Between April 6-8, hundreds of store owners, developers, and ninjas descended upon Austin, Texas to do just one thing: eat tacos.
Okay, so maybe two things: eat tacos, and celebrate the world’s leading eCommerce platform at the second annual WooCommerce Conference (or as we lovingly call it, WooConf).
There’s already been a ton of coverage about WooConf 2016, and in the coming weeks we plan on making even more available, including speaker slides and session videos. But while you wait, we thought we’d give everyone a look at what our team took away from the event — specifically, the five biggest educational takeaways.
Dive on in to get a look behind the scenes at our second WooConf, and to learn a little bit more about the central themes that emerged from our speakers’ talks this year.
The goal of WooConf
We welcomed our attendees to WooConf 2016 with three guiding principles: learn, develop, and sell.
The goal of our second conference was to give both store owners and developers using WooCommerce an opportunity to learn more about their chosen platform in a truly unique setting, surrounded by fellow experts and fans alike. We also wanted to give everyone an opportunity to expand their horizons, whether that meant connecting with our (awesome!) sponsors or networking with fellow attendees.
With these goals in mind, we offered WooConf attendees two full days of sessions, plus a bonus third day with optional workshops and a networking lunch. And there was, of course, a happy hour and afterparty! Everyone had plenty of opportunities to learn, connect, and have a blast.
From all the feedback we’ve heard (and it’s still coming in), it sounds like everyone took away something a little different from WooConf. For the benefit of those of you who weren’t there, couldn’t catch every session, or simply want a recap, here are the five biggest takeways we got from our talented speakers.
The first takeaway: best practices shouldn’t always be your practices
It’s something we say on our blog all the time: it’s not a matter of doing what you’re told is best, it’s a matter of doing what’s best for your store, your customers, and your success.
Peep referenced commonly-found lists of conversion optimization best practices and A/B tests, and told the audience that just because they are common doesn’t mean they will work for you.
Best practices are more like common practices. Nothing best about them. #Wooconf
— Christian Rumscheidt (@crumscheidt) April 6, 2016
Peep stressed the importance of creating a process for your own business. Instead of trying different optimizations based on advice found online, identify the issues that exist on your store and test multiple solutions until a solution is discovered.
— Dave Lee (@rtwdave) April 6, 2016
We heard this repeated again by other speakers, all of who repeated the importance of testing solutions for your store based on your situation. It was exciting to hear so many experts emphasize this, and it’s in line with what we’ve been saying here on our blog for many months now. 😉
It even falls in line with the support we offer: our ninjas and WooExperts are available to help you find a solution that works for you, not just something that works.
This emphasis on the right fit bleeds over into personalization, which we heard come up in many talks as well — but we’ll get to that in just a moment.
Emphasizing “helping” over “selling”
Whether you’re a store owner or a developer, your primary goal is surely to make money. But the way you do that isn’t as simple as setting up a store or saying “sure, I can do that.”
One of the biggest ways this came through was via the speakers who emphasized helping your potential customers over simply selling to them. We heard about the need to add value, not just offer something, and a big change in mindset.
We heard hints of this in Miracle Wanzo’s talk about Facebook advertising, where she discussed how even paid advertising that started a conversation could be more effective. As she put it, if you have a highly engaging ad, you can earn more social impressions, which gets you “more bang for your buck.”
This topic was the major focus of Matt White‘s talk, aptly named “Stop Selling. Start Helping.” Matt compared salespeople to lions and potential customers to innocent gazelles, talking about how the traditional predatory sales model can frighten buyers away.
Matt emphasized the need to help your potential customers, not deliver a hard pitch that scares them away. And there are plenty of ways to do this, as you probably already know — whether it’s through something as simple as informative website content, or something way more hands-on like a webinar.
He also dropped this gem about cold calling, and how it’s fallen out of fashion:
Cold calling is like French kissing a stranger #Wooconf
— Erica Schaaf (@EricaSchaaf1) April 7, 2016
In in a similar vein, we also enjoyed WP Engine CEO Heather Brunner‘s talk about the need for personalized website content. Heather told a highly entertaining story about Nordstrom’s website trying to predict what kinds of clothing she’d like, and failing miserably.
The lesson learned here: customers expect to be genuinely helped, and if you can’t do it, don’t bother.
— WooCommerce Conf. (@WooConf) April 6, 2016
You can’t do everything, so do what makes the biggest impact
If you’re a store owner, you just can’t do everything. You might want to do everything, but the truth is that you have to pick and choose what’s going to make the biggest impact on your business and focus your efforts there.
Many of our talented speakers shared their tips for either finding what could make the biggest impact for your store, or finding a way to make the biggest impact with one particular activity.
We heard Dustin Stout talk about this when he chatted with store owners about content and social media. Instead of picking every network or every marketing method and investing in it, Dustin said to choose two or three and “go deep” there.
— Get Online NOLA (@GetOnlineNOLA) April 6, 2016
Immediately after Dustin’s talk, Drew Sanocki urged the crowd to take the approach of focusing on their “whales” — that is, the customers who drive the most revenue and propel your business forward. By finding where these customers come from, you can grow these specific marketing channels and waste less time and energy elsewhere.
— Matt White (@matthew_j_white) April 6, 2016
We even heard about this when it came to tracking analytics. Beka Rice of SkyVerge mentioned “analysis paralysis” when it comes to tracking analytics, and said it’s fine to tackle and improve just a few store metrics at once, then move on when you’re satisfied.
— WP Engine (@wpengine) April 7, 2016
WooCommerce is much more than “just a shopping cart”
It’s true: WooCommerce is the platform chosen by more store owners than any other (BuiltWith now puts us at 37%), but it’s a little narrow-minded to view it as “just another shopping cart.” Or even “one of many free options.”
Thankfully, many of our speakers were quick to show us the vast possibilities of WooCommerce, with talks focusing on memberships, subscription sites, content marketing, and so much more — we scarcely have room to mention them all here!
We heard from developers like Merrill Meyer, who spoke specifically about how to turn a WooCommerce store into a one-page website. Merrill offered tips for transforming a multi-page store into a single-page one, and doing so rather simply.
Kenn Kelly gave a talk about this very topic, called “WooCommerce is Not (Only) a Cart.” He talked about all the amazing things you can now do with eCommerce, including memberships, and explored some future ideas.
— David Bisset (@dimensionmedia) April 6, 2016
Kenn specifically mentioned some of the developments we’ve seen on sites like Amazon, including the Dash Button, and also touched on gamification being untouched for eCommerce. These are all within our reach… but we need the community’s help to get there.
And that leads us to our last point.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway of all: our community can do amazing things
There are hundreds of thousands of store owners and developers using, modifying, and improving WooCommerce each and every day. It’s true: we’d be lost without all of you.
But an even truer fact: when we put our collective heads together, at events like this one or just on idea boards online, we can accomplish truly amazing things.
Our own Bryce Adams was quick to show us the future possibilities of collective development in the demonstration that ended the first day. Bryce was inspired to create WooCommerce integrations with the physical world by chats with team members during WordCamp Mumbai in 2015, and showed us how webhooks and API calls can do anything from light up LEDs to fly a drone.
Imagine how far developers could take this. Thermal printers firing up on demand, and connecting the bridge between virtual and physical locations, is just the start. We think Bryce probably gave plenty of attendees their own ideas!
WooConf as a whole, though, was proof of this concept. Throughout the entire event, we saw store owners putting their heads together with our incredible sponsors to find solutions for their store. We saw developers offering insight to other developers. We saw ninjas running a live help desk, solving problems on the fly.
When we work together, whether it’s on the next version of WooCommerce or a tricky solution for your store, we can make magic happen. And that shone through with WooConf as a whole: it was a place for people to learn and connect, side-by-side, like never before.
As I heard more than one person say to me on the last day: “I’ve learned so much that my head feels packed full!”
Keen to join us next time? Stay tuned for future WooConf news
With the second WooConf under our collective belts, we’re eager to do it again. It wasn’t only a place of learning and networking: it was also a ton of fun.
If you’re keen to join us for the next conference, you can sign up for updates on WooConf.com. We’ll begin making announcements as we decide on a venue, call for speakers, and narrow down our dates. The biggest challenge for us might be not doing it again right away! 😉
Whether you came to this year’s conference or not, we hope you enjoyed reading these takeaways. For now we’ll wish you a fond farewell and say we look forward to meeting you at the next WooConf!
Credit for all photos in this post goes to Todd White. Kudos for the excellent shots!