WooCommerce London September 2015 Recap

Over the past few months, there were a number of WooCommerce meetups started all across the globe. Our team is involved in the San Francisco, Vancouver, Melbourne and London ones. I’m a co-organiser of the London one, with Marina (Automattican) and Elliot from Raison.

This Monday we had our September meetup, hosted by Realex Payments. This was our second time in their office, and I’m incredibly thankful that they’ve let us and attendees stay way past business hours to talk about all things Woo. They also provided pizza an beverages (soft drinks and beer) on top of space.

With Marina out of town, it was up to Elliot and myself to orchestrate everything. The London meetups usually start out with networking, talking amongst each other, consumption of refreshments. We planned a Q&A session where those who came could ask questions, and we’d try to answer them using our collective knowledge about all the things: Paul and Alan from Realex about the nitty gritty of payments, Elliot about the business cases, and myself mostly about developer focused topics.

There were a number of really good questions, and we didn’t need to use any of our backup topics. A short summary:

How long does it take to set up a WooCommerce site?

The first question was how easy and how long does it take to set up a WooCommerce site. The answer is about 6 minutes, but that gets you started. At that point WordPress and WooCommerce are installed. The meat of the setup is going to be the next few hours when store owners add all the products, configure the store and generally make sure everything is working as it should. We stressed the importance of having a consultant / agency by your side to help you spec out and make sure you have thought of and have solved all the possible problems: shipping, taxes, reporting, customer service, contact forms, choosing / customising a theme, mobile view, twitter, social, analytics, payment gateway, and so on. We shared stories where this did not happen, and shops burned through their budgets and were left with a non-performing, non-usable site.

ColdFusion to WooCommerce

A member was thinking about moving from their current ColdFusion based system to using WooCommerce as a payment gateway. There was a fairly long conversation about what’s possible and why. In order to take full advantage of WooCommerce, they’d have to migrate everything over, which was a blocker for them for now. The main pain point that was identified was their current payment gateway, which no longer served their need. We ended up recommending hiring a developer, and using Realex’s API to custom build a replacement gateway for them.

PayPal returns and refunds

Another member asked about PayPal and the refund / return policy they have. She is building an ecommerce (wholesale and B2C) solution in the fashion industry where the returns are about 24%, and PayPal’s sixty-odd days is just not acceptable. Alan and Paul were incredibly helpful here as the reasons were a bit beyond me, but we learned a lot about risk management, aquiring banks, why and how Stripe is able to just sign up customers to use them as a payment facilitator, why do most others need tremendous paperwork, and a whole lot arcane and obscure examples. I’ll go into details about these in a future post.

WooCommerce vs Shopify

Another tangential conversation was about WooCommerce vs Shopify: when to use one or the other. There are use cases where we would advise shops to use Shopify, but after a certain size it’s going to be bleeding money. A good cost / benefit analysis goes a long way!

WooCommerce Theme Choices

There was a conversation about theming, the general ideas behind it, and how do you know whether a theme is going to work for you or not. The question of whether a theme is “WooCommerce compatible” comes up often, so Elliot tried to summarize his views on it. I’m not much of a theme person. He told the story of how he fell in love with Canvas, and then lost it. Currently his go-to theme is Layers by Obox (did you know they’re in South Africa as well?), as that’s the only one that works The WordPress Way(tm), which mainly means it’s using the customiser instead of page builders.

We then retired to a pub after the event just around the corner, and continued conversations in small groups. I left quite early as I had to take the tube to get the bus to pick up my car from a park and ride so I can drive home before my parking ticket expired. 🙂

The London meetup runs on the 4th Monday of each month. Next one is scheduled to be on 26th October, 2015. See you there! 🙂


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