It’s important to sometimes take a step back and think about at the entrepreneur behind the entrepreneurs. In this interview I do just that and talk with one of the talented people running a successful WooCommerce development agency: someone who is bringing to life the dreams of eCommerce entrepreneurs by designing and setting up their online stores, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Marco Frasson runs NB8 (New Brand 8), a design agency with customers all over Brazil and a partnership soon to be established in Miami. In this interview, Marco shares some details of his creative process, his challenges in setting up the agency, and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Ali: What inspired you to start your agency?
Marco: My partner, Maicon Faria, and I always liked design, photography and development. We used to work as freelancers and in 2009 we decided to take on an entrepreneurial career. From the beginning, our focus was on creating institutional sites using WordPress, always with professional photography solutions and graphic and digital design.
As we are in Brazil, innovations take a little longer to be implemented. Therefore, it was only at the end of 2011 that some customers started talking about virtual stores.
At the time, we had a bit of a problem, as we didn’t know of an agile and easy platform to work with. Then a friend, Claudio Sanches, introduced us to WooCommerce. We were thrilled with the opportunity to continue using WordPress as CMS while having a tool of that standard for eCommerce, even though it was in the early stages. Our discovery of WooCommerce took place around the same time as the release of Subscriptions :).
From that point, our focus has been on virtual stores, and we are constantly learning so we can provide customers and users of the sites the best tools, both in design and development.
Ali: What is the best part of working with WooCommerce?
Marco: WooCommerce has given us incredible professional freedom. We can offer everything imaginable for our customers, from sites with online ordering, tickets to shows and events, monthly subscriptions, schedule dates for consultation, delivery, etc. Since we already had WordPress knowledge, it was very simple to start developing websites based on WooCommerce. Our customers were also delighted with the speed and fluidity of the tool, and in fact around 70% of our customers now use WooCommerce for their eCommerce stores.
Ali: What are some of the coolest sites you’ve built and/or seen using WooCommerce?
Marco: As of September 2015, WooCommerce has become the most widely used platform for eCommerce in Brazil. I was very happy about this news! Therefore, today we have many examples of sites using WooCommerce.
NB8 develops some sites I can point out with pride:
- Aprimore Decor
- The Geek Factory
- Spa Kalmma
- WG Importados
- Isabela Aluminios
- Geleia Sweet Virginia
We are now developing three multipurpose themes, in order to assist more smaller customers, such as local business, autonomous business, etc.
Ali: can you tell me why you recommend clients use WooCommerce?
Marco: As mentioned before, we started with WooCommerce shortly after its release. At the time we were developing institutional sites with WordPress and we were testing some platforms such as OS Commerce, Magento, etc., but wondered at the methods used in these systems compared with WordPress.
Thus, by a divine light and WooNinja developers, we had the opportunity to come across WooCommerce. I confess that at first we were afraid at the potential to turn a CMS like WordPress into an online store system.
However, WooCommerce exceeded our expectations, as we began to test the tool and found we enjoyed working with it. We have developed some solutions for new customers and we learned better how to develop themes using WooCommerce.
Our guests also loved the system itself and the whole operation. They were able to learn the system was very fast. WooCommerce brought new opportunities for entrepreneurs, since the development of any online store in another system is very slow and time consuming, unlike WooCommerce, which gives us the freedom to create almost everything cohesively and quickly.
At this point I would like to thank Claudio Sanches, because I believe he was primarily responsible for the actions of WooCommerce in Brazil. He developed payment solutions and shipping available only in Brazil, and this enabled us to use WooCommerce in Brazil, and as mentioned, today it is the largest system for online shops.
Ali: Have you had a chance to use Subscriptions on any of your sites?
Marco: So far, we have not had an opportunity to use the Subscriptions extension [because] here in Brazil, recurring payment systems are not common. But even though the new processes are a little slow to be implemented, I believe that soon we may have cases with Subscriptions… I’ve had the opportunity to test Subscriptions 2.0 and loved everything I could see!
We also have very few payment systems that can be used with Subscriptions in Brazil. PayPal is an international system, and is known, but is little used here, and we are dependent on these third parties.
A large company in the payments market is proposing to use recurring payments, we are waiting for this solution within a short time. PayPal is known and used by some people, but not for the most part and many are unaware of this payment system.
Ali: That’s really interesting, hopefully you get a secure payment system soon, it will really make a difference to the kind of websites you can design.
Marco: Exactly. We are hostages to the payment system here. We have some solutions, but the rates for those with virtual shops are a bit unfair. Not to mention the shipping system, which is state-owned and precarious as a whole. These are the two main reasons Brazil does not have as many online stores as in other countries, and this is sad because everyone suffers, both the entrepreneur and their customers.
I cite as an example this list of payment methods that supports Subscriptions. In Brazil, only PayPal is even a little known. The rest nobody has heard of.
Ali: But even with these challenges, you still create eCommerce websites for stores?
Marco: Yeah, with some mishaps we can still serve our customers well, but sometimes it’s very complicated.
Ali: Well, I’m really impressed!
I now have a question about your designs: How or where do you get your inspiration for site design?
Marco: Cool, now we are at the part I like best!
In our agency we always use the principles of user experience as our focus. We believe that each user needs to find all the information they want and need quickly.
We were inspired a lot in international cases, by designers in communities like Behance and Dribbble and always study a lot to improve our concepts. We also found the niche and customer characteristics of our clients we serve, and strive to create with excellence wherever possible.
Like Steve Jobs, I think design is one of the factors that attracts and retains people’s attention.
Ali: How do you get to know your client, their brand, and their story?
Marco: Basically we set a meeting with our new customer, and try our best to extract the information we need, how the company works, how the products are made, what is the service like, which customers they would like to attract, etc …
After that, we do some interviews with employees, to gather any details that the entrepreneur might have missed, and sometimes we contact customers to see what they think of the brand. We also study the competition and the problems to be solved, and attempt to create some solutions. After customer approval, we do some tests with people outside of the business to see what needs to be changed before the official release.
Ali: Interesting; so who are the people you use for testing? Are they friends and family or do you have a particular group for testing?
Marco: It depends on the project. Sometimes we meet young people and try some people with these profiles, or will seek out people who are looking for products to decorate a newly purchased home, and we seek the same. We try to get close to the needs of our client’s target audience. Rarely, when we can not find contacts that could help us, we have to hire people who have similar customer characteristics.
Ali: Can you tell me a little bit about your partnership in Miami? How will that work?
Marco: Of course! We have a friend who has lived and worked in Miami for a few years. He currently has an IT security company, in addition to working in this area in other companies.
We are still planning how to work, and how we will enter in the international market.
As I mentioned earlier, it is sometimes difficult to be an entrepreneur in Brazil in any area. We have a lot of bureaucracy and extremely high tax burdens, and that money does not come back to us as it should, in structure of investments, logistics, acting as a shock absorber to the entrepreneur, etc. So we believe we have a chance to use our expertise into new markets, as the Internet allows us that.
Ali: Yes, that’s the power of the internet isn’t it! So many opportunities! So, what has been your biggest challenge in running your agency?
Marco: Sometimes we get frustrated with the lack of technological knowledge with companies with whom we talk. As I said, here in Brazil things happen more slowly. Maybe this is a major factor in seeking a different market from ours, so we can always have the opportunity to learn and progress more.
Ali: What are your plans for the future?
Marco: With respect to our agency, we would like to always improve and grow our company. Reaching major clients by hiring more employees, learning, improving and creating new services to meet those companies, etc. We seek to increase our coverage area to reach entrepreneurs who love technology and what it can offer in terms of support for business.
I love to unite technology with projects that can help and improve people’s lives. I wish I could do it more, help people with this knowledge. The world needs more love and charity, and we are the people who can improve it!
What I would like to convey is that I love helping people and technology often helps us in that direction!
Ali: Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or designers?
Marco: My advice is to never give up! Sometimes in life we will take every chance we can see, but doing the right thing, we can see the hidden opportunities. Believe in yourself, believe in your potential!
Study and learn new things always, for all knowledge makes us better people! Do not forget that behind every technology there are people, and these people always deserve our respect and our cooperation.
Despite the difficulties in accessing technology and encouraging clients to adopt innovations, Marco is succeeding with his entrepreneurial dream of helping people and bringing more love and charity to the world, all with a beautiful design aesthetic. We wish Marco and NB8 all the best in what promises to be a very rosy future.