In this WooCommerce Roundtable discussion the panel talked to Clara Lee who is leading Product Marketing at WooCommerce. Her team focuses on customer research, strategic positioning, and new products go-to-market. The conversation revolved around WooCommerce understanding merchant motivations and the needs are central to their development and marketing efforts.
A Chat with Clara
Ronald and the panelist talk with Clara about:
- What a day looks like in the marketing world at WooCommerce
- How the marketing team is structured
- Working through the pandemic and how that affected their marketing footprint
- The balance of focus between merchants and developers
- What will be done with the newly acquired domain Woo.com
- How does WooCommerce position itself as an option from their competitors
- Addressing the challenges between putting it together and making the first sale
- Woo Payments, Peach Pay’s investment and future integration with point of sales
- Where does marketing and development play at the top level of engagement with investments and acquisitions
- What advice can a product developer take to enter the ecosystem and catch the eye of WooCommerce
- How important branding is for the WooCommerce product builders
And lastly Clara asks the panel their thoughts on security, privacy and owning your data
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Watch the video
Ronald: Hello. Welcome. Welcome to this WooCommerce Builder community event. A Woo Roundtable with special guest Clara Lee. And we have our panelist, Robert Jacoby and Robbie Adair, as well. My name is Ronald. I am the partnership manager at YITH.
This week we have Clara who works in marketing. Clara, can you introduce yourself?
Clara: Of course. I lead product marketing at WooCommerce. For the benefits of this conversation, you can just think of me as marketing in general. But, I've been with Woo for about two years, and very excited to see the progress we've made in that time, and very excited about the progress we have going forward as well. So, I'm based in Seattle, Washington, and I'm super excited to connect with this group. I've watched a couple of past episodes, and I think it's really fun to be in the purple chair, and excited about where our conversation takes us today.
Robert: Wait, so you've watched a couple episodes, and you're still excited to be in the purple chair? I want to confirm for the record.
Clara: No, I caught the episodes with Johnathan, as well as with Warren. I thought the topics were very wide ranging and interesting, so I'm curious to see where we go today.
Ronald: Everything about what's happening behind the scenes at WooCommerce. But, I'm not alone, I've got Robert. Robert, let's start with you because I think we need to talk about something here.
Robert: I will share my breaking news. I am not the Director of WordPress at Cloudways. So, overseeing strategy, partnership, community, all these many things. So, it's very exciting and I could not be more proud and happier to be a part of that team.
Ronald: Yeah. So, what happens to RobertJacoby.com? Because, that's of course my main news source, where I get all the breaking news from. Is that going to continue?
Robert: Absolutely continuing. And in fact, we'll probably get more regular as I finally get a little more settled in.
Ronald: Great. That's really exciting. I'm really keen to hearing more about the plans and such, but I'm sure that will come in the next few weeks, months, actually. But that seems exciting. Robbie, you there?
Robbie: Congrats Robert, by the way. And, yes, I'm Robbie and I'm with OS training, where we do web development training, and we obviously train WooCommerce, which is why I'm here. Love talking to our guest, and finding out all that we can, all the goods about WooCommerce.
Ronald: Great. So, Clara, can you paint a picture, first of all, your day. What does it look like? What do you do? How do you get started? How do you get motivated, and drive the marketing team to do amazing things.
Clara: Yeah, that's a great question. I would say no day looks the same. So, it's kind of hard to describe a framework for it, but we'll say over the past couple of years, the team has grown in a really constructive and sustainable sort of way. And so, we're at this point, organized into some clear functions. And so, there's always a mix of some sort of strategic activity happening with the product teams.
We sit in on a lot of the meetings around shaping our payments product, or thinking about the future of shipping, or how do we make it easier for merchants to onboard and set up a new store? We sit in these types of meetings and have a perspective that comes from the costumer and their needs. I would say there is also a part of the day that's devoted to executive marketing. So, that's a combination of sort of project managing the creative writing, the copy, and making sure that it all fits within the overall WooCommerce narrative. So, there is sort of that tactical execution piece of things.
And then lastly I would say, we are continuing to grow the team. So I will, at some point in this live stream, plug the fact that we're hiring. We are growing and so I do spend a fair amount of time looking at potential candidates, speaking with candidates, and really understanding what makes them excited about WooCommerce and the opportunity that we, the opportunities, plural, that we have open at the moment.
Again, no day is the same. But I would say at a very high level, that's some of what's going on from the marketing team.
Ronald: The marketing team, how is it split up in different groups? Or is it one team that pretty much manages everything, or you have certain groups that specialize in a particular field, or work on a specific project? How could we sort of imagine this?
Clara: Within WooCommerce we are team, and I would say that we work together really well. Part of that is, we are still small, especially compared to the amount of revenue we generate and the number of users that are supported on the platform. We are actually very small compared to that footprint out that. But, I would say, being small you can't have anyone that's too specialized, and we really rely on this sort of attitude, that even if it's not really in your job description, just rolling up your sleeves and getting it done. Especially just working on a global team, where we're not quite all in the office, so it say, at the same time. You have just things that have to happen, and it maybe within your time zone, maybe not.
And so, I think what's great about the team, and what I would say about Woo in general, is that there is this spirit of 'let's just pick up what needs to get done, and quickly prioritize it and make it happen.' To answer your question, individuals on the team do have strengths, but at the end of the day we're all one team.
Robbie: And I have a question Ronald, I'm going to pop in while she's on that stream. Because you've been there two years though, you were there pre-pandemic. You said that your team is international, and distributed not necessarily in the office. Did you have a core team in the office before the pandemic, and then you went remote, or have you always been remote with this team?
Clara: Yeah, we've always been remote. So, I'm glad you bring up the pandemic, because it has been so interesting to watch other companies having to transition to this model. What I've appreciated about being Automatic in particular, is number one, we already had the tools that we knew worked for this kind of a synchronous collaboration and those tools on a daily basis are slack, they're also our internal blog system, called P2. And then we have a few other things in the tool kit. But, the tools work really well. Everybody tunes into the same channel. So, very few balls are dropped, I find.
I would say the more important aspect of being able to collaborate remotely, is the culture. And I'm really thankful for Automattic being set up as fully remote from the beginning. I do know that WooCommerce, pre-acquisition, definitely had a work space in Cape Town, and I do think they potentially may still have that space, or some sort of entry right to it. I know there used to be a space, but it's not a requirement. It's there if you want to use it, and we have that set up in many cities where I think Automatic has some sort of licensing agreement with specific spaces where, if you want you can pop in for a quick co-working experience. Obviously, that wasn't available during the pandemic, but things are opening back up again.
Robbie: While we're on the pandemic, while you were putting that marketing into action, did you find that you guys were having to go out on different channels than you were before? Because of so many more people online, and then so many different places online. Did it change your marketing footprint out there?
Clara: Well, it definitely accelerated growth, for sure. So, I count myself as one of the lucky ones to have been in an industry that was positively impacted by COVID. There aren't many industries out there like that. And, when I think about what 2020 did, and just sort of the movement, and the stories, and the customers who have become known to us throughout the year. It's pretty incredible to be at a company, and part of a platform, and part of a community where someone can say "Oh, shoot! I no longer have the opportunity to sell out of my retail store," or, "Oh, I can't afford rent on my showroom anymore," or "Hey, maybe this is an opportunity to take my product and extend it to global audiences."
It's pretty incredible to be able to offer that as an opportunity to people, as so many people have had to just sort of change their lives, and their businesses in the last year. So I would say from a channel standpoint, with the increased bandwidth on the team, with our growth, we've been able to definitely lean into some of our strategic channels more. So, email has always been really powerful for us. Our newsletters have a really strong readership, and tactically just a very high open rate and click rate.
With that said, email is just one form of communication, and so having that as a very strong base and sort of our 'bread and butter', we've also done a lot in the past year within product messaging. So that's, inbox notifications, just in time messages, and things that really catch you at the moment that you might be doing something in your store back end, or you might be thinking of a question like "how do I ship this new kind of product?" And being able to surface the right product, or the right content, or the right guidance at the right time has been really important for us.
I would say the other area where we're nascent, but I'm trying hard to make push is in Press. Because I think we have such an important story to tell, I think we've stuck to most tech industry publications in the past, but I am curious this year, to extend beyond that, because I think the story is so relatable, even outside of the industry. So we did a few press releases last year around our Payments product, around CBD business offerings, and we just have a lot to talk about this year. So I look forward to using Press as a strategic channel more often.
Robert: So, to cut off Ronald again, my turn. You touched on something we kind of went back and forth in the chat prior to the panel, and I'm very curious about where the marketing focus, because that's where you're really at? Is it at "we're going to make sure that developers know that we're the best open source ecommerce platform out there," or is it really to target the greater business space. So when people say Shopify, it's now "comma, WooCommerce" as opposed to just Shopify, or just Big Commerce. So now it's a part of that sentence, so decision makers who aren't necessarily, can I say this word, huge nerds, that goes further up the food chain in sort of decision making processes.
I'm curious where the focus is. And I'll hedge this by saying, I still think it's very developer-engineer focused and I would like to see it not.
Clara: Yeah, I think that's a really great question. Because the team is still small, we've had to pick a focus, and so right now we're very focused on merchants. Just at a very high level, our teams are aligned to different parts of the value chain for the merchants. So there's a team that's focused on "how do I help a new store get up and running and make their first sale in 28 days?" Then there's a team that's focused on what tools, and skills, and services can we offer a merchant so that they can grow their business, so that they can get out there on Instagram, Facebook, Google, so that they can easily automate emails and run a sale, manage coupons, et cetera.
There's team focus on growth. Third, there's a team that is really looking at transacting, and how do we make that the most seamless experience possible both for shoppers to reduce cart abandonment, but also for merchants. If you're managing your finances and trying to get a hold of your business and take care of disputes, or chargebacks, or whatever, how do we make that as simple and intuitive as possible.
And then there is also a team that is focused on shipping. So if you've got a supply chain, and if you've got physical product that you need to get from point A to point B, what are your options? Those people ask, what is the most cheap option? So whether you're optimizing for expenses, or speed, or whatever, how can we surface the right option for you, and make that really valuable for you as a shipper?
So, at a high level that is how our team is organized, it's really organized by the functions that merchant would have to take to run their business. There's definitely an argument for having dedicated marketing resources focused on the developer market. Just at a high level, if I look at our data, we see that about 60 percent of our stores are managed by store owners, the people who own the business, who founded the business, et cetera, And then there's another 40 percent that has some sort of coverage from third parties. Whether that's a developer, or an agency, a technical partner, could also be a freelancer. So there's that as well.
Robbie: I'm totally shocked by those numbers, Clara. I would have definitely thought you'd have said the opposite. Like 60 percent managed by agencies or developers, and 40 by store owners. So I'm really surprised by those numbers. Wow.
Robert: That ties into my question that it's not the engineers who are making the decisions. Because I think that's the right place to be. I like the number of 60, 40 business owners making that decision. How do we expand that in the WooCommerce space? Of course, you have to have the engineers on board, for sure, because who is going to do the heavy lifting? But, I like the idea of getting the Woo brand -
Oh, and did we totally miss the giant pink elephant in the room that now there's a Woo.com. It doesn't go anywhere yet, wink, wink.
Clara: Yeah, so I'm guessing you saw the Twitter update, as well. Yup, it's very exciting from our perspective, there's a lot of ideas about what to do with it. We haven't settled on one or another, but I think we have been obviously trying to get this for many, many years. And so, this is a win for the team, overall. I hope you'll see more happening with that in the coming months.
Just to go back to the store owner versus developer conversation, what I was speaking about when we talk about the 60/40, is the sheer number of stores. What needs to be done, and what my team is working on, is actually taking a closer look at the stores. Because, my guess would be that some of the stores that have developer support, or are run by developers, they might be larger, or more effective, or they may be focused in certain industries that need a little bit more support. Or they may be more productive, they may be more generative, maybe they have more products, et cetera, et cetera.
So, I think there's still a lot of analysis to be done. We know, from some of the qualitative interviews that we've done builders, that they're enormously influential. Very, very influential in terms of platform choice. Very influential when it comes to extensions, plugins, et cetera. So, that's absolutely, the 60/40 is one thing, but there is definitely a case to be made for more developer support, or more developer marketing focus as the team grows.
I know we have one developer advocate, Allen Smith, who's part of the team. And he does a great job. It's a hard job for one person, but my hope for 2021, and 2022 is that function scales as well.
Ronald: So, how do you focus on if somebody is wanting to open a store online. You have the various different options. Shopify, maybe Wix, and WooCommerce. And how does WooCommerce position itself that is becomes a viable and probably more attractive option for the person to choose.
Clara: I think that's a great question. And, it's well timed because that's something we're very much working on right now from a marketing perspective. We've done a ton of qualitative research, interviews with merchants, everyone from someone who is selling 20,000 dollars of nicknacks, to a Caribbean grocery store that runs a three million dollar business. We've done a ton of interviews. And I think if I scan our main competitor list, Shopify is the one that, they've got a major brand out there.
What I've heard anecdotally, and in interviews is, you can't not check them out. Because they're just everywhere. You go on Google, you go on YouTube, anyone who's researching would be aware of Shopify, because they own a lot of ads in that space. They have a ton of content. And so, that's something that they've done a great job at awareness, I would say that.
I would say Wix is something that they've done a really strong job at appealing to people who don't maybe have online ecommerce experience. What I've found in interviews is this person tends to be a bit more humble in saying, and one that says "well, I need the templates, I need the structure, I need the guidance, because I don't really know what I'm doing. I'm just trying to sell apple pies, or I'm just trying to sell these baby products that I made in my garage. I want someone else to just give me the structure and I'll push through it."
Then we see SquareSpace, which has a unique appeal actually, to people who are very creative and design-minded. They have in some ways, anchored well to sort of a high-end, or an upscale feel. So anyone who sort of in luxury products or premium services might be attracted to that. I acknowledge that from a design perspective, some of their stores are just gorgeous. And so, we've got these players that we're watching out there who have sort of entrenched themselves in some very noticeable, and quickly knowable advantages. I think one thing that comes out in our customer interviews time and time again is, why people love WooCommerce is this ability to customize.
And so, that's what we're leaning into right now. Is being able to customize, customization. I think the challenge there, is some types of customization do require skill. They do require a comfort with code, or knowledge of what can be done in the back end. What can be hacked, et cetera. So, there's a balance there, but we've talked to a lot of people who say "this check out screen isn't what I need it to be," or "this part of my site, the product catalog just doesn't work for what I need to be able to express in my locality, and for this type of product." So, that is something that we're looking to figure out more tangibly right now.
Ronald: Can I just stop you there? Because you've made a really good point, and this is exactly what I often get at Meet up. I run the WooCommerce one through London WooCommerce Meet Up. It's easy to onboard, you go to a host, it's very easy to install WooCommerce and add a few plugins. And then you get into this cycle of "I want this, I want that." It doesn't quite look right.
Ronald: What could be done, though? What would you suggest, and what are you working on? That struggle from putting it all together to actually making that first sale. There's a wide scope of issues or problems that people have to solve. How can you streamline that?
Clara: Yeah, so one of the benefits of the Woo platform is we don't charge a start up fee. So if you look at a lot of these other platforms, some of them offer a seven day, or 14 day trial period, and after that you're being charged for just trying to figure out and set up your store. Some stores are pretty straight forward, and you can set it up and get all of that in the 14 day period. But if this is like a side hustle, or a hobby, or maybe you're just someone who needs a little bit more time figuring out exactly what you want out of an ecommerce experience, or how to translate your vision into an actual store. You'll, at some point, start paying for the use of a separate platform.
And so, I do think the absence of upfront fees does make that barrier of entry easier for some people. I would say from a customization standpoint, there's a lot that can be done. I think a big part of customization is our extensions marketplace. So, that marketplace over time has grown a lot. And the team there is very strategic about their pursuits. What ares, they're always looking at merchant needs and sort of gaps in terms of what our core platform offers. And they're literately going and finding the tools that will bridge those gaps.
I just looked at a competitor's marketplace the other day, and they had something like, I want to say, 8,000 apps. And I just think to myself, well do I trust that every single app here is vetted, and checked, and cleared, and meets a certain standard of quality? I'm not sure, especially since I know how small that team is, that that is happening. In the Woo marketplace, we absolutely have those types of checks.
I think in the future we, not only from a product's standpoint, but from a marketing standpoint, can do a better job of expressing how one might customize beyond just selecting options that are in our market place. I think that's a mix of bringing to life in product what some of the most common customizations are, and I think that is hopefully something that can be captured in some of the blocks that we're continuing to release throughout the year. I think the other part of that is just content, and education, and "hey, are you looking to do this?" It's a blog post about if you're trying to solve a specific problem, and offering up options that range from the package, just click a button and add this now, to I want to add custom code, and I need to do something else.
So I would say there's a range of options, so keep your eye out for what's coming.
Ronald: But I sense you bear the responsibility of nurturing the client to success.
Robbie: And Clara, you say that customization is one of the things that really sets you guys apart, and definitely , like with my training hat on, I'm like, "oh yeah, definitely." Because there's a lot more to train on WooCommerce than let’s say, Shopify, for customization. But the other thing, with my training as well as an agency hat on, what I find is it's the integrations. Because, you guys are integrating with so many other things in the WordPress world, LMSS, directories, membership sites, all of that.
And so, from an agency standpoint, when you're looking at what your client needs, a lot of times they do need ecommerce, but it needs to integrate with so many other things. So now you've got integration and customization, so Woo is a lot of times the best answer for the client because of that, as well.
Clara: Yeah, that's a huge point and I'm so glad you brought that up, Robbie. Because I think that's definitely an area we want to lean into more, and that's definitely a place where I can see the builder audience, the developer audience helping really amplify that message, and amplify what can be offered there. Our community is so generative, and productive, and helpful that I'd love for us to all work together in terms of getting that focus and getting that message out there.
Robbie: Yeah, absolutely.
Ronald: We have a question from Mike. Do we know if Woo payments will offer pay in full? Let's hear it.
Clara: Yeah. I'm assuming this is similar to what PayPal's offering. Sort of a 'buy now, pay later' installment financing program. So I will say there's a lot of discussion and that's definitely something that we'd like to, that's a serious consideration for the roadmap in the future. Just to give everyone background, I don't know if you've spoken about WooCommerce payments in past calls,
Ronald: No, I think that's a great if you can speak a bit more about that. Because, I know here in the UK, it's not available yet.
Clara: Right. So WooCommerce payments is a payment solution that we launched for the platform about a year ago. We're actually coming up to our one year birthday on the 19th. So we've been available only in the U.S. to date, but it's been really exciting from our perspective because what WooCommerce payments offers that is different from when you attach Stripe, or PayPal, or Square to your platform, is we offer a fully integrated experience for yourself, the merchant, and as well as seamless checkout experience for shoppers.
And so, more tactically what that means is, I think right now if you're using one of our partner extensions, to be able to action a charge back, or to respond to a dispute, or to manage recurring revenue, you're likely having to log into a third party site. And we all know that means another username, another window, another password, that if you're like me you've probably forgot, so you probably have to go through the password recovery process every single time.
And so, what we're offering is the opportunity to manage all of this within your WooCommerce dashboard. And so what that means is you can go into your backend, look at your orders, look at your analytics, track your business, and then jump into the payments tab and you can easily see how people are paying, what those transactions look like. You can instantly deposit funds into your own account, and you can sort of manage all of this standard payment activities.
We've had a really exciting last four months. In the summer we introduced Compatibility in integration with WooCommerce subscriptions, so if you're someone who has automatic recurring sales on your site, and you're looking to have that view as part of your payments backend, you can now do that. It's very straight forward in my opinion, and very clear. The other thing is in March, we announced multicurrency which makes it easier for cross-boarder sales, and selling around the world, and being able to express currency in the currency of the buyer. And hopefully, at least we've seen data that that is something that helps the whole sales process.
In April we launched Apple Pay and Google Pay. So those are two versions of accelerated checkout that make everything faster for a shopper to buy on your store. This month, we're really focused on instant deposits, and so that's if you're operating a supply chain, or if you have a tight cash need, you literately hit a button and you can have your funds deposited into your account instantly.
And then we've got a lot planned for upcoming months, as well. So, Ronald alluded to international expansion. That's something that we're super excited about, and definitely planning for this year. And we're also looking at in person payments. So, there's a lot to get excited about going forward. There's a lot that we've done. But, I would say any sort of 'buy now, pay later' or financing plan is absolutely in consideration for the future.
Robert: Perfect. As this leads totally into a question that I have. WooCommerce recently invested in Peach Pay, how will that actually play out, certainly I'm not expecting the insanely big picture. But at least on the marking side, you're already using Stripe, and Peach Pay is built on top of Stripe. But, other infrastructure, is there a plan to do anything with that, or is that just sort of a side investment, we'll see what we're doing? Is tinkering on the WooCommerce side going on, or is that really just something to the side?
Clara: Yeah, I think that's a great question. To be really honest, I wasn't part of the original decision team. But, I do see the conversation. I would say it's a bit more on the side right now. We've definitely had some Q and A with the Peach Pay team, I think we're both trying to figure out whether there might be a situation where one plus one equals three. Definitely, we're trying to figure that out, whether there's an opportunity to joint marketing.
From a products side, I can't really speak to any of that right now, or at least from what I see the conversation hasn't gone there yet. But, I think we're just happy to have them as someone to have conversations with, and someone to watch.
Robbie: So Clara, you said you're looking at in person payments too. Will this involve some sort of hardware or will it interface with other point of sale hardware that's out there? Thoughts? Do you know?
Clara: Yeah, I don't want to steal the team's thunder. But that would echo a lot of the conversations that are being had internally.
Robert: This is the place to make the thunder. Ronald makes what happens here explode across the universe. So, if it's happening, you better say it here.
Clara: Yeah. Again, what I've learned at WooCommerce is there are so many ideas, and it's hard to commit on future things, but the conversation is definitely happening. People are definitely looking into things. And so, nothing is announced until it is announced, but these are definitely areas of interest in addition to the question about the buy now, pay later.
Ronald: If we can stick to acquisitions, a MailPoet, a recent one, I suspect has got quite a sizable marketing team. How do you absorb that team with your market team? Or will they remain separate for male poet, or how do you collaborate?
Clara: That's a great question. So we have integrated the marketing team, and the marketing team is one person. So I love that you thought it was a larger team.
Ronald: He or she did an amazing job if that's the case.
Clara: I know! I'm going to have to pass that feedback on to Laura. She is phenomenal. She crushes it. It's pretty incredible. Because it's just her, and I love that it feels like it's more, but it's just her and she definitely been part of the team for several months here, and we love having her on board. I think in terms of larger team, the leadership of MailPoet is now part of Woo leadership meetings, and there's just a very open dialog.
Robert: Hey, I personally use MailPoet all the time, so I thought that was a great move on the WooCommerce side, and I'm curious to see how that will expand into the day to day intricacies of email marketing in a store environment. Boy, any other acquisitions on WooCommerce side that we don't know of, Clara?
Clara: I will say there is always a running list, and our MNA team is super diligent, and they're usually looking at several at a time. For me, everyone that we do pursue very seriously, I would say that we look at a lot, but the ones that we pursue very seriously, there needs to be a very clear path forward together. And so, I would say once you get into that part of the funnel, there are few. But, that is definitely a key priority for the team.
Robert: I'm curious when it gets to that sort of top level of engagement, where does product marketing and development play in, or is it really just so separated that something magically happens. It's just like, "Hey Clara, by the way, we just acquired MailPoet, or invested in Peach Pay." Where is your team involved in that process?
Ronald: Yeah, the longterm vision as part of that bigger acquisition, absolutely.
Clara: Yeah, I think that's a great question. And what I really love about WooCommerce internally is we have such a great go-to team for this kind of stuff. As you can imagine, acquisition interest and request come up really quickly, and they have very strict deadlines. You've got to have a certain set of meetings, and then your questions in by a certain date, then you receive the data you're asking for, and you have what feels like way too little time to analyze it.
Robert: Three hours until you sign the line.
Clara: Yes. So it's great to be in a situation where there's a team that can just really jump into things and focus. I would say from a marketing standpoint, we're really interested in the customer base, and how that overlaps or compliments our own. So, the ways that we look at the customer base include geographical coverage, geographical spread, we also look at how generative or productive the stores are.
So let's say if its another ecommerce platform, then it's on an average annual basis how much GMV is this store generating? What kind of industries do they cover? Who are their top merchants, basically, and what are those stores doing? Is there any niche in the market that this platform has really anchored to, and is really killing it? So we look for areas of strength, we look at complimentary/overlapping customer bases. And because my background is product marketing, I often also look at product. And I look at it from a customer perspective.
So I say, we definitely have product and technical teams that look at it from like a development and a technical standpoint, but I look at it from a customer standpoint. If they're offering a bundle of services, do I think it's compelling, why have they done that? Or if they're planning to do something around, if they're planning a big push for larger customers, and it's all based sort of on an omnichannel strategy, what are the investments that they've made in that space? Have the acquired someone? What did their road map look like, and how can I make it something that's more than just words on a slide. Because that's what you're always trying to get to. You look at the charts on the slide, and they're pretty fancy.
But as someone who is helping the team due diligence, what tangibly is behind those words? Is it some sort of expertise? Did you acquire technology? Have you actually been building this road map for years, and it just hasn't launched yet? Those are the types of questions that I would want to know. Because anyone can create a beautiful graph of what they expect for the future.
Ronald: Being in a position like MailPoet finds itself, is of course amazing. But if you are a product developer, maybe you're looking to enter into the Woo ecosystem, maybe you've just started a plugin, or even way before that, what advice do you have to maybe some of the key elements to take or to focus on to make it, and intentionally be a client for Automatic or WooCommerce?
Ronald: Sorry, you might have to take off your WooCommerce hat for a moment, more of the marketing hat.
Clara: Yeah. That's absolutely what I was going to say is that I will come at the from a marketing standpoint. What I personally find most compelling about a product is when it's really created with customer need in mind. So, what I like to see is less breath, and more depth. And what I mean, is have you focused on this one problem and just really introduce an elegant, simple, easy solution that reflects and understanding of the customer's true need?
I think we've all seen products out there, plugins, extensions, consumer products, you've always seen products that are just kind of patched together, modified from one thing to suit a different need. And what I love to see generally is that that extension that you are, or the thing that you're creating really does meet a real need in the market.
Secondly, that it introduces an elegant solution. And thirdly, I always look at reviews. So, I like to see sort of that it's not just about market share, or numbers. I love to see that you've won the hearts of those that you're trying to serve. So the amount of passion that comes through reviews, or when I talk to a merchant, or when I connect with someone else who is in the community and there's this love for a brand, or the story about "hey, it really made my work a lot easier," or "It boosted my sales by 40 percent," or, "it changed how I think about my business, and it changed the opportunity for me."
That's to me, extremely powerful.
Robert: I want to dig in, just a little bit on that. Can you define elegant solution?
Clara: Again, I'm looking very much from the customer perspective. So I can't speak to the code or what's happening in the development end of things, but if I am someone who has a store, and I just attached your extension to it, I want to with minimal guidance, feel confident in my use of it. And so, that's a very high level how I talk about it.
I feel like that may or may not be feasible depending on the level of complexity of the problem that you're trying to solve. But I do think it can be bolstered by really great docs, really great videos, really great How To's. With Google these days, people can find guidance out there. But I would always go to, if I am using something and it's intuitive or it's adapting to my skill level or my needs, that to me is really beautiful.
Robert: That's awesome. I really like what you just said about adapting to my skill level or needs. I think that's a great, great point.
Clara: And I also recognize that's a lot harder to do than how I'm saying it.
Robert: You have people say, "I want an elegant solution," or "I want some kind of - ", I'm like, "Okay, I know what you want to say, so let's just say it." So thank you, Clara.
Clara: Well thank you for the question. I appreciate that.
Ronald: Branding. How important is branding for new products? Should developers focus on that more? Building a brand and a community around it. Because you talked a little bit about the heart's and souls of the user, to win those. That's quite an interesting angle. You solve a problem, but then certainly you find yourself having to build a whole system, community, branding all around it. It's probably more than most developers bargain for.
Clara: I think branding is important, but it's definitely not the most important thing. And I would say brand can come through a lot of different avenues. I think in very traditional marketing, brand is a set of advertisements, or it's a logo, or an asset, or a very creative look and feel about things. For me, brand comes from experience. So, what is user's experience with your product? How did it make them feel? Some of the visual and creative things I mentioned earlier can compliment that and certainly help a user feel more positively about a certain product.
Clara: But I would also lead with brand from an experiential standpoint. With that said, I don't want to deter anyone from investing in brand. I've always seen brand as an asset. Worked at companies where brand was considered like a generative thing on the balance sheet, just like anything else. And I love that stand point on things. I am someone who believes in brand, but I also think it shouldn't be the only thing.
Robert: Well, yeah. If I had the greatest experience ever, and I can't remember who gave it to me, then-
Robbie: Yeah. Sometimes I feel like brand gets ahead of development, though.
Clara: Yeah, I love that you both, Robert and Robbie, mentioned like the opposite ends of stuff. Because, I'm with you, too. There definitely has to be a balance.
Ronald: Clara, do you have? Because now you've got three people-
Ronald: Experts, yeah. And then we have one especially in hosting as well. Do you have questions for us, and maybe for the people tuning in?
Clara: I do, and I don't know if we have enough time for them. But, I do have questions.
Ronald: We will make time. Yes, please, go ahead.
Robert: Ignore the rules of Woo panel. There are no rules.
Clara: We were chatting earlier about the competitive advantage that Woo has in the market, and we talked a bit about this idea of customization. I would like to do a better job, I would like us, Woo marketing to do a better job of turning customization into benefits. That's something we're working on. But sort of the secondary idea that we are thinking about a lot is this idea of security, privacy, owning your data. I think that is a place where we do stand out from some of the other platforms where your data is theirs, and you are the product.
And so that is, I think, an area of opportunity that I think we need to flesh out a little bit better. Especially, just trends in the world. You see in the Media, people are jumping off certain social media platforms and messaging apps because they feel so passionately about that sort of privacy and security. So I'm really curious whether that elicits any sort of response from the team here, or any thoughts.
Robert: Personally, you're preaching to the choir. I think the more opportunities around that, the better. Consumers are going to make that decision, and they're pushing for it, which I think is fantastic. You see Apple reacting to it, they can always say they've always been a privacy company, yada, yada, yada. But really, they're also hand in hand with the consumers who kind of want that. There's a type of consumer that's really demanding it, and Apple's like we're going to lean into this. Because, why not?
Not only does it help the people who really want it, it will actually empower people who accidentally want it, or aren't paying attention to it. And, there're actually a couple articles, just today, across some sites about I'm going to run with this Apple theme, because it's really the good one to go with. The tracking opt-in features. What's it called? ATT, advertising tracking transparency, I think? That 95 percent of people have opted out of being tracked by some of these social media people. I won't mention Facebook by name. That's obviously the big fight. So it will compel people to provide valuable, meaningful content to the end user to be like "Oh, okay, maybe I'll be more sticking with you, Facebook, or WooCommerce, or whoever."
I only think that benefits end users at the end of the day. That, okay, whenever you get one of these little road blocks in the way, or big road blocks, yeah you need to start thinking outside of the box and innovating again. Some of these things, companies have gotten lazy about. So I'm thrilled about any way we can put these challenges in front of people and say, "Well we really want to do this." Which is protecting the consumer, the end user. Good for your company, because you still have to make money. But also, now accidentally benefits the end user.
Clara: Oh, totally. That reminds me of something. An add I saw from HP awhile ago. Several year ago. And it's called "The Wolf," and it's a long form video starring Christian Slater, and it's about secure printing. Who thinks about secure printing on a daily basis? Probably not many people.
Robert: Who thinks about printing on a daily basis?
Clara: That's a good point. But the way that they illustrated the problem in this video was so compelling because you realized, especially for those who used to, or do work in an office, you realize "Oh my gosh, I do do that. I do send personal stuff to the printer, and I do print my tax forms in a shared situation." The use cases that they drew up were so common, and so relatable and to have Christian Slater narrating them obviously is awesome. Because, he's stunning.
But, it was kind of an incredible, making people aware of like "oh my gosh, this is a problem!" So Robert, I love what you're saying about people who sort of unintentionally realize that it's important later, and creating that foundation for them, and helping them understand "actually, this is really important."
Ronald: Do you have this conversation, Robbie? With your clients?
Robbie: I was exactly saying the same thing, too. So again, if I have training and agency hat on here. If you're training someone and they're going through their little Mom and Pop store, and they're going to pop up their own, there's a lot more training that has to go in to if they're going to do a WooCommerce store, right?
We've got to start with hosting, domain name, these kind of things, right? They may not have it, they go do a SaaS product that's out there. And so, for some of them, it may be easier to go with an easier route to start with, and then hopefully they make more money, and then we always say "then you want to move on up to something that's more customizable, right?"
If it's a company that comes to you and says, "Yeah, here. We want you to do this." Well, I would absolutely want them, and it's part of the reason why they're coming, is they want to have that ownership of everything of theirs, right? But they possibly need guidance on how to make sure, "I'm going to own it all, but I need to make sure that it is safe. I need to know that I'm at a host that is going to provide the security that I need. I need to make sure that I'm not moving data around from that host to some back ends system that is open to the world."
There's a lot more to it to own your own, but definitely it's more valuable to own your own. It's safer to own your own. No one wants to be held hostage with their data, and we've seen SaaS products in the past that have done that. Even down to cellphones used to be that way. Your phone number was stuck with that one service provider until they deregulated, and things like that.
I think everyone has experienced this kind of data hand lock somewhere. That is something that is a concern on the agency side when we talk to clients. It is always a concern. The clients bring it up even before we bring it up now, at this point. So I think people do understand that their data is important, and they may not want to just put it any old where out there.
I think even some of the smaller clients, they have that understanding and maybe it's because they've been, some of our clients are like "I only use QuickBooks on my PC in this room right here, and it's not on the cloud." You know what I'm saying. So people do understand data security, I think, and data ownership. I do think, in other words, for marketing I definitely think that that is a route that you guys should go. Because I think that people are thinking about it, but they're not educated about it, so they have questions. That's what your marketing needs to do, is answer those questions for them, right? Agencies, we're doing it. But what about those 60 percent that didn't go to an agency. They're going to have those same questions, most likely.
Clara: Yeah, that's incredibly feed back. I really appreciate that. I'm glad to hear, and this gives me a lot of fire to excite the team about going forward. "Hey guys, new project."
Robbie: Call up Christian Slater.
Clara: I know, can we get him for our video? That would be amazing.
Robert: I got like two little last, I know we're running down the clock. I got two little last things. First, I want to meet all of Robbie's air gap clients, because that's so just so 1987. Keep in a separate room, no internet connection, no wifi, all that air gap.
Robbie: Hey, we have clients that still have their assistant print out their emails and read them on paper.
Clara: Oh wow.
Clara: Get Christian Slater in the synchro printing in. That's printing!
Robbie: Exactly. I wonder if they're using secure printing for those emails. I'm going to have to ask.
Clara: Very important.
Robbie: Good question.
Robert: Consumer experience around all this, but let's not forget there's been a huge regulatory environment around that. Obviously GRP, a few years ago. Kicking that rock straight down the hill. Everyone's going to be rolled over by it. So, consumers might be happy about this, feel more secure about their experience, that's great, but it's also going to hit merchants dead in the head. That you have to be aware of what's going on, especially if you want to ship and do ecommerce outside of your five mile radius.
Clara: Totally, and I'm no GDPR expert myself. I'm thankful that there are a few members in my team who know it better, and team members like Laura and Garrett who are based in the UK. But, I agree with you, it's definitely an ongoing concern. We do our best from a content standpoint, to educate. I really empathize with especially that sort of solo merchant who is just trying to probably stay on top of their business and get things done. And in the mean time, you've got all these rules and regulations that can just change at any point. We empathize with that.
We try our best from a content standpoint, there's probably some product opportunities or other types of opportunities and I appreciate that note.
Ronald: But I have one comment about focusing too much on data and the insecurity and scam mongering at the beginning of onboarding of things that should be done right or can go wrong. Aren't you focusing too much on the dangers, rather than the customization sort of coming back to it, and the possibilities and the opportunities that you can create with WooCommerce versus some other platforms.
Clara: Oh yeah. I would see them as noncompeting priorities. So, right now I think we're leading with customization, and we intend to continue to lead with that. And then the conversation around privacy and security, to me it's also an important one, and one that will require a bit of work. But, I see that as a supporting point.
Ronald: Sure, yeah. Lots of things happening around there as well. Earlier today I spoke with somebody on an anonymous verification alternative to Facebook and Google. Which doesn't quite fit with ecommerce, but it has potential to grown into something as an alternative. So, other conversation around it. This is really great. I think we can speak for many more hours. But I think that's it for this time. So, back again with another Woo round table in four weeks time. I can't thank you enough, Clara, for your time. I really appreciate it, and lots of good bits of information inside. Fantastic. Thank you.
Also, thank you Robbie and thank you Robert. Hope to see you all again very soon.
Clara: Thank you everyone.
Ronald: Take care everyone.
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