Shopify Out with the Old…
The Old – ‘There’s an App for That’
Trademarked by Apple in 2009, this one sentence has epitomized the advanced functionality of most e-commerce platforms since the first time it was heard. Shopify in particular, has embraced this idea of a semi-open ecosystem and created a diverse and expansive library of apps and functionalities that would otherwise have taken years to develop…
… which seems to have been exactly what they’ve been doing.
The New – ‘Built (on platform) to Last’
The platform of third-party apps is quickly becoming the platform of first-party apps. Though not as feature-rich as some of their competitors, search, internationalization, translations, marketing automation, and enhanced content management have been slowly rolled out over the last six months with some impressive results. They have learned from their app partners and created a subset of internal (see also: free) apps and resources that can quite literally save merchants hundreds of dollars monthly on contracts and fees.
Shopify’s investment in their existing feature set shows that they are also truly paying attention to trends in technology both in commerce and at large. From AI-driven product descriptions to the ability to manage complex datasets (called Metaobjects) and create bundles on the fly, Shopify has created an offering that can enable anyone to succeed without the need for previously bulky and expensive apps. In addition, the Shop App, previously used predominantly for tracking shipments and purchases, has also undergone an extensive overhaul allowing for store pages and integrated content that draws from internal and user-generated content.
This isn’t to say they don’t love their development partners. Shopify Functions and Checkout Extensibility’s replacement of Shopify Scripts and the checkout.liquid will truly test the mettle of all those wishing to truly expand the platform’s offerings moving forward. Hydrogen and Oxygen will also continue to favor those bold enough to use it, rewards (almost) befitting the effort.
For more on all of the new offerings provided by Shopify (and Sweden Unlimited), be sure to read through Shopify’s latest set of updates detailed in Winter ’23 Edition and see what Shopify can do to enhance your already successful business.
R.I.P., I.E., An Ode to Mystery
The news that Microsoft has finally killed off the inimitable Internet Explorer across all Windows O.S.’s, made us reflect on those early, innocent days of the adolescent world wide web.
When I began designing websites in 1999, when anyone with a website still added “http://” at the beginning of their address, the web felt like a brave new land. Nobody really knew what the heck they were up to when it came to browsing, let alone making websites themselves. It was a time of discovery, excitement, and like we were on the cusp of something big.
And, of course, we were. Reflecting on how much the internet is now built into our daily lives, it’s almost impossible to imagine how we survived without it. I mean, how else would you find out if Buckwheat is gluten-free?
Come to think of it, how would I even know about Buckwheat…?
Perhaps it’s an age thing – but there’s definitely an argument that today there’s less mystery around the web. The novelty of what it could be has worn off, and we’re seeing pretty much anything that could happen happend. Live fashion shows you can shop. Every film, song, and book ever made available to watch or download and let’s not forget the ability to see inside the lives of the rich and famous.
I miss mystery.
That said, the burgeoning web 3 appears to be building steam; there’s definitely an air of mystery around that. There’s not a great deal more we can put on the internet that hasn’t already been uploaded, so where do we go next? Having O.D.’d on content and shopping, we’re beginning to value our time and privacy more these days. Could we begin to see a more thoughtful attitude where everything doesn’t have to be ‘Shared’? Are there still things we can do that haven’t already been done?
Amid the celebration over the death of I.E., a part of me will miss it (not that I use it). That silly little E icon was symbolic of a generation (“I’m into The Internet”), and the name itself, ‘Explorer,’ alluded to a sense of discovery – a long path we were on where nobody had been before—no footprints in the sand or 1,000 comments from those before us.
Tomorrow I’ll continue to pick up my phone and Google whatever thing my kids are asking me about in order to keep their constant questions at bay, but wondering, if I couldn’t find the answer in a second, how else could I find it out?
R.I.P. I.E., You may be gone, but I – and many like me, will forever seek the unexpected as an Explorer of the Internet.
So Is AI Coming For Our Jobs?
Having recently used Jasper (an artificial intelligence tool that can write copy for you) our co-founder – Richard – was compelled to put pen to paper (so to speak), and offer his thoughts on where the future of AI might lead us, and asks “was life better when we had to do most things ourselves?”
There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence is on the rise. We’re seeing it more and more in our everyday lives, from the way our devices interact with us to the ads we see online. But one area where AI is really starting to make its mark is in the world of art.
Yes, you read that right – artificial intelligence is making art. And in some cases, it’s even doing it better than humans.
Think about it – AI has the ability to process vast amounts of data quickly and accurately. It can identify patterns and relationships that humans might miss. And it can create things that are truly unique, based on those patterns and relationships.
So it’s no surprise that AI is starting to change the landscape of the art world. We’re seeing it in the way that artists are using AI to create new works, and in the way that galleries and collectors are using AI to identify new talent.
The industrial revolution was a time when machines took over many of the tasks that had traditionally been done by human workers. This led to a massive increase in productivity, as well as a decrease in the need for human labor.
Could the same thing happen with artificial intelligence? Could AI eventually replace jobs like graphic design, website design,
The question is, where will this all lead? Will AI eventually replace human artists altogether? Will it lead to a new industrial revolution, where jobs that have traditionally been done by humans are taken over by machines?
Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure – AI is changing the art world, and there’s no going back. We all know that artificial intelligence is capable of some pretty amazing things. But did you know that AI can also create art? That’s right – AI is now being used to create stunningly realistic artwork, and it’s only going to get better. Does it mean that your website could soon be designed by a machine? And if AI can design websites, there’s no reason why it couldn’t also sell products or create new products to sell.
So what does this all mean for the future of ecommerce? Well, it’s safe to say that AI is going to have a big impact. We could see more personalised website designs and more targeted product recommendations. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll even be able to buy products from a machine!
Everyone is freaking out about how AI can make original detailed art. But the truth is, we’ve been using AI to create art for centuries. The first known instance of AI-created art dates back to 1873, when French poet Paul Verlaine used a mechanical device to generate random phrases. In 1950, American artist James Mondrian used a computer to generate random patterns, which he then used as the basis for his paintings. In the 1960s, American artist Harold Cohen created a program called AARON, which was designed to create paintings in the style of Abstract Expressionism. Cohen spent years fine-tuning AARON’s algorithms, and the results are strikingly human-like.
In the past few years, AI has been used to create music, poetry, and even novels. But it’s not just about creating art for art’s sake. AI is also being used to create more practical applications, like design and architecture.
For example, a team of architects in Japan used AI to design a house that is earthquake-resistant. And in the fashion world, AI is being used to create custom-fit clothing.
So what does the future hold for AI-created art? It’s hard to say. But one thing is for sure: the possibilities are endless.
[HAVE YOU GUESSED WHAT I DID HERE YET? WELL IF NOT… EVERYTHING ABOVE WAS WRITTEN BY AN AI COPYWRITING TOOL CALLED Jasper.ai]
Now for my human version. HMU about which you like better.
Everyone is freaking out about how AI can make original detailed art by combining two seeingly unrelated things. I’m less impressed with the results. It all still looks a little like the art you see sold in a headshop in Nyack. But even AI has to start somewhere.
So what’s next? Soon, not just art but graphic design, after that website design, the UX/UI, brand strategy… will there be AI alternatives for this? Us agency world people were part of a digital revolution like the industrial revolution that led to a decline in agricultural productivity, as people left farms to work in factories. For America the “information age” revolution led to a huge decline in manufacturing jobs. Auto factory worker, coal miners, truck drivers are not really jobs of the future or even present. As with any revolution, there are growing pains, which we all suffer from. Like how all these displaced manufacturing workforces are so easily riled up to storm the seat of democracy.
Will the nerds in digital agencies be next to be replaced by an AI revolution and take up pitchforks against their AI surrogates? I hope that isn’t the case and until then, you can come and get 98% human-made creative at Sweden Unlimited.
A Guide to Try Now, Buy Later
You’ve been staring at those high-top leather sneakers online for half an hour now. They look fantastic, but what if they’re too loose in the toes or tight around your ankles?
To buy or not to buy?
The question dates back to the dawn of commerce and the answer became even more complicated for Digital Age consumers. Sure, online shopping is fast and convenient — yet how can you purchase a product you’ve never seen, touched, or worn in real life?
Fortunately, Try Before You Buy (TBYB) all but eliminates the hassles and risk of winding up with low-quality items in colors and fabrics you don’t like or sizes that don’t fit. Now you can try on different styles of sunglasses from Warby Parker or sample a whole new wardrobe from StitchFix before paying a single dime. And if there’s anything you don’t like, you can always send the order back.
Suddenly, any living room can be your own private fitting room.
Try Before You Buy (TBYB) is revolutionizing the way products are sold online
Specifically, TBYB (a.k.a. Try Now Buy Later) allows customers to sample a product at home for a set trial period prior to purchase. That way, they can experience the fit, colors, fabrics, and style firsthand before making it their own.
TBYB Drives Sales
For retailers, TBYB can strengthen brand loyalty while reducing returns and increasing satisfaction.
Buyer’s remorse is real, especially when it comes to e-commerce, where studies have shown roughly 40 percent of goods added to shopping carts wind up being abandoned. Yet when customers aren’t forced to commit right away, it gives them a chance to explore new brands and experiment until they find a look they love, increasing conversion while bolstering keep rates.
TBYB just got a lot easier
Clearly, Try Before You Buy can be a transformative experience for online shoppers and retailers alike. But what about enterprise apparel companies that can’t afford the capital investment or disruption of current operations to design, implement, launch, and manage a TBYB platform?
Fortunately, emerging software providers like TryNow make the prospect of setting up and customizing at-home trial programs more accessible (even for independent merchants lacking Amazon-size resources). Integrated and compatible with a brand’s pre-existing apps, these types of solutions can help to provide a unified checkout experience while streamlining fraud prevention, smart tracking, analytics, and returns management.
As a result, retailers can more easily find new prospects and transform them into fans with a transparent process designed to boost satisfaction, since customers only purchase the products they love enough to keep. Say farewell to buyer’s remorse and start welcoming repeat buyers.
Beyond Gaming: The Future of Metaverse Ecommerce
The term “metaverse” was coined by science fiction author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snowcrash to describe an imaginary cyberspace environment where the digital avatars of real-world users could interact while purchasing virtual goods and services.
Thirty years later, the metaverse has jumped off the page into everyday life, enabling a range of experiences from virtual reality video games to augmented reality filters for morphing our faces and surroundings during WhatsApp chats.
Yet despite the successful use case examples of open world concepts and VR/AR technology in massive multi-user 360-degree playgrounds like Fortnight, Pokémon Go, and World of Warcraft, there’s more to the metaverse than its impact on the multi-billion-dollar gaming industry.
And, no, we’re not talking about growing digital crops in some Mark Zuckerberg holodeck version of Farmville decades from now.
Instead, present-day playtime applications of the metaverse are reshaping the future of work by opening exciting career paths for innovators with the right skill sets — meaning something as simple as a decent internet connection is suddenly more important than having the right “old-boy network” connections.
For instance, digital fashion designers combine an eye for style with abilities in graphics and 3D modeling to position themselves (and the brands they represent) in the virtual sector (like Adidas partnering with the creators behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs to launch a limited online collection of avatar wearables linked to physical clothing delivered to consumers in the real world).
Meanwhile, metaverse tour guides with a broad understanding of topics from pop culture to immersive navigation will lead new generations of sim-sightseers around limitless centers of interest from Esports tournaments to the digital galleries, showrooms, shopping districts, and performance spaces of vast virtual cities.
As for the people building those structures, construct architects combine the traditional knowledge base of their profession with spatial computing and raw imagination, enabling new opportunities for both artistic expression and human interaction. Why spend hours commuting to an office park or hotel conference room when colleagues can gather in simulated undersea kingdoms or lunar space labs to collaborate on projects in real time? And who needs the hassle and expense of physical prototyping when digital twins of a product can easily be tested in virtual factories?
METAVERSE BRANDS & LUXURY
Metaverse-based try-before-you-buy sampling has similarly become a common marketing tool for the beauty and cosmetics industries — like My Dior, an app allowing customers to project a rainbow of digital colors onto their actual lips until they find the exact shade they want to purchase. Meanwhile, in keeping with Kering CEO Francois-Henri Pinault’s recent push to futureproof the French luxury group’s brand identity, Gucci Beauty now offers online styling challenges to push metaverse glamor beyond real-world boundaries.
Indeed, such unlimited aspirational freedom is one of the biggest draws of the metaverse, allowing users to experiment with their appearances and experiences while celebrating their individuality with unique items that are impossible to replicate thanks to the innovation of blockchain.
The paradigm-shifting technology, which essentially timestamps transaction data, allows for scarcity (and, thus, big money luxury) in the metaverse, as evidenced by the recent decision of Sotheby’s to launch a high-end online auction house for the purchase and sale of NFT items and artwork.
Thus, a diverse range of new creators will have unprecedented opportunities to put their own indelible stamp on a boundless frontier while established brands and businesses can invest in more sustainable solutions for streamlining production while expanding into ever-evolving new markets.
In the metaverse, the possibilities are literally endless.
X Marks the Spot: Understanding the New Found Power of Generation X
Always eager for the next big thing, media and marketing has become obsessed with the youths. We’re endlessly fascinated with trendsetting millennials, and gen-z, even allowing their influence to retroactively shape the consumer habits of older generations, heaven forbid we don’t appear “on fleek” or whatever they’re saying on TikTok these days. But if advertisers are looking for buried demographic treasure, it’d be wise to say “ok boomer” to the teens and twenty somethings and recognize the often overlooked Generation X.
Born between 1965 and 1981, Gen-X’ers have been called many names, none too flattering. After all, Beck broke into the scene proclaiming “I’m a loser baby” and Nirvana’s biggest record was called _Nevermind_. However wise marketers would be advised to do quite the opposite when considering Gen-X.
Although once derided as slackers, Generation X has come of age. Though numbering only 66 million to Baby Boomers’ 75 million, Gen-X are now entering their best earning years, raking in an average $54,400 annually compared to struggling Millennials pulling in only $34,430. Although representing only 25% of the population, they control an outsized 31% of U.S. income.
Their influence extends beyond their pocketbook too. With more than 56 million Americans now living in multi-generational homes, Generation X are increasingly taking care of not only their twenty and thirty-something children, but also their aging boomer parents.
Sometimes described as the Sandwich Generation, Gen-X are quite literally positioned as a bridge between the old and the young, helming households that cater to both. Having entered the work force before the advent of the internet, the first generation to use email professionally couldn’t benefit from the luxury of tools like Slack and Basecamp. As a result, their interoffice personal and communications skills are naturally honed. This makes Gen-X ideal mentors to upcoming generations, and now as they ascended into the C-suite, taking the lead on corporate planning, Gen-X wield significant influence on industry. In fact, 55% of start-up founders are themselves members of Gen-X.
While not digitally native like Millennials and Gen-Z, Gen-X are adept consumers of digital media, spending on average seven hours a week on social media. Less inclined to social promotion, 81% maintain Facebook accounts and nearly six million have Snapchat, but look to these platforms to stay connected to friends and their kids. But don’t discount traditional media either, as these nostalgic platforms still draw considerable attention from a generation that remembers the advent of the Atari.
When reaching Gen-X, it’s important to avoid the obvious pitfalls. Unlike younger generations, Gen-X tend not to think of themselves as special, with only about 41% even self-identifying as Gen-X at all. The first work hard play hard generation responds to experiential offerings, but is quick to sniff out inauthenticity. The Cola Wars of the 90’s saw both Coke and Pepsi strike out, the former with their intentionally self-deprecating offering OK Cola, an obvious ploy, and the latter with the short lived and shallow Generation Next campaign.
Generation X built a lot of the workflows millennials refined, relying on DIY ethics to get to where they are. With so much on their plates, they respond best to a succinct sales pitch sell that gets to the point and clearly outlines tangible product benefits and results. Eighty percent believe work-life balance is important and 48% fantasize about having a day off. Although they outspend all other generations in housing, clothing, dining, and entertainment, more than half of Gen-X’ers (54 percent) report feeling frustrated that advertisers treat them as an afterthought. With the most disposable income of any demographic, ignore them at your own risk.
Leja Kress Joins Tim Richardson on Your Basket Is Empty Podcast
In this episode Leja and Tim share their passion for 80s new wave and post-punk music. Tim sat down with her to learn how the band she formed with her husband and twin sister led to the creation of the agency, what they’ve learned in 20 years of operation, how to maintain relevance, building culture, and who would be in her ideal line up for a show at CBGBs, circa 1985.
The Sustainability of Sustainability
What was once called a corporate fad and maligned as greenwashing, the practice of developing and maintaining an ecologically sound business model has proven an enduring concern for more and more brands. One might even say green is the new black, but in recent years, sustainability is clearly more than just a trendy flash in the pan.
It’s a sobering statistic, but by 2050 it’s predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. In fact, every day 28,000 tons of single-use plastics are being disposed of in our waterways. These plastics are consumed by fish, which are in turn consumed by us. While destroying natural ecosystems is bad enough, our wastefulness is literally poisoning the food chain.
As Washington drags its feet regarding anything even close to legitimate climate change action, brands are stepping up, acknowledging the role of production in our ever more wasteful consumption. Absent regulation, brands are enacting real change throughout the entire supply chain.
Take for example Loop, a big-box retailer operating on an entirely digital straight-to-consumer model. Like a green Amazon, Loop offers various common brands including Clorox and Hagen Das in eco-friendly packaging. They’ve even removed the cardboard box from the equation, opting for a reusable shipping container users re-populate with spent receptacles to be sent back and refilled for re-delivery.
Other brands have also taken it upon themselves to eradicate single-use plastics from their processes. Accounting for just over 40% of total plastic usage, only 14% of packaging is recycled. With an eye on reversing this trend, Unilever owned Dove has announced a move to 100% recycled plastic packaging by the end of 2020. The initiative stands to reduce the use of virgin plastics by more than 20,500 tons per year. Brands like Lush and By Human Kind have made significant moves to cut down on packaging as well, the former focusing on eliminating packaging altogether through solid state products and the latter developing recycled and recyclable paper packaging to help the environment.
For the products that can’t be recycled, Lush also offers a return-for-rewards system allowing fans to return five spent containers to any store in return for a free face mask, thus turning an ecologically minded recycling program into a brand building opportunity.
Airing from 2006-2013, Tina Fey’s prescient NBC comedy 30 Rock gleefully lampooned many of the most shallow aspects of the media/corporate agenda, and greenwashing was not excluded. Played by Friends alum David Shwimmer, the character of Greenzo, NBC’s Green Mascot, embodied a shallow corporate effort to appear ecologically minded without enacting any policy changes.
Brought to life as something of a values based golem lacking any real substance, Greenzo was a revealing portrayal of a clumsy and clueless corporate activism clearly more focused on a cash-in.
But as the climate crisis carries on, and as woke Twitter continues to call out lackluster, or otherwise ineffectively placating brand efforts, we’re truly seeing brands take the lead in a reusable revolution. As customers demand action and vote with their pocketbooks, wise brands are responding with more than cursory solutions. The message is clear, Greenzo go home, consumers want real change.
How Sweden Unlimited is Limiting Its Plastic
Taking a cue from the CPG and cosmetics industries, Sweden Unlimited has initiated our own eco-friendly practices. While our product is virtual our and doesn’t produce any physical waste, office isn’t. And after running some numbers, we realized we were consuming over 5,000 plastic bottles a year! For us, this was unacceptable. In searching for a solution, we discovered Bevi, a wonderful service that produces smart water coolers offering still or sparkling water in a variety of healthy flavors. In making this move to reusable water containers, we’re thrilled to be able to provide for the health of our employees and guests, while also promoting the health of our planet. At Sweden Unlimited, the only thing we’re limiting is our carbon impact.
Running Your E-Commerce Business in the Age of the Pandemic
With physical stores closed and much of our population at home indefinitely, digital is, for many, the gold channel available to business owners as a consistent revenue source.
Outside of implications to overall business, with clear impacts on physical channels, supply chain, fulfillment/logistics, there will also be many implications that vary by industry to the digital business as well. The expected sales cycle is gone and unknowns abound. The best and right response is unclear and the new normal is to be determined. However, and as Kevin Roose wrote in his piece for the NYTimes:
But if there is a silver lining in this crisis, it may be that the virus is forcing us to use the internet as it was always meant to be used — to connect with one another, share information and resources, and come up with collective solutions to urgent problems. It’s the healthy, humane version of digital culture we usually see only in schmaltzy TV commercials, where everyone is constantly using a smartphone to visit far-flung grandparents and read bedtime stories to kids
The Coronavirus Crisis Is Showing Us How to Live Online – Kevin Roose for the New York Times
First and foremost, the emphasis on customer service must extend beyond just clients and customer relationships to encompass a more humanistic approach as a whole. With that being said, thinking through a few key areas as it relates to how we partner and things that we should discuss as a team is key to moving through next steps, with success and strategy.
Lead With Empathy
In times of crisis, marketing shifts from transactional to a mastery of creative and messaging. In all that you do, look less at being consumer-centric, and more to being human.
- How do your policies line up with your brand pillars?
- Where do we pause, where do we keep moving?
- How do we creatively generate content within this new reality?
- How do we pivot the content calendar?
Strengthen Your Community
While customer acquisition may be non-existent for the time being, your current customer base is pivotal. Loyalty can be earned or broken in these times. This is the time for brand marketing, over product/transactions.
- What are the brand pillars that we can lean into in this time?
- How do we humanize our community, bring in personal touches?
- Are there web features and offerings that should be prioritized to build loyalty and engagement?
- What are the appropriate messages related to our brand versus extra noise?
Use This Time to Learn
While conversion rates will temporarily slip, and feature launches and tests may fall flat within this non-normal, how do we use time to analyze, reflect, and strategize for future scenarios.
- What can we do to gather more information about the customer?
- How can we start to build predictions about future behaviors?
- What are the untapped opportunities within the digital experience?
- What has not been working that needs to go?
- How can we evaluate and understand stickiness on the website, especially mobile, as visits will lean even more away from desktop?
At Sweden, we are also rethinking how we manage and service our clients to be an even more strategic partner in this time and provide clearer communication and transparency around our work and results. More to come in the coming weeks, and more communication, on how we will be your partner through this challenging time, and beyond.
WFH – All By Myself Playlist
Isolation, isolation, isolation, isolation, isolation.
A great playlist for a self-quarantine-work-from-home status. Take a melancholy stroll through a self-reflective journey of sound. Sorry for the Green Day song. But even the worst bands can have a moment of inspiration.