Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. In this episode we’re gonna be talking about the future of eCommerce and WooCommerce and joining us with our conversation from elementary digital I’d like to welcome Gyles Seward. Gyles, Welcome to Press This.
Gyles Seward: Hi David. Thanks for inviting me
DV: I’m so glad to have you here. I know you’re calling in from England today right? Is that correct?
GS: I am I am indeed Yes. Across the pond for you guys. But yes, I’m going from political Yorkshire so in the north of England.
DV: Oh, fantastic. Well, really excited to have you here. We know of course eCommerce is a global sport, and this is a big part of your focus. But for those listening, what we’re going to be talking to Gyles about today is his thoughts on where WooCommerce wins over closed source platforms like Shopify. The cost of ownership of open versus closed source platform. So what does it cost to actually like, own and operate one of these stores these two different ways and why WooCommerce is intuitively becoming the enterprise eCommerce platform of choice really curious to hear more about that Giles. But we’ll go ahead and kick it off with the first question I actually asked every guest so very curious to hear your answer, Gyles. Briefly, tell me your WordPress origin story. When did you first use WordPress?
GS: Well, I mean, started little bit before I started working digital in 2006. And back then, the whole sort of approach to building websites was around bespoke content management systems and I worked from about 2006 to about 2011 developing websites for people using spoke CMS and and then WordPress that to appear and he went from swarming me up and saying, I want to build a website to someone saying, do you do WordPress? And when I’ve been asked about 10 times before about how I look at this, so back in 2011, I started to find out a bit more about it and obviously back then it had more he was more sort of setting his body root. So I started to learn I’ve got a few books and start to really get into understanding more about it. And then start I’m not a developer by any means but I started to pull together some WordPress websites and learn how to connect a theme and how to host a WordPress website and my one of the reasons I started doing it is because my powers play rugby, which is a sport in England, and they were asking me if I could build a website so I started to do it and I don’t remember doing the first one that was circled by an iPad two or two and yeah, so I built my first WordPress website way back when about 10 years ago. And what I realized very quickly, is about two years on from then I realized that I was working for this agency that built on bespoke content management system. I realized actually the future was very much WordPress and I decided to leave the job that I was in and then set up my own dedicated WordPress agency back in 2013.
DV: That’s cool. You know, 2011 was a very powerful 2010 2011 was a very popular time for adopting WordPress as a CMS. This was right after custom post types with custom meta fields had appeared in WordPress. And so this was also around the time I was also in the agency business and my phone kept ringing for WordPress sites. And I was like, Oh, I guess I better start building a WordPress. I kind of share that origin story with you at least in that way. Actually. Sort of a little bit before that for other reasons. But it’s kind of funny that overlap.
GS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, yet from my point of view, it was very much it was driven by the marketplace and what people were saying and when I started to explore because obviously I was working in this Bespoke CMS and using it everyday and I just realized, even back then how forward WordPress was as a content management system, it was just so much easier to use. And for people to pick up and work with it was just much better.
DV: Yeah, he didn’t have to maintain that this CMS either. has a really nice,
GS: yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it was. Yeah. It was like a breath of fresh air.
DV: For sure, sure. All right. Cool. So tell me a little bit real quickly about elementary digital. What y’all work? On relating to commerce?
GS: Yeah, so I founded Elementary back in 2013. I run it by myself for about a month and then I met my my business partner guy on the Holland who started in WordPress right a day dot when WordPress was on the scene in my van and once he came on board, we decided to build a dedicated WordPress agency in the UK. Today, we’re 35 people. We have 18 developers offices. We have offices in London and Glasgow Leeds, which is in the north of England. I have quite a heavy e commerce background. I’ve been with an E commerce since 2006. So for 15 years, and that eCommerce has been not just working building websites for so SEO paid search social media. So the full mix really so how to generate traffic and how to get people to come on. The website, started building in WooCommerce back in 2014. And were quite well recognized WooCommerce today in England, in particular, we specialize very much in complex WooCommerce bills today. We build more enterprise level eCommerce platforms for people so we work with high street brands in the UK. We work with a lot of business services, brands, financial services, we work with one of the top three banks in the UK, supporting them and WooCommerce and then fitness clothing, clothing and fast fashion so we have quite a cross sector section of experience. Really. So we get challenged with doing lots of interesting things. WooCommerce. And what we’re quite proud of is we want to push the boundaries rarely and we’re very much interested in WooCommerce being more sort of, because it is more of an Enterprise eCommerce framework.
DV: Okay, you’ve commented about pushing the boundaries. And I know at least for me, it feels like people choose WordPress and WooCommerce when they’re trying to build something unique and stand out. And I know that like closed source platforms, you know, in E commerce, things like Shopify can sometimes make it easy and when we know of course that lewisboro Do a massive size of the launch in 2011 Right after this custom post date. But you know, Shopify versus gaining ground. So just curious like if Shopify for smaller stores is easier. Why do people choose blue over these kind? of posts, simpler source platforms like Shopify?
GS: I think I mean, one of the one of the things about Shopify is is momentum, I think is bigger actually the move I just, I did some research on the width and the mountain there’s 4.8 million Shopify stores and there’s 4.7 WooCommerce. So seven is slightly bigger than WooCommerce these days, but yeah, I think the whole thing around Shopify and has presented itself to market has been an easy option and as easy as opening the laptop and using the piece of software on the laptop. This is what it breaks down some barriers because in E commerce, there is always that fear of the unknown. And Shopify don’t get me wrong. It’s very simple to use. It’s very idiot proof. So yeah, it’s a great package. However, what we see is quite a bit of pushback terms of Shopify because whilst people run into it, and sort of set the stores, they do it with the wrong understanding of the overall lifetime costs and what their time finding now is that the damage shop I saw, they’re getting my mind in the game up and running. However, ultimately, it’s costing them a lot of money, and it’s money that’s coming out of the back pocket. So one of the shifts we’ve seen in terms of the marketplaces, people are now talking to us about WooCommerce because there is more opportunity to own the website and evolve the website because obviously she’ll close the framework and you’re limited to what you can effectively do buy. These features are available. So yeah, it’s with WooCommerce. What we’ve seen is people that have come to us for WooCommerce website or already been aware of WooCommerce and what it can do or have had an experience with WordPress which has been the biggest cause of measurement system weld is very beneficial. But then we’re also seeing is a lot of people that have been on these other systems like open cart, big commerce, or Shopify that are now looking for something that can evolve and adapt with them, and they can have more ownership over their whole framework.
DV: Also, just gonna say you just hit the two points that really stood out for me as I was listening to your earlier comments on that was this notion of evolve and Oh, in other words, when you choose close source, it’s almost like you’re renting your website or your store, company, but then you’re also restream in the way you might evolve based on you know, the limitations of a platform now, where its limitations can sometimes be good because they can help you fast. But if you’re trying to stand out, it feels like open platforms, you know, give you that ability and seems like that seems to play out that way you’re responding to that. I’m curious though, about this kind of extra cost part. And I want to dig into that. We’re gonna take our first break. We’ll be right back.
DV: Everyone welcome back to Press This WordPress community Podcast. I’m giving them our this is your host, David oval. Paul, I’m in the middle of our interview with Gyles Seward talking about the future of eCommerce and WooCommerce Gyles right before the break. You’re talking a little bit about the clients you’re working with. Really, some of the key things are important to them, is the ability to evolve, stand out, as my words stand out prior, but also to kind of own your store versus say renting it from a closed platform. But prior to that, he talked about your cost. And so I know that you know the Shopify model kind of relies on a percentage of sales for each transaction. And I also know that you can do custom stuff in Shopify, but like the tech stack is not known by a large volume of developers. So we understand like, where’s this cost coming from? Is it coming from, like the complexity and customization and like, a smaller set of developers, I mean, percentage of sales.
GS: when you go and the when you get to Shopify Plus model, then your fees much higher. And obviously you’ve mentioned about there’s the fees that you have to pay based on the transactions that go through the site, which the more successful you are, the more penalized effects begin to be paying out to your website provider. And fundamentally whether the costs add up is you pay a subscription fee, so 29 pounds a month, that’s the smallest most basic version of Shopify, which in the face that you think is very cheap. $29 is nothing. But then when you grow or you evolve as an eCommerce business, and the reason you’re going online is to do that if you’re successful and people find you, then you want more out the website trying to find someone that can cost effectively work with you, is very difficult. The reason being is the development for QA UNC for Shopify is still compact when compared to WordPress, massively limited. Shopify has built in its own coding methodology for liquid, which is like a version of Ruby, Ruby on Rails, and the number of developers who are trained or a capable, high enough level to be able to do professional and consider job is limited. And the knock on effect for that is that the agencies out there can charge a premium. So it’s a kind of a double bluff. You sign up for your e commerce website and you pay $29 I think I’ve created themselves and stuff but then when you want to evolve or change it and do basic things, on it. First of all, the extensions might not exist within Shopify. So you’re limited to what the functionality is. For that piece of software, it’s effectively software as a service. But then when you go out to find an agency or developer for there’s very few freelance developers, they’re usually booked up for months in advance, because they’re so busy, they start to charge a premium. Then if you go to an agency, again, they’re charging a premium. So that whole sort of cost effective model that you thought to get on online starts to disappear because that whole cost of management, it just doesn’t exist. Then on the flip side of that is if you are successful, again, you’re paying out for using the system and the more successful you are, the more you’re paying, which as a business. There is sort of a turning point where you think ours aren’t making money but as soon as equipment you need more investment, or you want to adapt systems. So for example, if you wanted to add in a warehouse management system to Shopify, it may not have a connector existing. But if you want to bring in a third party agency to develop it, the cost of doing it be really high. But then if you do do that, and then it’s successful, you’re gonna get charged for more transactions go through the site, there’s one successful site. So it’s a lot of articles that come out at the moment. A comparing Shopify to the system by Magento WooCommerce. And one of the big things is those the lifetime cost of having a Shopify website, and it’s quite new really did a little bit of insight and the to have a more advanced version of Shopify, so Shopify Plus the first year cost an average is $153,000. To $2, only $1,000 And then you serger if you’re a successful Shopify, online business is two to $70,000 to problem $30,000, which compared to when you compare that to WooCommerce. Take into account once you’ve had the build gun, you have to pay maintenance fee, and you have to pay hosting vendors. But it’s not even. I mean, it’s probably about 10% of that cost. So it’s not just a small cost. It’s a nominal cost, it’s massive cost. So Shopify, for all its benefits to get you online and being a relatively simple platform to use in the long run. It’s a very, very expensive platform and way to run an eCommerce business.
DV: So those costs you just ran down. Did that include the cost of the development time to maintain the store? Was that just a platform?
GS: Yes, your overall costs for that customer to maintain and run the site and not want to be your ad was just based on an average ecommerce. So you know if you’re hitting 450,000 If your turnover lifecycle the million dollars as a cost, because if you look at percentages, you know, an average you’d say about 10% or whatever you turn out with sales should be covering your cost of developing and maintaining the website and digital market as well. You know, that that’s that’s way over. You know, you’re looking at dollars
DV: I mean you hit this point early on in that response, and I just kind of want to get back to it is like if you want to do custom development in Shopify, your developers need to know a special version of Ruby on Rails, and the number of web developers in the world you build websites with Ruby on Rails, because again, you can go applications, Ruby on Rails, but actual websites, in E commerce as imagine being in a smaller cohort, it’s a smaller volume of developers, which means less agencies less freelancers, and if you have an internal team it also means less developers to hire, who will be familiar with your stack and ready to hit the ground running and be granted you can hire I guess generally Rails developers and train them up. But that’s gonna delay your onboarding process. I mean, that’s that’s a huge deal like the the number one problem in fact, if you will, is hiring. Like this is huge.
GS: Yeah, I mean, talent pool in general, across most of the website frameworks, is is a real challenge. And what you’re not only doing in Shopify is you’re asking to you’re asking a developer who’s been trained in PHP or was good whatever, to then come in and learn something completely new. And yes, don’t get me wrong. If you have familiarity with code and what they do in the bridon. Yeah, they’ll be able to migrate and learn it. But yeah, he’s still asking them to learn again,
DV: or you have a Rails application. developer who you’re asking to learn how to build websites, which I Yeah, distinction between those two myself. I feel like the developers and engineers need to
GS: Yeah, I mean, typically, I don’t know what it’s like in the US, but in the UK trying to recruit Ruby on Rails developer engineer. They’re not cheap, not cheap. And they’re often wrapped up in there are a lot of organizations in the UK that use Ruby for various applications, and to take them away from what they’re doing. You have to offer them a big salary. So with that big salary then comes they’ve got to pass that cost on to the clients that they’re working with. So the whole cycle is quite challenging. We see a lot of people we speak to like people that have Shopify site and become disillusioned with not some Shopify itself is a good system but more with the whole ecosystem that says round and post launch support and, and the ambitions that are not being fulfilled by the agency or the partner that we’re working with.
DV: Yeah, it’s someone who’s hired many web application developers over the years. I know how humbling it is to get that right. Your technology choices. Were my own WordPress origin story. It was the customers calling in. But it was also the developers I could hire and having more of the choose for him and it was a big motivator for me is that how you also think?
GS: Yeah, I mean, in WordPress, we never have any challenges recurring in WordPress, there are activities you know, you have different tiers of WordPress developers, young, Junior, middle and senior is that capabilities and actually being able to make WordPress do what you want to do at enterprise level, but we’re fortunate that we have a lot of really good senior developers. But yeah, but there is. In the UK in particular, I’d say there’s probably 10 WordPress developers for every one developer. So that gives some context. So when you go out to market to try and recruit, we are getting a really good number of CVS. That then means we can pass on the amount of results to our clients, but also provide more cost effective solutions allow more enterprise level businesses to build to build and work WooCommerce and support WooCommerce.
DV: Yeah, and build more stuff, right. That’s what happens when you save development. Classes. You can have more developers doing more things make anyone money, and that’s the wonderful part. I think of that in addition, just the joy for weeks or months to find your next I really want to dig into the enterprise side. We’re going to take our last break. We’ll be right back.
DV: Everyone welcome back to Press This WordPress community podcast and WMR. This is your host David Vogelpohl where our episode around the future of eCommerce and WooCommerce Gyles for the break. We’re talking a little bit around the hiring dilemma. closed source platforms like Shopify particularly use, you know, languages for the customization that might not be as popular as WordPress benefits from but I want to kind of shift gears now the enterprise world a little bit. Woo is traditionally first thought of as an SMB tool. And you kind of said you found some success building for enterprises, and I certainly know a ton of them that leverage. And I’m just curious, like what your general thoughts are on how it is specifically helpful for enterprises?
GS: Well, I mean, one of the big points we just touched on is the fact that there’s a more results out there and there’s a better community out there. You know, by virtue of the fact that we’ve come as commerce as an extension of WordPress, you’ve got the momentum of the WordPress movement locally. So I was at a conference in the week and it’s happening because about 40% of the web is on WordPress alone. So from from an enterprise point of view, you have that wealth of knowledge, that community a plug in themes, but then also are available resource because most enterprise businesses it’s all about costs. It’s a big factor, but then it’s also about speed to market, the ability to be able to support and evolve the pace of retail because the ideas and search in particular SEO changes every day. So having a readily available team, whether that’s internally or externally. That can adapt and evolve a website framework is really important for these businesses. And the challenges around Shopify and other e commerce frameworks out there is that that resource is finite. People are fighting over that the skillset and talent pool and it holds back businesses it holds back reasons purposes, and those guys can’t they can’t wait things need to be done. You need to be delivered on a day to day basis. So that’s a big big factor. Then WooCommerce itself is evolved doing it touched on it as it was in 2011. But since then, it’s massively evolved and it’s it’s a very powerful tool these days, it can remain it’s very lightweight. So because of the way it is or your framework works with plugins, you can infinitely adapt it to your requirements. So with plugins you can add a new functionality with the way that WordPress has been developed. You can adapt to your enterprise clients requirements. So we’ve done work or app subscriptions with the work around integrations with recognize the ERP systems like sa P sage in the UK, and all using the REST API within WordPress because also it’s team based. We do huge amounts of adaptations to make change conversion journeys through the pages. And it’s like the Swiss Army knife for E commerce frameworks. system like Shopify, you’re very limited to what functionality is available what’s on part of their roadmap, and when will that be released? And as I touched on enterprise businesses, don’t wait for them to do things at the speed of that retail. So in terms of there’s multiple uses for it. So depending on your product type, depending on your marketplace requirements, you can effectively adapt WooCommerce to your requirements and the huge amount of SEO features within the framework. So WordPress is very favorable to digital marketing community, but then using WooCommerce you have all the powers of SEO within WordPress, in an E commerce framework. The terms of ownership as well enterprise businesses for more these days are wanting to have full ownership when you have prior to for a service like Shopify limited and this enterprise businesses like to feel like they own the IP and they can only do with it what they want. The common myth around it that we’ve been we often have conversations around the security. That myth these days is getting more and more dispels because WordPress is as secure as any other framework. And more we’re getting contacted more often it directors or C I O ‘s chief information officers about WooCommerce because the perception of it these days is that it’s it’s up there with these larger eCommerce frameworks somewhere
DV: it’s patch right for any known vulnerabilities and said where is refreshed by sounds like like ematic Lee is it kind of here you read through that list? The thing that really stood out to me was speed, right? Like what enterprise one point anything is to do fast and that seems to be the toehold for me that I’ve seen it gets you in the door initially with regresses sorry enterprises using WordPress. But then you kind of pointed out that you kind of have infinite control in a way and so I always bring this is like basically with WordPress and WooCommerce you set the pace and direction of innovation in your business. You’re kind of you pointed this out. You’re not waiting around for the next thing on the roadmap. So hopefully you get that thing you need to grow your business. I think it’s a really wonderful point. And Gyles, this was wonderful. Thank you so much for joining us today.
GS: I pleasure. It’s really nice to be David and really good to chat
DV: If you’d like to learn more about what Gyles is up to you can visit elementary digital co.uk Thanks everyone for listening to Press This the WordPress community podcast interview WMR. Again, this has been your host David Vogelpohl. I love I support the WordPress community can my role at WP Engine that I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week on Press This.