Top eCommerce Trends to Upgrade your 2021 Strategy

eCommerce trends 2021 Plesk

Digital analysts, marketers and industry experts are shouting it from the rooftops: now is the era of eCommerce.

With increasing digitalization and demand for access to anything and everything online, retailers across the globe have a simple choice: Dedicate time to understanding online commerce, or risk losing out on what is potentially your biggest market.

Without further ado, we’re going to remedy any questions you have about running an eCommerce business in 2021, with this handy list of the biggest trends coming your way (and some tips on how to tackle them):

eCommerce trends Plesk

Quick and easy shopping, for everyone

Shopify estimates that nearly 150 million new online shoppers have become active since the start of the Covid pandemic. This poses an interesting challenge and risk for eCommerce businesses. On the one hand, online sales are at an all-time high. On the other hand, you’ve now got to deal with a less tech-savvy user, with a world of competition at their fingertips. 

Here’s what to look out for:

  • Streamlining your sales funnel: 
    • Simple, fast check-outs encourage that all-important first buy by new customers. One step too many in the process, and you’ve lost them.
  • The omnichannel approach:
    • Creating a uniform buying experience from in-person sales to mobile shopping is vital in 2021.
  • Retail therapy online:
    • Design a shopping experience that delivers the joy of shopping, keeping UX in mind when building your online store.
  • eCommerce management platforms:
    • Just as your customers enjoy simplicity, make your own life simpler too, with eCommerce management software and widgets. You’ll thank yourself later.

End-to-end is king

With some retailers selling online for the first time and marketplaces setting up increasingly efficient supply chains, the race is on to provide the cheapest, fastest, most exciting shopping experience. Online buyers have high expectations for an end-to-end service, and brands are rising to the challenge. From warehousing to branded packaging to returns management, order fulfilment quality can make or break your business.

But we’re not all Amazon, so growing eCommerce enterprises can contract retail support companies that take care of these operations and resource management for online stores.

Of course, an optimized buying process starting from that first click is vital, so many are opting to use eCommerce widgets and plugins too, allowing them to easily streamline the visitor journey from initial entry to online sale.

eCommerce and creative tech

We’ve all seen shoppable ads and smart assistants like Alexa. These new technologies are becoming part and parcel of the eCommerce experience. This trend also shows growth in the use of AI to improve the user experience, and AR to allow customers to ‘try on’ products before buying them. All of this points to a strong, competitive creativity with tech in online shopping this year. 

How will you impress your site visitors enough to buy?

Customer retention challenges

The strength of your brand is going to come into play in 2021. Marketplaces remain popular, where your brand power is diluted, and you have little direct contact with your customer. Plus, the uncertainty of data sharing laws and third party cookies is sure to push up the cost of customer acquisition, and thus escalate competition.

In light of this challenge, a top priority and trend is to prioritize customer retention and loyalty. How?

  • Gather emails:
    • Direct communication with your customer is going to be more and more beneficial, so focus on collecting email leads for more reliable retention.
  • Incentivize:
    • It’s valuable to reward loyalty and offer targeted discounts. Plus, offering packs or subscriptions can help foment long term relationships. (Plesk Partners, take note!)
  • Remember your brand is everything:
    • Customers feel more connected, and therefore more loyal, to brands that they trust to communicate transparently. Community building outside of your site or service can work wonders for effective customer retention.

Go green and sustainable

It’s no longer enough to sell a great product. Consumers now demand that brands commit to processes that are better for the planet and the community. The continued rise of ‘Green consumerism’ will bring some noteworthy trends for eCommerce in 2021. Retail styles like second-hand eCommerce (a.k.a ReCommerce) are reaching new popularity, while existing sellers must strive for sustainable delivery and fair, environmental production of their wares.

It’s an analytics game

Change in the eCommerce market is lightspeed. The needs and wants of your customers will evolve from week to week, so this trend is about knowing your customer inside-out. Invest in hyper-analysing user behaviour, social media and offline tendencies. The objective is then to drive change that predicts the market. Techniques like dynamic pricing (i.e. adapting to the demand in real time) remain popular this year, as brands recognize the power of this trend.

Be sure to power your site with robust monitoring and analytics through your eCommerce management software or other extensions.

Summary

Phew. So we can all agree that the online world (like the offline world) has greatly evolved since 2019, creating new challenges and opportunities. The key ideas to remember are:

  • Customers want a complete service, with a quick and easy user experience from beginning to end of the shopping life cycle.
  • eCommerce is making use of the best new technologies to give brands a competitive edge. Pay attention to AI and AR.
  • Brand loyalty has never been so important, with a clear necessity for retention strategies and truly connecting with your audience.

What else do you see in the future of eCommerce? Cryptocurrency as a payment method? 3D modelling becoming the best way to present your store online? How will the market respond to the disappearance of third-party cookies? Share your ideas and insights in the comments!

I need a break Elvis Plesky Plesk blog

How to Choose the Right Domain Name for your eCommerce Business

eCommerce domains Plesk blog

“This domain name is taken.”

Just when you thought you had a great idea for a domain name, you keep getting the same message over and over again. Frustrating, isn’t it? 

As more people today use the internet to conduct product research and shop for goods, having an online presence is more important than ever. It gives your customers an easy way to connect with your business.

As a developer or a digital agency, you already know the value of having a website. But the challenge you’re facing is finding the right domain name for an e-commerce business.

In a world with a growing online presence, you must consider your brand name and how well it will do as a domain and as keywords in general. 

Here we’ll take an in-depth look at how you can find the right domain name for your online store. These are tips you can apply whether you’re purchasing a domain name for yourself or for a client.

 

Register Your Brand Name

Think about some of the most popular brands today — Apple, Amazon, BMW, Coca-Cola, etc. These companies also have their brand names as their domains.

Why is this important? Because your domain name is tightly linked to your brand.

Just imagine if Apple had registered CoolTechnology.com or if Coca-Cola had registered CarbonatedSoftDrink.com. These domain names just don’t have the same ring to them.

It’s advisable to pick a domain name that’s the same as your brand name. This prevents any brand confusion.

As an example, direct traffic makes up a majority of traffic to Amazon’s site with 57.09%  This means that more than half of shoppers to Amazon’s site are typing the URL directly into their web browser.

 

Plesk domains blog Statistics

Source: Statista.com 

Now imagine if someone types in your brand name into their browser, but instead gets redirected to a completely different site. They’ll likely feel confused, which may lead them to lose trust in your brand.

If you don’t already have a brand name, then you can take an SEO approach and register a domain with keywords.

Include Relevant Keywords

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing your site to rank in search engines like Google for your target keywords.

Think about your last purchase. Chances are you searched online to help with your purchasing decision. You’re not alone as 51% of shoppers use Google to conduct product research.

If your primary focus is to get organic search traffic, another approach you can take is to register a domain name with your target keyword.

Here’s an example of an e-commerce business with a keyword optimized domain name:

Plesk blog domains example

Adding relevant keywords in the domain name is beneficial from a user and search engine stand points — users immediately know what the site offers before they click through and it gives search engines a strong indication of what the site is about.

But there are also some downsides to consider with this approach. Exact match domains can appear spammy (e.g., BestRockingChairsForSale.com) and they restrict the products you can sell.

For example, if your domain name was something like BestDumbbellsForSale.com, visitors to your site might think you only sell dumbbells. This can be problematic if you also sell other fitness equipment on your site like medicine balls or treadmills.

 

Keep the Domain Name Short

Shorter domain names are generally better for a number of reasons — they’re easier to read and visitors can type them into their browser faster.

Shorter domains are also easier to remember and have a higher chance of being “catchy.” For example, visitors are more likely to recall a name like Gamify.com then a domain name like OnlineVideoGameBuilder.com.

It may sound seemingly minor, but the ability to stay with someone after they visit your site can give you a huge competitive advantage online. It means that visitors are more likely to recall your brand in the future should they need your products or services.

For reference, the limit for domain names is 67 characters, but ideally you should try to keep it to 20 characters or less. Of course, coming up with a shorter domain name is by no means easy as most are already registered.

Even if you do find a shorter domain name, it’ll likely come with a huge price tag like this:

Unless your business is already established and generating a significant amount of revenue, you may not be in a position to buy a premium name. The good news is there are other ways that you can find the right name for your e-commerce business.

Play with ‘Creative’ Spellings

Generally, you want to avoid overly-unique spellings in your domain name. That means you must be careful with spellings that are different from how those words are normally spelled. For example, AwesomeToyz.com may sound great, but visitors are likely to land on AwesomeToys.com instead unless you clarify the ‘Z’. However, unofficial spelling or coining unique words can avoid confusing your brand name with the existing words (i.e. ‘Trybe’ instead of ‘Tribe’, to avoid search results of tribes). Whatever spelling you choose, register domains that someone can easily remember and type into their browser. If they can’t because they’re not sure how to spell a word, then it’s back to the drawing board.

Consider Other Domain Extensions

Generally, you should aim to register a .com domain name as it’s the most common and widely used extension. But if the .com of the domain you want is registered or it’s only available at a premium price, another option is to consider other extensions.

For an online store for your e-commerce business, you might consider using the .store extension.

Choosing a different extension opens up even more options that you can choose from. Other extensions that you might consider include:

  • .shop
  • .trade
  • .boutique
  • .online
  • .sale

One thing to keep in mind with domain extensions is the renewal fees. For example, some domain registrars offer .store extensions for an attractive price to entice store owners, but then increase the renewal price the following year.

Check the initial domain name cost for popular registrars and their renewal prices before you register to avoid any surprises.

 

Avoid Trademarks

If your domain is too close to a well-known brand or trademark in the same industry, customers will almost always land on that competitor’s site instead of yours.

You might also run into legal trouble. If you want to sell electronics online, registering a domain name with the word “apple” in it (e.g., AppleSupply.com) is probably not a good idea.

But if you’re an organic farm selling apples to customers worldwide, then registering a domain name with the word “apple” in it (e.g., OrganicApples.com) is probably fine.

It’s best to consult with a trademark lawyer if you’re not sure.

 

Setting Up Your Online Store

With a domain name finally registered, you’re one step closer to selling online. There are a few options you have to build your store.

Shopify is an e-commerce platform that you can use to build and launch an online store. Its platform makes it easy for you to customize your site and even manage your marketing campaigns. Another option is to build your own online store with WooCommerce — a free plugin built specifically for the WordPress platform. Just like with Shopify, you can add products, extend the functionality of your store with extensions, and much more.

If you’re managing multiple e-commerce stores for clients, then you’ll find our WordPress Toolkit and WooCommerce to be the perfect solution. Our WordPress Toolkit lets you configure and manage multiple WordPress instances from one dashboard. Instead of having to manually log in to multiple WordPress sites to update themes and plugins, you can manage updates in bulk from one dashboard. This saves you a ton of time and protects your clients’ sites against security risks.

If something goes wrong or if you ever need to revert to a previous version, you can easily restore your site to different points in time. Whether you’re a developer, system administrator, or a digital agency, our platform lets you build and manage multiple sites from one place.

Conclusion

Your domain is often the first point of contact that potential customers have with your business. So it’s important to choose a memorable and brandable domain name.

Follow the tips above if you’re having a difficult time finding the right domain name for your e-commerce business. And once you finally register a domain, be sure to check out our WordPress Toolkit to streamline and manage your installation.

If you’re already a Plesk Partner and need help getting set up, then don’t hesitate to reach out to your Account Manager.

Have any questions about finding a domain name or want to share a recent experience? Feel free to leave your comment below!

How to set up your online store with WooCommerce

When it comes to e-commerce, picking the right platform to power your store is a difficult choice. As a startup, you’ll want to run your e-commerce business off on a firm footing. This means going fast and secure, minimizing unnecessary expenditure and taking advantage of valuable opportunities.

WooCommerce is by far the most popular and rapidly developing plugin that provides e-commerce functionality for WordPress sites. Since its birth in 2011, it has become one of the most widely used tools to power online stores. After being acquired by Automattic, the company that brought us WordPress.com, you can rest assured you’re in good company.

If you haven’t used WooCommerce before, you should start with my first tutorial on how to install WordPress and WooCommerce plugins and themes, and how to keep them secure and up to date – with minimum effort.

This second tutorial for WooCommerce setup covers the various settings and options to successfully set up your online store!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • General settings
  • Define products settings
  • Tax related options
  • Shipping options for your online store
  • Customize options related to checkout
  • Account settings
  • Customize various email options
  • Enable the REST API
  • Managing products

WooCommerce Configuration – General settings

Before adding products to your e-commerce site, let’s set up your store first. To your store settings, go to WooCommerce -> Settings. The settings page is divided into several tabs, don’t forget to click the ‘Save Changes’ button after making changes.

General options

Here you will find the general settings for your online store.

WooCommerce setup - general settings
Image: WooCommerce – General Settings

In this section, you can define your shop’s base country and state (i.e., Where you are based as a seller). It determines default tax rates and customer locations. Choose to sell to all countries or to specific countries, and which countries you will ship to.  Do not forget to enable or disable taxes on your store. Unchecking ‘Enable taxes’ will hide the settings for taxes.

Plesk tip: You can also enable a site-wide notice from this section. To do that, check the ‘Store Notice’ box and enter the message in the box.

Currency options

In this section, you can define all the currency-related options, including the default currency, currency position, thousand and decimal separator, the number of decimals, etc.

Define product settings

This tab lets you define the settings options for your products.

WooCommerce configuration - product settings
Image: WooCommerce – Product Settings

This section has two types of options. ‘Measurements’ lets you enter weight and dimensions units for products, and ‘Reviews’ lets you enable/disable ratings on product reviews.

Display

This section lets you define the shop page, what to display on that page, default product sorting and add-to-cart behavior. You can provide custom dimensions for catalog images, single product images, product thumbnails, and product images galleries.

Inventory

This section consists of the options related to inventory management

Plesk tip: Enable this feature by checking the ‘Enable stock management‘ box. Then, you can define when to send low stock and out of stock notifications to a particular recipient.

Downloadable products

If you are offering digital products, this section controls how your store provides downloadable files to purchasers. It is also possible to require users to be logged in and to allow your product to be downloaded only after the order is processed.

Taxonomies

WooCommrce setup - taxonomies
Image: WooCommerce – Taxonomies

Setting up taxes and tax rates is one of the first tasks you want to perform when setting up a store. Taxes can be a complex matter, but WooCommerce aims to make setup as straightforward as possible. More at: WooCommerce Tax Settings.

Plesk tip: We recommend consulting with a tax professional or an accountant on what may be your best options, plus any applicable laws to your state, country or business. Each business is unique, and there’s no way we can cover the millions of possibilities.

Shipping options

WooCommerce configuration - Shipping
Image: WooCommerce – Shipping

The main shipping settings screen is for ‘Shipping Zones’. Think of a shipping zone as a geographic region where a certain set of shipping methods and their rates apply. WooCommerce will match a customer to a single zone using their shipping address and present the shipping methods within that zone to them.

Below, you will find available ‘Shipping methods’. Like payment gateways, you can rearrange them via drag & drop and choose a default method. You can customize the shipping method options from the top section.

WooCommerce Configuration - Shipping Methods
Image: WooCommerce – Shipping Zones

‘Shipping classes’ can be used to group products of similar types and that use the same shipping methods, such as Flat Rate Shipping. For example, with shipping classes and Flat Rate Shipping, you can create different flat rates for different product types, like bulky items and small items.

WooCommerce Setup - Shipping Classes
Image: WooCommerce – Shipping Classes

Plesk tip: Shipping classes are used to group products – they are not used to offer shipping rates to customers. To set up shipping rates, configure Shipping Zones, and then add your shipping class costs to a shipping method, a Flat Rate for example.

Checkout options

Under the Checkout sub navigation section, there are several options for the general checkout process of your store.

WooCommerce Settings - Checkout
Image: WooCommerce – Checkout options

If you want to provide coupons or allow guest checkout, you can do so by checking the respective boxes.

Plesk tip: When using a SSL certificate (strongly recommended) for your online shop, make sure HTTPS is being used on the checkout page by checking the ‘Force Secure Checkout’ page.

Checkout pages

Pages need to be set so WooCommerce knows where to send users to check out: Cart Page, Checkout Page, or Terms and Conditions. You need not use a default WooCommerce page, but you must have a page set up for the Cart and Checkout pages. Otherwise, your customers cannot buy and pay.

Checkout endpoints

Endpoints are appended to page URLs to handle specific actions during the checkout process. They should be unique. Learn more about WooCommerce endpoints.

Payment Gateways

Installed gateways are listed and can be dragged and dropped to control the order in which they appear to customers.

WooCommerce Configuration - Payment Gateways
Image: WooCommerce – Payment Gateways

Plesk tip: The free version comes with five payment gateways as listed below. You can add more by purchasing WooCommerce add-ons.

Free Payment Gateways included in WooCommerce:

  • Cash on Delivery
  • PayPal Standard
  • Cheque
  • BACS (Bank Transfer)
  • Stripe

Accounts

‘Pages’ need to be set so WooCommerce knows where to send users to access account-related functionality.

WooCommerce Account Settings
Image: WooCommerce – Account settings

My account page

Choose a page from the dropdown that you want to use for the ‘My Account page’.

My account endpoints

Endpoints are appended to your page URLs to handle specific actions on the accounts pages. They should be unique.

  • Orders
  • View Order
  • Downloads
  • Edit Account
  • Addresses
  • Payment Methods
  • Lost Password
  • Logout

Registration options

In the ‘Enable Registration‘ section, you can allow the users to register on the checkout and my account pages. You can choose to auto-generate the username and password in the ‘Account Creation’ section.

Emails

From this section, you can customize various email options for your e-commerce site.

Email sender options

Set the ‘From’ name and email address for the sender used in WooCommerce emails.

Email template

This section lets you customize WooCommerce emails. You can provide a header image, add footer text and choose custom colors for the base, background, email body text, and background.

API settings

Choose to enable the ‘REST API’ to access store data from outside WordPress, e.g., our iOS app or other external apps.

WooCommerce Settings - API
Image: WooCommerce – REST API

Generate API Keys

The WooCommerce REST API works on a key system to control access. These keys are linked to WordPress users on your website. To create or manage keys for a specific WordPress user, go to Keys/Apps.

WooCommerce Settings - API Keys
Image: WooCommerce Settings – API Keys

To get started, select -> Add Key.

WooCommrce Setup - Add Key
Image: WooCommerce Settings – API Keys

Select the User you would like to generate a key for in the User field and add a Description. Choose the level of access for this API key, which can be Read access, Write access or Read/Write access. Then select the ‘Generate API Key’ button and WooCommerce will generate API keys for that user.

Now that keys have been generated, you should see two new keys, a QRCode, and a Revoke API Key button. These two keys are your Consumer Key and Consumer Secret.

WooCommerce Settings - Key Details
Image: WooCommerce Settings – Key Details

Place your consumer key and consumer secret in the application that uses the WooCommerce API (the application should request your URL as well).

Plesk tip: If you would like to learn more about REST API, check Gerhard’s (WooCommerce Engineer at Automattic) informative blog post, WooCommerce REST API Client Library.

Developer documentation

You can find the REST API documentation at: WooCommerce REST API Docs.

Libraries

  • Node.js
  • Python
  • PHP
  • Ruby

Plesk tip: With Plesk you get a ready-to-code environment. Use PHP, JavaScript, Ruby, Python, Java, .Net, node.js, html5 and much more on the fly!

Managing products

There are various kinds of products that you can add to your online store. In this section, you will learn the basics of adding a product and how to define the different types of products you add to your store.

You will also learn about adding descriptions and prices, as well as other options you may have while adding products to your store. Now, let’s see how to add products to your website.

First, let’s add products to your website.

Go to Products -> Add Product. You will be taken to a page like this.

WooCommerce Configuration - Product New
Image: WooCommerce setup – Products

While the upper portion of the page looks almost like the new post editor, you will find product related options in the lower part. Provide the product name and a short product description. Then, move to the ‘Product Data‘ section below.

Product data – Type of products

First of all, choose the product type. The configurable options will vary depending on the product type:

  • Simple Product – covers the vast majority of any products you may sell. Simple products are shipped and have no options. For example, a book.
  • Grouped Product – a collection of related products that can be purchased individually and only consist of simple products. For example, a set of six drinking glasses.
  • Virtual Product – one that doesn’t require shipping. For example, consulting or a service
  • Downloadable Product – much like a virtual product, but customers are given a downloadable file. For example, digital album, PDF magazine, or photo.
  • External/Affiliate Product – one that you list and describe on your website but is sold elsewhere.
  • Variable Product – a product with variations, each of which may have a different SKU, price, stock option, etc. For example, a t-shirt available in different colors and/or sizes.

Note: Some extensions if installed will add more product date choices. For example, WooCommerce Subscriptions adds new product types as does WooCommerce Memberships.

General

In the first tab ‘General’, choose a regular price and the sale price of the product. If it is a downloadable product, you need to add the downloadable files and set the download limit and the download expiry date.

WooCommerce Settings - Products General
Image: WooCommerce Setup – Products General

Inventory

The inventory section allows you to manage stock for the product individually and define whether to allow back orders and more. If stock management is disabled on the settings page, only the ‘Manage stock?’ option will be visible.

Shipping

In this section, you can specify the product weight and dimensions. If there is any shipping class for the product, you can choose that from the ‘Shipping type’ drop-down menu.

Linked Products

By adding up-sell and cross-sell products, this section lets you increase your conversion rate.

Up-sells are displayed on the product details page. These are products that you may wish to encourage users to upgrade, based on the product they are currently viewing. For example, if the user is viewing a basic coffee maker listing page, you may want to display the premium expresso maker on that same page as an up-sell.

Cross-sells are products that are displayed with the cart and related to the user’s cart contents. As an example, if the user adds a Nintendo DS to their cart, you may want to suggest they purchase a spare stylus when they arrive at the cart page.

WooCommerce Setup - Selling
Image: WooCommerce Setup – Linked Products

Attributes

Attributes provide additional information about the product. For instance, if you are selling a hoodie, you can include size, color, type, etc. as the attributes of the product.
To add a new attribute, click ‘Add’. Then, provide the attribute name and the value(s). You can choose to display the attributes on the product page by checking the ‘Visible on the product page‘ box.

WooCommerce Configuration - Attributes
Image: WooCommerce Configuration – Product Attributes

Advanced

  • Purchase note – Enter an optional note to send the customer after they purchase the product.
  • Menu order – Custom ordering position for this item.
  • Enable Reviews – Enable/Disable customers reviews for this item.

WooCommerce Advanced Settings
Image: WooCommerce – Advancd Settings

Categories and tags

On the right-hand side of the Product panel, there are product categories in which you can place your product, similar to a standard WordPress post. You can also assign product tags in the same way.

WooCommerce Settings - Categories
Image: WooCommerce – Categories and tags

Product Image

Add a product image as a featured image or create ‘Product Galleries’. This is good if a product has different colors, sizes, shapes or you want to provide different angled shots.

Note: Product image sizes could vary from theme to theme and will be given in the themes specific documentation.

After providing all the necessary information, click -> Publish.

Setting catalog visibility and feature status

On the Publish panel, you can set catalog visibility for your product.

  • Catalog and search – Visible everywhere, shop pages, category pages and search results.
  • Catalog – Visible in shop pages and category pages, but not search results.
  • Search – Visible in search results, but not in the shop page or category pages.
  • Hidden – Only visible on the single product page – not on any other pages.

Finally, you can view all the products in the Products -> Products page. For each product, there are several options – Edit, Trash, View, Duplicate.

Wrapping Up

Creating an e-commerce site is a time-consuming and continuous task, but I hope that this tutorial will help you better navigate your new WooCommerce store. If you have any questions about the setup or product-adding process, let me know in the comments below.

Finally, if you found this tutorial useful, feel free to share it with your friends.

Be well, do good, and stay Plesky!

How to start your online store with WooCommerce

Wordpress WooCommerce online shop with Plesk Onyx

When it comes to e-commerce, picking the right platform to power your online store is a difficult choice. Whichever one you go with needs to be fast, secure, and feature-filled, so where are you supposed to begin looking?

With over 1+ million active installs and a 4.6 user rating on WordPress.org, WooCommerce is one of the most popular free ecommerce solutions for WordPress. According to BuiltWith, as of January 2017, WooCommerce powered 42% of all online stores! So if you’re looking to open an online store on your WordPress-powered website, WooCommerce should be high on your list of contenders.

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is an open source platform backed by a large community, who constantly updates it, creates new themes, plugins and all sorts of integrations, all of which are essential to a successful business. With hundreds of free and paid WooCommerce extensions, spanning all major logistical & technical needs, you can rest assured there’s an extension for your specific needs.

Wordpress WooCommerce Image: WooCommerce

To show you how quick and easy it is to set up your own WordPress WooCommerce online store, I’ll give you a guided tour and walk you through the basic steps.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Choosing a fast and secure hosting environment
  • Installing WordPress
  • Installing and activating the WooCommerce plugin
  • Choosing the proper theme for your site
  • Importing the WooCommerce Dummy Data
  • Managing multiple WooCommerce installations
  • Adding additional protection for your online store

And in my next article, I’ll explain how to add products, configure tax and shipping options and other general settings within your online store.

1. Choosing A Fast And Secure Hosting Environment

When it comes to choosing a fast and secure hosting environment for your online store, the options are endless, but it is good to be extra picky when selecting a host to make sure your income isn’t restrained by the performance of your website.

If you are just starting out with a small inventory and expect limited customer traffic, you could get by with a budget, entry level shared hosting. Most shared hosts will give you the option of leveling up as your online store grows in size and traffic.

But if you are planning to launch a large online store, or one that is expected to scale quickly, you would be better off with a high-performance service provider.

Premium managed hosting is a good option for serious e-commerce stores because you would be hosted on a server that is optimized to load WordPress more efficiently. Also, managed hostings will come with experts who will be proactively monitoring your website and will be on hand should anything go wrong. This alone justifies the higher price tag.

In addition to that, there are several technical considerations to take into account:

  • Having a PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant host guarantees that your provider takes security seriously and maintains it continuously.

  • Having a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate bundled within your hosting plan ensures the security for your website by encrypting communication between the server and the person visiting your online store. It’s required for all e-commerce sites that accept credit card payments online.

Plesk tip:
If you manage your host via Plesk, all these are taken care of for you. All Plesk users can get a free SSL certificate powered by Let’s Encrypt, and deploy SSL protection in a few steps. This means you don’t need to purchase your certificate separately and struggle with installation.

Plesk Extensions CatalogImage: Plesk Onyx – Extension Catalog

  • Make sure that your host support PHP 7, because it’s up to twice as fast as PHP 5.6, which means you’ll need fewer servers to serve the same amount of users. If your host supports PHP7, ask them how to activate it. For Plesk users, it’s just a click to enable PHP7 – here’s how.

  • Use a caching plugin to ensure that your site is lightning fast and improve your Google page rank. A slow site can push you down in Google’s rankings, and your website visitors might give up trying to explore your store if it takes too long to load.

Plesk tip: 
If you’re looking for a free, easy to install caching option, WP Super Cache is one of the best options out there.

With its huge amount of customization options, W3 Total Cache is also great if you crave total control over your plugin. If you’re new to plugins, however, this option may be a little too in-depth.

However if you just want a simple solution, WP Rocket is a good option, as long as you are prepared to spend a little money.

 

2. Installing WordPress

In this example, I’ll be using Plesk Onyx and the Plesk WordPress Toolkit to simplify the WordPress installation process.

The Plesk WordPress Toolkit is ideal for your WordPress WooCommerce store because it helps you manage your infrastructure and security, and also offers a ready-to-code environment, Let’s Encrypt, Free SSL certificates, CloudFlare CDN, DDoS mitigation, PHP7, and other powerful technologies. Most importantly for this case, it also offers a 1-click installation to install WordPress.

Plesk Onyx - Featured ApplicationsImage: Plesk Onyx – WordPress Toolkit

Installing WordPress in Plesk Onyx is as simple as heading to the applications tab on your control panel and picking a WordPress version to install, as seen in the screenshot above.

During the installation, like most common applications, a progress bar is presented, showing how far you are through the process. A few seconds later and everything’s done.

Wordpress Installation With Plesk OnyxImage: Plesk Onyx – WordPress Installation

In the screenshot above, you see the admin dashboard which is available immediately after WordPress has been installed. On the dashboard, you are presented with an overview of your installation where you can see key details, such as the site name, URL, administrator’s details. On the right-hand side, there are links to your key management options for configuring themes, plugins and security.

 

3. Installing The WooCommerce Plugin

Clicking Manage Themes or Manage Plugins from the admin dashboard immediately gives you the ability to install, activate, or delete a plugin or installed theme of your WordPress installations – as shown in the screenshot below.

Adding WooCommerce is as easy as 1-2-3

Click Manage Plugins > Install Plugin at the top of the plugin list and search for WooCommerce to install. Click on Install.

Wordpress WooCommerce installation Image: Plesk Onyx – Install Plugins

Plesk tip:
Plesk Onyx keeps everything in one location, making managing plugins ever so much simpler than in a standard WordPress installation.

  • To activate an inactive plugin, click the checkbox next to its name and click Ok
  • Want to disable a plugin? Uncheck it and click Ok
  • Want to delete a plugin? Click on the bin icon on the right

Manage plugins with Plesk OnyxImage: Plesk Onyx – Manage Plugins

Immediately after activating the plugin, you’re taken to the onboarding wizard. You can use the wizard, or skip it and manually set up everything. We recommend giving the wizard a go if it’s your first time using the platform. Let’s check it out together by clicking on Let’s Go!

WooCommerce Installation Image: WooCommerce – Onboarding Wizard

Page Setup

The wizard first helps to set up pages needed for an ecommerce online store, such as the shop page, cart page and checkout. Select Continue to automatically install pages.

WooCommerce page setupImage: WooCommerce – Page Setup

Store Locale

Next is your store’s location, currency and dimensional units for shipping calculations (cm, inches). WordPress WooCommerce automatically detects your location using your IP address and selects the country, currency and units. Confirm that the data is correct, and then select Continue.

Wordpress WooCommerce Locale SetupImage: WooCommerce – Store Locale Setup

Shipping & Tax

Shipping and Taxes can be enabled for your online store, if needed. If you enable taxes, further options will appear. Choose how to enter prices, with/without tax, and check the list of taxes WooCommerce will create for you (can change later). Consult a tax professional to ensure your rates are correct.

WooCommerce Shipping & TaxImage: WooCommerce – Shipping & Tax
Select Continue when you’re satisfied.

Payments

Finally, how you want to be paid.

WooCommerce payments setupImage: WooCommerce – Payments

  • PayPal powered by Braintree and/or Stripe — free, separate plugins we offer — are downloaded automatically from WordPress.org.
  • If you enable PayPal Standard, enter an email address associated with that account.

Ready!

The wizard is complete, and now you’re ready to start selling. The only remaining action is to add your products. Select the big Create your first product! button.

Or you can click through to access the setup guides and educational resources.

WooCommerce Plugin For WordPressImage: WooCommerce – Your Store is ready!

Plesk tip:
If you’ve skipped the wizard when you installed WooCommerce, you can run the wizard again. Go to: Help > Setup Wizard and select Setup Wizard.

 

4. Installing The Proper Theme For Your Site

Say you want to install the Storefront theme, designed and developed by WooCommerce Core developers, or its free child theme Boutique, designed for small WooCommerce online stores/boutiques.

In the pop-up window, look for Storefront, or Boutique and click OK. Your theme will be activated after a few moments.

Manage Theme for WooCommerceImage: Plesk Onyx – Manage Themes

5. Importing The WooCommerce Dummy Data

After you’ve installed WooCommerce, perhaps you’d like to see what your pages and products might look like. If so, WordPress WooCommerce has made some sample data available for us. Just right click and download it from here.

Plesk tip:
Dummy data contains products with images that will work with any theme. However, it doesn’t contain the same photos as the Storefront demo, as the demo uses proprietary photography.

From the WordPress admin, go to Tools > Import and select the WordPress option. If you don’t have the WordPress importer installed, first install it by selecting Install Now.

Image: WordPress – Tools

Once that’s installed select Run Importer, Choose file, and select the dummy-data.xml file you downloaded earlier.

You’ll then have the option to import a default author, create a new user, or assign the posts to an existing user. This is your decision to make, although we’d recommend assigning the posts to an existing user.

After that be sure to check or uncheck the Download and import file attachments checkbox, because this will import all the sample product images to your site if checked.

Click Submit and your dummy data will be imported. Congrats, you now have some sample data in WooCommerce to learn from!

 

6. Manage Multiple WordPress Installations

If you’d like to set up multiple online stores, or if you manage stores for multiple clients, then you should consider using Plesk Onyx to install and manage your all your WordPress installations. When you’re done, as in the screenshot below, you’ll see multiple sites in your WordPress installation list.

Image: Plesk Onyx – Multiple WordPress Installations

The main benefit of using Plesk Onyx for multiple stores is the flexibility to set up, configure, update and secure one store, a set of stores, or all your stores at one go, including for tasks such as security scans, audits, and updates.

In fact, Plesk also allows you to schedule tasks to occur automatically, which we’ll be looking at in a later post.

 

7. Adding Additional Protection For Your Online Store

Security is as important a topic as ever, so it’s essential to keep track of the security touchpoints on your online store.

If you use Plesk, click Secure under Manage Plugins on your control panel to configure settings for:

  • File and directory permissions
  • Directory browsing permissions
  • Security on the wp-contents and wp-includes folders
  • Security keys

Image: Plesk Onyx – Check Security

For instance, you can see in the screenshot above that my Security of the configuration file and Directory browsing permissions on my WordPress installation are no longer up to date. To rectify that, all I’ll need to do on my Plesk control panel would be to check the checkboxes next to each of them and then click OK. Plesk will make the appropriate changes and add a green tick when complete.

Should I want to undo this action, I can click Rollback, which will reverse the changes and restore my original files and settings.

 

Do you need Plesk?

Now, do you really need Plesk Onyx and the Plesk WordPress toolkit to set up your WooCommerce online store? Arguably, no. But I would argue that your time could be better spent managing and growing your business, than fiddling with technical updates and security settings.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. In the meantime, be well, do good, and stay Plesky!