“Shop The Bazaar” and Other Phrases That Give Me PTSD

PLUS: The Adult Happy Meal
December 13, 2023

Welcome to Wednesday, futurists.

The FWB team released their annual Holiday Bazaar this week in coordination with PayPal, which jumped back into the crypto market just in time for another bull run.

Announced back in August, PayPal’s commercial launch of the PYUSD stablecoin follows a big-budget media spend with tech and media partners (like Boys Club), and now the upscale FWB Community, and follows Art Basel, a cultural event that is slowly becoming a technocultural affair.

Despite receiving a few subpoenas for the launch of PYUSD, the stablecoin (a payment technology that fixes a cryptocurrency relative to its value based on a fiat currency, which sounds counterintuitive) may drive tastemakers in the ecosystem to engage in traditional shoppable commerce on Shopify. But they’ll need to convert cryptocurrency to check out, which may prove more trouble than it’s worth; the store is a decentralized dropshipped merchandising effort with a multitude of creators.

Still, the word “Bazaar” makes me shudder.

Once upon a time in my career, I built the payments and catalog infrastructure for the first “content-to-commerce” Bazaar, ShopBazaar, by Harper’s Bazaar.

The first “commerce-enabled editorial launch” from Hearst Publications was a janky affair. The engineering team behind it, including yours truly, was not given access to the fulfillment partner’s APIs to place orders. In this case, Sak’s Fifth Avenue. 

So those early days were tenuous; if you were shopping on ShopBazaar, your actions were being mirrored (behind the veil of headless technology) on the Saks Fifth Avenue website. This was… not ideal.

Still, we watched many a $17,000 Gucci Feather Dress sold effortlessly and online to the Hollywood elite of the day. It was also a decentralized dropshipped affair, a scrappy effort meant to prove the power of brand, content, and community, all while supporting the commerce efforts of a business whose traditional model was cannibalized by social media. 

While I’m not in a hurry to convert ETH to PYUSD, I’m interested in the collective efforts of creators who have come together to merchandise their efforts with the backing of a mature “adult in the room” like PayPal.  And unlike our challenging engineering efforts of the day, you can trust that the likes of Shopify and crypto wallets that back the catalog and payments rails. 

If you want to shop the FWB holiday bazaar, you can do so at bazaar.fwb.help

— Phillip

“F*** it We Ball” No More. Some young people are embracing countercultural 'degrowth' amid climate and economic concerns. Taken to its logical extent, one has to wonder if certain products and industries will become lost arts.

Chart courtesy of DailyMail.com 

The End of an Era. The era of free online returns is ending for several retailers. As much as 40% of online retailers now charge for mail-in returns, with some charging full freight pricing. To return an online purchase can cost as much as $12 at TJ Maxx. Retail returns management software platform Narvar’s annual report has many more nuggets.

Miracle on 34th Street. An investor buyout bid of $5.8B may be a bargain when you consider Macy’s prolific real estate portfolio, according to the WSJ

The Multiplayer Beauty Brand? Kiki World is the latest brand to experiment with a community-turned-product-development team. 5,000 members of the Kiki World audience are actively voting on the product roadmap using technology like TYB (Try Your Best), a loyalty platform created by Outdoor Voices founder, Ty Haney. According to the feature in Glossy, Kiki World has “found that higher engagement leads to greater loyalty.” Kiki World and TYB are building on the prior failures of brands like Arfa, founded by Henry Davis of Glossier, which attempted a VC-backed community-based co-creation model in 2020.

More insights: Pick up a copy of our latest Zine, The Multiplayer Brand ($20, free shipping). Want more? Listen to Future Commerce’s CEO Phillip Jackson talk about the merits of The Multiplayer Brand on the latest episode of the podcast (Spotify and Apple Podcasts). 

Give Your Lips a Vacation. Marty Bell’s ‘it’s always Florida somewhere’ 80’s-inspired sunscreen brand, Vacation, releases a new chardonnay-seed-based lip oil. Bell was featured as a modern Muse in this year’s MUSES Journal by Future Commerce.

The Adult Happy Meal. McDonald’s continues to push the nature of commerce and culture. In their annual re-release of the first-ever “Adult Happy Meal,” the golden arches have once again tapped nostalgia in a new partnership with multi-hyphenate DJ-and-artist Kerwin Frost; this time for a merch-inspired activation of the “McNugget Buddies”. The adult-sized meal will set you back ~$10 depending on the market. The limited-edition Grimace clogs will cost $120, however, and are available on the artist’s site.

The Next Frontier for Cybersecurity. With the launch of CustomGPTs, a new frontier for cybersecurity was borne. OpenAI’s custom chatbots leak sensitive data when prompted by a user. For popular, but simplistic GPTs, like Simpsonize Me or the Brick Box Generator, it doesn’t pose a commercial impact or risk (both are based on pre-existing IP). But a commerce-centric marketplace of proprietary GPTs may leak data through prompt injection, or querying the AI itself, coercing it to unveil its innerworkings. 

Holograms Are the New OOH. A smoke-based projection for the forthcoming Meta Quest 3 VR game, Asgard’s Wrath II, delivered an over-the-top experience (literally, above our heads) in Los Angeles. The ‘hologram’ featured Loki, and a series of other game characters reaching out of a portal projected above the Peacock Theater, the site of the Game Awards.

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