Taking Clients on the Entire WooCommerce Journey with Alicia St. Rose

Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
Taking Clients on the Entire WooCommerce Journey with Alicia St. Rose
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Alicia has a passion for working with smaller businesses. She uses a unique combination of coaching and development to take her clients through the entire process of building and growing their site or shop.

Listen in as she shares her experiences and tips for specializing in WooCommerce a go-to eCommerce platform plus her involvement as a developer in meetups.

A Chat with Alicia

In episode 101, Brad and I talk with Alicia about:

  • Her start with WordPress in 2008 and her journey to WooCommerce
  • How she sells WooCommerce to her clients
  • Educating clients on whether WooCommerce is the right choice
  • Teaching and coaching clients beyond just the technical details
  • What she thinks is a top priority for developers just starting with WooCommerce

Connect with Alicia


Thanks to our Sponsors


The Conversation

Brad: Welcome everyone to episode 101 of Do the Woo. Bob, we've rounded the corner. We're over 100 and now we have, how do you follow up the hundredth episode? I think we got a pretty good episode to follow it up. I'm excited, but that was pretty awesome, right?

Bob: Yeah. It was. I agree. I think it's always cool to have. Because 101, there's something about that number too. I don't know what it is about it.

Brad: We're about to learn. That's what it is, Bob.

Bob: Yeah. We're going to learn here. That's what we're going to do. Why don't you take it and run with it.

Brad: Class is in session.

Before we get there, we do want to thank our sponsors. Of course the sponsor is PayPal. And many of you probably, everybody listening is very familiar with PayPal. Definitely check them out. If you're running a store, it's pretty much a requirement. You want to make sure you're giving everyone easy ways to pay. Everybody has a PayPal account. Don't make it challenging to give you money. Check out PayPal and all the amazing extensions available for WooCommerce and their pay later option. Definitely dig into that because it can help drive up cart totals and increase conversions. Really cool offering from PayPal. as always, we thank them for being a sponsor.

Bob, let's dig right in because we got a great show and a really exciting guest. I'm excited to meet her and learn a little bit about her story and her journey. Alicia St. Rose, welcome to Do the Woo.

Alicia: Thank you. Thank you for having me here.

Brad: Yeah. We're excited to have you on. Anyone that maybe isn't familiar with you and what you do. We love to ask everyone, how do you Do the Woo? Maybe tell us a story of how you got into WordPress, into website work and specifically into WooCommerce as well.

Alicia: Well, one thing I must point out is that the 101 freeway is the only freeway that runs through Santa Barbara, which is where I live.

Brad: See, it's all coming together, Bob.

Bob: Yeah. Meant to be.

Alicia: Very good guys, very good.

Brad: You would think we planned this.

Alicia: If it was 111, then that would be special.

I got started in WordPress, it was around 2008 and I was just working, decided to work on a friend's site and build it in WordPress. I didn't know you could do that. And so it turned out you could. And I flailed my way through self taught and so I've been doing it ever since and I'm definitely vastly better at it than I was when I started. As far as the WooCommerce aspect, that has really come into play in some unusual cases for some of the clients that I deal with. I haven't really done straightforward WooCommerce. I'm often embedding it or manipulating it with additional plugins for their custom custom usage. What I do is, my company is called WP with Heart and I am strictly by choice, and so I don't get bored out of my gourd, custom work.

I want my clients to get something that fits them like a glove. And so a lot of times the WooCommerce and all of those copious plugins that people have built as add ons, premium or even WooCommerce themselves have provided them or just people on the fringe who cross your fingers, kind of stick around. This thing that I totally am depending on. There's endless possibilities on what I could do with that. Some of the plugins that I've utilized with WooCommerce are FooEvents, which gives you the ability to put an event into the shopping cart and to show up with your product, instead of having it be a separate part of your site. That was helpful, the client only had two products so we had to pad up that little shopping area.

The other one I've used is something called WooCommerce front end marketplace. I'm actually really, really pleased with that one. It enables you to create an Etsy type site, basically mostly vendor, but it's so powerful. And it's packed with so many options that it's actually, I think you need to go take a course to actually deal with that plugin. Also you can do so much with it. And with that one, I'm actually pulling in WooCommerce bookings because it's more of a tutor marketplace, not Tudor, England, but tutors. That would be interesting. People can have their own shop or lesson shop so that they can actually provide lessons. And it works like a marketplace, much like Etsy, something like that. I'm able to do that with WooCommerce bookings and that WooCommerce run in marketplace.

Brad: That's cool. And that's one of the things I think what's interesting about WooCommerce that a lot of people maybe don't realize and one of the reasons I like the show and talking about it is when you think it WooCommerce, you think of online stores. I think naturally we think shipping products, you order something on Amazon, it shows up a few days later. That's our default when you say eCommerce. That's just what everybody defaults to because that's what we know. But that's one of the beautiful things about Woo is it is at its basis, a transactional system. It allows you to buy something and that something could be anything. It could be a physical product, it could be a membership, it could be a ticket to an event. Could be a job post listing. It could be anything.

At its core, it's just a way to accept money and to give them something for that money. And I think stories like that and just hearing some of the different cases, like you said, you like to do things little bit more custom, a little bit less out of the box, really unique for your clients to fit their business. And that's one of the reasons WooCommerce is so popular. I would bet, Bob, I don't know if you have stats around this, but WooCommerce is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms. I would bet the majority of WooCommerce users are actually the smaller stores doing more unique things like that. Versus these massive multi-million dollar eCommerce experiences. I would bet a lot of them are your clients, Alicia. Or your ideal client.

Alicia: Well and funny that you say that. When you're doing the WooCommerce, you have to be sensitive to the client. You can't stuff Woo into the client. Sometimes they're not ready for it. And you have to realize that. And so I do. I have a client or two who are hands off and there's a lot going on in their sites and you can't be hands off when you have a WooCommerce. I mean completely hands off. I don't know where they are, so if you're not ready to be at least checking in on a weekly basis to see what's happening with your site or have a maintenance plan or to actually have a VA or IT person or customer service to deal with that, I'm going to highly suggest you do Shopify or something because you can call somebody and it's just handled for you.

But the drawback is that in one instance, I created a very, very custom experience for a client and they're just really hands off. And we had a discussion that it's not happening. That kind of tension is not being met. And he wants to move to Shopify. And I said, "Well, you're going to have to change your model on actually how you're getting orders and where they're getting delivered." And he actually he's considering changing his business model so he can use Shopify to simplify it. People will have to make those choices. If you're stuck on Shopify and it's not doing what you need, then you might want to look into WooCommerce because a lot of people are going the opposite way too. You have to be careful when you choose them. There is a place for the Shopify, really is. And WooCommerce is for businesses that want to scale. They're going to take on more staff or they're going to be very intimate with the workings of their shop. Otherwise it's woe commerce, W-O-E. I'm just saying.

Brad: It's not Woo, it's woe. That's a whole other podcast.

Bob: That's an interesting point because it seems like more and more people that are building should, especially with WooCommerce even, should be a little bit more in tune with what Shopify has to offer. Because if people are going back and forth, either way, you want to be able to give them fair warning. If they want to move off WooCommerce and go to Shopify, because hey, it's simpler. We'll make sure that, like you said, they don't want to change their entire model. Maybe it's not for them and then vice versa, moving over to WooCommerce. It behooves builders to have a bit more grasp on both of those platforms, even though you may not say you specialize in one or the other, just to help your customer or your client and be informative rather than just say, "Oh no, I'm WooCommerce all the time or I'm Shopify all the time. And it's voodoo if you're going over there because that's the bad news." Instead, make it very easy for them to understand what their options are.

Alicia: Well, I'll elaborate on what you just said. I am WooCommerce only. I will walk him to the dock and have him sail off. To have someone else help him with liquefy because I'm not touching that or whatever they do over there. It's there's so much going on with WooCommerce, I don't have time to do that, but I will keep my ears open for a really awesome Shopify person. And if whatever I have to need to know to vet them, to make sure that the person's getting the right people, I like that kind of information. But as far as learning to do Shopify, there's so much to learn about with WooCommerce it's a whole programming language over there. I think it's something called Liquid.

Bob: Yeah. And it seems maybe just having a bit of a sense of knowing the basic differences because yeah, nobody wants to know. I'm sure there are people that want to know both to the core, but that's insanity for most people. Yeah, just understanding enough to give a good recommendation to say, "Yeah, maybe this is better," rather than I know every little working part and stuff and lead them that direction to, like you said, somebody that knows what they're doing.

Brad: Yeah. I think, Shopify, I think is great for, I'm the first admit I will send my family members to Shopify. Every time they come to me saying, "Can you help me launch an online store?" Yes. I can. Go to Shopify.

Alicia: You know your family.

Brad: Because I don't want to be tech support and have to maintain their store for them. But Shopify, I look at Shopify in the eCommerce world the same way as I look at wordpress.com and the WordPress basis. If you have an idea and you just want to kick the tires and see if it's viable, Shopify is a great way to launch it very quick store, very minimal money and get whatever that product is out there and see if there's a market for it. See if you can actually make it viable. And if it's worth investing your time and your money, you can dip your toe in a little bit with a pretty minimal investment in Shopify. And then if it is viable, then to Bob's point, I think you need to sit down and think, okay, what platform should I exist on for the foreseeable future?

Because obviously once you become successful, moving platforms is a pretty significant cost and then make that investment. That's a good time to say, "Okay, let's go ahead and get over to WooCommerce now." Knowing that it's going to grow and endless flexibility and growth trajectory versus Shopify, where I might get stuck into this. I'll hit a wall at some point, to your point, Alicia, where I won't be able to do what I want to do. I send people Shopify all the time if they just want to try selling something or just test something out and they just want to know if it works. Great. You can probably figure that out for a few hundred dollars versus having somebody stand up a WooCommerce site, going to cost you a little bit more than that. That's the way I look at it. It's not a bad platform, but it's a good way to test out ideas, I think.

Alicia: I have a question too. On WordPress.com, because you mentioned that, I think you can pay extra for the eCommerce platform there. Is that correct?

Brad: There is some eCommerce integration. They've changed it a few times over the years though. Do you know the details on that, Bob?

Bob: Yeah, I think it's a business level option that actually has WooCommerce and specific plugins. I'm not sure. I think there might be a selection of plugins you can get that probably makes it where you could run a store a bit more easily, but then I guess you're still in a sense you're still getting WooCommerce, so it's yeah.

Alicia: I believe they hold your hand over there.

Brad: Yeah. They would hold your hand more. And then that path to, if you needed to go off on .org and kind of host your own, would be a much easier path to take if you're already in WooCommerce, on .com. I'm sure you can export import whatever. Versus if you're on Shopify, it's just a little bit more work. Everything's doable if you have enough time and money or knowledge. But yeah, that's an interesting point. We should try to get somebody on that could speak to that, Bob. Would be curious to learn more about that.

Bob: Yeah. That would be good to get a little more details on that. And one of the things I was wondering, Alicia, do most of your clients end up using WooCommerce on their current site or do they come to you specifically with that need? Or is it a lot of existing clients or clients that already have sites, they just want to add that monetization part to their site?

Alicia: They had the need already. They were thinking about it. Usually even when they come to me and they're not ready for the shopping part, they mentioned it. It's coming. I think most people realize that money is to be had on the internet.

Thanks to our sponsor PayPal. PayPal offers Buy Now Pay Later options that your clients can use to help increase their sales on their WooCommerce shops. They gives store customers more purchasing power through flexible and transparent choices in how and when they pay.

So offering those payment options is good business. Did you know that 64% of consumers surveyed say they are more likely to make a purchase at a retailer that offers interest-free payment options. And 56% of consumers that responded agree that they prefer to pay a purchase back in installments rather than use a credit card.

Well, this seems like a no-brainer to me. Clients can grow their sales and get paid up front with no additional risk or cost.

All you need to do is download the PayPal Checkout extension on the Marketplace at WooCommerce.com. Just head on over, click marketplace and search for the PayPal Checkout. Suggesting that to your clients will certainly open up sales opportunities for them.

Thanks for PayPal for being a community sponsor at Do the Woo. And now back the conversation.

Bob: Moving to another topic. I know Alicia because I have run into her a lot at WooCommerce meetups online. And that's how I met her initially and how we've kind of gotten to know each other through that. I would like an opinion from you as a developer. I think a lot of developers don't get involved with WooCommerce meetups or other meetups because they always feel that it's too much basics. And it's true. There really are. A lot of them are focused on merchants and people and learning, kind of the basic stuff so they maybe, they feel they get bored or whatever. Obviously you find value in continuing and I'm sure with this mini WooCommerce, you might probably even go to WordPress meetups. What do you find the value as a developer or somebody that does this work in those kind of meetups?

Yes, I go to about eight meetups. I've got two today, Wisconsin, Idaho, Portland, Montclair, New Jersey. I'm going to all of them. If you're a developer, you're not supposed to be just developing code, you're developing a relationship with your client and their product. And if you don't do that, you're not going to give them the product they deserve. When you go to those meetups and you hear about people with different products and the issues that they're having, then you get a personal human insight into the situation. There's many, many horrible WooCommerce websites. They're horrible, just to be real. They don't care whether they're assessable. They don't even look into that. That's a huge thing right now. There is no way that whatever they're doing, showcasing or even the verbiage for the product is working in a marketing sense. And they just don't know the client.

They're using an off the shelf theme and just throwing WooCommerce in it. And so when you get to go on that adventure with the client and learn about, that's why it's kind of sad about the one who's going to eventually end up on Shopify, because there's a whole location, delivery system, bottle deposit and bundled products. This whole thing, but it looks like so geeky, anal stuff to code and manipulate WooCommerce with. And it was really, if you're a developer, no one else has that. And it's exactly what he needs. And I would have to know his story in order to do that. And so if you're not listening to people like that or going to those meetups, you're missing out on development because you just going to get a bunch of tricks that you think you know, and then just try to give them to everybody. And so that's why, I can't actually, I've never done it like that. I learned everything that I know by taking on clients and letting them take me to new knowledge. Every single time.

Brad: That's a great answer. And it kind of bleeds into my next question was, you are clearly kind of focused on the DIYers and the hands on entrepreneurs. You put it on your website. Seems like I was going to ask how you were drawn to that and those type of clients and work with those individuals. I think you kind of half answered it or maybe fully answered it.

Alicia: Friends don't let friends go to Wix or Squarespace.

Brad: There you go. Or Shopify.

Alicia: Or Squarespace. I'm sorry. Don't come after me because I got enough of the market. Okay. Okay, so I am a developer too. And I do several things. I develop, which takes up most of my time, actually working with clients. And I also do one on one coaching with people who don't have enough money to pay me to make their website, but want to do it themselves. And I'm standing at the edge of the cliff stopping them before they start dragging and dropping because dragging and dropping should only happen on the dance floor. Dragging and dropping without knowing what they're saying or who they are, what they're doing. That one on one coaching, we don't even start building a website for six or seven sessions. We're actually finding out why are you doing this? What's your content strategy? What is the pain points? What's this and that? Things that no one thinks about when they do their own website. And then I don't know, it turns into a sh*t show.

I don't know if I get beeped here, but that's why it's happened because they didn't actually think about what they're doing or they have marketing, just basic marketing ideas. And so by the time we get into several sessions, they're really clear on what they want to say. They're excited about what they're doing. They kind of know what kind of people they want to approach or have come to their website and who they don't want. And so that's the most, that's the only thing really missing from the DIY scene is that people don't do that first. They just go and they start dragging things around and then they have them there with lorem ipsum and then they try to stuff it in with stuff and it has nothing to do with what they're doing. And so that's why I did that. I wanted to save them from themselves.

Bob: That's an excellent point because I was just going to mention when I was doing coaching for years and years and years, I had a handful of clients that I probably had for five or six years, those clients. And it was exactly, they learned to how to sit down and really talk through things before they even started moving the mouse. It was like, Bob, I'm thinking about this. And they were willing to pay the coaching price to sit down with me and just talk it over. And once you got them, there was a lot of things I talked them out of. No, you don't want to do that. And they totally said, "Thanks. You just saved me a lot of headaches." It is those, especially if you can find those clients that are welcome and open and they start to understand that whole process, it makes a huge difference.

Alicia: Well, the other thing is I also, it's called WP with Heart. It's my whole business. That was the coaching. And now I just made the whole thing because it's also a mindset portion I add to it because a lot of times when they're building those sites, they're trying to copy someone else because they don't have anything to go by. They're like, "Well, this person has this, they have this on their navigation." I'm like, "That's that person. And they probably copied somebody else, but who are you?" And so I want people to be authentic. And so even if it deviates from what they think is the norm, they're going to stand out. I'm trying to pull out who they really are so they can put that out on the web. That's really important.

Brad: Really anything in life, there's a big lesson there, pre-planning and then the execution and how much pre-planning you do. Preparation is going to impact how successful that execution is. And to your point, really sitting down and asking business owners questions that they probably have not been asked. It sounds like, at least your clients. And some of them have not been asked and if they have, not by someone other than themselves. It's fascinating.

Alicia: They're finding out things like what's cornerstone content? They're finding out about this stuff. Or some of them have never even had an email campaign capture. And they're like, all these people on Facebook. I'm like, I know someone whose account was closed last week. They can't take your email, so you have to build your email list. Or just learning about things like this. And you won't learn. If you build your own, they have this little email thing that comes with it, but that's not the same thing. It's not a marketing tool.

Brad: Yeah. It's more than just you building out the sites. You're a coach, you're a consultant. You're the whole thing, which is honestly way more than a lot of companies out there are doing. A lot of companies are just, tell us what to do. Task takers, I like to call it. Tell us what to do. We'll do it. But most people out there don't want a task taker. They want a partner. They want an extension of their team. They have someone like you with the knowledge that you have, with the reasons why you should do something or maybe not do something. To challenge their assumptions of what should be on their website or what makes a good website, because they're not the pros, you are.

Alicia: I know. I would fail them if I was a yes person.

Bob: Anything else you want to share before we end the show? Something that just especially your site's very unique. I think how the approach of it and stuff and kind of maybe what, if people, other builders are listening and they're saying, "It sounds like Alicia's starting to wrap her brain around WooCommerce, things are going pretty groovy for her." Anything you want to advise to the builders that are just getting into WooCommerce?

Alicia: Definitely learn about hooks and filters, even if you're getting into WordPress period, because that's going to help you as a developer to extend WordPress, because it might sound a little esoteric, but once you do a little research on Google and even there's probably some YouTube videos. And when you see the power of just hooking into areas of WooCommerce, basically changing the position at the sales page and the content there by simply changing the number on which it fires, simple things like that without having to go into a template.

Bob: All righty. This is been excellent. Really appreciate you taking the time to join us. Great conversation. Learning about all you do with DIYers. Good stuff. Where can people connect with you on the web?

Alicia: You can find me at wpwithheart.com. I'm also Intrepid Realist on Twitter, WP with Heart on Facebook, Alicia St. Rose on Facebook. I have a professional page there and oh my God and any awesome help desk meet ups, especially the one in Portland that's on Tuesdays, the Portland help desk. And I also have my own meetup in Santa Barbara called the South Central Coast WordPress Adventure Group.

Bob: Cool. Excellent. Wow. You're everywhere. We can find you everywhere.

Alicia: Well, you can find me those places.

Bob: All right, well, everyone appreciate you tuning in. Like to give PayPal one final shout out for their pay later options. Always check that out. Next Thursday, we are having Alan Smith, developer advocate at WooCommerce, on the Woo Builder Community event. Go to meetup.com, look for Woo Builders. This is March 11th, 10:00 AM Pacific standard time. It's going to be asked Alan anything. You'll be able to ask him about all the stuff he does over at WooCommerce. Should be a blast. Join us then and again, thank you so much for joining us today, Alicia.

Alicia: This was awesome. Thank you for having me.

Bob: All right, everyone. Have a great week and Do the Woo.