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The Most Important Story Nobody’s Talking About

The Next Era of Marketplaces
November 3, 2023
Pictured: the Evolution of the Desk (Harvard Innovation Lab, 2014)

Editor’s note: Before we begin, we’ve already sold out the first batch of tickets for our opening night bash at MUSES, happening during Miami Art Week and Art Basel 2023. We’ve released another tranche — RSVP today to secure your spot at the premiere eCom and Tech event: December 6-8, Miami Beach.

Welcome to Friday, futurists. 

I spent yesterday with Hilary Coles, the co-founder at Hims and Hers. We spoke together at OpenStore Live, the first conference produced by the Miami-based OpenStore, an acquirer-operator in the Shopify space with a $150M fund to acquire eCommerce brands.

The event was hosted by Keith Rabois and Jeremy Wood, OpenStore’s CEO and founder, respectively.

But there was one product announcement that had the store owner attendees abuzz, and it wasn’t from OpenStore…

On Monday, Shopify announced they would expand their Shop App marketplace operations onto the web, giving access to their rewards (Shop Cash). Previously, the marketplace was only available on iOS and Android.

For merchants attending OpenStore Live, this is an exciting preview of things to come. They are a particular bunch; they all seem keen to sell their store to OpenStore. This event aimed to educate them (and perhaps persuade them) on the values of doing just that. 

Another commonality they share? Their businesses are dependent on Shopify’s success. Expansion into new channels may equate to more revenue.

To date, OpenStore has acquired well north of fifty Shopify stores, making them the ‘largest owner/operator of stores by volume in the world”’ (a paraphrase from OpenStore’s literature). Speaking live at the event, Shopify COO Kaz Nejatian failed to name the migration of Shop App to the web while giving a run-down of more than 200 “products” they had launched just this year.

“I don’t think of Shopify as a web store builder,” said Kaz, seemingly downplaying the role of the merchant’s website as the sole scope of Shopify’s relationship with the entrepreneur. “I see us as replacing the desk of the entrepreneur.” Despite his modest assessment of the importance of the website, it remains a critical battleground with the consumer.

This reminds me of the classic Harvard Innovation Lab video, which shows the evolution of the desk. All facets of business were eventually made manifest through software. Perhaps Shopify (and OpenStore) see the same thing happening with Commerce entrepreneurship. 

Shop App moving off of a mobile-only experience just before Black Friday is an essential milestone, and it follows other experiments performed lately. In a recent Terms of Service update for Android, users may receive push notifications for store recommendations from qualifying merchants.

The halo effect of Shopify has extended good will to their key partner, OpenStore; even if their direction puts the two companies on a collision course.

Just this week, OpenStore announced their own product, also named Shop, a marketplace that allows cross-brand purchasing, via the web.

— Phillip

P.S. How does a billion-dollar logistics giant fail? In the most recent episode of the Future Commerce podcast, logistics expert Kris Gösser breaks down the rise, and fall, of a key player in the eCommerce fulfillment space. Listen to Episode #328, The Collapse of Convoy on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.


P.P.S. How is MrBeast like Walt Disney? They both depended on “shorts,” big bets, and experiential tie-ins to build global brands. Is Jimmy Donaldson the next Walt Disney? We’re not so sure. Read our newest guest essay by Leo Strupczewski: Insiders #157 “MrBeast, Walt Disney, and the Promise of the Payoff”.

Photo by Marcus Urbenz on Unsplash

Forever21 Expands Global Partnership with Shein. Someone wake up Greta Thunberg, because this news deserves a gutteral “how dare you?” Fast fashion giant Shein announced a deeping partnership with brick-and-mortar fashion house, Forever21. Their prior partnership saw Shein merchandise find its way into stores in a multitude of markets. This partnership would expand eCommerce cross-merchandising through a collaboration collection into four more markets.

New AI Executive Order Cuts Out Silicon Valley Innovation. It seems as if President Biden was one of the few people that bothered to watch Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part 1. In the new AI Executive Order, the office of the President issues guidelines and mandates for reporting and oversight of AI across a variety of industries. If Greta’s awake, ask her to phone up Bill Gurley. This was a poor attempt at a joke about regulatory capture. 

Our Take: In the order, every government agency is given a mandate to oversee the use of AI, and outline actions to protect Americans and the consumer through a series of rules and oversights, including committees, forms, and approval processes.

In the order, The Department of Commerce, helmed by Gina Raimondo, is given the mandate to “develop guidance and mandate watermarking for content and imagery generated by AI.” Speaking from Washington on Wednesday, Secretary Raimondo also announced the intention to establish an AI Safety Institute, in partnership with the UK’s own agency of the same name, to study and manage the ongoing effects of AI technology. 

Be sure to subscribe to Future Commerce for our ongoing coverage of deepfakes and the risks they pose for Commerce and advertising.

Executive Cage Match. A new study published in the Wall Street Journal finds that just 1 in 5 CMOs feel their job is adequately defined by the CEO. The cited source of the widening divide between CEOs and CMOs is the lack of responsibility for “growth” in the corporation. The responsibility for growth is no longer firmly in the hands of marketing; it’s more diffuse, shared across roles and channels in a business, more than ever before.

Get in Loser. The Mean Girls reunited for a Walmart ad that is one part nostalgia, one part desperation for cultural relevance. They’re going shopping… at Walmart? As if.

The PacSun to BMW Glow-Up. Virtual influencer Lil’ Miquela’s agent must be among the best in the business. Just one year ago, the Veleb partnered with PacSun in one of the first-ever “vtuber” influencer partnerships in the retail space. Now she’s moved up to the big leagues, featured in a new campaign for the new iX2, the all-electric SUV from BMW. 

We first covered the rise of Velebs in Insiders #59.

Art x Space Force? A new painting by artist Ric Herter depicts a “space vehicle intercepting an adversarial satellite.” This picture of the future, where the government becomes a repo guy, was unveiled at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado. Who said the government is incapable of creativity?

DTC is So Over. VCs are no longer backing DTC-centric business plans or blands. Sadly, we never did learn if it was a channel or a business strategy. Such a shame.

Navigating Corporate Language. What one says isn’t always what they mean, right? Right?? In a recent post on X, Chris Bakke outline a rosetta stone for “corporate speak”.

Archetypes Spotting. Last year we unveiled our first annual Journal, where we covered the 12 Jungian Archetypes, and how those roles impact our view of Commerce and brand. Now, Death Doula and hospice director Maura Ball unveils a new project, Death Archetypes. The project launch date is unknown.

On the subject of death, last year’s Archetypes project covered the subject through the lens of DTC. The Caregiver Archetype was none other than Titan Casket, the DTC brand hyped by the likes of Taylor Swift, and Marques Brownlee. Read more about Titan Casket in our 240-page coffee table book, Archetypes Journal. Available for $55, shipping internationally to 200+ countries.

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