WordPress.com made a big move to branch out into hosted e-commerce this week. For $299/year, Business users get unlimited access to premium themes, unlimited storage, live chat and email support, custom domains, no ads and the newest feature: “hassle-free” e-commerce.
The company opted to offer its new online stores via partnerships with three hosted e-commerce providers: Ecwid, Shopify, and ShopLocket. Additional and/or monthly fees are also applicable, depending on the store provider selected.
WordPress.com E-Commerce Excludes Native WordPress Solutions
Notably absent from its partners are any native WordPress e-commerce plugins. This isn’t surprising, given that Automattic has historically favored SaaS solutions when it comes to WordPress products.
The new offering was not without criticism from those who had hoped to see a few of WordPress’ high quality e-commerce plugins thrown into the mix. Commenting on the announcement post, WordPress developer Brent Shepherd said:
It’s incredibly exciting to see WordPress.com offer eCommerce, but a real shame to see the many excellent open-source options snubbed (including those built specifically for WordPress).
I understand the many very good reasons why it makes sense to partner with existing hosted services, but I hope that one day, we’ll see WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) and other open-source eCommerce options alongside these initial launch partners.
This is a point of contention for those who would like to see more fluidity for users transitioning between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress installations. A native WordPress e-commerce option might make it easier to transition stores that have outgrown the hosted solution.
Whereas some have perceived the decision to partner with outside e-commerce providers as an outright snubbing of WordPress’ home grown solutions, the reality is that most WordPress.com users probably don’t care what’s under the hood to power their stores. If they did, they would likely be more inclined to go the self-hosted route.
WordPress.com was created to help make the process of setting up and hosting a WordPress blog virtually painless for those who don’t want to dive into the technical details of setup and maintenance. The e-commerce partners they have selected have a similar audience of sellers who do not wish to be bothered with the technical burden of hosting their own e-commerce installations.
The Rising Demand for Hosted E-Commerce
WordPress.com’s $299/year price point is actually quite tempting for those who simply want to marry a hosted WordPress blog to a hosted store under one domain. This product attracts those who prefer to offload the burden of PCI compliance, SSL certificates, payment gateway maintenance and everything else required for selling online.
Granular control of individual product display is limited to shortcode attributes within the WordPress.com stores, but customers are more than happy to trade deeper level customization for convenience. Aside from slapping a “Pay Now” Paypal button on a website, most modern e-commerce implementations require a tech-savvy administrator who isn’t afraid to tackle a few challenges. A hosted storefront is a more approachable option than the prospect of having to learn everything involved. It’s also more affordable than hiring a developer.
Last year we featured Cart66’s launch as a fully managed WordPress e-commerce platform. With Automattic getting into the game, you know there’s a clear demand for this. People are looking to seamlessly couple the power of WordPress publishing with an online storefront and they’re willing to pay for convenience. As more retailers turn to the internet to expand their sales to a global audience, the demand for hosted e-commerce solutions will continue to rise. Any company that can provide a painless experience for customers will take a huge slice of this market.