Obox has launched Instant: white labeled, seamless hosting for their WordPress themes
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.
I hope this goes well for Obox. It makes sense to offer hosting to theme customers. What a great opportunity to make things easier for the user and build a stream of recurring revenue.
But, hosting is hard. That’s probably why only a handful of 300+ theme shops are providing it after all these years.
I would love to see a host like WP Engine go after theme buyers via theme shops by setting up a turn-key solution similar to Obox Instant. The host would handle all of the hosting details and gain more customers. The theme shop would gain a certain amount recurring revenue. And everything would be easier for the user.
Pagely had a white-label thing for a bit that a couple theme shops somewhat discreetly offered. But this is the first one where someone is really attacking it in my opinion.
As Ryan notes in the comment below, StudioPress launched their own hosting company — probably for similar reasons — but their marketing tactic is different in that it’s a different brand and product, not strictly for Genesis customers.
I think that involved the theme provider handling hosting support? I can’t remember but something about it didn’t look attractive to me. I think Graph Paper Press used it. Is it gone now?
The Cart66 Hosted (http://www.sellwithwp.com/introducing-cart66-hosted/) solution was one in which the “front” company (Cart66) handled support. This bundled the site + hosting (Pagely) + eCommerce, though I think it’s killed now.
I think theming is a more natural fit for this anyway, as users tend to shop “look” first. It’s more intuitive to say, “Like the way it looks? Click here and we’ll set up the whole site just like this,” rather than to make users start researching hosting, then eCommerce, then themes, etc. Very interested to see where this goes!
Thanks for the positive comment Steve! We are trying different ways to solve the once off purchase problem that many theme co’s are experiencing. We are aware that hosting is hard which is why we spent so much time finding the ideal partner who was close by and on call at any time.
As we learn more about the nature of this business we hope to share those learnings with the community.
I guess this is why StudioPress launched their own hosting service.
Really interesting move, with the potential to make user experience much more seamless.
To expand on Steven’s thoughts, hosting is really hard and bothersome. Can you be a really good host and a really good theme/plugin developer at the same time?
I still haven’t seen a WP specialized hosting service that fits into what I’d like out of a hosting deal. I’d love something like Digital Ocean but with some managed aspects and easy staging/production/backups without paying excessive amounts of money or unnecessary limitations.
This type of service is aimed at customers who are new to websites altogether, they are not entirely sure of the difference between a .com theme or a .org theme. Let alone staging/production.
Instant does offer daily backups though… that’s pretty critical!
Just letting you know I saw your article in my WordPress dashboard. Thought that was pretty cool.
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