2022 in Review

Welcome to the annual Year in Review for WP Fusion 👋

2022 wraps up our eighth year in business. In the spirit of open-sourcey-ness, I’ve been publishing these Review posts for the last five of them. You can check out previous years below:

(If you’re into this kind of thing, check out https://reviewyears.com/ for more.)

#Contents

#Plugin updates and new features

We released 70 updates to the core WP Fusion plugin in 2022, generally with feature releases every Monday and then fixes (if necessary) later in the week. We released 30 updates across our six Plus addon plugins.

#New CRMs

WP Fusion now supports 55 CRMs and marketing automation platforms. In 2022 we added support for:

#New plugin integrations

In 2022 we added support for 18 new plugins, bringing the total supported by WP Fusion to 150 🤯.

In order of release:

  • User Menus (for menu item visibility)
  • ARMember (sync user registrations and profile updates with your CRM)
  • Solid Affiliate (sync affiliates with your CRM and apply tags for referrals)
  • SliceWP (sync affiliates with your CRM and apply tags for referrals)
  • Metabox (sync custom profile fields)
  • ACF Frontend (sync profile custom fields)
  • Paymattic (sync customers and apply tags based on payment status)
  • WP Booking System (sync bookings to your CRM and apply tags)
  • WPBakery (show and hide page elements based on CRM tags)
  • Subscriptions for WooCommerce (apply tags based on subscription status)
  • Thrive Apprentice (sync students with your CRM and apply tags based on course enrollments and progress)
  • Thrive Automator (apply tags and sync data based on Thrive triggers and conditions)
  • Thrive Leads (sync leads with your connected CRM)
  • Breakdance (show / hide page elements and personalize post grids using CRM tags)
  • StudioCart (sync customers with your CRM and apply tags based on payments and subscription status changes)
  • SureCart (sync customers with your CRM and apply tags based on payments)
  • YITH WooCommerce Booking (sync booking details with your CRM)

Some have just launched. For example Solid Affiliate and SliceWP are both promising alternatives to AffiliateWP, while Paymattic, StudioCart, and SureCart are positioning themselves as alternatives to WooCommerce. Breakdance is a new lightweight page builder that’s developer friendly and was super easy to integrate with.

Some have rebooted:

  • WPBakery (aka Visual Composer) used to be everywhere (and was universally despised). I was hesitant to add a WP Fusion integration since their code used to be so poor— but it turned out to be surprisingly straightforward and hasn’t caused any issues.
  • Thrive Leads/Automator on the other hand made an effort at adding a framework for third-party integrations in April of 2022, but then seems to have dropped the ball on the project. We released an Automator/Leads integration shortly afterwards, but these are currently broken with the latest versions of the Thrive plugins, and we’re not sure when they’ll be fixed 😞

#User Roles Addon

We released one new addon plugin this year, the User Roles Addon.

This is a small helper plugin that lets you map user roles in WordPress with tags in your CRM— applying and removing tags can add or remove user roles (and vice-versa).

#Usage insights

Time for charts 😎

In prior years I generated these manually— exporting the data from a few sources and then wrangling it together in spreadsheets. This year (with the help of ChatGPT 😅), I’ve built all these charts dynamically, hooked up to our live data.

For more info on that process (and if you’re interested in doing the same with your own EDD store), check out this post on my misc. blog.

For this year’s data we’ll be including any site that called home to check for an update in the last twelve months, where it was connected to a CRM (i.e. the setup was completed). This gives us a sample size of 21,309 sites.

#CRM popularity

The top platforms for 2022 were ActiveCampaign, FluentCRM, Infusionsoft / Keap, HubSpot, and Ontraport.

Same top five as last year, but FluentCRM stole the #2 spot from Infusionsoft. Nicely done 👏

We can also see which integration modules are active in WP Fusion, to get a sense of the most popular integrations.

#Membership

Integration popularity in the Membership category

The membership category is one of the most evenly balanced, with WooCommerce Memberships and MemberPress in the lead.

#LMS

Integration popularity in the LMS category

Among the LMS plugins we have LearnDash as a strong leader, active on about 82% of LMS sites (up from 74% last year). LifterLMS comes in second.

#Forms

Integration popularity in the Forms category

Gravity Forms is still the leader in the forms category, running on 42% of WP Fusion powered sites. Fluent Forms saw gains, moving up from 18% to 22%.

#Events and bookings

Integration popularity in the Events category

Events remain about the same as last year, with The Events Calendar / Event Tickets in the lead. Modern Events Calendar moved up, going from 18% to 24%.

#Page builders

Plugin popularity in the Page Builder category

We added support for a few new page builders this year but Elementor is still the undisputed king 👑.

#Affiliates

This is a new category for this report— previously only AffiliateWP was worth looking at, but now SliceWP has taken a respectable 5% piece of the affiliate plugin pie (🥧😅) among our users in 2022.

#WP Fusion addons

Finally we can also look at which of the WP Fusion Plus addon plugins are most popular. Same as last year, the Logins Addon is #1.

#Revenue

The theme this year was slow, slow, slow 🐢

On the plus side, revenue was up 10% to $747,327. But the declining trend in new customers I pointed out last year continued.

Summaries for WP Fusion in 2022:

  • Net revenue: $747,327 (+10%)
  • Refunds: $45,486 (-16%)
  • Revenue from license renewals: $464,755 (+35%)
  • Revenue from license upgrades: $16,129 (-53%)
  • Average customer lifetime value: $1,340 (+20%)
  • Commissions paid to affiliates: $11,401 (-8%)
  • New customers: 729 (-21%)

There aren’t a lot of good reporting options compatible with Easy Digital Downloads, so I got quite involved with building a series of BI dashboards over the last couple of months for tracking our customers and revenue. You can read more about that process here.

When we just look at things in terms of net monthly recurring revenue and subscribers (i.e. new – cancellations), things are looking pretty good.

But in terms of new customers, we peaked at around the beginning of 2021.

The change is more dramatic when we visualize each month as a percent change year-over-year.

This is the primary metric I’m interested in these days, to the extent that I created an EDD dashboard widget to help keep tabs on the change month-to-month, and year over year.

We can also visualize our growth rate in terms of the net change in MRR month to month.

Growth was positive for most of 2022, but not nearly as dramatic as we’d seen in previous years.

So, what’s going on?

Wise words from @zackkatz.

It’s hard to say 🤷. Everyone I’ve talked to in the WP plugin space had a slow 2022— aside from companies that launched new products this year, it seems like most folks are breaking even with 2021, but also tracking a similar ~20% decline in new customers.

My assumption is that it’s some combination of inflation, rising interest rates, and the lingering effects of COVID burnout that are causing people to hold off on opening new businesses or investing in new software.

But I think that as long as we’re following the same trend as everyone else, it doesn’t make sense to make any major changes to our product or pricing. I know we could bring in a lot of new revenue by running a sale on our lifetime plans, for example, but it’d only hurt us later.

So, for now, the plan is to just hang in there and hope that things start to pick up again in 2023 🤞.

#Renewal rates and churn

Thankfully renewal rates stayed about the same in 2022. My method for calculating renewal rates is:

  • For each year, calculate the total list of new customers in that year (excluding refunded and lifetime customers)
  • For each customer, see if they have a renewal payment in the following year
  • Calculate the portion who renewed vs. the total number eligible for renewal = the renewal rate

That gives us a 61.5% first year renewal rate from 2021 to 2022, a little bit down from 63% in 2021, but not bad.

Among all customers (not just first year renewals), the renewal rate was 50%.

#Black Friday – Cyber Monday

We only run one sale a year, for Black Friday, so it tends to be a big deal (har, har 😆).

Black Friday 2022 was fine. Basically followed the same trends we were seeing all year. Total revenue was $54,267 (-8% vs 2021) and we picked up 66 new customers (-16%).

We didn’t do much promotion at all this year. I did spend most of November working on a new BFCM landing page (which we’d never had until now), with the plan of re-using it for future sales.

That did alright, it got seen by 505 new visitors over the four day sale period, and was the third best performing page in terms of page value (after home and pricing).

Was it worth spending a month on, and did it contribute meaningfully to conversions? My gut says no 🤔. But at least it can be re-used next year.

#Support

Support also slowed down in 2022. Across email support (via HelpScout) and chat support (via Chatra) we had 4,017 support conversations (-17%), from 1,999 customers (-10%), with 9,298 messages received (-11%).

The busiest periods for support were the first quarter of the year, and November.

In terms of response times and resolutions, the stats stayed about the same as 2021, except for a slight increase in resolution time (the average amount of time it takes from the time a conversation is created to the time it is resolved).

#New customer support request rates

Our goal is always to get people up and running with WP Fusion without requiring them to contact support.

This year new customer support request rates dropped to 21% within the first 30 days of purchase, and only 32% contacted support within the first year.

These numbers are down from 24% (first 30 days) and 39% (first year), so that’s definitely moving in the right direction 🎉

#New customer refund request rates

New customer refund requests dropped quite a bit this year, from 7.5% to 6%.

Among all orders (including renewals), refund rates dropped from 6.5% to 5.2% ✅

#Feature requests

In 2022 109 feature requests (+8%) were submitted via our portal, and 67 were completed (-15%). Check out what we’re currently working on over at the Roadmap.

#Documentation

In 2022 we published 44 new pages of documentation (-43%), and 144 existing docs were updated (+35%).

In addition to that, we published four new blog posts, and and uploaded 322 new screenshots and other images.

#Time

I’ll throw in some time charts this year ⏰

I’m pretty religious about time tracking— I feel like it makes sure that nothing gets neglected, and also helps to avoid burnout. I know how many hours a day I can work and stay sane, so keeping track of where I am with regards to those limits has helped a lot (especially during the lockdowns).

I use Toggl for time tracking, and when I’m at home I have it connected to a StreamDeck for quick access to the most common tasks.

Hours spent on WP Fusion by month

In 2022 I spent 788 hours on WP Fusion, down from 1,142 hours in 2021 (-31%).

January and February were my two big productive months in 2022, along with a lot of Black Friday prep in November. I spent a lot of the summer traveling and catching up with family.

Hours spent on WP Fusion by project

Visualized by project— the biggest were support (which also includes fixing bugs) at 466 hours, and development at 170 hours.

In addition to myself, our team spent another 1,946 hours on support and 365 hours on development.

#Fails

The big fail this year was trying (again) to get paid advertising to work. I think WP Fusion just isn’t well suited to PPC, for a few reasons:

  • The areas where we have the most customer success are integrating LMS and membership plugins with email marketing tools— but these keywords are too small to bid on.
  • The ads that got the most clicks were more suited towards enterprise CRMs (like HubSpot, Zoho, and Salesforce), which WP Fusion isn’t optimized for.
  • For the our most popular integration combinations (i.e. Events Calendar + Mailerlite, LearnDash + ActiveCampaign, etc) we already have the top organic results anyway.
Epic fail 🤦

We gave it a good effort over the course of two months. Ultimately we ended up with one $378 conversion (which was a reactivation of an existing customer’s expired license), on a $12,681 ad spend 🤣.

So, lesson learned 😅

#What’s next

#Enterprise and multi-object

Over the last year we’ve been slowly dipping our toes into doing more enterprise-level integrations with Salesforce, HubSpot, and Microsoft Dynamics 365, especially with regards to working with multiple CRM objects.

For example we’ve recently published this tutorial on syncing Events Calendar events with custom objects in Salesforce, and we’ve added an integration with the Object Sync for Salesforce plugin to allow WP Fusion to (one day) associate contact activity with custom object activity synced by that plugin.

You can expect to see more of this over the next year… and potentially a forked version of Object Sync with supports HubSpot, Zoho, and Dynamics as well.

#More content

I ended up writing all of our blog content last year and as such there wasn’t a lot of it (only four new posts/tutorials). I’m committed to bringing on a content person at least part time by the middle of this year, and we’ve got about a dozen tutorials and articles planned. We’ll also make more use of our mailing list as new content is published.

#WordCamp travel

I did a ton of travel in 2022 but it was all catching up with friends and family I hadn’t seen since the pandemic, I didn’t go anywhere for work.

This year I’m determined to reconnect with the WordPress community, and I’ve already booked tickets for WCEU in Athens in April, and WCUS in Maryland in August. I’m looking forward to getting out of my bubble a bit and getting some new ideas flowing 🤓

#That’s it

That’s it! That’s all I got. Thanks again for reading and for everyone who supported the project this year 🙏

Here’s to 2023! 🍾🧡

— Jack Arturo

WP Fusion

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8 thoughts on “2022 in Review”

  1. Jack, this is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing all of this detail.

    You mention ad spending as a marketing channel, which didn’t work out well. Can you speak to what WP Fusion’s best marketing/customer acquisition channels are?

    As an owner of a much smaller plugin, this is always nice to hear from others running larger platforms.

    1. Replying here rather than your Tweet, gives a little more breathing room 😉

      In terms of the ones we can track:

      1. Our free plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-fusion-lite/) was directly attributed for 8% of new revenue over the last year…. and that’s only if someone clicked a UTM link in the plugin or on wp.org, the real amount is probably higher.

      2. I’ve built a series of Connect X to Y landing pages (see https://wpfusion.com/news/2020-in-review/#marketing), which rank pretty well on Google for specific plugin combos. Those brought in another 8% of new revenue.

      3. Organic search in general represented 35% of new revenue.

      4. Affiliate sales represented 19% of all revenue (I can’t see just new revenue, that would be a good report to add for next year )

      4. But still 36% of new revenue was from direct traffic. With that…. it’s hard to say… some guesses:

      a.) Partnerships with other plugins have definitely helped a lot, for example you’ll find us listed in many “3rd party addon” lists, which raises brand awareness

      b.) Partnerships with the CRMs as well (i.e. https://www.activecampaign.com/apps/wpfusion)

      c.) Agency partnerships (i.e. https://wpfusion.com/experts/)

      d.) Facebook groups— for example we have 2,400 members at https://www.facebook.com/groups/wpfusion, and I’m active in a lot of membership/marketing groups in addition

      And I think just generally… trying not to be evil , trying to be transparent, responding to tickets in a timely manner, accepting feature requests, etc., etc., all these things build up a kind of momentum of goodwill that can sustain a lot of referrals.

      It’s a delicate thing, I’ve definitely seen some companies mess that up by growing too fast, or getting over-confident and thinking their customers won’t leave. A bad review is my biggest fear haha

      Hope that helps! 🙂

  2. Mauricio Roverssi Alvarado

    Hi Jack!

    I love this reports. I am user of WP-Fusion from 2018 and I always run to this when your report came to my email. For the marketing challenge, have you considered inbound marketing? Your organic sells are very well so a inbound marketing strategy can be well suite for you. I example of a good inbound marketing strategy is kinsta.com, when I was looking for a server optimized for wordpress I always ended reading a kinsta post, they are very focused in resolving problems for you. Also, my site is working right now with Memberium and WpFusion and the reason that we are keep Memberium is the Memberium umbrella accounts. I see that Memberium is not in your graph of memberships plugins, maybe is beacasuse is a direct competidor.

    Sorry for my bad english but ChatGtp was busy to correct my grammar :S

    1. Hey Mauricio!

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Yup, inbound marketing is at the top of my list for this year. I’ve been putting extra focus on content over the last few months (for example https://wpfusion.com/tutorials/connecting-givewp-and-hubspot-for-improved-donor-communication-and-donation-management/ and https://wpfusion.com/tutorials/syncing-wp-fusion-with-multiple-objects-in-salesforce-the-events-calendar-example/) but at the moment I’m doing it myself it’s suuuuper time consuming… quality posts like that takes me a few weeks of work for each one 🙁

      I’m hoping to start a new person on content in May, as a permanent position, and then we’ll start putting out more content like that and hopefully pick up more organic traffic. I also end up reading the Kinsta blog a lot, I know what you mean 😀

      Right, we do actually track Memberium, but there are only 75 sites using both WPF and Memberium at the same time (out of 21,000), so it didn’t show up in the chart.

      Thanks again for your support over the years, it’s super helpful! 🙂 Here’s to the next 5!

  3. Brother Jack!

    So great to see how far WPFusion has come. Good things happen when you hunker down, focus on solving one big & hairy problem for a long time, and take great care of your customers.

    This year we’ve been finding lots of great new use cases for WPF. It’s amazing how many plugins WPF can make unnecessary, and generally just make an implementation more elegant and inexpensive for the customer and the users.

    Paid ads is a tough one in this space…

    But I can definitely see some big opportunities for WPF coming from the enterprise world. We’ve already had occasion to use WP Fusion to solve a huge vis-a-vis Salesforce Cloud. We mostly help small WordPress based businesses but every now and then we hook a marlin and inevitably they’re using some combination of various enterprise type apps that need to play nice with the rest of their tech stack.

    Looking forward to see what cool stuff you continue to roll out this year Jack.

    Cheers!
    Vic

    1. Thanks Vic! Your support means so much! 🙂

      Yeah enterprise is exciting for sure. It’s a different way of thinking…. like, if we can maintain a 99.9% accurate + timely sync that’s usually fine for an ecommerce site, but getting from .9 to the .9999 required for enterprise is a big project, but fun.

      Good luck and stay in touch! 🙂

  4. Reuben Hochstetler

    It’s always exciting to read these reports. Did I see the annotation correctly that you are using Groundhogg as your CRM?

    I’ve been using Groundhogg for a few years and really like it.

    1. Thanks Reuben!

      No we’re still using ActiveCampaign but I’m getting kind of fed up with them, and now they’re planning to raise prices. This year might be the year I switch 😀

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