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. 239: The United States of Amazon

A Last Word: The United States of Amazon


Acquisitions continue to accelerate across the retail landscape. It’s clear that whether the acquisition is made by Amazon or by a competitor, the business decision is driven by a new competitive landscape that is heavily-influenced by the Seattle behemoth.

Amazon isn’t just thriving along a new frontier, it has become the frontier and with so many “theaters of war” that it would take a 17 page white paper to explain each strategy. The closest comparison has far exceeded the Microsoft example. It’s now closer to Standard Oilwhose monopoly was broken up over 100 years ago. In a digital era that is still relatively unregulated, it will be harder for the federal government to stymie Bezos progress. And most consumers would protest, as Amazon has elevated lower costs and ease of purchase as retail necessities.

In issue no. 239, consider how each of the areas highlighted have been or will be affected by Amazon, Inc. The company is a power player in: warehousing, aviation, publishing, eCommerce, film, shoes, grocery, cloud storage, logistics, fashion, manufacturing, and now advertising.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 218: Back on 🎯


Graphic of the week


An interesting look into big box tech innovation thanks to data collected by CB Insights. In one of my many conversations with LeanLuxe’s do-it-all capitan M. Paul Munford, I opined that while focusing on brands is most fun – the platforms that aid their survival are equally important to cover. These sudden shifts in distribution can affect brands in more ways than one. Ask Kevin Plank how he feels about Sports Authority, these days.

Target’s recent attraction to DNVB’s like Harry’s, Bevel, and now Casper has become an industry-wide trend. These marquee, web-first brands are flocking to retailers like Target but how much longer can Tar-jay fend off up-market threats from Wal-Mart? Don’t be surprised to see these modern luxury brands veer that way in the coming quarters.

Read: Is Target back on target? 

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 217A: The Department Store of the Future?

For Spring, long-term success may hinge on how well it puts the right selection of clothing in front of the right shopper — bringing the moments of discovery of shopping in the physical world to an online storefront. Many e-commerce players have tried and failed to deliver a comparable experience.

Graphic of the week


See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 205: That’s one way to get clicks.


That’s a lot of selling up there. And apparently, it works.

Goop’s Elise Loehnen would be a very interesting coffee meeting. Prior to serving as the VP of marketing & creative services for Shopzilla, she was editor at the following publications: Lucky Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, and Seek. She has been the Head of Content at Goop for three years. She seems to have made  quite the profitable jump from pure journalism to lifestyle content (albeit with a strict editorial policy).

The most well-positioned sellers (large or niche) are the ones where its consumers are focused and eager to buy. The more unapologetically focused the brand is on its demographic, the more effective the pitch. Take it from Los Angeles’ Eckhaus Latta, who’s never seen more attention than they have today (very NSFW).

As a media group, Goop isn’t far behind Eckhaus on the unapologetic appeal curve. And it seems to be working wonders for its audience.

So here are the fundamentals of the Goop operation:

  • The editorial site is hosted on WordPress
  • The eCommerce operation is cloud-based (Shopify)
  • Ads are optimized by Dynamic Yield.

The group achieves 1.2M monthly uniques and does a rumored $4M per year in higher margin eCommerce and another $2M in lower margin affiliate sales. In short, the site is built to sustain on a niche following:

When you’re a Goop-ert (what Goop newsletter devotees call themselves, I would think), your days are likely filled with a packed schedule of facial and vaginal steaming, several hours of vegetable chopping and zoodling, followed by an evening of sipping alkaline water out of a wine glass while cradling a jade egg in your perineum. It’s an exhausting life, but a full one, and yet still—something’s off. According to Goop, that something isn’t caused by the crushing sameness of everyday wealth; it’s actually due to to a vitamin deficiency.

Joanna Rothkopf, Managing Editor of Jezebel
Paltrow and her team seem to be getting closer to making the Goop product a cashflow positive community. They are breaking the rules of commerce and journalism and making new ones in real time. The Goop-ert’s aren’t mad about it.

See more of the issue here.