Does Amazon understand customer experience more than most brands?

More than 50% of product searches now begin on Amazon. This week we wrote about how the company has won over consumers' wallets by prioritizing convenience and functionality over design—and what other brands should do about it.


PrimeTime: Amazon partners with Snapchat on visual product search feature, uses Prime Day to highlight private labels, plans to launch holiday toy catalog, announces Delivery Service Partners program, acquires PillPack

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon is partnering with Snapchat on a visual product search that will live inside the social media app. The feature will allow users to identify songs, products and barcodes with the help of Shazam…


The Grinds: Disney and Muji launch immersive experiences, Aday grows “wear-testers” program, Peloton acquires Neurotic Media, WeWork debuts retail market

Disney brings Star Wars to Hollywood Studios and Muji opens more hotels, inviting visitors to live in their brands. What happened A little over a month after debuting Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios Park, Disney is bringing Star Wars: Galaxy’s…


Do DNVBs exist anymore? Revisiting the buzzword

Andy Dunn coined the term DNVB—digitally-native vertical brand—in 2016. The clearest possible reading of the addition of the word “vertical” is that it means “control,” akin to the idea of vertical integration, in which a company controls various…


PrimeTime: Prime Wardrobe launches for all U.S. Prime members, Kroger reigns supreme in U.S. online grocery delivery, Sonos makes a comeback, Amazon Hub grows, Prime members enjoy discounts at all U.S. Whole Foods locations, American Express and Amazon team up with co-branded credit card for small businesses

The latest news on everything Amazon   All U.S. Prime members now have access to Prime Wardrobe, a service that allows customers to order apparel online, gives them a seven-day grace period to try on the items, and then charges them for…


The Grinds: Nike debuts training pop-up, Rimowa tries out direct-to-consumer, YouTube reacts to IGTV, SoulCycle embraces media

Nike’s training pop-up gives customers the tools to “Just Do It.” What happened Nike Plus members and those with the Nike Training Club app can now visit a training pop-up in Los Angeles until mid-August and workout with professional athletes.…


Zara, Netflix and the rise of the Amorphous Brand

Most consumer product companies, especially direct-to-consumer brands that start out by serving a specific niche audience, sink or swim based on how they position themselves around a target customer. These brands define “our girl” or “our guy” and…


The Grinds: Goop answers pseudoscience criticism, UPS looks to automation, #MeToo jeans reprise the accessible feminism debate, Disney launches attraction previews

Goop answers pseudoscience criticism by coming clean about its product benefits. What happened After growing a business by amassing a devoted following of customers who believed in product benefits not necessarily backed by science—and receiving…


PrimeTime: Amazon launches Alexa for Hospitality, strives to win over Brazilian cosmetics companies, sells from Treasure Trucks; Microsoft develops cashierless technology; Roku plans to launch Amazon-inspired channel subscription service; CVS expands pharmaceutical delivery service

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon launched Alexa for Hospitality at a number of hotels in the Marriott family and has invited other hotel chains to integrate with its echo speakers as well. The service will place Echo speakers…


Money has flowed into digitally-native brands. When will it flow out?

As heavily-funded brands, Honest Company and Harry’s were once thought to be the new guard of digitally-native retail, along with many other companies that have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital. But what has become of…


PrimeTime: Amazon inks deal to stream the English Premier League, extends 10% Whole Foods discount for Prime members, rebrands its membership program, debuts the Fire TV Cube; Sears expands its auto partnership with Amazon; Mastercard seeks to integrate payment system into Google and Amazon voice assistants

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon inked a deal with the English Premier League, giving the platform exclusive rights to stream soccer on Prime Video. This means that, starting in 2019, UK-based Prime members can watch the 20…


The Grinds: JCPenney launches Fanatics shop-in-shops, Honest Company raises $200 million, Wish brings the dollar store online, Walmart opens ModCloth stores

JCPenney banks on shop-in-shops, this time with digitally-native sports manufacturer and retailer Fanatics. What happened JCPenney launched Fanatics shop-in-shops in 350 of its locations, and plans to open 300 more by the end of the summer. Each…


PrimeTime: Amazon extends Whole Foods discounts to Prime subscribers, makes Prime Pantry a monthly membership, announces partnerships between Amazon Dash and WePlenish, AmazonFresh and SideChef; Costco holds out with strong membership model; “Amazon’s Choice” label grows in significance

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon is extending its Whole Foods discounts to Prime customers who will now save 10% on featured items—marketed as Prime Member deals in store—and on on-sale products at the grocery store in a…


The Grinds: Reformation inks wholesale deal with Nordstrom, H&M opens off-price store Afound, J.Crew plans a fall relaunch, Rent the Runway introduces maternity

Reformation expands its brick-and-mortar footprint with a new wholesale deal at Nordstrom. What happened Reformation, which sells eco-conscious clothing online and at its 11 stores, will sell at Nordstrom, both on the department store’s site and at…


Kardashian Kryptonite: From selling out to stocking products

When Kylie Jenner launched Kylie Lip Kits—her first beauty product—in 2015, she made only 15,000 units, which sold out in 20 minutes and grossed around $1 million. In June 2017, her sister Kim Kardashian launched KKW Beauty with one product: Contour…


Companies are staying private and unprofitable for longer. Is Wall Street the answer?

There are three main ways for startups that raise money to return it to their investors. First, they can stay independent and just exist as private, hopefully profitable companies. Second, they can sell to an acquirer and be part of a larger…


PrimeTime: Amazon’s hold over the beauty market grows, Google’s smart speaker sales surpass Amazon’s

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon’s hold over the beauty market is growing a minimum of 24% year over year in the U.S. in the top ten verticals. In Q1 2018, luxury cosmetics sales rose 57% and the company plans to capitalize on…


The Grinds: JAB expands its food and beverage empire, The NFL and Nike team up with Fanatics, Tiffany & Co. revives its retail, SoulCycle makes U-turn from IPO

JAB expands its food and beverage empire with Pret a Manger while Nestlé sheds U.S. candy brands. What happened JAB Holding Company, which owns food and beverage brands including Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Panera Bread Co., Keurig Green Mountain and…


The Grinds: Comme des Garçons names direct-to-consumer brand, Walmart and eBay personalize shopping, Saks and Barneys strive to stay relevant, Target adds new digital beauty services

Comme des Garçons launches CDG, taking on a new challenge: direct-to-consumer ecommerce. What happened In the lead up to the launch of CDG in July, Comme des Garçons is launching CDG Breaking News this May as a capsule collection teaser. The CDG…


The Niche Paradox: The difference between underserved and niche markets

While many of the newest crop of digitally-native, direct-to-consumer brands attempt to democratize luxury in one way or another, they still overwhelmingly attend to young professionals in urban centers like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.…


PrimeTime: Amazon Channels reigns over television subscriptions; Amazon upgrades its beauty shopping experience, will launch the Marketplace Appstore for sellers, is closing customer accounts because of returns; Whole Foods tests a store-in-a-store housewares concept, Acer’s new laptops are integrated with Alexa

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon Channels continues to take more of the television subscriptions pie from TV networks. The service, which allows Prime customers to purchase streaming subscriptions to television channels is now…


Actors, like brands, rise and fall based on performance

As more businesses strive to be defensible, competitive and long-lasting, the vast majority nevertheless lose relevance, fall prey to better-managed copycats, or fail to evolve to meet changing consumer needs—evidence that a brand’s status is never…


The Grinds: Bulletin opens its third New York store, Aesop expands its retail footprint, Shopify moves offline, Walmart will sell Harry’s razors

Bulletin is opening its third New York store, continuing its quest to champion women in business. Bulletin, which began as an online magazine in 2014 featuring digitally-native women-led brands, will open its third flagship store in the historic…


The Grinds: Instagram launches in-app payments, Sephora opens its second Studio, Online returns are hurting landlords, Birchbox sells a majority stake to one of its investors

Instagram launches in-app payments for select brands, which could substantially increase its share of commerce. What happened For the in-app payments, an extension of Facebook Payments, Instagram allows users to create a profile that includes their…


PrimeTime: Amazon is using 3D body scanning to collect data to grow its apparel business, halted its expansion in Seattle, added a children’s book subscription to Prime, launched a new private-label pet brand called Wag

The latest news on everything Amazon   As its apparel retail business grows, Amazon’s 3D body scanning department will collect data on how body size and shape changes over time. The company acquired a startup called Body Labs in 2017 that…


The promises and perils of digital waitlists

Last week I wrote about the authenticity of long lines, using Supreme and Everlane as contrasting examples. Long lines and limited scarcity are part of Supreme’s DNA, while they are out of place for a basics brand like Everlane. Either way, I noted…


The Grinds: Instacart may suffer from Walmart-Amazon food wars, Meghan Markle takes influencer marketing offline, Brookfield Ventures invests in tech-driven startups, Kering adapts to a changing luxury industry

In Walmart and Amazon’s food wars, Instacart may be the collateral damage. What happened Walmart continues to rev up its grocery operations at home and abroad. This week, the company announced that it will merge its grocery chain Asda with…


PrimeTime: Amazon will sell an Echo Dot for kids, raise its annual Prime membership fee, stream Thursday Night Football, double its credit line, sell Chico’s apparel; Amazon is attempting to win over HQ2 finalists and growing its retail business with profits from AWS and advertising; Private equity firms want to consolidate top Amazon sellers

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon will begin selling the Echo Dot Kids Edition in May 2018—a smaller device with a protective case, two-year warranty, and a year of the FreeTime Unlimited Family Plan, including child-oriented…


The difference between Supreme and Everlane’s long lines

If you happen to be near a Supreme store on a Thursday around 11am, you’re likely to see hundreds of people waiting in a barricaded line for the latest drop. Just a few blocks away from Supreme, you’ll see a line of one or two dozen people outside…


PrimeTime: Amazon Key delivers to cars; Walmart’s online grocery program improvements are paying off; Amazon gives Best Buy exclusive rights to sell Fire TVs, inked live video game deal with the NBA, may surpass Walmart as top U.S. apparel retailer; Home Depot amps up tech team to compete with Amazon

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon Key now delivers packages to customers’ cars—an additional service to the Key program, which also drops off packages inside of Prime Members’ homes with the help of an internet-connected door…


Is Debt Divine or Disastrous?

While debt has proved problematic for bigger companies, it can also be a savior for smaller ones. In the direct-to-consumer horse race, brands are trying to scale faster than their competitors—most companies have turned to selling equity in exchange…


The Grinds: Toy retailers seek gains from Toys R Us’ bankruptcy, Fraud-detecting services vet online shoppers, The Wing ushers in a new era of retail real estate, Beauty buffs and sneakerheads form social channels

Big toy retailers like Hasbro and Mattel and independent toy stores hope to gain market share from Toys R Us’ bankruptcy, but Amazon and its competitors may beat them to it. What happened In the wake of Toys R Us’ bankruptcy, toy manufacturers…


PrimeTime: Amazon expands Prime Wardrobe, braces itself for new state taxes, outpaces Best Buy as top electronics retailer; Amazon Echo partners with home builders; Amazon Fuse will expand the company’s media ecosystem; Walmart may buy stake in Flipkart

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon will allow more Prime members to access the Prime Wardrobe program, which lets shoppers try on clothes before paying for them. Prime Wardrobe—which has yet to officially launch and serves…


The Grinds: Walmart plans to redesign site, Click-to-buy morphs into click-to-buy-and-make, b8ta expands “retail as a service,” Domino’s delivers to customers en route

Walmart is making its website more sleek, but where does that leave Jet? What happened Walmart, which continues to devote more resources to its ecommerce operation, plans to debut a resigned website that spotlights its higher-end brands and…


Should brands leave money on the table—or on the shelf?

Despite its envious position, Supreme is in an interesting conundrum: to keep growing, it either has to keep making more products or raise the prices of existing ones, but doing so will change the sellout characteristics for the brand. This is…


It takes decades to build a meaningful brand—and minutes to destroy it

In a previous edition of The Filter, we presented the concept that Brand and The Brand are two different entities. We defined Brand as “the accumulation of all of a company’s actions to make something meaningful and memorable” and we defined The…


The Grinds: Nordstrom opens first standalone men’s store, LVMH launches luxury startup accelerator, Warby Parker must meet investors’ expectations, USV invests in livestream marketplace ShopShops

Nordstrom opens its first standalone men’s store, relying on data to cultivate its foray into New York City. What happened Nordstrom’s first standalone men’s store—and first store in New York—will open this Thursday in Manhattan. The store enters…


PrimeTime: Amazon grows its private-label presence; U.S. warehouses unfit for ecommerce fulfillment; Amazon wants Alexa to compete with Venmo; Walmart continues to compete with Amazon via price matching, pickup kiosks and healthcare; Amazon’s R&D expenses surpass those of all other U.S. companies

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon now has over 70 active private-label brands on its platform. The majority of these brands emerged in 2017, though the company began testing its private-label products in 2009. These brands and…


PrimeTime: Whole Foods may offer discount to Prime members; Amazon Video falls behind Netflix, YouTube and Hulu; Amazon launches Home Assistants; Trump may seek to regulate Amazon; Amazon Spark is failing, Amazon is collecting state sales tax, but leaving out cities

The latest news on everything Amazon   Whole Foods may offer Prime members a 10% discount, based on signs advertising the offer were seen in the grocery chain’s flagship Austin store. Since the Amazon acquisition, benefits to Whole Foods…


The Grinds: Build-A-Bear thrives—Toys R Us dies, Adore Me to open stores near Victoria’s Secret, New York City devises retail vacancy tax for landlords, Goop raises $50 million

Build-A-Bear thrives —Toys R Us dies. To-the-point analysis about one of the four important stories from the week.   What happened Build-A-Bear has posted four consecutive years of profitability and remains debt free in an era when…


What can the direct-to-consumer explosion learn from the farm-to-table movement?

In the mid-2000s, the farm-to-table movement transformed the food industry. Though the food industry is often ahead of others because it sells products that people physically consume, the consumer goods space—fashion, apparel, beauty, CPG and…


The Grinds: Ulta Beauty will begin selling Chanel Beauté, Nordstrom family ends buyout effort, ThredUp wants to create a consignment ecosystem, Google launches new advertising program online with its AI assistant

Ulta Beauty will begin selling Chanel Beauté—a coveted and surprising addition to the beauty retailer that mixes high and low. To-the-point analysis about one of the four important stories from the week.   What happened Ulta Beauty,…


Virgil’s Ladder: From Vision to Vuitton

This week, after months of rumors, LVMH named Virgil Abloh—Kanye West’s life-long creative director, founder of Off-White, endless brand collaborator, DJ and former Fendi intern—as the new menswear director for Louis Vuitton. The appointment propels…


The Grinds: Best Buy, other retailers crack down on returns, Duty-free airport retail thrives, ASOS stands out with its product descriptions, West Elm sells experiences with local artists

Best Buy and other retailers are cracking down on the number and frequency of returns, but are risking their customer relationships. To-the-point analysis about one of the four important stories from the week.   What happened Best…


As Facebook advertising costs rise, digitally-native brands turn to traditional advertising

A Warby Parker pamphlet arrives in the mail. A Glossier billboard hovers above Houston Street. Clones of an Away wheatpaste coat a construction barrier. A Stitch Fix TV ad blares from the television. For a generation of digitally-native brands,…


PrimeTime: Amazon.com lockers at Whole Foods lead to more short-term grocery visits; Amazon may have its sights set on Toys R Us real estate; Executives leave Whole Foods; Whole Foods lays off regional marketing staff; Majority of Amazon shoppers don’t notice ads

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon.com lockers, which are installed at over 75 Whole Foods locations, allow Amazon customers to pick up their packages in a secure location. This leading to more short-term visits and impulse…


PrimeTime: Amazon goes after lower-income customers; strikes multi-year contract with Whole Foods, but leaves small grocery vendors worried; makes Prime Pantry a monthly subscription; discusses partnership with banks to create Amazon checking account product

The latest news on everything Amazon   Amazon continues to go after lower-income customers, infiltrating Walmart territory with a discounted Prime membership for Medicaid recipients. The membership costs 54% of a regular Prime membership…


The Grinds: Target opens small-format stores, BuzzFeed adds new beauty and style vertical, JAB Holding Company conquers coffee, Glossier launches new pop-up

Target is the latest mass retailer to open small-format stores, whose focus on private label could help it provide even more differentiated products. To-the-point analysis about one of the five important stories from the week.  …


Big brands need to unbundle themselves if they want to survive

Gap, Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie and Fitch, J.Crew and Aeropostale have thousands of people on staff, hundreds of retail stores, and complex global supply chains. But having largely failed to deliver shoppers better products, inspiring brands and…