Last Week in WooCommerce: The Challenge with Theme Templates

Each week I tell you what's happened in the world of eCommerce – and specifically WooCommerce. Last week WooCommerce rolled out their latest (minor) release, 5.0 and you can read about the entire release on their blog.

That's it. That's the big news of last week.

Oh, but wait, something else happened last week.**

A product I've been working on for a year finally passed all our internal checks. In fact, it is getting released tomorrow. It's live now!

Can we talk about theme templates?

Let me show you a video of the problem. See if you have ever experienced this.

Did it feel familiar?

You use platforms like Wix, Squarespace, Shopify or even a pagebuilder for WooCommerce, and you get a bunch of theme templates that look great.

That doesn't sound like a problem. Right? Until you browse the web. And you discover thousands, no, tens of thousands of stores that look just like yours because they used the same exact theme template.

When it comes to differentiation, when you're focused on conversion, you can't afford to look like everyone else. It's silly that we all know this, and yet this is the state of eCommerce platforms today – shipping a bunch of theme templates to pick from.

So that everyone can look the same.

Just great.

Here's the backstory on what we did to solve this common problem in eCommerce

We analyzed more than 1000 stores – particularly those who were native to being online. Direct to Consumer (DTC) is the label you might recognize.

As I mentioned in my talk for WordCamp Europe, we noticed three things:

  1. People were shifting from catalog presentations (grids of products) to a greater focus on storytelling. This just makes simple sense. We know the power of storytelling. It makes sense to stop copying the old catalog paradigm and embrace one that helps connect a person with your brand. But the moment you walk away from grids of products, you have to figure out what to put in their place.
  2. The second thing we noticed was that the design decisions changed based on the market/industry that they were in. Again, not a shocking reality, until you discover that most platforms just give you a simple template that doesn't take your industry into account. Once you do, things start changing quickly. What works on a jewelry site doesn't work when selling athletic equipment.
  3. The third thing we noticed was that SKU count changed more than the home page. It also changed what was in your navigation. If you only sell a single product, you'll likely tell the story on the homepage without another menu item. If you sell a couple products, you might see each product in the navigation. If you sell a lot of SKUs, you might see “shop” or something similar in the nav.

So we collected tons of data. We looked at the navigation menu items for every store. We looked at what components were on each home page of each store, and in what order. Then we categorized each store by SKU quantity and industry.

At the end, we had built an intelligent engine that could tell you what should be on your homepage based on the answer to a few questions.

Productizing Expert Knowledge

Knowing what should go on a page, and eliminating theme templates, would make WooCommerce a lot easier for newbies that had yet to hire a designer or developer.

But we needed to design and code every one of those blocks in Gutenberg, and then connect it to a theme so that we could immediately generate your home page and the rest of your key pages.

That took some time as well. And then a bit more. And some more.

Our December launch shifted to January, and now February. I'm sure I'll have more articles about how to know when Go should be No Go.

It turns out productizing expert knowledge is hard work and takes time. But the result is incredible.

We call it StoreBuilder and you can see it tomorrow on our site.
That's our microsite for people who don't know WooCommerce at all.

But you can also get it on our Nexcess WooCommerce hosting plans (the lowest two plans). It's a free feature on those plans so that you can have AI build your first store for you.

** I know the Monday edition is for stuff that happened last week. Our release to production did happen last week, even if I'm cheating a bit since the release is tomorrow. But you can't get too mad – it's an incredible solution that you should check out.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission, at no cost to you.

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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