Luxury @ Amazon

Amazon’s long-awaited ‘Luxury Stores’ launched this week for Prime members in an invite-only, exclusive to the app format. The first brand to partner with Amazon was Oscar De La Renta, and the collection supposedly includes ready-to-wear, accessories, bags, jewelry, and perfume from the F/W collection.

There’s a lot to unpack here.

I obviously did not get an invite to this launch, however, I am on the waitlist. I don’t blame Amazon, my purchase history consists primarily of non-apparel items that cost me less than $10. I also can’t afford Oscar De La Renta items, so it really doesn’t matter. There are pros and cons to an invite-only launch, though:

Pros

  • Builds hype around exclusivity
  • Draws interest from everyone who wasn’t invited
  • Allows celebrities/high-earning influencers first access, leads to impactful marketing to the fan bases who are familiar with Amazon

Cons

  • A bit snobby
  • Some might take the exclusivity as a turnoff
  • Takes away from the “meet the customer where they are” mindset when only certain customers can access

To be clear, I have no idea how many people out there got to view this collection the day it launched, and I don’t mind the invite-only approach. I would like to be able to get into one of these digital Luxury Stores at some point, but I can wait.

I personally like the idea of Amazon Luxury Stores, and could see myself shopping from them one day, as I am definitely a young, aspiring consumer who loves when things show up at my door in 48 hours. I think that Amazon knows that my generation will probably bring in the majority of its sales for this, but I feel a strong disconnect with the first-launched brand.

I have no issues with Oscar De La Renta, however, when I look at the Oscar De La Renta website and its price-points, I think of an older female consumer who frequently visits her nearest Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus to see what’s new or if she needs a dress for an occasion and knows the sales associates. It’s just a profile, for sure, but I don’t think of the digitally-native consumers that I am surrounded by. With this launch, maybe Oscar De La Renta will gain some Gen Z customers that I didn’t know existed.

Say this launch had waited until there was a solid agreement between Amazon and a brand like Gucci, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, or any of the most popular luxury brands of 2020. That is where I see success in this. I talk about sneakers a lot, but say that Balenciaga sold their Triple S trainers or if Gucci sold their GG Marmont bags on Amazon. These are highly sought-after pieces for consumers may age, and these consumers have probably seen them worn around by so many influencers or celebrities that they follow on social media that they probably don’t feel the need to touch them or try them on before purchasing, especially when they can just return them the easy Amazon way.

Overall, I think this opens up a world of possibilities for luxury through Amazon, and it definitely makes luxury more accessible to those that can afford it. You no longer have to fly to the Oscar De La Renta store in NYC or wait 4 weeks for shipping to get the dress that your local Neiman/Nordstrom doesn’t carry when it can be delivered in two days.

These next two points are not original thought, but I’m going to elaborate on them because I think they’re important to consider, as well (coming at you from the latest edition of the Omni Talk Fast Five podcast:

  1. Search to discover vs. search to find (Chris Walton) Amazon gains both the upperhand in search to discover and search to find with luxury stores. The user can browse through all of Amazon’s future luxury stores with only the intent of discovering new products, OR, the user can go directly to Amazon to search for a specific luxury product that I’m sure Amazon will have. Once this grows, I’m sure that if I google “Balenciaga Triple S trainers,” the first link might be for Amazon.
  2. Outlet stores (Anne Mezzenga) Should Amazon expand their fashion offerings to both luxury and designer brands, the products that get returned have to go somewhere. It’s highly unlikely that they’re going to be sold for the original full price, because we all know how fashion returns work, which means that Amazon will probably sell them for a discount. There’s a lot to work out there between Amazon and the brands, but let’s be real, there’s a whole lot of potential for a an Amazon outlet. I’m thinking something like Farfetch, which if Amazon could replicate, there’s no need for a Farfetch because Amazon can probably win on discounts and it can definitely win on shipping time. Luxury brands are fighting for an end to discounting for the sustainability of their brands, but I don’t see this truly happening at least for another few years.

This just about concludes my take on Luxury via Amazon. I am excited to see where this goes. I will, of course, deem it to be a bad idea if I never get invited into the Luxury Stores.

Featured image from The Verge

A New Hope – Ikea’s mall in San Francisco

Background:

Chain Store Age reported that a new mall will be opening on Market Street in San Francisco, owned by Ingka Centers (an Ikea unit that owns and operates 48 malls throughout Europe and Asia-via CSA).

The 375,000 sq/ft. property will be Ingka’s first development in the U.S., and its second mixed-use development, as the Ikea store within the property will only take up around 70,000 sq/ft. Besides the Ikea store, there will be food and other retailers within with plans for these mixed-use properties to expand in to NY, LA, and Chicago.

My Take:

I love Ikea for a variety of reasons. The first would be that Ikea sells incredibly affordable furniture and home goods that mix well with all kinds of styles. I don’t think that I have ever assembled an Ikea piece correctly, however, I do well enough and have no complaints because of the price that I pay compared to what I could have paid at other home furnishings retailers. My second love for Ikea stems from how well Ikea has created an experience for its customers. Walking through the showroom is a fun experience for almost anyone, especially when you don’t actually have any intent on purchasing furniture. The showroom can also cause some arguments, but Ikea knows that and strategically places all kinds of “feel good” decor items throughout, and even ends the waling tour with the plants section, sure to suck in the millennials and Gen Zers willing to spend $14.99 on a new plant.

We can’t forget about the Ikea cafeteria’s or snack shops, either. This is where I think Ikea has some great potential in a mixed-use development. With the Ikea stores taking up such a smaller square footage than usual, why not open a standalone Ikea cafeteria in this mall? Or a Swedish coffee shop? Add in a standalone Ikea Swedish candy shop, too, with ample opportunities for pictures and customization.

This might be a stretch, but I think that Ikea should create a clothing line. While I dislike pretty much every retailer or brand that has come out and tried to be the next best “minimalistic essentials” company, I think that Ikea might actually have a shot here. Environmentally conscious production is already in their DNA, and I would definitely check out an Ikea clothing store that sells all of the basics (t shirts, pants, jeans, socks, shoes, bags, etc). The Scandinavian style-of both homes and apparel-is incredibly attractive to the U.S. consumer, and a mall designed by Ikea allows the U.S. consumers to experience that effortlessly cool Swedish lifestyle once they walk in the doors.

According to the plans, there will be other retailers inside the mall as well. I’m excited to see where this goes, but I also wouldn’t be mad if Ikea used its planned space within the mall as a large furniture showroom and then created smaller stores throughout the mall that were themed by room.

In terms of entertainment, I’m curious to see what will happen. I’m not huge on entertainment as shopping is exciting enough for me, but I’m sure that with how well Ikea has created experiences within its stores already, it will be plenty easy.

A mall like this has potential to thrive because of the variety of things to do within that all make sense together. It’s fun to go to a regular Ikea once in a while, but you probably don’t need to go that often. With a mall like this, you can go in just for coffee or some Swedish meatballs without having to walk the entire showroom and then browse all of the different stores with frequently updated collections.

I am definitely excited to check this out.

Featured image via Chain Store Age

Where should Nike go from here?

Susquehanna Financial Group announced this week that Nike would be cutting ties with 9 major wholesale accounts, including Zappos, Belk, Dillard’s, Boscov’s, Bob’s Stores, Fred Meyer, EBLens, VIM and City Blue.

Nike had announced about a month ago that they were shaking up their leadership in order to pursue the Consumer Direct Offense- a digitally-focused business strategy.

Clearly, Nike is working on consolidating their distribution and taking greater control over their own brand. For an in-depth analysis on why cutting these wholesaler ties is a great move for Nike, read Chris Walton’s Forbes post here. His three main points are that 1) The wholesaler network is a risky bet, 2) Wholesalers water down the brand, and 3) No one owns athletic discovery online.

The only point that Chris makes, while an interesting one, that I disagree with is Nike creating their own digitally-based marketplace where they sell brands other than Nike. I think the Nike brand is strong enough in both its consumer awareness and its assortment of merchandise to not need to create a marketplace for other brands. For Nike to strengthen through consolidation, it needs to reign in its distribution and create new channels to sell its own products through.

Nike has the clout/hype/social media presence necessary to draw in the Gen Z/millennial consumers (especially with its SNKRS page), and has the pricing and reliability needed to draw in pretty much everyone else. When you Google “sneakers,” a pair of Nike’s is bound to pop up in your shopping bar, and if you Google “Nike sneakers,” you’ll probably see about five pairs of Nike’s, but 4/5 of them are being sold through sites that are not Nike.com. If Nike cuts these ties, the only way to buy new Nike’s is to go directly to Nike.com.

A concern with this consolidation could be that with Nike going direct-to-consumer, it may eliminate or greatly diminish the discounting that consumers can often find through the wholesalers. My gut tells me that Nike would continue to offer these types of discounts or outlet-tier products through a dedicated outlet tab on their website in addition to having a “sale” tab where products are first discounted. This way, on the physical side of retail, Nike is well off because it already has both mainline and outlet stores across the U.S.

Where I believe the most potential for strengthening the Nike brand sits is diving head-first into the resale market of their products (specifically shoes, for now). The mass athletic retailers have missed out on the potential for revenue in USED products ( Nike x Off-White collabs, adidas Yeezy, Reebok x Vetements, for example) and have let resale platforms such as GOAT, StockX, The RealReal, Grailed, etc., lead the way.

I love platforms such as the ones I listed above, but from a strategic mindset for Nike, why not try and create your own site or page for reselling both new or used deadstock or shoes that people would pay an arm and a leg for?

This is a bit of an extreme example and there are not many shoes that resell for this high of a price, but take a look at the 2017 Nike x Off-White Air Max 97:

image via StockX

This shoe sells for between $1,030 and $4,000 new on StockX and GOAT. That is A LOT more than its retail price. Even used, the lowest I can find this shoe for in an uncommon size that is beat up and stretched out is around $500. What if Nike, who probably has the connections necessary to find these shoes out in the world, could start selling them with the guarantee of authenticity from none other than the company that actually made the shoe?

I see this as a simple implementation to Nike’s core business model. Even selling a used pair of sneakers via Nike.com for $80 is $80 more than you had without selling it.

Some food for thought!

Featured image from https://news.nike.com/news/nike-nyc-house-of-innovation-000

Search to discover vs. search to find with livestreaming

Amazon and Google have announced new livestreaming features this week, prompting discussions around which platforms can be the most effective for selling via livestream (Instagram, Youtube, Amazon, Google, Facebook, twitch, etc.). Beyond that, the discussion on latest episode of the Omni Talk Fast Five where these are thoroughly discussed inspired me to dig deeper into the difference between searching to discover via searching to find on different platforms within the context of livestreaming.

Influencers who are part of Amazon’s Influencer Program can now earn commissions on products purchased when they livestream on Amazon (Talking Influence). This allows any influencer who is accepted to the program to essentially set up their own, interactive storefront on Amazon to recommend the products that they use to their followers while earning a percentage of each purchase. If you haven’t checked out the content on Amazon Live, I highly recommend doing so as the categories span anything you can think of, you can chat to the video creators in these livestreams, and you can find some significant discounts all with the ease of Amazon’s checkout.

Google took its first dive into mobile livestreaming with the launch of an app called “Shoploop” (Retail Dive). Shoploop focuses on beauty, makeup, and nails, and provides a feed of creators/influencers talking about their favorite products with links to purchase attached. Shoploop is only available as a mobile app, for anyone who opens a new tab while reading this to look up Shoploop. Google launched shoppable ads on Youtube recently, but this marks Google’s first venture into true video commerce.

I could spend a great deal of time talking more specifically about these launches, however, I am going to focus more in-depth on what you might really use these for.

We all know that Google is a powerful search engine for anything, but it has been digging deeper into its ecommerce potential this past year. Amazon is also an intelligent search engine for products, and both Amazon and Google can help you find exactly the products that you are looking for.

When you are looking for specific products, you probably turn to Amazon or Google because they are reliable. My educated guess, based on personal observation, is that if I need something as specific as Adidas no-show socks in white, I’m going to head to Amazon, search exactly that, scroll past one or two sponsored listings and then add exactly what I’m looking for to my cart. This is a great example of search to find. I know what I want, and I know Amazon will get me there quickly.

I can, of course, also search for these socks on Google, but I know that the same pack of socks is going to show up as a listing from a variety of different sites. This is less direct than the Amazon route. Maybe, however, I don’t actually care about the socks being from Adidas. I just want to look at the options for no-show socks that are white. This is where I would turn to Google, because in my opinion, Google knows which brands I like better than Amazon and will cater this search of socks to my past purchases, as I am an infrequent shopper. In this example, I am somewhere between search to find and search to discover. I want to find a specific product, however, I am open to where it’s from, which means I’m open to discovering a new brand.

Now, I’m going to get into Instagram. Brands, influencers, and retailers have the options on Instagram to go “live” on their stories, which, when you’re trying to sell a product, is selling via livestream. My personal favorite way to shop is through Instagram, as my shopping for pleasure revolves around discovering new things and Instagram knows my product/brand references better than I know myself.

Brands, influencers, and retailers are perfectly set up on IG for search to discover. When you need a new pair of hiking boots, you’re probably going to Google “hiking boots” and see what pops up. When you don’t need a specific product and are just browsing with the intentions of discovering something to buy (whether you start in your Activity or Shop tab or actually seek out a specific brand), watching a livestream from a brand/influencer/retailer allows you to discover new products in an interactive and informative way. Seeing the products move, getting style tips from a real, live person, and truly hearing the voice of a brand might inspire you to purchase something you didn’t even know you wanted from them.

One of my favorite local boutiques in Minneapolis does frequent IG livestreams where they unbox new inventory and try it on to show their followers what the products look like up close, from far away, and how they move on a human. I watch this livestream whenever I can because it’s exciting to watch unboxing clips and the content is more engaging than just scrolling past these products on a website.

I also watch the IG livestreams of a local jewelry store and a local furniture store because they’re fun and I love to see products in a more personal light. For me, watching gemstones shine in the light of a video is much more intriguing than just seeing pictures, and furniture is a lot more attractive when you can see the size of the piece compared to a human, how the doors/drawers move, and how the color of the piece might look different depending on the lighting. I never go into these streams with the goal of purchasing something specific, but I am always open to discover new products that I might see and determine that I NEED.

Circling back, if Google could have a video of someone talking about the different products that come up when I search for socks, there’s a good chance that I will purchase those socks from a brand that I found through Google. I think there is also untapped potential for Google to utilize video commerce by creating livestreams that cover searches such as “the best black t-shirt” or “the best electric toothbrushes for under $50.” This would allow them to continue to dominate that gray area between searching to find and searching to discover.

Amazon will probably remain the leader in search to find accuracy for a long time. However, with the addition of more and more livestreaming content, I think that they have found a way to enter the search to discover market. Sure, Amazon can recommend you products. But when Amazon can recommend a livestream of dogs trying out different toys after knowing that you purchased a new leash last week, there’s some money to be made there in the discovery of products you didn’t know that you needed.

Lastly, when it comes to brands and retailers and the influencers that work with them, livestreaming via Instagram is a great way to allow followers to search to discover, and there’s a solid chance that conversion rates from livestreams will be relatively high because IG knew exactly which livestreams from brands/retailers/influencers to show you based on what you like and how you shop from the app.

Featured image: a screenshot of my Amazon Live feed

Yeezy Gap could be the change agent that Gap needs

Unless you pay zero attention to retail news, you heard about Kanye’s announced 10-year partnership with Gap to introduce a new line of modern basics for men, women, and children for under $100/piece. Try to forget what you know, because I think that Yeezy Gap will revolutionize the Gap as we know it. Investors seem pretty confident, too.

The first thought that comes to mind is that this will cheapen the Yeezy brand. Anyone with a business-oriented mindset could make that argument, however, I don’t think that Kanye West is concerned about it. Everything that Kanye does is unpredictable yet beyond influential, and it would be silly to think that Kanye would keep the Yeezy brand a stagnant one that refuses to budge in fear of it being “cheapened.” While Kanye West is synonymous with Yeezy, he is a creative visionary that is always proposing new ideas that could influence his brand and the entire world of retail. Keep in mind that Yeezy is not Chanel.

Kanye has wanted to collaborate with Gap for years, and, as a person that is known to stick to his word, he is finally pulling through. He’s been known to say that he wants to make clothes for the masses under the Yeezy label, and what better way to do so than to work with Gap?

If I had to take a guess, I’d say that Kanye’s followers are primarily the younger millenials and the older Gen Z’ers. The Gap, however, is undeniably irrelevant for this group. Yeezy Gap has the potential to bring a massive group of consumers with prominent spending power that might just bring Gap back to life.

“Modern, elevated basics.” – Fashionista

A phrase we’ve heard so many times in the past few years that it is now just plain boring. Most Yeezy products could fit in this product description, yet they are anything but boring. They are highly sought after and have been exclusive in both price and availability throughout the history of the brand. With Yeezy Gap planning on all products being less than $100, this will bring in all of his followers who could not afford the regular Yeezy products.

I don’t believe that the Yeezy Gap line will cheapen the original Yeezy brand. There will probably be the same amount of hype and demand around each Yeezy season, and loyal Yeezy customers will probably still pay the full price. I think of JW Anderson’s collabs with Uniqlo that are wildly successful yet have not taken anything away from the JW Anderson brand, and Kanye has a much different level of following and influence.

If anything, Yeezy for the masses brings Kanye deeper into our culture and deeper into our households.

Some things that need to happen for this to be successful:

  • The products need to find a balance between the Yeezy aesthetic and what we know of Gap. Because of Kanye’s hype, these products will most likely draw in those that follow Kanye. What will make this work will be if someone who has no idea what Yeezy is will like the products, too. The line can’t be too abstract compared to Gap’s current lines because Gap needs to maintain its loyal customers while trying to bring in new ones.
  • There has to still be a level of exclusivity. When the line drops, it obviously won’t work with Gap’s business model for the line to sell out immediately and then never be restocked, as Yeezy often does. At the same time, the products have to seem exclusive so that they are still on-brand for Yeezy. My thoughts on this are that Yeezy Gap should start with a small initial “drop,” with preparations in place to quickly restock and scheduled launches with other items from the line that happen frequently.
  • An AGRESSIVE social media campaign. Man, does Gap’s social need some help to bring in anyone younger than 45. Kanye is already breaking the internet with one twitter post hinting at the partnership. Please, give me a cool social media campaign leading up to the launch of this collection. Let Kanye lead the way with a gentle guidance in appealing to the current Gap customers. Even better, based on the products that are planning to be made, shoot it out at his ranch in Wyoming. I need something new and exciting from Gap and anything Kanye in Wyoming is more exciting than their current social presence.

Kanye has been doing the unexpected for a long time, and doing it well. What Gap needs is something unexpected, and this is about as big as they could go, working with someone who has always wanted to work with them.

Featured image from Fashionista.com

Snapchat’s shoppable show: “The Drop”

Nearly every social media platform has taken the plunge into the world of commerce; from Instagram’s Shops, Facebook’s Shops /Marketplace, Pinterest’s new image-recognition tools, ads on Youtube that become increasingly more shoppable, the undeniable power of TikTok, and now, Snapchat’s new shoppable show, “The Drop.”

According to this article from Mobile Marketer

“Snap this year will start streaming its first shoppable show on Snapchat, the company announced during its virtual presentation for the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Digital Content NewFronts. “The Drop” will focus on streetwear collaborations with celebrities and designers.”

In addition, according to this article from Variety

Each episode of “The Drop” will explore the relationship between the designer and celebrity collaborator. Viewers will learn about the item for sale and how it came together as well as what time that day the item will go up for sale. Later that day, at the aforementioned time, the episode will be updated with more content that includes a “swipe up to buy” call to action. The exclusive-to-Snapchat products will have limited quantity, an appeal for viewers to tune in live.

I try not to use the word “dope” very often, but this, in fact, “dope.” Snapchat reaches an enormous audience, with the heavy majority of that audience being Gen Z. As someone who has grown up in the digital age, surrounded by social media, I am consistently flooded with ads and sponsored content for hundreds of brands. With the access that I have through social media, it’s often hard to know which brands I should shop from just because of how many there are.

This is where influencers and entertainment hold so much power, and entertainment is still in its youth in terms of commerce.

It’s obvious that if Kim Kardashian wears a product from a brand and tags that brand in an Instagram post there is going to be an influx of consumers wanting to purchase that product because they get consumption inspiration from people like her. We’ve also seen products that are worn by actors in influential movies and shows become incredibly sought after and resold for a hefty profit such as the Nike Dunks from “Back to the Future.”

Snapchat is taking a different approach to implementing commerce into their platform by creating an original show that offers up the audience exclusive products that are worn and talked about by the influential designers that make them. This can capture the Gen Z consumer audience in ways that similar content on Youtube or Instagram try to with the sheer popularity and influence that Snapchat has over other platforms.

It’s common for Gen Z’ers to watch videos about the products that they aspire to buy to see them talked about in ways that make them even more intriguing. In a world where you have so many options, you want to know that you’re buying the best products, and that often means that you look for purchasing confidence from those you trust the most on platforms like Instagram, Youtube, and TiokTok. It’s also critical in an age of prominent digital selling to have videos of a product to see how it moves when it won’t be sold in stores. Due to COVID-19 there are more and more retailers embracing digital content, but none have the power that Snapchat has, and Snapchat is picking a perfect time in Gen Z’s lives to introduce this concept.

There’s no doubt in my mind that if this show could feature someone like Virgil Abloh and then sell an exclusive pair of Off-White sneakers it would be a complete success. Other big names that I think would be a huge hit: Kanye with Adidas, Post Malone via a collab with literally any brand, anything Supreme, anyone with Nike, and any kind of streetwear product that can incorporate a popular Gen Z brand like Nintendo.

With the success of other Snapchat Originals, this could also bring impactful exposure to smaller streetwear brands, as well.

Those who are passionate about the world of streetwear will appreciate entertaining content of products that are more than just a picture of a celebrity of designer wearing the products. Untapped purchasing influence lies in seeing the product move, seeing the people we love and trust wearing the products and talking to us about them, and, most importantly, adding the exclusivity factor to these products. I also love the idea of making a show because shows are entertaining and draw the audience in more than the average Youtube video of IGTV post.

Gen Z wants to stand out in a world where there are opinions and influencers everywhere, and I truly believe that “The Drop” by Snapchat will be incredibly successful and will push Snapchat into a state of even higher influence on the younger generation. Dare I even say Snapchat as a future brand?

Featured image from Mobile Marketer

What if Instacart could…?

Chain Store Age published an article on Monday covering the new partnership between Staples and Instacart that sent the wheels in my brain for a spin.

Instacart has begun breaking out of its grocery/CPG shell with partnerships with companies such as Staples and Big Lots, where items such as office supplies, furniture, and other goods can be delivered the same day that they are ordered. The actual partnership with Staples here seems somewhat unnecessary as most people do not run into same-day emergency office supply shortages and almost anything sold at Staples that can be ordered via Amazon or picked up at your local Walmart, Target, etc. Despite the non-importance of being able to get office supplies on the same day that you order them, this article inspired me to think deeper into all of the possible partnerships that Instacart could engage in to shape the changing future of retail.

To start, I think that apparel retailers could benefit from offering same-day delivery services, especially those that are located in a mall. For most customers shopping for apparel items, your choices are to drive out to the nearest store to get what you need or to order online and wait for somewhere between 2-14 days or your order to arrive. With COVID-19 posing significant changes to the ways that people shop, I would love to see a store such as Levi’s (specifically in the Mall of America, a.k.a. my closest location) partner with Instacart to offer same-day delivery. I buy 95% of my apparel online, and if I could check the inventory of my local store, pick out a pair of jeans and pay online, and then have them picked up and delivered that day by an Instacart employee for $3.99, I absolutely would.

Regional malls forming relationships with Instacart could allow the retailers inside to offer a physical shopping experience while also being able to function as a hyper-local micro-fulfillment center, which gives the customers more choices when it comes to how they want to shop. Nobody likes waiting any amount of days for something to arrive on your doorstep at a random time of the day.

Side note: I also think that pet stores should invest in this. I find going out to the pet store to be an incredibly time-consuming and expensive ordeal, and sure, I could wait two days for an Amazon box to arrive, but sometimes with animals you really do need something like a bag of food or a leash for your dog THAT day.

My second point here, and the one that I find to be most important, is part of the title question, “What if Instacart could do return pickups and drop-offs?”

I prefer shopping online for many reasons and am willing to compromise on a sucky returns process, but why, in 2020, is this process still so sucky? Going to the post office, the UPS store, or the nearest FedEx dropoff box and waiting days upon days to see if the package made it back and was processed is a pain and having to drive out to a store or the mall, park my car, walk into the store, and then leave also isn’t optimal consumer experience. Granted, I can’t do a full pro/com analysis for this idea because of my lack of experience, but I know that I would pay someone $3.99 to come and pickup a return that I’ve packaged up and drop it off at the post office or at a physical store if the retailers accepts returns that way.

There are ways to schedule someone from a postal service to come and pick up your package, but I have to believe that using a service like Instacart would be significantly more practical. Overall, I think that there is are loads of potential for Instacart in the returns business, and, it would solve one of my biggest issues with how returns currently work in the retail world, especially in a time like this where there are consumer fears regarding shopping and going out to stores/post offices during this pandemic.

Try to catch my ‘Vibe’ using Klarna’s new rewards program

Fintech has been booming for the past few years, with a major leaning toward payment installment plans through companies such as Klarna, Afterpay, Affirm, Quadpay, Sezzle, etc., who each have their own slightly different features and terms of service.

Klarna has taken a step in a new direction by introducing “Vibe,” which is its new loyalty rewards program. According to TechCrunch, when you use Klarna as your payment method (whether on a retailer’s website or through the Klarna app) you’ll receive points for every $1 spent. These points can be redeemed at a variety of retailers, many of which who do not currently work with Klarna.

I have been using payment installment services for the past few years and always tend to choose this path of purchase when buying anything that is over about $150. I do have a credit card and know that I could put the entire purchase on the credit card and then pay it off in as many small payments as I would like, but I choose not to, and I think that this speaks volumes about how Gen Z will be making purchases going forward.

I have grown up making purchases online via my laptop and always choose to pay that way. Applying this to retail, I have never liked talking to store associates and dreadfully fear that my card will get declined in a store for whatever reason, therefore, I choose to purchase online probably about 85% of the time. Paying online via these installment plans or even through Paypal is such a smooth process, and with all of the warnings I’ve been given about abusing a credit card and the history I’ve been taught about the cyclical boom and bust nature of credit cards, those services just seem friendlier.

For anyone that works an hourly job, paying for pricier items through installments just makes sense. For all of college, I made a couple hundred dollars a month working part-time on the weekends. From that money, some of it had to go to my various fixed monthly costs, i.e., car insurance, food, dog things, gas, etc. What was left of my paychecks was my pleasure money, and with the wildly expensive taste in almost everything I acquired at an unknown point in my life, one month of my pleasure money rarely would cover the expense of, say, a pair of shoes that I wanted, but it could cover the cost when broken into installments over a period of time that allowed me to pay a portion, wait for my next check, and pay another portion. I believe that there are millions of people out there who are in similar financial situations, and installment plans really do give you the freedom to buy things that are more expensive yet are still affordable for you than what you would usually buy because of having to pay up front. Installment plans help to change the narrative on how we view affordability, and these installment services provide more of a structure, in my opinion, than a credit card that you slowly pay off.

What’s great (for now) about Klarna’s loyalty program is that none of the other installment companies are doing this yet. They will surely follow suit, but it makes me, an average consumer who uses payment installments frequently, actually consider paying attention to which company I’m using when I sign up for these installments. I have never cared, because I am incredibly brand-oriented when it comes to clothing (my biggest purchases) and such, so I always just use whichever company is offered at the brand that I like. Knowing that I could be getting something back from a specific company (Klarna in this case), you bet I’m going to pay more attention.

Another point on why I think this will be successful for these companies is that I am assuming that consumers use these installment plans for big purchases, which means that they are going to be getting a lot of points that encourage them to come back for more. I’m curious to see how long it will take to accumulate the points for a free coffee at Starbucks through Klarna’s rewards compared to through Starbucks’ actual rewards.

Overall, I predict that there will be a major shift in mindset as to how we pay in the following years, especially with the generation coming into their spending power used to using online payments for their entire lives. To me, there’s something fascinating about how I think of banking and where my money is. I know that all of my money is in my bank account and I can access it through my cards and that I can move it around in my app, yet I still feel like I do the majority of my banking through Paypal, and these installment companies because it feels more natural. Biggest point here being that that means that my shopping is done almost entirely online. I’ll whip out Apple Payh wherever I can, but that’ss till not many places.

I love visual merchandising and flagship stores and I always look for stores to visit based on their appearances wherever I go, so I am hoping that someone will figure out how to implement this type of fintech into physical retail…

Featured image from TechCrunch

Walmart x ThredUp

The basics:

Walmart and ThredUp recently announced a new partnership where new to almost new items consigned with ThredUp will be sold online at walmart.com/thredup.

According to Walmart, ThredUp is curating a collection of up to 750,000 pieces of clothing and accessories in excellent condition to be sold through Walmart’s e-commerce site.

Check out: Walmart enters the clothing resale market with ThredUp partnership

This will also allow shoppers to shop from brands not currently carried at Walmart such as Michael Kors, Nike, Calvin Klein, and even Coach, according to Denise Incandela, head of fashion e-commerce at Walmart.

My Take:

Overall, I think this a great partnership filled with tons of opportunity. Is it perfect right now? No, but maybe someday. The best part is that this makes shopping from the resale market incredibly accessible to everyone as the items from ThredUp fit in with Walmart’s pricing. Another great benefit of this is that there are many people who are familiar with shopping at Walmart.

An issue that comes up is the fact that these ThredUp items will only be sold online, and the majority of Walmart’s e-comm business is groceries. With everything happening in the world right now and with more and more people adopting new online shopping habits, I think that this issue will be very short-lived. When shopping online, you can add a dress from ThredUp into your cart along with your groceries, and maybe more people over time will see that they can still get everything in one “shopping trip” online as they usually would in a Walmart store.

A colleague of mine pointed out that when on Walmart’s site, if you generically browse clothing, no ThredUp items will show up. I am torn about this because I do like that all of the pre-owned items are separated so that nobody accidentally buys something pre-owned without realizing it, however, I can see how this would prove to be a barrier in terms of shoppers not naturally discovering ThredUp items on Walmart’s site. Of course, if you start at walmart.com/thredup you’ll make it there, but what I also noticed is that when you pull down Walmart’s side menu and go to the clothing tab, the ThredUp portion is pretty clearly marked and it is advertised for, as well, which will hopefully draw in the curious ones and will make sure that nobody makes an accidental purchase.

Back to accessibility, anyone in the retail industry knows about how popular luxury resale has become, however, even luxury resale is still pretty inaccessible to the American masses. There are sites like eBay and apps like Poshmark that make lower-priced resale more accessible, but even those require learning new technological features either on a website or through downloading an app. The familiarity of shopping on Walmart’s website will prove to be a strength in this partnership that will benefit both parties, and the accessibility of pricing will allow those who have never been able to participate in the resale economy to do so. With popular brands being curated for this partnership, I think that this could create some excitement for the Walmart shopper.

What I was most surprised to see was the diversity of the brands showcased on this site. I was initially expecting the brand offerings to mimic those that you can get somewhere such as Nordstrom Rack, but I was really surprised to see brands like Opening Ceremony, Tretorn, Prada, Vetements, and JW Anderson. There were very few of these products but the prices were incredibly reasonable ($281.99 – see below – may not sound very reasonable at all and doesn’t fit the budget of a Walmart shopper, but in my opinion this actually is a fair price for something with the Vetements brand attached to it and maybe Walmart will find a new following from the hypebeasts) and I never thought I would see a day where a Vetements x Reebok sneaker would be on Walmart’s website.

The last point I want to make is that I truly believe that ThredUp should ditch their “Designer” category of merchandise (which include designers like Gucci and Burbery on their website) to truly focus on the brands that they so successfully sell, such as Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Coach, Madewell, J. Crew, etc.

I have never understood why ThredUp bothers with high-end designer and luxury, especially when there is already so much competition in luxury resale. I think that the partnership with Walmart helps ThredUp appeal to the masses, which will probably draw people further away from making luxury purchases on ThredUp. Appealing to the masses and selling luxury goods usually don’t work together well, and as someone who makes luxury purchases off of The RealReal relatively frequently, it is still not an inexpensive shopping experience and definitely has a high price-point boundary for entry.

I’m all for ThredUp working with Walmart to make resale accessible for all, and I think that ThredUp should go all-in with this partnership and the message of accessibility to the masses.

Featured image from CNN.

Facebook Shops: driving social commerce usage across generations

This week, Mark Zuckerberg himself addressed Facebook’s plans to move forward with and really commit to commerce on its platform. With the introduction of “Facebook (and Instagram, soon) Shops,” users will now “be able to browse and buy products directly from a business’ Facebook  Page or Instagram profile” (TechCrunch).

We all know that Facebook already has its Marketplace where users or small business owners can list their products and provide contact information or a link to their website, but Facebook Shops will go way beyond this. Instagram has shopping features as well that allow brands and businesses to link their products to a post that users can then click on that will redirect them to the individual brand’s website.

If you follow retail headlines, you probably also heard about Shopify’s “Shop” app that allows users to browse through products from their favorite brands that use the Shopify merchant platform and then keep track of all of their orders. This was convenient, however, there were still some gaps that I break down in depth in this post.

My biggest issue with Shopify’s app is that it redirected you to a brand’s website to make a purchase even though it claimed to have “streamlined the checkout process.” Instagram’s shopping features do this as well as of now, which means that you can only shop from one brand at a time. Being redirected to a website outside of that app is not my streamlined checkout dream, but, in comes Facebook Shops to save the day with Instagram following shortly behind.

Side note…Facebook/Instagram Shops are going to partner up with Shopify, BigCommerce, and a variety of other commerce platforms in the near future, which means even more excitement coming for the retail industry.

Right now, you can choose to shop locally of Facebook’s Marketplace, which will show you listings by people in your area, or you can shop from stores on Facebook’s Marketplace, which will show you listings from any stores who have chosen to use this new feature. The best part is that YOU CAN ADD MULTIPLE PRODUCTS TO YOUR CART FROM DIFFERENT STORES AND CHECK OUT ALL IN ONE GO! Bless.

In the picture below, I screenshotted my view of searching for a pair of sneakers in my regular search bar. From there I clicked on a pair of Fila’s, picked my size, and added them to my cart from a store apprently called BHFO (a real company based in Cedar Rapids, IA). Simple as that, and I never left the app.

Moving on to the bigger picture of this story…

My first thought when I read about this was that now my parents and their friends and my grandparents can all be exposed to social commerce because they all seem to be heavy users of the app but have probably never made a purchase from their phone at all. Social commerce now gets to infiltrate itself into the lives of people around the world and isn’t necessarily aimed for just Millennials and Gen Z’ers.

I personally only use to Facebook to occasionally post about updates in my life and I’ll ever so often upload pictures from trips for my family to see. Every here and there I’ll get stuck in a marathon of watching cute dog videos. Needless to say, I never actually scroll through my feed.

My mom, aunts, uncles, and grandparents (covering older millenials, Gen X’ers and Boomers) all actually scroll through Facebook as a form of entertainment, either via the app or even on their computers, and I think if they all knew that they could also literally shop right off of the app or website, they would be willing to give it a try. They all grudgingly adopted online shopping via Amazon, so I see this having potential to really bring social commerce into the conversation of consumer behavior for those older than, say, 40.

According to sproutsocial, 79% of 30-49 year old’s use Facebook, as do 68% of 50-64 year old’s, and many younger millenials and teens have actually decreased usage or have abandoned the app because they have found apps that they prefer more such as Instagram and Snapchat, which means that Facebook Shops will either attract more youngsters to the platform and/or will bring social commerce into the lives of those who it is not already.

Facebook Shops is another step in the social commerce revolution, and I think it may even have the potential to become the way that the majority of people shop.

Featured image from TechCrunch.