“It’s not a RomCom, it’s RomCommerce”

PLUS: 2024 is the Year AI Companions Take Off
December 1, 2023

Welcome to Friday, Futurists! 

I’m sitting here in awe. As we speak, we have over 1500 futurists committed to attending our premier event, MUSES during Miami Art Week next week in Miami Beach, FL. The excitement is off the charts, and I cannot wait to see each and every one of you there. 

Not attending? Have no fear, the Muses Journal will be opening for preorders soon. Stay tuned. 

Pictured: the tagline from Walmart’s new Shoppable Television, “Add to Heart”

The future of product discovery belongs to Walmart. 

The Belle of Bentonville stunned the Commerce world this week when it announced its new holiday shopping experience: a multipart shoppable web video series.

On December 2nd, a 23-part shoppable TV series entitled Add To Heart will launch on TikTok, Roku, and Youtube. In the press release, William White, chief marketing officer, downplays the significance of the channel shift for the brand:

‘Add to Heart’ is a fun, unique way for our customers to be entertained while shopping for the great deals on top brands that they expect from Walmart. We hope they enjoy it and the amazing gifts they order throughout.

If you’re among the critic class, beware. The acting, photography, and direction are all suspect. This test of “RomCommerce” (their words) is building on layers of cultural behavior that solves many of the challenges of eCommerce-centric holiday shopping. 

In 2021, Hallmark began their foray into daily holiday-centric programming with the Hallmark Cinematic Universe, a series of interconnected television movies. TV and Movies are a staple of American holiday traditions; and Walmart is looking to commercialize it. By making Commerce a communal experience, Add to Heart will recenter the brand as both an entertainment company and a feelgood shopping destination.

We predicted that Walmart would be the standout winner in 2023 in our Annual Predictions Episode: “I have the sneaking suspicion that you're going to start seeing previously what would have been a Target purchase happen at Walmart,” quipped Brian Lange. My retort confirmed his intuition: “If there is digital business to be won, Walmart can win it and they'll win it away from Amazon.” 

Shoppable video has been growing over the past five years. NBCUniversal has been experimenting in this arena for three years. Their early efforts were very lo-fi; beginning on late-night, longtail properties like Syfy After Dark. Add to Heart feels like a similar testing of the waters.

Finally, take note of the culture shift. The tongue-in-cheek nature of the name hints at a metamodernist wink. Metamodernism is a cultural philosophy that explains the emergence of “ironic sincerity” in art and media. We know that Walmart knows that you know that the entire purpose of this show is to sell you stuff.

The Youtube comments on the series’ trailer are telling; “Walmart is so iconic,” said one user. But the surest sign of a hit came from user @an2an2ny: “More deals HEECK YEAHA!!”

Our culture is commerce. And the culture is primed for shoppable holiday TV. We’ll be watching every minute.

— Phillip

P.S. Our friend and mentor Jon Klonsky joined us on the podcast this week to discuss the opportunity to deploy ServiceNow into the modern enterprise. His two decades of experience in eCommerce are informing his newest venture, HaloKinetic. Listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Parade Employees Reveal All. The NDAs haven’t expired yet, but that hasn’t stopped former employees from dishing. Tea is being spilled about cultural issues inside the brand, including layoffs announced via Slack. Some of the headlines are less-than generous to the beloved influencer brand and its 25-year-old founder, Cami Telléz, which recently exited for an undisclosed amount to intimates giant Ariela & Associates in August.

VF Corporate Layoffs. The retail brand layoffs are beginning to pile up. This week, VF Corp (Vans, The North Face) laid off 500 employees after an activist investor demanded they cut expenses.

Real-World Commerce is Coming to Roblox. Two weeks ago at Roblox Developer Day 2023, the popular metaverse hangout for nearly 50M monthly active users announced a push into Real-World Commerce. Roblox did $2.2B in revenue on digital currency transactions in 2022, and will begin to provide tools to brands to shorten the path to real-world transactions within the game experience as soon as Q1 2024. (Editor’s note: our famed Roblox Brand Activation Tracker is the most authoritative source for brands activated in the game.)

Tik Tok Ban Violates First Amendment? Nah. At least, not yet. 

The Black Bridal Mirror? A U.K. bride was taken aback while reviewing wedding dress photos this week; she was stunned to see three poses of herself in a wrap-around mirror. The iPhone’s computational photography algorithm reportedly stitches together motion video to provide sharper and better-composed images.

CosMc’s Nears Launch. Following the success of the Grimace Shake, McD’s is set to launch CosMc’s, a new beverage-centric concept that is Ronald McDonald’s answer to Sonix and Starbucks. The first location is located in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and eponymously named after a long-forgotten character in the McDonalds Universe from 1992.

The Future of Commerce is in India. This week multiple stories broke that signal a manufacturing and consumer demand shift that would rebalance China and India’s relationships with the West. Nestlé sees demand spiking for coffee in India, while Pottery Barn Kids is launching at Jio World Plaza in Mumbai. According to Reuters, Walmart will begin importing more goods to the United States from India and reducing its reliance upon China as it “looks to cut costs and diversify its supply chain.

Alibaba Can Animate Anyone. When deepfakes first emerged in 2016, we predicted their use cases for AI model generation. Now, thanks to the deep learning research team at commerce giant Alibaba, that’s a reality. Their recently-published research paper and open source library, appropriately named “Animate Anyone,” demonstrates the ability to turn any still image into a character animation.

Subscribe to The Senses.

Commerce futurism.
Straight to your inbox.

Thank you for being a risk-taker.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Share This Post

Commerce futurism for the risk-takers.
Straight to your inbox.

By clicking Subscribe you're confirming that you agree with having The Senses delivered to your email address.
Thank you for subscribing.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.