High expectations for eBay to prove tech prowess, Amazon Launches New Twist on Product Reviews, Pickie Acquired By Digital Coupon Giant RetailMeNot, Snapdeal Buys Product Discovery Portal Doozton, Why Alibaba Is a Big Deal, Zalora launches fashion marketplace in 3 countries, Czech e-commerce giant says Google ‘concessions’ would worsen conditions on local market, Alibaba to Offer Mobile Phone Service in China From June and much more
If you look closely at the stories above then you will notice that ecommerce has become a global business. The global business that in my opinion is getting closer to a major moment (The Alibaba IPO). We are currently seeing IPO’s at an astonishing rate especially in ecommerce. I have been trying to not think about it, but does everything change when Alibaba becomes a public company? Think about the following – Alibaba was invested and bought at least 5 companies since January 2014. Earlier this week they also announced that from June they will become a mobile network in China (Amazon is an MVNO in the US) but as far as I know no other ecommerce business has gone down the MVNO (mobile virtual network operator). The similarities between Amazon and Alibaba are increasing.
Robin Lewis, whom I respect as a visionary in terms of retail, wrote an opinion piece on his own blog in which Amazon acquires Sears. Initially I thought this was a giant news story but after a few google searches I realised that Lewis was speculating on this acquisition. Why would Amazon spend billions on Sears? The only reason I can see is that Amazon will refactor the Sears retail shops into logistics centers. Bezos has had ample opportunity to invest into retailers such as Borders and more recently Barnes & Noble but I doubt if Amazon will spend the massive amounts of capital to purchase mountains of debt from a retailer which is under stress. Secondly, this is completely against the type of companies which Amazon buys (generally they are entrepreneurial, are small and have books or market leading capabilities in which Amazon has been unable to become market leader..).
Flipkart and Mynta to merge?, Google licenses Room 77 software, Alibaba will impact e-tailing in the US, Online Fashion: A Venture Scale Opportunity That Silicon Valley Does Not Understand, Amazon launches the Kindle FireTV & Amazon Dash, Homeshop18 to IPO , Amazon builds India business quietly, Fanatics announces Doug Mack as new CEO and much more
Last week was one of my favorite ecommerce weeks of the year. Amazon announced that they are to announce their results and Bezos’s typical shareholder letter contained a few nuggets. Let me say this, Amazon missed a huge marketing moment by not having Bezos unveil the new Kindle FireTV. If Amazon wants to play in the same ecosystems as Google, Alibaba and Apple then Bezos needs to be used more as a marketing angle. So where was Bezos, as seemingly not even Amazon staffers knew his location ( loved the New York times asking Bezos to call his office)? I suspect he was in Seattle ensuring that the AmazonDash launch goes without any hiccups, don’t tell me he was completing the ComiXology purchase, that was completed months ago by Jeff Blackburn (folks, trust me the Internet mergers and acquisitions space is one that is controlled by CEO’s, lawyers and secrecy).
Talking of mergers, in India the merger between Myntra and Flipkart is supposedly almost complete. India is clearly the current battle ground for ecommerce investors such as eBay, Amazon, Tiger Global, Naspers and Accel. The flipkart deal in my mind is another step in market consolidation in Indian ecommerce. Tiger Global and Accel got tired of doing investments in 2 companies that are battling eBay and Amazon. Rather invest into 1 powerhouse and move towards a point of market ownership. Flipkart, as much as their management will deny will buy businesses in verticals that they believe they are weak in.
Thoughts on ecommerce scaling from a VC, Flipkart to allow advertising ala Amazon, Amazon to add advertising into mobile search results, Souq raises $75M, a United eBay, Birchbox to open physical store, The death of flash sales and much more
Revenue generation for ecommerce businesses is currently a hot topic as business models are being re-looked as venture capital is flowing into ecommerce. Amazon and Flipkart announces new channels to make revenue from merchants (advertisements inside mobile search results and adding advertising from merchants on the website of the marketplace) in the same week cant be seen as a coincidence. Why is there this current topic making its way thorough the industry? Clearly this is a topic that needs a long post but to summarise, I believe that investors are looking at strategies to protect themselves against market forces such as the impending Alibaba IPO, global economic changes and most importantly more efficient usage of capital.
Clearly Amazon is a force that will not be ever redone but lessons from them are slowly being seen in the ecommerce market. Are we in a bubble? Marc Andreessen, Fred Wilson and other VC’s are not willing to say “yes we are” or “no we are not”. Simple question is ridiculous valuations of ecommerce businesses such as Zalando, Fab.com and others not a sign that the market is in a critical phase?
Suchurita Mulpuru from Forrester wrote a great post on the need for a United eBay (one that contains PayPal) and I must say I agree. eBay has gone thorough one of the most interesting business re-organisations seen in the Internet space but the ecommerce industry needs a company that can compete against Amazon in the US market. PayPal outside the US in developing markets like Russia and Brazil ensure that customers can purchase products cross border. John Donahoe and his management needs to be commended for getting Skype off the books of eBay. This is a developing story and one which I think will be getting quite a bit of coverage in the month of April.
Aramex streamlines Middle East deliveries with launch of My Address, Zulily to spend heavily to fill mid-level manager gap, sparked by insane growth rate, Alibaba resorts to mobile app platform to keep afloat, eBay M&A History and Trends, Central European ecommerce to grow to €93.3bn, Amazon raises the cost of Prime by $20, A pivotal moment in Chinese Internet history as Tencent-JD Tie-Up Takes Aim at Alibaba and much more
The last 2 weeks have been full of news and in most cases the news will have industry impact for a considerable amount of time. Amazon increasing the price of Prime is not unexpected as I believe Amazon has had no choice but to increase the price of the worlds best loyalty programme. The reality is that there is no other service for users to go to but in most cases the value exceeds the costs of Prime.
The biggest news without a doubt over the last 2 weeks is the investment of Tencent into JD.com. I see it as a defensive move on the part of Tencent prior to Alibaba going public. Alibaba is rumoured to be raising $15B and then will be in a position to invest aggressively into local and international businesses. If Tencent did not invest into JD.com then they were in a position to get seriously beaten in commerce in China and in Asia.
eBay invests into Snapdeal, Lazada’s big bet on Southeast Asia, How online shopping is helping Nigeria fix its Internet reputation, Tencent to invest in JD.com?, Copycat Business Model Generates Genuine Global Success for Start-Up Incubator, Google ups the importance of commerce, Rakuten has big plans for Europe and much more.
There are 2 stories that has dominated the ecommerce landscape in the last week and they both have eBay in them. eBay lead a massive round of funding for Snapdeal and pretty much told the world that they will be acquiring Snapdeal in the coming months / years and Carl Icahn has been pressing the eBay board for a split with Paypal. The Icahn story has become something akin to a mud wrestling battle between the 2 parties and I think it is pretty poor form for this to be playing out in the public domain. Sure, as an investor in a public company it is important to hold the management and directors accountable for their actions but this mudslinging is not doing any party any favors.
The talent exodus continues at fab.com. I wonder how many of the staff in hindsight would have taken employment from fab.com if they knew the rocky road that they would be on down the line? It is interesting to note that the only senior management staff member that is around is the CEO Jason Goldberg.