A blog on eCommerce, Social Commerce, Comparative Shopping Engines & Business

By Hendrik Laubscher

Search Results for: "jd.com"

Why I am changing my thesis on Chinese ecommerce

Over the last 18 months, I have been reading, researching and talking to ecommerce investors about China. Why? I am fascinated by the market as Chinese ecommerce is both unique and a look to the future.

China is unique

GDP growth

Economically China in my mind is bordering on a miracle. 6% growth consistently over 25 years which some years growing even more. I have realized that China has moved from being a factory based economy to a market that is reliant on consumption. The consumption has lead to the creation of businesses that are huge economically and only focused on creating wealth for their shareholders and the Chinese population. These businesses have to toe the line with the Chinese government.

If the GDP growth slows, Chinese consumption would have grown $2.3 Trillion by 2020.

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Why Farfetch and JD.com need one another

It is clear to me now that in hindsight the partnership between Farfetch and JD.com is beneficial to both parties for different reasons. As Farfetch is on the road to go public they will face increasing skepticism about their growth versus Yoox-Net-A-Porter.  JD.com is increasingly to position itself as the premium destination for luxury brands in China. The problem for JD.com is that Alibaba is growing faster than them and that Alibaba is using their New Retail concept to provide access to Chinese larger customers.

Farfetch, announced that JD.com invested $397 million in the business and that JD.com CEO Richard Liu would be joining their board. Farfetch has been making strategic moves to ensure that they can go public with many opportunities and experience in their board and business.  Farfetch will also leverage JD.com’s platform to create a Chinese path for customers to purchase fashion products.

By investing almost $400 million into Farfetch, JD.com gets a hedge against their own future. Battling Alibaba in China leads to investments into logistics and advertising to ensure that JD.com can grow against a giant marketplace.

JD.com & Farfetch

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JD.com IPO’s, Fab downsizes – eCommerce stories of the week

The last 2 weeks has been full of news, so much has happened globally that is takes a while to make sense of all of the news. In terms of the importance of news – I am going to highlight a few stories that has big implications for the next 12 months.

The second biggest B2C ecommerce business in China, JD.com has gone public in the US. This is not a small matter and the fact that they were able to raise $1.2 billion highlights to me that Alibaba is in position to raise a lot of money.  I definitely think that this IPO can be seen as a proxy for the mega IPO from Alibaba and it highlights the appetite that investors have for Chinese ecommerce companies.

Then the fab.com story took a step to the worse for their New York based staff. They were all told to “not report for work on Friday” and this just highlights to me that the business has fallen from grace completely. Jason Goldberg deleted his popular betashop blog and has said very little over this last round of downsizing. The irony for me is that fab.com has now become an online version of IKEA. The reality is that they grew too quickly, said way too much and have harmed an industry with their fall from grace. Is fab.com around in 2015?

The worst kept secret in Indian ecommerce has finally been announced. Flipkart has acquired Myntra in an all stock acquisition. This can be seen as the last stop before going public. The acquisition was driven by investors whom had interests in both companies and has nothing to do with consolidation. Quartz has a fantastic article written by Mahesh Murthy on this topic.

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Amazon Prime increases price, Tencent invests into JD.com – eCommerce stories of the week

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.

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decide.com – the language of ecommerce

Backed by science, not marketing.
Decide.com

Decide.com – make a note of that name. 12 months ago I found the Seattle startup after doing research on ecommerce recommendation engines (This was prior to Hunch being acquired by eBay, whom I thought was onto something). Recommendation services for ecommerce products are high on the agenda for ecommerce powerhouses whom I believe are looking to acquire these service providers or startups.  When you have the user’s attention and willing to pay then a recommendation could lead to an addition into the shopping cart. Upselling is a classic retail strategy yet in ecommerce it is not something many execute well. Lets all agree that Jeff Bezos was well before the time when Amazon rolled it out. The truth is that it needs to be refreshed.

Anyway, what is the one thing that all ecommerce users fear? Besides the courier losing the product, it is buyers regret. I am honest, I have had one occurrence of it and it hurts real bad. Suddenly a joyous event hurts right into your credit card. So, recommendations and additional references can ensure that users know that they are really getting the latest, highest rated and best price for a product they wish to acquire. Decide.com tick all three boxes and I believe that clever shoppers will realise that decide.com is a real hero in the purchasing process.

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How big is Amazon.com?

Seattle is home of the silent giant called Amazon.com. When I was in the US in October, I visited Seattle and tried to find the silent giant. The offices are not marked but it is seen on GPS maps, one would think that this company would be proud of their heritage. Amazon.com operates in a different manner..

Amazon.com is the creation of someone whom I would love to talk to. Jeff Bezos is in a class by himself and there are maybe 3 people in commerce that can be seen in same light as him. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart whom built a giant that is all across the globe.

In the developing ecommerce world there are 2 founders of companies whom I believe that can hold their own against Bezos. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba has built a business that will dominate a developing world economy. Is China no longer an option for foreign ecommerce investors? I tend to think so.

Secondly, in Latin America is a founder whom I have been privileged to meet in person. Romero Rodrigues is one of the founders of Buscape and one of the most thoughtful folks I have met in ecommerce. What makes these individuals different? Long term focus, they were all founders of the business and are now leading the businesses they created. The thing that makes them the leaders, is the ability to be 5 steps of the market. Skating to where the puck is going to be, comes to mind.

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Decide.com helping stop buyers regret

I have also decided to also mention some online products or startups that I think that are going places. For the record I am not an investor nor am I affiliated to any of these companies.

The first one I am going to mention is Decide.com.

Backed by science, not marketing.

Decide is all about leveraging data and technology, not marketing ploys, to help shoppers. We use our patent-pending machine learning and text mining algorithms on billions of price points across millions of products, blog posts, and articles on the web to enable shoppers to make the best buying decision possible.

As I love gadgets, I often find myself wondering if I am in a retail store (yes, I do go the bricks and mortar shops) if I am getting the best deal. With the emergence of mobile apps and mobi sites , the shopper can get the final piece of information to make a purchase decision. Decide takes this a step further and do price predictions to ensure that you buy the latest version and am not getting ripped off.

Don’t get burned on price.

Price predictions help you pull the trigger with confidence and save money. Our prediction algorithms utilize billions of observed price movements and over 40 distinct factors.

I think this startup is heading into a space which could be beneficial to entire eCommerce industry. Giving the user more ammunition that the price is right and that there is not a new model on the way soon is trust building factors, that cannot easily be done in the current online shopping experience. As soon as they add more categories (only cameras, LCD TV’s and  notebooks) then I think they could become an acquisition target.

The Bing and Shopping.com partnership

I have been watching the moves that have been happening in Comparison Shopping Engine industry over the last 9 months. Google Product Search is making a lot of people and businesses squirm.  In April Shopzilla was sold at a huge loss to private equity firm Symphony Technology Group LLC.

Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. says it is selling Shopzilla Inc., a comparison shopping site, for $165 million to private equity firm Symphony Technology Group LLC. That’s $360 million less than the $525 million Scripps paid for the site in 2005.

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The Fab.com refocus

Curated ecommerce is a hot topic. Call it a new wave of commerce businesses or just a new vertical that has gained a lot of momentum over the last 6 months. The Gilt Groupe started it after Vente-privee mastered flash sales.It is full priced online retail with a focus on apparel and white goods.

Just to be clear flash sales is not the same thing as curated commerce. Flash sales boils down to selling high value merchandise at deeply discounted  price. Flash sales is an industry that I keep an eye on as I believe it is a good measure of where apparel online retail is at.  Curated commerce is ecommerce with a editorial angle to it (beautiful images, content that is more related to the person buying the item) .

Flash sale businesses have steadily been pivoting to full price commerce as the flash sales businesses is in the decline in mature markets (Ventee-Privee and Markafoni being the exception to the general trend) . Flash sales also faced stern competition for attention and inbox space from daily deals (Groupon, LivingSocial). Ultimately companies who are succeeding in ecommerce are those who have built deep relationships with their customers based on being customer centric, logistics focused and ensuring that joy is created post transaction.

Enter the upstart

I have been following the journey of Fab.com pretty closely as I believe that they are part of a new wave of ecommerce businesses. Jason Goldberg is someone I deeply respect as he is transparent (his blog is a must read for any one in ecommerce) but they are like Amazon as they fret the little stuff. The business is unique and making lots of noise and have gone through a variety of pivots. Pivot has a serious misdirection in this case as Goldberg and co-founder Bradford Shellhammer have refocused their business 5 times. The 5th being the most ambitious I have seen from a startup (more on that later).

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Is fab.com really that fab?

Fab.com has been on my mind the last few weeks as I wanted to have an indepth look at the company after I wrote about the refocus in May 2013. I don’t know whether I got bitten by all the hype but the fab.com story is beginning to feel like never ending story. At the momment the fab’s story goes like this:

Raise funding – Unveil a new feature – do Press ->  lay-off staff  – do press on the future of the company and then restart the process.

Pre-face

Fab.com is a business that started as a gay social network. Went nowhere and then pivoted to a flash sales business. Many iterations later and $300 plus million raised fab.com is now in a critical phase of its lifecycle. Why? The fact that they have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from investors (like Andreessen Horowitz) and for all intensive purposes have not a lot to show for it. Thus it will make raising money in future more difficult. What happened to all the raised money?

Acquisitions

Fab.com has been in my own opinion way too aggressive regarding acquisitions. They have acquired competitors in Europe over concerns that a investment accelerator called Rocket Internet may hinder their growth in Europe.  The businesses they acquired:

January 2012 – FashionStake (US)
February 2012 – Casacanda (Germany)
June 2012 – Llustre (UK)
November 2012 – True Sparrow (India)
May 2013 – MassivKonzept  (Germany)

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Why Amazon.com is neither Friend or Foe..

Earlier today Brian Walker from Forrester Research wrote a very interesting summary post on a research document on Amazon.com, called Amazon.com: Friend or Foe? I have great respect for both Brian Walker and co-author Suchurita Mulpuru and would love to see the research piece. As much as I respect them both, Amazon.com is a complex Rubiks cube that is both secretive and dominant in how they are perceived. All the news that they want the world to see is either given to the press or released via press release.

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Amazon posts results, JD to IPO and leaked Twitter commerce screenshots – eCommerce stories of the week

One Kings Lane raises money (almost a billion dollar valuation), Gilt offers logistics to a competitor, PayPal pitching Apple on Payments, Walmart trying to gain ground from Amazon, Amazon posts results, JD.com to IPO, leaked Twitter commerce screenshots and much more.

Phew – what a week of ecommerce news with lots of permutations for the rest of the year. The big story was clearly Amazon’s Q4 report and it was a bumper festive season for the US’s biggest ecommerce business. “Net sales increased 20% to $25.59 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with $21.27 billion in fourth quarter 2012. Excluding the $258 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales grew 22% compared with fourth quarter 2012.” The problem is that the company only made $238 million in profit or 51 cents per share on revenue of $25.59 billion. Amazon continues to make razor thin profits. Interestingly, the company mentioned that they will be increasing the price of Amazon Prime by either $20 – $40 per year for users. The increase in Prime pricing will not be a difficult value proposition for users in the US.

JD.com has filed for an IPO in the US and aims to raise $1.5 billion from the IPO. The irony in this is quite priceless as JD.com (360buy.com) has been playing second fiddle to Alibaba in China yet will be IPO’ing before the commerce behemoth. It will be interesting to see the appetite for shares from JD.com.

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The Amazon value proposition summarized

I have been following the Amazon Kindle event in Los Angeles and could not help but feel that Bezos is becoming a better presenter. OK – he is no Jobs but the products unveiled today is definitely aimed Apple and Google.

The Amazon value proposition is summarized brilliantly by the following image from The Verge‘s coverage of the event. (For the record their live blogging of events are top class).

The image can be seen with all of the announcements here: Live from Amazon’s Kindle event

Two of those items are up for discussion (Best Hardware and Best Interoperability). The Kindle Fire HD is a direct response to the Google Nexus I believe. I think we can all agree that a Apple iPad mini is on the way..

The above image highlights what makes Amazon.com, the behemoth that has the potential to shut ecommerce verticals and businesses down..

Who is Amazon’s biggest challenger?

Having read George Taylor’s interesting article on “The battle over global commerce: Amazon vs Rakuten“, I feel a bit of perspective is needed. Amazon is a true giant that spans over many different business and Rakuten is the challenger trying to catch up. However, they are not the only commerce companies that want to be global.

I spent time in Seattle and New York in the latter part of October 2012 and one company has been following me coast to coast is Amazon.com. I had meetings with folks in operations and research and Amazon was given plenty of air time.

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The 10 e-commerce stories for the week ending 12 July 2012

Phew, what a week. It feels like the headlines were dominated by one ecommerce company this past week. The problem is that this company is a Rubik’s cube and plays in a variety of verticals. Amazon.com is what I am talking about. The Financial Times had a great amount of coverage this week (all behind a paywall) but the truth is that no-one except the Emperor Bezos knows what the kingdom has in store for the ecommerce market.

Let me be blunt, if you don’t keep an eye on Amazon then you are ignorant. I am tempted to say you that you are destined for something like a Black Swan (which is far from something of beauty). I am expecting an Amazon smartphone as Bezos wants to ensure that he owns the customer journey.. whether it happens is another story. I have a confession to make as well. Yes, facebook commerce is on my mind and I think Thefind.com through their Glimpse product is on to something…

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The Great Technology War between Giants

2012 was a year in which a bigger picture formed inside my thinking. Ecommerce is my day job and I think we are in a great period for commerce. Let us be clear about one thing, retail and ecommerce is no longer 2 channels. It is one massive opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs to assist customers buying items whether it be online or in-store.

Mobile commerce in its current format is not the endgame in my mind. We are only scratching the surface on what mobile devices can do. Augmented reality, location and a variety of other things will play a role in commerce in the coming years.

Regular readers will be aware of my thinking regarding the big five. It is not the animals found in the game park but rather the big five technology businesses. I have written about it in the past when I looked at the Amazon effect but these companies drive the technology used by us on a daily basis.

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The Amazon effect

“Google = fab search, Amazon = top-notch retail, Apple = elegant devices, Microsoft = dominant Windows, Facebook = best social networking.”
Kara Swisher, on Yahoo

The last few days have been busy for Amazon and in all honesty, I think the bigger implications of this week will be seen in future quarters.  I have  been deliberately not mentioning Google in this as I think the implications of a paid for Google product search (Google Shopping) is much larger than what is expected.

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Amazon’s Jeff Bezos looks to the future

It is Cyber Monday – the biggest day of ecommerce in North America and the main benefactor of press coverage is Amazon.com. After watching the 60 Minutes interview that Charlie Rose did with Jeff Bezos, a few things come to mind. It is clear that Bezos is trying to do so PR work after the Everything Store written by Brad Stone made him seem to be a draconian leader. I dont believe in coincidences as the timing of this interview just seems to good to be true.

Timing is everything

As I have mentioned today is Cyber Monday and the 14 minute interview that Charlie Rose did can be seen as an advertorial as Bezos mentioned the normal lines “customer centric”, “we like to innovate” etc.

If you look closely at the video then Amazon fashion gets a favorable amount of time. AmazonFresh is also given some airtime and I must be honest – after giving it months of thought the fact that Amazon took 5 years to figure out a business model for the grocery business, that should scare competitors. AWS is a dark horse for me at the moment as Amazon has been reluctant to mention the size of the business and their partners that use the software platform.
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The death of pure-ecommerce and the birth of commerce

Despite the cascade of store closings, liquidations and bankruptcies, there are strong indications that pure-ecommerce, not stores, may be the endangered model. 13D Research This was an article I highlighted in my weekly ecommerce newsletter and this quote from 13D Research has been sticking in my mind. We are in a new phase of commerce in which a combined online and offline strategy will determine who are market leaders. I don’t believe this as being the moment for omnichannel (I despise the word as it is a buzzy concept that could mean a thousand things) but rather the first time in history that commerce is an experience on and offline.

The dot.com thinking

Retail has been dead since 1999 according to startup founders and ecommerce investors. Every purchase should have gone through ecommerce and physical retail should have not existed according to these subjective individuals. The simple truth for me is that we are beginning to see the creation of integrated commerce. Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba and JD.com are investing in retail locations as well as their online efforts to grow market share and leave their competitors extended financially and at their mercy.

Retail is ultimately at a tipping point and their is no turning back. If you are a pure play ecommerce business your customers are going to walk into physical locations of your online competitors. The real story is that we have 4 horseman in 2 large geographies that have large balance sheets we are a point of innovation and change.

The final indicator of this change was Amazon acquiring Whole Foods Market out right and making it a subsidiary. Jeff Bezos always said that Amazon would open stores when it made sense.


The simple truth is that we are beginning to see the creation of integrated commerce. Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba and JD.com are investing in retail locations as well as their online efforts to grow market share and leave their competitors extended financially and at their mercy.


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An ambitious Jet.com is a dangerous Jet.com

I have been thinking about Jet.com ever since returning from my 3 week US trip. Clearly they are a top of the hype list before any sale of merchandise has occurred. Marc Lore is an operator with a very successful past and someone that is clearly deeply in touch with ecommerce. Is jet.com a dot.com bust in the making or a potential game changer that will effect change in the ecommerce landscape?

Jet.com is an ambitious concept that is aiming at a part of the ecommerce landscape that has no clear market leader. It is not a marketplace – it is subscription based membership driven ecommerce business. The digital version of Sam’s Club / Costco that has a lot of technology under the hood to drive sales for merchants. It has been designed to disrupt these 2 large wholesale shopping clubs without the need for volume sales.

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