Elegant Themes, the brainchild of CEO Nick Roach, has been a popular name in premium WordPress development for years. It’s long been known for its innovative and relatively inexpensive pricing structure (pay $69, get access to all 87 themes), combined with the quality of the themes it releases.
It was only recently, however, that Elegant Themes started making a name for itself in the premium plugins space. Their latest releases—Bloom, which creates beautiful email opt-in forms, and Monarch, which ET touts as “the best social sharing plugin for WordPress”—have been smash hits, especially Bloom.
It’s safe to assume that in the future, Nick and his team of developers will only look to increase the number of plugins offered at Elegant Themes.
But what does the evolution of the Elegant Themes brand mean for the rest of the premium WordPress market?
Why is Elegant Themes Taking this New Direction?
Although it’s unknown exactly why ET is now focusing more on plugins, there are two obvious reasons:
- It expands their potential profitability and diversifies their target market & range of products
- Because they can
The first reason is a pretty easy one to understand. By producing plugins, Elegant Themes exposes itself to a whole new audience: to people who are not necessarily interested just in premium themes, but more so in paid plugins.
As a result, Elegant Themes has a more diversified audience and has more potential to explode in popularity to become one of the absolutely biggest WordPress brands around.
The second reason—because they can—is also obvious, but it becomes even more so when you think about it a little. The brand already has a huge customer base (just under the 300,000 mark), most of whom are probably ardently loyal supporters.Even if it does begin to take a new direction that previous customers didn’t necessarily sign up for, the reality is that the majority of the satisfied customers are likely to stick with the brand anyway, especially if they continue to produce quality products like Bloom, Monarch, and the Divi theme.
Furthermore, any decrease they see in membership renewals will probably be offset by a deluge of new customers who are more than happy to buy access to the new plugins.
Possible Effects on the Rest of Premium WordPress
Because Elegant Themes is already a relatively large player in the premium WordPress market, any significant change they make to their business model is going to make their competitors sit up and take notice.
A few of its competitors include companies like StudioPress, Templatic, ThemeFuse, WPMU, and many others.
Of those I mentioned, only two—WPMU and Templatic—are already established plugin sellers. Templatic’s plugins are also, by comparison, relatively less popular than ET’s (as far as I can tell based on the volume and quality of Internet reviews).
Effect #1: Similar Diversification by Other Theme Studios
While it’s silly to assume that all of the aforementioned companies will start to diversify their products just because ET is, it might not be a bad move for a couple of the competitors.
I think at least one or two brands will observe and learn from ET’s success from branching out and try to apply the same variety of focus to their own businesses. I particularly believe that some of the younger, less known theme studios will start to prioritize plugin production alongside their current theme development.
This is because it is significantly easier for companies in earlier stages of growth to enact changes in pricing and focus across the brand than for more established companies that already set in one particular niche.
Effect #2: An Increase in Theme and Plugin Quality from Popular Brands
Elegant Themes already has ridiculously low pricing (which we’ll talk further about below). Now that ET is adding quality plugins into the mix, they’re only adding to the value customers already receive, provided that they don’t increase the annual membership fee.
If other WordPress brands—particularly the bigger ones—want to leave their prices untouched, they’re probably going to have start upping the quality of their products just to stay competitive.
This is excellent news for WordPress users around the world, since the direct result of increased competition is better products all around.
Effect #3: More Membership Pricing Structures
At first glance, Elegant Themes’ membership structure is very low-priced. At second-glance, it’s very, very low-priced.
Let’s think about it in some detail.
Currently, Elegant Themes uses the following pricing scheme:
- $69 per year for access to all themes, theme updates, and technical support (personal plan)
- $89 per year for access to everything above plus all plugins and layered photoshop files (developer plan)
- $249 once for lifetime access to everything above (lifetime plan)
The developer plan (access to plugins, themes, and layered PSDs) is the one that most people opt for.
Let’s take a look at how their pricing compares to other themes available on the market.
The average price of a premium theme at ThemeForest is between $40 and $50+. Granted, you don’t have to pay this fee every year to get access to updates and support, but the cost is already half of what you pay for one year of access to 87 themes and 6 plugins.
If you buy just two normally priced themes from ThemeForest, you’ve already spent the equivalent of one year of ET’s developer membership. To me, it’s a no-brainer as to which purchase has more value.
Similarly, most of StudioPress’s releases are around the $99.95 mark. That again is $10 more than the one year fee for a developer membership.
As shown by its gigantic customer base, Elegant Themes has had huge success with this membership structure. As a result, we could be seeing a lot more development studios adopting a similar pricing strategy to sell their WordPress products.
Most of what we’ve discussed above is pure speculation; all the possible effects I’ve mentioned are contingent on two things:
One, that Elegant Themes will be increasing plugin production; and two, that the plugins they produce will continue to be high quality bestsellers.
If those two conditions are met (and current indications show they will be), then Elegant Themes could soon be playing a huge role in shaping the WordPress marketplace for the better.
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