WooConf 2016: WooCommerce Powered Drones, Branded Limes and Texas Tacos
Well, we didn’t know whether it was possible to top the first WooConf, but team Woo managed to do it the week before last. If you couldn’t make it to Austin for WooConf this year (or even if you could but you’re now suffering post-conf withdrawals), we’ve tried to recreate the magic for you here. Fix yourself a taco with diablo sauce, mix a margarita, and join us for a trip down WooConf memory lane.
We started counting down the sleeps about 2 months ago:
— Prospress (@Prospress) February 12, 2016
Our patience was rewarded on April 4th and it was time for the whole Prospress team to travel to Texas. Over the course of 24 hours, we made our ways to Austin, flying in from 5 different cities on 3 different continents.
On Tuesday night (with only one sleep to go!) we headed over to the fancy W Hotel for pre-registration.
On Wednesday, the first day of WooConf finally arrived (Woo!), along with the debut of our t-shirt collaboration with SkyVerge (I personally think Max and Brent could start a t-shirt design agency).
— Brian Krogsgard (@Krogsgard) April 7, 2016
As we settled into the great venue, our WooConf speakers (aka WooCommerce rockstars) prepared to grace the same stage as some of the world’s musical legends, at Austin City Limits.
Dre Armeda warmed up the early morning crowd in his role as MC for the event, while sporting a beautiful pink jacket. Then, as the first speaker, Joel Bronkowski gave us a hint of what were in for with his opening remarks, and managed to coin the term “WooMmunity”. Think it will catch on? 😉
Matt Mullenweg rocked a sweet new dye job, and gave us the state of the Woo, noting that 62% of small businesses do not yet sell online, which is an opportunity ripe for a… wait for it… WooVolution. You can read a recap of the full State of the Woo in Torque Mag.
— Jessica Boctor (@JessBoctor) April 6, 2016
Next up, Peep Laja from ConversionXL discussed data and what to do with it, encouraging the use of the scientific process in conversion optimisation. He emphasises that it’s important to come up with a hypothesis, as well as a process for testing that hypothesis, and then to gather data that will prove or disprove your hypothesis. If you want to know more, he’s offering a free course on conversion optimisation here.
Automattic’s Catherine Stewart then moderated a WooCommerce store owner panel, featuring the successful WooCommerce store owners Jim Foreman, John Centi & Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes (the Golden Ticket Winner). We’re told the video for this (and other sessions) will be available online for those who missed it.
Our own Brent Shepherd gave a lightning fast overview on 21.5 things you didn’t know you could do with Subscriptions. Amidst those 21 things, Brent gave a sneak peak at some of the new features coming in version 2.1 of Subscriptions, announced the first public availability of a Subscription Gifting extension, as well as a new Subscribe to Cart feature in the Subscribe to all the Things mini-extension.
Even though I had the inside scoop on most of these, I was inspired by his vision of “Subscription Living” and look forward to Prospress playing more of a part in this trend in the future! You can check out Brent’s slides on Speaker Deck.
The final session before lunch was from one of our favourite speakers: Chris Lema. Chris shared the lessons he’s learned while scaling a WooCommerce store to handle 2,000 add to carts per minute. Chris published an ebook on this very topic which you can download for free from WP Engine.
— Prospress (@Prospress) April 6, 2016
After 2:00pm, the sessions split into two tracks: developer and store owner.
We hung out mostly in the developer track, and one of the highlights was Patrick Garman’s talk on scaling (a technical followup to Chris Lema’s earlier session). One of the key take aways: WooCommerce struggles once you have over 70,000 coupons, something to fix in future! You can check out his slides for many more interesting takeaways like this. Grab them from SlideShare.
Other than Patrick’s, we missed many of the afternoon’s sessions because we hungout in the Ninja Help Desk talking to existing and potential subscription store owners.
We made sure to catch Bryce Adams’ talk which closed out the first day. Watching Bryce Adams “get physical with WooCommerce” is something we will never forget!
Bryce used WooCommerce to turn on LED lights, play music, and… wait for it… direct a drone to pick up and deliver an order. I’m personally looking forward to having my own drone to deliver my coffee in the morning (Bryce says we can do it at the next WooConf but only if it’s iced coffee).
— WooCommerce Conf. (@WooConf) April 6, 2016
WooConf Day Two
Day Two was no less amazing. One of our big takeaways from the day was the idea that we’ll soon “Amazon” products instead of “Google” them (though we also hope we’ll “WooCommerce” them).
— WooCommerce Conf. (@WooConf) April 7, 2016
There were so many interesting takeaways from the WooCommerce Developer panel featuring Beka Rice, Brent Shepherd, David Lockie, and Claudio Sanches. They shared some wisdom (woosdom?) on validating WooCommerce extension ideas, the future of WooCommerce development (hint: it’s exciting), and the balancing act of improving WooCommerce while keeping your “children” alive (meaning not breaking extensions and themes built on WooCommerce).
— Chris Lema (@chrislema) April 7, 2016
There were quite a few highlights from the store owner track on Day 2. First of all, we had Beka Rice from SkyVerge talk about important metrics for new stores. Beka advises that you tackle some but not all of your store metrics, and only when you’ve nailed the first metrics should you look into others. The slides for her talk are here.
Josh Cary spoke about the three types of videos you need to boost conversions:
- a branding video
- a how-to video and
- an individual product video
He said it’s important to start with the product video, because that’s what customers are looking for first.
Closing out the store owners track, we heard from one of our favourite people in the WooCommerce community – Kandace Brigleb. Kandace, who studied to be an Anthropologist, spoke about the importance of a unique voice for your brand through authenticity. As a bonus, Kandace turned her slides into a fab blog post.
Bob Dunn then shared the woosdom gained from building an online training business with WooCommerce. One of our favourite takeways from Bob’s talk was to use customisation when you need it, and to think outside of the box!
Next up was Woo’s own Mindy Postoff, talking about improving customer interactions (and she’s definitely the expert on this!) One of the key points from Mindy’s talk was with respect to followup: once you have results of your customer survey, make sure they feel listened to. For example, you could acknowledge the outcomes in a newsletter.
The final keynote from Andy Sernovitz, the New York Times bestselling author of Word of Mouth Marketing, touched on some really big concepts for late on a conference afternoon, such as happiness and love in order to help store owners get their customers talking.
— WooCommerce Conf. (@WooConf) April 8, 2016
While that closed out the sessions for WooConf…, there was still more! On Friday, WooConf had two sets of workshops, one storeowners and another for developers.
At the store owner workshop, Nicole Koelher started the morning with an overview of content marketing, how it can help your store, and finished with a practical hands-on workshop brainstorming ideas for content on our own store. You can find her slides here.
Facebook marketing can be complicated, but Kevin Bates took us through a practical session on how to create a Pixel, how to identify your target market, and how to bid for the right metrics. You can find the slides here, and keep your eyes peeled for a possible webinar in future!
WooConf Developer Workshops
Over at the developer workshops (hosted in the WP Engine offices), Daniel Espinoza ran through a couple of examples of how you can use the Rest API to communicate with your WooCommerce store. He gave real life examples he’s worked on in the past and then together we went through the steps to enable the API and use it to get/update products and create orders.
Zac Gordon then gave a workshop on theme development. You can check out his slides!
— Daniel Espinoza (@d_espi) April 8, 2016
The sessions are just part of the WooConf experience. Some of the best of WooConf happens outside of the sessions, like the breaks, afterparty and networking lunch.
The breaks between sessions were all about the coffee, food, and basking in the Texas sunshine, especially for those of us who’ve just come out of a long dark northern hemisphere winter. There were lovely snacks along with a range of food and – of course – tacos (including gluten free, vegan, lactose free) to keep everyone’s tummies happy.
The official afterparty was sponsored (and heavily branded) by Shipstation and PayPal. You may have heard even the limes were branded!
— Jeshua Unger (@dothangeek) April 7, 2016
The Speakeasy was a great choice of great venue, with a taco bar on the first floor, indoor bowling alley on the second, and a rooftop bar on the third. Up above the city we shared a few drinks and watched a nail biting game of giant Woobrick Jenga as a DJ spun some sweet tunes and we all lost our voices shouting to each other.
— Prospress (@Prospress) April 8, 2016
As the finale to WooConf and to the workshops (where we had even more tasty tacos at the store owners workshop), we gathered for a few drinks in the sun and one of our last chances to catch up with new friends and old friends alike.
The Small Woorld launch
We were extremely excited to officially launch our Small Woorld project on the first day of WooConf. Small Woorld started as a book of quotes from interviews we’ve conducted for the Prospress blog. It’s now a blog of its own, dedicated to sharing the stories of WooCommerce entrepreneurs.
We made sure a copy of the Small Woorld book was in every WooConf attendee’s bag.
And also quietly launched the Small Woorld website aroudn 11pm on the first night (amidst lots of last minute hacking pieces together).
— Prospress (@Prospress) April 7, 2016
We were really proud to launch this book and blog because it captures why we get out of bed to do what we do every day (to help entrepreneurs prosper with WordPress using WooCommerce).
Over the last year and a half, we’ve got so much inspiration from hearing how these entrepreneurs are using WooCommerce to build their businesses and make their dreams into a reality. We’re really excited to be able to share that more with the growing WooCommerce community.
We also had the chance to hangout with a couple of our Small Woorld stars at WooConf, including Kandace Brigleb and Ben Jenkins.
Super thrilled to be included in this fine book. Looking forward to more stories! https://t.co/B2Ga8Vrza6
— Kandace Brigleb (@kandacerae) April 8, 2016
Instead of all that, I’ll summarise what I learned from conducting an informal survey of on a sample of 15 attendees where I asked some folks about their highlights or key takeaways of WooConf.
Here are a few of the responses:
- Getting the feeling of being a part of something so important, growing so quickly, and is having such an impact
- Seeing what’s on the leading edge of WooCommerce and eCommerce and where the thinking is at
- Feeling inspired to get more involved in the WooCommerce community
- Meeting the people you see on Slack channels and as Twitter avatars
- Hanging out with some of the amazing WooNinjas and the fabulous SkyVerge team
- It looks like we’ll need to scale Subscriptions a lot sooner than we had previously thought, and maybe WooCommerce too
Overall, WooConf Austin was a resounding success and appeared to run like a well oiled machine, from the amazing stairs at the entrance, the branded limes, the quality of speakers, keeping to schedule, meeting old friends and making new ones, the parties, and of course, those coveted Prospress/SkyVerge pillows:
— Tom Harrigan (@TomHarrigan) April 7, 2016
If this recap wasn’t enough for you, stay tuned for the recorded sessions! We hear there are 41 hours and 18 minutes of WooConf goodness coming your way.
You can also read some other great WooConf wrapups here:
- Bob WP
- Simplify Commerce
- Amazing sketch notes from Jess Boctor
- WP Watercooler
- Stitch labs
- Daniel Espinoza
All in all, WooConf was an amazing opportunity to absorb an incredible amount of Woosdom from the WooMunity creating the WooVolution 😉
Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make it all happen, from the WooNinjas on the support desk, to the W Hotel staff, and the a2e event management team.
Of course, very special props go to the lead organisers, Joel and Maria! I sincerely hope they have spent the last week sipping margaritas.
See y’all at the next WooConf!