Data: Black Friday Down

The writing was on the wall when holiday decorations hit sales floors in October. Thanks to persisting supply chain concerns, the holiday season began earlier than ever, which is impacting the bellwether statistics that retail industrialists rely on for forecasted investments. For the first time in history, online retail saw a reversal in year-over-year growth trends. On November 26, online shoppers spent $100 million less than they did on Black Friday 2020. Total sales fell $8.9 billion compared to last year according to Adobe Analytics. Adobe’s Lead Analyst Vivek Pandya:

Shoppers are being strategic in their gift shopping, buying much earlier in the season and being flexible about when they shop to make sure they get the best deals.

By some, the downward trend has been characterized as a contraction in eCommerce spend, but it will be remembered as a confirmation of a much larger shift in pandemic-era retail. In July’s Digital Supply Chain, I wrote about one of the changes that we’d see this fall.

This Black Friday season will see a narrative around short supply of physical goods and an emphasis on brand retailers offering NFT-based products that appeal to their most enthused consumers. Nike will sell digital shoes, Balenciaga will sell avatars for your child’s favorite multi-player game, and legacy companies will emulate the brilliance of the Bored Ape Yacht Club whose NFT sales provide access to a real-life community.

There were other contributing factors to retail’s declining Black Friday performance, and they were not exclusive to online retail. According to CNBC’s Lauren Thomas, Black Friday shopping in stores fell 28.3% from 2019’s levels. And Thanksgiving Day visits were down 90.4% from 2019 levels according to Sensormatic. It should be no surprise that the culprit behind the “down year” is actually a number of factors. The Adobe data indicates an 124% increase in out-of-stock levels. Consumers starting earlier may have taken the sting out of the November shopping event. In October 2021, I explained in No Stock For Chrismukkah:

This means Black Friday will look different. In previous holiday seasons, pricing incentives were the sales hook. This year, retailers won’t need to offer flash sales or free shipping: availability is the hook. Plainly put, if a quality product is available to ship before the holiday season, it will likely be purchased. This is what Lowe’s is signaling with their premature focus on Christmas. If they waited until the normal beginning of holiday cheer, there may not be the stock to support the spike in demand.

It’s not for a lack of trying. According to a Gallup poll, Americans intend to spend record amounts for Christmas; product availability is the problem. This forecasted spend is actually higher than pre-pandemic levels and 2020.

The other problem may be no problem at all. With spend spread over a greater period of time, even with supply chain concerns persisting, this holiday season may still set a new record in gross merchandising volume (GMV) between October and December 24. According to Adobe’s data, shoppers spent $3 billion or more 19 times so far this holiday season. Last year by this date, the GMV exceeded $3 billion just five times. There’s also conversion rates to consider:

The Black Friday conversion rates across the Adobe Cloud spiked to extraordinary averages across desktop and mobile devices on Black Friday – a sign that there may still be an unmet need that Cyber Monday and beyond will account for. An elongated holiday season, fewer deals, and a supply chain under pressure are all contributing factors to America’s first Black Friday without a sales record. But it could be an indicator that the sales holiday is fading or consumer tastes are changing. It could also mean that this year’s remaining sales volume will average out to finish higher than previous years. There’s also the chance that we’re just more grateful for what we already have.

By 2PM

Member Brief: StarDAO


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Web3’s influence on retail is just beginning. Like Nike’s investments into digital goods and services, Starbucks is in position to become the consumer packaged goods leader in the next generation of the web.

Starbucks began as a coffee roaster, but today it’s just as much of a financial services company. Let’s look at Starbucks’ history of product innovation.

During the second wave of American coffee culture, Starbucks rose to prominence by borrowing the blueprint of its predecessor, Peet’s Coffee & Tea. Before Peet’s, espresso was purely an Italian product. Bolstering the availability of international beans, roasting styles, and drink preparations defined the second wave. To expand its product offerings and distribution, Starbucks acquired manufacturers, brands, and intellectual property (the Frappuccino trademark was acquired) over the course of 50 years and 32,660 stores. With the groundwork laid by Peet’s, the Starbucks supply chain and menu democratized the world’s coffee products, which were once exclusive to specific cultures. Today, coffee is on its third wave, which accounts for companies started after 2000. But there is no third wave without Starbucks and they just may make the biggest contribution to this latest wave yet.

The first wave of American coffee culture was probably the 19th-century surge that put Folgers on every table, and the second was the proliferation, starting in the 1960s at Peet’s and moving smartly through the Starbucks grande decaf latte, of espresso drinks and regionally labeled coffee. We are now in the third wave of coffee connoisseurship, where beans are sourced from farms instead of countries, roasting is about bringing out rather than incinerating the unique characteristics of each bean, and the flavor is clean and hard and pure.

Today, companies like Cometeer have stolen the spotlight. Former computer scientist Matt Roberts co-founded Cometeer in 2015 along with Doug Hoon and Karl Winkler, who each possess extensive backgrounds in engineering and product development. The brand went on to raise an initial $50 million and today, backed by a strong direct-to-consumer and subscription strategy, the brand is reported to be on track for high eight figures in annual revenue. The brand sells high quality, specialty coffees available in frozen pods. The genius of the company is its built-in loyalty: Cometeer is a monthly subscription product. But thanks to Web3 technologies, Starbucks’ notable loyalty strategy can improve in ways unforeseen just a few years ago.

Web3 and Loyalty

It’s no surprise that heritage companies like Nike and Starbucks are taking the leap into Web3. For now, Web3 conversations are concentrated on Web2 platforms. Much like Web2 platforms propel Web3 technologies (ConstitutionDAO / Twitter / Discord, anyone?), some analysts believe that Starbucks is the perfect candidate for a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) to govern its robust loyalty program. The foundation already exists. In the last year, Starbucks’ 90-day active member count grew 28% totaling 24.8 million users. Additionally, Starbucks is currently ranked third in mobile order ahead. And spectacularly, Starbucks mobile users have prepaid balances that account for just over $1.4 billion in funds that amount to loans to Starbucks.

Consumers love Starbucks so much that they’re willing to make a deposit to redeem coffee at an unknown future date and time. Starbucks is essentially gaining access to an interest-free line of credit, one that equates to roughly 4% of the company’s total liabilities. [2]

Starbucks will be one of the first major retailers to tokenize its loyalty program. In a published thread on Web3, consumer investor Magdalena Kala explains as much:

Imagine earning Starbucks tokens as an early customer in Seattle and seeing their value appreciate over time as the brand expands nationally and internationally Or imagine getting actual equity allocation pre-IPO due to high token ownership. Those are all customer benefits, so why should brands care about tokenization? More governance, more ownership, and more value appreciation all shift the customer mindset from a regular rewarded customer to aligned shareholder, governor, and creator.

In a tokenized loyalty program, getting rewarded through company upside and having meaningful say in product direction is preferred over receiving free products or discounts. This encourages a more impactful customer behavior. [Original Thread]

What Kala is summarizing is the shift from traditional loyalty programs to ones that provide a “shareholder mentality enabled by tokenization.” We are likely to see this from a brand like Starbucks before a younger, more agile brand. Starbucks has an enormous, built-in community. There are few major retailers that could achieve what Starbucks can with its existing infrastructure. A loyalty DAO would mean new product ideas, governance over potential marketing tactics, and rewards based not only in short-term gain but long-term upside. The Starbucks loyalty program, with the help of the mobile app that totals 28.4 million quarterly users, could precede a fundamental shift in how Starbucks uses one of its most valuable assets. If Starbucks does tokenize its loyalty program, corporate governance would be tiered: traditional C-suite, stock-based premium shareholders, and the loyalty DAO.

The benefits

This week, a DAO attempted to raise $20 million to acquire one of the last remaining copies of the Constitution. The collection of internet friends, crypto enthusiasts, and history buffs surpassed $43 million in collected funds.

Like many viral crowdfunding campaigns over the previous decade, the trigger for oversubscription was a combination of a desirable product and the enthusiasm for participation. In the case of the ConstitutionDAO, the eagerness can also be attributable to fractional ownership of something monumental and the ability to govern its existence. Magdalena Kala had additional thoughts on this topic. While great in theory, Kala sees obstacles in the way for companies as large as Starbucks:

It’s a huge mindset shift and hard to do for companies with large teams, set cultures, or a vested interest in the status quo. Plus, execution is hard given our current regulatory environment which makes this particularly hard for publicly traded companies. But we may see some more adventurous young private DTC brands experiment. Even likelier, a new crop of brands will incorporate tokenization from day one.

CPG is an interesting use case but in my opinion, luxury brand use cases are even more interesting, esp when comes to “democratized exclusivity. That is the use of tokens to gate exclusive releases etc.

She is correct to be skeptical. There are three major barriers: technical execution, storytelling and onboarding, and regulatory limits. Smart contract developers are in short supply, a potential hindrance to technical execution. And then there is messaging. Will the average coffee consumer care about governance, involvement in brand guidance, or the added benefits that are associated with either. Kala adds:

We need tokenization-in-the-box startups (or at least great agencies specializing in this) to enable this product for interested founders.

Starbucks may be known as a second-wave coffee retailer but over its considerable time influencing America’s collective passion for coffee, Starbucks became one of the most impressive financial services companies. Few are better prepared for the leap from Web2 to Web3. On October comments to analysts, CEO Kevin Johnson agreed:

Through blockchain or other innovative technologies, we are exploring how to tokenize Stars and create the ability for other merchants to connect their rewards program to Starbucks Rewards. This will enable customers to exchange value across brands, engage in more personalized experiences, enhance digital services and exchange other loyalty points for Stars at Starbucks.

Johnson is speaking in the theoretical here. The idea of using Web3 to build the next phase of community will be one of the most storied developments for traditional retailers and Web2 companies alike. Starbucks has the DNA for this type of shift: the company is built atop of a passionate and loyal community. Now, imagine if they had the opportunity to govern, develop, or contribute in ways that only Web3 can facilitate.

Before, loyalty was paid in discounts. In the future, it may be paid with appreciation.

By Web Smith | Editor: Hilary Milnes | Art: Christina Williams and Alex Remy

Memo: CryptoKicks

The popularization of crypto wallets, NFTs, and marketplaces like OpenSea pried the door open to more interest in the metaverse. An NFT exists on the blockchain, uniquely representing a digital or real-life asset. It is common to see a social media user proudly showcasing their NFT as their preferred identity over their own likeness. Nike is betting that this will extend to how you want to represent online through your own apparel and accessories. Popularized over the pandemic, the convergence of the physical world and the digital world is being led by commerce as much as it is community. Nike has taken note:

Picture your digital twin rocking Nike sneakers and a tracksuit to a Microsoft Team meeting or Facebook’s — I mean, Meta’s — virtual rooms while you actually lounge on your sofa in pajamas and fuzzy socks. That’s the future Nike is imagining for itself. On Oct. 27, Nike filed over half a dozen trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), including those for its swoosh logo and slogan “Just Do It,” that reveal plans of making and selling virtual footwear and apparel. [1]

Two unrelated thoughts got me thinking about Nike’s potential future in Web3:

  • A potential DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) built around its digital community with a tokenization that allows community to experience the upside in Nike’s Web3 pursuits in ways that traditional stock may be slow to reflect.
  • That active digital presence, in the same vein as the CryptoPunks or Bored Ape Yacht Club communities. It would be led by Nike executives and sponsored athletes where interactions resemble Jack Dorsey’s use of Twitter to build its legitimacy.

According to Cathy Hackl, CEO of Futures Intelligence Group, more brands and assets will follow Nike’s lead:

I think that something like what Nike is doing sends a big message to the market that this is not speculation, this is really where we’re going. And eventually, you’re gonna have to hire these leaders that can have the vision and that can lead the company in an informed way.

Nike, which is on track to pull in $50 billion in sales this year, has filed seven trademark applications that show intent to create and sell virtual goods including “footwear, clothing, headwear, eyewear, bags, sports bags, backpacks, sports equipment, art, toys and accessories for use online and in online virtual worlds.” With its swoosh logo and “Just Do It” tagline also part of the trademarks, Nike’s getting ahead of its own brand being used and co-opted by third parties in the metaverse. But it’s also planning on participating directly: the company is also planning to hire virtual material designers. The timing couldn’t be better:

Nike is at the forefront of a retail trend that will become the norm for other capable brands. As 2PM reported in July:

Every brand should have a digital supply chain or a set of components that, when properly constructed, equip a retail business with an important class of end products: content, first-party data, digital products, and community.

There’s few better positioned brands than Nike. To pioneer the marketing of goods inside the metaverse requires a patience, investment, and social capital that few other brands possess. It has a vast network of signed-on celebrity athletes to help drive appeal. Nike’s customers are loyal and engaged enough that sporting Nike sneakers in virtual spaces is a no-brainer. In the process, a new form of community and more accessible – albeit digital – products may begin to address Nike’s issues with its SNKRS app. Nike’s Global Vice President of SNKRS recently commented to Complex magazine on this issue:

We are at risk of losing our most sneaker-obsessed consumer. High heat, hype is ‘killing the culture’ and consumers are migrating towards New Balance and smaller, independent brands.

Many of these customers are currently left out of some of Nike’s most coveted drops, or only dream of actually securing a rare pair of Nike sneakers for themselves. The metaverse can be a solve for that by creating more demand, driving more purchases and making an unattainable purchase attainable in a new way for more people. Nike is not just ensuring control over its digital brand as Web3 spaces proliferate; it’s also creating entirely new revenue and marketing streams.

The adoption of Web3 principles will be gradual, but Nike has begun to lay the foundation by building up its direct-to-consumer business and investing in its own apps, trademarks, and intellectual properties, while reducing its dependence on traditional retail channels. Web3 and DTC are natural partners and Nike will be of the first major retailers to iterate around Web3 principles. It’s not just a new revenue stream: it’s community and status.

Who you are in digital spaces will become as important as who you are in real life, in a similar way Instagram followers have become a status symbol. Nike’s caught on because the company seems to understand that who you are is influenced by what you wear.

There’s no avoiding NFTs at this point. Every retailer with brand equity will strive to build its digital footprint for Web3’s version of the internet. The metaverse is no longer a far-off, futuristic concept, and where Nike goes – others follow.

By Web Smith | Editor: Hilary Milnes | Art: Christina Williams