I've got a LOT of e-commerce news for you this week, jampacked into the 60th Edition of the Shopifreaks newsletter. Wow! 60 weekly editions already? Time flies… If you get value from this newsletter each week, please leave me a Google Review. Thanks!
In this week's newsletter, I report on exciting e-commerce developments at Twitter and Pinterest, some in-store innovation over at Instacart, and a new link-in-bio feature from Shopify.
I've also got stories about Amazon delivery drivers getting shot at, big tech companies opposing new legislation, and Latin America's largest e-commerce marketplace getting hacked.
All this and more in this week's edition of Shopifreaks. Thanks for being a subscriber!
Btw – unrelated to e-commerce, but watch for me at 6pm EST tonight on Channel 7 News in Miami where I share the wild story of how I accidentally broke into a home in Miami and spent the night in a stranger's bed last week! If you miss it, I'll share the video on my Travel is Life page later tonight.
Stat of the Week
One in 12 people have turned to buy now pay later to cover basic costs like food and toiletries in the last six months – according to Citizens Advice. (Retweet It)
1. Pinterest is going full-on e-commerce with in-app checkout
At the Pinterest Presents event on March 10th, the company announced that it will be allowing users in the U.S. to complete transactions within the app — a feature they said has been long requested by users. The checkout feature is in beta and will currently only be offered through Shopify API. Pinterest will contact product distributors in the coming weeks to inform them of how they can take advantage of these developments.
Pinterest also presented a new tool called “Your Store”, which is a personal shopping assistant that will show users information about products, brands and creators based on their tastes and interests.
Pinterest is also announced that they are adding more features in their Trends platform for Canada, the U.K. and the U.S., as well as expanding their virtual try-on features.
Lastly, Pinterest said that they are making it easier for stores to upload their entire catalogue of products via API. Yay, more places to shop!
2. E-commerce companies oppose Shop Safe Legislation
E-commerce giants including Craigslist, eBay, Etsy, HobbyDB, Mercari, OfferUp, Poshmark, and Shopify are lobbying Congress about the SHOP SAFE Act, which stands for “Stopping Harmful Offers on Platforms by Screening Against Fakes in E-commerce.”
SHOP SAFE would effectively require digital services to monitor their users’ posts for potential trademark infringement.
The tech companies feel that the bill, which is intended to prevent the sale of counterfeits online, would benefit foreign luxury brands, but harm U.S. companies and consumers, and not actually achieve its desired goal.
In an open letter, Etsy wrote, “Unfortunately, SHOP SAFE takes a one-size-fits-all approach that would have a devastating impact on small businesses, especially artists, creative entrepreneurs, and recommerce sellers. The bill would provide consumers with fewer options for shopping online and, ultimately, the biggest beneficiaries would be the largest and richest global retailers. “
Etsy feels that SHOP SAFE:
- Treats local artisans the same as global manufactures – which would subject small sellers to the same lengthy product review processes and standards as huge companies, creating an immense barrier to entry for artisans and entrepreneurs.
- Creates pre-screening requirements that don't work for handmade and custom items – which would limit how and where handmade goods are sold online.
- Creates a divided front against bad actors – allowing anyone to make false or baseless claims and forcing marketplaces to waste time investigating these claims, leaving fewer resources to protect consumers from real threats.
Congress will now spend the next couple of months debating if SHOP SAFE should be folded into a larger bill that both the Senate and House can support.
3. Stripe brings back support for crypto payments
Stripe co-founder John Collison announced on Twitter that Stripe now supports crypto businesses including exchanges on-ramps, wallets, and NFT marketplaces.
The full tweet reads, “Stripe now supports crypto businesses: exchanges, on-ramps, wallets, and NFT marketplaces. Not just pay-ins but payouts, KYC and identity verification, fraud prevention, and lots more.”
Stripe was one of the first big fintech companies to embrace Bitcoin in 2014, but it stopped processing BTC transactions in April 2018, citing block dimension points as why the crypto currency became less helpful for moving funds.
However 4 years later, the company announced on their blog, “We’ve realized that our optimism for the way forward for crypto was not unfounded. To higher help our clients and proceed to develop the GDP of the web, we’re working to offer crypto companies entry to at present’s international monetary infrastructure — beginning by partnering with FTX and Blockchain.com to broaden shopper entry to crypto.”
4. Should gig drivers know the destination before accepting?
George Hunt, an Amazon driver in Chicago, was shot at and struck twice in a car jacking in South Side Chicago while delivering an Amazon package a few weeks ago. This was the third and most extreme incident affecting Chicago contract delivery drivers over two days last month, during which an Uber driver and another Amazon delivery driver were carjacked.
As consumer shopping habits continue to shift online and the last mile contract delivery industry grows, there's rising concern over the safety of these gig drivers. Hunt is now pushing Amazon to notify contract drivers in advance about the neighborhoods they'll be delivering to so that they can decide if $30/hour is worth the risk.
Most drivers working for Amazon's Flex service receive delivery assignments via a smartphone app that tells them how much they can earn and approximately how long the trip will take — but the drivers aren't informed of the specific location they're being sent until they get to the delivery station to gather their packages.
If at that point, they decline a route, Amazon penalizes them, which means they will be eligible for less work (or no work) in the future. The delivery station in South Chicago that Hunt usually picks up from has signs posted to remind drivers that they can't decline routes or ask for new ones — which is an indication that Amazon is aware of the safety issue of some of their routes.
Companies like Amazon, Uber, DoorDash, and other contract delivery services intentionally leave off the destination because they know that drivers will refuse dangerous deliveries. Uber, at one point leading up to Prop 22 ballot in California, allowed drivers to see the final destination, but they later revoked the feature saying that drivers turned down too many rides.
On one hand, large companies have a responsibility to not redline neighborhoods and provide equal services to residents in all areas. On the other hand, gig workers are independent contractors who should be able to able to assess delivery risks and act within their own risk tolerance. Is the solution to charge / pay drivers more for higher risk deliveries? What are your thoughts? Hit reply and let me know.
5. Amazon announced a 20:1 stock split
Amazon announced a $10B buyback and 20:1 stock split, which will go into effect in June 2022. The company has had three previous stock splits — a 2:1 in June 1998, a 3:1 in Jan 1999, and a 2:1 in Sep 1999. So it's been a while!
Stock splits became unpopular for a while, but they're starting to pick back up again in the tech world. Alphabet split 20:1 last month, Tesla split 5:1 in August 2020, and Apple split 4:1 in July 2020.
Stock splits historically lead to better stock price performance, according to analysts at Bank of America who point out that since 1980, S&P 500 companies that have pursued splits tend to see shares outperform the index three, six and 12 months after the announcement.
So should you dump all your Chinese stocks and see if you can regain some of those nasty losses through an AMZN split? That's up to you to decide. I won't say what I did… LOL.
6. Instacart introduces in-store navigation and live phone support
Instacart's new in-app navigation gives shoppers an interactive map of the grocery store in which they're shopping with precise item locations. The new feature is being piloted with 15 of its retail partners at more than 80 store locations across 17 states, with plans to add more retail partners soon.
Their new live phone support feature will allow users to speak with a rep to receive help while carrying out a customer's order. Reps will be available from call centers across the US and internationally.
Lastly, Instacart launched a new set of safety features which notifies shoppers of local critical incidents and leverages law enforcement, social media, and local news to create automated alerts. Delivery workers in the area will also get an alert in their app so that they can assess the situation and potentially avoid the area. (Take note, Amazon!)
These new features are part of a month-long rollout of new product features for shoppers that the company plans to unveil.
7. Mercado Libre was hacked!
The Latin American e-commerce marketplace, Mercado Libre, had its systems hacked in an incident that exposed information related to 300k users of the platform. The company disclosed the incident in an 8-K filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, nothing that part of its source code had been subject to unauthorized access, exposing user data.
Mercado Libre is Latin America's largest e-commerce and payments firm with 140M unique active users. They did not provide details about where or when the issue originated.
Latin America saw a 4% increase in cyberattacks in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to an IBM report which suggested that Brazil, Mexico, and Peru were the most attacked countries in the region.
8. Twitter announces Twitter Shops
Twitter has announced that it will be introducing Twitter Shops, an all-new shopping feature that will allow merchants to publish a collection of up to 50 products which they can showcase and sell via their Twitter profiles.
When you go to the profile of a merchant that has Twitter Shops enabled, you’ll see a “View Shop” button just above their Tweets. You can then browse through the profile's selection of items.
Unlike Instagram's Shops feature, Twitter Shops will not be native to the app, and the actual transaction will take place on the merchant's website after a user has picked what they would like to purchase within Twitter. Basically a product feed versus a full-blown checkout system.
Twitter Shops is part of the company's larger effort to grow their e-commerce ecosystem which now includes the Shop Module, a widget that showcases up to 5 products directly on profiles, which I reported on in August, and Live Shopping, which the company started testing in November. Currently Twitter Shops is available to select merchants in the U.S.
9. Other e-commerce news of interest this week
- Shopify launched Linkpop – a link-in-bio tool that integrates their e-commerce capabilities and checkout and allows visitors to make purchases with only three clicks, competing with tools such as Linktree, Bio Link, Linkjoy, Milkshake, and LinkFolio. In November I reported that Shopify partnered with Linktree to offer similar features.
- Google is being sued by a Florida restaurant group for allegedly prompting visitors with large buttons to order with food delivery companies like GrubHub, DoorDash, or Seamless, which costs the restaurants big commissions and service fees, rather than direct them to the restaurants' own sites. I remember when this was happening and thinking it was ludicrous!
- Chili's Grill & Bar launched an e-commerce shop featuring branded merchandise including t-shirts, fanny packs, pool floats, and more in celebration of its 47th birthday. I'm down for a “Baby Back Ribs” t-shirt!
- BigCommerce is now offering 1 month free in addition to their 15-day free trial on their Standard, Pus, and Pro plans.
- Curve, a super-app that combines all of a customer's existing bank accounts and payment cards into one smart card through its app is now available to download for US customers. Objectively, doesn't creating one point of failure for your banking cards sound like a terrible idea?!
- DoorDash announced a strategic partnership with Afterpay to offer BNPL finance options on all orders. Pay for dinner in 3 interest free installments? Yikes!
- The BNPL firm, Sezzle, is cutting its North American workforce by 20% in order to establish a path towards profitability and free cashflow. Sezzle was bought by Zip in February for $352M.
- Dollar General is introducing banking options and customer payment alternatives including BNPL at more than 1,700 stores.
- The Merchants Payments Coalition is calling on US politicians to block Visa and Mastercard interchange fee hikes that are set to take effect in April, citing anti-competitive dominance over the US credit and debit markets.
- Google Shopping unveiled a filter to show visitors products sold in “smaller stores”. The feature was announced last year and has started to roll out in the U.S.
- Shippo launched Shippo for Platforms in partnership with Shopify, which will enable the platform to power international shipping for their merchants without taking them outside of their existing platform experience.
10. This week in seed rounds, IPOs, & acquisitions….
- Playter, a London-based BNPL invoicing startup, raised $1.7M in a seed round co-led by Fin Capital and 1818 Ventures. The company reports that it has grown over 1,000% in size and revenue in recent months, but did not provide specific metrics.
- Swiftly, a retail technology platform that offers an enhanced digital shopping experience to more brick-and-mortar retailers, raised $100M in a Series B round led by Wormhole Capital, bringing its total amount raised to $120M. The company will use the funding to add staff and resources in all departments and grow its product portfolio.
- AutoFi, a San Francisco-based e-commerce platform for online car sales and financing, raised $85M in a round co-led by Santander Holdings USA, SVB Financial Group, and Crosslink Capital valuing the company at $700M. AutoFi has had four consecutive years of 100% revenue growth and processed 1M automotive financing requests last year. The company will use the funding to hire for its engineering and customer-service teams.
- Saltbox, a provider of co-working and warehousing space for e-commerce businesses, is working with Fundrise, a crowdfunding real estate investment form, to expand nationally. Fundrise is putting $128M into the effort, as part of its larger strategy to invest in well-located, last-mile logistics industrial real estate.
- Gumball, a provider of advanced advertising technology solutions, raised $10M in a Series A round led by Union Square Ventures and Good Friends, bringing its total amount raised to $12M. The company will use the funds to further invest in its technology and hire new talent.
- OkHi, a smart address verification service in Africa that allows banks, fintechs, and businesses to verify customers' addresses through their smartphones, raised $1.5M in a round, bringing its total amount raised to $3M. The company will use the new funding to double its team through hiring across engineering and sales to drive consumer and B2B growth.
- Amazon acquired Veeqo, a startup that helps sellers manage their storefronts on and off Amazon. The acquisition actually happened last November, but was not publicized. The acquisition will allow Amazon to integrate more robust tools for sellers into its MCF program.
- Money View, an Indian fintech startup that provides credit and financial services products, raised $75M in a Series D funding round from Tiger Global, Winter Capital, Evolvence India, and Accel, valuing the company at $625M. The company will use the funding to scale its core credit business, expand its workforce, and build out its product portfolio with new services like digital bank accounts, insurance, and wealth management services.
- Mara, a São Paulo-based grocery shopping startup helps customers in Latin America get better pricing on their grocery products, raised $6M in a funding round co-led by Canary and Caffeinated Capital. The company will use the capital to build out its team, product, and technology.
- Kicks Crew, a global sneaker and apparel resale platform, raised $6M in a Series A round led by Gobi Partners, Pacific Century Group, and Complex China. The company will use the funding to strengthen its foothold in the U.S. and expand into Southeast Asian countries.
- Lunar, a Nordic digital bank, raised €70M in an extension to their Series D which closed out at €280M, bringing its total amount raised to €345M. The company has grown to over 500k customers in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway and plans to double down on more services serving this region – including crypto trading. Plus (no joke), Will Ferrell is involved!
- in3, an Amsterdam-based BNPL firm, raised $11.1M in a Series A round led by Finch Capital. The company currently works with more than 1,500 merchants and will use the funds to further build out its tech platform and expand their team.
- Navi Technologies, a fintech startup that offers insurance and loan products, filed for a $440M IPO consisting of entirely new shares. The company's most recent attempt to raise money from SoftBank and other investors at a valuation of $4B failed after its inability to secure a license to become a bank.
- Selfbook, a hotel payment software provider, raised $15M in an extension of its Series A round led by Tiger Global Management, valuing the company at $300M. The company focuses on boutique and independent hotels and plans to launch an extension product this year called PayBox that allows it to install payment on existing checkout flows.
- JD Logistics, part of JD.com, is buying a majority stake in Deppon Logistics, a domestic courier company, for 9B yuan ($1.42B). The acquisition will expand JD Logistics' Less-Than-Truckload and Full Truck Load transportation capabilities, delivery services, and warehousing management.
- StoreToDoor, a Regina-based same-day delivery startup, raised $1.25M CAD in a seed round led by Inverted Ventures, whose COO Craig D'Cruze joined their board of directors. Unlike UberEats and Instacart which take a percentage of the cart, StoreToDoor charges its retailer customers a flat rate per delivery with adjusted prices based on volume. The company will add six more team members in software engineering and customer support.
- Yuno, a two-month-old Colombian payments startup, raised $10M in a seed funding round. Yuno aims to bring Latin Amerrican companies an easy online checkout solution that solves the pain point of managing multipe payment methods and fraud detection tools. The company will initially focus on Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia.
- Society Brands, an Amazon merchant aggregator, raised $204M in a mix of debt and equity in a round led by i80 Group. The new funding positions the company to grow its brand portfolio to more than $1B in revenue in the next few years.
- India's antitrust watchdog approved Amazon acquiring Prione, which operates Cloudtail, one of the largest sellers on its platform. This acquisition will allow Amazon to continue to operate Clouddtail in India. Amazon previously had a 49% stake in Prione, but diluted it down to 24% to comply with a local law that prohibits e-commerce firms to have ownership in businesses that sell on their marketplace. The acquisition could potentially put Amazon in violation of local law.
What'd I miss?
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Paul E. Drecksler
PS: What did cavemen call shooting stars? … “Uggh!!!”
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