A Quick Start Guide to Merchant

Merchant is an all-in-one, modular eCommerce plugin for WordPress sites. It allows you to choose from 15+ free modules that focus on conversion rate optimization, user experience, cart abandonment reduction, and more.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll look into how to install, activate, and configure the free Merchant plugin.


Merchant’s only technical prerequisite is that you have a functioning WordPress site.

However, it is primarily created to complement and enhance the functionality of the WooCommerce plugin.

While you can use Merchant without WooCommerce and it has some modules that don’t need WooCommerce (e.g. the Cookie Banner and Agree To Terms Checkbox modules), you’ll need to have WooCommerce installed and activated on your site to make most of the modules work.

Merchant vs Merchant Pro

Merchant Pro is an extension to the free Merchant plugin. It includes 22+ premium modules with advanced eCommerce functionality that will make your WooCommerce store even more powerful.

This document discusses how to install, configure, and use the free Merchant plugin. If you have purchased Merchant Pro, check out our quick start guide to Merchant Pro too.

A Few Words on Merchant’s Development

Merchant is developed and maintained by aThemes, a.k.a. Awesome Themes. We are also the developers of two popular WordPress themes: Sydney for businesses (with 100,000+ installs at WordPress.org) and Botiga for eCommerce stores (with 20,000+ installs at WordPress.org).

All of our products are under very active development.

Merchant, Merchant Pro, and all of their modules are optimized for performance and being continuously improved and tested.

Now let’s see, step by step, how to set up the free Merchant plugin.

1. Download the Free Merchant Plugin

First, you need to download the plugin from our website.

Go to the Merchant page, scroll down to the bottom of the ‘Merchant Free vs Merchant Pro’ section, click the Free Download button, and download the plugin (it will download as a ZIP file that you’ll need to upload to your WordPress site as is):

Location of the Free Download module on the Merchant landing page, annotated screenshot

2. Install and Activate the Plugin

Now, you need to install and activate the Merchant plugin.

To do so, sign into your WordPress admin area and select the Plugins > Add New menu in the left sidebar.

On the Add Plugins admin page, click the Upload Plugin button at the top of the page:

Location of the 'Upload plugin' button in the WordPress dashboard, screenshot

When the Browse button appears on the screen, find the merchant.zip file that you have downloaded from our website to your local computer, and click the Open button:

Upload Merchant zip file, WordPress admin area, screenshot

When the ZIP file is uploaded to your site (the file’s name will appear next to the Browse button), click the Install Now button to install Merchant on your WordPress site.

Once the plugin is installed, you need to activate it. To do so, click the Activate Plugin button:

Activate Plugin screen, screenshot

3. Find the Merchant Dashboard

Now, you’ll find Merchant on your Plugins admin page that you can access from the Plugins > Installed Plugins menu.

As mentioned above, to use most of Merchant’s modules, you’ll need to install and activate the (free) WooCommerce plugin too (see this tutorial on how to install WooCommerce):

Merchant and WooCommerce on the Plugins admin page, screenshot

During the activation process, Merchant added a new Merchant menu to the left sidebar of your WordPress admin area. It takes you to the Merchant dashboard where you can find all the Merchant modules and settings.

Click the menu to open the Merchant dashboard. From here, you can view, configure, and activate the modules one by one. While you’ll also see the Pro modules and can access their dedicated settings pages, you can only activate the free modules as long as you’re on the free plan.

You can view all your enabled Merchants modules by clicking the ‘You have X modules enabled’ option at the top of your Merchant dashboard:

Default view of the Merchant dashboard, screenshot

It will open your module status page that shows a summary of all your enabled modules.

You can also access your active modules from here easily:

Merchant's module status page that shows Your Enabled Modules, screenshot

4. Configure Merchant’s Global Settings

Before enabling the modules, it’s recommended that you configure the global settings.

The Global Settings page includes the options that apply to all Merchant modules.

To open it, click the ‘Manage your Merchant settings’ link at the top of your Merchant dashboard:

Open Merchant's global settings page from the Merchant dashboard, annotated screeenshot

The Global Settings page has two sections:

  1. Merchant Operating Mode – Here, you can activate and deactivate Merchant on the frontend of your WordPress site (the Merchant dashboard and admin settings are not affected by these settings). You have three options:
    • Active – Both website visitors and admin users can see Merchant’s features.
    • Preview – Only admin users (but not website visitors) can see Merchant’s features.
    • Inactive – No one can see Merchant’s features.
  2. Global Customizations – Here, you can add custom CSS and JavaScript code to Merchant. These settings are aimed at WordPress developers; only use them if you have adequate coding knowledge.

Any time you change a setting, you need to click the Save button in the top-right corner of the page to save the new configuration:

Merchant's Global Settings page, screenshot

5. Activate the ‘Preview’ Operating Mode

Before starting to enable the modules, activate the Preview operating mode so that Merchant’s features will only be visible to admin users while you’re configuring the modules.

In the Merchant Operating Mode section on the Global Settings page, select the Preview option, then click the Save button in the top-right corner of the page:

Location of the Preview operating mode on Merchant's Global Settings page, annotated screenshot

6. Configure and Enable Your First Merchant Module

Merchant uses a module-based architecture, meaning you don’t have to use all the features — you only activate the modules you need.

The modules are grouped into six categories:

  1. Convert More
  2. Boost Revenue
  3. Reduce Abandonment
  4. Build Trust
  5. Improve Experience
  6. Protect Store

Review them all, then choose a module you want to add first.

In this guide, we’ll look into how to activate the Buy Now module, but you can activate all the other modules in the same way.

First, click the module to open its dedicated settings page:

Location of the Buy Now button in the Merchant dashboard, screenshot

To configure and enable a module, we recommend the following workflow (even though the steps work in any other order):

  1. Click the Tutorial link to check out the module’s dedicated tutorial in the Merchant documentation.
  2. Review and configure the settings (if you need help with the configuration, consult the module’s tutorial).
  3. Follow the configuration process visually in the Preview pane that shows the changes in real time.
  4. Click the Save button, which shows up at the top of the page whenever you change a setting, to save the changes to the database.
  5. Click the Enable button to activate the module.
The configuration workflow of a Merchant module

Once the module is activated, the View on site link becomes clickable, and you can check out what the module looks like on the frontend of your WordPress site.

For example, here is what the Buy Now button looks like on a WooCommerce product page:

Buy Now button added with Merchant, frontend view on a WooCommerce product page, screenshot

Note that the location and design (e.g. the font and padding settings) of the Buy Now button also depend on your theme.

7. Enable and Configure All the Modules Your Store Needs

Now go on, and enable all the Merchant modules you think you’ll need, then configure them on their respective Settings pages.

If you change your mind, you can remove any module from your site by clicking the disable link that shows up when you click the Enabled button on the module’s settings page:

Location of the disable link on the Buy Now module's settings page, annotated screenshot

8. Switch to ‘Active’ Operating Mode

When everything is set up, switch to Active operating mode on the Global Settings page (by clicking the Manage your Merchant settings’ option at the top of the Merchant dashboard) so that the enabled modules become visible to every website visitor (not just to admin users):

Location of the Active operating mode on Merchant's Global Settings page