This week I have so much e-commerce news to share, I won't even write a long intro so that we can get right to it! Get ready for one of the most jam-packed editions I've ever published.
In this week's 62nd edition of the Shopifreaks E-commerce Newsletter, I report on BigCommerce's new global-centric features, Wix's partnership with Amazon MCF, and Instacart's new marketplace.
I also share new feature releases by PayPal, Instagram, USPS, and FedEx. Plus some insight into the BNPL industry and why Affirm's market cap plummeted by $35B in the past 5 months.
All this and more in this week's edition of Shopifreaks. Thanks for being a subscriber!
Stat of the Week
In 2020, a record 97.5 million sq.ft. were leased directly by e-commerce occupiers, while another 77.1 million sq.ft. were transacted throughout 2021. Those figures are expected to rise by more than 15% over the next two years. — According to Digital Commerce 360.
Retweet It <– Check out my new #StatoftheWeek graphic format!
1. BigCommerce releases Multi-Storefront capabilities
BigCommerce has released their new Multi-Storefront feature, which allows merchants to create and manage multiple storefronts within a single dashboard.
With the new feature, merchants are able to create unique storefronts with separate domains, designs, pricing, transactional and promotional e-mails, and payment methods.
Last month, I reported that BigCommerce partnered up with Digital River to offer a global commerce solution that will manage payments, tax, fraud and compliance, and simplify cross-border selling and boost global expansion. The new Multi-Storefront feature complements this integration by allowing merchants to manage their unique storefronts for each country within one dashboard.
Storefronts can be powered by BigCommerce’s stencil theme framework or by a third-party frontends like Next.js, Bloomreach and WordPress — or a mix of both.
As someone who currently manages e-commerce sites of multi-national brands, I can tell you that this is a big step forward for productivity. If I have to logout of the USA store in order to login to the Canada backend one more time throughout my day, I'm going to go insane.
I'm glad to see BigCommerce and other e-commerce platforms tackling merchant demand for managing storefronts across multiple countries and languages. In September, I reported that Shopify is launched their own version of a multi-country storefront solution called Shopify Markets.
Speaking of BigCommerce's global push, the company also announced a partnership integration with dLocal, a payment platform that connects global merchants to emerging markets, to expand their presence in Latin America.
2. Wix adds Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment
Wix announced a new integration with Amazon that will allow merchants to leverage Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF), a service from Fulfillment by Amazon that uses pooled inventory to fulfill orders on other channels.
The integration will give Wix sellers in the U.S. access to Amazon's fulfillment network of over 110 locations. After a merchant integrates MCF by downloading an app to their Wix store, customers will automatically see shipping speed options such as same-day and two-day delivery and real-time delivery dates from Amazon when shopping on their website.
Merchants will also be able to offer flat rates / free shipping in addition to the Amazon rates, and MCF will share confirmation and tracking details with customers.
The catch for merchants is that those who opt in to the service must fulfill their entire catalog through Amazon, which precludes it from being an option for merchants that offer a mix of print-on-demand products or who would like to only utilize Amazon MCF for part of their catalogue.
In other Wix news, the company announced a repurchase program to buyback up to $500M of its securities. They plan to file a motion seeking court approval in Israel for their repurchase program.
3. PayPal Happy Returns
PayPal is making its recently acquired Happy Returns feature available to all PayPal Checkout merchants at no extra cost.
Happy Returns offers a nationwide network of 5,000+ return locations called “Return Bars” where customers can return items that they purchased online from other merchants. To use the returns service, retailers offer QR codes that the customer can bring to their nearest Return Bar along with the item, and customers receive an immediate refund.
The Return Bars then aggregates returned products across merchants and ships them back together, saving money for the merchant on shipping, while creating an easier and localized return process for customers. It's like an outsourced version for smaller merchants of what Amazon offers through Whole Foods and Kohl's stores.
PayPal acquired Happy Returns in 2021 and has since doubled the amount of Return Bar locations, including to Ulta Beauty's 1300 locations across the U.S.
For PayPal merchants, Happy Returns will now be available at no extra cost, but PayPal’s Checkout fees will still apply.
4. Delivery companies making moves
Delivery companies have been making some tech moves this past week to keep up with e-commerce demand and consumer expectations.
USPS announced that it is now offering its new USPS Connect Local service, which offers next-day and same-day delivery to businesses, in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, as part of a nationwide rollout that began last month.
Mariset Arroyo, the district customer relations manager, said that USPS Connect Local helps businesses of all sizes compete in e-commerce and allows the Postal Service “to more fully leverage its network capacity to increase volume and revenue.”
Meanwhile, FedEx has been working on a new feature for its mobile app called Crosstrack that allows users to track their deliveries from other delivery companies including UPS, USPS, Amazon, and more.
The feature was shared with TechCrunch by a developer and is currently in development. It is positioned to compete against Shopify's Shop App which offers similar cross-platform delivery tracking services. However unlike Shop App, the expanded functionality will not extend into shopping or product recommendations and will only be used for tracking, according to FedEx.
At the moment, Crosstrack is considered a “concept” that FedEx is testing, and not a feature that the company is ready to announce as a public launch.
I'd speculate that Shopify's Shop App and FedEx's Crosstrack feature are part of each company's goal to acquire more of what Scott Galloway calls the “attention graph” of their users, which refers to the finite amount of time that consumers have available to spend on various platforms.
The more time that consumers can spend in their apps as a one stop all-in-one solution for tracking their packages, the more brand loyalty each respective company will build. Whereas Shopify might leverage this consumer time on the attention graph into advertising space in the future, FedEx could leverage it into additional shipping or last mile delivery services.
5. Instacart's new Instacart Platform
Instacart launched an Amazon-style e-commerce platform called Instacart Platform, which offers a range of technologies that retailers can use a la carte or as a suite. The new Instacart Platform is comprised of:
- E-commerce storefronts custom-built for grocers with recommendation and merchandising capabilities.
- Fulfillment solutions for grocers to offer delivery and pickup from stores or warehouses, ranging from 15-minute ultrafast to next-day delivery.
- Solutions to enhance in-store experience including scanless carts and technology that helps manage operations.
- Advertising solutions to help brands connect and engage with consumers in the digital aisles.
- Data tools to help retailers optimize operations and provide more connected experiences.
Fidji Simo, CEO of Instacart said, “The grocery industry is undergoing a digital transformation where customers expect a seamless experience across many channels, but behind the scenes it’s taking an incredible amount of work and investment for retailers to deliver these new services. We’re looking to change that with Instacart Platform. We started as the e-commerce and fulfillment partner of choice for grocers, and we’ve been building on that foundation to broaden and deepen our capabilities, in order to help retailers innovate faster than ever on their own properties.”
Instacart currently partners with 750+ national, regional and local retailers to facilitate online grocery shopping, delivery and pickup services from more than 70k stores across more than 5,500 cities in North America.
Last week I reported on their new Shoppable Recipes feature, and two weeks ago I reported on Instacart's new in-store navigation and live phone support, which are part of a month-long rollout of new product features for shoppers that the company plans to unveil.
6. Instagram product tagging now available to all US users
Instagram announced that it is expanding its product tagging capabilities to everyone in the U.S. over the next few months. Prior to the expansion, only creators on IG could tag products from businesses in their posts, but soon all users will be able to tag products from businesses that are set up for Instagram Shopping.
Business owners will receive a notification when someone tags one of their products, as well as view all tagged content on their profile in one place. Brands can control who tags their products by managing their preferences.
An Instagram spokesperson said in an e-mail to TechCrunch, “People come to Instagram to share and discover trends and inspiration. Product tagging will make it possible for anyone to support their favorite small businesses, share how they styled their looks along with the products they used and more.”
Will regular users (non-influencers) get a piece of the action (ie: commissions) for tagging their favorite products and referring sales? Probably not! Why should Instagram offer that when people seem to tag their favorite brands already for free?
Instagram says that 1.6M users already tag at least one brand on average each week on their app, and allowing product tagging can help streamline the shopping experience for its users.
Didn't I just say last week — social media is becoming a giant amateur QVC channel!
7. Affirm's Meltdown
Within the last five months, the market value of Affirm hash plummeted by about $35B, and at one point last week, their market cap dipped below $10B for the first time since going public in January 2021. I've witness it first hand in my own stock portfolio. LOL.
James Ledbetter of Observer finds it surprising, given Affirm's continued growth numbers. He dove into several theories surrounding Affirm's plunge, which I'll summarize below:
- Recent market jitters caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. A major investor was said to have backed out at the last minute due to general market volatility that may have led to wider risk premiums than the company wanted.
- Investors spooked in mid-November by increasing uncertainty of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates to combat historic inflation. If rising interest rates make capital more expensive for Affirm to acquire, the company will make less money.
- Increased competition in the BNPL space is strengthening the negotiating powers of retailers, allowing them to pay less to Affirm going forward.
- Ongoing regulatory investigations of Affirm and other BNPL companies, which could interfere with future growth and profits. Last month I reported on Britain cracking down on BNPL firms after identifying potential harm to consumers, and in January, I reported that The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking into BNPL firms, concerned that the platforms may encourage overspending while dodging existing regulations around credit and lending.
- Consumer sentiment is shifting towards BNPL. Surveys have shown that a large percentage of BNPL consumers have incurred debts they couldn't afford, having to use credit cards to pay off their BNPL loans, causing a shift in consumer sentiment towards BNPL. Which might be why Klarna wants to ditch its BNPL association and move towards being known more for being a global retail bank and one-stop ecommerce shop
Ledbetter's article is a great summation of the current volatile state of the BNPL industry as a whole, showcased through Affirm's market cap fluctuations.
8. Sea E-commerce shuts down India
Sea Ltd is withdrawing from India's retail market just months after starting operations there, as the firm faces a weak growth outlook. The withdrawal comes weeks after its e-commerce arm, Shopee, said that it was pulling out of France and after India banned Sea's popular gaming app, Free Fire.
Shopee began selling in India in October 2021 as part of an aggressive international push. The local unit, Shopee India, recruited local sellers and launched a shopping website and app to compete with Amazon and Walmart's Flipkart, which currently dominate the Indian e-commerce market.
Sea's market cap at the time was $200B, but it has since dropped to $64B in March 2022.
One person with direct knowledge of the company's thinking said Shopee's decision to exit from India was sparked in part by stricter regulatory scrutiny, but at the moment, there is no clear evidence that the decision to withdraw from India is based on government pressure or other operational decisions.
9. Other e-commerce news of interest this week
- Customer service questions on WhatsApp more than tripled in 2021 compared to 2020. More than 80% of customers expect to continue contacting customer care on this channel.
- Trust Payments, a fintech specializing in frictionless payments, launched Stor, an e-commerce platform for SMBs. The company believes that Stor will be a value-added solution for their partners — but don't those partners already have a way to sell online if they currently utilize Trust Payment's payment services?
- Stripe is looking for banking partners in Australia so it can extend its payments and software offering into core financial services including loans and bank accounts. Everyone wants a piece of that Australian fintech market right now!
- Walmart is suing BJ's Wholesale Club for allegedly stealing their proprietary technology, specifically the self-checkout option for the Sam's Club mobile app, which allows members to pay for their in-store order directly from the mobile app. Should that common process really be patentable anyway?
- Douyin, the Chinese Tiktok, launched a new second-hand channel on its marketplace, dedicated to product resales and live streaming sessions to promote second-hand items like bags, watches, apparel, and jewelry.
- Amazon was prepared to pay $100k to rename Seattle Pride's annual parade the “Seattle Pride Parade Presented by Amazon”, but Seattle Pride instead parted ways with Amazon, citing the firm's financial donations to lawmakers who have proposed and supported anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation.
- South Korea's antitrust regulator is investigating Coupang for allegedly mobilizing employees to post false reviews on private brand products for more exposure and to attract customers.
- Apple is working on a subscription service for the iPhone and other hardware products, where users subscribe to hardware rather than just digital services. The project is still in development according to the insiders who leaked the news.
- H&M has opened up its e-commerce sites in Germany and Sweden to third-party brands on a trial basis to see if a marketplace model will resonate with consumers. Everyone wants to be a marketplace!
10. This week in seed rounds, IPOs, & acquisitions….
- Apple acquired Credit Kudos, a UK based open banking startup that leverages machine learning to provide lenders an alternative to traditional credit scores. The deal is said to value Credit Kudos at $150M. Apple is moving towards BNPL one way or another, whether introducing its own or partnering with other companies like Affirm, and integrating Credit Kudos' services could help them better assess the risk of lending to each consumer.
- Smart Sorting, a data driven company which uses AI to make suggestions to retailers about how to better move consumer products, raised $25M in a round led by G2 Venture Partners, bringing their total amount raised to $60M. The company uses over 465B data points on millions of consumer products to help companies manage transportation, waste, safety and more.
- Pantastic, which provides e-commerce tools and services to independent brands, raised $18M in equity and debt financing in a round led by B Capital Group. Pantastic provides a marketplace for indie bands to showcase their products, but unlike Amazon, does not sell their own private label products as to not compete against their sellers.
- The Mothership, a London-based e-commerce aggregator, raised £16.7M of funding from a group of private investors. The company will use the funding to pursue further acquisitions.
- ShopThing, a live shopping marketplace focused on luxury brands, raised $10M in a Series A round led by Origin Ventures. ShopThing currently has more than 100 shoppers on its platform across North America who go into stores and live stream to showcase items for sale. The company will use the funds to add more shoppers to its platform, expand to more cities, and create a membership program.
- Katie Haun, a crypto investor who formerly worked for Andreessen Horowitz, raised $1.5B for her new firm, the largest debut fund ever by a female VC. Haun Ventures will invest in both start-up equity for Web3 companies and crypto tokens in certain cases.
- Triple Whale, an analytics platform for Shopify brands, raised $27.7M in an extended Series A, consisting of a $24M round led by Elephant VC, alongside a previously undisclosed $2.7M round led by NFX, and an additional $1M raised in part by Shaan Puri. The company will use the funding to expand their development team and integrate additional components into its platform.
- Pack, a low-code frontend platform for headless commerce integrates with existing backend commerce tools, raised $3M in a round led by Alpaca. The company will use the funding to further develop its platform and expand its partnerships, engineering, sales, and marketing teams.
- Threads Styling, a global luxury chat-based shopping platform, raised $12M in a round led by Highland Europe and C Ventures. The company will use the funding to expand its current product offering and diversify its social first business model to expand the ways it can cater to its clients.
- TBAuctions, a Dutch online auction platform and marketplace for second hand goods, acquired Bjarøy Group, and auction and appraisal platform, and PS Auction, a Swedish auction platform. The acquisitions will accelerate the company's plans to build a pan-European platform for second hand goods. TBAuctions was acquired by Castik Capital in 2021.
- One9 Venture Partners announced the launch of its Special Mission Fund I, focused on national security and infrastructure. The fund will be co-led by investors Glenn Cowan, a retired squadron commander, and Daniel Weinand, a co-founder of Shopify. Kensington Capital Partners launched the fund with a $10M CAD commitment of the $50M overall fund size that One9 is targeting.
- Klas, a Nigerian education platform that allows anyone to setup an online school and deliver live classes, raised $130k in an angel round consisting of 10+ investors. The company will use the new funding to double down on platform innovation and expand its online teaching platform.
- Jeeves, an all-in-one corporate card and expense management platform for global startups, raised $180M in a Series C round led by Tencent, valuing the company at $2.1B, just seven months after their $57M Series B round. Since its Series B round, Jeeves has seen its revenue climb by 900% and doubled its client base to more than 3,000 companies, reaching around $1.3B in annualized gross transaction volume.
- Blidz, a social shopping app that offers group buying discounts based on volume and then presents users with a selection of games to unlock more deals, raised €6M in a round co-led by General Catalyst and VC Peak. The company, which boasts over 50,000 monthly users, accepts a much lower margin on sales in exchange for selling more goods, and aims to offer Western consumers a better and less expensive shopping experience.
- WorkRamp, a provider of learning management systems, raised $40M in a Series C round co-led by Salesforce Ventures, Slack Fund, and Susa Ventures, bringing its total amount raised to $67.2M. The company will put the new funds towards product development, specifically for onboarding an customer training, and hiring.
- Reach, a Canadian e-commerce paytech that helps online merchants move into international e-commerce with payments, tax, and fraud prevention, raised $30M in a round led by Vistara Growth. The company will use the funding to scale their development teams, onboard and support new merchants, and expand into new markets.
- Weglot, a French translation startup that helps turn websites multilingual, raised $50M in a Series A round led by Partech. The company, which has reached $11M in annual recurring revenue, differentiates itself from competitors by creating dedicated subdirectories or subdomains for each language so that Google can index each language variant of their clients' websites.
- Kwik, a Nigeria and French-based startup that provides logistics services to B2B merchants including last mile delivery, raised $2M in a Series A round led by XBTO Ventures. The company's goal is to build a super-app that merchants can use to run their online business from selling to delivery to financing.
- Jugnu, a Pakistan-based B2B e-commerce firm, raised $22.5M in a Series A round led by Sary. Jugnu currently has more than 30,000 SMBs, and their goal is to drive social and economic empowerment for small businesses in Pakistan.
- Punjab National Bank (PNB), a government owned bank in India, acquired a 6% stake in Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), for ₹10 crore. With ONDC's network-centric model, buyers will be able to access all services currently provided by various sellers on different platforms, on a common network, making network interoperability possible.
- Bigblue, a French startup that operates an order fulfillment platform for D2C brands, raised $15M in a Series A round led by Runa Capital. The company currently operates in France, Spain, and the U.K. and offers integrations with more than 2 carriers that can ship across Europe and globally, and will use the new funds to scale hiring and growth.
- ChargeAfter, a New York-based startup that allows merchants to access multiple BNPL lenders, raised $44M in a Series B round led by The Phoenix, bringing its total funding to $60M. The company will use the funds to expand its reach to merchants and lenders.
- Plurall, a Colombian fintech focused on improving the financial inclusion of solopreneurs in Latin America, raised $1.5M in pre-seed funding and $10M in debt. Federico Gómez, co-founder and CEO of Plurall, says that only 16% of Colombia's microbusinesses have some degree of financial inclusion, which is a $45B lending opportunity and $100B payments opportunity for the company.
- Zepto, an Australian real-time account-to-account merchant payments platform, raised $25M AUD in a Series A round co-led by AirTree Ventures and Decade Partners. The company, which is the first non-bank approved as an NPP-connected institution, facilitates more than $4B AUD in payment volume every months and connects more than 100 Australian organizations including banks, fintech companies, and credit unions.
What'd I miss?
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Paul E. Drecksler
PS: My local butcher started accepting crypto as payment. But only proof of steak.
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