.

Some platforms require an add-on to include specific payment gateways. For instance, you need to purchase a $79 extension to add Google Wallet to WooCommerce.

1. PayPal

The most common payment gateway for e-commerce is PayPal.

It’s free to use, and anyone can sign up for the service.

Most platforms have a built-in PayPal payment gateway so you can use this feature instantly. If you’re not using an e-commerce platform, you can embed PayPal buttons anywhere on your site with the code provided by PayPal.

If you use WordPress, there are even more variations of the PayPal button that you can set up via plugins.


  • Save is a payment gateway for direct credit card payments — without the need to create a PayPal account.

Payments can be made with a credit card or with an electronic check. The amount is then transferred to the seller via a bank account. supports all major credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diner’s Club, and JCB. It also supports PayPal, Apple Pay, and Visa Checkout.

The service also offers automated billing for monthly subscriptions, as well as fraud prevention technology.

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While all these things sound great, is a costly payment gateway. It’s great for an established business, but not for small businesses or solo entrepreneurs. It costs $49 to set up for your site.

3. Stripe

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Stripe is a free alternative to since it also allows credit card payments.

It does, however, charge a flat rate per transaction (2.9% + 30 cents). The flat rate is charged only when a transaction occurs.

Stripe doesn’t require a monthly subscription, and it’s a free extension to WooCommerce. But do note that your site needs to have an SSL certificate to ensure that your customers’ credit card information is safe.

Another downside is that Stripe is only available in a few countries (including the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands). You can see if Stripe is available in your country on this page.

4. Gumroad

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For $10 a month, you can sell both digital and physical products online, and accept major credit cards and PayPal. More than just a payment tool, Gumroad provides a product page where your customers can see all of your products.

If you have a separate website, you can install Gumroad widgets to integrate payment into your site. While this payment gateway supports both physical and digital goods, the key features benefit sellers of digital goods.

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Software developers can use Gumroad’s automated license key generator. Downloads can also go to specific cloud services like Dropbox and Kindle.

Shop Customization

Any shop owner wants their shop to look nice, so it is expected that many plugins for WordPress are created with this purpose.

Customizing an e-commerce store is more complicated than a regular website, as there are many other things to consider.

  • Does the shop look organized?
  • Can a customer easily find an item?
  • Are the products presented in the best way possible?

Here are some tools to help you create a beautiful online store:


There are many themes designed specifically for e-commerce sites.

WooCommerce offers free and premium themes on their website.

There are also many themes that work with any e-commerce platform.

You can also search the WordPress directory for themes that suit your e-commerce platform’s design. Choosing the right theme helps establish your brand’s image while improving customer experience.

WooCommerce’s Storefront Theme is free and looks clean and polished.

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Product interaction

The stars of your shop are your products, so they should be clear and easy to interact with.

Plugins like WooCommerce Image Zoom and WooCommerce Image Hover allow users to take a closer look at your products. WooCommerce Quick View allows a user to get a bigger image when hovering over an image. Some customers might want to see more products on the same screen, so plugins like WooCommerce Product Slider can give your site this feature.

You’ll discover even more gallery customization options when you search the WordPress plugin directory for a specific feature.

woocommerce product slider
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There are also plugins that take care of the overall look of your store. One example is Customize WooCommerce Shop, which allows you to change the design of your shop’s product, checkout, shop, and shopping cart pages.

Extended functionality and advanced customizations

While e-commerce platforms try to offer basic (and some advanced) features, these are sometimes not enough for a shop owner.

For instance, non-US sellers might want a customized shipping rate calculator for their country. Sellers with digital goods might not want to use the default Add to cart button and would prefer a Download button instead. Maybe some sellers want to apply a discount to their products during a specified time.

This is where useful plugins like Booster for WooCommerce and WooEnhancer can help you out.

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These “boosters” are a way to disable default features found in the e-commerce platform while adding more features. Most of these plugins offer features for free, but some advanced configurations may require an upgrade to a Pro version of the plugin.

Creating an E-Commerce Website

Setting up an online store can be a long and tedious process, but it’s a great learning experience.

It’s important that you are aware of how one platform is different from another, so you can create the shop that you really want for your audience. You want to make sure that you’re creating the best possible store that your customers will find both informative and easy to navigate.

Learning about the many tools available (from design to functionality) will help you decide what you want your store to be. In the end, offering your products online should be a hassle-free experience for your customers. This way, you’ll get loyal customers who will keep coming back for more.

Are you an e-commerce entrepreneur? What tips would you like to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!

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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

29 thoughts on “The Complete Guide To Starting An E-Commerce Site”

  1. To elaborate the post, I can add some points which I worked on. Shopify along with Ali Express dropshipping e-commerce site works well in recent times. I can say it converts better than eBay drop shipping.

    The advantage of using Gumroad over other payment gateways is SEO. Yes. Gumroad payment page ranks in Google and it’s good since you can rank your e-commerce site and along with this Gumroad page.

    Hope you will love this additional info.

    Thank You

    Mohanraj @bloggingio

  2. Thank you for this comprehensive post, Kim. I use the basic WooCommerce on a new site and, if it takes off, I’ll look more closely at the enhancements and additions you mention.

    I set up a site last year for a photographer wanting to sell both digital copies and prints of her photos. She was completely new to websites so I used a WordPress theme called Photocrati, which incorporates e-commerce.

    1. All the best to your shop, Sue. And hope you have a chance to try the tools mentioned above later on. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Thank you for sharing this article. Woo Commerce is one of the coolest stores to be used on setting up an Online Store on WordPress. Shopify is also in the race with them but WordPress are far ahead.

  4. Hey Kim,

    I have read the post of Megha and she did a great job. And today, you have brought up some useful WordPress plugins.

    I would go with the WooCommerce. I have used it one of my clients. You can even use it with any simple WordPress theme. Just a little bit of integration and you are up.

    The payment gateway is PayPal what I prefer. But it’s good to know that there are many others in the market.

    Thanks for the info.

  5. Vishwajeet Kumar

    Great and very informative post Kim. I am a big fan of Woo commerce and found it very intuitive to use. I have helped one of friend to create a eCommerce site using WordPress and woo commerce. I will also try out the tools you have mentioned.

  6. Dipendra Shekhawat

    Great article Kim. For Payment Gateways, you can also try instaMojo as well by just installing WooCommerce Instamojo plugin.

  7. Hi Kim,

    This truly is a complete guide, and I appreciate all the information.

    I’ll have to check the WooCommerce. I do have an ecom site via AliExpress Plugin and it’s really intuitive and a snap for anyone with no technical talent at all (me). I do agree with Mohan that AliExpress drop-shipping is really great.


  8. Hi Kim,

    Great article Kim.It’s very helpful for the people who want to start their own E-commerce website.Most of the people don’t even know where to get their website designed for free.This article clearly explains about all the things required to design an E-commerce website.Hope you continue posting the useful articles like this.

  9. Hello Kim,
    When connect to then I get this message.

    Your connection is not private

    Attackers might be trying to steal your information from (for example, passwords, messages, or credit cards). NET::ERR_CERT_DATE_INVALID

    Proceed to (unsafe)

    Can you give me solution steps the problem?

  10. “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” Starting E-commerce website is the first step to shape your future in the E-commerce Industry. It is a huge industry, and its future is bright. There is a lot more efforts are required to establish a well crafted E-Commerce Industry and for that such blogs are helpful to make invisible into visible. Go ahead and build strong relationship with customers around the world through the E – Commerce base.

  11. Here you shared a complete guide about making an e-commerce website. Though, I never tried to make this type of sites. But in my mind I have a strong intention to make a online shopping website for rare or home made products. Thanks for sharing the guide. It will help me to make my own shopping site using WordPress.

  12. Hi Kim Barloso,
    Your article enlightens me a lot about designing and maintaining an e-commerce website ,I read the article of Megha about “launching your first online store” and I must say both the articles “The Complete Guide To Starting An E-Commerce Site” and “launching your first online store” gave me some good knowledge about an e-commerce website, and its good to know that WordPress have provided two major e-commerce platform but as I say before in the post comment of Megha that you have to give much effort to raise your e-commerce website.
    Thank You

  13. Hello Kim,

    i enjoyed reading this article on E-Commerce and various ways learning about the many tools available on to get started with the technical side of building an e-commerce website.

  14. I did heard about Gumroad, when it was first lunched. it was quite swift, easy and above all it helps best in SEO. Looking forward to try Stripe, as many of my friend recommended me. Though, very cool guide. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. I really did not think wpecommerce is any good. Woocommerce is top notch, but wp ecommerce is nothing in front of it. Ive been using magento for my store, replaced it with Woocommerce and I regret now that I didnt start my store with woocommerce ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Thanks for sharing this awesome guide to starting an eCommerce site. I’m just looking this types of information indeed. Please share next step with us.

  17. thanks for the bog as i was planning to start an ecommerce site for my business the steps and the ways shown will give me proper guidelines how to start and from where. as Ecommerce will help me to increase sum in my revenue.

  18. sourabh verma

    Everyone thave their own choice but mine is shopify and really loved it. Though wordpress, on the other hand, is awesome too.

  19. To elaborate the post, I can add some points which I worked on. Shopify along with Ali Express dropshipping e-commerce site works well in recent times. I can say it converts better than eBay drop shipping.

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