A daily letter with curated links and quick commentary on brands, data, and eCommerce.
The Once and Future King
This is issue no. 195. The last issue had a 🌬 51.06% open rate with an additional ⚡️ 8.94% of you going back to this article on Amazon's recent changes in Affiliate commissions. More commentary is at bottom of Issue 194.

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Today's Top Intelligence
NBC's Internal Letter on The $500M Snapchat IPO Investment
$SNAP is trading up 10% for the day, at press time. Here is a rundown of the fuego takes:

@AnilDash: "My hot take on $SNAP: a fine company, but the pressure of living up to an astronomical valuation will cause problems as we saw for Twitter."

@SallyShin: "Snap volume during first 10 min of trade: Total: 64M shares, Opening print: 26M, Ex-that: 38M shares changed hands"

@alex: "At $17/share, ~$24B, $SNAP investors are paying nearly $152 per DAU."

@JonahLupton: "Just 40 months ago @Snapchat rejected a $3 billion acquisition offer from @Facebook, today $SNAP had their IPO and is now worth $30 billion."

@marketwatch: "SNAP's valuation has already surpassed: CBS, American Airlines, Hershey, Viacom, Best Buy, Twitter, Macy's"

@sm: "My tweets may be biased because I'm now the proud owner of 4 shares of $SNAP. Just wanted to disclose."

(via Inside.com)

NBC bested their Buzzfeed and Vox Investments by betting $500M on Snap, Inc.

Our partnership with Snap builds on our strategy to drive digital growth for our business, both organically and through investments and acquisitions. In the last year and a half, we have invested $400 million in BuzzFeed, $200 million in Vox, and launched key initiatives with both companies. We also acquired SportsEngine, a digital business that is revolutionizing the way youth sports are managed online.

Key takeaway: Evan Spiegel won the month.
Read More
VOICE FIRST: The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that Amazon and Google were considering adding phone call functionality to their voice assistant gadgets, but Recode has learned Amazon is going ahead with that plan. Several details still remain unclear, including whether people will sync their own phone number and contacts with the device, or create a new device-specific phone number.
BRAND: Saunders hailed Abercrombie’s new store format being piloted in Columbus, Ohio, but said the company, while justifiably cautious about revamping possibly underperforming stores, won’t be moving swiftly to bring that into more areas. “This… is a step forward and is more reflective of what the brand now wants to stand for,” he said, noting that the integration of improved customer service elements like better fitting rooms and the ability to place online orders from the store are helpful.

ECOMMERCE: Zoey's platform features drag and drop design tools that allow users to create fully customized designs without writing any code, while also offering enterprise analytics designed specifically for e-commerce companies. Additionally, the platform provides highly versatile product, promotions, shipping, and management tools that gives merchants more freedom and control than other services. Zoey syncs with a list of leading e-commerce apps, such as Nosto, YotPo, ShipperHQ, Springbot, and ShipStation.

ECOMMERCE: By last measure, Taobao — a property owned by Chinese retail giant Alibaba — was the 12th most visited site on the internet. The total value of all its goods in 2013 was judged to be more than $145 billion, a figure that dwarfs Amazon's $88 billion. China's government has looked at those figures and seen them as an opportunity to spur economic growth in poor villages. As Josh Freedman reported for Quartz, buildings are painted with hopeful slogans, such as "Through Taobao, you can escape bitter days. E-commerce runs toward the road of happiness."

MEDIA: Columbus, Ohio's Resource/Ammirati first used Snapchat two years ago for a specialty retailer looking to attract younger consumers. The brand built its presence on the platform over a year via Snapchat Stories content integrations, using small-scale influencers to reach an organic audience of about 7,000 before switching to paid promotions last December.

BRAND: “Our equation is heritage plus progression,” Palladini continues. That formula is conceptual but also literal: Vans takes its five most popular sneaker silhouettes, the Authentic, the Era, the Slip-on, the Old Skool and the Sk8-Hi, and “continually modernizes” them with new fabrics, prints and colorways. Vans balances its wholesale and direct-to-consumer businesses, promoting the latter with strategic collaborations with likeminded, hype-driven brands like Fear of God and Supreme. 

MEDIA: On a percentage basis, Lightspeed’s returns rank among the most lucrative startup investments in recent years, although still shy of Accel’s early investment in Facebook, which returned roughly 600x at the IPO price. Venture capitalists count on a handful of home runs to provide returns for investors, because most of the startups they invest in fail. Top venture funds generally aim for overall returns higher than 2x across the fund.

Note: as a value to 2PML readers, I often unlock an article from a premium source like Jessica Lessin's The Information.
Last Word: Why $SNAP Could Work After All
Selling hardware, on the other hand, means asking Snap’s users for cash, and that’s a good thing.Differentiation strategies can work, but, as noted above in the context of Disney, they work by getting the users who benefit from that differentiation to pay.

To be sure, it is very early days for Snap and hardware, and it may not amount to anything. But, then again, you could say the same thing about Snap itself. From my perspective having the possibility of a hardware business increases the option value, and for now optionality is the primary reason to buy into this IPO in the first place.

- Ben Thompson, Stratechery.com 
It's 2 PM · West 54th Street · New York 10019 · United States of America
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