Like at the office. All day. Seriously. Right now.
It’s been a year now and you’ve completely fucked up their routine. You’ve disrupted their sleep cycle (which is 98% of their day) by sleeping in their bed(s). You’re noisy, rude and inconsiderate because yes, they ARE your “best doggy” / “Missy Fluffy” and no, they do not need a belly rub right now. They want to take a 10 hour nap. LEAVE.
Also, you’re a slob. When you yell: “Look at me! I just had a ZOOM meeting! ALL BY MYSELF!” they politely point their noses at the sweats you’re wearing. You know, the really comfy ones? That you’ve been wearing for four days now? Those. Mr. Tech Genius. Christ.
Just because you’ve given up, does not mean that your pet has to as well. And frankly, your embarrassing them in front of their friends. It’s cool if you decided to wear THIS while out for a walk, but they have some standards. Socks with Crocs? Mother of God.
To make this easier on you, we’ve put together a snappy little collection we like to call the Self-Respecting Pet Collection.
Each item is fully customizable and can feature your pet’s chosen design or we can search for one. Of course, it can contain witty quotes from Fluffy’s favorite writer, pictures Buddy has of him running on the beach during happier days or even Fido & Coco nuzzling together on their own custom-made bed. With a blanket over their heads. Trying to ignore you.
Wouldn’t your work day be so much nicer if your pet didn’t have a lingering feeling of animosity and dismissal?
Yes. Yes, it would be. Finish up your little PowerPoint thing and let’s go.
I’m fairly fried after trying to understand bitcoin. Or Dogecoin. Or if I should just start issuing some me-based coin.
It all started cause some feverishly cryptocurrency-intoxicated client paid me in bitcoin. An extremely small amount of money and she was picking up the bar tab so I thought, hell, why not?” And then I made a lot of money. A lot.
Since this site’s primary goal is to show emerging ecommerce technologies and their impacts, I thought it would be way cool to try to integrate cryptocurrency. And so I did.
At checkout, you’ll see an option to use a few different cryptocurrencies. I used a plug-in named Coinbase Commerce which is, of course, created by Coinbase.
You’ll need to have a Coinbase account. Once done and funded, you can choose from:
I use USDC by default since the value never fluctuates (it’s a stablecoin, meaning $1 = $1)
The learning curve to understand cryptocurrency is akin to taking a calculus exam. While high. At 10 years old. With no arms. Yeah, it’s that intense. There are several bazillion other resources to understand how it works, all of which are better than what I can offer. It’s good to know one’s limits. Like you, I’m good at very many things, but this is not one of them. Hell, even having anxiety makes me anxious.
I highly suggest that you check out Coinbase if you are curious about cryptocurrencies since their knowledge base is not only unrivaled, but super easy to understand.
The Thing About Cryptocurrency
There is no debating that cryptocurrency is a valid and powerful economic force. The mechanics of block chain can daze even the most experienced economist. And that’s the point. Cryptocurrencies are decentralized and anonymous and by design, unwieldy. This poses very real, complicated problems for ecommerce. The change is inevitable. Which is why I’m watching this topic very closely in terms of its impact on ecommerce.
Will e-commerce kill bricks-and-mortar? “I think it’s exactly the reverse,” says Adam W. Ifshin, founder and CEO of Elmsford, New York-based DLC Management Corp. DLC owns and/or operates more than 300 shopping center and mall assets. He notes that while Amazon’s net product sales surged in 2020 (36 percent), so did fulfillment costs (45.5 percent).
Any physics student will tell you with certainty that to move an object from A to B requires energy. Lots and lots of energy. And, energy ‘ain’t cheap:
By some estimates, Amazon’s shipping costs are 18.5 percent of net product sales.
Ifshin says such a pure e-commerce system is unsustainable and the concept of pick-up in store and curbside, “is here to stay.”
Shipping has always been the ugly fact that no one talks about — until they realize they’re facing bankruptcy. Digital marketers seem to forget that shipping costs a lot. Like a shit ton. So if you’re trying to compete in an open market with razor-thin profit margins, you’ll soon realize that FedEx is eating your lunch.
An awesome, comprehensive, and detailed look at how COVID-19 has impacted global networks.
Lots to think about and how we might prepare for future catastrophes.
To understand how the internet is performing with the changes in internet use brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we investigated two key metrics during February and March in some of the countries and states that were hit hardest by the virus: changes in the traffic volume served to those regions as a reflection of changes in internet use, and changes in download speed measured at our servers as a reflection of internet quality. In almost all regions, the largest increases in traffic volume occurred immediately after public policy announcements, such as school closures or stay-at-home orders. Similarly, the most dramatic decreases in download speed followed the official starts of those policies — presumably when populations made the shift to staying home.
Can apparel manufacturing be less damaging to the environment?
I’ve written a lot about just how badly fashion (apparel) pollutes our planet. But there are those in the industry making tremendous strides in mitigating – if not reversing that damage.
Rare & Fair is a “boutique slow fashion brand promoting handmade clothes and accessories by artisans using natural, sustainable materials.” In this post, I particularly wanted to share how they take into consideration not only the chemical and industrial pollution caused by fast fashion, but also a holistic understanding of how fast fashion affects the community.”
As of today, it is common knowledge that the fashion industry is having a detrimental impact on the environment – with water contamination, waste, and carbon pollution at an all time high, it’s clear that something needs to change.
What you may not be aware of is the effects that fast fashion has on people, specifically garment workers and their families.
Societies do not change gracefully. Behind major shifts in how humans go about their days often stand unspeakably horrid events: war, plague, famine, flood.
When the shit hits the fan, we deploy all of our technologies to mitigate the disaster. Medically, that translates into vaccines and healthcare systems. In times of natural disaster, we call up the engineers and first-responders.
The current crisis has forced us to shift as a planet in multiple ways. One of the most prominent economic shifts is in consumer behavior. The changes are significant, real and much more substantial than we think.
Are These Numbers For Real?
It’s a black ribbon medal, for sure. But ecommerce has arrived. No longer an oddity or an alternate, it is now required to be online, either as a consumer or a retailer. This one graph pretty well sums it up:
That’s impressive growth on any level. But the percentage increases become ridiculously large when you start looking at a few industries. Obviously, we know the losers (aviation, hospitality, etc.) but there are some surprising winners. Chiefly among them is an industry I focus on a lot: Print on Demand (PoD).
“It was almost a straight line up when people were scrambling to shift from traditional production to on-demand,” says Brian Rainey, CEO of Gooten, a print-on-demand logistics and fulfillment company. “We saw an enormous spike in Q2, and it continued in Q3 and Q4. On-demand manufacturing and mass customization is growing faster than anyone can keep up with.”
Printful, another on-demand fulfillment company that prints, packs and ships custom products from e-commerce sites, reported an 80% year-over-year increase in order count over the last three quarters of 2020 and a 44% year-over-year growth in the number of new stores joining the platform. During the holiday shopping bonanza between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the online printing and drop-shipping company fulfilled 25 million products. In fact, that weekend, Printful saw a 70% order increase, with as many as 204 orders per minute – twice as high as in 2019.
“I don’t think anything will revert back to the way it was before,” says Rob Watson, chief experience officer at Top 40 supplier Vantage Apparel (asi/93390), which offers its own home-grown on-demand customization service to distributors. “More distributors are getting into the space and offering a solution that end-users wanted before but never knew that distributors could offer. I don’t think this is going to go away.”
Don’t expect 2021 to rewrite the narrative for on-demand companies and promotional products firms that follow the same model – 2020 wasn’t a blip. It was merely an acceleration of what’s already been happening. Consider that Printful’s impressive numbers during the holiday shopping weekend came after an already staggering growth rate for the company, which ballooned by 441% over the three previous years – from $21 million in 2016 to $116 million in 2019.
Fulfillment warehouse robots are having a moment as online shopping continues to increase during the pandemic. The hot market for autonomous fulfillment solutions has helped Locus Robotics, which makes autonomous mobile robots for use in fulfillment warehouses, raise an additional $40 million during a successful Series D this week.
“Automation has proven to be a critical solution for retail and third-party logistics businesses during this challenging time,” says Tony Palcheck, Senior Director, Zebra Ventures, which led Locus’ Series D. “As the retail industry continues to shift to e-commerce, Locus Robotics’ warehouse automation will help businesses meet the demands of this ‘new normal,’ ensuring that customers can increase operational efficiency to meet requirements for fast, accurate delivery.”
Locus Robotics makes autonomous mobile robots that operate collaboratively with human workers to improve piece-handling productivity as much as 2X-3X, with less labor compared to traditional picking systems. The robots are aimed at helping 3PLs and specialty warehouses efficiently meet the increasingly complex and demanding requirements of fulfillment environments, which now include social distancing restrictions — something robots don’t have to worry about.
“We have recently seen a dramatic disruption of retail with e-commerce growth as high as 400% year-over-year in some categories. And others were severely limited as the bulk of their inventory was in stores that they could not get into due to lockdowns. It’s critical that retailers are prepared for direct fulfillment from the warehouse,” said Greg Buzek, President of IHL Group. “This announcement underscores the need for companies to prepare for today’s new labor challenges that will be impacted by the significant volume increases that are already occurring. Companies investing now in warehouse automation, particularly AMRs, will be better positioned for success in the post-pandemic economy as they can support sales from any channel.”
Jung used mandalas in his psychotherapy by getting patients, who had no knowledge of it, to create individual mandalas.
This enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality. He realized there was a great deal of similarity in the images they created.
Mandala is a graphical representation of the center (the Self at Jung). It can appear in dreams and visions or it can be created spontaneously as by drawings all formulated into lived experience. In our dreams, the mandala indicates the phenomenon of centering of the ego in relation to the psychic wholeness.
Mandala is a graphical representation of the center (the Self to Jung). It can appear in dreams and visions or it can be created spontaneously as by drawing. It is present in the cultural and religious representations.
Examples of mandala can be found in all the ancient cultures. We find it in Christianity under the form of frescos with animal images representing apostles (and the zodiac). The astrologic zodiac and its versions are examples of mandala. Also, in the Indian spiritual practices we find fascinating examples of mandala, with symbols of the local pantheon. In yoga practices, mandala can be a support for meditation or an image that must be internalized through mental absorption. This image organizes the inner energies and forces of the practitioner and puts them in relationship with his ego-consciousness.
Generally speaking, a mandala is a geometrical form – a square or a circle – abstract and static, or a vivid image formed of objects and/or beings.
In our dreams, the mandala indicates the phenomenon of centering of the ego in relation with psychic wholeness. It is part of the individuation process as described by Jung in his works.
In modern dreams, a mandala can be a sophisticated electronic device: an electronic watch or a piece of sophisticated circular machinery. Often the UFOs seen in the sky or in dreams are also mandalas.
Other mandala images can be circular fountains, parks, and their radial alleys, square market places, obelisks, buildings with a circular or square shape, lakes, rivers (radial water networks).
In Jungian therapy, which includes the recognition and the conscious integration of the contents of the collective unconscious, the spontaneous drawing of mandalas is required.
There are a lot of illustrations that testify this technique practiced by Jung himself.
Carl Jung About Mandalas
In 1938, I had the opportunity, in the monastery of Bhutia Busty, near Darjeeling, of talking with a Lamaic rimpoche, Lingdam Gomchen by name, about the khilkor or mandala. He explained it as a dmigs-pa (pronounced ”migpa”), a mental image which can be built up only by a fully instructed lama through the power of imagination. He said that no mandala is like any other, they are all individually different. Also, he said, the mandalas to be found in monasteries and temples were of no particular significance because they were external representations only.
The true mandala is always an inner image, which is gradually built up through (active) imagination, at such times when psychic equilibrium is disturbed or when a thought cannot be found and must be sought for, because it is not contained in holy doctrine.
It seems to me beyond question that these Eastern symbols originated in dreams and visions, and were not invented by some Mahayana church father.
It is not without importance for us to appreciate the high value set upon the mandala, for it accords very well with the paramount significance of individual mandala symbols which are characterized by the same qualities of a – so to speak – “metaphysical” nature. Unless everything deceives us, they signify nothing less than a specific centre of the personality not to be identified with the ego.
There is a building a few blocks away from my home. It captivates me. I can’t take my eyes off of it.
Since I moved to LA in 2007, I regard The City National Plaza (AKA The Arco Towers) as a statuesque, beautifully dressed superstar and I just stand there and gawk. For years.
Although it was not designed by Mies van der Rohe (Albert C. Martin & Associates is the architect), It is most definitely an homage. The profile is Modernist. The use of The Golden Triangle (Φ) ensures that the ratios are impeccable. Simply put, it’s fucking gorgeous.
What Have We Learned Today?
There are very good reasons to edit, revise, and remake. However, do not do so simply because you can.
I learned a lot from this building. It serves as a constant reminder to me to keep an eye on how design functions as well as how it looks.
Considered one of the most perfect statements of his architectural approach, the upper pavilion is a precise composition of monumental steel columns and a cantilevered (overhanging) roof plane with a glass enclosure. The simple square glass pavilion is a powerful expression of his ideas about flexible interior space, defined by transparent walls and supported by an external structural frame. Art installations by Ulrich Rückriem (1998) or Jenny Holzer, as much as exhibitions on the work of Renzo Piano or Rem Koolhaas have demonstrated the exceptional possibilities of this space.
The glass pavilion is a relatively small portion of the overall building, serving as a symbolic architectural entry point and monumental gallery for temporary exhibits. A large podium building below the pavilion accommodates most of the museum’s total built area with conventional white-walled art gallery spaces and support functions. A large window running along all the West facade opens these spaces up to the large sculpture garden which is part of the podium building.
The North Tower, known as the Paul Hastings Tower, underwent renovations. The main client of the building, the international law firm Paul Hastings decided this stunner needed plastic surgery. And they did this:
Read about the creators’ concepts and methods in this interview:
A creative team of visual strategists at JPL, known as “The Studio,” created the poster series, which is titled “Visions of the Future.” Nine artists, designers, and illustrators were involved in designing the 14 posters, which are the result of many brainstorming sessions with JPL scientists, engineers, and expert communicators. Each poster went through a number of concepts and revisions, and each was made better with feedback from the JPL experts.
David Delgado, creative strategy:
The posters began as a series about exoplanets — planets orbiting other stars — to celebrate NASA’s study of them. (The NASA program that focuses on finding and studying exoplanets is managed by JPL.) Later, the director of JPL was on vacation at the Grand Canyon with his wife, and they saw a similarly styled poster that reminded them of the exoplanet posters. They suggested it might be wonderful to give a similar treatment to the amazing destinations in our solar system that JPL is currently exploring as part of NASA. And they were right!
The point was to share a sense of things on the edge of possibility that are closely tied to the work our people are doing today. The JPL director has called our people “architects of the future.”
As for the style, we gravitated to the style of the old posters the WPA created for the national parks. There’s a nostalgia for that era that just feels good.
Joby Harris, illustrator: The old WPA posters did a really great job delivering a feeling about a far-off destination. They were created at a time when color photography was not very advanced, in order to capture the beauty of the national parks from a human perspective. These posters show places in our solar system (and beyond) that likewise haven’t been photographed on a human scale yet — or in the case of the exoplanets might never be, at least not for a long time. It seemed a perfect way to help people imagine these strange, new worlds.
Delgado: The WPA poster style is beloved, and other artists have embraced it before us. Our unique take was to take one specific thing about the place and focus on the science of it. We chose exoplanets that had really interesting, strange qualities, and everything about the poster was designed to amplify the concept. The same model guided us for the posters that focus on destinations in the solar system.
Lois Kim, typography: We worked hard to get the typography right, since that was a very distinctive element in creating the character of those old posters. We wanted to create a retro-future feel, so we didn’t adhere exactly to the period styles, but they definitely informed the design. The Venus poster has a very curvy, flowy font, for example, to evoke a sense of the clouds..
Theft has gotten blurry. It usually is clear cut. I possess something that another covets and takes it. Shitty, but done deal.
Now, not so much. The following story (clipped and edited – the whole thing is here). This is an important post and has made me focus on what and how I sell online. To be clear and transparent in my writing, I use three different print on demand services for my products on cgk.ink. I have a few rules:
I’ve made the design
It is found on a royalty-free site like Unsplash. When I do this, I keep the file name which always includes the artist’s name and I have no problem disclosing that information. I always use that work to inspire me and again — alter the design with attribution.
I will not download and use any work that is representational and/or figurative of another person’s style without their permission. Fine art that is legally in the public domain is fair game (if you want or can). I have far too many artist friends to piss off people.
The edited article:
Amy Crabtree is a UK graphic artist and owner of Cakes with Faces, a brand of colourful T-shirts, clothing and gifts. Recently, she found out that her artworks had been copied and sold across a host of different websites. Here she tells us about her experiences, how she fought back and how you can too.
I then discovered it was not only the Alpacalypse but my other T-shirts too. In total I found 25 cases of my designs being sold without my permission. With the exception of that first case on AliExpress, they were all print-on-demand shops. On one site alone, my design was being sold on 158 different products.
I then discovered it was not only the Alpacalypse but my other T-shirts too. In total I found 25 cases of my designs being sold without my permission. With the exception of that first case on AliExpress, they were all print-on-demand shops. On one site alone, my design was being sold on 158 different products.
Copyright for designers
In the UK, copyright protection is granted automatically when you create something. This is stated clearly on the UK government website. There’s no need to pay to register it (although that is something you can do); the copyright of your designs and artwork is yours by right. Through various agreements, this copyright extends to other countries, including China.
As a designer you’ll likely have a trail of evidence to prove the work is yours if you need to. Rough sketches aren’t dated, but they are evidence to show the design is your creation. Anything digital has a time-stamp – that includes working files on your PC, as well as any emails, tweets and Instagram posts.
In my case I also had orders from customers, documented and dated, from both my own online shop and Etsy, where there are also reviews from customers, with dates. There are articles about the Alpacalypse on third party blogs and magazines. Thanks to YouTube, I even have videos showing the T-shirts and hoodies on my booth at comic con, with publication dates. You can clearly see me wearing an Alpacalypse hoodie in a vlog from an alpaca show.
If you’re public about your work and active with self promotion – which you have to be, if you’re selling online or touting for work – you’ll likely have a whole digital trail behind you.
What to do if this happens to you
If you spot your work on a print-on-demand merchandise site, you can report it through the store. All the print-on-demand sites I dealt with had links or forms to report copyright infringement. Some even have “Report this” links on each product as standard, which is an indication of how common this issue is.
Reporting involves involves filling in forms and providing links as evidence to show that the design belongs to you. In most cases, a link to the product in my shop was sufficient. For AliExpress, the process was lengthy: I had to register with their online IP portal, which involved uploading a photo of my passport, then registering the design as my property, with proof and dates of when it was first created, published and sold. Once that’s approved, you can finally register a complaint against the counterfeit product.
To their credit, all the print-on-demand sites dealt with my complaints very quickly and efficiently. Most of the products were removed within a day, and after 48 hours there were none remaining.
However, the fact remains that filling in forms and getting proof together is a lengthy process. As a small business owner or freelancer, that’s time you don’t necessarily have. Larger brands and companies have whole legal departments to deal with these problems.
So now, do I have to search the internet periodically to check if any of my designs have been stolen? Is that something I have to add into my weekly to do list?
Print-on-demand sites and copyright
Print-on-demand sites are ideal platforms for anyone who wants to profit from stolen artwork. Users can upload as many designs as they wish, and wait for the orders to roll in. Unlike when you produce your own merchandise, there’s no upfront investment and no financial risk. Many of the sellers that had stolen my designs had shops filled with T-shirts in so many different styles that they must have been stolen from other people. Many of the designs were clearly clipart or cringe-worthy, cheap slogans, with very little care taken over them.
Obviously it’s not the fault of the print-on-demand portals, who sent me copy and paste apologies and disclaimers saying they’re not liable for the actions of their users. Anyone can register and upload any designs they like. They simply have to tick a box saying they hold the copyright – but if you’re the kind of person who steals art you’re probably not going to have scruples about lying on an online form.
Copyright infringement of indie designers is clearly an issue. Your work has to be online in order to promote yourself – we wouldn’t be able to get work or sell products if it wasn’t. Even if you watermark art you post online, Photoshop can do anything. It’s so easy to be a victim of design theft without even knowing.
All imagery in this story is courtesy of Amy Crabtree
You are being hired because you know something that your client doesn’t. Your client needs your services and is hiring you specifically because you know what you are doing. That time, that effort, that expertise that has attracted you to them has a value of some sort. Now, I wouldn’t expect you to charge $50,000 just for your time to overhaul a WordPress website. Hell, if you did, I certainly wouldn’t hire you. So whilst you may feel you are worth $50,000, you will also have to factor in the going rate.
I have a security guard in my apartment who spends the better part of the day playing postman. My building has roughly 300 residents. So the poor guy’s logging in, storing, distributing, and verifying hundreds of packages and getting to know all of us. Everyday. This must suck for him.
This post isn’t an opinion like the others. I’m not here to resolve/blame/shame anything or anyone. Instead, I want to focus on an aspect of ecommerce that is critical: shipping.
Salesforce recently predicted the value of holiday returns this year to top $280 billion, an amount equivalent to the GDP of Finland.
The returns from online shopping last year created 5 billion tons of landfill waste and produced as much carbon dioxide as from 3 million cars driving for one year, according to Optoro, a tech company that manages retailers’ returned items.
The process of sending back unwanted items and potentially re-selling them results in 10 billion unnecessary transportation trips every year.
It’s often overlooked when planning an ecommerce site. It can eat up to 30% of your profit. It requires staff and customer service ’cause things will go wrong every f’ing day. And, if you’re not, say Amazon or Target or Walmart, you’re paying insanely higher prices than they are
It is Incredibly Confusing
Even if you are Amazon or a super-shipper, things don’t get easier:
Many parcel delivery services have struggled with the surge in demand for shipments and have began imposing measures to deal with the influx. Other shipping services such as FedEx (FDX) and USPS have increased their pricing premiums for the holidays and hired thousands of temporary workers to handle shipments.
UPS says it added 20 new facilities and 14 additional aircraft for the peak season. It also expanded its weekend operations and the speed of its ground delivery.
Meanwhile, Amazon (AMZN), one of the country’s largest retailers, has skated ahead without much shipping troubles thanks to relying on its own delivery service and drivers to accommodate its slew of shipments. This past weekend, Amazon reported bringing in nearly $5 billion between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a 60% increase from last year.
— CNN’s Jordan Valinksy contributed to this report.
It Creates Major Inefficiencies
Overall, about 10% of all purchases are returned, according to industry estimates. But items bought online are three times more likely to be returned than those bought in-store. For some categories of clothing —think shoes and women’s jeans — more than half of online purchases are returned.
Buy Now! We Mean It!:
The “buy now, choose later” online shopping approach was common even before the pandemic hit. But now, more shoppers do it than don’t, according to some research.
A survey from shipping and logistics company Narvar, which counts 800 retailers as clients, found that nearly two-thirds of shoppers this year bought multiple sizes or colors of the same item, with the intention of returning some of the items. Buyers of luxury goods, as well as shoppers under 30, were most likely to use this practice, known in industry parlance as “bracketing.”
“Consumers were already in the habit of using their bedrooms as fitting rooms for online purchases, but the practice skyrocketed this year,” Narvar found.
It’s Not Them, It’s You (Kinda)
So, there’s this massive shipping network carry to — and from consumers who, ya know, like the convenience and the pretty pictures. And I have no clue how humans can deliver something to my home at warp speed. But they do it. And it is emerging as a significant environmental danger:
The ease of returns is a major ecommerce selling point. Ecologically, it’s pretty ugly.
“Unfortunately we’re going to see more and more of an increase in returns. That has not slowed down,” said Narvar CEO Amit Sharma.
The more shoppers buy, the more they return. The reverse is also true: a generous return policy makes shoppers more likely to buy from a website. That’s why, despite the losses that returns represent, companies are loath to tighten free-return policies lest they drive away shoppers.
“It’s now a consumer expectation,” said Sharma. “It’s table stakes.”
Dressing up means wearing pants. You now have a rock-solid excuse to not speak to your shitty neighbor. Groceries are delivered and you never even have to face the delivery person (who is definitely shaming you in their head for the case of Pop-Tarts). The Vodka & Valium Flavor. Your dog is asking “don’t you work?”
If you live in my grand city of Los Angeles, we’re at the beginning of a torturous plague that is infecting thousands per day. You can’t get a drink anywhere and “fine dining” means not-the-paper plates. Economically, we’re facing the prospect of not having one.
I’m watching closely how this is impacting us, and particularly how we behave as consumers. If I were to fully comply with California’s guidelines, I would have no toilet paper, food, water and my dog would have definitely left me for greener pastures. It seems, that the entire country is “just making it through.” And I totes get it.
It’s an easy target. A cultural WTF? $10,000 for a handbag? And who is this “Coco Chanel” anyway?
Why do I care? And why am I writing about this on an ecommerce site? ‘Cause:
Online apparel sales accounted for 38.6% of total U.S. apparel sales in 2019 and 100% of the growth in retail clothing sales. … In fact, ecommerce contributed all of the 1.9% year-over-year growth in total U.S. apparel sales
It’s also destroying our planet. It is, without dispute, second only to the oil & gas industries in the amount of damage it does to our environment. The World Economic Forum has a few stats and alarming facts.
So this is why I’m posting two videos (three, kinda… maybe more). The first is a fascinating overview of the entire mess:
The True Cost is a documentary film exploring the impact of fashion on people and the planet. Storyline: This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?
This 2010 British documentary film directed by Hannan Majid and Richard York documents the exploitation of garment workers in Bangladesh with the personal stories of three young women working in factories in Dhaka.
A new cybercrime gang has been seen taking over vulnerable WordPress sites to install hidden e-commerce stores with the purpose of hijacking the original site’s search engine ranking and reputation and promote online scams.
Like many of you, I’m a small business and invest a lot in my online presence. I use all the proper and tested security features available to me. But this is something ingenious. It’s not ransomware per se, it’s ransomeware+.
And it goes like this:
The attackers leveraged brute-force attacks to gain access to the site’s admin account, after which they overwrote the WordPress site’s main index file and appended malicious code.
While the code was heavily obfuscated, Cashdollar said the malware’s primary role was to act as a proxy and redirect all incoming traffic to a remote command-and-control (C&C) server managed by the hackers.
It was on this server where the entire “business logic” of the attacks took place. According to Cashdollar, a typical attack would go as follows:
User visits hacked WordPress site.
The hacked WordPress site redirects the user’s request to view the site to the malware’s C&C server.
If a user meets certain criteria, the C&C server tells the site to reply with an HTML file containing an online store peddling a wide variety of mundane objects.
The hacked site responds to the user’s request with a scammy online store instead of the original site the user wanted to view.
Wait, It Gets Worse
In addition, the Akamai researchers said the hackers also generated XML sitemaps for the hacked WordPress sites that contained entries for the fake online stores together with the site’s authentic pages.
The attackers generated the sitemaps, submitted them to Google’s search engine, and then deleted the sitemap to avoid detection.
[Cashdollar] now believes that this kind of malware could be used for SEO extortion schemes — where criminal groups intentionally poison a site’s SERP ranking and then ask for a ransom to revert the effects.
“This makes them a low-barrier attack for criminals to pull off, as they only need a few compromised hosts to get started,” Cashdollar said. “Given that there are hundreds of thousands of abandoned WordPress installations online, and millions more with outdated plug-ins or weak credentials, the potential victim pool is massive.”
Cashdollar now believes that this kind of malware could be used for SEO extortion schemes — where criminal groups intentionally poison a site’s SERP ranking and then ask for a ransom to revert the effects.
Fast fashion chain H&M wants to turn discarded clothes into something new to wear again — within five hours.
The Sweden-based retailer is about to start giving consumers at its Stockholm store the option to turn in used garments that it will then transform into one of three different clothing items.
Once the program begins Monday, customers will be able to bring in a garment they don’t want, which will be cleaned and put into a machine called Looop. The machine will disassemble it, shredding it into fibers that are then used to create new clothing.
The effort comes amid arising volume of global clothing waste, and growing concern over fast fashion’s contribution to it.
The company said the recycling process, which can handle more than one garment at a time, doesn’t use water or chemicals and sometimes might need “sustainably sourced” raw materials added in, but it hopes to make “this share as small as possible.”
The entire process takes about five hours and is visible to shoppers
Similarly, customers can drop off used clothing, footwear and accessories in more than 1,300 Zara stores. Last year, Zara announced that all of the cotton, linen and polyester used by the company will be organic, sustainably sourced or recycled by 2025.
“One of the biggest drivers of clothing over consumption are fast fashion sellers,” said Deborah Drew, analyst and social impact lead with the global research non-profit World Resources Institute. “Large companies like H&M and Zara can have a really big, transformational impact on the industry and on consumers if they lead the way in facilitating change.”
Our propensity for swallowing, huge, shit-loads of pop crap is astounding. Yes, please, I would like some promo for a shitty movie with my McDonald’s meal. We don’t think twice about what we consume. Or how we behave… O, the list goes on. Personally, I blame Blackberry, but that’s me.
Critical thought lags behind Instagram (stress the “insta”), Google and Facebook. Where am I? What am I doing? What do I like? All these perplexing problems have been solved for you by algorithms (which is not AI).
Make a Damn Choice
Curation puts a check on these modern ill-thought-out behaviors. Curation is defined by Google (I know) as:
noun: curation; plural noun: curations
the action or process of selecting, organizing, and looking after the items in a collection or exhibition.
“the curation of the exhibition was informed by my experience as an artist”
the selection of performers or performances that will feature in an arts event or program.
“I had a chance to talk with a fellow musician about the festival’s curation”
the selection, organization, and presentation of online content, merchandise, information, etc., typically using professional or expert knowledge.
“curation of online content that is relevant to your business can be an excellent way to drive SEO”
An article in Forbes caught my eye. Yes, you’ll have to jump through some hoops and give up your personal data to access it (fuckers) but here it is and it’s all about Target.
Today, eMarketer reported that Target has surpassed three competitors to become the eighth-largest retailer in the U.S. in terms of e-commerce sales, up from 11th place just one year ago.
Very impressive. But not quite good enough in terms of technology-business Darwinism.
So how does one compete? Does one even have to compete? Evidently, we are tooled to dominate. But is this the healthiest thing, business-wise? Remember, companies only exist to serve people, not the other way around.
CRITICAL THOUGHT, PART DEUX
I’m really good at some things. Like design and content and eating doughnuts with coffee. Total pro. I totally suck at most other things, basic things, like bagging groceries or balancing a bank account or laundry. This is why I turn to people who know a shit-ton more than I do about these things.
Enter: Target’s brilliant strategy.
OMNIBUS vs. MONOBUS
Target’s e-commerce marketplace (known as Target+ or Target Plus) assortment is highly curated, as opposed to Walmart and certainly to Amazon.
You are not Amazon. You never have been and are not now and will never be. It’s a freak of nature and an anomaly and an abusive, weird oligarchy that also shoots shit into space and builds clocks that will outlive us all. Just… deep breath. Because I’m OK and you’re OK. We don’t have to do that whole “Masters of the Universe” thing cause it ended really badly in the 90s, right?
RIGHT AND TIGHT
Target has gotten the message and has ran with it:
Target can avoid some of the negative consequences of Amazon’s burgeoning marketplace, chiefly counterfeit products, gray-market inventory sold by third parties which creates headaches for brand owners, and fake product reviews. Amazon shoppers also face an avalanche of brandless products when searching across many product categories like bluetooth headphones, pajamas, and fish oil supplements. (For further reading, see this great New York Timespiece.) While you’d imagine that the overabundance of options might cause many shoppers to abandon their searches, Amazon continues to power on—acquiring more market share every year.
Target+ could also attract the same brands who have shunned Amazon in recent years due to concerns with counterfeiting and unauthorized resellers.
60 active sellers on Target+
36,754 sellers on Walmart.com
1,010,695 active sellers on Amazon.com
FOCUS LIKE A FUCKING LASER
Do not try to be all things to all people. See: Corinthians. Sorry, I got biblical. Look at what you do and what you do well. Discard the stuff that doesn’t achieve that goal; they are distractions. Limited resources = limited marketing. Do you like cats? Go for it and make it sing. You don’t see that site also selling detergent or dry cleaning, do you? No. No, you do not. Learn.
The most successful small- to mid-sized online retailers have a focus. I’m not talking about bullshit mission statements or slogans. I’m talking about doing one thing and doing it well.
“Keeping a journal of what’s going on in your life is a good way to help you distill what’s important and what’s not.”
— Martina Navratilova
Writing is, perhaps, one of humanity’s highest achievements. Collecting your thoughts, emotions; your successes and failures allows you to meditate on a very deep level.
A custom-designed journal proudly states that you are quietly observant and mindful. It’s easy and fun to create your own personal journey.
I’m offering 10% off journals that are custom designed. Simply fill out the info below and upload a hi-res image, illustration, photo, or tell me your favorite quote — anything, really, and I’d be happy to send you a mock-up free of charge!
If you were an early adapter, you might remember the thrill of upgrading from a 14.4K modem to 28.8K. Was that speed even possible back then? Soon, a mind-blowing 56K would be available and that was pure, straight-up science fiction at that point.
Right then, the first group of large-scale online services began to take shape. These were almost entirely social-based experiments. Prodigy, AOL, Compuserve, these were attempting to figure out not only the “how” but the “why.” What did they provide besides a way to chat and email and lookup phone numbers? One company, Amazon, had the foresight to begin the very first models of e-commerce. The market matured and slowly, this weird concept of buying products via computer started to put down some roots.
Online bookstore and IPO
After reading a report about the future of the Internet that projected annual web commerce growth at 2,300%, Bezos created a list of 20 products that could be marketed online. He narrowed the list to what he felt were the five most promising products, which included: compact discs, computer hardware, computer software, videos, and books. Bezos finally decided that his new business would sell books online, because of the large worldwide demand for literature, the low unit price for books, and the huge number of titles available in print. Amazon was founded in the garage of Bezos’ rented home in Bellevue, Washington. Bezos’ parents invested almost $250,000 in the start-up.
I firmly believe that the impetus for users to go online was porn. It was the perfect match between content and delivery. It was prurient but discrete; enticing and easy. Likewise, Amazon chose a similarly (if not less carnal) product to marry to this new form distribution: books. They were easy to ship, they were easily identified and sorted digitally since they were already assigned an ISBN # and, perhaps most importantly, they did not need to be personally inspected like, say, a pair of pants.
It often takes a tectonic social shift to see if a trend becomes a more permanent feature of any large, diverse community. And we are at that moment right now. One could not create a more telling stress test for e-commerce than COVID-19. And the preliminary statistics show it:
Between March 2020 and April 2020 in the US, ecommerce sales jumped 49%, led by online grocery with a 110% boost in daily sales. Kahn says that ecommerce has finally reached the kind of high penetration (the kind that makes more sense relative to its age) because people have turned to the internet to buy food.
These numbers are astonishing in any environment. The rate of acceptance of previously brink-and-mortar-only retail drives an entirely new type of ecommerce. We are now shopping for survival, not for fun.
I don’t believe in this hype that ecommerce can expand infinitely We are talking about human-to-human transactions; the method of delivery is not very important here. The method of shopping is. This presents a huge problem for UI/UX designers who now have to deal with everything. Have you tried to shop your supermarket online? How’d that go for you? Yeah, challenging.
What I’m experiencing is massive volatility in inventory. Put something in your cart, say, Romaine lettuce. Within seconds it is automatically removed from your cart since it “NOT AVAILABLE.” This makes me unsure of what I am buying vs. what shows up at my door. I quote heavily here from this Forbes article, although I disagree with the author’s intent. There is no “good” point to this.
Time and You: Getting Along?
We (all of us) have this burning question in uncertain times of “what’s next?” I do it all day long. Ultimately, the answer is nothing. I know, very existential, but what if there is nothing to do about this situation? What if we are too fucking dumb, as a species (not a population, not a sect) to wear a fucking mask?
Ecommerce attempts to solve this disconnect. Contactless Delivery? Click this box. Self-isolating? We have a promo code for that.
What We Are Not Addressing
With all it’s commercial power, ecommerce businesses — of any size — have failed us miserably. If I can have a can of tuna, a computer and handi-wipes delivered within two hours, um, why is my COVID-19 test taking 10-13 days to process?
Why is Amazon not simply shipping out test kits? Is that sweater more important than my health? Seemingly so, because I can get that sweater, try it on, hate it and then return it within an hour.
Time To Step Up
We are fragile beings. Wish to be otherwise, but we are. An invisible thing can bring us to our knees, destroy our civilization and remake it in its own image. Ecommerce has evolved into the most efficient distribution of goods ever created by humans.
I truly believe that we become better human beings by traveling. And I know that you do, too. Think back on your life. The smell of a new place, the unexpected, delightful, experiences. The touch that a foreign tongue has on your ear. It’s phenomenal.
I designed these journals in an attempt to capture those very feelings.
So stop looking at your computer and go have some fun!
I’ve written quite a bit about fast fashion. That’s apparel produced in weeks, shipped, and sold before the season even begins. It’s what we count on at Zara, H&M, Target, Walmart. It is simple, inexpensive but high in quantity (not quality) and it makes a ton of money.
It also is incredibly ecologically damaging in so many ways; it can bankrupt nations and cause unnecessary deaths. Not pretty. To put this into perspective:
Producing a pair of jeans consumes even more water — around 3,000 liters — due to the dyeing and bleaching involved, according to calculations by Quantis.
Making a single pair of jeans emits around 20 kg of CO2, the same amount produced during a 49-mile car journey.
The industry is responsible for high carbon emissions, wastewater production, and large amounts of landfill waste.
Fast fashion is second only to oil as the world’s largest polluter.
The fast fashion industry produces ~1 billion garments annually.
Profits are around 3 trillion dollars per year. What impact does this large amount of production have on our environment? Production at this scale is pushing our natural systems to the absolute limit.
The fast fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year.
This is about 5% of global emissions. That’s more than the emissions created by air travel and international shipping.
In 2015, the fast fashion industry used 80 billion cubic metres of freshwater.
The industry is one of the largest consumers of freshwater on the planet. To put this in perspective 80 billion cubic metres is enough to fill about 32,000 Olympic size swimming pools.
Production of textiles uses about 3500 different chemicals.
The industry uses chemicals to produce, dye, coat, and soften fabrics. Many of these chemicals are harmful to humans and the environment. Through wastewater, chemicals used to produce clothing often end up in our waterways and oceans.
Cotton is one of the most resource-intensive crops out there.
In comparison to synthetic materials cotton may not actually be better for the planet. This crop uses large quantities of pesticides and fertilizers. Globally, we use about 11% of pesticides and 24% of insecticides on cotton crops. Currently, less than 1% of cotton crops are organic. On top of this cotton requires an enormous amount of water.
Mastercard’s research also found that hardware sales and furniture sales increased in May. Year over year, online and in-store hardware sales rose by 36.2% in May, and furniture sales went up by 7.5%, per the report.
U.S. grocery sales increased by 9.2% year over year in May online and in-store, which Mastercard noted as the strongest grocery sales volume for the month of May in SpendingPulse history.
E-commerce, which has come to the forefront for retailers during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a bright spot in otherwise trying times for brands. While some nonessential retailers like GameStop have seen an e-commerce boost during the pandemic, others, like Zara, are rethinking their store footprint and closing locations in order to focus on digital sales.
Mastercard’s research found that e-commerce sales in April and May comprised 22% of all retail sales, double last year’s 11%. A recent eMarketer projection anticipates that U.S. retail sales will drop by 10.5% in 2020 overall, but e-commerce sales could see an 18% bump.
“The shift to digital ways of shopping has been undeniable, while everything else has been incredibly unpredictable,” Steve Sadove, Mastercard senior advisor, said in a statement. “The question is what changes will stick around for the long-term. Investing in your home and shopping local are two recent trends. Heightened demand for touchless services is another, which could have tremendous impact on what stores actually look like and how they blend their online and brick and mortar footprints.”
Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing
The number of people living with cognitive disabilities in the United States is equal to twice the population of New York City.
Why Care? Are You an Asshole?
Technologies that assists the disabled have evolved considerably. And now it’s time that ecommerce becomes inclusive. Yes, you gain a very largely ignored market, but it’s also just the right thing to do. I have known a few disabled people (including my own sister) who struggle with equipment and technology that is designed for the able-bodied majority. Think about it: would you be able to go about your business blindfolded? With both hands tied behind your back? No. No, you would not. So stop thinking about yourself and show some fucking empathy.
And You Can Be Sued
The ADA is actually the law. No joke. And you can enter litigation hell if you do not comply. As an example: some of the 3.8 million people mentioned above with visual impairments may use a screen reader to consume text in the HTML code of web pages, to translate it into audible speech. If text is not embedded in image properties (using alt tags), this could render the content inaccessible to visually impaired users, violating the Equality Act of 2010. — (source).
Lack of Compliance is Considered Discrimination
Given these numbers, if your website is not accessible to those with disabilities, you are leaving out a significant portion of the population. And when these users can’t easily access your website, they will go somewhere else, even if it means paying more for a service or product.
You know that discrimination against people with disabilities is against the law, so don’t do it.
My initial results seem promising but also troubling.
I set about to understand what this means and was immersed in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). There are similar global, national and industry-specific standards. I’m focusing on the ADA in this case because it’s the broadest and most applicable to my audience. So, since I’m locked down here in Los Angeles, I had a ton of time to spend learning. Here’s what I found:
There are, as far as I can understand (not being a pro in this field), there a few ways you can make your site easily accessible to the disabled.
You can pay a firm to audit, fix and certify your site with authority ($)
Run a self-compliance test and then have it certified ($)
Diagnose, fix and self-certify (NO $)
The paid audit & fix option is great if you’ve got a few thousand + to spend on crafting your own response through a legal team and having your site certified globally.
The self-compliance route is cheaper, but you will have to get pretty sophisticated with your coding.
Being lazy and slowly going crazy self-quarantining, I went the easiest route: self-certification. I chose EqualWeb. The self-diagnostic tool was easy, comprehensive and accurate. Better yet, they fix your mistakes with a code insertion. A Chrome extension is helpful and they have a FREE plan which allows you to enter this confusing subject, understand it and offer options. Well done, EqualWeb!
I’m purposefully not endorsing any company here simply because I have not done exhaustive research on each that would let me do so with confidence.
Online payment methods have seen tremendous growth over the past couple of years.
The standard, PayPal, has dominated the ecommerce payment market for years (1999 to be exact). It is, by far, the most widely used payment service. But there are several competing services recently which both advance and confuse consumers’ choices. We’ll take a look at two of the more advanced options here: Venmo and Zelle:
Venmo is actually PayPal under a different name. It’s focus is on mobile payments with a social feature that can disclose who paid who (without the amount). After several lawsuits, users can opt out of that feature. The key focus of Venmo is to make splitting payments among friends easier (dinner, rent, groceries, etc.) and not as a robust business processor. This is changing rapidly as they have begun to allow certain merchants to accept it as a form of payment. The integration with ecommerce platforms is problematic because of this and requires that the merchant also accept PayPal. There some clunky work-arounds, including the use of QR codes. Be aware that Venmo is restricted to US accounts. (Source)
This one’s a lot more complicated. In essence, Zelle was created by major banks as a way to transfer funds quickly. Wire transfers are expensive and slow. Zelle allows almost instant deposits into your existing bank account. Zelle is bank-centric, meaning, it’s not an app per se (although there is one) but a service and is made available through your existing checking account. In other words, you use Zelle through your bank directly. Money received does not go into a seperate, Zelle-branded account which then needs to be transferred. The pros are that it’s absolutely free and it’s nearly instant. The cons are that it’s composed of over 400 banking institutions who can impose any type of regulation or fee they see fit. I’ve personally ran into situations where a business account could not be used to either send or receive money (sometimes). Most smaller banks are open to using Zelle, but smaller, regional banks may not be. Zelle’s stance on ecommerce is a little unclear. If both you (the merchant) and your consumer are already using Zelle, then it’s just an issue of requesting money and getting paid. However, if your an ecommerce merchant, it gets complicated. There’s an application, forms, tax records,and even then, you’ll need to also get a Braintree account (which is owned by PayPal!) for some reason that confuses me. Read more at: zellepay.com
As an ecommerce developer, I find that integrating either of these payment options is prohibitively complicated. I’ve integrated a few work arounds on my site and I’ll report back with how it goes. I also see an incredible opportunity here to challenge the near-monopoly that is PayPal. Other processors, like Google Pay, Apple Pay, Square, etc. are also actively developing new tech and services that will keep this marketplace fluid.
cgk.ink understands how important choosing the right merchant account is to your online business. Let’s discuss what’s most important to you:
An article in today’s South China Morning Post demonstrates how ecommerce has become a solid foundation of modern economics:
Chinese e-commerce platforms are scrambling to hire thousands of temporary workers, as the coronavirus outbreak and government-imposed travel restrictions have increased consumer demand for online grocery delivery services.
Their recruitment initiatives include hiring part-time staff from small firms and restaurants, whose operations are currently struggling amid the health crisis and general business slowdown.
A child waves as she sits in a vehicle carrying residents evacuated from a public housing building, following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, outside Hong Mei House, at Cheung Hong Estate in Hong Kong, China February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Ecommerce is trying to absorb the impact of a virus that has quarantined entire cities. Ecommerce also has the lack of skill or willpower to patrol itself:
As the death toll of the coronavirus outbreak climbs, face masks have become a valuable commodity. Now unscrupulous sellers are starting to rise. Two of the biggest Chinese ecommerce companies, Alibaba and JD.com, said they’re clearing their platforms of shops selling “problematic” masks.
Alibaba announced on Weibo that it removed 15 merchants for selling fake or inferior masks and reported five of them to the authorities. JD removed seven merchants, according to state media reports.
Alibaba also said it removed 570,000 mask listings suspected to be problematic and is cooperating with the police to home in on shoddy mask manufacturers.
On the Polynesian island of Tahiti, there is said to be something akin to a sixth sense — one that belongs to neither men nor women. Instead, it is the sole domain of the “mahu,” a community recognized as being outside the traditional male-female divide.
“Mahu have this other sense that men or women don’t have,” said Swiss-Guinean photographer Namsa Leuba, whose images from the island are showing at a new exhibition in London. “It is well known in (French Polynesia) that they have something special.”
In Tahiti, mahu are considered a third or “liminal” gender, born biologically male but recognized by peers as distinct, often from early in their lives. Their gender identity has been accepted on the island since time immemorial, and mahu traditionally play key social and spiritual roles, as guardians of cultural rituals and dances, or providers of care for children and elders.
It’s Really Unfortunate and an Annoyance That We Live According to Normatives.
Years ago, I stopped using the word “should.” All my friends, collectively, just shrugged and ordered another drink. I think I was right and would like apologies, please.
We speak of “late phase capitalism” without realizing that we use those same words for cancer.
My main issue here is that “normative” no longer holds power. O! They try to make it work.
I’m not really into “top 10” lists of anything, really. But this one quote caught my eye:
“I think we’re in an age of user feedback that drives well-optimised but increasingly generic executions,” argues Simon Gater, creative director and co-owner at Mad River. “The quality feedback we get from users makes it much easier to get a solid understanding of whether your work is ‘fit for purpose’ quickly, and ensures we achieve client goals at a statistical level. But as more and more people get similar feedback, we’re at risk of being filtered down the same design trend or path of execution. Because of this, we now need to work harder for that point of differentiation while maintaining the optimum user experience.”
I think market research and “feedback” are essential tools that make sure that you’re not making an obvious mistake in understanding your markets. But when stats start dictating which font to use, I begin to have a problem.
Statistical analysis has, I think, grown out of all proportion and is anathema to creativity. This reliance on numbers can produce some very boring endeavours. Why? Because context is lost when you start staring down the rabbit hole that is Google Analytics. This is glaringly apparent when people start relying on social media to either influence or straight-up decide for them what strategy to take. The users of Twitter who take the time to write a scathing review of your product really is not representative of your consumer base at all. Just look at the demographics that social media companies provide:
It’s important to remember that these are percentages of percentages which are created by the social media companies themselves. And -if we continue to rely on statistics, every page would either look like a fascistic Apple white space or a chaotic, laissez-faire Amazon. Statistics don’t take into account creativity, failure, accidental, surprise brilliance or the power of a deadline. It also obviates experimentation for no reason other than to do it.
As I become more interested in Print on Demand (PoD) technology, I also find that my design and creative mind is along for the journey
I am not a graphic designer. Or a designer at all. I’m a language guy. I’m finding that design and art function a lot like language. I’m also beginning to understand how very, critically important design is.
Almost all the items created by cgk.ink are sourced from the web. I approach design from my mind, first. I am, right now, fascinated by Islamic art. The fact that it is based on three shapes: circle, triangle, and square, blows my mind. These elaborate, sophisticated designs show us how the human mind can excel at imagination.
Loyal & Royal
The major trick in doing this is not to violate another artist’s intellectual property. I, personally, would be very annoyed if someone were to take an article I have written and claim it as their own — let alone profiting from it. So, I am very careful where I get my images and designs. I’ve created fantastic, long-lived relationships with other designers who are masters of their craft. And I’m happy to state that we both benefit.
For other designs, I find that I continually return to Unsplash.com. It is a completely utopic site for people like me. High resolution, incredible work by artists and completely royalty-free and public domain. I know, unbelievable. Impossibly cool. They are the ultimate enabler for design junkies. They even have a very eloquent manifesto:
Unsplash was formed as the antithesis to the stock media experiences available at the time. Instead of vast libraries, licensed and presented for commercial buyers, we focused on pushing the impact of photography further than ever before by making original, high-resolution images available for anyone to use for anything.
Today, Unsplash has become a platform fueled by creators who have generously gifted hundreds of thousands of photos to be used openly for anything. We’ve seen Unsplash images inspire millions of creations, from multi-platinum recording artists to world-renowned writers.
Our aim is to celebrate the gifts Unsplash contributors make by extending the connection to their photography as far as we can. Images connect on an emotional level. They are not only how we self-express but also how we understand all kinds of information. The creative spirit is one of exploration. If creativity is a form of exploration, then an image is the perfect start.
From the beginning, Unsplash has held a particular view on the future of creativity, and our vision remains unchanged. We believe everyone is creative and that we have a responsibility to empower everyone to create. Creativity is a fundamental human need that is essential not only for progress but for feeling connected to the world and oneself. Our world is evolving rapidly. Manual to automated. Physical to digital. Earth to Mars. While we don’t know exactly where everything is headed, what we do know is creativity will be how we get there.
Share. Remix, rework, recreate. This only works if we all take part. So share, manipulate, and reshare.
Care. While the Unsplash License allows you to share without the limitations of copyright, this doesn’t mean we should ignore the work of our contributors if we can help it. It is not required but when possible, support artists willing to offer their work by giving credit.
Create. Art only exists because of other art. What you build becomes the next material that inspires the next artist. Without creation we have nothing so go make something.
Pretty fucking cool.
I try to attribute credit to the artists whose work I use in my store. Due to the sheer volume, I can not always achieve this. So what I do is make sure that the source file always remains unaltered so that the attribution is within the code. I could do better and I am actively exploring ways to do that without impeding the production process.
And, in the same spirit, I also believe that “without creation, we have nothing so go make something.” This is why I welcome collaboration, experimentation and I’m happy to talk to anyone who would like to replicate what I’m doing on this site. You can contact me here.
But it is a hell of a lot of problematic to base a business on.
Drop shipping is, in a nutshell, a really shitty proposition. It goes something like this:
You find a supplier in Asia (usually China) who makes consumer products for pennies on the dollar. And of course the quality is sub par, but heh, you have dreams of sitting on the beach collecting money while you nap. You come up with a snappy site and sell these items that are shipped on your behalf by your Asian business partners.
It sounds good. No inventory costs, automatically calculated bulk shipping rates and a huge markup.
Then there are the bad parts: complete lack of quality control, no shipping expedition and your Chinese “business partner” is mass producing these items, whatever they are, which leaves you with a hyper competitive ecommerce situation.
All this was reiterated to me in a recent SeekingAlpha.com article. The publication is a totally nerdy geek journal that worries about the details in this digital economy that I ignore. The article dives deep into one platform’s (Shopify) seemingly disturbing over-reliance on drop ship clients.
If your unaware, Shopify is a great Canadian company that has created an ecommerce platform that allows inexperienced developers easy entry into ecommerce. I’ve used them for years and do not have one bad word to say about them. And their product is actually very good — well thought out, scalable and fairly transparent. And the market has responded by awarding them approximately 20% of the ecommerce platform market share, which is pretty damn good. The problems start to arise when you realize Shopify’s reliance on drop shippers leave them with a very vulnerable population who will, in most cases fail miserably, thus leaving them with no customers 🙁
At the same time, there are persistent questions about the company’s disclosures on user numbers, its lack of disclosure on customer churn, and the apparent reliance of the business on ‘drop-shippers’ – Shopify stores which simply re-sell cheap Chinese merchandise, ordered directly from Aliexpress – at huge mark-ups – a practice which appears to be not only endorsed, but encouraged by SHOP.
These questions have been around for a while – and we are not accusing SHOP of fraud – but if it is the case that a material percentage of SHOP’s clients are this kind of business, then the sustainability of the growth rate, and perhaps of the entire business could well be threatened.
781% MARK UP?
One of the more scummy things about drop shipping is abusive mark-ups.
By all means, you deserve to earn a profit to cover your efforts. But 781% is not only scandalous, it’s idiotic.
If you had, say, created these items by hand and made 10 of them, their value would approach a markup of say 100%. But theser are being made by the millions — and are being brought for the same wholesale by your competitors.
In short, you not only look like a profteer, you look like an aggressive idiot.
The article goes into depth of some very daunting accounting processes — required since Shopify will not release its numbers — which shows the truly horrible truth of drop shipping:
(…) this suggests that the average store on SHOP, using generous assumptions, is generating less gross profit that would be necessary to support even a single worker at the Federal minimum wage.
This wouldn’t be necessarily alarming, but, there is a very well-orchestrated campaign that markets to people with false claims of the revenue that drop shipping can generate:
(…) the pushing of drop-shipping as a kind of “get rich quick scheme” on YouTube is alive and well.
A client recently requested that they move off Shopify and onto WordPress. I’m happy to help with technical issues for my clients, but as I dug around for hosting plans and domain registrations, a few things became very clear:
Managed WordPress Hosting
For years, I have used a hosting company. As my site grew and required more resources, it became evident that I needed to get serious about my host and amove to a managed WordPress host. What’s the difference? Regular hosting companies allocate their servers across multiple platforms. They often have their own, branded HTML editor as well as myriad other platforms. A managed WordPress host focuses strictly on WordPress and nothing else.
The benefits are significant. Servers are configured correctly for WordPress. This is no light task. Setting WP up is a really unpleasant experience. You’ll experience faster responses, tech support that knows their stuff and can determine WP-specific errors and fix them quickly. Further, since the focus is on WP, you’ll be able to avoid conflicting security plug-ins, access development tools and add higher levels of performance such as CDN (content delivery network) and easily set up staging and collaborative workspaces. And there’s a triple bonus: free site migration (yes)!
I recommend Flywheel as a preferred managed WordPress host. Their response rate is phenomenal and their pricing is very competitive, Further, they offer a seriously easy to use interface and tools that let me focus on client relations and design instead of technical problems.
WP Engine, as Brunner describes it, focuses largely on mid-market and larger businesses, while Flywheel — founded and currently based out of Omaha — has focused on smaller businesses. That makes the two natural complements to each other, but Brunner notes that there will be more gained from the union.
“The team there is very product-focused,” she noted. “They’ve built a suite that we feel has been focused around small agencies, but they are also the types of tools that larger agencies will benefit from.” She is referring to the product Local by Flywheel, a local development application used by more than 150,000 developers.
Flywheel, founded in 2012, had only raised around $6 million in funding, including a $4 million round several years ago. The economies of scale of throwing in its lot with WP Engine will give it a much wider exposure and access to new customers.
If you’re shopping for a managed WP host, Flywheel definitely ranks. It would be worth your while to try their trial to evaluate how easy they make developing WP sites.
Renewing your domain is probably the most important detail of your online store. And the least sexy. I’ve chosen a .ink domain which made renewing it previously an expensive chore.
Until I found porkbun.com. Yes, the name is snicker-worthy, but this Portland, Oregon-based registrar is by far the cheapest when renewing esoteric domains (.ink, .abagado, .bar, etc.). I easily saved 50% off which made renewing a little bit less painful.
As mentioned earlier, the internet has seen a new generation of top-level domains known as “new generic TLDs” or simply, ngTLDs. These are top-level domains that have been introduced by ICANN in recent years and don’t fit the same mold as a .com or .net. In October of 2013, ICANN announced that the first batch of ngTLDs was delegated into the internet’s root zone (the top of the DNS hierarchy which contains all of the delegations for top-level domains).
The very first ngTLD was .guru, and it was made available to the public in February of 2014. Following the success of .guru, a number of ngTLDs like .club and .link were introduced and were welcomed by new domain buyers. In June of 2014, .xyz was introduced, and two years later, more than six million domains were registered using this ngTLD.
There’s something deeply disturbing whenever one uses the word “warehouse” as a verb. Especially when the objects are human.
This John Oliver piece makes me think twice when reveling in the fact that my order arrives almost before I placed it. Why yes, how did you know, Amazon, that I needed coconut coir planting material and a squishy baby head that is surprisingly creepy?
Color is an odd phenomenon. We all see it, respond to it, quantify it, but what is it really?
It’s just a group of photons vibrating in particular waveforms. But it is so much more. It has become part of our culture, our literature, music, psychology and much more.
Personally, I’m fascinated by color. Others are too. So fascinated that it has its own science: color theory. Our buddy Sir Isaac Newton came up with the standard color wheel to define how colors relate in 1666. We still use it today as a basic tool in design. We have expanded it to accommodate more than the visual light that Newton was seeing; there are digital and print variations, for instance. Dyes and tints apply to textiles and pigments give color to base materials.
While creating this collection, I had to learn, as in really study, how color behaves across media. It’s a lot more complicated than you first think. In this particular case, I am using hexadecimal color codes to instruct a machine to mix inks which then applies them to items. The basic color wheel holds true, but the procedures require additional info.
Additive vs. Subtractive Color
As kids, we all learn that if we shine a red lamp and a blue lamp, we get purple (violet). Red and yellow become green and so on. But add all three primary colors and you see white. This is additive color, meaning that the surface upon which the object is shown is irrelevant (mostly). Television and screens do this trick very well using a slight variation of RGB (red, green, blue). They alternate dosages of these three primary colors to create millions of combinations. This is important to keep in mind when you’re designing for digital presentation as the design is actually made of emitted light coming at the viewer.
If you add primary colored lights together, you get white light. However, if you try this with paint, you get a blech brown. Printing uses subtractive coloring to create true shades of color upon a surface. This surface reflects light (not emit, as does light). This is why printing has four basic colors, CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black is the “k” part).
It’s a basic knowledge that goes a long way. That beautiful blue flower you see in the garden in real life is going to look very, very different when it is rendered in CMYK on a t-shirt. There are literally thousands of apps that assist in mitigating this difference (or manipulating it all together).
cgk.ink experiments. A lot.
We’re learning how ecommerce evolves even over short periods of time. This site is a laboratory first, in which we apply what we know and check out the results. We sell the successes and, well, do “other things” to the failures. We welcome your comments below, whether on this topic or any of the other ideas we’re playing within our little lab!
The flexibility of print-on-demand (PoD) allows opportunities that have not previously been possible at scale.
cgk.ink presents a lot of high-quality products quickly. We can do this because we have partnered with Printify to create our designs using their technology. This opens up the creative process enormously. And we want you to be a part of it.
Print-on-demand (PoD) uses various techniques to take digital images and transfer them to products with absolute precision in scale, color and sharpness. Indeed, the entire world becomes your canvas. We’ve selected to curate collections of images that make us smile, or laugh, or think. Our range is wide, but limited since we’re a small crew. We’re looking to expand!
We’d love to help you create the item of your desire.
For example, let’s say that you’re into robots. Who isn’t? So we did a quick Google Image search and found this little guy:
NOTE: always respect copyrights and don’t steal. Or you’d be a bad robot. There are tons of places online to find rights-free images -or- you can create them yourself:)
OK, so we have our raw material. Now what? Well, it’s a somewhat simple process with lots of cautions and considerations. Essentially, what happens is:
Prepare Your Design:
Things to consider are file type and size, aspect ratio, transparency, and resolution. Of course, make sure you have permission to use the image or design!
Select Your Medium:
Is this going to print on a garment? A poster? Underwear or a shower curtain? Make sure the design is appropriate for the media.
Edit Your Product:
This is where you position, crop and otherwise play with your design on the selected medium. Not all images scale to all products, so be judicious.
Publish Your Work:
Once everything looks good-to-go, it’s a simple matter of pricing and uploading to Printify’s servers. You can choose to go live immediately or do a second inspection on your ecommerce platform.
Sell Your Product:
You’ve already linked your ecommerce platform to Printify, so all the details, images, pricing and shipping are automatically added.
We actively pursue connections, affiliations, and cooperatives to explore how ecommerce revolutionizes our economy on a daily basis.
This means more than just inviting other designers to our marketplace, it means working with them to get a clear vision of how their work might transfer to digital marketplaces, how to take advantage of the newest functions of technology and, most importantly, how to sell and fulfill efficiently.
We’re pleased that one of the most innovative designers in Europe has agreed to work with us. Little Shiva is an artist based in Charleroi, Belgium who has designed, illustrated and fabricated a fantastic portfolio that focuses on education, jazz, animals and well, whatever she feels like. And she has agreed to design several exclusive designs found only on cgk.ink. How cool is this?
It’s either over-the-moon fantastic with rainbows and sparkly teeth. It’s also seeing someone’s complete rage in their eyes. Yeah, so it’s either great or terrible. No middle ground. Yeah, reviews on ecommerce sites are like that.
I think it was a genius PR ploy to have people just write glowing testimonials for free. I mean, crap, you just got copywriters for free, dude. Humans, being humans, found a way to game the system so completely that the main objective of having real people give feedback has been “Monetized” (not a word and I’m sticking to it). Neatly packaged in a simple — insanely simple — a rating of 1 – 5 stars.
The BBC has published an in-depth article (portions quoted below). What caught my interest is that the practice is so common that everyone admits it. We are, after all, simply “data points” that can be manipulated by “influencers.” Fuck. Where is my copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World when I need evidence?
From the BBC:
“You can’t win”
One company, in Bingley, West Yorkshire has decided not to use review websites such as TrustPilot or Feefo because of the risk of competing with fake reviews.
Helena Gerwitz, head of marketing at Feature Radiators, says: “We work in a really niche industry.
“When new websites pop up, they might suddenly have 200 or so reviews. That’s a lot of reviews since we know they have only been going since last month.”
She believes the volume of the high-rated reviews that some competitors have cannot be legitimate.
Ms. Gerwitz adds: “We have had chats about it – do we need to go down this route? – but my boss is very much ‘we don’t want to do that’. It’s unethical, it’s not true.
“We could set up a review account and know that we would do it legitimately but it would look bad as we wouldn’t pay people to put out reviews, so relative to the other sites we would look terrible.
“So we have decided not to do them but then people think there is something to hide. You can’t win. It’s really frustrating.”
‘Lose faith in online shopping’
Even verified reviews might not be all they seem. Some consumers fear their personal data might have been used by sellers to gather fake “verified reviews”.
Known as “brushing”, the scam sees sellers obtain people’s name and address to send the goods which they did not purchase.
On Amazon, this leaves a paper trail showing the goods had been bought on the site and had been delivered.
The seller then uses the individual’s details to set up a new account which it uses to post glowing reviews of its products.
Amazon says it is “investigating” complaints of “unsolicited packages” which would breach the company’s policy.
Architect Paul Bailey, from Billericay, in Essex believes he may have been targeted. Last month he received a number of unexpected “gifts”, including a key-ring, a phone case, a tattoo removal kit and a charcoal toothpaste set.
“I think when the first parcel arrived it was a case of bemusement, then I checked with my wife if she’d used my account to buy something.
“When the second item arrived later that day I thought it was perplexing but amusing. Then it became quite chilling.”
Mr. Bailey says he cannot be sure where online sellers have obtained his data but says it has “made me lose faith in online shopping.”
He added: “We all know there are laws in place over how data is handled but it’s made me very, very nervous to the point I’m going shopping back on the High Street – even though it tends to be more expensive.”
A spokesman for Amazon added: “We have confirmed the sellers involved did not receive names or shipping addresses from Amazon.
“We remove sellers in violation of our policies, withhold payments, and work with law enforcement to take appropriate action.”
The psychology of online reviews
Nathalie Nahai, the author of Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion, says online reviews work because people try to take an “effortless route” when they have to make decisions.
“When it comes to purchasing, especially for items which are easy to buy, we expect this level of convenience and ease,” she says.
“Part of that expectation is met by peer reviews… we can outsource our decision-making.”
“Above a certain threshold, people will go for a slightly lower rating,” Ms. Nahai explains, citing a study where a product with more reviews but a 4.3 rating was more popular than the same product with fewer reviews and a 4.4.
Interestingly, she says there is “certain leniency we give to bad reviews”.
“We tend to distrust perfect ratings because it looks too good to be true,” she says. “A five-star rating is less worthy than a 4.8 or 4.7.”
It could also be the order of the reviews that matter.
Consumer psychologist Cathrine Jansson says some sellers might be aware of what is known as the primacy and recency effects. These theories state that people tend to remember the first and last items in a series better than those in the middle.
“It’s the first five or six reviews that people tend to read and then if they’re really interested they’ll scroll to the last one.
“So some sellers will make sure it’s really good reviews at the top and that people see a really good one last.”
There are, however, many reasons why people will also post genuine online reviews, says Nisa Bayindir, director of global insights at market research company GlobalWebIndex.
“There are other key motivations at play. For example, we know that consumers buy products and brands that preserve, enhance or extend their self-image.
“This dynamic comes alive with online reviews. People may leave genuine and positive reviews online to show appreciation and commitment to the brands that are in tune with their personalities and values.
“This, of course, includes the basics such as product quality, attentive customer services, and good value for money. ”
She says that brands should focus on “building credibility” but acknowledges that fake reviews may be around for cheaper goods for the foreseeable future.
She adds: “Sometimes people are just happy to pay a smaller amount of money for a mediocre experience.”
Ecommerce has inched closer to displacing traditional retailers from their historical dominance.
From our buddies at Statista, this chart shows the incessant growth of ecommerce over the past several years and is updated to reflect the most recent data available (2018). While the rise of ecommerce is consistent, it has not completely wiped out traditional retail, although it’s a fairly even 50/50 split:
Numbers can be Deceiving
When taken as a whole, the retail sector has not been conquered by robot overlords:
When Brooklyn-native Jacky Alcine logged onto Google Photos on Sunday evening, he was shocked to find an album titled “Gorillas,” in which the facial recognition software categorized him and his friend as primates. Immediately, Alcine posted on Twitter: “Google Photos, y’all f***ed up. My friend’s not a gorilla.” This comment prompted over 1,000 re-tweets and an online discussion about how shocking the situation was. One user replied, “That is completely unacceptable and very low. I’m so sorry you had to come across such hurtful ignorance.” (Forbes)
While that’s socially and culturally disturbing, AI can also produce some amazingly funny things. Like, really funny.
Seems our little computer buddies have a sick sense of humor:
Amazon sellers have been experimenting with AI for a number of years now, but the company clearly wasn’t keeping an eye on the mischievous bot that recently had its way with their ‘phone accessories’ section.
My Handy Design, whose creator is still unknown, was a bot programmed to fetch frequently searched images, turn them into iPhone 6 cases, and put them up for sale. The bot’s algorithm somehow went rogue, however, and began scouring images so bizarre that we can only assume they came from the darkest, most depraved corners of the Internet. Whoever set this thing loose is either nursing a giant migraine right now, or rolling on the floor laughing.
Before long, My Handy Design had created thousands of phone cases displaying everything from marinated herring rolls to cocaine, and customers were having a field day in the reviews. Though most of them have now been flagged as ‘adult products,’ we’re sure they’re still going to be outselling OtterBoxes any day now. Check out some of our favourites below, and vote for the ones you’re dying to have. (Source)
It’s more than pretty pictures and logos. It’s a critically important part of presenting your product so that it engages and converts to sales.
Ecommerce is awash in information. Data, visuals, sounds, stats and schematics all conspire to overwhelm us. Intelligent design (no, not that kind) gives us a way to establish perspective, create order and focus on what’s important.
WHAT’S ON MY DESIGN MIND:
Here are some trends I’m seeing in online ecommerce design.
1. We Don’t Need Another Hero
Hero Images are those full-screen graphics and/or photos that take up the entire space where you enter a website. I know that you understand this because you see it several thousand times per day. Like this:
We get it. You found a great image. And you have a short attention span. Heroes can be really pretty, but annoying. Why are they there? Do they serve a purpose? What is its reason for being there and why is it so damn big?
If this is your first impression, you’re putting a lot of emphasis on whatever occupies this space. Heroes can be a very powerful design element if they are used sparingly and have a purpose that no other design element can serve. Otherwise, it’s a design solution in search of a problem.
2. Be Appropriate
Take your audience into consideration. Then, do it again. It really is the first question that needs to be answered. This informs your design. So, for example, a web designer, say, might not want to use designs that harken back to the 1990s:
3. Have Fun
It’s your damn site, enjoy it. The beauty of selling online is that you can change anything at anytime as many times as you like. Go for it. Finding a tone that plays with humor while having perfectly functioning elements is an engaging, unique approach. When was the last time Amazon made you (intentionally) laugh? Well, woot! does, and it works.
Amazon sellers just got a little more freedom. The e-commerce company will no longer prohibit its third-party sellers from listing their products on other sites for less than they do on Amazon’s US site. The change comes amid concern that the stipulation, called price parity, could be in violation of US antitrust law.
Amazon (AMZN) confirmed the policy change, which took effect Monday, but would not comment on it. Senator Richard Blumenthal had called previously on the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission for an investigation into antitrust violations and how they could affect the prices that consumers pay for goods.”Amazon’s price parity provisions may raise prices for consumers both in the short term and in the long run,” he wrote in letters to the DOJ and FTC in December. “Relatedly, Amazon’s price parity provisions may work to block the emergence of more efficient online marketplaces that might offer consumers lower prices on their favorite goods.”In a statement to CNN Business, Blumenthal said he welcomed Amazon’s decision, but that he is “deeply troubled that federal regulators responsible for cracking down on anti-competitive practices seem asleep at the wheel, at great cost to American innovation and consumers.”Amazon still faces scrutiny from legislators who want more regulation of large tech companies.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for tech companies to be broken up because they have too much power. She’s singled out several companies, including Amazon, and has proposed a law that would mean, among other things, that Amazon wouldn’t be able to sell its own branded products like AmazonBasics on its platform, which would mean lost revenue.
The first wave of ecommerce businesses had at their core a utopian belief that they would do no harm, they would save the Earth, they would benefit everyone and they would, accordingly, usher in a new, socially responsible corporate culture.
Didn’t quite work out that way. I don’t doubt that Brin, Bezos, Jobs et. al. had good intentions. The astounding success of their businesses (and the Internet as a whole) has created some problems for the entire planet.
The packaging that your iPhone, Amazon Echo Dot and the like is big business. According to a report by BusinessWire, it will be worth about $148 billion by 2024 with year-over-year growth of 3.0%. Not bad.
Nearly $150Bn worth of packaging means we have a lot of recycling to do. But recycling is not, and has never been, easy. The recent switch to polymer bags by Amazon is to be lauded. But, and it’s a heavy but. The new packaging jams up existing recycling machinery. Further, the simple act of affixing a paper label to an otherwise-recyclable plastic mailer renders it un-recyclable.
Plastic is so cheap and enduring that many companies use it for packaging. But consumers are prone to put plastic sacks into recycling bins. Plastic mailers escape the notice of sorting machines and get into bales of paper bound for recycling, contaminating entire bundles, outweighing the positive effect of reducing bulky cardboard shipments, experts say. Paper bundles used to fetch a high price on international markets and had long sustained profits in the recycling industry. But mixed bales are so hard to sell — because of stricter laws in China, where many are sent for recycling — that many West Coast recycling companies must trash them instead. (Packaging is just one source of plastics contamination of paper bales bound for recycling.)
“As packaging gets more complex and lighter, we have to process more material at slower speeds to produce the same output. Are the margins enough? The answer today is no,” said Pete Keller, vice president of recycling for Republic Services, one of the largest U.S. waste haulers. “It’s labor- and maintenance-intensive and frankly expensive to deal with on a daily basis.”
The solution? Yeesh. Not an easy answer. Amazon is forced by some countries to pay for its contribution to ecological contamination, such as in Canada. This doesn’t apply to the US and it’s unlikely to happen under the current Trump administration. Perhaps Amazon’s (and other mega-ecommerce retailers) can explore an interesting option:
“They could do a reverse distribution, taking materials back to their distributions system. Those collection points become very important to make it convenient for consumers,” said Scott Cassel, chief executive of the Product Stewardship Institute, a membership-based nonprofit focused on reducing the environmental impact of consumer products. “But it would cost them money.”
I’ve been working on this site for quite a few weeks and am exploring some very complicated issues relating to a central question: “Who Are You?” Yes, it’s The Who song (which I love even before CSI’s appropriation). It’s a real question as I move through developing my own vision of an ecommerce site.
Without the regulation and directive of a client, I am very much on my own. What choices am I making and why? It gets very deeply heady if you’re like me: an overthinker. There, I just made up a word. Anyway, here’s what I’m finding:
This is not structured.
The wild, weirdly bizarre things you can find on the internet are there because there is no agenda, index or credo. It’s The Summer of Love, perpetually. And I love that. And it strikes fear into my heart. No rules or guides = chaos, right? If you want to construct your own ecommerce site, you’ve got to spend many, many hours thinking about its structure, its meaning and why you even need to enter an arena of 1Bln+ sites. Seriously, what do you have to say?
Perfection is not achievable.
When I was in grad school, I would intensely make sure that my writing was perfect; my rhetoric impeccable; my grammar unquestioned. I also learned that if I didn’t turn in a paper on time, I would fail, so I had to go with what I had. FUCK PERFECTION. It’s unachievable. And there’s no excuse for your preciousness, either. Publish the piece of shit you hate and then erase it and edit it tomorrow. You’re vulnerable as a creative type. Own it and just put it out there. This is why you’re not a CPA.
Evolution is not a straight, upward line. Punctuated evolution is for realz. Your attempt at ecommerce will stall, then grow, then stall. Factors outside your control are very much in charge. Be nimble. And curious. Technology’s development takes no pause to run over you. Read. See. Get your head out of your damn computer and go be a human and see what humans do. Ya fucking geek.
I’m encountering all of these issues and more. I challenged myself to create The Ideal Website since I offer that hope to my clients. It’s proving to be a lot more difficult than I thought.]]>
I write a lot about ecommerce and, indeed, working on ecommerce sites is the bulk of my business.
[caption id="attachment_2282" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Select STORE from the top menu to begin.[/caption]
So I thought it was time to demonstrate my skills in real, live, concrete ways. I’ve decided to create the cgk.ink storeas a sort of teaching tool so that you can see the mechanizations and processes behind running an effective online retail store yourself.I plan on using this as a workshop of sorts where I put into play a lot of the things I talk about in concrete ways. This is a fully functioning ecommerce site and the products are very real — as will be the charge to your card if you decide to buy.Wherever you see ⊕ means that there is a pop up that explains in more detail exactly what that component does, why it’s there and resources to explore.
The first installment is all about a rapidly growing type of ecommerce that is akin to drop shipping but with a twist: Direct to Garment (DTG) print fulfillment. Companies like Printify, Printful, Art in America, etc. have been around for a while. Essentially the process works like this:
You select an image or design
You transmit that to the selected company
They take a blank item (T-shirt, plate, mug — the product list grows every day) and using their own machinery imprint the design on the item which someone has selected on your customer-facing web site.
You enjoy the fact that there are no upfront costs, no inventory to keep and the printer ships and fulfills the item directly to your customer.
You collect the profit which is your retail price – the manufacturer’s cost.
Sounds pretty simple. And it is, but there are several concerns to address as well as unique marketing opportunities. Which images work best? How do you optimize an image that is being displayed in a different medium? How do you price your item?
Let’s explore our first steps together.]]>
One of Amazon’s best features is that returns are free and easy.
I know, I do it a lot. It’s a staple in ecommerce, especially when you sell tangible items (clothing, perfume, anything that you need to sense, really). Ecommerce does a lot of things, but tactile is not a feature on any site.
So, this means Amazon has a little problem with returns. Amazon, as always, will not release numbers on anything, but let’s just assume that it’s a large number. There are internal outlets for these items; Amazon Warehouse, Woot!, etc. But what do you do with this:
“With a couple hundred dollars and a few minutes, you could go to a liquidation website right now and buy a pallet full of stuff that people have returned to Amazon. It will have, perhaps, been lightly sorted by product category—home decor, outdoor, apparel—but this is mostly aspirational. For example, in one pallet labeled “home decor,” available for sale on liquidation.com, you could find hiking crampons, shimmer fabric paint, a High Visibility Thermal Winter Trapper Hat, a Mr. Ellie Pooh Natural White Paper List Pad, a St. Patrick’s Pot O’ Gold Cupcake Decorating Kit, a Spoontiques Golf Thermometer, a Feliz Cumpleanos Candle Packaged Balloon, and five Caterpillar Hoodies for Pets.”
Chaos. Not a Theory.
It’s not ideal and there a lot of questions, but when you buy a palette from Amazon that they say is worth $4K for only $200, you definitely feel like you’re an insider getting the bargain of a century. Except they aren’t:
“Every box is a core sample drilled through the digital crust of platform capitalism. On Amazon’s website, sophisticated sorting algorithms relentlessly rank and organize these products before they go out into the world, but once the goods return to the warehouse, they shake free of the database and become random objects thrown together into a box by fate. Most likely, never will this precise box of shit ever exist again in the world. On liquidation.com, each pallet’s manifest comes with suggested prices for each product in a pristine state. If you add them up, the “value” of the box might be $4,000, while the auction price might only come to $200.”
“So, Liquidity Services, the operator of liquidation.com, became a major (though not exclusive) handler of Amazon’s American liquidations. The company calls dealing with returns “the reverse supply chain”—a part of the retail business that has been growing in importance as online shopping becomes more popular. Liquidity Services now has 3,357,000 registered buyers on its various liquidation websites. In the past fiscal year, it sold $626.4 million worth of stuff.
Amazon represents a growing chunk of Liquidity’s business. In its most recent SEC filing, the company disclosed that it spent approximately$33.7 million on Amazon liquidation inventory, which it then turns around and sells for maybe 5 percent of the supposed retail value. And, assuming the company is trying to turn a profit, it must buy the inventory for a fraction of that. Doing the rough math, we’re talking about inventory that once had a collective value reaching into the billions, before it landed in some box on a doorstep.”
Inventory Just Sucks
Any business will tell you that the cost of acquiring, storing, safeguarding and delivering inventory is the #1 thing tugging their bottom line down. It sucks. HARD.
I’m seeing more and more of my clients move to “physical cloud services,” by which I mean that they employ Fulfilled By Amazon, Shipstation and a ton of other fulfillment services. And they are either delighted that the onus of carrying inventory has been lifted off their shoulders. Until they realize that they have lost control of their entire brand due to the whimsical policies that firms like Amazon mandate. Hairspray. OK yesterday. Not OK today.
Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA) is indeed, a brilliant idea.
It’s also an unbelievably huge, complicated mess that has reduced grown men to tears.
The concept is simple enough to anyone who understands drop shipping. You purchase bulk items from a third party — usually one located in a country where wages and expenses are insanely low — then mark them up and sell them online without ever touching a package.
Amazon inserts itself in this cycle and the third party goods get shipped to one of their warehouses where they store, package, ship, deal with all sorts of customer issues and then take a fee. Sounds easy. But it’s not.
You’re playing with Amazon. That Amazon which is currently worth more than the GDP of Kuwait. The process of selling on Amazon is so detailed and delicate that most vendors simply give up. In addition to the fees paid and the set-up headaches, it is an unsaid fact that you will need to pour money into an ever-gaping maw since you are (most likely) competing with several hundred or thousand vendors — who bought the same, identical product. Advertising quickly adds up and somewhat shady practices need to be deployed to get your product noticed. If caught, Amazon can (and does) shut you down in a second with no appeal.
The idea of passively watching your bank account swell while on some tropical island quickly becomes a depressing reality.
Amazon depends on both of these players as more than 50% of all 500 million of it’s products come from Marketplace vendors. So it’s in their best interest to address this quickly and effectively… which they’re not doing.
I’ve successfully integrated several clients’ sites and products into the Amazon Marketplace. I have also advised many more clients to avoid it. It’s easy to say that you want to sell on Amazon but the reality is that there are several (very unpleasant) factors to consider.Often, it’s better to take the money you would spend on Amazon (and other sales channels) and reinvest it into your existing operations. Operations over which Amazon has no control
Yeah, so it’s the beginning of 2019. RELEASE THE PR BULLSHIT!It’s inevitable and a weird thing that we’re compelled to witness: End of Year Lists + Top 10 = crap. Here’s the latest: Adweek (which is, by its nature, weak) published this piece of shit:
So the authors think that self-driving cars bringing you groceries is exciting? Or that pop-up stores are something to notice? Please, girls. I live in DTLA and these “pop-up” shops are so very 2017. Please, catch up. Pop-Up shops (which automatically install a sense of impermanence and volatility) have these things in common:
Make it difficult to get my groceries home. I had a rough day. Just please stop lining up in front of the entrance to my loft, OK?
Are bullshit and charge more than what I can find online. 100% of the time.
Are so enamored by touchscreens that it’s embarrassing. Don’t mimic Apple. It’s boring and homogenous. Y’all need some funk.
Any conflict or dispute can be disregarded, since, ya know, they’re temporal. It’s like quantum physics but with money.
Also, no hosted bar.
I am saturated by ecommerce’s latest, biggest, best, etc. Have you seen Amazon lately? EVERYWHERE? It’s a bad Netflix Original starring YOU. AND YOUR DATA. AND YOUR ALEXA!
As an aside, has ANYONE tried to buy shit from their Alexa?
Listen, ecommerce does need to play by the same, brutal rules as traditional commerce. I’m tired of the free blowjob PR in established publications. This contains my contempt in one bullet point: