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

By Hendrik Laubscher

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Amazon starts ringing the cost changes, eBay upsets users – eCommerce news of the week

We are 2 weeks away from Christmas day which will be the crescendo of all online shopping globally. Did planning in earlier quarters return value? How many satisfied customers did your business have? The point is the month of November and December is when business weaknesses or strength are shown to the world. Amazon has been making changes all over the place – I suspect their change in pricing for AmazonFresh users in Seattle is going to lead to a lot of new subscribers for Instacart. Also Amazon seems to be taking a lot more control this year with regards to shipping than previous years. I wonder how UPS feels about that change? Bezos is at the moment showing that the Kiva purchase is adding a lot of speed and optimisation to the sorting and shipping at various Amazon warehouses.  However Amazon has made some uncharacteristic errors with fulfillment in the UK and I have to wonder whether the robots have anything to do with that.

On the otherside of the equation in ecommerce is eBay. First rumors first broke by the WSJ on a move to cut 3000 (10%) of the marketplace workforce. It seems that John Donahoe current eBay CEO will be leaving the marketplace board and only joining PayPal’s board in 2015. I am not buying the fact that he wants to provide Devin Wenig the room to do what he seems fit. Would this be case if eBay’s marketplace business was in a strong / dominant position? I tend to doubt that.

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The tale of 3 commerce IPO’s – ecommerce news of the week

The past week contained events that might not be seen again soon. Three companies (Rocket Internet, Zalando and Wayfair) that have a connection to ecommerce that has gone public. Rocket Internet and Zalando went public in Europe and across the Atlantic, Wayfair went public as well. The public companies will experience very different environments and one needs to keep in mind that they are all 3 businesses that went public after Alibaba; which in my opinion did take some interest away from these businesses.

In Europe Zalando and Rocket Internet went public and had a tough few days on the markets. Both companies lost value due to market feedback. I am planning to write a blogpost soon about my own thoughts on Rocket Internet and to a lesser degree Zalando IPO’s. I will concede that it is a massive moment for European startups as in a space of a week 2 companies that have their headquarters in Germany suddenly are valued in Billions of Euros. Can Rocket and Zalando grow at 40% top line year on year?

In Boston, Wayfair became a public company raised $320 million from investors as part of their IPO. Wayfair for me is quite different than the German companies. One – they have been around for longer, have made a considerable amount of revenue but I have to question if the growth is sustainable? How much money will be have to be spent to build the Wayfair brand? Greg Betinelli had an in-depth look at their S1 and provides some great insights into the Boston company.

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Wayfair and Rocket Internet to IPO the coming week – eCommerce news of the week

We are a few days away from the beginning of October, which is the start of the festive season for ecommerce businesses. All the planning should have been done as systems will be tested as customers make their early festive purchases. The coming week also contains the annual Shop.org conference which will be in Seattle in which global ecommerce executives come together to learn about new trends etc.

We are also most probably going to see potential rivals in home goods going public this week. Wayfair, the Boston based powerhouse will be going public. Greg Bettinelli whom did a great job looking at the Zulily IPO documents had some interesting insights this past weekend:

Across the Atlantic, Rocket Internet will also most probably be going public this week. The company has claimed that it will be taking a more hands-on approach with the various businesses it has in its portfolio. I tend to believe that Kinnevik the major funder behind Rocket Internet will be happy that institutional investors and other investors takes some risk in the platform venture based company. However not everyone is seeing the upside of the Rocket Internet IPO:


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Alibaba goes public – eCommerce news of the week

The long awaited Alibaba IPO has come and gone. The Chinese behemoth went public amid a huge amount of PR and celebration. Needless to say – I believe that it is a line in the sand moment. We will most probably look back at the past week in years to come as a watershed moment for Chinese technology companies.

Alibaba – a Chinese company now has billions of opportunities to disrupt regions, single markets or competitors. The major story that broke on the day of the IPO was that Alibaba was supposedly looking into funding Snapdeal. If that is the case then Indian ecommerce is the first market in which all of the heavy weights are seen competing. Alibaba will be looking at going into India, the Middle East and Latin America as currently they have little or no presence there. I cant help but feel that a lot of the investment into Alibaba is more an investment into China than in the company itself..

In the next 6 months we will get an idea on how profitable Alibaba really is. I believe strongly that in the last 12 months they did a lot of promotional events to ensure that their IPO prospectus have a lot of amazing numbers.

Secondly – I also think that a fair comparison to Amazon is still in order – are they really that profitable? I understand that they don’t have logistics and last mile delivery like Amazon does, but with the exclusion of the massive Chinese scale – this business does seem to be to good to be true.

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Rakuten buys eBates, eBay to unveil mobile advertising in apps – eCommerce news of the week

We are a week or 10 days away from the Alibaba IPO.  Alibaba’s IPO is currently driving the ecommerce industry as companies ensure that they are best prepared after Alibaba raises billions. One company clearly working hard to combat Alibaba’s potential impact is Rakuten. Rakuten has been acquiring US based businesses which they will add to their Asian based business. Interestingly – I wonder why has Rakuten not thought about acquiring businesses in Asia? Their last 2 purchases has been US based companies that for all intensive purposes will become bolt-ons. The eBates acquisition is in my opinion a clever acquisition – one it can be added to Rakuten’s global business but also provide intelligence towards where shoppers get most cash back post purchase. Is Rakuten looking to buy more ecommerce companies?

Something is happening at eBay and it is not good. Firstly – Apple conveniently does not mention PayPal as part of their Apple Pay product. For the record I think Apple Pay being US only is indicative of Apple trying to get all elements (partnerships, legislation etc) done prior to rolling it out globally. PayPal has a problem; Amazon, Google and now Apple are looking to add more value to their payments businesses while keeping PayPal outside their ecosystems.

I don’t agree with the news that eBay will be adding a mobile advertising network in Q4. It reeks of desperation as advertising inside mobile apps lead to confused users, a drop in click through rates that adversely affects mobile conversion rates (which are low in any case). I don’t see Alibaba, Amazon or any other mobile apps ecommerce business as adding advertising soon.. Also this story, every quarter that Google is to invest in eBay is either eBay looking for help from Google or an analyst that wants to increase the eBay share price for a few hours. I don’t see Google investing in eBay as that will in the long run create huge trust issues for Google inside the commerce industry.

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