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#49 – What happened in e-commerce in 2021?

by | Dec 27, 2021 | Recent Newsletters

2021 was an exciting and monumental year in e-commerce. BNPL became a standard way to purchase items online. Major companies changed their names and experienced high profile executive turnover. Google fought to regain its share of e-commerce searches. India rewrote the rules of e-commerce within their borders. Shopify integrated with, well, everyone. And aggregators popped up faster than weeds in a garden.

I launched the Shopifreaks E-commerce Newsletter in January 2021 to highlight the most important happenings in our industry and have since published 48 weekly editions. Thanks for being a subscriber!

This week's 49th newsletter is a lookback at 2021 In Review. I've recapped the most notable news from this past year (in reverse chronological order) so that you can have a big picture view of what happened in e-commerce in 2021.

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December 2021

  • Shopify rolled out its integrated NFT feature for Shopify Plus merchants
  • Alibaba revealed its vision to 5x its Southeast Asian platform Lazada
  • H&R Block sued Block (formerly Square) over its name change
  • Amazon partnered with Instalments to offer BNPL in Britain
  • Belk brought BNPL to brick-and-mortar stores via partnership with Afterpay
  • Business Insider leaked Meta's plans to take on Shopify next year
  • TikTok produced its first live shopping event
  • Target Australia re-platformed to run on AWS
  • Amazon reportedly plans to launch Instacart-like service in USA and Europe next year
  • Shopify was sued by five textbook publishers for allowing the sale of pirated text books
  • #SpotifyWrapped incorporated artist merch into its campaign for the first time
  • Square renamed itself Block
  • Nestlé announced plans to double down on e-commerce
  • Hedge funds urged Kohl's to sell their company or separate its e-commerce business
  • Tencent opened its WeChat groups to allow Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao shopping links
  • PayPal’s Buy Now Pay Later service became available to Wix sellers

November 2021

  • Twitter tested livestream shopping with Walmart and Jason Derulo
  • Jack Dorsey stepped down as CEO of Twitter
  • Spotify launched a Netflix Hub
  • AirAsia launched a last-mile parcel delivery service
  • Google Shopping and American Express created shoppable street murals
  • fabric introduced a B2B marketplace
  • Amazon informed customers that they will no longer accept Visa credit cards in Britain
  • Macy’s hired AlixPartners to explore an e-commerce spinoff
  • Payment apps will start reporting transactions larger than $600 to the IRS
  • Linktree added Shopify storefronts to its platform
  • Shopify and Ledger’s class action lawsuit was dismissed by California court
  • Google started showing a Deals tab in Shopping results
  • Shopify and MailChimp made amends after 2 1/2 years
  • Facebook became Meta and outlined their plans for a VR / AR powered future
  • Shopify doubled its GMV in 16 months from $200B to $400B

October 2021

September 2021

August 2021

  • Amazon partnered with Affirm to offer BNPL
  • Warby Parker had an IPO
  • Walmart launched a delivery-as-a-service program for 3rd party merchants
  • Amazon eclipsed Walmart as the world's largest retailer outside of China
  • Shopify was sued in California for collecting and storing consumer info
  • Vista (formerly VistaPrint) and Wix partnered up
  • Jack Dorsey announced plans to develop a hardware Bitcoin wallet
  • Wix launched a no-code app builder
  • 50k Chinese merchants were banned from Amazon for fraudulent reviews
  • Amazon was accused of evading tax by shifting £8.2B to Luxembourg
  • Indian Supreme Court decided that Amazon and Flipkart should face investigations
  • Apple partnered with Affirm’s PayBright subsidiary to launch a new BNPL platform in Canada
  • Square bought Afterpay for $29B
  • BigCommerce partnered with Sezzle for BNPL
  • Shopify opened a creator space in NYC
  • Twitter started testing e-commerce on its platform
  • Shopify added support for non-fungible-tokens (NFTs)
  • BigCommerce acquired Feedonomics

July 2021

  • EcommerceBytes filed a lawsuit against Ebay for intimidation, threats, and harassment
  • XPO Logistics spunout of GXO Logistics
  • BigCommerce partnered with Mercado Libre
  • Amazon launched Kindle Vella
  • went private in a $6B cash deal
  • Etsy acquired Elo7 for $217M
  • PayPal launched a digital POS for US merchants

June 2021

  • India proposed tightening its e-commerce rules
  • Shopify started testing a platform-wide affiliate program
  • Five bills were introduced in Congress that are aimed at limiting Big Tech’s power and dominance in the market
  • Wix launched a food ordering app called Dine By Wix
  • Facebook debuted new commerce tools including Shops on WhatsApp
  • Shopify confirmed rumors that it purchased a $350M stake in payment processor Stripe
  • Wix acquired dropshipping provider Modalyst
  • Shop Pay rolled out on Google and Facebook
  • GoDaddy launched payment processing services
  • eBay sold their Korean marketplace for $3.6B
  • Wix launched its own POS
  • Lightspeed acquired Ecwid
  • Netflix began selling merch through its new online shop
  • Shopify acquired the team from the augmented reality startup Primer
  • Shopify rolled out Affirm payment options to stores via Shop Pay
  • DHL ordered 2,000 new warehouse robots to keep up with e-commerce demand
  • Alibaba formed an R&D division to develop a driverless truck
  • Etsy acquired the fashion resale marketplace Depop
  • eBay cut ties with PayPal and started depositing funds direct to seller bank accounts
  • Shippo raised $50M and became a unicorn
  • BigCommerce launched their B2B Edition
  • BLS International signed an exclusive 3-year agreement with Amazon India for cash on pick-up
  • Wix removed a Hong Kong pro democracy website and then put it back and apologized
  • Microsoft launched Smart Shopping

May 2021

  • Twitter launched their Blue Subscription service
  • Amazon acquired MGM Studios for $8.45B
  • Shopify brought its POS and Payments systems to Australia
  • Google revealed their Shopping Graph and partnered with Shopify, Square, GoDaddy, and WooCommerce for direct integration
  • Shopify struck a deal with Google Cloud to better handle higher levels of traffic
  • Shopify integrated with Sweet so that merchants could sell NFTS
  • SquareSpace (SQSP) went public through a direct listing instead of an IPO
  • Global E-Online (GLBE) went public through an IPO after Shopify invested $193M pre-IPO
  • Shopifreaks coined the term Shopify Saints for former Shopify employees who have moved on to launch companies, but it didn't stick. 
  • Shopify joined the Open Invention Network (OIN)
  • Commonwealth Bank and BigCommerce partnered to help clients set up their own digital storefronts
  • Shopify was named as one of the TIME100 Most Influential Companies of 2021
  • MailChimp launched its own e-commerce platform and appointment booking service for small businesses

April 2021

  • Amazon started testing a pilot program that allows merchants to market to customers via e-mail
  • Shopify added Amazon order tracking to its Shop App
  • Pinterest expanded its Shopify integration to 27 new countries 
  • Three of Shopify’s top execs left the company
  • Chick-fil-A and Shopify delivered spicy chicken sandwiches via robots in Santa Monica
  • TCC took over six floors of Shopify’s offices to rent as flex space after Shopify announced that its  7000+ employees would be permanently working remotely
  • Shopify removed 1.5% of apps from their marketplace for not meeting their standards of trust and integrity
  • A grand jury indicted Tassilo Heinrich for stealing Shopify customer data on over a hundred merchants
  • A class action lawsuit was filed against Shopify and Ledger over a 2020 customer data breach
  • Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke asked the DeFi community on Twitter what they were most excited about
  • Keith Rabois and Jack Abraham launched OpenStore

March 2021

  • Shopify added a directory of Asian owned businesses to its Shop App
  • Walmart opened its marketplace to non-US sellers
  • Amazon surpassed Walmart as the top apparel retailer in the US
  • Former Shopify employees launched Backbone Angels
  • TikTok’s integration with Shopify expanded to Canada and Europe
  • RageOn lost their case against Shopify
  • LockeBio launched their “Shopify for Pharma” e-commerce platform

February 2021

  • Shopify launched an e-sports organization called Rebellion
  • Amazon acquired the e-commerce platform Selz
  • Fabric raised $43M in their Series A

January 2021

I hope you had a great year in e-commerce! Thanks for being a Shopifreaks subscriber.