In episode 33, we are talking with Adam Selley from Pronto Marketing. If you are getting ready to start working on your online store, whether you plan on doing it yourself or hiring someone to design and develop it, you should listen to this show.
Creating and launching an eCommerce site can be a daunting task, but if you prepare yourself and know when to find help when you need it, the process will be much smoother for you and your business.
We chatted about:
- The top priorities you should have in place before moving ahead with your site
- Whether your content should be created before you start the design/development process
- A few of the mistakes people make when starting their online store
- Any frustrations they find from their client when using WooCommerce
- Some of the challenges Adam has discovered when starting to create an eCommerce site
Thanks To Our Podcast Sponsor: Pronto Marketing
Bob Dunn: Welcome to the WP E-Commerce Show. The podcast about everything e-commerce and WordPress. Hey everyone, welcome to episode 33. Bob Dunn here, also known as BobWP on the web. Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Adam Selley from Pronto Marketing who is also our current sponsor. Hey Adam, welcome to the show.
Adam Selley: Hey Bob, thanks for having me.
Bob Dunn: You bet. Really looking forward to hearing all the nuggets you have for us. Now for our listeners on occasion our sponsors are also guests on the show because they bring specific expertise to the table, something I am always excited to share with you.
Today we are going to be talking to anyone who is preparing to pull together, create, and launch their online store. Having coached people through this myself in the past, I know that all though it seems to be a daunting task, if you prepare yourself in the right way, find the right help when you need it, life will go much more smoothly for you. Adam is here to give us some insights and tips on this. Before we really get into that, I would like Adam to tell us a bit more about himself and Pronto Marketing.
Adam Selley: Sure, Pronto has actually been making WordPress websites out of Bangkok for about 8 years. The company is growing tremendously and today we manage over 1,300 sites. I joined the company a year and a half ago and e-commerce was a hot topic within the company. They just didn’t have anyone to take the lead on it so I was tasked with finding a way to offer this to our existing clients and as a service to new clients. Pronto has a fantastic team of designers, developers, editors, SEO experts all on hand for the clients to use as they need. We also have a dedicated support team accessible by email, chat, and phone. Ultimately the value of Pronto is that we free up business owners’ time to focus on other aspects of their business.
Bob Dunn: Excellent, excellent. It’s amazing because not only are you the all in one shop and you can fill all those different needs but I love it, the support. When you’re running an online store, the fact that you can get hold of somebody when you have an issue, especially your store. People seem to freak out a bit more when your store, something goes sideways. They think, “Oh!” That’s great to hear Adam. We’re going to be hearing a little bit more about Pronto Marketing and a bit more details of what they can do for you later in the show. For now, let’s dive into these questions.
I’m going to start with this very first one which is pretty generic. Obviously when most people are ready to start with design and development they know the products they are selling, at least they think they know. What are the other top priorities they should have in place before even moving ahead with it themselves or hiring someone else to do it?
Adam Selley: Yeah. Merchant accounts and shipping methods are usually important. It’s not a sexy topic but these are usually the 2 main hold ups of any project. We usually try to get the ball rolling on these early. It’s important that they have a gateway that is supported by Woo and it’s important they have a shipping method support by Woo and they know how they want to take payments. Sometimes the merchant account can take a while to set up. That’s an important thing to have ready. On top of that it’s important that we know the features that they want when they start the site. Do they want memberships? Do they want subscriptions, recurring payments? We need to make sure all the plug ins play well together and all that sort of stuff.
Most businesses come with some baggage. Either they are tied to a strange merchant account or they desperately need their CRM to work. We need to be sure of all the moving parts they expect so that we can set that up for them.
Bob Dunn: It’s really about being prepared, it’s not coming to you and you guys are working away and 2 months into the project or a month into the project they go, “I’ve been thinking about a membership side of things, how can we do that now?”
Adam Selley: Yeah, with Woo you can do pretty much anything but there are things you can’t do or you need to do in a certain way, we need to prepare to manage their expectations about that.
Bob Dunn: Yeah. This follows in the same realm of things, when you’re working with a client as far as their copy, they’re going to, depending on their site and product descriptions and the about page, all that good stuff, do you recommend that they have the copy created before you actually start development as a site or will you say, “We’ll let you do it as we’re working on it?”
Adam Selley: Sure. When the person is onboarding for a Pronto website we ask them if they need us to develop all of their content if they want us to copy their current content or somewhere in the middle. There’s no right answer but I think design in UX is so important these days. It’s often better to prepare the mock up of the store front and the site homepage first and put the basic copy in. Then have them look at the mock up and decide the copy once they’ve passed that stage. Often they want to have a huge banner copy at the front then we have to squeeze into a design, it’s not always the best way.
Bob Dunn: Yeah. Really depends on the situation, there’s really no hard and fast rule at that.
Adam Selley: Yeah. Some clients come with their content that they’ve spent years developing and that’s what they want so we have to mold the design around that. Yeah, case by case.
Bob Dunn: Exactly. Is there common mistakes that you see clients making when they’re starting their online store and with those mistakes do you have solutions that you can help them with or actually recommend as people are thinking about this?
Adam Selley: Usually client expectations are, not only just a mistake, but it’s the problem that they bring to the project where they expect odd things that we’re not quite sure how to do. It’s our job to set the expectations correctly at the start when they on board. A client might expect some very peculiar features that we are unable to support but it’s good to know that early on.
For the larger stores with 500+ products they often don’t have their products in any usable format. This can make the initial store set up a night mare. Solution to having too many products would be to get a good Google spreadsheet populated and ready or ask them to reduce their product amount.
Bob Dunn: Then on that same note, maybe it’d be good to give an example, let’s say I come to you and I say, “I’m going to start a membership site with my WooCommerce online store.” They have it in their brain, “I’m going to make all this money. it just is everybody’s saying membership sites are great and I just want you to plug it in and I’m going to offer some courses,” and they just leave it at that. What would you say to me if I said that as a client or prospective client?
Adam Selley: How many courses are you offering? How many membership plans? How many members are you expecting? I think it’s about getting the numbers down and learning the scope of all what they’re after. Then try and persuade them to start small perhaps, start with one membership plan and one cost and build up on top of that rather than trying to offer it all at once.
Bob Dunn: Yeah. That’s excellent advice, what you just said there because I know I’ve done membership sites myself and I know that a lot of people are pushing them right now. They’re great when they succeed but they are a lot of work and I think, again, it falls in that whole expectations thing. What are their expectations of a membership site? Are they thinking you’re just going to add it to their site and whoa, things are going to happen or do they realize … ?
I know that you help with keeping their site maintained, providing support. How does that play in, sorry I’m kind of stuck on membership, how would that play into membership? What if somebody came to you and said, “I’m going to start this. I realize you will help with marketing, will you help with marketing my membership site and me helping get members?” Is that one of those expectations that’s like, woa, step back here a bit or yes, that’s something we can do?
Adam Selley: It’s interesting when Pronto started it was just websites for the first 7 years. Only when I joined we started doing WooCommerce and memberships and gateways and shipping, you know what it brings to a project. We have our broad services of we’ve managed people’s Adwords, we do that advanced SEO, we help with this, that, and the other and get the basics right. We do give a personal touch, phone support when they need that bit of advice and they want to talk around ideas so we can help with that. We usually put, like an Adwords package perhaps to help them in that direction with the services that we have.
Bob Dunn: Yeah. Okay. Good. Now we’ve been mentioning WooCommerce a lot, you work with WooCommerce with your clients. Are there any real frustrations with Woo in particular that you find your customers sharing with you, whether it’s during that initial building of the site or even continued support that you hear more often than other issues that might come up?
Adam Selley: Yeah. I think CRM support is, CRM like infusion software and all those sort of … A lot of our clients are IT based and they always have their CRM choice. I think WooCommerce lacks that support. We have Zapier, which you can use to pull stuff across and there’s a few others. That’s the one thing that’s lacking in WooCommerce, that our customers often need or want that we can’t quite offer out the box. We usually have to go to third party and providers like Orderhive to patch that up where we loop information through to Orderhive and that can go off to the CRM and come back again. That’s the main frustration I think our clients talk about.
Bob Dunn: Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. I see it in forums and stuff. Is there any built in feature or built in functionality that Woo has that you find, even though it makes sense, for the typical store owners there’s some piece that really frustrates them if they really start to try to dive into that?
Adam Selley: We have 45 stores we’ve built. That’s how many stores we’ve built. They’re all very impressed with how it works because I guess they’re used to WordPress and they don’t associate WordPress with e-commerce. When they see how the orders come in, how when they have a subscriber it says active and they can pend it, so much control over that kind of stuff. They can see the membership stuff, they’re always very impressed with what it’s capable of doing. Can’t really think of any frustrations with operation. Unless it’s a bug.
Bob Dunn: Yeah. Right. That’s good to hear. Woo will like to hear that.
Adam Selley: Yeah.
Bob Dunn: I’ll put a teaser in on Twitter, here if Woo frustrates Pronto Marketing customers or not, get everybody to listen. Okay. We’re heading on this last question here. Give us a quick overview of what you consider to be one of the biggest challenges as an agency that you have had when creating a e-commerce site. It can be a specific project, you don’t, of course, have to name the project or task or something, what’s your biggest challenge?
Adam Selley: I guess the biggest challenge is actually moving our platform to make it e-commerce friendly because our core theme at Pronto is built using Bootstrap and we run all of our sites using multi-sites so we had 1,300 sites running off one instance. This was great for keeping plug ins updated across all of our sites and keeping everything streamlined across the sites. With e-commerce that was a problem because if a client signed up under one account on their store, it would also appear in another person’s account.
As far as ever security issues, we had to actually create a private instance for these e-commerce stores and these clients so that 1, we could have extra plug ins on a whim. We could add the plug ins that they needed because obviously they have their own gateways and shipping methods. That’s been our biggest challenge is changing the platform that we currently have or had before so that we could accommodate a private instance where we could have more flexibility with our e-commerce stores.
Bob Dunn: Wow. It boggles my mind. Let me just tell you. I’m glad just people … Companies like you do this so I can just send people to you and not have to worry about any of that myself.
Adam Selley: We have a really good R and D team that just, they spend weeks focusing on this problem and they just work on it. I just say the words, “private instance.”
Bob Dunn: I bet that’s when they pay attention to when you say it. Let’s get back to Pronto Marketing and talk a little bit more about what’s going on there and what you guys do. I know that you gave us a brief introduction earlier but share with us some more on the background of Pronto Marketing and what you do to not only help people launch their online stores but also help with continued maintenance and support.
Adam Selley: Pronto Marketing was founded about 8 years ago by a father and son team, Derek and Cory Brown. Before Pronto Derek worked as a marketing executive at Microsoft where he worked closely with small IT service companies around the world. He noticed how much they struggle with maintaining their professional web presence and executing on basic marketing tactics. After realizing that, he didn’t want to work at a major corporation like Microsoft. He and Cory decided to start Pronto with the aim of helping IT service companies improve their online presence and marketing. Over the years they expanded the company both in terms of the industries that they serve and the range of services they offer. Like I said, they manage 1,300 hundred websites at the moment and they range from an attorney’s website to an electrician to large, small e-commerce sites. We do some real estate sites, it’s really broad range of sites that we cover.
Once the site goes live they obviously need their supported and they need help with their SEO, online advertising, social media, email marketing, and content marketing campaigns. We can’t have separate extra services for that, for each element that they want to grow from their website so if they want to start putting money into AdWords we can help manage that. If they want to do some corporate branding to change their logo, we have a service for that. Brochure designs, core tracking, and social media posts, we have an editorial team here to help with content and use letters. It’s kind of the whole package, the whole package that a website needs to build it, support it, and grow it basically.
Bob Dunn: They can, like you said, spend their time thinking of new products they want to bring on and having all that money rake in and not worry about, “Oh, why am I not showing up here in SEO?” Or, “Oh no, my site, I’m always worried about it going down,” you’re there for them, right?
Adam Selley: Yeah. We have 24/5 chats, we’ve recently brought that in maybe over the last year so people can just chat with us at anytime and site down which it rarely happens but these urgent sort of requests. We’re trying to expand to 24/7, that’s the next goal, top secret.
Bob Dunn: Yeah. It’s important, I’ll be honest with you, especially with some services like hosting and stuff when I’ve chosen them, it has been all around chat. That’s horrible that that’s a priority for me but I love chat. I don’t like phones, I just don’t like picking up the phone. I’m just weird that way. If I can get on chat and talk to somebody and sometimes you have to wait a bit but if I can do that it’s like, “Ugh.” That’s a huge one.
Adam Selley: It’s easier.
Bob Dunn: And more and more people are becoming more and more comfortable with that.
Adam Selley: When I was at WooConf and I was speaking to people, they were quite impressed with the business, the model that we have. It’s unique I guess because most people there were just doing custom dev projects, expensive projects that they build from scratch. This is kind of a different approach I guess.
Bob Dunn: We didn’t even meet each other did we, at WooConf?
Adam Selley: No.
Bob Dunn: No.
Adam Selley: It was my first time in Texas, the first time in America I was there.
Bob Dunn: Okay.
Adam Selley: Bumbling around.
Bob Dunn: You survived right?
Adam Selley: Yeah. Off TexMex.
Bob Dunn: I had plenty of that myself. I don’t think I ate so many tacos in my life.
Adam Selley: Food is good.
Bob Dunn: Hopefully maybe next one, which I don’t know when that’ll be, but if you or somebody else comes from Pronto Marketing, definitely will have to meet up and chat and get actually meet in person, which will be very cool.
Now, next three questions I always move into is something I ask every guest. Pull out their developer hat or their marketing hat or whatever their expertise is in a sense but also as an online shopper when you are doing your own online shopping and most people do it to some extent. Some people do it all the time. The first question I’m going to ask you is, when you’re shopping online for yourself, what is one of the biggest frustrations you find over and over and over again that drives you nuts on so many online stores you visit?
Adam Selley: Yeah. We’re based in Thailand so there’s quite a few frustrations with the online experience in Thailand is quite … Is a few years behind America and the UK and all that. Anytime you make an online purchase in Thailand it spends about 7 days in customs where they’re trying to work out the tax that you need to pay.
Bob Dunn: Oh, man.
Adam Selley: Yeah, Thai websites are pretty awful, it’s fun touch to work on US e-commerce stores at Pronto, I don’t have to spend too much time looking at Thai sites.
Bob Dunn: Yeah. Is there anything when you’re not dealing with that particular part of it, is there something that you just every once in a while, whether it’s the check out process, people how they’re trying to sell you something, something that just bugs you and turns you off and you just think, “I just want to close this and find somebody else?”
Adam Selley: I guess the usual answer is pop ups and slow gateways that just don’t … Ones that take you off the page and you go somewhere else and you’re not sure what you’re doing or where you’re putting your details. Then they don’t send you an email. The messy journey I guess. I want it nice and clean and 2 or 3 steps.
Bob Dunn: Right, I hear that over and over again from people. That’s too bad that so many sites out there doing that are still having those issues. They’ll just need to come to Pronto Marketing, have you guys clean it up. That’s all there is. Send them a little contact through the thing, “Do you know you could use a little help here?” Sometimes you’re tempted to do that, I know I’m sometimes I’ve been on sites and I just want to say, “Hire me or go over here and have these people help you please. I think your life will be much better.”
Now you say you do have your challenges there. Knowing what’s online and what you can buy, is there anything you would never buy online, you would have to buy in person?
Adam Selley: I guess groceries. As I was leaving the UK 3 years ago, I like to feel the mangoes and know the fruits I’m buying, how ripe it is, all that sort of stuff. I guess big purchases like a condo, furniture, that kind of stuff. VR shopping sounds quite interesting. I saw the Ikea VR app. Maybe that’ll help me buy my furniture through VR and that could help.
Bob Dunn: For sure, that will be interesting to see if that actually increase sales. If it’s something that, just that experience will make it some people say, “Ah, still freaking me out.” I agree with you on the food. I’ll sometimes buy certain package food or something or chocolates or something but other than that. Personally if you didn’t have to worry about resources or anything yourself, money, whatever, sales, it didn’t really matter and you could just go off and build this online store and sell something you’ve always wanted to sell, is there something personally you would like to sell online?
Adam Selley: Before I joined Pronto, I was running an events and ticketing platform, just a start up. It was called, “One Place Bangkok,” it was just a list of events and we’re trying to get event organizers on there selling their tickets. That would be fun to get back into. Companies like, YPlan, I don’t know if you’ve heard of YPlan, they have a really nice events, so simple. That kind of space, especially in Thailand, Southeast Asia where this stuff just doesn’t happen. I guess it’s low hanging fruits, I would love to get into that kind of ticketing and events. WooCommerce has a really great ticketing engine, which I’ve had a lot of play with. I like to dive into that a bit and see where that takes me.
Bob Dunn: Yeah, that’s interesting because nobody’s ever said that one. You’re the first to say ticketing. Very cool. I appreciate you sharing your shopper insights there and it sounds like you do have a few challenges from your location.
Adam Selley: Challenges but opportunities perhaps.
Bob Dunn: Okay, that’s true. You’re optimistic, I like that. You turn challenges into opportunities. Very cool. You’ve shared some great nuggets on preparing yourself for an online store. I know there’s so much more. There’s really, it’s hard to always focus down because there are a lot of variables per store, what people’s needs are, but I think you gave us some good initial ideas and also something for people to think about. I would encourage our listeners to bookmark this show because if you know somebody that is looking to leap into online sales or they’re wanting to start another store, you may want to listen to this. I want to thank you Adam for taking the time to share your wisdom with us.
Adam Selley: Yeah, anytime. Thanks Bob.
Bob Dunn: You bet. Also huge thanks to Pronto Marketing and their support for our show. As I said, they are one of my full month sponsors and next week’s show will be coming to you courtesy of Pronto Marketing as well. Find them on Twitter, give them a shout out and do make sure you check them out at ProntoMarketing.com. Consider them when you are planning your first or next online store. Until next week, if you have a chance we’d love a review over on iTunes, as that continues to be a huge part of the success of any podcast. Thanks for taking the time to listen and join us for the next WP E-Commerce Show.