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From Idea to First Customer: Choose an Operating System

You’ve got a great product ready to go. Now it’s time to get it in the hands of your target audience —  and there’s no better place to sell than online, where you reach a much larger market than in your local corner shop! Setting up an eCommerce store doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated; with the right operating system, you can have your marketplace up and running quickly and easily.

Navigate the Journey:

Part One: Choosing an Audience
Part Two: Finding a Problem to Solve
Part Three: Selling It Before You Make It
Part Four: Creating the Product

What’s an operating system?

Operating systems are all around us. Anything technical that can be controlled with an interface, from your phone, to your car, to your home’s smart thermostat, has an operating system, allowing users to set it up and control it.

So when setting up an online store, you’ll need an operating system. That means choosing software that lets you log in, design pages, and build a storefront. 

You’ll need a system that can:

  • Work with the right audience. That’s you! Choose something geared to your level of technical expertise and willingness to learn.
  • Provide the right capabilities. You’ll need a system that lets you create products, display them on website pages, and collect orders and payments, at a minimum. But if an operating system offers extended features that could make your shop awesome — now, or in the future — then that’s a great bonus.
  • Offer an accessible interface. Your end goal is to build a store that’s easy for customers to use and, ideally, is easy for you to set up and manage as well.

We’re going to look at some of the features to consider when choosing an operating system for your store. You have three main options:

  • Use an open source operating system like WordPress and WooCommerce.
  • Use a proprietary operating system like Shopify or Wix.
  • Use a marketplace that allows you to create products within their own established framework and brand, like Etsy or Amazon, bypassing the need for your own system.

Let’s look at the factors you should consider to help you make a decision for your eCommerce business.

Factors to consider

Ownership versus renting

One of the most common mistakes new entrepreneurs make is not owning their own storefront.

When we say “owning” in regards to an eCommerce shop, what we mean is that you’ve paid personally for your domain name (the URL that someone types in to find your site) and hosting account (a service that stores your website files so anyone can access them online). This gives you full control over the site’s content — you can create anything you’d like.

When you use a marketplace like Etsy, they technically “own” your storefront — they have final say over its content and layout, and can remove products, or even your store, if they see fit. They control your product visibility, and often set limits on where, when, and how you can advertise. You’re required to fit their brand, rather than the other way around. 

Proprietary platforms, like Shopify and Wix, have similar restrictions and require you to agree to their terms of service. If they decide you’re in violation, they may even close your store with no chance to appeal. 

But tools like WordPress and WooCommerce offer full ownership. You build your site using your own content, with your own branding and design, on your own terms. 

Think of it like owning your house. When you buy a house, you can paint the walls any color you’d like, add nail holes, or even tear them down entirely. But when you rent, you’re subject to your landlord’s rules and can be evicted, or have your rent raised, at any point. Your only recourse is to move out and start over.

screenshot of https://hydratem8.com/ with customized branding
Photo © https://hydratem8.com/


Flexibility falls into two categories: how your website looks, and how it works. You want an operating system that allows you to determine both.

Customize the look of your brand. As a business owner, you want to be recognizable. That means that you should maintain a unique brand, from your colors and fonts, to the layout of your pages. So you don’t want an operating system that locks you into templates or layouts that you can’t change, like on marketplaces or builder sites.

Customize the features of your website: You might also want to add extra functionality to your website. A flexible operating system with lots of additional features provides a great base for your business to grow. 

Would you ever consider adding advanced functionality like:

  • Currency conversion and language translations? 
  • Bulk order forms?
  • Gift certificates?
  • Blog posts?
  • Social media integration?
  • Email marketing?
  • Raffles or giveaways?
  • Memberships?
  • Live chats?

This type of advanced functionality is possible on WordPress, but not always available on other platforms. Choosing an operating system from the start that has the ability to add these kinds of powerful components enables you to grow your business at any time.

Nalgene website with
Photo © https://nalgene.com/


You might be small now, but that may not always be the case. You want an operating system that can grow with you.

Bigger shouldn’t mean more expensive. Marketplaces and proprietary platforms often take a percentage of every sale, called a transaction fee. These fees are variable and can change without notice, affecting your bottom line. There can also be additional charges as your traffic increases, or if you want to add additional features to support your expanding client base. As you grow, you’ll give a larger and larger cut of your profits to another company. 

Open web support

The open web is based on the idea that the internet should be free and accessible to everyone. A big component of this is open source software — tools that are available for free to everyone and written and maintained by volunteers.

Why should you care about the open web? 

  • It supports accessibility. There’s a low barrier to entry, so entrepreneurs with a great idea can get their products online quickly and inexpensively.
  • New features can be added democratically. When someone sees a need for a new feature, any developer can add it; you don’t have to wait for some big corporation to sort through the red tape. If there’s something you dream of for your shop, chances are high that someone already has a solution. If not, it’s easy to find a developer that can create it for you.
  • Free help is available from a vast community of developers and users. Since it’s open to all, that means many people have experience working with the software, and are happy to share what they’ve learned in the spirit of the open web. The whole internet is like one big user’s guide for open source software.

There’s one more huge benefit of choosing an open source operating system: there’s no gateway to your products. You have direct and full control over your search engine optimization, customer messaging, and advertising. Remember, the goal of marketplaces is to promote their own brand, not yours.

When it comes to open source platforms, there’s really only one choice: WordPress. It’s free to use and runs almost 40% of websites worldwide. WooCommerce is the eCommerce engine of WordPress, enabling you to list your products and accept payments online. When combining these two tools, you can create a powerful, flexible storefront that positions you for success. 

Let’s compare operating system options using the criteria we’ve talked about so far.

Criteria WordPress and WooCommerce Proprietary Platforms Marketplaces
Add content and products without having to know HTML/CSS code
Track orders and take online payments
Ownership 𝙓 𝙓
Custom content and messaging 𝙓
Branding control 𝙓
Advanced website and storefront features 𝙓 𝙓
Static operating costs, instead of per-transaction fees Varies 𝙓
Open web support 𝙓 𝙓
Full control over SEO and marketing 𝙓 𝙓
Strong community support 𝙓 𝙓

Making a choice

When it comes to the most important criteria, there’s a clear winner: WordPress and WooCommerce. Chose this combination if you: 

  • Value community. If you want to support a more open internet, learn from other business owners, and be a part of a fast-growing, global community, WooCommerce and WordPress are the right choice.
  • Are willing to learn. WordPress and WooCommerce offer a platform for you to build your site. There will be some work in creating content, customizing the layout, and adding all the pages you need, but the interface is meant for non-developers, and the menu system and back-end editing forms are intuitive. It will take some time to learn, though, and the merchants who have the most success with WooCommerce are those willing to learn how to make the most of it.
  • Want a content-first store. Content is the foundation of a successful business. It enhances every aspect of marketing, connects you directly to customers, and highlights your expertise. Since WordPress was originally built as a publishing platform, there’s no better choice.

Choosing WordPress with WooCommerce gives you a solid foundation to build on. You’ll be able to establish your brand from day one, working with an operating system that you can fully customize to your needs. You’ll have full ownership of your message, promotion options, and data. And as a bonus, you’ll contribute to the ideals of the open web.

Dream big! By laying a good foundation for your online business, you will be ready to grow your store as big as you can imagine. Sell anything you want, as much as you want. And since you own everything, your future is in your own hands. 

When your online store is up and running, the next step is to deliver. It’s time to get your goods into the hands of your customers — we’ll cover that in our next installment.

Get started with WooCommerce.

We’d love to see what you built! Share your new store in our Facebook group, on Twitter, and/or at your local meetup.

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How to Choose the Best Host for Your WooCommerce Store

A web host keeps your website files and makes your site visible online when someone types in your site address, called a URL (e.g. woocommerce.com is our URL). Think of a host as being similar to a physical location where you’d lease a space to build a store. Choosing a bad web host is the same as leasing a spot in a bad location. A good host provides the foundation for a fast, secure, and stable online store.

Choosing the right host requires some research. We recommend making a shortlist of hosting companies based on the criteria below and comparing several options to find the best fit. 


If you’re starting an online store, the ideal hosting company is one that specializes in WooCommerce. It might mention it in plan descriptions or even have a plan with “WooCommerce” in the name.

If you can’t find a host that focuses on WooCommerce and meets your other requirements, you should look for one that is dedicated to WordPress.

But mentioning WordPress in a description doesn’t necessarily prove expertise. Look for other signs on the company’s site, like blogs with helpful tutorials, tips, and guidance on working with WooCommerce or WordPress.

Support and maintenance

When it comes to hosting, it can be tempting to choose the cheapest option. But because providing high-quality, human support is so expensive, pricing often reflects the amount of help you can expect if you run into trouble. You can count on the old adage, “You get what you pay for.” 

It’s a good idea to search online for reviews of a company, specifically when it comes to customer support. Do people report difficulty getting assistance? 

Make sure your host welcomes direct contact via phone, email, or online chat, and look for 24/7 support windows. Choose a package that includes automated backups and restorations without extra fees.

There are two common types of WordPress hosting plans:

  1. Managed. While the exact features depend on the provider, managed WordPress plans automate tasks like installation, updates, security, and backups. This is a great option for beginners or businesses that don’t want to deal with day-to-day website management. However, managed plans are typically more expensive and provide less control.
  2. Non-managed. These hosting plans leave more of the work up to you. Servers may still be optimized for WordPress performance and security, but you handle everything else. These plans are typically cheaper and require a greater time investment, but you have more control and won’t run into the limits that managed plans often have.


To decide which hosting plan is right for you, start by making a list of the things your site is going to need. This might include:

  • The anticipated volume of traffic (visitors per day).
  • The expected amount of storage space required, especially if your site will include a lot of videos or large images.
  • An SSL certificate. This is an essential security feature for any website, but especially for online stores. It secures your customers’ personal data and tells search engines that your site can be trusted.
  • A content delivery network (CDN). A CDN is a robust site acceleration feature that hosts images and static files like CSS and Javascript on a third-party server. Your website is displayed from a server geographically close to each individual visitor, so a CDN is especially helpful for stores with an international audience.
  • An in-house caching system. Each time someone visits your website, their browser has to load everything — images, videos, and other files — from the ground up. If you have caching enabled, your files are stored in a secondary location so that the site loads faster when visitors return. 
  • Automated, regular backups and easy access to them without additional fees.
  • Additional software that you might need. WordPress-focused hosts in particular often include a selection of premium themes and savings on paid plugins that, if relevant to your website, can save you money in the long term.

Overall, you’ll want to choose a package that meets as many of your needs as possible. If you’re just starting out with your store, then a small, inexpensive package could be fine. In other cases, the benefits of adding features like an SSL certificate or CDN could outweigh the savings of the discount plan. 


Although you might have a small shop right now, we encourage our entrepreneurs to dream big. As you expand, your storefront might outgrow its hosting plan.

Look for a hosting company that offers several packages that are easy to switch between. A good host will help you easily upgrade your package when you need to — if, say, you get an increase in traffic.

Top-tier companies offer cloud-based hosting. This is a great solution for shops that see an occasional large spike in traffic, as it can adapt dynamically to visitor demands. As the needs of your shop grow, cloud hosting will grow along with you and make sure your site never goes down, not even when your big advertising campaign launches or when you get a shout-out from a celebrity on Instagram. 

To see how a few hosts stack up on technical benchmarks, we recommend this comparison from ReviewSignal

Uptime and security

Can someone reach your site whenever they want? Occasionally, due to maintenance or other issues, your server may go down for a short amount of time. The percentage of time your host is available to serve your site is called “uptime.” You want this to be as close to 100% as possible. Greater than 99% is the standard to look for. 

Your host plays an integral role in website security. We’ve touched a bit on SSL certificates and backups, but there are a few other factors to consider when picking a host:

  • Software security. WordPress requires updated versions of software like PHP and MYSQL. Make sure your host offers the most up-to-date versions. Otherwise, you risk a security breach and compatibility issues.
  • Malware scanning. While you can implement malware scans on a website level, it’s also important to have them on your server. Your host should offer scanning as part of your plan and notify you if a hack is identified.
  • A firewall. Hosts use firewalls to lock down and protect your data and website files. It provides an invisible barrier between your server and hackers.

Support for the Open Web

Lastly, remember that both WordPress and WooCommerce are open source. There’s a large community of open-source supporters and developers, so if you encounter an issue, a solution likely already exists. If not, it’s easy to locate someone with the knowledge and passion to help. 

WordPress relies on volunteers to develop and maintain functionality. Some hosting companies even devote funding and staff hours to supporting WordPress, which now powers almost 39% of websites. Choose a company that values and invests in the Open Web.

Choose the right WooCommerce host

Selecting a host requires a thoughtful analysis of your personal needs and the ideals you want to support. Dig into a company’s focus, support response, and bundled value before choosing a package. Look for a company that offers multiple plans, so you can smoothly upgrade as needed. And choose a host that supports the Open Web. 

WooCommerce understands the value of a strong relationship between an online store and its host. It’s the solid foundation on which to build a great website. We’ve chosen to work with a number of recommended hosting providers — they made it on our list because they offer proven solutions and exemplary service. 

If you’re ready to find your perfect host, view our recommended hosting solutions

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The Most Popular Products to Sell Online

If you’re starting out in eCommerce, be sure to pick the right niche, which means identifying your target audience and figuring out what kind of products they want to buy. By carving out your own territory, it will be easier to build a brand that stands out from the competition. 

Think carefully about your hobbies. Can you appeal to others with the same interests? You want to deliver value to your customers by offering them unique products they can’t get anywhere else. 

But before you set up your store, research market trends to discover which product categories are  the most profitable. Google Trends is a good place to search for popular products in growing industries.  

There are many popular products you can sell to your customers. Some of these include: home furniture, trendy clothing, food and drink, beauty products, and fitness gear. Keep in mind that choosing a popular product has its benefits and drawbacks. 

On the plus side, a popular product is likely to be in demand, thus creating an opportunity for your business to make sales. On the flipside, competition could get fierce and you may be overshadowed by more established sellers or be forced to lower prices.

Keeping the risks and rewards in mind, here are some of the most popular categories in 2020: 

Health and wellness

Many consumers don’t mind spending a little extra on organic foods and “locally-sourced” or “farm-raised products.”

Some shoppers also seek foods to meet special dietary needs. They may prefer low-fat, nutrient-rich foods or vegan or Keto options.

Here are some products that appeal to health and wellness enthusiasts: 

  • Dietary supplements
  • Multivitamins
  • Protein shakes
  • Energy bars


Shapewear is growing in popularity. Unlike many short-lived clothing fads, shapewear serves a practical purpose. It’s designed to be comfortable and stylish while helping people feel better about how they look in their clothing. 

The material used for modern shapewear is lightweight and easy to ship. Here are some of the options that fall into this category:

  • Control slips
  • Leggings
  • Bodysuits
smart watch on someone's wrist


Smartwatches do much more than tell you the time. These portable devices have a built-in AI assistant, capable of tracking where you are and monitoring your vitals during exercise. 

Smartwatches also allow you to search the internet with a voice command. A wearable device performs most of the basic functions of a smartphone, but is easier to carry around. 

Because the smartwatch market is still relatively new, now is a good time to cash in on the trend. Smartwatches include:

  • Samsung Galaxy Watch
  • Fitbit Versa Lite
  • Apple Watch
  • Fossil Sport

Mobile accessories

Mobile accessories are growing in popularity as well, with consumers looking to personalize  smartphones and other touchscreen devices. Customers love a diverse selection of high-tech gadgets with custom features and skins included. 

Visually-stunning phone cases that protect your smartphone from wear and tear are a strong bet. In addition, wireless chargers are advancing quickly, allowing users to view their phone while it’s on the charging pad. 

Accessories are updated with each subsequent iPhone, Android, or Google Pixel release. This market is rapidly expanding, so be on the lookout for add-ons that enhance the mobile experience. Smartphone accessories include:

  • Smartphone cases
  • Wireless phone chargers
  • Phone mounts
  • Multi-port adaptors


eBooks are convenient! Avid readers no longer have to carry bulky hardcover books when they can access entire libraries from the comfort of their home. With a Kindle, book lovers can read affordable eBooks by their favorite authors. 

Selling eBooks is the simplest solution for book distributors and independent writers. Some trending topics include: 

  • Self-help
  • Business and finance 
  • Social sciences
  • Food
  • Relationships
blue earrings on a table

Handcrafted Jewelry

Handcrafted jewelry makes a lasting impression as a gift for a loved one. Custom jewelry is uniquely tailored to the buyer’s tastes and often sold at discount prices online. 

If you’re interested in handcrafted items, consider launching a custom-made jewelry store. Keep an eye on popular trends, including single earrings, animal motifs, and pearl pendants. Some custom jewelry to consider:

  • Beaded necklaces 
  • Big hoops
  • Oversized chains
  • Pearls

Pet supplies

Nearly 70% of U.S. households own a pet. The pet industry is consistent and stable because people need to regularly replace toys and accessories. 

Social media influencers play an ever-increasing role in promoting pet products. One Instagram pet, Jiffpom, has 11 million followers. But you can attract your own customers by creating entertaining or valuable content for your site. Then, encourage visitors to take a look at your shop! Consider the following products: 

  • Pet beds
  • Dog toothbrushes
  • LED dog collars
  • Biting toys

How to identify a best-selling product

You can search questions on Google related to your industry and look at the “People also ask” feature at the bottom of the results page for ideas. You might also browse popular listings on major retailers like Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, or Rakuten. Items that show up on the front page drive the bulk of their sales. 

Aim for a product that can sustain interest over time, even after the initial hype dies down. You want to sell something with innovative features that solve your customers’ problems

And remember, the feasibility of a product for your store is not set in stone. It depends on factors including:

  • Pricing
  • Shelf life
  • Size and quantity
  • Shipping costs

Whatever you choose to sell, position yourself as an authority in your industry. Narrow down your target audience. Interact with your local community. Make an informed decision on what to sell and go from there.

To learn more about launching a successful online business, you can set up a shop with us at WooCommerce.

If you want to get inspired, be sure to browse our featured eCommerce stores to see how other brands use WooCommerce to design attractive storefronts and showcase their product listings. 

Start selling online!

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Seamless Payment Solutions for European Stores

Publisher’s Note: We recently launched a partnership with Viva Wallet to streamline an often-fragmented European payments market. We’re excited to share more with you!

With dozens of countries, many of which have their own currencies and competing regulations, managing the finances of an eCommerce business in Europe can be daunting. For store owners, this has historically caused headaches like slow settlement of payments, complex workflows, cumbersome currency exchanges, opaque payment processes, and high transaction costs.

WooCommerce, whose mission is to democratize commerce, recognizes that these complications can hurt new entrepreneurs’ ability to advance or even prevent some people from starting their business at all. We wanted to contribute to a solution, but solving a problem as complicated as payments requires a lot of local context and knowledge. We sought out a partner, and found one in Viva Wallet. 

Introducing Viva Wallet

Viva Wallet was started by a group of developers that specialized in creating applications for banks. Often encountering frustrations with financial regulations and complicated payment situations for clients, they began work on their own comprehensive online payment solution that operates seamlessly across the fractured European marketplace.

Viva Wallet team behind their logo

Building a licensed e-money institution that lives in the cloud and functions across the entire European economic area is, in fact, such a complicated task that Viva Wallet is the first to do it. 

The idea — make payments simple, smart, fast, and reliable — has proven popular. It’s grown into a pan-European payment system that empowers merchants through its ease of use and cost-effectiveness. Viva Wallet is backed by a team of 500 people across 23 countries and nine languages. 

“Our mission is to change the way businesses pay and get paid. By creating a smart WooCommerce extension that adapts to merchants’ needs for frictionless payments, we aspire to bring a new, agile way of paying that will increase the conversion rate of online stores,” said Haris Karonis, Viva Wallet’s CEO. 

The magic of Viva Wallet

The platform is a one-stop-shop that improves the eCommerce customer experience while benefiting shop owners. It brings together the best of a payment processor, credit card company, and local neighborhood bank — in a uniquely European context. 

The technology recognizes which country each customer is in and automatically localizes language, currency, and payment method options. This results in a better experience and higher conversion rates for shop owners. 

This Viva Wallet account acts as a bank account for the shop owner, allowing them to spend proceeds from their store at any location that accepts debit cards. 

Here are other benefits:

  • Viva Wallet is free and has no monthly fees, hidden costs, or payment acceptance fees when the merchant uses shop proceeds through the credit card issued by Viva Wallet. 
  • Business owners don’t need to have a separate bank account for settlement in the country in which they’re doing business. They provide a local IBAN-enabled merchant account.
  • Money is settled in the shop owner’s account the day after the transactions take place, even on holidays. 
  • Merchants can reduce their payment fees down to 0% if they use the Viva Wallet Debit Card for corporate expenses, like social advertising (Google Ads, Facebook Ads etc.), fuel, and lunches. 
  • Merchants can accept all major debit and credit cards, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, JCB, and Bancontact.
  • Store owners can accept payments from local payment platforms like iDeal, Przelewy24, and PayU, with more being added every month.
  • Customers complete their payments on-site rather than being redirected to an external page.
  • Viva Wallet uses its own software in the Microsoft Azure cloud, not local servers, which substantially reduces the risk for merchants. They’ll never miss a payment or suffer losses due to system outages.
  • Viva Wallet is a licensed e-money institution that provides PCI DSS Level 1 compliance, strong customer authentication (SCA), integrated AI-powered risk management, anti-fraud systems, and payment protection with 3D Secure, which leads to lower chargeback rates.

A brighter, more connected future

Viva Wallet is a truly unified market for online payments in Europe. 

Because Viva Wallet was started by a group of engineers, technology powers all of its offerings. Unlike the banking industry, its infrastructure was built from the ground up to empower possibility and circumvent the outdated ways of moving money around. 

“We are excited to partner with WooCommerce to bring our cloud-based solution to online merchants across Europe. With the easy-to-integrate, free Viva Wallet for WooCommerce extension, we help merchants increase online sales through integrated support for all major international schemes and many local payment methods. Combined with the free Viva Wallet business debit Mastercard, WooCommerce merchants can now reduce payment fees down to 0%,” said Makis Antypas from Viva Wallet. 

In coordination with WooCommerce, Viva Wallet sought to create an extension that would provide a frictionless and seamless experience for the end user and increase conversion rates for online stores.

Viva Wallet for WooCommerce 

The Viva Wallet for WooCommerce extension integrates natively with stores to synchronize sales, refunds, bank transfers, and customer data between WooCommerce and Viva Wallet. Business owners can now manage all of their payment channels through one centralized platform. The process is simple, with a one-time integration, quick setup, and automatic updates. 

The extension was launched in 2020, only after Viva Wallet’s leaders and developers embedded themselves in the WooCommerce community — listening, gathering feedback, and implementing what they learned back into the product.

The end result is a state-of-the-art solution for eCommerce businesses that runs on WooCommerce. Viva Wallet is focused on improving the integration further with improvements made daily.

If you’re in Europe and looking for a payment partner, use Viva Wallet with WooCommerce

Customize your store with official extensions for WooCommerce in our marketplace

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From Idea to First Customer Step 4: Create the Product

In the third post of this series, we discussed pre-selling your product to gauge your audience’s interest. This means you know that you have a market for your product and may even have some excited customers waiting for their pre-order.

Your next step: creating your products.

Navigate the Journey:

Part One: Choosing an Audience
Part Two: Finding a Problem to Solve
Part Three: Selling It Before You Make It

You’ve put time and hard work into the process thus far and can move ahead knowing that your business is positioned for success. Now comes the magic part — creating! 

Combine the idea you pitched to your audience, the information you gathered about their needs, and your own imagination to bring your products to life. There’s no set way to do this — the sky’s the limit! The important thing is that you’re truly focused on solving a problem, as discussed in our second post.

Ways to create a product

There are a variety of ways to design and build your product and the right fit for you may not even be on this list! Use our ideas and tips as guidance and inspiration.

Handcraft products

Handcrafted products are made by you and your team members in-house: candles, paper goods, food, furniture, jewelry, or bath bombs, for example. You put your personal stamp on each and every item and have full control over the final product. However, it can be difficult to scale — you only have so much time and new employees often require a lot of training.

handcrafted products from https://www.striiiipes.com/
Photo © https://www.striiiipes.com/

Arthur Lhermitte, fashion designer and founder of Striiiipes, loves the attention to detail involved in crafting accessories in his Parisian workshop. It enables him to cut out the middleman, pass those savings on to customers, and control every aspect of the manufacturing process.

Biltong product options
Photo © https://thebiltongfactory.co.uk/

For The Biltong Factory, customizability is an important benefit of making their South African dried meat snacks in house. Customers select a flavor, cut thickness, and moisture level to design the perfect bag for their tastes. And because everything is made fresh and stored in a temperature-controlled environment, it arrives on their doorstep at peak quality.   

Manufacture new products

If you’re creating a completely new product, you may want to work with a third-party manufacturer who has the tools and expertise necessary to implement your vision. 

This is a great option if you’re not quite sure how to put your product together, don’t want to purchase pricey equipment, or don’t have the time or staff to manufacture in-house. Keep in mind, though, that most manufacturers have a minimum order size, so you’ll need both money and inventory storage space upfront.

woman carrying her baby in a carrier
Photo © https://ubuntubaba.com/

Shannon of Ubuntu Baba made the most of her connections. She knew the problem she wanted to solve and the product she wanted to create — a breathable, comfortable baby carrier that didn’t irritate c-section scars — but wasn’t great at sewing. 

Her father owned a factory that manufactured outdoor gear and was willing to make her carriers as well. This setup worked perfectly: the products were manufactured by a company with tools and expertise and the customers loved that they’re made locally. Read her full story to see how she implements the steps from this series.

print shop fulfilling orders for Simply Charlotte Mason
Photo © https://simplycharlottemason.com/

Manufacturing doesn’t always mean working with a factory, though. Simply Charlotte Mason partnered with a local shop to print all of their homeschool resource books. Not only was this more affordable and efficient than printing themselves, it also supported other local businesses.

Dropship existing products

When dropshipping, you find the customers, another company manufactures and ships the products, and you take a cut of the earnings. There are virtually endless products you can dropship, from novelty socks and remote control cars, to furniture and electronic parts. 

Dropshipping has a low barrier to entry because you don’t need to invest in storage space, equipment, or product development. You don’t even have to worry about inventory management or shipping! However, there’s often a lot of competition between dropshippers and you lose a lot of control over the fulfillment process. 

people wearing Nordic Outfit clothing
Photo © https://nordicoutfit.com/

Nordic Outfit is a young Belgian fashion label that dropships organic, cotton clothing. They vet each item, checking for durability, sustainability, and ecological awareness.  

avocado themed products displayed in a grid
Photo © https://avocadowonderland.com/

Avocado Wonderland sells products around one theme: avocados, of course! They source quirky, fun items — kitchen tools, t-shirts, phone cases, shower curtains, and more — to create a one-stop shop for avocado lovers.

Print products on demand

Print on demand is very similar to dropshipping. You work with a third-party supplier to customize white label (or blank) products — like books, t-shirts, stickers, or mugs — with your own designs. Shipping and manufacturing is handled by the supplier.

This allows you to express your creativity without having to worry about shipping, manufacturing, or a large, upfront investment. But you will have less control over your products and may have lower profit margins.

t-shirt designs showcased in a grid
Photo © https://hashtagbay.com/

Hashtag Bay uses a t-shirt print shop to automatically fulfill their orders. They create thousands of fun, unique t-shirt designs, but don’t need a large warehouse space to store them. Instead, they’re automatically delivered each time a customer makes a purchase.

Create digital goods

Digital goods don’t require manufacturing, shipping, or storage because they’re completely virtual. They include audiobooks, membership programs, online courses, downloads, and photographs. This is a great way to generate passive income because, once the products are created, they require very little management.

lightroom presets listed in a grid
Photo © https://filtergrade.com/

FilterGrade is an online marketplace for photo filters, videos, sound effects, and other digital assets. Customers can purchase individual products or bundles, designed by professionals. FilterGrade provides a platform for those designers and, in exchange, takes a commission from each sale.

RushTix home page with a form
Photo © https://rushtix.com/

But digital goods can be set up in very different ways. RushTix sells memberships to their online comedy club, where they regularly feature live performances and events. Customers can affordably watch their favorite comedians right from their own home while live event organizers increase their audience.

Turn services into products

Services are similar to digital goods in that you don’t have a physical, shipped product. However, they do require someone to deliver them to clients. You may perform services yourself or create a team of employees handling everything from graphic design and photography to accounting and electronic repair.

Better Home Cover home page
Photo © https://www.betterhomecover.com/

The Better Home Company sells expert home services online, offering repairs and coverage for broilers, heaters, drains, roofs, and more. Customers can choose between several packages and pay either monthly or annually.   

Don’t limit yourself

Again, this list is not exhaustive! The options are as limitless as your imagination. You could sell personalized products that are unique to every customer, like Bang On Books, or offer themed boxes of curated products, like Universal Yums or Kawaii Box. You might even create your product in a way that no one else has before. 

For more inspiration, see the WooCommerce Showcase.

Tips for creating your product

No matter what route you take, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Start with small batches, if possible. Some manufacturers require large orders, but if you can start small, do so. Making products one at a time is the best way to test the waters and work out any problems you encounter along the way. You can always scale production as you grow.
  • Understand any costs involved. Be aware of the expenses associated with materials, recruitment, storage space, and partners. Understand the investment upfront instead of being surprised halfway through production. 
  • Keep it simple. As you grow, complexity will increase, so keep initial production as simple as possible. This may mean starting with just a few SKUs.
  • Do your research. Get to know any potential third-party partners before working with them. Read contracts carefully and talk to other business owners that utilize their services.

Stay problem focused

It doesn’t matter which route you take to create your products as long as you stay focused on the problem you’re solving. Make sure your audience is at the center of every decision you make.

Now that you have your product, it’s time to choose an operating system and build your online store.

We’d love to see what you come up with! Share the products you’ve created in our Facebook group, on Twitter, and/or at your local meetup.

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Sell it Before You Make It

So far on the journey to your first customer, you’ve chosen the audience you’ll target and learned the problems they’re willing to pay someone to solve. 

Navigate the Journey:

Part One: Choosing an Audience
Part Two: Finding a Problem to Solve

It may seem like the next step would be to create your products — and it might be, for some businesses. But in an ideal world, you’ll pre-sell your product first.

You can sell a product before you make it?

Yes, and many successful businesses launched this way. 

When you pre-sell your product, you sell the idea of your solution to your audience to gauge their interest and willingness to pay. 

You may accept money for pre-orders as part of this process, or you may just discuss your idea with potential customers to find out if it really meets their needs. 

Tiny Wood Stove website
Photo © https://tinywoodstove.com/

Tiny Wood Stove, an online store selling small stoves for small spaces, is a great example. After listening to their audience and identifying a problem, they launched a crowdfunding campaign and offered pre-orders. The overwhelmingly positive response confirmed that their product would be a hit, and helped turn a single blog post  into a million-dollar business. 

Three reasons to pre-sell your product

1. Align with your customers’ values

Your goal is to present the idea of your product before creating it. A successful pre-sale confirms that you’ve found a valuable solution to a specific problem. Your target customers are willing to pay for it even though it doesn’t yet exist. That’s powerful.

2. Improve product effectiveness

With some money in hand from your pre-sale, you have time and resources to make the product better. You know there’s demand for this product, so it’s now worth investing in its development. 

Ongoing improvements also give you something to talk about with your pre-buyers, as you share updates on your progress via email or social networks. 

3. Minimize risk to your business

Any new business or product venture carries risk. With pre-sale income in hand and some confirmation that your product is desirable, you reduce your risk. You have money and have a sense of how much inventory you might need, which reduces your upfront costs and helps you make good financial decisions. 

Imagine that you try to pre-sell a product, taking it to hundreds of people in your target audience… and none of them want anything to do with it. Did you fail?

No! You just succeeded in learning that if you invested time and money developing this product, hardly anyone would have bought it. So you saved time. And you saved money. 

On the flip side, if your product pre-sells well, you have more confidence that people will purchase and can safely invest in marketing and product development.

Exceptions – when pre-selling doesn’t make sense

There are situations where it doesn’t make sense to pre-sell. But even in these situations, you want to minimize risk by being smart about product research and development. 

1. Your customers’ values don’t align with pre-selling

If your customers value speedy product delivery – they want things now – selling them an idea and telling them they have to wait three months for an actual product won’t work. 

Similarly, some customers don’t just want it now – they need it now. If your water heater is broken, you need it fixed, now. If your internet is down, you need it fixed, now

2. You’re in a highly competitive market

In some industries, there’s already a lot of competition. Your solution may be different, or even better. But if you pitch an idea to potential customers and then inform them it’s not ready, they may just purchase an existing product. 

And in this situation, a pre-sell simply isn’t necessary. If there are already other products solving the same problem, you know people are willing to pay for a solution. Go make a good product, and then market it.

How to pre-sell a product or service

There are two primary ways to pre-sell:

  • Offer pre-orders. Your audience can purchase a product in advance and receive it once it’s ready. It’s a good idea to offer them something in exchange for their patience — a discount, invitations to a launch party, or exclusive add-ons — and to make the anticipated delivery date very clear. Pre-orders are often the best way to judge interest, since people are actually willing to spend their money on your product. 
  • Sell your idea. You’re not exchanging money in this case. Instead, the goal is to ask questions and find out if people are interested. This may be the best route if you’re still fine-tuning your idea and want more feedback before diving in further.

You can always do both! Sell your idea first and, once you know there’s some interest, offer pre-orders.

Take these steps to successfully pre-sell your product or service:

1. Create an offer

Start by designing an offer just for your audience. This could be tangible, like a discount or gift if they pre-order, or intangible, like an explanation of the product itself, including the benefits and features. Remember: the goal is to find out if people are interested in your idea and willing to pay for it.

Then, get your offer in front of your audience. Here are a few ways to reach potential customers:

Build a landing page. A landing page is a standalone web page created for one specific purpose — in this case, presenting your offer. It should be relatively simple but share information about your idea, the problem it solves, and how it solves that problem. 

If you’re accepting pre-orders, include checkout functionality and be clear about when they’ll receive the product. If you just want to present your idea and gather feedback, add a survey.

pre-order for lace-up boots
This pre-order page from https://manuatelier.com/ makes the delivery date very clear.

A good landing page has:

  • Context. You have seconds to get peoples’ attention, so make your offer immediately clear. Identify with their problem and illustrate how your product will positively impact their life.
  • Credibility. Your audience needs to trust you to deliver on your idea (or physically deliver a pre-ordered product). This might mean including accreditations or experience, or just creating a landing page that loads quickly, is secure, and looks professional. 
  • A call to action. If you’re accepting pre-orders, use a direct phrase like “Order Now.” If you’re looking for feedback, use something like “Share Your Thoughts.”

Once you’ve created a landing page, get it in front of your audience through social media, digital ads, or email marketing.

Not sure where to start? WordPress and WooCommerce provide a great solution for creating landing pages, accepting pre-orders, and adding surveys. Get started with WooCommerce.

Create a crowdfunding campaign. Crowdfunding websites, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, connect your business to people who may be interested in your idea. Create a profile for your idea or product, showcase why it’s useful, and let people pledge money in exchange for the finished version down the road. 

You can set a fundraising goal, and if you don’t reach it, everyone gets their money back with no harm done. You don’t risk creating the product before you’ve proven interest and backers don’t risk contributing to something that never happens. 

The people who contribute on Kickstarter understand that they won’t receive the product right away. They’re happy to be a part of creating something that will benefit them and are willing to pay in advance to be one of the first to receive it. 

Reach your audience where they gather. Connect with your audience in places where they already spend time. Attend a festival, trade show, or event where you can talk to people one on one. Join Facebook groups with topics related to your idea. Ask questions on Reddit. If you already have an established social media following or email list, open it up for discussion.

Present your idea in a poll or survey, or ask open questions like:

  • Is this product something you’d be interested in?
  • How would you use this product?
  • Would you be willing to pay for this product and, if so, how much? 

2. Test the offer

Once you’ve created your offer, it’s time to see how people respond! Did a lot of people visit your landing page, but only a few purchased? Are people excited about your idea and willing to buy down the road? Did you receive any ideas about how your product could be even better? 

The most important thing here is to be open-minded. Be willing to respond to the feedback you collect and ready to adjust your idea as needed.

3. Repeat as necessary

If the feedback was positive and your audience was excited, then you’re good to move to the next step! If you adjusted your idea or even switched solutions entirely, go through the process again. Reach out to those people and see if your changes better fit their needs.

Confirm your value

Pre-selling gives you a chance to focus on solving a problem for your target audience and confirming the value of your solution. Take this opportunity to sell them on the idea so you can perfect your product and deliver it by your estimated date.

Now it’s time to create products for your excited customers! 

Ready to start pre-selling?

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Collect Donations at Checkout to Increase Customer Loyalty

Anything your business can do to increase customer loyalty is worth considering, including offering them the option to give a donation at checkout. Aligning with a charity or group of charities has been proven to increase customer acquisition rates and retention. Plus, it’s a great way to support causes that matter to you, your team members, and your community. 

According to this study from Good Scout, people from different generations have varying feelings about being asked to donate at checkout. Deciding whether or not to accept donations depends not just on your interest in helping nonprofits, but also on your customer preferences.

If you decide it’s right for your store, Donation for WooCommerce is the best way to make it happen. 

Why ask customers to donate at checkout

Consider some data from the Good Scout study:

71% of people reported giving a donation at checkout and 55% liked being asked to give. That means your request isn’t a burden; it’s a valuable part of good customer service. 

Even better, 60% of respondents both remembered and felt positively about the last business that asked them to donate. Not only do the majority of donors like being asked to support a nonprofit at checkout, but they remember — and like — the business that asked them. 

That’s a pretty great, easy way to make customers happy.

One of your biggest challenges as a business is simply being remembered, especially by those all-important, first-time customers. If you want them to make a second purchase, they have to remember you, and aligning your store with a cause they care about is a great way to make this happen.

How different generations feel about donation requests 

The younger your customers, the more you’ll benefit from asking for donations.

70% of millennials (born in the ’80s and ’90s) liked being asked to donate at checkout. 68% of them felt positively about and remembered the business that asked. 

In contrast, 60% of boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) did not like being asked to donate and only 47% felt positively about the business that asked them. Generation X (born in the late ’60s to ’70s) falls in the middle of these two extremes.

Consider whether the majority of your customers are from a particular generation. If your business attracts younger people, asking for donations is a smart move. If you cater mostly to older generations, give it more consideration. 

Four tips for selecting charities to support

Remember: asking for donations at checkout is actually a form of customer service. The majority of shoppers like it. So the question is, which nonprofits should you donate to? Here are a few ways to decide:

1. Align with your customers’ values

If you’re an outdoor gear retailer, your customers are more likely to donate to causes that focus on the environment, nature preservation, or animals. 

If you sell toys, an organization that provides food or educational products to kids would be the perfect partner. 

2. Appeal to the widest variety of customers

With the Donation for WooCommerce extension, you can offer more than one charity at checkout. 

If you want to appeal to a variety of customer values and preferences, add three or four well-known organizations and let customers choose the one they like most. People appreciate having a choice — it empowers them.

3. Select local charities

If your business serves a smaller area, identify a nearby charity and give your customers the chance to help their community. Many people intentionally shop at small businesses to support local commerce. They’ll appreciate an additional opportunity to engage with their neighborhood. 

4. Lean into your personal passion

Some business owners are passionate about a specific cause. If that describes you, don’t be shy or nervous about embracing it. 

BoldSocks website discussing their donations
Photo © https://www.boldsocks.com/

After hearing story after story of the dirty water crisis around the world, boldSOCKS decided to focus on making a difference. They went all in, creating a system of sustainable funding to distribute and maintain water filters throughout towns and villages in Africa. So far, their efforts have contributed over 40,847,300 days of clean water.

Three ways to ask for donations 

1. Offer pre-set options

pre-set donation options at checkout

Present the customer with a list of pre-set donation amounts set up just like any other product. They can simply select the organization they want to support. This is a fast option for customers that still gives them the power of choice. We recommend making the pre-set donation amount low, less than $2.

Remember, they didn’t come to your business just to give to charity, so don’t box them in with a high amount.

2. Let shoppers choose an amount

If you have a set organization you wish to support, you can still give your customers freedom of choice by letting them pick their own amount. You might provide a few options like $1, $2, $5, and $10, and leave an empty field for a custom input. 

3. Give customers the opportunity to round up

round up option for donations

If the purchase amount is $34.75, the “round up” option would simply add 25 cents to the purchase price that would go towards a charity. This is very easy and doesn’t cost the customer much, but makes them feel good and supports a nonprofit.

Simplify the donation experience

The key to customer engagement is simplicity and ease of use. If you’re going to add a step to the buying experience by asking for a donation, make it as easy as possible. You don’t want to lose a customer because they get frustrated about trying to give a few dollars to a nonprofit.

The Donation for WooCommerce extension solves this problem by adding a dropdown or radio buttons to the checkout page. Customers can quickly decide what to do and then finalize their purchase. Or add options directly to your product pages to make donating seamless. 

Ask for donations at checkout and your customers will remember you favorably and come back again. 

Learn more about Donation for WooCommerce

Customize your store with official extensions for WooCommerce in our marketplace

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News – WordPress 5.5.1 Maintenance Release – WordPress.org

WordPress 5.5.1 is now available!

This maintenance release features 34 bug fixes, 5 enhancements, and 5 bug fixes for the block editor. These bugs affect WordPress version 5.5, so you’ll want to upgrade.

You can download WordPress 5.5.1 directly, or visit the Dashboard → Updates screen and click Update Now. If your sites support automatic background updates, they’ve already started the update process.

WordPress 5.5.1 is a short-cycle maintenance release. The next major release will be version 5.6.

To see a full list of changes, you can browse the list on Trac, read the 5.5.1 RC1 and 5.5.1 RC2 posts, or visit the 5.5.1 documentation page.

Thanks and props!

The 5.5.1 release was led by @audrasjb, @azhiyadev, @davidbaumwald, @desrosj, @johnbillion, @planningwrite, @sergeybiryukov and @whyisjake.

Thank you to everyone who helped make WordPress 5.5.1 happen:

Amit Dudhat, Andrea Fercia, Andrey “Rarst” Savchenko, Andy Fragen, Angel Hess, avixansa, bobbingwide, Brian Hogg, chunkysteveo, Clayton Collie, David Baumwald, David Herrera, dd32, demetris, Dominik Schilling, dushakov, Earle Davies, Enrique Sánchez, Frankie Jarrett, fullofcaffeine, Garrett Hyder, Gary Jones, gchtr, Hauwa, Herre Groen, Howdy_McGee, Ipstenu (Mika Epstein), Jb Audras, Jeremy Felt, Jeroen Rotty, Joen A., Johanna de Vos, John Blackbourn, John James Jacoby, Jonathan Bossenger, Jonathan Desrosiers, Jonathan Stegall, Joost de Valk, Jorge Costa, Justin Ahinon, Kalpesh Akabari, Kevin Hagerty, Knut Sparhell, Kyle B. Johnson, landau, Laxman Prajapati, Lester Chan, mailnew2ster, Marius L. J., Mark Jaquith, Mark Uraine, Matt Gibson, Michael Beckwith, Mikey Arce, Mohammad Jangda, Mukesh Panchal, Nabil Moqbel, net, oakesjosh, O André, Omar Reiss, Ov3rfly, Paddy, Pascal Casier, Paul Biron, Peter Wilson, rajeshsingh520, Rami Yushuvaev, rebasaurus, riaanlom, Riad Benguella, Rodrigo Arias, rtagliento, salvoaranzulla, Sanjeev Aryal, sarahricker, Sergey Biryukov, Stephen Bernhardt, Steven Stern (sterndata), Thomas M, Timothy Jacobs, TobiasBg, tobifjellner (Tor-Bjorn Fjellner), TwentyZeroTwo, Winstina, wittich, and Yoav Farhi.

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From Blog Post to Million-Dollar Business

Lots of entrepreneurs launch stores without the kind of rich blog content that drives customers to their site. 

That’s why we love the inspiring story of Tiny Wood Stove. We sat down with founder Nick Peterson, a 38-year-old Kansas native, to get the scoop on how one blog post about wood-burning stoves for tiny spaces turned into a flourishing online business.

Q. How did you end up deciding to live in a tiny space? 

My wife Shae was a teacher and I was working as an outdoor education teacher. Having our daughter, Paisley, made us look at what we were doing and how we were spending time. It was clear that we were focused on serving other people’s kids even though we’d just brought our own little life into the world. 

We did a lifestyle audit and asked ourselves, “What do we want our life to look like?” We made a list of barriers to spending time together as a family: debt, health insurance, housing, etc. 

I’d always followed a bunch of blogs written by nomads and was intrigued by small spaces. I knew any vehicle could be turned into a bedroom.

So we said, “Let’s get something mobile, travel and spend more time with family, and get rid of our housing expenses.”

Q. What was the first step in your freedom journey?

We bought a 1966 Airstream travel trailer but didn’t know anything about it. We just dug in and started remodeling. We paid off our debt, my wife quit her job, and we hit the road. 

Airstream trailer parked next to a friends' house
Airstream parked next to a friend’s house.

We didn’t want to be dependent on campgrounds, which can be as expensive as a mortgage when you add up the cost per night, so we wanted to be off-grid. We installed solar power, and got a wood stove for heat.

Q. What was the wood stove market like then?

At the time, there were only a handful of options. In the U.S., most of the stoves were made for old wooden boats. 

We had a blog called livinlightly.com, which catalogued our journey. One post covered the reasons we chose a wood-powered stove instead of propane. And while looking at our blog’s analytics, trying to figure out how to monetize it, we noticed that 70 to 80 percent of all traffic was to that single post. Visitors were finding us through searches like “wood stove small space” or “wood stove tiny house.” From that discovery, I bought tinywoodstove.com 

Q. You had another business at this time, correct? 

Yes, a Drupal site that was a vegetarian and vegan meal-planning service. It was gonna be our meal ticket. But I spent five years on it and way more money than I made. It was a hard lesson.

Q. It sounds like tinywoodstove.com was the exact opposite of that? 

I read The Lean Startup, which talked about testing your assumption as quickly as possible and adapting with agility. Initially, I was thinking about an affiliate arrangement for wood stoves. We couldn’t have a warehouse full of stoves because we were nomadic. We were thinking we would be a resource for information and earn a passive income peddling other people’s stuff.

Taking a nap in front of a tiny wood stove
Taking a nap after a long day.

Q. How did that go? 

We spent 2013 to 2015 hustling and making content and content and more content. I contacted different stove manufacturers in the U.S. and UK. But when I talked about an affiliate arrangement, they didn’t really get it. 

Q. So you tried another tactic? 

We saw that people were searching for one stove, a Pipsqueak, which is made in the UK. We wanted to sell it on our site, but to make it work, we had to purchase an entire pallet. So we started a crowdfunding campaign and made a landing page with WooCommerce. We offered the stove for $95 off if people pre-ordered, with a promise that if we didn’t get enough orders to buy the pallet, we would refund their money. In seven days, we sold more than enough and were in business.

Q. What was the next step? 

We continued to sell the stove, but began to realize that finding the correct pipe to connect to the stove was difficult. The only pipe you could get in the U.S. was six inches, which is too big. So we started selling a line of three- and four-inch pipes.

Q. What other gaps in the market did you notice? 

The Pipsqueak was kind of a toy of a stove. It was cute but wasn’t very practical. 

We needed a more robust stove, so we went ahead and made our own line. We didn’t know much when we started; we just jumped in and learned along the way.

Q. How was that learning curve? 

We were pretty lucky to find a manufacturer for our Dwarf line, but it was definitely a hard education in international trade. The first shipment carrier went bankrupt and our order spent three months sitting in the middle of the ocean. We were able to deliver our pre-sale orders. People were really understanding and we only had to issue a couple of refunds. I saw this as a testament to the market being way underserved.

Q. It sounds like you really have a connection to your followers and customers.

We’re not just peddling products; we’re passionate about tiny living and the freedom it affords. Every day, we communicate with people quitting jobs, starting businesses, and looking to downsize. The wood stove is just a little part of it. We’re helping them take that step. If we were just peddling a product, that would be devoid of meaning.

Q. And your team is all nomadic as well? 

We have five members on our support team who all work remotely and live tiny and off the grid. Everyone in a support role is actively living the lifestyle, so they can really relate to customers and be on the same page with them. We advertise job listings on Instagram and the types of places where we can tap into the community. 

tiny house surrounded by snow
We sold the Airstream and built a 560 sq. ft. off-grid tiny house in 2018.

Q. So: why would you opt for a wood stove in a tiny space? 

Putting any flaming thing in a structure can be dangerous. A wood stove is no more dangerous than a propane appliance. Propane can leak; it’s volatile and you have to buy it continually. It’s a finite resource. Also, for every pound of propane you burn, water enters into your space. Moisture and mold can be huge issues in a tiny space. A wood stove is dry heat. 

Also, with my wood stove, I can roll up somewhere, break some sticks over my knee and toss them in the stove and heat up the space. But it is definitely more work.

Q. We’d love to hear about how you set up your site. 

I’m not a technical guy and I built what I have here. I knew the basics of creating a WordPress site and used plugins for the rest, which made it super easy. The beauty of WooCommerce and WordPress is that they’re very bootstrap- and DIY-friendly. You begin to figure it out. 

I would say, right now, the site is a “B-.” But you don’t have to have the best site when you’re just starting up. It just has to work. We’re now in the process of polishing the website. Now that we have the revenue we can hire a professional to take it to the next level, but it’s always worked.

Q. What plugins do you use with WordPress and WooCommerce? 

In the beginning, we set up WooCommerce for our very first pre-sale. It was simple and easy. 

Initially, the theme we used wasn’t great for speed, so we transitioned to Astra. Astra rocks. The theme is built for optimization. We installed it and there was a very noticeable increase in speed. It’s all about performance. 

We use Beaver Builder to create content which, for someone like me, is very easy. We use Gravity Forms to create custom forms on our call to action page. People fill in their details and email us. That’s how we start conversations about what they need.

Q. And as far as eCommerce features go, which are your trusted favorites? 

We use variable products to offer options, which works well because we have an install kit with twenty components. There are tons of ways to configure your kit, so it would be a nightmare to offer each individually. It’s much easier for customers to select their own options — four-inch pipe, this type of vent, this other type of clamp, etc. 

It also makes it much easier to keep track of stock on our end. As a customer makes their selection — like a four-inch pipe — it takes one unit of four-inch pipe out of our inventory.

We really like Cart Notices. It’s great for offering additional products to customers directly on the cart page. 

We also use WooCommerce Backorder Manager Pro for managing backorders and checking inventory levels.

Q. Is there any custom code on your site? 

We have a few custom solutions. One is a stove size calculator. People add their measurement details and it tells them the size stove and parts they need.

stove size calculator on the website

That’s what’s great about WordPress: its deep community. If there’s not a plugin tailored for what you need, you can build something relatively inexpensively. Anytime we want to solve a problem, we don’t have to recreate the wheel. We can dive into the library and see what other people have done. Even if it’s not a perfect fit, it can be customized to work perfectly. 

Q. What do you use for payments? 

PayPal and Stripe. We’re now debating a transition to PayPal Braintree for WooCommerce, which has lower rates and a more streamlined checkout experience because you can accept credit cards directly on your site.

A hidden benefit of using PayPal and Stripe is that we’ve been able to access lines of credit. As a new business, we didn’t have a credit score, so our local bank wouldn’t lend to us. But our payment providers had direct proof of our sales and were able to give us a loan based on that. That’s been really helpful to our growth. 

Q. How about your marketing and customer acquisition process?

There are more players now, which makes things more challenging. But we still rank pretty well. SEO is a big feeder, along with Instagram and Facebook. That’s how we connect with the community. We do some Google AdWords as well.

We use Streak CRM, which integrates with Gmail, for email marketing, and Gravity Forms on our contact page.

Q. Why is a CRM important? 

Going tiny is a big decision and it’s a long process to figure out how you want to heat your space. You need to decide if it’s a good idea to put a stove in and punch a hole through your roof. The sales process could take a couple of weeks or three months. 

Q. Do you still produce a lot of content?

Our site has tons of content. We use WooCommerce and not Shopify because it’s so important. We have lots of articles and guides and videos and case studies. We’re really trying to leverage those, which is really clunky on Shopify. WordPress and Woo give us more ability to tailor our site to what we’re doing. They’re very versatile. 

case studies page on the Tiny Wood Stove website

Q. What’s next for the business? 

We’re in the process of diversifying the company to other things like composting toilets. The long play is to be Tiny Supply Co. — offering the whole gamut.

Tiny Wood Stove is a great example of a business that was driven by their community. Nick and Shae had an audience — those wanting to live tiny — that they were familiar with and passionate about.

Then, they listened to that audience. They found a problem they could solve and confirmed that customers were willing to pay for their product. 

If you’re thinking about starting an online business, or even if you’ve already jumped in, read our series titled, “From Idea to First Customer.” It walks you through all the steps from identifying an audience to making your very first sale.

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News – The Month in WordPress: August 2020 – WordPress.org

August was special for WordPress lovers, as one of the most anticipated releases, WordPress 5.5, was launched. The month also saw several updates from various contributor teams, including the soft-launch of the Learn WordPress project and updates to Gutenberg. Read on to find out about the latest updates from the WordPress world.

WordPress 5.5 Launch

The team launched WordPress 5.5 on August 11. The major release comes with a host of features like automatic updates for plugins and themes, enabling updates over uploaded ZIP files, a block directory, XML sitemaps, block patterns, inline image editing, and lazy-loading images, to name a few. WordPress 5.5 is now available in 50 languages too! You can update to the latest version directly from your WordPress dashboard or download it directly from WordPress.org. Subsequent to the 5.5 release, the 5.5.1 release candidate came out on August 28, which will be followed by its official launch of the minor release on September 1.

A record 805 people contributed to WordPress 5.5, hailing from 58 different countries. @audrasjb has compiled many more stats like that and they’re well worth a read!

Want to get involved in building WordPress Core? Follow the Core team blog, and join the #core channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

Gutenberg 8.7 and 8.8

The core team launched Gutenberg 8.7 and 8.8. Version 8.7 saw many improvements to the Post Block suite, along with other changes like adding a block example to the Buttons block, consistently autosaving edits, and updating the group block description. Version 8.8 offers updates to Global Styles, the Post Block suite, and Template management. The release significantly improves the back-compatibility of the new Widget Screen, and also includes other important accessibility and mobile improvements to user interfaces like the Toolbar, navigation menus, and Popovers. For full details on the latest versions of these Gutenberg releases, visit these posts about 8.7 and 8.8.

Want to get involved in building Gutenberg? Follow the Core team blog, contribute to Gutenberg on GitHub, and join the #core-editor channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

Check out the brand new Learn WordPress platform!

Learn WordPress is a brand new cross-team initiative led by the WordPress Community team, with support from the training team, the TV team, and the meta team. This platform is a learning repository on learn.wordpress.org, where WordPress learning content will be made available. Video workshops published on the site will be followed up by supplementary discussion groups based on workshop content. The first of these discussion groups have been scheduled, and you can join an upcoming discussion on the dedicated meetup group. The community team invites members to contribute to the project. You can apply to present a workshop, assist with reviewing submitted workshops, and add ideas for workshops that you would like to see on the site. You can also apply to be a discussion group leader to organize discussions directly through the learn.wordpress.org platform. We are also creating a dedicated Learn WordPress working group and have posted a call for volunteers. Meetup organizers can use Learn WordPress content for their meetup events (without applying as a discussion group leader). Simply ask your meetup group to watch one of the workshops in the weeks leading up to your scheduled event, and then host a discussion group for that content as your event.

Want to get involved with the Community team? Follow the Community blog, or join them in the #community-events channel in the Making WordPress Slack group. To organize a local WordPress community event, visit the handbook page

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