All posts in “eCommerce”

Amazon, WesternUnion debut PayCode to sell goods in emerging markets and let shoppers pay in cash

While Amazon has been methodical (read: a little slow) in launching local versions of its site for various global markets, it has now embarked on a secondary track to snag more business outside the 14 countries where it has built out full operations.

Amazon has partnered with WesternUnion to set up a service called PayCode, which lets people shop and pay for Amazon items using local currencies that would not have been accepted on the site before, starting with services in 10 countries: Chile, Columbia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.

Specifically, shoppers in these markets will now be able to go into Western Union outposts and pay for their Amazon purchases in cash, which also means that payment cards or other virtual payment methods will also not be required to buy from Amazon — one of the barriers to expanding the service up to now into more emerging economies, where card and bank account penetration is much lower than in developed markets like the US and Europe.

“Amazon is committed to enabling customers anywhere in the world to shop on Amazon.com, and a big part of that is to allow customers to pay for their cross-border online purchases in a way that is most convenient for them,” said Ben Volk, Director, Payment Acceptance and Experience at Amazon, in a statement. “Amazon PayCode leverages the reach of Western Union to make cross-border online shopping a reliable and convenient experience for customers who do not have access to international credit cards, or prefer to pay in cash.”

In terms of what they will be able to buy, people can shop across the breadth of the Amazon marketplace, but Amazon notes that they will only be able to use PayCode if it’s offered as an option at checkout (which will only happen in the markets where PayCode is supported); if the item that is chosen is “export eligible”, and if the item’s value “exceeds the maximum value allowed for use on this payment type” — although Amazon doesn’t appear to specify what that maximum value is. Once you complete the purchase online (or possibly more likely, on mobile), you get a “PayCode” QR code that you will have 48 hours to take to a Western Union to pay for the goods; otherwise your order gets cancelled.

The deal between Amazon and Western Union was initially announced last October, with very little detail and fanfare. The PayCode name then appeared to leak out a month later around what appeared to be a test in India (where it has not launched… yet). Today was the first time that the companies unveiled the first launch countries.

PayCode is a significant advance for Amazon as it seeks to step up to the next level of being a global e-commerce powerhouse to compete against the likes of Alibaba.

The latter company has made a lot of inroads to work in a wider array of markets beyond its home base of China, specifically tapping into a long tail of supply from its home market and demand for those goods abroad. Alibaba is also taking care of business when it comes to making transactions related to those trades more seamless. Just today, its financial services affiliate Ant Financial announced that it would acquire UK’s WorldFirst, which provides foreign money transfer for businesses and individuals, for a price that we heard from sources was in the region of $700 million.

Amazon currently operates 14 Amazon websites globally: in the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain and Turkey. (It appears also to have a Prime-only site in Singapore.) Up to now, these would have been the only countries where Amazon would offer goods in local currencies.

Adding a new tranche of countries using PayCode will potentially massively expand how many people can shop on Amazon without Amazon going through the steps of setting up full-fledged operations in those countries to serve those consumers and sellers. (Or, this being Amazon, this would be a key way for the company to start testing the waters to figure out which market might do best with a full-fledged store.) Over time, you might imagine that Amazon might extend PayCode also to markets where it has sites, too, to give shoppers more flexibility in how they pay for goods for themselves or that they are buying for others.

It’s a big market opportunity. Amazon cites estimates from Forrester Research that say cross-border shopping will represent 20 percent of e-commerce by 2022, accounting for $630 billion.

For Western Union, this is a potentially big partnership, too.

Today, PayCode allows people to use Western Union to act as a physical pay station for their Amazon goods, giving Western Union a small cut on those transactions. But you might imagine how this could evolve over time, where remittances sent from family members abroad via Western Union — a very common use of remittance networks — might immediately get redeemed to cover purchases on Amazon.

Similarly, Western Union is working closer with MPesa, the African mobile wallet service that lets people essentially use their phone top-up account as a payment account, and you could imagine how this too could get incorporated into the PayCode experience to facilitate buying and paying on devices, without having to go into Western Union shops and use actual cash.

“We’re helping to unlock access to Amazon.com for customers who need and want items that can only be found online in many parts of the world,” said Khalid Fellahi, SVP and General Manager of Western Union Digital, in a statement. “This is a great example of two global brands innovating and collaborating to bring customers more convenience and choice. In a world where cross-border buyers and sellers are often located on different continents and in completely different financial ecosystems, our platform is ideally suited to solving the complexity of collecting local currency and converting it into whatever currency merchants need on the other end.”

Luxury handbag marketplace Rebag raises $25M to expand to 30 more stores

Rebag, an online resale marketplace for luxury handbags, is getting another infusion of capital as it prepares to expand its offline retail operations. The company this week announced $25 million in Series C funding, in a round led by private equity firm Novator, with participation from existing investors, General Catalyst and FJ Labs.

The round brings Rebag’s total raise to date to $52 million.

Rebag competes with other luxury goods resellers, like TheRealReal, and to some extent with broader resale marketplaces like thredUP or Poshmark, which also attract shoppers looking to buy quality pre-owned items. And it exists in alongside large marketplaces like eBay as well as rental shops like Rent the Runway, which offers an alternative to a site focused only on handbags.

In fact, Rebag founder and CEO Charles Gorra spent a brief period at Rent the Runway, before leaving to start Rebag in 2014. At the time, he said he saw an immediate opportunity to not just rent the items out, but to actually resell them on a secondary market.

Today, Rebag’s shop sells bags from over 50 designer brands, including all the majors like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci, and others.

However, in the years following Rebag’s launch, the company has expand its offerings beyond just online resale to include brick-and-mortar retail and, more recently, a service called Rebag Infinity, which allows shoppers to turn in any Rebag handbag purchase within 6 months in exchange to receive a credit of at least 70 percent of the purchase price.

Last year, Rebag made headlines in the fashion world for selling the rare Hermès White Crocodile Himalayan Birkin collectible – typically an over $100,000 bag – for “just” $70,000, to celebrate the opening of its 57th Street and Madison Avenue store, its second Manhattan flagship location.

With the new funding, Rebag will expand its offline footprint, it says. The company currently operates five stores in New York and L.A. but plans to launch 30 more locations in the “medium term.” This will include both standalone storefronts, as well as presences within luxury malls.

It’s common these days for resale marketplaces these days to take their wares to offline shoppers. TheRealReal, Rent the Runway, ThredUP, and others all today offer real world locations, where shoppers can browse in person instead of just online.

Rebag says since it opened its retail stores las year, it moved from being a 100 percent digital operation to 80 percent digital, and 20 percent offline. Its sourcing network also grew to include over 20,000 stylists, partners, shoppers and sales associates.

With the funding, Rebag adds it will also refine its pricing and handbag evaluation tools aimed at standardizing the resale process, something that could represent another business for the brand (or make it attractive to an acquirer.)

“We are a technology company first,” noted founder and CEO Charles Gorra, in a statement. “Our goal is to become the standard for the luxury resale industry, just like Kelley Blue Book is the main resource for the auto industry.”

The company plans also to triple its team of 100, which today includes newer hires CTO Jay Winters (Delivery.com, Goldman Sachs) and CMO Elizabeth Layne (Bonobos, Appear Here).

Rebag doesn’t share its hard numbers about sales, revenues, valuation, customer base or others, but told us it has tripled revenues since its Series B.

Gametime lets you buy tickets for games and concerts that have already started

Ticketing app Gametime is taking its last-minute approach about as far as it can go, with the launch of a new feature called LastCall. This allows users to purchase tickets through Gametime until 90 minutes after an event has started.

Why would you want to do that? Well, prices usually drop precipitously after the event starts — for example, Gametime said that 48 hours before a game, the median price for a Major League Baseball is (coincidentally?) $48, but it’s dropped to $13 by 90 minutes after the first pitch.

Founder and CEO Brad Griffith acknowledged that most fans probably aren’t interested in just showing up for the fourth quarter or ninth inning of a game, or for the last song in a concert. On the other hand, if you could get a big discount and still catch most of the event, then it might be worth it.

Meanwhile, if you’re a team or a venue with empty seats, or if you’re a ticket-holder who realizes at the last minute that you can’t attend, then it’s good to have one last shot at selling those tickets.

In fact, it sounds like this is one of those “announcements” that’s partly acknowledging what’s already happening, both in the Gametime app and elsewhere. Griffith said the company is “doubling down” on this seriously-last-minute category of tickets, adding that it’s “constantly working through” what it’s actually including under the LastCall umbrella.

LastCall graphic

“The key element is the research that we’ve done, how it relates to the growth of this phenomenon” he said.

That research includes a survey of 287 event attendees, some who use Gametime and some who don’t. Apparently 27 percent said they’ve already purchased tickets after an event’s start time, and 62 percent of those late buyers were either Generation Z or millennials.

And while Gametime started out with a focus on sports, LastCall will include tickets from a variety of live events. In fact, Griffith said concerts are now the app’s fastest-growing category, and he suggested that this approach could help with the declining number of total concert tickets sold.

“We’re starting to see a bifurcation of windows, where the on-sale is still healthy, is strong, and the middle is maybe cratering in terms of transaction volume,” he said. “And then last-minute is vibrant and growing and fast. That is where we aim to do our best work.”

Interior Define and Monica + Andy collaborate to make children’s furniture

It isn’t super common to find two entrepreneurs in one marriage, especially two entrepreneurs that want to work together. But married couple Rob and Monica Royer are making it happen with a new collaboration between Interior Define and Monica + Andy.

Interior Define, founded by Rob Royer, looks to offer super customizable, high-quality furniture at an affordable price point. Users can pick the style of their furniture, the materials used, and even specify dimensions to ensure that their stuff fits perfectly in their space.

Monica + Andy, on the other hand, was founded by Monica Royer and Brian Bloom, launched in 2014 to provide high-quality baby and children’s apparel, all of which is made with Global Organic Textile Standard certified cotton. Both Interior Define and Monica + Andy are digitally native brands, but both have various physical guide shops across the country.

One of Monica + Andy’s claims to fame is the brand’s limited edition prints. With that in mind, Monica and Rob Royer hatched a plan to collaborate on child-sized furniture using fun Monica + Andy prints. The children’s furniture is real furniture, shrunken down, according to Rob Royer. However, the slip covers are 100 percent washable to ensure that kids can still play happily without completely destroying the furniture in the play room.

“To be brutally honest, working together as married, founding CEOs is probably a really bad idea and I do not recommend trying this yourself,” said Monica Royer with a laugh. “But we stumbled into it with this idea, and we’re incredibly passionate about the brands we’ve created. And we have a unique understanding of each other, both as partners, but also as fellow founding CEOs.”

Rob and Monica said that part of the reason the collaboration made sense is because of the faith they have in their teams to execute.

“We both have fantastic teams,” said Rob Royer. “Teams are the ones that do all of the great work. We came to the table with an idea and our teams were the ones who really executed on the vision.”

The children’s furniture, which includes chairs, loveseats, couches and even sectionals, will be sold through the Interior Define website, but Monica + Andy will be selling extra throw pillows through the M+A website.

“We cut our teeth on children’s apparel,” said Monica Royer. “To expand into additional product categories is a unique opportunity for us in general, but it’s made better by working with a brand that aligns from a customer experience, aesthetic, and team perspective.”

By Humankind picks up $4M to rid your morning routine of single-use plastic

Single-use plastics are the scourge of the environment, which is why many lawmakers are working to eliminate them.

Today, a new brand is launching to try and eliminate single-use plastic in the area of personal care. With $4 million in seed funding led by Lerer Hippeau (with participation from Red Sea Ventures, BoxGroup, SV Angel, Great Oaks, SoulCycle Co-founder Elizabeth Cutler, and CPO of Adobe, Scott Belsky, among others), By Humankind offers deodorant, shampoo and mouthwash.

But unlike your typical personal care products, the By Humankind portfolio products are rethought from the ground up to eliminate single-use plastic and be kind to the environment.

For example, the mouthwash doesn’t come in a big plastic container, but rather in tablet form. Users can drop a tablet into a small cup of water and the mouthwash, which is alcohol-free, dissolves into a liquid. With the shampoo, the By Humankind team decided to eliminate the plastic bottle by simply taking a page out of the old’ soap bar playbook, creating a shampoo bar.

Meanwhile, the By Humankind deodorant comes in a refillable plastic roller, with paper-pod refills (which the company calls KindFills).

The company says that its products eliminate single-use plastic by 90 percent when compared to other products in their respective categories. Moreover, By Humankind has designed its shipping packages with biodegradable, bamboo fiber-based materials.

“Keeping our packaging footprint to a minimum is an extension of our mission, which is enabling our customers to reduce their single-use plastic waste, while not sacrificing quality or convenience,” said cofounder and CEO Brian Bushell.

Bushnell came from Baked By Melissa, where he was co-founder and CEO. A couple years after leaving the company, Bushnell went on a trip with his girlfriend to Southeast Asia. On a scuba excursion, he noticed a large amount of plastic trash in the ocean, which took him by surprise as he believed to be in one of the few untouched, idyllic parts of the planet.

“We went to the hotel into the bathroom and looked at the stuff we brought on the trip and realized that we were part of the problem,” said Bushnell. “That’s when the idea was hatched to build a personal care brand that not only cared about ingredients but about the containers they come in.”

But Bushnell knew that the mission would only be successful if the products performed well. That’s why the company spent time and resources creating high-performance formulas for its products, such as the By Humankind deodorant which the company says kills odor-causing bacteria 40 percent faster than other leading natural deodorants.

According to By Humankind, customers that switch from their current products to all three By Humankind products, with normal usage, will save five pounds of single-use plastic over the course of a year.