📱 Snap makes a big ecommerce play

March 22, 2021

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The big idea
Snap ghost

Snap’s latest story: An acquisition to power up its ecommerce apparatus

Snaps may start and finish in a matter of seconds, but the company’s growth is likely to remain steady for quite some time.

Snap now boasts 265m daily users (+22% year-over-year) — and on average those users open the app 30 times per day to collectively snap 5B+ photos.

Now, Snap’s looking to monetize its users through an acquisition of Berlin-based retail tech startup Fit Analytics.

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Snap is making an ecommerce push

Fit Analytics builds tech for ~18k retailers — including The North Face, Foot Locker, and Patagonia — that helps shoppers choose the right sizes for the clothing they buy online.

It’s a strategy play: Snap is looking to diversify its $911m ad-driven revenue by launching an ecommerce retail barrage.

Snap is already partnering with NYX Professional Makeup, Ralph Lauren, and Perfect Corp for AR clothing try-on campaigns.

The purchase couldn’t come at a better time

Snap’s got a Gen Z army ready to fire at will. Roughly 90% of 13- to 24-year-olds in the US are on Snapchat, and they’re bringing the heat with $323B in direct buying power.

Per research firm Piper Sandler, the “Selfie Budget” (which includes clothing, fashion accessories, personal care, and shoes) made up 40% of US teens’ spending in fall 2020.

Bottom line: Snapchat’s got the teens, and Fit Analytics has the retail smarts. Ergo, this deal may need a “made in heaven” filter.

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  • China’s Tesla Ban: The Chinese government is prohibiting military staff and other state employees from driving Teslas, citing national security concerns about the data Tesla vehicles gather.
  • DOJ says ’sup to Visa: The Department of Justice is conducting an antitrust investigation of Visa’s debit-card business, focusing on how Visa might limit routing transactions over less expensive networks.
  • Oil leak for Aramco earnings: Saudi Aramco — the world’s largest oil producer — reported a 44% plummet in net income to $49B, though it maintained a positive outlook for the future and kept its $75B dividend in place.
  • Train merger: Canadian Pacific Railway announced plans to buy Kansas City Southern for $25B, creating the first US-Mexico-Canada rail network as it bets big on the future of North American trade.
  • Survey says: An internal Goldman Sachs survey found that young bankers are working an average of 95 hours/week. Some employees are now calling for an 80-hour cap.
New Product Alert

On the mark (Source: Facebook / The Verge)

Facebook and Google are rolling out new products

Facebook is an $800B+ company. Alphabet is a $1.3T+ company.

To keep moving the needle on valuations, these Big Tech players — both facing antitrust cases (FB, GOOGL) — need to continuously roll out new products.

And last week, roll out they did. A few major announcements:

Facebook’s AR wristbands

In 2019, Facebook acquired CTRL-Labs — a startup that creates wristbands that let users control augmented reality (AR) interfaces with hand gestures —  for a reported $500m to $1B.

The social media giant revealed more details on how it’s integrating the wristbands into its mixed-reality efforts, which already include the fast-selling Oculus VR headset.

(Separately, Facebook is creating an Instagram for under-13s. 🤷)

YouTube apes TikTok

Instagram (with Reels) and Snap (with Spotlight) have both emulated TikTok’s popular short-form video format. Now, it’s Google’s turn.

The search giant’s massive video arm (YouTube) has started rolling out its TikTok-inspired Shorts product. YouTube is already dominant for mobile streaming, accounting for 7 out of every 10 mobile streaming minutes viewed globally.

It’s not clear that people who go to YouTube to watch flat-earth conspiracies sports highlights want to watch short TikTok-type videos on the app, though. Time will tell.

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Rock some Revvies →
Amazon warehouse

Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Amazon is using virtual pets to entice warehouse workers

File this under, “I don’t want to live in this future.”

According to a recent report from The Information, Amazon is expanding a program called FC Games to fulfillment centers in 20 states.

The program gamifies the often monotonous work at Amazon fulfillment centers by turning packing boxes into something akin to an arcade game.

Amazon first tested the program in 2017 at a single facility. Since then, the company has expanded the use of gamification to increase worker productivity.

The games are mostly competitive… 

… and they pit co-workers against each other.

Warehouse workers can play up to 6 minigames with names like Tamazilla, CastleCrafter, PicksInSpace, and Dragon Duel.

In-game rewards can be used to purchase virtual pets like penguins, narwhals, and dinosaurs. Amazon notes the rewards do not have any monetary value and have no bearing on a worker’s performance.

Productivity at all costs

Amazon is publicly barreling ahead with its plans to automate most warehouse tasks — but that reality is still years away.

In the meantime, the company is using experiments like FC Games to hold its (still very much human) workers to robot-like productivity standards.

Experts argue that this focus on metrics is pushing employees to the brink: Injuries at Amazon warehouses trend above the industry average.

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Stat of the day
Tech headcount growth

Which tech firms hired the most last year? According to The Information, the companies that increased head count % the most were Zoom (+74%), Amazon (+63%) and Twilio (+59%).

A few cybersecurity firms (Crowdstrike and Cloudflare) and work productivity firm Atlassian round out the top 6.

These hiring sprees come as the entire tech sector saw employment fall by 1.5% from February 2020 highs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On an absolute scale, Amazon dwarfed everyone. The ecomm giant added 500k global employees — or, per The Information, “113 Zooms.”

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