Member Brief No. 6: Tribal Secrets / Q1

Sign In

The Member Briefing is committed to candidly and objectively discussing the work. That being said, we are kicking off the sixth member briefing with a few things that you’ll rarely hear in public. Here is a Q1 recap of movements made in the publisher / commerce space. Namely, Barstool Sports is doing really smart things around content and commerce. And The Ringer is making rookie mistakes.

Read more by signing in. Not a member yet? Learn more here.

Issue No. 259: Walmart’s Next Acquisition

SocialPost_7466858_instagram

Over the weekend, 2PM released the first executive member brief. It covered quite a bit of ground in an in-depth report on Walmart v Amazon eCommerce called Walmart Ventures.


Here is a small excerpt:

The competition between Walmart and Amazon has never been stiffer. Consumerism has always been about the heart, until Amazon made it about efficiency and logic. But for items as intimate as what you wear and what you sleep on, is logic enough?

Walmart is betting on the heart again by focusing on brand affinity, representation, and reinvigorating consumer faith. By using eCommerce as the tip of the spear, their brick and mortar presence will innovate along with it.


It’s no secret that I tend to believe in Marc Lore’s vision for a modern Walmart. In my recent report, I focused on Walmart’s brand-equity growth by means of DNVB acquisition (Modcloth, Moosejaw, Bonobos, etc). And 2PM Executive Member Taylor Holiday called me on it:

Solid stuff as always Web. The question I have that this post ignores a little is related to logistics power. You touch briefly on the convenience element that Amazon focuses on and I wonder how Walmart will seek to combat this? The thing I believe would be super super interesting would be Walmart could combine the DNVB style slick brand launch with convenience of a logistics super power. Imagine Allswell style brand with Same Day Delivery. Now that would be interesting.

Taylor Holiday, Managing Partner of Common Thread

In my report, I made two tables available: (1) Walmart’s existing acquisitions and (2) Walmart’s target acquisitions. To Taylor’s point, in discussing Walmart’s appetite for acquiring sexy DNVB’s (or building them from scratch), it’s easy to overlook that they’ve also acquired Parcel (2017). Walmart is working on building that logistics super power. And if they can’t finish the job, another $1B+ acquisition is on the way.

Walmart on Parcel’s acquisition: 

New York City is the top market for both Jet and Walmart.com, and because of the density of the area – along with the proximity of our fulfillment centers – it’s the perfect place for high-impact innovation. Born and bred in New York City, Parcel has developed unique expertise delivering to customers in a distinctly challenging and essential market. This acquisition allows us to continue testing ways to offer fast delivery while lowering our operating costs. We plan to leverage Parcel for last-mile delivery to customers in New York City – including same-day delivery – for both general merchandise as well as fresh and frozen groceries from Walmart and Jet.

As further proof that logistics is on the minds of Walmart executives, look no further than last night’s Oscar’s campaign.

The star of each 60-second spot is the same as for Walmart’s current ad campaign – the retailer’s signature blue shipping box – a nod to corporate priorities in the battle to catch Amazon in e-commerce. 

Jack Neff, AdAge

And if I had to project Walmart’s war room strategy, a Postmates acquisition comes to mind. Nationally, it’s one of the most trusted of the last mile platforms and it’s proven that it can operate in many of America’s largest markets. Couple this with the company’s recent emphasis on grocery delivery and you’re looking at quite a bit of shared virtue. Walmart’s grocery business is of its highest priorities.

Assuming that Parcel’s acquisition was a test, the Postmates acquisition could be the beneficiary of Walmart’s single-market experiment. After DoorDash’s recent $535M raise, this is an acquisition that makes sense for the gritty and resourceful Basti Lehmann and company. And it’s a purchase that is in Walmart’s price range. Paging Marc Lore.

Read more of the issue here

 

Member Brief No. 1: Linear Commerce

facebook-ad

This brief is an example of 2PM’s member-only content package. Learn more at the bottom.

Linear commerce. If you’ve built a great product, you’ll need an audience. And if you’ve built a captive audience, you’ll need a great product. Here’s a timely tweet by Founder Collective’s Director of Content. Notably, the three biggest areas of focus for eCommerce executives revolved around influence.

1452052107167

Businesses in the digital economy want to exist along a line, not a point. A point marks a position in space. In pure geometric terms, a point is a pair of x, y, or z coordinates. It has no mass at all. If two lines intersect, they form this point.  Outside of that point, little else is defined. For the sake of this metaphor, a point of intersection lacks commerce significance because the two lines (x = product and y = media) are missing the breadth (or in another measure: critical mass). In geometry, a point can be insignificant and most often it is.

A plane is a flat surface extending in height and width. This plane has breadth.  So when two planes intersect, the intersecting planes form a line. And a line is an infinite series of points (i.e. opportunity). In this metaphor, a line represents the content x commerce goal of many businesses in today’s digital economy. Even companies like Airbnb are operating along two planes. The goal? A captive audience that is in tune with your product offering.

This is how I see content x commerce. Building a breadth of influence in supply and demand may be a requisite for success in this new digital economy. There are examples of this all around us. But there are few that understand this space better than the Jenner / Kardashian family.

Most young companies operate at a point, lacking breadth in the planes of content influence or product commerce. But some businesses covered in today’s member brief have achieved that proverbial line. And when Kylie Jenner tweeted this (whether she knew it or not), she was essentially stating that a proponent of her influence plane (i.e. Snapchat) was losing its breadth.

Reducing Kylie Jenner to a young reality star is short-sighted here.  She’s the 100% owner of two very sizable Shopify Plus-enabled eCommerce brands, including a top 50 store in the beauty CPG space. Kylie Cosmetics may be the crown jewel of Brand Value Accelerator’s portfolio of eCommerce clients. And rightly so, the brand was rumored to earn upwards of $400,000,000 in 2017.

kylie-twitter

It’s that proverbial line that represents an optimization of publishing influence and product offering. In many ways, the aforementioned Jenner embodies that line. It’s this optimization that many product-based brands and publishing-based outlets attempt to accomplish. While it’s easier to discount the collective from which she belongs, that family understands that content and commerce balance like few others.

At press time, Kylie Jenner is the eighth most followed person on Instagram and of equal or greater import on Snapchat. For more conventional commerce businesses, those two channels have proven to be to two of the most powerful sales drivers. Here’s a look at how powerful of a content generator she is:

Via TechCrunch:

Kylie Jenner is just about as influential a celebrity as they come; many of the product advances of social media companies like Snap have been borne on the backs on influencers like Jenner, who have hundreds of millions of followers across these platforms that she uses to push her makeup products and lifestyle onto culture.

Via Bloomberg:

Shares of the Snapchat parent company sank 6.1 percent on Thursday, wiping out $1.3 billion in market value, on the heels of a tweet on Wednesday from Kylie Jenner, who said she doesn’t open the app anymore. Whether it’s the demands of her newfound motherhood, or the recent app redesign, the testament drew similar replies from her 24.5 million followers. 

Via CNBC:

Sanchez noted that Jenner’s comment speaks to the demographics of its users, which could put the stock in hot water. “[But] of course the group that uses it, which is the 18- to 24-year-olds, they’re going to hate that. They have the attention span of a gnat,” she added. “I think it’s going to be challenging because they’re going to have to move into an older group and I’m not sure that’s going to work. I think that’s a risk.

As these member briefs continue, we’ll discuss more instances of these concepts with practical examples.


Rapha is at center stage again. This time, as a great example of  why brands build belonging. The cycling brand understands that when you buy a brand, you’re choosing a club. The paradox in merchandising success is that depth of audience matters more than size of audience. Brands / publishers have traffic, very few have captive audiences.

The smartest brands are focusing on customer retention, lifetime value, and consumer happiness by investing in community. And it’s this type of belonging that keeps you coming back.

Fast Company: Why would a for-profit brand put so much work into building belonging? The simple answer is because of the deep brand loyalty it engenders and the commercial opportunities it creates.

The longer answer is: The commercial opportunity exists because we need belonging at a fundamental level . We have a crisis of belonging–and great brands will step into the vacuum created by social isolation.


Airbnb is moving upstream and into more traditional hotel servicing, this includes traditional loyalty programs. This makes sense as the brand is extremely valuable and traditional real estate will help them to sidestep regulatory worries in certain markets (i.e. New York City).

The Verge: As part of the overall push to higher-end accommodations, Airbnb plans to introduce a luxury tier that is more expensive than Airbnb Plus, called Airbnb Beyond. The company plans to launch the tier in the spring, using the expertise and resources gained by its acquisition of Luxury Retreats last year. Airbnb Beyond will include “custom-designed trips of a lifetime” at the “world’s finest homes, custom experiences, and world-class hospitality.

Let’s give credit to CB Insights for this November 2017 gem:

Airbnb Select homes are inspected by the company and cosmetically improved. Both efforts come as part of a broader push to improve the company’s accommodation inventory.

As of now, it is unclear whether Airbnb Lux will be integrated into the core Airbnb platform or continue to live in the Luxury Retreats property. Both options come with risks, and the former could possibly alienate Luxury Retreats’ core user group, muddy its branding, and (if non-exclusive listings were included) forfeit the platform’s exclusivity.


eCommerce: Porsche moves towards an online retailing future. Given that their first electric design debuts in 2019, this could be another signal that the high-end market is adjusting to Tesla’s online-first style of business by adapting to it themselves.


Retail real estate: Amazon is in the brick and mortar business for several reasons and here are the most important ones:

  • serendipity
  • honing retail technology as IP to license to other retailers (AWS 2.0?)
  • building loyalty
  • driving Amazon Prime sign-ups

Recode: Amazon spent four years crafting a system — dubbed Just Walk Out Technology — that allows shoppers to scan their phone upon entrance, grab desired items off a shelf, and automatically get charged the right amount after exiting without the need to stop at a cash register to pay. (Here’s a photo tour of the first Amazon Go store.)


Lean Luxe is the industry-leading modern luxury publication. The indie media company is also 2PM’s go-to for perspectives on modern luxury companies (MLC) and how they appeal directly to the consumer. This short interview was done by Hero, a company at the intersection of eCommerce and physical retail.

When you listen to this short interview on innovative MLC brands consider that incumbent brands are taking pages from their playbooks to stay relevant. While Jeff Bezos is no stranger to the credit of retail innovation, consider Amazon’s brick and mortar strategy through the lens of what these young, innovative brands are doing to reshape efficient commerce. Does this tried and true MLC physical retail strategy sound familiar:

The store is going to be used less as a major point of sale and more as a showroom and physical place for these online brands to present their brand in a physical way. 

M. Paul Munford, Editor-in-Chief of Lean Luxe 


Glossier is the type of direct to consumer brand that keeps incumbent CEO’s up at night. It is also a great example of the linear commerce.

TechCrunch: The New York-based company — which evolved out of the popular blog Into the Gloss by founder and CEO Emily Weiss — began selling its own make-up at the outset but has more recently added body and fragrance products, too, bringing its total number of offerings to 22. One of the company’s most popular products is a mascara-like eyebrow filler called Boy Brow. Among its newest: a solid version of its fragrance, You.

Let’s look at Glossier’s two sites in January 2018: a) influence plane and b) commerce plane

A) IntoTheGloss.com

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 10.38.14 PM

B) Glossier.com

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 10.38.40 PM

Digiday:For example, Glossier has noticed a frequent customer behavioral pattern: An Into the Gloss reader will open an article on mobile, click a link to shop a Glossier product mentioned in the article, add it to the mobile cart and then move to desktop to finish the transaction. It’s now using its new database to follow that pattern, and link the user across sites on both mobile and desktop.

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.

By. Web Smith, 2PM

These briefs will be part of a members-only email, curated and delivered each Friday. You can subscribe to executive membership here.