Ronald Gusel has been part of the @YITH team for the past 18 months as their WordPress Community Manager.
@YITH story would be too long and boring to be told here, but we can give you two or three frames. For example, how we met. It all started in July, on a random Friday…
Nando was the CEO of a web agency based in Catania, Sicily. I was a web designer, and I lived in Tuscany. We both used internet for our jobs, but we didn’t use it just for that, apparently…
Who would have thought that the internet would have connected us so much that we would become life partners? Well, it happened, and Noemi, our daughter, is the sweetest proof of that.
Jonathon: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic show. It is episode 542. We have got a great guest, got Ronald Gijsel from Yitthemes. They’re really well-known in the WooCommerce plugin area. We’re going to be discussing all things commerce in this episode. And also I’ve got my great cohost who is returning. So I’m going to let my guest introduce himself. Can you give us a quick 10, 20 second intro Ronald about what you do and the company, and then we go into the main part of the interview.
Ronald: So my name is Ronald because it’s known for its inspiration themes. They are many different versions of the pronunciation. I am the partnership manager at the company, like you said, specialist in plugins. I also co-hosted London meetup. And before I joined Yith, I was a micro agency associates to run a whole lot of bending it for quite a few years now.
Jonathon: That’s great. I got my great co-host. Steven, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?
Steven: Yeah, my name’s Steven Sater I’m from zitfish.io. We are a hosting company that specializes in optimizing, not just the servers, but also the WordPress code that is running on your site to make things as fast as possible.
Jonathon: That’s great. And before getting into the main part, the interview, I want to talk about one of our great sponsors. And that’s Kinsta hosting. Kinsta hosting is a world only hosting provider. They host the WP tonic website, superb hosting. If you’re looking for speed, looking for reliability and great support and great UX design with great functionality. Kinsta is the place to find it. If you’ve got a WooCommerce site, a learning management site, anything that needs real power go to Kinsta. They’re one of the best WordPress specialized hosting providers on the market in my opinion. And when you go over there and if you do buy one of their packages, please tell them that you heard about them on the WP tonic show. So, Ronald can you give us a quick outline of the history of the company, the tale on long you have been in business and what you precisely do?
Ronald: So the company was founded by a Sicilian back in 2009. He started the company while it was more of a blog teaching the Italian market in web design WordPress .that then evolved into creating themes, which they were selling on a theme forest and doing rather well with those just a few themes made them the third or fourth best seller for a number of years. So that income that passing millions that sort of power the business moving forward. Then in 2014, Nandos saw the opportunity of a WooCommerce, which then was part of what’s owned by blue themes or under blue themes. And he created the first theme with a plugins like eCheck search, a wish list the first premium most and created in 2014, early 2015. Then, I suppose, bought up by automatic. So that obviously was a strong confirmation that he was doing the right thing, moving in the right direction.
And since then Yitthemes has grown and is now a hundred percent WooCommerce focused. The themes are a lot less. We have only one theme for sale at the moment, but the facility have one theme, which is we’ve made a bit available for free. And the plugin marketplace or our own marketplace now contains 112 premium plugins. On top of that, we also have 62 free plugins on wordpress.org. Some of those are free meme options of the premium solutions. The marketplace they’re all developed by ourselves. Lots of the developers they’ve been with us since 2009. And you know, seen WordPress evolve started with WooCommerce right from the beginning. So there’s a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience. The plugins are going through a second, if not a third phase of development, which means that they are you know, cover review, updated new features and really try to be the upstate premium solution within the WooCommerce market ecosystem.
For example, gift cards are one of those solutions where we’ve taken inspiration outside of what’s available within WooCommerce. You know, Amazon is probably one of the best examples of how e-commerce should be run. They nailed a big part of that. I actually read that 38% of retail in the US is online ratings is going through Amazon, which is just an estimate publishing number. But anyway, that aside so, you know, going through these development, redevelopment of our plugins, we start to look at how plugins can work together, how we can optimize them, add new features. But also features that you can only do by combining them. And that that created you know, quite a robust plugin ecosystem ourselves. They’re all built on the same framework. So, you know, compatibility and working with popular themes also with element or, and Beaver builder, we test on that because that’s exactly what people are after shopkeepers.
They don’t want to make things compatible. It needs to just work. And so, you know, we do our utmost best to make that happen, which is really tricky. But to support one of those things that we give priority to anything which has been challenging. I joined the company over a year ago. And I was a user of the suite. So I was very familiar with the team, with the support, with the solutions. So, you know, I’ve started engaging with them and I’ve sort of been absorbed into this family. And I can’t imagine not working with them now because they’ve been just absolutely fantastic. Like I said, so many of them have been there for, you know, years which give a really strong sense of that family.
Maybe it’s a bit of a cliché thing to say but you know, Italian, Spanish. Oh yeah. That, that’s probably also an important to say. So owner then move to tenor reef where you can set up another base. So 50% of the companies that have Spanish in trinary the other half is in Italy. Of course we all work remotely now, although there are two offices, we have people in Madrid and then me here in the UK. So I’m the partnership manager. And I look after various new partnerships, but also with our support partners. And the community part is not so much relevant now, because word counts aren’t happening apart from certain ones. But yeah, I would have been at I think at least six or seven us word counts alone this year, which I regret greatly not being able to take part in, but here we go.
Jonathon: Over to Steven.
Steven: Yeah. So I was just browsing around the Yith website and just like the breadth and the depth of plugins that you guys offer for WooCommerce was astounding. Like I’ve seen your plugins, like kind of in the WordPress repository, just as you’re like looking around for random stuff, but I’ve never actually like dived into the company before. One thing that I noticed is that, there are some plugins that like WooCommerce subscriptions we’ll take that for instance, right. You can buy that through the WooCommerce marketplace or you guys have a WooCommerce subscription plug it into that. It looks a little bit different, but also it looks like full featured and really addresses all of the issues. How do you guys align yourself as far as, why would someone use Yith versus just going straight to the WooCommerce like e-commerce portal or whatever, and buy the subscription through them?
Ronald: There’s a bit of a history behind it. So we were very focused on bringing in users and being part of this club membership. And the club membership would give you access to all the plugins and for 30 licenses that we have. You know, we’ve cut down on a little bit because it had its challenges, but also the individual plugins they’ve now become strong pieces of software solutions in the WooCommerce ecosystem that on their own, they’re really strong candidates. So as a sort of a historical part, we want it to be able to create any type of e-commerce set up with our plugin. So a club user could say, I won the marketplace, I won the membership, a subscription, and then a number of automations abandoned cart connected to MailChimp and so on.
You know, we would have all of that built in. It would work well together. It would be compatible, you know, that was, is still actually very important to us. So being able to address all the key solutions for selling online, using WooCommerce, including subscriptions, you know, that’s why we needed to have all these parts. If you are a club member, you can suggest what you would like. So if we feel there’s a really strong need of I think the point of sale solution was one of those that we have so much feedback on that we just dedicated a lot of time in creating that. But that has then become by far the best. If I may say so myself POS solution, and I’ve tried several of them in PR before I worked for you.
And, and that on itself now it’s a really strong you know, plugin. So competing and working with WooCommerce. I think if I was a WooCommerce user I would like to join WooCommerce as my solution because that gives me choice flexibility, but also compatibility. So if WooCommerce knowing what’s compatible with the latest version, they update all the time, just like WooCommerce is, you know, I would see that as a very strong candidate if Yith would offer subscription or membership and dynamic pricing. And I know out of the box, I create an Amazon prime feature, which I wrote a blog post about it, not so long ago to make that happen. You know, I would say, oh, yes, yes, actually, it has just that what I want. So it’s not for everybody, but we’d like to think that Yith offers something much more user friendly versus other companies,
Steven: Something really compelling about having all of these plugins housed inside of one company. Cause if I go to the WooCommerce marketplace right now, I can buy various different plugins, but not all of them are supported by automatic or not. All of them are created by them. And then you get into those weird situations where somebody is like, Oh, it’s their plugin. They need to fix it. And it’s like, no, it’s actually that little plug in, like, try be activating all your plugins. And these kind of like support nightmares, because you’re all of a sudden finding yourself, sitting in the middle between all these different plugin developers out there. And also just like the scope that you guys have covered. I feel like you have even more options out there than what you could get in the WooCommerce marketplace right now. Like just all the various ad-ons and stuff.
It’s pretty, pretty impressive.
Ronald: Yeah. You’ve touched that on quite a sensitive subject. What we get from so many users it’s that classic or it doesn’t work and then it’s yeah. Disable your entire plugins install a vanilla theme. And then 40 hours later still not anywhere because, you know, he’s trying to chase, whereas the actual problem in the first place. So yeah, it’s a common thing. And I think for WooCommerce in general, that is a threat, your WooCommerce installation is just as good as the weakest plugin. And as a user is not in your interest to chase down various rabbit holes, to figure out where the issue actually is. Now, whether that’s a piece of custom code or a rouge plugin or something else. You just want to, especially WooCommerce, you want to sell it, you want this to work. And I think everybody is sort of aware of it that, that could be a threat versus some of the popular ecommerce solutions proprietary systems. And it is something we feel a responsibility in to make that happen to address that.
Steven: As far as Yith starting out as a theme company. And now very much a plugin company, was that decision driven by Gutenberg, or was that decision already happening prior to Gutenberg? I just find it very interesting watching how theme shops are dealing with WordPress adopting kind of a page builder in its core.
Ronald: Things were a really big part of course but the market has changed and it is very saturated. You know, especially the premium themes, page builders. They do take a big part in that, but at the station to focus on plugins, sodium plugins, I think that was made, you know, three, three, four years ago, even the premium themes, they were retired to the last six months not being able to sell them anymore. So now we have a free theme, which is a page builder friendly, works with Gutenberg. A lot of the plugins have specific features. Also for Elementor we work really hard to get a lot more functionality, flexibility. And whether that works with our themes called portion per day is also a theme that now has different templates. So we’ve just released our second one, which is a food theme template. But that’s in a way, our free maybe gifted to community because that, and a couple of plugins, you can create that seamless solution that you might want your restaurant or pizzeria that need to sell online. With our solution you can do that, and you can do that quickly without any issues.
Jonathon: We’re going to go for our break folks. We will be back and we’re going to be delving more into the world of WooCommerce. We will be back in a few moments’ folks.
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Jonathon: We’re coming back for the history, talking about the company. So before we went live, we were talking about maybe some subjects that would be interested in one of the things you pull out, which I thought was a great subject, was how WooCommerce fits in competing with the competition. The biggest one is Shopify, but there’s also a number of SAS based. And it’s kind of linked to the last part of our discussion in the first half. It really, because what you say is normally only as strong as its weakest plugged in. So what are the strengths of WooCommerce compare and what are some of the weaknesses compared to the size competition in yours?
Ronald: I think the biggest strength is and this has been mentioned many times by, the people who are democratizing commerce is a really strong one. I think the other strong one is the flexibility that it gives you and also the transferable skills. So if you know, WordPress to jump onto WooCommerce is it’s really easy. And of course, you know, if you host you know, a store, it’s your data, which is also really important, and you can, you know, after hosting you can start just all with pretty much zero. You connect it to PayPal and you can make your first sale within a day without any additional costs. So for me, those are really important ones. I love the flexibility. I love that you can do so much more with WooCommerce than with other proprietary systems, you know, really advanced connections and customize your own solution for any type of service or product.
And I think the service industry, especially, you know, whether you’re an accountant or yoga artist or an artist or a yoga class teacher instructor, WooCommerce can be a big part of that. And it also leads a little bit to the weakness because these people, but these professions, they are not WordPress specialist. And although, you know, teaching somebody to install a plugin and going through wizard, that’s fine. But just a basic WordPress theme and WooCommerce, doesn’t give you a shop. You need to do so much more. And that’s when things started to become a little bit complicated. Then that gap and I think Shopify they’ve nailed that from onboarding, you know, going through various details, picking a theme. You can see very quickly where this project is heading how you can make that, you know, pretty useful longer down the you know, further down the road.
You could put things on the balance and say, cost-wise, if you go for premium plugins, yeah. It can be quite costly as well. But I think Shopify, they also have premium plugins or extensions. They can also be really costly. I think that calculation or comparison, yeah, there’s an argument on both sides. But I think at the end you can do whatever you want to do with your WooCommerce store. Extending it, you know, using it as a blog or membership or moving it to another host to consider, for example, I think is such a powerful that ownership is just so important, at least for me.
Jonathon: Yeah. I think you’re spot on with your nurses, which you would be, because you’re so involved in the WooCommerce. I’ll give you an example, you know WP tonic specializes in the building support and hosting of learning management systems and eLearning. And I had a customer approached me when you signed up for one of our packages and he’s based in Costa Rica. And he wanted to take on not only PayPal, but online payments. And I said so we, you know, normally recommend the simplest solution. And then we build up and that’s, we’re going to use lifter LMS. And we’re going to use this internal shopping cart system, but that only supports it does have a WooCommerce extension.
But you only out of the box support either PayPal or Stripe and Stripe does cover Costa Rica. And then I looked at WooCommerce and the gateway provided plugins are extremely limited for South America. I was quite surprised. It is an area that has to be improved on because I was shocked by the poor, you know, the reviews of some of these plugins that provided some functionality. So you could use some gateway providers. They were based in South America, really poor. So I think there’s some work that needs to be done there. Don’t you think?
Ronald: Yeah. I agree with you. The localization of WooCommerce probably covers shipping. It’s evolving quite a lot. I mean, we’ve released a plugin last week, which PayPal. And I know PayPal is developing this integration with new payment types and currencies. So I was speaking here in Europe Dutch prefer ideal payment, German, so forth and et cetera. And I can imagine South America is quite similar though. I’m not so familiar with that that is country has sort of their own preferred payment method. And, you know, if, if that’s not available in inside your store or so, well, that can be quite a tricky situation to market your store. I think there is a lot more work to be done. And I think the world and especially WooCommerce is, well, I’m not surprised, but you know, the, the, the development and moving into new territory is definitely has its challenges.
Jonathon: I have no idea if you could do that in Shopify, I have no idea. It doesn’t mean they probably got the mutate. So I came to the conclusion. There are still quite a lot of areas where setting up a store with whatever provider you’re looking at is still pretty complicated. Over to you Steven!
Steven: With setting up a WooCommerce store you were kind of talking about the wizards and the onboarding process of things. And kind of being in the agency world prior to this. Do you feel like there’s an easy pathway or they’re starting to become a easier pathway for like someone who has no knowledge of WordPress to just say, I’m going to start a WooCommerce store? Or do you think that that’s a place that’s best served by agencies utilizing platforms to get all of the, all the modules and plugins and packages and whatever you need out of the box to set up that store?
Ronald: I think it’s a space that needs to be filled by somebody. I think agencies, they provide a really important role there, but it’s so customized to one user. And I think there are so many users that might not have that courage to engage with an agency. And really want to hide behind wizard and a step-by-step plan. That’s really easy to follow. And I think maybe hosting companies will fill up that space. You know, I think Go Daddy no doubt with the recent acquisition of sky verge are onto something to integrate that gap. Or that solution into that. But I also think WooCommerce needs to give a clear direction on where this is going.
Because if that’s not going to happen, you will get these disintegrated systems, maybe all running on WooCommerce, but you might be using a Go Daddy solution. Or you might be using an Elementor solution, although they work well together. Because it’s still WooCommerce, but in a quite sure where you are. And if we can’t transfer one thing to another, or you know, like you can do with, with, with your host you don’t really give the power back to the customer anymore. So it’s really difficult to address that. And I think it’s a bit of a race because if that’s not addressed soon enough you know, Shopify they will just nail out solution because it’s just so easy to get started.
Steven: What are your thoughts about somebody creating a, another e-commerce solution? So right now we have like, WooCommerce, easy digital downloads, or like the two big, big people. But I feel like the more I talk to more WordPress are always like, we need something else to compete against WooCommerce or using digital download to keep pushing those guys. Do you think there’s space in the market for that? Or do you think that’s pretty much all occupied by that by the giants?
Ronald: It’s a difficult one because if I answer it from a user’s perspective, I’d say probably there’s enough choice. But it depends pretty much what you want to do because easy digital downloads or, you know, using some sort of LMS solution alone might not be the right thing. But at the same time, you know, if you, if you look at all these other proprieties systems, one thing for sure, competition do drive innovation forward. So if there is another competitor, I think everybody will raise the game again and improve on that. And I think that’s, you know, Shopify has really done that for WooCommerce and they’ll continue to do so. But if there’s space for another one I think from an agency point of view, you know, if I take maybe your point of view, I think that can only be a good thing, but they’ve got a lot of catching up to do to make it even near to the WooCommerce standard. And the number of extensions that are available within that ecosystem.
Steven: Yeah. Because you guys have what, like 60, what, how many? There’s an astronomical amount.
Ronald: Well, yeah, it’s a good, it’s 110 and the 12 premium plus the premium and so on.
Jonathon: So question I’m just going to ask for your view is linked to what we’ve just been discussing. You know, the ultimate WooCommerce and I think that was over three years ago, three or four years ago. And they still haven’t produced a web based platform, a SAS WooCommerce solution. And I think that would arm, you know, that would answer some of these questions, but have you been surprised that they’ve not been able to really do that? And we’re in 2020 coming to the end of 2020, do you see that ever materializing?
Ronald: It’s a really difficult one because I can see again, you know, two sides of the argument that the strength of WooCommerce is because it’s not tied to anything and you can do whatever you want. But then again, wordpress.com is sort of maybe arguably a SAS solution. It’s a hosted with its own limited ecosystem. So why woocommerce.com hasn’t done something like wordpress.com I’m surprised. But then at the same time, maybe it’s not up to them to fill that space. Maybe it would make it, WooCommerce as an open source, as the open source solution is different to, and you know, the whole commercial entity, the marketplace.
Jonathon: Well, I was just thinking if I was a Ultra-Preneur looking to set up e-commerce in a market place, I would find it reassuring that I could go to old semantic and there quick and the easy solution. And then if they are grown yet, I know that it’s not going to be as difficult as this moving complete the from Shopify to WooCommerce if you know what I mean. To some extent it would be easier if I go for a fully own hosted solution. It just is a bit more integrated when it, or you would hope it would be wouldn’t you.
Ronald: Yeah. And then also to make that transfer, isn’t it as a sort of, almost like a springboard. You set it all up, you do your research, maybe make your first sale and then realize this is the right system to take it somewhere else. And go for a premium host to be able to manage with that traffic that sort of a lower risk investment.
Jonathon: Well, we’re going to wrap up the podcast, the show. Ronald has been kind enough to say he’s going to stay on for what we call bonus content. Which you’ll be able to hear the whole interview plus the bonus content on the WP tonic YouTube channel. So Ronald what’s the best way to find out more about what you’re up to and what the company is up to?
Ronald: So I think the products is always good. But you can always contact me with you know, through LinkedIn or Twitter. I think most of my handles are just another number to run on. I mean, definitely engage with me. I’m always happy to contact them, speak to people.
Jonathon: That’s great. And if the best way to see if you want to support the show folks is to go to the WP Tonic YouTube channel. We’ve got loads of additional videos on producing a lot more videos than I used to. And you’ll find all that content on the WP Tonic YouTube channels. So go over there, subscribe and give some of the videos a thumb up. And also, if you really like what you’re hearing is go to Apple and give the podcast a review that also really helps. We’ll be back next week with another great guest, another great discussion. We’ll see you son folks, but remember about the bonus and go out and see the whole interview on our YouTube channel. We will see you soon folks. Bye
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