Cupcakes and WooCommerce. A Tasty Combo for Cupcake Royale in Seattle.

Cupcakes and WooCommerce. A Tasty Combo for Cupcake Royale in Seattle.

Everyone loves a cupcake. Today I interview Matt Teske from Cupcake Royale, as he brings some tasty tips on how they use WooCommerce on their site and how selling online for delivery and pickup also is growing interest in more people to come to one of their physical locations around Seattle, Washington for a treat and some coffee.

Bob Dunn: Hey everyone, and welcome to episode 25 of Do the Woo, a podcast for WooCommerce shop owners. Bob Dunn here, also known as BobWP on the web. Today we are talking about something we all love, and that is cupcakes. Yummy, yummy cupcakes. In fact, I can safely say that I have personally enjoyed the delight from our guest today, Matt Teske from Cupcake Royale, based in Seattle, Washington. Welcome to today’s show, Matt.

Matt Teske: Oh, thank you for having me on.

Bob Dunn: You bet, and I also wanted to throw in that I had the chance to hear Matt talk about his WooCommerce adventures a couple of times at the Seattle WooCommerce meetup, so I have heard a bit of his challenges and his love of WooCommerce, and obviously that is where I tasted his treats. In fact, nothing like some leftovers I was able to snag and take home. The good stuff. My wife was like, “Oh, what are those, what are those?” They didn’t last very long around here.

Matt Teske: I imagine.

Bob Dunn: I want you to tell us a little bit about Cupcake Royale, what you do there, what you sell? All that good stuff.

Matt Teske: Sure, well we are a local dessert bakery and café in the Seattle area. We have been around for about 13 years. We started in 2003. We currently have 7 locations. We do a strong retail sales as well as wholesale, and we do some customer delivery, so we will deliver to your home, and that is powered through the online store with WooCommerce. Our owner, Jodi Hall, she is pretty active in the Seattle social scene and activism scene, but she was originally employed as a marketing person at Starbucks, and she just felt like she wanted to get back to what they started as, which was just the experience of being at a café in the community.

Our company’s mission statement is to create joyful experiences, and that is with cupcakes (obviously), with coffee, just with our interactions with people, how we interact with the community. We do a lot of donations and things like that. Just the events that we support and causes that we get behind, it’s been a great place to work. We have about 100 employees across those 7 channels, and it is continuing to grow. It is a good climate for cupcakes right now. It seems like it always is. It is definitely a comfort food. We’ve expanded into ice cream and donuts and things like that in the last couple years just to keep up with all the demand for sweets in Seattle and beyond.

Bob Dunn: Wow, everybody loves a cupcake. There’s no doubt about that.

Matt Teske: Yeah, that’s nice. It’s nice to work at a place where pretty much everybody that comes in has a smile on their face when they leave.

Bob Dunn: Definitely. When did you move to online ordering, and was it a decision to use WooCommerce then, or did that come down the road?

Matt Teske: We originally set up our online ordering in 2010. I am not even sure if WooCommerce was around then. I think WooCommerce has done about, is it 8 years or am I …?

Bob Dunn: Actually WooCommerce was released I think late 2011.

Matt Teske: Okay, so it wasn’t even an option at the time, and we were still a younger company at the time. It was originally a platform that was built for production bakeries, so if you have your bread company or things like that, so it was kind of specialized. That’s a bit of how we operate, but when it comes to the customer side, we operate a little differently because we just have a lot of custom needs in the way of online ordering. Their system was pretty good. It had … It could handle all that, but it just was not very customizable. It didn’t fit the look of our website. We had to send people to a separate page from our site. We had that for a couple of years, and they had pretty outrageous hosting fees as well, so we were just looking into finding something that fit in a little better with our theme, our website, and to save ourselves some money in the process.

It was about 2014 we decided to just rebuild our entire website and found some developers that were working with WordPress, and at that time, we had decided to also revamp the online ordering. At the time, again, we were a little naïve to know that much about it, so we talked to some developers and had them tell us what we should use and what would work well. The first people that we worked with had steered us towards Joomla, and we started building a site on there, and we realized that it just, it wasn’t a good fit, and I was like, were using a WordPress site. I looked into why don’t we look into these WordPress E-commerce stores that would integrate directly into the site. I thought that would be a lot easier. The backend of WordPress is a lot easier to work with. Some of these other … The first store we had was a real challenge. If we needed to get anything changed we’d have to email someone at a different company, they would make the change for us, so we couldn’t really update products really easily or do things like that.

Once I came across WooCommerce, I was like, “Wow, this looks amazing.” By that time, it had a whole scene around it, tons of extensions, lots of developers. I found a local developer in Seattle that was able to help us get that implemented and worked into the site. I wouldn’t say it was … It wasn’t the first choice, but not … Only simply because I didn’t know about it. As soon as I found out about it, it was where I wanted to go with the website.

Bob Dunn: Once you got into it, and I know you said you had to do a lot of customizations, what were the biggest challenges you had with what you wanted to accomplish and what WooCommerce had to offer you?

Matt Teske: It was really around those custom needs that we had. Basically, what we have is a little bit different than your normal E-commerce shop. Most of the time you add things to your cart, you click buy, the fulfillment center will get your order, they’ll fill it and send it out where we have … We bake every day, so our products … We need to make it every day. If you want something on Friday, we can’t make that for you on Tuesday. We have to make it for you on Friday, so we needed people to be able to specify when they want it and then even more specifically, what time of day they are going to be in to pick it up, if they want it delivered, what time, because a lot of people are needing things at a specific time or you have to work, so you get like a half an hour that you can make it to the store to pick it up.

That was a challenge, and then I sifted through pretty much every extension at the time that was built for WooCommerce trying to find something, and it’s the whole … For a while we were looking into ERP systems for our production and our point of sale and online to try to build that all together, and it’s that problem where it’s really hard to find stuff off the shelf for a business with custom needs. You can get something that is good at one thing or something that is mediocre at a bunch of different things, and so in talking to people, we determined it’s like, don’t try to fit … It’s the whole square peg in a round whole thing. Don’t try to fit something in that’s not going to work exactly how you need it to work.

That’s what I found. There were a lot of things that had a lot of that function, like you could have specified delivery dates, but certain little things were missing, and it was just hard to piece that all together. By the time I had looked through, and I was like, “Oh, I have a list of 30 extensions I need to make this work,” and then I was like, “Well, that could cause a lot of problems with the extensions interacting where I could have someone build one extension that does all of these things really well exactly how we need them to do. That was really the biggest challenge I had, just finding out exactly what we needed and how to make that happen, and then of course how to do that economically and efficiently and to make it work so it would last for us. So far, it’s been 2+ years, and it has been going really well, so we overcame those challenges with WooCommerce, and I’m not sure if we would have been able to do that with a different e-commerce platform.

Bob Dunn: It sounds like you had a lot of customizations, and you can get buried in those extensions as far as trying to piece them all together. It sounds like you went the better route of okay, we need something a bit customized here and not me adding this one and this one and worrying about all the different conflicts or anything else.

Matt Teske: Well, it’s exciting looking through the extensions because you … Your eyes get wide and you’re like, “Wow, look at all these things we can do. There’s got to be something here that does what I need.” There were, but it’s just a little bit off. If I knew how to build extensions, maybe I could just take one of those, tweak it a little bit, and make it work, but unfortunately, at the time, I really didn’t know anything about that, so it was just easiest to talk to a developer, and also, once you start adding things on there, your costs can start getting a little harder to track, and the website gets a little unruly. It was definitely in our best interest to find someone to build a custom extension for us.

Bob Dunn: Personally, did you get more into the tech side of things as this whole thing evolved? You are talking about at the point, you didn’t really know how to build extensions, but having worked with these developers, are you gaining your own insights and knowledge and being able to actually maybe not build an extension, but do a lot more of this yourself?

Matt Teske: Yeah, definitely. Once we got our website set up and got everything rolling, I signed up for Treehouse, I don’t know if you are familiar with them.

Bob Dunn: Oh yeah.

Matt Teske: Online coding, so I went through their WordPress track, learn the HTML and CSS so I could look and see where the problems … I don’t have enough experience to create things or really to edit a lot of code, but I can at least make sense of it when I see it. It’s helpful for me, and then I can direct developers a little bit more to save them time than have to sift through everything if I can find out exactly where the problem is first. My goal eventually is to keep going through that and working on it and being able to build those on my own because obviously that would save a lot of time and resources for us than having to go to an outside agency each time we have a special need, and that comes up a lot with us. We will have something, an idea off the top of our head. Oh, can we have this added to the website? My answer is yes, as long as you are willing to pay for it, you can have anything on your website.  If we can do it in-house, then that becomes a lot easier question to answer.

Bob Dunn: That probably really helped you to understand it more, especially when talking to developers. It sounds like you know just enough to be dangerous.

Matt Teske: Right, exactly.

Bob Dunn: Moving away a little bit from WooCommerce, I know that shop owners are always interested in this, especially when they are starting their own online store for the first time. How do you advertise, and what have you found to be the most successful way in getting the word out?

Matt Teske: We do … Our advertising strategy has changed quite a bit as the media landscape has changed, but we do a lot of social media advertising right now, and we do a lot of email campaigns like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact, things like that. The most effective one that I’ve found is the email campaign is that gets your existing customers to be aware of specials you have or new products, so it is a great way to build that relationship with the customer. We already have their contact information and tell them, “Well, I’ve got this sale coming up for next week half off of a dozen if you order on Friday.” We always see a huge spike when we run those, and they are really easy to track. You can look at a lot of analytics, so it’s really nice to have that, as well as the social medial advertising.

That is a really good way to find new customers because you can target those ads to specific demographics. You can be like, likes cupcake on their Facebook page, maybe they’ll want to buy some cupcakes from us. That’s been a really good way. We do some print and online just advertising, banner ads and things like that, but those ones are generally a lot harder to determine what they drive traffic because you can’t really look at analytics unless you could embed QR codes or coupon codes and things like that. You just have a lot of things that you are looking at all the time, and I’m trying to keep it somewhat simple. I do feel that when we started out, the print advertising really helped us build the brand, so that we are pretty recognizable in Seattle.

We’ve been around for 13 years, so that is part of it too, but when we started out, we did a lot of print advertising, and I think when we first started, we put an insert into one of the local papers of a bunch of stickers with a bunch of slogans for us. I moved to Seattle right after Cupcake Royale opened, and I remember this was 6 months after they had been around, and I remember just seeing these stickers everywhere all around town. It was a really effective way of doing it. Obviously that costs money, so that’s not hard to do if you are just running a shop, but it was really important to get the brand awareness and get that out there. Once you have that, then you can focus a little bit more.

I would say right now after we have been where we are at, to get the online sales, definitely the email and the social media has been the most effective for us, and also the most economical. It’s pretty cheap to run an email campaign, and also Facebook ads and things  that you pay per click and exposure, so you hope that you are getting what you’re paying out of it where you could spend thousands of dollars on an ad, maybe nobody even picks up that newspaper that week. It’s a little easier to predict what you’re getting with the social media stuff.

Bob Dunn: Right. I know that our guest a couple shows back was actually, she’s … Her specialty is email marketing, and she now works for Receiptful who is our sponsor this episode, and our whole show was about email marketing and online e-commerce, and you pretty much said exactly what she said or reinforced it I should say because some people still think, oh email marketing and emails are dying. Well, no, they are still very powerful.

Matt Teske: If you think about it, if you have 10,000, 20,000 people on your list, if you get 10% to open that email, you are still reaching 1000 people. If 10% of them decide to buy something, you are getting a pretty good return there still, so it’s all about the numbers and everything, and we are all inundated with emails in our inbox, but if something catches my eye, I make sure to open it.

Bob Dunn: Really, especially cupcakes.

Matt Teske: Yeah, and predictably, if there is a deal or something, you are like, ooh. I can save some money, I’m going to look at this.

Bob Dunn: For sure. You deliver and you have pick up and also it sounds like … Do you actually … You have a space where people come in and can eat their cupcakes and have coffee and hang out and everything?

Matt Teske: Yeah.

Bob Dunn: Is there … I know delivery has a lot of variables, so you are probably delivering some big orders. Is there an equal balance in sales between what you actually deliver and what people come and pick up or eat in store or is one pretty much consistently higher than the other?

Matt Teske: Well, all of the stores are in different neighborhoods in Seattle, so they all have a little bit of a different flavor to them, and it all depends on the neighborhood, but the retail is still where we do most of our business. We do online orders for people to come pick up at the store, so when we are driving them there, hopefully maybe they will buy a coffee when they come to pick up their cupcakes or grab a scoop of ice cream while they are in the store, or maybe they will see something else that they like. We do do a pretty good delivery business.

Right now, I feel like that is our number one area for growth. We do just an open window because we don’t have multiple drivers. We have one person, so he can’t be in three places at the same time, so we have to say between 8 and 1 we will get those to you there, but I feel like we could expand that by adding a driver, adding some more time-specific windows, maybe an hour window here or there. I have seen a lot of growth in that, and surprising that is the way our whole society is going about this instant access or I want stuff brought to me rather than going out and getting it. I do feel like there is a lot of room for growth there. It is just something that we are not … It is not our strong suit. Our strong suit is baking cupcakes.

We are not really logistics people, so trying to get all of that straightened out, that has been a challenge for us. Just the logistics around how to do all of that. It is easy for us to do the café thing. We’ve been operating in that realm for years, and, like I said, our owner, she has been doing that her whole career, so that’s where we excel. We are trying to figure out how to really pick up on those other opportunities.

Bob Dunn: It seems like delivery, that is another whole ball of wax. Probably a lot of expense in delivery too.

Matt Teske: Right. There are a lot of other startups and things that are doing delivery services. In Seattle, we have Uber and Amazon and these things, so it is almost like we don’t really need to get into that field. It’s really crowded right now. People can get cupcakes through those platforms as well, so it’s a lot easier to let someone else deal with that and let us focus on just making quality products.

Bob Dunn: Yep. Makes a lot of sense. What is the largest order you’ve ever had to deliver?

Matt Teske: We certainly have had a lot, but the largest one I can think of is we did a 5,000 cupcake order once for a client on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is our busiest day of the year. It is like the Christmas for cupcakes. We usually do 10,000 or more cupcakes just on that day alone, so that was cool to see a huge event.

Bob Dunn: Wow, that’s a lot of cupcakes.

Matt Teske: It is, yeah.

Bob Dunn: How many different flavors do you have approximately or different combinations or whatever you want to call them?

Matt Teske: I think we have about 10 or 15 at any given time, and we try to swap them out seasonally and do a cupcake of the month. Right now we are doing a summer berry series, and then in the fall we will do more harvest flavors, pumpkin and carrot cake and things like that.

Bob Dunn: Do you ever get people suggesting or asking, “Are you ever going to do this xx flavor of cupcake?”

Matt Teske: All the time, yep.

Bob Dunn: I bet. All right, well a lot of cupcake information. A lot of online store information. Now, I know you probably have something else you want to share or had thought maybe I would ask about, especially when it comes around the tech side, WooCommerce. Any words of wisdom to anyone diving into WooCommerce and wanting to use it for their online store?

Matt Teske: Yeah, actually I mentioned it earlier about how I went through the Treehouse program for just learning basic coding, but I would highly recommend that to anybody that wants to start a store just to learn the basics. You don’t need to learn how to code, how to program, how to build anything, but just learn the very basics of HTML, CCS, and PHP is great to know for anything with WordPress, but just so you can know a little bit about what you’re getting into when you are talking with developers, when you are looking at plug-ins. There are a lot of plug-ins, even with just short code and things like that. Just understanding the way WordPress works and how those things interact with each other I think would save you a lot of time when you are getting set up, when you are researching what you need, and when you are talking to developers. If you can identify a specific thing or piece of code or if you know how a language works and the logic behind it, you can at least think, will that be possible.

I think that’s been really helpful for me,  to communicate with the developers that we’re working with. I’ve been able to solve a lot of issues that I would have had to normally pay someone a developer rate and I can just take care of on my own in 10 minutes. It has been really helpful, and I would really recommend just getting a very basic knowledge of that if you are going to be operating a web shop as a main part of your business.

Bob Dunn: Those are good words of wisdom. I think that if somebody does have … Especially if they have a little bit of technical capability and have the ease of understanding it, just being able … Communicating with the developers and stuff I think is a huge part that you mentioned that definitely benefits people.

Matt Teske: Yeah, and it makes everything easier.

Bob Dunn: Now, Matt, we are going to take you away from your cupcakes and actually get a little bit of insight on your experience when you are shopping online. When you are online, what is your biggest frustration that you come up against time and time again?

Matt Teske: I would say my biggest frustration is when I am shopping online and I am just browsing, I’ll add something to my cart, and then you click to the checkout page, and the website will ask you to sign in or set up an account before you can finish checking out, which is fine. I understand that, but once you do that, then it clears your cart out and you have to start all over. That is always frustrating, especially if you’ve picked out something kind of custom or it was a little hard to find on the website. I know it’s maybe that cookies get cleared when you sign in or something like that, but it always seems to be a little bit of anger there when you see that. I know our website does that too, so I can’t complain too much, but yeah, that is something I see a lot.

I’ve even had times where every time it just puts me in a loop. I will sign in, it will send me back, I’ll add the things to the cart, it’ll ask me to do it again, it keeps removing the things from my cart, and then finally at that point you’re like, “I don’t know, do they even want my money?” Then I just go someplace else.

Bob Dunn: That’s a common one with a lot of our guests, that same exact frustration.

There is a lot of stuff available online. Is there anything that is online that you would never buy online, you have to buy in person?

Matt Teske: Yeah, I think certain refrigerated foods, stuff like meat or seafood. I know that you can get stuff that’s sent on dry ice and things like that, but I don’t think that’s something that I would ever feel the need to order online. Those are things that personally I feel are better locally sourced and something that I can control the climate of it transporting it from the store to home rather than leaving it up to a shipping carrier to make sure that that gets to me safe and edible.

Bob Dunn: Yeah, and then you have personal experience with that. You’re not shipping cupcakes to Japan or anything?

Matt Teske: No, we actually don’t ship cupcakes at all just because they get frosting everywhere.

Bob Dunn: Oh yeah, it’d be a mess.

Matt Teske: You can’t really …

Bob Dunn: I would hate to see what the end result would look like.

Matt Teske: Yeah, I know.

Bob Dunn: If you … I know you probably love what you do, but if resources, time, and money were not an issue, is there any other product you personally would love to sell online? If it made money it did, if not, you are at a point where it doesn’t really matter. Anything?

Matt Teske: Well, for me personally I would think about just doing tee shirts with logos. You come up with a cool logo and just do a little screen printing business. I know there are thousands of pages out there that do something like that, but it just seems like a fun and easy way to get something going, and it is an easy way to learn how to do a shop, but it would be a fun thing to do I think as a business. To just come up with cool logos and designs, put them on some merchandise. Maybe it doesn’t have to be tee shirts. Maybe you can print it on whatever you want and sell that. For Cupcake Royale, contradicting what I said on the last question, but for this, what I would really love to sell is be able to sell ice cream because we really do make great ice cream, and that is something that you can get at our stores.

We do sell it at some grocery stores in the area, but that is … I know it’s possible, and I know I said certain foods that can go bad, but ice cream you just need to keep frozen, and if it melts, it melts. It’s not like you’re going to get sick if you eat it. It’s a challenge because you’ve got to do overnight. You’ve got to do dry ice. You’ve got to do all this packaging, and it’s just really cost prohibitive unless you’re doing it in large quantities. That’s something that I’d love to get out because I’d love more people to be able to try it, but it is not the easiest thing in the world to do so …

Bob Dunn: No, very tough logistics for sure. Well, very cool. Now I’m guessing we’re all craving cupcakes and ice cream and maybe 2, 3, 4 of them. I don’t know.

Matt Teske: Right.

Bob Dunn: I know you don’t deliver 3-1/2 hours away from Seattle because we’re in Ocean Shores now, but I know that next time I’m in Seattle, I’m going to have to snag some more because I have tasted the joy of your cupcakes.

Matt Teske: Well, one thing I’ll mention, we do sell a mix, so you can bake our cupcakes at home yourself.

Bob Dunn: Oh, okay.

Matt Teske: We can ship the frosting. We can send along with that mix, so we do have options since we can’t ship baked cupcakes.

Bob Dunn: Cool. Well, that’s great to know. I just, next time I’m in Seattle I’m just going to have stop by and eat it and then I’ll tell my wife how good it was.

Matt Teske: She’ll hit ya, maybe.

Bob Dunn: Exactly. Well Matt, I want to thank you for taking the time to pull away from your busy day and joining us here today.

Matt Teske: Well, of course. Thank you for having me on. It was a pleasure.