Until recently, Patrick Rauland was the product manager for WooCommerce. It’s the WordPress plugin that, according to BuiltWith, powers 39% of e-commerce stores globally. So when he agreed to be my guest for our “Quick Takes” podcast series, I expected an informative conversation regarding the puts and calls of WooCommerce and Shopify for human scale businesses. As it turned out, Patrick also had much to share regarding the benefits of being small, his role as a “holistic optimizer” for his e-commerce clients, the value of continuous experimentation, and creating data through action.
I learned of Patrick when I was implementing WooCommerce for this website. His “WooCommerce Cookbook” was, and remains, a valued resource.
Patrick has an infectious enthusiasm for web technologies and the opportunities e-commerce creates. He also appreciates that technology is a tool that can only be as good as our strategies. Building and maintaining a successful online business is hard work. He warns against simplistic thinking and the allure of “silver bullet” strategies.
Choosing an Ecommerce Platform
You might think that Patrick would have an overwhelming bias toward WooCommerce. In fact, it remains a favorite. However, he advises that you pick the platform that reflects your need for customization (and your capacity to maintain the system):
- Gumroad offers “buy now” functionality that’s perfect for the seller who offers just one or two products.
- Shopify is a reliable, full-featured platform that offers outstanding integrations with leading social media channels.
- WooCommerce offers unparalleled flexibility and is built on WordPress, which is a boon for content marketers. It’s also less stable than Shopify. That means WooCommerce requires much more administrative attention to maintain.
Choosing to be Small
A couple of months ago, Patrick left Automattic – the company that acquired WooThemes, the creator of WooCommerce – to launch his own e-commerce consulting practice. WooThemes developed the leading e-commerce platform in the world with fewer than 50 people, so Patrick knows that big things can come from small teams. He likes how, as a team of one, he can change direction quickly. Patrick values that ability in his clients, too. One of the benefits of working with human scale businesses is seeing the impact of your contributions.
Sometimes as small businesses, we seek the validation that comes from working with much larger companies. So, we often favor working with larger customers and bigger service providers and suppliers. Increasingly, we can develop higher quality and more relevant relationships with like-sized teams. Patrick’s choice is a testament to that trend.
Search engine optimization specialists tout the importance of SEO. Content marketers emphasize the value of writing blogs and posting YouTube videos. Business analytics gurus preach the virtue of establishing and tracking key performance indicators. All is for naught if your product is sub par and your marketing strategy misdirected.
Notwithstanding his enthusiasm for technology, Patrick makes it clear that his interest is in identifying root causes of marketing success. The right strategy drives the selection of the appropriate tactics. In our conversation, Patrick shares a story of digging beyond the obvious to identify a deeper problem for one of his clients. It’s a process of inquiry he calls “holistic optimization.”
A Bias to Act
When we’re starting something really new, there is little valid data with which to make informed decisions. That can be terrifying. Even so, pretending to know – or worse, being frozen due to lack of knowing – hurts our ability to learn about, and adapt to, reality. Patrick advocates a “just ship it” attitude toward e-commerce. The sooner you take action, the sooner you’ll generate useful data that can help you learn how to improve. It doesn’t feel efficient, but it’s effective.
Patrick has authored three mini-courses for Lynda.com. Each has a duration ranging from 60 to 90 minutes:
LEARN SHOPIFY: THE BASICS
WORDPRESS: CUSTOMIZING WORDPRESS THEMES
Learn more by taking advantage of Patrick’s affiliate link to get free trial access to the Lynda.com library:GET LYNDA.COM 7-DAY FREE TRIAL
You can learn more about Patrick and his consulting practice at the following sites. You can actually engage him for a few minutes by phone by scheduling a Clarity call: