The Internet’s #1 Rated E-commerce News Curation

#164 – Target Circle 360, morning delivery, & US vs TikTok

by | Mar 11, 2024 | Recent Newsletters

Hi Shopifreaks!

Just when you thought my editions were getting too long, I've got an even longer one for you today! This week's edition is so jam-packed with e-commerce news that I'll keep this intro as short as possible. Let's dive right in…

In this week's edition I cover:

  • Target's new premium subscription service
  • Amazon and Walmart's symbiotic relationship
  • Walmart's new early morning delivery service
  • Congress going after TikTok (again)
  • Apple and Epic continue to battle it out
  • WhatsApp and FB Messenger going interoperable
  • Wayfair consolidating delivery
  • Temu opening to US & EU sellers
  • Amazon delaying the launch of new storefronts,
  • Capped credit card late fees

All this and more in this week's 164th Edition of Shopifreaks. Thanks for subscribing and sharing!

Stat of the Week

PDD Holdings, the parent company of Temu, spent nearly $2 billion on advertisements last year at Meta, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal that cited people familiar with the matter. It was the number one advertiser by revenue on Meta and one of Google's top five advertisers last year as well.

1. It's officially called Target Circle 360

Last month I reported (story #1) that Target was planning to launch a new premium membership program later this year to compete against Amazon Prime and Walmart+. The program was internally dubbed “Project Trident”, but no other information was provided at the time about its cost, benefits, public name, or launch date. 

Well now the details are out — Target's new premium membership program is officially called Target Circle 360 — a name which feels a little repetitive. Kind of like if Amazon Prime was called Amazon Prime 2, 3, 5, 7, 11.

Here's what we know about Target Circle 360:

  • It will officially launch on April 7th.
  • The subscription will cost $99/year.
  • Target is offering a first year discounted rate of $49 through May 18th, and then will continue to offer the lower price to its credit card holders after that.
  • It includes unlimited free same-day delivery for orders over $35 in as little as one hour and free two-day shipping with no order minimum.
  • Home deliveries will be powered by Shipt, a last-mile delivery company powered by independent contractors (similar to DoorDash and Instacart), which Target acquired in 2017 for $550M.
  • Plus an additional 30 days to return purchases beyond the standard 90-day return policy.
  • Target is also relaunching its free Target Circle loyalty program to become easier to use and more personalized. For example, discounts will now be automatically applied as opposed to the customer having to scan through deals on the app.
  • Lastly Target is rebranding its Target RED Card, which offers 5% off purchases and other perks, as the Target Circle Card — although the card itself will still be rectangular. 

I wrote a few weeks ago that Target's premium membership program needs to come out the gate swinging when it comes to value, as the company is too late in the subscription game to ease in slowly at this point.

If Target wants to compete against Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger with a premium membership program, it's going to have to lean hard into bundles more than any other competing subscription. For example, with a streaming video service, a wireless carrier, pharmaceuticals, electronic device insurance, a food delivery service, and more.

The only way I see consumers biting off yet another membership is if Target Circle 360 came absolutely loaded with benefits.

However instead of launching with a bang, Target launched its new subscription with a discount. Rather than lean towards a premium offering to higher-income consumers, Target is attempting to discount its way into the hearts and wallets of consumers, which is an area they have no chance at winning against Amazon and Walmart. 

Target Circle 360 feels both rushed and too late to the party at the same time. The company said it's looking at a wide range of potential benefits to sweeten the membership offer in the future — but those benefits should have launched with 360 from day one.

I feel that it would've behooved Target to wait to launch a full value-packed subscription in 2025 than to quickly launch this shell of a membership program in 2024.

Consumers will give 360 one look and say, “I don't need that. I already have that with Amazon / Walmart.”

From there it'll be hard to ask customers to change their first impression and give 360 another chance in the future, despite any additional benefits that are added. (Not impossible, but hard.)

What are your thoughts on Target Circle 360? Hit reply and let me know.

2. E-commerce Needs Walmart

Joe Kaziukėnas, founder of Marketplace Pulse, published a compelling article entitled, “E-commerce Needs Walmart,” in which he definitively says, “Walmart is Amazon's only competitor.”

He went on to say, “Everyone else is too small, too niche, or not a good substitute. A bigger Walmart means a better alternative to Amazon, which means a better e-commerce market.”

From a logistics standpoint, he's absolutely right. Unless Target or another marketplace acquires FedEx or UPS tomorrow (and even then), no other marketplace can compete with Amazon or Walmart's logistics and fulfillment networks right now. (However that's starting to change as Amazon-like fulfillment is becoming a commodity that retailers can outsource from 3rd party fulfillment players.)

And from a selection standpoint, Kaziukėnas is also correct. He writes, “Amazon’s seemingly infinite selection is what sells Prime memberships. It promises that it will have something to offer no matter the search query. There are cases when buying directly from brands, discovering products from social networks on TikTok, finding collectibles on eBay, or an unbelievably cheap USB cable on Temu is best. But only Walmart comes close to Amazon.”

However in terms of everyone else being too small or too niche, I disagree that Walmart is Amazon's only competitor. And that's because I don't believe that Amazon is going to get dethroned by any other Goliath-sized competitor (including Walmart), but rather, Amazon's market share dominance will experience death by a thousand cuts from lots and lots of smaller competitors including:

  • Walmart, Target, Costco, Kroger, Poshmark in the US.
  • Shein, Temu, Alibaba,, and ByteDance from the East. 
  • Then you've got D2C retailers directly competing with marketplaces, where previously all the resale action was happening, by launching their own re-commerce solutions using tools like Tern Eco, Recurate, and Trove.
  • Plus competition from Shopify, which is inevitably building a marketplace with its Shop App and website.
  • And lastly Google, which is basically building an army of independent DTC brands through its e-commerce search tools — a pseudo marketplace of sorts — to compete against Amazon.
  • Not to mention Amazon increasing the cost of Prime and reducing its benefits year after year isn't doing the company any favors either.

While I don't see Amazon's GMV shrinking anytime soon (because the e-commerce pie keeps growing), I don't know if we'll ever see a marketplace again that holds 40% market share like Amazon does today — including Amazon. I predict that other smaller marketplaces are going to collectively even the playing field in the near future. The tide is turning this year. 

What do you think? Hit reply and share your thoughts. 

3. Walmart launches early morning delivery

Speaking of the Walmart / Amazon rivalry, Walmart is launching an early morning delivery service to stay ahead of its rivals. The morning delivery service will include two options:

  • One hour or less – priced at $10 per trip. Orders will need to be placed before 6am, and many will be delivered in 30 minutes.
  • Three hours or less – this slightly slower option will only cost $5.

Customers who are not members of Walmart+ will also have a base delivery fee added to their orders, which I assume will vary by market and customer location.

All of the orders will be fulfilled from Walmart's 4,700 stores, which will act like mini-fulfillment centers. 

Tom Ward, Walmart's chief e-commerce officer, told Axios, “People's expectations keep growing and we want to meet them where they're at. They want more speed, more options and more convenience.”

Walmart already offers free same-day delivery service for orders over $35, but only to its Walmart+ members. These new morning delivery options are available to all customers and is to date, the fastest delivery option Walmart has ever offered across all its stores.

4. Congress wants to force ByteDance to sell TikTok (again)

Last Thursday, The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 50-0 to pass a bill that would force ByteDance to divest TikTok into a US-owned company. If passed, ByteDance would be required to sell the app within five months or face removal from U.S. app stores.

The bill, called the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, would give the executive branch the power to identify social media apps as national security threats if they are deemed under the control of foreign adversaries, like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, and prohibit their use domestically. The rationale being that those platforms could use their algorithms and data on Americans to meddle with politics in the U.S.

The legislation comes roughly a year after TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress about the app's lack of connection to the Chinese government, in which he confirmed that data from its U.S. users is stored in the U.S. and that the Chinese government has no access to or control of the app.

I remember that embarrassing hearing, in which Chew had to repeatedly tell Senator Tom Cotton, “No Senator, I'm Singaporean” in regards to whether he was affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party.

In response to the proposed legislation, TikTok sent push notifications to users encouraging them to call their representatives and ask them to vote against the bill. The notification displayed text that read, “Stop a TikTok shutdown” and urged users to “speak up now.”

A TikTok spokesperson also released a statement saying that “the government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression. This will damage millions of businesses, deny artists an audience, and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country.”

Not every Congressman is in favor of the legislation. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who has 234,000 followers on TikTok, told NBC News, “Once again, it just feels like we're singling out TikTok, and I don't quite understand why.” Bowman says that he instead wants to see “comprehensive social media reform.”

Donald Trump, who for years during his presidency sought to ban TikTok in the U.S., flipped on the issue and is lobbying against the bill. He posted on Truth Social, “If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business. I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better. They are a true Enemy of the People!”

How about this instead… 

If an app on our phones can collect so much data on us that it becomes a national threat, how about we create legislation that prevents ALL apps from having those intrusive data collection abilities in the first place?

And if we're fearful of algorithms tampering with elections, why not require that ALL social media algorithms become publicly open for audit and scrutiny? That goes for ALL social media companies — US or foreign — that operate within our country.

As for that utopia of privacy and transparency, I won't hold my breath waiting for it to happen…

5. The Apple vs Epic saga continues

Last week Apple terminated Epic Games' Sweden AB account, which Epic claims was in retaliation of it speaking out against the company. Epic intended to use that account to bring the Epic Games Store (its own app store) and Fornite to iOS devices in Europe, which it can now do thanks to the new Digital Markets Act. 

Epic wrote on its blog, where it also published copies of its correspondence with Apple, “In terminating Epic’s developer account, Apple is taking out one of the largest potential competitors to the Apple App Store. They are undermining our ability to be a viable competitor and they are showing other developers what happens when you try to compete with Apple or are critical of their unfair practices.”

They went on to write, “If Apple maintains its power to kick a third party marketplace off iOS at its sole discretion, no reasonable developer would be willing to  utilize a third party app store, because they could be permanently separated from their audience at any time.”

Apple exec Phil Schiller justified the account termination. He wrote, “In the past, Epic has entered into agreements with Apple and then broken them. ou also testified that Epic deliberately violated Apple’s rules, to make a point and for financial gain. More recently, you have described our DMA compliance as ‘hot garbage,’ a ‘horror show,’ and a ‘devious new instance of Malicious Compliance.’ And you have complained about what you called ‘Junk Fees’ and ‘Apple taxes.”

Schiller suggested that Epic’s criticism of Apple combined with its past actions “strongly suggests that Epic Sweden does not intend to follow the rules.”

Wow Apple, that's some Minority Report level rule enforcement right there! Epic hasn't even broken your new rules yet and they're already being punished.

Two days later, Apple reinstated the account after European Union officials looked into the issue and “requested further explanations on this from Apple under the DMA.”

Epic updated their blog post to read, “Apple has told us and committed to the European Commission that they will reinstate our developer account. This sends a strong signal to developers that the European Commission will act swiftly to enforce the Digital Markets Act and hold gatekeepers accountable.”

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney also went off on Apple after the account was reinstated via an X post which in part read, “Apple is doing everything they can to sow fear so that, even if they’re forced to end this blockade, every developer will know Apple can crush any of us on a whim, and therefore that competition is futile. It’s a sad slope for the world’s most respected company to be slipping down, but slipping it is, and it’s a long way down.”

6. WhatsApp and Messenger to become interoperable in the EU

Meta offered more details about how it plans to make its messaging apps interoperable with third-party messaging services, as required by the new Digital Markets Act. Here's what was revealed so far:

  • Interoperability with third-party messaging services was enabled on Mar 7th to comply with the DMA.
  • This will open the door for users from Signal, iMessage, Telegram, and other apps to message users on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
  • Third-party providers will need to sign an agreement with Meta before it will enable interoperability.
  • Engaging with third-party chats will be an opt-in experience for users, given that the new integrations could be a source of spam and scams, Meta says. Users will be able to individually opt-in to receive messages from each service.
  • Screenshots reveal that messages from other apps will be housed in a “Third-party Chats” folder which appears above the “Archived Chats” folder.
  • The system will initially be limited to sending text messages, photos, videos, voice notes, and documents.
  • Group chats and other features may come later.
  • Third party messaging apps will be required to use the Signal protocol for now, though it may make exceptions to this rule in the future if the developer is able to demonstrate that the protocol offers the same security guarantees as Signal.
  • Third parties who connect with Meta will be responsible for hosting any image or video files their client apps send to Meta’s users.
  • Meta says that it protects messages in transit by default, but that it can’t guarantee “what a third-party provider does with sent or received messages.”
  • Meta's interoperable solution builds on its existing client/server architecture, which lowers the barriers for new entrants to participate, but sets up Meta as the one making the rules and deciding how interop will work.

It’s not clear yet whether this new feature will be available globally or only for users in the EU. However it seems like the line would quickly get blurry when users from the US or other regions traveled to the EU and had non-EU versions of their messaging apps installed (which didn't allow for interoperability), breaking DMA's rules.

In other news at Facebook Messenger, the company laid off 50 employees from the division as part of its “year of efficiency.” I guess Meta feels that its employees are interoperable too.

7. Wayfair to offer consolidated delivery on B2C shipments

Wayfair plans to roll out a consolidated delivery option for B2C shipments, in which customers can select a date for multiple items to be delivered at the same time.

CEO Niraj Shah said, “As you can imagine, delivering things one at a time is less efficient than delivering a lot of things all at once.”

I knew that. You knew that. It took Wayfair this long to figure it out themselves?

To be fair, Wayfair has offered consolidated delivery to its B2B customers since 2017, but for some reason it took them 7 years to roll it out to consumer shipments. 

Despite seeing an uptick in order volume (11.3M orders fulfilled in Q4, up 2.7% YoY), Wayfair still posted a $174M net loss in Q4 and laid off 1,650 employees in January. The retailer, which spends about 20% of every revenue dollar on some form of logistics (factory to port, ocean container freight, drayage, linehaul, warehousing, last mile delivery, etc.), is now looking for ways to reduce its logistics costs. 

Shah believes that consolidating deliveries can help optimize Wayfair's logistics, improve customer experience, and generate additional revenue. Although I question his assumption.

He said on an earnings call, “Maybe you wouldn’t have bought that coffee maker from us, but if it’s going to be one of the many items you want … delivered at the same time, you might as well just buy it from us instead of buying it somewhere else.”

I'm not sure if in a world where consumers receive a package delivery almost every day, that consolidated delivery matters as much to the consumer as it does to the company. In most cases I'm fine with consolidated delivery when it's presented as a way to reduce the carbon footprint of my order or if there's a savings in shipping costs to me, but the feature wouldn't necessarily encourage me to spend more in the same order.

In Wayfair's case, all orders above $35 receive free shipping anyway, so how does a consolidated delivery inspire me to buy a coffee maker from them?

In addition to consolidated delivery, Wayfair is also working to improve its data analytics capabilities to determine the most effective last-mile delivery method for each order. It also recently launched a free white glove delivery for certain large items, in which delivery agents provide in-home setup.

8. Temu marketplace opening to US & EU sellers

Temu, which since launching in Sep 2022 has only catered to Chinese sellers, is expected to open its marketplace to sellers in the US and EU in the coming weeks. I first reported (story #4) on this in January, noting at the time that US sellers would be welcomed to the platform in March, followed by European sellers soon after.

Unlike Temu's China-based sellers, new sellers from the West will not ship goods to Temu’s warehouses in China to have them fulfilled. Instead sellers from US and EU will handle fulfillment from their own domestic warehouses. Temu will also not manage pricing or marketing, mimicking the Amazon, eBay, and Walmart marketplaces.

Business Insider spoke to several US-based Amazon sellers who said they are eager to launch their businesses on the platform. Here's what they had to say:

  • “I take the stance of always giving new channels a try, so I don't think I would mind listing at least some of our products on there, if anything at least to be ahead of the game when it comes to knowing where our customers are and how their purchasing behaviors are changing over time.” — Robert Gomez, owner of Kaffe brand which sells coffee grinders on Amazon, Shopify, Target, Home Depot, and Walmart
  • “It's really hard for us to get sales off of Amazon, and with the amount of advertising Temu is putting into their platform, it might be a good opportunity for us to diversify our sales from the Amazon platform. The more competition there is for sellers — and consumers — the better prices and service will be for everyone in the consumer product ecosystem.” — Molson Hart, owner of Viahart who sells educational toys on Amazon

Other sellers were not as eager to sell on Temu: 

  • “It's like an online dollar store. My brand is known for quality, which I believe is not a fit for Temu.” — Mikey Kim, owner of Hemlock Park, a natural candle brand

Some Amazon sellers who spoke with Business Insider also said they are similarly excited about trying out Shein, which started recruiting them to the platform last year.

Both retailers have been taking heat in the US for taking advantage of the de minimis rule, which allows importers to avoid paying duty on shipments going to individual customers that are worth less than $800 in total, and there is currently a group of US lawmakers who are pushing for the de minimis loophole to be closed through legislation.

Spokespeople for Temu and Shein have both said that the companies have not relied on de minimis to grow and that they would support reforms to the provision if they are fair. Either way, more sellers shipping to customers domestically could mean less risk for Temu and Shein if there are any changes to the de minimis policy.

9. Other e-commerce news of interest

Patreon is rolling out an expansion of its e-commerce tools for creators, soon allowing them to sell one-off digital goods and offer free subscriptions. The company views the new free subscription offering like a newsletter, or a way to reach all of a creator's fans at once, which could help onboard more fans into paid supporters. For e-commerce transactions, Patreon will keep 5% of the sale, plus tax and payment processing fees, which is lower than the 8% cut it takes on subscriptions. 

Amazon delayed the launches of new online storefronts in Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, and potentially other European countries this year, which the company had been planning to launch since 2022. Stores for Nigeria, Chile, and Colombia have also been put on hold. Amazon did not launch any new storefronts in 2023, which is rare for the company which has opened at least once new international market each year since 2016.

Wix officially launched its new AI website builder, which can build a website and create original images using only text prompts. Users only have to answer a few questions, like what you want to call the site, what it's about, and what your goals are for it, and the AI builder creates a draft site for you, which you can then edit using Wix's traditional website builder. I first reported (story #1) on Wix's plans to launch this AI builder in July 2023.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finalized a rule on Tuesday that caps most credit card late fees at $8 as part of a broader push by the Biden administration to eliminate junk fees. The bureau estimates that the new regulation will save families more than $10B a year by cutting fees from an average of $32, but the financial industry says that the new regulation will hurt consumers by causing more people to pay late, which will damage their credit scores. LOL, I'm not sure if that's how that works guys. I'd imagine that a reduced late payment fee will mostly help consumers who are already in a bad spot, as opposed to encouraging more people to pay late.

Etsy came out with a new feature called Gift Teasers that lets shoppers send a digital preview of the gift they purchased on Etsy to the recipient. Now last-minute shoppers can purchase gifts on Etsy that will most likely arrive late for the special occasion, and Etsy will instantly send a digital preview of the gift directly to the recipient or schedule the teaser to be sent when the item ships so that they know something is on the way. I like it!

A wave of social media influencers are earning money by promoting illegal knockoffs imported from China on Facebook, TikTok, Discord, and Reddit. One knockoff brand called Pandabuy claims to have signed up thousands of content creators to its marketing program last year. Daniel Shapiro, VP of strategic partnerships at Red Points, a firm that helps brands detect counterfeits of their products online, said that their platform detected a 26% increase in counterfeiting by Chinese sellers in 2023 YoY — a stat which kind of sounds to me like an ad for their services, but it may also be true.

Flipkart is planning to make an instant-delivery service available in select locations throughout India as early as May this year. The Walmart-owned company has been steadily laying the groundwork to improve its delivery time for quite a while, heavily investing in it supply chain infrastructure with a particular focus on reducing delivery times for grocery items.

Walmart expanded its existing Beauty Virtual Try-On capabilities through its app to include hair color options. The capability spans close to 500 products so far. Walmart also offers virtual try-on capabilities with cosmetics and apparel, and in January, launched an augmented reality try-on for eyewear.

Sam Altman is re-joining the OpenAI board after an independent probe found that his conduct “did not mandate removal.” The special committee of the OpenAI Board announced the completion of the review and expressed its full confidence in Altman and Greg Brockman's ongoing leadership of the company. The board also announced the election of three new Board members which include Dr Sue Desmond-Hellmann (former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Nicole Seligman (former EVP and General Counsel of Sony), and Fidji Simo (CEO of Instacart and board member at Shopify). 

Amazon infringed on British trademark rights by promoting identical branded products from another party to British shoppers on its US website, according to a recent ruling. The case revolves around the use of the words “Beverly Hills Polo Club” or the logo consisting of these words, coupled with an image of a horse and a rider, which are trademarks owned in the UK and EU by a company in the Netherlands, but are owned by a different entity in the US. According to the lawsuit, Amazon targeted customers in the UK and EU with advertisements and offers, thereby infringing on trademark rights. 

A coalition of 40 state attorneys general sent a letter to Meta expressing concerns regarding the surge in consumer complaints related to account takeovers and lockouts. The letter read, “Consumers are reporting their utter panic when they first realize they have been effectively locked out of their accounts” and that having their accounts taken away from them can be “traumatizing.” The letter emphasizes the need for Meta to take immediate action to provide assistance to users affected by account takeovers.

Instacart will now be powering the websites for Harps Foods, Price Chopper, and Canseco's Market through its Instacart Storefront service and mobile app. Meanwhile DoorDash linked up with Rouses Markets to provide on-demand delivery for the Gulf Coast grocery chain. The new partnerships are part of the companies' latest endeavours to expand their partner bases with smaller retailers. 

Whole Foods is opening its first small-format location in New York City this year called Whole Foods Market Daily Shop. The grocery store will be much smaller at up to 14k sq.ft. than the standard Whole Foods stores which average 40k sq.ft. and feature a limited selection of on-the-go options.

Alibaba announced plans to introduce new AI tools to assist merchants on its Taobao and Tmall platforms. The tools are expected to improve the state of advertising on the platforms, allowing merchants to create image and video campaigns via text input.

Oura, the wearable health technology company, is now selling its Ring Horizon, Ring Heritage, and Ring Sizing Kit on Amazon, following its launch on Best Buy a year earlier. Customers that buy the sizing kit will receive a $10 Amazon credit that can be used toward the purchase of an Oura Ring.

Meta's new AI model, designed to enhance video and user Feed recommendations, could eventually benefit advertisers by directing viewers to more relevant results, according to some experts. Meta has traditionally used separate AI models for content recommendations across various services such as Reels, Groups, and Feed, but now the company is working on a project to power their entire video ecosystem with a single model, which could then be used to recommend products as well.

Bold Commerce launched its Build with Bold Partner Program to extend the company's technology to new SaaS solutions and agency partners. The program aims to make composable checkout more accessible to agencies through new training, support, and documentation.

ShopeeFood, one of Vietnam's most popular food delivery apps, has been miscalculating the distance of deliveries by up to 2.1km, as a result of the app ignoring one-way streets and roads with median barriers, according to delivery workers. The platform has a mechanism to compensate for these types of miscalculations, but workers say the process is tedious and don't opt for it in many cases.

X unveiled a new feature called “Articles” that allows users to share long-form content on the platform including images, videos, GIFs, posts, and links. Users can format their articles with various HTML options like headings, subheadings, bold, italics, strikethrough, indentation, lists and more. The feature is exclusive available to X Premium+ users. Elon Musk also announced that like, retweet, and favorite counts would be disappearing from the main feed in a future design change, which he says is to make the feed cleaner.

TikTok Shop expanded its partnership with Shopify in the UK, now allowing Shopify merchants to connect their online store to its shopping platform using a new app, create TikTok ad campaigns, synchronize their product catalogue, and sell products through in-feed videos and LIVE broadcasts. The UK expansion follows the launch of the TikTok for Shopify App in the US last year, and will be available to merchants in the UK from March 6.

Last year TikTok introduced longer videos to its platform via an invite-only Creativity Program, which required videos longer than a minute to qualify for monetization. Now TikTok announced that the program will be called Creator Rewards moving forward, and will calculate payouts based on an “optimized rewards formula” focusing on originality, play duration, search value, and audience engagement. The new fund for one minute long videos promises to rectify previous creator complaints of low payouts from the original creator fund, which often just paid a few dollars for several million views.

Google introduced a new Shopping Ad format that enables competing Comparison Shopping Services to drive traffic to their own website, instead of directly to merchants. Now a comparison shopping service can run campaigns for its product pages, just like merchants do for their product pages, and enter the same ad auction as merchants, competing for a position in the same product ad box.

Klaviyo released a set of professional services packages to help enterprise-level customers leverage the e-mail and SMS marketing tools on their platform, with prices beginning at $30k/month. Many Klaviyo partners criticized the company for competing against their own agency partners, while others said that the services wouldn't impact most of their partners. Klaviyo wrote in the announcement, “While Klaviyo is partner first, and we always recommend our customers leverage a trusted services provider, in the rare instance where that isn't possible, these SKUs may be recommended.”

Insider Intelligence rebranded back to eMarketer and launched a new series of product features called PRO+. Four years ago when eMarketer and Business Insider Intelligence merged, they started using the name Insider Intelligence, but are now returning back to their original name. However they are still part of the Business Insider Intelligence company.

Two-thirds of surveyed consumers said that they don't mind retailers using AI to automate repetitive tasks, but that they don't want it to replace human interaction. Most agreed that retail experiences will always require a blend of AI and human interactions. Shoppers want to know if a company is using AI, and not have the AI take them out of an already comfortable journey.

10. Seed rounds, IPOs, & acquisitions

Beyond, Inc, owner of Overstock and Bed Bath & Beyond, acquired the intellectual property and other brand assets of Zulily, a Seattle-based retailer that catered to families with young children, which in January I reported (story #4) was closing down after laying off hundred of workers and ceasing all customer-facing operations. Beyond, Inc. paid $4.5M for the assets including website, domain name, trademarks, customer database, and social media accounts, an amount which excludes all of Zulily's liabilities, liens, and debts. The move is intended to further strengthen Beyond's position on the off-price market and complement Beyond's suite of brands, including Overstock, which is scheduled to relaunch later this month.

Growhouse Nutraceuticals, an online retailer in the health and wellness sector, acquired, a marketplace for premium health and wellness products, from Lifespot Wellness for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition is part of its partner company's strategy to expand its customer base and grow its e-commerce offering by acquiring assets to grow its product portfolio.

Rozana, an India-based e-commerce platform and logistics network focused on serving the needs of rural communities in the country, raised $22.5M in a round led by Bertelsmann India Investments as part of its pre-Series A round. The funds will be used to expand the company's warehousing and logistics reach into new districts, enhance its platform, and ramp up hiring.

Ethiopian Airlines invested $55M into a new e-commerce facility at Bole International Airport in response to rising demand in Africa. The facility has capacity for 150k tonnes of goods a year and the first of its kind in Africa, according to the company.

Alpine IQ, an omni-channel customer data management tool that helps dispensaries sell across markets, acquired Dispense Software, an e-commerce menuing solution for regulated markets. The acquisition expands Alpine IQ's goal to deliver a full range of products for the core business needs of its clients. announced a $3B share repurchase program and an annual dividend of $0.76 per U.S. listed share, after reporting revenue of $43.1B in Q4 last year. The company noted in its earnings call that it rolled out a series of low-price initiatives to boost sales, but incurred a number of impairment charges, which held back profits.

Ema, a San Francisco-based AI startup that aims to build a universal AI employee, raised $25M in a round led by Accel, Section 32, and Prosus Ventures. Surojit Chatterjee, the CEO and co-founder, said, “Our goal is to automate on the mundane tasks that employees do on a day to day basis in every enterprise… to free them up to do more valuable and more strategic work.” Yeah, I'm sure that's the goal Surojit. Are you sure it's not to “free them up for a severance package?”

Amazon Web Services reached an agreement to acquire the Cumulus data center, which is fully powered by the Susquehanna nuclear power plant, for $650M. Amazon is aiming to power all its operations with renewable energy by 2025.

eComID, a Swedish startup that enables online retailers to reduce returns with its AI-powered platform, raised €2.75M in a pre-seed round led by CapitalT. The funds will be used to expand its platform capabilities and extend its previously invitation-only solution to a broader range of brands.

NerdWallet said that it DID NOT file for bankruptcy last week and that it was the victim of a fraudulent filing, which showed up on an electronic public access service for U.S. federal court documents. The filing was signed by Robert Johnson and included an address in Buffalo, NY that belongs to a residential property.

Thanks for being a Shopifreak!

If you found this newsletter valuable, please leave a review on Google and share the newsletter with your friends and colleagues to help us grow.

See you next Monday,


Paul E. Drecksler
🧑‍💼 Add me on LinkedIn
📧 [email protected]
📱 +1-828-273-3031
⭐ Leave A Review

PS: I woke up to find my moustache was missing this morning. Someone must have stolen it right from under my nose.