This was written by Kelley Muro, the founder of North Commerce. It’s written through my filter of starting North Commerce but the vision is held and moved forward by our hardworking team.
The Idea (2021)
I’ve always had an interest in developing something meaningful in the ecommerce space over the last 5 years. I had been doing freelance/agency work and saw a lot of problems that were easily solved for medium sized ecommerce businesses with a small amount of development and in some cases no code tools like Zapier that helped improve one specific business conversions, in-house systems, customer support or overall user experience for their product/service that helped them make more money!
By 2020 I had built a SAAS called Forward Forms and a mobile app with my friend and brother called Malibu Presets. Launching SAAS products felt good and I liked seeing people getting value from tools I had worked on. There was even one time when my friend was at dinner with a friend from out of state and he pulled out Malibu Presets and was like, I’ve been using this new app to edit my photos. My friend was like you’re joking right? Who told you? The out-of-town friend was confused and was like, no one I just found it on the app store. My friend was shocked and laughing and said: “My and my friends made this app!” Our first “out-in-the-wild” customer experience. How fun! So with this excitement for creating things that people would actually pay for I started to find more opportunities to do that.
In January of 2020, Dima (my current developer) and I made a single page checkout form plugin for Divi that we called “Divi Checkout“. It was basically a sales funnel tool that helped you create single page checkout forms that could include one click upsells. It worked great. I think we processed almost half a million dollars through that little plugin. COOL! People used it!
This was originally done specifically for a client but we ended up productizing it and selling it directly on the Elegant Themes Marketplace. Thanks for the distribution Elegant Themes. We sold a few hundred licenses or so and I would get customer support requests that were requesting a cart feature. This confused me because that’s not what we built this for but I always said to these customers, what you are looking for is available with Woocommerce or EDD, why not just use those? They all gave their own reasons as to why they didn’t want to go down that direction. This had me thinking, (this may be a tiny group of people to sample from) but could there be some interest in a new ecommerce plugin for WordPress?
Market Research (Spring 2021)
I talked with Dima and we decided to see what people in various WordPress Facebook groups and communities would say about the idea of a new ecommerce plugin for WordPress. I connected with the same designers that helped us design Forward Forms and we created a few mockups to show off. The response we got was REALLY great. This was probably now the summer of 2021 and people were excited about this. So we started growing our little community and the word was spreading completely organically, it was so cool! I was hopeful and got excited about the future of this product.
On September 15th I launched a video on YouTube called [Preview] How North Commerce Will Work that showed off a super quick MVP Dima and I made that was just some UI, some custom post types that just had our single page checkout forms working. People were excited about the preview.
The Beta Launch (Winter 2021)
On December 17th, 2021 which was probably the worst time to do any type of sale, we launched the North Commerce Beta. Dima and I just sent it and wanted to share our ambitious vision. That beta sale lasted 14 days until the new year and I closed it (foolishly) and in those 14 days, we made over $40,000 in sales. I was freaking out! We had validated that the idea was good based on people’s responses to the mockups but for people to pay $349 for it before it was finished made me feel like we were really on to something. Dima and I had no real high-end backgrounds. I had helped some brands have some wins and they made great money but I (felt) like I was just the developer who could get things done and execute a vision for someone else. For this to all come together at the end of the year gave us so much hope to move forward in 2022.
P.S Thank you to all the early community members who have been supporting North since then!
The Work Started (January 2022)
We had some extra funding from the LTD we did at the end of December so I hired a new developer to help us solve the issues we would have architecting a complete ecommerce plugin that was native to WordPress which included: working in any environment, could scale with no effort from anyone working with it, security and an array of other things that as I am writing this now, feel like we have done a really good job solving. Ben Simon joined the team and helped us build a robust, modular, safe & secure system.
I wanted to provide some context for what helped shape North Commerce and help us get us here. Now let’s get to the vision for North Commerce.
The Vision For North Commerce
I wish I had read it sooner but my feelings of how I hope I always can function and interact within the WordPress ecosystem were summed up in these 3 principles I got from Rick Rubin’s book The Creative Act: A Way Of Being
The foundation for North’s vision is to not compete with anybody or another business. It’s to grow, evolve and innovate, not look down on, destroy or belittle others and other businesses. And rise to meet where others already are and hopefully raise standards higher in the community, ecosystem and industry to empower others to elevate themselves or their business.
Rising to giants & timing
I truly believe North Commerce can be one of the strongest ecommerce solutions available on the internet and its not because I am building it (biased I know), and I don’t mean to already sound like a hypocrite to my 3 just recently declared guiding principles, it is fundamentally because it is built on WordPress. It is close to impossible to find a solution that will provide the same type of user experience as the Block Editor era WordPress will provide plus a block editor centric ecommerce plugin.
When it comes to speed, maybe a swell.ai or shopify-remix headless ecommerce store could compete but you’re paying $100k+ to get that built out. We chose to build with WordPress because we can have control over everything and then we can hand control over to you with these tools and you can, the creative entrepreneurs can build meaningful businesses.
Some of the big players in the ecommerce software space have created drag and drop web builder tools that are incredible but then they have an entire infrastructure to manage and bottlenecks arise and it’s just really hard to do it all!
We get to meet Woocommerce where they are at, they have built an incredible ecosystem of stores, 3rd party plugins and many have gone on to make millions from both stores and plugin shops. We could have never even considered stepping into the realm if it wasn’t for Woo’s effort over the last decade+.
It is challenging to express the massive advantages every WordPress user currently has with the block editor as a free available solution for them.
If you watch our North Commerce Beta YouTube announcement video you will see plans for our own “Micro Builder” that we had started to develop because in 2021 I wasn’t uncertain about the evolution of the block editor. Now the micro builder has been completely scrapped and we are all-in on the block editor. With the block editor and North Commerce, we have an even more robust editor than Shopify has even after their 2.0 theme release.
This is where we are rising to meet others.
For you, the customer of North Commerce that will be building stores, we see that the future of successful ecommerce stores will most likely be using the block editor paired with our commerce blocks that will give you everything you need to create incredible, high converting ecommerce stores.
One specific feature we wanted to accommodate asap is our developer experience. We want you to not get suffocated by code or technical problems.
We have built a standardized way to access all of North Commerce’s data in a fast, easy, predictable secure way. We want to have a rich 3rd party developer ecosystem that nurtures the North Commerce customer base, generates revenue and helps expand the availability of North Commerce around the world. All of our developers hook into the same “meta” tables that inherit all of our filtering & security rules. This standardizes North Commerce extendability and makes it easier for 2 random 3rd party plugins to work together vs having conflicts.
We want to support the distribution of these North Commerce extensions. We will do this through our own plugin marketplace, placement in our “Integrations” area directly inside the core North Commerce plugin (for approved plugins) and with our distribution partners like affiliates and hosting companies. Our goal would be to help elevate talented developers all over the world to build valuable add-ons that would generate meaningful revenue for them. Who knows, maybe entire businesses get started from building North Commerce add-ons?
Helpful documentation, developer support and building developer partnerships also accelerate the growth of North Commerce and its availablity around the world. We would be able to have more shipping options, payment gateways, fulfillment center integrations and localization plugins available quickly. Giving more people the advantages of using North Commerce.
Supporting The Entire Ecosystem
While we are “all-in” on the block editor, we see the value and effort other incredible page builder tools have brought to the WordPress ecosystem. With more page builders offering a “query loop” feature for their blocks we hope to see collaboration between us and popular page builders to give users easy ways to access North Commerce data to create completely customizable layouts.
And as resources permit we want to create custom modules/blocks for the most popular page builders. We will also encourage talented, ambitious developers to create their own modules for popular page builders that they could sell as North Commerce grows and demand for specific page builders increases.
Customers & Community Members
Our customers are everything to us. I’m always in the Discord community discussing with members what they want and learning more about their business. Our objective is always to provide our customers with as much value as we possibly can with all the right tools to get the job done.
We value our efforts, tools & support at $99 / month starting. Our decision to do this was a 6-month discussion to understand how we want to position ourselves in the ecosystem and to test ourselves to see if we could even deliver that much value. We are confident that we will deliver much more than $99 / month in value to all of our customers. Consistently. That is what we strive for every day. We still hope to see many new, small businesses still use Woocommerce’s free option. Our vision to to remain inclusive and support every single customer of ours to be successful. We have structured our pricing plans for this exact outcome. Businesses at different phases need different types of support, tools, reporting and more. As you grow, so does our support system, as you get introduced to new problems, we are there to support you through solving those.
We also want to prioritize accessibility. All of our North Commerce customers will benefit greatly from having fully accessibility ecommerce stores. You want to be able to sell to everyone right? This is another huge bonus for working natively with the block editor. We get a lot of wins directly out of the box when it comes to accessibility.
I believe we are building something very special with North Commerce. We have spent a lot of time considering the best and most innovative implementations for the ecommerce plugin. If you would like to join us in the community you can join our email list by going to North Commerce and if you would like to get an a lifetime license (this will most likely be the last LTD we do) then you can purchase one here
Thank you for reading this and thank you for supporting North Commerce.