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#179 – Shopify Summer ’24 Edition, Target’s Deal With Shopify, & Paid Meta Messages

by | Jun 24, 2024 | Recent Newsletters

Hi Shopifreaks!

In the middle of writing this week's edition, guess what happened? Shopify dropped its latest Summer '24 Edition!

I've been covering Shopify's editions since the company first began the bi-annual tradition in 2022, so I had no choice but to stop what I was doing and cover the release in this week's edition of Shopifreaks. Check out story #1 for highlights from Summer '24 Edition. 

Aside from that last minute addition, I already had a jam-packed edition for you this week! So let's dive right in…

In this week's edition I cover:

  • Shopify Summer '24 Editions is here!
  • A deep dive into Shopify Store Credits
  • Apple says “later” to Apple Pay Later
  • Amazon Business makes new strides in B2B
  • Google's affinity towards e-commerce sites
  • Meta's new AI-powered Messenger Bot
  • Target and Shopify's big partnership
  • Results of China's 618 festival
  • Amazon Pharmacy expandings its $5/month subscription
  • Apple teaming up with Meta to power its AI

All this and more in this week's 179th Edition of Shopifreaks. Thanks for subscribing and sharing!

PS: Before we get started, can you take a moment to write a Google review for Shopifreaks if you've been enjoying my content? Thank you!

Stat of the Week

Non-cash payments on e-commerce platforms in India surged to 58.1% from 20.4% six years ago. Consumers are leaving cash behind in favor of payment methods like UPI, debit cards, credit cards, and digital wallets. Other Asian markets including Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines are also seeing high adoption of alternative payment solutions, according to a report by GlobalData.

1. Shopify Summer '24 Editions is here!

Shopify released its full Summer '24 Edition featuring 150+ updates to Markets, Shopify Magic, Analytics, and more. This is one of the most visually stunning editions that the company has put out so far since it began the tradition in 2022, with videos for each one of the top updates.

If you're unfamiliar with Editions, twice a year, Shopify releases a mega showcase of its latest features called Shopify Editions. I've since covered their Summer '22 Edition, Winter '23 Edition, Summer '23 Edition, and Winter '24 Edition.

The theme of this edition is “Unified” because Shopify says that it's “doubling down on unifying key workflows and infrastructure all across Shopify so that it's faster, more resilient, and more tightly integrated than ever before.”

I definitely see examples of unification in action across many of the updates in this edition — sometimes to the detriment of apps that were previously required to power these functions. However that's just par for the course when new Shopify Editions are released. 

I'll highlight some of the standout updates below, some of which you've seen me cover in previous editions, and others which were announced for the first time:

  • Markets Pro is now called Managed Markets – merchants can expand into new regions, B2B, and retail all from a single dashboard, which shows a birds eye view of your entire business including all the markets you operate in, how each is configured differently, and how they work together.
  • Better Analytics – merchants can now stream data in real-time, as well as use ShopifyQL to query their data right inside a report.
  • Combined Listings – showcase unique photo galleries, descriptions, and URLs for multiple options of a product under one parent listing.
  • Store Credits – issue store credit to customers directly in admin, view balances and transaction history, and enable customers to spend their credit at checkout. This is my favorite new feature. More info on this one in Story #2 below.
  • Track Events Impact – identify the impact of changes you've made to your store such as app uninstalls, theme updates, and new code additions.
  • Product Bundles in Draft Orders – you can now add product bundles to your draft orders, which was a missing feature that previously made it impossible to use Shopify's Bundles app for certain clients. 
  • Semantic Search – more Shopify plans can now enable more intuitive search for customers in the Search & Discovery app.
  • Capture E-mail with Shop Pay – brick-and-mortar retailers can now offer one-tap digital receipts that auto-suggest the customer’s email from Shop Pay, and give them the option to subscribe to marketing.
  • Unique Catalogs For Each Store –  offer custom catalogs and product pricing for each retail market with regionalized checkout flows and translated product catalogs.
  • Return Rules – streamline in-store returns with rules that allow staff to quickly determine whether or not a product can be returned so they can inform customers.
  • Multiple Discounts in Store – you can now offer customers product discounts alongside an order discount.
  • Trade Theme – Shopify's new B2B theme designed for repeat and bulk purchasing.
  • Deposits at Checkout – require percentage-based deposits at checkout for B2B customers.
  • Manage Products From Suppliers in Bulk – import and publish thousands of supplier products at once.
  • Manually Edit Existing Orders – adjust the details of any order after it's placed. Will this feature soon be available to customers too?
  • Split Shipping at Checkout – show customers when an order will be split into multiple shipments so they can choose the lowest price, fastest delivery, or custom shipping options.
  • Enhanced Page Customization – merchants can now use apps to add functionality to the thank you & order status pages from the checkout and accounts editor.
  • Shop Pay App Supports Pick-up in Store – customers can now choose to buy online and pick up in store through the Shop App for users of Commerce Components.
  • Capture Payment on Fulfillment – automate payment capture when part of an order is fulfilled instead of purchased to meet customer preferences and reporting requirements.
  • Suggested Replies in Inbox – quickly answer customer questions in Shopify Inbox with AI-generated replies powered by your business data.
  • Suggested Categories and Attributes – a rebuilt product taxonomy with 10K+ categories and 2K+ attributes to improve discovery across your store, search, and marketplaces using AI.
  • Enhance Images Everywhere – AI Image Editing extended to everywhere in the admin you work with images. 
  • Ship To & From Any Store – merchants can turn retail locations into mini fulfillment centers and pick-up locations.
  • Find and Fix Address Errors – merchants can now see flagged address issues in the admin, with suggestions on how to fix.
  • Headless Storefront – take a sneak peak at the Hydrogen Visual Editor powered by Utopia which brings your code together into a visual editor just like you're used to with Liquid and the online store. 

Which feature or update from Summer '24 Edition is going to have the biggest impact on your business this year? Hit reply and let me know.

2. Shopify Store Credits: A Deeper Dive

As part of its Shopify Summer '24 Editions, Shopify launched early access to its new store credit feature, now available with a limited feature set to all Shopify businesses globally. As the company wrote in its blog post, “Gone are the days of using gift cards and discount codes as workarounds.”

As every Shopify store owner can contest, this is a must-needed and long-awaited feature that we've all been itching to get access to. In fact, we're all so excited about the feature release that we won't even ask, “WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG??”

This is one of my favorite new features, so I wanted to dive a little deeper into it in story #2.

Here's what used to happen: 

  1. A customer returned an item or experienced a different problem that required a store credit.
  2. Store credits weren't possible before without an app, so most Shopify stores would either issue a discount code or a gift card for the amount of the store credit. 
  3. From there it'd be up to the customer to remember to use the discount code or store credit. The only record of either code would be in their e-mail, and the customer would not be prompted to use it at checkout.

Now with this new store credit feature:

  • The monetary value of the credit is stored directly in the customer's account and is non-transferable.
  • The credit balance and transfer history can be viewed by the customer within their account dashboard.
  • The customer can choose to easily spend their store credit at checkout because the credit appears as a payment option with the balance displayed. 
  • Merchants can issue store credit as incentives within their rewards / loyalty program apps.
  • Merchants also have the ability to cross-sell and upsell based on a customer's store credit balance. “Hey Paul, you've got $21.00 in store credit. We know you want to add this case to your order. It's practically free with your credit!” <– Coming soon to an upsell near you.

The feature is currently in early access, but new features are headed our way this year including: 

  • The ability to issue store credit in lieu of refunds. 
  • Improved analysis for store credit.
  • The ability to assign reason codes for reporting purposes.
  • Shop-level reports for balance and liability.
  • Segments, triggers, and automated workflows that'll allow merchants to issue store credit as incentives and notify customers of expiring store credit.

Harry Molyneux of DTC Pages shared a couple ways that he's had success with store credit systems in the past on Shopify including gamifying the cart (adding store credit at various thresholds) and displaying a sitewide credit counter to encourage customers to not let their credit go unused. I'm positive that with this new native store credit feature being introduced by Shopify, we'll start to see merchants use store credit in even more creative ways.

Note to Merchants: The new store credit feature requires that you switch to “New Customer Accounts” within your Shopify settings, however, be careful making this switch without speaking to your developer first because it may break existing integrations.

3. Apple sunset its Apple Pay Later service

Remember Apple Pay Later, the company's branded BNPL service that it officially launched to the public in April 2023? The payment method allowed users to split their purchases of up to $1000 into four equal payments across six weeks, with no fees or interest. And it's gone…

Apple killed off the BNPL service less than a year after its launch to instead focus on working with third parties for installment loans including Affirm, ANZ, HSBC, Monzo, CaixaBank, Citi Synchrony, and Fiserv. 

Apple announced the news in a statement to 9to5Mac:

“Starting later this year, users across the globe will be able to access installment loans offered through credit and debit cards, as well as lenders, when checking out with Apple Pay. With the introduction of this new global installment loan offering, we will no longer offer Apple Pay Later in the U.S. Our focus continues to be on providing our users with access to easy, secure and private payment options with Apple Pay, and this solution will enable us to bring flexible payments to more users, in more places across the globe, in collaboration with Apple Pay enabled banks and lenders.”

Users that have an active loan through Apple Pay Later will still be able to manage and pay their loans through the Apple Wallet app until all outstanding loans have been repaid.

I remember first learning about Apple's upcoming BNPL service and writing: 

“Does Apple really want to be in the business of charging customers with outstanding debt high interest fees and sending customer debt to collections? That ugly side of consumer financing has historically been handled by banks and lenders. It's not a good look for the company, but it's certainly a way to monetize that huge cash reserve they're sitting on.”

Apparently Apple has now seen BNPL's true colors and has decided that it'd much rather let other lenders handle the financing while it simply takes a cut through Apple Pay — a strategy it seems to be employing with AI as well. (See my news on Meta and Apple's upcoming AI partnership in Section 9.)

Within months of launch, Apple Pay Later had experienced incredible adoption. For example, in March 2024, Experian became the first credit bureau to include Apple Pay Later loans on consumers' credit reports, and Stripe began incorporating Apple Pay Later by default for its merchants. However despite the traction, the company still decided that it was best to move on from being a lender of installment loans.

Earlier this month I praised Apple for its ability to fall behind on developing new product categories, but then knock it out the park when they do enter a vertical. Now I will give Apple kudos for knowing when to get out.

4. Amazon Business launches new features

Amazon Business, the company's B2B marketplace, is launching new features to simplify the buying process which include:

  • Amazon Business App Center – a new dashboard for customers to connect their business account with 25+ third-party applications including integrated shopping, accounting management, expense management, inventory management, rewards, and business analytics.
  • Cross-Domain Identity Management – automatically syncs user and group data from an organization's identity provider with their business account so that admins can spend less time on maintaining and updating the information.
  • Budget Management Tools – users can streamline how they set and review time-bound budgets by setting spend thresholds and making budget amounts visible to buyers to get ahead of overspending. Business customers can also actively manage their budgets with real-time usage reports, notifications, and purchase pre-approvals.
  • Guided Buying Features – allows companies to manage employee spending by identifying “preferred products” based on their preferences. For example, companies can restrict, block, or require approval for certain product categories.
  • Integrated Quoting – business customers can now generate custom quotes for bulk orders and other suppliers via third-party procurement platforms. Amazon Business then centralizes the organization's Request for Quote activity to make it easier companies to select the best bid.

So with Amazon diving deeper into the B2B market, is B2B commerce something to pay attention to? LOL. 

One of Jason Greenwood's 2024 Predictions was that, “B2B is going to steal the eCommerce growth limelight in 24!”

Jason definitely got it right with that prediction. I hear “B2B” as much as I hear “AI” lately! But how are everyone's else's predictions doing? Last week I posted a Mid-Year Predictions Recap on my LinkedIn. Take a look and see who got it right and who got it wrong (so far) with their 2024 predictions. 

5. Google favors e-commerce sites over affiliate content

A recent study by the digital marketing agency Amsive found that Google is favoring more e-commerce websites and sites featuring user-generated content while reducing the visibility of product review and affiliate marketing sites.

The study found a significant increase in e-commerce sites appearing in top search results for search queries that previously returned results from product reviews and affiliate sites.

The study offered a few examples: 

  • “Bird Feeders” – e-commerce stores now hold all 10 top positions, replacing several product review sites from the previous year.
  • “Laptops” – the top 10 results are now exclusively e-commerce websites, with some sites appearing multiple times.
  • “Towel Warmer” – Amazon and Walmart have multiple listings appear on the first page of results, completely replacing affiliate websites.

In addition to e-commerce sites, user-generated content platforms such as Reddit, Quora, and YouTube now appear in top positions for various queries where they were previously absent or ranked low.

Part of this may have to do with the $60M deal Google inked with Reddit earlier this year to license your their content for AI training. Google now has an active interest in encouraging conversation on Reddit and may be using their search results to drive more traffic to the site. 

Google hasn't explicitly stated that product review content is considered “unhelpful,” but data suggests that recent Google updates have disproportionately affected these pages.

The study indicates that it's a great time to optimize your e-commerce site for SEO!

If your store could use some help with e-commerce SEO, feel free to reach out to me through my Ideas Focused agency, or hit reply to this e-mail. I've helped companies from $90B international banks to brand new e-commerce startups rank their products and services on Google over the past two decades. That's what I love about SEO — it's a channel that's available to everyone. You don't have to be a huge company to generate traffic to your store with organic listings. Give me a shout anytime if I can help your company in this area. 

Also, this Wednesday I'm attending an online webinar by Sam Wright that you might be interested in called “Data-led SEO for Shopify stores” where Sam dives into strategies his company Blink SEO uses to measure impact and execute SEO at scale. He's also going to share a behind-the-scenes look at their Macaroni software, which you might remember that I featured in our What's Next series a couple weeks ago. 

6. Meta unveils an AI-powered Messenger Bot

Meta unveiled a new AI-powered chat feature on Messenger that leverages its Llama 3 AI interface to respond to customer messages in “engaging and natural ways” — hopefully not modeled after how Mark Zuckerberg himself talks.

Here's how it works: 

  • Businesses can share information about themselves and their product catalog in the Meta Business Suite.
  • Customers can initiate chats through a “click to message” ad or via the “Send Message” button on a business’s Facebook page. 
  • From there, AI will be used to generate a response to the customer's inquiry.
  • Customers will always have the option to request a human agent, and businesses can jump into the conversation at any time.

The company also rolled out new features that enable businesses to send paid marketing messages through Messenger, similar to LinkedIn's Message Ads that we all delete on arrival.

In its demonstration, Meta showed how these paid messages could be used to offer users coupon codes and exclusive discounts on their favorite brands. Meta says that its systems will recommend “the right subset of recipients based on the outcomes they care about the most — like helping turn a lead into a conversion or generating awareness for a new product.”

Lastly, Meta introduced a new API for its Threads App, which is now used by more than 150M monthly active users, according to the company. The API will offer the ability for users to publish posts, retrieve their own content, engage with replies to their posts, set reply controls, and hide specific replies. The API will also allow users to analyze media and account-level insights like views, engagements, and replies.

7. Target teams up with Shopify to expand its marketplace

Target teamed up with Shopify to help add new and trendier brands to its third-party marketplace. Starting today, Shopify merchants can apply to join Target Plus via Shopify's Marketplace Connect app. The company shared in its announcement that select products will be featured both online and in Target stores nationwide.

Target Plus is invite-only and a fraction of the size of competing marketplaces with only 1,200 sellers compared to Amazon's 2M sellers and Walmart's 135K sellers.

However Target says that its marketplace has gained momentum and that its seller and product count have more than doubled over the past calendar year. (So just under 2M more to go to catch up to Amazon.)

Jokes aside though, I think it's a much better play for Target to remain an invite-only curated marketplace, as opposed to try and catch up to Amazon or Walmart, whose “take anyone as a seller” strategies have led to earning huge market share, but also mistrust among consumers. 

Target does not split the revenue made through its third-party marketplace in its financial reports, and instead clumps the marketplace revenue together with “other revenue” such as money made from credit card profit-sharing and its advertising business, Roundel — so no-one really knows how it's doing. I'd imagine though, if Target Plus was doing great, they'd be sharing those numbers with more transparency. 

I think this is a powerful partnership that could turn into a great opportunity for Shopify merchants. It reminds me of the plan for Kohl's that I shared earlier this year:

“How about a partnership with Shopify where Kohl's creates pop-up storefronts at the front of their 1,000+ retail locations in the US, featuring products from popular regional D2C brands that sell on the platform? Kohl's could become the de facto brick-and-mortar retailer for brands without showrooms (or brands with small offline footprints).”

I believe that the solution for smaller e-commerce merchants to go omnichannel and for major retailers and department stores to keep up with faster paced product trends moving forward is going to be a localized partnership between online brands and brick-and-mortar retailers. It's a win-win-win for brands, retailers, and consumers, and I hope to see more partnerships like the one between Shopify and Target in the future. 

8. China's 618 Shopping Festival Results

Last week was China's 14th annual 618 festival, an e-commerce shopping event created by to coincide with when the company launched on June 18, 1998. The shopping event was soon adopted by other companies to eventually become the second largest shopping festival in the country, second to Singles Day.

Bloomberg reported that this year, China's shoppers were “getting wooed this week like never before” with the country's biggest firms pulling out all the stops during the festival, including Alibaba offering 50% off Lululemon apparel and Douyin and Pinduoduo advertising steeper-than-ever discounts.

Sherri He, managing director at Kearney China, said, “This year’s 618 is the most cutthroat shopping festival ever. Ecommerce platforms are under huge performance pressure amid a consumption downgrade.”

So how did all that cutthroat discounting fare for the retailers?

Syntun, a retail data provider, reported:  

  • Sales dropped 7% from last year to 742.8B yuan ($102.3B).
  • It was the first time sales saw a decline since Syntun began monitoring the event in 2016.

Analysys, a different data analytics company that also tracks sales during the shopping event, sang a different tune:

  • Analysys reported that sales were up 13.6% during the 618 festival. 
  • Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, led all other platforms with a 26.2% increase in GMV.
  • Pinduoduo saw a 17.7% increase.
  • Kuaishou saw a 16.1% increase.
  • Alibaba saw GMV grow 12%.
  • saw GMV grow 5.7%.

What are the companies themselves saying?

  • said its turnover and order volumes reached a new high during the festival, but did not share sales numbers.
  • Taobao and Tmall said it also recorded a new GMV high during the campaign.
  • Zuoliang, a brand that sells bird's nest soup on, said that it was “forced to sell at a price that is even lower than our cost” during the 618 event, creating an “unprecedented dilemma”.
  • Other brands also complained publicly about taking a loss on their sales.

So how did these Chinese retailers really do? I guess, like many things that come out of China, we'll never really know the truth. 

9. Other e-commerce news of interest

NRF President Matthew Shay said that April sales were “an outlier” and that May's gains are “in line with what we saw earlier this year.” Retail sales in May were up across the board compared to April, growing 1.35% MoM and 3.03% YoY, according to data from the NRF's Retail Monitor and CNBC. 

Ecommerce Europe and many of its national association members are calling for a level playing field for all players active in the European market, advocating for better enforcement of existing regulations. The group is dismayed about how retailers from outside the EU are growing at a record pace without adhering to the region's rules on commerce in regards to regulations on consumer protection, product safety, counterfeiting, data protection, privacy, environmental and taxation legislation. LOL — you can just say “Temu.”

Amazon Pharmacy is expanding its $5/month RxPass subscription service, which offers up to 80% off the cost of generic drugs and up to 40% off the cost of brand name medicines, to customers enrolled in Medicare insurance plans, which brings the eligibility to over 50M more customers. The subscription gives access to 60 eligible generic medications, 24/7 access to a pharmacist, and free doorstep delivery for Prime members. 

The Reserve Bank of Australia said it will consider allowing merchants to pass on BNPL surcharges to customers, a practice which is currently barred by many BNPL providers, but commonplace for other types of payments. BNPL companies that operate in the country, like Afterpay and Zip, of course argued against having changes implemented to its no-surcharge rules by defending the value they believe their services bring to merchants. So why not give merchants the choice to pass on the surcharges and decide for themselves how much value you bring them?

commercetools launched a new HIPAA-compliant and HDS-certified solution that enables healthcare companies to deliver secure commerce experiences to the customers. The company says its healthcare solutions is the first composable commerce solution that securely processes PHI under a BAA framework.

Last week Twitter CEO Elon Musk Linda Yaccarino described payments functionality as a fast-approaching feature that will transform the way millions of users engage with each other on the X platform. Yaccarino told The Female Quotient at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France, “We are actually redefining what users will come to rely on. The scope of our vision, and the pace of the innovation at the company, is like nothing I can describe.” Okay then, let's see it! Show, don't tell, X.

U.S. consumers are receiving shipments of random goods that they didn't order as part of a “brushing scam” that allows unscrupulous merchants to generate fake reviews for their products. The scam typically involves a foreign company obtaining someone's address that they found online and delivering products to their home, making it appear that they're a verified buyer of the merchandise so that they can write themselves a glowing review, which in turn improves their products' ratings and increases sales. If that's the case, I could go for some new sunglasses or a smartwatch!

Amazon is expanding its generative AI-powered product listings to sellers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. The feature was first introduced to the U.S. nine months ago as a way to help sellers list products more quickly or enhance their current listings. 

Amazon is ditching its plastic air pillows for paper fillers that are made from 100% recyclable materials and are curbside recyclable, which it says will help it use nearly 15B fewer plastic pillows each year. The company began its transition away from plastic fillers in Oct 2023 and is working towards a full removal in North America by the end of the year. 

Starbucks and Marriott are teaming up to offer mutual benefits to each other's respective loyalty members. Marriott Bonvoy members and Starbucks Rewards members who link accounts will be able to earn points toward free food and beverages as well as rewards at Marriott destinations. It sounds like both companies could use the boost. A few weeks ago I reported that Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan said, “We continue to feel the impact of a more cautious consumer, particularly with our more occasional customer,” noting that it had affected traffic and sales across the industry.

Amazon partnered with GroupM to create original, shoppable content for its new free ad-supported streaming platform, FAST Channel, which launched in April across Prime Video and Amazon Freevee. The partnership will allow brands to advertise their products in streaming videos to customers who can then purchase the items on their mobile devices. 

The US Government is suing Adobe for allegedly harming consumers by concealing pricey termination fees in its Creative Cloud and app subscription plans and making it difficult to cancel subscriptions. The complaint said that Adobe buries the fee, which it calculates as 50% of the remaining months on the plan, and other important terms within the fine print or behind text boxes or hyperlinks. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and an injunction against further wrongdoing. 

Mercari US is desperately looking for ways to encourage sellers to launch new listings and increase its GMV by the end of the quarter with a new month-long promo that started June 15th, offering sellers the chance to earn site credits for adding listings and inviting friends. The credits cannot be redeemed for cash and can only be used towards future purchases on the platform. They also expire within 30 days of being issued. Liz Morton of Value Added Resource notes that the obvious goal of the promotion is to “entice as many new users as possible to list items for sale on the site and then use the credits to make purchases all within a relatively short time frame to boost reportable GMV and Monthly Active Users stats for the site.”

Walmart is seeing more frequent and smaller orders through its Walmart+ membership program, an indicator that customers are using the service as they historically have their Amazon Prime membership. CFO John David Rainey said, “We've seen delivery surpass pickup, and I believe that's a trend that's not going to reverse, really speaks to how customers are thinking about this convenience factor for us.”

Apple is discussing a partnership with Meta to integrate the company's Llama 3 large language model into the new Apple Intelligence feature that's set to launch on iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers later this year. The integration would likely be similar to a deal Apple made iwth OpenAI recently, whose ChatGPT is currently the only third-party AI model in Apple Intelligence. Apple has previously said that it's interested in partnering with other AI developers, and has reportedly held talks with Google and Anthropic about using its AI. 

PayPal hired Srini Venkatesan, one of Walmart's top tech executives, as its new chief technology officer to head up the company's push into AI. Venkatesan previously led a team of 14,000 under Walmart's US Omni Platforms and Tech organization, which is responsible for building platforms to support the retailer, including parts of the Walmart+ subscription. 

Zooplus, a Germany-based online retailer of pet food and supplies, is the latest brand to launch a marketplace, the CEO announced at Shoptalk Europe. The retailer currently offers over 8,000 products and hopes that the new marketplace will rapidly expand their product range.

Instacart partnered with YouTube to make video ads shoppable. In the initial pilot of the program, select consumer packaged goods brands will be able to use shoppable ads on YouTube to inspire consumers to purchase items for same-day delivery. The new offering is powered by Instacart's first-party retail media data, which it is extending to YouTube to allow brand to identify and reach high-intent customers.

California fined Amazon $5.9M for failing to inform employees about work quotas, which goes against a state law that requires written quota details to prevent pressure and injuries among workers. California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said, “The peer-to-peer system that Amazon was using in these two warehouses is exactly the kind of system that the Warehouse Quotas law was put in place to prevent. Undisclosed quotas expose workers to increased pressure to work faster and can lead to higher injury rates and other violations by forcing workers to skip breaks.” Amazon disputed the allegations and appealed the fine.

In other Amazon troubles… The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against the company for allegedly unlawfully disciplining and terminating an employee after they assisted in organizing walkouts last May in protest of Amazon's new return-to-work directives. The complaints allege that Amazon “interrogated” the employee about the walkout using its internal Chime system, put them on a performance improvement plan following their organization efforts, and later offered a severance payment if they signed a release. I'm no labor expert, but can a company not fire an employee for attempting a mutiny? 

Consumers spend twice as much when they use credit cards for interest-free installments compared to traditional BNPL plans, according to research by Splitit. The survey found that three-quarters of merchants prefer card-linked installment options over traditional BNPL programs, not just because of the higher AOV, but because of the faster checkout process.

Several Modern Family cast members reunited for a commercial promoting WhatsApp. The commercial pokes fun at group chats in which some members have an iPhone and a blue bubble, and others have an Android with a green bubble. A guy painting the house outside hears the scuffle and chimes in, “You know, if your group has different phones, just use WhatsApp. It's seamless and private.”

Five men were convicted for running Jetflicks, a $10/month illegal streaming service that boasted a larger content library than Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime combined. The platform scraped popular television shows and movies from pirate sites and bundled them into a streaming service in a scheme that the Justice Department says cost program owners millions of dollars in lost revenue. The hilarious part of the indictment is mention of Jetflick's problem of subscribers sharing logins and passwords, which feels like a bittersweet problem for a platform that steals content.

10. Seed rounds, IPOs, & acquisitions

American Express is acquiring Tock, a dining reservation and event management platform, for $400M in cash from Squarespace, which acquired the company in 2021. Tock launched in Chicago in 2014 and currently provides reservation and table management services to over 7,000 restaurants and venues. American Express also announced that it's acquiring Rooam, a mobile payments and ordering platform used by restaurants, bars, stadiums, and arenas, for an undisclosed amount. The deals build on American Express' previous investments in dining, travel, and entertainment.

Zepto, a quick commerce startup in India that delivers everything from groceries to electronics, raised $665M in a Series F round led by Glade Brook, Nexus, StepStone Group, and DST Global, more than doubling its valuation to $3.6B from $1.4B less than a year ago. The company currently works with more than 50,000 delivery partners and aims to expand its network of “dark stores” (discreet warehouses) to over 700 by March 2025. 

Daydream, an e-commerce startup that uses AI to personalize the product discovery experience for online shoppers, raised $50M in a seed runding round co-led by Forerunner Ventures and Index Ventures. The platform arrives in beta this fall, with its launch category being men's and women's fashion, allowing shoppers to search for things like a “cozy and effortless vibe” to reveal relevant product results.

HeyGen, an AI-powered video creation platform with custom avatar and voice capabilities, raised $60M in a Series A round led by Benchmark, with Victor Lazarte joining the board. The company has grown from $1M to over $35M in ARR in just over a year and has been profitable since Q2 2023. The funding will be used to accelerate HeyGen's product roadmap including features like Avatar Video, Video Translation, Personalized Video, and Streaming Avatar.

Clip, a Mexican digital payments and commerce platform, raised $100M in a round led by Morgan Stanley Tactical Value, at a $2B valuation. The company says its on the “brink of profitability” and is looking to increase its workforce by around 150 employees to drive product development with the new funds.

Decagon, a generative AI chatbot startup that builds AI customer service agents that work like humans, raised $35M in a Series A round led by Accel. The company says that its chatbots go beyond the conversational layer with the ability to reason through complex business logic and take actions on behalf of agents such as analyzing trends, writing new knowledge base articles and improving their performance over time.

Orium, a composable commerce specialist and one of only five commercetools Platinum Partners worldwide, acquired Gluo, a Mexico-based e-commerce agency that has been a partner of Orium for the last two years. The acquisition will enhance the company's ability to serve the U.S. market as well as support an expansion into the Latin American market.

Finaloop, an e-commerce focused accounting platform that offers automated bookkeeping and inventory cost management tools, raised $35M in a Series A round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, bringing its total amount raised to $55M. The startup claims to be the first AI-powered accounting tool for D2C brands that sell on Amazon, Shopify, Walmart, and other e-commerce platforms and plans to use the funds to accelerate its go-to-market operations. 

Mozilla acquired Anonym, a company that combines encrypted data sets from platforms and advertisers to enable privacy-safe measurements of campaigns, for an undisclosed amount. Mozilla says that by combining its scale and trusted reputation with Anonym's technology, the two companies can improve user privacy in advertising at a time when the industry is going through a transformative change. 

Gynger, a platform that helps companies finance, pay, and manage all of the expenses associated with buying software, hardware, cloud, and infrastructure by providing them with unsecured lines of credit, raised $20M in a Series A round led by PayPal Ventures, bringing its total amount raised to $31.7M. In addition to the equity raise, the company secured a $100M debt facility from Community Investment Management.

POP, an Indian shopping and payments, raised $2.4M in a round led by Quotient. The company also announced that it received approval as a Third-Party Application Provider from the National Payments Corporation of India to offer UPI payments via its POPclub app.

Zilch, a UK-based BNPL platform, raised £100M in securitized debt financing led by Deutsche Bank, as the company gears up for an IPO. Zilch, which previously raised £125M in a Series C round, anticipates that the firm will go public within the next 12-24 months.

H.I.G. Capital, a Miami-based private equity firm with over $64B in capital under management, acquired Health E-commerce, a New York-based firm that operates multiple health and wellness brands, for an undisclosed amount. H.I.G. will retain the current management team led by the company's CEO Preston Farrington. 

Buyandship, a Hong Kong-based cross-border e-commerce shipping startup, raised an additional $6M in Series B Extension round led by Altara Ventures, bringing the total amount raised in the round to $16M. The company, which was founded in 2014 to focus on providing cross-border shopping and shipping services to end consumers, will use the funds for its planned expansion into Southeast Asia.

Hero, a Paris-based fintech startup that builds banking products for small businesses, raised €11.3M in a round led by Valar Ventures. While most fintech startups partner with Swan for their financial infrastructure, Hero built its own core banking system, which retailers can connect to via its API.

Amazon launched a €10B investment plan for Germany, with plans to open three new fulfillment centers this year, creating a collective 4,000 jobs. The company plans to allocate €7.8B to its AWS division to expand its European Sovereign Cloud, which is a new independent cloud infrastructure for Europe.

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Paul E. Drecksler
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