Stages and Platforms

PLUS: A $580 squid ink blind taste-testing
June 10, 2022

Good ole Billy Shakespeare had it right: all the world’s a stage. That is, if you consider your short time here on Terra a performance.

A trusted friend and mentor asked me a perspective-shifting question nearly ten years ago. He said: “A stage is for performance. A platform is for influence. Which do you want?” I think about this conversation almost every day. I kind of wish I could forget it, because I feel like I’m accountable to that perspective now. 

I often issue this challenge to people who misuse the word “platform” in our everyday eCommerce parlance. As Bill Gates once defined a platform —  “when the economic value of everybody that uses it, exceeds the value of the company that creates it. Then it's a platform.”

In this week’s Insiders essay I confessed my personal mission: to make my ceiling someone else’s floor. Said another way, this is the definition of a platform. When others benefit more than yourself. This kind of selfless behavior is often at odds with the harsh realities of business. In many ways, the goal that Brian and I have for Future Commerce is to gain influence with Commerce-centered businesses, and use that influence as a catalyst for change. Not the kind of hopey-changey world-altering kind of thing that Adam Neumann was into; but the kind of perspective change that can be had when someone you trust asks you a pointed question over breakfast.

In the decade since that breakfast I haven’t changed my activities, only my perspective. All influence has performance behind it. But not all performance is influential. The things that I do haven’t changed all that much. But the intentionality and the purpose behind it, have. 

So I’ll issue you the same challenge. Which do you want, dear reader? To stand on a stage and perform? Or to build a platform and influence?

It’s not often your world is rocked over a Denny’s western omelette. Even less often via an email newsletter. If this was useful perspective for you, I hope you’ll consider sharing this newsletter with 2-3 of your coworkers.

— Phillip

What the Zuck. Workplace by Meta is getting put to a new use at McDonald’s. Employees will be able to use the app for communications and training on their phones. Judging by this photo, Mark Zuckerberg seems happy about the tasty deal. And while we’re talking Meta, the company has reportedly decided to scale back its AR glasses plans for the consumer market.

Big Retail Shifts Gears. Target increased its quarterly dividend by 20%, leaving it slightly above Walmart. Sam’s Club is ending its Covid-era benefit of free curbside-pickup for all members. Plus Members will continue to retain this benefit, while basic members will incur a $4 fee, layering on additional charges for “price clubs” as inflation is on the rise.

More Sights & Sounds. CEOs of over 220 companies released a letter this week calling on the U.S. Senate to “take immediate action" on gun violence, though it did not call out any specific actions to be taken. Jay-Z and Jack Dorsey have launched a free “Bitcoin Academy” in the rapper’s old neighborhood. Adobe Analytics seems to be showing that eCom inflation is slowing, while spending is *on the rise*. Firefox and Chrome are going head to head in ad blocking. Meme culture has come for Gen Z and The Fed, and — omg. Nic Cage is all the rage and Face/Off 2’s director wants him back. Oracle has acquired Cerner, and now believes it can solve healthcare’s major tech issue, patient records. Flexa is acquiring Drop Party in a move to expand its offerings in memorable promotional campaigns and more. Amazon’s Dave Clark announced his departure from the company after 23 years in order to step into the role of Technology CEO at Flexport. And McKinsey published an interesting piece about myths in retail media spending. This week Future Commerce podcast listeners got a primer on retail media from friend and contributor Kiri Masters.

Fixing it in a Stitch? Stitch Fix CEO, Elizabeth Spaulding, announced internally this week that over 300 salaried jobs would be laid off, calling it a necessary but “an incredibly difficult decision.” This reduction accounts for about 15% of the company’s salaried employees. The company has hit 52-week lows over a dozen times since its Covid-era highs.

Madewell… for Men. Madewell’s pop-up concept in Brooklyn for men’s apparel continues to expand, and the company is making plans to continue to invest in men’s fashion. Madewell follows other apparel brands expansion into men’s, including Fabletics, Athleta, and Lululemon. Pre-pandemic, men’s accounted for as much as 14% of Lululemon’s new revenue, and was cited as a key growth vertical for their “double-by-2026” growth plan.

The Free Nationals. On Tuesday, Uber Eats launched its free nationwide shipping in collaboration with FedEx shipping.

Oompa Loompa Doopity DUNK. Life has followed art in this tale of a Willy Wonka scene becoming reality. Two people had to be rescued at a Mars M&M factory in PA, after falling into a chocolate tank. Just wait until Slugworth hears about this!

More Palate News. Panera opened its first Panera To Go, a digital-only location. Little Caesars is on track to double its franchise agreements in 2022. Food52 employees are facing more layoffs and reduced hours. Howard Schultz takes back what he said 6 years ago, stating, “I don’t know if we can keep our bathrooms open” — there is truly no relief for the weary. And finally, Liquid Death did this outrageous blind taste test against the world’s most expensive luxury beverages — not for the weak-stomached.

Pictured: AI-generated DALL-E Images of text prompt “Gollum holding a USB-C Cable” courtesy of contributor Alex Cohen

One Cord to Charge Them All. The European Union has passed legislation stating that all smartphones sold in the EU after fall 2024 must have a USB-C port for charging. This ruling includes iPhones. Those tricksy Europeanses.

Transactional Scrutiny Ahead. This year’s tax season will look different from previous years for anyone doing business through digital services such as Venmo and PayPal. The IRS has decreased the minimum reporting amount from $20,000 total payments exchanged on those platforms to a gross of $600. Sounds like this will affect almost everyone who has had a garage sale or sells their used clothing online. EBay and Airbnb are also among the platforms included.

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