Easy Digital Downloads announced a major change to its themes marketplace today. All official EDD themes (those that are built by the EDD core team) are now 100% free. This includes half a dozen themes that are guaranteed to be fully compatible with EDD, including the new Vendd theme launching today.
EDD support manager Sean Davis clarified how the free themes will be supported:
Official EDD themes are available to you at absolutely no cost. They will still be licensed so that you can receive theme updates directly from your WordPress dashboard and we will also provide support. The only thing changing is the price.
Responding to criticism on Twitter saying that the change contributes to the undervaluation of WordPress themes, EDD founder Pippin Williamson said, “For us it’s not about the themes. It’s about the entire package. By making it easy for users to have a good shop up and running in minutes, we significantly increase the potential value to that customer and of that customer. We also dramatically reduce the cost of support by having more users on more reliable themes that are built for EDD.”
Making half a dozen themes free might seem like it would significantly increase EDD’s support burden, but Williamson expects that the move will pay off in other ways. Like many other WordPress business owners who have made some of their best work free, Williamson has a strategy for how it will work.
“The change lowers the barrier to entry,” Williamson said. “When the barrier is lowered, the user base grows. When the user base grows, the customer base grows. From a business side, we will have far more success converting free users to paid customers after they’ve already been given a great experience with a theme.”
— Pippin Williamson (@pippinsplugins) June 4, 2015
This major change is in line with EDD’s basic freemium business model, which has been in place from the start. The core product(s) are free and satisfied users go on to make purchases from the add-ons marketplace.
“By setting them up with a good theme from the get go, the likelihood that they become a paying customer is substantially higher,” Williamson said.
So far, the freemium model has worked well for the company and making six theme products free makes sense when the business primarily revolves around plugins. After just three years in business, EDD pulled in roughly half a million dollars in revenue in 2014. As themes were not a significant portion of the revenue, Williamson is re-assigning them to be free products in order to continue to build a customer base for his plugins.