I’ve often talked about the monumental growth of WordPress as a CMS that powers far more than just blogs today. A significant portion of the Internet now runs on WordPress, which has spawned a sub-industry of consultants, plugins, and themes to support its users. While this certainly presents numerous opportunities, getting a piece of the pie can be surprisingly difficult.
I want to share some insights and trends I’ve found in the WordPress industry so you can beat the odds and succeed in selling your WordPress goodies.
It’s A DIY Industry
A testament to the CMS’s dominance, Indeed’s Job Trends tool recorded a peak earlier this year of a whopping 20% of all jobs containing ‘WordPress’ somewhere in their description:
This is good news and bad news for product and service providers. On the one hand, it’s gratifying and relaxing to see that you put your eggs in the basket of a CMS that is continuing to grow and support so many potential customers.
The same cannot be said about providers that bet on Joomla for example:
But this trend also reveals a sobering truth: WordPress users are an increasingly DIY bunch, expecting some of the core and even fringe functionality and capabilities to be managed in-house.
This is a trend we picked up in our annual survey of WordPress power users. Our respondents are strictly designers, developers, marketers, and bloggers whose livelihoods depend on WordPress — a group that is on the cutting-edge of the industry and highly indicative of future trends. Despite some back-of-the-napkin math that suggests there are roughly 18 active plugins installed on an average WordPress site, our report suggests that number may decrease:
Sure, 17 percent of respondents reported using 16 or more plugins, but nearly three in four make do with 10 or fewer. If this is the future of WordPress usage, there’s some cause for concern due to my next point.
It’s A Saturated Industry
There seems to be a widespread sentiment from WordPress developers that the market is saturated with themes and plugins, and that the current expectation of a one-time payment for unlimited use is unsustainable.
Further, the aforementioned trend of using fewer plugins has the effect of driving what many experts have dubbed a race-to-the-bottom in terms of quality.
WordPress theme and plugin makers know that users today aren’t exclusively developers but are also site owners that don’t want to constantly get knee deep in code. According to WP Tavern:
They want to be able to simply click to customize everything. As a result, bloated WordPress themes sell far better than those that follow best practices.
Even for plugin and theme providers that aren’t in a race to the bottom, there are few obvious ways to stand out. Sure, there are inspiring successes like WooThemes, but for each of them there are a dozen shops with plugins and themes that never see the light of day. That all but forces numerous providers to list their offerings in a marketplace in exchange for a hefty cut of the sale price.
But alas, perhaps the most important defining factor of the WordPress industry is also the answer to the challenges I’ve outlined…
It’s An Industry With Many, Many Niches
The widespread adoption of WordPress means that not only is the CMS used by companies large and small, but it’s now heavily relied on in different niche industries and use cases. That means that while Elegant Themes and WooThemes corner off mainstream markets, there’s still sizeable opportunities for niche markets.
On a recent episode of a podcast for product teams, I listened to the head of product development for Bark & Co, the makers of BarkBox, speak about why his company avoids pursuing the single most common and obvious product suggestion. While they’ve dominated the market of subscription treats and toys for dogs, every new employee asks about what he calls ‘the c-word,’ or ‘why not make a subscription service for cats?’
The reason his team hasn’t truly considered it is because of the benefits of focusing on a single customer persona. “We’re a full-stack company for dogs,” he concludes.
At 99 Robots, I can also speak firsthand about the numerous benefits of focusing on an industry vertical. By focusing on plugins for online publications we can exclusively dedicate our time and resources to staying abreast of their unique problems.
Going niche is also a compelling reason to avoid feature bloat, as there are far fewer use cases to serve when you have a defined customer persona. Not only that, but by focusing on the individual persona, you can more easily learn about other problems they have that need to be solved. That’s actually how we evolved from basic tools to manage multiple post authors to eventually develop our most popular plugin, WP Background Takeover, which enables publishers to easily manage background advertisements.
The rapid growth of WordPress has given rise to an industry which is surprisingly hard to break into. Nevertheless, if you have experience with a particular niche, WordPress conveniently provides you with a cohesive platform to serve it. Take the above factors into consideration when evaluating your next offering and go-to-market strategy.