Last week Squarespace debuted Squarespace Commerce, a new offering that allows its users to sell digital content online. The new offering works with all of its existing templates within Squarespace 6, its latest version of its website CMS.
According to the company, commerce is the most requested feature ever, which doesn’t surprise me. Here’s why:
- Rising interest in paid content. With the bigger examples like Louis C.K. and more recently Andrew Sullivan going out on his own, others are interested in ways to charge for content using turnkey solutions.
- E-commerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce are increasingly competing with blogging platforms, offering an online presence to small business owners with integrated commerce hooks.
- None of the big blog platforms (WordPress, Drupal, Tumblr, Blogger) have really attacked this space, usually leaving it to third-party partners.
Given all this, I’m actually surprised that Squarespace has taken this long to roll out commerce, especially given its target market of professionals and small business users.
So what about others like WordPress or Tumblr?
With WordPress, it’s actually fairly easy to offer commerce today using a third-party implementation such as Woo Themes WooCommerce, any number of WordPress plugins, or through a cross-platform play like that of Tinypass (used by Andrew Sullivan for his WordPress VIP implementation at The Dish).
This may be enough, but I think that what WordPress is likely missing out on is the small-end nontechnical user. Managed WordPress service providers like Pagely have risen in popularity in recent years, because most small businesses running WordPress don’t like managing hosting and running the backend, and things get doubly complicated once you start to add commerce hooks.
Still, while there’s a missed opportunity here, I doubt you’ll see WordPress roll out its own offering. WordPress users fall into two camps: low-end WordPress.com users (who pay a subscription fee to Automattic) and users of the hosted solutions using the open-source WordPress.org offering (where managed providers like WP Engine and Pagely come in). Automattic could offer commerce for .com users, but since it restricts features and customization beyond predefined templates offered through WordPress.com, commerce would like require the company offer a middle-ground offering that offers more customization.
Higher-end users of WordPress.org’s self-hosted or managed solutions will likely always rely on third-party solutions, since WordPress is open-source and has no central control. Chances are you’ll eventually see third-party offerings such begin to become the default route for commerce here.
As for Tumblr, I think the company could possibly offer commerce features down the road. As simple as the company has kept its offering, it has managed to become the default platform for casual bloggers as well as a host of artist and creative types who want an elegant but simple CMS. If Tumblr were to offer commerce for digital items such as e-books, comics, or even music or video, I think it could potentially give emerging specialty commerce platforms such as comixology (a comic book specialty platform) or others like Chill (which is trying to be the “Louis C.K.” platform for the masses) a run for their money (and ours).
Disclosure: Automattic, the maker of WordPress.com, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, GigaOm. Om Malik, founder of GigaOm, is also a venture partner at True.