ECOMMERCE: The online mattress industry in the U.S. is booming, as three of the top 10 fastest-growing merchants in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide sell mattresses directly to consumers via the web. Casper, No. 290 in the Top 500 and one of the newest and fastest-growing players in online mattress retailing, hopes to take that boom across the pond. The merchant announced yesterday plans to launch an e-commerce site for consumers in the United Kingdom later this summer. Casper says consumer demand for its products is increasing around the world, and the retailer is beginning its global expansion with what it says is the $6.7 billion European mattress and bedding market.
ECOMMERCE: Brands will need to do more than put forward a functional product or brand position. Marketing will no longer be an activity needed simply to sell a product but actively part of the product experience itself – one that will create an intangible attachment that earns a premium. Consider Bevel, a grooming brand for men of color. Central to their business is Bevel Code, a content marketing arm that has become a destination in its own right and works to earn – not push – Bevel’s claims of authenticity. To this end, one can hardly separate the physical products it sells from the intangible holistic experience it creates for its audience and community. Shopjeen, an iconoclastic ecommerce brand, similarly goes beyond selling products.
ECOMMERCE: Italian fashion house Prada is entering the ecommerce realm with assistance from online retailer Net-A-Porter. Prada is among the few houses that remain to only offer limited ecommerce of its own, but Net-A-Porter’s prowess among online retailers has provided brands wary of the channel to test the waters, often seeing great success. As for Net-A-Porter, the retailer works with brand partners on two levels, either powering monobrand ecommerce behind-the-scenes or hosting capsule collections for its shopping community of nearly 2.5 million consumers to peruse on its site.
VOICE FIRST: Now, however, even if a consumer has never ordered trash bags from Amazon, he can say, “Alexa, order me some trash bags,” and Alexa will find the product that best fits that description, tell the shopper what it is and what it costs, and ask “Would you like me to order it?” The consumer can say no and Alexa will suggest another item, or say yes and Alexa places the order with Prime two-day shipping. The first product suggested—in this example a 90-count box of 13-gallon Glad tall kitchen drawstring trash bags selling for $15.59—is what Alexa calls its “best match.”
ECOMMERCE: Given Amazon, can Flipkart do anything right to fix things? Can Flipkart aim to be profitable? Even if it is in select categories? Why would Amazon not undercut them in whatever category they wish to? Can private label really save them? In how many categories? And by what margin? Once you go beyond consulting-speak these are the fundamental questions that must be asked? And unfortunately, they do not seem to have an easy answer. Amazon doesn’t have an obvious weakness.
BRAND: The thread of financing the company, especially through the first decade, was just incredible. His only real source of financing was tradition banks (who sucked) and partners (playing the float). The company had literally no equity available to it, but was growing at a rate that would put most of today’s VC-backed startups to shame. He made it work and how he did it was awesome. It’s incredible to get inside of a man now worth over $25 billion and the founder of one of the most iconic brands on the planet at the very beginning of his story.
MEDIA: The latest step in that expansion is a new feature the company is calling “Memories,” which allows users to save photos and videos and look at them later. In other words, Snapchat just introduced a feature that essentially reverses its original value proposition, which was the ephemerality of messages that automatically self-destructed. Like the company’s Discover section, where users can browse news from media partners such as CNN and BuzzFeed, the new Memories feature may make Snapchat more appealing to an older user group.
BRAND: More technically, athleisure is the athletic apparel worn at the gym — t-shirts, leggings, running shorts, sneakers — except it’s now seen more often outside of it (and there’s really no way to tell if those wearing athleisure clothing actually ever worked out). This is directly correlated to society’s more relaxed standard for dress codes largely fueled by the millennial generation. The on-the-go lifestyle of young adults today also lends a hand to the new casualized style of dress we are seeing impact the workplace. As athleisure is comfortable, versatile and acceptable in a variety of settings.
MEDIA: Twitter did find some advertisers — like movie studios and retailers — to experiment with promoted topics inside Moments, showing off tweets, photos, videos and GIFs related to the brands. Twitter was asking for $1 million to buy into Moments. But advertisers are uncomfortable paying that much when the return is questionable, they said. “There’s no reporting on Moments. Twitter doesn’t give any information on the number of impressions or engagement,” said one ad agency exec. “I don’t know any brands buying it.”
ECOMMERCE: “The average order is a bit lower on mobile,” he says, declining to provide specifics as to how much lower it is compared to desktop. “We need to figure out ways where we can increase the order size.” Mobile isn’t the only thing he’s worried about perfecting right now, however. Friedman and his team are trying to figure out how to better utilize Steve Madden’s 171 retail locations to fulfill online orders. In the near future, Steve Madden will be offering the option to buy an item online and pick it up in a store, and Friedman wants to make sure it lives up to shoppers’ expectations from a product and experience standpoint.
ECOMMERCE: About 1 million people visit Hodinkee a month, from seasoned collectors to watch-collecting neophytes looking to get started. Rose has been in this position for a year and has overseen a four-times increase in revenue year-over-year, most of which came from the ecommerce-based Hodinkee shop. Users can choose from a curated selection of vintage watches, collaborations with new watches, luxury leather watch straps, and other accessories that might appeal to watch collectors. Rose said he plans to offer more luxury goods for sale, turning Hodinkee into a shopping destination.
ECOMMERCE: Do you ever wonder what keeps the founder of Casper awake at night? How they came to dominate podcast advertising? And how much your startup's name matters? (spoiler alert: not much). In this episode of Collective Wisdom, Founder Collective Partner Micah Rosenbloom distills a dozen actionable tips from Casper's Philip Krim, the mattress king of Brooklyn. EDITOR NOTE: This is an amazing podcast episode. "Warby Parker for X" is such a negative moniker for startup brands. Their CEO explains how they beat that rap to generate early, unique interest by consumers and investors.
Last word: the coming superiority of mobile commerce
Two upcoming mobile innovations will improve mCommerce conversion rates in the months to come: (1) Apple Pay's desktop integration with platforms like Demandware, Shopify, and Magento will lead to further adoption on mobile sites (2) Next generation voice command software will help in contextual search for eCommerce purchases. You will see articles about this noted with a VOICE FIRST. Siri is overdue for improvements and for the first time, the Apple service has a challenger of sorts.
Viv, an AI startup founded by Siri's original team, is built on a new set of logic that spans beyond classic API formats to input and output information. In short, anything on the web can be discovered and actuated based upon the user's current context. (see infographic here) I expect Apple's existing Siri's system to adapt to Viv's new voice command standard or Viv will be acquired the Cupertino iPhone team.
These are the sorts of mobile innovations that will make shopping as practical as it is becoming for desktop-oriented operating systems. Recall, 2016 saw a major milestone in eCommerce. It was the first year that mobile purchases outranked desktop. As experience improves, so will conversion rates, leaving traditional desktop shopping in the dust.
Today, we measure checkout efficiency in pages and clicks. By 2018, it will be measure by spoken word count.
"Siri, please order 2017 Nike KD 10's in Golden State's colors please. Size 12." "Is two day delivery okay?" "Yes. Ordering from Nike.com." "Great." "Here is your confirmation number...."
Imagine that day, next year.
Read more about "Voice First" from 2PML reader and expert, Brian Roemmele.