A Conversation with Warren Holmes, COO of WooCommerce.com

A Roundtable Discussion with Warren Holmes, COO at WooCommerce
A Roundtable Discussion with Warren Holmes, COO at WooCommerce
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For the WooCommerce Roundtable, panelists had the opportunity to talk with Warren Holmes who is the Operations Manager at WooCommerce. He has been involved with WooCommerce since the early days when it found its roots in South Africa. He has overseen numerous projects and the birth of different departments.

This was a lively discussion with lots of inside knowledge and experience from one of the earliest members of the WooCommerce team.

The panelists were Robbie Adair from OSTraining, Robert Jacobi from robertjacobi.com and the host Ronald Gijsel from YITH.

Transcript

Ronald: We are live. Welcome everybody. This is the second episode of the WooCommerce Roundtable discussion, and today we are joined by Warren and my fellow panelists, Robbie and Robert. Welcome, everybody. So the idea behind this WooCommerce Roundtable discussion is that we and the listeners, viewers, get to hear what's happening within WooCommerce. So Warren is here to tell us. We have lots of questions for you. But then halfway down, halfway through, we will turn the tables and Warren gets to ask us questions. So us, as the panelists, we represent let's say the community, or at least a couple of segments of the community. Hopefully, we can give you some honest, truthful answers, which hopefully will help you.

So I'm going to introduce first the panelists. Let me introduce myself. My name is Ronald, I work as the Community and Partnership Manager at YITH. I also co-host the London WooCommerce meetup every Wednesday, almost a year now. Almost getting to our, I think, 50th episode. I have the honor to help Bob with a regular Roundtable meetup, part of his global builder meetup.

Robbie, welcome.

Robbie: Thank you. Yes, so I'm Robbie Adair. I'm so excited to be a panelist on this. We had a great show last month, it was so much fun, I enjoyed it, and great information too. So get ready, Warren, we're going to pump you. But I have an agency where we build websites, web applications, and do digital video production. Then I also have OSTraining where we teach people how to do web development and other things around that, marketing and some digital production as well.

Ronald: Brilliant. So I talked a little bit about us representing sort of parts of the community, you as a sort of a training business, agency business, great. How can people get in touch with you if somehow they want to speak to you?

Robbie: They can obviously go to OSTraining.com or MediaAteam.com is my agency. Yeah, so I'm on LinkedIn, I'm on Facebook, I'm on Twitter, and I'm pretty much Robbie Adair across the board on all of those platforms.

Ronald: Nice, thank you. And we have Robert Jacobi, welcome back. Robert, tell us who do you represent in this community? What do you do, and how can people find you if they want to speak to you?

Robert: Thank you, Ronald. Robert Jacobi, I do strategy and analysis. I run a media property, RobertJacobi.com, that tries to talk about open source hosting, obviously WordPress, SaaS, and tangential topics that might be interesting to the community.

Ronald: Right, so we have Warren on the purple chair. Warren, tell us a little bit about yourself, your journey from the start. I know it's a really long one, so how long have you been with WooCommerce?

Warren: This year will actually be 10 years. So a decade of being with Woo. As you know, back then it was WooThemes and we've transitioned over to WooCommerce. Yeah, started off, came in as a developer. Had great ambitions to sort of take a technical route in my career. I came in as a developer to work on our site, WooThemes.com at the time. It was just being overhauled, and I was brought in to ... You know, it's 10%, there's only 10% to go, right? But these things are never done.

One of the things that we did was we implemented Kissmetrics, Google Analytics, and then we started to understand conversion rates and cohorts and churn, and all of these kinds of things. That started to send me down more of the business route. So my journey then took me kind into marketing. Because of that, helped found our data team, and then more recently, have been overseeing a product for the last three years. Then very recently moved into the COO role. Which sort of gives me a broad overview around the business, to help implement strategy and make sure that we're scaling up. We really want to become market leaders.

So that's my story in a nutshell.

Ronald: So describe maybe your first 12 months with WooThemes, and how that group of developers and designers sort of worked. Then if you then consider time travel to 10 years later, and how it is now, and what the big differences are.

Warren: Oh yeah, geez. Memory lane. So when I joined I guess we had a pretty smooth operation because the big product we had was the Theme Club. If you joined our Theme Club you got two free themes every month. So we had this really fast turnaround on getting a design done, and then creating a theme from that. We obviously developed our own Woo framework, which you might remember. We did a lot of work with designers within the community. So that obviously allowed us to scale our design, but also bring their audiences with them. I think that was such an accelerant for Woo.

So things moved a lot faster. Obviously, small company. Code quality was probably not as good as it is now. So now we have a much better product development process. We're obviously constantly improving our product management process. We have full-time designers who help us, they start the product development process, and then we take that right through to QA. So it does take us a little bit longer to get through a product, but we do a lot more market validation. We do a lot more user research, we do a lot more testing. You sort of see these phased launches that we do.

Like WooCommerce Admin, right? We had that in public beta for almost a year until we merged it to core, because we wanted to be really confident that it was doing what it wanted to do. We're in an industry where we can't break sites, right? Like I think when we were just a theme company it was okay if something wasn't working. You know, your contact page or whatever. But now if you can't take orders, then that's a big deal. So I would say that we've definitely put in a lot more guardrails, but all for the right reasons, I think. We're trying to balance quality and speed, which is tricky.

Ronald: Did you have more sleepless night 10 years ago, or more these days? I mean how many millions of stores run on WooCommerce? And if you consider the orders and the livelihoods, it's a huge ecosystem that people rely on it. Sorry, I don't mean to put more pressure on you.

Robbie: I was going to say, now Warren's not going to sleep for two weeks. Thanks.

Warren: It's actually the other way around, right? It actually gets me up, because it's much more exciting what we're doing now, where I think previously when it was WooThemes it was very clear what our product was, but it wasn't really clear what our mission was. I think implicitly, we served entrepreneurs, digital entrepreneurs. We, I guess, have carried that theme through to WooCommerce, but definitely lost more sleepless nights actually way back in the day. We were a bootstrap business, so money would be made overnight, but it could stop, right? We were cowboys on a lot of things. So we were always never quite sure if we had done the right thing. So I would say now we have a stronger team. We have a much stronger strategy, and a much broader mission. So I sleep fine. The sleepless nights were definitely-

Ronald: It's kind of reassuring to know, I think.

Warren: Yeah, yeah. But I mean the startup side of sleepless nights is also exciting, right? Like that's an exciting stage to go through. In hindsight.

Robbie: Now that you're sleeping.

Warren: Yeah, exactly. So there are a lot of things that I miss about those days, being able to move very fast. I think now, like you say, because we've got so many merchants, we try to make sure that when we make a decision is it the right thing for our merchant? Make sure that we're also engaging various teams. We do have a legal team now that helps us navigate some of these things. So in the past we would have done those things ourselves and made tons of mistakes, but it was a great learning experience. I always say that that was the best, best MBA that you can get is to join a startup, and hopefully you ... You know, got lucky with Woo, they did so well.

Ronald: I've got a sort of question with WooCommerce as the plugin, which is freely available, and then there's WooCommerce that is the commercial. How different is that in the operation from where you sit? Or is that very much blended into it's all WooCommerce?

Warren: Yeah, so we actually did a reorg, late 2019 where we said ... What we had done previously, out iteration was there was the WooCommerce core team, the extensions team, and then the marketplace team. Those were, obviously there was some coordination, it was very loose. You know, as we went through our product we could literally see where we were handing off to each team, and we said we want this to be much more cohesive. So what we did when we did our reorg is we said let's scrap the idea of where the GitHub repositories are, like that shouldn't matter, that's not something we should even consider. Let's actually build our entire product team around the merchant experience.

So we have a team that's focused on starting a store, managing a store, managing payments, managing shipping, and then extending. So that's our marketplace. So that's the way that we think about it. We try to create holistic ... You'll see now that there are parts of our core product, where the user experience is very similar to what you're starting to see in our paid for products, like WooCommerce payments, or WooCommerce shipping. So we are trying to make sure that there is much more cohesion there, both operationally and strategically, and then down to building on things like we're actually talking about creating a design component library, so that our designers and engineers can create a cohesive experience for merchants.

Ronald: I'm going to pass it to Robert, because I know Robert is sort of a strategist when it comes to platforms and eCommerce. WooCommerce has a very important role, especially in sort of the last year as its grown massively. Robert, what's your take on it all?

Robert: There's so much revenue being generated by WooCommerce, which is amazing for the kind of project it is, and how Automattic is running it. That's the kudos. There is no but, that's it. I am curious, however, when you talk about the WooCommerce mission, vision, how does that necessarily translate into that third party environment, that ecosystem? If we look at like WordPress.org there this repository of XYZ with a million different products. WooCommerce seems to keep that much more tight, and I understand to some degree why that might be the case. Is there a vision or a plan to sort of open that up more for agencies, developers, to interact more really with people like you?

Warren: Yeah, great question. So I guess we mostly hope to just inherit what WordPress.org brings, we don't close down that at all. We will obviously protect our trademarks, which makes sense for everyone. I actually think we're more open, right? I'm comparing us to a couple of other platforms where it's much more closed off, and our philosophy is to continue to be even more open. Like we don't see ourselves owning the entire stack at any point. We don't think that that's going to be a good strategy for us, to really fulfill our mission to democratize commerce. So we want to make sure that we're as open as possible. If you already have a mail solution, that's great. If you don't, we've got MailPoet. As you've seen, we made that acquisition.

We're not going to stop you, if you want to use your email solution that makes the most sense for you, then by all means, carry on. But we want you to run your store through us. As for getting more access to people like me. I actually wrote out a few things that we're doing. So we have an affiliate system. Our Woo Experts program, which is essentially our agency program, is being revamped right now. So that'll start to open up a little bit more. That has been somewhat curated, but we want to get that open a little bit more, introduce sort of marketplace dynamics so that the best can rise to the top. We're growing the marketplace. Last year was our best year. Sorry, our second best year, of adding new products to the marketplace, the previous best year was I think 2012 when we had just started, and it was just a gold rush to get as many payments gateways and shipping extensions done as we could.

So the marketplace is very open. Then we have a developer advocate as well. We're currently hiring for a merchant community advocate. We're investing a lot in meetups. Then I'm here, talking to you. We're all on Slack. So I would say that there's no closed door if you want to talk to any of us. We do realize we need to get out there a little bit more, but we're definitely ... Our strategy is not to close things down. We want to keep as open as possible, and we think that that's a winning strategy.

Robert: So is there a specific WooCommerce Slack that we should be all aware of?

Warren: Yeah, there's a WooCommerce Slack community. You can just go to WooCommerce.com/communityslack, I think, and from there you can sign up. I think most of our leadership team are on there

Ronald: I've got just a side question, something you've just said. So you have the marketplace, and the expert program. I was wondering what WooCommerce will have in place to protect that it's not going to be a race to the bottom where when you sort of open up and people go slightly lower and lower with the charges. But also when it comes to the marketplace that it remains quality assured. I suppose it's the same for the developers expert program, that what you're going to put in place to have that keep up that quality.

Warren: Yeah, so what I meant when I said market dynamics was essentially our ratings and review system, which we've seen is really impactful, really helpful for merchants to make informed decisions, and help us understand if there are problems. So that's sort of what we hope is the right dynamic that we can create within the marketplace, that doesn't mean that we need to be the gatekeepers or arbiters of everything that's required, and that our customers can decide what's best, either through posting it more often, giving it good reviews, and giving it good ratings. Very similar concept to many online stores and WordPress.org.

Robbie: Just on that same topic, you're in the process of revamping it, you said, do you guys have some sort of ETA for when you're going to launch the revamps?

Warren: I don't, but hopefully when you get someone from the marketplace here they'll give you the exact dates.

Ronald: So is WooCommerce then turning in its, you know, more and more as a separate fo what WooCommerce has become over the last few years. It's WooCommerce and everything is in there. What Robert is saying, stepping away, maybe, from WordPress.org. Or will you still integrate with WordPress and possibly other, I wouldn't say marketplaces, but places where people come together?

Warren: Yeah, we consider ourselves to be central to WordPress. That's where we want to stay, that's the market that we want to own. Certainly not closing off the doors to integrating with other platforms, but you know, if it makes sense, then we'll look at it. But we want to lead within our space. We also want to be a great solution for WordPress, right? There's that post from Yoast, I think you put up last year, that showed that WooCommerce is potentially driving a lot of WordPress.org growth. So we want to continue to be a great, the best eCommerce solution in WordPress, and we don't see ourselves leaving that space.

If anything, we've actually reprioritized internally a lot of work around Gutenberg and the full site editor, because there really are some fantastic opportunities that are being opened up by that. So no plans to step away from WordPress. I think the only potential thing that I could see us doing is doing sort of more apps. Our mobile app is pretty fantastic, something that I'm really proud of because that's where we have a lot of freedom to do what we want. We don't have the baggage of having to worry about extensions and these kinds of things.

So it's becoming sort of the place for us to test new UX ideas. So if you're using the app, definitely have a look at that to get an idea around where we're going. But yeah, no plans to leave WordPress. That is our bread and butter, really.

Robbie: Awesome. By the way, so I had so many questions when I knew that you were going to be our guest, but we do have to limit them down. But you kind of touched on one of them, I was going to ask you about the app. You know, you kind of addressed it there, what I want to also say is kudos to you on that too, because I know when it launched there was a lot of you had some negative reviews and things like that. But that does definitely seem to have turned around. Your review rating is very high with that app. That's hard to get, because mainly you just want people who want to complain on reviews, right? But your rating is very high on that app.

So yeah, I do suggest for people to check it out. It's not your everything, but boy, it is your great little dashboard when you're on the go. Nobody likes hearing that cha-ching more than me. I'm like, "Oh, yay, yay." When you're setting up as an agency for your clients, having them add that on so they ... Especially if it's like the executive levels of those companies, because maybe that's not who your contact is. It's not the person who's working with it every day. But what they can give them is that little bit of reporting feature there, is the way I look at it for them is this like, it's just cool. So kudos on the app, and keep going with it, because I know, like you said, you guys are kind of unlimited with that on what you can vision out for the future on it.

So my question that I do have for you, because I work with a lot of difference eCommerces as well, right? So I mean because I'm on different CMSs, a lot of those CMSs didn't have the best solutions on eCommerce always, or not the right solution for what my client needed, so I also use SaaS products too, you know, the Shopify, Ecwid, things like that that are out there, 3Dcart. So always, because I get this question from my clients as well, and I articles about it, the comparisons, right, between the SaaS products, let's say, and WooCommerce. Overall, obviously, in my opinion anyway, because you have so much control with WooCommerce, I have so much more I can do, so much more customization, I always like that.

But where I find that my clients, and then what I see in reviews, is that the wizards in the SaaS products make the user experience at the very beginning, so much easier, right? So my question to you is, do you guys plan on doing anything more with that kind of trying to make the first introduction into the WooCommerce on install and things like that, more ... I hate to say the word "easy", but I want to say guided? Or are you still just saying, that's their market, it's easy and the user is probably the one that set it up. Our market is we probably are going to have agencies that are helping someone build these, and so we don't need to go down to that level. We need to focus more on giving more customization and features?

Warren: Yeah, it's a great question. So I guess at a high-level, one of our key strategies is to improve that product experience, because you know, it seems it's obvious to say this, but it's table stakes now, right? Like Shopify, as you say, they do have a great starting experience. Then I think you do run into limitations a little bit later on. We did update our onboarding last year.

So it's split into two parts, what we call our store profiler and then the task lists, which now sits in the new homepage. So we're continuing to iterate on that, within each release there's actually normally a slight update. The idea that we hope to get to, as we continue to take that profiling information and give you an even more personalized experience. So definitely lots of work that we have planned there, and not an area that we're stepping away from.

Going back to what I said earlier, we've got a team that's looking at starting a store. So we are looking at making that easier. I would say what we also want to try and look at is getting that experience great at the start of starting an online store, because people who are starting a workplace online store, are not starting on WooCommerce, right? They've got to find their host, and get their domain.

Robbie: Right, there's many more steps than just signing up for an account, that you would have on a SaaS product, correct.

Warren: Exactly. Exactly. You know, we obviously work closely with some hosting partners, and they've implemented their own things, and we're sharing learnings and making sure we're not ... We've made our product extensible, obviously, and they can use that if they would like to. We don't mind if they sort of say, "Okay, we're going to boot out the WooCommerce one." We obviously want to get to a stage where they don't do that. But if we're sharing learnings, and we're getting customers activated, then I think we've done our jobs.

Robert: Awesome. So it's almost like we scripted this all out, because Robbie asked the question I didn't want to ask. So I have to ask the next question I want to ask, which you just totally hit, Warren, is are we seeing hosting companies forking WooCommerce for their own SaaS products? How does WooCommerce feel about that, for lack of a better question?

Warren: You know, that's how WooCommerce started, actually. WooCommerce was a fork from Jigoshop, if you remember, back in the day. That was within the first three months of me joining WooThemes and this crazy thing happened. So look, it's obviously possible. I would say that we are developing really strong brand recognition, so people land up at those hosts asking for WooCommerce. I would expect that they integrate their own products. Obviously GoDaddy, I think, is a classic example of a company that's got a stable of great products, and I would imagine that they integrate their hosted WooCommerce experience more tightly with their offerings.

But again, you can't totally lock it down, right? I would be really impressed if anybody were to fork WooCommerce but just maintaining it. We have a full team that's managing our community of developers, the bug report, all of that, and I think that that's what makes WooCommerce so great, is that there is this community. So it seems like it would be a net negative, right? If you're a hosting company, to fork it. Your cost to try and then maintain your version of it, I mean, again, who knows? There are obviously some fierce competitors out there with a lot of money that could do this, right?

Robbie: We really appreciate you coming onto the show, because just like they said, and Robert said, it's having access to you guys. It is different, we wouldn't be talking to someone at some of the other companies, we know they're just not going to do it. So it's great to have this access level. You said last year was your most productive year, and I know we're all tired of talking about the pandemic. Obviously there were a lot more stores that went online last year, right? We also had a lot more people that were just remote working, so they were sitting at a computer. Do you think that that is what boosted your last year?

Warren: Yes, definitely. I think a combination of two things, was more stores coming online, and then people who would normally not have shopped online, they now had to, right? People who didn't trust, "I don't trust giving over my credit card details," or, "How long will this actually take?" You know, those people who were kind of hesitant to do online shopping, a whole new segment has opened up there, right? So we obviously had that surge of new stores, but we now also see the surge in spend online, as you've hopefully seen all the charts and the chatter around how this has brought us 10 years forward in eCommerce adoption.

I would say we'll probably see a slow down this year, sort of starting now, of the new stores coming online, right? Growth would not be the same compared to 2019, but we are seeing just as much volume, just as many people shopping online. Which is great obviously for our industry, but I think just a better way to shop, to be honest.

Robbie: By the way, you know, I wonder, what you're predicting is that maybe it will slow down slightly this year, and I kind of thought the same as you, but I read an interesting article this morning on the New York Times where they are saying that they did surveys, especially of the 20 and 30 something year olds, that had good jobs, they were tech industry or they were legal industry, and they were making good salaries. But when faced with going back into the office, they said 41 to ... I forgot what the percentage is, where it's pretty high, so don't quote me on those numbers, it's on the New York Times, but 40 to 60%, I want to say, even when they were going across different sectors were saying they're not going back in the office.

They're not going back to those jobs. Matter of fact, they're going to take this opportunity to venture out and do that, whatever. That online store that they never tried, or this ... Whatever, maybe opening a restaurant that could also, obviously, have an online side to it, right? So I don't know, like I said, I was thinking just like you, that we're going to, phew, we're going to all slow down this year a little bit after the fast pace of building online last year. But I'm not sure, because I think now we have all these people who sat around, their savings built up, and they're like, "Hey, I'm going to take that leap." So we might see, like in the next six months, we might see a lot more things come online, of people trying new ventures. I was kind of pleased to read that, myself, you know?

Warren: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ronald: Robbie, it's also to Warren actually, a question to both of you, have you seen a shift in the type of stores that start to use WooCommerce? Or maybe even more extreme, like you've maybe seen examples of people wanting to use WooCommerce for the things that you never thought were even possible?

Warren: I mean I come across tons of interesting things all the time.

Robbie: Me too, by the way. Like I was like obviously restaurant businesses, they had to pick up with just pick ups and delivery kind of thing, so I think we saw real growth there. But even literally my hair stylist down the road put a shopping cart on their site.

You couldn't go in, they were closed down here in Texas for almost 12 months, you couldn't go in to get your hair done, but we all need our hair products, so they just set up an online store. You could just put your order in, and they packaged it up, and you went and picked it up on a certain time, or whatever.

So even small, boutique shops like that were going online, and it is eCommerce, but some of it was a little bit of a different spin on eCommerce that I saw. My coffee shop, same thing. They added where I could go, I could just pull up and order it on my phone, and they bring it out to me. They were not a Starbucks, Starbucks has had this technology, right? But this is a standalone, owned by a single person, little coffee shop down on the corner. They were using technology too. So it was amazing what I'm saw, and Warren I'm sure you guys, because you're seeing even a bigger view of this. I'm sure for you guys it was even more interesting.

Warren: Yeah, it was. From our marketplace the extension that benefited the most was the option for delivery/pickup times. Which is exactly to your point, there were people who needed to continue business, and had to sort of adapt to the restrictions that the pandemic brought around the world. Online stores made that possible. That they could continue, and then we saw a change in some of the extensions being bought that were pretty interesting.

Ronald: Is that an advantage to have an open marketplace? Something like COVID, a relatively fast shift in a different type of commerce, that there is enough development power, third party, WooCommerce, to change the type of expansions. Did you find that it's rapid enough, or did you find it couldn't happen fast enough to make this accommodate for delivery times and click and collect? I mean up until a year ago click and collect was relatively unknown.

Warren: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Look, obviously as the COO I've got to say things can always happen faster, right? But that was good timing because at the same time, one of our extension developers launched a really great gift card option, which was also a fantastic way to continue to support businesses, even while they were shutdown. So that extension, perfect timing, and did really well. But I would assume that if there was not that in the marketplace, which we saw some of our competitors launched pretty quickly, then I do feel like it would have been available, right? Like it either would have come through WordPress.org. I'm often surprised at some of the WooCommerce things that I find there.

A good example, I run my own online store. I went away for a week a couple of weeks ago, and I was like, "I wish there was a vacation mode." I go to WordPress.org, and there is a free one. So you can just like put your store on vacation mode. So I think we want to make sure that that discovery is better. So integrating with WordPress.org is something that we should look at because there are also fantastic opportunities there. These aren't always people looking to create a commercial adventure, they're just solving their own needs and releasing it on WordPress.org.

Robbie: I'm going to throw in one quick question here, Warren, because you did mention it. Since you brought it up, MailPoet. Can you tell us anything about the plans that you guys have for it? Is that going to fall under you? Are you keeping that as a separate little entity? How is that working?

Warren: Yeah, it was a WooCommerce acquisition, so it will be more tightly integrated in time. So soon you'll start to see them in our onboarding as an option for users. We want to obviously do a slight rebrand, so that it feels like WooCommerce. So yeah, we will be integrating really tightly there. But again, if you want to use your own email solution, that totally makes sense as well. Our APIs are open, it's really easy to integrate with. So definitely not taking away anyone else from our marketplace.

Robbie: Sure, but I'm excited about MailPoet, I'm excited to see what you guys are going to do.

Warren: Yeah, that was a year in the making, it was an exciting acquisition.

Robert: I'm a MailPoet user, so I'm not going to complain unless Warren does something wrong with it. But so far, so good. Acquisitions can be tricky. I am curious about some of the WooCommerce providers that exist today in the marketplace, and whether they could actually go off in their own direction and sort of SaaS-ify. For example, just to make it a little more reasonable, there are all sorts of payment processors that can easily start ... Well, easily, could start creating more of a SaaS solution that actually makes it easier for Woo. WordPress people, I've got all my Ws wrong. WordPress people to go with that solution, than going through a WooCommerce path.

So you know, you have your PayPals, your Fast and your Peach Pay, all these startups, and some obviously very money firms like PayPal. The giant leading question is why use WooCommerce when maybe PayPal will eventually solve all my problems? Or maybe it won't, but ...

Warren: Look, I mean those options exist on WordPress.org, right? So if that's what you're looking for, then use that. We're obviously offering a lot more eCommerce functionality around order management, inventory management, merchandising, getting your product published. We've got really great integrations now with Facebook, we have a new integration coming soon with Google. So it'll make your ad management even easier. A little teaser there.

Robbie: Google Analytics 4?

Warren: Yeah, as part of that I think we have to upgrade, so yeah, good catch. So you know, those exist. People are using it. There are those donate buttons on sites. But building out this eCommerce functionality is ... It's a big piece of software, right? Then it's never going to solve everything. So I think WooCommerce is the most open, but if you look at any of the successful players within the market, you have to think about how do you build a strong community, and a strong partner program around this? I don't think it's just ... I don't think you can do it by yourself.

Warren: Again, I could be proven wrong. I don't see that happening. I think we've got a good foothold in the market, and yeah, we wouldn't stop that, we still want to offer really great eCommerce functionality.

Ronald: Does WooCommerce have a growth path they want to achieve? Like WordPress it's widely documented, they want to get a much bigger share in the market, 50, 60, 80%, whatever. Does WooCommerce have a goal?

Warren: We should, I guess we run into some issues around data hygiene, because for the right reasons, we're not able to track all of our users. So there are a lot of internal metrics we watch. We look at things like BuiltWith as well, to monitor it. Again, I don't know how great that data is. We haven't set a number. But our goal is to become the market leaders. So that means obviously getting much bigger numbers. I think we're not doing too badly right now, but that's a good idea actually, we should set a kind of WordPress goal there.

Ronald: Yeah, just going back to Robbie's suggestion on probably not the first you hear it, but Google Analytics 4. So a feature like that, just to paint a picture here, how does that work in sort of an operational level? So somebody comes with an idea, maybe it's a customer, user, member of staff, how does that go into the organization before it then gets implemented, tested? If you could sort of maybe describe that route.

Warren: Yeah, I guess hopefully something that we should have done a lot sooner. It's come about as part of the work that we're doing with Google. So I guess that was the catalyst. But I guess, more broadly you talk about how our ideas, you know, we obviously will speak to, we do generative research. We're monitored through our ideas board. We have open forums. We use Slack, and then I'm you've heard of P2. So anyone is welcome to introduce ideas, and then we have product leads who validate that this is the right thing to work on.

That means can we do some market validation? We need to understand how we would build this, how long it would take, and then obviously what the impact would be. So yeah, nothing too exciting about that. The constraint right now is just we have to prioritize sometimes all the things that we want to do we're not able to get to. Does that answer your question?

Ronald: Yeah, it's difficult to give an exact example, but it seems as the organization grows, there are a lot more steps, mainly for security and to double-check and triple-check with the wider community before something is launched. Probably versus to when you joined 10 years ago, where you just launch it, and then see what happens, if anybody's got any issues with it.

Warren: Yeah, yeah.

Ronald: Okay, I'm going to ask the last question, and then we have 10 more minutes for Warren to ask us any questions. So WooCommerce Payments, it's not available here in Europe, I'm not sure if it is in South Africa. So I haven't really played with it, but what does it solve that other payment providers don't have? Or what's the main motivation behind it?

Warren: It'll be in Europe this year. Our big goal there is to expand internationally as much as we can in key markets around the world, UK being one of them. I think what we're trying to solve there is making sure that WooCommerce is the place where you can manage your business. It's a kind of a funny thing that up until now, WooCommerce never paid you, right? Now you can go in, manage your payments, see what's happening. You can view transaction costs as well. We're very transparent around that, where I don't think every other payment gateway, they make it a little bit harder to find those kinds of things. That's really what we're trying to solve there.

We have some work to do in terms of getting to parity with some of the features that some of the other payment gateways provide. But that's really our goal here is to say okay, if our mission is to earn you money, we need to make sure that we can pay you, right? So WooCommerce Payments will allow us, gives us that product offer to customers. We've seen fantastic response on it, and really great usage. Some big stores using it as well, which is a great validation that it's trusted. So that's sort of our primary differentiator.

Ronald: So multi-currencies, and alternative payment types. In Europe we have all sorts of different ones, in the Netherlands, Ideal and so forth in Germany. Is that all going to be part of that big payment offering, eventually?

Warren: Yeah, look, that's obviously all on the roadmap, and again, we're not going to stop you from using other options if you wanted to. Like that's our, again, where I think eCommerce wins, right? We'll never penalize you, as well, if you decide to use something else. If you're a happy store, then we're happy. There's other ways that we can potentially monetize customers. We also accept we're not going to monetize every single customer, that's not our goal. Our goal is to make sure that anyone who does want to sell something, can sell something. Then hopefully create a good business around that.

Robert: But isn't the Woo Payments deployment really contingent upon the relationship with Stripe at that point?

Warren: WooCommerce payment is built on Stripe. That's what's powering it all. So you know, it's a really partnership that we have with them. We obviously make sure that we're in agreement and we're working in sort of lockstep together. So I don't think it's contentious, at least not yet. If anything, it's been really fruitful to have their expertise, and then obviously our market share. So it's definitely a win/win relationship, and I guess I can't see it changing too much. There's also just so many values that Stripe shares as a company. You know, they used to be called /dev/payments. They were just a developer payment system. So I guess we feel like there's a really good relationship there. Obviously things can change, but we're very happy with our relationship with Stripe.

Robert: So just to take that one step further, no one likes these questions. Obviously it's not listed as such, but is really Stripe the way to go to be most successful with WooCommerce? I mean yes, you could integrate other payment processes and whatnot, but as sort of let's even just say a short-term thing, if I'm building a new WooCommerce experience, should I be looking at integrating with sort of Stripe versus PayPal, versus Fast, which probably runs on Stripe anyway, versus a dedicated credit card processing platform?

Warren: Yeah, I mean it depends what you're looking for, right? I don't think that you could say Stripe is always the answer, or PayPal's always the answer. Obviously understand your market, right? What are your merchants ... Sorry, what are your shoppers, what are their preferences? Like in Europe we know that there are tons of different payment solutions, and a lot of them tend to be sort of wallet based, debit cards are a big thing there. Credit cards are not well used in places like Germany. So I guess make sure that you understand your shopper, and play around with things. Like if WooCommerce makes sense, then there's a much easier signup process, it's much easier to manage all of it.

Warren: If you're looking for something a bit more poly-featured, then by all means, Stripe could make a lot of sense for you. If your demographic of your customers is slightly older, then make sure you put PayPal on there. They've got massive penetration within that demographic. So again, there's so one answer. Obviously I want you to use WooCommerce Payments as much as you can, but really focus on your shoppers. Otherwise, then your store is not going to work. It's not really about the features you want, right? You have to make sure that the merchant's having a great experience.

Ronald: I think that's a great point. Warren, we want to give you the opportunity to ask us questions, maybe that gives you a bit of an insight of what we are thinking.

Warren: Sure. I guess because both of the panelists are involved and have good views of other open source projects, but I'd love to just sort of hear from you about what are some of the learnings that you would bring or offer to WooCommerce? Things that they're doing well, that we could be doing well. That's either within the product, or sort of within their approach to how they manage their community.

Robbie: Ooh, that's a big question, Warren.

Robert: On the community side, it's really more about how open is WooCommerce to all sorts of conversations. So everything from the Slack to the Marketplace, to agency partners, technology partners. It seems, I'm just going to take my experience in the last couple of years, that that's been, I'm not going to say disorganized, I don't think that's the right word at all. I just think it's been very closed. I don't think people have an understanding of whether it's opening up more, or whatnot. I think there's just some communication I feel that would help WooCommerce be more attractive to other providers.

Robbie: So I'm going to say, because obviously we have SaaS products and then we have other CMSs that have extensions, eCommerce extensions. So I'm going to compare it to that in the open source world with other extensions. One, I feel like if we're looking at Joomla, Drupal, that their eCommerce extensions are not as closely integrated into their system as WooCommerce is into WordPress. There's an integration feel, that just is very nice over here.

So why I'm telling you that is because what I felt like over on the other CMSs is that it felt like there was a little bit of a disconnect, like that they were butting heads sometimes in their interface. Like they were having to create whole new interfaces, and not really tie into the CMS itself. That, over time, I feel like causes an issue for me. So you guys need to stay integrated. So I was glad to hear early when you said, "No, we're married to WordPress. That this is our platform." I think that's great. I think that keeps that tight integration, which I think is important.

All of the open source communities though, because I'm in several of them, there's good and bad in all of the open source communities, as far as just the way that the extensions or plugin builders work with the open source community of the platform that they work on. So I just think that that is the key, no matter what open source platform, and what your product is to fit into that open source. I think you really have to keep yourself open and connected to the main community, and available to that main community. So I think right now what you guys are doing is great, and you're going down the right path.

If I use WordPress, I use WooCommerce, that's my eCommerce solution there. Sometimes in my other platforms I may go to a SaaS solution. There are some, in like Joomla I have a couple of different eCommerce tools that I do use inside of it. But when I'm going to bigger stores, a lot of times I will move my client into a SaaS product for that. Again, just like you were saying, even picking your payment processor, that comes down to every project is different, and you're sitting down, and you're going over this with your client, or if it's yourself you're looking at that and you're saying, "Who are my customers? What are the features I need?"

That's where you're putting it all together to figure out what's the best solution on my platform, on my host, on my eCommerce tool, on my payment processor? I feel like every project is like this is custom build different things, you know.

Warren: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ronald: But that's the nice thing, isn't it? It's possible with WordPress and with WooCommerce, because there is so much available. I mean Warren giving that example of the WordPress.org extension just to put your shop on holiday, on vacation. It's there, and I think that is still the power, it's an open ecosystem, and it doesn't matter where, what, or how, there's always a way. Knowing there is a way, even if you don't need it now, but maybe five years down the line, there is something better right there, or more convenient.

Robbie: Yeah, I was going to say, I think Woo also does a good job of tying to other big platforms like LearnDash, let's say, things like that. Like your integration with the other big tools that are used out there, are great. So keep that up, because I use them all the time.

Warren: Yeah.

Ronald: Warren, do you have any other questions?

Warren: No, I guess I was just going to sort of acknowledge the things you were saying. So Robert, you're right, we definitely did go through a period where we closed down unintentionally, just because we were growing so fast, right? Like those things were deprioritized. So we had to say okay, if we want to continue to build a good product, we're actually going to have to slow down on the marketplace, we're going to have to slow this. So those things were slowly closed off, and over the last few years we've really been opening it up. I think strategically we're aligned on the openness. Which then we were able to deploy that across the organization.

We really are investing a lot in making sure that you can get onto the marketplace, you can reach our partnerships team. We are a part of the community. We're running more meetups. You would have seen some of the things that Jonathan Wold has been doing. We want to continue to do that. We literally measure actually some of these things now. So yeah, we weren't intentionally closed. Technically, we've always been open, right? But I would say that we were just in that stage of growth, we were just in hyper-growth, and we had to kind of focus internally more than externally.

Then I think to your point, Robbie, in terms of the integration, we're actually building all of our stuff using Gutenberg components, and then contributing a lot of that back. So you might see like we put a prototype of our navigation together, and we hope that that actually becomes the WordPress navigation. So that's all built using Gutenberg components. We want to stay really closely aligned to WordPress. Again, at a strategic level that's a decision we've made. The it's really easy to translate that down to our teams.

Ronald: I think that's going to make it extremely powerful, isn't it, with Gutenberg. I mean Warren, you were so excited about it earlier already. What it enables you to do to build your stores. I can just imagine.

Warren: Yeah, I think it's just WordPress has to win, right? We have to be the best online store builder. I think Gutenberg is now going to start ... I think this year is when we'll see Gutenberg really flourish. I'm excited to see what the community does around it as well. What we do, what other people do. Already some great stuff, but even more coming down as full-site editing goes live.

Ronald: For the builders out there wanting to start a business around WooCommerce, whether you are building extensions or thinking about payment, or any sort of adding functionality, possibly building apps, et cetera, what's sort of the advice you want to give them? Where should they get started, and what's the best way to connect with Woo?

Warren: So we have a developer blog that has a link to all of the resources. If you go to developer.WooCommerce.com that will guide you down the right path of what you need. Whether you're looking to integrate your product that exists with our API's, if you're looking to get into the marketplace, if you're looking to get listed as an agency, all of those resources are available there. So that's the best place to get started. All depends on what you want to do, pick your journey. But that's a good sort of starting place for you.

Ronald: Yeah, where you welcome everybody with open arms who wants to get involved.

Warren: Yes, please. You know, we're on Slack. I'm on Slack, I think I mentioned that, Warren. So feel free to ping me anytime. I'm happy to chat.

Ronald: Brilliant. Warren, thank you so much for joining us.

Warren: My pleasure.

And, thank you for having me, and thank you for the great questions from the panelists.

Robbie: Thank you.

Robert: Thank you, Warren.

Ronald: Thank you everybody, and we'll see you again in four-weeks time.

Warren: Cheers. Thank you for having me.