Please introduce your company and give a brief about your role within the organization.
SoftBlues is 16+ years experienced Outsourcing and Product company that provides expert software engineering and consultancy services. Also, we develop our eCommerce Products - CMS, themes and have more than 15 plugins to improve work with eCommerce, made with such well-known partners as WooCommerce and Pinterest. SoftBlues provides full circle software development by focusing on modern stack technologies like Progressive Web and Mobile Applications, GatsbyJS, Laravel, React, Jam Stack, Headless eCommerce and has a huge experience with WordPress and WooCommerce solutions for business. Now my role in this field is strategic planning, negotiations with key partners, and new practices and processes implementation.
What is the story behind starting this company?
I started in 2004 as a web developer. At this time in our country (I am from Ukraine) the Internet eCommerce was just beginning and very few people understood why they needed a website. After the first 2-3 projects, I decided to turn this startup into a full-fledged business and organize my own agency. We began to actively scale the provided services for the creation of corporate sites. In 2008 we realized that the existing content management systems like Joomla or Drupal did not allow us to make the process of website development efficient due to the lack of flexibility in the template system. Since we strived to create products that are optimal in design and structure, we decided to develop our own content management system (CMS) called ImageCMS and it was very successful - we have made more than 3000 commercial websites with this CMS till now. At some point, we received feedback from our clients that we were very competitive with Bitrix and in 2009 we were listed as TOP10 CMS in CIS.
A significant moment was in 2017 when with a large number of orders, we decided to make our first plugin to optimize and simplify our work. Then we realized that such plugins would be useful not only for us but for other developers too. So now we have more than 15 eCommerce plugins, and we became the official partners of WooCommerce and Pinterest. And this is far from the limit - we have very ambitious plans for this area.
What are your company’s business model–in house team or third party vendors/ outsourcing?
Mostly we use our in house team - now we have more than 60 in house experienced developers, who can cope with any eCommerce custom business solution. But sometimes, due to our needs, we can cooperate with third-party vendors. For example, we had a great experience with developing products together with WooCommerce and Pinterest.
How does your company differentiate itself from the competition?
This is an interesting question since for a long time we had been developing our own platform for managing eCommerce websites. Now it is a very popular CMS in Ukraine and CIS countries (more than 3000 real online stores). And at some point, we realized that we have enough experience to bring our expertise into other popular platforms like WooCommerce to enlarge our audience and continue developing cool solutions. After analyzing the main shortcomings of WooCommerce in terms of the possibilities for customization and development of the store, it was decided to develop our plugins and themes that enhance marketing, SEO, and usability aspects of WooCommerce. So, I think we have huge expertise in custom eCommerce solutions, agritech, automotive, education & LMS domains.
What industries do you generally cater to? Are your customers repetitive? If yes, what ratio of clients has been repetitive to you?
As I have said we have deep experience in custom eCommerce solutions, especially in agritech, automotive, education & LMS industries. But our domains of expertise are not limited to these industries only, we have made numerous successful projects and can deliver projects of most world level of complexity. Thanks to the quality of our work, good planning, and on-time delivery, most of our clients remain satisfied and become repetitive. More than half of our clients return or become regular customers.
Please share some of the services that you offer for which clients approach you the most for?
As for the WordPress ecosystem, the main projects that we are proud of are our plugins. Since we made them for our needs, now it is very nice to see that they are helping thousands of developers. For example, Permalink Manager Plugin - in few clicks can change all the URL of an online store and set up automated 301 redirects to improve the SEO of the site, Pinterest Plugin - allows you to upload thousands of products to this popular social network in 2 minutes, this is very important for eCommerce developers and customers. Accordingly, with extensive experience here, we can bring additional value to clients who need to develop custom plugins or custom eCommerce solutions.
What is your customer satisfaction rate according to you? What steps do you take to cater to your customer’s needs and requirements?
As I mentioned, more than half of our customers become regular clients. I think this is quite a good satisfaction rate, but we always try to improve the quality of our work, this is important for us. Every project begins with a comprehensive plan, defined timeframe, and a deadline for every milestone. Failure to plan is a plan to fail. Everyday working tasks are no exception.
What kind of payment structure do you follow to bill your clients? Is it Pay per Feature, Fixed Cost, Pay per Milestone (could be in phases, months, versions etc.)
This depends on the project. But we try to be flexible due to customer's needs when we’re defining the billing structure for projects. So all these kinds of payment are available, we can take full ownership over a product with fixed prices, or Pay on Delivery if there’s strong product management expertise on the client’s side.
Do you take in projects which meet your basic budget requirement? If yes, what is the minimum requirement? If no, on what minimum budget you have worked for?
We are open to all clients. Especially for our regular clients, so we can take even a little few days project that has the potential to grow into a far bigger opportunity. Budget isn’t the only factor we consider when we’re discussing a new project with a client.
What is the price range (min and max) of the projects that you catered to in 2020?
In 2020, it ranged from $0 for volunteer and charitable projects to almost $1M for commercial projects. But we do not believe that price should be the most important aspect. We prefer to focus on satisfying customer needs and growing the company's overall revenue. In 2020, we will achieve 100+% growth compared to 2019, which tells us that we provide great services and great value to our customers.
Where do you see your company in the next 10 years?
After a crazy 2020, it's difficult for us to plan as much as 10 years ahead. Now we have a strategic development plan for 5 years only.