Join us for VISIONS Summit NYC  - June 11

The End of the DTC Era

Thanks for everything, Walmart
April 14, 2023

Header Image: a panel of experts on policy, art, and digital communities. Live from our symposium at MoMA on Wednesday, April 12.

Welcome to Friday, Futurists. I’m in a great mood because we just wrapped our annual content-building event for our VISIONS report in NYC. Our 2023 symposium was filmed at MoMA in the Celeste Bartos Theater, and we were joined by 12 incredible minds, examining the way culture has shaped how we buy and sell things. 

I can’t wait to reveal this newest, most incredible piece of content with you. We’re unveiling it live in person (squee!) on June 15th in Chicago. Come join us at RICE, the Retail Innovation Conference and Expo, and stick around for VISIONS SUMMIT! 

Get your tickets now, just a few seats are remaining! 

— Phillip

P.S. Why is Congress attacking digital ads? This week on the podcast, we dig into new research from the RXN Group and the Data Catalyst Institute that shows the power digital advertising has for U.S. Small Businesses, and we learn more about how public policymakers are able to level the playing field between big tech and SMBs… by using data. Listen now on Apple or on Spotify (direct episode links).

P.P.S. Visions 2023 contributor, and friend of Future Commerce, Matt Klein, is no slouch when it comes to future trends forecasting. In fact, he’s published the Meta Trends Report tracking trends that are… well, trending. His media property, ZINE, is up for a Webby. You should go vote for him.

Photo: Walmart on Twitter

Lil’ BB Walmarts. Walmart is going to start testing out some tiny, cute, curated stores in popular vacation spot locations, known as “general stores.” The big box retailer has partnered with Getaway — known for their tiny house vacations in nature — to bring the idea to life citing that people getting away in nature may need things like chapstick or sunblock, but not want to come into town to a big retail store to get them.

By the Power of Steve Jobs. Tech comms on Twitter were all abuzz this week as an Apple AirPods Pro concept based on a patent filed by the company has come to life, leaving people saying things like, “This is an iPod and Apple days of innovation are through.” Some angry onlookers even invoked the very thoughts of the late Steve Jobs toward this design, noting that the whole team should be fired.

More Sights & Sounds. NPR has announced its exit from Twitter, after the platform described the news outlet as "government-funded media." Adobe is planning to purchase Figma, and to help finance this move the software company will issue investment-grade bonds. TikTok is struggling to gain merchants in the U.S. as companies are focusing on brick and mortar, while others have concerns about a coming ban. Twitter will soon let users offer content subscriptions to their followers. Amazon is beginning to charge fees on some returns happening at UPS Stores. AmeriMark Interactive, the national catalog retailer has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Amazon is offering CodeWhisperer, it’s AI coding assistant, free for developers, just to stick it to Microsoft. Also, enjoy this visual topography of the cozy web.

Screenshot: ThreadUp Fashion Footprint

Climate Calculations. ThredUp has launched a Footprint Calculator as an answer to Gen Z shoppers wanting to break unsustainable shopping habits. The calculator is meant to be informative, rather than “preachy” and can help shoppers determine if they are net polluters or not.

Sell-Off. Walmart will sell Bonobos to Express at a fraction of its purchase price. The acquirer, WHP Global, owns other imperiled brands like Anne Klein and Toys ‘R Us. According to Reuters, WHP Global will acquire the Bonobos brand for $50 million, while Express will acquire the operating assets and assume related liabilities of the Bonobos business for $25 million.

Our Take: The 2017 acquisitions of Modcloth, Moosejaw, and Bonobos signaled the beginning of Walmart’s digital turnaround; as well as a positive signal that there were, indeed, exits to be had in DTC brands. The DTCification of Walmart rejuvenated the brand, at the expense of the acquired targets.

What followed was a 4-year fever dream that drove CAC through the roof, caused Apple to start a war with Facebook, incited the FTC to issue disclosure guidelines for influencers, created another eCom bubble in venture capital, launched dozens of copycat “headless” commerce platforms to the tune of billions in VC, and fueled an echo chamber of DTC acolytes… who all eventually became crypto maxis.

Walmart’s divestment of the oldest of the DNVBs marks a logical end to the “DTC Era,” where narratives dominated. What a time to be alive. Thanks, Walmart. End of an era.

Flying Frankfurters. During the Phillies-Marlins game this week — which happened to be dollar hot dog night — fans began hurling hot dogs at eachother out of either boredom or frustration that the Phillies were losing.

Changeups in the Restaurant World. Chipotle has unveiled plans for an all-electric, 100% renewable energy restaurant asit works toward its goal to reduce half of its greenhouse emissions by 2030. Meanwhile, McDonald’s plans to close its U.S. regional field offices in favor of remote support teams.

Conservatism is Counterculture. Republicans have counted on young voters becoming more conservative as they age, but the party has struggled to win votes of 18-20 somethings since 2008 when Barack Obama took office. Gen Z is more progressive than generations before them, and millennials have become more pro-choice as they have aged into their 30s and 40s.

Humanoids Coming Soon. It appears that OpenAI is working to give its language models a physical form to reside in. The company has invested in a Norwegian robotics company in order to building a humanoid robot worker.

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