Website building platform provider Wix on Tuesday launched Ascend, a CRM suite.
Ascend consists of 20 products, including tools for site promotion, cross-channel customer interaction management, intuitive search engine optimization, content creation for social media channels, lead capture, and the ability to respond to queries automatically, along with a chat-centric interface that allows real-time interactions with customers.
Ascend incorporates some existing Wix offerings: Chat; a Members Area; Automations, a product that lets business owners set up triggers to automate and manage interactions with customers; Email Marketing; and Forms.
All interactions with a customer are routed into a single in-box, regardless of the channel they came in on, which can be accessed on any device.
Ascend costs US$9 to $45 per month, depending on various factors. It is fully integrated with the Wix platform and does not require any third-party plug-ins.
“With the launch of Ascend, we are expanding our market by offering management tools, marketing and promotion capabilities,” said Wix CEO Avisai Abrahami. “Ascend is the next iteration in a long line of products, informed by our data and designed with our users, and their success, as our inspiration.”
Wix “has always been one of the key ‘starter’ commerce pages,” observed Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research.
“They have made website creation simple and easy,” he told CRM Buyer.
Wix “is the campaign-to-commerce platform for small businesses,” Wang noted, naming Weebly, GoDaddy, Square Space and Jimdo as its key competitors.
Ascend’s features “take Wix closer to the CRM space,” he said. Wix “goes after Zoho and Infusionsoft on CRM, but the reality is, they are moving from website and content to commerce and CRM.”
Focusing on the ‘S’ in SMB
“Cloud applications such as Wix enable SMBs to more effectively compete against later firms by putting more sophisticated marketing, sales and commerce capabilities — and a more professional presence — within their reach, remarked Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.
“We see larger vendors recognizing the SMB opportunity — with Salesforce’s Essentials, for example,” she told CRM Buyer, “but Wix’s focus on the ‘S’ of SMB makes it attractive for entrepreneurs looking for solutions tailored to them.”
Other companies, such as Infusionsoft, “have had considerable success with this approach,” Wettemann said.
Ascend and CRM
Automation, email marketing and forms are the three features of Ascend that will be used most, Consellation’s Wang predicted.
Still, Ascend is “just getting started,” he said. It “barely covers 10 percent of most CRM systems’ features.”
Whether Ascend will succeed at transitioning Wix into the CRM space remains to be seen.
“A key challenge for Wix is going to be to achieve scale in providing not just technologies but a community for users to share best practices, advice, etc.,” Nucleus’ Wettemann pointed out.
Ascend’s strengths are ease of use, and the fact that it offers “natural extensions of products SMBs need,” Constellation’s Wang said.
However, it “needs more flexibility and customization to grow,” he added. “Otherwise, folks will graduate from Wix to other products. They are doing this to keep high-growth customers who need adjacent solutions.”
Bucking the Headless Commerce Trend
Another issue Wix will face is the headless e-commerce trend, which entails decoupling the front end from the back end and using RESTful APIs.
Traditional off-the-shelf e-commerce solutions are mainly full-stack applications with predefined front ends and admin consoles, with the front-end experience and functionality deeply coupled with the back-end code and infrastructure.
An API-based headless architecture offers increased flexibility through its decoupled user interface approach, according to a report by Gartner analysts Jeffery Skowron and Brad Dayley.
“Headless commerce is all about using whatever combination of front-end content — or presentation layer — and back-end commerce [that] is most powerful and preferable for a merchant, regardless of size,” said Travis Balinas, director of product marketing at BigCommerce.
Wix “is making the assumption that it can effectively handle the needs of its customers that scale beyond the capabilities of the core offering, which is not accurate,” he told CRM Buyer. “If Wix truly cared about the success of its customers, it would offer ways that merchants can grow without [tying] them to a single platform.”
Headless commerce is not an option for every platform.
There are two significant barriers” to approaching headless commerce, Balinas said.
First is the extensibility of the overall tech stack of the SaaS platform the vendor is trying to take headless.
The platform must make its various components available in a consumable API or SDK with “substantial throughput and efficiencies,” Balinas noted. The speed of the APIs is “paramount to making sure efficiencies are gained for midmarket and enterprise merchants.”
Second is the balance between flexibility and extensibility on the one hand, and the cost of the solution on the other.
“By their very nature, [API-first commerce platforms] are highly flexible and extensible, but, at the end of the day, businesses are looking to lower their total cost of ownership while reducing the investment costs associated with implementing and maintaining an entirely bespoke commerce experience,” Balinas pointed out.
“The sweet spot we’ve identified falls squarely between a closed SaaS platform and an open-ended, API-first platform,” he said. BigCommerce earlier this month announced global availability of its BigCommerce for WordPress headless commerce integration.