The Art of Growing and Building the WooCommerce Community

Do the Woo - A Podcast for WooCommerce Builders
Do the Woo - A Podcast for WooCommerce Builders
The Art of Growing and Building the WooCommerce Community
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In this episode, our Woo Roundtable panelists have a conversation with Jonathan Wold, Community Lead for WooCommerce.

The roundtable gives the Do the Woo panelists the opportunity to question someone from WooCommerce.com, and in turn the guest is able to ask the panelists questions and get perspectives from the diverse background they bring to the table.

The conversation around the WooCommerce community is lively and filled with insights, so listen in as Ronald Gijsel, Robbie Adair, Robert Jacobi and Christie Chirinos chat with Jonathan.

The Conversation

Bob: Hey everyone. Episode 112 of Do the Woo Podcast and this is Bob Dunn. We have a very, very interesting podcast for you this time around. What we're doing is we have a round table. We call it the WooCommerce round table with some panelists, and they're going to bring in somebody from woocommerce.com, ask them some questions and in turn, the guests gets to ask the panelists some questions. Anyway, it makes for a very lively conversation.

So we're going to dive into that, but before I do just a quick shout-out to one of my pod friends, 10up. If you're looking for a way to really beef up your e-commerce store search, try ElasticPress by 10up. Its lightening fast search was apart for faceting and auto complete giving your customers the experience they expect. Now, all you have to do is head on over to elasticpress.io, use a promo code, "Do the Woo" and you'll get 10% off your six months. So check out our pod friend 10Up and their plugin ElasticPress.

So let's dive right into the show.

Ronald: So, this session is all about us, the community, together with my panelists to learn what WooCommerce is up to. And for that we've invited Jonathan Wold in the purple chair. So we're going to ask you a lot of questions, but you can also ask us a lot of questions, not sure if you're going to get the answers that you really want, but together we'll have a really good discussion. So first of all, let me introduce the panelists before I get back to you, Jonathan. Robbie, welcome.

Robbie: Hi.

Ronald: Introduce yourself a little bit on what you do? Who do you work for?

Robbie: Sure. I'm Robbie Adair and I'm CEO of OSTraining and Media A-Team. So I have an agency where we actually do work with Joomla, WordPress, WooCommerce, and then I have a training company where we train people how to work with Joomla, WordPress, WooCommerce, all other types of a CMSs and web technologies, and I'm in Houston, Texas.

Ronald: Great. So you've been in the open source-

Robbie: A long time. Very long time. Well, I can't say how long.

Ronald: Do you remember the first time you worked with WooCommerce when you came across it?

Robbie: Wow, it was a very long time ago and actually oddly enough, my first experience with WooCommerce came through Joomla because I was actually connecting a Joomla site over to a WordPress database to pull some information about products out of a WooCommerce on a WooCommerce tables and filling it up to show it into a dashboard into Joomla. And so I had to jump into WordPress and learn WooCommerce to figure out where everything was being housed in the database, so I could pull it over and display it on a dashboard for their executives to see what was going on in their WooCommerce.

Ronald: Great. Just quickly, if people want to get in touch with you, what's your favorite platform, social media, or way to contact?

Robbie: LinkedIn. Twitter. I'm Robbie Adair on just about every platform you can find out there. I'm pretty easy to find.

Ronald: Nice. Great. Robert Jacobi, hello, familiar face on everywhere I think,, on every platform really. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Robert: Thanks, Ronald. I love it how Robbie and I may be some of the biggest Joomla experts around and we're doing a WooCommerce panel.

Ronald: Critics.

Robert: I'm an industry analysts and strategists working with companies trying to get into open source, primarily WordPress and WooCommerce, as well as providing media news and opinions at my new site, robertjacobi.com.

Ronald: Great. Do you remember the first time you came across WooCommerce?

Robert: Hey, look, I've known the name for a long time. I think the first time I actually like looked at it, it was probably three or four years ago. So I'm probably the youngest Woo person here.

Ronald: Great. Christie, you are sort of the third set of panelist of this little game, and tell us a bit about yourself. Who do you work for? Where do you live?

Christie: I don't think you're the youngest Woo person here, Robert. I think that might be me. This may be a competition now. I'm not sure. My name is Christie Chirinos, I'm the product lead for managed WooCommerce hosting at Nexcess by Liquid Web. We have the hosted WooCommerce offering on our catalog, that includes WooCommerce support as well as all your regular hosting where's backups, migrations, speed, optimizations, things like that, but we also do things that are important to people running WooCommerce at scales, like on demand performance testing, like custom hosting solutions. We're running big, big, big WooCommerce stores. We have people who are pulling in 10 million, 13 million, 40 million using WooCommerce. So it's a really interesting place to be. Our merchants are really interesting and they're really doing the most that you can imagine with WooCommerce. Super exciting. I am in Austin, Texas, and yeah.

Ronald: Nice. Nice to have you here and If people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way?

Christie: I am actually taking a break from social media, so I don't know how to answer that question for the listeners very well right now. You can send me an email, I guess.

Ronald: Yeah, or just put a stamp on the envelope and send you a postcard.

Christie: Oh, you know what? We have christiechirinos.com/contact will send me an email. There we go.

Ronald: I see. Thank you. So we have a wide range of expertise and backgrounds from our panelists and on the other side, on the purple chair, we have Jonathan Wold. Hello, Johnson. I'm really happy you are here with us. So for those who don't know who you are, which I, again, doubt because you're a regular on the Do the Woo as well, introduce yourself. What do you do? What's your role within WooCommerce?

Jonathan: Just before I do that, are you going to introduce yourself, Ronald?

Ronald: I should really, isn't it? My name is Ronald. I work for a company called YITH, we create WooCommerce plugins. I also co-host WooCommerce London meetup, and now I'm somehow involved in this, which I think is great, but no, it is actually something that Bob and I have been talking about for quite some time where we want to connect WooCommerce with the builder community so we can see both perspectives. And this is really the round table discussion. I mean, if you want to get in touch with me, I think Slack through WooCommerce, is probably the easiest way.

Jonathan: And kudos to Bob behind the scenes wrangling the transitions and everything. So I'm Jonathan Wold. I am responsible for our community initiatives here at WooCommerce. A lot of my time is spent working with the meetup space. I also work with our Facebook group, WooCommerce live, some of our education initiatives. I am based in beautiful North Idaho, in the Pacific Northwest here in the US, best place to live. And, what else? I was thinking about when did I first come across Woo. Does anyone remember WP eCommerce back in the day, there was this thing before Woo, that existed, that I remember using and bless all those who were involved in it. It was pretty painful to use. I was really happy that it existed. Yeah. I was there when Woo first sort of came around. I remember some of the early controversy in the community about the whole Jigoshop thing, we don't talk much about it anymore, but what I loved about it was this focus on, okay, let's make it a better user experience. And it was just a delight to use, especially compared to other options that were available.

Ronald: So what was your route into WooCommerce or Automattic? Looking at the last couple of career moves, how did you end up where you are now?

Jonathan: Yeah. Good question. A lot of my time has been in development in the WordPress ecosystem. I did a bunch of freelancing for many years, spent quite a bit of time in the agency world, worked at a large agency called SWP for about five years before I did some consulting on my own. And then I started talking to Automattic and I got offered the opportunity to work in community. Which, interestingly, I didn't really realize until after it's been a pretty thread throughout my career of interests. I've been involved in communities online since I was a teenager. So it's been pretty cool to see it come full circle and I love what I get to do here.

Ronald: Brilliant. Well, hopefully you'll get to tell us a bit more about it. So before the show, we talked a little bit. One of the topics that we sort of discussed was what sort of happened last year. Robbie you had a really good comment.

Robbie: Yeah. Let's get the COVID out of the way, right? The pandemic. Yeah. Exactly. So I was thinking about it whenever we were talking about you coming on the show and I was like, Wow, as a community manager facing a pandemic were all in-person events are canceled across the world, I'm sure that totally changed the landscape of your role and your job. And so I wanted to find out where did you go? How did you morph and change to be able to connect with community? And the second reason is, because I feel like because it's kind of splintered now, right? Online. And so I think for our listeners too, hearing where you are, places that you're seeing, it might tell them of other places they don't even know exist or where they should be looking. You know?

Jonathan: So, when I came into the role one the... And there's these kind of undertones of like, COVID was starting to... Because my timeline's all sort of messed up right now. It was like this was years ago, right? I was planning for 2020 and a big emphasis of my 2020 planning was to make it easier for our meetup organizers to have venues accessible to them. I was working on a whole program for venues and how we would sponsor the venues. And I said, well, I need to get some practical experience in this as well. So I picked a local venue and I launched my own local Coeur D'Alene meetup. And it was on a Wednesday that I hosted the first local Coeur D'Alene WooCommerce meetup. And by Friday I had announced that we'd be closing all in-person meetups. This was in March of this last year.

So one of my strengths is being able to adapt quickly to changes. So that's exactly what happened. We got Zoom pro accounts for anyone who wants to use them in the meetup side of things, and we switched to virtual. I noticed a couple of things, those who are really used to in-person, they struggled with the transition because it is different. But it actually turned to, from my perspective, to be quite positive very quickly because, and I was surprised by this. So my own Coeur D'Alene meetup has grown, and there's quite a few local folks. And I started hearing from a few of the locals that they like this better than in-person, which surprised me. And that's mixed, I definitely hear people who are like, we prefer the in-person, but the thread that really came out of it was that these virtual meetups lowered the barrier of entry.

It made that experience of connecting to community and having those personal connections, a lot more accessible to folks. The other thing that really surprised me, because early on I tried this thing of like, okay, they're going to be virtual, but they're going to still be locally focused. I mean, that's important. The Coeur D'Alene meetup is for folks in Coeur D'Alene. I already knew. Well, obviously we're not gonna exclude everyone because that's one of our values, we want to be as inclusive as possible. But I was like, I kind of hope people stick to their local areas. And then I felt some early frustration when I was noticing people were not doing that. They're kind of going all over. I said, wait a minute, John. This was like an internal battle in my head because externally I was like, yeah, of course this is good.

And then I started to notice what was happening. People were, "virtually traveling the world." People in my Coeur D'Alene meetup would come in like, yeah, I was in London this morning and I was that the London meetup and talking about how awesome that was. And I was like, wait a minute, this is actually pretty incredible that people are able to... They're getting the local flavor because each of these meetups has this local base to it, but they're starting to... I was thinking about gardening and growing things and sort of cross pollination that's been able to happen. So, yeah, it's been quite a year for meetups and I've just been really impressed with how folks have stepped up. And what I'm seeing consistently, too, is that with a year like this there's been actual need in the merchant community for support and for help. And they've been finding that in meetups, they've been finding that in the Facebook group. And splintered? Yes, but I've seen it as more of a positive than not. And for me, it's laying a strong foundation for when we do start to be able to do like in-person things again.

Ronald: Yeah.

Robbie: I think it's kind of crazy too, because this year actually I would feel like you've probably had more people come into the community than ever because more and more e-commerce has happened this year than, I mean, exponentially over the other years. And so I see a lot of it too, and that's why I was saying, I'm like maybe on a Facebook group over here or a Slack group over here and so it's kind of disjointed, but also in every one of those places, I'm seeing new people.

Jonathan: Yeah. Very much.

Robert: I totally want to tag onto this one because I think what you guys have been able to do it will around the virtual space is great because frankly, I didn't really think of Woo as having a community at all prior to 2020. I mean, you guys are WordCamps, but I don't think of it as there being a Woo community other than, Oh, that's just another vendor sponsor product, whatever. So I'm curious to see what your, maybe, tact for when we start getting in person again, will be to kind of maybe change that, just for me. This is all about me. Change that idea for me.

Jonathan: Yeah. Just two quick thoughts on that. The first, when I came into the role, I really have, if I can boil down the work it's in two categories, the first is to support what's already there. To your point, sometimes it's not apparent, but there is a community that's already there. And a lot of it draws from WordPress, but e-commerce is its own kind of thing and it wasn't as apparent at first. And a lot of my work has been to support, like talking to meetup organizers, like, Hey, how can I just give what you're already doing more visibility? And then the other part of my focus is what can I do to help the community grow?

So it's already there. I'm not starting from nothing. A lot of times it's like, how can I just get out of the way and provide resources and support, so it can do its thing? But then there's quite a bit to do where it's like, yeah, we can actually help grow this. We can get pieces connected that weren't connected before. And I think your experience, Robert, isn't unique, like people go, Oh, wow, what? There's a lot. Those who are in it, see it, but from the outside, it can be easy to miss. And I want to change that because it's pretty incredible.

Ronald: Do you think there will ever be a WooCommerce WordCamp style event? I mean, I know there have been in the past, but is there something that could happen again out of this?

Jonathan: Yeah. Very much so. I mean, one of the things I've had a lot of fun with was this idea, WooCommerce live. Right now it's all virtual, but my longterm sort of dream for it is to turn it into an in-person event with a first-class remote experience. I think about like the world of sports and gaming and when you're there in person, you get some really unique aspects, but you're not penalized for being home, right? In terms of the content experience. A lot of events right now have been the other way where it's like, maybe they'll throw a camera up and live stream it, but it's not really a first-class experience.

What I'm interested in seeing is that, yeah, we're absolutely going to have in-person experiences and we're going to make them accessible for those who can't make it out. They're not penalized for not being there. Yeah, but it's a different. Just different is what it is. You can't replace enjoying a meal together with someone, right? But in terms of the content and making e-commerce more accessible and just the general things that we're working towards, that's a big thing for me, is going forward, we won't sacrifice that, and we'll add the value of in-person.

Ronald: Yeah. Christie, do you get involved in the community and how do you find it? Or do you have a sort of a community-related question for Jonathan? As part of who you represent as a host and all, and also it's really interesting what you said earlier that you represent the small businesses, but the really big, large enterprises as well.

Christie: We have small businesses on the platform too, especially right now. We just rolled out the store builder feature, so it generates a storefront for you. So we've got all sides of it, and I know that our team in particular is really involved with the community as well. But what's community? I think I forgot in the last year, it's been so hard without the in-person events for a lot of us. I'm definitely one of those people. And we've seen some involvement with virtual events. I definitely did the travel the world thing myself personally, and that was really fun. I got to go to some of the virtual events happening in East Asia and places that I've never been to.

We were even involved in putting together some content for some of the other international meetup groups. So it was really fun and interesting. And at the same time, the pandemic has been such a challenge. There's upsides and there's downsides. You mentioned that with the e-commerce surge, that has probably changed the dynamic of virtual community. In my world, that also changed the dynamic of my work with hosting. We're frontline into, Oh, your load just spiked up 2000%. And it has been a challenging year without a doubt.

Ronald: Yeah. Jonathan, what do you do as community to reach out all over the world? Like try to represent all parts of that. What's your sort of tactic to make sure that everybody's included? I know you've said the word inclusivity.

Jonathan: The starting point is to care about it, and that's something that... But where do you begin there, right? It's something that I do care a lot about. If we are going to democratize commerce, that's not for English speakers in the US, right? And I think it helps a lot that Woo's origins are international. It started in South Africa, WordPress itself is really like an international project. So a lot of my work right now is like, begin, because community's already there, there's already a lot happening in different parts of the world. How can we acknowledge and recognize and support what's there. And on a personal level, I've spent a lot of time over this past year learning Spanish, just to build up a better appreciation for internationalization, and the fact that English is only a language in the sort of the broad scope of things.

So I think it starts on that part. One of the things I'm excited about, we're going to be doing our first WooCommerce live Spanish event next week, and that's exciting. As much as I wanted to, like, I won't to be participating in that one, my Spanish isn't quite to where it needs to be for that. But yeah, it's something where we are making conscious investments and the good news, because there's a community that's already there, a lot of my time is been, Okay, let's meet with folks over in Asia and find out what they're doing and where their blockers are and what can we do to help give them resources and supports, and then just make sure the other aspect of my role is making sure that the product team is people making decisions are thinking about, needs beyond English speaking audiences.

Christie: Oh, you just really caught my attention. The one sort of Latin American WooCommerce meetup that I know about is actually the one in Lima, Peru, because fun fact, that's my hometown. I don't know if any of you knew that.

Jonathan: Oh, nice.

Christie: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I've been familiar with that one, but what other efforts are going on with WooCommerce community in Latin America? I'm super curious.

Jonathan: So next week you'll want to check out the WooCommerce live Espanol, which is based in Lima, meetup requires you to pick a location. I'm excited about that. So that's an event that's going to be getting started from my idea to first customer focused on getting started in e-commerce, but all going well, my intent is for that to serve as a launch pad for an ongoing WooCommerce live series that's focused on Spanish. So that's one example. I mean, the community down there, I should say like the Spanish speaking community, because Spain is actually also quite active. They're doing a lot of cool stuff. Yeah.

Ronald: Do you also engage with product developers and companies that provide services in Spanish to build up sort of an ecosystem that maybe sits alongside the global or English speaking?

Jonathan: Yeah. That's the advocacy hat, right? When people ask questions or they say, Hey, what do we do about this? Then that's where I'll go in like, Hey, like this. Hey, how do we get into the marketplace? Here's the steps. Here's what your crew need to do. We have started to work on adding translations to the WooCommerce marketplace for different languages. So that's an ongoing effort. One of the things I've had to adjust to is, despite my intentions, when it involves someone other than myself, and there's a lot of other teams involved, things just tend to move slower than you'd like to. So I do what I can to say, "All right, how can we make progress over here without relying on the already strapped product teams at WooCommerce to get more done." And I've seen a lot of positive things that the community is very involved in translation and the team, rightly, I think is focused on tools to make translation, that process more accessible because there's people who are happy to contribute. how do we make it easier for them to contribute to WooCommerce?

Robbie: How do they, by the way? If they want to contribute, how did they do that? Where would you send someone?

Jonathan: Yeah. So there is some documentation I'll have to, I'll grab a link. We can include that afterwards on what that workflow looks like. There's the core discussion of how you contribute to WooCommerce core, but they're also working to make it easier to contribute to extensions in the marketplace, because right now, at least historically has not been a clear process to doing that. And that's something that the marketplace team prioritized in the last quarter. They've been continuing to work on that.

Robbie: Nice.

Christie: I'm kind of curious about how boosting community in places like Lima, but also in other communities, and other WooCommerce communities in Latin America place into product, right? Because you can boost community, you can push translations, but there's also a ton of other interesting product considerations going on there. We see them every day. Things like we can't use the same payment processors that Americans use. Taxes. Even shipping, right? A setup for tax shipping is confusing for an American merchant, how does that work when you're living somewhere where the postal service doesn't work the way ours does, right? Are we letting local community leaders take the lead on that? Sort of what are we doing in terms of the content program for that kind of stuff?

Jonathan: The short answer for that, part of the role of community, as I look at it is to be an advocate for our community, and it includes local areas. So what that looks like in practice is going into local community and understanding like, all right, who are the processors? What are you using? What are you using for shipping? What are you using for payments? What are the integrations that are really strong here? And then making sure that the partnerships team, the product teams are aware of that like, "Hey, this community here is active. They're doing things. This is where they're feeling blocked right now." And those are fairly regular types of conversations I'll have with communities in different parts of the world. And the partnerships team does a fantastic job. I mean, it's a small team, there's a lot going on, but I see that feedback loop working, where they're saying, "Tell us, what are the needs? What happens?"

You can't meet them all, but the loop is happening there. More recently we've been looking at... I've had some conversations with some of the folks in Asia where they're like, yeah, we want to do more with, we want to help WooCommerce grow in these areas. We need better options on the hosting fronts that are localized for that. So that led to, Okay, let me have a chat with some of the hosting companies that focus on these regions and that do WordPress, can we help unblock them with WooCommerce so that there's strong local options in local languages. And that includes the payment partners and shipping, et cetera. So, it's making sure that the folks making decisions, and that's part of what I was hired to do, are aware of the needs of these local communities and that I'm advocating for them and making sure that those are making their way into the roadmap.

Christie: Right. And they shouldn't be driving, right? Our world has an existent history of large industrialized nations and posing the way we do things on other countries. And if we're democratizing commerce, let's not do that. Let's let them lead.

Jonathan: If anything, that's part of our key competitive advantage.

Christie: Right.

Jonathan: Because Shopify's disadvantaged and these proprietary platforms ends up being this sort of top-down like, this is what's for everyone. And we already know that about WordPress and it's, I think, equally true and especially true with Woo. I mean, perhaps even more so with WooCommerce because of how unique local environments can be. That's a big reason why having the meetup emphasis be regional and local is because needs are very different. So I think it's a huge advantage for Woo and that's why I'll continue to advocate for it. And I see really strong, positive responses from like, we get it. Yeah. We get it. This is how you do it, you don't just have one thing, you figure out how do you play to the strengths of the needs of merchants in wherever they may be.

Ronald: I'm just going to pass it to Robert for one final question from our side, before we turn the table.

Robert: Oh, I get the final question.

Ronald: You get the final question, make it a good one.

Robert: It'll be a good one and it's follow-up, actually, from what Christie mentioned about how Woo supports, financially, the communities because that was one of the questions. Is there going to be financial support? Is there, should there be, I would like there to be, why not a Woo camp? So we have our WordCamps, shouldn't there be a Woocampcentral.org that kind of filters and supports a very vibrant and sort of semi-separate community than just regular WordCamps?

Jonathan: It's a good question. I do think about this a lot and it comes up a lot. I'm not sure. I think where it makes sense, I want to draw all the best from what the amazing team at .org does with events. I think it's fantastic. There are things about Woo that are different in terms of it's more commercial nature, not just that there's a business behind it, but that of what the community actually cares about. I came into this expecting people to be a lot more sensitive about things like WooCommerce making money, and they're like, No, we get it. We're here to make money and we want to have confidence that the tools that we're using are viable, et cetera. So the short of it is like, yeah, I want to see that happen.

The question for me is, what's the right approach? And right now, especially with the year that we've had, it's like, all right, let me focus on what's here. And what I'm encouraging regions to do is I'd like to see events happening in regions. I've been thinking about this under the auspices of this WooCommerce live brand, as something that, okay, let's have WooCommerce live Espanol, WooCommerce live Europe, or kind of whatever. Whatever makes sense, but I want to do whatever makes sense to support this community and help it grow. And I can see a Woo camp type construct, making sense, whatever we ended up deciding to call it. So, we'll have to see how it evolves.

Christie: Yeah. I would be curious, Jonathan, if you've seen the same pattern that I think I've seen, which is we're starting to see people come in to WooCommerce from the top, right? "Oh, I need an e-commerce platform." What's this WooCommerce thing? Wait, what's this WordPress thing underneath?

Jonathan: Exactly.

Christie: We see that especially with sort of features like what we're rolling out in the hosting world, right? Like having this fully integrated e-commerce platform, having a storefront generator like store builder, we're getting more and more of those conversations. And so as those grow, well, question one is, are you seeing that on your end too? And question two, sub question, is what are we going to do about it?

Jonathan: So, yes. I'm seeing that. And actually that's a good... I'm glad you brought that nuance because that's part of my hesitation, Robert, with just saying, Oh, we're going to do WooCamp because that is a construct and a framing that's very familiar to people in WordPress. So in principle, yes, in practice, I want to make... WooCommerce is increasingly becoming, this is sort of my bias perspective, I think WooCommerce and e-commerce as a whole within the WordPress ecosystem is a key to WordPress's continued growth and future. And which is to say, I'm seeing people who are coming in to say, Hey, I want to do something in this world of commerce and e-commerce and WooCommerce is coming up as an option and that's introducing them to WordPress. And so that's definitely the case. I want to see more of that because the mission of WooCommerce is not to democratize commerce within WordPress, it's broader.

And for that to be effective, I believe it's very much... There's an important relationship between the two. But I think WooCommerce is its own ecosystem and its mission extends beyond the mission of WordPress. And for that to be successful, we are absolutely going to draw people in who haven't heard of WordPress. And for me, as someone who like loves WordPress and believes in its importance to the future of the open web, I see this as such a golden opportunity to be like, Oh, they didn't know this was built on WordPress. Now they discover this open source ecosystem. I think in terms of how we're helping that grow. I mean, in that sense to your point, Christie, COVID has been a bit of a gift, right? Because people are looking. Whether their motivations range from that desire for flexibility or however they might frame it, that recognizing the importance of ownership or it's a cost thing.

And they're looking for lower cost alternatives to star in, and they discover like, Oh, there's this free, open source thing that I can sort of build on. What I'm seeing happen more of is like with our meetups and where I'm directing some of our efforts is to focus more on teaching e-commerce and having our educational content efforts be more focused on teaching these principles broadly rather than it being how to with Woo. That's important and that'll still be a part of it, but I've seen a shift our efforts to how do we teach the principles of e-commerce and create content and experiences that are valuable whether or not you actually use Woo. I believe that if we do that effectively, we're carrying out our mission and people are more likely to use Woo.

Ronald: Jonathan, I'm going to ask the question for you, because I really want everybody's perspective on this, I don't read the format instead of... What's the main obstacle in the growth of WooCommerce? I know you've had that question. I really want everybody else to sort of have a go at that.

Jonathan: There's a lot of good things happening with WooCommerce broadly, right? But I think we don't ever want to slow down, we don't ever want to take things for granted. So what I would love to hear from you guys, from your perspectives and the things that you're looking at, what's the biggest obstacle that you see to WooCommerce for the continued growth in the future? And it's the sort of sub question of like, where can WooCommerce be improving?

Robert: I see WooCommerce stuck in a weird open source bubble where you have... Jonathan's, he's really getting ready for this one. I mean, you have Shopify obviously at sort of that one end of the market, Wix is going to be entering that space, heck Elementor just did some one-click PayPal shopping, I mean, they're not using WooCommerce. And then if we really want to go crazy on the other side you have your Amazons and Apples and all these other stores, which are either utilizing other proprietary services solutions or building them on their own flat out. So, what's the sweet spot for WooCommerce? I know it's open source, so it can be anyone's sweet spot, but I feel like it it does need to market itself as something, not just the solution for everything.

Jonathan: So if I can feed that back to you, what I'm hearing you say is the obstacle for WooCommerce's growth, is being clear on what its sweet spot is because...

Robert: Yeah. And open source can't be the answer because, I mean, it's great that it is open source and that does give a lot of people flexibility-

Jonathan: Or if that's an aspect of the answer, the "Why?" it matters needs to be clear in front and center. Cool.

Christie: For me, my answer almost always with everything is ease of use. Again, not as the product manager, not as the person that's been looking at WooCommerce day in and day out, every single day for the past X number of years of my life. But as someone who knows what it feels like to go into a new thing and be like, what am I doing? Where do I even get started? Being given an easy path is how you win and how you continue to grow. And the risk there is that with the last year, with the increased interest in e-commerce, with the fact that we're probably never going back, with all of this stuff, there's going to be so much competition.

And then when there's competition, you're competing for attention, there's only so much time, there's only so many people. So give me something. Put something in front of me that is even slightly inconvenient, and I'm just like, I can't, no, next thing. Right? It's the truth. It's how we're operating today, whether it's good or bad, it's a different question, but in terms of how you get WooCommerce to keep growing it's to make sure that we're keeping that in mind, that that span is getting shorter and shorter and shorter. And how do we all work together to overcome that? I don't think that's a specific WooCommerce community problem. I think that is everybody involved.

Jonathan: Yeah. So to kind of feed it back to you, what I'm hearing you see the obstacle to WooCommerce's growth, the one that stands out, is the ease of use. How do you make it easier for someone who doesn't have any context for WordPress or a higher threshold of pain, if you will, to sort of go through that, to get started and have success?

Christie: And not only that, but how do you make a continually easier and easier and easier? Our world's demand for easy is only going to get more and more intense, right? We're not going to hit this goal of like, all right, we made an onboarding series that gets you online in 60 minutes, we're done, right? The entire process has to continue and keep up.

Ronald: Do you think hosting companies have a shared responsibility or push to make that happen? I mean, it's not easy to serve a hosting and fill in your credit card details, but then installing WordPress, that's now easy as one click. Learning WordPress, then installing WooCommerce, learning WooCommerce has so many different steps. So there's onboarding thing I've heard from various different companies working on something, Liquid Web or Nexcess created something, but you might be doing something... Sorry, probably your business, we've named the most now. You're doing something, GoDaddy pro might be doing something else, WP Engine, just to name a few competitors doing something that... If we all do something very different, it's not going to sort of disintegrate the system, and we start creating this small propriety systems, or should there be a more coordinated effort in tackling this? Maybe I've also contributed towards this and it's not just the hosting, but it's also towards plugins, and other SAS apps that fill the gaps for marketing and so on.

Christie: I mean, I can tell you this, we just launched our storefront generator store builder, and it's working in the sense that, one, we're getting those really interesting people that are looking for WooCommerce solution and coming in from the top. That's awesome. We all win when that's happening, right? Eventually those people look for WooCommerce tutorials, they look for consulting, they look to woocommerce.com for further extensions. That's great. Here's what's not awesome. A certain percentage of those people, right now, the product is brand new, so they have access to product dev. They're writing us and being like, this is still too complicated. We all lose there, it doesn't matter whether WP Engine created a storefront generator or if Nexcess created a storefront generator, if once they get through whatever thing has brought them inside, they're like, but how does this work? And that's what I'm talking about, right? And whether hosting companies should or shouldn't be doing, I don't know. I don't know. I don't know what they should be doing.

Robert: I'll tell you this, if you're a hosting company and you are not thinking about how to integrate WooCommerce today, you're not going to be a hosting company in three years.

Christie: Correct.

Robert: I mean, that's just the end of the conversation. And how you implement that, we've talked about obviously Nexcess by Liquid Web, I think I memorized that now. But WP Engine, I mean, we could look at all of them, like Kinsta, Convesio...

Jonathan: GoDaddy

Robert: Of course, GoDaddy. They're all going to have some play attack on what the e-commerce by WooCommerce experience is. And everyone's going to try to find different ways to reduce the friction. And that's always going to have to be the case. We're going to call it ease of use, but it's friction throughout everything. So it's friction. Reduce the friction in onboarding, reduce the friction in integrating inventory, reduce the friction in, this is for Jonathan, reduce the friction in understanding what WooCommerce is.

But there's friction in the decision-making process. So you want to reduce that. So people are like, okay, it's Shopify or BigCommerce or WooCommerce, let's break it down just to three things. You want to reduce the amount of questions people have to ask to get where they want to go.

Robbie: And by the way, now, I'm also going to throw in my little two bits because I had to formulate listening to what all you guys were saying too. I had to think about this myself as to going back to what our topic is here, what do we see as an obstacle? I want to say what I see as not the obstacle, but what I see as what will help, only continue WooCommerce forward, and that is looking at it with my agency hat on, I've worked in multiple platforms, CMS platforms. A lot of the CMS platforms, their e-commerce offerings didn't always fit the bill for our clients and so we went to a lot of the SAS products, Ecwid, Shopify, we went to the SAS products and they're great products too, right? And they do take the approach that Christie is talking about, where it kind of looks real simple when you jump in, dig in deep and you can get deeper and deeper.

And so I do appreciate that about it, but I also kind of feel like Woo, also, when you first just get in there, I don't feel like it's too overwhelming. But maybe there could be some more UI that makes it look a little easier as Christie's insinuating there because it's really, it's more about making it look easy, right? I mean, we want all the bells and whistles back behind everything. So we want it to look easy, but when we started using WordPress, it, a lot of times, we'll hit all the check boxes that we needed for the client's e-commerce needs. And so we didn't have to go outside to a SAS, we were able to keep it included with everything else that we had going on for them in WordPress.

And so I found it was typically the answer when we were dealing in the WordPress world. Now, if I put it on the training hat now, as opposed to the agency hat, it's always about training, right? Anything seems easy if you have been shown it and trained it. And so having that information out there, wherever you can find it, wherever you can get it, people always want to have that. Walk me through this, show me how to do it and make it look easy. Like Christie said, show me the basics. Help me spin this up and get these things set up in five minutes, 10 minutes. We don't have to go into super detail, I need the high level, let me do it. Now, once I am comfortable with that, I can take that next level and go to intermediate or advanced type learning and needs will come up, which force them to go into intermediate and advanced learning, right?

So I don't see your obstacles necessarily, especially right now, when so many businesses were closed down and had to go online. I mean, now is the time. It's just continuing to do good work out there, continuing to do good UI and you also have a very rich amount of plugins that work with Woo out there that people are also making money off of, right? There's a lot of people out there that are also prospering from this. And so I think it's just a matter of keeping up the good work as it were to avoid any obstacles then.

Jonathan: Very good.

Robbie: And to be clear, right? Jonathan, I'm not coming at you like with a shaking fist, right? Saying that WooCommerce is too hard to use. I think that for me, it's about the focus on maintaining the eye on that prize, right? Like we are never going to get to, it's perfectly easy to use, but we can't sit back and be like, well, we have the setup wizard and we have all these things, and so we're good, we got it, right? We, all of us have to continue to keep thinking about that star as constantly being a top priority.

Jonathan: I've been really encouraged with just the product team's overall focus on that. That is an area that we recognize, it's gotta be better. And there's a tension within this open source world, we don't want to take away that flexibility. You can't compromise the flexibility. It's like the hardest thread, like the hardest line to find of how do you make it more accessible to get started? what does that journey look like for someone? And how do we make it more accessible? Lower the barrier of entry without removing that power that makes it attractive to begin with?

Ronald: The new WooCommerce menu, I think is a really good example of how, what you've just mentioned, Jonathan, the product team are looking at different user groups being able to do what they need to do. So a developer might need to pull WordPress access, whereas a WooCommerce store manager only needs to focus on the Woo parts. So maybe there are more levels coming in. Is that something you can, on the roadmap?

Jonathan: Yeah. I think the navigation work is a great example of forward-thinking. It's a big change, there's a lot to it and I've really appreciated the care that they've taken to get feedback, to do testing on it and the results have been really promising. So, I think it's a good example of what I expect to see a lot more of, from the product teams. How do we build things that make WooCommerce as a whole get further along in that direction of making it more accessible and recognize that we're part of a much bigger ecosystem?

So giving people time to interact and figure out, Okay, what's it going to look like for my extension to work within this context? It's a delicate balance and so far I'm seeing that that's being done really well.

Ronald: Yeah. Jonathan, I'm going to let you get the last question in.

Jonathan: One of the things that I'm curious about is, what are some things that we can do in community? So a lot of what we do in community is focused on the merchants, which is I think the right thing for us to be focused on. So with meetups, with the content, with the events, it's very much like how do we make things more accessible for merchants? Builders are huge part of all this, right? When I look at meetups, it's freelancers, agency folks, product folks, they're showing up, they're a huge part of what's making it work for the new folks, like answering questions. So my question is what are some things that we can be doing in community to better support the builders? And I'd love to hear from each of you.

Robbie: Yeah. I was going to say that especially, again, all these new people coming into e-commerce, they're not builders at all, they're new to this. And so this is all very confusing, right? I mean, part of the reason why it looks so difficult is because they've just never done anything like this before. I mean, they sell candles, whatever it is, you know what I mean? And they're just like, "What? I never had to think about this." And they, eventually, hopefully, they shouldn't have to think about that. Right? Hopefully they can run their job and they will find someone, whether it be an individual or whether it be an agency or whatever, that it's going to help them to grow their e-commerce make it stronger, have more features that they don't need to spend their time learning and doing, they need to find those people who can help them.

Like I said, whether it's an individual or whether it's agencies. And so I think that you guys in the community really do need to strengthen the networks and everything between the agencies and just the builders out there in general, because they're the ones that these new people coming in are eventually going to have to turn to because, yes, spinning up a site may be really quick and easy, but then they're like, Oh, I want to offer a gift certificates or, Oh, I need to do this. And they just don't know. And they don't know that they're doing it right. And so what are they going to do? They're going to hire someone, and so those are your builders out there and the builders need to know it inside, out and backwards, right? And they need to talk amongst themselves and share knowledge amongst each other because that's how we all learn, is talking to all our peers out there and like, "We had this? How'd you fix that?" "Oh, we had that. We did this." "Oh, thank you." And that's what it's all about to me too. That's the lovely thing about the community in all of my groups. It's fantastic.

Christie: Cheers. I couldn't agree more, like 1000% claps. I'm so excited to hear that because that's the world I live in, right? My arms are stretched out in both directions at all time. I'm looking at the storebuilder people, I'm looking at the $19 a month people, I'm looking at the people who need that ease of use and everything. But we also have plans in the four figures a month and those are the people who are the WooCommerce builders. You are not going to be running a successful e-commerce business, when you're pulling in $13 million, you're doing all the dev work. That's not going to be a thing, right? Product manager hat off, business owners hat on. When you succeed, the effect of success is going to be, you start distributing the tasks, delegating, outsourcing, right? So you're the merchant, we need to get you in there, right?

So that's why one of my arms is stretched out towards the merchant, but then that merchant is going to hire a developer, ideally, right? And then we're looking at what I mentioned at the beginning. How do we make up WooCommerce store go crazy fast? How do we make it super tight and secure? How do we make sure that this infrastructure is serving the needs of WooCommerce? How do we make it so that our custom orders table, plugin and all the work that we do over there helps the developers and things like that? And when we get our builders and our developers coming in asking us questions, they're asking different questions than my merchants, right? So my arms are constantly in both directions, and they're asking questions about the kinds of resources they're going to need. They're asking questions about custom hosting solutions and custom sizing. They're asking questions about how they can integrate some advanced features or features that exist elsewhere, right? Into workflow features, into what they're doing. And so making sure that we have those answers and the other answers really matters.

Now for me, I have a very deep and personal interest in the merchant, just because that is something that's really curious to me, right? I'm the product manager. I'm looking at advocating for the voice of the customer. And I came into this role as an online business owner, but we've got to be able to pat our heads and rubber our bellies at the same time if WooCommerce is going to succeed.

Robbie: And I was going to say, and I didn't want to make a short of the merchant education too, though, by the way, in the community there. That needs to be there because what is important is they need to know what they're looking for if they need additional help. They need to know what they're asking for. They need to know that they're not getting ripped off, right? I mean, they need to know that they're getting what they need, and it is still important for them to have an overall understanding. I do think.

Robert: So, I do totally want to hit this from just in my head the builder's a hardcore developer, who's doing all sorts of crazy integration. And, they like building, they hate dealing with monotonous, repetitive stuff, Oh God, now I got to deal with the inventory, now I've gotta deal with the payment processor. I don't know if this is something that can be solved at the Woo end or is this a a hosting provider end, but getting rid of stuff that creative developers and builders don't want to deal with, making it sort of auto-magical in some ways, or at least with APIs that integrate very seamlessly, very quickly. I remember setting up e-commerce stores where you were spending a week just to connect up to a credit card provider. And that was just mind-blowingly painful and not satisfying because you weren't actually building a product for your merchant in that case. If there are ways for Woo to reduce the friction in the sort of mundane redundant development, I think that will grow and grow the builder population.

Jonathan: Just to feedback on both of those, what you guys have shared so far. One of the things that I've been able to do, Robert, and I would love to do more of is, so we now have Alan Smith, who's a developer advocate, he's done some fantastic work and doing this practically, saying, Hey, what do you guys need? And kind of getting those dots connected. I would love to be seen like builders in the community say, Hey, if this existed, write a post about it. Write a blog post and make a case for something and explain how this would make your life easier because the receptivity is there on the product teams side of things. We just have to connect those dots. And that's part of our role in community. To Christie and Robbie, what I heard overall was keep doing what we're doing.

I would say just in general, it's things like, I love what Bob is doing with Do the Woo and with events like this. And in my overall focus is like, all right, if I can help grow the merchant community like the builders seem to recognize... They're a huge part of this, they seem to recognize the inherent value of them being active and involved. I've been super grateful for a lot of the meetups are being run by builders and I'm seeing that magic sort of happen, right? Where people are like, Hey, I need help and it's all very sort of genuine. So I'm just focusing on, let's grow the merchant side of things and just keep the doors open for builders and say, Hey, you tell us what you need. We'll get those loops closed. We'd love to be doing more, but so far I'm hearing, keep doing what we're doing.

Ronald: Yeah. And don't forget to join in with Do the Woo and the builder's community events, because I think that's also the link between WooCommerce and the builders and having this conversation. I think it's a great step forward. Jonathan, I'm going to say a big thank you for your time and everybody else's time and good questions and see you again soon.