Changes to WooCommerce and the Future of eCommerce

January 30, 2021 00:27:45
Changes to WooCommerce and the Future of eCommerce
WP Review
Changes to WooCommerce and the Future of eCommerce
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Hosted By

Joe Casabona

Show Notes

2020 was been a banner year for eCommerce, even if it’s due to an awful global pandemic. In fact, the number of eCommerce sites grew more in the first 8 weeks of the pandemic here in the United States than in the last 10 years. WooCommerce makes up 26% of those sites! So in this episode, we're talking WooCommerce, and what eCommerce is going to look like in 2021 and beyond.

Thanks to Nexcess and GoDaddy Pro for Sponsoring this series!

Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

Hey, everybody. And welcome to another WordPress Year in Review podcast episode. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about WooCommerce and how things in the WooCommerce and eCommerce space have changed. And we’ll hear from a couple of my friends. So let’s get into it. I do want to thank Nexcess and GoDaddy. You’ll be hearing about both of them later in the episode. They have sponsored this entire series along with the fine folks who contributed via the CrowdFunding campaign. I can’t thank you enough if you’ve done that. So thanks for listening. And let’s get into this. 2020 has been a banner year for eCommerce, even if it’s due to an awful global pandemic. In fact, the number of eCommerce sites grew more in the first eight weeks of the pandemic here in the United States than in the last 10 years. One of my favorite stats of the year came from the eCommerce newsletter, 2 PM. And according to Oberlo, WooCommerce has a commanding 26% of the eCommerce market share, which means that more than one in four sites are using WooCommerce to run their stores. Lots of businesses sign absolutely need to get online in 2020. Their survival depended on it. And based on the stats at Oberlo, it seems like a large number of those business owners chose WooCommerce to get there. So we’ll be looking at some of the things that changed in WooCommerce. And like I said, we’ll be hearing from a few friends about how the WooCommerce and eCommerce landscape changed. So first of all, with WooCommerce due to a monthly cadence, we didn’t see the kind of huge changes perversion that we saw with WordPress. But we did see a lot of great stuff in WordPress and WooCommerce 3.9. We got better blocks including an all-products block. And then throughout the year, other blocks would get added. We would get improvements and new features. I just did a demo in one of the videos for this series on the blocks that were added. And I’ve got to say, I’m really impressed and pleased to see what kind of blocks and what kind of flexibility we have with the new WooCommerce blocks. I just redesigned [creatorcourses.com], and I was able to use the featured products block to highlight only the products that I wanted to show without having to do things like changing them to featured or anything like that. I was just able to plant a few good courses right on the homepage. In 4.0, WooCommerce got a brand new analytics dashboard and better reporting. This is another much-welcomed change as getting information out of Woocommerce was very frustrating. A little too frustrating for a good eCommerce store. And while there are tools like metric and glue out there to help, I think something native is absolutely necessary. So with these advanced analytics dashboards, stats, and reporting, you can get really granular to get information out of WooCommerce. You can customize the dashboard. You can see what the most popular products are and get segmentation data. I recently used the customer-specific sales data to make sure my membership automation was working properly. I was also able to see how many of my customers came from Pennsylvania to make sure I was charging tax properly. And then finally the dashboard was also completely rewritten in JavaScript, making it very fast and versatile. So there were some good improvements there as well. However, I have complained about this a couple of times, but in 4.1, we saw the new marketing hub which I feel doesn’t add much value to the user. I think it’s a place for WooCommerce to promote free and paid extensions, and to show stuff from their blog. So that’s my opinion. To be fair to the folks at WooCommerce, here’s what they wrote in their 4.1, release, a release post, a quote. “We realize that in this age of competitiveness, merchants need a way to drive store growth faster. To help people get started marketing their stores, we recommend a small selection of marketing extensions in the new hub.” And then they go on to add later, “You won’t receive these suggestions if you’ve already opted out of the marketplace.” Suggestions from WooCommerce, then settings, then advanced, then WooCommerce.com”. And indeed, when you opt out, you won’t see those anymore. So you’re essentially left with recommended posts, recommended blog posts at this point. Frankly, it feels a little bit silly to have a top-level navigation menu in the WordPress dashboard that has no real utility, especially given the amount of other screens WooCommerce has added to the navigation. I think the marketing tab could easily be tucked under the WooCommerce dashboard screen. And in 4.4, they did end up putting the coupons area there adding recommendations and content for coupon management. But again, I fail to see how this is helpful for store owners beyond WooCommerce generating more traffic, and perhaps upsells for itself. So again, my feedback, my personal feeling is that put the marketing stuff on the WooCommerce home screen, which we got in 4.3, and put the coupons back under the WooCommerce menu or under the products menu. I think they would be better served there. And then we’re seeing less clutter in the dashboard. We’ve got, by the end of all of this, we have four WooCommerce related top-level navigation areas. And I think that’s too much. So, while the coupons were the most notable change in 4.4, 4.3 saw significant changes. Store owners will see a new homepage with lots of actually useful information on it like quick views of orders and other statistics, links to other store management tools, and an inbox with important and sometimes unimportant messages. Those home screen layouts, the ability to change the number of columns was added in 4.8. And so you do have a nice area for news. Right. Cause I do think that’s important for store owners to get news and recommendations to surface things. But again, I don’t think a marketing tab, a separate tab, or a navigation menu item is the way to do that, especially when you have the home screen. So 4.3 also saw some updates to the suite of WooCommerce blocks as I mentioned before, as well as under the hood improvement. And an improvement worth mentioning here is the improved concurrency handling, which allows for better stock management. So under the hood, WooCommerce got improvements to make sure that you’re not accidentally selling two of a thing when you only have one of a thing in stock. And then rounding out the major changes to WooCommerce in 2020 is variation reports, which gave store owners the ability to generate reports based on product variations. Again, this is a much welcome change in a year where WooCommerce reports got a huge overhaul. So the changes in 2020 undoubtedly made WooCommerce and especially getting information out of WooCommerce easier. I loved watching my own WooCommerce shop evolve over the year, and digging into especially those analytics. And still, as someone who hates WordPress dashboard craft, seeing WooCommerce double its admin menu footprint, is something I could do without. So those were the major changes that I wanted to cover here. And right after this word from our sponsors, we will look at the changing WooCommerce landscape. This episode in this entire series is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. Now GoDaddy Pro has two great offerings to talk about here. They offer a robust suite of free tools to web developers and designers to help them, to help you save time managing all of your clients and sites. With GoDaddy Pro, you can easily shop for your client, monitor your client’s websites, and manage all of their WordPress websites in one place. Exclusive time-saving tools let you bulk update WordPress core plugins and themes on multiple sites with one click, as well as automate WordPress backups, cloning, migrations, and so much more. Get real-time, performance, security, and uptime monitoring across all of your client websites. Members also receive a 30% discount on new qualifying products. When you pair GoDaddy Pro with qualified WordPress and eCommerce hosting plans, the benefits are even greater by including access to all premium features at no additional cost. And now, they offer a WooCommerce hosting option too. They combined their secure hosting platform and partnered with WooCommerce. The world’s leading eCommerce platform built on WordPress to offer you GoDaddy WordPress eCommerce hosting. Included in your plan is over $1,000 worth of premium WooCommerce extensions to get your clients selling with an online store that truly reflects their unique brand. So for a limited time, they’re offering you, the listener three months of GoDaddy WordPress eCommerce hosting for only $1. You can take advantage of that deal over at [wpreview.io/godaddy]. That’s [wpreview.io/godaddy]. Three months for $1. That is about as low risk as you could possibly get, especially for such valuable hosting. So definitely check it out. And thanks to GoDaddy Pro for their support of this podcast and the entire WordPress Year in Review project. This episode is brought to you by Nexcess. You count on having a WordPress or WooCommerce site That’s predictably fast, secure, available, and affordable. But finding everything you need from one provider can be tough. At Nexcess, they’ve got you covered. For more than 20 years, they’ve invested time and resources into developing and integrating exclusive that make WordPress run better automatically. How do they do it? By including special features like no cost auto-scaling when traffic spikes, automatic plugin updates with visual comparison technology to skip updates that would break your sites, and cloud accelerator technology that makes even the most dynamic sites run faster. Add that to their automatic backups, proprietary CDN, integrated iThemes, security pro, and free migrations, and you won’t have to look further for the platform that does it all. They pride themselves on delivering the kind of support you need whenever you need it. Hands-on elevated 24/7, 365 services. Their support team is made up of people who have been in the trenches and review and support thousands of stores like yours. I recently moved my WooCommerce site to their managed platform. And I have been the beneficiary of everything I just talked about earlier. From the special features to the incredible support team that helped me migrate from my old host, I couldn’t be happier being on Nexcess. They know we’re working hard to grow our businesses and they’re our proven partner to help us get there site by site, side by side. Other platforms say it, but they do it. Their managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce are predictably awesome solutions. Because, at Nexcess, better is built in. You can learn more at [wpreview.io/nexcess]0 That’s [wpreview.io/nexcess]. All right. So let’s talk about the changing WooCommerce landscape. With an influx in the number of stores coming online in 2020, surely that means a lot of general WooCommerce landscape changes. Indeed we’re seeing more companies pay attention to WooCommerce. The sponsors you just heard from, GoDaddy and GoDaddy Pro, plus Nexcess have made a big push for their own WooCommerce and eCommerce offerings. But since I don’t pay as much attention to that space, I thought I would turn things over to someone who does, and that is Bob WP of [dothewoo.io]. Hey, this is Bob WP from [dothewoo.io]. Now, what changes the Visalia WooCommerce ecosystem in this past year? Well, the obvious is arise for merchants and the need to get online during 2020. But really on the flip side with builders and WooCommerce sites, that growth has meant new opportunities. So instead of finding new clients and creating new WooCommerce shops, they’re looking at their existing customers that need help to make the move to online selling. And for those product builders, it grew at an alarming rate for specific needs that have been discovered in the net. There has been also more awareness of the importance of creating products, such as plugins and extensions that do one thing and do it well versus those that just are loaded with features. And in the core, I think blocks are catching on more. And the ease of monthly updates is becoming the norm in the space. So in that shell really, there are more opportunities to use Woo, and more builders and merchants are seeing the value that WooCommerce brings to the table. And when it comes beyond 2021, I really feel it’s going to just keep on growing. Thanks so much, Bob, for calling in and giving those thoughts. I really appreciate it. And Bob brought up two points that I didn’t really think of here. First is that website builders have turned to existing customers to get them selling online. This makes perfect sense as it’s often easier to sell to existing customers than to acquire new ones. And lots of people needed changes to their processes this year. Now, while I don’t do much in the WooCommerce space, I did help some clients revamp their websites to be better suited, to handle online requests. I was also hired by a couple of people to do essentially a WooCommerce audit and make recommendations. But secondly, Bob mentioned creating extensions that do one thing and do it well. You can imagine that as more and more stores came online, we also saw more and more niche features needed. Maybe a small shop that sells, you know, handmade goods might want something different from somebody selling digital products only and things like that. So in a year where store owners were faced with the stress of pivoting and re-imagining their business to go primarily online, anything that could simulate their current process was likely welcomed. If you are a plugin developer, it might serve you well to consider what niche extensions you can create in 2021 especially as hopefully businesses transition back to normal operations on top of having their new online stores. Now, what does this mean for the greater eCommerce ecosystem in 2021? Well, for that, I want to turn it over again to another friend of mine, Patrick Rauland. Patrick is the co-founder of WooSesh, an eCommerce and an eCommerce educator at LinkedIn Learning. And he has quite a few thoughts, so I just want to drop in his unedited thoughts, and then we could take a look at them. Hello there. My name is Patrick Rauland, and I work at Nexcess as a Product Marketing Manager, and we do a lot of cool stuff there. But I also create Commerce content for LinkedIn learning, which is formerly [Lynda.com]. So a lot of WooCommerce content, Shopify content, big commerce content, stuff like that. And I’m also the co-founder of WooSesh. So I want to share with you some data from WooSesh, and the keynote at WooSesh, as well as some general eCommerce trends. So just general high-level how has eCommerce changed in 2020? Well, let me start. Yeah. And I’m going to reference a Forbes article that I will send to Joe to link in the show notes. And let me just start by setting the landscape here. This is from earlier this summer 2020,’ eCommerce as a whole grew 77% year over year. That is huge. That is about, and this depends on where you sort of read the data, but it’s about four to six years of growth. I’ve seen some estimates saying it’s about 10 years of growth. So basically the amount that we’re shopping online now is what we would have expected in four to six years if we didn’t have this pandemic. So the pandemic really drastically increased the amount that people shop online. Now, some of that is in mobile commerce. That’s sort of, you know, by, you know, having an app on your phone and buying through your phone that grew by a modest 10%. But the really big winner is BO-PIS, or, which is ‘Buy Online, Pickup In Store], so BO-PIS, which grew by 195%. So lots of people now are sort of learning how to order things online, drive to the pickup spot at your local store, pick it up and then drive home. And a lot of other different reports are saying that this stuff will likely last after the pandemic. So eCommerce has just grown massively. Now to WooCommerce specifically, there is some data from BuiltWith that there are. 2.2 million sites running WooCommerce is over 25% of all online stores are running real commerce. That is massive. Some other fun data from the keynote that the WooCommerce team shared is that ‘WooCommerce total payment volume is projected to reach 20.6 billion for 2020. That is 74% growth from the previous year, from the previous time period. And again, this is just reported payments from WooCommerce’ payment partners. So the actual figure using some other payment gateways that aren’t partners is going to be much higher. So WooCommerce and eCommerce are just exploding right now, which means there are a lot of opportunities, and that lines up with some of these surveys we did after WooSesh. So after WooSesh,, every year we send out a survey asking people, you know, what’s their favorite session? And two answers sort of stuck out at me, one of which was basically getting started with the WooCommerce workshop, which was a long workshop, an extended workshop that we ran. And people really liked it. It was very beginner content. And sometimes, you know, I’ve been in eCommerce for a while. I think that I only want to show you the most advanced content that’s what people are really here for. But you know, people really like this beginning content. And then also, there was a different session called troubleshooting WooCommerce. That one was also ranked very highly. So in addition to just getting started with WooCommerce and basic troubleshooting tips, people like this beginner content. So I think this also means that lots of people are getting into WooCommerce for the very first time. So something for you to think about. The last thing I just want to share here is something that the WooCommerce team is working on that I’ve just been paying attention too because I also use WooCommerce on some of my own online stores. WooCommerce blocks, which is a feature plugin for WooCommerce. That sort of means they’re building all these cool extra blocks in this thing called a feature plugin WooCommerce blocks. And then eventually they’ll roll it into the main plugin after it’s been thoroughly tested by weirdos like me who liked the test of stuff early. But WooCommerce blocks keeps getting, keeps abstracting more and more WooCommerce functionality into the blocks. So soon you’ll be able to customize things like the checkout with the Block Editor, and this really cool WooCommerce, you know, the product archive list with your Block Editor. Basically what they’re doing with WooCommerce blocks is they’re taking all the cool stuff that WooCommerce does with their templates, turning them into blocks that you, the store owner have the ability to customize. So, eCommerce has growing, WooCommerce has growing, beginner content is really, really popular right now, and who comers blocks are just getting more and more powerful. So there’s a lot going on in the WooCommerce world. And, if you haven’t tried building an eCommerce site before, now is the perfect time to get going. Talk later. Thanks so much, Patrick, for those extremely thoughtful, views and opinions, and a lot of really great stats here. Right. So it’s important to note that not every store got in on eCommerce, right. They didn’t get on the eCommerce land grab. But, it did grow a staggering 77%, that’s an insane stat. And then you mentioned, of course, the big winner was BO-PIS, or Buy Online, Pickup in Store. That tells me that one way to improve the eCommerce experience in 2021 is for more people to get into fulfillment and shipping. There are a lot of ways to do this from drop shipping to fulfillment by Amazon, which I recently got to talk to Mike Begg about that on my other podcast, How I Built It. Fulfillment by Amazon appears to be growing very quickly. And for good reason, Amazon makes it relatively easy for anyone to sell online, handling all aspects of the pipeline from listing and discovery to shipping. But there’s also a large amount of the population you want to do it themselves, as Patrick points out the most popular session at WooSesh this year, were that, getting started with the WooCommerce workshop. It was long but people really liked it. It was really beginner content. And then there was one called troubleshooting WooCommerce, right? So it looks like, from Patrick’s observations at WooSesh, which happened in October of 2020, exactly seven months after the shelter in place orders went into effect here in many states in the United States, we’re going to see a lot of new people at online stores in 2021 as well. And if you are in the development or site building space, it might be a good opportunity for you to learn how to support or make it known that you know how to support online shops and build online shops and get people online. Because, by the looks of it going into 2021, there is good news of a vaccine, but things won’t get back to normal probably until at least the fall. So, those are all of the thoughts I and my friends have about WooCommerce going into 2021. So, I think that again, kind of when the pandemic ends and store owners and developers will be able to move out of reaction mode. And there’ll be able to move into optimization and innovation mode. And this could signal a new evolution for WooCommerce, not a slowdown. So I think that all of that said, WooCommerce is going to continue to explode in 2021. We’re going to see more improvements to the software as that happens. And it might be good to invest your time in either getting your own store online if you haven’t already improved your online experience. Because, you know, I think a lot of people as if you’re not selling online, people might not buy from you at all. I said that in a different podcast episode. And so I think that’s really, really important to think about. So that’s it for this episode. If you like this episode, give it a rating and review on Apple podcasts. I’d really appreciate that. You can find all the show notes over at [wpreview.io]. And thanks again to our sponsors, GoDaddy Pro and Nexcess. Thanks to everybody who supported the show via the, or the project CrowdFunding campaign. I really appreciate it. And until next time. Get out there, and build something.

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