Instagram quietly launches payments for commerce

Get ready to shop the ‘Gram. Instagram just stealthily added a native payments feature to its app for some users. It lets you register a debit or credit card as part of a profile, set up a security pin, then start buying things without ever leaving Instagram. Not having to leave for a separate website and enter payment information any time you want to purchase something could make Instagram a much bigger player in commerce. TechCrunch reader Genady Okrain first tipped us off to the payment feature. When we asked Instagram, a spokesperson confirmed that native payments for booking appointments like at restaurants or salons is now live for a limited set of partners. One of the first equipped is dinner reservation app Resy. Some of its clients’ Instagram Pages now offer this native payment for booking. And in the future, Instagram says you can expect direct payments for things
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Hustle rallies $30M for grassroots texting tool Republicans can’t use

Hustle 20X’d its annual revenue run rate in 15 months by denying clients that contradict its political views. It’s a curious, controversial, yet successful strategy for the startup whose app lets activists and marketers text thousands of potential supporters or customers one at a time. Compared to generic email blasts and robocalls, Hustle gets much higher conversion rates because people like connecting with a real human who can answer their follow-up questions.

The whole business is built around those relationships, so campaigns, non-profits, and enterprises have to believe in Hustle’s brand. That’s why CEO Roddy Lindsay tells me “We don’t sell to republican candidates or committees. What it’s allowed us to do is build trust with the Democratic party and progressive organizations. We don’t have to worry about celebrating our clients’ success and offending other clients.”

Hustle execs from left: COO Ysiad Ferreiras, CEO Roddy Lindsay, CTO Tyler Brock

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Is this the future of retail?

The other big Seattle retailer, Nordstrom, that is, doesn’t think that retail is doomed. Instead, what it needs is a reinvention. And they are willing to spend tens of millions to create a store that takes the best of online and marries it to the best of offline retail. Will they be successful? I am going to check it out, next time I am in New York!

Instead of stealing instruments, musicians turn to Splice

“The percentage of Top 40 music made with our platform blows my mind” says Splice co-founder Steve Martocci. He tells me about some bedroom music producers who were “working at Olive Garden until they put sounds on Splice.” Soon they quit their jobs since they were earning enough from artists downloading those sounds to use in their songs. That led them to collaborate with famous DJ Zedd, resulting in the Billboard #12 hit “Starving”. Splice has attracted $47 million in funding to power this all-new music economy. That might be a shock considering Martocci estimates that 95% of digital instruments and sample packs are pirated since they’re often expensive with no try-before-you-buy option. Even Kanye West got caught stealing the trendy Serum digital synthesizer. But Splice lets artists pay $7.99 per month to download up to 100 samples they can use royalty-free to create music. That’s cheaper than it costs to
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Target debuts same-day delivery for in-store purchases in some urban markets

Target wants to make it easier for customers in urban markets to shop its store and get their hauls home, without having to lug their bags onto the subway or other public transit. These customers may skip buying heavier items like 12-packs of soda, big bags of dog food, gallons of water, new bedding sets, and other things they can’t easily carry for long distances. Instead, they’ll place those orders online – and often with Target competitors like Amazon. But now, Target will allow urban customers to shop in-store, and have their purchases delivered to their home that same day. The service makes sense for Target stores in cities, where there aren’t often parking lots available to shoppers, and whose customer base tends to ride the subway, bus, or train, or bike or walk home. When they want to buy more than they can easily carry, they tend to order
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Domino’s will now deliver to 150,000 parks, pools and other non-traditional locations

Domino’s will now deliver your pizza to the beach – well, sort of! Or the park, the sports field, that one gas station down the road, or some notable landmark in your city where it will be easy for your delivery driver to find you, among other places. The company announced today the launch of over 150,000 “Domino’s Hotspots,” which are locations that don’t have a traditional delivery address, like a home or business address. Instead, hotspots are just places where customers can meet up with their driver to accept a delivery order, when they’re not at home or work. But while the headlines proclaim Domino’s is coming to you at the beach or park, don’t expect the delivery driver to traipse across the hot sand to your towel or down a walking path into the woods – there are limits to how off-the-grid these deliveries will go. Instead, “beach”
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The psychological impact of an $11 Facebook subscription

Would being asked to pay Facebook to remove ads make you appreciate their value or resent them even more? As Facebook considers offering an ad-free subscription option, there are deeper questions than how much money it could earn. Facebook has the opportunity to let us decide how we compensate it for social networking. But choice doesn’t always make people happy. In February I explored the idea of how Facebook could disarm data privacy backlash and boost well-being by letting us pay a monthly subscription fee instead of selling our attention to advertisers. The big takeaways were:
  • Mark Zuckerberg insists that Facebook will remain free to everyone, including those who can’t afford a monthly fee, so subscriptions would be an opt-in alternative to ads rather than a replacement that forces everyone to pay
  • Partially decoupling the business model from maximizing your total time spent on Facebook could let it actually
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Amazon finally opens up Prime Wardrobe to more customers

Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe appears to be getting ready to launch. The retailer’s “try before you buy” shopping service, first announced in June 2017, aims to challenge incumbents in the market like Stitch Fix, Trunk Club, Wantable, and others. The service has quietly remained in an invite-only beta since last year, and Amazon claims that’s still the case. However, a recent flurry of tweets, including – ahem, those from an Amazon account and people who worked on the project – beg to differ.

Unfortunately, the Amazon staffer’s tweet was deleted after we asked Amazon about it. It had read: “Amazon Prime Wardrobe is officially launched! Hooray! It’s been a fun project to work on.” Before we could screengrab the tweet, it

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Koio, a direct-to-consumer leather sneaker brand, picks up $3 million

Retail has been revolutionized over the last decade, with brands like Casper and Warby Parker offering high-quality goods at lower costs simply by selling them through the internet. Koio, a relatively new high-end sneaker brand, is looking to get in on the new retail wave, and the company has some fresh cash to do it. Koio has just announced the close of a $3 million Series A funding led by Action Capital, with participation from Brand Foundry Ventures, Winkelvoss Capital, actor Miles Teller and director and producer Simon Kinberg, among others. Koio was founded Chris Wichert and Johannes Quodt, who were sick of spending so much on high-end leather sneakers. The brand focuses on making nice shoes available at a relatively lower price while maintaining high quality products. Most of Koio’s shoes run for around $250. [gallery ids="1619632,1619633,1619631,1619630"] The company works with a Chanel factory in Italy for all
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Southeast Asia fashion startup Zilingo continues its meteoric rise with $54M Series C

Many will rightly say that raising money as a startup in Southeast Asia is no easy thing, but up-and-coming online fashion service Zilingo sure doesn’t seem to have problems on that front. Fresh from raising an $18 million Series B round last September, Zilingo has announced its $54 million Series C to take it to $82 million from investors to date. The round was led by new investor Sofina — an investor in Flipkart-owned fashion site Myntra among others — and existing backers Burda and Sequoia India. Zilingo’s other existing investors, including Tim Draper, SIG, Venturra, Beenext and Manik Arora, all took part, with Amadeus Capital joining the party, too. Raising this much money is rare over the life cycle of any startup in Southeast Asia, but to do it in less than 2.5 years after launching your product is unprecedented. E-commerce is a hot space in the region, but
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JUMP Bikes weighing Uber acquisition, investment offers

JUMP Bikes, the on-demand biking service that integrates with Uber, has been weighing both acquisition and investment offers. A decision has not yet been reached, but right now possible options include a sale to Uber at a price that exceeds $100 million, or a venture investment round, multiple sources tell TechCrunch. One of the possible investor names that has been floated is Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital, but we are told that JUMP has multiple options. We are also told that various parties have been upping their offers over the past week, as they fiercely compete to get ownership of JUMP.  “E-bikes” are expected to become more popular, where users are able to find and rent bikes quickly via apps. JUMP launched as Social Bicycles in 2008, but the startup recently rebranded as JUMP when it announced its $10 million Series A investment round a few months back.
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Spotify’s missing money-maker is artist-to-fan messaging

Streaming royalties are too expensive for Spotify to thrive as a public company just playing us songs. Spotify’s shares closed down 10 percent today during its NYSE trading debut. Luckily it controls much of the relationship between musicians and their fans on its app, poising it to build a powerful revenue and artist loyalty generator by connecting the two through native advertising and messaging that doesn’t stop the music. Spotify already has a wide range of ad experiences built for traditional brands, from audio ads to display units to sponsored sessions where users get ad-free playback in exchange for watching a commercial. But none of these ad units are designed to help musicians grow their audience within Spotify, even if they can be bent to that purpose. Spotify could win big by following Facebook’s roadmap. Back in 2007, Facebook already had ads that led offsite. Think of these as Spotify’s
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SoftBank leads $450M investment in Paytm’s e-commerce business

SoftBank is at it again giving money companies that rival startups it has already invested in. The Japanese firm and its long-time ally (and existing Paytm backer) Alibaba have come together to invest $450 million more into Paytm’s e-commerce business, Paytm Mall, as first reported by Mint. The deal is said to value the business at $1.6-$2 billion, with SoftBank providing around $400 million of the committed investment. SoftBank is already present in India’s e-commerce space courtesy of an investment in Flipkart via its Vision Fund. The firm also previously backed Snapdeal which it tried to shoehorn into a merger deal with Flipkart that was ultimately unsuccessful. Alibaba meanwhile has been behind the core Paytm business, which specializes in mobile payments with plans for financial services, having invested $1.4 billion into parent firm One97 Communications last year. This new deal signals its crossing into the e-commerce business, too. “This
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Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop raises another $50 million

Actress-turned-entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow is getting more capital to accelerate her startup’s growth. Goop, the lifestyle brand which she founded ten years ago, is announcing a $50 million Series C round from NEA, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Felix Capital. It brings the total outside investment to $82 million. A source close to the situation tells us that the latest round is being done at about a $250 million post-money valuation, although the company denies it. Pitchbook has separately reported Goop’s post-money valuation to be $250 million. Paltrow is more than just a celebrity attached to the company. She also runs it as creative director and CEO and has become nearly as well-known for her unusual diet and beauty rituals as for her Oscar-winning acting. Goop, meanwhile, is growing. Not only does its digital property feature content about fashion, travel, and beauty, but it increasingly sells relevant products, something the company calls “contextual
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Amazon may launch a bank account aimed at teens, says report

Amazon has been in discussions with banks to create a product aimed at teens and other younger users who don’t have their own credit cards, or an interest in applying for one, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The company reportedly has held early stage talks with banks including JP Morgan Chase and Capital One, with the goal of creating some sort of checking account-type service that would make it easier for Gen Z customers to shop Amazon’s site. This is not the first time Amazon has been said to be talking to banks about establishing some sort of banking product of its own. Earlier this month, The WSJ reported Amazon was talking to big banks, including JPMorgan Chase, about building a checking account product. Bloomberg essentially confirms this earlier reporting, with the additional emphasis on the product’s youth appeal, and why it matters. Most notably, it has to
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This Giant Infographic Has 140+ Facts on the Scale of Amazon

This Giant Infographic Has 140+ Facts on the Scale of Amazon

This Giant Infographic Has 140+ Facts on the Scale of Amazon

As Amazon continues its takeover of the retail sector, the scale at which it operates continues to impress. Back in late 2016 we examined the extraordinary size of Amazon from a market valuation perspective, which showed that the ecommerce giant was worth more than most brick and mortar retailers put together. Today’s infographic from 16Best continues along that same thread, except this time focusing on Amazon from more of an operational perspective.

Amazon: At a Glance

Amazon has more than 304 million users, and 3 billion products selling on their 11 marketplaces – and every day, 1.3 million new products are added. The company has a 43.5% market share of U.S. ecommerce spending. It’s no surprise then, that the average customer spends $700 per year with Amazon, and that 34.7 items are shipped every single
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Tesco vet Simon Belsham becomes president of Walmart’s Jet.com

Walmart has brought on Tesco veteran, Simon Belsham, to serve as president of its e-commerce business, Jet.com, acquired for $3 billion in 2016 to help the company better combat the Amazon threat. Belsham will be based out of Hoboken and will oversee the full operation of the Jet.com business, including its increasing focus on online grocery. Belsham will take the role vacated by Liza Landsman, who became president following the Jet.com acquisition when founder Marc Lore moved up to oversee Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce operations. Landsman announced last month she’s joining VC firm NEA. Lore, who previously sold Quidsi (Diapers.com) to Amazon, built Jet with the goal of disrupting e-commerce yet again – this time, with a model that rewarded shoppers with discounts when they took certain actions, like agreeing not to return items or buying in bulk, for example. The site is also meant to appeal
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Target tests a new loyalty program with 1% back, Shipt discounts and free next-day delivery

Target has begun to test a new loyalty program, “Target Red,” that combines discounts on delivery with cash back on later purchases. The program will serve as an alternative to the existing REDcard program which requires customers to sign up for a Target credit or debit card. With Target Red, customers instead earn 1 percent back on purchases that they can redeem on their next visit, as well as receive 50 percent off a Shipt membership, and free next-day delivery through Target Restock. The retailer had acquired same-day delivery service Shipt in December for $550 million, and has continued to operate it as usual, after adding Target to the list of available stores, of course. It’s also now helping to push customers who were shopping rival grocers on Shipt over to Target by pricing its own items the same as they are on the Target website, while others remain marked
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Kozmo.com is back from the dead…kind of

Kozmo.com, the startup that attempted on-demand delivery of anything way back in 1998 but burned through $280 million in capital and failed to make itself profitable, is back. Instead of delivering anything from videos to games to books and more, the new Kozmo is focused on bulk delivery of groceries. Kozmo will offer next-day delivery, with the goal of delivering on-demand within two hours, for groceries. Kozmo will initially charge a $5.99 delivery fee for orders costing a minimum of $35. With Kozmo, the company says customers can expect to save between 20-50 percent off retail prices. It’s important to note that this Kozmo is under new leadership. None of the original Kozmo founders or employees are involved in this new venture. Instead, grocery ordering platform Yummy bought the domain and trademark for Kozmo. Kozmo’s products will come from Yummy.com and local retailers. “Kozmo.com is
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Wayfair’s Android app now lets you shop for furniture using augmented reality

AR-enabled shopping is expanding again today. This time, online furniture retailer Wayfair is introducing an augmented reality feature in its mobile app for Android that will allow customers to visualize furniture in their own home ahead of purchase, just by holding up their smartphone. The feature, called “View in Room 3D,” was previously available on iOS, leveraging Apple’s AR platform ARKit. Now, Wayfair is taking advantage of Google’s ARCore to offer the same option to Android users. ARCore, Google’s answer to Apple’s AR platform, was publicly released last month, giving developers a way to integrate AR technology into their Android applications, where they can reach a potential audience of over 100 million Android devices. Wayfair is not the only shopping site to quickly roll out ARCore support now that it’s available – eBay yesterday launched a feature for sellers that helps them find the right shipping box using AR technology,
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