WooCommerce: An Increasingly Viable Option in 2018

For a long time it has felt like WooCommerce has been the underdog in the world of eCommerce shopping carts. But that might all change. In fact, 2018 might be the year of Woo.

This week, we’re talking with Brian Krogsgard from PostStatus.com and Zach Stepek from MindSize.me to chat about the potentials and pitfalls of WooCommerce, how it compares to other carts in the eCommerce landscape and what we can expect from them in the upcoming year.

We chat about:

  • Why WooCommerce is gaining in popularity
  • How it compares to Shopify in terms of its out of the box capabilities
  • Major strengths and weaknesses with WooCommerce

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

(With your host Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com, Brian Krogsgard of PostStatus.com and Zach Stepek of MindSize.me)

Andrew: Welcome to the eCommerceFuel Podcast, the show dedicated to helping high six and seven figure entrepreneurs build amazing online companies and incredible lives. I’m your host and fellow eCommerce entrepreneur, Andrew Youderian.

Hey guys. It’s Andrew, and welcome to the eCommerceFuel Podcast. Thanks so much for joining me on today’s episode. And today is week number three, I think, in Shopping Cart Month here on the show. The first two weeks we talked about to Shopify and Magento, and today we’re gonna be doing a deep dive on WooCommerce, which is the third most popular cart in the community. So I’m joined by Zach Stepek who’s a partner over at Mindsize.

They focus on web development specifically with WooCommerce and Shopify, and he’s also our official WooCommerce expert in the e-commerce field private forums.

And I’m also joined by Brian Krogsgard of Post Status. Post Status is a community and paid subscription in the WordPress space. And I got to know Brian this last summer when he was kind enough to invite me down to speak and attend his conference in Atlanta, which was really cool. Got to go and spend time with a lot of really smart WordPress and WooCommerce people, and it was very…

It was cool to see what they’re doing with the platform. Impressive. There’s a lot of development and thought and energy going into WooCommerce, at least specifically for the sake of this discussion.

And so I was excited to talk about it and put it on my radar in a way it hasn’t been in a while. So a little bit of detail before we get into the discussion context for WooCommerce. So in our community, we have about 1,000 members, and of those 1,000 members, at the beginning, you know, right around the beginning of 2018 there were 73 members who were using WooCommerce. And it had a star rating of 4.3 out of 5. So for comparison, just as a reminder, Shopify has about, you know, 400-ish members. Magento has about 80 members using it.

Shopify was rated 4.7 out of 5, and Magento was rated 3.8 out of 5. And kinda talk about… I’ll get into this in the discussion so I won’t belabor it too much, but I do think potentially, WooCommerce is gonna… I don’t know if they’re there quite yet, but I think there’s a good chance that they will kinda replace Magento as the de facto open source cart for people in that six, seven, and eight-figure range. We’ll see. I could be wrong. And maybe it’s a little bit of a bias of the fact that I went to a WooCommerce event versus a Magento event.

If I would have gone to Magento, I don’t know, maybe I would have been…had a little bit different thoughts on it. But being someone who has come from the Magento world and left it due to complexity it was, you know, I think that might tamper it a little bit. So, anyway, just a little context for where WooCommerce is in terms of the adoption rate.

So we’ll get into the discussion with Zach and with Brian. Quickly, before we do, I wanna thank our two sponsors. And our first sponsor’s very fitting given the topic of today’s episode, and that is Liquid Web who offers a rock-solid hosted solution for hosting your WooCommerce store.

So if after you listen to this episode you decide Woo is something you wanna start exploring, or if you’re on Woo right now, especially if you’re, you know, a seven or even an eight-figure store, you need to check them out. Couple of reasons. One, they’ve got a whole suite of tests that you can use to run against your store to simulate different scenarios, traffic, things like that, to make sure it is rock-solid under any circumstance. They’ve got a staging platform to help you test out some of those changes you make before you push things live.

It’s a highly elastic solution so that, you know, if you get… Really, if you get a massive influx of traffic your store is gonna stay online when it matters most, which is often one of the biggest downsides of hosting your own store. And it’s just a rock-solid platform for hosting WooCommerce. So if you’re looking for that, check them out. You can learn more at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb.

And secondly, I wanna thank the team over at Klaviyo who makes email marketing easy and powerful. Their killer feature, of course, is just the ability to provide and create almost crazy, creepy customization based on what your customers do, what they purchase, what they don’t purchase, you know, how much they have purchased. And you can set these flows up to run and target people based on certain criteria and then they run in the background automatically and create sales for you.

I think Michael Jackness, who is a good friend of the show over at eComm crew, he gave a presentation last year at eCommerceFuel Live saying how, you know, he generated more than 50% of his revenue from his automated flows on Klaviyo. So if you’re not using them, you can check them out and get started with a free trial at klaviyo.com. All right. Let’s go ahead and jump into today’s discussion.

Woo’s Position in the Marketplace

Andrew: Guys, so I’d love to kick off our discussion by a high level, just kind of giving you my thoughts on WooCommerce in terms of general in terms of market position, where they’re at, and given that you guys know much more about this space than I do, let me know if you think it’s fair, if it’s accurate, or if it could use a little tweaking.

So the way I’ve seen it over the last year is WooCommerce has historically been somewhat of an underdog. But I feel like this last maybe 12 to 18 months they’ve started to slowly emerge as a viable alternative to Magento for people who want to really customize their site, or have ownership.

I mean, the top three sites, carts rather, used by members in the eCommerceFuel community are Shopify, Magento, and then right behind Magento almost, you know, neck and neck is WooCommerce. And having left Magento myself due to the complexity, I know a lot of people are going from Magento to Shopify.

But if you need to control, you know, the entire experience or all your data, it seems like Woo is kind of a nice, lighter weight option that still has some functionality to it. I’m starting to see more growth and maturity in terms of people supporting the platform, in terms of development.

So that’s, kind of, my take on it, at least what I have seen in the last 12 months. Is that… You guys think that’s fair or is that a little bit off? Maybe, Brian, we can start with you, and then Zach.

Woo Is Popular for Attaching to Existing CMS

Brian: Sure. I think I would phrase it a little differently in that I think using WordPress for e-commerce generally, is becoming more popular. And WooCommerce has been the dominant player within the WordPress ecosystem for a long time. The question has been whether WordPress is suitable for e-commerce in the first place, and WooCommerce is slowly proving that out. But if you talk about pure e-commerce market share, if you look at a tool like BuiltWith, WooCommerce is actually the dominant e-commerce platform probably on the long tail.

So a lot more people are using WooCommerce than pretty much anything else, but it changes, the statistics change if you look at people that are just doing e-commerce. So like your community is gonna be significantly different where e-commerce is the central focus of the website, but using a bolt-on e-commerce platform that attaches to your existing CMS is what’s made WooCommerce popular.

And similar to WordPress itself which started as a blog platform and morphed into a CMS with a lot of power and control, WooCommerce is essentially going through that exact same process of, kind of, legitimizing itself in a broader spectrum to compete with Magento and to compete with Shopify, for that matter.

But it’s still relatively early in those stages of both from the power and the utility perspectives.

Woo’s Capacity To Handle a Large Store

Andrew: Zach, do you see me touching on the Magento thing? Do you see WooCommerce becoming more of an alternative for Magento for merchants, in, like, let’s say the mid-seven, you know, high six or mid-seven range or do you think that’s unfair?

Zach: Well, seeing as we have clients that are doing high eights on WooCommerce, I would say it’s definitely a competitor in that space. But honestly, it’s competing with some of the higher-end tools that are out there too. Even things like Hybris at some levels, you know, with the right team and the right infrastructure you can run a really large WooCommerce site.

Andrew: What influence… So WooCommerce was bought by Automattic, which is the company behind WordPress.

Brian: Dot com.

The Effect of Automattic Buying WooCommerce

Andrew: Dot com, WordPress.com. Was Automattic buying WooCommerce a good thing or not? Have they invested a lot into it over the last two years? What did their purchase and investment bring to the product and to the development?

Brian: Yeah, it’s been a huge deal in terms of pouring resources into the product. WooThemes was actually a theme company, and the origins of WooCommerce was people wanting an e-commerce WordPress theme, which is kind of hard to wrap your head around, but it morphed into this much greater product.

I actually have been involved with WooCommerce since the week it forked because I was building a website with the software that it forked from called Jigoshop. So I’ve been using it for a really long time, and ever since it was released it’s just been on this massive growth rate.

And they’re just kind of learning and improving as they go, and they just didn’t really have the resources to keep up as a 25, 30-person team with WooThemes. And Automattic has poured millions of dollars of development effort into the product and really done a lot to progress it, and really enable them to have this competition with Magento and Shopify in the first place.

I think it would’ve been a lot harder for WooThemes on their own to even be in this conversation right now. It would still be a much more niche product or more difficult to wrangle for the types of uses that Zach’s company is using it for, for example.

Woo Vs. Shopify: The Strengths

Andrew: It’s a good segue. Zach, let’s chat about maybe some of the strengths of WooCommerce versus, especially Shopify, because you’ve done development, Mindsize, your agency, does development with WooCommerce particularly, but you also have a lot of experience with Shopify and other carts. What would you say the biggest strengths of WooCommerce are just in general maybe, you know, with people thinking about other carts as well in comparison? What’s Woo really good at?

Zach: Well, I would say the biggest selling point for WooCommerce is it’s a much bigger sandbox to play in. You have way more capability out of the box because it’s open source. You can write code that makes it do literally anything. From that standpoint, when we’re starting out with a project, one of the first things that we’ll look at is, does this project need something custom? So, you know, for things like that, it totally makes sense to look at WooCommerce as the option.

The heavy integrations with third-party services, you’re either looking at, yeah, if there’s not something already written and you’re building it yourself, you’re either looking at Shopify Plus or you’re looking at WooCommerce. And WooCommerce has a much lower cost of entry since it’s open source and free.

Andrew: Is that just because the API for the regular Shopify plan isn’t as robust as Shopify Plus is?

Zach: I would say, “What API?” But there isn’t much there really, on the free plan. There’s not a whole bunch you can do. So when you’re getting into building a custom application, you’re really looking at Shopify Plus. So, you know, really depends on where you are on your growth curve, what kind of business you want to be running, because, you know, if you’re running a business where you’re using WooCommerce, you’re going to be either paying somebody to manage or managing servers in WooCommerce or hosting and at least plugin updates.

If you just want to set it, forget it, and walk away, then Shopify or a different platform as a service would be probably a better bet for, you know, a store owner that is looking to just set it and forget it.

Multi-Currency and Multi-Language Support

Andrew: And what about multi-currency and multi-language support? I know a handful of Shopify owners who have been waiting for both of those to come out. How is that on WooCommerce right now?

Zach: There are definitely plugins available that do both, so multi-language is actually… Because WordPress is, you know, the largest publishing platform in the world, over 29% of the web now? Yeah, that’s the new statistic as of a couple weeks ago. Because of that, you get all of the tools that WordPress has, so multi-lingual support is there. Multi-currency support, there are options and most of them are pretty good, whereas with Shopify as you know, if you want to have multi-currency, you’re spinning up another site.

And if you’re on Plus you have 10 sites total that you can run. So if you need more currencies than 10, you’re going to be paying in addition to that above your normal Plus plan.

A Solid Option in the Middle Lands

Brian: This might be a little bit of a situation too where you might have more up-front costs with any self-hosted software where you’re doing development to get it done. And it’s not like point and click to get… It can be, but, you know, if you do things really on the up and up it might be a little more than point and click to get great multi-lingual support in WordPress, or whatever feature you want.

And I think sometimes these use cases for WooCommerce and Shopify are a little bit barbell-shaped. So like Shopify, it’s probably the easiest way for someone to do their very first e-commerce store.

And then when you get to the Shopify Plus range, it might be more scalable and cheaper to pay the thousands of dollars a month to Shopify Plus, but they handle all the hard parts for, you know, Black Friday scalability or whatever.

Whereas WooCommerce might fit really well in the middle lands of that scale where you wanna wrangle things, you want things that are custom, you have some upfront investment that costs money but then your month-to-month is cheaper than Shopify Plus but more powerful than like a regular Shopify plan. And I think that’s kind of the sweet spot right now for WooCommerce personally.

And The Cons: Upgrading for Custom Fixes

Andrew: What about… So kind of a…that sounds like Shopify for… The customization and control is really the big selling point, you know, versus something like Shopify for Woo. What about some of the bigger weaknesses? And Brian there we can start with you on this one. One that comes to mind, upgrades for me, like, my experience coming from Magento…well not the whole reason, but one of the very compelling reasons I left Magento was upgrading was nightmarish.

It was just horrendous. I mean, might as well just started a, you know, installed a new version of Magento and built it from scratch, which is actually what we did in one upgrade past because we didn’t wanna try to upgrade the core.

Our upgrades with Woo especially, when you’ve customized it a lot because if you’re using Woo, chances are you’re doing it because you want to customize it. So how does that look?

Brian: Yeah, they’ve really improved it a lot. WordPress generally, a core principle is maintaining backwards compatibility as well as possible, so that even if something’s deprecated, it still works for a long time. WooCommerce has historically not necessarily followed that same path of, like, backwards compatibility respect if you will. And I still remember back in pre-2.0 days where it was a lot of work and what not to upgrade, but still, nothing compared to what, like, say, upgrading from 2.7 to 2.8 would be, or Magento major version to major version.

But it still had potential headaches where they made drastic changes one release to the next. Last year they had made a change to something called Semantic Versioning, which better brings in the concept of minor releases and major releases, and WordPress itself doesn’t work as much that way. So WooCommerce now, when you go from 3.0 to 4.0 to 5.0, those are like major, major, releases.

And then within that, you know, 4.1, 4.2, whatever, those are gonna be much better respecting of backwards compatibility and make it to where you can more reliably click upgrade and not be too scared of everything.

But even in the worst-case scenarios, custom WooCommerce sites in my history, I haven’t required, like, full weeks of upgrade plans and stuff. Little things could go wrong potentially, but for self-hosted software, it’s about as straightforward as you can get.

Andrew: That was cool because you do think about it and you’ve got three layers or you’ve got core WordPress which evolves and you have to upgrade. You’ve got WooCommerce which evolves and you have to upgrade, and then you have the extensions sit on top of that and then you have your own customs. So you actually have four layers, right?

Brian: Yeah, but not a series of best practices. You could still get into trouble, but if you kinda know how it works and know the progression of upgrades for instance, and that stuff the WordPress itself can do better in terms of supporting plugin ecosystem models like WooCommerce to be able to better support that.

Because really, Zach can attest to it, like, you should probably be upgrading your extensions before you upgrade WooCommerce and stuff like that. So better supporting that kind of thing is good and so you can still get into trouble, but all in all, it’s not… I wouldn’t say it’s bad, per se, and Zach may be able to speak better to that.

Zach: They’re normally pretty seamless because one of the things we do as an agency is we implement on enterprise-level deployment and development workflow. So, you know, all our code is in a code repository and it’s all version control, and deployment to the site happens from that code repository based on it being tagged for release.

So now we are testing everything locally, we’re testing everything in the staging environment before anything touches the production site. And only when we’ve done strenuous testing to make sure that everything is ready are we pushing anything to production.

The Upgrade Investment

Andrew: In terms of the work that it would take to kinda get that staging site looking good, clean feeling, like, it was you felt great to push it live, is that something maybe on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 is, you know, 1 press button, 10 is, you know, 3 months of agony. How many hours are let’s say, you know, doing just a standard WooCommerce upgrade for, say, someone doing a couple million dollars a year in sales? How involved is that gonna be from like in an hours invested standpoint?

Zach: It really depends on the mix of extensions that are being used and plugins that are being used on the site. But you’re looking maybe a couple of hours if you’re on the right hosting.

Site Speed Could Be Better

Andrew: Okay, great. I tried to dive into weaknesses and then I get sidetracked with migrations because they’ve been some things that have cost me a lot of angst over the years. Let’s get back into weaknesses. So customization control, the biggest strength of WooCommerce. What are some of the big weaknesses that the platform has? And Zach, maybe we can start with you and then go to Brian.

Zach: Well, I know that for a lot of sites, one of the weaknesses is site speed, and that’s really just because they don’t know how to optimize the site correctly to make it fast. It’s really just a matter of making the right decisions, making sure your images are optimized. That’s a huge, huge change.

The Pain Points of Self-Hosted

Andrew: Brian, any big weaknesses to add apart from speed on the Woo side?

Brian: Yeah, I mean, I would just say that our expectations have changed over the years in terms of how easy we want things to be, and self-hosting is in contrast to that, you know. When you’re self-hosting software, it’s so much harder than what we experience on a day-to-day basis with the wealth of hosting services that we enjoy, whether that’s email with Gmail or just using social media or using a platform like Shopify. And they have a huge development team that their job is to keep it running and efficient.

And when you’re using self-hosted software, the people that develop the software can do so much, but you’re inevitably the one responsible for running it. So the big challenge for WordPress broadly and especially when you get complex applications on top of it like WooCommerce, you’re really dealt with this challenge of creating these opportunities for power and control which self-hosted software enables.

And then also trying to create a competitive experience in terms of usability and ease of use, ease of upgrade, like, all these passive resistance, making all those workable when your competition is a hosted service like Shopify.

And that’s a challenge that over time is being dealt with, but it’s not an overnight process because it’s tough to make something powerful, flexible, and simple. You know, it’s one of those kinda pick two type of things.

The Resources Needed To Be on Woo

Andrew: Right. Even on the eCommerceFuel site, we’ve got the directory we built out that powers a lot of our software reviews and, you know, kind of software stat and usage based on the community use. It’s a custom WordPress app that we programmed, that we put it together. And on average month we spend between $250 to $500 just maintaining it in terms of updating files that go out or bugs, all of that kind of stuff. And so it’s probably a good segue into thinking about what kind of resources someone needs to commit to that.

So maybe apart from, you know, apart from major development projects we’re not talking about, “Hey, let’s put… Let’s do feature X, Y, or Z,” but once you have the store up and running, how many hours in maintenance per month and roughly how much money should someone plan on budgeting just to keep things secure and running smoothly? Is that, kind of, in the same range that I was talking, that $250 to $500 range?

Brian: I’ll come from the store owner perspective even though I’ve been a developer as well. But I run a store within that range and the functionality of e-commerce is part of my livelihood. So for me not doing day-to-day development, I’ve been running basically, the same code base for several years now.

A day a month working on upgrades, or if you have that farmed out to somebody for a few hundred bucks, a small retainer should help you get that done. And for what you get out of that it’s probably worthwhile compared to however many thousands of dollars I’d have to pay for something like Shopify Plus.

But you still have to compare it to what you might get out of Shopify, out of the box or some hosted service if you’re not doing things that are more complex. My personal use case is more complex, but to me, if you’re relying on the business a few hundred dollars a month to maintain it, it’s not so bad.

Andrew: And what’s your store if people wanna check it out?

Brian: poststatus.com is essentially a trade magazine for WordPress professionals if you will.

Andrew: For people listening, like, what Brian does is he kinda has, like, eCommerceFuel, much better version of eCommerceFuel for the WordPress community in terms of a newsletter, an event. That’s how we got to know each other, was you were kind enough to invite me down to your event in Atlanta and great event, by the way. I really enjoyed it. But it’s been fun comparing notes because we do kinda similar things in just slightly different niches, so that’s been really cool to…

Brian: I literally just sent an email forwarding your email to some contractors that I work with talking about ideas we can steal from you, so…

Andrew: Nice. When you come into e-commerce, when you start the coup just let me know so I’m ready for it.

Brian: I don’t think anytime soon, man. You’re doing a great job.

Finding Good Developers

Andrew: Well, thanks. With developers given that Woo is written and WordPress is written on PHP Pirates by the most popular application out there powering the, you know, the most sites online. How hard is it to find good developer talent? Is it something where, like in anything, you know, it’s…

You gotta step through, you know, the bad to get to the good like anywhere, but given that it’s such a, you know, a well-used platform, does that mean that with a little bit of careful looking, you can really find some great developers? Is there a huge pool of developers, or would people be surprised how difficult it is to find a solid WooCommerce developer?

Brian: I would say “yes” and “no.” There are, you know, people that are talented probably in every mid-market to large market city that have familiarity with WooCommerce and WordPress. That said, it depends on what your needs are. There are definitely some elite developers and agencies for going that next level. Most people just don’t need that. But if you need something like that, there are people like Zach and his team and other teams that do this really high scale stuff.

Zach: I would have to agree with that. There are a lot of good developers. There aren’t a lot of advanced developers in the WooCommerce space, but there are a lot of good developers. When you get to that level that then you’re looking at us or at Coolblueweb or SAU/CAL or any of the other Woo experts that are listed in the Woo Experts’ directory on WooCommerce.com.

Not The Best Admin

Brian: I would also qualify in terms of what people are actually ordering in the store, and I think you do this Andrew. When you talk about, like, what is scale anyway? Like if you’re getting 100 orders a week or even 100 orders a day, that’s perfectly manageable, you know. Going back to weakness. This is a weakness of WooCommerce is that the dashboard itself, if you’re doing reporting and all this other stuff in WooCommerce, it can be a real challenge. And I was really enlightened when I started using an app called Metorik.

It essentially takes all the data from WooCommerce and puts it in a LayerVault app that’s specifically for essentially monitoring your orders, dealing with stuff, and doing some reporting and tasking with the store data. And it puts it in something that’s a lot more performing.

So that really made it easier for me when I was handling more orders or just, kind of, dealing with more data to get me out of the WordPress admin. Because the WordPress admin is just really not caught up in terms of, like, being a fast, single page app and all that kind of stuff, and Metorik made that a lot better for me.

Andrew: All right. How do you spell that?

Brian: It’s like M-E-T-O-R-I-K, I think.

The Software Ecosystem

Andrew: Okay. Great. I wanna hear you guys discuss on the ecosystem because so much of… When I went from Magento to Shopify, one of the reasons I did apart from the hosting nightmares and upgrade issues was just the ecosystem of developers, but especially apps and things I could plug into that’s such a huge consideration for people. How does it compare to, and maybe we can use Shopify and Magento, you know, as comparisons. How well built-out is that ecosystem in terms of the software and the apps and all the plugins and themes in the space?

Zach: It’s pretty well built-out. I mean, the one thing I would say is that you have to be careful what you install because it’s open source software, so anybody, anybody, can write a plugin and then release it. So there’s no, you know, panel of people that are verifying the quality of things especially if they’re offered through a third party site. So like I said earlier, you know, pick the marketplaces that are more reliable as far as, you know, where you’re buying your plugins from.

Favorite Marketplaces and Extensions

Andrew: I mean, where…to jump in there. If you had to list a handful of marketplaces, let’s say three or four of your top favorite either marketplaces or really solid shops that put out high-quality extensions, what would those be, or who would those be?

Zach: Well, I’d start with anything that’s on woocommerce.com, that’s SkyVerge and Prospress and a whole bunch of other developers. You know, Daniel Espinoza runs Shop Plugins, which is another great marketplace. There is some really cool stuff on there. One of our employees, wrote a whole bunch of really cool things for subscriptions that’s available as a plugin on Shop Plugins. Those would be the marketplaces I would start with, and I’m just gonna go out there and say there are a number of places I wouldn’t go.

And if you wanna talk to me about where I wouldn’t go, hit me up on Twitter or by email.

Andrew: You don’t have to throw people under the bus with all these people listening. That shocks me.

Brian: I would just note that you kinda… If you start using something, you marry the extensions that you’re using and having run a store for several years, there are some things that I use that I don’t love and I would love to get rid of them. And sometimes that’s an official extension too, so I think being judicious with what you’re using and asking yourself, “Do I need this feature? How will it benefit my bottom line?” those are important questions.

Because the less stuff that you’re adding on top of it, the less maintenance and all that kind of stuff that you’re gonna require. So I would just said try to use caution and go slow in terms of, you know, just installing all these extensions because you might do this or you might do that someday.

Zach: And for God’s sake, if you buy a theme from a marketplace that includes 7,000 plugins with it, don’t install of them. Only install the ones you need. You don’t need seventeen sliders.

Andrew: What about hosts in the space, guys? Any sliders? Sliders are the… You gotta love sliders on e-commerce stores. Hosting the space that you guys like with a good host, I mean, some of the stuff we were talking about earlier in terms of creating core, of creating WooCommerce, staging platforms, all those kind of things.

They can make, probably not fully eliminate but at least, at a minimum, make it all easier to manage some of the technical side of things. I would love to hear from both of you guys, maybe your, you know, about one or two of your favorite hosts in this space for hosting WooCommerce.

Brian: I have three that I can list that I would feel confident recommending to someone, and you can kinda meet your budget level on all three. And those would be… If I kinda go from, like, the highest hands-on approach to the lowest hands-on approach, it would probably be Paige Lee who runs off AWS. At a really high end, that’s, kind of, your VIP-level scenario, and then Liquid Web also does a fantastic job. And Liquid Web’s really worked hard to build out their e-commerce tools specifically, and I know Zach’s company has actually worked on some of those tools with them.

And then a smaller host, well kinda, it’s owned by WordPress.com and Automattic, is Pressable, which is where they’ll send you to if you’re on WordPress.com and you say, “Hey, I want e-commerce.” They’re actually gonna send you to Pressable. So Pressable has some catered tools for e-commerce now and that’s actually owned by the same people as WooCommerce itself. So those three, they’re all working really hard on e-commerce and it’s kinda hard to go wrong within those three, in my opinion.

Andrew: Great. Zach?

Liquid Web for Managed WooCommerce

Zach: I’d have to agree with most of those recommendations. I’m gonna add a couple of things to it. If you’re really high-volume, then looking at WordPress VIP is never a bad idea. If you’re looking for something like a managed WooCommerce, which only one company is offering right now and that’s Liquid Web, you know, that would be something to take a look at. We have done a lot of work with them on their platform. We released custom order tables…

Brian: Not to…

Zach: …plugin with them.

Brian: …overhype your sponsor for the episode, but in 2013 I interviewed Mark Forrester for my own website, back when WooCommerce was just a couple years old and I was…

Andrew: And who’s Mark Forrester for people who don’t know including myself?

Brian: He’s the co-founder of WooThemes and they started WooCommerce.

Andrew: Okay, great.

Brian: So he was basically in charge of the company at the time before the acquisition by Automattic. And I was asking him like, “When the heck are we hosted WooCommerce either from you, or like a catered hosting option from an existing host, or something to make this easier?” And so I’ve been begging for this since 2013 and now it’s almost 2018, and Liquid Web’s really one of the first ones seriously going after this as a product or a service product.

And their product team, their head product guy is a friend of mine and he certainly gets it in terms of what are the needs and what’s a real store owner need.

And he’s not just approaching it from a developer level, but it’s got a huge developer focus as well. But I’m really excited about that product because they’re strictly catering to say, “We’re gonna make this work right.” That’s what we need a lot more of, and more of the hosts are gonna start working on it as well, but they’ve got a nice little head start and a good team working on it.

Andrew: Very cool. Guys, I wanna get close to wrapping us up here, but one thing I wanna ask you about before we do is what, you know, looking ahead to next year, 2018. Do you see any big changes in terms of either the ecosystem of the platform or maybe even more specifically, new things that are coming out in WooCommerce core that people can expect or look forward to?

Zach: I’ll start out that the custom order tables plugin that we wrote that I was just talking about is being put forward as a feature plugin for WooCommerce core. We will have that custom order table in the core WooCommerce product. So all those performance improvements will make it to core, which is part of the benefit of using an open source platform. The other thing that I’m really excited about and it’s a little self-serving, but we’re releasing a search platform called NeuralSearch for WooCommerce. It’s powered by a company called Algolia.

And if you’re not familiar with Algolia, they are a search technology company. And we have tests running right now with their search technology backing NeuralSearch where we’re returning faceted search results from a 40,000, 50,000 product catalog in less than 10 milliseconds. It’s awesome. So I’m really excited about that because well, it’s our product, so…

What To Watch Out For in 2018

Andrew: We’ll link up to that too in the show notes if you wanna check that out. Brian, anything you see coming down the pipe for 2018?

Brian: There’s two things that I think are exciting. One is, I would say, Automattic will start to work more in terms of integrating difficult computational tasks if you will. Like, things that WordPress.com’s servers, their enormous data centers that do a whole lot of stuff, they’re gonna continue to bring some of that processing power to WooCommerce stores, like your average WooCommerce store. So even if you don’t have this higher-end hosting, you can do something with more power behind you.

And that’s gonna…that’s a similar business model with WooCommerce Services, or whatever they’re calling it to the way Jetpack plays a role in WordPress itself, bringing some of the Automattic server power to a regular role website. And that will make it more accessible for, kind of, your average ecommerce store owner.

The other thing I would say is just with WooCommerce maturing in general in terms of a user experience and better catering to actual store owners. So Zack’s a developer, but there’s this whole other side of things that’s like, “How do I use my store? And who’s involved between your fulfillment side of things, your marketing side of things, and all these different components?”

And I’m just excited to see WooCommerce maturing to be able to serve all of those needs and be a better platform overall. I mean, it’s early days for WooCommerce so I think you’ll continue to see it grow and then get better as it grows to be a better platform and a more viable option for hardcore e-commerce store owners.

Zach: I’d like to add one more thing. One thing that we’ve seen really starting to emerge over the last few months is a lot more of the people that are in the community that are using WooCommerce as agencies or even as store owners are starting to give back to WooCommerce by contributing code and working on the core product in, you know, a few hours a month here and there.

That’s going to be huge because the reason WordPress is the dominating force in publishing is because it’s open source and because the community that has grown around it has made it as good as it is.

And I think we’re going to start seeing the same thing happening in WooCommerce over the next year or two, where the community is going to start making things better where they’re seeing holes. And I think it’s going to be a gigantic change, and hopefully at some point will be in a position where, you know, new features aren’t just reliant on Automattic’s team to get them in. And, you know, we’ll have a lot more community contribution.

The Lightning Round!

Andrew: You guys, this has been awesome, doing a deep dive on this. One thing I wanna do before we hop off the mics here is a quick lightning round. I like to do this with people who come on, just for fun. So, I’m gonna alternate these questions with you guys if you’re cool with that, and I’m gonna with you Zach. If you had to identify the number one thing you’re trying to optimize your life for right now, what would that be?

Zach: Actually, sleeping.

Andrew: Nice. Brian, who is someone you strongly disagree with?

Brian: Well, it’s election day here in Alabama so I’ll go with Roy Moore.

Andrew: I had a hunch you were gonna say that. Zach, how much money is enough? What would be your number of money in the bank?

Zach: Enough to live comfortably and not have to worry if something goes wrong.

Brian: Oh, that’s not… You weren’t specific enough.

Andrew: You gotta give me a number.

Zach: Oh, man.

Andrew: You just rephrased the question, more or less.

Zach: So for me, a half a million to a million in the bank to invest and then get some proceeds and some interest off of that would be… That would be a good spot.

Andrew: Nice. Brian, what’s the worst investment you’ve made in the last 10 years?

Brian: Probably Twitter stock when I thought it was cheap at 30 bucks.

Andrew: Nice. And…

Brian: I’m waiting to break even on that one.

Andrew: If you’re still holding on to it. Zach, what’s the best investment, outside of your business, you’ve made in the last 10 years?

Zach: Well, I was an Apple employee for a short period of time and I invested in the Employee Stock Purchase Program before it hit a 7 to 1 split. So I bought, I think, two or three shares over the year that I was there and ended up with 21.

Andrew: Nice. And finally, Brian what was the first CD you ever owned?

Brian: I get all the fun questions. I think it was the “Space Jam” soundtrack.

Andrew: That was a good soundtrack. I like that.

Brian: You make me give myself a harder time with the “Space Jam” thing and worst investment. Appreciate that.

Andrew: I’m sorry. The dice rolled out that way. Even if it would have alternated to best investment given that you’re a big crypto guy, there wasn’t gonna be a surprise answer so I had to swap those out. You’re a good sport, man. Well, guys, thank you so much for doing this. If you don’t know Brian and Zach make sure to check out their work. Brian, as he mentioned in the start already, is the man behind poststatus.com.

If you’re in the WordPress community, the WooCommerce community, this is a fantastic, phenomenal, curated newsletter written on a weekly basis by Brian. Check it out, poststatus.com, and also we didn’t really get into this too much.

I alluded to it just a minute ago, but you’ve got a, kind of, a new side project which, man, in terms of how much you’re doing on it and the traction you’re getting, it doesn’t seem like much of a side project. Seems like a full-fledged thing, you’re killing it. If you’re into the crypto space at all, I’d highly recommend checking out ledgerstatus.com articles on the crypto space, of course. But maybe where you spend most of your time, is it fair to say on Twitter? Kind of posting a lot of the stuff there, Brian?

Brian: Yeah, just kinda like I did in the WordPress space building up a name for myself within that community and, kind of, going from zero and it exploded. And now we’ve actually started a podcast as well that’s got the couple episodes out. So I’m really excited about what’s shaping up in that space and hoping to have a full-fledged second leg of my business with a similar operating model.

Andrew: Yeah, I listened to the first episode you put on the podcast. I enjoyed it man. Good work.

Brian: I appreciate it.

Andrew: Yeah. And Zach is a partner at mindsize.me. He and his team over there they really understand if you couldn’t already, WooCommerce of course, but they also work with Shopify and other carts. They can give you a really good sense if you’re not sure. After listening to this, if Woo is right, if Shopify is right, you can chat with him about, you know, which one is the best fit for what you need in your business needs.

And Zach is also our resident WooCommerce expert in the private forums at eCommerceFuel, so if you ever have a question or wanna ping him, you can always do that inside our private community. So gentlemen, this has been a lot of fun. Can’t think of two better guys to come and kick on WooCommerce. And I gotta say, I think this is the first time I’ve ever had three people on a show where we’ve both had…all of us have had mics that just sound top notch, at least from my side, so well done gentlemen.

So it will probably be the first and the last for the eCommerceFuel Podcast. But guys, thanks so much for taking the time to come on. This has been a lot of fun.

Brian: Thanks Andrew.

Zach: Thank you, Andrew.

Andrew: That’s going to do it for this week’s episode. If you enjoyed what you heard and are interested in getting plugged into a dynamic community of experienced store owners, check us out of ecommercefuel.com. eCommerceFuel is the private, vetted community for e-commerce entrepreneurs and what makes us different is that we really heavily vet everyone that isn’t a member to make sure that they’re a great fit, that they can add value to a broader community. Everyone that joins has to be doing at least a quarter million dollars in sales via their store.

And our average member does over seven figures in sales annually. So if you’d like to learn more, if that sounds interesting, you can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com. And also, I have to thank our two sponsors that make the show possible. Liquid Web, if you are on WooCommerce or you’re thinking about getting onto WooCommerce, Liquid Web is who you should have host your store, particularly with their managed WooCommerce hosting.

It’s highly elastic and scalable. It’s got built-in tools, performance test your store so you can be confident it’s gonna work well, and it’s built from the ground up for WooCommerce. And you can learn more about their offering at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb. And finally, Klaviyo, for email marketing, they make email segmentation easy and powerful. They integrate with just about every cart out there and help you build, you know, build incredibly automated powerful statements that make you money on autopilot.

You can check them out and get started for free at Klaviyo.com. Thanks so much for listening, and looking forward to seeing you again next Friday.

Want to connect with and learn from other proven e-commerce entrepreneurs? Join us in the eCommerceFuel Private Community. It’s our tight-knit, vetted group for store owners with at least a quarter million dollars in annual sales. You can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com. Thanks so much for listening, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again next time.

 

What Was Mentioned / Related Resources
Post tagged in: News, Podcast

2 Comments

  1. Great episode! Definitely love using WordPress for the SEO side, so WooCommerce is a great option for small stores.

    Listening to this made me realize I needed to check in with our developer about how the custom stuff we’re doing on the backend will be affected by updates.