Decisions to support an eCommerce platform

Inside our agency

We’ve created some pretty innovative e-commerce solutions over the past three decades, but until 2014 we’ve never supported off-the-shelf solutions. And here is why.

We’re huge fans of being transparent; it’s in our culture to be open and honest about what we do, what we don’t and, more importantly, why. So here is our journey to off-the-shelf eCommerce support in this decade.

We made the decision to shift the business into WordPress-only nearly five years ago – WordPress is a very specific platform, and requires specific experience and skills. At the turn of the decade there were many competing e-commerce platforms and, being frank, WordPress was not the platform of choice if you were building an e-commerce solution.

In fact, you’d have gone with one of the established standalone solutions such as Shopify, Magento or oSCommerce. Many had been around for a decade or more and some predated WordPress by quite a long way. Put simply, WordPress didn’t have a credible integrated e-commerce solution.

We’d made the decision almost a decade earlier to focus our skills and experience within specialist areas – and not become a general web-builder. There are, as you doubt have seen, lots of general “do-it-all” web builders and differentiating ourselves in such an over-subscribed market was never going to happen, and certainly not provide long-term security and stability.

So, while being tempted to support everything from oSCommerce to Magento, we opted to stick to what we’re good at – WordPress. Our rationale was “being brilliant at one thing is better than being so-so at a wide range of stuff”. But, like most things in Connected, this was not set in stone.

When WooCommerce started to emerge into the e-commerce space, specifically around the WordPress platform, it piqued our interest. For a start, Woocommerce was a standard plugin to WordPress, the first really good one. However, in 2012, it lacked the features and didn’t offer a credible solution to serious business online.

Roll forward a couple of years and by 2014 it’s pretty clear that WooCommerce has grown up is going to be a major player in the e-commerce space. Deep WordPress integration (and roots) meant we started supporting the platform, initially unofficially, with a handful of trial installations but supporting those initial installations gave us valuable knowledge.

As it turns out, most of our support team knew WooCommerce, and the bits they didn’t know were quickly picked up due to its roots in WordPress. We found that WordPress and Woocommerce skills and experience were highly interchangeable – not something that applied to any other e-commerce platform out there.

By late 2014, WooCommerce was used about 18% of all e-commerce installs, and it was clear it was only going to grow. As a result, we formally added WooCommerce to our portfolio – we still stick by our “focus on expertise and service” mantra, so we don’t support any other e-commerce platform. The jury was still out as there are lots of non-WordPress-based shopping cart systems so would WooCommerce survive and prosper?

Usefully, and maybe a little luckily, WooCommerce was bought out by Automattic (the parents of WordPress) in early 2015. This purchase secured, for once and all, the decision to support WooCommerce only for the foreseeable future. In fact, by September 2015, trends indicated that WooCommerce ran on 30% of e-commerce sites and millions of active installs.