WooCommerce Builder Tips from the Pros for 2021

Do the Woo - A Podcast for WooCommerce Builders
Do the Woo - A Podcast for WooCommerce Builders
WooCommerce Builder Tips from the Pros for 2021

More than often, in end-of-the-year podcast episodes, highlights from the past year appear. But since I am more of a look into the future kind of guy, instead, I am giving you some tips for 2021.

Tips for Building WooCommerce Sites and Products

We start the podcast with some insights into WooCommerce in 2021

Allen Smith, Developer Advocate at WooCommerce – Allen shares some insights into what will be happening at WooCommerce over the course of 2021.

Tips for agencies

Robert Windisch, Inpsyde – Robert gives his advice about embracing the blog editor and multi-site. Follow Robert on Twitter @nullbytes

Brad Morrison, GoWP – Brad urges you to look at ways to diversity your service offerings. Follow Brad on Twitter @MBradMorrison

Tips for Product Builders

Adepeju Oduye, WooCommerce Marketplace – Adepju shares three insightful tips for Woo builders.

Alex Denning, Ellipsis – Alex brings his perspective is and emphasizes, more than even, to build what people need. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexDenning

Kathy Darling, Kathy is Awesome – Kathy drills it down to listening and finding that niche solution. Find Kathy on Twitter @Kathy_Darling

Patrick Rauland, Nexcess – Patrick points out that when it comes to selling products, data can tell you anything. Follow Patrick on Twitter @BFTrick

Bigger Picture Tips

Jodie Riccelli, WebDevStudios – Jodie walks through some tips on what you can do with your site to ensure the best, possible user experience. Follow Jodie on Twitter @Jodie_Riccelli

Tavleen Kaur, Build WooFunnels – Tavleen gives us some thoughts on whether you should go for ads or choose the organic route for building your traffic. Follow Tavleen on Twitter @NotJustTavleen

A Solid Business (and Personal) Tip

Kandace Brigleb, Needmore Designs – Kandace keeps it simple, yet powerful. In 2021 her advice is to make room for your humanity. Follow Kandace on Twitter @needmore

Enjoy the podcast, Happy New Year and see you in 2021. ~ BobWP

Thanks to our Sponsors

Bob: Hey everyone, BobWP here and welcome to Do the Woo, episode 88.

Well, this is the last show of the year and I wanted to do a little something special. Typically, podcasts will do a year-end highlight from past shows. And although I do like that idea, it’s always hard for me to pick and choose from so many great guests.

Also, I am more of a look ahead kind of guy vs looking at the past. It’s just my nature.

So what I have done is asked some pros in the space to give you some tips around building websites, services and products, all in the Woo ecosystem.

But before I do that, I would like you to listen to Allen Smith, Developer Advocate for WooCommerce give us just a glimpse into woo in 2021.

Allen Smith: Hey everybody. I'm Allen Smith, the Developer Advocate for WooCommerce at Automatic. And I'm here to share just a few updates about what we've got in store for WooCommerce developers as we head into 2021. First, I'd like to point out a couple of things that are currently in progress. The first is that we are working hard to prep WooCommerce core for the end of the Brexit transition period, which is happening January 1st of 2021. It's a very complex overlap of economic, political and geographic domains, but we're working hard to make sure that WooCommerce core can continue to support merchants and developers who are doing business in and around the UK.

The next thing I'd like to mention is the fact that we are working hard to make sure that WooCommerce supports WordPress 5.7, which will be released in the new year as well as PHP 8, which has been phased in over the past several months. We're still kind of working on making sure that we are compatible all across the platform there.

A few things to keep an eye out for: we will be standardizing the labels in many of our public facing repositories on GitHub, which should help streamline the triage process. It should make a more consistent developer experience for anybody who contributes to these projects or files issues, submits pull requests, things like that.

The other thing I'll point out is that we've been doing lots and lots of work around our testing infrastructure and quality engineering, making sure that WooCommerce core continues to be a reliable platform that is built on standardized principles, quality engineering, things like that. So all of these efforts have led to a lot of new utilities, new tooling that we have put together. We're going to be releasing some of that. Some of it's already released, which is really exciting, but keep an eye out for that as we head into 2021.

A couple of things that we will be working on to keep an eye out for, things that we're going to keep doing, I should say, we are going to keep doing developer office hours. We hold those Wednesdays at 1400 UTC in the developers channel of our community Slack. If you haven't checked those out, I would encourage you to do that. We're also going to keep doing our monthly community chats, which typically happen near the end of the month. Although we shifted them around ... We try to be a little bit flexible with those based on release dates and holidays and things like that.

Three big initiatives that we are going to be doing, we have some process improvements that we are implementing in the new year. We're going to be sharing these things called developer advisories. You may have seen some of these already come out in the past few months. We're going to try to do those more consistently, more frequently to make sure that developers are aware of any changes that affect their code. We're also exploring options for helping developers support each other in more efficient and scalable ways than just helping each other one-on-one in Slack. That has limitations. It's a great platform for connecting with each other, but there are some limitations there. We would just want to make sure that that developers have the resources they need to support each other.

I've mentioned this several times already. We are going to be working on some authoritative guides for developing ... for different key areas of WooCommerce. So that might be building an extension or building a theme or building an external app that integrates with WooCommerce. These guides, again, they're going to be authoritative. They're going to be forward facing, so they're going to respect that react based environment and workflow that we see in a lot of the new features that are coming out and WooCommerce.

But we are mindful of the fact that there are lots of developers who are veteran PHP WordPress developers. We want to make sure that we bring you all along for this transition as well. So we want to respect that with the guides that we're putting together as well. We're also looking to put together some guidance that lets people use some of the tooling that we've put together over the past year or so, as we have built out our testing infrastructure and our quality engineering practices.

And finally, I'm a little over time here, but finally, what we're going to be doing is we're going to be measuring developer satisfaction as a dimension of our overall platform and ecosystem health. And now we're still ironing out some of the details of this, but we are going to put together a developer satisfaction score. We're figuring out how we're going to measure it when we're going to measure it and how we're going to go about analyzing that feedback and taking action on it. But one thing to be on the lookout for is that you're going to be hearing from us more frequently in 2021, asking for more specific feedback on what you need as a developer and how we can help you build with WooCommerce.

Bob: That was great hearing from Allen, now let’s listen to a couple of tips for those of you who build Woo shops.

Robert Windisch: Hi, I'm Robert Windisch. I'm the CEO at Inpsyde. As a WordPress agency, we know that urge to not always jump on new things. But I can convince you that every minute spent on the blog editor is well-invested time. You can create more appealing content and help your clients to get ahead of the competitors. With more peoples and companies joining the eCommerce market, you and your clients can profit with the upcoming flexibility of the WooCommerce blogs. If you might be into podcasting, check out the Gutenberg change log, where you have a deep dive into the makings and decisions of changes for the blog editor.

And if you're looking for a hidden champion feature in WordPress, that not everyone has their eyes yet on, it's multi-site. Having one installations to serve multiple different sites gives you an edge from many use cases. For example, you can spin up a new project or shop based on an existing one and quickly start a project for a new demand. For example, we use multi-site often to help clients translate their pages or products.

Brad Morrison: Hi, I'm Brad Morrison from GoWP. One tip I'd share with WooCommerce agency owners is to constantly look for ways diversify your service offering, specifically with upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Extend your current services with premium options and offer new, related services to your existing customers. For example, if you sell recurring maintenance or support plans, you can offer a VIP option at a higher price point and give a faster turnaround time? In many cases, you can just tweak an existing workflow instead of having to add staff or incur new expenses.

And if you're already providing web support, maybe you can leverage your help desk tool and support staff to offer a new white label eCommerce customer service plan to help your clients, customers giving you a new revenue stream. I suggest loading up a spreadsheet with new upsell and cross-sell ideas and then scoring them objectively to see which are worth pursuing. Best wishes for a happy and profitable new year.

Bob: Before we heard the rest of these great tips, I would like to give special thanks to my community sponsors, WooCommerce and PayPal. Without their support, I would not be able to do all I do on Do the Woo. It’s more than just the podcast. Helping me to keep on top of Woo through news and other content, as well as connecting with builders worldwide, either through the site, the upcoming WooCommerce Builder Meetup or in one on one conversations.

So please support both WooCommerce and PayPal, because without them, I wouldn’t be able to Do the Woo.

Moving into the product space. Let’s listen to a couple of tips if you are thinking of starting to build products for WooCommerce in 2021.

Adepju Oduye: Hi, my name is Adepju Oduye, and I manage business development for the WooCommerce marketplace. Here are three quick tips for extension builders who want to get started in 2021. Number one, consider building a theme. Every merchant pretty much needs a theme and it's one of the key first purchases when setting up a store. Plus, themes are critical for engagement and conversion. According to digital marketing firm WebFX, 75% of a site's credibility comes from design. It builds well on the design and code fronts, starting with a theme can be great business.

Number two, focus on the core need and product quality. Once you've identified a merchant need focus on the core features or functionality and build it really, really well. Many of the marketplace inbound submissions we received don't make it past code review. But beyond trying to get the code as lean as possible, also aim for user flow that makes sense. Products that simply function as they should, are easy to navigate, and don't break sites are already at an advantage.

Number three, outsource if and where necessary. One of the amazing aspects of WooCommerce and its open source model is a large community that drives it. So don't feel the need to juggle all roles when building or maintaining your product. Many of our vendors start selling in the market places, individuals or lean teams and use agencies, contractors to fill the gaps or keep focused on the task you prefer. So there you have it, three quick tips when you're getting started in 2021.

Alex Denning: Hey this is Alex Denning. I am the founder of Ellipsis Marketing, which is the marketing agency for WordPress businesses. Bob asked me to talk about building new WooCommerce products in 2021. My role is to look at this from a marketing point of view in the ecosystem. I think the main thing that is true in any year, but especially next year, is to make sure you're building something that people need. There are all sorts of problems which could be solved around WooCommerce, and some of them are big and some of them are small. And that's one of the exciting things about being in a high growth ecosystem.

The important thing to think about when building your product, though, and thinking about which opportunity you want to solve, and which problem you want to solve, is to make sure that it is a thing that people recognize as a problem and are going to spend money on solving. If you can link your products more directly into revenue, then that can make it an easier sell. You can make a revenue justification. You might also solve a problem that's more of an anxiety that people have about their store. Maybe they're concerned about reliability and that's keeping them up at night. There are all sorts of problems that you could sell, but you need to link them together to the need in order to do that.

You might do that through customer research. The important thing to listen out for there is the need behind the need, as we call it. Someone will tell you a surface level reason why they're worried about something or why they would be interested in the problem, but you need to go one level beyond that. What is really at play here? So if the customer tells you that they're worried that their orders won't go through and that's a problem, the need behind the need could be all sorts of other things.

If they're doing client work, they might be worried about getting an angry phone call from their client. I'm losing the client for something that they don't perceive to be their fault, but the client has them on the hook for, and they know that they need to solve that problem. In that case, you would approach that differently to, say, the store owner, who is concerned about their customers down and risking their reputation.

There are all sorts of needs behind the needs that you might find. But just thinking about it through that mindset usually helps uncover a bit more insight. Do that, you'll be able to differentiate your product. Even if you're doing something that someone else is already doing, if you can link it to these needs behind the needs for your customers, then you're in a good place. There is all sorts of products you could build in 2021. And hopefully that helps you find the right thing to build and then have a basic way of getting it in front of the right people and persuading them that you're the solution for them.

Kathy Darling: Hi, Do the Woo. This is Kathy Darling at Kathysawesome.com. I'm the author of WooCommerce Name Your Price, Mix and Match Products and Free Gift Coupons. If you are looking to enter the marketplace in 2021, my top piece of advice would be to be a good listener. If you talk to businesses, ask them what they are struggling to do right now. All of my products emerged from things my current clients needed to do.

While the marketplace is a lot more saturated than when I started, I think there's still space for releasing new products. You can always build a better mousetrap, so to speak. I'd especially recommend looking at the in-between spaces of the marketplace. If a store owner is using three to four plugins, a handful of custom snippets to cobble together what they need, maybe something more specialized would serve their niche better. I hope that helps. And I look forward to seeing what you all come up with.

Patrick Rauland: Hey there, my name is Patrick Rauland. I'm the Product Marketing Manager at Nexcess. I also create courses for LinkedIn Learning on all sorts of eCommerce topics and WordPress topics. I run WooSesh. I organize WordCamps and I also do consulting for clients. And my tip for you is this: data can tell you anything. So I'll give you a 30-second story here. I was looking at some sales data from one of these clients. And at first glance I saw that basically we got a whole bunch of extra sales from my promotion. And basically the promotion increased our sales by roughly 10%. That's pretty good. And based on the success of the sale, I'm like, "Great. We had a good sale. Let's do some more on black Friday. Let's do some more around Christmas. Let's do some more around Easter or whatever."

And then a few months later, for a completely different reason, I was basically looking into adjacent data, data for a different purpose, but I decided to look at them again. And I noticed that one product increased sales by 20% and another product didn't increase at all. And then I looked, once I realized this was weird, at the revenue, and I realized that not only did the sale not boost numbers, but because of that one product that didn't move at all in terms of units, we didn't sell more units of this product, I was basically giving away money by offering a sale on that product and no one extra was buying it, just the same people who would have normally bought it. Fun fact, that's called a subsidy cost.

So my tip for everyone out there is from time to time, and maybe right now, when it's hopefully the holiday season and things are slowing down a little bit, do the occasional deep dive into your sales, make sure that your overall sales go up. That's pretty obvious. Most people do this. Then make sure that you aren't increasing your costs too much. So if I just see an extra 10% sales, you need to make sure your costs also don't go up by 10%. Or in this case, basically, if I see sales go up by 10%, but then I'm giving away 10% of my revenue, that might even out to about a 0% increase in total revenue because the extra sales don't offset the cost.

And then make sure that each product is contributing. And this is something to think about because certain products ... So basically sales are really good. When there's people who are hemming and hawing, they're like, "Do I want this product or not?" That's when sales are great. It takes someone from a, maybe to a yes. But there's many products that sometimes people just don't need. Like, I don't need an extra smoke alarm. So a sale and smoke alarms isn't going to help me. So for people who sell different types of products, make sure that each product is contributing to the sale.

And then I have a mini bonus tip here: learn how to use pivot tables, and pivot tables exist both in Google sheets and in Microsoft Excel. They will really help you uncover this data. They're really good at taking one set of data and then being able to sort of visualize it and sort of combine the numbers in different ways on different sheets, but you still keep the original data in intact. So mini bonus tip, learn pivot tables, but the bigger tip here is from time to time, do those deep dives on your sales data. You want to see sales numbers go up. You want to see revenue go up. And you want to make sure that all of the products in the sale are contributing.

Bob: I know that the next year is going to be ripe for those product builders, so take heed on those pieces of advice.

When it comes to Woo, often tips given to store owners are also powerful tips for you as a builder or products or services. Let’s listen in to a couple of those.

Jodie Riccelli: Hi everyone. It's Jodie Riccelli, Director of Business Development at WebDevStudios. I'm thrilled to be a part of this edition of Do the Woo. I wanted to talk to you today about some things that you can do for your WooCommerce website that can ensure the best possible user experience for your customers. I think in the year 2021, one thing that we probably learned more than anything in the website world is that having a website and having an online presence is absolutely essential. There were so many businesses this year that had the opportunity to find out how they could create the best experience for their clients and for their customers through an online presence. That was one of the exciting parts of this particular year.

But now that you have a website up and running and sales are starting to come through, what can you do to ensure a continuously good experience from this point going forward? Well, I think that the options are really limitless, but when I want to talk about today specifically is making sure that your site is performant and secure. These are things that happen in the backend that sometimes maybe we take for granted because things seem to be going so well on the end. It's important to do security checks on your website to make sure that it's in the ultimate health and then also making sure that the speed of your website is what it needs to be for your client base.

The thing about an eCommerce website that I think is probably more important than any other website is that people are not going to spend money unless they trust the website. Because of this, that's where security performance really comes into play to create that experience for your particular users. In addition to that, making sure that your site is continuously maintained is also very important, as WordPress and WooCommerce and plugins continuously deliver updates that sometimes contain very important security patches. We have the responsibility to make sure that all of those things are updated on our website, again, constantly contributing to the ultimate experience for our client base.

I hope and I wish everyone much success with their WooCommerce websites going into the new year. I think we're going to see a Renaissance age of online eCommerce and I'm very excited to be a part of it.

Tavleen Kaur: Hi, I'm Tavleen Kaur, Chief Marketing Officer at Build WooFunnels. And if there's one advice that I really want to give to all those who are starting out, their WooCommerce store this year, that's this: there is a lot of debate around whether you should invest in paid ads or whether you should go the organic route. And my advice over here is, well, do a mix of both. There isn't a this versus that. There is actually both of them together. If you are creating content, thoughtfully written blog posts around the title, around the topic that you're selling products for, then go ahead and spend some money in putting those pieces in front of the right people. So just do invest in advertising and do not ignore the copy bit.

Again, there is a big myth in the industry that when you are advertising on social, it's the images that matters. It's the videos that matter. But that's not true. It's also the copy that goes along that really matters. So make sure that you do invest time in learning how to craft a compelling copy, an enticing copy for the products that you're selling, and make sure that you put some money on it to bring them in front of the right people. So that's my one advice for you. And if you're starting out, well, all the best to you, and I think 2021 is a great year to start selling online.

Bob: As Woo builders, here is one last important tip to remember. This is good advice for any business, inside or outside the Woo space.

Kandace Brigleb: Hi, I'm Kandace Brigleb, a partner from Needmore Designs in Portland, Oregon. While there's a light at the end of the tunnel, we're all living and working under incredible stresses and unknowns right now. In 2021, my advice is to make room for your humanity. Allow more spaces for kindness and flexibility for both you and your clients. This may take the form of more generous timelines, more forgiving schedules, or it could be something as simple as adding 10 minutes of chat to the beginning of each meeting agenda. Whatever it is for you, make space for your clients and for you to be human, with all that is beautiful and flawed about being a human in this time.

Bob: Well, that does it, 2020 is a wrap.

I’ll end this with a thank you to my sponsors, WooCommerce and PayPal, but also a huge thanks my Friends of Do the Woo. Their added support for my efforts is invaluable.

And of course, I cannot forget you. My listeners. My readers. Those of you who build awesome WooCommerce websites, products and services. You are what makes this cool community of builders.

So cheers, Happy News year and I’ll see you on the flip side.