Average customers often don't know the difference between domains, WordPress themes, plugins, and hosting. They have to learn as they go, or hope they land somewhere someone will guide them well.
I once did a WordCamp double-session on WordPress 101. I did two hours of information, that I felt was pretty basic. I finished the presentation by showing the audience some of the power of custom post types. At the end, the first question someone asked was the difference between a domain name and hosting.
Obox has soft-launched Instant, a new service that offers a white-labeled hosting solution for their themes. The process for new customers is simple: choose a theme, pick the “Instant” pricing option, sign up, and pick your domain for your new website. Then Obox will setup your site “to look exactly like the theme demo.”
The “feature” to make the site look like the demo is no small feature. You'd be shocked how many folks install a theme with little to no idea how to replicate the carefully crafted website that is the average theme demo. It's a common cause for frustration.
Obox is one of the first well-known theme shops I know of to offer a white-label (and white-glove for that matter) hosting option for their customers.
How Instant works
Instant is similar to most hosted website services. You are an Obox customer, not a customer of their hosting partner.
For Instant, they are partnered with RSAWeb, a large ISP with data centers in South Africa and London, and they are based out of Obox's home country of South Africa.
Instant customers aren't as restricted as with some services, especially like other hosted services such as WordPress.com or Evermore, which I recently profiled. Instant customers can install their own plugins and do pretty much anything a normal self-hosted WordPress user can do.
What Obox does is make hosting something their customers don't have to think about. While it's a somewhat hefty $49 per month, customers get 2GB of storage and unlimited bandwidth and pageviews, as well as backups, traditional cPanel access, and other items. Obox is also going to be the support liaison for their customers, and have partnered with other WordPress companies, like WooThemes, to offer customers discounts.
Common business plugins at the ready
Obox Instant comes pre-packaged with a suite of plugins that many businesses want or need: eCommerce; a team page; a contact page; testimonial, portfolio, and service custom post type plugins; and more.
Many theme providers support similar plugins, but it's always the site owners responsibility to go out and wrangle them up and configure them. This is another pain point the Obox team have noticed over the years, and decided they wanted to fix.
Solve the actual problem
Offering WordPress theme downloads is a strange concept. It's product delivery. It's service of updates. It's support. But for someone that wants a website, it doesn't solve any problems. It's a piece of the puzzle. Yet, many new website owners land on theme download or sales pages when they are searching for how to launch a website.
What I like about Obox Instant is that they are offering to solve the complete problem, without lock-in, as a complementary service to their theme downloads.
And Obox will not be the last to do this. I've now said it a near nauseating number of times on this blog, but I believe this is the future of theme shops.
Why should a theme shop just offer a piece of the puzzle, then be the primary place for support burdens, all for the price of a theme and theme support? The customer wants and needs a website and complete website support.
With Obox Instant, they are solving the problem, not selling a piece of the larger puzzle. And I like that very much.