This is issue no. 238. The last issue had a 43.7% open rate with 11.26% of you reading up on how eCommerce will change forever. BuzzFeed's Tasty joins Shopify. And a newsletter favorite of mine, Anand Sandal is brings love to finance data.

A welcome to new readers: 230+ issues ago, one of the bets that I made with 2PM was simple enough. What do I cover and what do I exclude? First, I decided that I'd exclude political partisanship in its many forms. If it wasn't hyper-relevant to your day-to-day, it wouldn't be here. Additionally, I determined that I'd cover eCommerce, branding, media, and data science. I believe that the industries interact in ways that most professionals would find enriching, if not outright fascinating.

I'm most proud of the individual emails from readers who discover how their industry will be influenced by another or what they can do to play better offense or defense. All of this is to say, thanks for reading and always feel free to reply to the email if you have questions. I'll be sure to answer.

Archives: The Cool Kids vs. Wal-Mart
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Today's Top Intelligence (12 Reads)
Stitch Fix Introduces Over 100 Contemporary Brands
eCommerce feature: Stitch Fix’s new premium brands come as a response to requests from existing clients for more well-known brand names and for higher quality constructions and fabrics, such as leather and cashmere. It will also allow the company to attract new users that may have found the offering too basic in the past.

Stitch it up

Media: This isn’t the first time Goop has faced criticism of its marketing. In August 2016, it said it would voluntarily stop making certain claims about its Moon Juice dietary supplements, such as “brain dust” and “action dust.” That came after an investigative unit of the advertising industry said Goop was required to verify its claims that the products could improve customers’ energy, stamina, thinking ability, and capacity for stress.

Data: The Washington Post is trying to solve the problem with artificial intelligence. It built an ad product called Own that lets brands use their own content but promises to improve its chances of being seen and read (or watched) with the aid of Heliograf, a news-writing bot the Post built for the editorial side.

Media: Jayme Buonocore, digital director at William Grant & Sons distilleries, said the same: “At the moment, the Snapchat community skews too young for us to feel comfortable using some of their advertising products,” specifically the filters since they are most likely to be passed around. “I am a big fan of Snapchat as a platform, and I see so much potential there for our brands. We just have to wait for the demographics of the community, or the advertising options, to catch up to our responsibilities as marketers of spirits.”

Fintech: Affirm has quickly become a popular partner in the retail sector. The company, founded by PayPal co-founder and serial entrepreneur Max Levchin, announced last month that it had forged financing partnerships with more than 1,000 retailers since it was founded in 2012. It also has processed well over a million installment loans for consumers.

DNVB: It doesn’t really matter that these companies often make their products at the same factories as their uncool competitors, sometimes with barely perceptible improvements over their rivals. They’re selling something totally different. Casper’s beds aren’t just providing a place to sleep. They’re giving customers better sleep, which, the company’s website declares, is “the foundation of a great life.” And who doesn’t want a great life?

Data: Since we just passed the ninth anniversary of the idea of Uber (originally UberCab, in Aug 2008), I thought it would be interesting to share the very first pitch deck we created in late 2008. Thank you to the entire Uber team for turning a simple idea into a platform that has improved so many people’s lives 

eCommerce: By selling through Amazon, unless sold via the Marketplace, brands give up the opportunity to build relationships with their customers. That means CPGs are forced to compete on price rather than on the quality of the customer experience. What’s more, they’ll always be at a disadvantage competing with Amazon’s own private-label products on the platform.
eCommerce: Launched in September 2015 Farfetch Black & White manages the e-commerce platforms for eight luxury brands including Manolo Blahnik, Christopher Kane and Thom Browne. The new partnership with Certona will allow it to offer brand’s Certona’s patented artificial intelligence (AI) software and personalisation capabilities. The move will enable fashion brands to make “sophisticated product suggestions” in real-time, across all customer touch points, which should drive higher engagement, conversion rates and customer lifetime value.

eCommerce: Lore, who joined the world's largest retailer after it bought his e-commerce company, said Wal-Mart would offer a wider selection than any retailer on the platform. Amazon, whose voice-controlled aide Alexa allows users to shop from the retailer, has the lion's share of the U.S. voice-controlled device industry, with its Echo devices accounting for 72.2 percent of the market in 2016, far ahead of the Google Home gadget's 22 percent, according to research firm eMarketer.

eCommerce: Today Amazon is a titan of e-commerce, logistics, payments, hardware, data storage, and media. It dabbles in plenty more industries. It’s the go-to site for online shoppers and merchants alike, a modern necessity that independent sellers love to hate. Prime, Amazon’s signature $99-a-year membership program, has an estimated 85 million subscribers in the US, equivalent to about two-thirds of American households. To even call it an e-commerce company feels completely inadequate

Brand: The dark side of denim manufacturing has been on Preysman’s mind over the last few months. He’s been delving into the global supply chain to find a way to make denim as sustainable as possible. It hasn’t been easy, but after visiting thousands of factories around the world–and stumbling on an enlightened factory owner–Everlane is launching its first-ever line of jeans on September 7. 

DNVB: Why You Should Pay Attention
I first mentioned Cotton Bureau in Issue No. 203, where I expounded on what I found fascinating about the Commerce startup (and fourth fastest growing company in Pittsburgh). Most recently, their focus has been on sizing inclusivity. In Issue No. 217, I wrote: 

Cotton Bureau is one-step closer to filling a void left behind by American Apparel's bankruptcy. They've begun manufacturing a new type of tee for all shapes and sizes. It's called "Blank" and it has the potential to solve a gaping sourcing issue in a major fashion segment.Women and men needed better, more accurate t-shirt sizing.

From this simple assessment,Blank was born. From the now-successful Kickstarter for the project: 

You see, finding a wholesale t-shirt manufacturer that fits all our criteria has been…challenging (to say the least). We need a brand with modern fits, a wide range of colors and fabrics, ethical manufacturing, reliable quality and consistency, always-available stock, and it’d be reeeeal nice if it was made in America. Finding a brand that checks all those boxes and oh yeah also fits women is damn near impossible. If you can find a women’s brand that comes in our preferred colors and fabrics, it’s only available in mega-tiny junior sizing. If it’s sized to fit most women, the cut is awkward, the fabric isn’t anywhere near our standards, and it comes in whatever color you want…as long as that color is pink. It’s frustrating for us as a company, and every bit as frustrating for you as our customer.

In a recent conversation with a Senior Editor of a lauded men's publication, the gentleman posed the question to us: "but what's the angle to cover for men?" He asked this un-ironically but in doing so, it established why I believe there will be a successful product market fit for Blank's offering. 

Sizing woes can illicit a sense of embarrassment or even shame from consumers - especially men. Men seem to be more ashamed to seek a solution to sizing inaccuracies. But this is nothing new, it took a decade of female consumers lauding performance fabric sportswear for men to do the same. Now, athleisure is leading the industry in product innovations and companies like Lululemon and Outdoor Voices are widely accepted by all.

Long before American Apparel exacerbated the sizing issue by marketing their products as exclusionary, this practice was found in tween retailers. Many can remember being a normal-sized kid while needing to purchase an XXL tee from A&F or American Eagle. In a normal world, XXL would be worn by an NFL tight end. Today, you'll see the same practices at Hollister and other retailers who target teenage and young adult consumers. 

For adults, sizing in t-shirts hasn't improved either and the product shaming has only increased. American Apparel set this market trend, years ago. Though it's now owned by Gildan, producing a wider offering with accurate sizing would still be viewed as detrimental to the brand. 

By the conclusion of our chat, that Senior Editor recognized that there was, in fact, an industry problem and he welcomed the solution. I have a feeling that many consumers will welcome Blank, just the same. 

This is the opinion of Web Smith
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