Having an idea for an eCommerce store is one thing, launching is another, but tracking key metrics and growing revenue is a whole other ball game. Today we hear from a WooCommerce entrepreneur whose product aims to demystify the analytics game.
Elliot Taylor is a man of many talents. After founding and running a successful WordPress/WooCommerce development and consultancy agency, he has launched a new product company called YoGrow. Elliot’s dream is to help eCommerce businesses understand their key metrics, while reducing the transaction overheads involved in finding and hiring an eCommerce expert to grow their businesses. It’s an ambitious vision, but just as YoGrow is helping businesses understand complicated analytics, Elliot manages to succinctly and clearly articulate the function of his own business.
In addition to giving out valuable advice for life and advice for new entrepreneurs in the startup phase, Elliot is a genuinely lovely person to speak with and is a particular friend of the Prospress team. It was great fun to check in with him on his latest venture and find out how it’s going.
Ali: So, just to make sure that I understand exactly how YoGrow works, can you explain the customer journey? How does someone find YoGrow and then how do they implement it?
Elliot: Totally. YoGrow is for store owners who want to grow their eCommerce business. We help store owners understand their analytics.
Now, the mention of data and analytics can send shivers down many store owners’ spines! We’re making it easy to get the data and understand it. We demystify your analytics to show you what’s working and what’s not.
Ali: Is this like Google Analytics or the built-in WooCommerce Reports?
Elliot: Yes and no. There are a number of different analytics tools out there and they all have their place. The question you should be asking yourself with any tool is ‘What do I want to achieve with this tool?’. Too often we can spend a lot of time on tactics when we should be focused more on the strategy. YoGrow is a strategy tool. It doesn’t show you the detail that you can get with other tools. We focus on the overall performance of your business and not the specifics of how campaigns or products are performing.
Ali: So, what do the reports look like? What are you tracking?
Elliot: In a nutshell, there are three analytics metrics that we look at. We look at your traffic, your conversion rate, and your order value. If you multiply those three together you get your revenue, so by showing those three as separate levers that you can control, it gives you a better understanding of how your store is making money and then you can hire different experts to pull different levers and improve them. If you had somebody increasing your traffic, that would help increase your sales.
Ali: Okay, and this might sound simplistic, but how did you choose the three levers to concentrate on?
Elliot: How did we decide that as a company? We wanted to keep it as simple as possible. One of the big complaints of analytics is that it’s overwhelming, there’s too much data, and at its most elementary, at its core, these are the three metrics which tell the best story about how people are using your site to make orders. People arrive at your site – that’s your traffic. Then the percentage of those visitors that turn into customers – that’s your conversion rate – tells you how effective your site is at turning visitors into orders. Then the third metric is how much are they spending. With those three metrics, you can actually learn quite a lot about how people are using your site.
My analogy that I’ve used a few times is it’s like the three valves on a trumpet. It’s quite simple just to have three, but with them you can play quite a complex tune, and you can understand quite a lot about user behaviour just with these three metrics and hopefully use it to grow your business.
Ali: Awesome. And so how is it all going?
Elliot: Everything’s going pretty well. It’s early stages still as a startup, still trying to learn and see what people need and what people want, but it’s been a cool journey so far. Just trying to get it to be profitable and then I can focus all my attention on it.
Ali: Interesting. So, what was your inspiration or motivation behind starting YoGrow? How did you see there was an opening in the market?
Elliot: We were building eCommerce stores for our clients and a lot of them were frustrated about their growth. So we had chats and we found out a lot them weren’t tracking how they were performing, and they weren’t looking at their analytics data.
I was creating target spreadsheets for them. We would set monthly targets for the business revenue and have this broken down into specific targets for traffic, conversion rate and average order value. Our clients loved it. Setting targets is so powerful. Even though the spreadsheet was simple, no, perhaps because the spreadsheet was so simple it had a profound effect.
That was the beginning of trying to build a solution which would help eCommerce stores understand their data. YoGrow is a smarter and more automated version of that original spreadsheet.
Ali: What was the impetus that made you decide to move from an agency to a product?
Elliot: It wasn’t as impulsive as that, it was lots of buildup and discovery. As we started building the product we did a lot of blog posts and marketing trying to see if this was a problem for other people, and it was a cumulative process. The other thing to mention is that we were very inspired by how other companies in the WordPress space, like Prospress, were successful product companies. So we knew that there was an opportunity to go into the product space as well as doing the client work that we were familiar with.
Ali: Ok, cool, do you still do some client work?
Elliot: Yeah, we’re mainly doing consultancy now. We come in, look at a site, give advice, say, “You should use these guys, or you should use this product”. So we’re still heavily involved in consultancy but we do less development.
Ali: Have you found there’s any difference in the kind of customers you have, now that you’re doing less development and doing more consulting?
Elliot: You would think so, but actually not. It’s a been a similar client base, most people have already heard about us or discover us on the internet and recognise us as people who know about WooCommerce.
Ali: And you can do that from anywhere in the world, right? I ask because one of the pain points I’ve heard at the WooCommerce Vancouver meetup is about people wanting to find experts who know WooCommerce.
Elliot: We work internationally; at one point I would say more than 50% of our work was outside of England. We’re totally international, at the moment I’m working from a business accelerator in Brighton, so I’m quite committed to being in England, in Brighton and around London for the next six months, but the theory is that the business can work anywhere.
Ali: Very cool. What sort of growth have you been looking at since you started YoGrow? In other words, how has YoGrow grown? 😉
Elliot: So far we have over 200 people signed up and using the site. We’ve been around for about six months now, so we’re slowly growing and hopefully growing more and more, but we’re quite satisfied with our growth at the moment and we hope that we will gain more traction, and it will accelerate as more people find it useful.
Ali: Interesting. How many people are working on YoGrow?
Elliot: It is actually just me now, we were a small team of four people, but we changed the structure of the business and it’s just me now. We’re looking to see if we can bring in some more founders to build up our team. We haven’t found the right people yet but we’ve got our eyes peeled.
Ali: Excellent. How will you find some new founders? Just come across them?
Elliot: How will we find them? Well, that is the golden question. I’m going to quite a lot of networking events and meeting different people in the startup scene, but as an early stage startup you have be able to wear quite a lot of different hats. It’s hard to find the right person with the right hats, if I’m going to play with that metaphor a bit longer.
I’ve got my eye on a few people but some of them are coming to the UK and some are moving abroad, so it’s interesting to see how we can get that to work if they’re not going to be in the UK. We will probably be exploring some of the challenges that you guys [at Prospress] face with a remote team and how you manage that as a whole different ball game.
Ali: Yeah, it is a special challenge, that’s for sure, having people work remotely – but also a special opportunity of course. Cool, so how do you find your customers? That might be an easier question.
Elliot: We’re fortunate in that we’ve built up a reputation with WooCommerce, so there are WooCommerce customers who find us through our content marketing and through word of mouth. We’re experimenting with different forms of advertising and we’re trying to see which one generates traction, we’re still experimenting, we haven’t found a golden bullet yet. Our main attention has been on content marketing, creating content that’s genuinely valuable, that educates and helps store owners to understand their data and grow their business. I would say that’s our main focus, and we’ve been putting blog posts on both the Raison website and also the YoGrow website, so we’re trying to use that two pronged approach to reach people.
Ali: Awesome. So do you have a background in marketing, or have you just picked this up as you go along?
Elliot: I have a little bit of a background. Before I started Raison I was working as an eCommerce manager for a number of UK retailers, that was very much focused on acquiring new traffic and so I learnt quite a lot about marketing then. The role was pretty much managing other marketing agencies, but as you work with them I managed to learn quite a lot in the process.
Ali: Why did you decide on WooCommerce to run your startup? We know that WooCommerce is awesome, but what was the motivation? Did you consider any other options, or was it always going to be WooCommerce?
Elliot: We did look at a few different options. We were fortunate enough to be WooCommerce developers, so that gave us an unfair advantage to using WooCommerce as our platform, but we did investigate other options before we proceeded. I would say that one of the biggest attractions to using WooCommerce and Subscriptions in particular is that we wanted to integrate with a number of other tools that existed, for instance the Affiliate WP and a few other plugins.
So we knew that integration existed. The other big clincher for us is that we wanted to use WordPress. WordPress lets you learn quite a lot about your users and how they’re using the site, because there are lots of existing integrations. By using WordPress we knew we’d be able to create a better product.
Ali: Interesting, that’s really good to hear WooCommerce has worked so well for you. How has offering a subscription option impacted your business?
Elliot: It helps us create a more sustainable business model, because we’re able to have an ongoing relationship with our customers. An ongoing payment schedule helps us to grow our business better, which means we can provide a better service for our customers.
Ali: Very cool, we love that you have found it helpful to your business, that’s what it’s all about. So is there a moment you looked back on what you’re doing and were really proud?
Elliot: What am I most proud of? I’ll be proud when it’s a profitable business and it’s a successful startup. The reality of a startup is that you’re always trying to get product-market fit, you’re trying to build something that people want to use, and I think once I’ve nailed that I will have time for pride. At the moment I’m just working hard to build something that creates real value for people and reaches people.
One of the battles that we’ve got is getting in front of new people, getting in front of stores. I’m really confident that we’ve built something which is massively valuable, and now I just need to get people to use it, get their feedback and make it even better. That doesn’t answer the question.
Ali: No, that’s okay. I know it’s early days, I was just thinking maybe when you had your first person sign up it might have been exciting.
Elliot: I think I was quite proud to get accepted to this business accelerator I’m in. That’s quite a good sign, they showed some faith in what we were doing, they liked the concept so the business accelerator gave us six months free office space to get our business off the ground.
Ali: Oh, that’s really good. So in the business accelerator, you are working with a whole lot of other startups – I guess that means you would have the ability to network and get to know people and learn from what they are doing?
Elliot: Yeah, and we have fortnightly sessions where we go through our business plan, they test us and they push us, our concept, and help us try and understand about going after investment if that’s required, and nailing down our pitch so that we can really sell what we’re doing and help us grow our business. It’s the right mix of skills, and as you say there’s also other startups, so that’s fantastic just being able to grab somebody else in the same boat and throw ideas around – it’s really useful.
Ali: Yeah, for sure. Do you have a favourite customer or project or something that you’ve worked on yet? Is it too early to have a favourite?
Elliot: I think it’s too early. We try not to intrude too much, so we don’t know too much about the stores using it. I don’t have a favourite at the moment.
Ali: How do you mean that you don’t intrude on what they’re doing?
Elliot: We have a dialogue with our customers on email, but we try not to be too spammy, you know, it’s a dangerous mix, but we try not to be too spammy.
Ali: Advice for life.
Elliot: Yeah, totally is.
Ali: That’s cool. So what do you wish someone had told you before you began this particular enterprise?
Elliot: Let me think. When we first started, we released our product as a plugin for WooCommerce on the repository, and one of the frustrations that we had with the repository was we found it very hard to get feedback for what we’d done. Any good product has a lot of assumptions about what makes it good, so we came in with lots of assumptions of how to build the product but at the end of the day, it’s what our users like that’s most important, and it’s quite tricky to learn about that if it’s just on the repository. You can’t really get any feedback, so we moved to a SAAS model, and we hosted the product on YoGrow.co rather than as a separate project, and we had to basically rebuild it from scratch to do that. If I had appreciated the importance of getting feedback and how a SAAS model helps you get that feedback much easier, I would have saved myself time and development cost.
Ali: Interesting, I guess there’s no real way to get feedback from customers unless you’re dealing with the problems they’re having, and you find that out by doing support.
Elliot: Yeah, exactly. People will tell you it doesn’t work when your product is on the repository, but ideally you’re learning what works, getting feedback, and then you’re putting updates to see if that fixes it or makes it better. The only feedback you can really get directly from the repository is what version people are using, and the only thing that we could learn from that is that most people don’t update their plugins very often.
Even if we were pushing up some really cool features and we put a new version out, we’d made it much better, people weren’t updating. I don’t think people update that often, so it was frustrating that we’d built out loads of new features and people weren’t updating and seeing them and using it. We knew it would help the business and make it a better experience for them, but they didn’t really use it.
Ali: Yeah, that’s one of the issues about having people just choose the plugin and being responsible for all that themselves. There’s the flexibility and the autonomy in what they choose to have on their site, but then with autonomy comes the responsibility to keep it maintained.
Elliot: Yeah, totally.
Ali: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs starting out, from your accumulated wisdom?
Elliot: I would say to entrepreneurs starting out: you can never ask enough questions. Learn your market, understand your market, and talk to your customers. Find out their pain points and use that as a basis to build your product, realise that you’re going into everything with a lot of assumptions and that the success of your startup will be down to whether you can get a good product-market fit, and the only way you can do that is by listening to what your customers want and their problems.
Ali: More advice for life! That’s very, very concise and very wise.
Elliot: Just bear in mind I did basically just do a talk in WordPress London about this subject, so if I sound like soundbite-y, it’s because I just did that talk.
Ali: Right, because I was like… wow, BOOM!
Elliot: Boom, yeah!
Elliot dropped so much wisdom in this interview, it’s difficult to sum it all up. First and foremost, we learned that it’s important to communicate with your customers, deliver what the customers want, and know about their struggles. Delivering support is a key aspect of that. Also, (and this is not an uncommon observation), people don’t update their plugins that often. We love that the subscription model underpins the sustainability of his business plan and ensures an ongoing relationship with customers. Grow yo’ revenue and understand yo’ data with YoGrow!