There’s good news for people who can’t be bothered to leave their apartments for their morning coffee, and terrible news for baristas everywhere. Starbucks announced today that it’s expanding its delivery partnership with Uber Eats to 2,000 more US stores, which makes up about a quarter of all Starbucks locations in the country. The service, called Starbucks Delivers, has been operating as a pilot program since September in Miami, Tokyo, and a handful of cities in China. Starbucks says it will be expanding the service to seven more metropolitan areas in the US starting next year.
Starbucks has offered deliveries through Postmates since 2015, but the company says its new initiative leverages more learnings from its Starbucks Delivers experience in China. Since launching the program with Alibaba’s Ele.me (China’s leading food delivery platform) three months ago, the company says it’s brought delivery capabilities to 2,000 stores across 30 cities.
The Starbucks Delivers experience in China was customized with spill-proof lids for hot and cold drinks, tamper-proof packaging seals, containers that keep drinks hot, and dedicated Ele.me delivery riders. The ordering system also delivers from the nearest Starbucks location to speed up the delivery process. Hopefully, the success of the Starbucks’ Alibaba partnership in China will transfer over to its Uber Eats partnership in the US.
Tumblr has been trending toward more aggressive content moderation over the months that it’s been under the stewardship of Verizon’s Oath, adding things like soon to be obsolete safe mode that automatically filtered mature content (which was set as the default option for users in February).
And while Tumblr hasn’t openly admitted that the Apple ban was the inciting incident for announcing the ban on NSFW content, the timing of the events would seem to imply that either Tumblr itself or its corporate owners were at least somewhat concerned about the loss of those millions of iOS users.
That said, Tumblr’s ban won’t be enacted until December 17th, meaning that there will be a few more days where the app will be available with adult content before the pending content purge occurs.
A new study from Versus Systems and the MEMES (Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment & Sports) Center at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management examines at how gaming and advertising are evolving, and how one influences the other.
As Versus Systems CEO Matthew Pierce put it, the goal was to study, “What is the impact on advertising as interactive media grows, and as more people consume interactive media?”
The individual findings — People like rewards! Not everyone who plays games calls themselves a gamer! — may not be that shocking to TechCrunch readers. And since Versus Systems has built a white-label platform for publishers to offer in-game rewards, the study might also seem a bit self-serving.
But again, this conducted was with UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, and both Pierce (who’s a lecturer at the school) and UCLA MEMES Head Jay Tucker pointed to size of the study, with 88,000 (U.S.-based) participants across a broad range of demographic groups.
Of those respondents, 50 percent said that they’ve played a video game (on any platform) in the past week, while 41 percent said they’ve played a game in the past 24 hours. However, only 13 percent of respondents described themselves as gamers. That “identification gap” is even larger among women, where 56 percent played a game in the past week but only 11 percent identified themselves as gamers.
Why does that matter? Well, the MEMES Center and Versus Systems argue in the study press release that “advertisers that are recognizing the value in advertising in-game may be underestimating how large and how diverse the gaming audience really is today.”
The study also suggests that traditional advertising may be facing more resistance from consumers, with 46 percent of respondents saying that they frequently or always avoid ads by “clicking the X” to close windows or changing channels or closing apps. Only 3.6 percent of respondents said they always watch ads all the way through.
When asked what would make them play games more, the most popular answer was “winning real things that I want when I achieve things in-game” — it was the number one result for 30 percent of respondents, and among millennials, it did even better. (In comparison, 18 percent put “if the games were less expensive” as their top answer and 11 percent said “my friends playing the same game(s).”) This attitude even extended to TV, where 77 percent of respondents listed rewards as one of the things (not necessarily the top reason) that would make them watch more television.
Meanwhile, 24 percent of respondents said listed “if more games/more shows were made for people like me” as the number one thing that would convince them to play or watch more.
Tucker suggested that these seemingly scattershot answers are actually connected. On the advertising side, “We’ve got folks who are used to being part of a community all day, every day, whether that’s social media or massively multiplayer games. We see users are increasingly connected and are not really interested in getting pulled out of an experience. Rewards, if done properly, can reinforce being part of a community … you can amplify that sense of connection.”
“The introduction of choice seems to make a big difference,” Pierce added. “We need new models where we can foster choice, foster community, foster more aspirational relationships between viewers and brands that ultimately allows content developers to have a relationship with the brands that isn’t so adversarial.”
Meanwhile, when it comes to content and storytelling, Tucker said we’re entering an “age of personalization.” Among other things, that means more diversity, in what he described as “a generational shift away from stories that assume everybody’s looking at life from the same perspective.”
Pierce and Tucker suggested that they’ll be taking an even closer look at the data in the coming months (“needs further study” was repeated several times during the interview), particularly by examining responses within smaller demographic groups.
SoundCloud is now integrated with the newest versions of Serato DJ, allowing DJs to search, play, and mix any song uploaded to SoundCloud natively within Serato. It’s an immensely convenient integration that’ll give DJs access to SoundCloud’s unique library of music, but it also falls flat for one major reason: there’s no offline support, making it a nonstarter for live performances.
Several DJ softwares have had streaming services integrated for some time — djay, for example, lets you pull from Spotify Premium. But SoundCloud has long been the platform DJs have relied on for remixes, mashups, and other material that doesn’t exist on typical music streaming services. Having SoundCloud integrated into Serato is a definite bonus if you want to try out new songs for your set, or play out a remix you love that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
But at launch, there’s no offline playback support in Serato.SoundCloud tells The Verge that while offline playback isn’t included in this initial release, it is coming in the future. In the meantime, that means you need Wi-Fi to play SoundCloud tracks in the program. It’s a nightmare scenario to depend on a venue having stable (and fast) internet in order to DJ a set without hiccups, so this integration won’t be anywhere near as useful as it could be until offline support arrives.
This appears to be an issue on Serato’s end, rather than SoundCloud’s. The latest Serato update also integrates Tidal, which has the same online-only limitation. I doubt many DJs will be annoyed over this, since Tidal isn’t exactly known as a hot spot for digital crate-digging. But SoundCloud often is, which is why its absence of offline playback makes this partnership a great idea with a huge miss (for now).
If you want to use SoundCloud in Serato, you’ll need Serato DJ Pro 2.1 or DJ Lite 1.1. Once you link your SoundCloud account, you’ll be able to access your saved playlists, search for tracks, and mix anything available on the service, all without leaving the app.
You’ll also need a SoundCloud Go+ account. Many DJs and artists already pay for SoundCloud Pro and Pro Unlimited — accounts that let them upload content to the platform — but they’ll have to additionally pay for a subscription to SoundCloud’s full streaming service to use it within Serato. Regularly, SoundCloud Go+ is $9.99 a month, but if you already pay for Pro or Pro Unlimited, it’s $4.99 a month. As a professional tool, that wouldn’t be as hard to stomach, but it’s mostly a novelty until offline playback arrives.
SoundCloud also announced earlier this year it was adding high-quality streaming to SoundCloud Go+, a necessary step if the company plans on having DJs play from its platform in a live setting. Content uploaded in a high bitrate or lossless format can now be streamed back at AAC 256 kbps via an opt-in setting. In terms of quality, AAC 256 kbps is about as good as a 320 kbps MP3.
So, will DJs use this new SoundCloud / Serato integration? Without offline playback, it doesn’t feel viable to use in live performances. Using it at home to test songs on SoundCloud without leaving Serato, or record a mix that includes SoundCloud material does seem handy, especially with the new boost in streaming quality. But offline playback feels like the strongest case for convincing DJs to pay for the new feature. And that isn’t here… yet.
Pretty • uniform curls • Protects your hair • Fast and easy to use • The straightening brush was a revelation
Multiple times more expensive than everything else on the market • Price • The whole kit is huge • Did we mention the price?
If you frequently straighten, curl, or style your hair, the Dyson Airwrap’s quickness, versatility, and heat protection could be worth the obscene price. But if you’re only an occasional styler, save that hard-earned cash.
It’s long, and it’s pink. It comes in a leather-bound box, has a powerful motor, and it… hums. Nope, it’s not that. It’s a Dyson.
The is the latest entry in a line of wind-harnessing hair-care innovations from Dyson — a company better known for its vacuums and air purifiers. It follows , which really did find to be a marked improvement over the previously undisrupted traditional blowdryer market.
Since Dyson gave us a , we’ve been wondering if it could do for hair styling what the Supersonic did for hair, um, drying. It’s designed to dry, curl, straighten, or create waves for multiple hair textures, all the way from fine and straight to thick and kinky.
Plus, it uses warm wind, not potentially hair-damaging hot metal plates and rods as other hair stylers do. For hair curling and straightening, have we been harnessing the power of the sun when we really should have been tapping into the power of the wind!? Fools!
The Dyson Airwrap is easy to use and versatile. Most importantly, the technology behind the wind-powered suction creates a great ‘do. The fact that its multiple attachments allow the product to become a blow dryer, straightener, curler, and wave-creator — all in one, sort of — is extremely handy. And as a product that works from wet hair to a dry style, it’s extremely fast: on my medium length, medium body hair, curling took under 30 minutes, and straightening took a truly impressive seven.
But the Airwrap has one huge drawback: the price. It costs $499.99 for a wand with five styling attachments, and $549.99 for the “Complete” version (which I reviewed) with all eight available attachments.
Whether this product is right for you all comes down to how much you take a high-heat curler or straightener to your hair. For me, I rarely style my hair, and the Airwrap wouldn’t replace occasional visits to the blow dry bar, so the price isn’t worth it. But if you iron or twist your locks on a regular basis, as a highly efficient and gentle device, the Airwrap could just be your follicles’ saving grace.
Presentation, preparation… innovation?!
The Dyson Airwrap certainly presents itself with a sense of occasion. It comes in a two-foot-long tan leather trunk that my colleague remarked looked like Paddington Bear’s luggage case. After that, I couldn’t see it any other way.
But you really do need all that space to handle what’s inside. The core of the Airwrap is a rod that houses the device’s motor. The Complete set has eight different attachments, which include four barrels, three brushes, and one dryer. They all click in to the top of the rod, connecting to the engine and the wind power that’s the heart of the Airwrap (read more about how it works ). The cord for the rod is long, thick, and heavy. No wonder Paddington lent Mr. Dyson his suitcase!
The trunk looks nice, but there’s an obvious drawback here: if you live in any sort of city, in an apartment that has limited storage space, and a bathroom the size of a closet, where the heck would you put this thing? My small hair curler and straightener are all currently loitering dangerously below my bathroom cabinets, probably creating a hazard with all the dust, rust, and ambient water they’re gathering. I’d hate to think what would become of the nice leather Airwrap case under there, if it would even fit.
When you open the box, you get a nice little instructional diagram, and directions to go to a website with more how-to videos. It features a lot of serene models doing their shiny hair, but the videos are actually really helpful. We are reinventing the curling iron, after all!
A big difference between the Dyson and a traditional curler and straightener is that you style on damp hair. Now, as any cosmo girl knows, styling on damp hair with heat is a HUGE no-no. It can break and fry your hair like an egg.
But the Airwrap needs your hair to be wet to work its magic, since it styles with warm (and then cool) wind. Is that a status quo I hear getting disrupted?
This could be a drawback or a huge asset. If you’re someone who likes to shower and then get ready all at the same time, this saves you the step of going from wet to totally dry hair: you can begin styling while you’re still damp. Plus, the hair dryer works incredibly fast, as Mashable found in our . My hair (again, medium length, medium body) went from towel-dried to damp in literally two minutes.
On the other hand, I usually shower at night. So if I wanted to style my hair in the morning, or in the afternoon before an event, I would have to get it wet again, which is kind of annoying. Again, to each her own.
After watching the videos, showering, and unpacking the Dyson luggage, it was time for my Airwrap adventure to begin.
The Airwrap in action
Before letting my hair dry, I usually put in hair oil and a texturizing cream. To be frank, I am not sure if these products do anything, but I like how they smell and it’s part of my routine, so I included them.
Let’s start with my curling experience.
I decided to go for classic bouncy curls, not curls that I shook out into waves. I didn’t opt for tight, small curls, either. So I chose the larger of the two barrel sizes. The barrels come in two sizes, and each size has one that rotates clockwise, one counter clockwise, so you can create symmetrical curls by switching barrels from one side of your head to the other, if you wish.
Here’s how curling is supposed to work: you hold out a strand of hair, and grasp it a few inches from the end. Then you place the barrel next to the hair, on high heat and high wind. The barrel sucks your hair around it, and as you slowly move it in towards your scalp, it continues to wrap the rest of your hair around its motorized barrel, thus creating ringlets. This air and moving barrel situation is the best part of the design: no dreaded wand twisting! No burning! No creating awkward kinks at the end! No faint sizzle as you wonder when to release!
To set the curl, you give your hair a blast of cold air by pressing up on the power button. And the you turn off the air, pull down on the wand, and release, leaving a curl.
Here’s how it worked in reality, for me.
At first, I tried just going for it. But as I selected a random strand, I found that the wind was whipping up my hair all around the piece that I had selected, creating a messy effect near my scalp. Plus, the curl was soft, so it was difficult to select the next piece of hair for curling without messing up what I’d already done.
I needed to section.
I put my hair up using a clip, and left only the bottom layer around the base of my scalp. Working from this smaller portion of hair, with the rest of my mane pulled away and not in danger of getting mussed by the gale, creating curls was fast and easy!
However, the barrel didn’t just magically suck up my hair like it was supposed to. But that wasn’t a big deal. I found that it was helpful to sort of wrap the end around once, guiding it. Just a little helping hand for the wind sucking wand. Then, moving it in, and out and back in a bit sometimes to tighten the wand’s grasp, helped easily create curls, quickly.
The curling function has one big plus and minus about it: you can’t force it to take any more hair than it wants to. I tried feeding the curler big chunks of hair, and it would drop whatever it couldn’t suck in. This meant that my curls were uniform, and looked good. But it also meant I had to be more patient, and not force the process along, like you can sometimes do with a traditional curler.
I continued to work in sections, sometimes returning to the back of my head to look for pieces I might have missed. Finally, I finished off with a big curl off to the side, and I was surprised that the process had taken less than thirty minutes! I finished off with a hardy dose of hairspray to ensure staying power. And there I was, a hair care goddess, ready to hit the holiday party with festive curls galore.
I stayed out for multiple hours and took a lot of opportunities to ask people about my hair. Everyone liked it. Hoorah! By the end of the night, my hair had gone back to its natural waves, but some extra bounce and curl remained. This is honestly ideal, and, in my experience — the best result someone can ask for from a curled ‘do.
A few days later, high on my Airwrap curl success, I decided to try out a new function in the morning. I bucked my tradition and took a morning shower; my hair was dirty anyway. I was going to a work event, and wanted to look polished, so I decided to go with a straight-hair look.
First, I ever-so-briefly blow-dried my towel-dried hair. Then I switched attachments for the soft brush. What this attachment does is deliver a jet of warm air from the inside of the brush attachment while you’re essentially brushing your hair.
This was my dream set-up. I always felt like a straightening iron created too extreme of a look. But the Airwrap made my hair straight, but still voluminous and full of body. I air-brushed in all directions to create more lift at the roots, and ultimately settled with a side part.
Unlike the curl, this style lasted all day. My hair never returned to waves or flatness. If I could buy a more reasonably priced version of the Airwrap, just with the brush head, I would.
Is it worth it?
Disclosure: My hair is unusually compliant and rather easy to deal with. I don’t style my hair most of the time, mostly because I’m just not that polished of a person. But I have the luxury to behave in this cavalier way because my hair is super easy to deal with. I usually let it air dry, and it’s fine. And when I do style it, it usually accepts whatever I throw at it with few problems.
The Airwrap worked really, really well for me… but most products do. I will say that the biggest impediment to my own hair styling is usually my inability to effectively wield a curling iron and see the back of my head at the same time. But the Dyson was easier to use and created prettier curls than traditional hot rods do.
Then again, my experience may not be representative. I had some friends try the curling function. One person with fine hair got a pretty, loose curl out of the operation, but it didn’t look at all like my large ringlets. My friend with long, very thick hair, got curls that looked initially more like mine, but she said that it fell out within 30 minutes. Given this variety of experiences, I can’t guarantee that the Airwrap will work wonders for you. I would say that if your hair can or cannot usually hold a curl, or usually does or does not respond to hair straightening, the Dyson will probably work in the same way.
In other words, I don’t think this product is a magic solution for unwieldy hair. But I do think that it’s a useful all-purpose tool. And the technology almost makes it a smart straightener, forcing me to create better curls or kinkless-straight hair, with the power of the wind.
But let’s talk about price
I have spent probably around $150 on a straightener, curling iron, and blow drier over the last several years. They are all working fine. A high-tech hair styler is not something I really need.
Then again, I’ve already said that the Dyson curls look better than curling iron-produced ones, and there’s a value to that, certainly. But $350 of worth? I don’t think so.
Another way I thought about how to justify this price is whether this product could replace the cost of getting my hair done. When I want my hair to look really nice — for a wedding, say — my best option is to go to a blow-dry bar. A wash and blow dry at Drybar costs $45, plus tax and tip, so let’s say $60 to be conservative. If I got a blow-out once a month, this might be worth it — that would run me $720, while the AirWrap would be $500. And some women do get blow-outs at least once a week. If the Airwrap was able to replicate a professional blow-out, that definitely would tip the balance in its favor.
Alas, for me, it didn’t. My curled hair still didn’t look as uniform or photo-ready as when the pros at the salon do it. But perhaps with some practice and a good three-way mirror, it could eventually fit the bill.
But what if you’re someone who likes to have a polished look every day, but doesn’t like to drop money to have your hair done by a professional? Repeatedly exposing your hair to high heat can damage it. And I do think the forced uniformity of the Airwrap curls look better than those created by less high-tech wands.
So who is this for? For whom is the $500 — potentially $550 — price tag worth it?
If you: Shower in the morning before work, do your hair regularly, like to look polished, don’t like to spend money and time on professional hair styling appointments, are concerned about damaging your hair with heat tools, are constantly dropping money on high-tech gadgets, what are you waiting for? The Dyson Airwrap was made for you!
I’ll miss you, Airwrap
The Airwrap is clearly a luxury product. Doing my hair with it felt like a treat, and left me lookin’ and feelin’ great. But ultimately, I can’t justify the price to myself. And those who dropped $400 on the Supersonic dryer might be a bit miffed that Dyson is now offering basically that same hair dryer as just one part of a far more robust product.
The Dyson Airwrap is a fantastic way to treat yourself. If you want to be kind to your hair, and feel the power of the wind against your face and your scalp, you might have to clear some space (perhaps a lot of space) on your shelf for your new high-tech hair toy.
PornHub, a popular site feature people in various stages of undress, saw 33.5 billion visits in 2018. There are currently 7.53 billion people on Earth.
Y’all have been busy.
The company, which owns most of the major porn sites online, produces a yearly report that aggregates user behavior on the site. Of particular interest, aside from the fact that all of us are horndogs, is that the US, Germany, and India are in the top spots for porn browsing and that the company transferred 4,000 petabytes of data or about 500 MB per person on the planet.
We ignore this data at our peril. While it doesn’t seem important at first glance, the fact that these porn sites are doing more traffic than most major news organizations is deeply telling. Further, like the meme worlds of Twitter and Facebook, Stormy Daniels and Fortnite made the top searches which points to the spread of politics and culture into the heart of our desires. TV manufacturers should note that 4K searchers are rising in popularity, which suggests that consumer electronics manufacturers should start getting read for a shift (although it should be noted that there is sadly little free 4K content on these sites, a discovery I just made while researching this brief.)
Need more frightening/enlightening data? Here you go.
Just as ‘1080p’ searches had been a defining term in 2017, now “4k” ultra-hd has seen a significant increase in popularity through-out 2018. The popularity of ‘Romantic’ videos more than doubled, and remained twice as popular with female visitors when compared to men.
Searches referring to the dating app ‘Tinder’ grew by 161% among women, 113% among men and 131% by visitors aged 35 to 44. It was also a top trending term in many countries including the United Kingdom and Australia. The number of Tinder themed fantasy date videos on the site is now more than 3500.
Life imitates art, and eventually porn imitates everything, so perhaps it’s no surprise to see that ‘Bowsette’ also made our list of searches that defined 2018. After the original Nintendo fan-art went viral, searches for Bowsette exceeded 3 million in just one week and resulted in the release of a live-action Bowsette themed porn parody (NSFW) with more than 720,000 views.
Bowsette. Good. Moving on.
The Bible Belt representing well in the showings with Mississippi, South Carolina, and Arkansas spending the most time looking at porn. Kansas spent the least. Phones got the most use as porn distribution devices and iOS and Android nearly tied in terms of platform popularity.
Windows traffic fell considerably this year while Chrome OS became decidedly more popular in 2018. Chrome was popular when it came to browsers used while the Playstation was the biggest deliverer of flicks to the console user.
Porn is a the canary in the tech coal mine and where it goes the rest of tech follows. All of these data points, taken together, paint a fascinating picture of a world on the cusp of a fairly unique shift from desktop to mobile and from HD to 4K video. Further, given that these sites are delivering so much data on a daily basis, it’s clear that all of us are sneaking a peek now and again… even if we refuse to admit it.
A new foldable hinge patent has emerged that could shed additional light on Microsoft’s rumored, and supposedly upcoming, Andromeda dual-screen computer. The patent itself details a newly designed locking hinge mechanism that allows a clamshell style device to be popped open easily with a single hand. Language within the patent notes that the hinge is to be used with computing devices, showcasing a hand-sized mobile device with dual screens.
Whether attempting to fit a foldable screen into your pocket, or merely a dual-screen device, adding additional screen real estate to the small gadgets that we place in our pockets appears to be a target for many companies including Samsung, Microsoft, and LG. Microsoft, in particular, has had many rumors surrounding both the Andromeda dual-screen computer and a larger, dual-screen Surface tablet currently code-named Centaurus.
Imagery for the new Microsoft patent focuses on the particular design of the hinge, outlining a little construction featuring a pop-up arm and friction arms to support careful articulation. Notable is the inclusion of a button within the illustrations that show how a user might be able to release the hinge and pop the mechanism ope with a single click, making the hinge ideal for mobile devices that might need to be operated with a single hand.
Microsoft’s Andromeda device has seen some patents leak detailing how the dual-screen pocket computer might be operated. Despite the information, we know little apart from the idea that the device will likely contain dual screens, an onboard processing chipset, along with microphones and cameras built into the housing. Additionally, patents have shown that the invention is likely to operate in conjunction with the Surface Pen.
The road map supported by the discovery of the patents doesn’t appear to be too far off the path from something we would expect as Intel continues to push its dual-screen 2-in-1 form factor of the future. Lenovo’s Yoga Book C930 is likely the best currently available option that showcases the future of two-screen devices that companies seem to have their eyes firmly set. As we move forward into 2019, we hope to see more developments, and perhaps a reveal, from the team at Microsoft.
Facebook is pushing back on claims that its work with third-party fact-checkers amounts to little more than “crisis PR.”
That’s how one former employee of Snopes, one of the fact-checking websites that works directly with Facebook to debunk misinformation in News Feed, described her previous work with the company.
In a report published in The Guardian, the former Snopes employee says Facebook “essentially used us for crisis PR,” and that “they are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck.” The same employee alleged that Facebook had, at times, prioritized “debunking misinformation that affected Facebook advertisers” and had failed to take repeated warnings about the situation in Myanmar seriously.
Another unnamed fact-checker who currently works with Facebook said the company spreads the same kind of misinformation it expects fact-checkers to debunk, citing the social network’s role in promoting anti-George Soros narratives.
In a newsroom post, Facebook disputed many of these claims. “Contrary to a claim in the story, we absolutely do not ask fact-checkers to prioritize debunking content about our advertisers,” the company’s head of news integrity partnerships Meredith Carden wrote.
Facebook has long touted its work with third-party fact-checkers as proof it’s taking the fight against fake news seriously. The company “partners” (or in other words pays) journalists and fact-check organizations around the world to research and debunk all varieties of misinformation that go viral in News Feed. Debunked stories are then down-ranked in News Feed to make them less visible, and repeat offenders may be punished by having all their content made less visible.
The program has been criticized in the past for being understaffed and for the fact that it takes fact-checkers much longer to debunk false stories than it does for them to go viral. But Facebook has repeatedly said it’s gaining ground in the fight against fake news, a claim it reiterated Thursday.
“Fact-checking is highly effective in fighting misinformation,” Carden, wrote.
Fact-checkers have also taken issue with the lack of data about their work as Facebook doesn’t give them enough information for them to judge whether or not their work is actually effective. Now, Facebook plans to change that, Carden said.
“We’re starting to send fact-checkers quarterly reports that include customized statistics that reflect the work and impact of each fact-checker.”
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.
Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.