Having run my own WordPress theme shop for a few years now, it only seemed right to review the suite of WordPress plugins that help make ThemeBeans a powerhouse WordPress theme shop.
Without these plugins, we definitely would not have the sustainable business that we do today. So here we go!
First off, OptinMonster is probably the most popular conversion rate optimization software. It allows you to convert abandoning website visitors into email subscribers.
I have deployed a couple opt-ins throughout the website in an effort to grow our email lists, as well as offer fantastic deals on specific WordPress themes. The trick to running a successful opt-in campaign is to not be invasive in the least. The last thing you want to do is drive your potential customers away!
Our website sends hundreds of emails a day, such as receipts, downloads, notifications, etc. By using a dedicated email service like SparkPost, we are increasing the performance of our email delivery by not relying on our server’s mail() function.
Plus, a free SparkPost account allows up to 100k free emails a month – which makes this a no brainer in my book.
Now we’re down to the meat and potatoes of the digital commerce portion of our theme shop. When it comes to serving digital downloads, Pippin Williamson hit the nail on the head with Easy Digital Downloads. If you’re serious about serving digital products, I highly recommend EDD.
I have deployed EDD on ThemeBeans because of the plugin’s inherent reliability, extendability and ease of use. Speaking of extendability, ThemeBeans is running a wide array of high-caliber add-ons, which I’ll outline next.
Solid reports are imperative to understanding your business’s performance through a multitude of metrics.
EDD Metrics is essentially a Baremetrics inspired dashboard that generates nearly real-time metrics of the transactional data from your online shop. I can easily track average revenue per customer, theme license renewal rates, refund rates and recurring subscription payment data – all on one quick-view dashboard.
And it’s free!
No eCommerce store is ready-to-go without setting up a couple proper payment gateways. Easy Digital Downloads has quite a few options for accepting payments, but I’ve settled on using Stripe and PayPal. Pippin and his team keep the plugin up to date and I’ve never had any problems with it. Another ace WordPress plugin.
Side note: I originally launched only supporting Stripe payments, but since then I’ve moved to also accepting PayPal. Sure it makes accounting a bit more cumbersome, but I did experience nearly a 20% average increase in monthly sales. Woo!
One major hurdle in improving cart abandonment and conversion rates is a streamlined checkout experience. EDD Auto Register helps by creating a WordPress user account for each customer during the checkout process. This pretty much eliminates the need for the default account registration form, and drastically reduces the time it takes customers to complete their purchase.
Offering free downloads is a great way to bring in quality traffic and garner organic attention through marketing and social channels. EDD Free Downloads is a quick and simple way to essentially “trade” users’ email addresses for downloads. If you’re offering freemium products, this is great because you’ll gain relevant leads in which to market.
Side note: I wrote a detailed article on maximizing the profitability of freemium WordPress themes on my personal blog on WordPress development, marketing and business in general.
This Easy Digital Downloads add-on makes a few minor changes to a download post type, if it’s marked as a “service”. On our site here, we currently have one service – the Theme Setup service.
Manually recording purchases is a must-have for any eCommerce shop, especially if you’re serving digital downloads. I use EDD Manual Purchases mostly to register purchases that were conducted outside of the website.
For example, if a customer buys a product listed on ThemeForest, they are issued a license key through a form I built which triggers a few back-end actions with EDD Manual Purchases. The creation of the license key allows downloads to be accessible through the ThemeBeans Dashboard, and in-dashboard updates can be pushed to each customer’s website.
Not every download available on ThemeBeans is treated the same. For instance, take the freemium WordPress themes we offer. I don’t want to simply send out generic purchase receipts. Instead, the customer receives tailored emails with downloads links, product specific tidbits, and a link to view the upgraded version of the theme.
Also, when I launch the Theme Club (surprise!), I’ll have a specific email receipt just for that, with details pertinent to the club membership.
It’s really a handy Easy Digital Downloads add-on, and it’ll give you much more control on how purchase receipts are handled.
I use EDD MailChimp to subscribe customers to product-specific groups and segments at the point of purchase. For instance, if a visitor downloads the free version of York, they’ll be subscribed to the “ThemeBeans Subscribers” list, as part of the “Downloaders” and “York” groups.
With this level of specificity, I am able to run highly targeted automation campaigns with defined audiences in mind. For example, I can build marketing materials to users of a particular theme or product (like the Theme Club!) without sending the campaign to all of my subscribers.
Even if you don’t utilize email marketing yet (which you should!), it’s so easy to use EDD MailChimp to at least congregate the email addresses of your customers.
All of our premium WordPress themes have paid annual licenses that grant customers continued access to support and product updates. EDD Recurring Payments makes this a possibility without any headache what-so-ever.
As a pioneer in using this pricing strategy in the premium WordPress theme market, I am able to continue active development of older products – simply because there is revenue to support them. That’s a win in my book.
From day one I decided that ThemeBeans would not operate as a churn-and-burn shop, where we push out the latest and greatest themes, only to let it sit for a couple years before pulling the cord.
As I mentioned up above, I use license keys to deliver class-act support and in-dashboard updates. EDD Software Licenses provides that functionality. It’s worth every penny, and then some.
Zapier is incredible! Using the EDD Zapier add-on, I have set up a simple Zapier notification to ping my Slack #sales channel when a sale comes through. It’s a simple and unobtrusive way to check on sales and receive little motivational “ups” throughout the day – which is quite rewarding.
HelpScout is a lifesaver when it comes to one-on-one email support. We’ve been running email based support since before it became the standard practice among theme shops and HelpScout makes it easier than ever. Using EDD HelpScout, I can see customer purchases and license statuses right from the ticket view. It’s one of those plugins that you just turn on and forget about – but without it, you’ll miss it for sure.
Cart abandonment is real, and it’s painful. CartHook’s goal is to recover as many abandoned carts as possible. The functionality is great – and it works, but the lack of email customization challenges the designer in me.
Obviously, Easy Digital Downloads is the “bread and butter” (hungry yet?) of the eCommerce functionality behind our WordPress theme shop. It’s a fantastic WordPress plugin with an amazingly proactive development team and a focused community of high-profile developers supporting it.
If you are considering starting a WordPress theme shop (another topic for another day) or an ace WordPress plugin shop, I recommend diving into EDD – you won’t regret it!