1) Thingtesting raises $300,000 to grow its “unbiased” consumer review platform, a proposition full of trade-offs.

WHAT HAPPENED: Thingtesting, founded by Jenny Gyllander in 2017, is a website and Instagram page that reviews direct-to-consumer products. The platform raised the money from Silicon Valley investors and Tina Sharkey, co-founder of Brandless.

WHY IT MATTERS

  • Thingtesting has built trust with a select group of consumers and venture capitalists, but scaling it to a larger audience is not guaranteed. Gyllander says the main ingredients of Thingtesting’s success are honesty and authenticity—two components that many direct-to-consumer brands credit for their own success. The Wirecutter, now owned by The New York Times, has done this rather well reviewing a broad swath of consumer products. But focusing on a specific category of brands artificially limits the playing field—in some categories, products from legacy brands could be better than direct-to-consumer ones.
  • A critic-driven model is a good start, but peer-to-peer reviews remain important. Scaling trust is challenging, given the need and/or want to rely on a larger group of voices. Gyllander plans to hire a team of reviewers to join her in the near future. This is vital for scaling Thingtesting’s reach, but with this reach comes the risk of diluting the opinion—and therefore the trust—that Gyllander has garnered. The small amount of money the company has raised ensures that, at least for the time being, it won’t be scaling rapidly just yet. But the Wirecutter itself was entirely bootstrapped.

2) Louis Vuitton launched virtual products in a Riot Sports video game, signaling a new interest in digital entertainment.

WHAT HAPPENED: Louis Vuitton will launch branded products for “League of Legends,” along with a fashion collection and trophy case. The collection will launch at the “League of Legends” annual esports final held in Paris this November.

WHY IT MATTERS:

  • Louis Vuitton’s partnership with Riot Sports is evidence that luxury brands are shifting beyond traditional into virtual sports. The luxury powerhouse has dabbled in collaborations with sports organizations, most recently with FIFA in honor of the 2018 World Cup. But its partnership with “League of Legends” signifies the brand’s desire to be ubiquitous in both the digital and physical world. The Riot Sports collaboration comes as the brand debuted LVTV, a YouTube channel with dedicated content. Louis Vuitton’s “League of Legends” and the Louis Vuitton YouTube channel reveal the brand’s focus on acquiring a younger clientele.
  • Virtual products make luxury products more accessible with a lower price tag. Riot Games has yet to release the prices of its Louis Vuitton e-products. However, its typical pricing structure might allow a gamer to buy a Louis Vuitton Speedy bag for $20 in the game versus $650 in the real world. The “League of Legends” partnership goes beyond brand awareness and allows customers to actually own a piece of the brand—in a different world they frequently inhabit. While Nike adopted a similar strategy selling virtual products through the video game Fortnite, Louis Vuitton is one of the first luxury players to follow suit.

3) Foot Locker launched a multi-faced incubator to reach a younger audience, but competing in a specialized sector might not be worth it.

WHAT HAPPENED: Footlocker announced Project Greenhouse, a digital strategy to capture a younger, streetwear-centric customer. The initiative will help launch new brands, along with collaborations between designers, musicians and tech designers. Products will be available for purchase only through the app, which will debut next month.

WHY IT MATTERS

  • Foot Locker wants to set trends, not follow them. Greenhouse could help Foot Locker attract a streetwear-obsessed consumer, but truly focusing on this customer would require a full-fledged transformation, rather than an experiment. It’s also questionable if Foot Locker’s customers will appreciate the content the app. offers.
  • With over 1,800 stores worldwide, Foot Locker stores are often the first point of reference, which Project Greenhouse ignores. If Project Greenhouse lacks an in-store presence, consumers will be quick to forget the values it endorses—innovation, inclusivity and empowerment. With brands like Nike reigning in their wholesale accounts, Foot Locker realized it could no longer succeed as a middleman. Rather than focus on a content-infused digital platform, the retailer should instead focus on enhancing its store fleet and building a more convenient shopping experience, both online and offline.

4) Shopify will support CBD businesses on its platform, a plus for the industry and a sign of increasing competition on the horizon.

WHAT HAPPENED: Merchants in forty states across the U.S. can now sell CBD products on the Shopify platform. Shopify’s decision comes after BigCommerce announces changes for its platform.

WHY IT MATTERS

  • Shopify’s support of CBD sellers opens the floodgates. Shopify’s focus on the sector means that hurdles like payment processing and fulfillment will be less troublesome for CBD entrepreneurs, thanks to the Shopify systems they now have access to. Professional and technological services for an industry in a legal grey area have been an issue until recently.
  • Shopify’s promotion of CBD sellers could offer consumers clarity or add to the chaos. More well-known brands like Casper and Brandless announced new CBD products in the past week, alongside celebrities like John Legend endorsing products from other brands. This activity is outpacing education around CBD, which has led to a backlash questioning the effectiveness of the ingredient and claims that it can solve nearly any medical problem. Shopify’s backing will further normalize the category, but it will also enable thousands of new businesses to sell their products. The platform will need to police this, even though individual sellers carry most of the responsibility.