I just did a podcast about my 2017 biggest struggles in our last episode and today I will cover the biggest news to ever explode in the ecommerce world this year. It definitely seems like 2017 flew us by but not without leaving news bombs that left a lot of people in ecommerce amused, worried, hopeful and wondering what’s going to happen next.
We compiled a list of the biggest news in ecommerce this year, ranging from the Bitcoin explosion to the ever-so-perplexing sales tax. The items on this list are not written in any particular order. Listen to the podcast for my discussion of each.
- Amazon acquiring Whole Foods
- Massive Single’s Day sales
- Record-breaking Cyber Monday sales
- Soaring Bitcoin price
- Shopify once got accused as a “get-rich-quick” scheme
- Sales tax amnesty
- Marketplace tax collection in Washington
- Factory crackdowns in China
- Amazon’s quest for HQ2
- Amazon and Google’s feud
- Launching of Amazon Australia
- Controversial Amazon Key
- Net Neutrality
- Walmart buying Jet.com
As part of our goal to get more reviews on iTunes, we are hosting our first-ever 2-hour Webinar on December 21st where we will answer any ecommerce questions you have and give you tips you need. I usually charge $500/hr for consulting but this webinar is free, the only thing we ask in return is for you to leave us an honest review on iTunes. Check out how to join the webinar here.
We hope you enjoy this episode and as always, happy selling!
Full Audio Transcript
Mike: This is Mike, and welcome to episode number 106 of the EcomCrew Podcast. You can go to EcomCrew.com/106 to get to the show notes for today’s episode. And today we’re going to be covering the biggest new stories of 2017. Again it’s that kind of time of the year where everyone’s wrapping up and doing best of and big news stories and predictions and all those cool things.
And we want to jump on that bandwagon. And it’s funny, we put this list together, actually Abby was nice enough to put this list together for me. And some of the stuff I kind of forgot about. It’s crazy how things kind of happened throughout the year, and I just want to talk about them. It’s a good time to review what’s happened in a busy year, in 2017. So let’s dig right into it.
But before I do, I just want to remind you guys that coming up later this week, we’re having our first ever EcomCrew webinar. And it’s going to be free and open to anyone who leaves us a review of the EcomCrew Podcast. We’ve been doing this podcast for a couple years, and it’s just not given the number of reviews that we hoped.
So we decided to just flat up bribe you guys. And if you go to EcomCrew.com/review, you can find out all the details. But seriously it’s as simple as leaving a review on iTunes at the EcomCrew Podcast, and registering for the webinar. And it’s going to be a two hour Q&A webinar that has a value; we’re putting on it 500 hundred bucks.
We normally charge $500 an hour for our consulting time. This is two full hours of that, but instead of it being one-on-one, it’s in a group setting. So we think it’s worth at least 500 bucks. You can ask us any questions you want. We will be there to answer anything you want for the full two hours, and hopefully you guys will have a great time. So, EcomCrew.com/review, to get started with that.
And again it’s a live Q&A webinar. And you’ll also get a recording of the webinar as well when you register, and we look forward to seeing you there. Let’s dig into today’s topic of the biggest news stories of 2017.
Everyone, thanks for joining us on this episode of the EcomCrew Podcast. Today as I mentioned before, we’re going to be talking about the biggest news stories of 2017. I think this is a great time of year to be doing these types of podcasts and blog posts and stuff like that. We will have a blog post accompanying this if you want to go ahead and read that. But I got a list of things here that Abby was nice enough to put together for us.
Abby is our trusty Filipino VA that helps us with everything EcomCrew. I want to thank Abby and give her a shout out for helping with this list. She does an awesome job for us, does everything for EcomCrew, from putting this type of list together for us to producing the podcast, fully editing it and everything. It just goes to show you what you can get done with the crew over there in the Philippines. And we even have a blog post about hiring in the Philippines, which you can read about. We’ll put that on the show notes for you as well.
But let me start digging into this. Now, these are not in any particular order. I think that trying to rank these gets really difficult and it’s very subjective. But we have a really good list compiled here, and I’m ready to dig into it. So, the first one on the list was Amazon buying Whole Foods, which is just still crazy to me, but makes a ton of sense.
Whole Foods is a place where I have shopped a lot myself. We don’t have one that’s nearest anymore unfortunately. So I don’t go there as much as I used to. It was always dubbed a whole paycheck. It’s crazy how expensive some stuff there is. But this makes a lot of sense for Amazon to get a larger footprint. They have things like Amazon locker and all kinds of other things where they’re trying to get things to people quicker.
And they have tons of data obviously on Amazon.com knowing exactly what the highest purchased items are, and being able to use that data to then place those products directly in a whole food store, or have them in a Whole Foods warehouse behind the scenes where they can be delivered quickly just makes a ton of sense. And the strategic nature of this makes even more sense just because Whole Foods really is dedicated to that affluentfluid market. And so they’re in all these really rich neighborhoods to begin with, where I’m sure the bulk of Amazon sales comes from. It just makes a ton of sense.
But the $13.7 price tag does seem nutty. But I think it again makes a ton of sense Amazon wants to get on the groceries and just be more ubiquitous in your lifestyle. And you think about all the different angles from that, and I think Amazon made a really good and smart play there. It makes me a little bit nervous because it seems like they are becoming a bigger and bigger eight hundred pound gorilla.
And while I love selling on Amazon and it’s a part of our livelihood, I start to worry about when I see someone getting a bit too big for their shoes. So that is the first story here. The next one is the massive Singles Day that happened this year in Asia. For those of you who aren’t aware of this, there’s a day Alibaba, there’s this thing called Singles Day, and they did 25.3 billion dollars in one day. It doubled 2016’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales combined in the United States.
So put that in perspective. Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year combined was less than this one day in Asia Singles Day. It’s absolutely crazy how much stuff is being transacted on the internet now much less being purchased. And 25.3 billion dollars is no number to sneeze at. That’s up 40% from last year, from the year before. So obviously China is becoming a leader in e-commerce, and it’s crazy where things are going there. Absolutely crazy numbers, and I don’t think that there’s really any end in sight to that.
Kind of akin to that, the Cyber Monday sales for this year in the US like also went crazy. So the theme here is that sales continue to grow wherever you are in the world. Sales hit a new record for Cyber Monday in the United States, a 6.59 billion dollars. I can tell you that Cyber Monday for us was our biggest day of the Year, way bigger than Black Friday.
We also had a really good December 1st through 12. We did a thing called the twelve Days of Christmas to kind of spread that holiday cheer out over a longer period of time. But Cyber Monday by far and away was our biggest day both on our own Shopify stores and on Amazon.com. We even had to cancel a couple of lightning deals just because our sales were getting so out of control that we were not going to be able to keep inventory in stock.
But it just goes to show you that I think we’re still at the forefront of e-commerce. People keep saying, is it too late to get on e-commerce? I say no, it’s still nowhere near where it could be. The next story I have here is bitcoin’s price. Bitcoin is starting to become more and more relevant to e-commerce. More places are starting to accept the digital currency.
Bitcoin is something that I first invested in over five years ago, which was a good move. I wish I had purchased thousands of coins at that time unlike the few that I got. But they’re certainly worth a ton of money, and I have been purchasing bitcoins on a recurring basis through Coinbase over the last couple of years every two weeks. I just buy an eighth of a bitcoin. It ends up being two and a half bitcoins per year.
It didn’t ever seem like much until the price shot up to over $17,000. It’s absolutely crazy where bitcoin has come over the last year. As of recording this podcast, bitcoin is at $17,650 per bitcoin, translating one bitcoin’s value in to US Dollars of $17,650. It started the year way under a thousand dollars. So it’s kind of crazy where things have gone with bitcoin this year. And I think it’s time to cement itself as a legitimate option for transactions.
And I think that over the next couple of years, you’re going to see bitcoin and other digital currencies more widely accepted both online and physically in person. Japan has made some big strides this year making it an official currency. Japan is obviously one of the major countries of the world. So seeing them adopt it is definitely a big move.
The next story here is Shopify getting called a get rich quick scheme. And it’s kind of ironic because the way that I see this is the people that wrote the article being the ones that really were scheming here, right? Because they wrote this article, and got a lot of published publicity for it, but they also shorted the stock. I’m actually surprised that they didn’t get brought up on some type of charges themselves.
Now, I get their point. Their point is that Shopify is this get rich quick scheme. They promise being able to set up a store for very little money down kind of thing, you can become wealthy by doing it. But I’m not so sure that that’s Shopify promoting that as much as people like us quite frankly. And we tried to do that much on the EcomCrew, but certainly there’s a large contingent of people out there that make e-commerce sound so easy and glamorous.
And I think that they’re probably more the ones to blame than Shopify themselves. They’re just simply, they have a platform out there that lots of people are adopting, but I don’t really see them promoting it being a get rich quick scheme in any way, shape, or form in my mind. If anything you can apply this to lots of other stuff. I mean domain names investing let’s say, or building affiliate website or any type of website.
Look at Squarespace or Wix or any of these companies, all have the same type of thing going on. And I think it’s disingenuous to call Shopify themselves a get rich quick scheme. If you work hard on Shopify and have a good product, yeah you can get rich quick. I mean but not in the kind of get rich quick scheme that people think of. But you can definitely make money selling things online. We are definitely a testament to that, and most of the people listening to this podcast are a big testament to that.
The next one is the sales tax amnesty program, which is kind of crazy that this even came to fruition. I would say by any sense of the word, it was a complete failure. They had less than one thousand people of the millions of people selling online on Amazon sign up for this program. And basically the whole crux of the offer here was I think about something in the neighborhood of 30 states or 25 states were offering amnesty to people who were selling on Amazon FBA.
Their position is that Amazon FBA establishes nexus in those states. And my position is that it doesn’t. There’s other states that are in a position that it doesn’t. I think it’s insulting that states and or Amazon take that position. I mean it’s absolutely ridiculous that somebody who has ten widgets in Amazon, next thing you know they have established a tax Nexus in a bunch of states when you have zero control over that customer.
Amazon has a position that you don’t own the customer, you don’t own your listing; you don’t own anything on Amazon except on the one thing conveniently that benefits them. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and I think that this is going to come to a head over the next couple of years. That will probably be in my prediction episode that I do. And it’s a follow up to the next story, which is at the end of the year here, the state of Washington was like, uh, uh, like we are done with this crap.
You are going to start collecting sales tax on Amazon for third party sellers. You can call it what you will, but call a spade a spade kind of thing. You own that customer, and you’re responsible for collecting sales tax from those customers. And I think that we’re going to see a trend with that, and this problem hopefully will just kind of go away by itself.
But yeah, I mean I feel bad for the people who even signed up for the amnesty, because I think it was kind of pulling the wool over their eyes because a lot of people that did sign up for it have gotten themselves in more trouble than they deserve, and more trouble than it was worth. Because states now are saying that they owe them even more money than was let on, which is just a complete bucket of crap.
I’m not sure that Amazon is ever going to end up paying for this, which is unfortunate because they’re just too big and had too many lawyers to get away with it. But I do think moving forward at some point, they’re going to be forced to start collecting it moving forward, which is the right thing to do, it really is. I think that that is really the way that it should be.
So the next story is factories cracking down in China. And this is something that we’ve seen firsthand. We source a lot of stuff from China. It’s interesting how far behind the United States is getting in this. We try to keep this podcast not political. We don’t want to get in a political rant here. But it’s you look at the stats, you look at everything on the surface, the United States has pulled out of the Paris accord, and China is starting to eat our lunch in this regard. Not only cleaning up the environment at a much faster pace than United States, but becoming a leader in renewables like solar and wind.
And I just think it’s a shame to see us falling behind like that. But the bottom line is that China is cracking down on this. And it’s really important from an e-commerce perspective, because they’re cleaning up the environment at the cost of raising prices. And their thing is that we are no longer going to be the cheapest manufacturing hub in the world. We are more concerned about our 1.2 billion citizens and just their quality.
There was a study that came out, and I forget the exact number. But I believe the number was 17, that it was the equivalent of smoking 17 cigarettes per day living in Beijing because of the air quality. So basically I think that’s about a half a pack of cigarettes every day just living in Beijing because the air quality is so poor. It’s got to be rectified.
We came back from Shanghai with awful respiratory issue, because I’m just not used to breathing that crap. We were over there for eight days, and I was miserable for the month after I got back. I just couldn’t shake it. And that’s in Shanghai, which is nowhere near as bad as Beijing, northern China is much worse.
So these factories are now having to put pollution controls in both in what they spill into the air and what they spill into the waterways. And I think that it’s good. I’m actually happy to pay a little bit higher prices for our goods from China if that’s what it’s doing, because I think it helps not just China but obviously we all end up breathing the same air at the end of the day.
And it also contributes to global warming, which you know living in California we don’t need it to get any worse. We are living through the worst fires in a long time here right now and drought. And I think that this will help the entire world. So we’ll see how that continues to go in 2018.
Amazon looking for a new headquarters, this is actually almost kind of comical. They’re looking for headquarters number two. It still hasn’t been decided yet where they’re going to do that, build that yet. But it’s funny to see how cities and jurisdictions are absolutely tripping over themselves to get the headquarters. Which is kind of ridiculous in some ways, because I don’t think that they’re — they don’t think things all the way through.
This is a constant thing. John Oliver actually did an episode of his show about this not too long ago about how these jurisdictions just give up so much to win companies over for tax holidays and being business friendly. Yes, it does attract companies and jobs, but it’s kind of like the same scam that public money building a stadium causes. And eventually the reality is, is that giving up the tax breaks wasn’t really worth it in the end. And it ends up hurting jurisdictions more than helping.
But who knows where the roulette wheel is going to fall in this. There’s a lot of speculation on who’s going to win headquarters number 2.0. I don’t think it’ll San Diego or anywhere in California for that matter. I think that if Amazon is going to have a second headquarters, it’ll probably be east of the Mississippi just to kind of balance out their west coast headquarters. But who knows I could be completely wrong about that. And we’ll see where it lands. I’m definitely interested to see where it lands. And I think that the decision will be made sometime in early 2018.
The next story here is Amazon and Google just fighting and the debacle that’s caused at the expense of customers. It’s kind of sad to see a situation where Amazon won’t sell any of Google’s products on Amazon.com, and then you have Google retaliating or vice versa. Where they weren’t going to let you access YouTube for instance on Google or Amazon Fire Stick.
It’s absolutely ridiculous. I hope that these two guys come to terms with this in 2018. It’s actually I think a black eye on the industry, not just in e-commerce but just in the tech world, and I don’t like seeing the stuff. It’s unfortunate.
Speaking about Amazon, the next thing here – actually a lot of these things are Amazon related. The next thing is Amazon Australia launched here at the end of the year. This is pegged to be one of the top five Amazon marketplaces by the end of 2018. We’re certainly going to be looking at getting an Amazon Australia as soon as possible.
The allure to me is that is A, that it’s a new marketplace, B, that it’s an affluent country, and C, that it speaks English. And I think that all those things are awesome. So our hope is to start getting products from ColorIt and Ice Wraps and all of the other brands that we work on into Amazon Australia by the end of 2018.
The next story is another Amazon one here, where Amazon Key — this is just crazy to me. Amazon launched this program at the end of — towards the end of 2017, where they are allowing drivers to be able to access your front door. So basically if you have one of these Bluetooth or electronic locks in your house, you can give Amazon a key to let them into your house to deliver your package. Obviously that is good from one perspective in that it prevents a theft off your front porch of an Amazon package.
To me I would lose my mind having someone have access to our house. I mean there’s all kinds of considerations like if you have a dog like we do. I don’t know that I want someone to open up the front door and let a pet out or getting bit by the pet. And I also would worry about having someone have access to my house.
I mean just because they’re supposed to be trustworthy and only open up the front door, drop off the package and close the door, doesn’t mean they’re not going to go in there and steal something or use your restroom or whatever other things that might be kind of creepy. It’s your house at the end of the day. It’s something that I’m definitely not comfortable with giving Amazon a key to my front door. That just seems a little bit far reaching to me.
The next one’s a really frustrating story for me, which is net neutrality. Again this is one of these things that happened here towards the end of the year. It’s so brutal that the FTC just decided to get rid of net neutrality three to two. I think that this is one of the biggest stories in e-commerce in 2017. I have a definite worry that the internet providers can block Amazon or my own website from being viewed or loading very slowly.
I hope that the lawsuits that are going to ensue with this are able to block this ruling. I see what non net neutrality in other countries looks like. You can read about this, it’s not good. And I also see what happens in a country like China where they’re blocking, where the government is blocking parts of the internet. The idea of the internet is for free flowing information for everyone to be treated equally. Having corporations have more power where they can charge consumers more money to be able to access YouTube or be able to access Amazon, or go out and eventually probably partner with or buy other companies.
Let’s say Comcast wants to go out and buy Amazon or vice versa. And then it’s just like, okay well, we’re going to make Amazon readily available on our network, but you can’t go to WalMart.com and buy because we’re blocking that, and it’d be completely legal to do so. Not a good situation, really frustrating and scary to me.
And again I hope this is something that eventually gets reversed either through the legal system or through the political system if there’s enough will. 83% of people were against it, and it still passed. It goes to show you again not to get political of an unfortunate — it goes to show you like how far our political system has gone off the deep end. When 83% of people want something and it still can’t be done, not a good sign.
The last story here is almost a distant memory. It didn’t even originally happen this year, but Wal-Mart buying Jet.com, just a massive story. I still don’t really fully understand what they were thinking here. Jet has not materialized into even a marginal player in e-commerce. Wal-Mart is trying, at least it’s a marginal player, but we’ll see. I think that was money not well spent. And that really is a story for 2017 because the transaction completed this year. And it hasn’t really moved the needle for Wal-Mart, which is not a good sign, considering how much they paid for it.
So that is our top stories for 2017 folks. I hope you enjoy those, and we’ll see you in the next podcast episode. And that’s a wrap. I hope you guys enjoyed this episode of the EcomCrew podcast. Again remember you can go to EcomCrew.com/106 to get to the show notes for this episode. And also remember the webinar that we have coming up later this week, EcomCrew.com/review to get more information on that.
We’re going to be doing a two hour webinar completely for free for our community of people who leave us a review of the EcomCrew Podcast. If you already left us a review previously, of course you still qualify for the webinar. It’s an awesome opportunity to ask us any questions you might have. We will be there to answer them for you on the webinar.
Two hours and you get the recording to go back and replay everything, all the advice we give, free form, Q&A format, ask us anything you want. I think it’s going to be awesome. So hope you guys again enjoy this episode of the EcomCrew Podcast. And until the next episode folks, happy selling and we’ll talk to you then.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the EcomCrew Podcast. Follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/ecomcrew for weekly live recordings of the EcomCrew Podcast every Monday. And please, do us a favor, and leave an honest review on iTunes, it would really help us out. Again, thanks for listening, and until next week, happy selling.