A Chat with Hans Skillrud & Donata Kalnenaite from Termageddon
In episode 56, Jonathan Wold and I chat with Hans and Donata about:
- Their own experiences in the world of WooCommerce
- How Donata moved from licensed attorney to agency work
- The transition to privacy
- The dangers of cut-and-paste and what to look out for with generated policies
- Whether you should get creative and build your brand into your policies
- Should you combine policies?
- Their insights into the world of policies and eCommerce stores.
This conversation ended up going in several directions, as is natural when you are talking to two privacy experts.
We start out with hearing from both Hans and Donata about how they first started working with and around WooCommerce. I also pin Donata down to hear the story behind moving from a licensed attorney to working for an agency, which ultimately led to the creation of Termageddon.com
Jonathan lays it out as we dive into privacy policies and asks the simple question, Why have one and will anybody really read it? The answer may surprise you as both sides, store owners and, especially, customers, are taking their online privacy much more seriously.
We chat about how it goes beyond just covering your tail as a store owner and what it really means in today’s world.
There is also some interesting conversation that comes out of how this brings value to both your customers and your business. And yes, not only will it help build trust, but it could also help your SEO.
We also explore just how smart it is to combine your policies and how creative you should get with them.
Lastly, we ask them to give us their insights into policies and eCommerce. There some good gems in here, including thoughts on your refund policy and what you should do if you don’t have one yet.
I would encourage anyone who runs an online site, even if its not eCommerce, to listen to this episode. I guarantee you will learn a lot.
Where to Find Donata and Hans Online
- Hans on Twitter @DeepSpaceHans
- Donata on Twitter @DonataSkillrud
- Donata on LinkedIn
- Termageddon on Twitter @termageddon
Thanks to our sponsors
Jonathan: Welcome to episode 56 of Do the Woo. I'm your co-host Jonathan Wold. And with me is the fantastic Bob Dunn, Bob, how are you?
Bob: I'm fantastic. That was lame. Calling myself fantastic.
Jonathan: No, it's perfect.
Bob: I'm feeling fantastic.
Jonathan: I always look forward to this. 56 episodes, too,. Making some good progress. How are you feeling, Bob, with the weekly format?
Bob: I am feeling good. In fact, I've actually thrown in a couple extra episodes and sometimes I get tempted and think, "Oh, maybe this week I should do another extra one and find something interesting to do on the side." So I like the weekly because the continuity's a lot better.
Jonathan: Excellent. Well, I'm excited about today's guests, before we get to that though, Bob, we have a couple of sponsors.
Bob: Yeah, we do. Of course, we have WooCommerce, our community sponsor. You should check out their new WooCommerce Payment. That's one thing I'll throw in that has recently come out in the latest version through the Wizard. So if you're looking for a payment gateway, it's slick, it's in your dashboard, you can see what's going on. So there are lots of reasons to check it out.
And then we have a new sponsor, Recapture.io, an email marketing and cart abandonment service for WooCommerce. And WPActivityLog.com, formerly WP Security Audit Log. They're really focused on the activity log of your WooCommerce site, what shop managers and customers are doing, so you'll want to check them out. You'll hear more about the sponsors later in the show, but why don't I swing it on back to you, Jonathan?
Jonathan: Awesome. Well, I'm excited about our guests today. We have with us Hans Skillrud and Donata. Welcome, both of you. It's good to have you with us.
Donata: Thank you so much, we're very happy to be here and very excited to talk about privacy.
Hans: Because who isn’t?
Jonathan: As I was saying before the show, I'm excited about the opportunity for it to become an exciting topic, because I think there's a lot of potential there, especially with a name like Termageddon.
Hans: Thank you very much, we'll try to keep it as interesting as possible. We have a name like Termageddon because we like to keep it light, break the ice a little bit and then jump into the details. It turns out there are people in this world that do monitor privacy laws and help other companies get protected.
How Do Hans and Donata Do the Woo?
Jonathan: That's awesome. Now, before we get into that specifically, one of the things that I was really curious about Hans, is your own background in WooCommerce. This is a show about WooCommerce. The work that you guys are doing is applicable broadly in the world of the web and WordPress, but I'd love to hear about how did you first got involved in the world of WooCommerce? What's your experience been like? How do you, as Bob would say it, "Do the Woo."
Hans: So before Termageddon, I was running a 12-person web agency in downtown Chicago. It wasn't 12 people to start, that was what I built it up to over the course of seven years. It started with just me, and a computer and a little bit more time on my hands than I'd like to admit. Project after project, I found myself building confidence in my WordPress skills and many clients who came along asked for an eCommerce website. I charged too little and did way too much, but I accomplished the goal at hand and learned an amazing tool. WooCommerce was around obviously before then, but for me it was brand new and I felt like I struck gold with the WooCommerce solution.
At that point, probably seven years ago, I had built up a 12-person agency. About 25% of our projects were eCommerce. In fact, we built a lot of what are called Standard Operating Procedures internally. Whenever taking on an eCommerce project, we would have our client agree to our Standard Operating Procedures to help them know that building WooCommerce makes it very easy to get an eCommerce store online. You, the small business owner who may be in more of a brick-and-mortar mindset, also need to invest time and energy into learning. This is a whole new avenue of revenue for your business and you need to treat it as such.
This isn't just a, oh, a sale comes in and I just try to get around to it. No, you have to have people in place to facilitate orders and handle all that. So I've worked with WooCommerce, both on what I just described there with more of the startup type, people that might have an existing business entering into the eCommerce world. WooCommerce has been a fantastic solution. And then we handled large scale. Well, I shouldn't say large scale, because I think that's interpretable for me. Large scale programs where WooCommerce was serving as the backbone to the entire eCommerce experience for its users and administrators. It's been wonderful the whole time.
Jonathan: That's fantastic. And what about you, Donata?
Donata: I actually worked at an agency before too, and this is how Hans and I met. I was the chief operating officer of an agency in Chicago, and then Hans ended up buying that agency. We actually built quite a few websites using WooCommerce as well. I think specifically one of the projects that we were working on, it was a game to be played where you would guess the name of a wine that you were drinking. It's like blind wine tasting.
Our client created this product where it was a box that came with a game and all the things that you needed, and he actually ended up selling that through his website using WooCommerce. It was a great experience because you can adapt it so well to exactly what you need. It's very customizable, but then also at the same time, it's not so difficult where it takes a week to program something. And so I think that's a wonderful solution.
From Licensed Attorney to Website Agency
Bob: How did you get from a licensed attorney to an agency? That's what I'm curious about.
Donata: Well, when I was in school, I had this super boring class called property law, and I was sitting next to one of my friends and he was working at an agency as a salesperson. He said they needed somebody to do operations. And I was like, "You know what, I'm not doing anything after school, apart from studying," I could put in a few days a week there. And it just ballooned from there. So it was very serendipitous, I would say.
Hans: You became a licensed attorney at 21, right?
Hans: So you must I've been doing that at 20 years old?
Donata: Yeah. I became a licensed attorney roughly a year after I started there, I think. And then after that, Hans bought the company. So that's how everything worked out.
Moving Into the World of Privacy Policies
Jonathan: So you guys have this agency background, both at separate agencies and then you started working together. How'd you make the transition into the world of privacy policies? Where did that come into the mix?
I certainly wouldn't want to provide something and say, "You're good to go,” and then they get sued or fined. When it comes to using other generators, I happened to be dating a privacy attorney at the time. She showed me some of the pitfalls or challenges people might be having with those tools. Long story short, she's now my fiancé and is the president of Termageddon.
Then I noticed when I was writing these policies, it was getting monotonous. I was working with small business clients. They all had very similar websites and I was asking them very similar questions about their privacy practices and using very similar language for my clients as well. I noticed that it just wasn't necessarily worth the cost. And I thought what a great idea it would be to automate this because I'm sick of writing the same thing over and over again. I felt like the technology could integrate really well. So Hans and I were talking about it one night over dinner, and that's how the idea for Termageddon came out.
Hans: And this was all the way back in 2016 before GDPR even existed. This was before California proposed their second privacy bill, and Nevada's, and quite a few others and fast forward to now, we are updating our policies. It seems like every two months, because of amendments to existing privacy laws or new privacy laws going into effect.
Donata: Or new regulations and training.
Jonathan: So I'm going to ask this somewhat tongue in cheek, but still I think it will represent what a lot of folks may feel about privacy policies. Like why does it even matter? No one reads them anyway.
Donata: I think it's funny, right? Like no one reads them. I think that was a true statement three years ago. Three years ago, nobody read them, but now a recent study came out saying that 52% of Americans won't use the platform if they feel like it's not respecting their privacy. They won't buy, they will leave your website, they won't use your products, they won't purchase your services.
So something changed in our collective consciousness as a country. And I think the Cambridge Analytica scandal did that. So the Cambridge Analytica scandal propelled privacy forward in the United States. Before then, consumers didn't understand what was done with their data. Didn't really care about it, thought it was just taken and whatever. Ever since Cambridge Analytica, more people are looking into the privacy practices of businesses, but even more importantly, they're pushing their legislators to pass privacy laws that protects their personal information. So while three years ago, nobody read them, the sentiment has completely changed.
Hans: I appreciate that type of question because we don't get anywhere as individuals if we don't ask the question, "Why should I even care about this?" I think Donata's points are important. Privacy is growing. It's becoming more important, not less important over time. And even if we as individuals don't even care about our own individual privacy, the fact is, more and more privacy laws are being introduced that are going to give citizens more rights.
There might not be that many people today thinking privacy is really not that big of a deal. It seems like the trend is absolutely headed in the direction of more privacy rights being issued to more people. And at that point in time, we'll see more people will care as well.
Thanks to our sponsor: This episode is brought to you by Recapture Abandoned Cart Recovery and email marketing for WooCommerce.
Anyone who runs a Woo shop knows how frustrating abandoned carts are. And getting them back with Recapture is easy and setup takes less than 5 minutes. With their ready-to-use emails you can take them out of the box and start working for you right away. You’ll save time having to start from scratch.
Abandoned cart emails are managed for you automatically as the email service runs outside of your store ensuring the best delivery to your customers. Their easy to ready analytics reports will help you to monitor your cart recover. And what’s really cool is you can watch what is happening live on your store with Recaptures Live Cart Feed.
The plugin is highly optimized so don’t worry about it slowing down your site. And their guarantee of email delivery, traffic increase loads and support make it a valuable investment compared to the free plugins out there.
From what I hear, if you sign up you will be joining thousands of merchants who have already recovered over $115,000,000.
Make sure and check them out and as a listener, get 60 days free with Recapture. Just go to Recapture.io/dothewoo-special
And now, back to our conversation.
In general, one of the reasons why people, at least in my experience, won't spend the time investing in reading something, is that they feel it's a pretty low confidence that it's going to be useful or applicable to their situation. I can see how that can be addressed, but in my experience, that was part of when I've read a few privacy policies like, "Okay, did you guys even finish this," what's the point? But what I'm hearing you say is part of that's a time thing. It's becoming more relevant, people are recognizing the need more to care about it. And from my point of view, it's not just the protection and covering yourself.
There's also an opportunity there to convey a message that's in line or that doesn't need to be disconnected from your brand experience. Where it can be an opportunity to educate them. I'm curious about your thoughts on that, right? Like you're dealing with generators, and how do you standardize the parts that need to be standardized, but how can you at the same time make it accessible to people, or not feel so cookie cutter from one to the next?
Cut and Paste Policies, Generated Policies
Donata: For sure. I think one great example of this is compliance with the US-EU Privacy Shield Framework. So it's basically a framework that allows companies to take data from the European Union to the United States. And a few years back, a bunch of companies decided that they were going to comply with the privacy shield and they were going to comply with the privacy shield framework by saying that their privacy policies are complying and then they do literally nothing about it, which is wrong.
Hans: Do you want to speak on the efforts of making our policies readable at a fifth grade reading level?
Jonathan: Oh, yeah.
Donata: It's going to be an endless project for me because the laws keep changing. Every time I catch up, something changes and then I have to redo it all over again. But eventually my idea is to take the policies and make them readable at a fifth-grade level. And each policy can be read in 15 minutes or less. So you take the policy itself, take all of the disclosure requirements that the laws required to make, and then translate that into something that's readable and then run it through a software to make sure that it is readable because something that's readable for me isn't necessarily readable for a fifth grader.
So I finally got to the point where I got most of them translated into this readable format. And then the California Consumer Privacy Act went into effect. And then it all just went out.
Hans: Which was a huge, but it's something we're actively working on to increase the accessibility within the tool we provide to clients. How do we make this readable within a fifth grade education framework and have it be understood in under 15 minutes. We're shooting for under five, but 15 minutes is because, unfortunately, there are some privacy laws that require a whole bunch of disclosures, whether we like it or not.
Jonathan: One of the things that I'm curious about is oftentimes when privacy policies are brought up, first it's painful for folks because they don't have policies and procedures in place to deal with personally identifiable information. They just don't have some of that stuff set up operationally. But overall, in your experience, what are some of the benefits to businesses? Because often it's conveyed from the cover- yourself, protect-yourself standpoint and at least some business owners are like, "Why do I spend my time worrying about what could go wrong? I want to focus on value to my customer."
You deal with this a lot from the perspective of value to the customer and increasing the value that a business is providing. So what are you seeing?
Hans: As someone who's now been fully immersed in privacy, I can say that it is an exciting time to know that one day—I’m in Illinois— one day, I will have the right to tell companies to get rid of my data, and they'll have to listen. I know that might not seem like a big deal, but that is a big deal, that you as a human being have a right to tell companies, "Get rid of my data." So I think, why is this a benefit? It's a benefit to humanity in terms of the right to privacy. And it's a huge step forward in that.
We may have our eyes glazed over and are like, "Why do I care about this?" I certainly was of that mindset for a very long time, but I think that is changing. I think people are waking up to just how easily their privacy can be removed from their lives if they aren't careful about it. Now they will have the right to go back and say, "I want my information to be withheld, or I want you to delete my information."
How it Benefits SEO and Builds Trust
Jonathan: That's a good example.
Jonathan: Awesome. Donata, anything that you'd add or say differently?
And when it comes to comparing yourself to your competitor, if the only difference between you two is that you care about privacy and they don't, those are customers who you are going to be gaining. It's something that people look out for now and care about. I think that as businesses, we all have the responsibility to care about it too, because our customers care about it.
Donata: It's amazing. I've seen a couple of examples of those. So one example that I see quite frequently is on contact forms where people will say, "We promise we won't spam you, or we'll send you love only, or something like that." And that's insane because people define spam differently. So there might be a legal definition of what spam is, and there might be your personal definition of what spam is, and that does not give the consumer any information whatsoever about what you do with their personal information. Are you going to send me email newsletters or are you going to share my data? Or for what purposes are you going to use it? It just doesn't do anything. So to me, that's a very irritating practice.
Jonathan: And it's interesting too, within the world of commerce, folks understand this. You're going to have a shipping policy, a refund policy, there's going to be policies that you oftentimes find perfectly appropriate. You'll find ways to convey the message in something that is appropriate for your brand. But yet you're still going to be clear on the details, right? Because at the end of the day, your refund policy needs to be clear.
Donata: Correct, exactly.
Jonathan: Even if it's broad and generous, that needs to be explicit.
Donata: Exactly. And just because it says here at Butterfly Enterprises, we don't share your data with anyone and it turns out that you send it to MailChimp.
Hans: So often we find that people say, "Well, I don't share my information with anyone," and we quickly find out, okay, when a form submission comes in, it's stored on your local server or it’s shared with your email provider. That helps us unravel and get people to realize, "Wow, I never thought of this." I'll be honest. I didn't think of it either. Like I didn’t even think of it when I created Termageddon as well.
Donata: Well, okay I did.
Hans: No, absolutely. Well, Donata's the newsletter editor for the American Bar Association. So she is the credibility. I'm the lost puppy in a forest trying to find itself out.
But realizing that has been something that I see people's eyes open up when I take them through the process of setting up their policies through our questionnaire. They're like, "I don't share it." I'm like, "All right, well, let's talk about this for a second." They're like, "Oh wow. I share with five different entities." And that's a great example of just the uncovering and the new world we're heading into that we've operated at a million miles an hour. Just trying to be as optimized as possible as a society. And now we are stepping back and realizing, you know what? Privacy is something we got to carry on the back of our shoulders because now it's legally required.
Thanks to our sponsor:This episode is brought to you by WP Activity Log formally WP Security Audit Log. This is something all store owners need to do. Stay on top of things with a detailed log of all store and product changes.
Their comprehensive activity logs that you can use with WooCommerce keeps you on top of what is going on with your shop managers and your team. You will be able to monitor and record when they make changes to products, order and coupons. And notably, it will help you with your store compliances. They make it easy to troubleshoot when there is something going on. In fact, you will be able to configure emails and instant SMS notifications to get alerted of critical changes.
Want to go a step further? You will see who is logged in and what changes are being made in real-time. And if needed, you can mange, limit, block and even terminate any user sessions. This is perfect for membership or subscription sites as it can help you control limitations on single user access.
There is a number of reports you can generate from the activity logs and you are able to use the search and filters for troubleshooting. In a nutshell, stay on top of it all. What is going on, where and when. No better way to manage your WooCommerce store. You can check them out at WPActivityLog.com and click on the activity log for WooCommerce.
Now let’s head on back to the show.
Jonathan: There's some interesting opportunities too, or interesting conversations to have in the world of commerce. When you take a platform like Woo, open source, and a lot of it's how you choose to host it versus some of these proprietary platforms. And they can be explicit, but also you should know what are they doing with the data. Is it yours? Is it theirs? Like, how is that working? And I think that can become a relevant discussion for folks.
Hans: Extremely relevant discussion. In fact, I think it will swing businesses to the extremes. I think some businesses will become very successful because they've respected privacy all the way through. And I think some businesses will have challenges. And I think for some businesses, their DNA is in the hidden selling your data to a broker type model.
But to speak to your thoughts, Bob, I have come across policies where people are putting their own brand and messaging into their wording. And I get it, I'm not an attorney, so I get it. You're trying to have your voice and your consistent messaging and everything. And just to reiterate that, not as point, are you putting your brand into every single element of what you do in your life because maybe that's extreme and probably very expensive. Maybe it's policies, legal disclosures that you may want to have done without sacrificing, or without going too far and just questioning your brand.
Combining Your Policies
Bob: That makes sense.
The Termmageddon Experience
Jonathan: Or all in caps.
Bob: Yeah, it was impressive.
Donata: Good. I'm very happy to hear that.
Bob: And I sell very little on my site, but I write a lot and I do a contact form and all these different things. And I'm thinking, "Man, this is just one less headache," because I remember doing the copy-and-paste. That's what I did with mine. And it was just a nightmare. I would look at it and think through every paragraph, how does this relate to me? How do I make it relate to me? And then you'd go back later and found out you left some one thing in, from the copy-and-paste, that just was either embarrassing, or probably totally screwed up the legality of it. So that wasn't the best way to do it. That's for sure.
Insights with Policies in the eCommerce World
Jonathan: Let's talk about that. Let's start with the world of commerce. So you have a have background in that. With the types of websites that you work with today through Termageddon, what rough percentage are commerce-related versus just general?
Hans: I would say 20% are eCommerce.
Jonathan: Any insights or perspectives you have on the world of commerce? So you already alluded to one of them, you could be selling to a lot of different places and privacy policies are unique. What insights do you have in the world of commerce specifically?
Cancellation and Refund Policies
Donata: I'd say from my personal experience, a lot of people don't know what their cancellation or refund policies are. They really have no idea. "Can a user get a refund? It's my store, but I don't know." That's something that you should really get down to is what your refund policy is instead of doing on a case-by-case basis, because that can be very time consuming. So creating Standard Operating Procedures and a refund policy is really important, at least in my opinion. And then I also see a lot of people who are using Stripe, or third-party payment processors. I think it's important for them to know that should also be disclosed as well. At least in your terms of service, that there's a third party collecting that information because some business owners might not know that.
Hans: The insights that I've seen is that the mass majority of people with eCommerce sites are using WooCommerce as the foundation to their eCommerce platform. And then the second most popular is Shopify. And then it is a steep dropoff. It's crazy. Like there's just a few of random ones I've never heard of. So I thought that was interesting as well. I think Donata had a great point when she said people come to generate their refund policy. Well, within the terms of service, you can have a refund policy or a separate refund policy, but either way, you're coming to that policy not even knowing what that is.
And I think just naturally when getting eCommerce websites going, you are excited about marketing, you're excited about sales. You're excited about all the stuff that happens before the transaction is actually made, but you got to think about the entire user experience from start to finish, and finish is usually 30 days after they've received the product. So my advice always would be know your refund policy, especially your warranties, your cancellation policies. Those are some great things to just think about and it's okay if you don't have one, you just need to disclose you don't have one. But figure it out yourself, what works for you and what you offer.
Jonathan: That's a good point, because they may not be prepared to create one right then. But at least cautiously acknowledge that you don't have one.
Hans: Absolutely. I think a lot of people want to provide a refund policy by default, which makes them all stressed out. I don't know what to do. Like, doesn't everyone offer a refund policy and yes, you remember the refund policy because you appreciate that as a human. I buy stuff from a place that has a good refund policy in case I don't like what I received, but sometimes you're offering things to the world that doesn't really make sense to have a refund policy. And it's escaping me a good example right now. I'm sure I'll think of a hundred later. But you don't have to have one. What's most important is you say you don't have one so that users can make the best decision for themselves.
Hans: Food. That's a great one. Things that expire.
Hans: It's the latter. We both wrote up basically what we had done in the last couple of days and that just stuck. That's awesome. You're the only person who's ever called me out on that, too. So happy wife, happy life.
Bob: Yeah, that was good. You covered yourself well there on the end so, and yes, you're engaged. I see that.
Donata: Yeah. We're definitely clearly talking about each other.
Jonathan: That's awesome.
Hans: We have a lot of fun together. We work from home and we have a nice forest preserve next to us that we find ourselves in everyday, so that's nice.
Jonathan: That's fantastic.
Bob: Very cool. Alrighty, well, announcements. And I guess I could probably have you on every week and you'd have an announcement with all the changes, but could we do a formal announcement on something that recently changed that you think might be important for people to know about?
California Consumer Privacy Act
Bob: All right.
The Pandemic and Growth Online
Hans: I don't really have too profound of an announcement. I would say that over the last six months, we've had seven states propose their own unique privacy bills. And then we had a pandemic, which certainly paused things in legislation, except for California and a few states who actually have added bills. But I think after this whole experience, more people are going to be online. I think there's going to be more demand for privacy and you have this amazing opportunity right now to take the time to learn about it, It's just like anything else in life, it's confusing and intimidating until you learn it. And then, it's really not that bad. I would just invite anyone, now's the time to be proactive rather than be reactive. And that comes by very rarely, at least from my experience.
Jonathan: That's a great way to think about it is there's opportunity for you to provide more value to the customers you serve, especially in the world of eCommerce and being proactive and learning a bit more about it now could help you provide more value and also less pain later.
What’s Up at Woo
Bob: Jonathan, anything exciting going over on Woo?
Jonathan: Always. You mentioned WooCommerce Payments at the beginning, we're really happy with how that's going so far. We've got big plans and intentions for it. And it's now out of beta and we've had a lot of positive feedback. Also, a lot of things happening on the Woo Community side. Meetups are growing, as you can imagine, there's been a stronger than normal growth. Woo has been growing steadily for a long time, but the past few months, there's been a pretty sharp escalation of interest from a lot of different perspectives. So we're doing our best to keep up. But always good things happening. We're going to be at WordCamp Europe in a couple of weeks, with a virtual booth. So even if you're not in Europe, it's a good thing to check out. That's all I got, Bob.
Where to Find Donata and Hans Online
Bob: Well, great show and I was so anxious to get you two on here. Where's the best place to find both of you on the web?
Hans: So I'm on Twitter, @DeepSpaceHans. @DeepSpace, H-A-N-S.
Donata: And you can probably find me on LinkedIn, just search Donata, and you'll find me. And all of our social media is @Termageddon. So Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, it's just @Termageddon and so you can always get in touch with one of us there, too.
Bob: Alrighty. I'd like to thank the sponsors once again, Recapture.io for your email marketing and cart abandonment, WooCommerce.com, just because then you can hang out with Jonathan and WPActivityLog.com and keep on top of your site. Then, of course, I will have links for Termageddon, check it out. If you have an eCommerce store and you're not connected to Termageddon and you've got to get on it.
You can find this podcast on all your favorite apps. You can sign up for my news or listen to my news podcast, and you can become a friend of Do the Woo. I just want to thank you both for joining us today. It was excellent having you on.
Donata: Thank you for having us.
Hans: You both asked a lot of really good questions today, thank you.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.