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Social shopping is finally having its moment

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Good morning! Forgive me if you’ve heard this one before: Pinterest and Twitter try to do commerce. But this time, it might actually work. I’m Owen Thomas, and I bought a bear mask on Instagram once.

Let’s go shopping

Time is not, in fact, a flat circle. It’s more of a lumpy polygon. Wander around enough, and you’ll find recycled ideas haunting you. But recognizing the exact crooks and curves of where you are in the moment is key to making it all fit.

That’s where we are in social commerce, an idea that has come and gone and been reborn so many times it makes me dizzy. Pinterest and Twitter, which have both experienced humbling failures in trying to connect social networks with ecommerce, have taken fresh runs at the challenge. My inner skeptic screams that it won’t work this time, either. Here’s why my inner optimist is telling that jerk to hush up.

As we emerge from the pandemic, ecommerce is changing. Remember when people were talking about PayPal buying Pinterest?

  • That deal didn’t happen, but the pressure to merge shopping with payment is just getting stronger. The first is about discovery and inspiration; the second is about conversion rates, checkout interfaces and data. Put them together, and you have a far better idea of what makes people buy things.
  • Social influences are an increasingly strong motivator. Accenture believes social commerce will outgrow regular ecommerce by a factor of three in the coming years.
  • Livestreamed shopping, first popularized in China, is spreading. Instagram featured live shopping events in November. And creators are increasingly looking to affiliate fees and merch sales as steadier sources of revenue.

The key is simplifying checkout. One-click shopping is so old that Amazon’s patent expired four years ago, but buying something you encounter in a social feed is still too complicated.

  • Twitter’s latest answer is Twitter Shops, which lets retailers put up a mini-storefront with a catalog of up to 50 products. Checkout happens on the retailer’s website, sure, but it’s through an in-app browser, which makes it easier to get back to the app.
  • Pinterest is going further, adding its own checkout to its iOS app. It’s something the ecommerce-friendly social network offered for a couple of years through Buyable Pins, a product it abandoned in 2018.

What’s different now? Subsisting on ads alone is more challenging.

  • Apple’s privacy changes to iOS have hit all kinds of online advertising businesses. Facebook felt the most impact, but it’s gotten everyone thinking about whether they want to depend on ad revenue.
  • Even if ads remain the primary business model, integrating payments means you have irrefutable data about an ad leading to a sale. Owning the checkout process means you don’t have to fuss with attribution.
  • Speaking of that, we wonder if Shopify’s the real winner there. Its strategy has long been about gathering a retailer’s catalog of products and putting it in as many places as possible: on the web, on Instagram, on Pinterest, even on TikTok. Pinterest’s newest shopping feature only works with Shopify for now.

So is social commerce really real now? In a 2018 paper, academic Lee McGuigan, now an assistant professor at UNC, suggested that “shoppability be regarded not just as a functionality but as an imagined affordance.” He cited the trope of Jennifer Aniston’s sweater from “Friends,” an object of longing not just for fans of the show but media executives predicting interactive nirvana. Well, guess what: You still can’t buy Rachel Green’s sweater, but you can shop for official “Friends” merch. Aniston promoted the store on her Instagram.

— Owen Thomas (email | twitter)

People are talking

Salesforce’s Lee Murdock thinks employees should stay at a company for at least a year:

  • “As far as career success, [less than a year] is not enough time to really integrate into a team and show results that you can take forward.”

Jay Sullivan said crypto is one of the ways Twitter wants to help creators get paid:

  • “It could be through crypto, but it could be through other mechanisms.”

The future is tablets, Google's Rich Miner said:

  • "I actually think there’s going to be a crossover point at some point in the not too distant future where there are more tablets sold annually than there are laptops."

Templafy’s Greg Sheppard said execs need to keep employees posted on rebrands:

  • “How do you make sure that your sales team, every time they're speaking to a customer, they’re using the new brand?”

Making moves

Niantic is buying 8th Wall in its biggest acquisition yet. 8th Wall helps developers create AR apps.

TikTok and Oracle are nearing a deal to keep data from U.S. users on Oracle servers, a source told Bloomberg.

Andrew Rendich is Peloton’s new chief supply chain officer. Rendich was most recently the COO of Grove Collaborative.

Sachin Kamdar is leaving Parse.ly as CEO. Kamdar founded the analytics platform over a decade ago.

Milica Zec is the new chief metaverse officer at Infinite Assets. Zec co-founded New Reality Company.

A MESSAGE FROM 4-H

Gen Z is poised to help everyone - from a rural small business to a tech giant - rethink how their business operations can help alleviate the digital divide. It’s time to give Gen Z a seat at the table for the generation that sees how tech can be a benefit but often is the barrier for advancement.

Learn more

In other news

Apple, Google, Meta and others are protesting transgender policy in Texas. "We call on public leaders — in Texas and across the country — to abandon efforts to write discrimination into law and policy," the companies wrote in an ad in today's Dallas Morning News.

Elon Musk and Grimes had a second child. She was born in 2021, and is named Exa Dark Sideræl Musk. (Y for short.) And trust us: you should read this whole Vanity Fair profile of Grimes, which is filled with interesting Musk details.

Facebook and Instagram users can call for violence against Russia, according to emails viewed by Reuters. In some countries, Meta is also temporarily allowing some posts that call for death to the presidents of Russia and Belarus.

Sezzle is laying off workers, including 20% of its North American staff and 40% to 50% of its employees worldwide, as it prepares to be acquired by Zip.

Peloton is bundling its bike and subscription costs. Instead of buying Peloton equipment up front, the company is testing a plan in which customers pay a monthly fee for both the bike and subscription.

Stripe wants to support crypto again with a handful of API integrations, including one called Stripe Connect that lets users pay out fiat currencies in dozens of countries.

Rivian shipped close to 1,000 electric trucks last year. The company expects to produce about 25,000 vehicles in 2022, but if the supply chain weren’t an issue, it said it would be able to double that.

Uber and Lyft drivers are at odds with riders over mask rules. Some states are lifting mask requirements, but the two ride-hailing companies still want everyone wearing masks.

More companies are responding to the war: YouTube and Google Play stopped payment-based services in Russia, and Google Cloud isn’t accepting customers in the country at the moment.

The European Union has new sanctions against Russia that require search engines and social media companies to restrict the ability to share content from RT and Sputnik.

Pick your presentation fighter

The success of your presentation depends on the amount of work you put into it. And for companies like Pitch and Beautiful.ai, that extra work is worth it. Take a look at some of the companies trying to help people make better presentations:

  • Beautiful.ai is OK with a slide deck, as long as it looks pretty. The company uses templates and AI to get your presentation looking as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
  • Microsoft doesn’t think PowerPoint deserves the blame for your boring slides. The company pushes PowerPoint Designer to help turn writing into something more visual.
  • Pitch loves drama. The good kind. It wants presentations to be so interesting that people scroll through it like a social media platform.
  • Google Slides is focused on collaboration. The platform lets you work across Google Docs and Google Meet to create slides.
  • Brandlive wants a performance. The platform thinks presentations should be like “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
  • Prezi likes a good video, too. The company said good presentations can be flashy like a TV show or super casual.

A MESSAGE FROM 4-H

People often think of the digital divide as being just about broadband access, but it is also about understanding the needs and tech literacy levels across roughly six generations. Gen Z could help companies develop products and apps that better serve the needs of our communities, our country and our world.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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