ExchangeWP is a WordPress e-commerce plugin. Similar to WooCommerce, but way more simple and light weight. Oh, and way more cost effective!
A little History
It use to just be called Exchange, and was originally developed by iThemes. However, they were trimming the fat in 2017 and decided that Exchange didn’t fit their product focus, so they worked something out with AJ Morris and he took it over as ExchangeWP.
It’s now been less then a year and I got an email from Morris, well everyone on the list got the email, but bottom line, they ran out of money and can no longer support ExchangeWP as a paid solution and have decided to open source it.
Unfortunately, the decision we were faced with is that we can no longer continue to run ExchangeWP. We have tried many ways to keep ExchangeWP going, but we are out of options at this point.
This post is purely my observation not facts. I have not spoken to Morris and have no idea what went on behind the senes, however, there are some things that came to mind as I pondered the situation after receiving that email.
Was This a Missed Opportunity?
By missed opportunity I mean, did they blow an opportunity to kill it in the WordPress e-commerce plugin space?
According to the email this is where the money went:
We quickly hired some contractors to help us with support and some simple migration work. We took on building all of our automated processes, putting together a shopping cart and so forth. We even spent money on marketing, lawyers and everything we needed to get the business up and running.
Without really knowing all the facts, and what was required to move the plugin from the iThemes ecosystem to the ExchangeWP ecosystem, to run out of runway in 7ish months, seems like a lot of money might have been needed for the migration.
I’d be interested to know what kind of “marketing” they did. I got two emails in the 7ish month timeframe. The first, stating that ExchangeWP was live, and the second, stating they ran out of money.
How many new plugin licenses did you sell with your marketing since taking over and how much was residual from iThemes exposure?
Here are a few other questions I have…
Why wasn’t I, an active paid subscriber, surveyed, questioned, incentivized to promote, or offered a discount to extend my license?
Why wasn’t there more leveraging of the iThemes audience. Did you run FB ads to target the iThemes followers to inform and promote?
Why didn’t I see ads on Facebook as a “fan” of WooCommerce FB page, promoting Exchange as a lightweight, simpler, alternative to WooCommerce?
Positioning it as a competitor for those of us that prefer to not use WooCommerce, but limited in options since it’s really the only complete solution in the space. Unless you know about ExchangeWP!
Why does their Twitter account only have 11 tweets and 25 followers? The iThemes Exchange Twitter account has 470 followers. They didn’t even go follow those 470 Twitter followers to get them to move over to the new Twitter account.
Facebook only has 7 likes? Why wasn’t I invited to like the page as a paid subscriber?
I believe it was a missed opportunity to go head to head with WooCommerce and deliver another solid plugin to the space, but again this is simply based on my outsider observations.
I don’t think the opportunity is over. Now that it’s open source, there is still a chance to build a community of users and dev supporters that can make ExchangeWP a solid performer and as common a name as WooCommerce when people think e-commerce plugins for WordPress.
But with it being open source, there are no revenues to support the dedication and motivation most need to drive a product to success.
Why did I spend the time thinking and writing on this?
I believe ExchangeWP could be a powerful competitor to WooCommerce. And maybe now that it is complete free and open, it can be stronger, but it needs someone that can grow the community. Open source communities don’t just happen because something is labeled “open source”.
If this open source community works, then I’d expect to see a wave of new service based providers, building business around WordPress and ExchangeWP.
Shoot, there may even be a place to create a hosted ExchangeWP solution to compete with the Hosted WooCommerce Solution Liquid Web just launched a couple months ago.
The Open Source Journey
The first place to start would be with the current user base, if they haven’t abandoned ship completely.
Find the ones who are committed to Exchange because they like it and/or because they have used it on so many projects that they need it to stick around.
There are a bunch of free add-on plugins that have been developed by 3rd party devs for the Exchange plugin which is another great place to start with building this community.
Morris will also need to be active in social media, convert the FB page to a Group and get a community manager if he’s not up for the task, etc.
The Wrap Up
The only way for this to really become an effective product going forward is to focus on what was it’s original tagline: “The Quickest Way to Start Selling”.
Build off of that. And pretty much everything Morris said in this original interview on WP Tavern.
Demo videos showing the difference between Woo and Exchange on simplicity. But being clear that simple doesn’t mean limited!
After writing this, I might have dibs on the Hosted ExchangeWP Solution! LOL
Have any thoughts, questions, or feedback? Use the comments below. While I don’t do support for ExchangeWP, I’m happy to help where and when I can. For advanced support you can always order a one time fix here.