Issue No. 231: Commoditization is the enemy.

A last word: what does a DNVB mean anyway?

After issue number 230’s feature on Pixlee’s DNVB round up, I received no less than twenty-seven emails from readers seeking clarification on the list.

For one, I would have made a few additions and deletions to the list. But it’s also important that we narrow down the meaning of what the industry means by DNVB. In issue number 228, I highlight differing distribution strategies.

Under the startup umbrella, there are retailers and vertical brands. The difference between the two depends upon the company’s level of exposure. By all accounts, Andy Dunn is the godfather of the vertical commerce business and in May 2016, he wrote the penultimate piece on the online retail business.

Two paras stood out:

The digitally-native vertical brand is way more customer intimate than it’s competition. The data is better because every transaction and interaction is captured. You don’t have to combine data across businesses, because it’s all one business. You are not blind to your wholesale business, because you don’t have a big wholesale business. It’s one CRM. It’s one store, where everybody knows your name.

While born digitally, the DNVB need not end up digital-only. This means the brand can extend offline. Usually its offline incarnation is through its own experiential physical retail, or highly selective partnerships. In nearly all cases of partnerships, the brand controls its external distribution versus being controlled by it. Any offline retail is not about warehousing product, it’s about marketing the brand and delivering great one to one customer service. It may be pop-ups. It may be permanent locations. It may be installs at existing retailers.
There are numerous arguments for being a retailer, the first being a retailer’s hundreds or thousands of touch points. Many of the finest brands on earth fall under this category. But as I mentioned in 228, DNVB’s are data-driven with eCommerce as the core competency. These strategies cannot be more different; one strategist employs a data scientist and the other strategist employs of VP of Sales.

This is the opinion of Web Smith.


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Issue No. 211: Now fully shoppable is now fully shopable for readers of GQ, Vogue.

With increased competition from new digital publications over the last decade, alongside an industrywide plunge in advertising spending, it is little surprise that Condé Nast is intent on cultivating new revenue streams. In recent years it has widened its focus, from magazine publishing to more varied media initiatives, with minority stakes in several fashion e-commerce start-ups, including Vestiaire Collective, Rent the Runway and Farfetch. – New York Times 

Graphic of the Week: Online Advertising


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Issue No. 206: You best not miss

Generation Z, in size and power, is not to be underestimated. Buying power: $44B annually, $200B annually when their uncanny ability to influence parents is considered.
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Issue No 129: Technological (r)evolutions, all at once.

Third Transportation Revolution: Counterpoint

Assuming that you read today’s fourth article. Here is a great clarifier and counterpoint. If not, just ignore this!

via Ben Thompson, (Subscribe, trust me):

Zimmer’s piece had the sheen of futurism — autonomous vehicle fleets, the end of private car ownership, the changing nature of cities — but honestly it’s material that has been covered pretty thoroughly over the last few years. What was interesting was the complete absence of any data points that suggested Lyft would create the future Zimmer described. So what was the point of writing it?

In fact, I suspect the New York Times already told us last month.

Lyft, the second-biggest ride-hailing company in the United States behind Uber…has found that its options are limited. The company, which is based in San Francisco, has in recent months held talks or made approaches to sell itself to companies including General Motors, Apple, Google, Amazon, Uber and Didi Chuxing, according to a dozen people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. One person said it was Lyft who was approached by interested parties…

Lyft failed to find a buyer partly because of cost, the people said. Lyft was valued at $5.5 billion after an investment round by G.M. and others in January, making it one of the more pre-eminent unicorn companies in Silicon Valley. Any sale would most likely have to fetch a premium from Lyft’s last valuation to be desirable to the company and its investors.

In this context Zimmer’s piece makes perfect sense: one of the primary conclusions in my piece Google, Uber, and the Evolution of Transportation-as-a-Service is that winning the future of transportation entails far more than simply building a self-driving car, and that Uber’s lead both in terms of its technology and customer mindshare is very significant. To that end, Lyft does make sense as an acquisition target for any company wishing to be more than a commodity supplier: they have useful technology and some degree of mindshare. The problem, though, is that Lyft itself is a doomed business; Uber can and will spend them into the ground, which makes that valuation tough for a potential acquirer to swallow unless Lyft is seen as the missing piece in winning the future. So, Zimmer is selling that future.

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Issue No. 65: The Ultimate Warrior

Last Word: A Metaphor For Cleveland


LeBron James steps off of the team plane wearing another statement, he’s “The Ultimate Warrior.” Just a week ago, it was a shirt that read “The Undertaker.” But you have to peel back a few layers to understand why – beyond curses and sports – this win was so important for the city of Cleveland and, frankly, the entire state of Ohio. You may not have heard of HOMAGE, the company who licensed the image and printed that shirt – one of millions that they’ll sell in 2016. If they do have investors, they are silent. They don’t have a Mattermark presence. And rarely do you see their CEO, Ryan Vesler. The product, in essence, does all of the public relations.

Just a few miles away, there is even larger eCommerce brand. It’s digitally vertical and it’s native to the web. It’s one of those DNVB’s that Andy Dunn describes, though it isn’t linked in his encyclopedia. They are growing faster than the majority of private eCommerce companies and yet, you’ve probably never heard of them. Rogue is building a $35M office structure for its 300+ employees and the eCommerce brand has never once been featured in TechCrunch or Recode or VentureBeat. If they do have investors, they are silent. You’ll rarely, if ever, hear from the company’s top two employees.

For sizable cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus this is the status quo; Cavs management, their season, and their story arc are all business as usual. Be underestimated until the very end. Even the major venture capital funds like Ohio’s Drive Capital (who manages $.5B) are inconspicuous compared to their coastal counterparts.

So, What Happened When Venture Capitalists Took Over The Warriors:

When I asked him about the previous night’s game, [Warriors Owner – Joe Jacob] could hardly contain himself. He boasted that the Warriors are playing in a far more sophisticated fashion than the rest of the league. “We’ve crushed them on the basketball court, and we’re going to for years because of the way we’ve built this team,” he said. But what really set the franchise apart, he said, was the way it operated as a business. “We’re light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things,” he said. “We’re going to be a handful for the rest of the N.B.A. to deal with for a long time.”

The ultimate lessons that I’ve learned over the years: is that (1) humility is far more effective than hubris. And (2) work for your team, not for the credit. The legacy that the Cavaliers’ 2015-2016 season will leave for Cleveland and its state? Ohio isn’t just good enough to compete, it’s an able competitor. Things are done differently, but things do get done. Ohio is an effective place to do business. Yes, there are fewer bets made. And those bets may involve less startup capital but places like Cleveland focus on finishing, not starting. It’s tougher to earn a win here but each win means more. Hype matters little compared to the outcome.

There are lessons that both regions can learn from one another. But the lesson that was taught last night? Put your team in a position to succeed and then let the work speak for itself. Hats off to the Warriors for an amazing season.

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Issue No. 43: A 2PM Reader Perk, Product Hunt Launches eCommerce, Walmart Slows, and Programmatic TV


Often, independent gear blogs send tons of traffic to Indiegogo and Kickstarter to stay ahead of the next site that wants to feature the latest and greatest. Product Hunt’s traffic flow is altogether different. Their profile shows that, although Product Hunt is somewhat seen as “media”, 11% of traffic is from tech’s elite platforms: LifeHacker, Medium, TNW, and TechCrunch. They are covering products that are featured (and soon to be sold) on Product Hunt. You can’t ask for a better pipeline of new users. Gear Patrol and Cool Material have both optimized for search traffic – receiving 45.72% and 21.4% of their traffic from Google, respectively. In comparison, most of Uncrate’s traffic is direct / organic which is a great accomplishment for a purely editorial platform. An analysis of today’s top gear and tech blogs will look entirely different than what you see above. The number one destination (top right) for the majority of them is, thanks to potentially lucrative deals that sites do with, a tool that allows ad-based sites to monetize their product features. Amazon gets considerable traffic from independent gear blogs like Uncrate and its little brothers: Gear Patrol and Cool Material. Whereas, Gizmodo benefits from a custom affiliate system through Nick Denton’s deals.Kinja.complatform.

Product Hunt has the privilege of being both the start and the destination, depending on the reader’s preference. That’s a lot of free traffic. And the purchase process is as good as it gets for impatient people. Most of your data is saved thanks to your Twitter login. Their Stripe checkout is seamless. It pulls up your history of saved cards, allowing for one-click purchasing.

With an estimated 7M monthly visits with 11.01% referral traffic, Product Hunthas a unique opportunity to become the destination for native sales of the quirky tech-related products that they are known to feature. But with today’s eCommerce launch, the shift to featuring even more hard goods (versus software and Kickstarters) is inevitable.

Try it here:

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