Earlier this week we wrote a bit about WooCommerce themes. One of the themes in that article is from Obox Themes, who’s been building WordPress themes and plugins since 2009.

Obox just launched a new product last week that’s pretty interesting, so we wanted to give you an overview today of Obox Instant.

What is Instant?

Instant is a service that’s intended to give you an instant eCommerce site. This white glove service clocks in at $49 per month, and all you have to do is pick how you’d like your site to look. Obox handles the site setup process for you and offers premium support throughout the life of your subscription.

Obox co-founder Dave Perel sent out an email explaining why they launched Instant:

It’s not uncommon that our customers purchase a product from Obox without knowing that they need to setup hosting, install WordPress, and configure their theme.

If you’re looking for a way to get online, but you’re confused by all of these extra “setup tasks”, such as registering domain names, choosing DNS hosting, installing SSL certificates, choosing website hosting, an eCommerce plugin, and all of the other setup needed to launch a successful WordPress site, then services like Instant may be interesting to you. The entire goal of this is to remove the learning curve needed to get setup with a new WordPress site.

There are just a few steps to getting set up with Instant:

  1. Choose a business or eCommerce theme, which is how your site will look.
  2. Sign up for Instant and choose a domain name (the URL people visit to find your site).
  3. Sit back while your new site is built to look like the theme demo.

That’s it. The entire process takes care of all of the behind-the-scenes setup needed to get a WordPress business online. You won’t have to purchase your own domain name, get set up with hosting, or configure a theme and install WooCommerce.

Customer Upsides

If you’re a customer, the benefit to this is that you’re handed the keys to a new website, which is the goal behind Instant. You don’t have to worry about learning each of these aspects of site creation and management. You’re also given the freedom to modify themes or upload plugins, which isn’t the the case with entirely hosted services (like WordPress.com for business).

Here’s what happens when you purchase Instant – these are all things you’d normally have to do:

  • Obox gets your domain name (if available) and…
  • sets up cloud hosting (where all of your site data is stored and efficiently served up to people viewing your site)
  • installs and configures WordPress
  • installs and configures your theme to look the way the demo looks
  • installs WooCommerce, which turns your site into a store
  • installs an SSL certificate if you purchase one
  • sets up what you need showcase your company, such as team pages, services, portfolios, testimonials, and contact pages
  • gives you the ability to change to another Obox theme in the future

The domain name for your site is registered in your name, which means you can take it with you if you ever change services. Obox will then give you hosting information, such as access to your cPanel, which is needed if you want to make changes or hire someone to manage or further customize your site.

If you need an SSL certificate for your payment gateway integration, you’ll have to purchase this – they cost anywhere from $15 to hundreds per year (depending on which type you want to use for your site). However, Obox will install this for you.

Any time something is going on with your site, you don’t have to contact a theme provider, domain name registrar, or hosting company. You simply contact Obox for help with any of this, and they have expedited support in place with their hosting partner. The only other support you’ll have to worry about will be support for premium plugins that you purchase from other authors (for example, you’d contact WooThemes for help with WooCommerce extensions).

You’ll also get discounts from other companies, such as WooThemes, for being an Obox Instant customer. This helps you purchase popular extensions for WooCommerce, which let you do more with your store.

Finally, you’re not locked in to Instant with a minimum contract. You’ll be able to take your data to a different site if you want to move to your own hosting provider in the future (though you’ll be responsible for migrating your data yourself).

You should still learn how to manage your own site unless your hiring a store administrator, as basic knowledge of WordPress and the structure around your site is really helpful when running your store. Even though Instant gives you a pre-packaged WooCommerce website, you’ll still need to run your store yourself.

Customer Downsides

While you won’t have to pay an up-front fee for site setup, this could be more expensive in the long run. Price isn’t usually the most important consideration for me, but I have to see the value behind what I’m spending. For example, WP Engine is one of the hosts that we recommend, and they’re typically more expensive than the competition. However, they offer features that we value enough to pay their prices. The question for you is what you’re willing to manage and how much Instant is worth to you cut out your management.

If you don’t go with something like Instant, you’ll have to pick out a WooCommerce theme ($50-$100), then pay for each of these things separately:

  • Domain names will cost about $10-$15 per year
  • Hosting is paid monthly (hosts we recommend install WordPress for you) for $5-$25
  • Installation & configuration of themes / plugins can cost a few hundred dollars
  • There could be costs for ongoing support / management for your site if you want someone on-call to help out (as Obox’s advanced support does for Instant).

You could get going with a less expensive host (like SiteGround, who is another host that we recommend and who has great support) for $5-15 per month. You can also pay companies like WP Site Care to install and configure your theme and plugins, and price will depend on how complex setup is and the extent of configuration required.

However, once these things are done, the costs are over with rather than recurring. You’ll have to decide how much you want to learn, and whether or not you want to invest this money up-front. You should also consider if you want to contact theme, plugin, and hosting providers separately for support, or if you want to only contact one provider (Obox). For users very new to WordPress, the “do it for me” route is really attractive, and you have somewhere to turn for help. You can of course lower your costs, but this requires some learning and management on your part.

Instant for Developers

Instant offers a good alternative to which developers can refer clients for a commission. Some clients may not have any idea how much a customized site costs to develop, and get sticker-shock when they’re told what it will cost to launch a site. Instead, developers can refer customers to Obox Instant and then partner with the customer to do any custom work or hash out a retainer for maintenance and support outside of what Obox offers.

This allows you to establish a relationship with a customer that generates recurring revenue and allows them to set up a site for a low initial investment. Since access is provided to the cPanel and the site acts like a self-hosted install, developers can still modify themes, upload new plugins, have FTP access, and do everything needed to maintain or customize a site.

Customers also benefit from simply “signing up” for a site and paying a set monthly fee rather than sourcing all of these solutions separately and investing money in the site up-front.

What I find interesting about Instant

Most people care first about what their website will look like, regardless of whether or not this a good or bad place to start when building an eCommerce site. Instant fulfills this expectation by allowing customers to pick what they want their eCommerce store to look like, then handing it to them. Post Status has some interesting insights on this as well.

This also centralizes where to get help for the customer and makes the process of debugging issues far less taxing. Some people aren’t sure of why some issues are related to themes or hosting, so Obox takes the hassle out of this for you: you simply ask the same company for help. They’ve also worked out a solution with support for their hosting partner to ensure there’s no lag involved while they act as a support conduit.

I also really like that customers aren’t tied into the service with a minimum service contract or domain names that are held hostage. Obox registers the site in the customer’s name so that they can take everything about the site with them if they switch away from Instant. This isn’t usually the case when hosting providers include a domain name, so I was really happy to see this.

While the initial investment needed to get a site up and running is low, customers will have to assess whether or not the $49 per month provides the value they want. If customers are willing to learn about site setup themselves or to hire someone to do this, they could save money by doing so and getting inexpensive hosting from SiteGround. However, paying $49 per month lets customers get going right away, provides one centralized location for all website support, and makes for a really easy and smooth website launch.

Check out Instant

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Posted by Beka Rice

Beka Rice manages the direction of Sell with WP content and writes or edits most of our articles to share her interests in eCommerce. Or she just writes as an excuse to spend more time jamming out to anything from The Clash to Lady Gaga. Who knows.