Welcome back! I rather enjoyed a week off of Insiders to rest and reflect. As I’m warming back up and getting back into the swing, I thought that rather than a long-form essay this week on Insiders, I would share three interesting trends I’ve spotted, and how they’re changing our present world of eCommerce.
Trend #1: We’re all retailers, now.
“I have a box of N95 masks if anyone wants them - they’re going for $25 on eBay but if you want one and you’re local you can have them for $5.50, minimum quantity 5.”
That’s a Facebook post from a girl I used to date in high school. She’s no longer selling leggings or essential oils. She’s hawking masks. And she’s not alone. A recent graphic published by Stackline showed the uptick in a number of unexpected categories, from hair color to bread machines, as people are nesting at home and finding ways to pass the time during COVID-19.
For categories such as fitness equipment, demand outstrips supply, and with many businesses having delays on inbound shipments from China, elsewhere, they find themselves unable to accommodate the current consumer demand.
Where do customers turn, then? Marketplaces. Facebook marketplace is booming for second hand fitness equipment. As are resale marketplaces for vintage and secondhand music equipment, such as Reverb (acquired by Etsy in 2019 for $275MM), who are seeing an uptick in first-time customers per a recent update.
In my own experience, I’ve used this past month to clean out my garage of excess fitness equipment, and my home music studio of items I no longer use. I’ve conducted 24 transactions across Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, and Reverb, resulting in $4,200 of income. In just 1 month. In the process, I’ve become a very small-time retailer. I merchandise, I write product descriptions, I calculate pricing and shipping strategies to afford free shipping on items. I pack items, print shipping labels. I run to the post office before 6:00 pm to get boxes out the door.
In the era of self-isolation, consumers have become retailers, and I’m one of them.
This proves advantageous for the younger generation, who are more entrepreneurial, more driven, and more willing to take risks than their older counterparts. For our Generation Z psychographic C.A.R.L.Y. (Can't Afford Real Life Yet), she may already have been running a virtual marketplace business “side hustle” before the quarantine on marketplaces like Poshmark, or by upcycling vintage apparel from Goodwill or Thredup.
Astute businesses will take advantage of this moment and continue to invest in Gen Z arbitrage to teach them business-centric skills, and to create tools, to enable them to make their side hustle a lifelong skill to be put to work long after quarantine restrictions have become relaxed.
Consumers have become producers.
Trend #2: Consumer Expectations Are Being Reset
Another observation: consumer expectations have begun to reorient around “the new normal.” Shipping times are longer. Delivery times are unpredictable. Prices are erratic. Availability is sparse. Because this is happening across the entire world, all at once, we’re finding ourselves a little more patient, and a bit more understanding.
“We’re out of stock, on everything. We added a banner to the homepage that says orders won’t ship for over 2 weeks. People are still buying.”
This is a conversation I’ve had with more than one of my eCommerce customers in the past two weeks. Somehow in the new age of eCommerce during quarantine, a number of businesses across a number of categories seem to be performing extraordinarily well. For these businesses, too much success can be painful. If they run out of stock, they likely could be without inventory for 3-4 months. In the long run, that may well be the death knell.
As part of Brian’s piece in Insiders 009: Shop Like It’s Your Job, we wondered if this disparity of expectation is because we’ve removed the human aspect to the consumption cycle, distancing people from the idea that other people are impacted by our purchase decisions. Our awareness of this class separation is quite apparent now as “essential infrastructure” employees are getting the shorter end of the stick.
Mindful consumerism in 2020 looks a lot more like digital minimalism. I am part of more and more conversations about whether it is “right” or “just” to purchase non-essential items from Amazon (such as John Oliver’s recent piece on whether Amazon should classify dildos as “essential”) as it puts real people in harm’s way.
Unlike thornier issues, such as climate change, you have to look your grocery delivery person, or the cashier, in the eye. In 2020, mindfulness extending to our actions having a visible human impact is a net positive.
It’s my hope this trend continues beyond quarantine.
Trend #3: DTC is more eager to learn, and more eager to share
Just a few months ago the prevailing belief in DTC was “if you’re running someone else’s playbook, you’ve already failed.” This was based on the idea that a playbook for a disruptor was purpose-built to upend an entrenched incumbent. But in the COVID-19 recession, DTC brands are forming tighter-knit communities. Community builders like Kristen LaFrance and the folks at Churnbuster are bringing merchants together to learn and share ideas, to review ad creative, and to share openly about their findings and feedback. They take those conversations and put them into podcasts, weekly emails, an “Inbox Inspo” Trello board, and a private Slack group.
It’s not just agencies who have stepped up, either. Logistics company Shippo has jumped into the fray, as has Future Commerce’s longtime partner, Klaviyo. In 2020, everyone is a thought leader, and every business is a media company.
(Editor’s note: check out our most recent episode with Klaviyo’s Director of Product, Jake Cohen, about how Klaviyo is helping merchants during COVID-19 with actionable insights.)
It’s not just businesses who are trumpeting wins and losses, people are asking for deeper human connection. I count myself among that set of extroverts looking to continue to meet new folks, to learn from them, and to see how our potential opportunities and present challenges may be solved together.
In a very risky move, I opened up my calendar for virtual coffee with anyone who would want to spend 30 minutes with me. I have spent the past two weeks meeting with brilliant businesses, technology founders, investors, and marketers. Too many to name here. But a few who stand out are:
- Chris Meade, co-founder of CROSSNET, a 4-way volleyball game that is growing leaps and bounds
- Christina Calje, founder of Dutch video management startup, Autheos, who is a brilliant thinker and eCommerce strategist
- Raj Nijer, who I should have already known, but never really connected to prior - is the VP of Brand Marketing at Yotpo. We’ll be doing an Instagram Live together tomorrow, Wednesday April 16 at noon. You should join us! Follow @yotpo on Instagram.
Lastly, I’d love to have virtual coffee with you. Add some time to my calendar. Let’s learn and grow together while we have this moment. I want to hear what is happening in your business, your present challenges, and how you’re overcoming them.
Be well, and be safe.