Is it me or has this year flown by? I started Shopifreaks in January 2021 and today marks the 47th edition. I appreciate you being a subscriber and supporting this newsletter!
I've evolved this newsletter during the past year to cater to its growing audience. Originally, I started out focusing specifically on Shopify news and was catering to Shopify merchants, investors, and developers. I later pivoted the newsletter to focus on the e-commerce industry at large, highlighting time sensitive news and major milestones in the industry. This big picture look at the industry each week is something that I haven't been able to find anywhere else. I hope that I'm doing a satisfactory job curating the most important happenings in e-commerce for you each week.
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Stat of the Week
It's estimated by @emarketer that 45.1 million U.S consumers ages 14 and older will use a BNPL platform this year, up 81.2% over last year. – Retweet It
1. Belk brings BNPL to brick-and-mortar stores
Just a couple weeks ago on my podcast and on Twitter I was predicting that in-store BNPL payment options was on the horizon. Belk did it!
Through a new partnership with Afterpay (owned by Block, formerly Square), shoppers at Belk brick-and-mortar stores can now divide their payments into four interest-free installments. Afterpay uses a one-time card to facilitate the purchase and then the customer makes payments through their Afterpay account.
According to Belk, it is already seeing a 50% increase in AOV for customers using Afterpay.
2021 will forever be remembered as the year that was paid for in 4 interest-free installments.
2. Meta takes aim at Shopify in leaked plans
According to leaked documents seen by Business Insider, Meta has got plans to take on Shopify in the coming year as it aims to get more users to do shopping through Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. The document was called ‘Commerce Guidance and Priorities for 2022’ and outlined the company's plans to focus on selling through digital storefronts on its existing apps.
Meta Ads and Business Platform VP, Dan Levy, wrote that Meta's vision is to control a plethora of apps that are “a primary destination for commerce.” Levy also added, “This is our highest priority and largest investment area. We need to make progress against our vision of our apps being a primary destination for commerce.”
We didn't exactly need leak documents to tell us that, but now you're hearing it straight from the horse's mouth. Ads were just a gateway drug. E-commerce is the dragon to chase.
3. TikTok produced its first live shopping event
Last Wednesday, TikTok produced its first live shopping event where users can buy products directly on its platform. This event coming just a couple weeks after I had reported that Twitter tested their first live shopping event with Walmart.
The event, called “On Trend”, ran from 5pm on December 8th and 9th and featured exclusive discounts by beauty and tech brands including Charlotte Tilbury, L’Oréal Paris and Nutri Bullet., plus entertainment from popular creators, entertainers and musicians.
Rich Waterworth, TikTok General Manager, UK and EU, told the BBC: “We think it’s a really significant moment. E-commerce is a big opportunity for TikTok and it’s something we’re investing in significantly. People who have a shared interest or a shared love for a creator or a product area, these communities come together and make the experience of finding and enjoying those products more interesting.”
Did anyone watch? If so let me know what you thought of it.
4. Target Australia re-platformed to run on AWS
It's been predicted for several years that Amazon would buy Target — a seemingly great acquisition that would accelerate Amazon's move into brick-and-mortar retail — but so far it hasn't happened. However now the two retailer's relationship got a little closer (again)….
Target Australia re-platformed its e-commerce operations to run on AWS cloud infrastructure. Target said in a statement that AWS will enable it to remove a scalability bottleneck that it's experienced with its previous on-premise infrastructure.
The companies also said in a statement, “Using Amazon Redshift and AWS Glue, Target built a data platform that analyses consumer insights, like shopping preferences, to help marketing teams tailor product promotions and personalise the shopping experience.”
What's strange about this decision (and makes me wildly speculate), is that Target USA moved away from AWS several years ago over to Google Cloud shortly after Amazon acquired Whole Foods. At the time, it seemed like Amazon was encroaching on Target's offline territory a little too closely, and the company decided to digitally part ways as to not have their largest digital asset in the hands (host) of one of their largest competitors.
So then why the move to AWS in Australia? Has Target changed their tune towards Amazon in the past few years? Is a partnership or acquisition on the horizon? Or is AWS simply the best or only option in Australia for a company as big as Target?
5. Holiday returns are expected to reach over $112B
Before online retailers pop champagne and celebrate a massive holiday season, they better clear their warehouses and prepare for returns.
B-Stock, a marketplace for customer returned and overstock inventory which handles excess merchandise for retailers including Walmart, Target, and Amazon, expects that 13.3% of all holiday purchases will be returned this year (or roughly $112B worth of merchandise). And of that, $45B will come from e-commerce returns.
Historically the top categories of returned merchandise included apparel, home and garden goods, consumer electronics, and toys.
Investors should also take note that Q4 results will not include Q1 returns.
6. Amazon to launch Instacart-like service in USA and Europe next year
Amazon began offering an Instacart-like service in the UK this past year, allowing Prime subscribers to order same-day deliveries of groceries from two popular UK supermarkets, Morrisons and Co-op. Amazon now reportedly plans to expand that model across Europe and into the US next year.
Amazon has been involved in grocery delivery for years through Whole Foods and from Amazon warehouses — but this new service will allow deliveries from third-party retailers, supermarkets and vendors.
Same day delivery of groceries is a rapidly expanding market as shoppers are looking for less reasons to actually step foot in grocery stores. Even anecdotally I can tell you that the number of people in my social circles who exclusively utilize grocery delivery services (versus walking into stores) has drastically risen. Instacart, Uber, and DoorDash have recently taken steps to expand their same-day delivery services, and Walmart even recently tested out a drone delivery service in Arkansas to bring groceries by air. The market is booming.
So this will be a classic move from the Amazon Playbook — wait for markets to grow, enter the markets, undercut and dominate.
Amazon spokesperson Jessica Canfield told The Information that, “partnerships with other grocers enable more customers to shop online and allow us to provide Amazon Prime members with more choice, value and convenience.”
7. Other e-commerce news of interest this week
- All eBay sellers can now upload videos to their store pages (not their listings). The feature was rolled out to select stores in March and is now available to all sellers.
- Google and TeamViewer partnered to create an assisted Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS) solution for grocers and retailers. The AR order-picking solution combines Google lass hardware and TeamViewer's software to fulfill orders.
8. This week in seed rounds & acquisitions….
- Nearside (formerly Hatch), a fintech startup that offers free small business checking accounts with no monthly fees, overdraft fees, or ATM fees, raised $58M in a Series B round led by Valar Ventures, just seven months after its $20M Series A. The company plans to expand their portfolio of products and services.
- Kreate, a Mumbai-based e-commerce marketplace, raised an undisclosed amount from We Founder Circle, Ankesh Sagar, Workato, Sandeep Balaji, and Abhishek Kishore. The company will use the funds for team building, marketing, and product development.
- True Fit, an online platform that helps apparel and footwear retailers properly size their customers' purchases, raised $30M in a round led by their lead investor Georgian, bringing the company's total amount raised to $55M. The company will use the funds to boost its expansion plans.
- Ryder, a supply chain management company, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Whiplash, a provider of omnichannel fulfillment and logistics services, for approximately $480M in cash. Ryder expects to integrate Whiplash’s facilities, operations, technology, and warehouse automation and robotics into its e-commerce fulfillment solution.
- Merama, a Latin American e-commerce aggregator, raised $60M in a round led by Advent International and Softbank, bringing the company's valuation to $1.2B, just 12 months after incorporation. In total, the company has raised $445 million, of which $345 million is equity and $100 million is debt.
- Dragonboat, a product management startup, raised $12M in a Series A led by Insight Partners. The company will use the funding for hiring and product development.
- Easol, a travel experience marketplace for tours and local activities, raised $25M in a Series A round led by Tiger Global. The company will use the funding to continue building out its software stack, with a view to being a one-stop shop for experiences organizers.
- Quinio, a Mexico-based e-commerce aggregator focused on acquiring Latin American brands, raised $20M in a debt-and-equity round led by Cometa. The company will use the funding to add more than 30 brands to its portfolio.
- Gadget, a developer productivity company that helps e-commerce developers cut down time spent on writing code, raised $8.5M in a round led by Sequoia Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners. The company was founded in 2020 by former Shopify employees Harry Brundage and Mohammad Hashemi.
- Brandverse, a Pakistan-based e-commerce platform, raised an undisclosed amount in a round led by the JS Group. With this round, Brandverse will further develop its Chikoo app which enables hyper-local and on-demand e-commerce.
- SendOwl, an e-commerce platform for digital products, raised $4.5M in a round led by Defy.vc with participation from Stripe and other investors. The company will use the funding to hire across engineering, product, and marketing, and ship SendOwl 2.0.
- Zoom2U, a tracking delivery software, acquired Local Delivery Shopify App for A$880k. Zoom2U says the acquisition will expand its footprint into North America and the UK.
What'd I miss?
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Paul E. Drecksler
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