How to start a modern online store without ANY coding knowledge using OpenCart

In 2015. worldwide B2C eCommerce sales reached $1.7 trillion and by the end of 2018. this number is estimated to reach $2.35 trillion!

If you are in business of selling physical products then you NEED to have your own eCommerce store! 

The problem is that agencies and developers charge way too much for setting up a basic web store, while eCommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce charge monthly fees and also take percentage of your sales.

Although these are all very solid platforms, if you want to get started on a lowest possible budget then the alternative is to have a self-hosted eCommerce platform.

Save money on monthly fees and invest in marketing! 

Instead of paying a monthly fee for an eCommerce platform, I am going to guide you step-by-step on how to setup an eCommerce website using free platform called OpenCart, even if you haven’t done anything “techie” before.

Your new eCommerce store is going to be fully responsive (mobile friendly), fast, user-friendly and modern.

This tutorial is a MUST READ if you are:

  • Selling your own private label products
  • Selling physical products on marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon and want to branch out to your own eCommerce store
  • Just getting started with eCommerce

What is the cost of creating an eCommerce store?

You will need a domain name and a web hosting account.

Please don’t use any free hosts because it’s simply pain in the ass!

Web hosting industry has evolved so much that you can get reliable and fast hosting with professional support for just a couple of dollars per month.

Compared to potential of what a web store can bring you, investment in web host and domain name is dirt cheap.

You will need:

But isn’t eCommerce saturated?!

Well, online sales are projected to account for 9% of all U.S. retail sales in 2016. Which means that 91% of retail transactions are being made offline. With this rapid two digit growth, eCommerce is still in its early days.

If you are not in the eCommerce game, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity that is happening right now!

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Lets go…

Video version of this tutorial:


Why OpenCart

OpenCart is very flexible eCommerce platform that is perfect for beginners.

Here are the benefits of using OpenCart:

  • Modern looking and responsive design
  • Flexible & fully customizable
  • Easy to use admin dashboard
  • No product listing limits (web hosting storage space is the only limit)
  • No monthly fees (web hosting and domain are the only expenses)
  • With a little bit of configuration it can have great On-Page SEO
  • Large number of plugins and themes available for download (free & paid)
  • It can be optimized to load very fast
  • Third party integrations (Amazon, eBay, payment processors…)

If you want to MASTER OpenCart platform then make sure to check out my OpenCart course here (use the link to get SPECIAL DISCOUNT).

Take a look at stores that are created using OpenCart platform:

[foogallery id=”286″]

Choosing a domain name for your store

Choosing and registering a domain name is the first step when creating a new website.

Domain name is an address which people use to access a web site.

Every domain has two main parts: name and extension.

Google = name

.com = extension

Some of the most popular international extensions are .com .net .org .info

If you are targeting local audience you can use local extensions such as .us for United States or .co.uk for United Kingdom.

Because of a limited number of available domain names from the mentioned extensions, recently many new extensions have been released for registration.

Now you can register a domain name with extension such as .club .travel .newyork .pro .repair .fashion

new-domain-name-extensions

You want to choose a domain name that is memorable, relevant and that has at least one keyword related to your niche.

Having a keyword in domain can help you with relevancy on search results. However, Exact Match Domains (EMD) don’t work anymore. Which means that if you register JumpRopeForSale.com you won’t rank for the term “Jump Rope For Sale” solely because you have registered that EMD.

custom-email-address

By having your own custom domain name you will be able to setup a custom email address.

For example: support@yourdomain.com

It looks more professional compared to free gmail or yahoo email address.

Kiev, Ukraine - February 21, 2012 - A logotype collection of well-known world brand's printed on paper. Include Google, Mc'Donald's, Nike, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, Nikon, YouTube, Adidas, Amazon.com, Unilever, Twitter, Mastercard, Samsung, Canon and Starbuck's logos.

Another thing to consider when choosing a domain name is trademark violation.

You don’t want to register a domain name that contains a registered trademark of a well known brand such as LEGO or FaceBook.

Even if you register FaceBookMarketingHacks.com or LEGOforsale.com the brand owners will contact you and request that you push the domain name to them.

Use NameSilo, Enom or GoDaddy to check availability of a domain that you want to register.

domain-name-research-availability

Once you have found a domain name that is available for registration, note it down, because we are going to register your new domain name for free when ordering a web hosting account. With SiteGround you get free domain name registration when you purchase any web hosting plan.

Setting up OpenCart web hosting account

Web hosting is a storage space on a special web server where website files are hosted.

Web sites can not be hosted on a local computer, because in order for a web site to be accessible through world wide web it needs to be hosted on a special web server.

Luckily you don’t need to buy or rent a whole server, you can just rent a small part it.

This is called Shared Web Hosting.

It basically means that on a single web server multiple different web sites are hosted at the same time. Hence the name shared.

The more traffic a website has, the more server capacity it will require. That is why large web sites are hosted on dedicated web servers.

As a beginner it’s more than enough to start with a shared web hosting plan. Later as your web store grows you can upgrade to more advanced hosting solutions such as VPS or Dedicated Server.

I currently use 4 different web hosts across multiple of my web properties. However, SiteGround is my favorite in terms of reliability and support.

Avoid free web hosting services, its pain in the ass! Not worth your time! You wont get any support, storage and bandwidth is extremely limited, no one click installs, usually they charge extra for services such as custom email address and web mail…  And the worst of all, most free web hosts inject special scripts into websites in order to sell advertising space and link placements directly on your website.

For about 50 dollars you will get 1 year of reliable web hosting and a free domain name (10$ value) – which is only about 4 dollars per month.

So lets start…

Head over to SiteGround, click on See Plans and chose a web hosting plan that fits your needs.

If you are just starting out and want to build only one web site then choose StartUp plan. Keep in mind that you can upgrade anytime.

siteground-shared-hosting-plans

On this page enter a domain name that you want to register or if you have already registered a domain name somewhere else then select “I already have a Domain”.

However since you will get a free domain with any hosting plan, I highly suggest that you take advantage of the offer and register a new domain name for free.

Hit proceed button.

check-domain-availability-siteground

If a domain is available for registration you will be directed to this page.

Simply fill out your personal information and create username and password for your SiteGround hosting account.

basci-information-client-account

Enter payment information. This web site is 100% safe!

credit-card-information

Here you have to select in which country you would like to host your website. Choose a country that is closest to your target audience. If you are going to build a website that is going to target people in Germany, Belgium and Netherlands then choose a web server that is located in Amsterdam. If you are targeting people in the US then choose Chicago USA.

This is be website will load faster and Google takes into consideration where a website is hosted when ranking sites on their search results. The closer your web site is to your audience the better.

purchase-hosting-configuration-plan-siteground

At the bottom of the page agree to the terms and conditions and click “Pay Now” button.

Once you have paid the invoice, your web hosting account and domain name will be setup and registered.

You will receive an Order Confirmation email.

To start managing your new account, log into Customer Area at siteground.com/login and click on the My Accounts tab from the main menu.

To access your new account cPanel, go straight to the My Accounts section and click on the cPanel button.

siteground-web-hosting-access-cpanel

That’s it! You have registered a domain name and setup a web hosting account.

Now the fun part begins! Lets create your first web store!

I already have a domain name, what should I do?

Log in to your SiteGround cPanel dashboard and on the first page in the left column you will see Name Servers information.

name-servers-siteground

Just copy both of the name servers and paste it into the name servers fields at the domain registrar where you have registered your domain name.

This will point the domain name to SiteGround web servers. Basically, name servers tell to which web server to link a particular domain.

Installing OpenCart platform

Once you are logged in to cPanel account, click on Softaculous link:

cpanel-softaculous

Search for opencart and click on Install:

softaculous-open-cart

Under Software Setup choose the latest version of OpenCart that is currently available.

Under Choose protocol field, choose whether you would like to install OpenCart on www. or non www. part of domain. This is totally up to you.

Choose a domain name on which you would like to install OpenCart platform.

Then you need to specify in which directly you would like to install OpenCart. If you want to install directly in the root directory of a domain then leave In Directory field blank. However, if you would like to install it under domain.com/store then type store under In Directory field.

install-open-cart-process1

Enter basic store information such store name, description, the name of the owner (this can be you or your company name) and store address. Off course this can be changed anytime you want.

installing-open-cart-process2

Enter Username and Password that you are going to use to access admin area of your OpenCart store.

Admin email will be the main address of your store. However, later you can add more email addresses for customer communication and also you will be able to change Admin email.

Click Install button!

install-open-cart-process3

That’s it! You have successfully installed OpenCart.

Go to your domain to take a look at how your store looks.

Login to admin area by going to yourdomain.com/admin

Use credentials that you created during installation process.

installing-open-cart-installed

oc-dashboard-admin

How to add a new category

 

Once you are logged in to admin area of OpenCart, head over to Catalog icon and click on Categories:

how-to-add-new-category-oc

On the category page you will see a list of existing categories. You can either add a new category or edit an existing one:

add-new-existing-category

On this page you need to configure your new category. Under the General tab enter category name and title. You can also add description which is going to be shown on category page.

category-edit-1

Meta tag description is a description that is going to be shown on google for that specific category. I highly suggest that you craft a unique category description.

Meta Tag Keywords field can be ignored since Google doesn’t value meta keywords anymore.

If you have multiple languages then do the same steps for every language that you have.

category-add-2

Under Data tab, if the new category is child then select which category is parent. This way you are going to establish parent/child relationship between categories.

Example:

  • Smartphones
    • Apple
    • HTC
    • Huawei

In this case Parent category is “Smartphones” while Apple, HTC, Huawei are child categories.

category-add-data-1

SEO Keyword is a very important field, because here you are configuring the URL structure.

lego-city means that the link for this category is going to be mydomain.com/lego-city 

Image field is self explanatory and I highly suggest that you add a small image that is going to be displayed on category page along with category description.

Top lets you pin a category on top of other categories.

Leave columns as 1.

Sort Order field lets you sort each category by order number.

Status lets you to enable or disable a category. So if you run out of inventory in one category, then you can simply disable it instead of deleting the whole category.
category-add-data-2

Under Design tab you don’t need to change anything. Layout Override basically lets you change design of category page.

Once you are finished hit save icon.

category-add-design

That’s it you have added a new category to your OpenCart store. Replicate this process and create category for each product type that you intend to add to your store.

Once you have prepared all categories, its time to add products!

How to add a new product

Once you are logged in to admin area of your OpenCart platform, head over to Catalog icon and click on Products.

how-to-add-new-product-oc

On this page you will see a list of products that are currently added to your web store (off course if you have any).

Click on the “Add New” button in the top right corner to add a new product.

add-new-existing-product

Since there are many fields that will let you configure product in great details, I am going to focus only on the most important ones. Most fields are self explanatory.

Under the General tab add a product name, this is the name that is going to be displayed in H1 tag on product listing page.

Description must be unique and in depth. Off course it’s very time consuming to create unique descriptions for every product, especially if you have thousands of products. However, try to enter unique description for your most important ones. The more unique content you have the better it is in terms of Google SEO. Try to enter between 300-500 words per product description. Also you can add bullet points and even embed YouTube videos that are related to a specific product. Video is proven to increase conversion rates.

Meta Tag Title should be create with SEO in mind, because what you enter in this field is going to be displayed as title in Google search results for this product page.

Meta Tag Description should be unique also. Description is going to be shown on Google for that specific product. I highly suggest that you craft a unique product meta description.

Meta Tag Keywords can be ignored since Google is not taking into considerations keywords from this page element.

Product tags are very important for OpenCart internal search system. Try to enter as many relevant variations of product because OpenCart’s search engine uses keywords from product tags to show results on search results page. This is very important for increasing exposure of product listing because many people use site’s search engine to find products.

If you have multiple languages then make sure to do the same process for each language.

add-product-general

Under data tab you need to configure your product and enter main product information.

First lets start with image, because the image that you add under Data tab will be the image of your product that is going to be displayed first on product listing page and on category and home page. Click on the open cart logo image and upload an image for this product.

Model is self explanatory. For example: iPhone 6 Plus

add-product-data1

When entering price keep in mind that if you wan to have an old price crossed with new discounted price then the old price should be entered here and the new special price should be entered under Special tab.

Quantity lets you configure how many units of this product are included in a single order.

Minimum quantity is the minimum number of product units that must be ordered.

Select whether you would like to subtract stock levels once the product is sells.

Select which message is going to be displayed when the product is out of stock.

If you are selling a physical product then it is most likely going to require shipping, so select Yes under Requires Shipping.

SEO Keyword field is very important because it lets you configure URL of the product page. Make sure to include product related keywords in this field and also separate each keyword with a dash instead of a single space: product-keyword

Enter dimensions and weight of the product. This task can be very time consuming so fill it out only if its necessary.

Sort order lets you sort products within a category.

I highly suggest that even if you don’t sell a certain product anymore, instead of deleting it use the disable/enable function. You already went through the has of creating a product listing so take advantage of this function.

add-product-data2

Under Links tab you can link the product with Manufacturer and Categories that you have previously created.

add-product-links

If the product has any additional attributes, make sure to enter it here. Use blue plus button to add new attribute.

add-product-attribute
Under Special tab you can create a special time limited price. The old price that you previously setup under Data tab is going to be crossed and the new Special price is going to be shown instead.
add-product-discount_001

Add time limited discounts for certain customer groups:

add-product-discount

Under Image tab you can add multiple images of the product. Keep in mind that main image is set under Data tab.

add-product-images

Shipping & payment method setup

Go to Extensions icon and select Shipping:

shipping-oc

On shipping page select which shipping method you would like to activate and configure. If a certain shipping method is not installed yet, then click on green cross button to install it. Then click on blue icon to edit and configure a shipping method.

shipping-oc-page

For example if you want to offer flat rate shipping method, enter the fixed cost of flat rate shipping.

If shipping is taxable, then select a tax class.

Select for which Geo zone this shipping method applies.

You can disable or enable shipping method anytime by changing the Status.

shipping-oc-flat

As for payment methods, setup and configuration process is the same.

Head over to Extensions icon and click on Payments:

payments-oc

On payments page choose which payment method you would like to configure. If its not installed yet then select green cross button to install it.

payments-oc-page

Each payment method has different way of configuration. For example if you want to configure Cash On Delivery then you need to configure the following:

Total – order amount that triggers the activation of this payment method

What is going to be the order status when customer checks out with this payment method.

Select for which Geo zone this shipping method applies.

Select whether the shipping method is enabled or disabled.

Once you are done hit Save button in top right corner!

payments-oc-cash-on-delivery

YOUR TURN

Challenge begins now! You have 1 hour to build your first eCommerce store.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below.

If you want to MASTER OpenCart platform then make sure to check out my OpenCart course here (use the link to get SPECIAL DISCOUNT).

Once you are finished creating your new store post a link here in the comment section so we can give you some helpful critiques and exposure 🙂

If you enjoyed the tutorial or you know someone who is thinking about starting an eCommerce business then click on one of these fancy sharing buttons 🙂

 

About Damir Šerbečić

 

eCommerce consultant and founder of WinWinAcademy. I am determined to help you launch and scale predictable, profitable and location independent eCommerce business. Join our VIP group to learn how...

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