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Summary List PlacementWith e-commerce witnessing unprecedented growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, WooCommerce is having quite a moment.
Still, the WordPress plugin’s recent success has been nearly a decade in the making, according to its CEO.
WooCommerce, an open-source WordPress plugin, launched in 2011 and allows merchants to operate online stores directly on the website — from managing customer orders to providing updates on shipping. The company is a subsidiary of Automattic, which also owns WordPress. WooCommerce touts itself as a more affordable, customizable option in the realm of e-commerce services.
“As a platform provider, we make those tools available to our merchants,” Paul Maiorana, WooCommerce’s CEO, told Insider. “They don’t have to think about, ‘Oh gosh, how am I going to actually implement this?’ They can continue to grow their businesses and meet the demands of their customers without having to really kind of lift a finger and build something unique themselves.”
Mark Lewis, an e-commerce solutions architect at e-commerce development agency Netalico Commerce, told Insider last month that WooCommerce has been a gamechanger for brands more frequently relying on online sales during the coronavirus pandemic. This has even prompted “some talk” in industry circles of WooCommerce potentially being spun off as a public company.
Maiorana, who has led WooCommerce since May 2019, said he likens the company to “a really great e-commerce engine,” adding that WooCommerce currently powers 2 million online stores — from “micro-businesses” to “very large enterprises.” The service has also seen a “significant” surge in new users, as well as a “redoubling” of online engagement by merchants already using the software.
Read more: Tonal is taking on the fitness industry by using AI to personalize at-home workouts. Here’s how it grew sales eight fold in 2020 and attracted investors like Steph Curry.
During the pandemic, two categories have thrived over others using WooCommerce in particular: custom mask-makers and direct-to-consumer home fitness brands like Tonal, Maiorana said. WooCommerce users are also especially keen on services like curbside pickup.
An open-source ‘pro-freedom philosophy’
According to Maiorana, WooCommerce’s mission of bringing e-commerce to all merchants is a bit more complicated than just offering customizable software.
“Everybody wants to democratize everything these days,” he said. “We feel like the democratization of commerce is really about freedom on the internet. You can use any of our competitors and build a fine store, but at the end of the day, if you want to have complete control over the experience that you’re delivering to your customers, WooCommerce is pretty unique because of our open source, pro-freedom philosophy.”
He added that, as an open-source tool, WooCommerce allows for a greater sense of ownership and privacy, allowing stores to dive into the code, control front-to-back operations, and set limits on information-sharing options.
“If you’re on a more proprietary platform, you exist in a walled garden,” the CEO said. “It’s ultimately up to the folks who direct the platform, in terms of what you’re able to do with your own business.”
WooCommerce’s more notable competitors include the likes of BigCommerce and Shopify. Maiorana’s team is now focused on creating a plugin that is more “responsive to our merchants and the changing preferences of their customers.” This entails branching out into mobile e-commerce capabilities for merchants increasingly concerned about having more of an omnichannel approach, as well as creating a generally more user-friendly, intuitive service.
“We want to empower our merchants to get up and running with WooCommerce and to build the store of their dreams without necessarily having to know code or having to hire a developer,” he said.
In recent years, the plugin has also improved its “lagging release cycle,” launching a new version of WooCommerce every month instead of three times a year.
“Our focus is not just on being an e-commerce platform, but being a commerce platform generally, and bringing WooCommerce into every aspect of a store’s life,” Maiorana said. SEE ALSO: Online retailer Wish just landed a $17 billion valuation in its IPO. Here are 21 other ecommerce companies experts say could go public in 2021.
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