A Guide to WooCommerce: Learn the Basics and How To Grow Your Store

WooCommerce Overview

WooCommerce powers 27% of all eCommerce platforms and has exceeded Shopify even. Its continued growth since the inception of the plugin in 2011 has been, needless to say, phenomenal.


This post is an extensive overview of WooCommerce. It isn’t a step by step guide to build your store, as each store has its own unique needs. Instead it gives you:

  • An overview of WooCommerce Links provided to additional posts on my site that will teach your more about that specific area.
  • Additional posts on extensions and plugins to add specialized functionality for your own store’s needs.

The Product Types

You sell all kinds of products and services with WooCommerce. But when adding these to your site, they will be assigned specific product data.

So, as you are assigning these, don’t just think products. And although you will see that a lot of what I’m talking about is labeled product, all can be used for services as well.

Essentially your services are also a product.

Here are the four default types that come with WooCommerce:

  • simple product
  • grouped product
  • external/affiliate product
  • variable product

When adding a product, you will choose among these options:

  • Simple Product – this is a single physical product that has no variations.
  • Simple Product Virtual – an example of this might be a service, such as hourly consulting.
  • Simple Product Downloadable – this is both virtual and downloadable, such as an ebook or a music file.
  • Grouped Product – a collection of products that are related but purchased separately. An example would be different models of the iMac from Apple.
  • External/Affiliate Product – a product you add to your store that takes buyers to another site to purchase it. Affiliates work well,  products you make a commission on.
  • Variable Product – some products will have different variations and multiple images. For example, a t-shirt that comes in different sizes and colors, with different prices.
woocommerce product types

Some extensions if installed will add more product date choices, such as subscriptions for example.

product types with extensions

When you create a product or service,  the page looks very similar to creating a post in WordPress. But this is what is called a custom post type, so it has additional options.

product page in Woocommerce

Product Descriptions

Each product or service you create will have two descriptions. Creating and formatting a description is no different than creating a post or page in WordPress and you use the same editor window.

Product Short Description

This description will typically show up next to the product image, price and add-to-cart. It’s just a teaser to lead them into the full description.

product-short-description

Product Description

This is where you place the product name and a longer description of the product. It will appear lower on the product page,  in some kind of tab format. In your dashboard, this might be a bit confusing as the longer description below is the first thing you will see when adding a new product and the short description above will be further down the page. But on the finished product page, short is at the top with the longer at the bottom.

product description

Product Image

The product image is added as a featured image.

product image

Product image on single product pages can be sized under WooCommerce > Product Images in the customizer.

image sizing in customizer

You can also create a product galley to show all the images that are attached to a specific product. The Featured Image will show as the primary image by default. This is a great feature if your products have some variations, such as different colors. Or if you simply want to give different angled shots to share a better representation of the product.

product gallery

You may also check your theme or page builder, as they may have their own settings for WooCommerce product image sizes.

The challenge with some new WooCommerce users is that if they are selling services rather than products, an image doesn’t always demonstrate the service well, so you will need to get creative.

Controlling Where the Product Shows

In your Publish options, you will find a setting called Catalog Visibility. Although this is pretty basic, you still have some options here for where to show and hide the product on the shop page and other archive pages.

Also, it lets you set the product as a featured product. You will find that many themes that are built for WooCommerce may have options on the homepage for the Featured Product. This is where you can control what it does and doesn’t show.

catalog visibility

Assigning Categories and Tags

With each product, you can assign categories and tags.

product categories and tags

A Closer Look at the Different Product Types and the Other Product Settings

As you can see in these screenshots, the options for each product type are different.

Simple Product

Here you get all the basic settings, which include General, Inventory, Shipping, Linked Products, Attributes, Advanced, and Get more options. You will see the two fields for sales tax here if you have sales tax enabled in your WooCommerce settings.

simple product

Simple Product Virtual

Obviously, if you choose virtual for your Simple Product, you will no longer have the shipping option.

simple product virtual

Simple Product Downloadable

When you also choose Downloadable (and likely you will also choose Virtual), you get some new options in the General Setting tab and as with the virtual, shipping will be hidden.

Note that with both virtual and downloadable, when toggled on, this will affect all product types the same way and you will be given the same options.

simple product downloadable

You can learn on how Set Up and Extend Virtual and Downloadable Products or discover some additional ways to extend your downloadable products on these posts.

Grouped Product

When creating your Grouped Product, you will see that the General tab no longer exists. That’s because you are creating a Grouped Product that will have several Simple Products added to it. So in reality, it’s not an actual single product to purchase.

grouped product

Now you will go down to Linked Products and add the products to this group using the Grouping field.

grouped product fields

To learn more about grouped products, see our post: How To Set Up Grouped Products in WooCommerce

External/Affiliate Product

When you create this product, you will be sending your customers to an external site to purchase it, so both Inventory and Shipping have been removed. Then, under your General tab, you will find settings for the URL or link to send customers to make the purchase.

external affiliate product

See more about this on our post Setting Up External Products and Affiliates in WooCommerce or check out these posts that that will show you how you can do more with your external and affiliate products.

Variable Products

T-shirts are a good example of a variable product because you have different sizes and colors. All those variations need to be tied together. This is where you will be using Attributes and Variations.

For example, these t-shirts come in three colors and three sizes. We have created those attributes and assigned them here.

variable products attributes

If we go to variations and tell it to Create variations from all attributes, we can set up all the product data for each variation. As you can see from the drop-down menu, you have a lot of options.

variable product variation options

And of course, if the more attributes you have, the more variations. These are the ones created simply from three colors and sizes.

variations created

And we have settings for each variation. For example, this is the info you will need to add for each one.

settings for single variation

More Posts on Variable (Variations) Product Types

You can learn more about variations on my other post as well as several optional ways to fill specific needs using either a plugin or an extension.

Ways to Extend Your Products

What you can do with your products are not limited by just the default WordPress settings. There are so many other ways to add additional features and options for your products. Here are a few more posts that you may find interesting.


WooCommerce Dashboard

The WooCommerce admin, as it is known, gives you a great overview of your stores activity. In this screenshot I only have a few of the modules toggled on.

admin dashboard

You can easily filter the date range by presets or custom.

date range of admin

And for each area, performance, charts and leaderboards, you can toggle sections on and off that you want to view. Of course each one is different, but for example, here are the options for charts.

toggle options for charts

To give you a better idea of all of these options, this is what it would looke like if they were all toggled on.

admin with all options toggle on

WooCommerce Settings

The setting here can easily grow as you add extensions and plugins. I will walk you through these settings and also share with you any related settings that you will also find specifically in your product page options.

It’s good to review all these settings as some things that are found here may not be obvious to look for here.

Note that many of these settings may be already completed if you use the Setup Wizard when initially installing WooCommerce.

General Settings

These are basic setting such as your address, enabling or disabling taxes and coupons and currency options. The fact that tax and shipping rates use this information eases some of your setup.

WooCommerce general settings

Products

Again, a variety of settings specifically based on products including:

  • choosing your shop page
  • adding a default image that will be used if a product image does not exist
  • both weight and dimension measurement units
  • review options and product ratings
WooCommerce Product General Settings

On your product page settings, you will also find a place to toggle reviews of and on specifically for that product under the Advanced Tabs.

reviews toggle on product settings

Products Inventory

Product inventory lets you control of the global settings for your inventory can be activated here and options such as threshold and out of stock visibility.

Woocommerce products inventory

And again, you will also find inventory settings on your product page settings specific to each product that can override any global settings in addition to adding a product SKU and the ability to restrict the product to a single purchase.

WooCommerce product page inventory settings

Above I shared a bit of the downloadable product settings for product pages. In the WooCommerce settings you will find a few more options as far a the file download method, access restriction and filename.

WooCommerce products downloadable settings

Tax

Taxes can initially be set up through the Wizard and using Jetpack. And some is auto-set based on your physical location. But you may likely need to tweak more of these settings based on where you are selling and what you are selling.

The Tax options are going to be set for your own specific needs and how you do this will be based on the location of your store. There are several options here and you can get a better understanding of them and how to set them up by visiting this doc on WooCommerce.

WooCommerce Tax options

The three different rates you can set up are the most common, the standard rates and then both reduced and zero rate rates.

For example, you can see that three rates were automatically added based on the address I put in for my store.

standard tax rates example

There may be the need to even import some tax rates depending on the number you need to have in place.

Tax Settings in Your Product Data

For each specific product you will choose its tax status and class.

tax settings in product data

Shipping

Like taxes, shipping can be a bit complicated depending on your needs and does take sometime to fine tune for you own store. First off you will create shipping zones that are based on a geographical region or group of regions where you want to ship your physical products to. Multiple shipping zones are obviously needed if you are shipping to different areas

shipping-zones

You will see that when I click on adding a shipping zone, this is how you will be setting up each zone.

adding a shipping zone

Then we have the shipping classes. These are used to group products of similar types. They can e used with shipping methods such as Flat Rate Shipping to apply specific rates to a specific product class. For example, there could be different flat rates for different product types. This could be oversized products or much smaller products.

shipping classes

And there are a few shipping options that you can set globally for your store around calculations and shipping destination.

shipping options

Lastly, in shipping, there are some WooCommerce services you can take advantage of and will require that you installed Jetpack.

Shipping labels could help you if you are a smaller shop and do your shipping manually.

shipping labels

And Packaging that allows you to add boxes and other packages that you use frequently to ship.

packaging

Shipping Options in Product Data

For each product you have the option to add the weight and dimensions of the product so the shipping can be calculated accordingly. You will also choose the shipping class as well.

shipping options on product data

Note that if you toggle your product on as either virtual or downloadable, the shipping options disappear for the obvious reason.

Extend Your Shipping Options

Here are some more posts on my site that will show you had to add additional functionality to your shipping options.

Payments

Adding payment gateways to your site will depend on each store’s specific needs and geographic location. By default, the Standard PayPal but other PayPay options can be added. The default also includes direct bank transfer, check payments and cash on delivery. Stripe has been added here as an extension and on WooCommerce.com alone, there are over 60 different extensions.

payments

Each payment gateway will need to be set up according to the information you need to connect your site. For example, here is the page for PayPal.

WooCommerce Payments – to make life easier when setting up your first store, you now have the option to use WooCommerce payments, which is powered by Stripe. It’s easy to set up through the Wizard when installing WooCommerce.

Create Payment Restrictions at Checkout – Learn how you can restrict payment options through condition based on cart total, geographic location and more.

Accounts and Privacy

In order to comply with privacy laws, there are some settings here that will help you. You have a few options around guest checkout, account creation, account erasure requests and personal data removal, which is critical to have in place.

accounts and privacy

You can also add your own Privacy Policy for your policy page, registration and checkout.

Lastly, you can control how long you will retain personal data of your customers.

personal data retention

Emails

Here you will find all the various emails that go out by default depending on the actions.

managing emails

You can set a default global email name and address. And as far as any design of the email, you are limited to adding a header image, some footer text and changing a few colors for the email template.

emal sender options and template

Returning to the list of email, you can manage each one with these options. They are pretty much the same for most all of the different emails. There are the basics: enable/disable, recipient, subject, email heading, additional comment and option of plain text, HTML or multipart.

This is the new order email.

manage new order email

You can also view the template and if you have the skills, you can edit it as well.

edit email template

If you want to be able to allow your customers a way to add additional emails to their account, check out this post.

Integration

Here you will find the option to integrate MaxMind Geolocation. This allows shop owners to automatically geolocate customers and display tax rates and shipping methods specific to a customer’s location. You will need a free or paid account for GeoLite.

maxmind geolocation intergration

Advanced

Many of these settings, especially as you are just setting up your first store, will be left as is. But if you are more into development and other advanced aspects of your site, you can peruse the page setup, checkout and account endpoints, REST API, Webhooks and Legacy API.

advanced settings

Related Products, Cross Sells and Upsells

There are many ways you can do this. Even what follows this, Coupons, can be used for either. The default related products will show at the bottom of the product page.

related products on product page

If I don’t want those to show, first make sure your theme doesn’t have an option to hide it. If not, then you can open your customizer > Additional CSS and add this:

.related.products {
display: none;
}
hide related products with CSS

For cross-sells and upsells, you will find the option to add that in your product data, where you are able to select the specific products. Likely, if you are using these you will want to remove the related products.

For example, if I had a this microphone and wanted to suggest some other mic as an option, I would add them here.

add upsells

This is where I would find them on the product page.

upsells on product page

On the other hand, you may want to suggest some accessories for a mic using cross-sells.

These will show up on the cart page as added recommendations.

cross sells on cart page

There are a lot of ways to create upsells and cross-sells without these default options. In fact, in the next part, coupons can also be considered either. But here are a few posts that will give you yet more ideas of how to increase your sales.


Coupons

Coupons are a powerful way to increase sales. The built-in functionality is pretty robust as giving you some options. This is where you can set up your coupons and to dive into this more I would suggest that you check out this post here on my site: How to Setup and Extend Coupons.

coupons

As I mentioned previously, coupons can be used to upsell or cross-sell. There are also other ways to increase the options you have within your coupons functionality. Here are a few posts with other recommendations to extend Coupons, Credits, Rewards and Deals.


Customers, Orders and Account Page

Here is the list of customers you can see with all fields toggle on for viewing.

 customer list

You can get an overview of all orders and their status here.

list of orders

You are able to add a new order or edit an existing order, or simply look at the full details. I have opened an existing order here.

order details

Customer Account Page

Every registered customer will have an account page where they can view recent orders, manage their shipping and billing address and other account details.

account page

The account page is often under-utilized. By that I mean there are ways to extend it and offer more conveniences for your customers. Here are some additional posts that show you how to add extra functionality into your customers account page.


Reports

These are different from the dashboard/admin overviews as there are some specific reports that you can view.

In orders, customers, stock, taxes and shipping labels, you will find various reports. And even on single reports, there are further options. For example, here are three of them.

Orders – sales by dates

report of orders sales by date

Orders – sales by product (after choosing a specific product)

report orders sales by product

Customers – customers vs. guests

report customer versus guests

Keeping solid analytics is a critical piece of your WooCommerce shop. There are ways to utilize Google Analytics specifically to your products and sales. If you really want to get a handle on this, I would suggest your check out Metorik.


Themes, Layout and Design

There are thousands of themes available with many of them compatible with WooCommerce. In fact, more and more are being offered with built-in integration.

I typically recommend starting with the Storefront theme from WooCommerce and, if it fits your needs, one of its child themes. For a more robust theme Astra Pro is often recommended for WooCommerce. Of course you can take it further and use a page builder like Beaver Builder or Elementor. Or, if you store is huge you may just want it customized from the ground up.

If you are into blocks, another option is WooBuilder Blocks that let you fully customize the single product page.

But both the settings in the WordPress customizer and the blocks that come with WooCommerce can help you get a start.

Settings in the Customizer

There are settings you will want to be aware of in the customizer. Granted, more WooCommerce options will show up in their when you start using specific themes, plugins or extensions. In fact, you may find a good deal of the options and features there for some.

customizer

But WooCommerce does have some default options that I would like to share with you, Store Notice, Product Catalog, Product Page, Product Images and Checkout. Most of these are self-explanatory, but also by using the customizer you can see how your site is affected as you make the changes in real-time. Of course, they will only stick if you save them.

customizer options

Blocks

There are several blocks that come with WooCommerce. These give you the flexibility to create unique layouts on pages and posts on your shop for added exposure and sales for your products.

WooCommerce Blocks

You can visit my post where I show you each of these blocks here.


Even More Ways to Extend WooCommerce

There are so many moving parts to WooCommerce and solutions to fit your own specific needs. Here are some more posts on this site that will help you on your journey.


The Shopping Cart

The cart is a critical piece to the customers flow as it’s only one step away from checkout. And depending on your stores needs, there are ways to either insure the purchase or help your customer to make a better decision.


Checkout

As Captain Kirk said in Star Trek, this is the final frontier. It all happens here. From making your checkout process simpler to adding additional upsells to increase your profits.


The Shop/Archive Page

There are a lot of themes and page builders that will give you more control over your default shop page, or what is technically known as your archive page. But if you need a few specific tweaks done, there are plugins and extensions that can help you. Here are a handful of posts that give you a bit more flexablity.


Memberships and Subscriptions

Membership and subscription sites are huge in the eCommerce space, and that doesn’t exclude WooCommerce. Here are some posts I have written to help you wrap your brain around this growing part of the world of online stores.


Odds and Ends

Here are the last posts I want to share with you that focus more on the administrative, maintenance and security end of your WooCommerce store.