Issue No. 261: Two Years Later | Part One


On March 22, 2PM begins its third year. The purpose of the 2PM letter remains the same. It’s a weekly (or 2x/week) rundown of news, intel, and commentary that shapes our industry. It’s humanly-curated (with extreme care) and each week, the balance of the articles is influenced by the most read links from past weeks. 

This project began as an initial letter sent to 30 industry friends with a simple philosophy: by studying adjacent industries, you can improve your own. As such, the letter has evolved into a trusted source of information and commentary for many of the brightest in media, commerce, data, and branding.

So with that, I’ve highlighted impactful storylines from the last two years. Part one of two will feature the first of five events, shifts, and developments that will influence your industry’s next three to five years.

10. Shopify solidifies its standing as a go-to for top 100 eCommerce.

Platform objectivity is really important here, there’s little evangelism here.Here are the most commonly seen options: custom cart, WooCommerce, Big Commerce, Magento, Salesforce (Demandware), or Shopify. I believe that established brands should build on the platforms that are best for them but the numbers are the numbers.

Based on some recent research, I’ve polled the most notable 110+ eCommerce brands and a resounding 40+% of them are hosted by Shopify. This has tremendous implications for the Shopify agency industry. Current leaders in that space: Bold Commerce, BVAccel, Pointer Creative, Wondersauce, Fuel Made, and Worn. I anticipate that one of them to be acquired by a top 25 brand in the next two years.

9. Affirm redefines consumer credit.

Early in 2015, I encountered Affirm for the first time (albeit late). I was constructing a luxury eCommerce platform for men and I was hunting down ways to bolster the site’s conversion rate. Affirm was one of the first company’s that I reached out to because the premise of the service was simple:

  • offer financing at eCommerce checkout
  • remove friction (long applications, credit checks)
  • keep interest rates low and honest

This process was perfect for the online retailing of higher end items ranging from $500-$10,000. Hodinkee executed this concept to perfection. And now, they are pushing “honest financing” into physical retail.

People can sign up through the website or at checkout on some web stores for financing from Affirm that’s paid off in monthly installments. On Monday, the company said it’s making the micro-lending program available through Apple Pay, letting customers tap their iPhones to pay in brick-and-mortar stores.

This essentially makes Affirm a credit card provider without physical cards or credit scores. The San Francisco-based company pitches itself as superior to traditional credit cards from American Express Co. or Visa Inc. because it’s transparent about fees and charges no interest on purchases from more than 150 retailers.
Julia Verhage, Bloomberg Technology

8. Walmart pivots towards a startup culture.

When Walmart acquired, the legacy retailer acquired a new direction led by Marc Lore. Many in the industry remain skeptical of Lore’s ability to bolster Walmart’s position in a market that’s deeply influenced by Amazon, Alibaba, and digitally vertical native brands. But to his credit, Walmart’s market cap is rising. In fact, it saw an all-time high on January 28, 2018. I’ve applauded his innovations. These innovations include his streamlining Walmart’s omni-channel operations, acquiring popular online retailers, and incubating native brands like their new Allswell.

From Member Brief No. 2:

The Allswell brand is strong, it’s independent, it’s inviting. It looks like a Silicon Valley-backed DNVB for bedding and mattresses. But most importantly, it appeals directly to upper-middle class women. If you notice, the “King” bed is now known as the “Supreme Queen”, a nice touch in an era (rightfully) dominated by the rhetoric of feminism and gender equity. Allswell is a play to capitalize on this cultural momentum.

7. Glossier forges a new path for content and commerce.

One of the core tenets of 2PM’s commerce beliefs is that to succeed, you must control both key levers: content and commerce. I’ve called this linear commerce. There isn’t an operation that is executing as well as Emily Weiss’ Glossier.

From the brand’s inception – which spawned from the hyper-popularity of Weiss’s beauty blog Into the Gloss – the beauty company has gone against the proverbial grain of the beauty business. Marketing a sense of authenticity and belonging rather than the beauty industry’s traditional fictitious glamour story, the female-dominant company (Dear Tech People reports 79% of Glossier’s staff is female) captured the love and attention of the coveted Millennials.

Janna Mandel, Forbes

From Member Brief No. 1

Glossier / Into The Gloss has achieved that proverbial line, the result of two planes intersecting to form infinite opportunity. Glossier is operating similarly to Kylie Cosmetics, but in a way that could be more sustainable for the well-funded D2C brand.

The majority of Glossier’s influence referral comes from their blog while the majority of Kylie Cosmetic’s influence referral traffic comes from Jenner’s Instagram and Youtube accounts. While Jenner’s influence is currently stronger, Glossier owns their influence plane.

6. Subscription media becomes the new standard.

Just ten years ago, paywall was a dirty word. And then the New York Times’ innovative commerce department developed a strategy that readers are willing to play for quality. In 2018, with the exception of Axios, Outline, and Inverse, there aren’t many examples of notable media startups who haven’t pursued subscription revenue as their focus.

I’ve cited TheSkimm, Skift, and The Information as innovators in this space.

The newsletter reports a 30% open rate. Since its launch, TheSkimm has expanded to offer podcasts, an e-commerce business and a paid app featuring a calendar of upcoming news and televised events. TheSkimm will use the new influx of money to build more subscription services, perhaps with the help of Google Ventures and Google, and enrich its video and podcasting options, along with plans for data analysis.

Melinda Fuller, MediaPost

In issue No. 262, 2PM will count down the last five storylines. If you have any feedback on 6-10, email me:

Read more of the issue here.

Issue No. 252: 10 to Observe in Content and Commerce


She who controls supply and demand will rule the internet. Publishers are recognizing that they must become whole ecosystems to thrive and commerce is a key component (again).

The ‘content and commerce’ movement was supposedly dead when Ben Lerer (Thrillist) and Jason Ross (JackThreads) chose to part ways. With this failure (hint: it really wasn’t a failure), it emboldened many in publishing to proclaim that commerce didn’t work.

Across newsrooms, from coast to coast, many publishing executives ignored investing in eCommerce between 2014-2017. Affiliate marketing teams were prioritized over ad sales teams and as a result, well-written articles went from literary showcases to collages of products to purchase.  As ad sales continue to dwindle and affiliate sales remain on shaky ground, many of the healthiest digital publishers had a paradigm shift of sorts:

  • How do we gain independence from platforms like Facebook?
  • How do we hedge against falling ad sales and a weakening affiliate market?
  • How do we foster community within our readership?

For many non-subscription and subscription digitals alike, merchandising has been used to address each of these questions. By building community, publications become a destination. Digiday covered this phenomenon, “The story behind that New Yorker tote bag.”

The must-have signifier of urbane sophistication in 2017 wasn’t Yeezys or torn jeans. It was a tote bag that The New Yorker gives to new subscribers.

The bag itself isn’t new — it’s been a gift the glossy has given out since 2014 — but thanks to Donald Trump and an iconic design, the bag became a hit. The magazine’s marketing department has distributed over 500,000 of them to new subscribers and existing ones, who soon started asking for bags of their own.

Continue reading “Issue No. 252: 10 to Observe in Content and Commerce”

Issue No. 251: 10 thoughts for 2018


  • Brand: Nike will make small gains against Adidas by copying the German brand’s “creators” playbook (click above) but Adidas will remain the brand for rebels and the message will resonate better in 2018, as consumers shun the status quo.
  • eCommerce: Podcasts will continue to mature their eCommerce operations. There will be more examples of refined stores and high quality brand plays in merchandise.
  • Digital Media: Netflix is on to something and may scare the likes of AMC and Cinemark in 2018. Will Smith scored a big win with 11M week-one views. This is out of the 53 million Netflix subscribers. Expect the streaming service to redefine what Netflix means by building on the critical momentum of “Mudbound” and the viewership success of “Bright.”
  • eCommerce: Amazon will cut its affiliate spending by upwards of 40% in 2018. This will most likely affect independent media groups and some of BuzzFeed’s most recent efforts.
  • Digital Media: 2018 will be the year that Youtube influencers take ownership over their eCommerce presences and flock to white glove services that are fully vertical.
  • DNVB: Walmart will buy 1-2 more digitally vertical native brands in 2018. They will also test a smaller-box urban storefront, by a different name, for their higher end brands.
  • Brand: Brands with evergreen products will reduce Google SEM spend and shift to Amazon search products. Remember, Amazon is now a $1B+ advertising business.
  • eCommerce: Spurred by GGV Capital’s belief in China’s commerce sector, brands will begin spending considerable time working with China’s trove of mobile-first eCommerce platforms to grow through international channels. In 2008, it was SEM. In 2012, it was social. In 2016, it was the Soho pop-up. In 2018, it will be American exports in China.
  • eCommerce: Shopify will develop a ‘featured’ marketplace for its top Shopify and Shopify Plus performers and it will compete against the likes of Wish and others. Expect this to be launched in the form of a mobile app with one-click purchasing. Tobi, Harley, and crew will also launch their first of many private label brands to appear on this marketplace app.
  • Digital Media: 🗣2PML will become a leading commerce podcast in 2018. It will become the go-to 20 minute pod for polymaths with little time for market research, continued education, and Porter’s Five Forces analysis.

Follow @2PMLinks for this thread and other updates.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 244: A rare argument.

An argument for brick and mortar

Below are two examples of digital properties that’ve invested in brick and mortar success. As flagship stores and pop-ups have grown in popularity over the last several quarters, data is finally helping to explain the appeal of leaving the digital-only model behind.

Excerpt one: 


And it’s not just Amazon that’s noticing this development. Aerie‘s brick and mortar presences are having a profound effect on digital consumers, as well.

Excerpt two: 


Issue No. 230: The Top 25 DNVB’s of 2017



Click the above graphic for more data. In what will likely go down as a pivotal moment for Amazon’s voice commerce battle against hardware newcomers like Google, the devices were of the most incentivized.

In Electronics, historically the best-selling category on Prime Day, Amazon’s collective portfolio of Echo, Echo Dot, Kindle, and Fire tablet devices, accounted for 26% of all eligible deals and 44% of page one deals, according to L2 data.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 223: Content / Commerce 2.0

American Retail Failure

By: Hendrik Laubscher on Issue No. 212

The retail job losses have not become a political hot potato due to the lack of a retail version of UAW (United Auto Workers).  The large labour unions have ensured that mining and other manufacturing jobs have been getting more political attention.

In saying that – in all honesty there a few things at play with this situation:

  • There are way too many retail locations in the US – locations were seen as capital generation instead of capital expenditures. Best example of this for me is when Howard Schultz came back to lead Starbucks they closed under performing locations – I don’t know of any retailers who have done that.
  • Retailers have signed leases that were not properly forecasted. A 20 year lease is a significant investment that has little validation from sales etc.
  • As ecommerce has grown retailers have not invested properly. Target, Nordstrom are but a few that have been future proofing their businesses. I believe their headquarters being in less populated areas Seattle and Minneapolis has lead to them being more nimble than normal retailers.
  • Retailers have forgotten that they are a community asset and employ local breadwinners – they have not evolved with the de-urbanization of retail.
  • Your point on logistics staff being the new low income job champion is spot on and is driven by the location of warehouses of online retailers.
  • Retailers have also lost focus – an experience for customers does not mean having a branded coffee shop or pizza shop inside your location. This hit me while I traveled in the US in October 2016.
  • On demand services have added value that should have been driven by retailers. Instacart, Curbside, etc. are retail functions that were neglected.
  • The retail board of all major retailers have struggled to attract younger members. I hate playing the age card but the progressive retailers (Target, Nordstrom and lately Walmart) they have young blood.
  • Retailers have not adapted the roles that their staff plays. Nike and others have made sure that their staff are helpful, knowledgeable and approachable. This for me boils down to founder DNA and some retailers have struggled with stock price declines and thus have been forced via financial performance to make changes.
  • Off-price retailers are not online but provide customers with pricing that makes purchases and repeat purchases a possibility. Why are TJMaxx able to show good yearly performance? A smaller footprint, I believe.
It is a complicated story that needs data and graphs to communicate this sad tale. Amazon is not the only factor.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 222: 🗣Hi, SiriAlexaGoogle.

Say hello to the HomePod by AppleOf all of today’s WWDC advancements, this is the most interesting to me. Voice Commerce and audio advertising are both on the rise. As such, it should be interesting to see how Apple competes with Google’s “Home” (the superior ad business) and Amazon’s “Echo” (the superior commerce business). For a device like this, entertainment may not be enough to make it an essential home tool. Advantage, Amazon?

Graphic of the week


This about more than athletic shoes. In many ways, this race between the three largest American athletic brands will signify how all brands must evolve to compete in a rapidly changing market. If you missed out, read the latest by Yahoo’s Daniel Roberts with great quotes by 2PM reader and seasoned retail analyst, Matt Powell.