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#48 – NFTs, Shopify clones, & the international supply chain

by | Dec 21, 2021 | Recent Newsletters

As you look back at 2021 and all the exciting things to happen in e-commerce, what stands out the most? What events from this past year live rent free in your mind? 

E-commerce history will call 2021 “The Year of ______.” Hit reply and let me know!

And now, it's my pleasure to bring you the 48th edition of the Shopifreaks newsletter.

Stat of the Week

Nearly half of millennial millionaires have at least 25% of their wealth in cryptocurrencies, according to the CNBC Millionaire Survey. – Retweet It

1. Shopify Plus merchants can now mint NFTs

Shopify rolled out a new feature that allows Shopify Plus merchants to mint and sell their own branded NFTs on its platform via a partnership with GigLabs NFT. The feature is currently in beta and only open to Shopify Plus merchants in the U.S.

Merchants can mint NFTs on popular blockchains including Ethereum, Polygon, Near, and Flow, and collect payments via Shopify Payments, Shop Pay, or any other payment platform supported by Shopify — making the barrier of entry to go from fiat to NFT much smaller for your average consumer.

Customers will be able to claim their purchased NFTs via email and add them directly to their wallets. 

I reported in August that Shopify was building support for NFTs for select merchants, starting with the Chicago Bulls NFT Legacy Edition, and now the feature has rolled out to Shopify Plus merchants. 

NFTs are taking over! Do you own / have you owned any?

2. BigCommerce is not a Shopify clone

A few weeks ago I had tweeted that if I had to assign labels today, I'd say: 

  •  BigCommerce = Enterprise
  • Shopify = Developer
  • Wix = DIY
  • Square = Retail

Those were just arbitrary labels, and there's obvious overlap between them. It's just where I saw those company's strengths to be 2021. 

Last week Malique Morris, an e-commerce reporter for The Information, made some observations about BigCommerce. Here's a summary: 

  • BigCommerce had 58,600 merchants using its services in Q3, down from 60,000 in 2020, causing doubt in Wall Street
  • BIGC dropped by half since January 2021
  • Investors are missing the bigger picture. BigCommerce isn't trying to compete with Shopify and their 2M merchants mostly paying $30/month
  • CEO Brent Bellm is focused on signing up bigger merchants that spend more than $2,000/year on the platform. The number of merchants spending that much increased 26% in Q3
  • BIGC is currently trading a 10x next year's revenue, compared to Shopify's 30x
  • BigCommerce wants merchants doing $100k to $1M or more, competing with Magento an Salesforce

What are your thoughts on BigCommerce? Are they focusing in the right direction? Are you bearish or bullish on their stock? Hit reply to this e-mail and let me know. 

Disclosure: I own BIGC… and SHOP… and WIX… LOL. I own a lot of e-commerce stocks, but it doesn't influence my reporting on them. 

3. Alibaba plans to grow its Southeast Asia e-commerce arm to $100B

Alibaba revealed its vision to quintuple its Southeast Asian e-commerce business, Lazada, to $100B in transacted sales and serve 300M customers, as well as reach carbon neutrality by 2030. Their plans were announced via presentation slides uploaded to its site for its annual Investor Day. 

Currently, Lazada’s GMV for the last twelve months from September 2021 reached $21B, with 159M monthly active users. So they plan on both doubling their customer base and having their customers spend twice as much on their platform as they currently do.

Alibaba took a controlling stake in Lazada in 2016, before investing an additional $2 billion to expand the business in 2018.

4. AWS goes down for the second time in a week

Last Wednesday, AWS went down for the second time in a week, disrupting access to websites like DoorDash, Slack, Netflix, Twitch, Hulu, Quickbooks, and 40+ other websites. 

The cause of the outage was pegged as “network congestion” and affected the company's US-WEST-1 and US-WEST-2 AWS regions. 

Prior to this outage, AWS was most recently down on Dec. 9 for seven hours.

5. Ever wonder what an international supply chain looks like?

Business Insider takes us on a journey of how an Amazon package travels from the factory to your front door. This particular supply chain follows an Orolay coat after it's made at the company's factory in China, shipped to Amazon's warehouses in USA, and delivered to your doorstep. Here's the journey: 

  • The coat is inspected, packaged, and labeled at the factory in China.
  • The package is loaded onto a pallet.
  • The pallet leaves the factory via truck and is later put into a shipping container.
  • The shipping container is dropped off at the port and loaded onto a cargo ship by a crane operator.
  • Once the ship is fully loaded, it sets off to one or multiple ports, taking up to 20 days to reach USA from China.
  • Once the ship reaches its designation, it sometimes has to wait up to 2 months to dock and unload.
  • During the wait, some Amazon products are loaded onto Amazon-chartered ships which are smaller and can skip port delays.
  • The rest of the cargo waits on the ship to be guided into the port by a tugboat.
  • Huge cranes that hang over the ship unload the containers.
  • A trucker picks up the container and transports it to a shipping yard.
  • The trucks then arrive at the inbound loading dock of an Amazon Fulfillment Center where dock workers unload the packages.
  • Employees bring the pallets of packages up a freight elevator. The packages are scanned one at a time, including the original coat, and each product is assigned to a cubby inside a robotic pod.
  • When the coat is ordered, a robot rolls out the correct pod to a picking station, where a picker places it into a yellow create on a conveyer belt.
  • A packer takes the coat from the conveyer belt and packages it into a box with an order barcode before placing it onto another conveyer belt.
  • A SLAM machine (scan, label, apply, manifest) weighs the package and applies a shipping label.
  • The package is then sorted into delivery trucks and transported to smaller sort stations. 
  • From there the package is either loaded onto an Amazon airplane or carrier truck.
  • Eventually the coat makes it to the last mile of the delivery to your doorstep.
  • And finally, some meth addict from the town over takes the package from your doorstep while you're at work, thus completing the international supply chain. 

Quite the journey! 

6. H&R Block is suing Block (formerly Square) over its name change

H&R Block filed a trademark infringement lawsuit over Square’s new name on Thursday, seeking to keep the company from using the name Block. The lawsuit alleges that the name would be confusing for consumers, given the two companies’ overlapping offerings.

In a statement, H&R Block wrote that using the name Block, “would improperly capitalize on the goodwill and consumer trust cultivated by Block since 1955.” (Now he's calling H&R Block just Block in statements?)

H&R Block feels that Block (Square) now competes with it directly in financial services, including through its recent acquisition of Credit Karma Tax for tax preparation.

Personally I never thought about H&R Block when reporting on the name change two weeks ago. The name “H&R Block” never came to mind. Blockbuster, New Kids on the Block, Blockchain, block party, blockquote (HTML) came to mind — but nope, not H&R Block. 

What are your thoughts? Do you feel that the names H&R Block and Block operating in the same world will be confusing for consumers? Or is H&R Block wrongly assuming that they're even part of the same conversation? Hit reply and let me know. 

7. Other e-commerce news of interest this week

  • Amazon created 599M pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2020, of which 23.5M pounds ended up in the ocean
  • eBay is ramping up detection of abusive buyers to protect sellers, after years of frustration from sellers about their adequate protection.
  • Instacart CEO Fidji Simo is joining Shopify's board of directors. 
  • BigCommerce is expanding its TikTok For Business offering to merchants in France, the Netherlands, Italy, and New Zealand.
  • China ordered Amazon to remove negative reviews of President Xi Jinping's book and Amazon complied. 
  • Amazon is partnering with the bank Instalments to offer BNPL in Britain, a market which is currently dominated by Klarna.
  • Bobble AI reports that e-commerce in India has witnessed an uptick of 77% between 2020 and 21

8. This week in seed rounds & acquisitions….

  • Bizongo, a B2B e-commerce platform for made-to-order goods, raised $110M in a Series D round led by Tiger Global Management, raising their valuation to $600M. The company will use the funding to ramp up its business and tech teams to develop a suite of digital services for its marketplace. 
  • Amazon Web Services plans to invest $5B in Indonesia over the next 15 years through the new Jakarta region, including for the construction of more data centers, after launching its first cloud infrastructure region for the country. 
  • The Stable, a Minneapolis-based commerce agency, is acquiring BVA and Zehner, two Shopify agencies, for undisclosed amounts. The acquisitions will give The Stable deeper direct to consumer expertise and clients.
  • Taxdoo, a company that builds API tools that help e-commerce companies with tax compliance, raised $64M in a Series B round led by Tiger Global, less than a year after their $21M Series A round, bringing their total raised to $84M. The company will use the funding to expand further across Europe.

What'd I miss?

Shopifreaks is a community effort and I appreciate your contributions to help keep the rest of our readers in the know with the latest happenings in e-commerce. Whenever you have news to share, you can e-mail [email protected] or hit reply to any of my newsletters.

You can also mention @shopifreaks on Twitter or submit posts to r/Shopifreaks on Reddit, and I'll curate the best submissions each week for inclusion in the newsletter. 

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See you next Monday!


Paul E. Drecksler
[email protected]

PS: What is an influencer's favorite part of shopping in stores? … The self-checkout.

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