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The Wiener Wars Stiffen

PLUS: AI Masters Diplomacy
November 23, 2022

RIP your inbox today, futurists. We hope we’re a welcome distraction from Slack and the Shopify dashboard for the next few hours.

Today my own inbox has endured an onslaught of mediocre sales offers. But the one that caught my eye was 40% off from Away — the brand that “famously” didn’t run sales until 2020. That’s a far cry from 2019, which proudly led with personalization and other USPs over sales. “The product sells itself.” 

Today’s promotional email was positioned under the guise that their site went down for an extended period of time during a crucial season, and this is to make up for it. 

We don’t need to be apologetic about what it takes to be competitive. Especially in an age where eCom has an easy button. The extended sales season and the rise of SaaS platforms have all but removed scale challenges that online retailers face — both in lengthening sales events to weeks rather than hours, and in the obfuscation of what it takes to horizontally scale software.

I’m jealous of it, to be honest.

My generation sat on the phone with Rackspace launching caching proxies so that your generation can post screenshots from Triple Whale. I had the direct line of data center and SQL teams. My entire week of BFCM was a sleepless Monster and Red Bull-fueled endurance event. For years. This because we had infinite problems to solve; as pioneers of a new medium we had to be technologists and masters of the software development lifecycle, as well as create stellar product and marketing.

We had it hard. Nobody should have to endure that for years on end. And thanks to progress, you’ll never have to.

Neither should Away.

Away is the product of the former era — my era — when Keeping Up with the Joneses of DTC meant building on Spree Commerce like Bonobos and Best Made (RIP). Now by comparison they look like digital laggards, complete with all of the scale and software challenges that the “bad old days” brought with it. 

Holiday success comes at a cost; and not just the margin hit of a 40% off sale. But the costly emotional toll that fragile systems take on a team who undoubtedly knows just how good the rest of the industry has it right now.

I have a lot to give thanks for. And one of them is that I won’t ever have a sleepless Black Friday again. 

— Phillip

Pictured: the merch shelf on OnlyFans, powered by Spring. 

The Unclothed Selling Clothes. Spring (the company formerly known as Teespring) has partnered with OnlyFans to provide print-on-demand shopping features to creators. The merch shelf will allow profits off the sales of 120+ items, including puzzles. Yes. Puzzles. OnlyFans takes no cut of the transactions, but this does incentivize creators to integrate their businesses more deeply within the platform.

Copycat Furniture? Blame eCom. Copycat furniture is becoming increasingly popular due to the ease of access to anonymous overseas manufacturers and the influence of social media. Now, advocacy groups are beginning to educate consumers and design professionals on the dangers of knockoff furniture.

More Sights & Sounds. Quantifying the global eCommerce slowdown. Bob Iger’s back, baby. The buildout of the re-commerce reverse logistics industry. Time’s 200 best inventions list features more than a dozen mobility and driverless projects. NYC approves $24(ish) minimum wage for delivery drivers. Ulta’s chief executive Mary Dillon makes tracks to Foot Locker. Walmart’s growth tied to HHI > $100k (say what). Oh, and yes, TikTok is doing eCom. Kinda. Here’s a profile inside a TikTok eCom seller bootcamp in China.

Image: Panera

Panera Pilferers Ponder Position of Pepsi Pumps. Panera Bread is taking a stand against theft by implementing a new policy: moving drinks behind the counter. The move comes as a result of customers who have been stealing drinks from Panera Bread locations across the country. Panera says that thefts are not making a significant dent in the bottom line of the Unlimited Sip Club, and that moving drinks behind the counter is a "limited small test."

The Weiner Wars Stiffen Up. Sam's Club has lowered the price of its hot dog-and-soda combo from $1.50 to $1.38, undercutting Costco's similar deal by 12 (checks notes) cents. 12 cents. This is part of Sam's Club's larger goal to make its membership the most valuable subscription you have. This makes rising costs elsewhere in the economy much easier to slide down the gullet, to be frank.

Bury That Sh*t. After a decade of telling us that aluminum is “infinitely recyclable” and better for the planet, Nestlé has reversed course with a new form of packaging innovation. The Nespresso Original Line coffee pod has been retooled into a fully-compostable variety. It will debut in France and Switzerland before making a broader appearance internationally next year.

Diplomatic Immunity! Meta AI has created an AI called Cicero that has mastered the board game Diplomacy. Cicero uses natural language to negotiate and persuade, just like a human. This is a notable achievement because the game requires deep interpersonal negotiation skills, which implies that Cicero has obtained a certain mastery of language necessary to win the game.

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