#1 Shopify continues to “Arm the Rebels” with a Walmart partnership
Starting today, Shopify merchants across the U.S. will be able to apply to sell through Walmart.com. If approved, they’ll be able to connect their Shopify store to their Walmart Seller Account, enabling them to quickly and easily sync their product catalog and create product listings on Walmart.com. By the end of this year, 1,200 Shopify merchants are expected to be able to sell through the Walmart marketplace.Source: Shopify
This is interesting because…
#2 Walmart has overtaken Ebay as #2 largest online player in the US
Walmart Inc. has surpassed eBay Inc. in share of U.S. e-commerce sales for the first time, according to May 2020 data provided by eMarketer, though Amazon.com Inc. remains number one by a large margin.Source: eMarkter via Market Watch
While Ebay has been a laggard for a while, still surprising to hear that a traditional retailer like Walmart has overtaken Ebay in ecommerce.
The digital geographic borders of commerce continue to be rewritten very quickly since COVID-19 has weakened some while creating new opportunities for insurgents…and payments is increasingly playing a role as Capital Flywheels has previously argued on multiple occasions.
#3 Google aiming to turn Google Pay into commerce portal
Google is working on a major overhaul of its payment app, Google Pay, in hopes of jump-starting its use in the U.S. Google Pay plans this year to let online and brick-and-mortar merchants set up their own branded buttons inside the U.S. version of the app, potentially turning it into a one-stop portal for commerce, say two people familiar with Google’s plans.
Under Google’s plan, users will be able to click on a merchant’s branded button inside Google Pay so they can place orders and pay for services from that merchant without ever leaving the app. Google employees have been discussing how to convince key merchants such as gas stations, convenience stores, restaurant chains and delivery companies to sign up for the plan, the people familiar with the matter said.Source: The Information
#4 Whatsapp / Facebook partnering with Visa and MasterCard to roll out payments to facilitate commerce, starting with Brazil
We’re excited to announce that starting today we’re bringing digital payments to WhatsApp users in Brazil. People will be able to send money securely or make a purchase from a local business without leaving their chat.
The over 10 million small and micro businesses are the heartbeat of Brazil’s communities. It’s become second nature to send a zap to a business to get questions answered. Now in addition to viewing a store’s catalog, customers will be able to send payments for products as well. Making payments simple can help bring more businesses into the digital economy, opening up new opportunities for growth.
Doing payments not only removes friction, but it will also help Facebook sell ads in the future because of the growing potential for gathering data via payments and direct commerce.
Speaking of commerce, I missed this a few months back:
#5 Restaurants can now sell through Instagram
The next time a restaurant posts a video of some lust-worthy food on Instagram, you may be able to have it delivered in a couple of clicks.
The social media app has partnered with the ChowNow food ordering platform to create an “order now” button and story sticker that will allow Instagram users to order and pay for food directly from the app.Source: LA Times
I did not see this until an India news outlet mentioned that a similar effort has been rolled out in India following its rollout here in the States in April:
#6 Swiggy and Zomato (food delivery platform) users in India can now order food through Instagram
Instagram users can now order food through its app on Swiggy and Zomato. Instagram has announced that it would be rolling out the food order sticker in India in order to support small businesses.Source: Live Mint
On the more pure-commerce side, Pinterest continues to make huge strides. Now with almost 400 million monthly active users!
#7 Pinterest accelerates commerce, AI, and engagement efforts
Global monthly active users now exceed 367 million, up from about 300 million last September, according to the company. During the past few months, searches have increased by 60% compared with last year and the number of boards created is up by the same amount.
The change in user behavior was partly why Mr. King’s engineering team brought forward the launch of “Today” by several months. The feature appears as a tab on a user’s Pinterest home page that shows topics and ideas curated by Pinterest employees, as well as trending pins that display content selected by the company’s algorithms.
Another technology-related project that was accelerated in recent months was Pinterest’s verified merchant program. As bricks-and-mortar stores began to shut down in the U.S., Pinterest in late March started placing a blue check mark on profiles of retailers verified by Pinterest employees for having fair return policies and shipping rates and in-stock merchandise.
Engineers working on that project had to make sure Pinterest’s AI algorithms and visual search technology could accurately identify objects in Pins and match them to the in-stock products of “verified” merchants, along with recommendations for other items to purchase, Mr. King said.Source: WSJ
Unlike many social media networks where people engage with on a daily basis, Pinterest is still a much lower-frequency use case. Some of these engagement efforts may increase usage frequency, which will be important for growing user lifetime value.
In addition to the “Today” tab mentioned above, another effort is around groceries:
#8 Pinterest now does groceries
The rise in home cooking during the coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by a rise in online grocery ordering, and the combination has proven beneficial to Pinterest.
Last June, the company began testing new technology that allows users to purchase groceries directly from the site. Users simply scroll through the platform, click on an image they like, then click again to order all the items necessary to recreate the dish showcased in the post.Source: Adweek
What is interesting is seeing how commerce is evolving. With Amazon, you already need to know what you want. For many people, the process of shopping begins way before “knowing” what to buy. If it is a branded branded or high design product, that journey probably begins on Instagram.
But what Pinterest is showing here is that, the journey can begin in other ways. For example, the journey for groceries could begin instead at the recipe level. Browse Pinterest for interesting recipe pins…once you find a recipe you want to try, you can order the grocery directly through Pinterest.
Amazon has solved the purchase and post-purchase part of the equation, but Amazon is still in prehistoric era when it comes to discovery.
Sometimes I forget that there are interesting things outside of e-commerce and payments (just because both of these are so important and very good areas for investment), but lots going on in media worth mentioning, too.
Snapchat is one of those companies that continue to pique my interest in terms of what they are doing, even if not necessarily from a stock perspective.
#9 Snapchat is doing mini-programs just like Tencent
Snap is planning to let other companies build pared-down versions of their mobile apps within Snapchat, according to two people familiar with the plans, mimicking the approach of popular Chinese social app WeChat.Source: The Information
If successful, this could make Snapchat a much more important daily utility app. Also helps to have Tencent as a large investor to give pointers here and there…
Snapchat also continues to do the most interesting things with augmented reality…this interview with Evan Spiegal is worth reading:
#10 Snapchat / Evan conversation on mini programs, AR, and more
You’re also turning the camera into a device that better understands the world around you, with these new features that identify plants and trees and dogs. In past we’ve talked about the camera as a tool for capturing the world and being creative. Where does this other piece fit in?
It’s definitely something we’ve been excited about working on, but it’s actually hard! Which is why it’s taken us a while to start building this foundation. Even something just as simple and fun as recommending the right lenses for you when you’re at the beach, and I think that’s a really compelling use case — [but] even something that’s simple, that requires really understanding the environment around you and then matching the right AR experience. So a lot of it was just building a basic foundation and understanding, and now hopefully we’ll be able to build a lot more on top of that. In the next couple years, I really think we can accelerate the different ways we can help people.Source: The Verge
Of course, the most interesting media company remains Tiktok.
#11 Kids spend as much time on Tiktok as Youtube
A new study on kids’ app usage and habits indicates a major threat to YouTube’s dominance, as kids now split their time between Google’s online video platform and other apps, like TikTok, Netflix and mobile games like Roblox. Kids ages four to 15 now spend an average of 85 minutes per day watching YouTube videos, compared with 80 minutes per day spent on TikTok. The latter app also drove growth in kids’ social app use by 100% in 2019 and 200% in 2020, the report found.Source: Techcrunch
Like Snapchat, Tiktok continues to push the edge on experimentation. Here’s one that’s interesting from the mainland China version of Tiktok:
#12 Douyin tests video call feature that allows participants to play games together
The mainland Chinese version of short video hit TikTok is testing a new beta feature which allows users to video call strangers and play interactive games with them, as its Beijing-based owner ByteDance intensifies its battle with Tencent Holdings – known for its do-everything app WeChat – for dominance in the social app space.Source: SCMP
The biggest issue for Tiktok remains its connection to China. Tiktok is the first Chinese-owned media app to globalize, and it’s caught up in the current trade war with concerns about censorship and potential national security monitoring.
Tiktok has a lot of work cut out for them to fight these fears. They are trying though…
#13 Tiktok hires Disney Plus head to run Tiktok
The Walt Disney Company’s top streaming executive, Kevin Mayer, resigned on Monday to become the chief executive of TikTok, the app for making and sharing short videos that has exploded in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Mayer, 58, will also serve as chief operating officer of ByteDance, the Chinese conglomerate that owns TikTok. “I was happy with my job at Disney,” Mr. Mayer said by phone. “The magnitude of this opportunity was just something I couldn’t pass up.” He cited gaming and music as two expansion possibilities. (He sounded considerably less eager to post TikToks of himself.)Source: NYT