Layers, the WordPress page builder that installs as a theme, has ended the exclusive arrangement it had with Envato for more than a year. David Perel, co-founder of Obox and Layers, announced that any new Layers themes and plugins will be sold within their own marketplace, instead of through Envato.
“Our exclusivity agreement meant we could not distribute or sell Layers products anywhere else but on Envato,” Perel said. “Initially this agreement worked out very well for us because their massive audience gave us plenty of exposure. However further down the line we found ourselves wanting to do more in terms of bundles, promotions, and discounts, which is not possible on Envato.”
After a little more than a year selling on Envato, Layers was downloaded more than 250,000 times and its community of third-party developers racked up $280,000 in revenue. This roughly equates to each download being worth one dollar for the Layers market, which includes 160 different items.
Perel said that the company is not exiting Envato entirely but will be focused on building its own marketplace, starting with new products.
“We will always sell products on Envato (such as our Social Commerce plugin which does better on their site than any of ours) but for the foreseeable future all new Layers products that we create will be sold exclusively on our site.”
Why Layers’ Distribution Channels Do Not Include WordPress.org
Layers doesn’t meet the requirements for themes hosted in the official WordPress directory, because it includes plugin-like functionality. Perel and his team attempted it more than once, and even own the exiting outdated ‘Layers’ theme on WordPress.org, but they are currently unwilling to separate out the extra functionality into plugins.
“From day one we always knew that Layers would be a hybrid and we did this for a number of reasons,” Perel said. “A big one is ease of use for new users. We don’t want them to have to download a theme and then a plugin just to get started. Secondly, if we split out the functionality into it’s own plugin then we’d spend most of our time trying to make it compatible with every other theme and framework out there.”
Perel said that the company’s ultimate goal with Layers is to improve the usability of WordPress while including enough functionality to get a business website off the ground.
“The method we’ve chosen now may be frowned upon by some in the community, but overall it’s worked out really well for us,” Perel said. “Because we’re not battling with compatibility issues our support volume is relatively small, so much so that we’re able to offer support for free to anyone who uses Layers – be it the free theme or a premium theme.”
Perel said that they are still exploring ways to split the functionality into a plugin but will not do it until they find a way to preserve the usability that is currently built into the product.
Layers Moves to Create Its Own Distribution Center
Perel declined to share how much revenue Layers and the company’s in-house products have made through the Envato marketplace but said that he is trepidatious about ending their exclusive agreement.
“Envato has been a great partner for us and going on our own is a bit scary but we believe it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Envato has millions of customers so it’s almost impossible to outgrow them but we wanted more control over what we could release, how we released it and for how much.”
Envato helped Layers’ small four-person team build a large customer base in a short amount of time. Like many other WordPress theme authors, Perel used Envato as a proving ground and launching place to test the market. He said that the success of selling the commercial version of Layers on their own site proved to the team that controlling the marketplace would be a strategic move.
Perel said the team is working to establish their site as a go-to place to buy premium Layers themes and extensions. Initially this will only include products built in house, but the long-term plan is to open it up to third-party developers.
“Once we have a clearer understanding of marketplace requirements and checkout flow, we will reach out to third party developers,” Perel said. The team has not set a timeline for opening up the marketplace but will move in that direction after they prove that their products are doing well in the short term.
“We have no guarantees that it will work – no one can see the future, but we’re pretty confident in our ability to make it work,” Perel said.