We’re introducing something new here at Sell with WP – our Interviews series. In each episode of the interview series, we will feature a guest who is involved in eCommerce on WordPress. This includes companies, developers, merchants, and others who can share their knowledge.
Our first featured guest is Beka Rice from SkyVerge. SkyVerge is the largest third-party extension developer for WooCommerce. Beka shares with us the SkyVerge journey and growth over the last few years, and provides tips for WooCommerce developers and merchants.
Below is a summary of the discussion in the video. If you have any other questions, please share in the comments section of this post.
I manage the WooCommerce team at SkyVerge including product management, working to make sure SkyVerge’s 60+ official WooCommerce extensions stay on track for development and updates. In addition, I manage SkyVerge’s online properties, marketing copy, and documentation, and stay involved in support. Lastly, I contribute to Sell with WP. So, lots of writing and lots of WooCommerce-ing.
Justin Stern and Max Rice, the co-founders of SkyVerge, were involved in eCommerce development before starting the company, and had worked together on a number of client projects. They had a common vision and agreed on business goals, and incorporated SkyVerge in early 2013.
Initially, the SkyVerge website used the WooCommerce Superstore theme.
The inspiration for the name “SkyVerge” was a combination of things. Justin and Max wanted something that embodied what they wanted to do – which was connecting WooCommerce to other services, and connecting eCommerce entrepreneurs’ visions with WooCommerce. That was were the “verge” part came from. They also wanted a two-syllable name, and for the other part to represent something they both liked. The “sky” theme came from there — it reminded them both of the “Skyfall” theme song (stuck in their heads at the time), and “Skynet” from the Terminator movie series.
Both Max and Justin brought together plugins they had worked on separately to the company. One of the first plugins they worked on together was the Local Pickup Plus extension.
All these were included in the WooThemes extension marketplace. For both Max and Justin, they worked on a few free plugins before moving to premium plugins as they learned what merchants were looking for.
There are a number of ways to find out what merchants were looking for:
- At the beginning, Max managed a very successful eCommerce store and there was a lot of learning from that.
- Both Max and Justin did a lot of freelance client work to understand different clients’ businesses priorities and how software can support those.
- WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads have Trello boards where they put extension ideas.
- Interacting with users through blogs, forums, and support.
After the two founders, I was the first person to join the team. We were very cautious of hiring before the business was very viable. It was almost a year before we hired the next person after me.
We weren’t consciously trying to keep costs low, but wanted to make sure revenues could sustain long-term growth. We also did a number of acquisitions.
A lot of developers built WooCommerce products and extensions, and sometimes realized that there’s a lot more work in terms of support and maintenance that happens after the initial development is completed. In many such cases, we acquired plugins from these developers and took over the work of updates, maintenance, and support.
Making those acquisitions helped grow revenues so that we could afford growing and expanding the team, while still keeping the company bootstrapped and not taking any investments.
We want to build software that businesses can depend on. So that means a few things for eCommerce stores:
- You need things to work so quality and dependability is very important to us.
- You can’t invest your store’s foundation and platform on software with a short lifespan.
We understand that other businesses are depending on us to build their business. So we always try to be a good partner in their journey, and understand that it can be a long one.
My biggest takeaway from WooConf 2016 was seeing how many people are now interested in WooCommerce, especially larger and enterprise-level businesses.
I think that’s because people now see that WooCommerce is a long-term solution and is a dependable eCommerce platform.
My talk at the conference was about value metrics that small and new businesses should be measuring and optimizing. Majority of businesses are small businesses. This is especially true for eCommerce businesses. There are many metrics that these stores can choose to focus on, however a lot of metrics need to have a large scale to give any statistically-significant understanding.
My talk focused on metrics that small and new stores can start looking at right away and optimize for those.
Outside of developing extensions, our team has also contributed to WooCommerce core. So every instance of WooCommerce has code that was written by SkyVerge.
We have upwards of 100,000 customers who have used our plugins over the years since we were involved with WooCommerce when it was only a year old.
- There’s a constant level of work required to maintain a plugin and making sure it is compatible with each WooCommerce release. So that’s time and effort that gets taken away from thinking about new features or new products. It’s certainly something to be conscious about.
- Make sure you’re building something people want. If you’re building a niche plugin, you have to understand that it is not going to be a mass-market plugin, and therefore may not get the same amount of attention other plugins may get.
- Keep customers in the loop and apprised of developments of your products. If you’re a freelance developers, you have to make sure your clients know what you’re doing. So many times we hear from customers who say that their developers have just stopped responding.
Many times people look at WordPress and WooCommerce, and think that because it is free, therefore it means do-it-yourself. However, there’s a lot of time and effort that has to be put in to use these platforms to their full potential. So it’s important for store owners to prioritize between developing their store sites, and actually running and building their business. Sometimes it can be easier to outsource the development and store management.
- Social selling on platforms like Pinterest and Twitter would be something interesting to see where people purchase your products on those sites without ever coming to your website.
- For SkyVerge, Jilt, our abandoned cart recovery service, is beta testing over the next few weeks for WooCommerce. The platform has already recovered over $14 million for Shopify store owners, and we’re excited to launch the new and improved version for WooCommerce store merchants.
- Other things include WooCommerce 2.6 compatibility over the next few weeks, feature additions for Memberships, and feature releases for a number of different integration plugins.
- Long term, we have ideas for more cross-platform applications like Jilt that we want to develop in the eCommerce space.
What did you think of the interview? Were there questions you wanted to ask that weren’t in the interview? Tell us and ask further questions in the comments below.