Okay, let's talk about it… SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS! Which were your favorites? Hit reply to this e-mail and let me know.
I thought that Squarespace's Sally's Seashells was excellent — a romanticized and motivational depiction of the power of e-commerce.
And as someone who has lived out of two bags for the past decade traveling the world, I also loved Expedia's Stuff commercial. “Do you think any of us will look back in our lives and regret the things we didn't buy? Or the places we didn't go?”
Have you ever seen my video Why Do We Travel? on Travel is Life? I think I've got Expedia's next Super Bowl commercial right there…
Now let's talk shop. In the 56th Edition of the Shopifreaks E-commerce Newsletter, I've got the 30 most influential leaders in e-commerce, BNPL crackdowns, new features for iPhones and FB Messenger, and more.
I also share a conversation I had with two readers about the future of social credibility.
Thanks for being a subscriber and for sharing my newsletter to help me grow. And hello to all my new readers who found me via my recently launched Reddit ad. Glad to have you with us!
PS: I'm proud to tell you that as of Friday, I'm officially a Temporary Resident of Ecuador under their investment visa! I've spent many years in Ecuador (on and off) under a tourist visa, but I've always been up against the clock in regards to having to leave the country before my tourist visa expires, and then wait for my year to start over so that I can return. Now, as a temporary resident, I'm able to come and go as I please and stay as long as I'd like (at least for the next two years when I'll have to renew).
Stat of the Week
3 out of 4 U.S. consumers want brands to use paper packaging instead of plastic packaging, according to Ranpak's annual e-commerce and packaging trends survey. (Retweet It)
1. The 30 Most Influential Leaders in Ecommerce for 2022
Signifyd, an ecommerce fraud protection platform, announced their 2022 Most Influential in Ecommerce award winners — which is in their words, “an A-list of 30 retail innovators who not only led their companies through one of the most disruptive years in retail history, but designed ways to propel them forward toward incredible success.”
SPOILER ALERT: I didn't make the list. When I reached out to Signifyd to inquire about why I wasn't on the list, they wrote back, “Thank you for contacting Signifyd. A member of our team will reach out to you shortly.” 😂
Okay, so I wasn't actually expecting to be on their list, but I do find it to be a fascinating list. To be honest, I expected the list to be filled with names we're all familiar with like Tobias Lütke, Brent Bellm, Jack Dorsey, and Paul Drecksler (oops, there I go again) — but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I hadn't heard of most of the names. It was interesting to read these future CEO's responses to questions like, “What is one trend / prediction you have for e-commerce in 2022?”
I've highlighted a few answers to that question below. You can read all of them here.
- “Fintech solutions will be critical to accelerate ecommerce and provide clients with payments and credit alternatives.” – Blas Caraballo, Walmart VP of Digital Payments
- “Among other things, I think smart companies will leverage the power of AI and machine learning to save costs, better understand customer behavior and create an all encompassing and engaging platform that drives customers back to their businesses. I also think we will see more trending around loyalty and VIP programs as today’s consumer is looking to feel connected and rewarded for their patronage.” – Shawn Bradford, Carbon38 Director of Customer Care
- “I think we’ll start to see more order delivery options in 2022 driven from traditional ecommerce sites, especially leaning into carriers that have already been established as leaders for food delivery, such as Uber and DoorDash. We’ve already seen a couple of retailers pilot this in select markets, and I think this space will continue to grow in 2022.” – Devin Miller, SKIMS, Senior VP of Technology at Good American
- “Exploration and trial by progressive brands of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) retail ecommerce. All of the sudden, two-dimensional websites feel really basic and aged. If you don’t believe me, get an Oculus.” – Alpheus Clendening, Revlon D2C E-commerce & Digital Marketing Lead
- “We will see more omnichannel platforms sharing the success and resources of COVID-driven digital commerce with branded physical locations.” – Derrick Riley, DITA Sr. Director of Global Commerce
- “One trend that I feel is going to start gaining more momentum in 2022 is social commerce and community building. Social commerce is on the rise, and brands need to focus on building a community of loyal customers. I see brands focusing more on retention, customer lifetime value and overall brand loyalty.” – John Surdakowski, AVEX Founder & CEO
2. Britain is cracking down on BNPL firms
Last week, Britain told four BNPL firms — Clearpay, Klarna, Laybuy, and Openpay — to change their contracts after identifying potential harms to consumers.
While currently unable to regulate BNPL firms, Britain's financial watchdog said it was able to use Britain's consumer rights laws to make their contracts fairer, easier for consumers to understand, and better reflect how they use them in practice.
One of the terms that involved late payment fees has resulted in several of the companies agreeing to voluntarily refund customers who have been charged fees in specific circumstances.
Britain's finance ministry promised to bring forward legislation to regulate BNPL when parliamentary time allowed.
I reported in January that U.S. Congress and consumer groups called for more oversight of BNPL companies on the basis that they don’t use traditional credit checks, and it’s not clear whether borrowers have the ability to actually repay the loans.
Why should the industry be regulated?
Partly to protect consumers from predatory debt practices, but also to better protect merchants from fraud. Here are a few examples of BNPL fraud in action:
- Account Takeovers – fraudsters gain access to existing BNPL customer accounts and make unauthorize purchases.
- Fake BNPL Accounts – fraudsters use someone's stolen identity to create new BNPL accounts, and due to BNPL's current lax identification verification processes, they're able to easily get away with it.
- Digital Flash Mobs – groups of fraudsters across different geolocations and network addresses buy expensive products for just 20-25% of the product's value, and then sell these items at full market value in a coordinated attack.
It's good that BNPL companies are finally getting the scrutiny their payment model demands, as they are in fact, forms of credit. It was only a matter of time. I'll keep you in the loop of the industry's inevitable regulatory changes in the coming year.
3. How trustworthy is “social cred” nowadays?
Last week I had a Google Meet with two readers (hey guys!) who run a review platform, and we had a conversation about the current state of social credibility on the Internet. And the consensus is…. social cred is under intense scrutiny right now!
At this point, most consumers are aware that:
- Reviews can be faked, bought, edited, removed, or incentivized
- Bloggers and influencer's have agendas when recommending or endorsing products
- “Paul in NC just bought this shirt!” widgets are often completely bogus
- Profiles and personas can be completely fabricated
- Media and Press is pay-to-play
Typical modes of online social credibility have been manipulated so badly over the past decade, that we now have tools to evaluate the legitimacy of reviews!
The current perfidious state of our most common forms of online social cred leave challenges in the industry for both consumers and merchants.
Consumers are becoming more distrustful with every Wish.com purchase. There's even a subreddit called r/ExpectationvsReality where people post photos of the products they were advertised vs the ones they actually received. Reading reviews online is like wading through murky waters.
And due to that growing mistrust, merchants face the challenge of creating an environment of trust online for both their products/services and the social cred that surrounds them.
What's the future of building social cred look like? What innovative strategies have you seen companies employ? Hit reply to this e-mail and let me know your thoughts.
4. Apple announces Tap To Pay feature for iPhones
Apple has announced plans to introduce a new Tap to Pay feature for iPhone that turns the device into a contactless payment terminal for Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other contactless payment methods. The feature will be enabled for the iPhone XS and later models and won't require additional hardware.
Apple Pay is already accepted by more than 90% of U.S. retailers, but required special hardware (credit card terminals). The new contactless capability will allow customers to check out with merchants using secure NFT technology using nothing more than their iPhones.
Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s VP of Apple Pay and Apple Wallet, said in a statement, “As more and more consumers are tapping to pay with digital wallets and credit cards, Tap to Pay on iPhone will provide businesses with a secure, private, and easy way to accept contactless payments and unlock new checkout experiences using the power, security, and convenience of iPhone.”
Stripe will be the first payment platform to offer Tap to Pay on iPhone to business customers, including Shopify users, later this spring.
My first thought when I read the headline was that Apple was introducing a peer-to-peer contactless payment to compete with PayPal, but that won't immediately be the case. However it could be on the horizon for iOS 16.
5. Facebook launches Split Payments for Messenger
Facebook Messenger has made good on its promise to launch a Split Payments feature, two months after saying it was testing the feature. The new feature lets users split bills evenly or customize the amount each person owes. With a personalized message, users can confirm the payment details and send the request. It is currently available in the U.S. on iOS and Android phones.
At the same time, Facebook Messenger rolled out a service called Vanish, which makes messages disappear after they're seen, as well as the ability to send longer voice messages up to 30 minutes (which were previously limited to 60 seconds), and pause, preview, delete, or continue recording a voice message before sending it — similar to the features recently launched on WhatsApp.
That's great and all, but I swear, if any of my friends ever since me a 30 minute voice message on Messenger and expect me to listen to it — they're in for a rude awakening!
6. Amazon will bring medical services to 20 more cities this year
Amazon is expanding its medical consultation service around the U.S., as part of their plan to become a major player in the health care industry. Amazon Care offers virtual health services nationwide, and this year will expand in-person care to 20 more cities including New York, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago.
The company started Amazon Care for its employees in 2019 and then began offering the service to other companies last year, providing 24 hour/day consultations through a smartphone app.
Amazon's health care initiatives will help to further its pharmaceutical business in the U.S., as well as its office equipment and medical supply businesses.
All I ask before medical professionals jump onboard the Amazon health care bandwagon, is that they look back at Amazon's history in the book, toy, shoes, and diaper industries (to name a few) before getting in bed with the giant. I'm a firm believer that our country's health care industry needs a massive shakedown, but I don't believe that Amazon is the saving grace we're looking for.
7. Walmart expanding their use of RFID to improve store level inventory accuracy
Walmart's US division has advised its suppliers that it is extending its RFID tagging requirements to products in new merchandise categories including kitchen, dining, wireless, home décor, bath & shower, bedding, furniture, consumer electronics, storage & organization, and car batteries.
In 2019, Walmart directed all suppliers of apparel, footwear, sunglasses, watches, and some jewelry to begin applying RFID tags to merchandise and are now looking to increase the amount of in-store products to carry the tags. The company originally attempted to require all apparel and footwear to be tagged in 2011, but patent litigation created a delay, and by the time it was resolved, inventory accuracy was overtaken by other internal initiatives. But now it's making a comeback.
In a memo to suppliers, Walmart wrote the following statements:
- “Over the last year, we have successfully implemented RFID technology in our Apparel departments and have seen dramatic results.”
- “We have improved On Hand Accuracy, which has grown Online Order Fulfillment. These dramatic improvements have had major impacts on Sell Through and customer satisfaction.”
- “RFID will help improve Inventory Accuracy, which leads to a better in-store shopping experience for customers, more online and pick-up in-store capabilities and greater sales opportunities.”
8. Other e-commerce news of interest this week
- Duoduo Maicai, the China-based online grocery store of Pinduoduo, may launch a delivery pickup service similar to Alibaba's Cainiao Yozhan. The company recently partnered with China's top courier services and reportedly paying delivery merchants up to $471 in subsidies to join their new platform.
- TikTok users have started leaving notes in the Amazon app asking their delivery drivers to dance for their door cameras. Although Amazon doesn't require it, the company is sharing the videos on their corporate Twitter account, encouraging the practice, and drivers feel pressured to perform since their job is dependent on good reviews.
- Hundreds of e-commerce stores running the Magento 1 platform fell victim to a credit card skimming phishing attack via scripts that loaded from naturalfreshmall.com domain. Magento 1 was retired in June 2020.
- Forbes is getting closer to an IPO on the NYSE through a merger with a SPAC after a $200M investment by cryptocurrency exchange Binance.
- Last week Google reportedly stopped crawling Shopify websites, which Google's John Mueller confirmed was an issue on Google's end, but the problem has since been resolved.
- eBay is sending 1099-k tax forms to people who have never sold on the platform before. The company followed up and informed the non-sellers who reported the issue that there was a system error that sent out erroneous 1099-K form and they are working to update the IRS and resolve the issue.
- Velodyne Lidar jumped as much as 25% Tuesday after issuing a warrant to an Amazon subsidiary to buy nearly 40 million shares, almost 16% of the company.
9. This week in seed rounds & acquisitions….
- BigCommerce acquired B2B Ninja, a platform that offers quoting solutions for B2B sellers, for an undisclosed amount. The two companies are long time partners, and the acquisition furthers BigCommerce’s ability to deliver powerful ecommerce functionality to their B2B merchants.
- Banked, a fintech startup that offers a cardless method of paying for purchases online directly from your bank account (which they claim is 90% cheaper than traditional payment methods), raised $20M in a Series A round led by Bank of America and Edenred Capital Partners. The U.S. investors will be part of the company's planned U.S. expansion.
- Alma, a French BNPL startup, raised €210M of equity and debt from new and existing investors, following a €49M round completed last year. The company will use the funds to extend its services across France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Belgium, and move into new markets in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, Ireland, and Austria.
- Remedial Health, a Nigeria-based digital pharmacy, raised $1M in a pre-seed round led by Global Ventures and Ventures Platform. The company's goal is to stem the supply of fake and substandard pharmaceutical products, starting with Nigeria and expanding into the rest of Africa.
- Papier, a tech retailer for non-tech products like personalized notebooks, planners, cards, and stationary, raised $50M in a Series C round led by Singular. The company will use the funding to expand into the U.S. and continue growing offerings to include more paper-based products, pens, and other writing supplies.
- Silvr, a French startup that wants to offer new credit opportunities for e-commerce and SaaS companies, raised $20.6M in a Series A round led by XAnge, Otium, Bpifrance, Eurazeo, and ISAI. Since launch in 2020, Silvr has financed 100 companies. Unlike traditional banks, Silvr can finance riskier businesses that don't have any assets.
- FNZ, a London-based wealth management firm, raised $1.4B in a private equity round with CPP Investments and Motive Partners, valuing the company at $20B. The company will use the funding to accelerate its growth through increased R&D and through expansion into recently entered markets, particularly in North America.
- Klarna, a Swedish BNPL firm, is considering a new funding round that would value the company at up to $60B, making it the most valuable startup in Europe. In its last funding round, Klarna raised $639M in June 2021, valuing the company at $45.6B.
- Rino, a delivery startup in Vietnam that makes 10-minute deliveries for fresh food and groceries, raised $3M in a pre-seed funding round from Global Founders Capital, Sequoia Capital India, Venturra Discovery, and Saison Capital. The company plans to open hundreds of stores across cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.
- Slyp, an Australian-based paperless receipt startup, raised $25M in a Series A round, including new investor Sayers Group. The company will use the funding to continue its mission of reducing the country's consumption of paper receipts.
- Scandit, a scanning platform that captures data from barcodes, text, objects, and IDs, raised $150M in a Series D round led by Warburg Pincus, valuing the company at $1B.The new funds will be used to support R&D efforts and fuel global expansion with a focus on Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.
- Radar, a location data startup that uses geofencing to help companies determine where customers are, raised $55M in a Series C round led by Insight partners, bringing its valuation to $365M. Matt Gatto, managing director at Insight Partners, says Radar makes “the consumer experience better rather than being a true advertising use case.”
- Xpressbees, an India-based logistics firm that works with e-commerce companies, raised $300M in a Series F round led by Blackstone, TPG, and ChrysCapital, tripling its valuation to $1.2B. The company will deploy the fresh funds to become a full-service logistics firm, expecting 70% growth this year.
- MySize, a provider of AI-driven measurement solutions, acquired Orgad, an omnichannel e-commerce platform. Orgad will integrate MySizeID into its digital offering and platform, which is expected to increase its operational profit by reducing costly returns.
- Flexport, a freight forwarding firm in San Francisco, raised $935M in a Series E funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz and MD Partners, taking its valuation to $8B. The company will use the funding to expand into new markets and accelerate the development of its tech.
- Shopware, an open source e-commerce platform used by 100k mid-sized companies, raised $100M in its first funding round led by PayPal and Carlyle. The company will use the funding to supercharge its international growth.
- Mintifi, an India-based B2B BNPL platform, raised $40M in a Series C round led by Norwest Venture Partners and Elevation Capital. The company will use the funds to build on its tech infrastructure and expand its product offerings.
- Selly, a Vietnam-based social commerce startup, raised $2.6M in a pre-series A round led by CyberAgent Capital and Do Ventures. Selly has more than 300k resellers, the majority of which live in smaller cities. The company will use the funding to improve product features and expand their presence in Vietnam's remote areas.
What'd I miss?
Shopifreaks is a community effort and I appreciate your contributions to help keep the rest of our readers in the know with the latest happenings in e-commerce. Whenever you have news to share, you can e-mail [email protected] or hit reply to any of my newsletters.
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See you next Monday!
Paul E. Drecksler
PS: I started a new job at a calendar factory. It pays well, but there are no days off.
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