Brand Breakout Summit/2021: Growing Your WooCommerce Store Without Knowing Code

If BobWP can build and grow a WooCommerce store, anyone can. Ready to start? Bob Dunn, creator of the Do the Woo podcast has had WooCommerce on his own sites for the last decade without knowing how to code. 

Learn what he’s discovered about the flexibility of WooCommerce, whether you sell virtual downloads, online courses, memberships, coaching services, or anything in-between. Bob shares specific plugins that integrate seamlessly with WooCommerce as well as creative options for growing your online sales beyond a store with physical products. Check out the session below and start thinking outside the box with Woo—no code required!

Video: Growing Your WooCommerce Store Without Knowing Code

Bob Dunn, Podcaster and Producer, Do the Woo discusses:

  • WooCommerce integration
  • Out-of-the-box ways to sell using WooCommerce
  • How to use WooCommerce without knowing code

“That’s one of the really cool things about it… You’re able to actually put extra functionality on there without having to go in and do code.”

Bob Dunn, Podcaster and Producer, Do the Woo

Full text transcript

BOB DUNN: Hey, everyone, Bob WP here. I call myself that all the time. Actually, my real name is Bob Dunn, but glad to have everyone here. And I’m a podcaster and producer of a site called Do the Woo. But I have spent a lot of time with WooCommerce and that’s why we’re going to be talking about growing your WooCommerce store without knowing code because– and we’re going to talk a little bit about code– because that’s really what this is all about is not knowing it.

Now before I show you the very first slide, I’d like to give you a little bit of a back story, actually segue into the slide with the back story. I started in e-commerce in 2003 way back before a lot of people were even doing it. And this was a stock photo site that lasted about two or three years. Needless to say, it doesn’t exist anymore, long story short. Well, there’s a reason it doesn’t exist anymore. And one of the things I found out about or discovered when I was doing that is I was really unclear of what e-commerce was and selling online. So when we fast forward a bit, actually quite a bit, 10 years ago I was introduced to WooCommerce. About, can I say four years before that, well, I started using WordPress.

And during that time, I was still “do I sell online, is this something I want to do?” And I was still a bit freaked out about it because maybe of my first experience and maybe because I had this mindset that everything was all about selling products and shipping them. When WooCommerce came out in 2011, I installed it because I already had a relationship with the company that created this plug-in. And I thought well, why don’t I just pop it in there, play around with it? Well, the more I played around with it, the more I saw some potential. Did that for about a year or so, and then I started selling my first thing online but it wasn’t an actual physical product.

Why I’m telling you all of this is because 10 years have passed and I’ve had WooCommerce on my site for that entire decade. And one of the beauties of that is that I’ve sold everything, and this sounds really weird, everything but physical products. I’ve sold memberships, I’ve sold online courses, ebooks, packages, services, bookings, everything you can possibly think of except an actual product that I ever had to ship. And the reason I did that and the reason I got into WordPress and all of this was back in 2007 I realized, oh man, I do not like building sites. I was a designer at a marketing company and code freaked me out.

Now I have code in a couple of ways here, one with a question mark and one with an exclamation point. And this is really what drives me is first somebody shows you some code and it’s like code? Or somebody shows you some code and you go code! So there’s a couple of ways to look at it. Either way, it freaked me out. It was a four-letter word, I wanted to stay away from it. And when I got into WooCommerce and initially before that, WordPress, I really realized that I could do a heck of a lot without knowing code. And that’s what this whole thing is about: is empowering you to get into this to use your creative ability and sell just about anything you can possibly think of online.

One of the reasons that I went to WooCommerce and learned over these 10 years was two simple facts: flexibility and customization. Now let me give you an analogy. Let’s say you are just trying to start something and you want to sell it but not online, you want to do it at a brick and mortar shop. And you start thinking about it and you decide, hey, I want to sell dog and cat toys. That’s all I want to do. I want to get a bunch of them, sell it, just have fun. Maybe I’ll have cats and dogs in my shop. You have all these dreams. Well, when you start looking for that physical space and what it brings to you for that particular store and what you’re selling, what if somebody was to take you, maybe a realtor takes you, into this huge retail store that’s like 50 times bigger than you need?

There’s dressing rooms built-in. There’s actually places to put frozen food and refrigerated food, and you start looking at all this and you think “all I want to sell is cat toys and dog toys.” And you come to the realization that you don’t need everything, and that’s what WooCommerce is. It doesn’t give you the built-in capability as a plug-in to sell every possible thing in every possible scenario because you would be basically putting this huge retail store on your site that would just bog you down with thousands and thousands of options that would literally drive you nuts.

So what WooCommerce has is flexibility. You can take that base of what WooCommerce does. And it does a lot by itself, don’t get me wrong. But you take that base and you can start selling. And then as you define what you’re selling, you can have another extension, add a plugin that will meet that specific need rather than having everything there and you’re just overwhelmed. That flexibility is what makes it so cool, and that’s how I survived 10 years with WooCommerce because it was flexible. Whenever I was selling something, this, then I’m selling ebooks. Oh, now I want to sell an online course. Now I want to sell a virtual download. I want to sell these different things. I was able to constantly change that.

Maybe it didn’t need an extension or another plug-in, but I was able to get one if I needed it. Oh, I need it specifically for this, this doesn’t do it but likely someone has built something that makes it do it. So that is one of the really cool things about it. And this goes along with not knowing code. You’re able to actually put extra functionality on there without having to go in and do code. And same with customization, that’s the second part. I’m going to be touching on that a little bit more in the next slide. But customization can mean a lot of things. It can mean the look of the site or I could see how the customer actually walks through the process of buying something, how you customize that to meet the specific customer, and what you’re selling.

So there’s all of these plug-ins and extensions that have been built by this great community out there in the WooCommerce space that allow you both the flexibility with what you want to sell, how you want to sell, and then that customization of the actual site. Those are really two critical pieces, and I think those are pieces that people hang onto when they’re using WooCommerce to sell anything. And you’ll see as I go through these next slides that I’ll be referring to both of these because hey, it all falls back on these two.

The big picture. Now I called the slide the big picture. Because I absolutely had no idea what to call it. So I thought, well, this pretty much says it in its own way. What these are are bigger elements. I’m going to be talking more a little bit later about things like membership sites, virtual downloads, online courses. But these are what I call the overseeing larger pieces that are going to probably play in somewhere into your site. And the first one “products by default,” this one is interesting because when you think of e-commerce, a lot of people go back to me way back when and think “I’ve got to sell products, I got to ship products.”

And the “product by default” means that when you install WooCommerce, yes it walks you through and it’ll ask you what you’re going to sell and you’ll be able to get that initial setup but your mind still might be set before you even install WooCommerce just thinking “it sells products, it sells physical products.” That’s what I always hear people talking about with WooCommerce sites. Naturally, it’s just built that way because that’s typically what most people will use it for initially or is one part of their sales.

So when you look at that product by default, that’s really– a product is a lot of things. And don’t get tied into that physical product. Subscriptions and recurring income. Now you don’t even have to be in the e-commerce space to get this. You’re either doing it some way already with your services or your products because everybody wants recurring income.

And likely you belong to a lot of subscribed sites. I mean, you’re paying some kind of monthly subscription, yearly subscription. I don’t know. There’s probably some that even give you a daily subscription. And those are– they’re almost like gold and everybody wants those. And when you really think about it, almost every product and every service that you can sell with WooCommerce or online, can have some kind of subscription or some kind of recurring income to some element of it. Maybe it doesn’t work for you in your model of your business.

But if you get a little creative and think it through, there’s a lot of different ways you can utilize this because it is a great thing to have that recurring income month after month. And I’m sure as we go through this other ideas will come to mind. The third thing which is kind of odd that I threw in was the check-out. And the reason being is that the checkout is one of those pieces of your site that is so critical. And by that I mean you need to have a good customer experience no matter what they’re buying.

We can all relate to this because we’ve all probably bought something online and somewhere along the way had a really bad checkout or something that just didn’t work. Or it’s like, oh, why are they asking me this again? Or couldn’t this be a little bit more streamlined? So that’s that whole, it kind of falls into the customization and the flexibility because there are a lot of different ways you can rebuild or recreate your checkout in order to make it work best for your customers. And that’s really what it all boils down to.

And I left the fourth one: design, because that kind of falls under that customization. And I’m talking about all these other things of functionality, but you want your store to look nice. And you want it designed for the workflow or actually the buying flow I guess I should say of your customer is easy and is something that works for them. So there’s a lot behind the design. And yeah, you want to be able to get in there and use certain colors. You’re going to create brand colors, you’re going to have images in there of products, even products that maybe aren’t physical.

But that design is again another piece of the overall picture. Now you may be wondering why did I mention all of these things because they seem very disjointed and they are. They fall under running something online and selling things online. But really what I wanted to point to is flexibility and customization. All four of these are affected by those two elements I talked to you about first. And it’s really important to know that there’s plug-ins and extensions to help you sell other things than just physical products. There’s plugins and extensions to help you put together those recurring payments, those subscriptions.

There’s a lot of plug-ins that let you rebuild the checkout page totally. So you can make that workflow better specifically to your product and maybe even to your customer. In design again, there’s a lot of things out there as far as page builders which get you into deep customization of the layout of your site. There’s the theme you’ll be using, which is a template and how it looks. There’s blocks that are built into WordPress right now that are becoming more and more incredibly flexible.

So you’re able to manipulate the design and all of this, which is flexibility and customization. And again, all of this allows you to do it without knowing code. I am not a developer, I didn’t really mention at the first. Code, I had for once well, I do a little bit of code, but I tend to stay away from it as much as possible if need be, or hire somebody that knows what they’re doing. But I don’t– I do these things all the time. I’ve done dozens of different plug-ins and extensions that have served these four needs. And because of that, I didn’t ever have to do code, I was able to do it because of the flexibility of those plug-ins and extensions.

I’m going to touch on three kinds of products, and these are not your standard physical products. The reason being is this gives you a better idea of going back to that flexibility and customization. I’m going to also share with you a few plug-ins for each one of these, but not necessarily walk you through the plug-ins. God forbid, tell you how to set them up or anything, or even show you the settings because we’d be here a lot longer than 30 minutes. But instead, I think this will give you a better impression of what’s available out there. Virtual downloads, let’s go to that.

Now you maybe think of downloads mostly as music and apps. I mean, that’s truly a virtual download. And because it is what it is, an obvious one. But as a business, there’s a lot of other virtual downloads that you can monetize. And some of those you may be doing. I mean, we use a lot of downloads like ebooks and white papers and resource guides and all those kinds of things to build up a list, get my free ebook, but there may be a point you have content that has value and you need to actually charge for it. So those virtual downloads are very critical in that sense.

And it’s good to know that if you’re selling one thing on your WooCommerce shop, hey, maybe you need to suddenly download ebooks or have the people, or have your customers have the ability to download ebooks after purchasing them. Well, you can do that with an extension or a plug-in. Just to show you a little bit of what the flexibility of that is, plug-ins and extensions subscription downloads. So we talked about subscriptions talking about downloads. Not every download you’re going to have is a subscription. But if you need that, that’s available. If you need somebody to be able to download bulk books, bulk virtual documents, whatever, that’s available to them.

And as I mentioned, quick checkout for digital goods. Here we’re taking one of the products that you can use and we’re adding one of those very cool bigger picture things, which is the checkout area that helps you build a quick checkout for your virtual product that you’re downloading. And you can kind of see how this all interplays together, and that’s the beauty of WooCommerce.

Membership sites. This and what I’ll be talking about next online courses, this has been a boom for quite a few years and you probably, again, we can mostly relate to these as a consumer because likely you might belong to some kind of membership, online membership. And that membership can come in all sorts of forms, training, coaching, how-tos, product-guided memberships, resources.

One of the things I like to point out here is the flexibility of WooCommerce is that you can take one thing you’re selling it and supplement it with another thing. So maybe you have decided, so I’m going to just use this as an example because right now it’s the easiest example to use. If you’ve been selling coffee online, whether you’re a coffee brewer yourself or you resell, this is such a natural segue, and it kind of goes into subscriptions too, is become a member of the coffee of the month.

And that kind of integration actually is not only easy through some of the plug-ins I’ll show you in a minute. But the fact that you can say, OK, maybe have a retail shop, maybe you’re selling it online and now you’re enticing people with a membership. And what’s really great about membership in that content that’s restricted is that you can take what you’re selling and give your members a special prize or something special, or maybe a product that isn’t even available to the general public becomes a member-only product. Again, maybe it is just a discount, maybe through your membership you can like I said now have that coffee club and they’re getting it at a better price, and they’re getting it shipped because they’re a so-called member now.

So those interplay with each other really well. There is lots of plug-ins and extensions, and I put these four just to give you an idea of what’s out there. They all integrate seamlessly with WooCommerce. In fact, I’ve known some people in the past that have had a WooCommerce store and they say, hey I’m going to go ahead and– oh, I don’t know. I’m going to put on a membership site because I suddenly realized that I would rather make some of these had a discount for a certain select group of people that may be paying some kind of yearly membership. There’s WooCommerce memberships, or paid membership pros, restrict content pro, and member press. Those are four of them and they integrate seamlessly.

And you can do as little of a membership site or as big of a membership site as you want. And lastly, online courses. Again, this is one of those things that has, well, you know what’s happened in the last year and a half. And a lot of people have had to take what I call in-person courses and integrate them into online courses. Wanted to share with you three quick models of courses.

There’s a traditional web which is what you see. You get online, you do the thing. You go to the entire course online. There’s flipped, which is kind of interesting. And depending on the model and scenario you have just to give you one example, this is where some people may learn certain things online through video, podcasts, things like that. And then they will actually meet physically in a physical space and physically in the physical space that’s real crazy, what other kind of space would it be?

But they’ll meet there and then they’ll continue that course in person. And hybrid is kind of just that, it’s a mix of everything. And that’s what you’re seeing, and that’s what happened when all this happened in our world as it is, is that suddenly everybody wanted to do online courses because they were doing these physical courses. So a hybrid they took part of their courses or probably all of them and replace them with online, and they’ll probably replace some of them with physical courses again. So those are the three, but the online courses you know you’re going to use three elements. You’re going to use video, audio, and texts.

And there’s a ton of plug-ins out there again that do this. There’s LearnDash, LifterLMS, Sensei, and LearnPress just to name four of them in the WordPress space. And those again integrate seamlessly with WooCommerce. And that online course, Yeah you can– think of this, OK just real quick. Let’s think of this. You have a gym, you have an exercise gym. What advantage you have of supplementing that? Maybe you sell some stuff online, maybe sell memberships online. But you could also sell online courses. So it all integrates with each other and this is what makes it so cool, WooCommerce.

This last one I’m just going to go over real quickly just to give you an idea, again, of some of the things you might sell with WooCommerce. There’s bookings. If you’re a coach or consultant you can easily sell bookings. Pickup and delivery. Pickup and delivery has obviously become more important in the last year and a half. In fact, one of the real benefits of being in this community of all these people that build all these extensions and plug-ins is when there’s a need suddenly somebody will build something for it. An example, somebody built a small plug-in that you can put up that leave at door, ring doorbell and leave, no physical contact at all. And that was one of the little needs that just happened to come along. Services packages: if you have any kind of service you can put together any kind of package or various packages.

Dropshipping, you don’t want to handle all that as far as shipping stuff, warehousing. Maybe it’s your garage, it’s a warehouse or maybe you’re selling so many products that you have a huge warehouse. Dropshipping cuts that part out of it, and then prints on demand. Maybe you’ve always thought, wouldn’t it be cool to have T-shirts and all that stuff? Something that’s very, would be fun to put up online. But I’m not going to become a screen-printer. So there’s print on demand where they can go through another vendor, they can order the custom T-shirt from you, and they can go right through WooCommerce and to the customer. And you don’t have to deal with the shipping or the making of the T-shirt, which I’m sure you don’t want to do.

In a nutshell, it’s all about getting creative, and that’s what I’ve done. I’ve probably used WooCommerce in ways that people haven’t even thought of using WooCommerce. And that’s cool, that’s the way it should be. What I encourage you to do is think of your business model, how can you supplement it with all the different elements of WooCommerce that I’ve only touched on just the surface of it? There’s a lot you can do with WooCommerce. And I think that your creativity lead the way. Now before I go, I just do have to mention something here. This is something that I want to mention.

Remember that brick-and-mortar shop I told you about? Well, online you’re not going to have that, but you are going to need some good hosting and WP Engine. Now I’m not doing this just because it’s WP Engine summit. I’m doing this because I’ve used WP Engine for years. And they have a really cool hosting package that helps you with some of the things I’ve already talked to you about and other things. You’ve got to have your site optimized, you’ve got to have good search. That’s critical for your customers. And faster content creation. They’re going to have some of those elements in place for better design and doing things without code.

I’d really suggest you check it out because you want– you don’t go and pick out some building when you’re looking for brick and mortar shop out on some industrial road at the end of the some near a swamp and you say, oh, this is a great place to have this restaurant. No, you don’t. So you have to have that structure in place and the WP Engine hosting really brings a lot to that. So I hope this has helped you to kind of wrap your brain around everything and what WooCommerce can do for you. Really appreciate you taking the time. You can just find me anywhere on the web at Bob WP. Been fun talking Woo, and go out there and sell something.

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